|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Suicide attack kills 8 marines near Baghdad
By Edward Wong, New York Times, October 31, 2004
Eight marines were killed and nine others wounded west of the capital on Saturday when a suicide car bomb rammed into their convoy, military officials said, resulting in the deadliest day for the American forces in half a year.
In the heart of Baghdad, insurgents staged their first major assault on a news media organization by detonating a car bomb outside the offices of a popular Arab news network, killing at least 7 people and wounding 19 others, police and hospital officials said.
The marines were attacked near Abu Ghraib, the prison 15 miles west of Baghdad used by the Americans to hold detainees, said Capt. Bradley Gordon, a spokesman for the First Marine Division. The military said in a terse statement that those killed were conducting "increased security operations." Marines have been battling an increasingly lethal insurgency in the rebellious Anbar Province, which encompasses the parched lands of western Iraq; the provincial capital, Ramadi; and the insurgent stronghold Falluja. [complete article]
Marines await orders to attack Fallujah
By Jackie Spinner, Washington Post, October 30, 2004
U.S. Marines are preparing for a decisive battle in the Sunni Triangle area west of Baghdad, where rebels are using violence and intimidation to extend their influence out from the city of Fallujah, senior commanders said Friday.
"We are gearing up to do a major operation, and when we are told to go, we will go," said Brig. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which is responsible for security in the area. "When we go ... we're going to go in there and whack them."
Hejlik said the Marines were awaiting orders from Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, to launch an offensive in Fallujah and in Ramadi, the nearby provincial capital. Iraqi security forces and U.S. Army units would also take part in the operation, he added. [complete article]
In Pakistan, U.S. policies foster suspicion and hatred
By Evelyn Iritani, Los Angeles Times, October 30, 2004
As he watched the collapse of the World Trade Center on his television screen, Imran Hamid's mind raced. What was happening to the Indian friend who had lent him a New York apartment a few months earlier? Classmates from the United Nations high school he attended in the 1960s? The Jewish butcher he befriended while studying at Columbia University?
In the weeks that followed, Hamid traded e-mails and phone calls with friends in America, confirming their safety and sharing their anguish.
"I'm as much a New Yorker as anything else," said the 53-year-old development consultant, sipping a cappuccino in his Islamabad living room, where he surrounds himself with American jazz and classical records and English-language books.
But with each passing day, Hamid's empathy is eroding. He believes that the Bush administration, by pursuing a foreign policy fixated on security, is turning a legitimate battle against terrorism into a campaign of hatred against Muslims.
Take a look around, he says, and you will see the evidence: In the mountains of Afghanistan, where U.S. troops pursue the remnants of the Taliban; the limestone hills of the West Bank, where Palestinians battle America's ally, Israel; at U.S. consular offices and airports where Muslims are subject to extra scrutiny before being allowed into the country. And at prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib, Iraq.
Many Americans might find it hard to recognize their country in the portrait that emerges across the Muslim world. Bush administration officials argue that their military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the security crackdown at home -- though certain to anger many Muslims -- are a necessary part of fighting terrorism and protecting the United States. In an effort to improve its image among Islamic nations, the U.S. government has offered increased aid and trade privileges. Officials say that they are working out kinks in the visa-processing system and that they have launched new broadcast services to reach out to the Muslim world.
But even U.S. officials acknowledge that Washington has done a poor job explaining its policies, particularly to Muslims. The struggle for hearts and minds is more than a public relations war, and the stakes in Pakistan are among the highest. [complete article]
Parsing bin Laden
By Paul Woodward, October 30, 2004
This is for anyone who reacted to the sight of Osama bin Laden on TV yesterday by revisiting the question, should I vote for Kerry or Bush?
The first question to ask: Is bin Laden trying to affect the outcome of the election? He said, "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands and each state which does not harm our security will remain safe." That might sound like a candidate-neutral statement, but if he had no interest in who wins the election he would have waited until it was over before releasing his message. Clearly, he has an interest in the outcome.
Next question: Is bin Laden a fool? If he's a fool he might try to help one candidate yet end up helping his opponent. But so far, among the many epithets bin Laden has acquired "fool" is not one of them. Wherever he's hiding, he's clearly not out of touch. He knows that Bush is weighed down by Iraq. After a seemingly endless stream of news from Baghdad, bin Laden's reappearance turns the media's attention back to the war on terrorism.
Next question: Who's he helping? As erstwhile Bush supporter, Andrew Sullivan, wrote last night: "I have a feeling that this [bin Laden's reappearance] will tip the election decisively toward the incumbent. A few hours ago, I thought Kerry was headed for victory. Now I think the opposite. I also have a sinking feeling that that was entirely bin Laden's objective."
Next question: Why would bin Laden want to see Bush get re-elected? Bin Laden rouses the faithful in the Middle East while Bush rouses the faithful in the heartland of America. Both sides feel pumped up by the sense of being part of a righteous holy war. Bush says he's winning this war, but look how much power bin Laden still wields. Two presidential campaigns with thousands of operatives and multi-million dollar budgets are struggling to influence a handful of voters. Bin Laden's face shows up on TV and a few seconds of video have the potential to throw both campaigns into disarray. If bin Laden still wields this much power three years after 9/11 he has only one person to thank: George Bush.
THE OCTOBER SURPRISE: AL QAEDA'S PRE-ELECTION MESSAGE
Bin Laden: U.S. security depends on policy
CNN, October 29, 2004
Osama bin Laden delivered a new videotaped message in which he told Americans their security does not depend on the president they elect, but on U.S. policy.
The tape was aired on the Arab language network Al-Jazeera Friday, just four days before the U.S. presidential election.
It's the first videotaped message from the al Qaeda leader in nearly three years.
Bin Laden said the message was being delivered directly to the American people, saying the attacks of September 11, 2001 were the result of U.S. foreign policy in Arab lands, specifically referring to Lebanon and the Palestinians.
At one point, he mentioned both President Bush and Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry.
"Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked," bin Laden said in the video. [complete article]
'American' voice on new terror video
By Gretchen Peters, Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 2004
A new videotape that has surfaced in Pakistan threatens a massive attack against the United States by a purported American member of Al Qaeda. It is not yet known if the tape is an authentic Al Qaeda production, but it bears enough resemblance that some experts are taking the tape seriously.
The chilling 75-minute digital videotape, seen by a Christian Science Monitor reporter in Pakistan, where it was obtained by ABC News, shows a high degree of sophistication and bears the logo of Al Qaeda's video production house, As-Sahab.
On the video, the unknown man's face is masked with a Palestinian scarf and sunglasses. He stabs the air with his finger, which appears to be fair-skinned, as he delivers his warning in American-accented English. [complete article]
Comment -- The "October surprise" was always expected to be one engineered by the Bush campaign or at least one that might adventitiously serve their interests. Instead we have the strange spectacle of terrorists attempting to insert themselves into the political discourse. Most Americans are likely to respond no more favorably than did Ohio voters when offered political counsel by British readers of The Guardian. By underlining that political power ultimately rests in the hands of the American people rather than their representatives, Osama bin Laden's message is even more nuanced and it remains to be seen whether either Kerry or Bush will attempt to make much political capital out it. Both candidates will be taking an enormous gamble however they respond. Bin Laden's reappearance is almost like thumbing his nose at Bush and saying, "I'm still out here." On the other hand, his mere presence on the world stage will play to the Bush message that the times are too dangerous for America to risk a change in leadership. On balance, bin Laden's appearance right now probably brings more relief to Republicans than Democrats since one thing is clear: He has accomplished what the Bush campaign could not -- he's turned the focus away from Iraq.
The lesson from al Qaqaa: Bush never planned to disarm Iraq
By Paul Woodward, October 29, 2004
If Karl Rove is as brilliant a political strategist as he is reputed to be, he probably draws some satisfaction from the media's willingness to allow the al Qaqaa story to have been spun into an investigation about disputed facts and uncertain timelines. The smokescreen thrown up by allegations (made by the Pentagon's Larry Di Rita) of Russian trucks removing the explosives before American troops reached the site; the fact that Rumsfeld and Bush will be sure to cast doubt on the ABC video of explosives -- all of this is sure to cloud the whole issue in uncertainty, at least until after election day.
Moreover, for Bush supporters and Kerry skeptics the argument that 380 tons of explosives lost should be viewed in relation to 400,000 tons of munitions destroyed, is likely to be quite persuasive.
Nevertheless, the issue that al Qaqaa makes transparent is this: The plan to topple Saddam was not a plan to disarm Iraq. Knight Ridder's Jonathan S. Landay has reported that US troops stationed near al Qaqaa were warned after April 9, 2003, that the site was being looted. As a senior US military officer is quoted as saying, "That was one of numerous times when Iraqis warned us that ammo dumps and other places were being looted and we weren't able to respond because we didn't have anyone to send."
There weren't enough troops to secure al Qaqaa and hundreds of other weapons sites because disarming Iraq -- which would require securing major weapons sites -- was not part of the plan. What George Bush should have said to the UN General Assembly, told Americans in the State of the Union and had Colin Powell tell the Security Council is this: We have a plan to place Iraq under new management. It will require very few troops, there will be very few casualties and it won't cost much.
Of course everyone would have scoffed at such a sanguine assessment as well as balking at the notion that America has any right to replace any foreign government that it dislikes. So instead President Bush felt compelled to silence his critics by speaking of a "grave and gathering threat." He warned that if we risk waiting for a smoking gun it might appear as a mushroom cloud.
What al Qaqaa reveals is that if Iraq posed a danger anywhere near as great as Bush claimed, he did not have a plan for dealing with that threat. The plan he set in motion rested on the assumption that much could be gained with surprisingly little cost. Bush went to war in Iraq not because he feared Saddam so much, but because he feared him so little. This was a war designed to demonstrate how much could be done with so few troops. It was meant to serve as a warning to whoever might come next. The goal of disarmament turned out to be little more than an afterthought -- a laudable objective (like "Head Start") for which sufficient resources were never actually allocated.
Vast amounts of weapons-related material missing, official says
By Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, October 28, 2004
The more than 320 tons of missing Iraqi high explosives at center stage in the U.S. presidential election are only a fraction of the weapons-related material that's disappeared in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion last year.
Huge amounts of arms and ammunition were stolen from military sites, and there's "ample evidence" that Iraqi insurgents are firing looted weapons at U.S. troops and using some of them in car bombs and improvised explosive devices, said a senior U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
U.N. officials also are concerned about the disappearance of sensitive equipment and controlled materials that could be used to develop nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
"If this equipment is finding itself on the open market, then anybody with money can buy it," said Dimitri Perricos, acting head of the U.N. Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC), the U.N. weapons inspection agency.
The CIA has convened a "mini taskforce" of experts to assess precisely what equipment is gone and what threat it could pose if it fell into the wrong hands, said two U.S. officials.
In a new disclosure, the senior U.S. military officer and another U.S. official, who also spoke on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that an Iraqi working for U.S. intelligence alerted U.S. troops stationed near the al Qaqaa weapons facility that the installation was being looted shortly after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003.
But, they said, the troops took no apparent action to halt the pillaging.
"That was one of numerous times when Iraqis warned us that ammo dumps and other places were being looted and we weren't able to respond because we didn't have anyone to send," said a senior U.S. military officer who served in Iraq. [complete article]
It's not just Al Qaqaa
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, October 29, 2004
Just in case, the right is already explaining away President Bush's defeat: it's all the fault of the "liberal media," particularly The New York Times, which, so the conspiracy theory goes, deliberately timed its report on the looted Al Qaqaa explosives - a report all the more dastardly because it was true - for the week before the election.
It's remarkable that the right-wingers who dominate cable news and talk radio are still complaining about a liberal stranglehold over the media. But, that absurdity aside, they're missing a crucial point: Al Qaqaa is hardly the only tale of incompetence and mendacity to break to the surface in the last few days. Here's a quick look at some of the others: [complete article]
Weapons for the taking in Iraq
By Jon Lee Anderson, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2004
It now seems highly likely that a group of well-organized looters made off with the missing cache of 380 tons of powerful explosives at Iraq's Al Qaqaa military site after it was visited by invading U.S. troops in early April 2003.
For myself and other reporters who were on the ground in Baghdad during those days, this oversight does not seem surprising. Coinciding with the arrival of the Americans, Baghdad succumbed to an orgy of looting and, eventually, to wholesale sabotage, all of which took place under the tolerant and overwhelmed gaze of the newly arrived U.S. soldiers. That U.S. troops could have visited Al Qaqaa, inspected the explosives and then moved on without securing them -- evidently unaware of the high-level importance of the site -- seems completely in keeping with the extraordinary lack of coordination between senior commanders and their troops in the field that we witnessed on a daily basis. [complete article]
Video shows G.I.'s at weapon cache
By William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 29, 2004
A videotape made by a television crew with American troops when they opened bunkers at a sprawling Iraqi munitions complex south of Baghdad shows a huge supply of explosives still there nine days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, apparently including some sealed earlier by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The tape, broadcast on Wednesday night by the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis, appeared to confirm a warning given earlier this month to the agency by Iraqi officials, who said that hundreds of tons of high-grade explosives, powerful enough to bring down buildings or detonate nuclear weapons, had vanished from the site after the invasion of Iraq. [complete article]
See also, 5 Eyewitness News video may be linked to missing explosives
Imagery of storage bunkers at Al Qa Qaa
By John Pike, Global Security, October 28, 2004
According to the IAEA Action Report on the facility, the HMX was being stored in only nine bunkers at the site. All of the HMX bunkers were sealed by the IAEA after verification, using metal seals on the front entrance doors.
DoD released on Oct. 28, 2004, imagery showing two trucks parked outside one of the 56 bunkers of the Al Qa Qaa Explosive Storage Complex approximately 20 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq, on March 17, 2003. According to the release: "It is not believed that all 56 bunkers contained High Melting Explosive also known as HMX. A large, tractor-trailer (yellow arrow) is loaded with white containers with a smaller truck parked behind it. The International Atomic Energy Association inspectors identified bunkers in this complex as containing High Melting Explosive."
However, a comparison of features in the DoD-released imagery with available commercial satellite imagery, combined with the use of an IAEA map showing the location of bunkers used to store the HMX explosives, reveals that the trucks pictured on the DoD image are not at any of the nine bunkers indentified by the IAEA as containing the missing explosive stockpiles. [complete article with satellite images]
IAEA says it warned U.S. about explosives
By William J. Kole, Associated Press (via The Guardian), October 28, 2004
The U.N. nuclear agency said Thursday it warned the United States about the vulnerability of explosives stored at Iraq's Al-Qaqaa military installation after the country's main nuclear complex was looted in April 2003.
Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, told The Associated Press that U.S. officials were cautioned directly about what was stored at Al-Qaqaa, where 377 tons of high explosives have gone missing.
Fleming did not say which officials were notified or exactly when, but she said the IAEA - which had put storage bunkers at the site under seal just before the war - alerted the United States after the Tuwaitha nuclear complex was looted. [complete article]
Halliburton contracts bypassed objections
By T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2004
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanders awarded a lucrative contract extension to Halliburton Co. this month by circumventing the organization's top contracting officer, who had objected to the proposal, according to documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Bunnatine Greenhouse, the Corps of Engineers' chief contracting officer, questioned a decision by commanders to award a contract extension to Halliburton, the oil services company run by Dick Cheney until he became vice president, without the competitive bidding designed to protect U.S. taxpayers.
The FBI is seeking to question Greenhouse, her lawyer said Thursday, marking an expansion of the bureau's ongoing investigation of other Halliburton contracts.
"I cannot approve this," Greenhouse wrote on one version of the proposal that is filled with her handwritten scrawls such as "Incorrect!"; "No! How!"; and "Not a valid reason."
Greenhouse, who was threatened with demotion after raising objections to the Halliburton contract, sent her complaints to acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee. Portions of her letter to Brownlee were obtained by Time magazine last week.
The Times has obtained previously undisclosed documents describing the nature of her objections to the Halliburton contract and e-mail discussions among Army Corps officials. [complete article]
See also, FBI widens probe of Halliburton (WP).
Mideast braces for life after Arafat
By Tony Karon, Time.com, October 28, 2004
While his medical prognosis remains under wraps, the political implications are unmistakable: The man who has for close on four decades been the personification of the Palestinian nationalist movement is slowly -- or rapidly, as the case may be -- exiting stage left, leaving each of the remaining players to revise their own scripts on the fly. Israeli politicians are suddenly weighing the relevance of their Gaza pullout plan; its security chieftains are planning to do everything possible to avoid provoking a new upsurge in violence in the West Bank and Gaza; senior Palestinian politicians are flocking to Ramallah to hear any pronouncement of an heir by a sick man who has governed as a wily monarch; and the heads of state of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have held frantic late-night phone conversations to coordinate their responses to an anticipated backlash on their own streets directed at their failure to do more for the Palestinians. All this in response to the immediate fate of a man shown by the latest news photograph stripped of his carefully constructed nationalist uniform and instead sporting the powder blue sweat suit and woolen cap of an ailing pensioner being wheeled along the Brighton Beach boardwalk. [complete article]
U.N. human rights expert: 'Israel has killed the road map'
Reuters (via Haaretz), October 29, 2004
Israel has killed the road map peace plan for the Middle East with apparent U.S. acquiescence, a UN human rights investigator said on Thursday, triggering a strong rebuttal from the Jewish state.
"The road map is dead. Israel has killed it," South African law professor John Dugard told a General Assembly committee.
"The world is looking to the United States for leadership in this region, and the world is simply not getting it," said Dugard, who monitors the Palestinian territories for the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Commission.
His remarks came as a gravely ill Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to be rushed from the West Bank to a French hospital for treatment, casting a cloud of uncertainty over the Middle East political landscape. [complete article]
After Arafat: who could replace him?
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, October 28, 2004
Yasser Arafat's sudden health crisis has again raised the question, in Palestinian circles as in the wider world, of who ultimately will replace the 75-year-old president - and whether the succession will be smooth or volatile.
Until now, Palestinian politicians have been reluctant to speak openly about the next leader, mainly because Mr Arafat would not allow it but also because it would be seen as a betrayal, a surrender to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who has been successful in marginalising him.
Mr Arafat's ill-health, which has dogged him for years, was apparent only a fortnight ago when he met a small group of British journalists. He frequently rambled from issue to issue, and raised odd conspiracy theories that ranged from Iran to Chile.
The sudden deterioration in his condition came less than 24 hours after his arch-rival, Mr Sharon, pushed through the Knesset his planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last year. That offered a chance to break the Middle East stalemate.
If Mr Arafat is unable to continue as leader of the Palestinians, that too will change the politics of the region. The US and Israel, and latterly Britain, have refused to work with him, claiming he is unreliable and untrustworthy. [complete article]
Civilian death toll in Iraq exceeds 100,000
New Scientist, October 28, 2004
The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 by coalition forces has lead to the death of at least 100,000 civilians, reveals the first scientific study to examine the issue.
The majority of these deaths, which are in addition those normally expected from natural causes, illness and accidents, have been among women and children, finds the study, released early by The Lancet on Thursday.
The most common cause of death is as a direct result of violence, mostly caused by coalition air strikes, reveals the study of almost 1000 households scattered across Iraq. And the risk of violent death just after the invasion was 58 times greater than before the war. The overall risk of death was 1.5 times more after the invasion than before.
The figure of 100,000 is based on "conservative assumptions", notes Les Roberts at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, US, who led the study. [complete article]
From the report, Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey:
US General Tommy Franks is widely quoted as saying "we don't do body counts". The Geneva Conventions have clear guidance about the responsibilities of occupying armies to the civilian population they control. The fact that more than half the deaths reportedly caused by the occupying forces were women and children is cause for concern. In particular, Convention IV, Article 27 states that protected persons "... shall be at all times humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against acts of violence...". It seems diffcult to understand how a military force could monitor the extent to which civilians are protected against violence without systematically doing body counts or at least looking at the kinds of casualties they induce. This survey shows that with modest funds, 4 weeks, and seven Iraqi team members willing to risk their lives, a useful measure of civilian deaths could be obtained. There seems to be little excuse for occupying forces to not be able to provide more precise tallies. In view of the political importance of this conflict, these results should be confirmed by an independent body such as the ICRC, Epicentre, or WHO. In the interim, civility and enlightened self-interest demand a re-evaluation of the consequences of weaponry now used by coalition forces in populated areas.
The full report can be read here (free registration required).
The road to Abu Ghraib
By Phillip Carter, Washington Monthly, November, 2004
A generation from now, historians may look back to April 28, 2004, as the day the United States lost the war in Iraq. On that date, "CBS News" broadcast the first ugly photographs of abuses by American soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. There were images of a man standing hooded on a box with wires attached to his hands; of guards leering as they forced naked men to simulate sexual acts; of a man led around on a leash by a female soldier; of a dead Iraqi detainee, packed in ice; and more. The pictures had been taken the previous fall by U.S. Army military police soldiers assigned to the prison, but had made it into the hands of Army criminal investigators only months later, when a soldier named Joseph Darby anonymously passed them a CD-ROM full of prison photos. The images aroused worldwide indignation, and illustrated in graphic detail both the lengths to which the United States would go to get intelligence, and the extent to which those efforts had been corrupted by the exigencies of the difficult war in Iraq. [complete article]
Guantanamo Britons sue Rumsfeld
By Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, October 28, 2004
Four Britons who claim they were repeatedly tortured at Guantánamo Bay yesterday began suing Donald Rumsfeld and other US military leaders for £6m each in compensation.
Defendants in the law suit also include the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, and the former head of the prison camp, Major General Geoffrey Miller, now in charge at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
The four Britons were released in March after spending nearly three years at Guantánamo in conditions that have been condemned by human rights groups.
The action has been brought by the so-called Tipton three, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed, and Jamal al-Harith from Manchester. All deny links or involvement in terrorism. The law suit alleges the Britons were "repeatedly struck with rifle butts, punched, kicked and slapped. They were short-shackled in painful stress positions for many hours ... causing deep flesh wounds and permanent scarring.
"Plaintiffs were also threatened with unmuzzled dogs, forced to strip naked, subjected to repeated forced body-cavity searches, intentionally subjected to extremes of heat and cold for the purpose of causing suffering ..."
The law suit claims the mistreatment was "in plain violation" of the US constitution, federal law and its international treaty obligations. [complete article]
FAILING TO DISARM IRAQ
"The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed." President Bush, televised address to the nation, March 17, 2003
"Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people." President Bush, The State of the Union, January 28, 2003
Four Iraqis tell of looting at munitions site in '03
By James Ganz and Jim Dwyer, New York Times, October 28, 2004
Looters stormed the weapons site at Al Qaqaa in the days after American troops swept through the area in early April 2003 on their way to Baghdad, gutting office buildings, carrying off munitions and even dismantling heavy machinery, three Iraqi witnesses and a regional security chief said Wednesday.
The Iraqis described an orgy of theft so extensive that enterprising residents rented their trucks to looters. But some looting was clearly indiscriminate, with people grabbing anything they could find and later heaving unwanted items off the trucks.
Two witnesses were employees of Al Qaqaa - one a chemical engineer and the other a mechanic - and the third was a former employee, a chemist, who had come back to retrieve his records, determined to keep them out of American hands. The mechanic, Ahmed Saleh Mezher, said employees asked the Americans to protect the site but were told this was not the soldiers' responsibility.
The accounts do not directly address the question of when 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives vanished from the site sometime after early March, the last time international inspectors checked the seals on the bunkers where the material was stored. It is possible that Iraqi forces removed some explosives before the invasion.
But the accounts make clear that what set off much if not all of the looting was the arrival and swift departure of American troops, who did not secure the site after inducing the Iraqi forces to abandon it.
"The looting started after the collapse of the regime," said Wathiq al-Dulaimi, a regional security chief, who was based nearby in Latifiya. But once it had begun, he said, the booty streamed toward Baghdad. [complete article]
Missing munitions become focus of presidential race
By Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, October 28, 2004
The disappearance of nearly 400 tons of explosives in Iraq dominated the presidential race for a third straight day on Wednesday, as Democratic nominee John F. Kerry accused President Bush of evading responsibility and the Republican said Kerry was making unsubstantiated charges.
Kerry, traveling in Iowa, scrapped plans to talk about domestic policy to accuse Bush of trying to cover up the failure to secure the explosives in Iraq. "This is a growing scandal and the American people deserve a full and honest explanation of how it happened and what the president is going to do about it," Kerry told supporters in Sioux City. Instead, he said, "we're seeing this White House dodging and bobbing and weaving . . . just as they've done each step of the way in our involvement in Iraq."
Bush, breaking two days of silence on the issue, told supporters at a rally here that Kerry was making "wild charges" about the missing munitions and was "denigrating the action of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts." [complete article]
Comment -- George Bush says, "Our military is now investigating a number of possible scenarios, including that the explosives may have been moved before our troops even arrived at the site." (Speech in Lilitz, Pennsylvania, October 27.) The reason this investigation is ongoing in October 2004 is because the Bush administration failed to execute its stated mission of disarming Iraq. If the administration had taken this aim seriously it would have known the exact status of every major weapons site in Iraq within a month after the invasion. If the explosives at Al Qaqaa had been whisked away before US troops arrived, that would have been known by April 2003 - it would not be a subject of debate in October 2004. Bush rebukes Kerry for rushing to judgment before the facts are known. That Al Qaqaa was a site determined by the IAEA to be part of Iraq's clandestine nuclear program was known well before the invasion. That securing such a site would have been an essential component in a military campaign to disarm Iraq should have been a no-brainer. For the president to be saying he's still trying to find out what happened, is a failure of command.
CHAOS IN IRAQ -- Are American soldiers and the people of Fallujah about to become pawns in Bush's desperate attempt to avert election defeat?
Signs point to imminent showdown in Iraq
By Robert H. Reid, Associated Press (via Seattle Post-Intelligencer), October 27, 2004
An uptick in airstrikes and other military moves point to an imminent showdown between U.S. forces and Sunni Muslim insurgents west of Baghdad - a decisive battle that could determine whether the campaign to bring democracy and stability to Iraq can succeed.
American officials have not confirmed a major assault is near against the insurgent bastions of Fallujah and neighboring Ramadi. But Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has warned Fallujah leaders that force will be used if they do not hand over extremists, including terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
A similar escalation in U.S. military actions and Iraqi government warnings occurred before a major offensive in Najaf forced militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to give up that holy city in late August. And U.S. and Iraqi troops retook Samarra from insurgents early this month.
Now U.S. airstrikes on purported al-Zarqawi positions in three neighborhoods of eastern and northern Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, have increased. And residents reported this week that Marines appeared to be reinforcing forward positions near key areas of the city. Other military units are on the move, including 800 British soldiers headed north to the U.S.-controlled zone.
The goal of an attack would be to restore government control in time for national elections by the end of January. However, an all-out assault on the scale of April's siege of Fallujah would carry enormous risk - both political and military - for the Americans and their Iraqi allies.
A series of policy mistakes by the U.S. military and the Bush administration have transformed Fallujah from a shabby, dusty backwater known regionally for mosques and tasty kebabs into a symbol of Arab pride and defiance of the United States throughout the Islamic world. [complete article]
Provincial capital near Falluja is rapidly slipping into chaos
By Edward Wong, New York Times, October 28, 2004
The American military and the interim Iraqi government are quickly losing control of this provincial capital, which is larger and strategically more important than its sister city of Falluja, say local officials, clerics, tribal sheiks and officers with the United States Marines.
"The city is chaotic," said Sheik Ali al-Dulaimi, a leader of the region's largest tribe. "There's no presence of the Allawi government," he added, speaking of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
While Ramadi is not exactly a "no go" zone for the marines, like the insurgent stronghold of Falluja 30 miles to the east, officers say it is fast slipping in that direction. In the last six weeks, guerrillas have stepped up the pace of assassinations of Iraqis working with the Americans, and marine officials say they suspect Iraqi security officers have been helping insurgents to attack their troops. Reconstruction efforts have ground to a halt because no local contractors are willing to work. [complete article]
A deadly road leads to anarchy
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2004
Just a short drive south of Baghdad, Highway 8 plunges into a 20-mile corridor of criminality.
There's Mahmoudiya, where charred cars dot the roadside, serving as grim reminders of dozens of killings, carjackings and kidnappings.
Off to the west is Yousifiya, where masked men staged public executions in the middle of town this fall, beheading people they accused of collaborating with U.S. forces.
Next are Latifiya and Iskandariya, where insurgents recently blew up the local police station and city council building, respectively.
Though closer to the capital than well-known insurgent strongholds such as Fallouja and Ramadi, this area of northern Babil province has been largely overlooked by U.S. forces in the last year. In the absence of any real authority, the area — dubbed the Death Triangle by locals — has become one of Iraq's murkiest, most dangerous and least understood hot zones. [complete article]
Fallujah's April civilian toll is 600
Iraq Body Count (via Electronic Iraq), October 26, 2004
Today the Iraq Body Count (IBC) website has published its analysis of the civilian dealth toll in the April 2004 siege of Falluja. This analysis leads to the conclusion that betweeen 572 and 616 of the approximately 800 reported deaths were of civilians, with over 300 of these being women and children.
A Falluja Archive carrying relevant and related excerpts from nearly three hundred contemporary news reports is also being made available on the website, and constitutes the largest publicly-available resource for investigators researching the human consequences of the siege. IBC's number for the civilian dead emerges from detailed and exhaustive analysis of these reports as well as others more recently published. [complete article]
Comment -- Though the Pentagon insists that the timing of an assault on Fallujah will not be affected by the date of the presidential election, if the long awaited attack starts this weekend, America and the world can bear witness to George Bush's willingness to do anything that might help his re-election.
Eyewitness to a failure in Iraq
By Peter W. Galbraith, Boston Globe, October 27, 2004
2003 I went to tell Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz what I had seen in Baghdad in the days following Saddam Hussein's overthrow. For nearly an hour, I described the catastrophic aftermath of the invasion -- the unchecked looting of every public institution in Baghdad, the devastation of Iraq's cultural heritage, the anger of ordinary Iraqis who couldn't understand why the world's only superpower was letting this happen.
I also described two particularly disturbing incidents -- one I had witnessed and the other I had heard about. On April 16, 2003, a mob attacked and looted the Iraqi equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control, taking live HIV and black fever virus among other potentially lethal materials. US troops were stationed across the street but did not intervene because they didn't know the building was important.
When he found out, the young American lieutenant was devastated. He shook his head and said, "I hope I am not responsible for Armageddon." About the same time, looters entered the warehouses at Iraq's sprawling nuclear facilities at Tuwaitha on Baghdad's outskirts. They took barrels of yellowcake (raw uranium), apparently dumping the uranium and using the barrels to hold water. US troops were at Tuwaitha but did not interfere. [complete article]
How Bush blew it in Tora Bora
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, October 27, 2004
On November 17, 2001, as the Taliban regime was self-disintegrating, Osama bin Laden, his family and a convoy of 25 Toyota Land Cruisers left Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan headed toward the mountains of Tora Bora. In late November, surrounded by his fiercest and most loyal Yemeni mujahideen in a cold Tora Bora cave, bin Laden delivered a stirring speech. One of his fighters, Abu Bakar, later captured by Afghan mujahideen, said bin Laden exhorted them to "hold your positions firm and be ready for martyrdom. I'll be visiting you again very soon."
A few days later, around what would probably have been November 30, bin Laden, along with four Yemeni mujahideen, left Tora Bora toward the village of Parachinar, in the Pakistani tribal areas. They walked undisturbed all the way - and then disappeared forever.
By the time the merciless American B-52 bombing raids were about to begin, bin Laden had already left Tora Bora - as a number of Afghan mujahideen confirmed to Asia Times Online at the time. They said they had seen him on the other side of the frontline in late November. Hazrat Ali, the warlord and then so-called minister of "law and order" in the Eastern Shura (traditional decision-making council) in Afghanistan, was outsourced by the Pentagon to go after bin Laden and al-Qaeda in Tora Bora. He bagged a handful of suitcases full of cash. He put on a show for the cameras. And significantly, he was barely in touch with the few Special Forces on the ground.
The crucial point is that while bin Laden was already in Pakistan, General Tommy Franks at US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, was being directed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to concentrate on toppling Saddam Hussein. [complete article]
Osama and his Shi'ite nemesis
By B Raman, October 28, 2004
The Shi'ites of Pakistan and Afghanistan have a long memory for the insults and brutalities inflicted against them. It now appears they're on the hunt for their sworn enemies, and Osama bin Laden is among them.
That might be because they haven't forgotten what he did to them in 1988. It was then that hundreds of Shi'ites of the Northern Areas (NA - Gilgit and Baltistan) of Pakistan, known before 1947 as the Northern Areas of Jammu and Kashmir, were massacred after a demand raised by them for the creation of an autonomous Shi'ite state called Karakoram, consisting of the Shi'ite majority areas of the NA, Punjab and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). Military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq called in bin Laden, then living in Peshawar, and his Sunni tribal hordes to carry out the massacre.
To avenge these deaths, a Shi'ite airman is believed to have caused an explosion on board the aircraft in which Zia was travelling from Bahawalpur to Islamabad in August 1988. This was followed in 1991 by the assassination in Peshawar of Lieutenant-General Fazle Haq, a retired army officer, close to Zia and hated by the Shi'ites because of his suspected role in the assassination of a respected Shi'ite leader. [complete article]
WHEN THE EXPLOSIVES WERE MOVED IS NOT THE ISSUE
No check of bunker, unit commander says
By Jim Dwyer and David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 27, 2004
Colonel Anderson, who is now the chief of staff for the division and who spoke by telephone from Fort Campbell, Ky., said his troops had been driving north toward Baghdad and had paused at Al Qaqaa to make plans for their next push.
"We happened to stumble on it," he said. "I didn't know what the place was supposed to be. We did not get involved in any of the bunkers. It was not our mission. It was not our focus. We were just stopping there on our way to Baghdad. The plan was to leave that very same day. The plan was not to go in there and start searching. It looked like all the other ammunition supply points we had seen already." [complete article]
Tip of the iceberg
By David J. Morris, Salon, October 26, 2004
Monday's New York Times contained a front-page story describing the disappearance of nearly 380 tons of high-powered explosives from a sensitive weapons cache outside Baghdad known as Al Qaqaa. "60 Minutes" plans to air a story on the subject Sunday evening, one day and a wake-up call before the election gets underway. Given that the types of explosive materials that have gone missing are essential in the manufacture of nuclear weapons and car bombs and that they were used in several high-profile terrorist bombings -- including the 1988 downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland -- this untimely revelation could be the much-prophesied, but so far missing in action October surprise. Hoping to capitalize on the story and sully President Bush's self-styled image as the ultimate enemy of terror, John Kerry described Al Qaqaa as "one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the great blunders of this administration."
However disturbing this story, what the New York Times and CBS News have overlooked so far is that the missing munitions at Al Qaqaa are only the tip of the iceberg and in all likelihood represent a mere fraction of the illicit explosive material currently circulating in Iraq. Having personally toured weapons caches comparable in scale to Al Qaqaa and seen similar ordnance in the process of being converted into roadside bombs at an insurgent hideout, I believe that the theft and redistribution of conventional explosives and weapons represent the largest long-term threat to American troops in Iraq. Strangely enough, it is likely that dealing with this conventional weapons threat, rather than eradicating the mythical unconventional WMD threat, will be the U.S. legacy in Iraq. [complete article]
Q&A: Missing explosives (AP)
Comment -- The sensational aspect of this story is the amount of explosives involved - enough to make a million Pan Am 103-type bombs. It's also another story of incompetent planning. But perhaps most importantly, it reflects the thorough contempt with which the Bush administration regarded and still regards the work of UN weapons inspections agencies.
The sites where WMD might have been hidden was a matter of speculation. The sites that were already under IAEA or UNMOVIC seal was well-known.
Was the task of guarding them one of the many mission requirements that Donald Rumsfeld struck off the war plans as he looked for all possible ways to reduce the invasion force size? And is this not just one more glaring piece of evidence that this war really had nothing to do with its purported aim of disarmament?
The Bush administration knew exactly where the Al Qaqaa site was located and exactly what had been sealed in the bunkers by IAEA inspectors. The Bush campaign is now suggesting that if the explosives had been moved by Saddam before US troops reached the site this absolves President Bush from any responsibility. But whether explosives had been removed before or after American troops first arrived at the site would not now be a topic of debate were it not for the fact that the Bush administration never made disarmament a priority. Had disarmament been a critical mission, the first US troops to arrive at the site would have had the responsibility of securing it and promptly reporting to the IAEA whether the seals it had left were still in place.
Iraq dates 'planned in advance'
BBC News, October 27, 2004
Top secret plans for attacking Iraq were drawn up five months before the war started, a court martial has heard.
US defence planners passed plans, with codenames such as P-Day, A-Day and G-Day, to UK army bosses in October 2002.
The war against Saddam Hussein was launched on 20 March, 2003, in a series of US air strikes.
The plans were revealed during the court martial of reservist Lance Corporal Ian Blaymire, charged with the manslaughter of a colleague in Iraq. [complete article]
Negligent U.S. forces to blame for massacre of recruits, says Allawi
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, October 27, 2004
Iyad Allawi, Iraq's interim Prime Minister, said yesterday that the gross negligence of American forces had led to the massacre of 49 Iraqi army recruits by insurgents on Sunday.
The vehement criticism from Mr Allawi, who owes his position to Washington, was an indication of the anger among Iraqis about the killings.
The soldiers, who were on their way home from an American-run training camp during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, were unarmed and unprotected when they were attacked in their minibuses.
Mr Allawi also publicly rebuffed claims by the US and British governments that the security situation was improving. Instead, he told the Iraqi National Council, which oversees the government, that the violence racking the country was likely to worsen. [complete article]
What the terrorists have in mind
By Daniel Benjamin and Gabriel Weimann, New York Times, October 27, 2004
To get a sense of the jihadist movement's state of mind, we must listen to its communications, and not just the operational "chatter" collected by the intelligence community. Today, the central forum for the terrorists' discourse is not covert phone communications but the Internet, where Islamist Web sites and chat rooms are filled with evaluations of current events, discussions of strategy and elaborations of jihadist ideology. [...]
Clearly, the president's oft-repeated claim that American efforts are paying off because "more than three-quarters of Al Qaeda's key members and associates have been killed, captured or detained" - a questionable claim in itself - means little to jihadists. What matters to them that the invasion of Iraq paved the way for the emergence of a movement of radical Sunni Iraqis who share much of the Qaeda ideology.
Among the recurrent motifs on the Web are that America has blundered in Iraq the same way the Soviet Union did in the 1980's in Afghanistan, and that it will soon be leaving in defeat. "We believe these infidels have lost their minds," was the analysis on a site called Jamaat ud-Daawa, which is run out of Pakistan. "They do not know what they are doing. They keep on repeating the same mistake."
For the radicals, the fighting has become a large part of a broader religious revival and political revolution. Their discussions celebrate America's occupation of Iraq as an opportunity to expose the superpower's "real nature" as an enemy of Islam that seeks to steal the Arab oil patrimony. [complete article]
Has Sharon moved from villain to visionary?
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, October 27, 2004
Mr Sharon has laid out only the beginning of the process - the removal of about 8,000 settlers from the Gaza strip and a small part of the West Bank - but not how he imagines it will end beyond oblique references to creating a Palestinian state and holding on to the major West Bank settlements.
The Palestinians fear that the blueprint is the prime minister's earlier vision of an emasculated Arab state on the 42% of the occupied territories placed under Palestinian administration by the Oslo accords and spotted between the sprawling Jewish settlement blocs that divide up the West Bank.
The result would be a homeland without control of its airspace, water resources, borders or foreign policy.
Cut off by the vast steel and concrete "security" fence and wall under construction through the West Bank, it would amount in many people's eyes to little more than a bantustan reminiscent of apartheid South Africa.
The Palestinians are keenly aware that while Mr Sharon talks of disengagement, his government is still expanding the major West Bank settlements. [complete article]
The return of vote-pairing
By Jamin Raskin, Slate, October 25, 2004
One month ago, several veterans of 2000 launched VotePair.org, with the goals of ending the disastrous Bush presidency, propelling Kerry to victory in the swing states, showing respect rather than derision for the voice of third parties, and building a hopeful nationwide progressive alliance in a bitterly polarized polity. While more than 10,000 Democrats caught behind Republican lines in states like Utah and Texas have already joined VotePair and are happy to vote Nader to secure progressive votes in the swing states for Kerry, just a few thousand swing-state Nader and third-party sympathizers have signed up as partners so far.
The political dynamics are markedly different this year than in 2000, of course. With America's progressives focused like a laser-beam on ousting Bush and saving the Supreme Court, the pool of Nader-sympathetic progressives has already shrunk drastically. Yet, in a surprising twist, another group has stepped forward to offer hundreds of voters willing to pair: swing-state Libertarians appalled by the Orwellian, antichoice, antigay, and repressive policies of the budget-busting Bush administration. These voters want to declare for Kerry-Edwards and find progressives in closed states to vote for the Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik. In this intriguing new alignment, libertarian groups, among them Libertarians for America and the Democratic Freedom Caucus, are sending their supporters to VotePair. [complete article]
The military's new Catch-22
By Bettijane Levine, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2004
To understand the effect of the Army's "stop loss" (what some call the "back-door draft"), it's important to know how this sudden extension of military service affects those caught up in it. And to know that for those who volunteer to serve for a limited time -- and then are told they must continue in service long after they thought they could go home -- the issue is not partisan.
It is neither Republican nor Democratic. It is not a statement for or against the U.S. mission in Iraq. It is simply a shocker: a mysterious and sometimes unfathomable trip into a kind of Twilight Zone that has left thousands of military volunteers confused and disillusioned -- and sometimes deployed when they feel they should not be -- but still patriotic.
Todd Parrish, 31, went to college on an ROTC scholarship, with a commitment to serve four years of active duty and four years in the Reserve after graduation. He completed those commitments in December 2003. That's when he married Colette Doyle. "We waited until my contract with the military was over, so we could build a life free of obligations I created before I met her," Parrish says.
In March, Parrish and his new wife bought a house in Cary, N.C. In April, he accepted a promotion to run his company's engineering department. In May, he received orders, by regular mail, calling him up for active duty. He was to report to Ft. Sill, Okla., on June 11. [complete article]
Conflicted evangelicals could cost Bush votes
By Peter Wallsten, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2004
With their ardent, Bible-based opposition to abortion and gay marriage, evangelical Christians are a key target of the massive Republican get-out-the-vote drive heading into next week's election. Party leaders consider conservative Christians to be as near a lock for President Bush as any group can be.
But GOP strategists might want to have a chat with Tim Moore, an evangelical who teaches civics at a traditional Christian school near Milwaukee. He shares Bush's religious convictions, but says the president has lost his vote because of tax cuts for the wealthy and the administration's shifting rationales for invading Iraq.
"There's no way I'm going for Bush. That much I know," said Moore, 46. He remains undecided between Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and a third-party candidate.
Moore reflects a potential problem for Bush in Wisconsin and other closely contested states, where the GOP and conservative groups have invested heavily in turning out a record conservative Christian vote through mailings, voter guides, targeted phone calls and announcements by prominent evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and James Dobson aired on religious radio stations.
Some of these targeted voters remain conflicted -- torn between their religious convictions on so-called values issues, and concerns typical of suburban moms and dads, such as jobs, healthcare, the Iraq war and the environment. [complete article]
Is God an American voter?
By Jefferson Morley, Washington Post, October 26, 2004
"George Bush did what God wanted him to do," one U.S. voter told a reporter. "Who cares what the rest of the world thinks?"
That kind of religious fervor among President Bush's supporters, reported yesterday by the Sydney Morning Herald, is provoking a broad and deep backlash in the international online media. Even in news sites that supported President Bush's invasion of Iraq, pundits assert that the president's religiosity is a menace. [complete article]
Increase in war funding sought
By Jonathan Weisman and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, October 26, 2004
The Bush administration intends to seek about $70 billion in emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early next year, pushing total war costs close to $225 billion since the invasion of Iraq early last year, Pentagon and congressional officials said yesterday.
White House budget office spokesman Chad Kolton emphasized that final decisions on the supplemental spending request will not be made until shortly before the request is sent to Congress. That may not happen until early February, when President Bush submits his budget for fiscal 2006, assuming he wins reelection.
But Pentagon and House Appropriations Committee aides said the Defense Department and military services are scrambling to get their final requests to the White House Office of Management and Budget by mid-November, shortly after the election. The new numbers underscore that the war is going to be far more costly and intense, and last longer, than the administration first suggested. [complete article]
White House downplays missing Iraq explosives
By Mark Mazzetti and Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2004
The U.S. failure to guard hundreds of ammunition depots after the invasion has been well documented. Top military officials in Iraq believe that weapons taken from these sites have armed an insurgency that is taking American lives almost daily. More than 1,100 U.S. troops have been killed since the invasion began.
The explosive power of the stolen material -- just half a pound of HMX brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 -- has officials particularly worried.
"That's half a pound; 380 tons are missing -- that's almost 40 truckloads," an IAEA official said on condition of anonymity. "Imagine what it could do in the hands of insurgents there. It's a huge concern that it is missing, whatever it may be used for."
IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei has been stepping up pressure for an accounting of sensitive sites in Iraq. In a letter to the U.N. Security Council this month, he said that under IAEA agreements, Iraq is obligated "to declare semiannually changes that have occurred or are foreseen at sites deemed relevant by the agency." But since March 2003, he said, "the agency has received no such notifications or declarations."
The IAEA reported the missing explosives to the Security Council on Monday. The monitoring agency waited before informing the council to give the U.S.-led multinational force and Iraqi authorities a chance to track down the missing material, said IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming.
An article in Monday's New York Times accelerated the agency's disclosures.
Officials at the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon insisted that the 380 tons of stolen explosives were not a nuclear threat and noted that roughly 400,000 tons of collected munitions in Iraq had either been destroyed or were in U.S. custody. [complete article]
Comment -- The White House might have used similar logic on 9/11. 3,000 people died but 280 million survived. It depends on whether you have a sunny-side view of the world.
'Axis of evil' lullabies: A nod to peace
By Joe Heim, Washington Post, October 26, 2004
Never mind the Bruce Springsteen-led Vote for Change movement, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, punkvoter.com or even the two "Rock Against Bush" albums. The most thought-provoking musical statement made this election year just might be a CD of heartbreakingly beautiful songs for babies.
Due in stores today, "Lullabies From the Axis of Evil" (and surely this has to be the only collection of lullabies with the word "evil" in the title) brings together women from Iraq, Iran and North Korea, has them sing traditional lullabies of their lands, and pairs them with Western women performers who offer translations of the songs. The CD also features songs from other countries and territories that have a prickly history with the United States, including Syria, Cuba, Afghanistan and Palestine. [...]
"It was really a motherhood atmosphere," says singer Rim Banna, who had given birth to twins just months before the recording at her home in Nazareth. "I felt filled with emotion to sing these songs for this project."
Banna, who sings on two of the album's 15 songs, also sees the album as a message. "For me it is an answer to Mr. President Bush," she says. "It is an opportunity to say, 'Listen to these voices, these women.' The lullabies are a mirror of the cultures and they can be a bridge between cultures."
It may seem odd that a lullaby would take on such symbolic and political overtones. And yet these are lullabies brimming with symbolism. Several refer to enemies and abandonment, to living in exile, to guarding borders and to protection from . . . evil. They are traditional songs that pass down traditional fears. The first music to a baby's ears, loaded with history and lamentation. [complete article]
This CD is available here.
THE CIVILIAN TOLL OF WAR
Civil claims provide glimpse into war's impact on Iraqi citizens
By Russell Carollo, Larry Kaplow, Mike Wagner and Ken McCall, Dayton Daily News, October 23, 2004
Tahsin Ali Hussein al-Ruba'i knew that danger waited in the darkened streets, where American soldiers suspicious of every approaching vehicle lurked near poorly marked checkpoints.
The 32-year-old knew the danger because he made his living earning $3 to $4 a day driving his orange-and-white 1983 Volkswagen Passat in the streets of Baghdad. But on July 1, 2003, his infant daughter, Tabarek, had the flu, and he decided to risk driving to his in-laws so he could pick her up and take her to a hospital.
As his taxi neared the working-class Cairo Street neighborhood, American soldiers spread several Humvees across an eight-lane boulevard, preparing to stop oncoming vehicles. Fearing someone would be shot because the makeshift checkpoint had no signs, cones or lights, a man selling kabobs along the road 50 yards away started waving and yelling at unsuspecting motorists.
Al-Ruba'i apparently never got the warning.
Soldiers opened fire with rifles and mounted machine guns, riddling his taxi with bullet holes and killing him, witnesses said.
"They (the soldiers) were the reason for what happened. They didn't point to him and tell him to stop," said the kabob vendor, Taha Mehdi al-Jabouri. "They treat us in a savage way."
The family filed a civil claim asking for $2,500 from the American military, but the claim was denied.
The case is among 4,611 never-before-released civil claims from Iraq — hundreds alleging abuse and misconduct by American military personnel — on a computer database obtained by the Dayton Daily News through the federal Freedom of Information Act. The U.S. Army tort claims database is the most comprehensive public record released to date of alleged acts against Iraqi civilians by American forces, which do not otherwise systematically track civilian casualties.
The records provide a previously unseen portrait of the toll the war has had on civilians in Iraq, and the kinds of incidents described in the records have fueled the growing insurgency and hatred toward the American-led coalition. [complete article]
See also, Detainees file claims over abuses, confiscated funds and Compensation system fails some victims, from the Dayton Daily News' "Toll of war" series.
Comment -- Though the incidents of innocent Iraqis being shot at checkpoints have been written about most frequently, it seems likely that the most widespread cause of injury and loss of life comes from traffic accidents involving military convoys and contractor-operated convoys supplying military bases around Iraq. An article in Sunday's New York Times closes by mentioning this:
In Samawa [, one of the quietest cities in Iraq], Chief Zayad and others here said, the American convoys represent the greatest affront to Iraqi dignity. The Dutch [troops based there] and Iraqis say the convoys indiscriminately hit private cars and pedestrians, treating Iraqis only as obstacles to be removed. A few weeks ago, one such convoy struck a car, killing two Iraqi passengers and injuring three, the Dutch said. The convoy never stopped.
I have been told that drivers working for Halliburton are instructed to drive their trucks down the center of the road in order to avoid roadside bombs. As a result, vehicles coming from the opposite direction get driven off the road. Most such incidents are probably never documented and the truck drivers assured that "accidents" of this kind are unavoidable. But the outrage experienced by victims and their families can be no different than the experience of anyone, anywhere, struck in a hit-and-run accident. At the same time, soldiers and contractors are being encouraged to believe that fear alone is a justification for killing.
Questions mount over failure to hit Zarqawi's camp
By Scot J. Paltrow, Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2004
As the toll of mayhem inspired by terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi mounts in Iraq, some former officials and military officers increasingly wonder whether the Bush administration made a mistake months before the start of the war by stopping the military from attacking his camp in the northeastern part of that country.
The Pentagon drew up detailed plans in June 2002, giving the administration a series of options for a military strike on the camp Mr. Zarqawi was running then in remote northeastern Iraq, according to generals who were involved directly in planning the attack and several former White House staffers. They said the camp, near the town of Khurmal, was known to contain Mr. Zarqawi and his supporters as well as al Qaeda fighters, all of whom had fled from Afghanistan. Intelligence indicated the camp was training recruits and making poisons for attacks against the West.
Senior Pentagon officials who were involved in planning the attack said that even by spring 2002 Mr. Zarqawi had been identified as a significant terrorist target, based in part on intelligence that the camp he earlier ran in Afghanistan had been attempting to make chemical weapons, and because he was known as the head of a group that was plotting, and training for, attacks against the West. He already was identified as the ringleader in several failed terrorist plots against Israeli and European targets. In addition, by late 2002, while the White House still was deliberating over attacking the camp, Mr. Zarqawi was known to have been behind the October 2002 assassination of a senior American diplomat in Amman, Jordan.
But the raid on Mr. Zarqawi didn't take place. Months passed with no approval of the plan from the White House, until word came down just weeks before the March 19, 2003, start of the Iraq war that Mr. Bush had rejected any strike on the camp until after an official outbreak of hostilities with Iraq. Ultimately, the camp was hit just after the invasion of Iraq began. [complete article]
Massacre at Baquba: 49 Iraqi soldiers executed in attack designed to send message to U.S.
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, October 25, 2004
They were a group of unarmed army recruits, young Iraqis who had volunteered to help build a force capable of providing their country with security when the international troops had returned home.
But, to the insurgents, they were seen as traitors working hand-in-hand with the hated powers of occupation. And so, they were massacred, 49 of them, in one of the most brutal acts of violence in the current rebellion.
With Iraqis scheduled to go to the polls in January - and Americans voting next week - the murder of the army recruits starkly demonstrates the difficulty of building a domestic force capable of performing the function of foreign troops when they leave. It also makes a nonsense of claims that the situation on the ground is stabilising. [complete article]
See also, Inquiry into ambush opens; Iraqi forces feared infiltrated (NYT).
Baghdad rally for Hassan release
BBC News, October 25, 2004
Around 200 supporters of kidnapped aid worker Margaret Hassan have gathered at her Baghdad office to urge her release.
Many had been helped by Mrs Hassan or by Care International, the aid agency she worked for, BBC News 24 said.
Correspondent Claire Marshall said there was much support for Mrs Hassan amongst ordinary Iraqis, but that the rally was "completely unprecedented".
The Muslim Council in the city of Falluja - an insurgent stronghold - had also condemned the abduction, she said.
"Most people I speak to here are completely ashamed that somebody who's lived in the country for 30 years and worked on behalf of the Iraqi people, obviously so clearly and so strongly, should be the target of a kidnapping."
Protesters carried pictures of Mrs Hassan and banners calling for her captors to set her free. [complete article]
Bush administration has lowered the benchmark of "victory" in Iraq
By Tony Karon, Financial Mail (SA), October 22, 2004
Though Iraq has dominated the closest American election in living memory, the election result may not significantly alter the outlook for US involvement there.
Despite the ferocity of their debates over the decision to go to war, President George W Bush and senator John Kerry essentially prescribe the same programme of action. Both insist the US has no choice but to "win", and Kerry's "four-point plan" - to accelerate training of Iraqi security forces, reorient reconstruction spending to create short-term jobs, take steps to bring in more allies, and create a security climate to allow a credible election - is not much different from the efforts of the Bush administration.
Kerry, of course, talks about bringing home US troops in the near future; Bush counters that they'll stay till they've won. But don't misread Bush's campaign rhetoric: his administration has steadily lowered the benchmark of "victory". Last year's fantasy of remaking Iraq as a model, pro-US, Israel-friendly, democratic emerging market has floundered on the rocks of a growing nationalist insurgency and the strain on US resources of trying to impose American tutelage on a reluctant "pupil" nation.
The US simply doesn't have enough troops for Iraq, and plugging the gap with reserve and National Guard units is taking a political toll at home amid a rising casualty rate. The more than US$120bn price tag (so far) places strain on the debt-ridden, deficit-burdened fiscus.
Washington military and intelligence professionals (most of them Republican) concur that invading Iraq was an epic strategic blunder. Far from intimidating its enemies, it has shown them the limits of US power (don't buy the Muammar Gaddafi spin, he's been trying for a decade to come in from the cold). It has drawn a new generation of recruits to Al-Qaeda and emboldened Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions, confident that Washington has few military options available to deter them. [complete article]
Administration officials split over stalled military tribunals
By Tim Golden, New York Times, October 25, 2004
When hundreds of prisoners arrived at the American naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in early 2002, the Bush administration laid out a straightforward plan: once the men were interrogated, the worst of the lot would be prosecuted before special military tribunals devised to bring terrorists to justice quickly.
A year later, with no trials yet in sight, some officials at the highest levels of the Bush administration began privately venting their frustration about both the slow pace of the Pentagon's new courts and the soundness of their rules. Attorney General John Ashcroft was especially vocal.
"Timothy McVeigh was one of the worst killers in U.S. history," Mr. Ashcroft said at one meeting of senior officials, according to two of those present. "But at least we had fair procedures for him."
The administration invoked extraordinary wartime powers to set up the new system of military justice, arguing that the Sept. 11 attacks and the continuing threat they exposed justified the use of legal authorities that had not been exercised since World War II. But as officials sought to apply those powers to a very different kind of conflict, they became mired in problems they are still struggling to solve. [complete article]
Iran rejects latest proposal on uranium program
By Nazila Fathi, New York Times, October 24, 2004
Iran rejected today a proposal by Britain, Germany and France to suspend its uranium enrichment program and urged the three countries to offer a "more balanced" proposal.
In a meeting on Thursday in Vienna, the three European countries asked Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program in return for a guarantee of a supply of reactor fuel and to help Iran build a light-water power reactor.
"The European proposal is their preliminary proposition and is not definitive but it is unbalanced," said a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, Hamid Reza Assefi.
"We need to reach a balanced agreement; one that would eliminate Europeans' worries, if there are any; and one that would recognize our rights within the Nonproliferation Treaty," he added.
The proposal is considered the last chance for Iran before the International Atomic Energy Agency will decide on Nov. 25 if Iran is cooperating. The agency has set a deadline for Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program before the meeting. [complete article]
Unprecedented peril forces tough calls
By Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, October 26, 2004
Soon after Bush took office, three dozen analysts from around the government gathered for a full-day conference in Chantilly to sift top-secret, compartmented intelligence. If al Qaeda obtained a nuclear weapon, they asked, where would it come from?
Defining that threat, and its source, would top the list of urgent assignments for U.S. intelligence after Sept. 11.
"We thought the highest probability of their getting anything would be to buy a weapon full up" from corrupt or ideologically allied insiders in the chain of custody in a nuclear weapons state, said Richard A. Clarke, who organized the intelligence summit as Bush's national coordinator for counterterrorism. "We assumed the place most likely to supply that would be the former Soviet Union. They had more weapons, and there were more people involved in guarding them, compared to a fairly limited number of weapons in Pakistan that were fairly well accounted for."
Russia's risk factors were widespread corruption, a Chechen insurgency linked to radical Islamists elsewhere, and what Graham Allison, an assistant secretary of defense under Clinton, has called the "Willie Sutton Principle." In a recent book, "Nuclear Terrorism," Allison wrote, "When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton answered: 'Because that's where the money is.' " The logic of deterrence offered two strong reasons, U.S. intelligence judged, to doubt any government would deliberately transfer such a weapon. For one, al Qaeda might turn the bomb against its source. For another, the isotopic signature of a nuclear device can be traced to its country of manufacture, exposing that nation to catastrophic retaliation.
Al Qaeda's behavior suggested it had done much the same market survey. In 1998, in one of several similar cases, Israeli intelligence reported that bin Laden paid more than 2 million pounds to a middleman in Kazakhstan who promised to deliver a stolen warhead -- though there is no evidence that delivery took place.
A National Intelligence Estimate on nontraditional threats, completed long after Bush had committed himself to war in Iraq, reprised earlier judgments. Black-market sales from "the former Soviet Union, Pakistan -- those were the highest risks," said Richard A. Falkenrath, a former White House official who co-wrote Bush's classified May 2002 strategy "Combating Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction."
Bush took a different view. In the State of the Union address of Jan. 29, 2002, the president declared he would keep "the world's most destructive weapons" from al Qaeda and its allies by keeping those weapons from evil governments. Much later -- after applying that doctrine in Iraq -- he told a campaign audience in Pennsylvania, "We had to take a hard look at every place where terrorists might get those weapons and one regime stood out: the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein." [complete article]
The ultimate (preventable) catastrophe
Graham Allison interviewed by Nonna Gorilovskaya, Mother Jones, October 18, 2004
George W. Bush is on record as saying that nuclear terrorism is the gravest security threat facing the nation, and that the government's No. 1 job is preventing it. But look at his record and you have to wonder how serious he is. The Bush administration has lagged in efforts to secure nuclear materials and weapons in Russia, the likeliest source of terrorist nukes. Meanwhile, with the United States busy with Iraq and its non-existent nuclear weapons, North Korea has restarted its nuclear production line, and Iran has moved perilously close to wrapping up work on new facilities for making highly enriched uranium.
Graham Allison, author of Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, argues that if the U.S. government continues along its current path, a nuclear attack on the United States in the next ten years is "more likely than not." Allison, who served as an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy and Plans in the Clinton administration and is now a professor at Harvard, calls nuclear terrorism "the ultimate preventable catastrophe" -- preventable, that is, given sustained attention, investment, and massive international cooperation, none of which have been in abundant supply since the U.S. invaded Iraq. [complete article]
How to make new enemies
By Zbigniew Brzezinski, New York Times, October 25, 2004
...in the Islamic world at large as well as in Europe, Mr. Bush's policy is becoming conflated in the public mind with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policy in Gaza and the West Bank. Fueled by anti-American resentments, that policy is widely caricatured as a crude reliance on power, semicolonial in its attitude, and driven by prejudice toward the Islamic world. The likely effect is that staying on course under Mr. Bush will remain a largely solitary American adventure.
This global solitude might make a re-elected Bush administration more vulnerable to the temptation to embrace a new anti-Islamic alliance, one reminiscent of the Holy Alliance that emerged after 1815 to prevent revolutionary upheavals in Europe. The notion of a new Holy Alliance is already being promoted by those with a special interest in entangling the United States in a prolonged conflict with Islam. Vladimir Putin's endorsement of Mr. Bush immediately comes to mind; it also attracts some anti-Islamic Indian leaders hoping to prevent Pakistan from dominating Afghanistan; the Likud in Israel is also understandably tempted; even China might play along.
For the United States, however, a new Holy Alliance would mean growing isolation in an increasingly polarized world. That prospect may not faze the extremists in the Bush administration who are committed to an existential struggle against Islam and who would like America to attack Iran, but who otherwise lack any wider strategic conception of what America's role in the world ought to be. It is, however, of concern to moderate Republicans.
Unfortunately, the predicament faced by America in Iraq is also more complex than the solutions offered so far by the Democratic side in the presidential contest. Senator John Kerry would have the advantage of enjoying greater confidence among America's traditional allies, since he might be willing to re-examine a war that he himself had not initiated. But that alone will not produce German or French funds and soldiers. The self-serving culture of comfortable abstention from painful security responsibilities has made the major European leaders generous in offering criticism but reluctant to assume burdens.
To get the Europeans to act, any new administration will have to confront them with strategic options. The Europeans need to be convinced that the United States recognizes that the best way to influence the eventual outcome of the civil war within Islam is to shape an expanding Grand Alliance (as opposed to a polarizing Holy Alliance) that embraces the Middle East by taking on the region's three most inflammatory and explosive issues: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the mess in Iraq, and the challenge of a restless and potentially dangerous Iran. [complete article]
U.S. favors "scaled-back" democracy for Iraq
By Ashraf Khalil and Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2004
While publicly stressing the need for Iraqis to control their own destiny, the Bush administration is working behind the scenes to coax its closest Iraqi allies into a coalition that could dominate elections scheduled for January.
U.S. authorities in Washington and Iraqi politicians confirmed that top White House officials have told leaders of the six major parties that were on the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council that it would be in the groups' common interest to present a unified electoral slate.
The U.S. effort to influence the parliamentary elections is highly sensitive, coming at a time when President Bush daily expresses his desire to bring liberty and democracy to a nation that for decades has known only authoritarian rule. But the White House move stems from concerns that neighboring Iran is using its money and influence to try to sway the elections in its favor.
One U.S. official in Washington said the administration now believes Iraq needs a "negotiated resolution … a scaled-back democratic process."
Between the two conflicting key goals, "I see the arguments for stability now outweighing the calls for democracy," said the official, who declined to be identified. The formation of a unified slate would further entrench the U.S.-allied parties, which are mostly led by longtime exiles with dubious popular support and are still viewed with suspicion by many Iraqi citizens. [complete article]
Huge cache of explosives vanished from site in Iraq
By James Glanz, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 25, 2004
The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations.
The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year.
The White House said President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was informed within the past month that the explosives were missing. It is unclear whether President Bush was informed. American officials have never publicly announced the disappearance, but beginning last week they answered questions about it posed by The New York Times and the CBS News program "60 Minutes."
Administration officials said Sunday that the Iraq Survey Group, the C.I.A. task force that searched for unconventional weapons, has been ordered to investigate the disappearance of the explosives.
American weapons experts say their immediate concern is that the explosives could be used in major bombing attacks against American or Iraqi forces: the explosives, mainly HMX and RDX, could produce bombs strong enough to shatter airplanes or tear apart buildings. [complete article]
Chaos, murder and mayhem
By Haifa Zangana, The Guardian, October 25, 2004
An average of 100 Iraqis are killed every day. Kidnapping for profit or revenge is widespread. Young girls are sold to neighbouring countries for prostitution.
Madeline Hadi, a nine-year-old girl, was kidnapped from her father's car in the al-Doura district of Baghdad. Zinah Falih Hassan, a student in al-Warkaa secondary school, also in Baghdad, was kidnapped on her way back from school. Asma, a young engineer, was abducted in Baghdad. She was shopping with her mother, sister and male relative when six armed men kidnapped her. She was repeatedly raped.
Mahnaz Bassam and Raad Ali Abdul Aziz were kidnapped last month along with two Italian aid workers and subsequently released. Unlike the Italians, the two Iraqis did not receive media attention in the west. No one prayed for them.
And aid workers are not the only victims - 250 university professors and scientists have been killed in the past year, according to the Union of University Lecturers, and more than 1,000 academics have left the country
Iraqi journalists are also frequently harassed, threatened and attacked by occupying troops. This year, 12 of the 14 journalists killed were Iraqi, and six Iraqi media workers were also killed. Many journalists have also fled the country.
More than 100 Iraqi doctors and consultants have been killed or kidnapped in the past year. A spokesperson for the Iraqi Medical Society described the kidnappings as "intimidating and forcing them to leave the country". The latest victim was Dr Turki Jabar al Saadi, chair of the Iraqi veterinary society. He was shot in the head on October 21. None of these killings has been investigated. These atrocities go unrecorded. The dead are unnamed.
There are indeed reasons for all this chaos, murder and mayhem. Those reasons lie in the nature of invasion, war and, most crucially of all, occupation. [complete article]
Prolonged U.S. occupation turning Iraqis into fighters
By Borzou Daragahi, Seattle Times, October 24, 2004
U.S. forces all but destroyed the northern city of Tal Afar last month, saying it was necessary to cleanse the city of foreign fighters that had taken over the city government.
However, no foreign fighters were found. Instead, say Iraqi politicians and tribal leaders, the insurgents in the city of 150,000 were local citizens angered by months of what they perceived as unnecessary U.S. raids on houses, arrests of innocent people and collective punishment.
During the 17-month insurgency since the United States invaded Iraq, U.S. officials have painted a consistent picture of the enemy, pointing to religious extremists, so-called "dead-enders" with ties to the Saddam Hussein regime and foreigners who slip across the country's porous borders.
However, interviews with Iraqis of various political stripes suggest something starkly different: a growing but unknown number of ordinary Iraqi citizens have tired of the occupation and armed themselves to fight American troops. [complete article]
Letters from the home front
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, October 24, 2004
Last week, at this site, Teri Wills Allison, a mother from Texas whose soldier son is now in Iraq, wrote an up-close and personal piece on "the costs of war" -- for her and us. It was a brave essay in which she discussed, among other things, how it feels to have your son so far away and in danger, and the kinds of angry emotions Bush's war evokes in her. It brought a small flood of e-mail to the Tomdispatch mailbox.
One thing struck me: Amid all the pundits opining and journalists reporting on the state of the nation, we almost never hear the voices of Americans who, like Teri Allison, have to deal with the fallout from the mess this administration has created. There's no place in our media for that.
To give but a small example, Allison spoke of the way Bush's war has driven a wedge into her extended family -- between herself and relatives who have "become evangelical believers in a false faith, swallowing Bush's fear mongering… cheering his ‘bring ‘em on' attitude as a sign of strength and resoluteness." When pundits and journalists write about "polarization" in America, they talk about red states and blue states. It sounds politically important, yet strangely abstract; just those big colored squares on a map. What Allison's piece and the letters in response tell us is that, as at the height of the Vietnam War, such polarization is reaching deep into families, causing intense pain and anguish. This is another kind of reality, possibly more important than what you read in the papers. [complete article]
843 ex-soldiers called up are no-shows, Army says
By Robert Burns, Associated Press (via Chicago Sun-Times), October 24, 2004
More than 800 former soldiers have failed to comply with Army orders to get back in uniform and report for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, the Army said Friday. That is more than one-third of the total who were told to report to a mobilization station by Oct. 17.
Three weeks ago, the number stood at 622 amid talk that any who refused to report for duty could be declared absent without leave. Refusing to report for duty normally would lead to AWOL charges, but the Army is going out of its way to resolve these cases as quietly as possible. [complete article]
Comment -- While the US is having trouble mustering its own forces it has called for help from Britain's 850-strong Black Watch regiment. Scottish troops are moving from the relative safety of southern Iraq to patrol streets south of Baghdad where bombs are rapidly being positioned in anticipation of their arrival. Small wonder then that when asked recently about future British support for new American military interventions, a British diplomatic said emphatically, "Never again!"
Insurgents in Latifiyah eager to battle British
Washington Times, October 25, 2004
Anti-government forces in this city just south of Baghdad say they are preparing a grim welcome for Britain's Black Watch regiment when it moves north from Basra as early as this week.
"It'll be easy to beat the British because the British are weaker than the Americans," boasted Abdullah Al-Ashiq, the reputed head of resistance fighters in this city, the U.S. Marine defenders of which are being shifted for an anticipated offensive in Fallujah, an insurgent stronghold.
The British "are used to fighting against pathetic forces like the Mahdi's Army of Muqtada al-Sadr," he scoffed. "That means they haven't got good experience in real fighting. Just wait. The British will discover the difference between us and them -- the hard way."
Preparations to fight the British are at fever pitch, with the positioning of booby traps, roadside bombs and mortars. [complete article]
U.N. envoy warns against U.S. attack on Fallouja
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2004
The new United Nations envoy to Iraq warned Sunday that a U.S. offensive in Fallouja could further divide the nation as it struggles to prepare for January elections.
Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the U.N. special representative for Iraq, also said the international body was prepared to mediate a peaceful solution in Fallouja, the rebel stronghold that has been under almost daily bombardment by U.S. warplanes.
"There is a concern with respect primarily to civilian casualties which are taking place and the impact it could have for the political process," said Qazi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington.
Asked if the U.N. had offered to intervene in the Fallouja standoff, Qazi said, "The U.N. is ready to do anything, anywhere, which can strengthen the political process through promoting national reconciliation." [complete article]
Falluja's fighters dig in for the final onslaught
By Peter Beaumont, The Observer, October 24, 2004
The last streets of flat-roofed houses of the al-Shuhada district of Falluja peter out into unpaved roads that make their way between the fields to the villages populated by the Zawbi tribe.
Under cover of darkness, the fighters of Falluja's resistance creep across this landscape, moving men and weapons from safe houses in the villages towards Shuhada, towards the battle for Falluja.
Early yesterday it was US Marine vehicles that were heading into Shuhada, turning out of their forward operating base - a walled former resort of low bungalows round a lake known to Iraqis as 'Dreamland' - for a house raid that US military sources say netted a 'senior leader' in the network run by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, along with five others. He was named as Abdel-Hamid Fiyadh, 50, who was arrested along with his two sons, Walid, 18, and Majid, 25, and three relatives.
For a year and more, this is how the war in Falluja has been conducted: at night, raids by American troops seen largely through the green shimmer of their night-vision goggles; by day, block searches and vehicle checkpoints.
On the insurgents' side, it has been prosecuted with an equal, if covert, vigour among the back lanes and along the quiet lanes to the south that act as supply routes between other centres for the rebellion.
But it is the city itself and districts such as Shuhada that are the centre of gravity of the insurgency, along with the densely concentrated al-Askari neighbourhood on the Euphrates to the city's east, and the district of Johan in the city's north-west.
After a year and a half of gun battles, artillery and tank fire and bombing raids, many of the houses of Shuhada are scarred. But Shuhada is on the brink of even greater violence as US and Iraqi forces mass for what they hope will be the definitive battle of the Sunni Triangle.
How that battle unfolds will not only hold the key to Iraq's elections in January, and to a joint US-British military strategy, but to the life of Margaret Hassan and perhaps to how history will judge the actions of both George Bush and Tony Blair. [complete article]
Why America has waged a losing battle on Fallouja
By Alissa J. Rubin and Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2004
As soon as the women of Fallouja learned that four Americans had been killed, their bodies mutilated, burned and strung up from a bridge, they knew a terrible battle was coming.
They filled their bathtubs and buckets with water. They bought sacks of rice and lentils. They considered that they might soon die.
"When we heard the news," said Turkiya Abid, 62, a mother of 15, "we began to say the Shahada," the Muslim profession of faith.
There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.
In Washington, the reaction to the March 31 killings was exactly what the women of Fallouja had expected: anger. Those inside George W. Bush's White House believed that the atrocity demanded a forceful response, that the United States could not sit still when its citizens were murdered.
President Bush summoned his secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and the commander of his forces in the Middle East, Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, to ask what they recommended.
Rumsfeld and Abizaid were ready with an answer, one official said: "a specific and overwhelming attack" to seize Fallouja. That was what Bush was hoping to hear, an aide said later.
What the president was not told was that the Marines on the ground sharply disagreed with a full-blown assault on the city. [complete article]
Memo lets CIA take detainees out of Iraq
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, October 24, 2004
At the request of the CIA, the Justice Department drafted a confidential memo that authorizes the agency to transfer detainees out of Iraq for interrogation -- a practice that international legal specialists say contravenes the Geneva Conventions.
One intelligence official familiar with the operation said the CIA has used the March draft memo as legal support for secretly transporting as many as a dozen detainees out of Iraq in the last six months. The agency has concealed the detainees from the International Committee of the Red Cross and other authorities, the official said.
The draft opinion, written by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and dated March 19, 2004, refers to both Iraqi citizens and foreigners in Iraq, who the memo says are protected by the treaty. It permits the CIA to take Iraqis out of the country to be interrogated for a "brief but not indefinite period." It also says the CIA can permanently remove persons deemed to be "illegal aliens" under "local immigration law."
Some specialists in international law say the opinion amounts to a reinterpretation of one of the most basic rights of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians during wartime and occupation, including insurgents who were not part of Iraq's military. [complete article]
After terror, a secret rewriting of military law
By Tim Golden, New York Times, October 24, 2004
In early November 2001, with Americans still staggered by the Sept. 11 attacks, a small group of White House officials worked in great secrecy to devise a new system of justice for the new war they had declared on terrorism.
Determined to deal aggressively with the terrorists they expected to capture, the officials bypassed the federal courts and their constitutional guarantees, giving the military the authority to detain foreign suspects indefinitely and prosecute them in tribunals not used since World War II.
The plan was considered so sensitive that senior White House officials kept its final details hidden from the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and the secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, officials said. It was so urgent, some of those involved said, that they hardly thought of consulting Congress.
White House officials said their use of extraordinary powers would allow the Pentagon to collect crucial intelligence and mete out swift, unmerciful justice. "We think it guarantees that we'll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve," said Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a driving force behind the policy.
But three years later, not a single terrorist has been prosecuted. Of the roughly 560 men being held at the United States naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only 4 have been formally charged. Preliminary hearings for those suspects brought such a barrage of procedural challenges and public criticism that verdicts could still be months away. And since a Supreme Court decision in June that gave the detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court, the Pentagon has stepped up efforts to send home hundreds of men whom it once branded as dangerous terrorists. [complete article]
Ardent faith squares off against earnest reflection
By Roger Cohen, New York Times, October 24, 2004
The other day, in southern Oregon, George W. Bush greeted the crowd by saying it was great to be in a place "with more boots than suits." It was a typical line from a president who likes words of one syllable. Mr. Bush, child of wealth, campaigns as regular guy and anti-establishment dude.
It's a tough act to match, tougher for an affluent and reserved New Englander. Here in Minnesota last week, John Kerry spent time lauding the sound judgment of Minnesotans and asking if was not time to put "common sense" back in the White House. "Yes" came the booming reply, voiced with the kind of passion the Bush crowd reserves for "a culture of life" (his code for opposition to abortion) and "reverence."
To move from one campaign to the other is to feel like Alice swooning into her inverted world. It is a source of wonder, although perhaps not wonderful, that two such distinct Americas of equal strength confront each other. Each is convinced this is "the choice of a lifetime," as Mr. Kerry likes to put it, a vote to define not just America's government but America itself, the state of our souls and the fate of an anxious world.
Forget the specific issues, from Iraq to Social Security. The bottom line is this: Mr. Kerry's universe has faith in common sense, believes questions may sometimes be as important as answers, mistrusts conviction so absolute it can never be questioned, distrusts destiny, distinguishes between power and leadership and rocks to Bruce Springsteen.
Mr. Bush's universe has faith in faith, believes questioning empowers enemies, equates conviction with the strength that will spread freedom, is convinced there is no leadership without the projection of American power, holds that American destiny is manifest and grooves to country music. [complete article]
Jews, Israel and America
By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, October 24, 2004
Mr. Sharon, a man of the right, has finally realized the demographic threat posed by Gaza to Israel and wants to get out. He is being opposed by the Israeli far right - the Jewish Hezbollah. This includes settler rabbis who have urged soldiers to disobey orders and, with winks and nods, have let it be known that if someone were to eliminate Ariel Sharon he would be acting out God's will. In this struggle between Jewish fanatics and Ariel Sharon, we must stand with Mr. Sharon. These settler rabbis are a blot on the Jewish people.
But in the struggle between Mr. Sharon and common sense, America should be with common sense. The late Yitzhak Rabin wanted to get out of Gaza to make peace with the Palestinians, because he understood the danger of "Jews, Israel and America" all getting melded together in the nuclear age. Mr. Rabin knew that no peace deal would resonate in the Arab-Muslim world if it did not have a legitimate Palestinian partner. Mr. Sharon seems to want to get out of Gaza to make peace with the Jews. His aides have made clear that he is getting out of Gaza in order to entrench Israel even more deeply in the West Bank and the Jewish settlements there. [complete article]
Comment -- The "demographic threat" facing Israel will continue for as long as Israel resists the imperative of secular democracy. That is, the need for any state to be able to reshape its identity in response to the needs and aspirations of its people. In a secular, pluralistic democracy, "the people" are ultimately defined by the geographic boundaries of the state. This is why in America, to be born here confers the natural right of citizenship. For as long as Israel continues to grant greater rights to some people born in other lands than it does to some people born in the land it controls, it will remain a nation more deeply rooted in an idea than it is in a place.
Bodies of 49 Iraqi troops found dead in eastern Iraq
By Karl Vick, Washington Post, October 24, 2004
The bodies of 49 freshly trained Iraqi army recruits were discovered on a roadside about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad, lined up and executed by insurgents, Iraqi officials said early Sunday.
In a separate attack, a State Department security officer was killed when a rocket or mortar landed in a U.S. military base at 5 a.m., according to a spokesman for the American embassy.
The killings of Iraqi recruits occurred about 8 p.m. Saturday near the army's main training base in Kirkush, which the recruits had just left aboard three buses to begin a leave, according to officials and news service reports. The buses stopped at a checkpoint manned by insurgents clad in uniforms of the Iraqi National Guard, according to the al-Aribyia satellite news channel.
The recruits appeared to have filed off the buses, lined up in four rows and laid down before being shot. The first 37 bodies were discovered Saturday night. Another 12 were found after daybreak Sunday. [complete article]
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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
Bush said no to plan to send Muslim peacekeepers to Iraq to help U.N. organize elections
By Mohamad Bazzi, Newsday, October 18, 2004
President George W. Bush rebuffed a plan last month for a Muslim peacekeeping force that would have helped the United Nations organize elections in Iraq, according to Saudi and Iraqi officials.
As a result, the UN continues to have a skeletal presence in Iraq, with only four staff members working full time on preparing for elections set for the end of January. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has refused to establish a new UN headquarters in Baghdad unless countries commit troops for a special force to protect it.
Saudi leaders, including Crown Prince Abdullah, personally lobbied Bush in July to sign off on the plan to establish a contingent of several hundred troops from Arab and Muslim nations. Abdullah discussed the plan in a 10-minute phone conversation with Bush on July 28 after meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, according to Saudi officials familiar with the negotiations.
Diplomats said Annan accepted the plan. But the Bush administration objected because the special force would have been controlled by the UN instead of by U.S. military officers who run the Multi-National Force in Iraq. Muslim and Arab countries refused to work under U.S. command, and the initiative died in early September.
"Muslim countries that were willing to provide troops were not willing to put them under the command of the U.S.-led coalition," said a senior Iraqi security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "In many of these nations, there was too much domestic pressure for the governments to justify putting their troops under U.S. control."
The White House confirmed Friday that U.S. military commanders raised objections because the Muslim troops would not have been under their control. "It was a serious issue for commanders of the Multi-National Force," said a White House spokesman who refused to be identified by name.
The spokesman said the primary reason for the plan's failure was opposition from the Iraqi government, which did not want troops from neighboring countries to be deployed inside Iraq.
But Iraqi officials already had worked out a deal with the Saudis ruling out the involvement of any country that borders Iraq. In early July, the interim Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, sent letters formally requesting troops to about a dozen Arab and Muslim nations. Allawi also visited several countries in July and August to personally plead with their leaders to send troops.
The episode raises doubts about the Bush administration's repeated assertions that proper elections can be held in Iraq by January and that it is eager to have other countries send troops to Iraq to ease the burden on American forces. The U.S.-led coalition has been losing members since the insurgency intensified in April. Five countries -- Spain, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines -- have pulled out their troops, about 2,200 total.
Afghanistan, Iraq: Two wars collide
By Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, October 22, 2004
In the second half of March 2002, as the Bush administration mapped its next steps against al Qaeda, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin brought an unexpected message to the White House Situation Room. According to two people with firsthand knowledge, he told senior members of the president's national security team that the CIA was scaling back operations in Afghanistan.
That announcement marked a year-long drawdown of specialized military and intelligence resources from the geographic center of combat with Osama bin Laden. As jihadist enemies reorganized, slipping back and forth from Pakistan and Iran, the CIA closed forward bases in the cities of Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar. The agency put off an $80 million plan to train and equip a friendly intelligence service for the new U.S.-installed Afghan government. Replacements did not keep pace with departures as case officers finished six-week tours. And Task Force 5 -- a covert commando team that led the hunt for bin Laden and his lieutenants in the border region -- lost more than two-thirds of its fighting strength.
The commandos, their high-tech surveillance equipment and other assets would instead surge toward Iraq through 2002 and early 2003, as President Bush prepared for the March invasion that would extend the field of battle in the nation's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Bush has shaped his presidency, and his reelection campaign, around the threat that announced itself in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Five days after the attacks, he made it clear that he conceived a broader war. Impromptu remarks on the White House South Lawn were the first in which he named "this war on terrorism," and he cast it as a struggle with "a new kind of evil." Under that banner he toppled two governments, eased traditional restraints on intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and reshaped the landscape of the federal government.
As the war on terrorism enters its fourth year, its results are sufficiently diffuse -- and obscured in secrecy -- to resist easy measure. Interpretations of the public record are also polarized by the claims and counterclaims of the presidential campaign. Bush has staked his reelection on an argument that defense of the U.S. homeland requires unyielding resolve to take the fight to the terrorists. His opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), portrays the Bush strategy as based on false assumptions and poor choices, particularly when it came to Iraq.
The contention that the Iraq invasion was an unwise diversion in confronting terrorism has been central to Kerry's critique of Bush's performance. But this account -- drawn largely from interviews with those who have helped manage Bush's offensive -- shows how the debate over that question has echoed within the ranks of the administration as well, even among those who support much of the president's agenda.
Senator says Pentagon unit hyped terror tie
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, October 22, 2004
A small Pentagon unit set up after Sept. 11, 2001, to review raw intelligence later exaggerated the relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq, leading White House officials to make overblown or inaccurate comments in the run-up to the Iraq war, according to the Democratic staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The staff's report, based on a 15-month investigation and released yesterday by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's top Democrat, accused the office of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith of compiling "selective reinterpretations of intelligence" that went beyond the views of American spy agencies in order to help make the case for an invasion of Iraq.
The 46-page report concluded that Feith and his staff were convinced that a significant relationship existed between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and that the office had advanced that perspective by trying to change the intelligence community's views and "by taking its interpretation straight to policymakers."
See the complete Report of an Inquiry into the Alternative Analysis of the Issue of an Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship (PDF format).
Religious leaders ahead in Iraq poll
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, October 22, 2004
Leaders of Iraq's religious parties have emerged as the country's most popular politicians and would win the largest share of votes if an election were held today, while the U.S.-backed government of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is losing serious ground, according to a U.S.-financed poll by the International Republican Institute.
More than 45 percent of Iraqis also believe that their country is heading in the wrong direction, and 41 percent say it is moving in the right direction.
Within the Bush administration, a victory by Iraq's religious parties is viewed as the worst-case scenario. Washington has hoped that Allawi and the current team, which was selected by U.S. and U.N. envoys, would win or do well in Iraq's first democratic election, in January. U.S. officials believe a secular government led by moderates is critical, in part because the new government will oversee writing a new Iraqi constitution.
"The picture it paints is that, after all the blood and treasure we've spent and despite the [U.S.-led] occupation's democracy efforts, we're in a position now that the moderates would not win if an election were held today," said a U.S. official who requested anonymity because the poll has not been released.
Estimates by U.S. see more rebels with more funds
By Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, New York Times, October 22, 2004
Senior American officials are beginning to assemble a new portrait of the insurgency that has continued to inflict casualties on American and Iraqi forces, showing that it has significantly more fighters and far greater financial resources than had been estimated.
When foreign fighters and the network of a Jordanian militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are counted with home-grown insurgents, the hard-core resistance numbers between 8,000 and 12,000 people, a tally that swells to more than 20,000 when active sympathizers or covert accomplices are included, according to the American officials.
These estimates contrast sharply with earlier intelligence reports, in which the number of insurgents has varied from as few as 2,000 to a maximum of 7,000. The revised estimate is influencing the military campaign in Iraq, but has not prompted a wholesale review of the strategy, officials said.
In recent interviews, military and other government officials in Iraq and Washington said the core of the Iraqi insurgency now consisted of as many as 50 militant cells that draw on "unlimited money'' from an underground financial network run by former Baath Party leaders and Saddam Hussein's relatives.
Falluja in their sights
By Patrick Graham, The Guardian, October 21, 2004
As the British government prepares to send its soldiers north to free up the US army to attack Falluja, it is necessary to focus on what this coming onslaught will mean for the city and its people. Falluja is already now being bombed daily, as it is softened up for the long-awaited siege. It has been a gruelling year for its people. First, they were occupied by the US army's 82nd Airborne, an incompetent group of louts whose idea of cultural sensitivity was kicking a door down instead of blowing it up. Within eight months of the invasion, the 82nd had killed about 100 civilians in the area and lost control of Falluja, leaving it to the US marines to try and retake the city last April. After killing about 600 civilians, the marines retreated, leaving the city in the hands of 18 armed groups, including tribesmen, Islamists, Ba'athists, former criminals and an assortment of non-Iraqi Arab fighters said to be led by the Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Fallujans have now been offered a choice: hand over the outsiders they dislike (mostly Arabs) who are protecting them from the outsiders they really hate (the Americans), or get blown apart by the world's most lethal killing machine, the US marines. Zarqawi's influence on the resistance has been wildly exaggerated - indeed, many people in Falluja don't even believe he exists, and most find the non-Iraqi Arabs' brand of Salafi fundamentalism at odds with their local Sufi traditions. Today, many Fallujans are tired even of their own mujahideen, but trust the US army even less, and with good reason. Recently, a Bush administration official told the New York Times the bombing was driving a wedge between the citizenry and the non-Iraqi fighters. If, indeed, the civilian population is being bombed for this end, this is a grave war crime.
(See also an earlier article about Patrick Graham's reporting from Fallujah, Embedded with the resistance (WP, June 1, 2004). Graham's feature article -- "Beyond Fallujah: A Year With the Iraqi Resistance," appeared in print (but not online) in the June issue of Harper's magazine.)
The 9/11 secret in the CIA's back pocket
By Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, October 19, 2004
The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election, and this one names names. Although the report by the inspector general's office of the CIA was completed in June, it has not been made available to the congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago.
"It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed," an intelligence official who has read the report told me, adding that "the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward."
When I asked about the report, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she and committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) sent a letter 14 days ago asking for it to be delivered. "We believe that the CIA has been told not to distribute the report," she said. "We are very concerned."
According to the intelligence official, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, release of the report, which represents an exhaustive 17-month investigation by an 11-member team within the agency, has been "stalled." First by acting CIA Director John McLaughlin and now by Porter J. Goss, the former Republican House member (and chairman of the Intelligence Committee) who recently was appointed CIA chief by President Bush.
The official stressed that the report was more blunt and more specific than the earlier bipartisan reports produced by the Bush-appointed Sept. 11 commission and Congress.
"What all the other reports on 9/11 did not do is point the finger at individuals, and give the how and what of their responsibility. This report does that," said the intelligence official. "The report found very senior-level officials responsible."
Killing children is no longer a big deal
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, October 17, 2004
More than 30 Palestinian children were killed in the first two weeks of Operation Days of Penitence in the Gaza Strip. It's no wonder that many people term such wholesale killing of children "terror." Whereas in the overall count of all the victims of the intifada the ratio is three Palestinians killed for every Israeli killed, when it comes to children the ratio is 5:1. According to B'Tselem, the human rights organization, even before the current operation in Gaza, 557 Palestinian minors (below the age of 18) were killed, compared to 110 Israeli minors.
Palestinian human rights groups speak of even higher numbers: 598 Palestinian children killed (up to age 17), according to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, and 828 killed (up to age 18) according to the Red Crescent. Take note of the ages, too. According to B'Tselem, whose data are updated until about a month ago, 42 of the children who have been killed were 10; 20 were seven; and eight were two years old when they died. The youngest victims are 13 newborn infants who died at checkpoints during birth.
With horrific statistics like this, the question of who is a terrorist should have long since become very burdensome for every Israeli. Yet it is not on the public agenda. Child killers are always the Palestinians, the soldiers always only defend us and themselves, and the hell with the statistics.
Post-war planning non-existent
By Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott, Knight Ridder, October 17, 2004
In March 2003, days before the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American war planners and intelligence officials met at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to review the Bush administration's plans to oust Saddam Hussein and implant democracy in Iraq.
Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon's plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners' parlance as Phase 4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material - and for good reason.
The slide said: "To Be Provided."
A Knight Ridder review of the administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that it invaded Iraq without a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country. The administration also failed to provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to help restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions.
In fact, some senior Pentagon officials had thought they could bring most American soldiers home from Iraq by September 2003. Instead, more than a year later, 138,000 U.S. troops are still fighting terrorists who slip easily across Iraq's long borders, diehards from the old regime and Iraqis angered by their country's widespread crime and unemployment and America's sometimes heavy boots.
"We didn't go in with a plan. We went in with a theory," said a veteran State Department officer who was directly involved in Iraq policy.
Iraq's barbed realities
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, October 17, 2004
In July 2003, when travel around Iraq didn't require armored cars and armed guards, my translator and I took a day trip to Fallujah. Unrest was on the rise there and we were curious about who was behind the violence. Was it indeed former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party? We wanted to get some truth on the ground. Even if the reporting foray was a bust, we planned to stuff ourselves at Haji Hussein, our favorite kebab restaurant.
At the mayor's office and the police station, my translator, Naseer, tried to find someone who would speak with candor. "They're all liars," he declared after a few interviews. Then, as we were about to give up, a mayoral aide told us to look up the city's senior tribal chief, Sheik Khamis Hassnawi. "He'll tell you what's really happening," the aide whispered.
In a city where residents often began conversations with diatribes against the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, Hassnawi was a refreshing exception. Although he appeared to come from central casting, with his prominent nose, weathered face and checkered headscarf, he talked for much of the afternoon -- over Dunhill cigarettes and takeout from Haji Hussein -- about how Fallujah could be saved with the help of the U.S. military. The Americans, he said, needed to find a way to employ the legions of former soldiers and other disaffected young men milling about the city. Unlike Shiites in the south, who had grown accustomed to unemployment and poverty, Sunnis in Fallujah had thrived on government contracts, smuggling and graft. Postwar joblessness was a new, embarrassing -- and dangerous -- phenomenon. "Either you put them to work," Hassnawi said, "or they will turn to the resistance."
Without a doubt
By Ron Suskind, New York Times, October 17, 2004
Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that "if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3." The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.
"Just in the past few months," Bartlett said, "I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do." Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: "This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them....
"This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts," Bartlett went on to say. "He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence." Bartlett paused, then said, "But you can't run the world on faith."
In the GOP, the long knives are out for the neoconservatives
By Thomas Omestad, US News and World Report, October 25, 2004
There's no question whom Richard Viguerie wants to see in the White House for the next four years. A founding father of the modern conservative movement, he is foursquare behind President Bush despite what he regards as undue influence from one wing of the GOP, the neoconservatives. In this, Viguerie reflects a hallowed Republican Party tradition: Mute policy differences and unite at election time.
But for Viguerie and other conservative leaders, maintaining that discipline this year is harder than usual. The Republicans' united front masks a growing struggle sparked by the president's hawkish and ambitious foreign policy--one that may burst into the open soon after the polls close, whoever wins. "Most conservatives are not comfortable with the neocons," Viguerie says. He decries the neocons as "overbearing" and "immensely influential.... They want to be the world's policeman. We don't feel our role is to be Don Quixote, righting all the wrongs in the world."
Viguerie's disquiet is widely shared by veteran conservative activists, who are increasingly blaming neoconservatives for placing Iraq at the center of the war on terrorism. "I'm hearing more discussion about foreign policy and the direction of the country than I have heard probably in the last 35 years," says Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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