The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Violence erupts across Iraq and aid agencies warn of disaster as U.S. declares battle of Fallujah is over
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 14, 2004

The United States and Iraq's interim government claimed yesterday that the battle for Fallujah was over, with 1,000 insurgents killed and the rebel stronghold effectively pacified after six days of fighting.

But even as the victory was being declared, wide-spread violence erupted throughout the rest of the country, with parts of Mosul passing into the hands of insurgents, forcing the American military to detach and rush part of its Fallujah force to the northern city. There was also street fighting in Baghdad, where mortar rounds were fired at the Green Zone, the heavily barricaded heart of US power in Iraq, and heavy fighting in the town of Yusufiyah, south of the capital.

Aid agencies warned of a humanitarian disaster in Fallujah and neighbouring areas, with outbreaks of typhoid and other diseases. Eight groups said in a joint letter that there were now 200,000 refugees who have fled the fighting and are without food, water or shelter. People leaving the city described rotting bodies piling up on the streets. [complete article]

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Deputy chief resigns from CIA
By Dana Priest and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 13, 2004

The deputy director of the CIA resigned yesterday after a series of confrontations over the past week between senior operations officials and CIA Director Porter J. Goss's new chief of staff that have left the agency in turmoil, according to several current and former CIA officials.

John E. McLaughlin, a 32-year CIA veteran who was acting director for two months this summer until Goss took over, resigned after warning Goss that his top aide, former Capitol Hill staff member Patrick Murray, was treating senior officials disrespectfully and risked widespread resignations, the officials said.

Yesterday, the agency official who oversees foreign operations, Deputy Director of Operations Stephen R. Kappes, tendered his resignation after a confrontation with Murray. Goss and the White House pleaded with Kappes to reconsider and he agreed to delay his decision until Monday, the officials said.

Several other senior clandestine service officers are threatening to leave, current and former agency officials said.

The disruption comes as the CIA is trying to stay abreast of a worldwide terrorist threat from al Qaeda, a growing insurgency in Iraq, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan and congressional proposals to reorganize the intelligence agencies. The agency also has been criticized for not preventing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and not accurately assessing Saddam Hussein's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction. [complete article]

Former chief of CIA's bin Laden unit leaves
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, November 12, 2004

Michael Scheuer, the author and former chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, announced yesterday that he had resigned from the agency so he could speak openly about terrorism and what he sees as the government's failure to understand the threat from al Qaeda.

"I have concluded that there has not been adequate national debate over the nature of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and the force he leads and inspires, and the nature of the intelligence reform needed to address that threat," Scheuer, whom the CIA banned from speaking publicly in July, said in a statement issued by his publisher.

The agency allowed Scheuer to publish his book, "Imperial Hubris," anonymously, and to conduct media interviews to promote it under the name "Mike." The book became a bestseller.

But he became a critic of the war in Iraq, saying it inflamed anti-American sentiment among Muslims, and eventually his name was published. After some White House officials and pundits asserted that the CIA had allowed Scheuer to act as its surrogate critic on the war, CIA officials forbade him from speaking publicly.

Scheuer said in an interview with The Washington Post on Monday that he believes the agency silenced him after CIA officials realized he was blaming the CIA, not the administration, for mishandling terrorism. "As long as the book was being used to bash the president, they gave me carte blanche to talk to the media," he said. "But this is a story about the failure of the bureaucracy to support policymakers." [complete article]

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Insurgents 'patrolling Iraq city'
BBC News, November 13, 2004

Iraqi rebels are patrolling parts of Mosul following an upsurge of violence in the northern city, eyewitnesses say.

"They are guarding hospitals, schools and fire stations," one resident told Reuters news agency. Other reports say gunmen are holding the governor's office and other key buildings - but US-led forces insist they still control the city.

The Baghdad government sent reinforcements to Mosul after police stations there were overrun by rebels. And the US army is reported to have diverted 500 soldiers from the fighting in Falluja and sent them to Mosul. [complete article]

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For the first time since Vietnam, the Army prints a guide to fighting insurgents
By Douglas Jehl and Thom Shanker, New York Times, November 13, 2004

For the first time in decades, the Army has issued a field guide to counterinsurgency warfare, an acknowledgment that the kind of fighting under way in Iraq may become more common in the years ahead.

The Army field manual on counterinsurgency operations is the first since the early Vietnam era, and the first ever intended for the kind of regular Army units now embroiled in battles in Iraq, as opposed to the Special Operations forces who have taken the lead in previous counterinsurgencies. [complete article]

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U.S. puts onus on Palestinians
By Paul Richter and Warren Vieth, Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2004

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged Friday to use the transition to a new Palestinian leadership to push for peace in the Middle East, but bluntly warned the Palestinians to build their state on reforms favored by the Western allies.

Appearing with Blair at the White House just hours after the burial of Yasser Arafat, Bush said his death offered a "great chance to establish a Palestinian state" and a broader peace in the region.

Yet, though promising to mobilize international support on the Palestinians' behalf, Bush made it clear that the burden was on the new leadership to undertake political and economic reforms and overhaul security services. [complete article]

Palestinians and democracy
Editorial, Washington Post, November 13, 2004

The Israeli-Palestinian "road map" approved by Mr. Bush nearly two years ago envisioned steps toward Palestinian elections and other reforms, including a reorganization of security forces to fight terrorism. Those were to be accompanied by specific Israeli actions, including a freeze on further expansion of West Bank settlements. But when asked on Friday what steps Israel should take, and whether he favored a settlement freeze, Mr. Bush declined to answer, instead repeating his call for Palestinian democracy. In fact, as he described it, the president's new strategy allows Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to proceed with his plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, coupled with the expansion of major West Bank settlements and construction of a border-like security fence that will attach them to Israel. [complete article]

Comment -- When it comes to expressing his faith in democracy, President Bush's favorite line is, "freedom is not America's gift to the world, it is the almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world." Extending on this theme, in November 2003, he said:
Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are "ready" for democracy -- as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress. In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. As men and women are showing, from Bangladesh to Botswana, to Mongolia, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy, and every nation can start on this path.

Yet when it comes to Palestine, the fact that Yasser Arafat was a democractically elected leader apparently meant nothing. And now that he is gone, America and Israel continue to express their lack of faith in Palestinians' aspirations for freedom. Far from expressing confidence that Palestinians possess a God-given desire for freedom, Bush is implicitly saying, prove to me that this is what you want; but unless you prove it to me I will not question the right of my friend Ariel Sharon to do whatever he thinks serves the interests of Israel. Go beyond the rhetoric and it becomes clear that far from being the champion of Middle Eastern democracy, George Bush is the ultimate skeptic.

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Behind the Camp David myth
By Robert Malley, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2004

It took Yasser Arafat many years to persuade his fellow Palestinians of the wisdom of the two-state solution, and it took longer still to convince Americans and Israelis of the genuineness of his views. Yet it took only two weeks at Camp David in the summer of 2000 to wreck all the progress that had been made and for Arafat to regain the pariah status he once held.

Those talks failed, and in the aftermath a myth was born that has had a lasting and devastating effect: that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made the most generous offer possible, but that Arafat summarily turned it down. He did so, the story goes, because he never really believed in the Jewish state's right to exist in the first place and because he had never really hoped to reach a just, comprehensive and lasting peace with Israel. Since 2000, it is this narrative -- Camp David as a metaphor for Palestinian rejectionism -- that has ravaged the Israeli peace camp, distorted both U.S. and Israeli policy and badly undermined confidence in a peaceful settlement of the conflict. [complete article]

See also from The New Yorker, August, 2001, Camp David: The tragedy of errors, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley.

The no-partner myth
By Neve Gordon, In These Times, November 12, 2004

Israel's problem is that Arafat's death will not resolve anything. The reasons for the conflict will persist. Prime Minister Sharon must therefore choose between two radically different courses of action. He can decide to address Palestinian claims, which undoubtedly would entail painful compromises by Israel but could eventually lead to peace in the region. Alternatively, he can fashion a new myth, one that would again divert the public's gaze from the real issues, and enable Israel to continue expropriating Palestinian land and destroying the population's infrastructure of existence. This latter option is the one Sharon will most likely embrace. The question then becomes: What new myth will be created? [complete article]

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U.S. troops stretched to limit as insurgents fight back
By Robin Gedye, The Telegraph, November 13, 2004

Insurgent attacks across Iraq stretched American forces to their limits yesterday when rebels appeared to be in control of at least two cities, and the operation in Fallujah entered its most dangerous phase.

The holy city of Najaf became the seventh city to be placed under a night-time curfew with insurgents across the Sunni Triangle, the country's most volatile region, united in their determination to use the battle for Fallujah as a rallying call to terror.

Despite air strikes on Iraq's main northern city, Mosul, on Thursday night and claims by US forces that the city was calm, masked gunmen openly controlled its streets yesterday with eyewitnesses reporting that neither police nor US forces were to be seen.

Insurgents remained in charge of at least one of the nine police stations which they had attacked earlier while some police were reported to have thrown off their uniforms to join the terrorists. A contingent of US troops was detached from guarding the perimeter of Fallujah, where the American toll rose to at least 22 dead yesterday since the operation began, and moved to Mosul in an attempt to re-impose order.

The city of Ramadi, 35 miles west of Fallujah, also appeared under the control of rebels who roamed the streets carrying automatic weapons and rocket launchers. [complete article]

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Battle flares at Mosul; preachers urge resistance
By Alissa J. Rubin and Roaa Ahmed, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2004

The Iraq government on Friday hurriedly pulled in troops to help control the burgeoning insurgency here, while Sunni preachers used weekly prayers to urge Iraqis to take up arms on behalf of their brothers in Fallujah.

The Iraqi government called in National Guardsmen from camps on the Iranian and Syrian borders, according to a report in The Associated Press. Meanwhile, the United States moved a Marine Stryker battalion from Fallujah to help quash the fighting in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city.

On Thursday night, U.S. planes bombed the city's southwest, which is held by guerrilla forces. The attacks came after insurgents raged through the city for two days, burning police stations, terrorizing local police and Iraqi national guards, stealing weapons and assassinating key public figures.

On Friday, insurgents attacked the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistsan, one of two Kurdish parties, setting off a vicious firefight. At day's end the headquarters was still under Kurdish control.

Ten guardsmen were killed in Mosul, said U.S. Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of the army battalion in charge of the city in an interview on CNN. The police chief was fired by the Interior Minister amid accusations that the police were conspiring with the insurgents.

"It's fair to say that there are some ties to the insurgents," said Ham. "We'd be kidding ourselves if we thought that was not the case."

Meanwhile Sunni preachers at three key mosques called for jihad. [complete article]

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Troops battle entrenched insurgents in Fallujah
By Jackie Spinner and Omar Fekeiki, Washington Post, November 12, 2004

Insurgents in trenches met advancing U.S. and Iraqi forces in southern Fallujah with a burst of bullets and rockets Friday in what commanders described as one of the fiercest days of fighting since the battle to retake the city began five days ago.

Marines and Army soldiers who battled insurgents in the city's Queens district said they encountered guerrillas dug into traditional defensive positions from which they could pop up, shoot at advancing troops and quickly take cover. The Americans said that they and their Iraqi allies fought back with rifles, automatic weapons, belt-fed machine guns, mortars and hand grenades.

"It was a hornets' nest," said Capt. Erik Krivda, of Gaithersburg, the senior officer in charge of the Army's 1st Infantry Division Task Force 2-2 tactical operations command center.

Military officials also reported that fighting resumed Thursday night in Fallujah's Jolan neighborhood, an insurgent stronghold in the northwest of the city. Elsewhere in Iraq, intense fighting continued for a third day in the northern city of Mosul and other flash points in Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland. [complete article]

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Beyond embattled city, rebels operate freely
By Alissa J. Rubin and Tyler Marshall, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2004

Iraqi insurgents have extended their reach over large swaths of the country, including sections of the capital, making it unlikely that the United States can establish the stability needed for credible elections in January even if its forces succeed in Fallouja, military and political analysts say.

There is little doubt that American-led forces will recapture Fallouja within days, the analysts say. But U.S. officials who are planning for the election face another challenge: a law and order vacuum in many Sunni Muslim areas where there are no American or Iraqi forces and insurgents can operate with impunity.

Masked gunmen patrol these places, particularly at night, assassinating government officials, carrying out kidnappings and intimidating the people.

"There are large areas of countryside that are controlled 24 hours a day by the mujahedin, where people do not see U.S. forces," said Charles Heyman, a senior defense analyst for the London-based Jane's Defence Weekly.

With voting scheduled to take place in less than three months, there has been no let-up in insurgent attacks nor any sign that the government can curb them. [complete article]

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Four solutions for Fallujah
By Mark LeVine, TomDisptatch (via Asia Times), November 13, 2004

As US forces penetrate ever deeper and more destructively into the Iraqi city of Fallujah, each of the major players in this violent drama is engaged in a complex, constantly shifting calculus involving ways of turning events to their advantage. Of the many possible outcomes to the battle of Fallujah, the four that seem most plausible follow, starting with the one that might be viewed most positively by the administration of US President George W Bush. In sum, they offer us a grim picture of how the window of success has closed on American strategists in Iraq. Even the "best" outcomes below (from the administration's point of view) have lost the trappings of freedom and democracy that helped justify the invasion 19 months ago. [complete article]

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U.S. to consider naming Mideast peace envoy
By Glenn Kessler and Mike Allen, Washington Post, November 12, 2004

The White House, seeking to take advantage of the diplomatic opening created by Yasser Arafat's death, is prepared to consider a British proposal that President Bush appoint a special Middle East envoy to shepherd the peace process, administration officials said yesterday.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who arrived here yesterday and ate dinner privately with Bush last night, has said he hopes to prod the White House into becoming more engaged in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. U.S. officials said they have an open mind about the idea of a special envoy, which would be a departure for an administration that has generally shunned such diplomatic assignments.

"We will certainly listen very carefully to what they have to say," said a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the formal Bush-Blair discussions are to be held today.

Another official involved in the administration's deliberations said the concept of an envoy will work only if the administration decides to give the person real authority. He said the administration could opt for what he called the "James Baker" model, a hard-nosed negotiator like the former secretary of state who forces both sides to confront uncomfortable truths. Or, he said, if the administration were less ambitious, it might accept a "George Mitchell" model, referring to the former Senate majority leader who wrote a report on cooling down the conflict that gained little traction.

In his first term Bush promoted the idea of an independent Palestinian state, but in contrast to President Bill Clinton he generally avoided robust efforts to resolve the conflict. [complete article]

Comment -- One of the most glaring contradictions in his presidency has been the fact that on the one hand George Bush was chomping on the bit when it came to launching a war on Iraq, yet when it comes to engaging himself in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he has the timidity of a newly elected congressman. His hands-off approach to operations might suggest that he delegate this difficult task to a strong negotiator, though it's not clear that he knows any. (The unilateralist tendencies of the administration don't provide space for people who are trying to understand both sides of a conflict.) But Bush's political instincts are surely telling him that if he gets sucked into this issue he'll burn up all his political capital well before it's shown any returns. My prediction then is that we can expect more of the same. The political will of America and Israel is so lacking when it comes to resolving this conflict that all it takes to halt any progress is yet another suicide bomber. This is the ultimate irony about those who claim that they are winning the war in terrorism: They give all their power to the terrorists by allowing terrorism to shape the whole political process.

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Arafat's death a major test for Bush
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, November 13, 2004

The death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will test whether US President George W Bush intends to maintain his staunch support for Israel's right-wing government at the risk of further alienating the US's European allies and Muslim public opinion.

It will also provide an early insight into whether the hardline coalition that has dominated US foreign policy since September 11, 2001 - aggressive nationalists, neo-conservatives who support Israel's governing Likud Party, and the Christian Right, which supports Israel for mainly theological reasons - will retain or even expand its influence in the president's second term. [complete article]

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Prisoners say only heir is Barghouti
By Amira Hass, Haaretz, November 11, 2004

[Imprisoned Fatah leader, Marwan] Barghouti is known to support elections, deepening political pluralism, and rule of law.

Security detainees and Barghouti associates hope that Israel will scrutinize the public opinion surveys, which they feel prove that the Barghouti alone can compete with Hamas representatives planning to run for election. Barghouti himself has held back from announcing whether he intends to participate in elections either for president or for the Palestinian Legislative Council, although it is thought he will run.

Prisoners and confidants expressed hope yesterday that Barghouti will be released, perhaps through understandings with Egypt, because only his return to the political arena can thwart the strengthening of Hamas. They believe that Barghouti is the only person who can provide Mahmoud Abbas with the legitimacy of grass-roots support. [complete article]

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Sharon and the future of Palestine
By Henry Siegman, New York Review of Books, December 2, 2004

The latest report from Israel's Peace Now Settlement Watch found that building and infrastructure construction is taking place at 474 settlement sites in the West Bank and Gaza, including fifty sites where expansion or new construction deviates from the existing boundaries of the settlements, in violation of promises made by Sharon to President Bush. As of the end of August, there were around 3,700 housing units under construction throughout the occupied territories. Moreover, the ground was being prepared for thousands of additional houses -- even in locations earmarked by Sharon for evacuation under the disengagement plan. The growth and extension of major settlements in the West Bank now being carried out help to divide it into three noncontiguous Palestinian cantons, in effect Bantustans that Palestinians could inhabit under Israeli surveillance without having a unified state of their own.

Under the guise of "state lands" Sharon's government has continued to expropriate territory in the West Bank to expand the settlements, according to data from Israel's Civil Administration. Since the start of 2004, some 2,200 dunams of land (550 acres) in the West Bank have been declared state lands, compared to 1,700 dunams designated as such last year. As noted by Peace Now's Settlement Watch, this designation consistently allowed Israeli governments to establish and expand the settlements, enabling them to circumvent their commitment not to expropriate any more Palestinian territory for settlement construction.

For Sharon, withdrawal from Gaza is the price Israel must pay if it is to complete the cantonization of the West Bank under Israel's control. Just as important, Gaza is to be turned into a living example of why Palestinians are undeserving of an independent state. Under the conditions attached by Sharon to the disengagement, Gaza -- an area that makes up only 1.25 percent of the Palestine Mandate but contains 37 percent of the Palestinian population -- will exist essentially as a large prison isolated from the world, including its immediate neighbors Egypt, Jordan, and the West Bank. Its population will be denied the freedom of movement essential to any possibility of economic recovery and outside investment. Sharon's insistence that withdrawal from Gaza will be entirely an Israeli initiative and will not be negotiated with any Palestinian leaders seems designed to produce a state of anarchy in Gaza, one that will enable him to say, "Look at the violent, corrupt, and primitive people we must contend with; they can't run anything on their own." [complete article]

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The Arafat succession scramble
By Daoud Kuttab, Daily Times, November 12, 2004

To understand what the Palestinian cause will look like without Yasser Arafat, consider the various titles that he held. Arafat was Chairman of the PLO executive Committee, President of the Palestinian National Authority, Commander-in-chief of the Palestinian forces, and head of the Fatah movement.

The PLO embodies Palestinian national aspirations for independence and statehood. It is the highest political body for all Palestinians, both those living in Palestine and the refugees and other Palestinians in the diaspora. Arafat's successor will need to juggle between negotiations with Israel, which will require concession on refugees' "right of return" to Palestine, and the aspirations of more than three million Palestinians who wish to come back to the homes from which they were expelled in the wars of 1948 and 1967. [complete article]

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Secular Europe worries that relations with the deeply religious United States are headed for the rocks
By Patrice de Beer, YaleGlobal, November 8, 2004

The day after the US re-election of George W. Bush, Europe woke up with a hangover, resigned to the fact that the Bush II show will go on just like the Bush I did, with or without the Europeans. The show must go on. Whether it likes the play, the actors, the director or not, Europe has no choice: As the British daily, The Independent, wrote, "America has voted for Bush, and the world must live with the consequences."

This resignation is tinged with apprehension that the quarrelling-old-couple Europe-US relationship might be headed for the rocks. And, though most leaders have expressed hope for reconciliation and improved cooperation, Bush's leadership has greatly alienated much of the European public and left European leaders at a loss for common ground with their long-time ally. [complete article]

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Rebels spread chaos to Mosul
By Richard Lloyd Parry, The Times, November 12, 2004

Insurgent fighters seized key areas of the northern city of Mosul yesterday, raiding police stations, shelling US and Iraqi soldiers and threatening Iraq’s third largest city with the same disorder that provoked the assault on Fallujah.

In central Baghdad, meanwhile, 17 people were burnt to death by a car bomb, and around the country insurgents carried out what appeared to be co-ordinated attacks.

The fighting in Mosul underlines the greatest potential flaw in the attack on Fallujah — that, in driving the resistance out of one stronghold, the US-led coalition runs the risk of simply dispersing it to other Iraqi towns and cities.

Despite the continuing success of the US attack, in other parts of the country it has generated the worst violence for weeks.

Black-masked insurgents in Mosul attacked at least six police stations, stole rifles and body armour, burnt buildings and police cars and roamed freely in streets that had been abandoned by ordinary people and local US and Iraqi military units. [complete article]

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Arafat's ambiguous legacy
By Tony Karon,, November 11, 2004

Palestinians will quickly establish a consensus over which leaders will fill the formal positions of Yasser Arafat, who died early Thursday in Paris. But consensus over the way forward will remain as elusive as it has been for the past decade. It is a measure of Arafat’s unique status as a national symbol that despite that absence of consensus, Palestinian leaders ranging from moderate liberals such as Hanan Ashrawi to the hard-eyed bombers of Hamas have concurred on the role of the aging revolutionary, who spent his last three years living under virtual house arrest at the Ramallah compound where his organization now plans to inter his remains, as the symbolic personification of their national aspirations. Responding to efforts last week by Arafat's wife, Suha, to restrict access to her husband during his last days alive, Ashrawi, who had often publicly differed with Arafat on matters of policy and strategy, explained: "He is not just a husband or a father, he is father of a nation." Hamas spokesmen were equally sanguine in hailing him as the symbol of Palestinian nationhood. That legacy as the champion of the Palestinian national idea, built in the course a storied life at the head of an insurgent movement more than once left for dead, only to bounce back will play an indispensable role in keeping the Palestinian national movement intact in the immediate wake of his passing. But it may also serve as a political straitjacket on his heirs. [complete article]

See also, obituaries by David Hirst (The Guardian) and Lee Hockstader (Washington Post).

Israel plans posthumous anti-Arafat campaign
By Aluf Benn and Amos Harel, Haaretz, November 11, 2004

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday that after the funeral of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israel will launch a propaganda campaign against him. The political-security cabinet yesterday approved the proposed plans to bury Arafat in Ramallah.

"It is feared that after his funeral Arafat will become a national hero and freedom-fighter," Sharon said. "We will launch a tough struggle to portray his murderous character and the fact that he is a strategist of world terror who hurt innocent people, both Israelis and American diplomats," he said. [complete article]

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Make or break
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, November 10, 2004

One of the most dismal facts about the never-ending plunge toward chaos in U.S.-occupied Iraq is the fatal lack of what you might call "the vision thing." The political notion put forth by the Bush administration -- a happy, prosperous American-style democracy with guarantees for human rights that will stand as an example to the region and the world -- is, alas, completely out of touch with reality. It might sound good to American voters. (Really, it was made for them.) But Iraqis aren't buying it.

As a result, our fighters are out there right now in Fallujah killing and dying without a credible political program to back up their firepower. They can punish Iraq's Arab Sunnis, who are about 20 per cent of the country's population and at least 90 per cent of the insurgents, but what do they promise them? Certainly not a decisive role running the whole country, which is what they were used to under Saddam Hussein. Certainly not the top jobs in a powerful new army and air force, which is what important tribal leaders have told me they want.

No, as the Arab Sunnis see the Bushian fantasy for Iraq's future, they'll be a despised minority in a country whose Shiite leaders are anointed, if not appointed, by ayatollahs. So it's not surprising that they're fighting like hell right now, and will keep fighting for the foreseeable future. As the Israeli conflict ought to have taught us, Arabs get beat, but they don't admit defeat. In this part of the world, if there's no political solution, peace is just a nervous lull between wars.

Iraq's controversial national-security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, may have come up with a better idea: take the country apart, then put it back together. He calls this vision "democratic regionalism," a loose federal system of four to six separate, powerful provinces. The Sunni heartland -- "the Triangle" -- would not be able to dominate the rest of the nation, but it could run its own affairs. "The Triangle would have its own regime, its own security forces, its own recruitment," he says. If they want to become a Talibanized fundamentalist region, "good luck," he says. But he thinks that can be avoided. "They will be surrounded," says Al-Rubaie, and they will be largely dependent on oil revenues generated in other parts of the country, which would be allotted according to population. [complete article]

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Fears grow of unrest spreading into Mosul
By Borzou Daragahi, New Jersey Star-Ledger, November 11, 2004

With war already raging in Fallujah in central Iraq, officials worry that the relatively peaceful north is on the brink of explosion, with fighting already flaring in the city of Mosul.

Yesterday, gunfire and explosions shook the riverside city and authorities shut bridges into the city and announced a curfew, according to Reuters.

"The Mosul governor has invoked immediate curfew and all bridges are closed," U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul Hastings said. "The current situation is developing."

Security and intelligence officials of the pro-American Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq say they've concluded that Mosul, an ethnically diverse city of 2.5 million near the Syrian and Turkish borders, may be the next battlefield in the war between insurgents fighting the U.S.-led occupation force and the interim government. [complete article]

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Seeking salvation in city of insurgents
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Washington Post, November 11, 2004

He first tried to get to Iraq in April 2003, when U.S. troops established control over the country and jihad became a place on a map.

"I wanted to come and fight for Islam," said Abu Thar, who started the journey from the capital city of his native country, Yemen, across the Arabian Peninsula. "I met a Jordanian merchant who provided me with tickets to Syria and a hundred dollars.

"He even drove me to the airport himself."

Abu Thar arrived at the airport in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, with a group of other Yemeni students, a flock of would-be jihadis forming a neat line at the immigration counter. Abu Thar was wearing a traditional Arab robe and a small turban.

"And when the police asked me why I was going to Damascus, I said, 'To work.' They asked me what kind of work. I said, 'To work for the salvation of my soul.' And they sent me back."

A thin young man with an ascetic manner and a gentle voice, Abu Thar fingered the fabric of his cheap cotton trousers. By his reckoning, the Western clothes were what finally got him started on the smugglers' road to Iraq, in time for the showdown in Fallujah. [complete article]

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Bush picks master of legal evasion as chief law enforcement officer
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, November 11, 2004

According to the Boston Globe, Alberto R. Gonzales -- President Bush's choice to replace Attorney General Ashcroft -- will cost Bush little of his newly "earned" political capital. The Washington Post notes that Gonzales' nomination raises some questions but says that he is "soft-spoken, smart and discreet [and] has won the admiration of many in Washington." The Los Angeles Times repeats the widely reported fact that Gonzales is the son of migrant workers and says that the president's choice was applauded by liberals and conservatives, while USA Today emphasizes that the appointment will mark a change in style and that Gonzales will be the first Hispanic to be the nation's chief law enforcement officer. It's only one of those pesky foreign newspapers, The Guardian, that leads its report by reminding readers that as White House counsel, Gonzales advised the president that the Geneva Conventions are "obsolete".

If there are any US senators on the judiciary committee who have more guts than the Washington press corps they might see fit to challenge Gonzales not only on his interpretations of international law but also on his relations with Enron. They should also examine his willingness to support a process through which pleas for clemency for Texas death-row inmates were systematically denied. Atlantic Monthly last year reported that as legal counsel to Governor Bush, "Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence." Alberto Gonzales' record demonstrates his ability to protect his clients, conjure up novel interpretations of the law and above all, his loyalty to George Bush -- not his qualifications for becoming Attorney General.

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Fallujah's insurgents left to fight another day
By Nicholas Blanford, Daily Star, November 11, 2004

In his classic treatise on guerrilla warfare, Mao Tse Tung wrote "When guerrillas engage a stronger enemy, they withdraw when he advances; harass him when he stops; strike him when he is weary; pursue him when he withdraws."

The insurgents in Iraq appear to have taken some of the Chinese revolutionary leader's doctrine to heart judging from the increase in attacks in the center of the country since a 15,000-strong force of U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops launched a long-awaited offensive on the rebel stronghold of Fallujah, meeting lighter resistance than expected.

Indeed, with an attack on Fallujah widely anticipated for several weeks, many of the insurgents reportedly departed the city in advance to fight another day.

"If you see what's happening in Samarra and Ramadi it seems to me that the so-called dynamic cordon that the Marine Corps put around Fallujah has been next to useless," said Toby Dodge, an expert on Iraq at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. "By squeezing that town (Fallujah) you have a few hundred diehard jihadis left and the insurgency has moved elsewhere."

Samarra, 100 kilometers north of Baghdad, which the Americans claimed was free of insurgents following a U.S.-led offensive last month, was struck by mortar attacks and car bombs last weekend, leaving over 30 people dead. On Tuesday, insurgents apparently took control of Ramadi, a flashpoint town 20 kilometers west of Fallujah.

On Wednesday, dozens of armed gunmen reportedly swarmed into Mosul in the north, which became the fourth city in three days to be placed under a curfew. [complete article]

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Ashcroft: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."
By Attorney General John Ashcroft, Associated Press (via NYT), November 9, 2004

The demands of justice are both rewarding and depleting. I take great personal satisfaction in the record which has been developed. The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved. The rule of law has been strengthened and upheld in the courts. Yet, I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration. I believe that my energies and talents should be directed toward other challenging horizons.

Therefore, I humbly state my desire to resign from the office of United States Attorney General. [complete article]

And as chance would have it, U.S. to lower finance terror alert status (WP).

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U.S. claims militants are trapped as air strike hits clinic
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 11, 2004

As heavy fighting continued in Fallujah yesterday, US forces claimed they had taken control of 70 per cent of the city and cornered insurgents in a narrow strip of land. But it was impossible to verify the US claims, and Iraqi journalists inside the city said they doubted US forces were in control of as much of the city as they claimed.

Twenty Iraqi doctors and dozens of civilians were killed in a US air strike that hit a clinic in Fallujah, according to an Iraqi doctor who said he survived the strike. There are fears that heavy civilian casualties could be damaging for US-led forces. The US military said it had killed 71 insurgents, and that 10 American soldiers and two members of the Iraqi security forces fighting alongside the Americans had been killed. [complete article]

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Falluja forces find hostage killing houses
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 11, 2004

American and Iraqi troops fighting for control of Falluja yesterday uncovered several "hostage slaughter houses" where kidnap victims had been murdered, a senior Iraqi general said.

The buildings, in northern parts of the city known to be an insurgent stronghold, were littered, he said, with debris from insurgents including lists of names of hostages who had been held.

Major General Abdul Qader Mohan, the commander of Iraqi forces fighting in the city, said his men discovered "the black clothing that they used to wear so no one knew it was them".

The soldiers also found hundreds of CDs showing beheadings and "whole records with names of hostages", he said. "This is what our soldiers found in some of the houses that were used to hold hostages and kill them."

But he said he did not know if any foreigners currently held captive such as the two French journalists missing since August or the British-Iraqi aid worker Margaret Hassan were on the hostage list. [complete article]

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Iraq Shi'ites wary of Falluja sparking civil war
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Reuters, November 10, 2004

Shi'ite cleric Hadi Jawad was tortured by the same kind of Saddam Hussein loyalists now facing fierce attack by U.S. forces in Falluja -- but he still condemns the offensive to capture the Sunni Muslim city from rebels.

"Iraq cannot afford for the Shi'ites to gloat and the Americans will not find support for attacks they think will compensate for their mismanagement of Iraq," said the 40-year-old cleric, missing half his jaw from the torture.

"The siege of Falluja must be lifted and the killing of Iraqis whether they are Shi'ite or Sunni must stop," said Jawad, a custodian of the immaculately decorated Al-Kazimain shrine, where two of the 12 Imams are buried.

Iraq's majority Shi'ites, marginalised for decades by Saddam, are expressing solidarity with Falluja residents, partly because they don't want to play into the hands of radical Sunni fundamentalists they say want civil war. [complete article]

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Rebel fighters who fled attack may now be active elsewhere
By Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, November 10, 2004

Insurgent leaders in Falluja probably fled before the American-led offensive and may be coordinating attacks in Iraq that have left scores dead over the past few days, according to American military officials here. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who is the most wanted man in Iraq, has almost certainly fled, military officials believe. Americans say his group is responsible for attacks, kidnappings and beheadings that have killed hundreds in more than a year. Before the offensive began, some military officials said Mr. Zarqawi could be operating out of Falluja, but his precise whereabouts have not been known. "I personally believe some of the senior leaders probably have fled," Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, said in a video conference with reporters on Tuesday. "I would hope not, but I've got to assume that those kinds of leaders understand the combat power we can bring."

Insurgent attacks continued to exact a heavy toll across Iraq on Tuesday. Two American soldiers died in a mortar attack in Mosul, where government authority appears to be ebbing. Gunmen assassinated a senior government official in Samarra. Guerrillas fired mortars at police stations in downtown Baghdad while hundreds of fighters massed in the center of the provincial capital of Ramadi, just 30 miles west of Falluja.

A suspected car bombing outside an Iraqi National Guard base in Kirkuk killed three people and wounded two others, Reuters reported. The attacks on Tuesday followed several others over the weekend, both in Baghdad and the Sunni triangle. [complete article]

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Gunmen kidnap three members of Allawi's family
By Karl Vick, Jackie Spinner and Fred Barbash, Washington Post, November 11, 2004

Gunmen kidnapped a first cousin of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and two other members of his extended family from their Baghdad home on Tuesday, an Allawi spokesman said Wednesday morning. In Fallujah, meanwhile, the U.S. military claimed control of 70 percent of the rebellious city as fighting entered its third full day.

Allawi spokesman Georges Sada said in a telephone interview that Allawi's "cousin, his [cousin's] wife and another relative were kidnapped Tuesday night from their home after a little shooting between their bodyguards and the terrorists." Another Allawi spokesman, Thaer Hasan Naqip identified the kidnapped cousin as Ghazi Allawi, 75. He said Allawi, his wife and his son were kidnapped in Baghdad's Yarmouk neighborhood. [complete article]

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Medicines and food scarce for trapped civilians
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 10, 2004

Iraqis still living in the city of Falluja said yesterday that conditions were deteriorating, with no electricity, food shortages and limited medical aid for the wounded.

"The situation in Falluja is a tragedy," one resident, who gave his name as Ismail, told the Guardian by telephone.

"People cannot reach the clinics or the hospital and there are many wounded people. Most people are staying inside their houses. The fighting is heavy."

Although most of the population of 300,000 has fled the city in recent weeks, tens of thousands of civilians are thought to have stayed behind. Under the terms of a curfew imposed on Monday they cannot leave their homes.

The city's main hospital was the first target captured in the operation and there were reports yesterday that another medical clinic had been destroyed in bombing. Once the attack began, power was cut off to the city and some residents said the water supply had also been cut. [complete article]

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Rebuilding what the assault turns to rubble
By Jackie Spinner, Washington Post, November 10, 2004

Now, with U.S. and Iraqi security forces pushing their way through Fallujah, military commanders say an essential component in the battle to retake the city is putting it back together when the infantry leaves. More than $90 million in U.S.-funded reconstruction projects are planned for the city once it is secure.

"We don't do a combat operation in Fallujah unless we are prepared to repair it," said Col. John R. Ballard, commander of the Marine 4th Civil Affairs Group, based in Washington. "This isn't about punishing the town. This is about getting rid of a very bad influence. When we do that, there is going to be damage."

The Marine unit, which Ballard called "the secret weapon that fixes what other people break," will spearhead the initial rebuilding effort on behalf of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which is responsible for the restive Sunni Triangle region. Marine commanders have $40 million at their disposal to spend in the city, including paying compensation to residents whose property is damaged by either side in the conflict. Families suffering a death, serious injury or property damage can receive a one-time payment of as much as $2,500. [complete article]

Comment -- As Americans prepare to engage in the reconstruction of Fallujah, we are in for yet another display of what I would describe as a pathological sense of innocence. First we destroy a city and then set about rebuilding it as though the act of making new has the effect of erasing history. We seem to imagine we can pick and choose between which actions will have lasting effects and which will not.

Meanwhile, by the time Fallujan families are offered a one-time payment of "as much as" $2,500, some may have heard that compensation paid out for the families and businesses that were victims of 9/11 have so far received $38,000,000,000. Can they be forgiven for feeling bitterness and outrage when they see that Americans (many of whom describe themselves as "pro-life") attach so much value to their own lives and so little value to anyone else's?

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Counting the casualties
The Economist, November 4, 2004

American armed forces have long stated that they do not keep track of how many people have been killed in the current conflict in Iraq and, furthermore, that determining such a number is impossible. Not everybody agrees. Adding up the number of civilians reported killed in confirmed press accounts yields a figure of around 15,000. But even that is likely to be an underestimate, for not every death gets reported. The question is, how much of an underestimate?

A study published on October 29th in the Lancet, a British medical journal, suggests the death toll is quite a lot higher than the newspaper reports suggest. The centre of its estimated range of death tolls -- the most probable number according to the data collected and the statistics used -- is almost 100,000. And even though the limits of that range are very wide, from 8,000 to 194,000, the study concludes with 90% certainty that more than 40,000 Iraqis have died. [complete article]

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Vets return, but not always with healthcare
By Alexandra Marks, Christian Science Monitor, November 10, 2004

After serving 410 days in Iraq with the 1st Armored Division, Spc. Stuart Wilf came home to Colorado on Oct. 2. He changed his clothes, borrowed his mother's car, and went out with friends to celebrate.

On the way home, he fell asleep at the wheel and had a head-on collision with a tree. He survived, but since he was newly discharged, he had no health insurance.

"That was a mind-boggling thing to find out the first day he's out of the service," says his mother, Becky Wilf. "His bill was $54,000 just for the hospital. That doesn't include the surgeon."

Specialist Wilf is just one of thousands of veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan who advocates contend are falling through the cracks of a federal system unprepared to deal with so many soldiers. After spending months in a war zone, many of the 170,000 soldiers who've returned home are struggling with their transition to back to civilian life - from coping with a maze of red tape and contradictory messages on healthcare to finding affordable housing and jobs with adequate incomes to accessing disability payments. [complete article]

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Four more years
By James Mann, Foreign Policy, November, 2004

The world now anxiously waits to see which direction President George W. Bush will drive U.S. foreign policy over the next four years. Bush and his team of "Vulcans," the Republican Cold Warriors who came back into office with him in 2001 stunned the international community with a preventive war in Iraq during his first term in office. What should we expect in Bush's second term?

Over the past few months, a debate has already begun on precisely this subject. For simplicity's sake, we can reduce this debate into two different schools of thought about Bush's second term and about the United States' relationship with the world from now until 2008. Let's call these two schools the Doomsayers and the Skeptics. [complete article]

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Nation building effort tests U.S. in Afghanistan
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, November 10, 2004

Afghanistan was the first battleground in America's "war on terror". Now it has become the unlikely proving ground for a different struggle: nation building.

When George Bush ordered US forces to attack al-Qaida and topple the Taliban regime after 9/11, his aim was revenge, not reformation.

He was opposed to nation building in principle and had criticised the Clinton administration's efforts in the Balkans and Haiti. In his view it was a bad idea, best left to the UN and EU.

Three years on, what was a military operation backed by Britain has evolved into the sort of nation building Mr Bush scorned. And to its surprise, the US is part of a collaborative, multinational, UN-backed effort to transform one of the world's most backward countries.

An important stage in the process was reached last week when the result of the country's first democratic presidential election was confirmed.

The poll, won by Hamid Karzai, the pro-western interim president, was declared an outstanding success by the US and Britain.

But critics of the current policy say any move to declare mission accomplished would be grossly premature. The problems of Mr Karzai's limited authority beyond Kabul, heroin trafficking, renegade militia chiefs and grinding rural poverty must be overcome if nation building is to have a lasting impact, they say. And Mr Bush's long-term commitment is in doubt. [complete article]

Comment -- "Power" and "strength" are in most Americans' minds hallmarks of the character of this nation. Yet the observation that America has little staying-power when it comes to its foreign engagements is such a commonplace that commentators tire of repeating the fact. But is not strength without endurance merely a show?

Perhaps the reason for this lack of commitment is that beyond war, there is little that happens overseas that can capture the attention of this nation. The fight is the thing and if the fighting seems to be over few Americans care to remember why or how the fight began or what may follow once it dies down.

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What the mullahs learned from the neighbors
By Kenneth M. Pollack, New York Times, November 9, 2004

A quarter-century ago this month, several hundred Iranian students seized the American Embassy in Tehran, taking our Marines and diplomats hostage, and leaving Americans fuming and asking, "Why do they hate us?" Now, as the Bush administration prepares for its second term, Iran is again at the top the agenda, and we seem equally clueless as to how to approach it.

So how do we come up with a coherent plan for Iran? A good place to start would be by analyzing the smart moves and the many mistakes America made over the last 14 years with another member of the so-called Axis of evil: Iraq. There are some obvious similarities between the goals and methods of these two countries, and Iran learned a great deal from Iraq's efforts to deceive the international community about its weapons programs. If we are to meet the challenge from Iran, there are four main lessons to be learned:

Beware the siren song of easy regime change. Throughout the 1990's, many Americans claimed that Saddam Hussein's regime was so hated by the Iraqi people that merely committing our foreign policy to regime change, arming a small band of insurgents and perhaps providing them with air support would be enough to topple the government. In the end, of course, it required a full-scale ground invasion to do so, and even the size of that effort has proved inadequate. [complete article]

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Iran claims draft accord with Europe on uranium
By Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, November 9, 2004

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi of Iran on Monday praised the outcome of weekend talks with European negotiators, saying that a preliminary agreement had been reached to suspend Iran's production of enriched uranium immediately. But he emphasized that any suspension would be only temporary.

"We hope that the deal between Iran and Europeans can be finalized and create necessary confidence," Mr. Kharrazi said of the 22 hours of difficult negotiations in Paris on Friday and Saturday between an Iranian delegation and senior officials of France, Germany, Britain and the European Union.

But, he added, "The talk is about continuing the suspension for a short period to build confidence."

Paradoxically, Mr. Kharrazi and his negotiator in Paris, Hussein Mousavian, were more optimistic in public than the Europeans in describing the negotiations. The two Iranians described the result as a "preliminary agreement," while all of the European participants said only that "considerable progress" had been made toward a "preliminary agreement." [complete article]

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Falluja assault roils Iraqi politics
By Edward Wong, New York Times, November 9, 2004

In the first major political backlash over the siege of Falluja, the country's most prominent Sunni political party said today that it was withdrawing from the interim Iraqi government, while the leading group of Sunni clerics called for Iraqis to boycott the upcoming elections.

The moves signaled that popular protest against the American-led invasion, particularly among Sunni Arabs, will likely grow in the coming days.

A boycott by Sunnis, if indeed one comes to pass, would threaten the legitimacy of the outcome and could undermine the rationale for attacking Falluja, which was to drive the insurgents out of the city so residents could take part in the elections.

The Sunni Arabs, a minority group ousted from power with the toppling of Saddam Hussein, have expressed ambivalence about participating in the elections, though American and Iraqi officials say it is crucial to the entire democratic enterprise - and to defeating the increasingly lethal insurgency - that they come on board.

The call for a boycott from the Muslim Scholars Association, a powerful group of Sunni clerics that says it represents 3,000 mosques, will almost certainly dampen voter turnout, but to what degree is unclear. Nor is it clear whether their stance could change in the days ahead.

"The clerics call on honorable Iraqis to boycott the upcoming election that is to be held over the bodies of the dead and the blood of the wounded in cities like Falluja," Harith al-Dhari, the group's director, said this evening at a news conference in Baghdad. Hours earlier, the group had issued a fatwa, or religious decree, ordering Iraqi security forces to not take part in the siege.

Just as ominous was the withdrawal of the Iraqi Islamic Party from the interim government. The party was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, set up by the Americans during the occupation and has been held up by American and Iraqi officials as a model of Sunni participation in the political future of the country. In recent weeks, its leader, Mohsen Abdul-Hameed, had been saying he intended to take part in the elections. [complete article]

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Rebels 'stage show of strength'
BBC News, November 9, 2004

Iraqi rebels seized the centre of the city of Ramadi and attacked police stations elsewhere as US-led troops continued their Falluja assault.

Armed insurgents in Ramadi moved in when US troops withdrew from the Sunni city, a former rebel stronghold.

Iraqi police and national guard stations in Baquba, Kirkuk and Baghdad were also targeted - reports speak of a number of casualties.

The US military said it "associated" the attacks with the Falluja assault.

"The enemy is concentrating on Iraqi security forces " to intimidate them, US Lieutenant General Thomas Metz told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. [complete article]

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'Scores of civilians' killed in Falluja
Aljazeera, November 9, 2004

Muhammad Abbud said he watched his nine-year-old son bleed to death at their Falluja home, unable to take him to hospital as fighting raged in the streets and bombs rained down on the Iraqi city.

In the midst of a US onslaught and hemmed in by a round-the-clock curfew, he said he had little choice but to bury his eldest son, Ghaith, in the garden.

"My son got shrapnel in his stomach when our house was hit at dawn, but we couldn't take him for treatment," said Abbud, a teacher. "We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out. We did not know how long the fighting would last."

Residents say scores of civilians have been killed or wounded in 24 hours of fighting since US-led forces pushed deep into the city on Monday evening.

Doctors said people brought in at least 15 dead civilians at the main clinic in Falluja on Monday. By Tuesday, there were no clinics open, residents said, and no way to count casualties. [complete article]

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U.S. death toll rising in Iraq, but not just in Fallujah offensive
By Robert Burns, Associated Press (Boston Globe), NOvember 9, 2004

American casualties in Iraq are mounting as the U.S.-led offensive in Fallujah unfolds. Monday's death toll of 11 was among the highest for a single day in Iraq since last spring, though most were killed elsewhere in the country.

As of Tuesday, the U.S. toll in Fallujah had been relatively light for urban combat.

There was no firm official death toll covering the period since the Fallujah fighting began on Sunday. The U.S. military command in Baghdad said 10 members of the U.S.-led coalition had been killed by Tuesday evening, but they would not say whether all 10 were Americans. They also would not say which other countries were represented in the U.S.-led force that totals at least 10,000 soldiers.

Two members of the U.S.-trained Iraqi security force had been killed in Fallujah as of Tuesday evening, U.S. military officials said.

On Monday there were at least 11 U.S. deaths across the country, including two in Fallujah. The day's loss was among the highest for a single day in Iraq since last spring when the insurgency escalated and American authorities pulled Marines out of Fallujah. [complete article]

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Go kick some butt and make history, Vietnam-style, U.S. troops urged
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 9, 2004

America's much-vaunted assault on Falluja began with the capture of the city's hospital, which was regarded as an important strategic target.

But the operation, codename Phantom Fury, is likely to become much more complicated and much more dangerous.

Although Falluja general hospital, a small, poorly-equipped facility on the western outskirts of the city, should have been protected under the Geneva conventions, it was deemed legitimate by US commanders because they said it had been taken over by insurgents.

No shots were fired during the capture of the hospital, although one Iraqi soldier accidentally shot himself in the leg, and 38 people were arrested, four of them foreign Arabs.

The Euphrates river runs through the western edge of Falluja, cutting off the hospital from the city. US marines also seized two bridges near the hospital, clearly an effort to establish the river as a natural barrier on the western flank.

One unnamed senior American officer also admitted that the hospital had become a "centre of propaganda," reflecting the military's frustration at the high death tolls doctors frequently announce after American bombing raids. [complete article]

Comment -- Donald Rumsfeld yesterday expressed confidence that the discipline of U.S. troops would prevent "large numbers of civilians killed." Perhaps it would have been more accurate of him to say that he is confident that there will be no reports of large numbers of civilian being killed -- at least not before the operation has been completed. Perhaps that's why it's called Phantom Fury -- violence whose effect can only be imagined (unless of course you are unfortunate enough to be inside Fallujah).

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Awaiting 'martyrdom' inside fighters' lair
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Washington Post, November 9, 2004

In a small safe house in Fallujah, one of many in a town deserted by its residents, a dozen fighters sat on the floor of a half-lit room.

Behind them and against the wall were metal pipes -- makeshift rocket launchers. Mortar and artillery shells, ammunition belts and explosives lay scattered on the floor.

Legs crossed and arms stretched, the fighters scooped rice and beans with their fingers from a communal plate, ending a long day of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan as explosions rocked the city.

This was the scene two days before the massive assault on the city that began Monday, and the men were its target, a dozen of them in sneakers, tracksuits and beards, preaching jihad and the virtues of martyrdom. They were volunteers in the army of Monotheism and Jihad, the organization headed by Abu Musab Zarqawi, an elusive Jordanian who Iraqi and U.S. officials have said turned Fallujah into a terrorist refuge. [complete article]

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Fanning the flames of resistance
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, November 9, 2004

With US forces storming into western districts of Fallujah early on Monday, seizing the main city hospital and securing two key bridges over the Euphrates River, the first stage of the long-expected assault on the insurgent stronghold appears to be under way.

This follows the interim Iraqi government's declaration on Sunday of a state of emergency for 60 days throughout the country, except for Kurdish-run areas of the north.

These developments are expected to precipitate a new phase in the resistance that, Asia Times Online contacts say, is being coordinated from Samarra, the Sunni stronghold north of Baghdad where at least 33 people were killed and 48 wounded, including a local police chief, in four car-bomb attacks and clashes on Saturday.

The sources say the Iraqi resistance, comprising nationalist Iraqi tribes, religious groups, former Ba'ath Party and Iraqi Republican Guard members, as well as foreign fighters, is being coordinated by Saddam Hussein's former No 2, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who has played an important role in cementing a unified strategy among the different anti-US groups in the country. [complete article]

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Iraqi troops condemned, threatened for fighting; at least 200 desert
By Hannah Allam and Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder, November 8, 2004

U.S. military officials said Monday that at least 200 Iraqi troops had deserted their posts in the American-led offensive on Fallujah, illustrating the predicament faced by men who are torn between orders from commanders and outrage from their countrymen.

Prominent Iraqi clerics, including influential Sunni Muslims and top aides to rebel Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, condemned the Iraqi troops who were serving alongside Americans in Fallujah, the Sunni stronghold 40 miles west of Baghdad. The insurgent council that's controlled Fallujah for the past six months threatened to behead Iraqi troops who entered the city to "fight their own people."

The U.S. military and Iraqi commanders estimated that up to 200 Iraqi troops had resigned, with another 200 "on leave."

"Some people were afraid because they received threats," said Sgt. Abdul Raheem, an Iraqi soldier. "They were afraid of death." [complete article]

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So we win Fallujah. Then what?
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, November 8, 2004

So, the long-postponed offensive in Fallujah is finally under way, though it's unclear to what end. Hundreds, probably thousands, of insurgents will be killed. At best, the American soldiers and Marines will take control of the city. But then what? Fallujah isn't Masada or the Alamo, some last-ditch outpost where the rebels whoop their final battle cry, rally one more round of resistance, then pass into history when their last rifleman falls.

The problem is that the insurgents are active all over the Sunni Triangle. They dramatized this fact over the weekend. In Samarra, attacks on Iraqi police stations killed 33, including the local national guard commander, and injured 48. In Ramadi, a slew of suicide car bombings wounded 20 U.S. Marines. In Haditha and Haqlaniyah, guerrillas raided three police stations, killing 22 officers. In Diyala Province, the governor's aide and two members of the provincial governing council were killed. Bombs also exploded across Baghdad, at a Catholic church, and against U.S. convoys along the main road to the airport.

The highly coordinated attacks in Samarra are particularly disturbing, as U.S. and Iraqi forces supposedly pacified that city just last month. They might now accomplish the same feat in Fallujah; between 10,000 and 15,000 American soldiers and Marines are involved in the offensive, after all. But after the fighting is over, the siege can't be sustained for long. Residents, who have fled the city in anticipation of the battle, will want to return home; commercial traffic will once again flow; and it will be hard to block a new crop of insurgents from coming and going—especially if many of the soldiers and Marines move on to the next insurgent stronghold. As has widely been noted in many other contexts, the U.S. troops in Iraq are too stretched to run a tight occupation in one area while waging full-blown combat in another. (In the old days, "two-front war" meant fighting simultaneously in Europe and Asia. Now, apparently, it means Fallujah and Sadr City.) [complete article]

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America failing test of history as offensive compared to terror tactics of pariah states
By Charles Glass, The Independent, November 9, 2004

Muslim fundamentalist insurgents seeking to topple the government are holed up in a conservative city with little sympathy for secularism or pluralism. They raise the banner of Islam, and they call on the rest of the country to rise up and expel the oppressors. The government reacts by massing forces around the city. It demanded that the militants surrender or the city give them up. If not, the city would be destroyed. Fallujah this week? Yes, but it was also the Syrian city of Hama in the spring of 1982.

The fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood seized Hama as the first step towards its goal of a national uprising against the secular Baathist regime. The Syrian President demanded their surrender. His army shelled the city, and special forces went in to kill or capture the militants. The Syrians employed the same strategy that the US is using now. Its tanks and artillery waited outside the city; they fired on militants and civilians alike. Its elite units, like the American Marines surrounding Falljuah today, braced themselves for a bloody battle.

The US condemned Syria for the assault that is believed to have cost 10,000 civilian lives. The Syrian army destroyed the historic centre of Hama, and it rounded up Muslim rebels for imprisonment or execution. Syria's actions against Hama came to form part of the American case that Syria was a terrorist state. Partly because of Hama, Syria is on a list of countries in the Middle East whose regimes the US wants to change. [complete article]

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The United States' de-Baathification program fuelled the insurgency. Is it too late for Bush to change course?
By John Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, November 8, 2004

From the beginning, the question for the U.S. and British coalition was how to build a secure, stable, and democratic Iraq while dealing with the vacuum created by the fall of Saddam. The Baath Party, which kept its records secret, is estimated to have had between a million and two and a half million members, most of them Sunnis, like Saddam. For Iraq's traditionally excluded and suppressed Shiite majority and for the Kurdish minority, de-Baathification was an urgent goal. But the Coalition also needed to address the fears of the newly disenfranchised Sunnis, and, on a basic level, to keep the country functioning. Given the difficulty of the project, the occupation policies were markedly lacking in pragmatism.

During that first summer, an array of Sunni tribal leaders, religious leaders, Baathists, and former intelligence officials were openly shuttling around Baghdad, lobbying the Americans for a better deal. They saw themselves as having been treated unfairly, and many hinted that they would participate in the growing revolt if they were not given a place in the "new Iraq."

"Bremer seems to be interested only in de-Baathification," said Dr. Baher Sami Raphael Butti, an Iraqi psychiatrist whom I met with in July, 2003. "And this is a problem, because there are many Baathists who could help, but they have been thrown away. Many are fighting because they have not received their salaries, and they feel threatened by the fundamentalist Shia. I am a Baathist, by the way, but not a dogmatic one. Most Iraqis, including the Baathists, hated Saddam. Now they are frightened about the prospect of civil war." He went on, "We need to know what's going to happen. There is no transparency to the American role in Iraq, and this gives rise to more rumors. We need to know more."

In a sense, the "insurgency" began before Baghdad fell. Religious jihadis -- would-be martyrs from other Arab nations -- had been recruited by Saddam's government to carry out "suicide operations" against the Americans. Many of them were young men with full beards, dressed in traditional robes. In Baghdad, where most Iraqi men were relatively clean-shaven and wore Western dress, the jihadis stood out as foreigners and were plainly visible until a few hours before the Marines arrived; a number were staying in the same hotels as Western reporters. The morning Baghdad fell, I saw about sixty of them slip away. The evidence suggests that they regrouped clandestinely under Baathist recruiters and helped to build the insurgency. Most of the Baathists I spoke to acknowledged a tactical alliance between their own resistance and the foreign Islamist militants. [complete article]

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The re-election of Israel's enemy
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, November 7, 2004

The United States has re-elected an enemy of Israel as its president. If George W. Bush's next four years in office are anything like the first four, the damage he will do Israel will be all but irreversible.

The headlines in the mass circulation papers here screamed, "The friend stays" and "Bush is good for Israel," but from Israel's point of view he is one of the worst presidents ever. An American president who will give Israel four more years of freedom to act as it pleases in the territories is not a friend of this country. A true friend would save Israel from itself, as some European leaders are trying to do by means of the criticism they hurl at Israeli government policy. In a situation in which Israel is not restraining itself, restraint imposed from the outside is a supreme national interest, even if it involves exerting pressure that at times can be brutal. [complete article]

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Evangelicals say they led charge for the GOP
By Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall, Washington Post, November 8, 2004

As the presidential race was heating up in June and July, a pair of leaked documents showed that the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign was urging Christian supporters to turn over their church directories and was seeking to identify "friendly congregations" in battleground states.

Those revelations produced a flurry of accusations that the Bush campaign was leading churches to violate laws against partisan activities by tax-exempt organizations, and even some of the White House's closest religious allies said the campaign had gone too far.

But the untold story of the 2004 election, according to national religious leaders and grass-roots activists, is that evangelical Christian groups were often more aggressive and sometimes better organized on the ground than the Bush campaign. The White House struggled to stay abreast of the Christian right and consulted with the movement's leaders in weekly conference calls. But in many respects, Christian activists led the charge that GOP operatives followed and capitalized upon. [complete article]

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APRIL 2003 - The seeds of war
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Scott Wilson, Washington Post, May 2, 2003

Attackers believed to be hostile Iraqis tossed two grenades into a U.S. Army compound in this restive city early this morning, wounding seven soldiers in apparent retribution for the killings of 18 Iraqi protesters by U.S. forces over the past several days.

Although none of the soldiers suffered life-threatening injuries, the assault underscored rising resentment against the U.S. military occupation in Fallujah, a city of 200,000 about 35 miles west of Baghdad that was known as a center of support for fallen president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

Fallujah has been wracked by violent anti-American demonstrations since Monday, when shooting broke out as demonstrators converged on a school where soldiers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division had set up camp. U.S. officers said the soldiers opened fire after several armed protesters shot at the school, but participants in the rally insisted they were unarmed. Local officials said 16 people were killed and more than 50 were wounded. [...]

At the school where Monday's shooting occurred, teachers spent the day cleaning up in preparation for the start of classes on Saturday. The headmaster, Mohammed Ahmed, said that before they left, U.S. soldiers had damaged furniture and classroom supplies and left offensive graffiti on the walls.

In one classroom, "I [love] pork," with the word love represented by a heart, was written on the blackboard, along with a drawing of a camel and the words: "Iraqi Cab Company." In another room, "Eat [expletive] Iraq" was scrawled on a wall. And in Ahmed's office, sexual organs were drawn with white chalk on the back of the door.

"They came to liberate us?" Ahmed asked, pointing out the graffiti to a reporter. "What is the point of doing this?" [complete article]

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Allawi gives go-ahead to "clean Falluja"
Reuters, November 8, 2004

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says he has given U.S. and Iraqi forces the go-ahead to clear the rebel-held city of Falluja of "terrorists".

"I gave my authority to the multinational forces, Iraqi forces. We are determined to clean Falluja from the terrorists."

Allawi said he was imposing a curfew on the rebel-held city and closing Baghdad international airport for 48 hours.

"I have reached the belief that I have no other choice but to resort to extreme measures to protect the Iraqi people from these killers and to liberate the residents of Falluja so they can return to their homes," he told a news conference on Monday. [complete article]

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G.I.'s open attack to take Falluja from Iraq rebels
By Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Robert F. Worth, New York Times, November 8, 2004

Explosions and heavy gunfire thundered across Falluja on Sunday night and Monday morning as American troops seized control of two strategic bridges, a hospital and other objectives in the first stage of a long-expected invasion of the city, the center of the Iraqi insurgency.

Hours earlier, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, faced with an expanding outbreak of insurgent violence across the country, formally proclaimed a state of emergency for 60 days across most of Iraq. The proclamation gave him broad powers that allow him to impose curfews, order house-to-house searches and detain suspected criminals and insurgents.

The first of several thousand marines in tanks, Humvees and armored personnel carriers began taking up positions on Monday morning along the northern edge of the city to prepare for an attack, and American jets began bombing targets.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 American soldiers and marines backed by newly trained Iraqi forces were besieging Falluja for what American commanders said was likely to be a brutal, block-by-block battle to retake control and capture, kill or disperse an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 hard-core insurgent fighters. The battle could prove the most important since the American invasion of Iraq 19 months ago. [complete article]

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Screams will not be heard
By Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, November 8, 2004

With fitting irony, one of the camps used by the US marines waiting for the assault on Falluja was formerly a Ba'ath party retreat occasionally used by Saddam Hussein's sons. Dreamland, as it was known, has an island in the middle of an artificial lake fringed by palms.

Now the camp's dream-like unreality is distorting every news report filed on the preparations for the onslaught on Falluja. We don't know, and won't know, anything about what happens in the next few days except for what the US military authorities choose to let us know. It's long since been too dangerous for journalists to move around unless they are embedded with the US forces. There is almost no contact left with civilians still in Falluja, the only information is from those who have left.

This is how the fantasy runs: a city the size of Brighton is now only ever referred to as a "militants' stronghold" or "insurgents' redoubt". The city is being "softened up" with precision attacks from the air. Pacifying Falluja has become the key to stabilising the country ahead of the January elections. The "final assault" is imminent, in which the foreigners who have infiltrated the almost deserted Iraqi city with their extremist Islam will be "cleared", "rooted out" or "crushed". Or, as one marine put it: "We will win the hearts and minds of Falluja by ridding the city of insurgents. We're doing that by patrolling the streets and killing the enemy."

These are the questionable assumptions and make-believe which are now all that the embedded journalists with the US forces know to report. Every night, the tone gets a little more breathless and excited as the propaganda operation to gear the troops up for battle coopts the reporters into its collective psychology. [complete article]

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Defense minister exhorts Iraqis: 'Liberate this city'
By Jackie Spinner and Omar Fekeiki, Washington Post, November 8, 2004

Promising promotions to all soldiers who go into battle, the interim Iraqi defense minister, Hazim Shalan, called on his army Sunday to "liberate" Fallujah, a signal that U.S. forces had won the blessing of the interim government to proceed with an operation to retake the insurgent-held city.

"This is the first time in the history of Iraq we have seen people being slaughtered like sheep under the umbrella of Islam," Shalan told Iraqi troops gathered at a base near Fallujah. "Your conscience and families call for you. They call for you to liberate this city."

Dancing, singing and thrusting their rifles in the air, the Iraqi soldiers seemed to know a rallying cry when they heard one.

"We are here to defend our country," said Ali, 28, a soldier from Nasiriyah who is in the Iraqi army's 1st Brigade. Like many of the Iraqi soldiers interviewed here, he gave only one name. "We have to get rid of terrorism. All the world looks down on Iraq now because of the terrorists who are not Iraqi. We will make them see Iraqi men ending the terrorism in Iraq." [complete article]

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What if Islam isn't an obstacle to democracy in the Middle East but the secret to achieving it?
By Michael Hirsh, Washington Monthly, November, 2004

America's misreading of the Arab world -- and our current misadventure in Iraq -- may have really begun in 1950. That was the year a young University of London historian named Bernard Lewis visited Turkey for the first time. Lewis, who is today an imposing, white-haired sage known as the "doyen of Middle Eastern studies" in America (as a New York Times reviewer once called him), was then on a sabbatical. Granted access to the Imperial Ottoman archives -- the first Westerner allowed in -- Lewis recalled that he felt "rather like a child turned loose in a toy shop, or like an intruder in Ali Baba's cave." But what Lewis saw happening outside his study window was just as exciting, he later wrote. There in Istanbul, in the heart of what once was a Muslim empire, a Western-style democracy was being born.

The hero of this grand transformation was Kemal Ataturk. A generation before Lewis's visit to Turkey, Ataturk (the last name, which he adopted, means "father of all Turks"), had seized control of the dying Ottoman Sultanate. Intent on single-handedly shoving his country into the modern West -- "For the people, despite the people," he memorably declared -- Ataturk imposed a puritanical secularism that abolished the caliphate, shuttered religious schools, and banned fezes, veils, and other icons of Islamic culture, even purging Turkish of its Arabic vocabulary. His People's Party had ruled autocratically since 1923. But in May 1950, after the passage of a new electoral law, it resoundingly lost the national elections to the nascent Democrat Party. The constitutional handover was an event "without precedent in the history of the country and the region," as Lewis wrote in The Emergence of Modern Turkey, published in 1961, a year after the Turkish army first seized power. And it was Kemal Ataturk, Lewis noted at another point, who had "taken the first decisive steps in the acceptance of Western civilization."

Today, that epiphany -- Lewis's Kemalist vision of a secularized, Westernized Arab democracy that casts off the medieval shackles of Islam and enters modernity at last -- remains the core of George W. Bush's faltering vision in Iraq. As his other rationales for war fall away, Bush has only democratic transformation to point to as a casus belli in order to justify one of the costliest foreign adventures in American history. And even now Bush, having handed over faux sovereignty to the Iraqis and while beating a pell-mell retreat under fire, does not want to settle for some watered-down or Islamicized version of democracy. His administration's official goal is still dictated by the "Lewis Doctrine," as The Wall Street Journal called it: a Westernized polity, reconstituted and imposed from above like Kemal's Turkey, that is to become a bulwark of security for America and a model for the region. [complete article]

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Emergence of copycat militant groups bedevils intelligence officials
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, November 8, 2004

There are the White Flags, the Green Battalions and the Holders of the Black Banners. There's Mohammed's Army and, not to be outdone, Mohammed's Second Army. The Lions of God and the Harvest of Resistance are recent arrivals.

Shadowy new militant groups crop up almost weekly in Iraq, with names that sound like rejected rock bands and with cadres of masked gunmen posing for video cameras. While some really are hardened guerrillas responsible for brutal attacks, many are amateur copycats.

The proliferation of these militant groups is yet another frustration for American and Iraqi intelligence experts struggling to figure out exactly who the enemy is. [complete article]

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Evolving nature of al Qaeda is misunderstood, critic says
By James Risen, New York Times, November 8, 2004

The Bush administration has failed to recognize that Al Qaeda is now a global Islamic insurgency, rather than a traditional terrorist organization, and so poses a much different threat than previously believed, says a senior counterterrorism official at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the C.I.A.'s Osama bin Laden unit and the author of a best-selling book critical of the administration's handling of the fight against terrorism, said in an interview with The New York Times this weekend that the government "doesn't respect the threat" because most officials still regard Al Qaeda as a terrorist organization that can be defeated by arresting or killing its operatives one at a time.

He noted that President Bush and other officials had repeatedly said two-thirds of the leadership of Al Qaeda has been killed or captured, but he said the figure was misleading because it is referring to the leaders who were in place as of Sept. 11, 2001.

Al Qaeda has replaced many of those dead or captured operatives and continues to thrive as a guiding force for Islamic extremists around the world. [complete article]

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President feels emboldened, not accidental, after victory
By Elizabeth Bumiller, New York Times, November 8, 2004

One trademark of President Bush's first term was his aversion to news conferences, which his staff says he often treated like trips to the dentist. So on the morning after Mr. Bush's re-election, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, was taken aback when the president told him he was ready to hold a news conference that Mr. Bartlett had suggested, win or lose, the week before.

"I didn't have to convince him or anything," Mr. Bartlett said. "Without me prompting him, he brought it up."

It was a small but telling change for a president whose re-election has already had a powerful effect on his psyche, his friends and advisers say.

They say Mr. Bush's governing style may change as well, although they acknowledge it is too early to tell if victory will lift what critics call the chip on his shoulder and make him more magnanimous - or whether it will simply create a more imperial president.

One thing is certain: Four years after the disputed election of 2000, Mr. Bush is reveling in winning the popular vote and feels that he can no longer be considered a one-term accident of history. [complete article]

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U.S. unprepared despite progress, experts say
By John Mintz and Joby Warrick, Washington Post, November 8, 2004

The United States remains woefully unprepared to protect the public against terrorists wielding biological agents despite dramatic increases in biodefense spending by the Bush administration and considerable progress on many fronts, according to government officials and specialists in bioterrorism and public health.

Although administration officials have spoken at times about bioterrorism's dangers, they are more alarmed than they have signaled publicly, U.S. officials said. As President Bill Clinton did, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have thrust themselves into the issue in depth.

"There's no area of homeland security in which the administration has made more progress than bioterrorism, and none where we have further to go," said Richard A. Falkenrath, who until May was Bush's deputy homeland security adviser and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. [complete article]

See also, Taking biodefense too far (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists).

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Fox News, media elite
By Jacques Steinberg, New York Times, November 8, 2004

Election Night 2004 delivered more than one decisive victory.

As Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, and Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of its parent company, News Corporation, entertained their guests with cheeseburgers and hot dogs in a suite down the hall from the control room, Fox's cable news channel was dramatically consolidating its ratings gains of the past few years.

Fox News clobbered the other cable news networks, its 8.1 million viewers more than tripling its own election night prime-time performance in 2000. NBC, ABC and CBS, on the other hand, lost millions of viewers this year, according to Nielsen Media Research. And Fox News actually came closer to CBS in the ratings than CNN did to Fox News.

Yet the ratings bonanza presents a conundrum for Fox. It has long presented itself as the scrappy underdog, but its executives acknowledge that such a tactic becomes trickier when the network is ranked No. 1 among cable news channels.

Similarly, the network's success could undercut the very raison d'être of Fox News: that it exists as an alternative to what its executives and some of its on-air talent call, disdainfully and often, the media establishment. Fox News has now become popular enough - with an audience whose conservative political leanings track those of the voters who re-elected President Bush - to lay claim to its own place in the establishment. [complete article]

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Iraq quagmire has echoes of brutal Algerian eight-year war
By Alistair Horne, The Spectator (via The Australian), November 8, 2004

On the night of All Saints, 1954, a young honeymooning couple of French school teachers, dedicated to their work among underprivileged children, were dragged off a bus in the Aures Mountains of Algeria and shot dead.

Their murder by the newly created FLN (National Liberation Front) marked the beginning of organised revolt against the French colonial occupiers. The eight-year-long Algerian war was to bring down six French prime ministers, open the door to Charles de Gaulle – and come close to destroying him too.

The war was the last of the grand-style colonial struggles, but, perhaps more to the point, it was also the first campaign in which poorly equipped Muslim mujaheddin licked one of the top Western armies.

The echoes of la guerre d'Algerie still reverberate across the Islamic world, especially in Iraq. [complete article]

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Iraq's Allawi declares martial law
By Alistair Lyon, Reuters (via Yahoo), November 7, 2004

Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, grappling with the violence blighting Iraq, lived up to his tough image on Sunday by declaring martial law.

Barely more than four months after he took over from Iraq's U.S.-British occupiers, Allawi's government announced a state of emergency for 60 days, but it was far from clear what impact this would have on a raging insurgency.

Marked for assassination by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Allawi has sworn to crush the foreign fighters and die-hard Baathists he says are operating from the rebel Sunni Muslim cities of Falluja and Ramadi. [complete article]

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21 Iraqi police executed
By Amar Daham, Agence France Presse (via The Australian), November 8, 2004

Twenty one policemen were shot dead, execution style, when gunmen stormed two police stations in neighbouring areas yesterday in the restive Iraqi province of Al-Anbar, a police officer said.

The province is also home to the rebel-held cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, where the number of casualties are mounting as US forces pounded suspected rebel targets near Fallujah.

The police were shot in the towns of Haditha and Haqlaniya.

"A large number of attackers, estimated at about 200, ambushed the main police station in Haditha and another smaller one in Haqlaniya," said the police officer from Haditha, a town 200km west of Baghdad. [complete article]

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The antiwar Right is ready to rumble
By David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, November 7, 2004

Tuesday, a gloomy mood was settling over the dozen conservative stalwarts gathered with martinis and glasses of red wine in an office in Arlington, Va., to watch the returns. Early exit polls showed President Bush trailing, and Richard Viguerie, dean of conservative direct mail, thought he knew who was to blame: the neoconservatives, the group associated with making the case for the invasion of Iraq.

"If he loses, they are going to have a bull's-eye on their back," Mr. Viguerie said.

Ronald Godwin, a top aide to Dr. Jerry Falwell, agreed. "I see a real battle for the Republican Party starting about Nov. 3," he said.

The euphoria of Mr. Bush's victory postponed the battle, but not for long. Now that Mr. Bush has secured re-election, some conservatives who say they held their tongues through the campaign season are speaking out against the neoconservatives, against the war and in favor of a speedy exit.

They argue that the war is a political liability to the Republican Party, but also that it runs counter to traditional conservatives' disdain for altruist interventions to make far-off parts of the world safe for American-style democracy. Their growing outspokenness recalls the dynamics of American politics before Vietnam, when Democrats first became identified as doves and Republicans hawks, suggesting to some the complicated political pressures facing the foreign policy of the second Bush administration. [complete article]

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U.S. ready to put weapons in space
By Mark Townsend, The Observer, November 7, 2004

America has begun preparing its next military objective - space. Documents reveal that the US Air Force has for the first time adopted a doctrine to establish 'space superiority'.

The new doctrine means that pre-emptive strikes against enemy satellites would become 'crucial steps in any military operation'. This week defence experts will attend a conference in London amid warnings that President Bush's re-election will pave the way to the arming of space.

Internal USAF documents reveal that seizing control of the 'final frontier' is deemed essential for modern warfare. Counterspace Operations reveals that destroying enemy satellites would improve the chance of victory. It states: 'Space superiority provides freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack. Space and air superiority are crucial first steps in any military operation.' [complete article]

Comment -- If you don't stop to think about the implications, space-based weapons systems might sound quite benign. They're unlikely to kill anyone if they're just aimed at satellites. But what this means is that the US government and military want to have the ability to shut down any communications network anywhere on the planet at the flip of a switch. This is a grab for global, totalitarian power. There's no other way of describing it.

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President signals no major shift in foreign policy
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, November 7, 2004

President Bush faces an array of difficult foreign policy issues in his second term, but he appears unlikely to change the overall direction of an assertive diplomacy that has riled some key allies and led to rising anti-Americanism around the globe, according to administration officials and outside experts.

Administration officials acknowledge that they are considering stylistic shifts and will look for opportunities to reach out to estranged allies. With the election behind them, officials hope policy toward Iraq will not be as politicized, and that nations that have withheld assistance in the hope that Bush would lose will rethink their position.

Some changes will depend on whether key players in Bush's first-term team -- such as fierce rivals Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- are replaced. New personnel would lead to a review of policies and, possibly, some shifts in tactics, but the direction would still be set by Bush and Vice President Cheney, a highly influential figure on foreign policy. [complete article]

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U.S. expands list of lost missiles
By Douglas Jehl and David E. Sanger, New York Times, November 6, 2004

American intelligence agencies have tripled their formal estimate of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile systems believed to be at large worldwide, since determining that at least 4,000 of the weapons in Iraq's prewar arsenals cannot be accounted for, government officials said Friday.

A new government estimate says a total of 6,000 of the weapons may be outside the control of any government, up from a previous estimate of 2,000, American officials said.

The officials said they did not know whether missiles from Iraq remain there or have been smuggled into other countries, though a senior administration official said Friday that "there is no evidence that they have left the country.''

It was unclear whether Iraqi military or intelligence personnel removed the missile systems during the initial invasion of Iraq or whether they disappeared from warehouses after major combat ended.

Shoulder-fired missiles - which are small, lethal and easy to use - are attractive weapons for terrorists. In recent months, Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies have repeatedly warned that Al Qaeda intends to use them to shoot down planes. In 2002, attackers who launched two small Russian-made SA-7 missiles almost hit a commercial aircraft taking off from Mombasa, Kenya. The new estimate of a larger number of the missile systems was discussed at a classified Defense Intelligence Agency conference in Alabama this week, the officials said. They declined to discuss the methods by which the new estimate had been reached, saying that it was classified.

American intelligence analysts have said in the past that during Saddam Hussein's rule, Iraq stockpiled at least 5,000 of these missile systems, and that fewer than a third had been recovered. The shelf life of the missiles can vary, with battery life depending on the conditions under which they are stored.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said last fall that "no threat is more serious to aviation" than the shoulder-fired missiles, which can be bought on the black market for as little as $5,000, are about five feet long and weigh as little as 35 pounds. More than 40 aircraft have been struck by shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles since the 1970's, causing at least 24 crashes and more than 600 deaths worldwide, according to a State Department estimate. In Iraq, the missiles have been used in more than a dozen attacks on American planes and helicopters, including those taking off and landing at Baghdad's international airport. [complete article]

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The murder that shattered Holland's liberal dream
By Jason Burke, The Observer, November 7, 2004

The future, Samir believes, is grim. 'We are hated now,' the teenager said, leaning over the handlebars of his bicycle. 'Whatever we do will be wrong, everything we say will be wrong, everywhere we go will be wrong.'

Samir was born in the Netherlands but is of Moroccan descent. He does not pray or go to a mosque, but says he is proud to be a Muslim and proud to be Dutch. He is not alone in his fear and confusion.

This weekend the nation known for its relaxed tolerance is gripped by tension, anger and insecurity. An outspoken film-maker, Theo van Gogh, was shot dead by a 26-year-old Dutch-born Muslim last Tuesday. Since then a series of public figures have been threatened with death by Islamic extremists. The murder has catalysed a steady erosion of the Dutch tradition of moderation and self-censorship on race and religion.

Even politicians on the left spoke last week of 'harsh truths' on immigration, noting that 5 per cent of the population is now Muslim and saying 'foreigners' top the lists of criminality and truancy. One web-based book of condolences for van Gogh had to be shut down because of racist abuse. As he spoke, Samir waved towards the grim housing estate on the outskirts of Amsterdam where van Gogh's alleged killer lived. 'I don't know what happens now, but it isn't going to be good,' he said. [complete article]

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