The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Paralyzed, a soldier asks why
By Bob Herbert, New York Times, October 15, 2004

"I happened to look down between two houses and I saw an Iraqi guy standing in the alley with like a remote control key for a car. And that was odd because there were like no cars in the whole little housing area."

Sergeant Simpson had been taught that key remotes can be used by insurgents to set off explosives. "So I knew right then something was wrong, and I raised up my gun to fire at him. But before I could get my weapon all the way up he pushed the button."

The bomb hidden in the road exploded with terrific force just a few feet from Sergeant Simpson.

"When I saw the explosion go off, I tried to jump back into the center of the Humvee for more protection," he said. "Everything went in slow motion for about 15 seconds. I saw scrap metal and dust and everything flying by me, and I felt it hitting me all in my legs and my back. It felt like hot metal burning my skin everywhere."

The driver of the Humvee fired at the attacker, who vanished. Sergeant Simpson was in agony. "It hurt so bad, I couldn't cry," he said.

The sergeant's spinal cord had been severed. On the short drive back to their home camp, he felt as if he was dying. "I would open and close my eyes," he said, "and all I could see was my family." [complete article]

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TV ad focuses on U.S. military wounded in Iraq
Reuters, October 13, 2004

A new television ad sponsored by U.S. veterans [in Operation Truth] strongly questions President Bush's case for war in Iraq, but the group behind it said on Wednesday the spot was not meant to benefit either presidential candidate.

First aired hours before the last presidential debate between Republican Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the ad shows a U.S. Iraq war veteran talking about the justification for the war as he shows the stump of his amputated arm.

The veteran, Robert Acosta, says in the ad: "I was called to serve in Iraq because the government said there were weapons of mass destruction, but they weren't there ... So when people ask me where my arm went, I try to find the words, but they're not there." [complete article]

Go to Operation Truth, or read more about the organization in San Diego Union-Tribune and Army Times.

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Platoon defies orders in Iraq
By Jeremy Hudson, Clarion-Ledger (Mississippi), October 15, 2004

A 17-member Army Reserve platoon with troops from Jackson and around the Southeast deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel, the troops' relatives said Thursday.

The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq -- north of Baghdad -- because their vehicles were considered "deadlined" or extremely unsafe, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry O. McCook. [...]

Patricia McCook said her husband, a staff sergeant, understands well the severity of disobeying orders. But he did not feel comfortable taking his soldiers on another trip.

"He told me that three of the vehicles they were to use were deadlines ... not safe to go in a hotbed like that," Patricia McCook said.

[Teresa] Hill [of Dothan, Alabama,] said the trucks her daughter's unit was driving could not top 40 mph.

"They knew there was a 99 percent chance they were going to get ambushed or fired at," Hill said her daughter told her. "They would have had no way to fight back." [complete article]

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Guard unit's pleas rejected despite barrage
By Tom Bowman, Baltimore Sun (via Seattle IE), October 13, 2004

This sprawling supply base on a dusty stretch about 50 miles northwest of Baghdad is officially known as a "logistical support area." But some of the thousands of soldiers and contractors who suffer daily mortar and rocket attacks have another name for it: Mortaritaville.

The base, run by Washington state's 81st Brigade Combat Team, an Army National Guard unit, has seen at least a half-dozen soldiers and contractors killed and nearly 100 wounded since April. There have been about two attacks daily since July. Three weeks ago, an airman lost both legs and his right hand when a mortar shell slammed into the base.

Officers at the base said Anaconda, the largest support base in the country, with 22,500 U.S. troops and 2,500 contractors spread over 15 square miles, is also the most frequently attacked. But there is no indication the soldiers will get additional help. [complete article]

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Rove testifies before grand jury in CIA leak probe
By Curt Anderson, Associated Press (via WP), October 15, 2004

President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, testified Friday before a federal grand jury trying to determine who leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer.

Rove spent more than two hours testifying before the panel, according to an administration official who spoke only on condition of anonymity because such proceedings are secret.

Before testifying, Rove was interviewed at least once by investigators probing the leak. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell also have been interviewed, though none has appeared before the grand jury. [complete article]

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International poll: The world opposes Bush, except Israel
Haaretz, October 15, 2004

Two weeks before the U.S. election, hostility toward President George W. Bush has reached new heights internationally. A joint poll taken by 10 newspapers worldwide reveals that most of those surveyed oppose Bush's policies, want to see him defeated, and paint his influence on the global situation in the gloomiest colors.

Israelis, perhaps not surprisingly, are alone in their support of the American president. While in other countries, 60-80 percent of those asked said they believed the war in Iraq to have been a mistake, in Israel most thought it justified.

While more than half of those polled elsewhere stated their attitude toward the U.S. had deteriorated, most respondents in Israel said their opinion had improved, and 76 percent said the U.S. contributed to peace in the world. Among Israelis polled, 50 percent said they would like to see George Bush reelected, with only 24 percent for Kerry. [complete article]

Read the complete results of the poll here.

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U.S. pounds Fallujah insurgents
By Tini Tran, Associated Press (via WP), October 15, 2004

U.S. warplanes pounded the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah on Friday, a day after the city's leaders suspended peace talks and rejected the Iraqi government's demands to turn over terror mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group has claimed responsibility for Thursday's twin bombings inside Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone -- home to U.S. officials and the Iraqi leadership -- which killed six people, including three American civilians. A fourth American was missing and presumed dead.

Two Iraqis were killed, at least one of them a suicide bomber. The identity of the other wasn't known. The group's claim, which could not be verified, was posted on a Web site known for its Islamic contents.

Thursday's bold, unprecedented attack, which witnesses and a senior Iraqi official said was carried out by suicide bombers, dramatized the militants' ability to penetrate the heart of the U.S.-Iraqi leadership even as authorities step up military operations to suppress Sunni Muslim insurgents in other parts of the country. [complete article]

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Iraqi president says election date 'not sacred'
Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2004

A top Iraqi official was quoted Thursday as saying that the Jan. 31 date for elections was "not sacred" and might have to be delayed, despite the insistence of U.S. authorities and of other Iraqi leaders.

President Ghazi Ajil Yawer was quoted in Baghdad by the newspaper Asharq al Awsat as saying that the vote could be postponed because of security threats. His comments came amid growing speculation in the diplomatic community that there would be a delay.

"All of us are intensively working to bring security and the rule of law to every part of Iraq, so there can be elections," Yawer, a Sunni Muslim and tribal leader, was quoted as saying. "Yes. It's scheduled for Jan. 31. But that date is not sacred.

"If we see that elections held by that date without security or conditions favoring a fair and comprehensive vote ... will have a negative impact on our country, then we will not hesitate to change its date." [complete article]

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U.S. inability to track 'undermines' success
By Jason Sherman, ISR, October 11, 2004

The Pentagon urgently needs a massive effort to develop tools to track individuals, items and activities in ways that exist today only in science fiction, a high-level advisory panel recently told U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Technologies that can identify people by unique physical characteristics -- fingerprint, voice, odor, gait or even pattern of iris -- must be merged with new means of "tagging" so that U.S. forces can find enemies who escape into a crowd or slip into a labyrinthine slum.

A Defense Science Board study this summer, "Transition to and From Hostilities," calls for a new array of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

"The global war on terrorism cannot be won without a 'Manhattan Project'-like TTL [tagging, tracking, and locating] program," said briefing charts summarizing some of the study's findings. The Manhattan Project was a top-secret U.S. military-led effort involving many civilian scientists during World War II to develop the atomic bomb. [complete article]

Comment -- As Defense Tech's, Noah Shachtman, notes, "readers will find this whole thing terribly familiar. Last year, Pentagon mad science arm Darpa introduced a plan to use security cameras to monitor an entire city at once. The program will receive $4 million in the fiscal year '05 budget. And Mayor Daley is trying to do something similar in Chicago."

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For Muslims, a beleaguered feeling
By Caryle Murphy, Washington Post, October 15, 2004

One recent Saturday night, about 50 Muslim scholars filed into a classroom at George Mason University's Arlington campus to hear the keynote address of their three-day conference on Islam and modernity. They had to watch it on a DVD.

The speaker, Geneva-based Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan, could not attend in person because his U.S. visa had been revoked. Yet to those in the audience, his moderate words sounded like the kind of message U.S. officials would applaud. He urged a serious dialogue on the "universal values" shared by Islam and the West and added, "We should not blame the West for our problems."

"I was sad more than anything else," Shahed Amanullah, a Georgetown University graduate student attending the conference, said of the decision to bar Ramadan from entering the country.

"There's a level of perfection expected of Muslims that is almost impossible to meet," he added. "People don't pay attention to the content of what we say. They look for a reason to mistrust us."

Starting today, Muslims begin observing Islam's holy month of Ramadan, a period of daytime fasting and prayer aimed at acquiring spiritual discipline and deeper faith. But as the George Mason incident underscores, many American Muslims feel more beleaguered and discouraged than at any time since the September 2001 terrorist attacks. [complete article]

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Sharon, Arafat, Kerry and Bush
By Tony Karon,, October 13, 2004

John Kerry and John Edwards scarcely miss an opportunity to skewer President Bush for his handling of Iraq, but when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the challengers give the administration a free pass. Teed up in the vice-presidential debate by moderator Gwen Ifill, who suggested the U.S. had been largely absent from the peace process under President Bush and asked what a Kerry administration would do differently, John Edwards half agreed with the idea that the Bush team had been on the sidelines but then restricted his own comments to an endorsement of Israel's security wall and of the Bush administration's refusal to deal with Yasser Arafat. In essence, he presented nothing different from the positions of the "absent" Bush administration. [...]

The next U.S. administration will inherit not just a stalled peace process, but a brush fire whose dangers are less acute for Israel than they are for the wider American battle against al-Qaeda. The 9/11 Commission argues, in its final report, that al-Qaeda thrives on Arab hostility to the U.S. fueled principally by two grievances: the invasion of Iraq, and U.S. support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. "America's policy choices have consequences," the Commission notes. "Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world." Bin Laden has constantly sought to justify his attacks on the U.S. in light of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hoping to shackle the widespread Muslim identification with the Palestinians to his own agenda. The war on terror is, the 9/11 Commission notes, fundamentally, a battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. And given the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian issue to defining Muslim attitudes towards the U.S., it's hard to see America making much headway in the political war against al-Qaeda without substantial progress toward a fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether the U.S. election is won by Bush or Kerry, the new administration will have to do a lot more on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than the posture implied by their campaign rhetoric. [complete article]

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Scowcroft lambasts Bush's unilateralism
By Daniel Dombey, Financial Times, October 14, 2004

A leading Republican says President George W. Bush is "mesmerised" by Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, and that the Bush administration's recent co-operation with the United Nations and Nato in Afghanistan and Iraq is a desperate move to "rescue a failing venture".

Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser and close collaborator of former president George H. W. Bush, told the Financial Times that the US administration's "unilateralist" stance had contributed to the decline of the transatlantic relationship.

"It's in general bad," he said. "It's not really hostile but there's an edge to it."

Mr Scowcroft, who served as mentor to Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, has courted unpopularity with the administration before. In 2002 he warned Mr Bush against rushing into a war in Iraq.

But speaking to the FT, Mr Scowcroft, 79, went a step further in attacking some of the president's core foreign policies. "Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger," Mr Scowcroft said. "I think the president is mesmerised." [complete article]

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Saudis blame U.S. and its role in Iraq for rise of terror
By Joel Brinkley, New York Times, October 14, 2004

Seventeen months into a shadowy terror campaign that has killed more than 100 people, numerous Saudis express less anger at the insurgents than at the United States for its invasion of Iraq, the signal event that they say touched off the attacks inside the kingdom.

In interviews over the last week, the Saudis condemned the terror attacks, aimed primarily at foreigners, but called them a small inconvenience that has not forced them to make significant changes in their daily lives. By contrast, they expressed unremitting disdain for the United States.

Many Saudis appear to have reached a form of intellectual accommodation with those carrying out the violence. When asked about the attackers' goals, they assigned varied motives but often one that is consistent with their personal, social or political concerns.

The interviews were with nearly two dozen Saudis, from a bejeweled prince of the royal court, sipping coffee at a cafe, to a truck driver wearing a frayed caftan, clutching a bag of onions at a local supermarket.

"The attackers want the government to give more money to the people," said the truck driver, Jaber al-Malky, 24. But Prince Mubarak al-Shafi said, "This certain sect of people is unhappy about alien ideas, particularly about the democracy that the United States wants from nations all over the world, especially Saudi Arabia."

Behind all this lies an ever more complex Saudi-American relationship. Its foundation, of course, is the shared need to buy and sell oil. But the fact that 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi has become an issue in the presidential campaign, as has the accusation that the Bushes are too close to the royal family. [complete article]

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Eight dead in Iraq's Green Zone
BBC News, October 14, 2004

Eight people have been killed and four have been wounded in attacks on Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, the US military says. A column of smoke rose above the zone after two loud blasts were heard. At least one is believed to have been a suicide attack. The blasts happened at a popular cafe and a souvenir bazaar. [complete article]

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Six U.S. soldiers are killed in Iraq
By Karl Vick, Washington Post, October 14, 2004

Six U.S. soldiers were reported Wednesday to have been killed in Iraq, while the country's interim prime minister threatened a major offensive against the city of Fallujah unless its residents hand over Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian guerrilla leader thought to be hiding there. [complete article]

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Allawi threatens massive onslaught on Fallujah
Islam Online, October 14, 2004

US-backed Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi threatened a massive assault on Fallujah unless the resistance bastion turns in militant Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi, but a negotiator for the city dismissed the warning, insisting Zarqawi was not in the city.

On the ground Thursday, October 14 , Fallujah was struck again by US air raids, as nineteen Iraqis were killed in separate attacks.

In what seemed to be the beginning of the implementation of Allawi's threats, US warplanes hit the Golan neighborhood in Fallujah, destroying at least one home.

On Wednesday, October 13 , Allawi warned the people of Fallujah to either give up Zarqawi and his clique or face the prospect of a military offensive against the rebel city.

"We have asked Fallujah residents to turn over Zarqawi and his group. If they don't do it, we are ready for major operations in Fallujah," Allawi told Iraq's100 -member interim parliament.

But a negotiator for the resistance-held city said Thursday its people were being asked to chase shadows.

"We want to know what proof there is that Zarqawi is in Fallujah," Hatem Maddab, a member of a Fallujah negotiating committee, told Al-Jazeera television, adding that the government had now halted peace talks.

"Zarqawi is like the weapons of mass destruction that America invaded Iraq for," Maddab was quoted by Reuters as saying, alluding to Saddam Hussein's arsenal of banned arms that proved not to exist. [complete article]

From street thug to feared terrorist, Jordanian emerges as bin Laden equal
By Liz Sly, Chicago Tribune (via Knight Ridder), October 13, 2004

Growing up poor and ordinary in this nondescript truck-stop town, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi betrayed few clues to the bloody career that lay ahead of him as the most feared and most hunted terrorist in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi is his nom de guerre, signifying he is from Zarqa, a cheerless sprawl of cinder-block homes, strip malls and snack shops strung along the desert highway leading west from the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Former neighbors remember him by his real name, Ahmad Fadeel Nazzar al Khalayleh, and say they haven't seen him since 1989, when he stunned his family and enraged his father by announcing that he was heading to Afghanistan to participate in the jihad, or holy war, against the occupying forces of the Soviet Union.

It was the beginning of a journey that would take al-Zarqawi from small-town obscurity to the leadership of his own jihad, against the Americans in Iraq, and to worldwide infamy. Al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad movement has claimed responsibility for some of the bloodiest attacks of the last year. In last Tuesday's debate, Vice President Dick Cheney called al-Zarqawi "the one you will see on the evening news beheading hostages."

The $25 million price on his head is on a par with the reward offered for Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri. [complete article]

Comment -- Conflicting messages have been coming out of Iraq on the timing of an assault on Fallujah. US officials have on several occasions been quoted stating that such an assault would not start until after the US elections, but first Iraq's defense minister and now Prime Minister Allawi are threatening a pre-election attack. Unless Allawi has slipped out of control from his American handlers (in which case his threats are a bluff), it looks like the October prize that the Bush administration is gunning for is either the killing/capture of Zarqawi -- a terrorist whose stature the US has been constantly elevating over the past year -- or "victory" over Fallujah and a declaration that the insurgency is in retreat. If neither goal is accomplished before November 2, Bush is in trouble. Whether he is successful or not, it looks like many people in Fallujah are likely to lose their lives on an American election-campaign sacrificial altar.

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Allawi presses effort to bring back Baathists
By Edward Wong and Eric Eckholm, New York Times, October 13, 2004

Seeking to speed the return of senior officials of the former ruling Baath Party into the government, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has tried to dismantle a powerful independent commission that was established after the American invasion to keep such people from power.

It is the most aggressive move yet by Dr. Allawi, a former Baathist who fell out of favor with Saddam Hussein, to bring former ranking party members into his fold. Dr. Allawi says the readmissions will dampen an increasingly lethal insurgency by co-opting disenfranchised Sunni Muslim Baathists. The expertise of high officials from the old Iraqi security forces is also urgently needed to help combat the guerrillas, he contends.

And with general elections scheduled for January, Dr. Allawi and American officials are scrambling for ways to bring reluctant Sunnis into the political process. [complete article]

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A Kurdish Jerusalem
By Twana Osman, IWPR, October 11, 2004

Throughout the 40 years of the Kurds' armed struggle against a succession of Iraqi governments, their political leaders have always ranked control of the city of Kirkuk top on their list of priorities.

Kurdish political parties raised the issue of Kirkuk time and again, calling the oil-rich city "the heart of Kurdistan", and more recently "the al-Quds (or Jerusalem) of Kurdistan".

But these long-touted political slogans have not translated into practical action on Kirkuk since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. The two main Kurdish parties have done little of significance to reverse the impact of decades of ethnic cleansing in the Kirkuk governorate.

The two appear to have once again placed party interests above the people’s by competing against each other for political dominance in Kirkuk, instead of forming a united front to reverse the area's artificially created ethnic situation.

Through their inaction, they have allowed a de facto endorsement of decades of ethnic cleansing. [complete article]

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Israel fears future as a pariah state
Associated Press (via The Scotsman), October 14, 2004

Israel is set on a collision course with the European Union and could turn into a pariah state, like South Africa during the apartheid years, if the Middle East conflict is not resolved, Israel's foreign ministry has warned in a confidential ten-year forecast.

The 25-page document, by the ministry's Centre for Political Research, says the EU is pushing to become a major global player in the next decade, and that as a result, the United States, Israel's main ally, could lose international influence.

The analysts said that if the EU overcomes internal divisions its global influence would grow and be more in line with its powerful economy.

Up to now, Europe has rarely been able to unite on major foreign policy issues. A more influential Europe would likely demand greater Israeli compliance with international conventions, and could try to limit Israel's actions in its conflict with the Palestinians, the document said. [complete article]

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Sharon heads into showdown with own party over Gaza pullout
By John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, October 14, 2004

With the winter session of parliament just three days old, Prime Minster Ariel Sharon is headed toward a showdown over his plan to withdraw Israeli troops and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, and some of his toughest opponents are members of his own party.

Many members of the Likud Party, which soundly defeated the proposal in a nationwide party referendum in May and again at a party convention in August, were furious when Sharon announced in a speech at Monday's opening session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, that he would bring what he calls the Gaza disengagement plan to a vote in the legislature on Oct. 25. In a symbolic rebuke, lawmakers voted 53 to 44 to reject the speech, with 15 of Likud's 40 members in the majority group.

Political analysts said the three drubbings caught Sharon -- widely considered a masterful tactician and brilliant politician -- flatfooted and unprepared to confront the political forces lined up against him, particularly powerful Jewish settler groups that oppose his plan to remove all 8,100 settlers from Gaza's 21 settlements. While few people predict his ultimate defeat, many say that Sharon's continued pursuit of the disengagement plan risks a split in Likud, the collapse of his government or the death of the plan -- even though both Sharon and the Gaza withdrawal have widespread support among Israeli citizens. [complete article]

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New battle looms over Jerusalem holy site
By Karin Laub, Associated Press (via The Guardian), October 13, 2004

Israel said Wednesday it would severely limit the access of Muslim worshippers to Jersualem's holiest site during the holy month of Ramadan, claiming it could collapse.

Angry Muslim clerics dismissed Israel's claims, saying Arab engineers assured them the Al Aqsa Mosque compound was stable. They accused Israel of exaggerating the danger in hopes of increasing its control over the site, which is administered by the Islamic Trust.

Israeli police and archaeologists warned that because of a recent earthquake, part of the compound, Islam's third holiest shrine, might collapse under large crowds of believers during Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

The sacred hilltop, revered by Jews as the site of their biblical temples, is one of the most sensitive spots in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and riots there in 2000 escalated into the current round of fighting. Israeli attempts to restrict the number of worshippers could lead to more Palestinian protests. [complete article]

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Afghan warlords poised to take up power
By Nick Meo, The Independent, October 14, 2004

Alleged war criminals are poised to take positions of power in Afghanistan's new government, threatening hopes of democracy taking shape after last week's historic election, a human rights grouphas warned.

Men with bloody records from years of conflict will become judges, police chiefs and government ministers unless their appointments are blocked by presidential decree, according to a report by Afghanistan Justice Project.

The United States-based group has conducted detailed research into the darkest periods in recent Afghan history - the wars between 1978 and 2001 - and accuses some of the most powerful men in the country of involvement in murders, mass rapes, summary executions and indiscriminate rocketing and bombing of civilians. [complete article]

Read the AJP report Candidates and the past (PDF format).

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Ex-U.S. detainee now leading kidnappers
Associated Press (via WP), October 13, 2004

A former prisoner at the U.S. Navy facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, thought to have forged ties with al Qaeda since his release, is leading a militant band whose members kidnapped two Chinese engineers in a lawless region of Pakistan near the Afghan border, officials said.

With Pakistani security forces deployed in the mountainous tribal area where the kidnappers are holed up, local leaders sought Tuesday to negotiate the release of the two Chinese, who were kidnapped Saturday. Both are engineers who were helping Pakistan build a dam.

The five kidnappers have strapped explosives to the hostages and threatened to kill them unless the militants are allowed safe passage to a nearby area where their leader, Abdullah Mehsud, is believed to be hiding, officials said. [complete article]

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U.S. stymies detainee access despite ruling, lawyers say
By Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, October 14, 2004

More than three months after the Supreme Court declared that hundreds of detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts, none has appeared in a courtroom.

Of the 68 alleged al Qaeda and Taliban fighters who have so far petitioned for access to federal court in Washington, only a handful have even spoken to their lawyers. With some held for nearly three years on the U.S. Navy base, the detainees remain largely precluded from receiving legal help because of protracted negotiations with the Justice Department over lawyers' security clearances, the government's insistence on monitoring attorney-client conversations and the number of visits lawyers will be allowed, defense attorneys told a U.S. District Court judge yesterday.

Less than half the detainees with lawyers have been given the government's reason for holding them; the government has broken a court-ordered Sept. 30 deadline to justify most of those detentions, the lawyers said. For the 28 detainees who have been informed, the reason is typically that a recent military review -- conducted without an attorney or witnesses -- has concluded that they are enemy combatants with links to the Taliban or al Qaeda.

The Justice Department, when ordered this month by a federal judge to formally respond to detainees' basic complaint that they are being unfairly imprisoned, filed a 96-page pleading asking the judge to dismiss the case. The document contained some of the same arguments made by government lawyers in their losing case before the Supreme Court. [complete article]

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Moroccans gain prominence in terror groups
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, October 14, 2004

In the aftermath of Morocco's worst-ever terrorist attacks in May 2003, King Mohammed VI lifted the hopes of his most impoverished subjects last year when he toured Casablanca's sprawling slums, home to a dozen suicide bombers who had blasted targets across the city. The monarch said he was appalled at the conditions and vowed to raze the shantytowns, promising new housing for an estimated 150,000 people.

Almost 18 months later, the tin-roofed shacks and squatters' colonies are still here. While a few families have been relocated, the most visible change is a freshly built police station that keeps a closer eye on the slums, part of an ongoing crackdown against alleged Islamic extremists that has resulted in more than 2,100 arrests across the North African nation.

Moroccan government officials tout the arrests and the absence of additional attacks as evidence that they have neutralized the threat of terrorism. But officials in nearby European countries have expressed fears that Morocco, a country with a tradition of Islamic moderation, is becoming more radicalized. [complete article]

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U.S. in talks with Europeans on a nuclear deal with Iran
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, October 12, 2004

The Bush administration is holding talks with its European allies on a possible package of economic incentives for Iran, including access to imported nuclear fuel, in return for suspension of uranium enrichment activities that are suspected to be part of a nuclear arms program, European and American diplomats said Monday.

The diplomats said that while the administration had not endorsed any incentives for Iran, it was not discouraging Britain, France and Germany from assembling a package that the administration would consider after the American presidential election on Nov. 2, for likely presentation to Tehran later in the month.

Any support of a package of incentives, even if it is to be offered only by the Europeans, would indicate a significant shift in the Bush administration policy of demanding penalties, but not offering inducements, to get Iran to halt activities that are suspected to be for a nuclear arms program. [complete article]

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Close ties at the Pentagon
By Knut Royce, Newsday, October 13, 2004

A giant program to modernize the Army with futuristic weapons -- one of the costliest programs in the history of the U.S. military -- is being managed by a private contractor.

The responsibility to ensure that the project to equip the next decade's Army with a new fleet of satellite-linked manned and unmanned ground and air vehicles moves from the drawing board to the assembly line has been contracted out to Chicago-based Boeing Co.

The results, so far, have not been promising. Until a recent restructuring that gives Boeing an even larger role in managing the program, called the Future Combat System, the Army itself gave it only a 28 percent chance of success. It now says there is a 70 percent chance the program, estimated to eventually cost upward of $100 billion, will succeed.

But Congress' auditing arm, the General Accounting Office, warns that the program is so complex and depends so much on immature technology that it "is at significant risk for not delivering required capability within budgeted resources." [complete article]

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Controversy over Iraq debt deepens
By David Leigh, The Guardian, October 14, 2004

Allegations against the Carlyle Group, the giant US investment firm linked to President George Bush's Iraq debt envoy, James Baker, took a fresh turn last night.

It emerged that the firm may never have disclosed to the White House a planned backstairs deal in which Mr Baker figured.

A Carlyle consortium offered behind the scenes to use its influence to help Kuwait lay hands on $27bn (£15bn) in reparations.

This was regardless of pleas for international debt forgiveness which Mr Baker himself was uttering in an official capacity while touring the globe on behalf of Mr Bush. [complete article]

Read the James Baker documents.

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James Baker's double life
By Naomi Klein, The Nation, October 12, 2004

When President Bush appointed former Secretary of State James Baker III as his envoy on Iraq's debt on December 5, 2003, he called Baker's job "a noble mission." At the time, there was widespread concern about whether Baker's extensive business dealings in the Middle East would compromise that mission, which is to meet with heads of state and persuade them to forgive the debts owed to them by Iraq. Of particular concern was his relationship with merchant bank and defense contractor the Carlyle Group, where Baker is senior counselor and an equity partner with an estimated $180 million stake.

Until now, there has been no concrete evidence that Baker's loyalties are split, or that his power as Special Presidential Envoy--an unpaid position--has been used to benefit any of his corporate clients or employers. But according to documents obtained by The Nation, that is precisely what has happened. Carlyle has sought to secure an extraordinary $1 billion investment from the Kuwaiti government, with Baker's influence as debt envoy being used as a crucial lever.

The secret deal involves a complex transaction to transfer ownership of as much as $57 billion in unpaid Iraqi debts. The debts, now owed to the government of Kuwait, would be assigned to a foundation created and controlled by a consortium in which the key players are the Carlyle Group, the Albright Group (headed by another former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright) and several other well-connected firms. Under the deal, the government of Kuwait would also give the consortium $2 billion up front to invest in a private equity fund devised by the consortium, with half of it going to Carlyle. [complete article]

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Study ties Hussein, guerrilla strategy
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, October 11, 2004

The "shock and awe" attack that toppled Saddam Hussein in three weeks is often touted as a brilliant strategy that defeated Iraq with relatively few US casualties. But new information suggests that the United States may have played into Hussein's plans for a quick war followed by a long guerrilla insurgency.

The report last week of the Iraq Survey Group, based partly on interviews with captured leaders of the secretive Iraqi regime, said Hussein planned to have his troops and loyalists pull back after an initial US thrust and engage the Americans under terms more favorable to the Iraqis.

The quick fall of Baghdad was once seen as vindication of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's belief in the power of smaller numbers of fast-moving troops. But recently, even President Bush has conceded that the early victory of the US-led coalition helped lay the groundwork for an insurgency that has claimed the lives of 929 US troops since the end of major combat on May 1, 2003.

Bush portrayed the insurgency as an accidental consequence of a war plan that worked too well. Last week, however, the Iraqi survey report declared a guerrilla insurgency is exactly what Hussein envisioned. [complete article]

Comment -- The image that increasingly comes to my mind in looking at the way George Bush approached the war in Iraq is to view it as a bullfight -- as seen through the eyes of the bull. To the bull, the matador is just an irritating puny fellow waving a red cloth. The bull has no doubt about its strength or the deadliness of its horns, yet it has no notion that each of its moves is being choreographed by the very opponent that it endeavors to kill. Yet of course, in this contest between wit and strength the bull doesn't stand a chance.

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Family's TV clout in Bush's corner
By Howard Kurtz and Frank Ahrens, Washington Post, October 12, 2004

Few Americans have heard of David D. Smith, a low-key Baltimore businessman with a million-dollar salary. Or, for that matter, of his three brothers, Frederick, Robert and J. Duncan.

But the four men, while shunning the media spotlight, have assembled the nation's largest collection of television stations, a family-run operation that reflects their conservative views and time and again has sided with President Bush.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Smiths' company, Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc., ordered its local anchors to read editorials backing the administration against al Qaeda. Earlier this year, Sinclair sent a vice president who has called John F. Kerry a liar to Iraq to find good news stories that it said were being overlooked by the biased liberal press. And the Smith brothers and their executives have made 97 percent of their political donations during the 2004 election cycle to Bush and the Republicans.

Now Sinclair's decision to order its 62 stations to carry a movie attacking Kerry's Vietnam record is drawing political fire -- not least from the Democratic National Committee, which plans to file a federal complaint today accusing the company of election-law violations. "Sinclair's owners aren't interested in news, they're interested in pro-Bush propaganda," said DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, whose complaint will accuse the firm of making an in-kind contribution to the Bush campaign. [complete article]

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The 45-minute claim was false
By Marie Woolf, The Independent, October 13, 2004

Tony Blair's claim that Iraq was within 45 minutes of launching weapons of mass destruction ­ a central plank of his case for war ­ fell apart yesterday as the Foreign Secretary formally withdrew the infamous claim and revealed MI6 had abandoned its source for the bogus intelligence.

In a humiliating climbdown, Jack Straw told MPs in a special Commons statement that MI6 has severed ties with the sources for both the 45-minute claim and intelligence that Saddam Hussein had produced a biological weapons agent in 2000.

The decision to lay to rest the most notorious intelligence claim in the case for war increased pressure from Labour and opposition MPs for the Prime Minister to make a full personal apology for the decision to invade Iraq "on a false premise".

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, said: "The withdrawal of the 45-minute claim drives a horse and cart through government credibility."

"The building blocks of the Government's case for military action are crumbling before our eyes." [complete article]

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CIA holding Al-Qaida suspects in secret Jordanian lockup
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz, October 13, 2004

The Central Intelligence Agency runs a top-secret interrogation facility in Jordan, where at least 11 detainees who are considered Al-Qaida's most senior cadre are being held, Haaretz has learned from international intelligence sources.

Since the war in Afghanistan ended three years ago, reports spoke of these special detainees being held outside the United States, but no location was mentioned. A report on these prisoners issued Tuesday by the Human Rights Watch organization claims they are being held somewhere so secret that U.S. President George Bush asked the CIA heads not to report it to him.

The international intelligence sources who spoke to Haaretz are considered experts in surveillance and analysis of Al-Qaida and are involved in interrogating the detainees. Most of the Al-Qaida detainees who were arrested in Afghanistan in the course of the war or its aftermath were transfered to the American base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A minority were held in Pakistan, where some had been picked up, and were later moved to Jordan. [complete article]

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Inside the mind of Al Qaeda
By Peter Grier and Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, October 13, 2004

Three years after the attacks of Sept. 11, the United States is still struggling to identify its main adversaries in the war on terrorism.

The US knows their identity, of course. They are the members of Al Qaeda and its associatedjihadist groups around the globe.

But knowing who they are, in terms of grasping the way they look at the world, their philosophies, their hopes, and their plans, is another story.

When Osama bin Laden looks out from his probable Pakistani mountain redoubt, does he approve of the tide of world events? Is he happy about Iraq, or frustrated? Is he eager to disrupt the US election, and to attack more capitalist monuments? Or, as some experts suggest, does he have a different agenda, one that reflects his own values system?

As both chambers of Congress move toward votes on bills overhauling US intelligence, lawmakers might keep in mind that one of the 9/11 commission's key recommendations dealt not with bureaucratic structure so much as with the need to ensure that intelligence agencies can see the world through adversaries' eyes. [complete article]

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Fighting in Sunni triangle dims prospects for talks
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, October 13, 2004

Tensions rose in Ramadi on Tuesday as U.S. and Iraqi forces raided seven mosques, arresting four suspected insurgents and confiscating what U.S. officials called bomb-making materials. Among those detained was a local imam and his son, witnesses said.

Coming on the heels of an airstrike Monday on a mosque in Hit, the raids were part of a high-stakes U.S. strategy to root out militants who use religious buildings as sanctuaries.

U.S. officials previously were reluctant to attack mosques for fear of alienating devout Muslims. In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, for example, troops were often ordered to stay 100 yards from the gold-domed Imam Ali shrine, even though militants fired mortar rounds at them from the mosque compound.

"These raids sent a clear message to the insurgents that they can no longer use mosques as safe havens," said Brig. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division. He said American troops remained outside the mosques while Iraqi forces led the raids.

U.S. officials report that insurgents' use of mosques as hiding places is growing. Before the Sharqi Mosque in Hit was bombed, militants inside attacked American soldiers with small arms and machine guns, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. strikes on mosques are a "terrorist and barbaric act," said Sheik Nawaf Jaber, imam of Abd ibn Qumama. "Americans don't care for the feelings of Muslims. They claim there are insurgents inside the mosques, but these are lies designed to give Islam and Muslims a bad image." [complete article]

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Insurgent alliance is fraying in Fallujah
By Karl Vick, Washington Post, October 13, 2004

Local insurgents in the city of Fallujah are turning against the foreign fighters who have been their allies in the rebellion that has held the U.S. military at bay in parts of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, according to Fallujah residents, insurgent leaders and Iraqi and U.S. officials.

Relations are deteriorating as local fighters negotiate to avoid a U.S.-led military offensive against Fallujah, while foreign fighters press to attack Americans and their Iraqi supporters. The disputes have spilled over into harsh words and sporadic violence, with Fallujans killing at least five foreign Arabs in recent weeks, according to witnesses.

"If the Arabs will not leave willingly, we will make them leave by force," said Jamal Adnan, a taxi driver who left his house in Fallujah's Shurta neighborhood a month ago after the house next door was bombed by U.S. aircraft targeting foreign insurgents. [complete article]

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Iraq faces soaring toll of deadly disease
By Jeremy Laurance, The Independent, October 13, 2004

Soaring rates of disease and a crippled health system are posing a new crisis for the people of Iraq, threatening to kill more than have died in the aftermath of the war. Deadly infections including typhoid and tuberculosis are rampaging through the country, according to the first official report into the state of health in the country.

The alarming evidence is the legacy of years of neglect, crippling sanctions and two bloody conflicts. Iraq's network of hospitals and health centres, once admired throughout the Middle East, has been severely damaged by war and looting, leaving staff struggling to cope and adding to the crisis.

The report, compiled by the Ministry of Health in Baghdad, provides the first detailed portrait of the health of the Iraqi population and the state of its health services since the 2003 war. It is being launched today by Dr Ala'din Alwan, the Iraqi interim government's Minister of Health, at a conference of international donors in Tokyo. [complete article]

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The Shin Bet chiefs did it
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, October 13, 2004

It will soon be the first anniversary of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement initiative - and the circumstances of its conception and birth remain clouded in mystery.

Sharon and his aides refuse to reveal details of the decision making process that preceded the announcement of abandoning the political process with the Palestinians in favor of unilateral action to evacuate the settlements of the Gaza Strip.

The circumstances of Sharon's reversal are sealed in a "black box." All that's clear is that there were no orderly discussions with the army or state agencies in which the pros and cons were considered. Such discussions were held, if at all, after the decision was made and presented to the American administration. [complete article]

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Girl, 11, shot in Gaza school
Associated Press (via The Guardian), October 13, 2004

An 11-year-old Palestinian girl was shot in the stomach and critically wounded by Israeli gunfire as she sat inside a United Nations school in a Gaza refugee camp yesterday, UN officials said.

The incident threatened to escalate tensions between Israel and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which runs the school.

Last month, a 10-year-old girl was killed by Israeli gunfire while sitting at her desk at the same school. [complete article]

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Army chief 'emptied his magazine' at girl in Gaza
By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, October 12, 2004

Two separate official investigations are under way into the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old girl in Gaza by the Israeli army after soldiers testified that their company commander "emptied his magazine" at her after she had been shot and was presumed dead.

The army has already admitted that the killing of Iman al-Hams in the town of Rafah a week ago was a mistake and that her bag, which it says soldiers thought carried explosives, contained school books.

Soldiers have come forward to explain that her body was riddled with 20 bullets because their immediate commander "confirmed the killing" by shooting two bullets at her already prone body before withdrawing a short distance and then firing a burst of automatic gunfire at the corpse. [complete article]

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Is it the end of the road for Arafat?
By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, October 13, 2004

His glory days are behind him. At 75, he is frail, his hands shaky, his lapels covered with a score of badges from organisations as diverse as Peace Now and the Samaritans.

Yasser Arafat was once a regular visitor at the White House: the Palestinians say he saw Bill Clinton when he was president 28 times. But George Bush refuses to have him in Washington and he is no longer welcome in Downing Street.

Visits from the world's leaders are diminishing. The last delegation to the presidential compound in Ramallah was from Luxembourg.

He remains a virtual prisoner of the Israelis, unwilling to take a chance by leaving his compound, where he has spent the past 41 months. The reasons are piling up: the fear of assassination, capture or exile; the possibility that Israel may attack the 20 wanted Palestinians sheltering there.

But he professes to be sanguine about his predicament. "It makes no difference," he said in a three-hour discussion over dinner with British journalists this week. [complete article]

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An oil market running on empty
By Youssef M. Ibrahim, Daily Star, October 2, 2004

The costs and benefits of America's occupation of Iraq vary according to whether one supported or opposed the war there - except when it comes to oil exports. The American invasion has resulted in the loss of an average of 2 million barrels per day of Iraqi oil from world markets. That is a very high number indeed, with potentially tremendous, indeed catastrophic, consequences for the global economy.

Instead of the rosy promises of Bush administration neoconservatives who pushed for the Iraq invasion, partly on the premise they would turn the country into America's private gasoline pump, the contrary has occurred. The world has lost Iraq's oil. The impact is slowing taking its toll, and this week the price of a barrel of oil reached the unprecedented level of $50. That means the price of everything you buy, eat or ride - the gasoline in your car, the airplane ticket in your pocket, the food in your supermarket, the petroleum components in your computer, or the plastic chair on your balcony - are going up. [complete article]

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An open letter to the American people
Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy, October, 2004

Many of the justifications offered by the Bush Administration for the war in Iraq have been proven untrue by credible studies, including by U.S. government agencies. There is no evidence that Iraq assisted al-Qaida, and its prewar involvement in international terrorism was negligible. Iraq's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons was negligible, and its nuclear weapons program virtually nonexistent. In comparative terms, Iran is and was much the greater sponsor of terrorism, and North Korea and Pakistan pose much the greater risk of nuclear proliferation to terrorists. Even on moral grounds, the case for war was dubious: the war itself has killed over a thousand Americans and unknown thousands of Iraqis, and if the threat of civil war becomes reality, ordinary Iraqis could be even worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein. The Administration knew most of these facts and risks before the war, and could have discovered the others, but instead it played down, concealed or misrepresented them. [complete letter]

This letter has been signed by over 650 foreign affairs specialists opposing the Bush administration's foreign policy and calling urgently for a change of course. Learn more about Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy, here.

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Nuclear items missing in Iraq
The Guardian, October 12, 2004

Equipment and materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons have disappeared from Iraq, the UN's nuclear watchdog warned yesterday.

Satellite imagery and investigations of nuclear sites in Iraq have caused alarm at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The agency found that in some cases entire buildings housing high-precision nuclear equipment had been dismantled; equipment that could be used to make a bomb, such as high-strength aluminium, had vanished from open storage areas, the agency said.

In a report to the UN security council yesterday, the IAEA's director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said the agency "continues to be concerned about the widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear programme and sites previously subject to ongoing monitoring and verification by the agency".

Before the war, the buildings had been monitored and tagged with IAEA seals to keep tabs on their function and content. But US authorities barred IAEA inspectors from returning to Iraq after the war began in March 2003, instead deploying US teams in an unsuccessful search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. [complete article]

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Challenging rest of the world with a new order
By Roger Cohen, David E. Sanger and Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, October 12, 2004

Jorge Castaneda, Mexico's former foreign minister, has two distinct images of George W. Bush: the charmer intent on reinventing Mexican-American ties and the chastiser impatient with Mexico as the promise of a new relationship soured.

The change came with the Sept. 11 attacks. "My sense is that Bush lost and never regained the gift he had shown for making you feel at ease," said Mr. Castaneda, who left office last year. "He became aloof, brusque, and on occasion abrasive."

The brusqueness had a clear message: the United States is at war, it needs everybody's support and that support is not negotiable. Mexico's hesitant stance at the United Nations on the war in Iraq became a source of tension. Yet Mr. Castaneda said, "I was never asked, 'What is it you need in order to be more cooperative with us? What can we do to help?' "

It is a characterization of Mr. Bush's foreign policy style often heard around the world: bullying, unreceptive, brazen. The result, critics of this administration contend, has been a disastrous loss of international support, damage to American credibility, the sullying of America's image and a devastating war that has already taken more than 1,000 American lives. In the first presidential debate, Senator John Kerry argued that only with a change of presidents could the damage be undone. [complete article]

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... and Bush's telling non-answer
By E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, October 11, 2004

When this campaign is over, Linda Grabel may become famous.

Grabel was the citizen-questioner at Friday's debate who asked President Bush an interesting question that may well set the tone for the rest of this campaign.

Noting that the president had made "thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives," Grabel sensibly wanted this piece of information: "Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it."

The president's answer was notable in two ways. First, he spent many words not answering at all. He spoke vaguely about how historians might second-guess some of his decisions and that he'd take responsibility for them. He also asserted: "I'm human."

Second, when Bush finally did admit something, he said this: "I made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV." [complete article]

Reality check
By Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker, October 11, 2004

[In the first debate, the] President held his head slightly cocked and low to his shoulders, and his expressions kept shifting, in increments of wincing aggravation -- lips drawn tight and downward, nostrils flaring and flattening, eyebrows wriggling -- through a range of attitudes: impatience, boredom, indignation, sourness, imperiousness, contempt. This unhappy twitchiness persisted through the evening, as Kerry, the former prosecutor, laid out with cool composure the case for firing Bush, and established his own credibility as a Presidential replacement. Bush, even when he had the floor, grimaced as he spoke, except on several occasions when he lost his way and a look of total erasure came over him, a blank, stricken stare for which the French, alas, have the most apt expression: like a cow watching a train go by. [complete article]

Comment -- Bush's admission of errors in making appointments -- even if he won't name names -- invites one rather obvious follow-up question: Are these people still in office? If they're not, then its perfectly clear who he's talking about -- so few of his appointees have left their positions. If he won't say, he might as well admit that he prizes loyalty above competance.

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Breaking ranks
By David Goodman, Mother Jones, October 11, 2004

Mike Hoffman would not be the guy his buddies would expect to see leading a protest movement. The son of a steelworker and a high school janitor from Allentown, Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1999 as an artilleryman to "blow things up." His transformation into an activist came the hard way—on the streets of Baghdad.

When Hoffman arrived in Kuwait in February 2003, his unit's highest-ranking enlisted man laid out the mission in stark terms. "You're not going to make Iraq safe for democracy," the sergeant said. "You are going for one reason alone: oil. But you're still going to go, because you signed a contract. And you're going to go to bring your friends home." Hoffman, who had his own doubts about the war, was relieved -- he'd never expected to hear such a candid assessment from a superior. But it was only when he had been in Iraq for several months that the full meaning of the sergeant's words began to sink in.

"The reasons for war were wrong," he says. "They were lies. There were no WMDs. Al Qaeda was not there. And it was evident we couldn"t force democracy on people by force of arms." [complete article]

Learn more about the antiwar movement within the military by visiting Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out.

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U.S., Iraqi forces raid Ramadi mosques
By Fred Barbash, Washington Post, October 13, 2004

Treading into yet another flashpoint city, U.S. Marines and Iraqi security forces began a series of raids Tuesday on mosques in and around the Sunni city of Ramadi following an upsurge in the use of mosques for insurgent activity, the military announced.

Also Tuesday, the military resumed air strikes in nearby Fallujah, said to be the hideout of the terrorist network run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born militant responsible for numerous bombings, kidnappings and beheadings, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.

The military said it hit a center for Zarqawi "terrorist meetings" in one strike and a "known terrorist safe house" in another. The safe house was being used by Zarqawi associates at the time of the strike, a statement said.

Wire service reports said at least one of the buildings hit was a restaurant. The Associated Press reported that five people died in the strike on the restaurant. [complete article]

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Amnesty defied as militants hang on to their arms
By Jack Fairweather, The Telegraph, October 12, 2004

Militants loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr failed to hand over substantial quantities of heavy weapons on the first day of a disarmament plan yesterday, bringing threats from the US military to launch more raids against the Shia cleric. [...]

In recent weeks US forces have pummelled the area with air strikes and ground offensives to put pressure on the cleric to disband his militia. In return for the weapons the Iraqi government has offered to release jailed militants and give £280 million in reconstruction aid.

Confusion over how much money would be paid for weapons may have contributed to yesterday's failure.

Militiamen from Sadr's Mahdi army were reported to be asking for £280 for an RPG and £165 for an AK-47 - rates much higher than are available in illegal weapons markets. Those who did turn in RPGs yesterday are said to have received as little as £28. [complete article]

Coalition troops seize $30 million in heroin
By Sharon Behn, Washington Times, October 11, 2004

Coalition troops have seized $30 million worth of heroin intended for sale on Iraqi streets by rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the former commander of the 9,000-strong Polish force in south-central Iraq says.

Lt. Gen. Mieczyslav Bieniek said the militia was using the drug profits "to pay for action" against coalition forces and that some members of the Mahdi's Army were "under the influence [while] fighting us."

The Polish commander was in Washington last week and said that the heroin trade was so pervasive that militia members were known as the "pink army" -- named after the red plastic bags they use to peddle the drugs. [complete article]

Comment -- Though it's generally reported that the disarming of the Madhi army in Sadr City is a precursor to Moqtada al-Sadr's entry into the political arena, it sounds like his militia is hedging its bets. The Iraqi government buy-back program may end up being followed by a Madhi army buy-back program of their own as the very weapons they traded in find their way back into a black market where prices have dropped due to increased supply. Moreover, it turns out that the opium boom in Afghanistan - a crop that the Taliban had more success in limiting than has the US-backed Afghan government - is helping finance the insurgency in Iraq. Is that what Donald Rumsfeld means when he says "freedom's messy"? America creates the freedom to grow opium to pay for guns to shoot Americans.

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Israeli think tank: Iraq war has helped al Qaeda
By Mark Lavie, Associated Press (via Yahoo), October 11, 2004

The war in Iraq did not damage international terror groups, but instead distracted the United States from confronting other hotbeds of Islamic militancy and actually "created momentum" for many terrorists, a top Israeli security think tank said in a report released Monday.

President Bush has called the war in Iraq an integral part of the war on terrorism, saying that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hoped to develop unconventional weapons and could have given them to Islamic militants across the world.

But the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University said that instead of striking a blow against Islamic extremists, the Iraq war "has created momentum for many terrorist elements, but chiefly al-Qaida and its affiliates." [complete article]

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Baghdad blogger: 'Elections our only hope'
BBC News, October 12, 2004

The "Baghdad blogger", whose weblog gave the world a rare insight into the lives of ordinary Iraqis in the run-up to the US-led invasion, says fair elections are the only way to end the violence in Iraq.

Salam Pax told the BBC's Newsnight programme: "Maybe, just maybe, once we have elections and we have a group of people who truly represent us all, this could be our ticket out of the mess we're in now."

He also warned the coalition against a hasty withdrawal from the region before a credible government took control in Iraq, fearing flawed elections would mean any new leadership being seen as "another American puppet."

"It's very worrying, when you hear someone like Donald Rumsfeld saying that maybe we can't have elections all over the country, possibly excluding the Sunni triangle and other troublesome areas in Baghdad.

"Sorry, that's not the way to do it, it will not be credible again, it will have the same problems the governing council and interim government had, it will look like another American puppet. [complete article]

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Through Hussein's looking glass
By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2004

Saddam Hussein was convinced he won the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

And when he destroyed all his weapons of mass destruction after that war, Hussein was sure the CIA knew it.

As a result, he saw 12 years of United Nations resolutions, trade sanctions and threats of war as a charade to humiliate him.

In Hussein's view, Washington and Baghdad should have been close allies. He could have helped curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, and solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He offered to become America's "best friend in the region, bar none." He was certain U.S. forces would never invade.

Hussein's looking-glass view of the world is vividly described in the report last week by Charles A. Duelfer, the CIA's chief weapons investigator. The document is based on a variety of sources, including interrogations of Hussein himself. A close reading of the report, along with interviews with intelligence officials and outside experts, sheds new light on Hussein's mind-set leading up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Duelfer argues that for Americans to understand Hussein's baffling decision to defy U.N. resolutions and face disaster they must "see the universe from Saddam's point in space."

Yet the reverse is also true. If Hussein misunderstood the West, it's clear that successive administrations in Washington since 1991 projected their own misconceptions and misjudgments onto Hussein. They also had a looking-glass view. [complete article]

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Major assaults on hold until after U.S. vote
By Mark Mazzetti, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2004

The Bush administration plans to delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November, say administration officials, mindful that large-scale military offensives could affect the U.S. presidential race.

Although American commanders in Iraq have been buoyed by recent successes in insurgent-held towns such as Samarra and Tall Afar, administration and Pentagon officials say they will not try to retake cities such as Fallouja and Ramadi -- where the insurgents' grip is strongest and U.S. military casualties could be the highest -- until after Americans vote in what is likely to be an extremely close election.

"When this election's over, you'll see us move very vigorously," said one senior administration official involved in strategic planning, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Once you're past the election, it changes the political ramifications" of a large-scale offensive, the official said. "We're not on hold right now. We're just not as aggressive."

Any delay in pacifying Iraq's most troublesome cities, however, could alter the dynamics of a different election -- the one in January, when Iraqis are to elect members of a national assembly. [complete article]

Iraqis fearing a Sunni boycott of the election
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, October 11, 2004

Leaders of Iraq's crucial Sunni Arab minority say they have failed to generate any enthusiasm for nationwide elections scheduled for January, and are so fearful of insurgent violence and threats that they can meet only in private to talk about how - or even whether - to take part.

The leaders among the Sunni Arabs, which had dominated Iraqi politics since the nation's birth in 1920, also said in interviews here that many prospective Sunni voters were so suspicious of the American enterprise in Iraq, and so infuriated by the chaotic security situation in the Sunni-dominated areas, that they were likely to stay away from the polls in large numbers.

Sunni participation is crucial to the election. While a Sunni boycott remains far from certain and some Sunni leaders still hold out hope for a turnaround, American officials fear that if large numbers of Sunnis do not vote, the election will be regarded as illegitimate and may even feed the insurgency that has gripped much of the country. [complete article]

Enduring gunbattles, kidnappings and car bombs -- now common dangers -- have taken their toll on residents
By Borzou Daragahi, New Jersey Star-Ledger, October 10, 2004

Fear is ravaging Baghdad. Its partners are the hatred, crime and violence that intrude into daily life. Eighteen months after the fall of Baghdad, this city of 5 million has become more unpredictable and violent.

A simple trip to the supermarket turns disastrous when a gunfight erupts. A well-to-do doctor drives a jalopy while his two Mercedes are kept on cinder blocks, fearful he'll be carjacked. Rockets tear into hotels in the heart of the city's most secure areas.

And the car bombs, which happen daily now, are so common that some people don't even halt sentences for the explosions, much as a New Yorker might ignore a car alarm.

This is the emerging picture of life in the streets of Baghdad, where citizens, U.S. government personnel and other foreigners live with the constant fear for their personal safety and new questions about the country's future abound.

"I would prefer that the new leader will be Saddam Hussein because I would rather vote for Saddam Hussein than any else," said Wafa Hamid, a 41-year-old engineer at the Ministry of Trade and a mother of two. "He was one of the most hated people in the history of Iraq. And I was against him more than anyone else. But if he runs for election, I'm going to vote for him." [complete article]

Comment -- The emerging US exit strategy hinges on holding elections in January. It looks like the Bush administration has decided that if Americans get to see pictures of Iraqis lining up in front of polling stations, then whatever else happens in Iraq, the US will be able to declare victory.

It also seems evident that part of the preparation for the election is going to be a bloodbath in the strongholds of the insurgency. If Karl Rove has had any input in the planning, his assumption appears to be that so long as the bloodbath comes after November 2, the White House does not need to fear any adverse domestic political fallout. Nevertheless, assuming that Iraqi Sunnis (probably more civilians than insurgents) bear the brunt of the casualties, the message from the US government is, if we don't kill you we're going to let you vote. And people still ask why Iraqis express so little gratitude to their American liberators?

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The revolution next time
By Laura Rozen, Boston Globe, October 10, 2004

As international concern mounts about Iran's nuclear aspirations, a fractious debate is emerging in Washington over what to do if multilateral diplomacy fails to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear program.

Some basic facts are agreed upon: that Iran's nuclear program has become broadly popular in that country and has given further political strength and cohesion to a clerical regime that has also been under growing internal pressure from its population to reform. But here consensus ends.

To some American observers, these facts imply that the United States should grit its teeth and deal directly with a regime that calls America the Great Satan, perhaps even offering to lift US sanctions in exchange for Tehran abandoning its nuclear program. Another faction believes the United States should pursue the Bush administration's current course of multilateral diplomacy to its logical conclusion: Encourage the International Atomic Energy Agency to report Iran in noncompliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to the UN Security Council, thus triggering discussion of a host of various punitive measures, from travel bans and an oil embargo to possible enforced disarmament.

To another group, however, the current facts argue for an entirely different solution: Change the Iranian regime, their thinking goes, and the nuclear issue will take care of itself.

Leading the charge in favor of this idea is neoconservative writer and political operative Michael Ledeen. For years, Ledeen -- currently the Freedom Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and acontributing editor at National Review -- has argued that the chief source of international terrorism in the world is Tehran. In numerous articles and his most recent book, "The War Against the Terror Masters" (2002), Ledeen has insisted not only that overthrowing the regime in Tehran should have come before military intervention in Iraq (though he continues to strongly support that operation), but that it would be relatively easy. "You don't have to fire a shot," he told The New York Sun in November 2002. "The Iranians are dying to bring down the government themselves." [...]

It was Ledeen who, as a consultant to Alexander Haig, President Reagan's secretary of state, helped broker the initial secret arms-for-hostages deal with Iran in 1985 that became part of the Iran-Contra scandal. More recently, he introduced his partner in that deal, Parisian-based Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, to two Farsi-speaking Pentagon officials, Lawrence A. Franklin and Harold Rhode, interested in discussing the regime change idea. In late August, the meetings drew new attention after it was reported that the FBI was investigating whether Franklin had passed the classified draft national security directive on Iran to officials with the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC. In addition to Ghorbanifar (who is alleged to have long ties to both the Iranian and the Israeli governments), the meeting also included a former senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who reportedly had intelligence on dissident ranks within the Iranian security services. [complete article]

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The high cost of Israel's Gaza mission: Innocent victims
By Greg Myre, New York Times, October 10, 2004

With helicopters circling overhead and tanks parked on the fringes of the largest Palestinian refugee camp, Israeli forces are trying to pick off masked militants who are shooting at the soldiers and launching rockets into Israel.

The mission is difficult. The militants are elusive, darting through the camp's narrow alleys, and civilians are everywhere, with children filling the streets. The result is that many of the casualties are innocents.

In 11 days of fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, Israeli forces have killed at least 90 Palestinians, including about 55 militants and 35 civilians, according to Palestinian hospital officials.

The dead include 18 Palestinians who were 16 or younger, according to a count by The Associated Press. In addition, most of the wounded, numbering at least 300, have been noncombatants, hospital officials say.

The Israeli offensive in northern Gaza has claimed more Palestinian lives than any operation since the military swept through Palestinian cities in the West Bank in the spring of 2002 in response to a wave of suicide bombings. Over all, several hundred Palestinians were killed.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops went door-to-door in Palestinian cities, and the military also suffered substantial casualties. Now, in Gaza, the Israelis are sticking to the relative safety of their tanks and armored vehicles, and just two soldiers have been killed. But this also means the troops tend to be firing powerful weapons into congested areas from a distance. [complete article]

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Save the collapsing Palestinian system
By Robert Malley, Daily Star, October 8, 2004

Besieged from without and divided from within, the Palestinian political system is coming apart. It is hard pressed to deliver vital services or ensure law and order and is virtually incapable of producing basic decisions, let alone generating a coherent political program.

Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, who openly exhibits his contempt for the current Palestinian leadership, and U.S. President George W. Bush, who seldom conceals his disdain toward it, may see little reason to fret. But while the costs to Palestinians of the political vacuum are evident, they should be no less clear to Israelis seeking peace and security and to Americans who can only watch as a dangerous blend of desperation and rage takes hold. [complete article]

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Oil prices set yet another record
BBC News, October 11, 2004

Oil prices have surged to fresh record highs in London amid continued worries over possible global supply shortages.

US light, sweet crude futures hit a fresh peak of $53.42 in mid-morning trade, while Brent crude touched the $50-a-barrel mark for the first time.

The increase extends a rally that has already lifted US oil prices by more than 60% since the start of the year. [complete article]

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New scrutiny of the flow of Iraqi oil to American consumers
By Simon Romero ad Scott Shane, New York Times, October 11, 2004

As Saddam Hussein pressed the United Nations oil-for-food relief program for more money that he used to buy banned weapons, an unwitting ally may have been the American driver. Almost until the eve of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, American oil companies were among the largest purchasers of Iraqi crude oil.

The role that the companies, including ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, played in the oil-for-food program is now coming under greater scrutiny in the wake of a report by the chief arms inspector for the Central Intelligence Agency that disclosed how extensively Mr. Hussein was abusing profits from the oil sales.

Executives at the two companies insisted over the weekend that their purchases of Iraqi oil were not illegal or unknown in international oil markets in recent years. Industry analysts also said they did not know of any improprieties by the companies.

"All of our purchases of Iraqi crude were conducted in full compliance with the program," a spokesman for ChevronTexaco, Michael Barrett, said.

In 2001, Iraq was the source of 7 percent of all United States petroleum imports, ranking sixth behind the largest foreign suppliers: Saudi Arabia, Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Nigeria, according to the Energy Department.

Yet while such imports were considered routine, disclosures about irregularities in how the Iraqi government selected partners to market the oil have led to several investigations of the program - by the United Nations, Congressional committees and a federal grand jury. The United States attorney's office in Manhattan has issued subpoenas to several American companies whose names appear on the Iraqi list as having received vouchers for Iraqi oil. [complete article]

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Bush's security plan now rests on nothing but hope
By Peter Galbraith, The Guardian, October 11, 2004

The Bush doctrine can be criticised on many grounds. Under international law, pre-emption is permitted (if ever) only in the case of imminent attack and not to deal with a hypothetical future threat. Bush's nation building has been ambitious, arrogant and incompetent. But the greatest flaw of the Bush doctrine is that it is poor strategy.

By not distinguishing between serious immediate threats and distant potential ones, Bush ducked the hard choice at the core of all sound national security strategy - how to ration scarce military and diplomatic assets. As a result, the US invaded Iraq to eliminate a threat posed by non-existent weapons. As for North Korea and Iran, the US is reduced to hoping that others - China in the case of Pyongyang and the Europeans in the case of Tehran - can solve the problem. Hope is not a strategy. [complete article]

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Wide attacks threatened if U.S. enters Fallujah
By Thanassis Cambanis, Boston Globe, October 10, 2004

Insurgent groups have vowed to unleash a wave of bloody attacks in seven provinces, including Baghdad, if US forces enter their stronghold in the city of Fallujah, representatives of jihad and resistance groups said.

"We will meet a military assault by the occupying forces with violence, answering with all the power we have," Abdullah Abdulaziz al-Janabi, leader of Mohammed's Army and chairman of the mujahideen shura council, said in an interview last week at his mosque in Fallujah. The council nominally governs all the insurgent groups in the city west of the capital.

The threat presents a conundrum for US and Iraqi officials who have begun a nationwide offensive to take back territory held or contested by insurgents before national elections scheduled for January. In the last 10 days, US forces have stormed Samarra in the Sunni Triangle and Latifiyah south of Baghdad, in an attempt to beat back insurgent forces. [complete article]

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Who is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?
By Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times, October 10, 2004

Mr. Zarqawi was literally introduced to the world in February 2003 when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the United Nations that Mr. Zarqawi was a "collaborator and associate" of Mr. bin Laden's. Mr. Powell also described him as a Qaeda chemical weapons expert who had relocated to Baghdad with Saddam Hussein's blessing and organized a cell of 20 operatives there.

Since then, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have repeatedly portrayed Mr. Zarqawi as the clearest link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's deposed regime. Mr. Zarqawi's presence in Iraq before the war, and his emergence since then, they say, justifies portraying Iraq as a centerpiece of the war against terrorism. During a recent campaign speech in Ohio, President Bush said: "Zarqawi is the best evidence of connection to Al Qaeda affiliates and Al Qaeda. He's the person who is still killing."

However, fresh doubts about Mr. Zarqawi's ties to Iraq were raised by American intelligence officials last week in a report prepared for Mr. Cheney. The Central Intelligence Agency determined that there is no conclusive evidence Saddam Hussein's regime provided safe haven to Mr. Zarqawi in the months leading up to the American invasion of Iraq. This assessment follows a similar finding in June by the Sept. 11 Commission, which concluded that there was no "collaborative relationship" between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime. [...]

After Sept. 11, Mr. Zarqawi was believed by senior American officials to be working closely with Ansar al-Islam, the Kurdish group based in northern Iraq that was formed to attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein. This represents a fundamental contradiction about Mr. Zarqawi's apparent alliances, some terrorism experts say.

"I have always been quite puzzled by the story that Zarqawi was allegedly closely linked to Ansar al-Islam but also allegedly linked with Saddam Hussein's regime, the very regime that Ansar al-Islam aimed to destroy," said Jessica Stern, who lectures on terrorism at Harvard. "I have been genuinely confused by that." [complete article]

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Get me rewrite. Now. Bullets are flying
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, October 10, 2004

In the 19 months since American troops first rolled across the border here, Iraq has been many things to many people: necessary war, project for democracy, quagmire without end.

Yet for the dozens of newspaper and television reporters trying to make sense of the place, Iraq above all is a shrinking country. Village by village, block by block, the vast and challenging land that we entered in March 2003 has shriveled into a medieval city-state, a grim and edgy place where the only question is how much more territory we will lose tomorrow. On some days, it seems, we are all crowded into a single room together, clutching our notebooks and watching the walls.

What I mean, of course, is that the business of reporting in Iraq has become a terribly truncated affair, an enterprise clipped and limited by the violence all around. If the American military has its "no-go" zones, places where it no longer sends its troops, we in the press have ours: not just Falluja and Ramadi, but Tikrit, Mosul, Mahmudiya and large parts of Baghdad. Even in areas of the capital still thought to be relatively safe, very few reporters are still brazen enough to get out of a car, walk around and stop people at random. It can be done, but you better move fast. [complete article]

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Bush's pivotal decision: I haven't made a mistake
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 10, 2004

Until sometime early in the summer, President Bush and his advisers sporadically wrestled with a fundamental choice: Was it smarter to go into the final months of the election campaign confessing to considerable error in decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq, and in early calculations about how best to occupy the country? Or would the president - "not a man given to backward-looking introspection," as one close aide put it - be better off conceding only the smallest errors of judgment, and focusing the electorate on the hope of a bright future for Iraq and the whole Middle East?

Mr. Bush chose the second option. To choose otherwise, one of Mr. Bush's advisers said the other day, would be "to give John Kerry the opening he was waiting for."

But now, in the final 23 days of the campaign, that decision has come to look far riskier than it did in the flush of handing Iraq back to Iraqis. Win or lose, when the history of the 2004 Bush campaign is written, it may turn out that the bet about how to talk about the war will prove pivotal. [complete article]

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Bush recasts rationale for war after report
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, October 10, 2004

In the wake of the [Duelfer] report, President Bush has reframed the way he characterizes his rationale for the launching the war. A review of his public statements before the war and this week shows how broadly his public argument has shifted, away from warnings that Hussein actually possessed horrible weapons in favor of talking almost exclusively about the dictator's intent.

This week, Bush said Iraq had been a "unique threat" and the United States was justified in attacking, largely because Hussein "retained the knowledge, the materials, the means, and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction."

"And he could have passed that knowledge on to our terrorist enemies," the president told reporters.

In the months leading up to the war, however, Bush and other administration officials made serious and specific allegations about Iraqi capabilities in biological, chemical and nuclear warfare: [complete article]

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Bush has become Blair's burden
By Mary Dejevsky, Washington Post, October 10, 2004

Two and a half weeks ago, the shadows that had hung over Tony Blair's prime ministership since the end of major combat operations in Iraq suddenly fell especially dark. Kenneth Bigley, a British engineer kidnapped in Iraq, was under sentence of death. The two Americans captured with him had already been beheaded. Confirmation of each American death had come via a grisly Internet video, and Bigley's death was expected to follow. As in many newsrooms across Britain, we crowded around the television that Wednesday evening, waiting, partly in dread, partly in macabre fascination, for the news that would surely come.

Yet the fatal notice did not come. Instead, before finally slaughtering Bigley last week, the kidnappers posted two harrowing videos of the British hostage begging for his life. In both, his message was addressed directly to the prime minister: "I need you to help me now, Mr. Blair," he said, "because you are the only person on God's earth who can help me."

On this side of the Atlantic, the videos served to focus attention not only on the barbaric methods of the hostage-takers but also on the chaos in Iraq and on Blair himself as the American president's puppet and the author of British misfortune. The prime minister's alliance with George W. Bush, who is widely seen here as having dragged Britain into a disaster, has become a huge political liability, one that Downing Street tries, often effectively, to play down.

What's more, Britons who followed the first debate between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry felt their contributions to the U.S. war effort passed almost unmentioned, even by the president's supposedly worldly, alliance-loving Democratic challenger. Being America's ally today is seen here as a dangerous, thankless task. [complete article]

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We must ask why
By Jason Burke, The Observer, October 10, 2004

Now we know, in horrible detail, how it is done. In the case of Ken Bigley, we will soon be able to view the act in video clips on the internet. With the bombing in the Egyptian resort of Taba on Thursday night, we know, from eye witnesses, of the smiles of the suicide bombers as they blew apart several dozen Israeli holiday-makers. Trials in Casablanca, Istanbul, the Far East and elsewhere have exposed the mechanics of dozens of terrorist plots. And the 11 September inquiry in the USA has finally told us exactly how the most spectacular and successful of them all occurred.

What we are still seeking is an answer to the question 'Why?'

One reason is that we are bewildered that humans can commit such violence to each other, particularly, in the case of Ken Bigley's captors, after spending three weeks with someone. Another is that we sense that only by understanding what motivates a person to behave with such disregard for all moral and social norms can we stop them. We don't seek to excuse, but we do need to gather the intelligence that can help us combat such atrocities. [complete article]

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America could have saved him
By Charles Glass, The Observer, October 10, 2004

Kidnappers have beheaded another foreign captive in Iraq. For Ken Bigley, there was hope that he would avoid the fate of more than 30 other non-Iraqi hostages murdered by insurgents and criminals.

The British government had entered into discussions via an intermediary to save Bigley's life. The Irish government had offered him a passport, based on his ancestry, to make him a neutral in the conflict. Prominent Muslims from the British Muslim Council, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Muammar Gadaffi and Yasser Arafat appealed to his kidnappers to free him.

His captors did no honour to the cause of Iraqi independence or to their faith in God by killing an innocent man. But the sabotage, sniping, suicide bombings, convoy attacks and kidnappings will all continue until US forces and their allies leave. [complete article]

See also, Three weeks in hell.

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Evangelical schools worry over post-9/11 visa rules
By Bob Smietana, Christianity Today, October 8, 2004

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, a tenured professor of theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, says he is happy to be back home in California following a month-long exile to his native Finland.

Kärkkäinen, along with his wife, Anne, and two daughters, returned to Pasadena on September 5. They had been forced to leave the United States on July 31 when the Department of Homeland Security revoked Kärkkäinen's "special immigrant religious worker" visa.

Immigration officials, now under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security, questioned Fuller's tax-exempt status. They ruled that Kärkkäinen's role as a seminary professor was not a "traditional religious occupation." They also claimed that Kärkkäinen, who has two doctorates and two master's degrees and served as president and theology professor at IsoKirja College in Keuruu, Finland, did not have the necessary experience for his position.

First learning that Kärkkäinen's visa would be revoked last December, Fuller appealed. The courts clarified Fuller's tax-exempt status and Kärkkäinen's status in a "traditional religious occupation" in his favor. But immigration officials ruled that the records Fuller submitted about Kärkkäinen's work in Finland were not specific enough.

And two new problems arose during the appeal. Since Fuller is an interdenominational seminary, it did not fit under new post-9/11 rules, which require that schools be affiliated with specific denominations. [complete article]

Booklet that upset Mrs. Cheney is history
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2004

The Education Department this summer destroyed more than 300,000 copies of a booklet designed for parents to help their children learn history after the office of Vice President Dick Cheney's wife complained that it mentioned the National Standards for History, which she has long opposed. [...]

The booklet included several brief references to the National Standards for History, which were developed at UCLA in the mid-1990s with federal support. Created by scholars and educators to help school officials design better history courses, they are voluntary benchmarks, not mandatory requirements.

At the time, Lynne Cheney, the wife of now-Vice President Cheney, led a vociferous campaign complaining that the standards were not positive enough about America's achievements and paid too little attention to figures such as Gen. Robert E. Lee, Paul Revere and Thomas Edison. [...]

Cheney led the charge on the original UCLA draft. In a widely read opinion piece published in 1994, she complained that "We are a better people than the National Standards indicate, and our children deserve to know it."

The standards contained repeated references to the Ku Klux Klan and to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the anti-Communist demagogue of the 1950s, she said. And she noted that Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave who helped run the Underground Railroad, was mentioned six times.

But Revere, Lee, the Wright brothers and other prominent figures went unmentioned, she said.

Such complaints led to revision of the standards. [complete article]

Feds seize Indymedia servers
By John Leyden, The Register, October 8, 2004

The FBI yesterday seized a pair of UK servers used by Indymedia, the independent newsgathering collective, after serving a subpoena in the US on Indymedia's hosting firm, Rackspace. Why or how remains unclear.

Rackspace UK complied with a legal order and handed over hard disks without first notifying Indymedia. It's unclear if the raid was executed under extra-territorial provisions of US legislation or the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Provisions of RIPA make it a criminal offence to discuss warrants, so Rackspace would not be able to discuss the action with its customer Indymedia, or with the media. [complete article]

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To have and to hold
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, October 7, 2004

"After the American elections there will be great massacres," a leading Lebanese statesman told me the other day. I listened closely, because the Lebanese have more experience with massacres than most of us, and this particular guy is also very well connected in Paris and Washington. "The Americans will clean out these people who are fighting them," he said. They will go into Fallujah. They will drive into the other no-go towns around the country. "But it will be a big, big massacre," repeated the very portly politician, nodding and sipping his Splenda-sweetened tea. The Lebanese got so experienced with slaughter during their 15-year civil war that they sometimes sound as if they’re talking about mowing the lawn.

Mr. Splenda figures the U.S.-led massacres in Iraq will be successful enough to allow the government of U.S.-anointed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to hold a vote in January, and get itself elected, and gradually -- very gradually -- build sufficient credibility to hold on to the U.S. backing that keeps it in power. Meanwhile the United States will keep trying to build some sort of effective Iraqi internal security force to lighten the American burden of fighting and dying to defend the Allawi regime. Mr. Splenda thinks this will work, in the sense of finally stabilizing Iraq enough for the United States to pull out at least a few of its troops in a couple of years, even if it has no intention of leaving the country altogether.

But Mr. Splenda was trying to be diplomatic. The blood-soaked history of his own country is our surest set of precedents for what's happening in Iraq, and several of them are potentially disastrous for the Bush administration’s ill-conceived and oft-revised plans. [complete article]

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Scouring Iraq for enemies, finding farmers and mud
By James Glanz, New York Times, October 10, 2004

House-to-house raids in this dangerous swath of territory about 30 miles south of Baghdad are turning up few men of fighting age, leading American commanders to believe that insurgents are melting away ahead of troops who are trying to bring the area under Iraqi control.

At the same time, intelligence here has been sketchy, leading to nighttime raids on what appear to be no more than frightened farm families. And the rural terrain - irrigation-soaked roads that are either too narrow for armored vehicles or too weak to support their weight - partly negate the Americans' vast technological advantage.

In at least one case, the problem with the Iraqi back roads led to a disastrous eight-hour ordeal in which new armored vehicles called Strykers became mired in an irrigated field as they were chasing an insurgent who had just fired mortar shells at them. The attacker escaped. Overnight Friday, they searched two towns just east of the Euphrates River and found that they had been deserted, virtual ghost towns.

Even when the raids have uncovered weapons, the men who must have put them there have not been found. In one instance, several women said all their husbands had died.

"One thing that's remarkable to note is how the enemy has changed," said Capt. Bart Hensler, who commands a Stryker unit that is taking part in the raids. "We're always trying to stay one step ahead of each other, but unfortunately the enemy has the advantage." [complete article]

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For Marines, a frustrating fight
By Steve Fainaru, Washington Post, October 10, 2004

Scrawled on the helmet of Lance Cpl. Carlos Perez are the letters FDNY. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York, the Pentagon and western Pennsylvania, Perez quit school, left his job as a firefighter in Long Island, N.Y., and joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

"To be honest, I just wanted to take revenge," said Perez, 20.

Now, two months into a seven-month combat tour in Iraq, Perez said he sees little connection between the events of Sept. 11 and the war he is fighting. Instead, he said, he is increasingly disillusioned by a conflict whose origins remain unclear and frustrated by the timidity of U.S. forces against a mostly faceless enemy.

"Sometimes I see no reason why we're here," Perez said. "First of all, you cannot engage as many times as we want to. Second of all, we're looking for an enemy that's not there. The only way to do it is go house to house until we get out of here."

Perez is hardly alone. In a dozen interviews, Marines from a platoon known as the "81s" expressed in blunt terms their frustrations with the way the war is being conducted and, in some cases, doubts about why it is being waged. [complete article]

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Sadr's militia promises to hand over arms
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, October 10, 2004

Fighters loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the rebel Shiite cleric, will begin handing over their heavy weapons to the Iraqi police next week from their stronghold in Sadr City, as part of an agreement to disband the militia and end weeks of fighting with American forces, Iraqi and American officials and aides to Mr. Sadr said Saturday.

As part of the deal, American forces have agreed to cease offensive operations in Sadr City, the vast Shiite slum in eastern Baghdad that forms the core of Mr. Sadr's support.

Iraqi and American officials expressed some caution over the agreement, pointing out the many times that Mr. Sadr, who led two armed uprisings this year that claimed hundreds of Iraqi and American lives, had broken promises to disarm. [complete article]

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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.)
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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Lies, damned lies, and Bush's Iraq statistics
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, October 7, 2004
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have lately been touting three sets of statistics to justify their claims of great progress in Iraq. First, they say, we've trained 100,000 Iraqi security forces. Second, 31 other countries are contributing troops as part of the vast international coalition. Third, Iraqi reconstruction is moving along on schedule, thanks to the $18.4 billion in U.S. economic aid.

Yet the U.S. State Department's most recent Iraq Weekly Status Report, dated Oct. 6, reveals that all three of those claims are either false or so misleading that they might as well be.

Funds to rebuild Iraq are drifting away from target
By Jonathan Weisman and Robin Wright, Washington Post, October 6, 2004
As little as 27 cents of every dollar spent on Iraq's reconstruction has actually filtered down to projects benefiting Iraqis, a statistic that is prompting the State Department to fundamentally rethink the Bush administration's troubled reconstruction effort.

Between soaring security costs, corruption and mismanagement, contractors' profits, and U.S. governmental costs, reconstruction funding is being drained away, leaving little left to improve the lives of Iraqis, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies. Senior administration officials and congressional experts on the reconstruction effort called the analysis credible. One senior U.S. official familiar with reconstruction suggested as little as a quarter of the funding is reaching its intended projects.

The State Department will acknowledge the problem in a quarterly report to Congress today and say that the United States is trying to accelerate aid and redirect how it is spent, U.S. officials said yesterday. But the Bush administration is still not meeting the goal it set this summer to inject $300 million to $400 million monthly into Iraq's economy by Sept. 1, the officials said.

Breaking their silence
By Elizabeth Mehren, Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2004
In Love Plaza, about 75 people mingled in bright sunshine, chatting noisily while one speaker after another droned on at a campaign rally. Vendors hawked T-shirts, and children frolicked in a fountain opposite ornate City Hall.

Then Celeste Zappala stepped onstage. Standing between columns of red, white and blue balloons, she held up the Purple Heart awarded posthumously to her oldest son. The plaza fell silent.

In calm, measured tones, Zappala talked about her opposition to the war in Iraq. She spoke with pride and tenderness about her son, Sherwood Baker, who was killed in April in Baghdad.

"Sherwood was a patriot," Zappala said. "He was brave and faithful and loyal. He believed in America, and he believed in democracy. And I made an oath to him not to be quiet, not to be cynical in my grief."

Before her son left for Iraq early this year, Zappala, 57, joined a group of military families that supports the troops but opposes the war. Today, Military Families Speak Out has more than 1,700 member families across the country who participate in protests, appear on radio and television and confront public officials. By telling stories about their loved ones, they hope to sway hearts and minds and help bring an end to the war.

Pastor Bush
By Jonathan Raban, The Guardian, October 6, 2004
In the secular, liberal, top-left-hand corner of the US where I live, the prevailing mood was one not far short of despair as incredulity mounted that the daily avalanche of bad news from Baghdad, Fallujah, Tikrit, Samarra, Najaf, Nasiriyah, Kufa, Ramadi, Baquba and elsewhere was apparently failing to make any significant dent in Bush's poll numbers, or expose his claim that freedom and democracy are on the march in Iraq as a blithe and cynical fiction. What would it take? people asked: How many more American and Iraqi deaths? When would it sink in that the occupation of Iraq is a bloody catastrophe? Why was the electorate so unmoved by the abundant empirical evidence that the administration's policy in the Middle East wantonly endangers America as it endangers the wider world? Kerry's performance in the first presidential debate brought a much-needed lift of spirits to this neck of the woods, but the Democratic candidate is up against something more formidable than the person of George Bush: he has to deal with the unquiet spirit of American puritanism and its long and complicated legacy.

Next wave of Al Qaeda leadership
By Owais Tohid, Christian Science Monitor, October 5, 2004
[Atta-ur] Rehman, along with nine other "comrades," is charged with carrying out a deadly June attack against a senior Pakistani Army general in Karachi. The general escaped narrowly but 10 people, including seven soldiers, were killed.

Rehman's circle call themselves Jundullah (God's Army) and have close ties to Al Qaeda. Most are young, educated men, whom Rehman allegedly sent to training camps in Pakistan's remote tribal areas.

Rehman doesn't fit the mold of the typical Al Qaeda leader. Traditionally, most were Arabs who gained status by resisting the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Younger, educated recruits tapped for suicide missions like 9/11 typically came from Middle Eastern countries with long histories of pan-Islamic resistance. What sets this new breed apart is that they are joining from places like Pakistan, where the focus has been on regional grievances, like independence for the disputed area of Kashmir. But as the Al Qaeda leadership ranks begin to thin, men like Rehman are starting to climb the ladder.

"It is a new generation of Al Qaeda," says Riffat Hussain, a leading defense and security analyst based in Islamabad, Pakistan. "These are new converts to Al Qaeda. They may have no links with Al Qaeda in the past, but now they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause as they feel Al Qaeda is the name of defiance to the West. They are young and angry, and their number has swelled in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq."

A Shiite-Sunni Islamist 'high command' may be forming
By Patrick Seale, October 4, 2004
There are ominous signs that, far from dying down, the conflicts in the Middle East are set to widen in the coming months, sucking in new actors and posing new threats to the United States and its allies.

In the eyes of Arab and Islamic militants, the war against American forces in Iraq and Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation are increasingly seen as one and the same battle. In the absence of any prospect for peace on either battlefield, alliances are being formed and command structures established which suggest that the struggle is entering a new and more lethal phase.

Western intelligence sources report that a new high command is emerging made up of Hizbullah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood (represented in the occupied Palestinian territories by Islamic Jihad); and, last but not least, the Islamic Republic of Iran. The striking features of this alliance are that it bridges the Sunni-Shiite divide and unites Arab nationalists and Islamists in a common cause. As a member of one of these groups put it to me: "There is today no difference between resistance and jihad."

Several factors lie behind the new, more organized and determined militancy. First, American backing for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - for his expansion of Jewish settlements, his separation wall in the West Bank, and his all-out war against the Palestinians - has ruled out any prospect of a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The international consensus of a two-state solution seems increasingly unrealistic.

The eyes that cannot see beyond Jabaliya and Samarra
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, October 5, 2004
At first glance the violence in Jabaliya in Palestine and in the Iraqi town of Samarra appear to be unconnected. The Israeli army's incursion into northern Gaza looks like just another deadeningly familiar episode in the unending conflict between Palestinians and Jews.

The US-led weekend assault on insurgents in mainly Sunni Samarra seems to be broadly typical of the continuing turmoil in Iraq.

But peer beneath the headlines and it is clear that these ostensibly separate events are far from routine, and are closely linked in many ways, directly and indirectly.

In both Jabaliya and Samarra modern armies with state-of-the-art weaponry and unanswerable air power attacked residential areas, causing numerous civilian casualties.

In both cases the degree of lethal force used was grossly disproportionate to the assessed threat. Three US and two Iraqi battalions - about 5,000 men - were sent against 200-300 insurgents in Samarra.

In Gaza, in order to deter the sort of vicious home-made Hamas rocket attacks that killed two children in Sderot last week, the Israelis have deployed an estimated 2,000 soldiers and 200 tanks, and are threatening an escalation.

U.S. policies stir more fear than confidence
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, October 3, 2004
The white guard shack still stands, but the American GIs have long since departed and there's a nostalgic cheapness to the postcards, gas masks, helmets and rusted Maxwell House coffee tins. Checkpoint Charlie, the fabled slice of concrete and barbed wire that epitomized the Cold War, seems an innocent artifact in a world awash in new dangers.

"There was a time when World War III could have started right here," said Juergen Thiel, standing amid bits of the Berlin Wall that sell for less than $20. "That's all changed."

International terrorism has given rise to new ground zeros. Much of Europe and the world feel insecure, but a growing number of nations no longer look to the U.S. for leadership and sanctuary. The Bush administration's unilateralist policies in Iraq and its perceived aloofness have left it less trusted at a time of widening global vulnerability, according to polls and interviews in more than 30 countries.

Osama bin Laden remains on the loose. Videos of hostage beheadings in Iraq flicker across the Internet. The nuclear aspirations of North Korea and Iran are troubling. Many countries feel powerless to stop the onslaught and recognize that the U.S. is the only nation militarily strong enough to serve as a bulwark against increasing dangers. But they also feel powerless to persuade Washington to adopt a more nuanced, multilateral strategy.

The real truth about Camp Delta
By David Rose, The Observer, October 3, 2004
[Former Camp Delta commander, Major-General Geoffrey Miller] made no secret of his belief that subjecting the unco-operative to harsher conditions had boosted the yield of intelligence.

Shafiq Rasul, one of the Tipton Three from Staffordshire, who was freed in March, described to me the effect of Miller's system, which after three months' in solitary led him to make a false confession of attending a 9/11 planning meeting with Osama bin Laden and the fanatical Mohamed Atta in Afghanistan in January 2000. He was told the meeting had been videotaped.

'The walls [of the interrogation room] were rusty, and they seemed to be soundproofed. There was no ventilation; it was roasting in there. One interrogator told me that anyone who was in Afghanistan was guilty of the murders of 9/11 - even the women and children killed by the American bombing.

'But they said my position was much worse, because the meeting in this video was to plan 9/11, and loads of people had told them that this guy in a beard standing behind bin Laden was me. I told them that in 2000 I didn't leave the country, that I was working at the Wednesbury branch of Currys [an electronics chain store in the UK], who would have my employment records. They told me I could have falsified those records - that I could have had someone working with me at Currys who could have altered the data the company held, and travelled on a false passport.'

Finally, as his isolation continued and the interrogators deployed their full range of techniques, Rasul said, he cracked. In a final session, a senior official had come down from Washington: 'My heart is beating, beating, I'm saying it's not me, it's not me, but I'm thinking: "I'm going to be screwed, I'm on an island in the middle of nowhere, there's nothing I can do."

'This woman had come down and she plays me the video. I say: "Are you blind? That doesn't look anything like me." But it makes no difference. I'd got to the point where I just couldn't take any more. "Do what you have to do," I told them. I'd been sitting there for three months in isolation, so I say, "Yes, it's me. Go ahead and put me on trial."'

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