The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
No way out?
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, November 19, 2004

Lame-duck Secretary of State Colin Powell can expect a pretty cool reception when he shows up on the warm shores of the Red Sea next week for a conference of Iraq's neighbors. "Why don't we just call the whole thing off?" suggests a member of one Gulf Arab delegation. There are hard questions to be addressed, and every party there is vitally concerned with stabilizing the region. But Powell is hardly the guy to give credible answers these days. "What's he going to do?" asks Mr. Gulf, "Serve coffee?"

The U.S.-anointed Iraqi government will be meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, with every country on Iraq's borders, and the G8 club of the world's most industrialized countries will be providing its patronage. But Powell can't give them a convincing answer to the most important question on most of their minds: does the United States ever intend to leave Iraq? And, if so, when? How?

You might think you've heard the answer. On the eve of the U.S. elections, Powell himself categorically denied stories that the Pentagon is building 14 permanent military bases in Iraq. "Our goal is to assist the Iraqi people to have elections, to write a constitution, to put in place a fully legitimate government that rests on that constitution ... and then to bring our troops out," he told Egyptian television. President George W. Bush hit the same note in his acceptance speech, after winning re-election: "We will help the emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan --[applause] -- so they can grow in strength and defend their freedom. And then our servicemen and women will come home with the honor they have earned."

But there's nothing on the drawing boards, in fact, to suggest Iraq can defend its freedom if our servicemen and women come home. Not now, not next year, and possibly not for generations to come. [complete article]

Comment -- In the run-up to the US election, Robert Novak and others predicted that, if re-elected, in early 2005 -- soon after Iraqi elections -- President Bush would implement some form of the declare-victory-and-leave exit strategy. Novak, of course, attributed this to "reliable sources" inside the administration. It's hard not to conclude, however, that rather than being based on hard information, these claims were based on the assumption that the administration was ready to make a course correction in light of the failure of its plan to transform the Middle East. The same line of thinking gave force to the expectation that if re-elected, Bush wouldn't hesitate to dump much of the neoconservative cabal. Now we know otherwise.

The Bush-Cheney mindset -- resolute but incapable of adaptation -- leads to this impasse: Advance is impossible but retreat unthinkable.

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An al-Qaida alliance?
By Craig Gordon, Newsday, November 20, 2004

In the run-up to last year's invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration frequently cited alleged but largely circumstantial links between Osama bin Laden's terror network and a Jordanian militant living in Iraq as a key justification for war.

Now U.S. officials believe bin Laden's group and the terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have been trying to communicate with each other recently as al-Zarqawi has emerged as a major leader in Iraq's anti-American insurgency.

A senior U.S. military commander stressed Friday that he wasn't sure al-Qaida's top leaders and al-Zarqawi had succeeded in contacting each other and that he did not believe bin Laden or other al-Qaida figures were directing the insurgency.

But the comments by Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, suggested both anti-American groups are trying to foster or strengthen ties, especially in light of a message on an Islamic Web site last month that al-Zarqawi had sworn allegiance to bin Laden.

"We know for a fact that there are attempted communications between them," Smith told reporters at the Pentagon. "There is a relationship between al- Qaida senior leadership and Zarqawi. How to characterize that, we don't know yet." [complete article]

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Clashes intensify in Mosul
Aljazeera, November 20, 2004

The bodies of nine purported members of the Iraqi National Guard have been found in Mosul, where clashes between the troops, supported by US forces, and armed fighters continued for a third day.

The bodies of what were believed to be nine members of the Iraqi National Guard fighting anti-US forces have been found in the northern city of Mosul on Saturday.

The men, discovered in an industrial area not far from the scene of some of the worst clashes in Mosul, appeared to have been executed, as they all had a bullet in the head and their bodies were also badly burned. [complete article]

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Fresh violence hits Iraq capital
BBC News, November 20, 2004

Iraqi and US troops have been involved in renewed clashes with insurgents in several areas of the capital, Baghdad.

At least three policemen died when the rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades at their station in the Adhamiya area.

An adviser to an Iraqi minister was killed in a separate attack, along with three other people.

A US soldier also died, and nine others were injured, when their unit came under a co-ordinated attack, the US military said in a statement.

Many observers believe the attack on the police station was in retaliation for Friday's raid by Iraqi security forces, backed by American troops, on the Abu Hanifa mosque in the same district. [complete article]

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Destroying it to save it?
By Ilana Ozernoy, US News (via Yahoo), November 20, 2004

Once the sky stopped raining fire and the smoke from the tank cannons vanished, it was time to pick up the pieces. But where to start? What had been houses were now piles of brick and glass, demolished by 500-pound bombs. Whole city blocks were leveled, the rubble and mangled carcasses of cars pushed to the sides of the streets by the force of Abrams tanks. In crushing the Sunni insurgents who had laid claim to the streets, U.S. and Iraqi forces left Fallujah looking like a city ripped asunder by a hurricane. "It's in bad shape. I don't know what they [residents] have to come back to," said Sgt. 1st Class John Ryan of the 1st Infantry's Division Task Force 2-2, which flanked U.S. marines on the eastern side of the city during the fighting.

As muted sounds of gunfire crackled in the city last week, Ryan, along with the soldiers of Alpha Company, took shelter in a damaged house. Picking through debris, a soldier wondered out loud, "What is this place? Hell." In an upstairs bedroom, the unit's Iraqi translator took a ballpoint pen and wrote on a closet door in small, neat Arabic: "We're sorry about the destruction of this house and all the houses of this town. We came here to make peace and bring safety." [complete article]

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Chaos in Iraq imperils voting
By Esther Schrader and Mark Mazzetti, Los Angeles Times, November 20, 2004

Despite the recent U.S. offensive to wrest Fallouja from militants, security in many Sunni Muslim-dominated areas of Iraq has worsened, thwarting reconstruction efforts and threatening planned January elections, U.S. officials said Friday.

Security in the so-called Sunni Triangle, as well as the northern city of Mosul, is poorer than it was six weeks ago, said William Taylor, director of the reconstruction office at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

"We're worried that in some areas -- again, not all, in some areas -- it would now be difficult to have elections," Taylor said, adding that it was critical to speed reconstruction so that elections could take place. Launching more recovery projects is considered vital to winning Iraqi support for the elections as well as the U.S. presence in Iraq.

On Friday, a top U.S. commander in Iraq said insurgents continued to operate in many areas and their attacks could imperil the legitimacy of the elections, scheduled for Jan. 27. [complete article]

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Iraq's hit-and-run insurgents outsmart understrength troops
By Steve Negus, Financial Times, November 19, 2004

In the small town of Hammam al-Alil, the police have disappeared, the local government has gone vanished and an abandoned National Guard base is currently being looted by teenagers.

The insurgent assault that destroyed part of the police force in the city of Mosul to the north last week also swept away all vestiges of government in the smaller towns of the Tigris valley to the south, forcing the US military to go in and rebuild Iraqi interim government control virtually from scratch.

The fragility of government control here shows how the geographical distribution of Iraq's insurgency, which has a foothold in innumerable small towns and villages of north-central Iraq, can sometimes overwhelm the size of the US forces deployed to deal with it. [complete article]

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'The war is over, but there is no peace ... and the killings go on'
By Abbas Ahmed Ibrahim, The Independent, November 20, 2004

This is a strange time in Fallujah. They say the war is over, but there is no peace. Every day there is shooting, and there are still killings going on. There is very little left of the town now, everywhere there are buildings which have been destroyed.

There is also a terrible smell. We know what it is - it is the smell of dead bodies. Many have now been cleared away, but the smell does not go away, it will stay with us for a long time. The Americans say they are just finishing off the insurgents, but then they have been saying that for a few days now, so people here ask "who have they got left to finish off?" We hear of things like American soldiers killing wounded prisoners in a mosque, but that news is recycled to us from people outside. It is not possible to go out and find out what is going on.

I am not staying in Fallujah out of choice. But I am afraid to try to leave. I am 36 years old, The American troops have been arresting any males between the ages of 15 and 45 who have attempted to leave. They say civilians were told to get out of Fallujah, so any man who stayed behind must be in the mujahedin. [complete article]

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From an Iraqi pulpit, prayers and politics
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 20, 2004

Since the occupation began, the mass prayers on Friday in Sadr City have become a ritual in a capital that teeters before a Hobbesian abyss. The words of the prayer leader and the thousands to whom he ministers give voice to the sentiments of a city as dispirited as at any time since Saddam Hussein fell in 2003.

There is fatigue, an unrelenting weariness that has left even a place as resilient as Iraq hopeless. There is revulsion over car bombings and beheadings by Sunni Muslim insurgents, carnage that seems to have curbed the anger of many Shiites over the U.S. attack on Sunni rebels in Fallujah. And there is a new style of politics that competes for legitimacy with elections backed by the United States and its Iraqi allies.

"We are the Sadrists, forthright," the prayer leader Abdel-Zahra Suwaidi declared.

Suwaidi spoke Friday from an outdoor podium decked in a red-and-white cloth, embroidered in gold. Before him was a portrait of Sadr's father, an immensely popular ayatollah assassinated by Hussein's agents in 1999. Unarmed men, in black pants and white shirts, encircled Suwaidi, bearing badges that pictured both the father and son. Loudspeakers carried his stentorian voice, which cracked at times, prompting an assistant sitting behind him to provide a glass of water.

On this day, his sermon was stern and impassioned, beginning with the fighting in Fallujah and the shooting by a Marine of an unarmed prisoner that was taped by an American cameraman and broadcast worldwide.

"God has exposed the aggressors once again when he revealed the crime of killing the wounded," he said.

The crowd answered in unison, fists in the air.

"No, no, no to the devil!" they shouted. "No, no, no to falsehoods!" [complete article]

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Troops invade Baghdad mosque
By Karl Vick and Khalid Saffar, Washington Post, November 20, 2004

Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers raided the most revered Sunni mosque in Baghdad, setting off stun grenades, arresting dozens and leaving at least two people dead, according to witnesses and a hospital official.

The raid on the Abu Hanifa mosque just after Friday prayers was the latest in a series of moves targeting clerics who support the insurgency, which continues to churn violently in the sections of Iraq dominated by the country's minority Sunni Muslim population.

Spokesmen for Iraq's interim government, which must approve major military operations in the country, tried in recent days to prepare the way for the wave of arrests by citing Iraqi law that equates support for insurgency with the actions themselves. But popular outrage was apparent in the wake of the raid on Abu Hanifa, the burial place of a medieval scholar who founded one of the faith's most prominent schools of law. [complete article]

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Bush confronts new challenge on issue of Iran
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, November 19, 2004

While assembling a new national security team, President Bush is confronting what could become the biggest challenge of his second term: how to contain Iran's nuclear program and what some in the administration believe to be Tehran's support of violence in Israel and insurgents in Iraq.

In an eerie repetition of the prelude to the Iraq war, hawks in the administration and Congress are trumpeting ominous disclosures about Iran's nuclear capacities to make the case that Iran is a threat that must be confronted, either by economic sanctions, military action, or "regime change."

But Britain, France and Germany are urging diplomacy, placing their hopes in a deal they brokered last week in which Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program in return for discussions about future economic benefits. [complete article]

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PLEASE HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE -- For three years The War in Context has exposed the flawed premises, grandiose ambitions and disastrous consequences of the foreign policies of the Bush administration. If millions of Americans took the trouble to inform themselves through sources such as this, maybe we wouldn't be in for another four years of Bush - but they don't and we are. So what do we do now? Educate, educate, educate! Democracy can't work without an informed electorate. The War in Context has a role to play in this effort and with your support more Americans can learn how they have been failed by their government and why they must demand that it be held accountable. The long-term sustainability of the site depends on significantly expanding the readership and thereby opening up an advertising revenue stream. Here's how you can help:

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Intelligence on Iran unverified
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, November 19, 2004

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell shared information with reporters Wednesday about Iran's nuclear program that was classified and based on an unvetted, single source who provided information that two U.S. officials said yesterday was highly significant if true but has not yet been verified.

Powell and other senior Cabinet members were briefed last week on the sensitive intelligence. The material was stamped "No Foreign," meaning it was not to be shared with allies, although President Bush decided that portions could be shared last week with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, officials said.

According to one official with access to the material, a "walk-in" source approached U.S intelligence earlier this month with more than 1,000 pages purported to be Iranian drawings and technical documents, including a nuclear warhead design and modifications to enable Iranian ballistic missiles to deliver an atomic strike. The official agreed to discuss the information on the condition of anonymity and only because Powell had alluded to it publicly. [complete article]

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Marine officers see risks in reducing U.S. troops in Falluja
By Eric Schmitt and Robert F. Worth, New York Times, November 18, 2004

Senior Marine intelligence officers in Iraq are warning that if American troop levels in the Falluja area are significantly reduced during reconstruction there, as has been planned, insurgents in the region will rebound from their defeat. The rebels could thwart the retraining of Iraqi security forces, intimidate the local population and derail elections set for January, the officers say.

They have further advised that despite taking heavy casualties in the weeklong battle, the insurgents will continue to grow in number, wage guerrilla attacks and try to foment unrest among Falluja's returning residents, emphasizing that expectations for improved conditions have not been met.

The pessimistic analysis is contained in a seven-page classified report prepared by intelligence officers in the First Marine Expeditionary Force, or I MEF, last weekend as the offensive in Falluja was winding down. The assessment was distributed to senior Marine and Army officers in Iraq, where one officer called it "brutally honest."

Marine commanders marshaled about 12,000 marines and soldiers, and roughly 2,500 Iraqi forces for the Falluja campaign, but they always expected to send thousands of American troops back to other locations in Iraq eventually, after the major fighting in Falluja. This intelligence assessment suggests that such a move would be risky. [complete article]

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On Capitol Hill, military warns of being under strain
By Esther Schrader, Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2004

Continued fighting in Iraq is straining U.S. forces nearly to the breaking point, even as the Pentagon pumps more than $5.8 billion per month into sustaining its forces there, the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines told Congress on Wednesday.

In testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, the service chiefs said the military would need considerably more money for Iraq over the next year. The chiefs of the Army and Marines in particular stressed the increasing difficulty of recruiting and retaining soldiers, and then equipping them for combat.

"Make no mistake, today we are at war," Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, told lawmakers.

In the last year, as the insurgency in Iraq has grown, "the demand on the force has increased exponentially," Hagee said. "This demand is especially telling in the strain on our Marines, their families, and on our equipment and materiel stocks."

For the Army, which has 110,000 soldiers serving in Iraq -- five times as many troops as the Marine Corps —- the strain is particularly acute, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said. Despite racing over the last year to install heavy armor on its fleet of more than 8,000 Humvees in Iraq, it has so far manufactured the armor for only half, he said. And not all of that has been installed on the vehicles. [complete article]

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If the U.S. can't fix it, it's the wrong kind of democracy
By Seumas Milne, The Guardian, November 18, 2004

The more George Bush and Tony Blair evangelise about the need to spread democracy, the clearer it becomes that they mean something quite different by the word from the rest of the world. Bush and Blair's response to the death of Yasser Arafat - the Palestinian leader who unified and championed a dispersed and occupied people for 35 years - has been a particularly instructive case in point.

Bush was unable even to mention Arafat's name last Friday, when the pair hailed what most Palestinians consider a devastating loss as a marvellous opportunity for Middle East peace. But, they cautioned, progress towards a Palestinian state would only be possible if the Palestinians were prepared to embrace democracy. The fact that Arafat was elected with an overwhelming majority in internationally supervised elections, and continued to command majority support until his death, was evidently beside the point. He was the wrong kind of democratically elected leader.

As Bush and Blair joshed about poodles and Palestine in the White House, US occupation forces, backed up by British troops, rampaged through the Iraqi cities of Falluja and Mosul, boasting that they had killed 1,600 resistance fighters in four days. The violence and destruction was of course meted out in the name of democratic elections - which the US blocked for well over a year, while its puppet administration banned parties, newspapers and TV stations. If there seems any question that the elections might not maintain pro-occupation politicians in power (when polls show most Iraqis want foreign troops out now), there seems little doubt they will either be more tightly rigged or postponed again.

Meanwhile, pressure for democratic reform of pro-western dictatorships remains striking by its absence. The presidents of Egypt, Pakistan and Uzbekistan are free to carry on torturing and jailing their opponents without the inconvenience of the democratic reforms demanded of the Palestinians and others. As a 21st century Madame Roland might have said: "Oh democracy, what crimes are committed in your name". [complete article]

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Gaza Strip settlers may go to West Bank
By Conal Urquhart, The Guardian, November 17, 2004

Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank will be able to use the compensation they receive from Israel to build homes in other West Bank settlements, the director of the agency responsible for evacuating settlers said yesterday.

Yonathan Bassi said the settlers would be able to spend their compensation wherever they wanted.

"They are free people - they can go where they want. They can go to Canada, Jerusalem or any of the settlements in the West Bank," he said.

Settlers who went to the West Bank would receive as much money as those who chose Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Those who moved to the Negev or the Galilee, where there are big Arab populations, would receive a $30,000 (£16,000) bonus. [complete article]

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Jailed in Israel, Palestinian symbol eyes top post
By James Bennet, New York Times, November 19, 2004

Of all the men who would be leaders of the nation that would be Palestine, he is the most popular, his personal story the most compelling, his command of Hebrew and understanding of Israelis the most sophisticated.

Yet for Marwan Barghouti, the odds of succeeding Yasir Arafat appear, for now, to be the longest. Mr. Arafat was accused by Israel of terrorism and kept a virtual prisoner in his compound here. Mr. Barghouti was convicted by Israel of terrorism and is an actual prisoner in an Israeli jail, where he is serving five life terms plus 40 years.

Still, from prison, Mr. Barghouti, a sharp, charismatic man of 45, is weighing a run for one of the jobs vacated at Mr. Arafat's death, the presidency of the governing Palestinian Authority.

"If he feels it's in the interest of his people for him to serve as president, he won't hesitate," Mr. Barghouti's wife, Fadwa, said in an interview here on Thursday.

The arc of Mr. Barghouti's career - from prisoner to peacemaker to prisoner - tracks the course of Israeli-Palestinian relations. His prominence in the political considerations of Palestinians reveals the generational, institutional and personal crosscurrents roiling Palestinian society since the death of Mr. Arafat. [complete article]

Bush envoy calls on Israel to release jailed Palestinian leader
By Kareem Fahim, Village Voice, November 12, 2004

During an interview with host Larry King on CNN last night [November 11], James. A Baker, the former U.S. secretary of state, who currently serves as the Bush administration's special envoy on Iraqi debt, called on the Israeli government to release Marwan Barghouti, the jailed Palestinian leader who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail for ordering attacks against Israel. [...]

"There is now. . . . in an Israeli prison a man named Marwan Barghouti, who is one of the young guard of Palestinians," Baker told King last night, speaking about the post–Yasir Arafat era. "And if the Palestinians are going to make this work against the really hard-line elements, the Islamists and some of the people of Hamas, they're going to have to have a coalition of the young guard and the old guard."

Baker continued, "[I]t would be really a very positive step in the right direction if Israel would release Marwan Barghouti so that he could participate in bringing about this transition." [complete article]

The politics of transition
By Graham Usher, Al-Ahram, November 18, 2004

In what to many feel was undue haste the FCC [Fatah Central Committee] nominated [Mahmoud] Abbas as Fatah's candidate for the PA [Palestinian Authority] presidency. Most of Fatah opposed the decision. Some believed the candidate should be selected through a series of primaries and many would have preferred the currently imprisoned West Bank general secretary, Marwan Barghouti, to Abbas.

"When Marwan takes the decision [to run], we will be near him and support him. I think he has the best chance of anybody in the movement to win the elections," said Ahmed Ghneim, a member of Fatah's Revolutionary Council.

Barghouti has yet to make a decision despite the near certainty that he would win hands down in any straight contest with Abbas. Rather, say sources, he wants to revive the tactical alliance he struck last year with Abbas's short-lived government. It is based on a simple trade. Support for Abbas's presidency and his policies in return for absolute priority to be given by the new leadership to the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and preparation for new general PA elections.

Abbas heard similar sentiments in Gaza this week in a round of meetings with the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Islamists want parliamentary as well as presidential elections to be held on 9 January. Nor -- Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahhar, told reporters in Gaza on 16 November -- were they interested in any new Palestinian ceasefire unless accompanied by Israeli guarantees to end military incursions into Palestinian areas and the assassination of Palestinian military and political leaders. Like Barghouti, Zahhar also demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners. [complete article]

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Pressure grows for Iraq election delay
By Michael Howard, The Guardian, November 19, 2004

The January deadline for Iraq's first post-Saddam elections looked increasingly in doubt yesterday after a senior aide to the interim prime minister predicted a delay.

Leading Sunni Muslim politicians also called for a postponement until there was an improvement in the dire security situation in the country's Sunni Arab heartlands.

"I don't think within the time available we can do everything, so I think a delay or postponing elections is more likely than holding them on time," said Ibrahim Janabi, a senior aide to Ayad Allawi.

Mohsen Abdul Hamid, the head of the mainstream Sunni Muslim Iraqi Islamic party, said: "I am with the delay. The security situation does not make it possible for the Sunni Arabs to vote. The Sunnis will boycott the elections if the security situation continues as it is now." [complete article]

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PLEASE HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE -- For three years The War in Context has exposed the flawed premises, grandiose ambitions and disastrous consequences of the foreign policies of the Bush administration. If millions of Americans took the trouble to inform themselves through sources such as this, maybe we wouldn't be in for another four years of Bush - but they don't and we are. So what do we do now? Educate, educate, educate! Democracy can't work without an informed electorate. The War in Context has a role to play in this effort and with your support more Americans can learn how they have been failed by their government and why they must demand that it be held accountable. The long-term sustainability of the site depends on significantly expanding the readership and thereby opening up an advertising revenue stream. Here's how you can help:

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U.S. expected to boost troop levels in Iraq
By Ann Scott Tyson, Christian Science Monitor, November 19, 2004

Amid a spike in violence in Iraqi cities coinciding with the Fallujah offensive, the US military is now planning to boost combat forces to secure the country for elections in January.

The US is likely to expand the force by thousands of GIs in coming weeks by delaying the departure of more experienced units from Iraq as fresh troops rotate in, military officials say.

The overlap would create a temporary surge in American forces - which now number 141,000 in Iraq - to cope with an expected wave of insurgent attacks aimed at disrupting the polling. More US troops are required as Iraqi security forces remain highly vulnerable to attacks and intimidation. This was underscored by a rash of insurgent strikes on police stations in Mosul, Baqubah, and other cities in the past week, when attacks nationwide rose to 50 percent higher than the average in recent months.

Some US military officials have long argued that the United States cannot win the war in Iraq without committing tens of thousands more troops. Others contend that more troops would simply present more targets, and the US military should scale back and let Iraqis contend with much of the violence. [complete article]

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Fear remains after assault
By Fadhil Badrani, BBC News, November 16, 2004

US forces control most of the city now, except for some areas in the south. We keep hearing that aid has arrived at the hospital on the outskirts of the city, which is now in the hands of the Americans. But most people in this area are too weak or too scared to make the journey, or even to leave their homes. For now, the best option is to stay put. I would like to escape Falluja, but I fear I will end up getting killed if I try.

A group of journalist friends left the city by car last week as the assault was starting. I have no idea what happened to them. Not one of their mobile phones works and I fear the worst.

Food and water are all but finished. I have enough dried dates and water to last me another few days. If, in five days' time, it is still impossible to leave the city or get any supplies, I might have to raid my neighbour's vacant house for food and water. I can enter their place by jumping from our roof onto theirs.

I am completely out of touch with the situation in the rest of Iraq.

Looking at Falluja now, the only comparisons I can think of are cities like Beirut and Sarajevo. [complete article]

Fallujah residents emerge, find 'city of mosques' in ruins
By Jackie Spinner, Washington Post, November 18, 2004

The night the Americans came, Abu Saad hunkered in the little room at the back of his house in the center of the city, where he prayed that the bombs would not find him. He and his father, brother and nephew tried to drown the sound of the artillery with their prayers. Dear God, he chanted over and over, please protect us.

Describing their ordeal on Wednesday, Abu Saad, 31, recalled how the first night blurred into day, and then into a second night. Dawn broke four times while they hid. During daylight, they fasted in observance of the holy month of Ramadan. At night, Abu Saad rushed to the kitchen to cook a pot of chicken and then whisked it back to his hiding place, where he and his relatives pulled the meat off the bones with their fingers and listened to the sound of their city falling around them.

After four days, Abu Saad heard voices outside, then the smash of the front door being broken down. In the back room, Iraqi security forces found Abu Saad and his relatives, alive, blinking in the light, relieved and praising God. As the Iraqi soldiers led Abu Saad out of his home, assuring him that he would be protected, he got a first glimpse of the rubble that was once his neighborhood. Stunned by the sight of crumbled concrete, damaged mosques and shops blistered by bullets and artillery shells during fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents, Abu Saad said he felt his heart break. [complete article]

Escape from Fallujah: refugees flood nearby towns
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 18, 2004

While United States forces mount the final military operations to pacify Fallujah, the people of the devastated city have taken refuge in outlying towns, many of them huddled in misery, without adequate food, water, medicine and shelter.

More than 80 per cent of the population of 300,000 are living in nearby towns or in Baghdad. The US military has barred aid convoys from Fallujah, insisting they have enough resources to look after the remaining civilians. But the few who have ventured to the distribution centres risk getting caught in crossfire.

Aid organisations say 102,000 Fallujah refugees are in Amiriyah, 50,000 are in Baghdad; about 21,600 are in Karma, 18,000 are in Nieamiyah and 12,000 are in Habbaniyah. Unicef and the aid groups say Amiriyah, an industrial centre, suffers from a serious lack of shelter, and Habbaniyah, formerly a tourist resort, has a severe shortage of clean water. It is also the place most difficult to get to because of the threat from insurgents. [complete article]

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Protesting U.S. raids, 47 Iraqi bodies boycott polls
By Mazen Ghazi, Islam Online, November 17, 2004

In what could cost the new Iraqi government its necessary legitimacy to win the hearts and minds of the people, 47 Sunni, Shiite, Turkoman and Christian bodies have so far declared their boycott for the general election slated for early next year, due to the grisly US attacks in Fallujah.

Concluding a one-day conference in the headquarters of the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) in Baghdad's Um Al-Qora mosque, a plethora of bodies representing Iraq's religious mosaic agreed that the open-ended Fallujah offensive was an obstacle to an effective political participation. [complete article]

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Increasing dangers in Iraq make reporting the whole truth tough
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, November 17, 2004

My 26th birthday party was perfect.

Stars glittered over the Baghdad hotel where I blew out the candles on a cake decorated by my four closest Iraqi friends. We stayed up until the dawn call to prayer rang from a nearby mosque, telling stories and debating the future of a country I'd grown to cherish.

A year later, only one of those friends is still alive. The poolside patio where they sang "Happy Birthday" in Arabic is empty most days, because foreign guests are afraid of snipers and mortars. The hotel has become a prison, and every foray outside its fortified gates is tinged with anxiety about returning in one piece.

Baghdad has never been tougher for journalists. Treacherous roads and kidnapping squads restrict travel. "Embedding" with the military or going with Iraqi government officials is the safest way to leave the capital. Our ability to uncover and tell the truth about Iraq - good and bad - has suffered terribly. [complete article]

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Many Iranians want nuclear power to ensure respect, security
By Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Knight Ridder, November 18, 2004

This week, Iran struck a deal with Europeans that will curb its work on uranium enrichment in exchange for a set of economic incentives.

But one thing's clear on the streets of Isfahan: Iran's leaders face no pressure from their own people to scale back the project.

"We have the right to be safe and to defend our own people and country," said Rahimi's friend, Masoud Iranfadah, 25, a film producer.

With recent American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which border Iran to the west and east, and squabbles over water rights with neighbors to north and the south, many Iranians ... say they don't feel safe. They question why they shouldn't have nuclear weapons when nearby Israel, Pakistan and India do.

Of more than two dozen Iranians interviewed in Isfahan and Tehran, all favored Iran's acquiring nuclear power and enriching its own uranium to power its plants, even if the process could be manipulated to develop an atomic bomb.

Most added that they'd like to see Iran develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent and to enhance its stature in the Middle East. [complete article]

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Powell says Iran is pursuing bomb
By Robin Wright and Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, November 18, 2004

The United States has intelligence that Iran is working to adapt missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon, further evidence that the Islamic republic is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday.

Separately, an Iranian opposition exile group charged in Paris that Iran is enriching uranium at a secret military facility unknown to U.N. weapons inspectors. Iran has denied seeking to build nuclear weapons. [...]

Meanwhile, in Paris, the exile group charged that Iran was still enriching uranium and would continue to do so despite the pledge made Sunday to European foreign ministers. The group, the National Council for Resistance in Iran, or NCRI, also claimed that Iran received blueprints for a Chinese-made bomb in the mid-1990s from the global nuclear technology network led by the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. The Khan network sold the same type of bomb blueprint to Libya, which has since renounced its nuclear ambitions.

Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Paris-based NCRI, told reporters at a news conference that the Khan network delivered to the Iranians a small quantity of highly enriched uranium that could be used in making a bomb. But he said the amount was probably too small for use in a weapon. [complete article]

Comment -- The National Council for Resistance in Iran (the political wing of the Bush administration's favorite terrorist organization, Mujahedeen Khalq) has been busy since November 2 pushing their agenda for regime change in Tehran. Now Colin Powell, taking advantage of his image as the "moderate" voice inside the Bush administration, is proving again that even in his remaining weeks in office he is happy to serve as a foot soldier for the neoconservatives. Meanwhile, as fears are being drummed up about the Iranian threat -- setting the stage, it seems increasingly likely, for a missile strike against Iran's nuclear facilities -- Pakistan (Iran's partner in crime) is being handsomely rewarded as a loyal ally in the war on terrorism. The Pentagon notified Congress on Tuesday that it is offering Pakistan a $1.2 billion arms package -- the largest sale of weapons to Pakistan in 14 years.

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A hawk in Bush's inner circle who flies under the radar
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2004

Stephen J. Hadley, who President Bush picked Tuesday to be his next national security advisor, has risen to influence as the most low-key member of the powerful, hawkish group that has shaped U.S. foreign policy over the last four years.

In contrast to Condoleezza Rice -- whom Bush nominated to become secretary of State -- Hadley labored mostly behind the scenes in his role as deputy national security advisor.

Because of Hadley's strong ties to Rice and to Vice President Dick Cheney, another former boss, his selection appeared to signal that Bush was looking to further consolidate foreign policy decisions in the hands of his inner circle. Friends and analysts predicted that the 57-year-old lawyer would help the president manage those choices, rather than try to accumulate influence for himself. [...]

Hadley, who worked for both Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz during President George H.W. Bush's administration, has argued for broadening the use of nuclear weapons to include deterrence against "weapons of mass destruction."

In one paper, he wrote that it was often "an unstated premise" in nuclear arms debates that such weapons may only be used for deterrence. But he added: "I am not sure this unstated premise is true." [complete article]

Comment -- Stephen Hadley's views on what would constitute the "legitimate" use of nuclear weapons are of particular significance given his new position and the perceived threats posed by Iran and North Korea. In the paper cited above, "Policy considerations in using nuclear weapons" (1997), Hadley writes that, "because we cannot be confident that the world will ever be, to use the phrase of some in the recent debate, permanently 'devoid of nuclear weapons,' some nations, such as the United States, must continue to possess them to deter their acquisition [emphasis mine] or use by others." For the United States' possession of nuclear weapons to serve as a deterrent to Iran's desire to develop such weapons would mean, in practice, nothing less than being willing to launch a nuclear strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. With American forces now tied down in Iraq, neoconservatives (such as Michael Ledeen) whose sights have long been set on Tehran are now perhaps entertaining their own Strangelovian ambitions to wield the ultimate form of "shock and awe." They now have a powerful advocate in the form of the new National Security Advisor.

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Hawks flying high with Rice posting
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, November 18, 2004

US President George W Bush's nomination of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to replace Secretary of State Colin Powell consolidates the control over US foreign policy of the coalition of hawks that promoted the war in Iraq, led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

The promotion of Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, to take her place in the White House also confirms Cheney's pre-eminence in Bush's second term.

A major booster of national missile defense and the development of "usable" mini-nuclear weapons, Hadley held a key policy position under the vice president when Cheney served as Pentagon chief under Bush's father, president George H W Bush, from 1989-93.

Growing speculation that another Cheney ally, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, will be nominated to serve as deputy secretary of state under Rice is adding to the impression that the hawks are on the verge of a clean sweep. [complete article]

Comment -- The Washington Post reports that "White House officials would not say who would be nominated as Rice's deputy other than to say that it will not be the most widely rumored possibility -- John R. Bolton, a hard-line former American Enterprise Institute scholar who is undersecretary of state for arms control and international security." No word yet on who will be Rice's deputy.

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Killing the messenger
By Spencer Ackerman, Salon, November 16, 2004

The current war inside the CIA began with a stolen package of bacon. During a 1981 grocery run in Langley, Va., Michael Kostiw decided against paying $2.13 for a few strips of salted, fatty pork. Unfortunately for him, his 10 years of experience as a case officer for the Central Intelligence Agency was poor training for petty thievery, and after he was caught by supermarket employees the CIA placed him on administrative leave. He opted for a quiet retirement from Langley.

But not long ago he was back -- briefly. When Porter Goss, a Republican representative from Florida and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, became director of central intelligence on Sept. 24, he named Kostiw, his chief staffer on terrorism, as his executive director, Langley's third in command. The prospect of Kostiw, a partisan GOP Hill staffer, effectively running day-to-day affairs at the CIA was too much for some of his prospective employees to take, however. Although the agency had prevailed on the local authorities over 20 years ago to wipe Kostiw's police record clean, Walter Pincus, the veteran intelligence reporter for the Washington Post, related the long-forgotten bacon heist on Oct. 3, citing "four sources." As one former intelligence official observes -- not without a hint of admiration -- "that was a vicious leak." And it worked. Within days, a humiliated Kostiw withdrew his name from consideration for the position. Chalk up a scalp for the CIA.

These days, however, most of the scalps belong to longtime intelligence officials. Since his appointment, Goss has given his top aides -- basically, his former staff from the intelligence committee -- the green light to draw up lists of people to fire. The zeal with which Goss' enforcers are exercising their power has led to angry resignations by top CIA veterans like Stephen Kappes, who had taken over as deputy director of operations just this summer, and brought the brutal shakeup onto the front pages. The CIA's case officers and analysts, meanwhile, are extremely distressed by Goss' slashes at the professional staff. "I do nothing but talk to disgruntled and sick people there," says a recently retired senior CIA official. [complete article]

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Iran's new alliance with China could cost U.S. leverage
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, November 17, 2004

A major new alliance is emerging between Iran and China that threatens to undermine U.S. ability to pressure Tehran on its nuclear program, support for extremist groups and refusal to back Arab-Israeli peace efforts.

The relationship has grown out of China's soaring energy needs -- crude oil imports surged nearly 40 percent in the first eight months of this year, according to state media -- and Iran's growing appetite for consumer goods for a population that has doubled since the 1979 revolution, Iranian officials and analysts say.

An oil exporter until 1993, China now produces only for domestic use. Its proven oil reserves could be depleted in 14 years, oil analysts say, so the country is aggressively trying to secure future suppliers. Iran is now China's second-largest source of imported oil.

The economic ties between two of Asia's oldest civilizations, which were both stops on the ancient Silk Road trade route, have broad political implications. [complete article]

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Iraq's al-Sistani spearheading effort to ensure Shiite electoral victory
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press (Boston Globe), November 17, 2004

Iraq's leading Shiite cleric has assigned top aides to take charge of efforts designed to ensure that Shiites win a majority in a crucial general election slated for early next year, according to well-placed Shiite figures.

The move by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani underscores the zeal with which the Shiite Muslim majority and its spiritual leader are embracing the January vote for a 275-seat assembly, whose primary task will be to draft a permanent constitution for this overwhelmingly Arab nation.

In contrast, many Sunni Arab rivals are apprehensive about the vote since it will confirm their loss of power after the ouster 19 months ago of their patron, Saddam Hussein. However, if heeded, rising calls by Sunni Arab clerics for a boycott of the election could cost the new government its necessary legitimacy. [complete article]

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Shooting spurs Iraqi uproar, U.S. inquiry
By John Hendren and Elizabeth Shogren, Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2004

Television images of a Marine fatally shooting an unarmed, wounded insurgent in a Fallouja mosque were repeatedly broadcast on Arab television Tuesday, enraging Iraqis and prompting calls from human rights groups for a broad investigation into U.S. conduct during the war.

The footage shows the Marine screaming that the insurgent is faking death. He then raises his rifle and fires into the insurgent's head at point-blank range.

"Well, he's dead now," another Marine says.

For many Iraqis, the shooting evoked the same sentiments as the Abu Ghraib prison abuse photos, which showed U.S. troops torturing Iraqi prisoners, forcing them to simulate sexual acts and otherwise humiliating them.

Some Iraqis called the killing an example of U.S. war crimes that routinely go unreported. [complete article]

Comment -- In the eyes of many Americans, "the enemy" has already been rendered so completely "other" that the sight of a Marine shooting another man evokes more sympathy for the Marine than his victim. After all, the soldier, minus uniform, is probably just a boy. His parents may still have fresh memories of cheering him in his high school football team. As for the life of the Iraqi, it will for most of us never acquire any clearer definition than the blurred and fleeting image caught in Kevin Sites' videocamera.

The narrative that hooked the support and participation of ordinary Americans in this war is a mythological struggle between good and evil. The fight in Fallujah has been waged between "good guys" and "bad guys." But the moral clarity superimposed from afar provides no clear directions for American soldiers as they navigate through the ambiguous landscape of the battlefield. If an enemy sniper has taken position in a building, air strikes can be called in to destroy the building even when no one knows whether or not it also provides refuge for civilians. Supposedly, no one carries any moral culpability in the loss of such lives. But when a Marine shoots an unarmed and injured man, a boundary has been crossed. Military officials insist they will uphold the laws of war. Nevertheless, the moral contradictions inherent in warfare impose a burden that many a soldier will silently carry for the rest of his life. Moral clarity, on the other hand, is nothing more than a cocoon shielding the conscience of those confidence in the justice of this war is never challenged by the experience of battle. The one expression of moral clarity that none of its self-defined practitioners care to remember is, "Thou shalt not kill."

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A victory, but little is gained
By Daryl G. Press and Benjamin Valentino, New York Times, November 17, 2004

The first rule of insurgency is to avoid large-scale battles with the government; guerrillas attack on their own timetable against civilians and isolated military units. Shrewd insurgents concede territory, melt away when enemy units approach in force, and then snipe, kidnap and bomb from the shadows. It was no surprise that the insurgents started isolated actions in Mosul, Samarra and other cities as soon as the attack on Falluja began.

If seizing cities was the key to success in a counterinsurgency, one might have expected a French victory after the battle of Algiers in 1957, an American victory after the defeat of North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces in Hue in 1968, and a Russian victory over the Chechens after the retaking of Grozny in 1995. Instead, the French and Americans lost, and the war in Chechnya drags on.

As T. E. Lawrence famously described it, fighting rebels is "like eating soup with a knife." Guerrillas do not depend on vulnerable lines of supply and communication, so counterinsurgents must target them directly, and even a few thousand armed guerrillas can create chaos in a country of tens of millions. Guerrillas camouflage themselves among the population; frequently the only way to distinguish an insurgent from a civilian is when he (or she) opens fire.

This is why the history of counterinsurgency warfare is a tale of failure. Since World War II, powerful armies have fought seven major counterinsurgency wars: France in Indochina from 1945 to 1954, the British in Malaya from 1948 to 1960, the French in Algeria in the 1950's, the United States in Vietnam, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Israel in the occupied territories and Russia in Chechnya. Of these seven, four were outright failures, two grind on with little hope of success, and only one - the British effort in Malaya - was a clear success.

Many counterinsurgency theorists have tried to model operations on the British effort in Malaya, particularly the emphasis on winning hearts and minds of the local population through public improvements. They have not succeeded. Victory in Malaysia, it appears in retrospect, had less to do with British tactical innovations than with the weaknesses and isolation of the insurgents. The guerrillas were not ethnic Malays; they were recruited almost exclusively from an isolated group of Chinese refugees. The guerrillas never gained the support of a sizable share of the Malaysians. Nevertheless, it took the British 12 years to defeat them, and London ended up granting independence to the colony in the midst of the rebellion. [complete article]

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Kidnapped aid worker blindfolded and shot
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 17, 2004

The family of Margaret Hassan last night accepted that the aid worker taken hostage by Iraqi insurgents a month ago had probably been murdered, after analysis of a video which showed a masked gunman shooting a blindfolded woman in the head.

The video, which emerged a week ago but was kept secret, has been studied by experts, and both British diplomats and relatives of Mrs Hassan said they now believed it showed the 59-year-old and that she had been killed.

Last night her brother, Michael, and her sisters Deirdre, Geraldine and Kathryn Fitzsimons said her murder was "unforgivable".

"Our hearts are broken," they said in a statement. "We have kept hoping for as long as we could, but we now have to accept that Margaret has probably gone and at last her suffering has ended.

"Those who are guilty of this atrocious act, and those who support them, have no excuses. Nobody can justify this. Margaret was against sanctions and the war." Her husband, Tahseen Ali Hassan, said: "If she's dead I want to know where she is so I can bury her in peace." [complete article]

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800 civilians feared dead in Fallujah
By Dahr Jamail, Electronic Iraq, November 16, 2004

At least 800 civilians have been killed during the U.S. military siege of Fallujah, a Red Cross official estimates.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of U.S. military reprisal, a high-ranking official with the Red Cross in Baghdad told IPS that "at least 800 civilians" have been killed in Fallujah so far.

His estimate is based on reports from Red Crescent aid workers stationed around the embattled city, from residents within the city and from refugees, he said.

"Several of our Red Cross workers have just returned from Fallujah since the Americans won't let them into the city," he said. "And they said the people they are tending to in the refugee camps set up in the desert outside the city are telling horrible stories of suffering and death inside Fallujah." [complete article]

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Falluja is not unique. Collective punishment is escalating in Iraq
By Haifa Zangana, The Guardian, November 17, 2004

In a statement that directly echoed George Bush, Qasim Daoud, Iraq's interim minister of state for national security, told a news conference at the weekend: "Mission accomplished ... Falluja has been liberated". He proudly recited the list of the dead - 1,400 terrorists, foreigners and Saddamists. And what about civilians, the women and children trapped in the fighting zone. Any casualties? He avoided the question.

At the same time, thousands of Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad, Basra and Heet in support of the people of Falluja. Many were arrested, some were beaten. The US-appointed Allawi regime responded by imposing new curfews. The US military is still struggling to contain a spreading wave of resistance, in Najaf and now Mosul.

Around Falluja, camps have been erected to receive displaced women and children. Men aged 15-50 were not allowed to leave the city, so 150,000 wait in anguish for news of fathers, husbands and sons. [complete article]

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Mosul: the new front in insurgency
By Sam Dagher, Agence France Presse (via Middle East Online), November 16, 2004

Mosul, scene of a major US-led offensive on Tuesday against Iraqi insurgents after a spate of deadly clashes, is an ancient and ethnically diverse city that has become a new front in the insurgency.

Car bombings and fighting have become all too frequent in Mosul and surrounding areas, which have gradually fallen into the sway of hardline Islamic groups since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in April 2003.

US troops were swarming into restive pockets on Tuesday to secure police stations and restore order, with bridges straddling the Tigris river closed and a night-time curfew in place. [complete article]

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Troops move to quell insurgency in Mosul
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 17, 2004

U.S. and Iraqi troops entered Mosul in force Tuesday to retake streets and police stations seized by fighters in the northern city last week, while a prominent Iraqi insurgent claimed that the battle in Fallujah was only the beginning of an uprising that has already roiled parts of Iraq dominated by Sunni Muslims.

"The Americans have opened the gates of hell," Abdullah Janabi said Monday in Fallujah, a city U.S. commanders have said they now control after a week of often fierce fighting. "The battle of Fallujah is the beginning of other battles." [complete article]

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Chasing an elusive enemy amid indifferent population in Samarra
By Agence France Presse (via Bahrain Tribune), November 17, 2004

Many soldiers have ... complained about the unwillingness of residents in Samarra, 125km north of Baghdad, to point out hardcore troublemakers, who one soldier said probably number less than 500 in this city of 250,000 people.

And while acknowledging that fear of reprisal is the main reason for this lack of cooperation, the soldiers also say people in Samarra are increasingly indifferent to the US efforts to bring order to this historically lawless city.

"I don't think we're going to win this place. It's going to be like another Vietnam. We'll be here for a long time," said one soldier.

Already, efforts to turn security over to Iraqis appear to be floundering. While the Iraqi army and national guard units have performed well, Samarra's police force – which is ultimately tasked with keeping the peace – has imploded amid infighting and desertions, leaving the US to carry the burden of law enforcement.

"It's all on us," said US Army Captain Andy Rockefeller, adding the continued American security role has put soldiers at odds with city residents. [complete article]

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Former G.I.'s, ordered to war, fight not to go
By Monica Davey, New York Times, November 16, 2004

The Army has encountered resistance from more than 2,000 former soldiers it has ordered back to military work, complicating its efforts to fill gaps in the regular troops.

Many of these former soldiers - some of whom say they have not trained, held a gun, worn a uniform or even gone for a jog in years - object to being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan now, after they thought they were through with life on active duty.

They are seeking exemptions, filing court cases or simply failing to report for duty, moves that will be watched closely by approximately 110,000 other members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a corps of soldiers who are no longer on active duty but still are eligible for call-up. [...]

Tensions are flaring between the Army and some of its veterans, who say they are surprised and confused about their obligations and unsure where to turn.

"I consider myself a civilian," said Rick Howell, a major from Tuscaloosa, Ala., who said he thought he had left the Army behind in 1997 after more than a decade flying helicopters. "I've done my time. I've got a brand new baby and a wife, and I haven't touched the controls of an aircraft in seven years. I'm 47 years old. How could they be calling me? How could they even want me?" [complete article]

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For new national security adviser, a mixed record
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, November 17, 2004

Stephen J. Hadley, who will be elevated to national security adviser after Condoleezza Rice wins Senate confirmation as secretary of state, is a quintessential staff aide who views himself as a "facilitator" -- someone who makes the policy trains run on time.

But Hadley's record on that score is mixed. The Sept. 11 commission report was critical of Hadley's handling of policy development in several areas. Hadley was also thrust in an uncomfortable spotlight when he accepted blame in 2003 for allowing faulty intelligence to appear in the president's State of the Union address.

Hadley, 57, has worked his way up through a succession of government posts, with Vice President Cheney as one of his main advocates. But although becoming national security adviser has long been Hadley's dream, he has not left behind a rich paper trail of writings or books that outline a foreign policy philosophy, except for displaying a passion for missile defense. He appears to have won his coveted post in part through a combination of long hours, tight-lipped loyalty and a tendency to call little attention to himself. [complete article]

See also, Right Web's profile of Stephen Hadley.

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After day of cabinet resignations, many fear a shift to the right
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, November 15, 2004

Secretary of State Colin Powell's resignation and a flood of high-level departures at the State Department and CIA remove the cautionary voices that had often acted as a brake on President Bush's aggressive foreign policy.

U.S. officials and foreign policy analysts said Monday that by agreeing to Powell's departure and approving a purge by new CIA chief Porter Goss, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney appear to be eliminating the few independent centers of power in the U.S. national security apparatus and cementing the system under their personal control.

Powell and his State Department team - quietly backed by the intelligence community - argued often for a foreign policy that was more inclusive of allies and that relied on diplomacy and coercion rather than on force to deal with adversaries.

They lost more battles than they won.

Powell, who friends said had hoped to stay on a little longer, is virtually certain to be replaced at the State Department by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is far closer personally to Bush.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a major architect of the Iraq war along with Bush and Cheney, appears to be staying for now, signaling that the White House believes its much-criticized Iraq policies are on the right track.

"Letting him go would be an admission of failure," said one senior administration official who, like others, requested anonymity because of the White House's distaste for dissent.

"Now," the official said, "they've got no one left to blame but themselves if things don't go right." [complete article]

Rice's NSC tenure complicates new post
By Glenn Kessler and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, November 16, 2004

Condoleezza Rice, who will be named as Colin L. Powell's replacement as early as today, has forged an extraordinarily close relationship with President Bush. But, paradoxically, many experts consider her one of the weakest national security advisers in recent history in terms of managing interagency conflicts. [complete article]

Powell's flawed exit strategy
By Richard Cohen, Washington Post, November 16, 2004

With his indecision, with his occasional vacillation, someone is bound to conjure up Hamlet in reference to Colin Powell. Not to quibble, but it is Macbeth who comes to my mind -- specifically his soliloquy that begins, "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly." The pity is not that Colin Powell has resigned as secretary of state. The pity is that he did not do so quickly.

Had he resigned during the buildup to the war in Iraq, which he privately opposed, history might award him an asterisk and note that his tenure as secretary of state, while notable for nothing notable, ended over an important disagreement. Had that happened, Powell could then join just two secretaries of state -- William Jennings Bryan and Cyrus Vance -- who resigned because they differed with their presidents, Bryan with Woodrow Wilson, Vance with Jimmy Carter. The best that can be said about Powell is that he disagreed. The worst is that he did nothing significant about it. [complete article]

Comment -- As George Bush and Dick Cheney strengthen their grip on the next administration they seem intent on purging it of any dissenting voices. Though in the short term this will boost their already ballooning confidence, they are also insulating themselves from the possibility that they will get advance notice of impending failures. A wise monarch knows the value of the counsel of an irreverent "fool", but a vain monarch surrounds himself with flatterers. An administration that only had one feeble eye now has none.

Colin Powell provided one of the few voices of moderation in the first Bush administration. Nevertheless, like every other member of the Bush team he accepted the guiding principle of the administration: There is no higher value than loyalty to the commander in chief. Their motto should be, Loyalty Above Conscience!

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An internal war at the CIA
By Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, November 15, 2004

A public war between a president and his intelligence arm is never good news. But with the war against the insurgency in Iraq at a critical juncture, and Osama bin Laden making his ominous presence known, it is perhaps the worst of times for the Bush administration and its spies to be at odds.

Still, government officials and outside experts say, the long-simmering tensions between the White House and CIA are erupting into an unseemly period of recriminations and resignations.

Most of the team that led CIA covert operations overseas have left government service, several after former Rep. Porter Goss (R) of Florida - also a former CIA case officer - took the helm seven weeks ago with a promise to revamp the less-than-productive foreign spy program. [complete article]

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U.S. launches major Mosul assault
BBC News, November 16, 2004

The US military in Iraq says it has begun a big assault on insurgents in the northern city of Mosul. One military spokesman said more than 1,000 soldiers were to be deployed.

Attacks on the Americans and their Iraqi allies flared in Mosul almost a week ago, when several police stations were seized or destroyed by insurgents.

The US military said on Saturday it had diverted 500 troops to Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, from the major operation to take control of Falluja. [complete article]

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Few foreigners among insurgents
By John Hendren, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2004

The battle for the city of Fallouja is giving U.S. military commanders some insight into this country's insurgency, painting a portrait of a home-grown uprising dominated by Iraqis, not foreign fighters.

Of the more than 1,000 men between the ages of 15 and 55 who were captured in intense fighting in the center of the insurgency over the last week, just 15 are confirmed foreign fighters, Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. ground commander in Iraq, said Monday.

There was evidence that an organized force of foreign fighters was present. One dead guerrilla bore Syrian identification. A number of insurgents believed to be foreigners wore similar black "uniforms," each with black flak vests, webbed gear and weapons superior to those of their Iraqi allies.

But despite an intense focus on the network of Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab Zarqawi by U.S. and Iraqi officials, who have insisted that most Iraqis support the country's interim government, American commanders said their best estimates of the proportion of foreigners among their enemies is about 5%. [complete article]

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Video shows U.S. soldier killing wounded insurgent in cold blood
By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, November 15, 2004

The US Marine Corps launched an investigation into possible war crimes last night after video footage taken inside a mosque in Fallujah apparently showed a Marine shooting dead an unarmed Iraqi insurgent who had been taken prisoner.

The footage showed several Marines with a group of prisoners who were either lying on the floor or propped against a wall of the bombed-out building. One Marine can be heard declaring that one of the prisoners was faking his injuries.

"He's fucking faking he's dead. He faking he's fucking dead," says the Marine. At that point a clatter of gunfire can be heard as one of the Marines shoots the prisoner. Another voice can then be heard saying: "He's dead now." [complete article]

Comment -- Whatever conclusion the Pentagon reaches about this particular incident there seems little doubt that it will be characterized as an isolated event. Nevertheless, only yesterday, an Associated Press photographer who fled Fallujah during the fighting described how he witnessed a family of five being shot dead by US helicopters as they attempted to swim across a river. These are the types of atrocities that have been witnessed. How many others will never be recorded?

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Rebels attack in central Iraq and the north
By Edward Wong and James Glanz, New York Times, November 15, 2004

A rebel counteroffensive swept through central and northern Iraq on Monday as American troops struggled to flush the remaining insurgents from the rubble-strewn streets of Falluja.

Guerrillas in Baquba, Mosul, Kirkuk and Suwaira stormed police stations, set oil wells ablaze and struck at American military convoys with suicide car bombs, routing Iraqi security forces in several coordinated assaults and severely damaging parts of the country's petroleum-based economic lifeline.

A five-hour gun battle broke out in the southernmost reaches of Falluja Monday morning, a day after tanks and other armored vehicles fought their way through the area and had seemingly quashed all remaining resistance to the weeklong offensive. But some rebels had stayed hidden in the bombed-out landscape of the district and came out fighting around dawn, killing at least two marines. [complete article]

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Fallujah refugees describe ordeal of life in crossfire
By Anne Barnard, Boston Globe, November 15, 2004

Cowering in their house with nothing to eat or drink as bombardments and firefights shook their neighborhood, Iyad al-Mashadani and his family dug a 3-foot hole in their yard and drank the brackish water.

"We were sure that we would die," said Mashadani, 32, a car mechanic.

He and his family -- his wife, his six children, his mother, and his father, who has heart disease -- made their way south out of Fallujah on Wednesday and now live in a 6-by-9-foot tent in a refugee camp in Baghdad.

Families who fled Fallujah over the past several days tell harrowing stories of being caught in crossfire, being harassed and threatened by insurgents and Iraqi government soldiers alike, and hiding as guerrillas battled US tanks outside their houses.

US and Iraqi officials estimate that 70 percent to 90 percent of Fallujah's population of 250,000 to 300,000 fled the city before the fighting started a week ago. But the most conservative of estimates would place 25,000 civilians inside the city, subject to what US commanders on the ground have called the military's most intense urban fighting since Vietnam. [complete article]

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Press watchdog "deeply disturbed" by Iraqi regime's media threat
By Jim Lobe, OneWorld (via Yahoo), November 15, 2004

A leading U.S.-based press watchdog says it is "deeply disturbed" by a directive issued last week by the Iraqi interim government's new media commission that warned the press operating in Iraq to reflect the government's position in fighting by U.S., coalition, and Iraqi forces against insurgents.

The warning came in a statement released Thursday by the government's Higher Media Commission (HMC) which was created by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi last summer and is headed by a senior member of Allawi's Iraqi National Accord (INA) party, Ibrahim Janabi, a former intelligence agent for ousted President Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party.

Citing the 60-day state of emergency declared by Allawi on the eve of the U.S. offensive against insurgents in Fallujah, the HMC directive said news media must differentiate between "innocent citizens" of the city and the insurgents.

It warned that journalists should not attach "patriotic descriptions to groups of killers and criminals," and urged the media to "set aside space in your news coverage to make the position of the Iraqi government, which expresses the aspirations of most Iraqis, clear."

"You must be precise and objective in handling news and information," according to the statement, which was reported by Associated Press and Reuters. "We hope you comply ... otherwise we regret we will be forced take all the legal measures to guarantee higher national interests," it said, without elaboration. [complete article]

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A watchdog follows the money in Iraq
By Erik Eckholm, New York Times, November 15, 2004

If leaders at the Army Corps of Engineers expected the agency's pesky contracting director, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, to be forced out quietly, they were wrong.

From 1997, when Ms. Greenhouse joined the Army's sprawling construction agency with orders to end what some called casual and clubby contracting practices, Corps veterans grumbled that she was a troublemaker. As former officials describe it, some officers regarded her as a stickler for cumbersome rules on things like sharing contracts with small businesses and ensuring open competition for bids.

She was also an African-American woman and a civilian, trying to shake up what one former Corps commander has called a "good ole boy" network of longtime officers and favored companies.

Things reached a climax as the Corps was thrust into the center of the Iraq war effort, given the task of distributing billions of dollars in reconstruction money. For the urgent repair of Iraqi oil fields, the Corps turned - too readily and too generously, Ms. Greenhouse charged in bruising internal debates last year - to the Houston-based Halliburton Company with one of the biggest single contracts of the war. [complete article]

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Overthrow Tehran? Hey, not so fast
By Jeet Heer and Laura Rozen, Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2004

With President Bush elected to a second term, and the neoconservative architects of the Iraq war firmly in the driver's seat of U.S. foreign policy, Iranian Americans are contemplating a stark choice similar to that faced by Iraqi Americans a few years ago -- whether they want to work with Washington to liberate their home country.

Although almost all Iranian Americans want to see democracy flourish in their native land, there are intense and divisive debates on how to achieve this goal and what a future Iranian government should look like. These debates are certain to grow only more intense in the coming months, as Iran's accelerating nuclear program vaults it to the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda.

The activities of Michael Ledeen, one of the most prominent of the Washington neoconservatives advocating that the U.S. back a plan to overthrow the mullahs, illustrate some of the complexities of modern-day regime change. [complete article]

The Iran connection
By Edward T. Pound, US News, November 22, 2004

In the summer of last year, Iranian intelligence agents in Tehran began planning something quite spectacular for September 11, the two-year anniversary of al Qaeda's attack on the United States, according to a classified American intelligence report. Iranian agents disbursed $20,000 to a team of assassins, the report said, to kill Paul Bremer, then the top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq. The information was specific: The team, said a well-placed source quoted in the intelligence document, would use a Toyota Corona taxi and a second car, driven by suicide bombers, to take out Bremer and destroy two hotels in downtown Baghdad. The source even named one of the planners, Himin Bani Shari, a high-ranking member of the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group and a known associate of Iranian intelligence agents.

The alleged plan was never carried out. But American officials regarded Iran's reported role, and its ability to make trouble in Iraq, as deadly serious. Iran, said a separate report, issued in November 2003 by American military analysts, "will use and support proxy groups" such as Ansar al-Islam "to conduct attacks in Iraq in an attempt to further destablize the country." An assessment by the U.S. Army's V Corps, which then directed all Army activity in Iraq, agreed: "Iranian intelligence continues to prod and facilitate the infiltration of Iraq with their subversive elements while providing them support once they are in country." [complete article]

Comment -- One of the most intriguing questions that this report doesn't answer is, who provided US News with "thousands of pages of intelligence reports"?

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Iraqi city lies in ruins
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2004

The reconstruction effort in Fallouja will require tens of millions of dollars in U.S. funds to compensate residents for damaged property and to rebuild large parts of the city damaged by weeks of U.S. airstrikes and street-by-street fighting.

The project seems likely to dwarf the large-scale rebuilding scheme in the southern city of Najaf, where damage was estimated at $500 million after a Marine offensive in August ousted Shiite Muslim militiamen.

Fallouja once was home to almost 300,000 people, though most fled before U.S.-led forces launched the assault early last week. The city now lies abandoned and in ruins, a tableau of the aftermath of urban warfare.

The town's main east-west drag, a key objective of U.S. troops, is a tangle of rubble-filled lots and shot-up storefronts. Shattered water and sewage pipes have left pools of sewage-filled water, sometimes knee-deep. Scorched and potholed streets are filled with debris; power lines droop in tangles or lie on the ground.

Many mosques, the city's pride and joy, are a shambles after insurgents used them as shelter and firing positions, drawing return fire from the Marines.

Houses have been ransacked by insurgents and further damaged as U.S. troops chased snipers, searched for weapons caches or took cover in the homes. Marines routinely called in tanks, artillery and airstrikes to take out gunmen.

But the bombed-out buildings are only the most obvious damage.

There is no running water or electricity. The water, power and sewage infrastructure will probably need complete overhauls.

Food distribution systems must be reinstituted. Shops must be reopened, commerce resumed. Battered hospitals, clinics and schools must be patched up and reopened.

Beyond that, U.S. officials have lofty plans to help install a democratic government here that will answer to the administration of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. A police force of more than 1,000 officers must be deployed in a city where police have been consistently targeted for assassination in the past as collaborators with the Americans.

"The challenge is to get a civil administration up and running, and they are starting from zero," said a senior U.S. diplomat. "They have to do everything from getting the director of the waterworks to come back to work to getting a chief of police."

And, if all that wasn't enough, commanders would like the city to be ready to hold peaceful elections in January, when Iraqis nationwide are scheduled to choose a national assembly. [complete article]

Comment -- I've said it before but I'll say it again: This notion that harm done can magically be undone (through the power of the dollar) is beyond naive -- it's delusional. Stories of the brutality of foreign armies are the stuff of history, destined to stay alive not only in the minds of the immediate survivors but for generations to come. And even as American officials now pledge to pay for the reconstruction of Fallujah, who will actually do the work? By and large it will be the residents themselves.

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Iraq vote could be delayed
By Michael Howard and Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 15, 2004

Iraq's deputy prime minister has indicated for the first time that the much-heralded elections due in January could be derailed by the country's violent insurgency.

Barham Salih, in an interview with the Guardian, said the authorities were determined to hold the vote, but admitted they would have to assess the security situation nearer the time.

"Holding free and fair elections on time is an obligation that we have undertaken towards the Iraqi people," said Mr Salih.

But he added: "Nearer the time, the Iraqi government, the United Nations, the independent election commission and the national assembly will have to engage in a real and hard-headed dialogue to assess the situation."

It is the first time a senior figure in the interim government has acknowledged that the dire security situation in large parts of the country could affect the political process. [complete article]

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U.S. has lost control of much of Mosul, say officials
By Charles Glass, The Independent, November 15, 2004

American Marines from Falluja and Iraqi National Guard (ING) battalions from Kurdish autonomous region have deployed to Mosul to reinforce American and ING units based in the city, Kurdish and American military officials said. They said the local security forces had lost control of much of Mosul, Iraq's third largest city with an estimated population of 1.8 million Arabs, Kurds, Turcomen and Assyrian Christians.

US troops and Iraqi security forces were fighting to retake a police station overrun by insurgents in the northern city of Mosul, a US military spokeswoman said on Sunday. Two US soldiers were also wounded in sporadic fighting in the nearby town of Tal Afar, where insurgents had attacked a police academy with small arms, she said. Last week, insurgents stormed and looted at least nine police stations in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, stealing weapons, flak jackets and police vehicles.

US Brigadier General Carter Ham, in charge of security in the north, said on Saturday that all the city's 33 police stations had been secured and the city of two million was returning to calm, although he expected further attacks.

Mosul tipped into chaos on Wednesday and Thursday when groups of up to 50 militants took over some neighbourhoods, paraded through the city centre brandishing their weapons and chased away local police.

"Mosul was about to be lost," Brigadier Anwar Dolan, commander of the ING brigade in Suleimania in the Kurdish-controlled north, said. "So, the Iraqi Defence Minister asked for forces from Suleimania, Dihouk and Erbil." Reports from inside Mosul indicated that insurgents, joined by local policemen, were patrolling the streets to demonstrate their power in neighbourhoods of the city's Arab majority. Meanwhile, outside the city, the American-ING forces were mobilising for what some military officials promise would be another Falluja-type assault. [complete article]

Comment -- You don't have to be a military expert to see that a Fallujah-type assault on Mosul would not simply be devastating - it would appear to be a logistical impossibility, at least in the near term. If it has taken a force of 15,000 troops to occupy a city of 300,000 (and even now, fighting continues), how many troops will it take to quell the insurgency in Mosul, population 1.8 million? US forces are stretched so thin that Fallujah couldn't be attacked before 850 Scottish soldiers had been moved up from southern Iraq. The likelihood then is that an attack on Mosul will rely heavily on Kurdish forces, but in an ethnically divided city where a quarter of the population are Kurds, such a move could become (to borrow one of Donald Rumsfeld's favorite expressions) the tipping point after which insurgency shifts to civil war.

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Kurds' separatist ambitions pose challenge to Iraq unity
By Thanassis Cambanis, Boston Globe, November 14, 2004

Brigadier Rahim Mohammed Shakur's allegiance to the Iraqi Army is about as solid as the faxed sheet of paper he received two weeks ago, announcing that his Kurdish peshmerga fighters were now regular Iraqi soldiers, under Baghdad's command.

"I am a Kurd," Shakur, 42, said cheerfully last week, as his tank battalion trained with 100 Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers that his fighters raided from Saddam Hussein's army in April 2003. "If we are ever attacked, I will stop being a regular Iraqi soldier and become a peshmerga again."

Iraqi Kurdistan's de facto independence from Baghdad -- and the popular desire in the three northern provinces to secede from Iraq -- could pose one of the thorniest problems over the coming year for the ethnic, religious, and political factions trying to craft a new Iraqi federal constitution.

The importance of the Kurds is not lost on US officials; on Monday, as American forces launched the attack on Fallujah, US Ambassador John Negroponte flew from Baghdad to Sulaymaniyah for a day to ask leaders from the PUK to commit to a smooth national election process.

As the sole oasis of stability and unwavering support for US policy in Iraq, the Kurds have made themselves an indispensable linchpin of Washington's hope to fashion a democratic Iraq. But the Kurds are wary allies, suspicious that the United States will barter Kurdish autonomy for the support of Iraq's Arab majority. And public opinion in the Kurdish provinces leans heavily toward declaring independence: about 1.7 million people signed a petition in April demanding a popular referendum on secession, and the independence movement has scheduled another conference for this week. [complete article]

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A city lies in ruins, along with the lives of the wretched survivors
By Michael Georgy and Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 15, 2004

After six days of intense combat against the Fallujah insurgents, US warplanes, tanks and mortars have left a shattered landscape of gutted buildings, crushed cars and charred bodies.

A drive through the city revealed a picture of utter destruction, with concrete houses flattened, mosques in ruins, telegraph poles down, power and phone lines hanging slack and rubble and human remains littering the empty streets. The north-west Jolan district, once an insurgent stronghold, looked like a ghost town, the only sound the rumbling of tank tracks.

US Marines pointed their assault rifles down abandoned streets, past Fallujah's simple amusement park, now deserted. Four bloated and burnt bodies lay on the main street, not far from US tanks and soldiers. The stench of the remains hung heavy in the air, mixing with the dust. [complete article]

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U.S. denies need for Falluja aid convoy
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 15, 2004

US military chiefs said yesterday that they saw no need for the Iraqi Red Crescent to deliver aid inside Falluja because they did not think any Iraqi civilians were trapped there.

"There is no need to bring [Red Crescent] supplies in because we have supplies of our own for the people," said Colonel Mike Shupp of the marines.

A convoy of food and medicine brought by the group on Saturday was not allowed into the city.

Col Shupp said casualties could be brought out over the reopened bridge and treated at Falluja's hospital, adding that he had not heard of any civilians trapped inside the city. [complete article]

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U.S. and U.N. renew quarrel over Iraq
By Warren Hoge, New York Times, November 14, 2004

Secretary General Kofi Annan's reluctance to commit staff members to Iraq in large numbers and a series of comments he has made about the war have strained relations with the Bush administration and left many Americans bewildered, according to both supporters and critics of the United Nations.

Mr. Annan withdrew international staff members from Iraq in October 2003 in the wake of attacks on relief workers and the bombing of the United Nations' Baghdad headquarters, which killed 22 people, including the mission chief, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Although the United Nations has been assigned the task of setting up elections scheduled for January, Mr. Annan has declined to send more than a handful of electoral workers to Iraq, citing the lack of security forces to protect them.

"The Iraqis and the Americans are completely frustrated," said a senior American official at the United Nations, reporting views he said he heard in the White House this week. "The secretary general is still recommending many thousands of peacekeepers in Sierra Leone and the Congo, and yet there are seven election workers in Iraq. That tells the whole story."

This official said that warnings were resurfacing at the White House that the United Nations was risking becoming irrelevant and that such comments were now being combined with a dismissive attitude toward Mr. Annan himself. [complete article]

Comment -- What is the UN? An unelected proto-world-government that threatens the sovereignty of the United States, or a grossly inefficient bureaucracy destined to become irrelevant? What kind of protean entity is this that is simultaneously so powerful and so weak? (These aren't my descriptions of the UN. They are the ambiguous views of an administration that one minute views the UN as a threat and then the next charges it with incompetence.)

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CIA plans to purge its agency
By Knut Royce, Newday, November 14, 2004

The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda." [complete article]

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Iran bows to E.U. pressure to freeze uranium programme
By Ian Traynor, The Guardian, November 15, 2004

Iran announced last night that it was freezing all operations connected with uranium enrichment in a diplomatic victory for the European Union and a move that should spare Tehran being sent to the UN security council.

In a letter to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranian authorities said they would suspend all activities connected with uranium enrichment until a final and broader diplomatic agreement is reached with the EU.

The Iranian announcement followed 10 days of brinkmanship after marathon negotiations in Paris between Iran and the EU troika of Britain, France and Germany.

The decision was timed to influence a crucial IAEA board meeting in Vienna in 10 days' time. In return for the Iranian agreement, the Europeans are expected to resist US calls that Iran be referred to the security council for possible sanctions.

The agreement gives the Europeans and the Iranians more time to reach a grander bargain. But the Bush administration, in particular, remains intensely suspicious of the agreement. [complete article]

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Breaking a city in order to fix it
By Edward Wong, New York Times, November 14, 2004

Neutralizing the threat from the green-domed mosque looked almost effortless. Marines in the dusty warrens of Falluja had been taking fire from one of its twin minarets. They called in air support. A 500-pound bomb slammed into a blue-tiled tower, obliterating a signature part of the Khulafa Al Rashid mosque, the city's most celebrated religious building.

As in a fevered dream, that and other scenes of destruction played out last week in Falluja before the eyes of American troops, residents and reporters. By early Saturday, marines and soldiers had swept through most of the city and cornered insurgents in the south, leaving behind shelled buildings, bullet-riddled cars and rotting corpses.

It proved one thing: That the Americans are great at taking things apart. What comes after the battlefield victory has always been the real problem for them during their 19 months in Iraq. [complete article]

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Civilian cost of battle for Falluja emerges
By Rory McCarthy, The Observer, November 14, 2004

The full cost of the battle of Falluja emerged last night as large numbers of wounded civilians were evacuated to hospitals in Baghdad, as insurgents stepped up retaliatory attacks in other cities.

As the first Red Crescent aid convoy was allowed into Falluja, Iraq's Health Minister, Alaa Alwan, said ambulances had begun transferring a 'significant number' of injured civilians out of the battle zone, although he did not specify how many.

The evacuation of the wounded from Falluja came as insurgents consolidated their grip on large areas of Iraq's third largest city, Mosul, setting up checkpoints and conducting their own patrols, and as fresh Iraqi and US troops were rushed north to counter the new threat.

The moves came amid renewed warnings from aid groups that Iraq's civilian population was facing a 'humanitarian catastrophe'.

Although many of Falluja's 200,000 to 300,000 residents fled the city before the assault, between 30,000 and 50,000 are believed to have remained during the fighting.

The horrific conditions for those who remained in the city have begun to emerge in the last 24 hours as it became clear that US military claims of 'precision' targeting of insurgent positions were false. [complete article]

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Troops battle for last parts of Fallujah
By Jackie Spinner and Karl Vick, Washington Post, November 14, 2004

As senior Iraqi officials declared Fallujah liberated, U.S. forces on Saturday continued intense combat operations aimed at securing the last section of the city from an insurgent force fighting with surprising discipline, organization and the trappings of a professional army, American commanders said.

In the southernmost section of Fallujah, where a showdown still loomed, U.S. soldiers discovered an underground bunker and steel-enforced tunnels connecting a ring of houses filled with weapons, medical supplies and bunk beds.

The fighters in the area were armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and dressed in blue camouflage uniforms with full military battle gear. U.S. soldiers reported finding American Meals Ready to Eat and other equipment that the U.S. government donated earlier this year to set up a local security force, which was quickly corrupted and taken over by insurgents. [complete article]

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In wake of Falluja, pace of combat intensifies in Ramadi
By Richard A. Oppel Jr., New York Times, November 14, 2004

As American marines have blasted their way through Falluja, another insurgent outpost has grown stronger 30 miles down the road in Ramadi.

Insurgent attacks against American troops here have markedly intensified in the past two weeks, and enemy combatants are now conducting a more determined battle, commanders say.

"My personal take is that Ramadi is a less-publicized Falluja, in the sense of the combat you face every time you go into town," said Capt. Ben Siebold, a company commander in an Army battalion stationed in the downtown at a small and aptly named base, Combat Outpost. "In the time I've been here, the nature of the enemy has changed," he said. "He's more determined, more organized and a little bit better shot." [complete article]

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Calling all troops, and then some, in Iraq
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, November 14, 2004

Even as American and Iraqi forces move to surround the last large group of insurgents in Falluja this weekend, they are also scrambling to quell fighting that has erupted in many other Sunni towns and cities in Iraq. That, in turn, has raised questions about whether the 138,000 American troops in Iraq are enough to do the job.

In Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, as many as 500 insurgents seized and looted a half-dozen police stations on Thursday, stealing police cars, hundreds of weapons and uniforms, and stunning American officials with the size and scope of their attacks. Iraqi and American officials have suspended Iraqi police patrols for several days, fearing that they would not be able to tell good officers from imposters.

Critics point to the violence in Mosul, which, like most of northern Iraq, had been relatively calm since the United States invasion in March 2003, as evidence American troops are spread too thin to counter the insurgency. "In my mind, there's a legitimate issue about the number of troops," said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and former 82nd Airborne officer who is visiting Iraq this weekend. [complete article]

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Why I fear for the dream of my life
By Abdul Bariatwan, The Observer, November 14, 2004

I was born 54 years ago in a refugee camp in Gaza. My parents were illiterate and, like thousands of others, were forced to leave their home town in 1948 to create space for the Jewish immigrants pouring into Palestine from Europe.

My parents' abiding dream was to go back to the farm and mud-brick house in Ashoud, their sleepy home town on the Mediterranean. But they spent their lives in transit, waiting for this dream to come true. Their dream lives on in me and in my children, too.

Yasser Arafat worked very hard for 40 years towards the independent Palestinian state he longed for, yet never saw. Despite his mistakes, he brought this dream closer. He brought the Palestinian cause into the global arena and the resolution of this struggle is now of enormous significance in determining the security of the world, not only the Middle East.

I was deeply saddened by Arafat's death, not only because I knew him personally, but also because Arafat, like my parents, spent his life in transit, from Amman to Beirut to Tunisia and thence to Palestine. What an irony it is that, even in death, his coffin is in transit, awaiting his final transfer to Jerusalem.

Last Friday, George W Bush and his closest ally, Tony Blair assured us that we would see such a state within the next four years - but we have heard this story before. Before the invasion of Iraq, Bush assured the world that an independent Palestinian state would be in place before the end of 2005. [complete article]

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Jailed Palestinian wants to succeed Arafat
By Jamie Tarabay, Associated Press (via Yahoo), November 13, 2004

Palestinian officials began work Saturday on charting a future without Yasser Arafat, promising to hold elections by Jan. 9 to replace their deceased leader and expressing hope for new peace moves in the region.

In a decision that could signal the start of a spirited campaign, jailed Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti will run for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority in the elections, a person close to Barghouti said Saturday. Many analysts believe Barghouti would have the best chance of unifying disparate Palestinian factions, reining in violence and possibly restarting peace efforts with Israel.

However, Barghouti currently is serving multiple life terms in an Israeli prison after being convicted of involvement in attacks that killed four Israelis and a Greek monk.

Arafat's death Thursday raised speculation Israel might release Barghouti in a goodwill gesture, but Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom ruled that out.

"He will remain in prison for the rest of his life, because he's a murderer, because he's responsible for the killing of so many" innocent people, Shalom said Thursday. [complete article]

Comment -- Marwan Barghouti has been described as a Mandela in the making. But if he becomes the freely elected leader of the Palestinians, there seems little doubt that the current American and Israeli administrations will quickly denounce him, like Yasser Arafat, as unfit to ever become a "partner for peace."

The democratic process, it would seem, is a political mechanism that must be glorified when it results in the desired outcome but that can otherwise be ignored. The problem for the White House is that for them to identify their candidate of choice would amount to giving him the kiss of death. For these American champions of democracy it must be particularly troubling to believe that the majority of Palestinians might not recognize what is in their best interests. However, the real problem comes from thinking that understanding the will of the people only matters when you can mold their aspirations.

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Palestinians confront life after Arafat
By Jason Burke, The Observer, November 14, 2004

The immediate focus is on elections for a new President for the Palestinian Authority, the administration established in the West Bank and Gaza in 1993.

According to the constitution, so far carefully followed by the Palestinian leadership, polls must be held before 9 January. Everyone knows they are crucial.

Any election will pit the 'old guard', composed of those who spent the Eighties in exile with Arafat in Tunisia, against the 'new guard' who never left the Occupied Territories. Men like the moderate veteran Mahmoud Abbas, who became the Palestinians' first Prime Minister last year and succeeded Arafat as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), will face off with people like Mohammed Dahlan, the smooth former Gaza security chief. The greatest challenge to the old guard - who may yet look for a reason to postpone the poll - comes from Marwan Barghouti, a firebrand leader currently serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison. Barghouti, who was deeply involved in running the recent al-Aqsa uprising, is hugely popular among Palestinian youth and is seen as a potential leader by many.

'If the leadership do not do the right thing, we will find ourselves in bloody turmoil,' said Dr Khalil Shiqaqi, an analyst in Ramallah. 'The old guard will have to embrace a coalition with the young guard. The status quo is not tenable.' [complete article]

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James Dobson - the religious right's new kingmaker
By Michael Crowley, Slate, November 12, 2004

Although the notion that the religious right's "moral values" determined the 2004 election has been roundly debunked ..., perception is reality in politics—and the indelible perception in Washington is now that George W. Bush owes his evangelical Christian base big time.

One corollary to this idea is that no one helped Bush win more than Dr. James Dobson. Forget Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who in their dotage have marginalized themselves with gaffes (this week Robertson referred to potential Supreme Court nominee Miguel Estrada as "Erik Estrada"). Forget Ralph Reed, now enriching himself as a lobbyist-operative, leaving the Christian Coalition a shell of its former self. Forget Gary Bauer, now known chiefly as a failed presidential candidate who tumbled off a stage while flipping pancakes. Dobson is now America's most influential evangelical leader, with a following reportedly greater than that of either Falwell or Robertson at his peak.

Dobson earned the title. He proselytized hard for Bush this last year, organizing huge stadium rallies and using his radio program to warn his 7 million American listeners that not to vote would be a sin. Dobson may have delivered Bush his victories in Ohio and Florida. [complete article]

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Evangelicals want faith rewarded
By Peter Wallsten, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2004

Christian evangelicals provided much of the passion and manpower for President Bush's reelection. But even as they celebrate his victory, many of the movement's leaders are experiencing post-election anxiety, worried that their strong support for the president might not translate into the instant influence they expected.

They are flexing their muscles to block Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), an abortion rights supporter, from a Senate leadership post overseeing judicial nomination debates -- but Specter appears likely to get the job. They want a clear-cut ban on same-sex marriage, but Bush's newly stated support for civil unions makes them wonder how strongly the president will back their efforts.

And as much as they turned out in force for Bush on election day, many are worried that their power could be short-lived, given that a number of prominent Republicans who support abortion rights and gay rights are positioning themselves to succeed Bush in 2008.

In recent days, some evangelical leaders have warned in interviews that the Republican Party would pay a price in future elections if its leaders did not take up the issues that brought evangelicals to the polls. [complete article]

Comment -- I thought that the rewards of faith were supposed to come in the afterlife? And I guess that's the point. In spite of all the commentary about how this was an election that hinged on "moral values", I'm inclined to believe that it had much more to do with religiously flavored politics than politically engaged religion.

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Goss reportedly rebuffed senior officials at CIA
By Walter Pincus and Dana Priest, Washington Post, November 14, 2004

Within the past month, four former deputy directors of operations have tried to offer CIA Director Porter J. Goss advice about changing the clandestine service without setting off a rebellion, but Goss has declined to speak to any of them, said former CIA officials aware of the communications.

The four senior officials represent nearly two decades of experience leading the Directorate of Operations under both Republican and Democratic presidents. The officials were dismayed by the reaction and were concerned that Goss has isolated himself from the agency's senior staff, said former clandestine service officers aware of the offers.

The senior operations officials "wanted to talk as old colleagues and tell him to stop what he was doing the way he was doing it," said a former senior official familiar with the effort.

Last week, Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin retired after a series of confrontations between senior operations officials and Goss's top aide, Patrick Murray. Days before, the chief of the clandestine service, Stephen R. Kappes, said he would resign rather than carry out Murray's demand to fire Kappes's deputy, Michael Sulick, for challenging Murray's authority. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

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

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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