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

GEORGE BUSH: We busted the A.Q. Khan network...
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, ... if you are elected, the single most serious threat you believe... is nuclear proliferation?
BUSH: In the hands of a terrorist enemy.
Presidential Debate, September 30, 2004

In Thursday's presidential debate, George Bush ended up playing me-too when he seconded John Kerry on the danger of nuclear proliferation. Trouble is, the number one proliferator -- A.Q. Khan -- has yet to be questioned and Bush seems too shy to ask.

Bush's predilection for shock-and-awe might be related to his inability to focus on details. But when it comes to counter-proliferation policy and its application there's no escaping those darned details and all that damn complexity. It's really, really hard work -- a task that may be altogether beyond the intellectual capabilities of the current president.

And in case anyone thinks that the danger of nuclear terrorism is just speculative, it was reported last week that a man had been detained in the former Soviet state of Kyrgyzstan attempting to sell nuclear bomb-grade plutonium on the black market.

Bush can't let Musharraf off the hook
Lead Editorial, Chicago Tribune (via Daily Times), September 30, 2004

The hunt for Osama Bin Laden was Topic 1 last week when Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf met with President Bush at the White House. The two leaders discussed other things, including Musharraf's efforts to retain his post as chief of the army. But apparently one thing that failed to rank high on the agenda was the threat of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons.

To be specific, Bush reportedly didn't even try to persuade Musharraf to allow US or International Atomic Energy Agency officials a crack at interviewing Abdul Qadeer Khan, the former head of Pakistan's nuclear program and one of the world's most brazen nuclear profiteers.

Earlier this year, Khan's underground nuclear bazaar - dubbed the "nuclear Wal-Mart" by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei - was uncloaked, solving the mystery of how North Korea, Iran and Libya acquired so much nuclear technology so fast. The answer: Khan's network sold it to them.

Khan, revered in his homeland as the father of the Pakistan bomb, confessed and was instantly pardoned by Musharraf. The Pakistan president apparently feared that his grip on power could be undermined by a long investigation and trial of a national hero. Musharraf insisted that Khan acted without government knowledge, a claim that is difficult if not impossible to believe. [complete article]

The deal
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, March 1, 2004

On February 4th, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is revered in Pakistan as the father of the country's nuclear bomb, appeared on a state-run television network in Islamabad and confessed that he had been solely responsible for operating an international black market in nuclear-weapons materials. His confession was accepted by a stony-faced Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's President, who is a former Army general, and who dressed for the occasion in commando fatigues. The next day, on television again, Musharraf, who claimed to be shocked by Khan's misdeeds, nonetheless pardoned him, citing his service to Pakistan (he called Khan "my hero"). Musharraf told the Times that he had received a specific accounting of Khan's activities in Iran, North Korea, and Malaysia from the United States only last October. "If they knew earlier, they should have told us," he said. "Maybe a lot of things would not have happened."

It was a make-believe performance in a make-believe capital. In interviews last month in Islamabad, a planned city built four decades ago, politicians, diplomats, and nuclear experts dismissed the Khan confession and the Musharraf pardon with expressions of scorn and disbelief. For two decades, journalists and American and European intelligence agencies have linked Khan and the Pakistani intelligence service, the I.S.I. (Inter-Service Intelligence), to nuclear-technology transfers, and it was hard to credit the idea that the government Khan served had been oblivious. "It is state propaganda," Samina Ahmed, the director of the Islamabad office of the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization that studies conflict resolution, told me. "The deal is that Khan doesn't tell what he knows. Everybody is lying. The tragedy of this whole affair is that it doesn't serve anybody's needs." Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who is a member of the Pakistani senate, said with a laugh, "America needed an offering to the gods -- blood on the floor. Musharraf told A.Q., 'Bend over for a spanking.'" [complete article]

IAEA fears Brazil shopped on nuke black market - analyst
By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, September 30, 2004

The U.N. nuclear watchdog is concerned a Pakistani scientist who supplied Iran, Libya and North Korea with sensitive nuclear technology was also a supplier for Brazil, a nuclear analyst said on Thursday.

Brazil dismissed the allegation as having "no coherence".

"I know that they (the U.N.) are specifically worried about this," said Henry Sokolski, a former U.S. Pentagon official and currently head of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a think-tank.

"They are specifically worried about the Khan network being one of the sources of this programme," Sokolski told Reuters over the telephone. "I can't tell you how I know, but I know."

Sokolski was referring to a nuclear black market run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, which supplied sensitive nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Several diplomats on the IAEA board of governors, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed this view. [complete article]

Preventable nightmare
By Graham Allison, Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2004

In October 2001, a top-secret team was dispatched to New York City to search for a nuclear bomb. According to a CIA agent code-named Dragonfire, Al Qaeda had gotten hold of a nuclear weapon produced by the former Soviet Union and had successfully smuggled it into the city. Under a cloak of secrecy that excluded even Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the Nuclear Emergency Search Team, or NEST, began a hunt for the 10-kiloton bomb whose Hiroshima-sized blast could have obliterated a significant portion of Manhattan.

NEST is a SWAT team of "nuclear ninjas." When mobilized, members drop their day jobs as physicists, engineers and explosives experts to search for and dismantle weapons before they explode into mushroom clouds. Often undercover, a "sports fan" may hide his sophisticated radiation-detection equipment in a golf bag, a "businesswoman" in her attache case. If a nuclear device is found, teams compare it with NEST's catalog of existing designs and possible home-made bombs for clues about how to disarm it. But, as one member of the teams has conceded, even locating a nuclear device amid background radiation is like "looking for a needle in a haystack of needles."

As NEST teams scoured New York City, Vice President Dick Cheney left Washington for a secret underground site, later disclosed to be on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. President Bush was concerned that Al Qaeda might have smuggled a nuclear weapon into the capital as well. Several hundred federal employees joined the vice president in his bunker for many weeks, preparing an alternative government should a nuclear explosion wipe out Washington.

The suspected nuclear device in New York City was never found. But the threat was credible for good reasons. Did former Soviet stockpiles include a large number of 10-kiloton weapons? Yes. Could the Russian government account for all its nuclear bombs? No. Could Al Qaeda have acquired one? Yes. Could it have smuggled a nuclear weapon through border controls and into a U.S. city? Yes. In a moment of gallows humor, one official quipped that terrorists could have wrapped a bomb in one of the bales of marijuana routinely smuggled into cities like New York and Los Angeles. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Palestinians declare 'state of emergency' as Israelis kill seven more
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), October 2, 2004

The Palestinian cabinet declared a state of emergency in the Palestinian territories as Israeli troops killed another seven Palestinians in the early hours and another died of his wounds.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called on the world to end the "criminal and racist" Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip, which the Jewish state says is to root out militants firing homemade rockets into Israeli territory.

But militants of the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas said on Saturday they would continue to fire the rockets and would target the port city of Ashkelon. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The Gazan pot is threatening to boil over
By Amos Harel, Haaretz, October 1, 2004

Senior officers in the liaison office at the Erez checkpoint yesterday watched the direct broadcasts of the Arab television networks Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya of the fighting in the most densely-populated place in the world.

The reports, even those of three Palestinian children killed by a shell aimed at a cell that launched a missile at an IDF vehicle, failed to move the officers. The previous evening they visited Sderot and saw the blood-covered pavement after the death of two children by a Qassam rocket. When Israeli children die, the heart becomes callow to the pain of the other side.

The IDF is intensifying its activity and when the area is as densely populated as Jabalya, the inevitable result is dozens of Palestinians killed, including numerous children. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Is anyone ever truly prepared to kill?
By Jane Lampman, Christian Science Monitor, September 29, 2004

One dark night in Iraq in February 1991, a U.S. Army tank unit opened fire on two trucks that barreled unexpectedly into its position along the Euphrates river. One was carrying fuel and burst into flames, and as men scattered from the burning trucks, the American soldiers shot them.

"To this day, I don't know if they were civilians or military - it was over in an instant," says Desert Storm veteran Charles Sheehan-Miles. But it wasn't over for him.

"For the first years after the Gulf War it was tough," says the decorated soldier. He had difficulty sleeping, and when he did, the nightmares came. "I was very angry and got drunk all the time; I considered suicide for awhile."

Like many young Americans sent off to war, he was highly skilled as a soldier but not adequately prepared for the realities of combat, particularly the experience of killing.

Much is rightly made of the dedication and sacrifice of those willing to lay down their lives for their country. But what is rarely spoken of, within the military or American society at large, is what it means to kill - to overcome the ingrained resistance most human beings feel to slaying one of their own kind, and the haunting sense of guilt that may accompany such an action. There is a terrible price to be paid by those who go to war, their families, and their communities, say some experts, by ignoring such realities. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

A failed "transition": The mounting costs of the Iraq war
Foreign Policy in Focus, September, 2004

U.S. military casualties (wounded and killed):
- Monthly average since June 28, 2004: 747
- Monthly average before the "transition": 449
Number of U.S. troops wounded in combat since the war began: 7,413 (94% occurred after May 1, 2003)
Percentage of U.S. wounded unable to return to duty: 64%
Iraqi soldiers and insurgents killed since May 1, 2003: 24,000
Iraqi civilians killed since March 20, 2003: 12,800-14,843
Contractor death rate:
- Monthly average since June 28, 2004: 17.5
- Monthly average during the previous 14 months of occupation: 7.6
Number of civilian contractors killed: 154
Number of international journalists and media workers killed: 44
Number of insurgents in Iraq:
- November 2003: 5,000
- August 2004: 20,000
Percentage of the world's population represented by countries (including the U.S.)
- On original "Coalition of the Willing" list (March 2003): 19.1%
- With forces in Iraq as of September 2004: 13.6%
Percentage of Americans who believe that the Iraq War has worsened the U.S. image in the world: 69% [complete report]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Debate reality check

By Tony Karon,, October 1, 2004

The Claim:
President Bush says he tried diplomacy in Iraq, and went to war only when it failed.

Reality Check:
Numerous accounts from within the U.S. and allied governments suggest the Bush Administration had decided to invade Iraq even before it went to the UN in the fall of 2002, and had gone back to the international body only under pressure from moderates in its own ranks and from Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair. The termination of the UN inspection process had nothing to do with its progress; it was based primarily on the window of opportunity for an invasion presented by the seasonal calendar. [complete article]

By Tony Karon,, October 1, 2004

The Claim:
I have a plan for reaching out to the Muslim world and isolating the fundamentalists rather than allowing them to isolate us.

Reality Check:
Kerry has spoken of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in an aggressive PR strategy to change the Arab world's perception of the U.S. and of Israel. In reality, as the 9/11 commission concluded, the depth of U.S. support for Israel (on which there is no difference between Bush and Kerry) will be the prism through which much of the Muslim world perceives U.S. policy -- at least as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to rage. Again, it's not a question of PR or image, but of policy, and Kerry has thus far shown no inclination to change Washington's course in relation to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Israel-Palestinian left out of U.S. debate
By Carol Giacomo, Reuters, October 1, 2004

Many important foreign policy topics went unexplored during the first debate of the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign but perhaps most unusual was the lack of attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry gave the Jewish state -- America's key Middle East ally -- only one mention each during their 90-minute debate on Thursday night at the University of Miami.

And in both cases, the references came in the context of achieving peace in Iraq, not the conflict between Israel and Palestinians that roils the region with no end in sight. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Israeli tanks start to reoccupy northern Gaza
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, October 1, 2004

Israeli tanks and troops yesterday began the largest reoccupation of northern Gaza since the start of the Palestinian uprising four years ago.

Ariel Sharon ordered the tanks in to prevent Hamas from scuppering his plan to withdraw Jewish settlers from the territory and impose an emasculated state on the Palestinians.

The Israeli offensive follows a Hamas rocket attack that killed two small children in the Israeli town of Sderot. Israel radio quoted Mr Sharon as telling his cabinet: "What can we do? The Jews, too, have a right to live. If this entails difficulties for the Palestinians, that is part of the price."

Hundreds of soldiers backed by about 200 tanks, armoured vehicles and helicopters reoccupied the towns of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun and took control of a 9km-wide area along the border. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Analysis: Reminiscent of Lebanon
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, October 1, 2004

The Israelis and Palestinians are entering the fifth year of the conflict between them on a new wave of escalation - and this time, in the Gaza Strip. And the defense establishment's prophesies that Palestinian attacks will intensify the closer the Israeli disengagement gets have come true in recent days.

Political and security sources say there has been no change in the Palestinian modus operandi, but merely an accumulation of attacks that has forced Israel to mount a large-scale ground offensive in the northern Gaza Strip. And so the Israel Defense Forces has set out on a mission to push the Qassam rocket firers out of range of Sderot, just as it invaded Lebanon in 1982 "to push back the Katyusha rocket launchers."

The talk of "a buffer zone" and a prolonged IDF stay in the Strip are reminiscent of the security zone in Lebanon. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Hindering the helpers
By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, October 1, 2004

Recent reports that North Korea is trying to reduce the presence of foreign aid agencies in Pyongyang have highlighted the growing pressure on the isolated regime to open up.

The pressure comes from two directions - inside-out and outside-in - that have come to reflect the differences between radical and cautious proponents of change.

Hawkish inside-outers, who include US neo-conservatives and South Korean Christians, want to bring down the "great leader", Kim Jong-il, as quickly as possible. Their preferred method is to "squeeze" North Korea in order to encourage a mass exodus of refugees similar to that which led to the fall of the Berlin wall.

Their recent successes have included the passage of a new bill through the US congress, aiming to provide financial support for refugees, and the growing number of North Korean asylum seekers flooding into embassies, consulates and international schools in China.

Dovish outside-inners, on the other hand, fear that a sudden destabilisation will lead to starvation, war and economic chaos in north-east Asia. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

World citizens use Web to weigh in on U.S. foreign policy
By Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2004

Since the U.S. presidential election will affect people around the world, shouldn't everyone have a vote?

A handful of Web-based groups are trying to at least give citizens of other countries a voice.

"The World Speaks" is a loosely linked constellation of five international websites that discovered they had converged on the same idea: letting people talk to Americans through the Internet about the effects of U.S. foreign policy on the world. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Radiation levels prompt search
By J.R. Roseberry, Washington Post, October 1, 2004

A team of Air Force and government security officials, radiation experts and military divers converged on the Georgia coast Thursday to investigate the spot where a long-lost hydrogen bomb may be resting since it was dropped from a bomber in 1958.

The team dragged sensors in the water and the divers collected soil samples during the day-long search in Wassaw Sound, near the beach resort community of Tybee Island, where the Olympic sailing competition was held in 1996.

The bomb, a 7,600-pound Mark 15, which has been described as a hundred times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima, was intentionally jettisoned from a B-47 bomber after a midair collision with a jet fighter. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Is Bush's biggest mistake too awful to admit?
By William Saletan, Slate, October 1, 2004

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

That's what it all comes down to -- this debate, this war, this election. For all the differences between Iraq and Vietnam, the awful question John Kerry posed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 is the same one hanging over us now.

This time, however, Kerry isn't raising the question. His opponent, the president of the United States, is raising it. Why? Because Iraq is different from Vietnam. We were attacked on 9/11. We thought Saddam Hussein was behind it. We thought Iraq posed the next threat. We don't want to believe that we were wrong, that we've committed $200 billion and sacrificed more than 1,000 American lives in error. We can't imagine asking thousands more to die for a mistake.

Bush can't imagine it, either. So, he offers himself -- and you -- a way out. Ignore the bad news, he says. Ignore the evidence that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs had deteriorated. Ignore the evidence that Saddam had no operational relationship with al-Qaida. Ignore the rising casualties. Ignore the hollowness and disintegration of the American-led "coalition." If these reports are true, as Kerry suggests, then it was all a mistake. How can we ask our troops to die for a mistake? We can't. Therefore, these reports must be rejected. They must be judged not by evidence, but by their offensiveness to the assumptions we embraced when we went to war. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. casualties grim cost of Iraq war
By Sandro Contenta, Toronto Star, September 26, 2004

At the U.S. military hospital on a wooded hilltop here, the cost of the Iraq war is measured in amputated limbs, burst eyeballs, shrapnel-torn bodies and shattered lives.

They're the seriously wounded U.S. soldiers who arrive daily at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a growing human toll that belies American election talk of improving times in Iraq.

They're the maimed and the scarred that hospital staff believe are largely invisible to an American public ignorant of their suffering.

"They have no idea what's going on here, none whatsoever," says Col. Earl Hecker, a critical care doctor who trained at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.

The broken bodies move some of the hospital's military staff to question a war producing the most American casualties since Vietnam. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. forces storm Iraqi town, say 94 rebels killed
By Sabah al-Bazee, Reuters, October 1, 2004

U.S.-led forces stormed Samarra Friday and said nearly 100 guerrillas were killed in air strikes and street-to-street combat during a major new American offensive to wrest control of the Iraqi town.

Doctors at Samarra's hospital said 47 bodies were brought in, including 11 women, five children and seven elderly men. They said ambulances could not reach many wounded as fighting, which lasted throughout the night, was still going on.

A spokesman for the U.S. 1st Infantry Division said an estimated 94 insurgents were killed. He said a U.S soldier was killed during the offensive and four wounded. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. bases in Iraq: sticky politics, hard math
By David R. Francis, Christian Science Monitor, September 30, 2004

If a new Iraq government should agree to let American forces stay on, how many bases will the US request?

One, as the United States Army currently maintains in Honduras? Six, the number of installations it lists in the Netherlands. Or maybe 12?

But a dozen is the number of so-called "enduring bases" located by John Pike, director of His military affairs website gives their names. They include, for example, Camp Victory at the Baghdad airfield and Camp Renegade in Kirkuk. The Chicago Tribune last March said US engineers are constructing 14 "enduring bases," but Mr. Pike hasn't located two of them.

Note the terminology "enduring" bases. That's Pentagon-speak for long-term encampments - not necessarily permanent, but not just a tent on a wood platform either. It all suggests a planned indefinite stay on Iraqi soil that will cost US taxpayers for years to come. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

A vast arms buildup, yet not enough for wars
By Tim Weiner, New York Times, October 1, 2004

Amid one of the greatest military spending increases in history, the Pentagon is starved for cash.

The United States will spend more than $500 billion on national security in the year beginning today. That represents a high-water mark, and it is creating boom times in the armaments industry.

Yet the military says it has run $1 billion a month short over the last year paying for the basics of war fighting in Iraq: troops, equipment, spare parts and training.

The disparity between spending on the arsenals of the future and the armies of today is great, and growing.

The Pentagon will spend $144 billion in the coming year researching and building weapons for future wars, another record and twice the annual costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by most independent estimates.

The Pentagon says it has 77 major weapons programs under development. They include the $200 billion Joint Strike Fighter project, a fleet of next-generation aircraft; a $112 billion Army program to create networks of weapons and communications systems; and an experimental Navy destroyer, the world's first $10 billion warship.

Those 77 arms systems have a collective price tag of $1.3 trillion. That is nearly twice what they were supposed to cost, and 11 times the yearly bill for operating and maintaining the American military. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Police foil plot to kidnap U.S. officials in Green Zone
By Jim Michaels, USA Today, September 30, 2004

Local police are holding four Iraqis accused of plotting to kidnap two U.S. officials inside the Green Zone, a heavily fortified area that houses the U.S. Embassy.

The previously undisclosed arrests early this month, investigated by Baghdad's Major Crimes Unit, are the first plot uncovered to kidnap U.S. officials inside the Green Zone, say Baghdad police and Steven Casteel, the senior U.S. adviser to the Interior Ministry. The case raises concerns about militant capabilities to penetrate U.S. and allied government facilities.

"The objective of the operation was to show how mujahedin (insurgents) ... are able to strike deep inside the Green Zone," said police 1st Lt. Khalid Abbas, a counterterrorism officer.

The plan was hatched by Iraqis inside the Green Zone, including an Iraqi translator who worked closely with a U.S. security official, one of the two kidnapping targets, according to investigative reports and interviews this week with police. The other target was the official's female assistant. [complete article]

See also, Baghdad's Green Zone 'island' prepares for rough seas (CSM).

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

KERRY - Now I must drink your blood!
BUSH - Here's my neck - get it over with.

The debate:
Kerry's message - I can be president.
Bush's message - I am president. It's really hard work. This election is a damn nuisance.

The problem with Bush's conviction that he's going to get re-elected is that he makes it sound like manifest destiny rather than a democratic process. This might give some of his supporters a false sense of confidence but it doesn't empower them because it doesn't underline the fact that his victory depends on their choice. Anyone who truly thinks that Bush is president because this is God's will has less reason to vote than those who regard the election as the people's choice.

After the election in 2000, before the result had been declared, Bush acted as though he had won and that the re-count was a mere technicality. He's trying a similar tactic now, presumably in the hope that if his opponents think the fight is unwinnable they'll give up trying. But what Bush revealed last night is that he's scared of his opponent; scared that Kerry might be doing a more convincing job of looking presidential. Every time Bush talks about how much hard work he has to do (he repeated the phrase twelve times in the debate), he sounds irked about the need to explain himself. Instead of sounding presidential he sounds like he's claiming he's too busy to have to deal with an election. The fact is, he's using the White House as a hiding place and the more often voters witness his fear and irritation the more transparent it will become that this is not a man who believes in the democratic process. You can't defend democracy if you don't demonstrate your faith in its operation.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. effort aims to improve opinions about Iraq conflict
By Dana Milbank and Mike Allen, Washington Post, September 30, 2004

The Bush administration, battling negative perceptions of the Iraq war, is sending Iraqi Americans to deliver what the Pentagon calls "good news" about Iraq to U.S. military bases, and has curtailed distribution of reports showing increasing violence in that country.

The unusual public-relations effort by the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development comes as details have emerged showing the U.S. government and a representative of President Bush's reelection campaign had been heavily involved in drafting the speech given to Congress last week by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Combined, they indicate that the federal government is working assiduously to improve Americans' opinions about the Iraq conflict -- a key element of Bush's reelection message. [...]

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked Tuesday about similarities between Bush's statements about Iraq and Allawi's speech to Congress last week, said he did not know of any help U.S. officials gave with the speech. "None that I know of," he said, adding, "No one at the White House." He also said he did not know if the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad had seen the speech.

But administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the prime minister was coached and aided by the U.S. government, its allies and friends of the administration. Among them was Dan Senor, former spokesman for the CPA who has more recently represented the Bush campaign in media appearances. Senor, who has denied writing the speech, sent Allawi recommended phrases. He also helped Allawi rehearse in New York last week, officials said. Senor declined to comment. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Plan would let U.S. deport suspects to nations that might torture them
By Dana Priest and Charles Babington, Washington Post, September 30, 2004

The Bush administration is supporting a provision in the House leadership's intelligence reform bill that would allow U.S. authorities to deport certain foreigners to countries where they are likely to be tortured or abused, an action prohibited by the international laws against torture the United States signed 20 years ago.

The provision, part of the massive bill introduced Friday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), would apply to non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of having links to terrorist organizations but have not been tried on or convicted of any charges. Democrats tried to strike the provision in a daylong House Judiciary Committee meeting, but it survived on a party-line vote.

The provision, human rights advocates said, contradicts pledges President Bush made after the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal erupted this spring that the United States would stand behind the U.N. Convention Against Torture. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iran aide cites worse relations
By James F. Smith, Boston Globe, September 30, 2004

Iran's foreign minister said yesterday his country's relations with the United States are about the worst ever, but he believes the upcoming US presidential election could open avenues for renewed dialogue, even if President Bush is reelected.

At a breakfast with American editors, Kamal Kharrazi said the Bush administration's hostility toward Iran in recent years had created a climate of animosity and mistrust. Twice he cited US support of exiled Iranian opposition groups as evidence of US malice.

Yet even though Bush early in his term labeled Iran part of the "axis of evil" and has stepped up accusations against Iran over its nuclear program and other issues, Kharrazi suggested that a second Bush term would not necessarily mean unending conflict.

"Experience shows that a president who is in office for a second term usually becomes more realistic," Kharrazi said with a smile. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iran backs holding Iraqi vote on time
By Maggie Farley and Marjorie Miller, Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2004

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Wednesday that his nation supported holding parliamentary elections in January in neighboring Iraq even if continued violence there prevented balloting in some areas.

"It won't be more secure in the spring," he said, in response to suggestions that the polling be delayed a few months until the country can be stabilized. "Elections have to be held on time."

He acknowledged concerns of U.N. officials and others that some areas of Iraq -- especially the so-called Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad -- may still be too unstable for safe voting in January, but he said partial elections would be acceptable to Iran.

"It is only several cities that would not be able to vote, and even in those cities, they could find a way," Kharrazi said in a separate interview Tuesday night. "This happens in many countries. Maybe they can join in the second round [of voting]. It all depends on the will of Iraq."

A democratically elected government, Kharrazi said, would be perceived as more legitimate than the interim administration chosen by the United States, the United Nations and a small group of Iraqi politicians. An elected government would be "crucial" to weakening the insurgency, he said. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Israel vows open-ended operation in Gaza
Daily Star, October 1, 2004

At least 24 Palestinians and three Israelis were killed in fierce battles in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday during a massive army raid which Israel vowed would be an open-ended operation.

In London, meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called on Israel Thursday to stop assassinating Palestinian militants, and insisted the Palestinian Authority must rein in terrorist groups.

In the single deadliest incident in a spiral of violence, an Israeli tank shell killed seven Palestinians near a school in Jabalya, Gaza's largest refugee camp, as Israeli forces thrust deep into the militant stronghold for the first time.

Palestinian witnesses said the dead from the tank shell blast were all teenagers with no involvement in the heavy fighting that raged through the camp. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Just how bad is Iraq?
By Farnaz Fassihi, personal email (via The Forward), September 27, 2004

[Farnaz Fassihi is the Wall Street Journal's Mideast correspondent in Baghdad. The following email was sent to friends in the US but has since been circulated widely on the Internet.]

Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't ....

There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

It's hard to pinpoint when the 'turning point' exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come. [complete email]

Comment -- In case anyone doubts that the WSJ's Mideast correspondent wrote this email, she confirmed that it was authentic when asked by The Poynter Institute's Jim Romenesko.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iraq rebel cities to be retaken in October - minister
Reuters, September 29, 2004

U.S. and Iraqi forces will retake rebel-held cities in Iraq in October, Defence Minister Hazim al-Shalaan told Reuters on Wednesday.

"You wait and see what we are going to do. We are going to take all these cities in October," Shalaan said.

The western cities of Falluja and Ramadi, as well as some parts of Baghdad and the town of Samarra, north of the capital, are effectively controlled by insurgents.

The U.S. military has previously said it will retake these areas by the end of the year so elections can go ahead as scheduled in January.

U.S. commanders say they are waiting until Iraqi forces are large enough and sufficiently trained for the offensive. [complete article]

Comment -- Iraq's defense minister, Hazim al-Shalaan, has a penchant for talking tough. As I wrote in July:
It seems like many of the official statements coming out of Baghdad these days need to be taken with a grain of salt. Even so, in "new Iraq," it's surprising how little attention the western media is giving to the minister of defense, Hazim al-Shalaan. A threat to "send death to Tehran's streets" sounds like a threat to fight terrorism with terrorism. Shalaan has previously said that he is willing to be tough with insurgents and "We will cut off the hands of those people, we will slit their throats if it is necessary to do so." And when he suggests that he is currently constrained by democracy but will abandon such constraints "if my people say do it now," one has to wonder, who exactly are Shalan's people?

Now Shalaan boldly asserts that Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra and any other insurgent-controlled cities in Iraq will be retaken within a month. Is this just bluster or have Shalaan and Allawi actually persuaded the Pentagon to give the go ahead on a major offensive in the run-up to the US election? My guess is it's just bluster.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Children massacred in Iraq bombs
BBC News, September 30, 2004

Dozens of children have been killed in co-ordinated bomb blasts in Baghdad.

Officials said at least 34 children were among 41 or more people killed when bombs were detonated near a water treatment plant as US troops passed by.

At least 130 more were injured, many from the crowds gathered to watch an opening ceremony at the plant.

Reports said a car bomb was followed by two more explosions as people rushed to help the injured. Deadly attacks were also reported elsewhere in Iraq. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Oil-rich Iraqi provinces push for autonomy
By Roula Khalaf, Financial Times, September 29, 2004

Iraq's oil-rich southern provinces are considering plans to set up an autonomous region - a move that reflects their growing frustration with the central government in Baghdad.

Members of the municipal council of Basra, Iraq's second largest city, have been holding talks with officials from councils in two neighbouring provinces on establishing a federal region in the south, following the example of the Kurdish north. The three provinces - Basra, Missan and Dhiqar - account for more than 80 per cent of the proved oil reserves of the country's 18 provinces and provide a large share of the national income.

The talks are a political challenge to the embattled interim Iraqi government which is fighting a fierce insurgency in Sunni Arab areas, continued unrest in an impoverished Shia suburb of Baghdad and militant gangs bent on disrupting the country's reconstruction. [complete article]

Comment -- This story was first reported by the Turkish newspaper, Zaman, on September 26. The Financial Times is now the first Western newspaper to pick up the story. Sounds to me like a few of the editors at the major US newspapers are asleep at the wheel.

The possibility of an autonomous region of southern Iraq including 80% of the oil reserves sounds like it could be an element in a US exit strategy that would amount to saying: We secured the oil supply. If the central and western parts of Iraq go to hell, that's their problem. Let freedom reign? Oh yeah. The people of Iraq must cherish their dreams and we'll cheer them on -- from a safe distance.

While there's no reason to imagine that the US is a driving force behind this move for autonomy, it's possible that it is quietly (very quietly!) being given a green light by Washington. If hope is given up that Iraq can remain united, a divide-and-rule strategy could easily be pursued by the US that would limit Iran's influence by splitting the Shia south in two. (The Shia provinces containing Najaf, Karbala and Kut fall outside the proposed area of autonomy.) US forces would then have the more manageable task of providing security for an area just over a tenth the size of Iraq. Needless to say, this is all speculation on my part.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

CBS cancels broadcast on Bush's use of forged Iraqi WMD documents
By Patrick Martin, World Socialist, September 30, 2004

In a development that highlights the cowardice and subservience of the US media -- and suggests there is far more to the so-called "memogate" affair at CBS News than has so far been made public -- the network confirmed September 27 that it had cancelled a planned "60 Minutes" broadcast exposing the use of forged documents by the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The program focused on documents supplied to the US embassy in Italy that allegedly confirmed Iraqi efforts to acquire large quantities of uranium in the west African country of Niger during the last years of Saddam Hussein's regime. The documents were the basis of the claim by President Bush in his State of the Union speech in January 2003 that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium in Africa, a charge the White House was later forced to retract. [...]

The "60 Minutes" segment was initially slotted for broadcast in June, but was put off because of unspecified new developments, according to CBS spokeswoman Kelli Edwards. It was finally scheduled for the evening of September 8, but network officials decided to replace it with the report on Bush's National Guard service that included purported memos from Bush’s former commander that turned out to be bogus.

That decision itself demonstrates the bankruptcy of what passes for professional journalism in the United States. CBS decided to shelve a report carefully prepared over six months, documenting systematic lying by the US government to justify an illegal war in which tens of thousands of Iraqis and more than a thousand Americans have died, and replaced it with a tabloid-style exposure of Bush's efforts to avoid combat more than three decades ago. [complete article]

Earlier reports referred to in this article are Newsweek's, The story that didn't run, and Salon's, The Cowardly Broadcasting System.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Freedom's just another word
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, September 29, 2004

I can tell you the week the United States lost the war in Iraq. It was 18 months ago. Baghdad had fallen with almost no resistance. The dictator Saddam Hussein had fled. A U.S. Marine draped an American flag over the tyrant's statue and then Symbolic Saddam was dragged to the ground, proclaiming Iraq's freedom with a photo op.

Freedom. What could that mean to Iraqis? Many things. What did it mean? Looting. Baghdad, which surrendered virtually intact, was soon torn apart by mobs of scavengers sacking government buildings, pillaging the great museums, ransacking the struggling hospitals, vivisecting the electrical guts of the national infrastructure just to strip copper from the wiring. Meanwhile the American soldiers on the scene stood by, and watched, and did nothing, because nobody told them to do otherwise and, anyway, there weren’t enough of them on the ground to impose order.

When asked that week about the chaos sweeping Baghdad's streets, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had a simple explanation. "Freedom's untidy," he said. "Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here."

Iraqis are still waiting for that last part, and their hopes are fading by the day.

That same week, Rumsfeld's deputy secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, the man with the grand plan to remake the Middle East as a bastion of democracy, couldn't give the Senate a very good sense of how that would happen now that the great moment of liberation had arrived. "Democracy is a messy thing," he explained.

Did these guys have any idea what they were talking about then? Do they now? The question's worth asking as we hear President George W. Bush repeat his mantra "freedom is winning," despite all the indications to the contrary. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Record shows Bush shifting on Iraq war
President's rationale for the invasion continues to evolve

By Marc Sandalow, San Francisco Chronicle, September 29, 2004

President Bush portrays his position on Iraq as steady and unwavering as he represents Sen. John Kerry's stance as ambiguous and vacillating.

"Mixed signals are the wrong signals," Bush said last week during a campaign stop in Bangor, Maine. "I will continue to lead with clarity, and when I say something, I'll mean what I say."

Yet, heading into the first presidential debate Thursday, which will focus on foreign affairs, there is much in the public record to suggest that Bush's words on Iraq have evolved -- or, in the parlance his campaign often uses to describe Kerry, flip-flopped. [...]

The president no longer expounds upon deposed Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's connections with al Qaeda, rarely mentions the rape and torture rooms or the illicit weapons factories that he once warned posed a direct threat to the United States.

In the fall of 2002, as Bush sought congressional support for the use of force, he described the vote as a sign of solidarity that would strengthen his ability to keep the peace. Today, his aides describe it unambiguously as a vote to go to war.

Whether such shifts constitute a reasonable evolution of language to reflect the progression of war, or an about-face to justify unmet expectations, is a subjective judgment tinged by partisan prejudice. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Two views on war, both seen lacking
By Bryan Bender and Thanassis Cambanis, Boston Globe, September 29, 2004

President Bush and Democrat John F. Kerry are arguing heatedly over the best way to stabilize Iraq, bring about democratic elections, and minimize American casualties. But specialists in Washington and Baghdad say both candidates are ignoring many of the basic realities on the ground in Iraq that will constrain the US-led occupation no matter who is in the White House next year.

As he campaigns for reelection, Bush has been emphasizing the need to ''stay the course" in Iraq, where he says the situation is improving despite daily attacks on Americans and Iraqis, difficulties in training sufficient numbers of indigenous security forces, and the slow pace of reconstruction.

Kerry, who in the past 10 days has sharpened his criticism of Bush's Iraq policy, says the situation in the country is worse than Bush describes and wants to put more of an international force into the country to relieve some of the burden on the United States, even though nations such as France and Russia have shown no inclination to participate.

Iraq has become the key issue in the presidential race and is sure to be at the center of tomorrow night's presidential debate in Coral Gables, Fla. But officials steeped in the day-to-day handling of the postwar situation say that when it comes to the nuts and bolts of Iraq policy, many of the candidates' positions seem both similar and unrealistic. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Memo to Kerry from Europe:
Help (for Iraq) is not on the way

By Bruno Giussani, TomDispatch, September 29, 2004

As the series of presidential debates starts off in Florida, it is easy to guess what the candidates will say about Iraq.

President Bush will repeat that things there "are going in the right direction" and reiterate his intention to "stay the course." John Kerry will describe the situation as a "crisis of historic proportions" and point to his four-point plan, outlined in a speech last week at New York University, to turn things around. The first point has now made it into his television ads as a four-word sound bite: "Allies share the burden."

I am in doubt about the exact meaning that Senator Kerry gives to the word "allies." He may well be thinking of Russia or Pakistan; but if, as I suspect, he means Europe, well, here is another four-word sound bite: "That will not happen." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Catastrophic success
The worse Iraq gets, the more we must be winning

By William Saletan, Slate, September 28, 2004

In 1999, George W. Bush said we needed to cut taxes because the economy was doing so well that the U.S. Treasury was taking in too much money, and we could afford to give some back to the people who earned it. In 2001, Bush said we needed the same tax cuts because the economy was doing poorly, and we had to return the money so that people would spend and invest it.

Bush's arguments made the wisdom of cutting taxes unfalsifiable. In good times, tax cuts were affordable. In bad times, they were necessary. Whatever happened proved that tax cuts were good policy. When Congress approved the tax cuts, Bush said they would revive the economy. You'd know that the tax cuts had worked, because more people would be working. Three years later, more people aren't working. But in Bush's view, that, too, proves he was right. If more people aren't working, we just need more tax cuts.

Now Bush is playing the same game in postwar Iraq. When violence there was subsiding, he said it proved he was on the right track. Now violence is increasing, and Bush says this, too, proves he's on the right track. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Interceptor system set, but doubts remain
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post, September 29, 2004

At a newly constructed launch site on a tree-shorn plain in central Alaska, a large crane crawls from silo to silo, gently lowering missiles into their holes. The sleek white rockets, each about five stories tall, are designed to soar into space and intercept warheads headed toward the United States.

With five installed so far and one more due by mid-October, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is preparing to activate the site sometime this autumn. President Bush already has begun to claim fulfillment of a 2000 presidential campaign pledge -- and longtime Republican Party goal -- to build a nationwide missile defense.

But what the administration had hoped would be a triumphant achievement is clouded by doubts, even within the Pentagon, about whether a system that is on its way to costing more than $100 billion will work. Several key components have fallen years behind schedule and will not be available until later. Flight tests, plagued by delays, have yet to advance beyond elementary, highly scripted events. [...]

This notion of building first and improving later lies at the heart of the administration's approach, which defense officials have dubbed "evolutionary acquisition" or "spiral development." Bush has scaled back President Ronald Reagan's vision of a vast anti-missile network and pursued a less ambitious system. At the outset, the system will be aimed only at countering a small number of missiles that would be fired by North Korea, which is 6,000 miles from the West Coast of the United States.

But Bush also has funded an expanded array of missile defense projects, including land- and sea-launched interceptors, an airborne laser, and space-based weapons. So far, he has spent $31 billion on missile defense research and development, and his plans call for an additional $9 billion to $10 billion a year for the next five years. Beyond that, the administration has provided no final price tag. In 2005, the cost of missile defense will consume nearly 14 percent of the Pentagon's entire research-and-development budget.

While more money has gone into missile defense under Bush than into any other military R&D project, the Pentagon has exempted the missile defense program from the traditional oversight rules meant to ensure that new weapons serve the needs of military commanders. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

4 years later: 4,342 Palestinians and Israelis have been killed
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, September 29, 2004

Four years ago this week, the Palestinians erupted in a spontaneous intifada against the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.

While Iraq and global terrorism have captured much of the world's attention since 2001, the intifada and the wider Palestinian-Israeli struggle fester at the core of a concentric circle of conflicts and tensions that continue to spread menacingly from Palestine-Israel, to the wider Middle East, to the entire world. Focusing diplomatic and political energy on this core issue in the Middle East would pay substantial dividends in reducing tensions and active conflicts elsewhere in the region and the world.

As the intifada enters its fifth year this week, two new credible reports highlight the deteriorating situation for Palestinians and the political dynamics that must be addressed to get out of this worsening cycle. A well-documented report by the information clearinghouse of Palestinian non-governmental organizations, the Palestine Monitor, provides a chilling overview of the human and economic toll of occupation and resistance - 4,342 killed on both sides. The respected independent research organization the International Crisis Group (ICG) for its part outlines the virtual chaos inside Palestinian political society in the West Bank, blaming this on both the Israeli occupation and indigenous Palestinian political paralysis. These two short but powerful reports make compelling reading, and deserve widespread consideration for what they portend if the current situation persists. [complete article]

See the Palestine Monitor's report and the ICG's report.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

King Abdullah sees extremists getting upper hand in upcoming Iraq elections
Daily Star, September 29, 2004

Extremists will have the upper hand in Iraqi elections if voting is held amid the current violence, Jordan's King Abdullah II said in an interview published Tuesday, voicing profound pessimism at the possibility of the elections being fair.

Abdullah, who met with President Jacques Chirac in Paris on Tuesday, told the daily Le Figaro that "it seems impossible to organize indisputable elections in the chaos of Iraq today," but he noted that Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is determined to go ahead with the vote, scheduled for late January.

"If elections take place in the current disorder, the best organized faction will be the extremists," Le Figaro quoted Abdullah as saying. "The results will reflect this advantage of the extremists. In such a scenario, there will be no chance that the situation gets better." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Truckers say it's not safe out there
They contradict government's optimistic picture

By Borzou Daragahi, San Francisco Chronicle, September 28, 2004

The last time Walid Mohammad Waij faced death on the highway, he yelled in its face.

Crammed with light bulbs, flower pots and other assorted made-in-China household goods, Waij's Volvo tractor-trailer was headed toward the Syrian border when armed bandits pulled up alongside and ordered him to stop. It was his third stick-up in as many months, and Waij decided he'd had enough.

"I yelled out the window at them," he recalls. "I told them, 'Even if you fire at my head, I am not going to stop.' "

Luckily, the bandits fell back in search of easier prey. But for Waij, that was it. "I'm getting out of the business," said the 47-year-old. "The roads are too dangerous. Anything is better than getting killed."

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, during his visit to Washington last week, said that all but three of Iraq's 18 provinces are safe.

But Iraqi truckers who traverse the country's desolate highways tell a different story. Most of Iraq's countryside -- outside the three northern provinces under the control of Kurdish militias since 1991 -- has become a lawless no-man's land, they say, where criminals rob and kill with impunity. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Italy debates the cost of freeing hostages
By Sophie Arie, Christian Science Monitor, September 30, 2004

Euphoria still lingers in the air after the triumphant homecoming of two Italian aid workers held hostage in Iraq. But concern intensified Wednesday that by saving the "two Simonas," Italy may have inspired a whole new phase of kidnapping in Iraq, sending a message to criminal gangs that western hostages are worth millions of dollars.

Amid reports that at least $1 million was paid for the release of Simona Pari and Simona Parretta after 21 days of agonizing negotiations with their captors, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said only that the government made "a very difficult choice."

But Gustavo Selva, chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, confirmed that the two women were saved by cash. "The lives of the girls was the most important thing," Mr. Selva said in an interview with France's RTL radio. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

President of Iraq says U.S. is using Israeli-style "collective punishment"
By Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2004

U.S. forces have launched multiple offensives targeting Shiite rebels in the densely populated district [of Sadr City]. U.S. forces said a "precision strike" Monday killed four insurgents, but hospital officials said 10 people, including civilians, were killed.

Tuesday's attack injured at least three people, officials at Sadr City's Jawader Hospital said. It was unclear whether any insurgents were killed or injured.

In recent weeks, U.S. forces have also launched regular airstrikes on the town of Fallouja, west of Baghdad, which is controlled by Sunni Muslim insurgents. Although U.S. military operations supposedly are coordinated with Iraqi leaders, the Americans' increasing reliance on air attacks drew criticism Tuesday from the U.S.-backed interim Iraqi president.

Drawing a parallel between U.S. tactics in Iraq and Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, President Ghazi Ajil Yawer said the U.S. strikes were viewed by the Iraqi people as "collective punishment" against towns and neighborhoods.

Footage of injured and dead women and children being pulled from bombed buildings "brings to mind Gaza," Yawer said in an interview on CNN.

Yawer's comments echo criticism of American military tactics in the spring, when members of the now-disbanded Iraqi Governing Council stridently protested a Marine siege of Fallouja. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

CIA pessimistic about Iraq
By Dana Priest and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, September 29, 2004

A growing number of career professionals within national security agencies believe that the situation in Iraq is much worse, and the path to success much more tenuous, than is being expressed in public by top Bush administration officials, according to former and current government officials and assessments over the past year by intelligence officials at the CIA and the departments of State and Defense.

While President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have delivered optimistic public appraisals, officials who fight the Iraqi insurgency and study it at the CIA and the State Department and within the Army officer corps believe the rebellion is deeper and more widespread than is being publicly acknowledged, officials say.

People at the CIA "are mad at the policy in Iraq because it's a disaster, and they're digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper," said one former intelligence officer who maintains contact with CIA officials. "There's no obvious way to fix it. The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Reports in Iraq show attacks in most areas
By James Glanz and Thom Shanker, New York Times, September 29, 2004

Over the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks by insurgents have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants.

The sweeping geographical reach of the attacks, from Nineveh and Salahuddin Provinces in the northwest to Babylon and Diyala in the center and Basra in the south, suggests a more widespread resistance than the isolated pockets described by Iraqi government officials.

The type of attacks ran the gamut: car bombs, time bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, small-arms fire, mortar attacks and land mines.

"If you look at incident data and you put incident data on the map, it's not a few provinces, " said Adam Collins, a security expert and the chief intelligence official in Iraq for Special Operations Consulting-Security Management Group Inc., a private security company based in Las Vegas that compiles and analyzes the data as a regular part of its operations in Iraq. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Insurgents are mostly Iraqis, U.S. military says
By Mark Mazzetti, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2004

The insistence by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and many U.S. officials that foreign fighters are streaming into Iraq to battle American troops runs counter to the U.S. military's own assessment that the Iraqi insurgency remains primarily a home-grown problem.

In a U.S. visit last week, Allawi spoke of foreign insurgents "flooding" his country, and both President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, have cited these fighters as a major security problem.

But according to top U.S. military officers in Iraq, the threat posed by foreign fighters is far less significant than American and Iraqi politicians portray. Instead, commanders said, loyalists of Saddam Hussein's regime -- who have swelled their ranks in recent months as ordinary Iraqis bristle at the U.S. military presence in Iraq -- represent the far greater threat to the country's fragile 3-month-old government. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Two Simonas freed 'for $1m ransom'
By Jack Fairweather and Bruce Johnston, The Telegraph, September 29, 2004

Two Italian women held hostage for three weeks in Baghdad were freed yesterday, amid reports that a million-dollar ransom had been paid.

Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, both aid workers aged 29, were seized from their office in Baghdad on Sept 7.

They arrived at the Ciampino military airport in Rome last night where they were met by relatives and friends and the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

They appeared in good health and were wearing Middle Eastern dress. Asked how they were amid an emotional reunion with their families, Miss Pari smiled and replied: "We're fine". [...]

Asked if a ransom had been paid, a member of Mr Berlusconi's office skirted the issue but said: "When you're talking about hostages, there are no two cases alike.

"You can't compare how the Italian government reacts to how the British Government does."

Mr Berlusconi told parliament that the secret services had located their whereabouts earlier this week, but rather than risk violence, the Italian government had preferred to negotiate. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. reacts calmly to N. Korea nuke claim
By Barry Schweid, Associated Press (via The Guardian), September 28, 2004

The Bush administration responded calmly Tuesday to North Korean claims it has turned the plutonium from 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods into nuclear weapons.

Senior administration officials said they were not abandoning the six-nation talks designed to halt North Korea's nuclear weapons program, even as they acknowledged negotiations will not resume this month despite previous North Korean commitments to do so.

They suggested North Korea might be wooed back to the table later this year after the U.S. presidential election and after the board of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency meets in November and reviews South Korean experiments with enriched uranium and plutonium.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon disclosed Monday at the United Nations that his country had converted the spent nuclear fuel rods, saying it would serve as a deterrent to increasing U.S. nuclear threats and to prevent a nuclear war in northeast Asia. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Couldn't have said it any better himself
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, September 28, 2004

It's a political whodunit: Since Ayad Allawi delivered his address to a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday, foreign policy devotees have been searching for the ghostwriter of the speech, which sounded curiously familiar to American ears.

The White House denies that anybody in the administration did it. Several of the usual suspects outside the administration, including former White House officials Karen Hughes, Dan Senor and David Frum, have also denied culpability.

But those searching for a ghostwriter of the Allawi speech may be overthinking things. Maybe the prime minister simply went to the White House Web site and combed through some of President Bush's speeches. Consider the similarities:

"The world is better off without Saddam Hussein." -- Allawi

"The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power." -- Bush

"There are terrorists . . . who seek to make our country the main battleground against freedom, democracy and civilization." -- Allawi

"The killers know that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror." -- Bush

"It's a tough struggle with setbacks, but we are succeeding." -- Allawi

"It's tough at times . . . but there is steady progress." -- Bush [complete article]

Comment -- Whether or not George Bush and Iyad Allawi avoided any risk of contradicting each other by employing the same speechwriter is ultimately beside the point. Their respective messages are each woven out of a set of empty platitudes that just as likely pepper their discourse off the podium as they do when addressing the public. This is the language of minds untroubled by facts and of opinions unburdened by analysis.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Swagger vs. substance
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, September 28, 2004

Let's face it: whatever happens in Thursday's debate, cable news will proclaim President Bush the winner. This will reflect the political bias so evident during the party conventions. It will also reflect the undoubted fact that Mr. Bush does a pretty good Clint Eastwood imitation.

But what will the print media do? Let's hope they don't do what they did four years ago. [...]

The Kerry campaign is making hay over Mr. Bush's famous flight-suit stunt, but for me, Mr. Bush's worst moment came two months later, when he declared: "There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on." When they really did come on, he blinked: U.S. forces - obviously under instructions to hold down casualties at least until November - have ceded much of Iraq to the insurgents.

During the debate, Mr. Bush will try to cover for this dismal record with swagger, and with attacks on his opponent. Will the press play Karl Rove's game by ... confusing political coverage with drama criticism, or will it do its job and check the candidates' facts? [complete article]

U.S. bombs insurgent targets in Baghdad; civilian toll reported
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2004

Rising civilian deaths have put U.S. officials on the defensive. According to the Iraqi Health Ministry, nearly 3,200 Iraqi civilians have died since April in terrorist attacks and clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents.

American officials say the civilian toll has been exaggerated. A senior military official called reports of civilian deaths in Fallouja "propaganda" and suggested that local hospitals had been infiltrated by insurgent forces.

"We have seen pictures [of injured people] but we can't authenticate that the individuals in the hospital are in the hospital because of [a U.S.] attack that day," the official said. [complete article]

Comment -- George Bush's message, when he debates John Kerry on Thursday, and the message coming from US officials in Baghdad who suggest that reports on civilian deaths are "propaganda," are each demonstrations of perception management. The US Department of Defense defines perception management thus:
Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator's objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.

This is how the Pentagon works and it's how the White House works. But the key to understanding what this means is to recognize that anyone outside the perception management system is in effect "foreign." That's why officials in Baghdad make statements which ostensibly correct misconceptions that might reside in the minds of Iraqis while actually planting doubts in the minds of Americans. That's why George Bush speaks about "the American people" as an entity for which he expresses a certain fondness yet in relationship to which he stands clearly apart.

And while commentators such as Paul Krugman might hope that the substance of George Bush's statements in the debate is given sharp scrutiny by the print media, the essential message -- the message about which Bush will remain unwavering, is: I must govern. That conviction alone will likely exert far more influence than anything he does or doesn't say. It's a message he will undoubtedly convey in his swagger. And whether this gets reinforced through favorable "drama criticism" on the editorial pages of the New York Times or Washington Post is of little concern to Bush and Rove because these particular forums of analysis are unlikely to have much influence in the wider adjudication over who "won" the debate or on who will win the election.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Prewar assessment on Iraq saw chance of strong divisions
By Douglas Jehl and David E. Sanger, New York Times, September 28, 2004

The same intelligence unit that produced a gloomy report in July about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday.

The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

One of the reports also warned of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces, saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare, the officials said. The assessments also said a war would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives, at least in the short run, the officials said.

The contents of the two assessments had not been previously disclosed. They were described by the officials after two weeks in which the White House had tried to minimize the council's latest report, which was prepared this summer and read by senior officials early this month. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Progress or peril?
Measuring Iraq's reconstruction (PDF format)

Center for Strategic and International Studies, September, 2004

Two months after the United States transferred sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government, on June 28, 2004, Iraq remains embroiled in an insurgency, with security problems overshadowing other efforts to rebuild Iraq's fragile society in the areas of governance and participation, economic opportunity, services, and social well-being. U.S. policymakers attempt to strike a balance between promising a U.S. exit strategy and promising to stay the course. Reports of gruesome violence compete with triumphalist descriptions of success in various areas.

Post-conflict reconstruction theory and practice have advanced considerably over the last few years, yet the U.S. government and the international community still lack forward-leaning, pragmatic, reliable models for measuring progress in post-conflict settings. Efforts to assess progress in Iraq have been lost in the midst of rumors on the one end and overblown lists of achievements on the other. The sources usually relied upon, from media to U.S. government generated, do not on their own tell a complete story, and often reflect underlying biases or weaknesses. The Iraqi voice has been a key missing ingredient in most discussions and assessments of Iraq's reconstruction.

In this context, we set out to develop a broad-based, data-rich, multidisciplinary model for measuring progress in Iraq that has as its core the Iraqi perspective. [complete report (PDF format)]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iraqi city on edge of chaos
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2004

Insurgents are killing and kidnapping government officials, police and Iraqi national guard members in an apparent campaign to destabilize this city, the capital of Sunni Muslim-dominated Al Anbar province west of Baghdad.

The rash of attacks threatens to eliminate the interim Iraqi government's control over Ramadi, notwithstanding the presence just outside the city of thousands of U.S. Marines and Army soldiers who back the government's authority.

The provincial governor's three sons were kidnapped, and released only after he resigned. More recently, the deputy governor was kidnapped and killed, his body found this month. The president of the regional university and the provincial directors of the national sewage and communications ministries have also been kidnapped, and 10 contractors working for the United States have been assassinated.

Then there are the ominous posters that appeared on the walls of mosques a couple of weeks ago. Directed at Iraqi police and national guardsmen, they read, "Quit or we'll kill you." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Taking on Sadr City in a pickup truck
By Steve Fainaru, Washington Post, September 28, 2004

The convoy stopped in a single-file line: a half-dozen U.S. armored military vehicles and one gray Nissan pickup truck, all of them idling in a dirt lot in the insurgent-controlled slum called Sadr City.

In the pickup were five members of the Iraqi National Guard, resting up after patrolling with U.S. troops. The men sipped water in the hot midday sun. They wore bulletproof vests but no helmets as they sat in their unarmored truck.

Without warning, an orange fireball engulfed the area, followed by a deafening explosion and then gray smoke that blotted out the sun. When it cleared, the Nissan and the Iraqis inside it were riddled with marble-size ball bearings that had sprayed from a roadside bomb.

"They're dead! All of them are dead!" shouted an American soldier who had rushed to the vehicle.

"Make sure!" shouted another. "See if any of them are moving."

"They're done," said the first, turning away. "They're all done."

Three Americans -- all gunners whose job requires them to stand partially exposed in the rear hatches of the bulletproof Humvees -- sustained wounds, though none that were life-threatening. Dozens of other U.S. troops on the scene escaped unharmed, thanks largely to their vehicles' armor.

The blast, witnessed by a Washington Post reporter riding in an armored Humvee directly behind the Nissan on Monday afternoon, demonstrated the uneven vulnerability of U.S. forces, who are equipped with the most sophisticated weaponry and armor, and their Iraqi allies, who fight the same battles using vastly inferior equipment. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. says more Iraqi police are needed as attacks continue
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, September 28, 2004

Although interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and President Bush emphasized last week that progress is being made in training Iraqi police, others say the going has been slow.

A senior U.S. official in Iraq said in an interview last week that the new goal for 135,000 officers may not be reached for two more years under the best of circumstances. Officials point, among other things, to a lack of qualified personnel and appropriate training facilities.

More than 750 Iraqi police officers and hundreds more recruits have been killed over the past 10 months, said the senior official, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. At the same time, officials in Baghdad said such attacks on recruits haven't stemmed the flow of willing volunteers. [complete article]

Comment -- George Bush has characterized this steady flow of volunteers as an expression of Iraqis' faith in their own future but there's just as much reason to see it as a sign of desperation. As he knows from his own experience, when a man can choose between enjoying the good life or risking dying for his country, those who can, usually choose the good life. As a man who rarely takes the risk of facing a tough question, George Bush should not assume that he knows the hearts or minds of men who risk getting blown up or shot as they line up for jobs in Iraq.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Pakistan gets its man ... sort of
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, September 29, 2004

Two days after Pakistani officials announced the death of Amjad Farooqi, the circumstances surrounding the killing of the person who is being billed as the country's most wanted man as well as a senior al-Qaeda figure remain murky.

Farooqi had been indicted in connection with the beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl in early 2002 and named by President General Pervez Musharraf as a mastermind of two bomb attacks against the president's motorcades in December last year. Officials had published a picture of Farooqi, with a reward of $330,000 for information leading to his arrest.

The official version runs something like this: Farooqi was tracked through his mobile telephone to a hideout in Nawabshah, a town 170 miles north of the port city of Karachi. Security forces surrounded the house and met heavy automatic gunfire from within. During the firefight, Farooqi and two others were killed, and three alleged accomplices were arrested. According to official leaks, Farooqi might have been close to Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a Libyan alleged to be al-Qaeda's head of Pakistan operations, who could now also have been arrested.

"Farooqi's elimination is a crushing blow to the al-Qaeda network in Pakistan because he was the man who had been providing al-Qaeda terrorists with the manpower to carry out attacks," a senior Pakistani security official was quoted by the French news service Agence France-Presse as saying.

Certainly, this is the view now widely disseminated in the international media, and used as proof that Musharraf is keeping up his side of the bargain in hunting down al-Qaeda operatives in the US's "war on terror".

However, extensive Asia Times Online research throws up a different picture. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Palestinian PM urges tactical rethink on conflict
By Wafa Amr, Reuters, September 28, 2004

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie marked the anniversary of an uprising on Tuesday by urging Israel and his own people to rethink tactics that have brought four years of bloodshed.

Qurie called on Palestinians to reflect on past mistakes as well as successes but proposed no specific changes and did not repeat previous criticism of Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel. He accused the Jewish state of blocking peace.

Qurie cited Israel's killing of Palestinian militants abroad, such as Sunday's car bombing of a Hamas leader in Damascus for which Israel has not officially claimed responsibility, as an example of "crazy" policies.

In a sign neither side was budging from entrenched positions in a conflict that has defied every international effort to end it, a senior Israeli official declared it was the Palestinian Authority which should reassess strategy. [complete article]

Losing faith in the Intifada
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2004

When Abu Fahdi joined a Palestinian militant group and took up arms against Israel, he thought he was serving his people. Now he believes he did them only harm.

"We achieved nothing in all this time, and we lost so much," said the baby-faced 29-year-old, who, because of his status as a fugitive, insisted on being identified by a nickname meaning "father of Fahdi." "People hate us for that and wish we were dead."

The young militant, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, is not alone in such thinking. Among Palestinians from all walks of life, there is a quiet but growing sentiment that their intifada, or uprising -- which broke out four years ago today -- has largely failed as an armed struggle, and lost its character as a popular resistance movement.

Moreover, many Palestinians fear that what has been, in effect, their military defeat at the hands of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has left them without leverage to extract political and territorial concessions that would help lay the groundwork for their hoped-for state. [complete article]

Comment -- If the LA Times is correct in suggesting that a consensus is emerging among Palestinians that the Intifada has failed, this admission will be hailed by Likudniks, such as Charles Krauthammer, as a vindication of Ariel Sharon's methods in suppressing the uprising. Nevertheless, for as long as a political resolution to the conflict remains elusive, neither side should be claiming any kind of victory.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Europe's terror fight quiet, unrelenting
By Charles M. Sennott, Boston Globe, September 26, 2004

A city-bound train rumbled along with purpose on the same commuter line where bombs inflicted brutal carnage more than six months ago, killing 191 people and wounding hundreds in the worst terrorist attack in Europe in decades.

Passengers read their newspapers, snoozed, and chatted, as, on a day this month, a digital clock clicked to 7:38 a.m., the moment on March 11 when members of a Moroccan terrorist cell inspired by Al Qaeda set off the first of 10 bombs stuffed inside backpacks along the train line.

There was no visible increase in security on this suburban Madrid train, and there is no sense of panic among commuters. The mood suggests that Spaniards, hardened by decades of struggle against terrorism, have moved on from the attack -- and that the Europeans have responded in vastly different ways than the Americans to the threat of global terrorism.

For the United States, the response to Sept. 11 was to launch a "war on terrorism," one cast in terms of good and evil and marked with somber ceremonies, fought more with armies than with indictments. But for Spain as well as for France, Germany, and Britain, all countries that have suffered a history of terrorist violence, the focus is a "struggle" against a criminal element.

These European countries have expressed a more quiet but collective resolve to work within an international consensus to fight terrorism. In the eyes of many European counterterrorism specialists and officials, the Bush administration's reliance on conventional military means can serve to provoke more terrorism.

The contrasting strategic visions translate into diverging tactics on the ground. The US confrontation with terrorism turns now on a long-term commitment of troops in Iraq. Spain's newly elected prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, fulfilled a campaign promise to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq, but also increased Madrid's commitment to peacekeeping in Afghanistan. And at home, Spanish authorities have staged a series of raids against Islamic extremist cells, making numerous arrests. [complete article]

Comment -- In the debate on national security the most charged slur that Republicans toss at their opponents is to suggest that Democrats see terrorism as just a legal issue. The implication is supposed to be, these guys aren't tough enough to get into a real fight. Ironically, when it comes to contrasting the Spanish and American efforts in counterterrorism the most glaring difference is that the Spaniards have succeeded in arresting terrorists connected to the Madrid bombings while in the United States not a single conviction has followed from the 9/11 attacks. This, in spite of the fact that, as Richard Clarke recently pointed out, the hijackers clearly operated with the help of a domestic network -- a network that probably retains the capacity to support future attacks. Now we learn from the New York Times that the FBI has a backlog of 120,000 hours of terrorism-related recordings that have yet to be translated -- clear evidence that the Bush administration has much more interest in "fighting" terrorism than in actually catching terrorists.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. planes pummel Iraqi slum
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2004

U.S. warplanes bombed suspected insurgent positions in a restive slum of the Iraqi capital on Monday and hospital officials said 10 people, including civilians, were killed.

The airstrikes in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood underscored how U.S. forces are stepping up their firepower in their battle against insurgents. Such aerial attacks have become increasingly common in Sadr City, Fallujah and other regions where anti-American militants still exert significant control.

The strikes also raise questions about whether a fragile peace agreement with militiamen loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will hold. Tensions have rising in recent days between al-Sadr followers and U.S. forces in Sadr City and in the holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, where the two sides ended a bloody standoff in August. [complete article]

Comment -- As US counterinsurgency operations increasingly rely on air strikes it's hard not to conclude that the primary reason for employing this tactic is simply with the hope of keeping a lid on the insurgency while minimizing the number of US casualties during the run-up to the November elections. If this is the case, we can expect the situation to get a whole lot uglier in early November. In the meantime, yet more civilian casualties will inevitably fuel the insurgency and make the chance for January elections increasingly slim.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Vote of confidence
By Luke Harding, The Guardian, September 27, 2004

Asked whether Iraq's elections would take place on schedule next year, Adil Mohammed Allami gave a wry smile. From just outside his office there was a loud boom as yet another mortar thudded into the flowerbeds. "I'm optimistic," he said.

Mr Adil has to be: he is Iraq's chief election officer, the man responsible for organising and overseeing general elections in Iraq, which are supposed to take place on January 31 2005.

In theory, Iraqis across the entire country will take part in the polls to elect a new 275-member national assembly, as well as a series of local councils, using a proportional representation system.

"We have a plan that contains a timetable. There are certain dates we have to meet," Mr Adil said earlier this month, in his first ever interview since taking up the post in June. "But if things happen outside our control, well..." he added, breaking off.

Many observers believe holding elections across all of Iraq in just over four months time is a virtually impossible task. Sunni towns such as Falluja, Ramadi and Samarra have become virtual no-go areas for US forces; and already one leading Sunni group, the Sunni clerics association, has dismissed the polls as "fake". [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

In Pakistan, dead men tell no tales
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, September 28, 2004

Even as President General Pervez Musharraf played to the international gallery on his trip to the United Nations and beyond, at home, Pakistan was cooking up another treat to be served on the tour.

On Sunday, Pakistan announced that paramilitary police had killed Amjad Farooqi, a suspected top al-Qaeda operative wanted in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl two years ago, as well as for two assassination attempts against Musharraf last December.

Asia Times Online contacts, however, are adamant that Farooqi was in fact arrested some months ago, and that the "incident" resulting in his death in the southern Pakistani city of Nawabshah was in fact stage-managed by Pakistani security forces. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Israel may not be able to destroy Iranian nukes
By Peter Enav, Associated Press (via Newsday), September 27, 2004

Israel would not be able to destroy Iran's nuclear installations with a single air strike as it did in Iraq in 1981 because they are scattered or hidden and intelligence is weak, Israeli and foreign analysts say.

Israeli leaders have implied they might use force against Iran if international diplomatic efforts or the threat of sanctions fail to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said this month Israel is "taking measures to defend itself" -- a comment that raised concern Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike along the lines of its 1981 bombing of an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak near Baghdad.

Speculation has also been fueled by recent Israeli weapons acquisitions, including bunker-buster bombs and long-range fighter-bombers.

Israel's national security adviser, Giora Eiland, was quoted Monday by the Maariv daily as saying Iran will reach the "point of no return" in its nuclear weapons program by November rather than next year as Israeli military officials said earlier. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The wounds of war
By Matthew McAllester, Newsday, September 27, 2004

The medical team that accompanied the soldier on the Thursday morning flight from Iraq had worked the whole way to keep him alive, his body burned and lacerated by the fire and metal of a roadside bomb.

They were low on oxygen by the time the green military ambulance reached the front door of the hospital.

"Get me more O2," shouted out a visibly upset nurse, Maj. Pat Bradshaw. She had been up and working for 28 hours, ferrying the wounded out of Iraq.

"She's stressed," said Capt. George Sakakini, a physician in charge of the team that greets the wounded. He watched from the curbside through the early-morning drizzle, keeping an eye on his highly trained squad of doctors, nurses and chaplains. "Someone's trying to die on her."

Full green oxygen tank in place, its contents filtering into the unconscious man's lungs, the team lowered the soldier on his stretcher to the ground. His scorched face was a painter's palette of the colors of pain: yellow, mauve, bright red.

In the intensive care unit, nurses quickly worked to make sure his wounds were as clean as possible. An infection could kill him. A couple of rooms over, more nurses worked on another young soldier, also unconscious, burned and sparring with death. Another roadside bomb victim. Dabbing gently, they spread thick white antimicrobial cream on the raw flesh of his forearms. Twenty percent of his body was burned.

It was an average morning at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which has become the American military's museum of pain and maiming, doubt and anger. The planes from Iraq land every day, sometimes two or three of them.

Like his staff, who brim with frustration at what they see as the irresponsible disinclination of the American people to understand the costs of the war to thousands of American soldiers, the hospital's chief surgeon feels that most Americans have their minds on other things.

"It is my impression that they're not thinking about it a whole lot at all," said Lt. Col. Ronald Place. As he spoke, the man who has probably seen more of America's war wounded than anyone since the Vietnam War sobbed as he sat at a table in his office. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Heady U.S. goals for Iraq fall by wayside
By Tyler Marshall, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2004

Despite continuing violence and instability, President Bush has stuck doggedly to his central message on Iraq: There is no need to change course because the administration's plan for planting democracy in the Middle East is working.

Yet behind the unwavering public posture, there is evidence that the Bush administration has altered its approach. It has lowered its hopes for the type of democracy that can be achieved, changed course on its plans to privatize Iraq's economy and reordered its priorities by devoting more money to improving security as fast as possible.

Gone -- at least for now -- is the lofty ideal of Iraq serving as a free-market democratic model that would ignite the forces of change throughout the Middle East and lay the seeds of a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said administration officials have told him privately that they have lowered their expectations. "They've definitely recalibrated their goals," he said. "One of them told me: 'When we went in there, I thought we would build American-style democracy. Hell, I'd be happy with Romanian-style democracy now.' " [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iraq's chemical weapons may be mythical, but the deadly material is ubiquitous
By Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press (via LAT), September 26, 2004

They were no-shows in Iraq, but tons of chemical weapons are stoking fears and costing billions to clean up elsewhere in the world -- from concrete "igloos" in Oregon, to the Panama rainforest, to the highlands of China, where Japanese war leftovers reportedly have killed hundreds.

In fact, more chemical munitions have turned up lately in Australia than in Iraq, where the Bush administration claimed up to 500 tons would be found. As Baghdad arms hunters searched in vain, chemical weapons material was even being unearthed four miles from the White House in Washington.

At least 8 million such weapons are stockpiled worldwide, and concern is deepening not only over the health and safety of nearby communities, but also over the threat of theft or attacks on depots brimming with sarin or VX, fearsome nerve agents that can kill by the drop.

"Chemical terrorism is something we should all be very concerned about," said Rogelio Pfirter, chief international watchdog for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which oversees destruction of the armaments under a 1997 treaty.

As troubling as the terror potential is, "these weapons are leaking and pose a threat even without terrorist involvement," said Jonathan Tucker, a Monterey Institute specialist in unconventional arms. "The sooner we get rid of them, the better." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Terrorists have oil industry in cross hairs
By Justin Blum, Washington Post, September 27, 2004

Terrorists and insurgents are stepping up attacks on oil and gas operations overseas in an effort to disrupt jittery energy markets, destabilize governments and scare off foreign workers, analysts said.

The attacks have been most intense in Iraq, but also have occurred in recent months in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Russia and Nigeria.

In many cases, the attacks are orchestrated by terrorists or rebels, often Islamic extremists, seeking to cause economic disruption or steal oil to finance their operations, analysts said. Their targets are sometimes pipelines, tankers and workers in areas with varying levels of security.

"You have motive and opportunity, so you're seeing more of this," said Anne Korin, director of policy and strategic planning for the Rockville-based Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, which tracks attacks on oil targets. "It's a very effective strategy on their part. . . . Oil is really a very target-rich area." [complete article]

See also, Oil price heads towards record (Reuters).

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Grisly path to power in Iraq's insurgency
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, September 27, 2004

In a video image posted on the Internet last week, a quivering, blindfolded American kneels on the floor of an empty room as five hooded men stand behind him, dressed in black. After reading a speech from a sheaf of white papers, the leader of the group pulls a long knife from his shirt and slices off the captive's head in a well-practiced manner.

The killer is wearing a mask, but he is identified in a statement accompanying the video as Abu Musab Zarqawi. He is the most wanted man in Iraq and at the vanguard of a new generation of Islamic radicals who have confronted the United States and its allies since the invasion of Iraq 18 months ago.

While Zarqawi has assembled temporary alliances with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network over the years, evidence shows that he has always sought to forge his own path with a largely distinct, if occasionally overlapping agenda. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Europe to Bush: Go away
Even British prefer Kerry for president

By Vivienne Walt, San Francisco Chronicle, September 27, 2004

"Why Bush must be beaten," screamed the headline of Le Nouvel Observateur, a left-leaning French newsweekly. Smaller type above the U.S. president's half profile provided the answer: "His re-election will be a catastrophe for the world and for America."

That sentiment may have been expressed more bluntly than the opinions of many Europeans, yet it captured the passions on this continent over who will occupy the White House come January.

Poised halfway between the political wrangling in Washington over the war in Iraq and the suicide bombs and kidnappings in Baghdad, Europeans have rarely felt so involved in a U.S. presidential race.

Many Europeans, analysts and regular citizens alike, argue that their own security is increasingly at risk, while violence spirals in Iraq and anti- Western hostility hardens in Europe's backyard -- the Arab world. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Bush: Would give 'Mission Accomplished' speech again
Reuters, September 26, 2004

President Bush said he had no regrets about donning a flight suit to give his "Mission Accomplished" speech on Iraq in May 2003 and would do it all over again if he had the chance, according to excerpts from an television interview released on Sunday.

When asked by Fox News if he still would have put on a flight suit to declare major combat operations in Iraq over, Bush replied, "Absolutely."

When Bush gave his May 1 speech fewer than 150 Americans had died in the war. Since then more than 900 have died.

The interview is to air on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, just before Bush and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry face off in their first televised debate on Thursday.

Amid a rising U.S. death toll and a rash of abductions and beheadings in Iraq, some members of Bush's own Republican Party have criticized him for not doing enough to secure insurgent areas in Iraq sooner. [complete article]

See also, Kerry hits Bush quote on carrier banner (WP).

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The next Iraqi war
By George Packer, The New Yorker, September 27, 2004

Earlier this year, Kurdish leaders had considerable success in shaping the language of Iraq's interim constitution, which enshrined the rights of minority groups and envisioned a federalist republic with significant regional autonomy. Over the past few months, however, many Kurds have lost confidence in the effort to create a unified Iraq. They are increasingly alienated from their American allies, who always seem more ready to soothe the recalcitrant Arabs than the dependable Kurds. Several Kurdish politicians told me that a repetition of 1975, when the U.S. withdrew its support for the Kurds and abandoned them to the Baathist regime, now seems entirely possible. In May, the U.S. fuelled such suspicions when it yielded to a demand of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and left out any mention of the interim constitution in the U.N. Security Council resolution that blessed Iraq's restored sovereignty. When it became clear that Kurds would get neither the Presidency nor the Prime Ministership, Kurdish politicians, including Barham Salih, were so incensed that they briefly withdrew from Baghdad to the north. On June 1st, the two Kurdish leaders, Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, sent a cri de coeur to President Bush that was subsequently made public. "Ever since liberation, we have detected a bias against Kurdistan from the American authorities for reasons that we cannot comprehend," they wrote, and warned that if the interim constitution "is abrogated, the Kurdistan Regional Government will have no choice but to refrain from participating in the central government and its institutions, not to take part in the national elections, and to bar representatives of the central government from Kurdistan." [...]

On September 9th, Masoud Barzani escalated his rhetoric again, saying, "Kirkuk is the heart of Kurdistan, and we are ready to wage a war in order to preserve its identity." A self-described Iraqi liberal who is an official of the interim government told me that more and more leaders are reacting to Kurdish threats with an attitude of "good riddance." Keeping the Kurds happy, they think, might not be worth the cost. "The truth of the matter is, the Arabs of this country -- eighty per cent of the population -- are getting tired of these threats of secession," he said. "And one day their answer will be: 'Secede.'" [...]

Kirkuk has suffered inordinately from bad ideas, and the old ones have engendered some that are new: the idea that the historical clock can be turned back forty years, or that Iraq can be carved up among its Sunni, Shia, and Kurds without enormous bloodshed and countless individual tragedies. The weakest idea in Iraq may be the idea of Iraq itself. As Barham Salih told me, "There is no Iraqi identity that I can push my people to today. I want to have an Iraqi identity, but it does not exist." Samir Shakir Sumaidaie said, "To get away from what Saddam did, where ethnic identity is what mattered most, to a society where citizenship is what matters -- that transition is not an easy transition. We have to make it, though."

The obsession with ethnic identity may be the ultimate legacy of Saddam's rule, his diabolical revenge on his countrymen. Nowhere can this be more strongly felt than in Kirkuk. "Saddam is gone, but we're not through with him," an Arab there said. "Even if he's not here, it's like he planted problems for the future." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Three Shiite provinces apply for autonomy in Iraq
Zaman Online, September 26, 2004

Three Shiite provinces under the control of British forces in southern Iraq followed the example of the Kurdish region in the north and applied to the Bagdat (Baghdad) administration in order to be recognized as an "autonomous territory".

The local administrators of Basra, Amara, and Nasiriye agreed that they wanted to unify and be granted autonomy. Basra Governor, Hasan Rasid reported that they sent their demands to interim Iraq Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. This development, confirmed also by the speaker of the parliament in Amara province, increases the disintegration anxieties of Iraq.

The State Administration Law approved by the Iraq Interim Government allows for the formation of autonomous regions by combining at least three provinces. However, Kerkuk (Kirkuk), due to a statute protecting its mixed ethnic makeup, and Baghdad, due to it being the capital, are not able to be included in any of the autonomous territories. [complete article]

Comment -- The southern corner of Iraq that these provinces occupy not only contains oilfields and refineries, but most importantly, Iraq's second largest city (Basra), principal port and only point of access to the Persian Gulf. Basra, Amara, and Nasiriye (combined populations 4.4 million) might feel comfortable with autonomy from the rest of Iraq but the feeling is unlikely to be reciprocated.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Key Bush assertions about Iraq in dispute
By Adam Entous, Reuters, September 26, 2004

Many of President Bush's assertions about progress in Iraq -- from police training and reconstruction to preparations for January elections -- are in dispute, according to internal Pentagon documents, lawmakers and key congressional aides on Sunday.

Bush used the visit last week by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to make the case that "steady progress" is being made in Iraq to counter warnings by his Democratic presidential rival, Sen. John Kerry, that the situation in reality is deteriorating.

Bush touted preparations for national elections in January, saying Iraq's electoral commission is up and running and told Americans on Saturday that "United Nations electoral advisers are on the ground in Iraq."

He said nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel are already at work, and that would rise to 125,000 by the end of this year.

And he promised more than $9 billion will be spent on reconstruction contracts in Iraq over the next several months.

But many of these assertions have met with skepticism from key congressional aides and experts, and Pentagon documents, given to lawmakers and obtained by Reuters, paint a more complicated picture. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Human dignity, Crazy Mike and Indian country
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, September 25, 2004

The reason Washington is having such a difficult time persuading of its good faith and its good works in its "war on terror" was best illustrated on Tuesday.

While President George W Bush told the United Nations General Assembly that the US belief in "human dignity" - a phrase he used no fewer than 10 times - was the main US motivation for pursuing the war, two articles that appeared in two major US newspapers the same morning offered an altogether different subtext.

The first piece, titled "Indian country", was written by one of the Bush administration's geostrategic gurus, Robert D Kaplan, and published on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

Kaplan, who is writing a series of books about the US military, extolled the wonders of US Special Forces operating in small units from "forward operating bases" (FOBs) without direction from any "Washington bureaucracy" and outside the scrutiny of the global media.

Just as "in the days of fighting the Indians", wrote Kaplan, referring to early efforts to subdue native Americans, "the smaller the tactical unit, the more forward-deployed it is, and the more autonomy it enjoys from the chain of command, the more that can be accomplished".

Unbeknownst to Kaplan and, presumably, to Bush, the Los Angeles Times that same morning was publishing a front-page article that gave one example of precisely what such a unit could do. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


By Michael Hirsh, Washington Post, September 26, 2004

As Iraq descends into something resembling chaos, it's hard to remember how grand, even orderly, the plans for its future once were. I had a glimpse of those plans last January in Baghdad as I interviewed L. Paul Bremer in his dusty office at the center of Saddam Hussein's old Republican Palace. I asked Bremer, who was then midway through his tenure as America's viceroy in Iraq, whether what he was attempting was unprecedented. Perhaps it was, he said, but the model he was using was the resurrection of post-Hitler Germany.

Bremer, a historian by training, then reached over to his desk for a thick briefing book that laid out detailed timelines for the development of each Iraqi ministry. He pointed out a chart that he consulted more than any other: "MILESTONES: Iraq and Germany." It laid out the handover of state institutions during the 1945-52 occupation of Germany, side by side with corresponding plans for Iraq over a more compressed period. That way, Bremer said, he could "keep track of where we are versus Germany." The U.S. occupation embraced that model so completely that officials lifted whole passages from Marshall Plan-era documents in designing the future of Iraq -- once forgetting, in a section dealing with currency, to change "Reichsmark" to "dinar." [complete article]

'De Gaulle option' may be our best Iraq exit strategy
By William Pfaff, Seattle Times, September 26, 2004

If John Kerry wins the U.S. presidency in November, he will find himself in the same plight as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon when they took office. Each inherited another man's war. Each prosecuted that war — Johnson reluctantly, Nixon because he thought he could do better. Both failed and were destroyed by the war.

This does not have to happen to Kerry. There is an alternative. However, it is an alternative that he seems determined to exclude. Johnson anticipated and dreaded his failure. He told his press secretary, Bill Moyers, "I feel like a hitchhiker caught in a hailstorm on a Texas highway. I can't run. I can't hide. And I can't make it stop." The murdered Kennedy's foreign-policy advisers told him that if he didn't press on with the war, "Asian Communism" would conquer one non-Western state after another — dominos tumbling. So did practically everyone else in the Washington policy community. It was one of those things "everybody knew."

Johnson was a populist economic and racial justice reformer. He knew nothing of Southeast Asia. He knew that if he prosecuted the war he "would lose everything at home." If he did not, he "would be seen as a coward and my nation would be seen as an appeaser, and we would both find it impossible to accomplish anything for anybody anywhere."

Kerry expresses no such doubts. He apparently accepts what "everyone knows" in Washington today: that "failure in Iraq is not an option."

This is true, but not in the way they think. Failure is no longer an option; it is a certainty. The questions that remain are failure's timing, and the gravity of its consequences. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

What if America just pulled out?
By Roger Cohen, New York Times, September 26, 2004

Even by its own disturbing standards, this was a hallucinatory week in Iraq. Beheadings, kidnappings, bombings, outbreaks of deadly disease and everyday mayhem were accompanied by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's upbeat statement to Congress: "We are succeeding in Iraq."

Are we? The discordant images and messages captured a central difficulty of defining an Iraq policy. In the absence of any semblance of agreement on what the situation is, or even who is behind the insurgency, setting a course is problematic. But with more than 1,000 Americans already dead, and more dying each week, one question has begun to be posed with growing insistence: Should American forces leave?

There are several arguments for getting out, or at least setting a timetable for doing so. The status quo is unacceptable. History, from Algeria to Vietnam, suggests that no military solution to a spreading insurgency is possible. A major counteroffensive would almost certainly require a large addition to the 138,000 troops in Iraq, an unattractive prospect to politicians of any stripe. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Civilians die in U.S. ground and air attack on bases in Fallujah
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, September 26, 2004

US aircraft, tanks and artillery pounded the resistance stronghold of Fallujah yesterday, killing at least eight people and wounding 15, while rebels struck back in Baghdad by killing six police recruits.

The US said that it is hitting the strongholds of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Islamic militant, with pinpoint accuracy, but doctors at the local hospital in Fallujah said at least seven civilians were killed and 13 wounded, including women and children.

The US-appointed Iraqi interim government, which supports the air strikes, last week banned the Ministry of Health in Baghdad from announcing figures for civilian casualties. Television pictures showed a boy and later a woman being rescued from the rubble.

"There were no innocent civilians reported in the immediate area at the time of strike," said a statement from the US military. "Multinational forces took multiple measures to minimise collateral damage and civilian casualties." During the night-time assault, with explosions lighting the sky, prayers were chanted defiantly through loudspeakers from the mosques in Fallujah. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Violence in Iraq belies claims of calm, data show
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, September 26, 2004

Less than four months before planned national elections in Iraq, attacks against U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces and private contractors number in the dozens each day and have spread to parts of the country that had been relatively peaceful, according to statistics compiled by a private security firm working for the U.S. government.

Attacks over the past two weeks have killed more than 250 Iraqis and 29 U.S. military personnel, according to figures released by Iraq's Health Ministry and the Pentagon. A sampling of daily reports produced during that period by Kroll Security International for the U.S. Agency for International Development shows that such attacks typically number about 70 each day. In contrast, 40 to 50 hostile incidents occurred daily during the weeks preceding the handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government on June 28, according to military officials.

Reports covering seven days in a recent 10-day period depict a nation racked by all manner of insurgent violence, from complex ambushes involving 30 guerrillas north of Baghdad on Monday to children tossing molotov cocktails at a U.S. Army patrol in the capital's Sadr City slum on Wednesday. On maps included in the reports, red circles denoting attacks surround nearly every major city in central, western and northern Iraq, except for Kurdish-controlled areas in the far north. Cities in the Shiite Muslim-dominated south, including several that had undergone a period of relative calm in recent months, also have been hit with near-daily attacks. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Costs whittle funds to Iraqis
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2004

Less than half of the aid in the Bush administration's reconstruction package for Iraq is being spent in ways that will benefit Iraqis, U.S. government officials and independent experts said.

Nearly a year after Congress set aside $18.4 billion for the rebuilding, costs related to the insurgency in Iraq — such as security services, insurance and property losses — are consuming an increasing share of the money, analysts said. Another large chunk of the aid — contractors' profits and American and other foreign workers' salaries — winds up outside Iraq and doesn't help the Iraqi economy, they said.

U.S. officials, pointing to "unusually difficult" conditions in Iraq, acknowledged last week that security and other overhead in Iraq were a large expense. Some government analysts said those costs might eat up half or more of the rebuilding aid. However, private analysts estimated that the "Iraq premium" meant that up to 75% of U.S. spending in the country provided no direct benefit for Iraqis. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Al Qaeda seen as wider threat
By Douglas Frantz, Josh Meyer, Sebastian Rotella and Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2004

Authorities have made little progress worldwide in defeating Islamic extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda despite thwarting attacks and arresting high-profile figures, according to interviews with intelligence and law enforcement officials and outside experts.

On the contrary, officials warn that the Bush administration's upbeat assessment of its successes is overly optimistic and masks its strategic failure to understand and combat Al Qaeda's evolution.

Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda was a loosely organized network, but core leaders exercised considerable control over its operations. Since the loss of its base in Afghanistan and many of those leaders, the organization has dispersed its operatives and reemerged as a lethal ideological movement.

Osama bin Laden may now serve more as an inspirational figure than a CEO, and the war in Iraq is helping focus militants' anger, according to dozens of interviews in recent weeks on several continents. European and moderate Islamic countries have become targets. And instead of undergoing lengthy training at camps in Afghanistan, recruits have been quickly indoctrinated at home and deployed on attacks. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The U.S. has a favorite in Afghanistan. That's a problem
By David Rohde and Carlotta Gall, New York Times, September 26, 2004

Taliban attacks aside, a huge question looms over Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election on Oct. 9. Will the country's hopeful electorate see it as an exercise in democracy, or an exercise in American political theater?

President Hamid Karzai, whom the United States supports, is by far the best-known politician in Afghanistan and is widely expected to win. His platform enjoys overwhelming popular support in public opinion polls. After a quarter-century of civil war, his calls for national unity, peaceful resolution of disputes and reconstruction clearly resonate across this expectant society.

But Afghans remain unfamiliar with the democratic process, accustomed to rumor and distrustful of rivals and outsiders. Members of its elite, some military commanders and Mr. Karzai's challengers are warning that American officials are imperiling the election's credibility by trying too hard to get a show of broad support for Mr. Karzai and doing too little to assure Afghans that the electoral playing field is level.

Some leading challengers to Mr. Karzai say that the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad and other Western officials have urged them to drop out of the race and back Mr. Karzai days before the vote. American officials flatly deny the charges, but the reports continue to feed deeper suspicions. "How will the Americans fix it?" asked a close aide to one of Mr. Karzai's main challengers. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

EMAIL UPDATES -- Click here to sign up for weekly email updates -- a digest of key articles from the last seven days. (Please include your name in the message and put "subscribe" in the subject line.)
[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Most Iraqi deaths caused by U.S.
By Nancy A. Youssef, Knight Ridder, September 25, 2004
Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder.

According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 - when the ministry began compiling the data - until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said.

While most of the dead are believed to be civilians, the data include an unknown number of police and Iraqi national guardsmen. Many Iraqi deaths, especially of insurgents, are never reported, so the actual number of Iraqis killed in fighting could be significantly higher.

U.S. moves ahead on transfer of 5,000 guided bombs to Israel
By David Wood, Newhouse (via The Plain Dealer), September 23, 2004
Amid growing concern that Israel might launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran's budding nuclear program, the United States is moving ahead with the transfer to Israel of 5,000 heavy precision-guided bombs. The weapons include 500 "earth-penetrating" 2,000-pound bombs designed for use against underground facilities.

The $319 million arms transfer, proposed by the Bush administration June 1, went ahead after Congress took no action during its 30-day review period, Jose Ibarra, a spokesman for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said Wednesday. The deal is being financed from this year's $2.16 billion military assistance grant to Israel.

The transfer also includes 2,500 2,000-pound Mark-84 bombs, 500 1,000-pound Mark- 83 bombs, 1,500 500-pound Mark-82 bombs and live fuses. All the bombs are being fitted with the Joint Direct Air Munitions (JDAM) kit, which uses inertial guidance and beacons from U.S. military Global Positioning Satellites for deadly accuracy.

"That's an arsenal for war," said Joseph Cirincione, senior associate for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. He said any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, clustered in three major complexes and dozens of other sites, "wouldn't be a pinprick strike; it would have to be a large-scale military airstrike that would result in large-scale casualties."

U.S. hand seen in Afghan election
By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2004
Mohammed Mohaqiq says he was getting ready to make his run for the Afghan presidency when U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad dropped by his campaign office and proposed a deal.

"He told me to drop out of the elections, but not in a way to put pressure," Mohaqiq said. "It was like a request."

After the hourlong meeting last month, the ethnic Hazara warlord said in an interview Tuesday, he wasn't satisfied with the rewards offered for quitting, which he did not detail. Mohaqiq was still determined to run for president -- though, he said, the U.S. ambassador wouldn't give up trying to elbow him out of the race.

"He left, and then called my most loyal men, and the most educated people in my party or campaign, to the presidential palace and told them to make me -- or request me -- to resign the nomination. And he told my men to ask me what I need in return."

Mohaqiq, who is running in the Oct. 9 election, is one of several candidates who maintain that the U.S. ambassador and his aides are pushing behind the scenes to ensure a convincing victory by the pro-American incumbent, President Hamid Karzai. The Americans deny doing so.

"It is not only me," Mohaqiq said. "They have been doing the same thing with all candidates. That is why all people think that not only Khalilzad is like this, but the whole U.S. government is the same. They all want Karzai -- and this election is just a show."

The charges were repeated by several other candidates and their senior campaign staff in interviews here. They reflected anger over what many Afghans see as foreign interference that could undermine the shaky foundations of a democracy the U.S. promised to build.

Match Iraq policy to reality
By Jessica Mathews, Washington Post, September 23, 2004
What [a year ago] was an emerging opposition is now a full-fledged insurgency. The United States is still without a political strategy that recognizes this reality. As a result, the military is forced into a stop-go-stop hesitancy in which soldiers' lives are being wasted and security continues to worsen.

The sobering truth is that a path to a not-awful ending in Iraq is extremely hard to see, and there may not, in fact, be one. The United States cannot use its full power to achieve security without causing so many Iraqi casualties that it would defeat our purpose. We do not have enough additional troops to send to achieve order through an overwhelming presence. Iraqi security forces are nowhere near up to the task and will not be for a long time. Thus the paradox: While achieving a degree of security is the overwhelming priority, a change of political course is the most important step.

What is needed is a policy that takes deadly seriously what Iraqis believe about why the war began and what the United States intends. These beliefs -- that the United States came only to get its hands on Iraq's oil, to benefit Israel's security, and to establish a puppet government and a permanent military presence through which it could control Iraq and the rest of the region -- are wrong. But beliefs passionately held are as important as facts, because they powerfully affect behavior. What we see as a tragic series of American missteps, Iraqis interpret -- with reason when seen through their eyes -- as evidence of evil intent.

If controlling Iraq's oil was not our purpose, they ask, why was the oil ministry the only building (not excluding Baghdad's nuclear complex) that U.S. soldiers had orders to guard against looting? If the United States did not intend to dismember the Iraqi state, why did it dissolve the Iraqi army? If the United States does not mean to stay, why is it building 14 "enduring" military bases? If it did not mean to control Iraq's politics, why would it appoint a prime minister who spent two decades on the CIA payroll? If it is not pursuing a classic policy of imperial divide-and-rule by exacerbating sectarian differences, why does it continue to insist on minutely balancing Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmen, Christians and others on every appointed council?

Rising call by clerics for jihad
Question is not whether but how to defeat U.S. aims

By Borzou Daragahi, San Francisco Chronicle, September 22, 2004
If Sunni clerics are a window into the soul of the violent resistance to U.S. aims in Iraq, the picture they reveal could not be bleaker.

For Sheikh Mohammad Ali Mohammad al-Ghereri, a Sunni Muslim cleric, the question is no longer whether his followers should fight the Americans -- that is a given -- but how to wage the war properly.

"The holy warriors should have a clerical leader with them to advise them on all points, such as how to properly treat the Americans they capture," he said just days before militants beheaded two American hostages.

For Sunni cleric Abdul Sattar Abdul Jabbar, the question is no longer whether his followers should kidnap foreigners, but which ones.

"Isn't the trucker who brings supplies for the Americans and helps the occupation also part of the occupation? I think so," said Abdul Jabbar, a member of the Association of Muslim Clerics, the country's largest Sunni religious group.

Although Sunni religious authorities -- including the sect's highest authority, Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of Al-Azhar University in Cairo -- have condemned the beheading of captives, they have no such qualms about advocating violent warfare, including kidnappings and suicide bombings, in the battle to vanquish the Americans and their Iraqi allies.

If America were Iraq, what would it be like?
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment, September 22, 2004
President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country.

What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?

What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria?

The war's toll on Iraqi civilians
By Jefferson Morley, Washington Post, September 21, 2004
When the 1,000th U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq earlier this month, more than a few commentators in the international online media took note of another death toll: Iraqi civilians.

"While so much is made of the 1,000 US military fatalities," said a columnist for Gulf News in the United Arab Emirates, "an eerie silence surrounds the tally of Iraqi casualties since the invasion."

"Silence" is perhaps too strong a word. Many news organizations have run stories about civilian deaths in Iraq. But overseas reporters and commentators emphasize the issue more than their American counterparts and play up civilian casualties in ways the U.S. media rarely pursue. After recent U.S. bombing raids on Fallujah, published graphic photos of wounded children that are unlikely to appear in a U.S. news outlet.

While American journalists can say, correctly, that definitive statistics on civilian casualties are hard to come by, the true number is certainly a multiple of U.S. casualties, according to Human Rights Watch. In a 2003 study, the New York-based watchdog group said "thousands" of Iraqi civilians had been killed or wounded in the three weeks between the invasion and the fall of Baghdad.

A strident minority: anti-Bush U.S. troops in Iraq
By Ann Scott Tyson, Christian Science Monitor, September 21, 2004
Inside dusty, barricaded camps around Iraq, groups of American troops in between missions are gathering around screens to view an unlikely choice from the US box office: "Fahrenheit 9-11," Michael Moore's controversial documentary attacking the commander-in-chief.

"Everyone's watching it," says a Marine corporal at an outpost in Ramadi that is mortared by insurgents daily. "It's shaping a lot of people's image of Bush."

The film's prevalence is one sign of a discernible countercurrent among US troops in Iraq - those who blame President Bush for entangling them in what they see as a misguided war. Conventional wisdom holds that the troops are staunchly pro-Bush, and many are. But bitterness over long, dangerous deployments is producing, at a minimum, pockets of support for Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry, in part because he's seen as likely to withdraw American forces from Iraq more quickly.

Victims of circumstance
By Julian E. Barnes, Kevin Whitelaw and Ilana Ozernoy, US News and World Report (via Yahoo), September 20, 2004
For the U.S. military, Iraq is increasingly feeling like a Catch-22: U.S. forces get criticized when they fail to stop attacks by insurgents and terrorists--and blamed for the civilian deaths that occur when they do go after them. The Arab satellite channels amplify the situation by focusing relentlessly on civilian deaths. When one of its own reporters was killed on camera last week by an American helicopter, the Al Arabiya network repeatedly showed his final, heartbreaking cry, "Please help me, I am dying."

In Iraq, where conspiracy theories abound, many believe the American superpower is omnipotent and so U.S. forces could avoid the collateral damage, clamp down on street crime, and end the terror attacks--if only they wanted to. "The majority of people blame the Americans for creating this crisis in order to stay longer and longer in Iraq," says Majid Salim, a Baghdad talk radio host.

That may sound preposterous to Americans, but it is a widely held view on which the insurgency feeds. Says Michael O'Hanlon, a scholar at Washington's Brookings Institution, "Why is the resistance estimated to be four times stronger today than it was? Why do people who didn't fight us a year ago choose to fight now? In some cases it is because their brother got killed."

During the initial invasion of Iraq, the military was squaring off against the remnants of the Republican Guard and irregular militias. In those fights, a combination of precision weapons and careful soldiers minimized--though hardly eliminated--civilian casualties. Now that America is supposed to be stabilizing and rebuilding the country, Iraqis expect U.S. forces to maintain order, provide security, and avoid killing civilians. But as the fight has undergone a metamorphosis into an urban guerrilla war--a scenario that was dreaded by military planners before the invasion of Iraq--precision weapons have grown less useful and arguably less precise.

Nevertheless, the United States has continued to rely on airstrikes, a tactic that is becoming increasingly controversial. The United States has used fearsome AC-130 gunships to attack individual safehouses in crowded areas.

Quick exit from Iraq is likely
By Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times, September 20, 2004
Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go.

This prospective policy is based on Iraq's national elections in late January, but not predicated on ending the insurgency or reaching a national political settlement. Getting out of Iraq would end the neoconservative dream of building democracy in the Arab world. The United States would be content having saved the world from Saddam Hussein's quest for weapons of mass destruction.

The reality of hard decisions ahead is obscured by blather on both sides in a presidential campaign. Six weeks before the election, Bush cannot be expected to admit even the possibility of a quick withdrawal. Sen. John Kerry's political aides, still languishing in fantastic speculation about European troops to the rescue, do not even ponder a quick exit. But Kerry supporters with foreign policy experience speculate that if elected, their candidate would take the same escape route.

Whether Bush or Kerry is elected, the president or president-elect will have to sit down immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military will tell the election winner there are insufficient U.S. forces in Iraq to wage effective war. That leaves three realistic options: Increase overall U.S. military strength to reinforce Iraq, stay with the present strength to continue the war, or get out.

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush's decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.

Classic guerrilla war forming in Iraq
By Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, September 20, 2004
War is never by the books. Adversaries learn and adapt. The political climate shifts on both sides. Loyalties and alliances couple and decouple. The civilian populace - caught in the crossfire - often remains passive just to survive.

To many experts, the conflict in Iraq has entered a new phase that resembles a classic guerrilla war with US forces now involved in counterinsurgency. And despite the lack of ideological cohesion among insurgent groups, history suggests that it could take as long as a decade to defeat them.

"Guerrilla warfare is the most underrated and the most successful form of warfare in human history," says Ivan Eland, a specialist on national security at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. "It is a defensive type of war against a foreign invader. If the guerrillas don't lose, they win. The objective is to wait out your opponent until he goes home." [...]

Since early April, when the health ministry in Baghdad began keeping figures, some 3,200 civilians (not including Iraqi police or insurgents) have been killed - some in terrorist attacks, some by the US-led coalition. On average, insurgents now are attacking US forces 87 times a day. More than 100 foreigners have been kidnapped, and some 30 of those killed. Attacks on oil pipelines are occurring nearly every day now.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

HOME  |  ABOUT   |  CONTACT   |    Copyright  © 2002-2004 Paul Woodward     XML        Powered by Blogger Pro™
A daily record of America's post-9/11 impact on the world
Researched, edited and sprinkled with occasional commentary by Paul Woodward
Sign up for weekly email updates
A resource for more information about Iraq, the Middle East conflict, Afghanistan, Korea, nuclear proliferation, war, peace, and the foreign policies of the Bush Administration.


Get a DVD!
USS Liberty Survivors: Our Story

::  Search Site
::  Archives
archives prior to April 21, 2002
Not In Our Name
A Statement Of Conscience