The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
HOW TO CULTIVATE A STRONGMAN IMAGE

There's no doubt that Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, wants to promote his image as a man capable of crushing the Iraqi insurgency. The question is, to what lengths will he go in attempting to convince his fellow Iraqis (including the insurgents) that he means business?

He could just make bold declarations, threaten martial law and even spread rumors about his willingness to be ruthless. But why should we imagine that his PR campaign would confined to tough talk and some wild rumors but not include the occasional bullet in the head?

Does Allawi risk having the US attempt to revoke its transfer of sovereignty? Will a populace that craves security frown on a bit of rough justice meted out by its new leader?

Allawi recently told the Washington Post that "we are Iraqis -- not Americans or Swedes" and that when it comes to models of governance those required for Iraq should not be confused with what is suitable for the US.

Outside Australia, the press continues to ignore the allegations against Allawi. Inside Australia the issue has been raised in parliament only to be met with the absurd suggestion from the Downer government that "the onus is on the people making these allegations to substantiate them and put them to the authorities for investigation." If Allawi is expected to investigate himself, then as Ambassador Negroponte suggested, this may well be a case that can be opened and closed in a single breath.

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A DIRTY SECRET?

Paul McGeough's explosive story alleging Iraq's prime minister recently executed suspected insurgents, has generated little attention outside Australia. Though news editors might plead that allegations from unnamed sources are hard to verify or refute, the Al-Amariyah security centre is less elusive. Have any other journalists requested access to the complex or interviewed any of its staff? McGeough names three of the prisoners alleged to have been shot: Ahmed Abdulah Ahsamey, Amer Lutfi Mohammed Ahmed al-Kutsia, and Walid Mehdi Ahmed al-Samarrai. Who were they? Is anyone interested in finding out?

McGeough might not be willing to name his sources, but he found them independently, neither knew that the other was interviewed and neither was paid. If George Tenet could build a "slam dunk" case for war on intelligence from single sources some of whom the CIA never even interviewed, these allegations about summary executions at least warrant investigation. In this case the witnesses may include CIA employees, in which case, one assumes, neither the US government nor the media, would doubt the veracity of their accounts.

Ambassador Negroponte says "this case is closed" but also implies it was never opened. Meanwhile, Paul McGeough, an award-winning journalist who has covered the war from Baghdad since it began has left Iraq for his own safety.

Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, July 17, 2004

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".

The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.

But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence.

Iraq's Interior Minister, Falah al-Naqib, is said to have looked on and congratulated him when the job was done. Mr al-Naqib's office has issued a verbal denial.

The names of three of the alleged victims have been obtained by the Herald.

One of the witnesses claimed that before killing the prisoners Dr Allawi had told those around him that he wanted to send a clear message to the police on how to deal with insurgents. [complete article]
 
(The Sydney Morning Herald requests registration. To skip registration, follow the link "register later and continue to your article" towards the bottom of the page.)

See also, transcript of a phone interview with Paul McGeough on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline.

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The Iraqi leader seeking a peaceful path to liberation
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 16, 2004

While many Iraqi clerics exude a sanctimonious, mildly impatient air with foreigners despite their elaborate expressions of welcome, Sheikh Khalisi has a look of genuine attentiveness. He listens and discusses, rather than just declaims.

His grandfather was a distinguished ayatollah who led the Shia opposition to Britain's occupation 80 years ago. His father was a learned imam. He himself spent 23 years in exile in Iran and Syria, returning when Saddam was gone. Now he is general secretary of a new movement that calls for an end to the occupation by peaceful means. The media focus on violence, and the generally positive foreign coverage of the efforts of Ayad Allawi's new government "to defeat the insurgency", has created a false impression - that the government's opponents use only force, and those who support peace support the government, and so the occupation.

Sheikh Khalisi's movement gives the lie to that. Set up a few weeks ago, the National Foundation Congress brought about 450 Iraqis together at a Baghdad hotel. They included Nasserites, leftists and Ba'athists from the era before Saddam turned the party into a personal fiefdom, as well as Kurds, Christians, representatives of the powerful Sunni movement the Islamic Clerics' Association, which has close links with Falluja and other strongly anti-American cities, and Sheikh Khalisi's own Shia friends and colleagues. [complete article]

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Debacle increases WMD risk
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, July 16, 2004

The massaging, mangling and magnification of intelligence on Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction, officially confirmed by the Butler report and by this month's US Senate inquiry, has left Tony Blair's principal justification for last year's invasion in tatters.

But this is no mere matter of historical record. For these same embarrassing misconstructions by British and US spy agencies and their political masters may also jeopardise global efforts to prevent the spread of WMD.

Just as the war intensified rather than diminished the al-Qaida terrorist menace, so an increased risk of WMD proliferation may also be a lasting legacy. [complete article]

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Senator doubts Bush would repeat choice
By Douglas Jehl, International Herald Tribune, July 15, 2004

Even as President George W. Bush continues to defend his decision to go to war, a leading Republican senator said Wednesday that he doubted that Bush would have ordered an invasion of Iraq based on what is now known about its illicit weapons. [...]

Bush said this week that the invasion was the right thing to do even though no banned weapons have been found in Iraq. [Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Pat] Roberts, a former marine, was a supporter of the war, and like Bush has said he believes the world and Iraq are both better off with Saddam Hussein out of power.

But in a one-hour interview Wednesday, Roberts said he was "not too sure" that the administration would have gone forward with an invasion if it had known how flimsy the intelligence was on Iraq and its illicit weapons.

Instead, Roberts said, Bush might well have advocated efforts to maintain sanctions against Iraq and to continue to try to unearth the truth through the work of United Nations inspections. [complete article]

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'Secret film shows Iraq prisoners sodomised'
By Charles Arthur, The Independent, July 16, 2004

Young male prisoners were filmed being sodomised by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to the journalist who first revealed the abuses there.

Seymour Hersh, who reported on the torture of the prisoners in New Yorker magazine in May, told an audience in San Francisco that "it's worse". But he added that he would reveal the extent of the abuses: "I'm not done reporting on all this," he told a meeting of the American Civil Liberties Union.

He said: "The boys were sodomised with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war." [complete article]

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U.N. nuclear watchdog challenges Britain to reveal Niger intelligence
By Anne Penketh, The Independent, July 16, 2004

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) determined in March 2003 that documents which allegedly "proved" an Iraqi attempt to buy uranium from Niger were forgeries. But the British government, the first to put the claims into the public domain in the September 2002 dossier, continued to insist it had separate sources which confirmed its statement.

Lord Butler's report revealed the accusations against Iraq concerned not only Niger, but the war-ravaged, mineral-rich country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. An IAEA spokesman said that the Vienna-based body responsible for monitoring Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions on nuclear issues, had not been informed of the specific intelligence on the two countries. A spokesman, Mark Gwozdecky, said: "We did not see any indication of any violation, but we remain open to reopening the investigation if the information is made available to us."

Governments are bound by UN resolutions to submit to the IAEA any information concerning illegal Iraqi weapons. [complete article]

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Former CIA director used Pentagon ties to introduce Iraqi defector
By Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel, Knight Ridder, July 15, 2004

A former CIA director who advocated war against Saddam Hussein helped arrange the debriefing of an Iraqi defector who falsely claimed that Iraq had biological-warfare laboratories disguised as yogurt and milk trucks.

R. James Woolsey's role as a go-between was detailed in a classified Defense Department report chronicling how the defector's assertion came to be included in the Bush administration's case for war even after the defector was determined to be a fabricator.

A senior U.S. official summarized portions of the report for Knight Ridder on condition of anonymity because it's top secret. The report said that on Feb. 11, 2002, Woolsey telephoned Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Linton Wells about the defector and told him how to contact the man, who'd been produced by an Iraqi exile group eager to oust Saddam. Wells said he passed the information to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Woolsey's previously undisclosed role in the case of Maj. Mohammad Harith casts new light on how prominent invasion advocates outside the government used their ties to senior officials in the Bush administration to help make the case for war. [complete article]

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SHIITE DIVISIONS

Shiites' struggle turns inward
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2004

[Muqtada al] Sadr's forces, who entered Najaf to keep out U.S.-led forces, have now turned their sights on more moderate Shiites.

The continuing conflict has been a catastrophe for the holy city, destroying the local economy by disrupting the flow of pilgrims, who are Najaf's lifeblood. Residents had hoped that religious tourism would revive when the fighting ceased between Sadr's militia and the troops.

It has also created a division of national dimensions among Iraq's religious Shiites. At the moment when this long-oppressed majority seems poised to claim national political power, the sect instead has been weakened by internal strife. The Shiites' freedom after the fall of Hussein's Sunni Muslim-dominated government has become a freedom to fight among themselves. [complete article]

Shiite leadership clash in Iran, Iraq
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press (via Yahoo), July 16, 2004

For centuries, enmity between Arabs and Persians has shaped much of the Middle East -- from the Arab conquests of the 7th century to the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.

Now, with Shiites empowered in postwar Iraq, the gloves are off again. But this time, the antagonists are the Shiite ayatollahs of Iraq, a mainly Arab country, and Iran, formerly Persia.

At stake is the leadership of the world's estimated 170 million Shiites -- and the outcome will have profound consequences not only for the two nations but the entire Islamic faith.

At the heart of the conflict is a rivalry between the holy cities of Najaf in Iraq and Qom in neighboring Iran. [complete article]

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Iraqi liquor store owners fear fundamentalists' rise
By Ian Fisher, New York Times, July 16, 2004

Luckily it was mostly beer -- 6,000 cans of it -- that was shot up Sunday. But the liquor distributor in Baghdad was hit with a full-scale assault: several cars and a minivan full of masked men with guns and grenades sprayed the building with hundreds of rounds. Fifty workers and customers huddled for safety on a second floor as it was raked with bullets.

"It was a miracle of God that we survived this," said one of the liquor distributor's managers. He would not give his name. "Do you want me to have my head cut off?" he asked.

The manager was afraid because this seemed more serious than just an attack on a liquor dealer, a fairly common crime with the rise of religion in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was removed from power last year.

The police said that the liquor store raid on Sunday was a well-planned attack by the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the rebel Shiite Muslim cleric who, beaten for now in his fight against American occupation forces, appears to be looking for another role.

That role may be vigilantism. [complete article]

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A PEOPLE ADRIFT

In chaos, Palestinians struggle for a way out
By James Bennet, New York Times, July 15, 2004

For Palestinians, it is a mocking contradiction: President Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speak of a state of Palestine as almost a historical inevitability. But on the ground, after years of Israeli military raids and blockades and Palestinian political paralysis, the economy is growing more dependent on foreign donors, and institutions of statehood are crumbling.

In the West Bank and Gaza, a contest is under way between warlords and democrats, between Islamists and secular leaders, between those who would destroy Israel and those who would live beside it, between enclaves like Jenin and Gaza and the very idea of a unified national state. [complete article]

Isolated and angry, Gaza battles itself, too
By James Bennet, New York Times, July 16, 2004

Some Palestinians glimpse in an Israeli pullout a new chance at statehood, a chance to create a model of self-rule that will spread to the West Bank, leading to a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

But 10 years after Yasir Arafat returned in triumph to Gaza under a previous experiment in self-rule, the Oslo peace process, these would-be leaders are scrambling for a way forward. The alternative, they say, is all too clear: a destitute enclave ruled by warlords and militants, an outcome they fear will doom their national movement. [complete article]

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U.S. Protestant group OKs divestment from Israel
By Eric J. Greenberg, The Forward, July 16, 2004

In an unprecedented victory for pro-Palestinian activists, leaders of the largest Presbyterian denomination officially equated the Jewish state with apartheid South Africa and have voted to stop investing in Israel.

With the decision, approved in a 431-62 vote at the 216th annual General Assembly of Presbyterian Church (USA), the church, boasting nearly 3 million members, is believed to be the largest organization or institution to join the divestment campaign against Israel. It is the first Christian denomination to do so, according to Sister Patricia Wolfe, executive director of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of 275 Christian denominations.

"This now raises the issue," Wolfe said, "and will cause ICCR to have a discussion."

In 2001 the combined value of the church's foundation and pension fund was estimated at $7 billion. [complete article]

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Cameron Kerry: Bush too soft on Saudis
By Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, July 15, 2004

Nobody, not even the campaign of presumptive Democratic presidential contender John Kerry, can accuse US President George W. Bush of not being an enormous friend of Israel.

So when vying for Jewish voters for whom Israel is a key election issue, the Kerry campaign is opting to bash Bush not for anything he has done toward Israel, but rather for what he has not done regarding Saudi Arabia. At least this is the impression one gets when talking with the presidential candidate's brother and close adviser Cameron Kerry, currently visiting Israel.

The Bush administration, Kerry said during a phone interview conducted on his way from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, "has not been aggressive enough toward Saudi Arabia." Kerry said his brother criticizes Bush not over his policies concerning Israel, but "for not doing enough in other areas that affect Israel." [complete article]

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Democrats endorse some key pro-Israel positions in their platform
By Matthew E. Berger, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 16, 2004

The Democratic Party wants to send the right message to the American Jewish community about its priorities in the Middle East, but its platform fails to include several positions Jewish groups recommended.

The platform, finalized this weekend in Miami, resolves to uphold the close relationship between the United States and Israel. It also negates a Palestinian refugee "right of return" to Israel and says the armistice line ending Israel's 1948 War of Independence - known as the Green Line - cannot be the basis for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, implicitly recognizing some Israeli claims to the West Bank.

"It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice line of 1949," the draft reads. [complete article]

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New Zealand cuts Israeli links in spy row
By Kathy Marks and Donald Macintyre, The Independent, July 16, 2004

New Zealand suspended high-level diplomatic relations with Israel yesterday after two suspected Mossad agents were jailed for six months for passport fraud.

Uriel Zoshe Kelman and Eli Cara were sentenced at Auckland High Court for trying to obtain a passport in the name of a wheelchair-bound man with cerebral palsy. Minutes later, New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, launched a blistering attack on Israel, saying its actions had "seriously strained" relations between the two countries.

A furious Ms Clark said her government regarded "the act carried out by the Israeli intelligence agents as not only utterly unacceptable but also a breach of New Zealand sovereignty and international law". [complete article]

See also, Mossad risks slip-ups in race against Qaeda, Iran (Reuters) and We will do 'everything' to restore ties with New Zealand (Haaretz).

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Fallujah becomes symbol of resistance
By Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press (via Yahoo), July 16, 2004

Through Web sites, headlines and graffiti, the Arab world is celebrating the people of Fallujah as victors over a superpower.

This embrace of the Iraqi city has raised fears that it will become a magnet for recruits to al-Qaida's anti-Western campaign. But many Arabs say Fallujah stands out more as a boost to their self-esteem after witnessing the Iraqi army barely put up a fight against the U.S. invasion last year.

U.S. Marines besieged the city west of Baghdad in April after four Americans were ambushed and killed there. Ten Marines and hundreds of Iraqis, many of them civilians, died before the Marines pulled out and handed security over to an Iraqi volunteer force.

The three-week siege is inspiring "a literature of resistance and war," said Egyptian novelist Gamal el-Ghitani. "Fallujah is a symbol, in one of the worst eras we have witnessed, that it is not impossible to stand up to America." [complete article]

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Inside the Iraqi resistance
Part one: Losing it

By Nir Rosen, Asia Times, July 15, 2004

Fallujah had always been a little different from the rest of Iraq. An American non-governmental organization project manager told me with bewilderment of his meeting with a women's group from the town who shocked him by being more radical than the men. "We must be willing to sacrifice our sons to end the occupation," they told him.

Combining rigid religious conservatism, strong tribal traditions and a fierce loyalty to Saddam Hussein, Fallujah battled five different US commanders who were brought in to tame the wild western province of the country. According to Professor Amazia Baram, an Iraq expert from the University of Haifa and the Washington-based United States Institute of Peace, Saddam found greater loyalty in the 300,000-strong city of Fallujah than he did even in his home town of Tikrit. He never executed Fallujans, though he did kill Tikritis who were his relatives, and Fallujans dominated his security and military services. Their proportion of the intelligence services was the highest in the country. This was already beginning to be the case under the Iraqi monarchy, continuing under the regime of the Arif brothers from 1963-68. The Arifs themselves hailed from Fallujah. After the first Gulf War of 1991, Saddam went to Fallujah, not Tikrit, to declare his victory in "the mother of all battles". He was greeted there with genuine love. Also unlike Tikrit, where the tribes are urbanized, the tribes of Fallujah are concentrated in the rural areas surrounding the city, and thus have not modernized and abandoned tribal mores as much as tribes in other parts of the country.

Situated on a strategic point bridging the Euphrates River in the desert, Fallujah is the center of a fertile region on the outskirts of the desert leading to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. Its location makes it a smuggling center. After the latest war, Fallujah did not suffer from the same looting seen in other parts of the country, as there was less reason to be hostile to the former regime and its institutions. Saddam had given Fallujah virtual autonomy. The religious and tribal leaders appointed their own civil management council even before US troops arrived. Tribes assumed control of the city's institutions and protected government buildings. Religious leaders, whose authority was respected, exhorted the people to respect the law and maintain order. Local imams urged the public to respect law and order. Tight tribal bonds also helped preserve stability. Trouble with Americans started soon after they arrived, however. [complete article]

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Governor of Iraqi province dies in ambush
By James Glanz, New York Times, July 15, 2004

The governor of the sprawling and ethnically diverse northern province of Nineveh was ambushed and killed on his way to Baghdad on Wednesday, dealing a new setback to the American-led rebuilding of the country and providing a stark illustration of how freely terrorists are choosing their targets.

The attack on the governor, Osama Kashmoula, took place between the northern cities of Tikrit and Bayji in an area that has repeatedly been subjected to sabotage attacks on oil and gas pipelines. He was on his way to meet the Iraqi president, Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar. Mr. Kashmoula was taken to a hospital in Bayji, where he died, said Khisro Goran, the vice governor.

"Maybe they can kill him or kill me or kill other council members, but they can never stop the rebuilding of Iraq," Mr. Goran, who now takes over as interim leader of the province, said in an interview late on Wednesday in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city and Nineveh's provincial capital. There are about 1.7 million people in Mosul and 3.3 million in Nineveh over all. [complete article]

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U.S. works to sustain Iraq coalition
By Robin Wright and Bradley Graham, Washington Post, July 15, 2004

The Bush administration faces growing challenges in holding together the 32-nation coalition deployed in Iraq, with four countries already gone, another four due to leave by September and others now making known their intention to wind down or depart before the political transition is complete next year, according to officials from 28 participating countries.

The drama over the Filipino hostage in Iraq, which led the Philippines government to say this week that it will pull out before its August mandate expires, is only the latest problem -- and one of the smaller issues -- in U.S. efforts to sustain the 22,000-strong force that, with 140,000 U.S. troops, forms the multinational force trying to stabilize postwar Iraq. [complete article]

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Pakistan faces its jihadi demons in Iraq
By Kaushik Kapisthalam, Asia Times, July 14, 2004

When it comes to troops for Iraq, it is no secret that the United States is not too gently pressuring Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf to send soldiers for peacekeeping purposes. And with the appointment of the current Pakistani ambassador to the US, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, as the next United Nations envoy to Iraq, it appears likely that Islamabad will bow to the pressure.

Should this happen, among the threats its soldiers are likely to face are those from a number of foreign jihadis. While current world attention - thanks to Washington's conviction - seems to be largely focused on Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his al-Tawhid force, one of the least-reported foreign jihadi groups in Iraq is one of Pakistan's very own - Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). [complete article]

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Overstating the Zarqawi threat
By Charles V. Pena, Daily Star, July 15, 2004

Even if Zarqawi is eventually killed or captured, the problem of violent insurgency in Iraq will continue, as it did after Saddam was captured. The propensity to periodically explain Iraqi violence as the result of single causes - an insurgency orchestrated by Saddam Hussein, by Baathist dead-enders loyal to the former regime, by militia followers loyal to the young Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and now by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - has been misleading from the beginning.

The attacks against coalition and Iraqi targets have been the result of a combination of at least three different factors (visible in varying proportions over time): Baathists and Sunnis who perceive they have the most to lose as a result of "regime change;" other Iraqis opposed to the US military occupation and what they believe is a US-appointed government that is not representative of the Iraqi people; and foreign terrorists seeking to sow the seeds of jihad (made easy by Iraq's porous borders and inviting targets in their own neighborhood). Each of these elements requires a different strategy and set of tactics. And what might be a successful approach against one group may be counterproductive for battling the others. The point is that since the unstable security situation in Iraq is not the result of a single threat, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. [complete article]

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INTELLIGENCE

Who was to blame? No one
The Independent, July 15, 2004

Tony Blair was under renewed fire over Iraq last night after an official inquiry found that the intelligence on which he based his case for war was "seriously flawed", but failed to hold anyone responsible.

A committee chaired by Lord Butler of Brockwell, the former cabinet secretary, produced a hard-hitting report which criticised the Government and the intelligence services over the claims made about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction before last year's war.

The five-month inquiry concluded the infamous claim that Iraq could deploy WMD in just 45 minutes should not have been included in the dossier issued by the Government in September 2002. In a personal criticism, it said Mr Blair's language in the Commons may have reinforced the impression that the intelligence underpinning the claims was "fuller and firmer" than it actually was. [complete article]

British Intelligence warned of attacks in Baghdad
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, July 15, 2004

In February 2003, a month before the United States and coalition forces invaded Iraq, British intelligence received reports that Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi was establishing sleeper cells in Baghdad that would attack U.S. forces after they occupied the city, according a report on British prewar intelligence released yesterday in London.

In a prediction that has proved deadly accurate, the British Joint Intelligence Committee in March 2003 wrote, "These cells apparently intend to attack U.S. targets using car bombs and other weapons," according to yesterday's report by the Butler Commission. In the past year, Zarqawi has publicly claimed to have put together an Iraqi network that has committed dozens of bombings and killings, including the beheading of a Bulgarian truck driver that was revealed yesterday.

The March 12, 2003, JIC report also warned that "al Qaeda-associated terrorists continued to arrive in Baghdad in early March." Summarizing this information, the Butler panel noted that the JIC "did warn of the possibility of terrorist attacks on coalition forces in Baghdad." [complete article]

What did Bush know?
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, July 14, 2004

If all George W. Bush knew about the Iraqi threat was gleaned from a one-page summary that stated the case for WMD -- and that did not even acknowledge the existence of a case for skepticism -- that's important to know. It's important for citizens who want some insight on why we went to war. And it's important for the president, who may decide to read a longer document the next time there's trouble.

Perhaps no president can be expected to read a 93-page document. (Some presidents would have, though. Bill Clinton was an inveterate reader of intelligence reports. Jimmy Carter once asked to see the engineering blueprints for the KH-11 photoreconnaissance satellite. The latter is a case of a control freak gone too far.) Still, the president's summary should stretch beyond the margins of a single page -- at least when the fate of nations is at stake. [complete article]

Flaws cited in Powell's U.N. speech on Iraq
By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2004

Days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was to present the case for war with Iraq to the United Nations, State Department analysts found dozens of factual problems in drafts of his speech, according to new documents contained in the Senate report on intelligence failures released last week.

Two memos included with the Senate report listed objections that State Department experts lodged as they reviewed successive drafts of the Powell speech. Although many of the claims considered inflated or unsupported were removed through painstaking debate by Powell and intelligence officials, the speech he ultimately presented contained material that was in dispute among State Department experts. [complete article]

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Kerry's brother reassures Israel of strong support
Reuters (via Haaretz), July 15, 2004

The brother of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry met Israeli leaders on Wednesday in an apparent attempt to ease any concerns about the U.S. senator's commitment to the Jewish state.

Some Israeli officials have fretted privately that a Kerry victory in November's election could lead to a shift away from Middle East policies of President George W. Bush, whom they see as more staunchly pro-Israel than any U.S. leader in decades.

A Jewish convert and adviser to his brother, Cameron Kerry was sent as a "surrogate" to reassure Israelis that the Democratic candidate was as strong a supporter as Bush, a source who helped arrange the trip said. [...]

The visit was sponsored by the American Israel Education Fund, affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. [complete article]

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Israel prepares for post-Arafat 'upheaval'
By Josef Federman, Associated Press (via Toronto Star), July 15, 2004

Israel is worried about chaos that might follow the death of Yasser Arafat and will do everything possible to prevent the Palestinian leader from being buried in Jerusalem, according to a contingency plan obtained yesterday by The Associated Press.

The five-page document, prepared by the Foreign Ministry, lays out a series of forecasts about what might follow Arafat's death: the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, a challenge by Islamic militants and upheaval in other parts of the Middle East.

Despite Israeli efforts to isolate the Palestinian leader, Arafat continues to wield tremendous influence. [complete article]

Comment -- If Israeli officials are now worried about the consequences of Yasser Arafat's death, what exactly did they imagine the consequences would have been if they had carried out their oft repeated threat to assassinate him?

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Pakistani army builds goodwill against Al-Qaeda in tribal zone
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), July 14, 2004

With its freshly-built roads, schools, clinics and wells, the tribal district of Mohmand along the Afghan border is a showpiece for the Pakistani armed forces.

Just 200 kilometres (120 miles) further south in Waziristan, the military is engaged in a bloody conflict with local tribesmen sheltering Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who have fled over the border from Afghanistan.

But in Mohmand, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) northwest of the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar, the soldiers see themselves more as aid workers than fighters. [complete article]

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Ten reasons to fire George W. Bush
By Jesse Walker, Reason, July 13, 2004

If you're looking for reasons to be disgusted with George W. Bush, here are the top 10:

1. The war in Iraq. Over a thousand soldiers and counting have died to subdue a country that was never a threat to the United States. Now we're trapped in an open-ended conflict against a hydra-headed enemy, while terrorism around the world actually increases.

One of the silliest arguments for the invasion held that our presence in Iraq was a "flypaper" attracting the world's terrorists to one distant spot. At this point, it's pretty clear that if there's a flypaper in Baghdad, the biggest bug that's stuck to it is the U.S.A. [complete article]

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Politics, Iraqi style
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, July 13, 2004

A first priority of the new government is to make the capital city safe and restore public services. That's obviously what you'd want to do, right? But Proconsul L. Paul Bremer, based in the American city-within-the-city known as the Green Zone, lived in a world of self-serving denial every bit as delusional as that of his betters in Washington. His constant blather about free markets and democracy, mouthed in Iraq but meant to be heard inside the Beltway, was matched by a persistent failure to stabilize and revitalize Baghdad itself.

Iraqis remember too well that their capital city was surrendered virtually intact, and only destroyed in the days after the Americans rolled into town. The troops stood back while liberated looters stripped the infrastructure of the city to the bone. Since then, Baghdadis have watched with sheer incredulity the Americans' inability to restore regular electrical service. They've learned to fear the ferocious, random firepower of the American soldiers patrolling their streets. At the same time, they've seen criminal gangs turn kidnapping into an industry. "People say the Americans wanted to make us suffer," an Iraqi doctor who works in the air-conditioned Green Zone told me before going home to her sweltering, lightless home. [complete article]

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The Islamic emirate of Fallujah
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, July 14, 2004

Taliban leader Mullah Omar, one of America's most wanted, would love it: it's the new Kandahar, the Afghan city that was once the Taliban stronghold. Under Sharia (Islamic) law: Fallujah is now totally under the control of the Sunni Iraqi resistance and their emirs (chieftains). More than 10,000 mujahideen armed to their teeth rule more than 500,000 people, just 50 kilometers west of Baghdad.

Writers and professors in Baghdad with close family and tribal ties to Fallujah have explained to Asia Times Online the new order. In today's Fallujah, every military commander is an emir. They may be strident, conservative Salafis, philosophical Sufis, al-Qaeda admirers, former Ba'ath Party army officials, former secret-service agents, or even the average neighbor, a father of six.

If you qualify as an emir, you are a leading member of what is popularly described as "the Iraqi resistance" in control of "liberated Fallujah", a region off-limits to US troops ever since the United States handed over control of the city in May after a month-long siege. [complete article]

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Sadr's militia regrouping, rearming
By Ann Scott Tyson, Christian Science Monitor, July 14, 2004

Hundreds of militiamen loyal to rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are rearming in their sanctuary in the Shiite holy city of Najaf in possible preparation for a new offensive, say US and Iraqi officials here.

As many as 80 Iranian agents are working with an estimated 500 Sadr militiamen, known as the Mahdi Army, providing training and nine 57-mm Russian antiaircraft guns to add to stocks of mortars, antitank weapons, and other armaments, according to Iraqi and US intelligence reports.

"They are preparing for something, gathering weapons; people are coming in buses from other parts of Iraq," says Michael al-Zurufi, the Iraqi security adviser of Najaf Province. "The most important are the Iranians. The Iranian people are trying to reorganize Sadr's militia so they can fight again."

At the same time, heavily armed Sadr militiamen are waging fear tactics, kidnapping local Iraqi police and family members, occupying buildings, and arresting Iraqis deemed critical of Sadr or in violation of Islamic law, residents and officials say. [complete article]

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Philippine ties with U.S. may be affected by Iraq troop pullout
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), July 14, 2004

The Philippine decision to pull troops out of Iraq to save the life of a Filipino hostage could affect ties with the United States, the State Department indicated.

"I think we'll have to see," department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters when asked whether bilateral relations would be affected by the Philippine decision, which runs contrary to US policy on terrorism and giving in to terrorist demands.

Boucher said Manila had stood beside the United States "as a friend and an ally on many, many occasions in the decades past, and so we look forward to continuing to work with the Philippines in all the areas where we can productively do that." [complete article]

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Israel's wall, a victory for the logic of war
By Roger Cohen, International Herald Tribune, July 13, 2004

Opinions diverge on the reasons for the precipitous fall in Palestinian bombings this year. Is the intifada exhausted after almost four years? Was Yasser Arafat cowed by the Israeli killing of Hamas leaders? Did the removal of those leaders throw Palestinian militants into disarray? Have the ceaseless patrols by more than 12,000 Israeli soldiers in the West Bank blocked attacks?

Perhaps each theory has its share of truth. But whoever espouses these ideas also tends to see the barrier as an effective, additional guarantee of some semblance of normal life in Israel. Sure, the price is high - the defeat of hope - but so be it.

What is missing, of course, from such Israeli musings is any real grasp of the life of the person on the other side of the barrier, the Palestinian. On those war-room screens the most common sight is a Palestinian in a donkey cart trundling along a dirt track beside the barrier.

The contrast between the high-tech Israeli cameras that deliver these images and the abject existence of the Palestinians photographed provides an apt summation of the divergence of the societies: a first-world Israel forging ahead as best it can, a third-world Palestinian society going backward. [...]

To move through the West Bank today is to witness the growth of parallel networks. Israelis drive on highways to their settlements spreading like garrisons on hills. Palestinians are increasingly confined to dirt tracks beside these roads. The impression of colonizer and colonized is inescapable. [complete article]

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Israel is not served by the wall
By Neve Gordon, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 13, 2004

Socrates was the first thinker to contend that it is better to suffer injustice than to perpetrate it. Those who carry out injustices, he argued, corrupt their own souls and are ultimately ruined from within.

It is precisely in the context of Socrates' teachings that Ariel Sharon's government and the United Nations Security Council should understand the ruling regarding Israel's separation barrier.

Although the International Court of Justice (ICJ) claimed that Israel is in breach of international law and is therefore guilty of wrongdoing, its decision is, paradoxically, also pro-Israeli. [complete article]

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The misunderstood Osama
By Bryan Curtis, Slate, July 14, 2004

The anonymous CIA analyst who wrote Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror managed to preserve his cloak of anonymity until two weeks before his book's publication -- a stealth operation that made the agency's WMD spycraft look masterful by comparison. The Boston Phoenix reports that the analyst's name is Michael Scheuer.

He spent three years as the Counterterrorist Center's Osama Bin Laden station chief. In Imperial Hubris, Scheuer argues that Americans misunderstand Bin Laden and al-Qaida and have little sense that we're losing the terror war. [...]

The fundamental flaw in our thinking about Bin Laden is that "Muslims hate and attack us for what we are and think, rather than what we do." Muslims are bothered by our modernity, democracy, and sexuality, but they are rarely spurred to action unless American forces encroach on their lands. It's American foreign policy that enrages Osama and al-Qaida, not American culture and society. [complete article]

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Al Qaeda's growing sanctuary
By Douglas Farah and Richard Shultz, Washington Post, July 14, 2004

With the end of the brutal conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone, West Africa is seldom in the news or on the policy agenda these days. Yet the region is quietly gaining recognition as what it has long been: a haven for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Weak and corrupt governments, vast, virtually stateless stretches awash in weapons, and impoverished, largely Muslim populations make the region an ideal sanctuary.

U.S. Gen. Charles Wald, deputy commander of the European Central Command, has been warning Congress and the Pentagon for months that al Qaeda-affiliated groups are active in Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Niger. The trade in diamonds used by terrorist groups, begun under the protection of former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor, continues despite international efforts to curb it. "The terrorist activity in this area is not going to go away," Wald warned recently. "This could affect your kids and your grandchildren in a huge way. If we don't do something about it, we are going to have a real problem on our hands." [complete article]

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Trouble in the desert kingdom
By Simon Reeve, The Independent, July 14, 2004

Change happens slowly in Saudi, but royals are among those making a difference. In Jeddah, the entrepreneur Prince Amr bin Muhammad, a grandson of King Faisal, has begun employing women in his IT business. "Some women who are wealthy don't need to work," Prince Amr says. "But there are a vast majority of them who are not wealthy and who need to work."

Prince Amr is creating computerised maps of the kingdom that could one day be used to compile electoral rolls for a constitutional monarchy. Change is needed, he says: "We cannot rule the way we have been doing for the last 100 years. Better we change than have it imposed on us."

I had presumed that most Saudis privately felt oppressed by their royal rulers and wanted rapid reform. But after meeting scores of Saudis - from Bedouin tribesmen to senior princes, from Osama bin Laden's former best friend to trendy young women - I realised I had been wrong. The majority of Saudis regard the royals as the glue that holds their country together. And, while most people accept the need for change, they want it to happen at their own pace, not one dictated by the West. [complete article]

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Michael Moore and Richard Perle combine forces
By Tanya C. Hsu, Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, July 4, 2004

Michael Moore's new film "Fahrenheit 9/11" has done a tremendous favor for some proponents of a war upon the Arabian Peninsula. The film achieves what endless pages of conservative think-tank studies and panel discussions, hours of PR time and books can not: spill gasoline on the anti-Saudi sparks already ignited within the United States. Moore's film lambastes the Saudis not only for their business relationships but also for leaving the US after the attacks of September 11th 2001 as did other non-Saudi officials on the same day when specific flights were permitted. The overwhelming popularity of this documentary takes the anti-Saudi message to a whole new market. It is the latest manifestation of a rationale for war that could finally execute a long-term plan to invade and occupy the Kingdom. In spite of its progressive producer and target audience, "Fahrenheit 9/11" falls lock-step in line with the stated agenda of neoconservative hawks: rid Arabia of the House of Saud thereby granting the US and allies full access to the Middle East's biggest prize. [complete article]

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BRITISH PRE-WAR INTELLIGENCE

'Open to doubt and seriously flawed'
By Simon Jeffery, The Guardian, July 14, 2004

British intelligence reports on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in the run up to the Iraq war were "open to doubt" and "seriously flawed", the Butler Inquiry said today.

However, the ex-cabinet secretary's 200-page report absolved Tony Blair's government and the intelligence agencies of "deliberate distortion or culpable negligence".

The report said the dossier on Iraq's alleged WMDs should not have included the notorious 45-minute claim and went to the "outer limits" of the available intelligence. [complete article]

Bypassing the buck
By Tom Happold, The Guardian, July 14, 2004

We are told that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. On that information, we invade said clear and present threat. Then we fail to find any WMDs, and discover that much of our intelligence was "seriously flawed". But nobody is to blame. In brief, that's the conclusion of Lord Butler's report.

If democracy is based on accountability - the notion that politicians and public servants must answer for their actions - then today's report is a profoundly undemocratic document. Lord Butler and his colleagues make a point of backing John Scarlett's promotion to head of MI6. Who said the establishment was dead?

If the BBC had to cleanse itself with the blood of three sacrificial resignations after Lord Hutton found against it, is it too much to ask for someone in Whitehall to take the blame for taking us to war for reasons that turned out to be false?

The report even disputes what most of us now believe - that WMD will never be found in Iraq - stating that only someone "rash" could think such a thing. Have its authors read nothing of the interrogation techniques being used by the US forces, never seen the photographs from Abu Ghraib? Do they seriously believe that none of the Iraqi prisoners would have spilled the beans? [complete article]

See the Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (216-page document, PDF format).

Comment -- George Bush and Tony Blair insist that the world is now a safer place. They also claim that whether Iraqi WMD will ever be found is an open question. In other words, they believe that WMD could have already fallen into the hands of terrorists and yet, the world is a safer place. Osama bin Laden's whereabouts are unknown, but the world is a safer place. North Korea has or is just about to join the nuclear club and the world is a safer place. Iran is pressing ahead with its nuclear program and the world is a safer place.

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Bush and CIA won't release paper on prewar intelligence
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, July 14, 2004

The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency have refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee a one-page summary of prewar intelligence in Iraq prepared for President Bush that contains few of the qualifiers and none of the dissents spelled out in longer intelligence reviews, according to Congressional officials.

Senate Democrats claim that the document could help clear up exactly what intelligence agencies told Mr. Bush about Iraq's illicit weapons. The administration and the C.I.A. say the White House is protected by executive privilege, and Republicans on the committee dismissed the Democrats' argument that the summary was significant.

The review, prepared for President Bush in October 2002, summarized the findings of a classified, 90-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq's illicit weapons. Congressional officials said that notes taken by Senate staffers who were permitted to review the document show that it eliminated references to dissent within the government about the National Intelligence Estimate's conclusions.

"In determining what the president was told about the contents of the N.I.E. dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, qualifiers and all, there is nothing clearer than this single page," Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said in a 10-page "additional view" that was published as an addendum to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Friday. [complete article]

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Old sailors never die: 9/11 commissioner John Lehman on the war path
By Tom Barry, Right Web, July 12, 2004

One of the most vocal critics of the CIA's performance has been John F. Lehman Jr., former Navy secretary under President Reagan and member of the independent 9/11 commission, which will release its final report later this month. Lehman is also a leading candidate to replace Tenet as director of central intelligence.

Over the past four decades Lehman has been a consistent advocate of U.S. military supremacy and ever-increasing military budgets. During his tenure as Navy secretary, he oversaw the expansion of the U.S. naval fleet in opposition to many in the Navy who believed that the young hot-shot—who took over the job at the age of 38—vastly overestimated the Soviet threat. He pushed out highly regarded officers such as Adm. Hyman Rickover, while winning the admiration and friendship of the most ideologically driven members of the administrations, such as assistant defense secretary Richard Perle and national security adviser Robert McFarlane.

Unlike many of the neocons and militarists who have shaped and supported the aggressive foreign policy of President George W. Bush, Lehman is no chicken hawk. As a Naval Reserve Officer, Lehman flew combat missions during the Vietnam War. But he has long traveled in the same ideological circles of the militarist right wing. He has been a longtime critic of the CIA, not because of its propensity for covert operations but because of its passivity and timid threat assessments. He blames for the CIA for misleading assessments of the tactics of the Vietnamese guerrilla armies and for downplaying Soviet military strength. [complete article]

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Advocates of war now profit from Iraq's reconstruction
By Walter F. Roche Jr. and Ken Silverstein, Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2004

In the months and years leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, they marched together in the vanguard of those who advocated war.

As lobbyists, public relations counselors and confidential advisors to senior federal officials, they warned against Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, praised exiled leader Ahmad Chalabi, and argued that toppling Saddam Hussein was a matter of national security and moral duty.

Now, as fighting continues in Iraq, they are collecting tens of thousands of dollars in fees for helping business clients pursue federal contracts and other financial opportunities in Iraq. For instance, a former Senate aide who helped get U.S. funds for anti-Hussein exiles who are now active in Iraqi affairs has a $175,000 deal to advise Romania on winning business in Iraq and other matters.

And the ease with which they have moved from advocating policies and advising high government officials to making money in activities linked to their policies and advice reflects the blurred lines that often exist between public and private interests in Washington. In most cases, federal conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to former officials or to people serving only as advisors. [complete article]

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Why the press failed
By Orville Schell, TomDispatch, July 14, 2004

When, on May 26, 2004, the editors of the New York Times published a mea culpa for the paper's one-sided reporting on weapons of mass destruction and the Iraq war, they admitted to "a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been." They also commented that they had since come to "wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining claims" made by the Bush Administration. But we are still left to wonder why the Times, like many other major media outlets in this country, was so lacking in skepticism toward administration rationales for war? How could such a poorly thought through policy, based on spurious exile intelligence sources, have been so blithely accepted, even embraced, by so many members of the media? In short, what happened to the press's vaunted role, so carefully spelled out by the Founding Fathers, as a skeptical "watchdog" over government? [complete article]

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Cleric's militia taking over Baghdad's largest neighborhood
By Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder, July 13, 2004

From directing traffic to organizing blood drives, the militia overseen by firebrand cleric Muqtada al Sadr is taking control of Baghdad's largest neighborhood even as Iraqi and U.S. officials demand that the group disband.

Al Sadr's office, not the beleaguered police station, is often the first stop for Sadr City residents who want to report a crime in this teeming slum of 3 million. Militiamen compete with the U.S. military in trash cleanups.

"Who runs Sadr City? Only the Mahdi Army," said Ali Qassim, who works in an ice cream shop off one of the area's dusty boulevards.

The dominant presence of the Mahdi militia reflects the profound lack of security in Iraq. And it's a big challenge to the authority of the nascent Iraqi government, which has talked tough on security but lacks manpower. The Mahdi Army has entrenched itself despite taking heavy casualties while fighting American troops in Sadr City and in towns in southern Iraq following April's uprising. [complete article]

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Zarqawi's journey: From dropout to prisoner to insurgent leader
By Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, July 13, 2004

Ten years ago, fellow inmates remember, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi emerged as the tough-guy captain of his cellblock. In the brutish dynamic of prison life, that meant doling out chores.

"He'd say, 'You bring the food; you clean the floor,' " recalled Khalid Abu Doma, who was jailed with Mr. Zarqawi for plotting against the Jordanian government. "He didn't have great ideas. But people listened to him because they feared him."

According to American officials, Mr. Zarqawi has come a long way from his bullying cellblock days and is now the biggest terrorist threat in Iraq, accused of orchestrating guerrilla attacks, suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. [On Sunday he claimed responsibility for a mortar barrage in Samarra last Thursday that killed five American soldiers and one Iraqi soldier.] [The preceeding insertion appears in this article.] [complete article]

Comment -- It has frequently been noted that President Bush's for-us-or-against-us division of the world into a battleground between good and evil is a perspective that mirrors that of the Islamist fanatics. But one wonders whether the leaders of al Qaeda or its affiliates anticipated how effectively the United States government and western media would serve as unwitting publicists for the Islamist cause.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's elevation to the status of Public Enemy Number One, must surely have raised his stature among his associates and sympathizers. And when New York Times reporters dutifully report claims about these terrorists, they expose a willingness to repeat statements without questioning their validity, all too commonplace among their counterparts in the White House press corps. Gettleman repeats the claim of responsibility for the Samarra mortar attack -- a claim, claimed to be made by Zarqawi -- probably because the NYT had heard of no competing claim. Nevertheless, The Telegraph in London reported on Sunday that one of its own reporters witnessed this attack as it was conducted under the command, not of Zarqawi or any other foreign fighter, but an old Iraqi general who was happy to provide that reporter with an opportunity to "watch the Iraqi army in action."

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Logging on to terror.com
By Sudha Ramachandran, Asia Times, July 14, 2004

While militant and terrorist groups have been using the Internet for almost a decade, its growing popularity as a meeting place for terrorist groups over the past few years has made cyberspace a key battleground in the "war on terror". Far from successful at "smoking out terrorists" from their hideouts in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan, counter-terrorism strategists are finding the task of tracking terrorists and their activities in cyberspace even more daunting. [...]

Not only have the number of terrorist websites increased, but also the uses to which terrorists put the Internet have diversified. Its use as a propaganda tool is perhaps the most overt. Terrorist websites typically outline the nature of the organization's cause and justifications for the use of violence. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) website, for instance, carries accounts of the LTTE's "freedom struggle", the legality of its demand for an independent Tamil Eelam and the legitimacy of its armed struggle. The website carries interviews given by LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran and his speech on "Heroes Day". It also carries press releases that provide the media with its take on events in Sri Lanka.

But use of the Internet as a propaganda tool is just the tip of the iceberg. Terrorists are using the Internet as a weapon in psychological warfare, to raise funds, recruit, incite violence and provide training. They also use it to plan, network and coordinate attacks. Thomas Hegghammer, who researches Islamist websites at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, says that "in a sense, [the Internet has] replaced Afghanistan as a meeting place". Groups with links to al-Qaeda used the Internet as a weapon in psychological warfare in the recent spate of kidnappings and beheadings that they carried out. Gruesome videos of the killing of Daniel Pearl and the beheadings of Nick Berg, Paul Johnson, Kim Sun-il and others were posted on the Internet. By doing this, the terrorists were able to reach out to a global audience, and in the process amplify many times over the terror generated by a single terrorist incident. [complete article]

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Fear factor
By Chris Allbritton, New York Metro.com, July 19, 2004

Yesterday, I was caught on the edge of a running street battle in downtown Baghdad, near the entrance to the Green Zone, while mortars fell on Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord's offices. Traffic was at a standstill for hours as Iraqi and U.S. soldiers sealed off Haifa Street, where much of the fighting was raging. My driver’s car broke down when the fuel pump failed in the 120-degree heat. While troops locked down traffic, the sounds of bullets and missiles from Apache helicopters echoed up and down the street, mixed in with the cacophony of Baghdad's largest traffic jam. I took refuge at the Foreign Ministry, home to the largest group of friendly guys with guns.

And yet, I wasn't afraid. I was annoyed at my driver for not maintaining his vehicle. I was angry at the Iraqis for pointlessly honking in the heat and the traffic jam. But ultimately I was furious at the insurgents for making me miss an important appointment at the Mother of All Villages Mosque.

This is the insanity of covering Baghdad after the occupation. A few weeks ago, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz got a fair amount of press for essentially calling all of us covering Iraq cowards when, in comments before the House Armed Services Committee, he said reporters here are "afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors." That didn't go over well. In fact, the sentiment here could best be summed up by the bit of self-actualizing sexual advice the vice-president offered recently on the Senate floor. [complete article]

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If Ramadi falls, 'province goes to hell'
By Gregg Zoroya, USA Today (via Yahoo), July 12, 2004

This may be the most dangerous city in Iraq.

Though battles in places such as Fallujah and Najaf have gotten far more attention, the Marine battalion in this provincial capital has encountered the most deadly combat fighting and logged the highest number of casualties of any U.S. battalion since the war in Iraq began.

In the past four months of fighting, the 2nd Battalion of the 4th Marine Regiment -- nicknamed "The Magnificent Bastards" -- has had 31 killed and 175 wounded, roughly 20% of its 1,000-man fighting strength.

Among the latest to die was Sgt. Kenneth Conde, 23, of Orlando. Conde had been wounded in fighting in April and recommended for a Silver Star. He was killed July 1. In an interview a few weeks before his death, Conde described the rebels Marines fight in Ramadi. "They were young just like me. Fighting for something different, something I don't understand, something they believe in," he said. "And that's the worst kind of enemy." [complete article]

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Resentment is festering in 'little Falloujas'
By Patrick J. McDonnell and Suhail Ahmed, Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2004

His Charlie Battery was dug in against as many as 50 insurgents, Capt. Matt Davenport remembers, and the volleys of rocket-propelled grenades and bursts of machine-gun fire were nonstop. At one point in the two-day firefight, he recalls, "there was an explosion every five seconds."

The battle was fierce enough that it could have occurred at the height of this spring's siege of Fallouja, a city that has become notorious worldwide as a hub of resistance to American and allied forces. But the fight came just a few weeks ago, in this agricultural town northeast of Baghdad.

There is only one Fallouja, but, unfortunately for U.S. forces and their allies, seething towns such as Buhriz dot Iraq's vast "Sunni Triangle." They are home to traditional tribal populations embittered by the U.S.-led forces in their country -- and suspicious of an Iraqi government installed by foreigners.

Harnessing these "little Falloujas" back into the fold of civil Iraqi society is one of the great challenges facing the new government and its U.S. allies. [complete article]

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Iraq's Christians consider fleeing as attacks on them rise
By Annia Ciezadlo, Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 2004

It was 10:30 in the morning, almost four months ago, and the children were getting ready for church. Aziz Raad Azzo, 5 years old, was drinking his milk; his 14-year-old sister Raneen was putting on her new clothes. When they heard a car pull up, Raneen, thinking her father was home, ran to the window and flung open the shutters. Four men shot her and her little brother in the head.

Before the murders, the family received a photocopied death threat. "We are warning you, the enemies of God and Islam, from selling alcohol again, and unless you stop we will kill you and send you to hell where a worse fate awaits you," reads the warning, signed by "Harakat Ansar al-Islam," the Partisans of Islam Movement.

Shortly after the murders, their father wrote a letter to an Iraqi human rights group. "Please save me," he begged, "and help me leave the country."

Facing a rising tide of persecution, Iraq's tiny Christian minority has a terrible choice: stay and risk their lives, or leave and abandon those left behind. Afraid of an Islamic future in which they would be outcasts, thousands are trying to flee. "It's like a huge amount of people lined up at the starting line, waiting for the gun to go off, and now it's going off," says the Rev. Ken Joseph, an Iraqi-American Christian activist in Baghdad. "For them to leave is a very big step, but that shows how badly people want to get out." [complete article]

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In Iraq, no power for the people
By Patrick Martin, Globe and Mail, July, 11, 2004

It can happen at any time -- when you're in the shower, on the computer, in an elevator or on the toilet. Power outages.

These days in the Iraqi capital, most people get three hours of electricity followed by three hours of none. But even that's not certain. And with temperatures this week topping 50 degrees [120 F] every day, the lack of electricity to power air conditioners and fans has begun to rival the lack of security as the greatest concern to Iraqis. [complete article]

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Hell on earth
By Edward T. Pound and Kit R. Roane, US News and World Report, July 19, 2004

Over the past two months, many of the classified documents supporting Taguba's findings have emerged in various news accounts, including in U.S. News. But the magazine now has obtained all 106 classified annexes to the report, and the several thousand pages of material provide the most comprehensive view yet of what went wrong at Abu Ghraib and in the Army's management of the teeming prison system in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's government was toppled. Taguba focused mostly on the MP s assigned to guard the inmates at Abu Ghraib, but the classified files in the annex to his report show that military intelligence officers--dispatched to Abu Ghraib by the top commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez--were intimately involved in some of the interrogation techniques widely viewed as abusive. [complete article]

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Afghanistan's off-again, on-again, partial elections
By Halima Kazem, Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 2004

After months of debate and two postponements, Afghanistan is pushing ahead with just half an election. By setting the date for the presidential elections as Oct. 9 - while postponing the more complex parliamentary elections until next April - the Central Asian nation will embark on its path to democratic rule.

But given the molasses-slow pace of militia disarmament and lack of international funding for the election process and security, some here are wondering, what's the rush?

Although Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Board and interim President Hamid Karzai's government deny any political pressure to schedule Afghanistan's elections before the US presidential election in November, many analysts see an imprint of stars and stripes on the decision. [complete article]

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Securing African oil
By Gilbert Da Costa, Associated Press (via Washington Times), July 12, 2004

A top U.S. military commander proposed American help yesterday in monitoring West Africa's Gulf of Guinea to secure an unstable region that holds as much as 10 percent of the world's oil reserves.

Gen. Charles Wald, the deputy commander of the U.S. military's European Command for Europe and Africa, said he raised the offer in talks with West African and national officials in Nigeria -- Africa's biggest oil producer and most populous nation. [...]

Asked whether the United States was willing to help stem attacks against Nigeria's oil industry, Gen. Wald said, "Wherever there's evil, we want to get there and fight it."

Nigeria's oil industry has been beset by armed attacks from militants -- many seeking a share of the country's oil wealth -- that at times in the past year shut down 10 percent to 40 percent of Nigeria's daily production of 2.5 million barrels of crude.

"Where you have wealth, if you don't protect it, you are vulnerable to terrorists and illegal arms dealers and so you are not safe," he said.

The West and Central African regions produce 15 percent of U.S. oil imports, a figure that could rise to 20 percent in the next decade "if it remains attractive to investment," according to a U.S. Congress-commissioned report last week by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. [complete article]

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Are Iran and Al Qaeda vying for influence in Yemen?
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 2004

Could Yemen follow on the heels of Afghanistan and Iraq as the third major venue in the war on terrorism?

A bloody Islamist insurrection in the mountainous north which has cost more than 200 lives and a statement from an Al Qaeda group vowing to turn Yemen into a "quagmire" for the US would suggest that the remote country at the tip of the Arabian peninsula is gearing up for conflict.

But instead of an Al Qaeda campaign against the US and the Yemeni government, a conflict in Yemen may involve a power struggle between militant Sunnis and Iranian-backed Shiites, analysts say.

Al Qaeda despises the Shiite branch of Islam as much as it hates the US. Therefore, analysts say, Iran may back Shiite groups to counter the spread of Al Qaeda's influence in Yemen, which would threaten the country's traditionally moderate Zaidi Shiite population. [complete article]

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Washington must start coping with Iran's rising power
By David Ignatius, Daily Star, July 12, 2004

Whoever wins this November's presidential elections, the United States faces an urgent question that the Bush administration has not resolved: What is America's strategy for coping with the rising power of Iran?

Washington and Tehran have engaged in extensive secret contacts since September 11, 2001 - premised on their shared goal of destroying Al-Qaeda and the Taleban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But despite many meetings, nothing has come of the contacts - partly because the Bush administration, not for the first time, was internally divided over the right strategic course to pursue. [complete article]

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Radical departure: Toward a practical peace in Iraq
By Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives, July 7, 2004

Progress toward a stable peace in Iraq and the withdrawal of US troops begins with the painful recognition that America's recent troubles are largely self-inflicted. This is due principally to the adoption of mission objectives that far exceed what is necessary or pragmatic.

While much attention has focused on the need to "internationalize" the postwar effort, the shortfall in international support that has beset the mission is a derivative problem. "Internationalization," although a prerequisite of success, is neither sufficient nor even primary. The first and most important step is selecting a practicable set of mission objectives. And these are not yet in sight. For this reason, neither the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1546, nor the 28 June installation of a new interim government, nor the prospect of an increased UN role in Iraq will take the American mission out of the woods. For the same reason, Senator John Kerry's alternative to the Bush administration approach also falls short of being adequate. [...]

The postwar mission has sought not only to repair and selectively reform Iraq, but to virtually reinvent the nation -- economically, socially, and politically. The mission also has aimed to substantially decide the future political balance inside Iraq and to establish the country as a reliable ally and base for US operations. In the Administration's vision, Iraq is meant to serve not only as an example, but also as a "lever arm" for a program of coercive transformation throughout the region, affecting both the external behavior and internal constitution of Arab and Muslim states.

These ambitions -- which significantly intrude on the prerogatives of the Iraqi people -- have made the mission an enemy to too many Iraqis and an affront to too many more. [complete article]

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Who's got the wrong values now?
By E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, July 13, 2004

It's notable that in a week when the major reasons the administration offered for the war in Iraq were undercut by a Senate intelligence committee report, our presidential candidates devoted themselves to talk about "values."

The idea that our country fought a war on false premises is astonishing -- and it has a lot to do with the "values" of this administration.

President Bush's government was unrelenting in trying to convince Americans that Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat to us, that he had scary weapons, that he was tied to al Qaeda and thus to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is wholly inadequate to shuck all this off on the CIA. The president was determined to scare the hell out of the country and make the case for war by whatever means necessary.

"Chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained," Bush said in a speech to religious broadcasters in February 2003. "Secretly, without fingerprints, Saddam Hussein could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists or help them develop their own. Saddam Hussein is a threat. He's a threat to the United States of America."

This was the president talking, not the CIA. [complete article]

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Bush again tries to link Saddam, al-Qaida
By William Douglas and Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, July 12, 2004

President Bush continued to insist Monday that there was an operational link between former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida despite reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the commission that's investigating the Sept. 11 attacks that there was no evidence that Saddam and Islamic terrorists collaborated to kill Americans.

Specifically addressing national security issues for the first time since the Senate report was released Friday, Bush acknowledged there were "shortcomings" in the intelligence on Iraq's banned-weapons programs that was used to justify the war. But good intelligence or faulty, the president said war with Iraq was necessary.

His comments, made at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, came as the White House is making his handling of the war on terrorism the centerpiece of his re-election campaign and as recent polls show that more Americans think the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism, not lowered it. [complete article]

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In foreign-policy battles, are neocons losing their hold?
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 2004

... some observers [are] speculating that the "neocons" and their black-and-white views of the world are on the outs in the White House.

But others, among them some mainstream conservatives, say this may be only a setback - and not a fatal one - for neoconservative ideology with its emphasis on "good" vs. "evil" and military force. A battle is under way, they say, for the future of GOP foreign policy - something akin to conservatives' feuds over the administration's spending habits.

"The gloves are off and the battle is joined for the soul of the Republican Party," says John Hulsman, a foreign-policy expert and self-described "realist" at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

The prize both sides are fighting for is the direction that foreign policy would take, should Bush win reelection in November. [complete article]

Comment -- Whatever delusions the neocons have been subject to, there is little indication that they confuse power with popularity. Richard Perle's departure from the Defense Policy Board, for instance, was not so much the fall of the mighty as it was a prudent withdrawal from the spotlight.

Evidence of the neocons success in avoiding media attention (even when they should count as one of George Bush's heaviest electoral liabilities) is that Michael Moore, while supposedly presenting a damning critique of the administration in Fahrenheit 9/11, chose to ignore the neocon's role in the war on terrorism and war in Iraq.

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Blair faces Iraq storm
By Mark Rice-Oxley, Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 2004

Inquiries on both sides of the Atlantic into the intelligence underpinning the Iraq war point to a simple conclusion: The spies got it wrong. But the bigger question now is whether their political masters will take the rap.

President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair both face looming reelection bids with an uncomfortable perception stalking the hustings: The war to rid the world of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction was made under false pretenses.

Last week, the US Senate Intelligence Committee seriously challenged prewar intelligence estimates.

This week, Mr. Blair will hear the outcome of the latest British inquiry into intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. [complete article]

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Corrupted intelligence
By Ray McGovern, TomPaine.com, July 12, 2004

Several of us have just spent a painful weekend digesting the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee on prewar intelligence assessments on Iraq. The corruption is far deeper than we suspected. The only silver lining is that corrupter-in-chief George Tenet is now gone.

When the former CIA director departed, he left behind an agency on life support -- an institution staffed by sycophant managers and thoroughly demoralized analysts, who are embarrassed at their own naivete in believing that the passage carved into the marble at the entrance to CIA Headquarters -- "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" -- held real meaning for their work.

The Senate Committee report is meticulous. Its findings are a sharp blow to those of us who took pride in working in an agency where we could speak truth to power—with career protection from retribution from the powerful, and with leaders who would face down those policymakers who tried to exert undue influence over our analysis. [complete article]

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'The dots never existed'
By Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, July 19, 2004

The more he read, the more uneasy he became. In early February 2003 Colin Powell was putting the finishing touches on his speech to the United Nations spelling out the case for war in Iraq. Across the Potomac River, a Pentagon intelligence analyst going over the facts in the speech was alarmed at how shaky that case was. Powell's presentation relied heavily on the claims of one especially dubious Iraqi defector, dubbed "Curve Ball" inside the intel community. A self-proclaimed chemical engineer who was the brother of a top aide to Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmad Chalabi, Curve Ball had told the German intelligence service that Iraq had a fleet of seven mobile labs used to manufacture deadly biological weapons. But nobody inside the U.S. government had ever actually spoken to the informant -- except the Pentagon analyst, who concluded the man was an alcoholic and utterly useless as a source. He recalled that Curve Ball had shown up for their only meeting nursing a "terrible hangover."

After reading Powell's speech, the analyst decided he had to speak up, according to a devastating report from the Senate intelligence committee, released last week, on intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war. He wrote an urgent e-mail to a top CIA official warning that there were even questions about whether Curve Ball "was who he said he was." Could Powell really rely on such an informant as the "backbone" for the U.S. government's claims that Iraq had a continuing biological-weapons program? The CIA official quickly responded: "Let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say," he wrote. "The Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about." [complete article]

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Sunni cleric emerges as powerful foe of U.S. in Iraq
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, July 9, 2004

A Sunni Muslim cleric who operates out of an imposing mosque with minarets shaped like rifle barrels has become one of America's most formidable foes in Iraq.

In the year since he founded the ultraconservative Association of Islamic Scholars, Sheik Hareth al Dhari has emerged as the closest thing U.S. military officials have to a public face for the shadowy insurgency that controls most of Anbar province, including the flashpoint towns of Ramadi and Fallujah.

Al Dhari denies that he's in direct contact with the insurgents, who've killed at least 105 American troops in the past year. Yet foreign diplomats know him as the go-to guy to save hostages held by militants threatening to behead them. [complete article]

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Saddam loyalists turn Iraqi city into no-go area
By Damien McElroy and Aqeel Hussein, The Telegraph, July 11, 2004

With a sharp crack and rush of air, the barrage of mortars arced into the clear blue sky towards an American army base on the outskirts of the city.

Professional soldiers who knew how to gauge and range an artillery piece were in charge, an alarming development for the Americans who have endured deadly but mostly scattered showers of "iron rain" during the year-old uprising.

The attackers were not talkative but did not appear suspicious of outside scrutiny. "Welcome," said the general, who declined to give his name. "I will not say anything, but watch the Iraqi army in action."

A spokesman for the 1st Infantry division of the American army's Task Force Danger, Major Neal O'Brien, said five soldiers and two National Guard were killed in the onslaught. [complete article]

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Iraqi rebels dividing, losing support
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, July 12, 2004

In April, with anger swelling at the US occupation and a Marine-led assault on the Sunni city of Fallujah,thousands of Shiites provided assistance to their Iraqi brothers in the city.

Adnan Feisal Muthar filled up his truck with food and drove it to Fallujah to help residents rendered homeless by US bombing. His uncle and two of his sons donated blood for the wounded. "We wanted to help the people there," says Mr. Muthar. "They were Iraqis and they were suffering.

But the city west of Baghdad is no longer a sympathetic rallying place for a unified Iraqi resistance. It is now seen as run by intolerant and exclusivist Sunni imams who are seeking to turn it into a haven for Al Qaeda ideologues. Fallujah is emerging as a symbol of the disparate nature of the overall insurgency inside Iraq. Many Shiites, like the Muthars, have stopped supporting it. [complete article]

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Afghan president describes militias as the top threat
By Carlotta Gall and David Rohde, New York Times, July 12, 2004

President Hamid Karzai said Sunday that Afghanistan's private militias had become the country's greatest danger -- greater than the Taliban insurgency -- and that new action was required to disarm them.

"We tried to do it by persuasion," Mr. Karzai said in an interview with The New York Times two days after he had postponed parliamentary elections by six months because of the threat of disruption. But now, he said, "The stick has to be used, definitely."

Mr. Karzai did not specify what action he would undertake. But his assessment represented a new ranking of Afghanistan's problems, with attacks by Taliban supporters and slow voter registration suddenly receding, to be replaced by worries about election intimidation by warlords and militias. [complete article]

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U.S. distances self from vigilante
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, July 12, 2004

For the past few weeks, US embassy officials had become so worried about the activities of a former US Green Beret in Kabul that they took the unusual step of issuing a press release saying that Jonathan Keith Idema was not connected in any way with the US government.

Their statement came just in time. On Monday, Mr. Idema's cloak-and-dagger world collapsed onto itself, as Afghan intelligence agents and police swarmed into Idema's compound in a residential neighborhood of Kabul and placed him and two other Americans and four Afghans under arrest. What they found inside shocked them: a private prison, with eight Afghan prisoners, hung from the ceiling by their feet in makeshift torture chambers. [...]

Idema joined the US Army in 1975, serving in the 11th Special Forces Reserve Group for three years in the post-Vietnam period. Later, he turned himself into a kind of war entrepreneur. Known variously as Keith and "Jack," he formed a firm in his hometown of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to make vests and pouches for the US military. His business went sour, leaving him unable to pay his creditors. In 1994, he was convicted on 58 counts of wire fraud and served three years in prison.

With Sept. 11, Idema seemed to have found some redemption. He spent 10 months fighting alongside the Northern Alliance of assassinated Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Masood, and became a major character in the bestseller, "The Hunt for Bin Laden," by Robin Moore.

Since leaders of the Northern Alliance went on to control key ministries in the interim Afghan government, including the Ministry of Defense and most of the intelligence agencies, there is speculation in Kabul that Idema may have been working with at least partial cooperation of Afghan authorities. At the time of his arrest last week, he appears to have been interrogating prisoners for information leading to the capture of Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda figures, some of whom have a bounty of $25 million. [complete article]

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Five killed, 29 injured in Afghan bomb blast
Associated Press (via LA Times), July 12, 2004

A bomb exploded on a bustling street of this western city Sunday, killing five people and injuring 29 as U.N. and government officials watched a disarmament parade for militia soldiers across town.

Herat police said they had arrested one suspect. But there was no immediate claim of responsibility, and it was unclear who was behind the attack, which came two days after Afghanistan pushed elections back to Oct. 9. [complete article]

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The case for sanctions against Israel
By Gerald Kaufman, The Guardian, July 12, 2004

The bomb attack in Tel Aviv yesterday highlights the desperate need to achieve a peace settlement. It highlights, too, the futility of the wall Israel is building in Palestinian land, a wall condemned by the international court of justice last Friday and whose route was condemned by Israel's supreme court last month. What action is needed to put an end to this dance of death?

When the international court demanded the removal of the wall, the Israeli government replied that it had a "moral duty" to protect its citizens. Quite apart from the fact that this government - the most rightwing and bellicose in Israel's 56-year history - could not recognise a moral duty if hit in the face by one, the protection of citizens is, above all, the duty in which it is failing.

Since the second intifada was sparked in September 2000 by the provocative visit by Ariel Sharon (then an opposition leader) to the Temple Mount, sacred to Muslims, in Jerusalem, more than 1,000 Israelis have been killed by terrorist action - far more than in any comparable period since Israel was created. In the same period, of course, more than three times as many Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. [complete article]

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The militarist and messianic ideologies
By Neve Gordon, Middle East Report Online, July 8, 2004

Two weeks after 60,000 Likud Party members voted against a pullout from the Gaza Strip, about 150,000 Israelis filled Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, calling on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government to proceed with the withdrawal plan. Those opposing the pullout from Gaza support the vision of a Greater Israel, while those favoring the pullout support the state of Israel. The first group believes that without Gaza, Israel will be destroyed; the second believes that with it, Israel will be destroyed. [...]

Tragically, many of the 150,000 peaceniks who demonstrated in support of Sharon's withdrawal plan also back the separation barrier and do not really care where it passes. Whereas Sharon may have given up on holding 100 percent of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, and therefore abandoned Gush Emunim's version of the Greater Israel ideology, many liberal Israelis are willing to support Sharon's 50 percent plan for a Greater Israel, replacing the two-state solution mantra with a new buzzword -- "separation." The details about how to separate are not important. All these liberals want is an immediate divorce, and Sharon, they think, can perform the ceremony. In terms of militarist ideology, certain elements within Peace Now hold views that are in many ways similar to Sharon's. [complete article]

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Sacred right to fight terror overrides court, says Sharon
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, July 12, 2004

Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, said yesterday that the world court's ruling against his country's vast barrier through the West Bank encouraged terrorists, shortly after a bomb at a Tel Aviv bus stop killed a young woman.

Mr Sharon said his government "totally rejects" Friday's non-binding ruling by the international court of justice (ICJ) at The Hague, which said the vast wire and concrete barrier was illegal and should be torn down.

Israel is trying to mobilise American and European support to discredit, if not block, Palestinian attempts to take the issue to the United Nations general assembly this week.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade said it carried out yesterday's attack in Tel Aviv, the first bombing in Israel for four months. The explosion killed a 20-year-old soldier, Sergeant Ma'ayan Nayim, and injured about 30 other people. Unusually, the attack did not involve a suicide bomber but explosives left in a bush near the bus stop. [complete article]

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Israeli rivals move towards unity
BBC News, July 12, 2004

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Shimon Peres, are inching towards forming a coalition government.

The aim is to form a national unity government that can push through Mr Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza.

Mr Sharon's own Likud party rejected the plan and he needs the support of the Labour party to implement it.

Mr Sharon and Mr Peres met on Monday and agreed to go back and talk to their own parties about building a coalition. [complete article]

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Some key conservatives uneasy about Bush
By Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press (via The State), July 11, 2004

When an influential group of conservatives gathers in downtown Washington each week, they often get a political pep talk from a senior Bush administration official or campaign aide. They don't expect a fellow Republican to deliver a blistering critique of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war.

But nearly 150 conservatives listened in silence recently as a veteran of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations ticked off a litany of missteps in Iraq by the Bush White House.

"This war is not going well," said Stefan Halper, a deputy assistant secretary of state under President Reagan.

"It's costing us a lot of money, isolating us from our allies and friends," said Halper, who gave $1,000 to George W. Bush's campaign and more than $83,000 to other GOP causes in 2000. "This is not the cakewalk the neoconservatives predicted. We were not greeted with flowers in the streets."

Conservatives, the backbone of Bush's political base, are increasingly uneasy about the Iraq conflict and the steady drumbeat of violence in postwar Iraq, Halper and some of his fellow Republicans say. The conservatives' anxiety was fueled by the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal and has not abated with the transfer of political power to the interim Iraqi government.

Some Republicans fear angry conservatives will stay home in November, undercutting Bush's re-election bid.

"I don't think there's any question that there is growing restiveness in the Republican base about this war," said Halper, the co-author of a new book, "America Alone: The Neoconservatives and the Global Order." [complete article]

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Drop Cheney? Democrats hope not
By Tom Curry, MSNBC, July 9, 2004

When former New York Sen. Al D'Amato suggested this week the time had come for President Bush to replace Vice President Dick Cheney with either Secretary of State Colin Powell or Arizona Sen. John McCain as his running mate, was D'Amato voicing Republican hopes and Democratic fears? Or was he simply being provocative?

"On through September, the Democratic ticket of Kerry-Edwards could very well build an insurmountable lead among a public that is hungry for change," said one Washington-based political consultant, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"If Cheney is dropped it would be the highest example of desperation in the history of presidential elections," he said. "Without a doubt, it would happen in response to the fear Republicans have at Edwards being selected as Kerry's VP."
[complete article]

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How to make a guerrilla documentary
By Robert S. Boynton, New York Times, July 11, 2004

"Outfoxed" has been made in secret. The film is an obsessively researched expose of the ways in which Fox News, as Greenwald sees it, distorts its coverage to serve the conservative political agenda of its owner, the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. It features interviews with former Fox employees, leaked policy memos written by Fox executives and extensive footage from Fox News, which Greenwald is using without the network's permission. The result is an unwavering argument against Fox News that combines the leftist partisan vigor of a Michael Moore film with the sober tone and delivery of a PBS special. A large portion of the film's $300,000 budget came in the form of contributions in the range of $80,000 from both MoveOn and the Center for American Progress, the liberal policy organization founded by John Podesta, the former chief of staff for Bill Clinton; Greenwald, who is not looking to earn any money from the project, provided the rest.

A week after its New School premiere, the film will be shown throughout the country in hundreds of small local screenings, arranged by MoveOn, where people will be able to watch and discuss it. Though the existence of "Outfoxed" has been quietly publicized, its particular nature and content have been closely guarded for fear, Greenwald says, that Fox would try to stop the film's release by filing a copyright-infringement lawsuit. Nobody has ever made a critical documentary about a media company that uses as much footage without permission as Greenwald has, and the legal precedents governing the "fair use" of such material, while theoretically strong, are not well established in case law. He has retained the services of several intellectual-property lawyers and experts to help him navigate the ambiguous legal terrain. [complete article]

Find out more about "Outfoxed" here

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In Iraq, showdown looms over self-rule for Kurds
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, July 11, 2004

Karzan Kanabi, whose clothing shop attracts young men with its cheap bell-bottom pants, never went to Baghdad, never learned Arabic and never felt the desire to go anywhere he would have to mix with Iraq's Arab population.

"We want Kurdistan to be an independent country," said Kanabi, 18, who had his Washington-brand jeans trucked in from Turkey, just to the north. He does no business with the rest of Iraq. "We only need Kurdistan."

The nationalist sentiments voiced by Kanabi and many others in this prosperous Kurdish city 200 miles north of Baghdad have become the leading edge of a storm looming over Iraq. After 13 years of quasi-independence -- the only regime Kanabi and his peers have known -- the 4 million Kurds living under their own government here in the grassy plains and jagged mountains of historical Kurdistan have resolved never to relinquish the self-rule bestowed on them by the United States after the Persian Gulf War in 1991. [complete article]

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Wise trade policy can address the roots of terrorism
By Edward Gresser, YaleGlobal, July 8, 2004

Many people believe economic growth, development, and job creation in the Muslim world could help drain support from radical and fundamentalist groups. Few seem willing to do much about it.

Ask Pakistan. In 2001, then-Commerce Minister Abdul Razak Dawood told a newspaper that "if you want Pakistan to be a liberal and modern state, you are not going to get that unless you've got people employed," and requested an exemption from American textile tariffs. He never got his wish. Three years later, Pakistan's bedsheets and sweaters still get tariffs five to ten times those applied to the chips and cars coming to the US from Japan and Europe.

The issue is not simply Pakistan and American tariffs. It is the economic decline of much of the Muslim heartland, a region accounting for 30 countries and 700 million people from North Africa to Bangladesh. The virtue of free trade as a path to economic development, so often touted by the West in other areas of the world, is generally absent in trade policies towards Muslim nations, making it even harder for the region to reverse its slide.

In 1980, at the peak of the oil boom, this region accounted for almost 14 percent of global exports. Twenty-five years later, the figure is below five percent. Investment is a still more striking case. The 'outsourcing' and 'offshoring' phenomena so prominent in American trade debates has nothing to do with the Muslim world. All 57 Muslim countries combined now receive barely as much foreign investment as very small European or East Asian economies like Sweden, Singapore, or the Netherlands.

In effect, as most of the world has debated globalization, these countries have conducted an experiment in 'de-globalization.' Their share of the global economy has contracted by 75% in a generation – and the generation in question is a very big one. [complete article]

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Saudis facing return of radicals
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, July 11, 2004

An increasing number of Saudis who crossed the border into Iraq to fight the U.S.-led military occupation are returning home to plot attacks against the Saudi government and Western targets in the desert kingdom, according to Western counterterrorism officials and Saudis with ties to militant groups.

The Iraq veterans are serving as fresh recruits for an underground network in Saudi Arabia that, until recently, was led by an older generation of fighters that had trained in Afghanistan and was closely connected to al Qaeda and its founder, Saudi native Osama bin Laden. Many of those leaders have been killed or captured in recent months by Saudi security forces.

Today, the proclaimed new chief of the primary militant group in the kingdom is Saleh Awfi, 33, a Saudi who journeyed north last year to join Ansar al-Islam, an Islamic radical group in Iraq that the U.S. government has branded as a terrorist organization. Awfi stayed for a few months, barely surviving U.S. aerial bombardment, before deciding to return and take up arms in his home country, according to a former Saudi radical who met with Awfi last year. [...]

Some Western officials express fear that the homecoming will grow if Iraq stabilizes. They also say they worry that the trend could become an echo of the 1990s, when thousands of Saudis traveled to Afghanistan to enlist in training camps sponsored by al Qaeda and other Islamic groups. Many of those radicals were dispatched around the world to launch attacks, including the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings in the United States.

After the Iraq insurgency is over, "there will be people who are freshly trained in the art of guerrilla warfare," said a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's a real concern. How big a concern? I don't know. It clearly doesn't take too many to do a lot of damage." [complete article]

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Interrogation unbound
By Hyder Akbar, New York Times, July 11, 2004

"Ask him this," the American said to me. "Are you in contact with anyone in al Qaeda?" I translated the question into Pashto to the man beside me, an Afghan with flowing hair named Abdul Wali. "No," he said.

It was a Wednesday afternoon in June 2003, and Wali was being interrogated by three Americans at their base near Asadabad, Afghanistan. I was interpreting. Three days later, Abdul Wali was dead. On June 17 of this year, a federal grand jury indicted a C.I.A. contractor named David A. Passaro in connection with his assault. Passaro, the first civilian to be charged in the investigation of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, is accused of beating Wali using his hands, his feet and a large flashlight.

At the time of his death, Wali's family guessed his age to be 28; he was 10 years older than I was. I'm 19 now. I grew up mostly in the Bay Area suburbs, but since the fall of the Taliban, I've been spending summers in Afghanistan, working alongside my father, Said Fazel Akbar, the governor of Kunar, a rural province in the eastern part of the country. It's a strange double life. I sometimes stumble into situations in which I'm called upon to act as a kind of cultural translator. It's a role that can leave me tense and frustrated, or far worse: I came away from Wali's interrogation feeling something close to despair. [complete article]

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British spy chiefs 'withdrew' Saddam arms claim
By Gaby Hinsliff and Antony Barnett, The Observer, July 11, 2004

Tony Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein posed a 'current and serious' threat to Britain is challenged by dramatic new allegations today that Britain's spy chiefs have retracted the intelligence on which it was based.

The supposed proof that the Iraqi dictator was still trying, even in the run-up to war, to produce chemical and biological weapons became crucial to the Prime Minister's case for urgent military action rather than waiting for inspectors to finish their task.

Yet, according to a senior intelligence source interviewed by BBC1's Panorama tonight, MI6 has since taken the rare step of withdrawing the intelligence assessment that underpinned the claim that Saddam had continued to produce WMD - an admission that it was fundamentally unreliable.

The charge leaves Blair open to serious questions over why, if the nature of the proof had changed, he did not tell the public that the evidence of WMD was crumbling beneath him. [complete article]

See also, MI6 'retracted' Iraq intelligence (BBC)

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Fury over Pentagon cell that briefed White House on Iraq's 'imaginary' al-Qaeda links
By Julian Coman, The Telegraph, July 11, 2004

A Senior Pentagon policy maker created an unofficial "Iraqi intelligence cell" in the summer of 2002 to circumvent the CIA and secretly brief the White House on links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'eda, according to the Senate intelligence committee.

The allegations about Douglas Feith, the number three at the Department of Defence, are made in a supplementary annexe of the committee's review of the intelligence leading to war in Iraq, released on Friday.

According to dramatic testimony contained in the annexe, Mr Feith's cell undermined the credibility of CIA judgments on Iraq's alleged al-Qa'eda links within the highest levels of the Bush administration. [complete article]

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Key revisions were made to CIA document
By Mark Mazzetti, Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2004

In a classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared before the Iraq war, the CIA hedged its judgments about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction, pointing up the limits of its knowledge.

But in the unclassified version of the NIE — the so-called white paper cited by the Bush administration in making its case for war — those carefully qualified conclusions were turned into blunt assertions of fact, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on prewar intelligence.

The repeated elimination of qualifying language and dissenting assessments of some of the government's most knowledgeable experts gave the public an inaccurate impression of what the U.S. intelligence community believed about the threat Hussein posed to the United States, the committee said.

Dedicating a section of its 511-page report to discrepancies between the two versions of the crucial October 2002 NIE, the panel laid out numerous instances in which the unclassified version omitted key dissenting opinions about Iraqi weapons capabilities, overstated U.S. knowledge about Iraq's alleged stockpiles of weapons and, in one case, inserted threatening language into the public document that was not contained in the classified version. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Neo-conservatism and the American future
By Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, Open Democracy, July 7, 2004
Beyond the human and financial cost [of the war in Iraq], the effect of sharply diminished American credibility has been felt in official Washington, and in the money centres of New York, Atlanta and Chicago. Most damaging for the neo-conservatives, however, has been the revelation that their utopian strategic plan for the Middle East is naive and unworkable. The limitations of American power have become a public spectacle; with each day, Americans have learned more about how the post-conflict plan for Iraq's reconstruction was developed without the benefit of Arabic-speakers or country experts, riven by bureaucratic and exile factions, and without addressing the critical tension in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Moreover, the relentless focus on Iraq has allowed Afghanistan to fester, North Korea and Iran to continue along their nuclear paths and Saudi Arabia to stumble towards catastrophe. Perhaps the most ominous result of Iraq's seizure of the attention of top United States foreign policy and national security managers is the neglect of China, which already may have replaced the US as the leading power in East Asia.

In the corporate sector, failures of this magnitude would result in the speedy replacement of those responsible. This may yet happen. But even if November's election brings a change of administration, the question arises: will the neo-conservatives' influence on American foreign policy endure?

The implication of two 2004 studies broadly sympathetic to neo-conservatism – Surprise, Security and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis and Power, Terror, Peace and War by Walter Russell Mead – is that the unilateral exercise of American power draws on certain social and cultural themes, centring on an insular and aggressive nativism, that have animated America's interaction with the world from the earliest days of the republic. The implication is that, far from being an aberration, neo-conservatism is part of an established historical tradition.

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.

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."

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.

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. [...]

[A]n 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.

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.

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 naďve. 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:

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.

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.

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."

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.

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