The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication (PDF format)
Department of Defense, September, 2004

American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.
• Muslims do not "hate our freedom," but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.
• Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that "freedom is the future of the Middle East" is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World -- but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.
• Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.
• Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an Ummah (the entire Muslim community) invaded and under attack -- to broad public support.
• What was a marginal network is now an Ummah-wide movement of fighting groups. Not only has there been a proliferation of "terrorist" groups: the unifying context of a shared cause creates a sense of affiliation across the many cultural and sectarian boundaries that divide Islam.
• Finally, Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic -- namely, that the war is all about us. As the Muslims see it, everything about the war is -- for Americans -- really no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game. This perception is of course necessarily heightened by election-year atmospherics, but nonetheless sustains their impression that when Americans talk to Muslims they are really just talking to themselves. [complete report PDF format]

See also, Pentagon panel: U.S. invasions unite extremists (Jim Lobe).

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Politicians in Iraq call for delay to elections
By Helen McCormack, The Independent, November 27, 2004

Leading Iraqi political parties have called for forthcoming elections to be delayed because of mounting violence in the country.

Fifteen political parties ­ including two Kurdish groups closely allied to the US ­ signed a petition calling for the first election since the end of Saddam Hussein's rule to be postponed for six months.

The move came after representatives from some of Iraq's main political groups gathered at the Baghdad home of Adnan Pachachi, an influential, moderate Sunni leader and former presidential candidate. The petition stated that the delegates wanted the elections, currently scheduled to be held by the end of January, put off to allow for "changes in the security situation".

A delegate from the Iraqi National Accord, headed by the interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, was at the meeting but did not sign the petition. [complete article]

See also, Rebuffing delay call, Bush hopes Iraqi elections will take place in January (AFP).

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Jailed Palestinian says he will not seek presidency
By Steve Erlanger, New York Times, November 26, 2004

In an apparent deal that will bring a younger generation of Palestinians into decision-making roles in the dominant political faction, Fatah, Marwan Barghouti, a popular politician currently in an Israeli jail, agreed today not to run for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority.

Instead, in a statement read by a Palestinian minister who visited him in jail today, Mr. Barghouti called on Palestinians to support Fatah's candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, 69, in elections on Jan. 9. Mr. Abbas has already succeeded Mr. Arafat as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"Members and supporters of Fatah support the movement's candidate, the combatant, brother Mahmoud Abbas," Mr. Barghouti's statement said, as read by his ally, Qadoura Fares, who had been given permission by Israel to visit Mr. Barghouti in his Israeli prison cell in Beersheva earlier in the day.

Some young people in the hall, in the Grand Park Hotel in Ramallah, protested angrily against the announcement, and some said they could not support Mr. Abbas. In the tumult, Mr. Fares left the hall, soon followed by Mr. Barghouti's wife and children. [complete article]

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Iraqi leaders plan to meet insurgents in Jordan
By Edward Wong, New York Times, November 26, 2004

The Iraqi foreign minister said Thursday that the interim Iraqi government planned to meet soon in Jordan with rebel leaders to try to persuade them to take part in politics here.

It was the first time the government had agreed to an official meeting with leaders of the insurgency. The minister, Hoshyar Zebari, did not give a date for the meeting or specify who would be invited.

He said Iraqi officials had agreed to the meeting after being asked by various diplomats at a conference this week in Egypt to open discussions with the resistance.

"The aim is really to reach out to as many people as possible both inside and outside" of Iraq, Mr. Zebari said at a news conference.

The government welcomes "the broader participation of Iraqis, even those who are oppositionists, in this process" of politics, he said, "if they renounce violence and terror."

The rebel leaders to be invited will be "some people who are of political and tribal backgrounds," he said, declining to elaborate. American and Iraqi officials say much of the insurgency is being financed by wealthy loyalists to Saddam Hussein who fled to bordering countries before the American-led invasion in March 2003. Many are believed to be helping to organize the insurgency from Syria and Jordan, and funneling millions of dollars to the ground troops of the rebellion. [complete article]

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Hazards on trail for Sunni politicians
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 26, 2004

Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority, long the country's rulers and now on the brink of disenfranchisement, faces a conundrum that has divided it as elections approach for a 275-member National Assembly, which will appoint a government and oversee the assuredly contentious process of drafting a permanent constitution. Abdel-Wahhab's party [the Iraqi Islamic Party] is at the center of that dispute, and its success or failure could, its leaders believe, determine whether the elections are viewed as legitimate, an elusive quality in postwar Iraq.

At issue is an age-old question of the most effective way to bring about change: from within or without. [complete article]

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Judgment of Paris
Lead Editorial, The Guardian, November 25, 2004

The Paris Club sounds like one of those shadowy organisations, such as the Skull & Bones or the Bilderberg group, which secretly plot to run the world. Sadly for conspiracy theorists, the Paris Club does not have any secret handshakes or rituals, but it does seem capable of black magic: this week it managed to get the US, Germany and France on the same side over Iraq. Under the aegis of the Paris Club - an informal confederation of creditor countries, including Britain and Japan - several of Iraq's largest lenders agreed to cancel up to 80% of the outstanding debts owed to them. This was hailed as good news for the interim government, although it still leaves Iraq with huge debts from others, as well as reparations from the first Gulf war.

Given the severe difficulties Iraq faces, including the threat of civil war, a breakdown of society and rising child malnutrition, it would be perverse to punish it with a millstone of debt, especially one left over from the odious regime of Saddam Hussain. In fact, the world should applaud the commonwealth of industrialised economies for acting so swiftly in tackling Iraq's debt burden, to allow the country to get back on its feet. In that spirit, here is a brief list of countries that would also benefit from a substantial write-off similar to Iraq's debt cancellation: Zambia, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Mali, Tanzania, Rwanda, Angola, Cameroon, Haiti, Georgia, Sierra Leone ... and many, many more. [complete article]

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Sunnis, tribal leaders want vote delayed
By Maggie Michael, Associated Press (via Yahoo), November 25, 2004

Sunni Muslim politicians have called on the government to postpone the Jan. 30 national election despite Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's insistence that the balloting go ahead as scheduled even in areas plagued by insurgency.

Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister and leading figure in the former Iraqi Governing Council, said Thursday that delaying the balloting by three months or more would enable political leaders to persuade Sunni clerics and others to abandon their call for an election boycott.

"I think that it will not be in the interest of anyone to let large segments of the Iraqi population be completely left out of the political process," Pachachi, leader of the Independent Democrats, told The Associated Press.

Pachachi's comments came one day after eight Sunni groups urged the government to delay the election unless it agrees to a number of demands, including changing the law which declares the country a single constituency. [complete article]

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Insurgents step up the battle for Mosul
By Michael Howard, The Guardian, November 25, 2004

Insurgents increased their efforts to take control of Mosul yesterday, ambushing a convoy of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and attacking the Kurdish deputy governor of Nineveh province.

The US military commander in Mosul, Brigadier General Carter Ham, has warned that militants, mainly Sunni Arabs, are trying to foment civil war in the ethnically mixed city of 2 million.

Three peshmerga were killed and seven injured when their convoy was attacked on the main road into eastern Mosul, said Kareem Sinjari, the interior minister of the Kurdistan regional government in Irbil. [complete article]

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Guardsmen say they're facing Iraq ill-trained
By Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times, November 25, 2004

Members of a California Army National Guard battalion preparing for deployment to Iraq said this week that they were under strict lockdown and being treated like prisoners rather than soldiers by Army commanders at the remote desert camp where they are training.

More troubling, a number of the soldiers said, is that the training they have received is so poor and equipment shortages so prevalent that they fear their casualty rate will be needlessly high when they arrive in Iraq early next year. "We are going to pay for this in blood," one soldier said.

They said they believed their treatment and training reflected an institutional bias against National Guard troops by commanders in the active-duty Army, an allegation that Army commanders denied. [complete article]

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U.S. struggles to find troops for Iraq, Afghanistan
By Joseph L. Galloway, Knight Ridder, November 24, 2004

The Army, which has been hard pressed to find enough soldiers to man the rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, may soon be faced with an urgent request to find another 5,000 to 7,000 troops to increase the number of boots on the ground in Iraq.

Commanders there have been quietly signaling an immediate need for at least that many more soldiers to add to the 138,000 Americans already there. This, they say, is the minimum number needed to allow them to pursue the offensive against the insurgents in the wake of the taking of Fallujah.

Far from breaking the back of the insurgency, the capture of Fallujah only served as a signal for the enemy to launch its own offensive in cities across the Sunni triangle and in Baghdad itself. The fighters and leaders who fled Fallujah before the Americans launched their attack simply moved to other cities and went straight to work sowing havoc.

The daily number of attacks and incidents in Iraq is now running more than 100 per day, or double what it was before the Fallujah offensive began. [complete article]

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From bin Laden, different style, same message
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, November 25, 2004

Eight years after he issued a written declaration of war against the United States, the theme of bin Laden's [October] speech was disbelief that he had failed to make his point with the American people, even after the deaths of nearly 3,000 people on U.S. soil and a succession of bombings, beheadings and other forms of bloodshed around the world.

"This talk of mine is for you and concerns the ideal way to prevent another Manhattan, and deals with the war and its causes and results," he said, in what are believed to be his first videotaped comments in three years.

An examination of bin Laden's speeches over the years shows that the underlying message has remained consistent: Americans have repeatedly humiliated Muslims with a foreign policy that has propped up corrupt governments in the Middle East and perpetuated conflict in the region. Until you prevail on your government to stop, we will strike back. [complete article]

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Two top officials are reported to quit CIA
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, November 25, 2004

Two more senior officials of the Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine service are stepping down, intelligence officials said Wednesday, in the latest sign of upheaval in the agency under its new chief, Porter J. Goss.

As the chiefs of the Europe and Far East divisions, the two officials have headed spying operations in some of the most important regions of the world and were among a group known as the barons in the highest level of clandestine service, the Directorate of Operations.

The directorate has been the main target of an overhaul effort by Mr. Goss and his staff. Its chief, Stephen R. Kappes, and his deputy resigned this month after a dispute with the new management team.

An intelligence official said that the two division chiefs were retiring from the agency and that there would be no public announcement. Neither could be named, the official said, because they are working under cover. [complete article]

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Fallujah and its aftermath did not break the Iraqi insurgency's back
By Anthony H. Cordesman, Daily Star, November 25, 2004

It is far from clear what the U.S. "victory" in Fallujah really means in a military, political and economic sense. There are, however, good reasons to question whether the tactical victory will have a positive strategic effect.

In military terms, there seem to have been some 2,000-3,500 dedicated insurgents in Fallujah before the U.S. campaign began, and preliminary interrogations of detainees indicate that some 95 percent of them were Iraqi Sunnis. U.S. spokesmen have since claimed over 1,000 casualties and equally large numbers of detainees - with some estimates of casualties going as high as 1,500-2,000 - but all such casualty data are a pure guesstimate and many of the detainees seem to be local recruits rather than hard-core insurgents.

Most reports indicate that large numbers of insurgents left Fallujah before the fighting and that significant numbers escaped. As in every case relating to insurgents, however, there are no reliable numbers - only rough estimates and guesstimates.

This makes it impossible to estimate what the impact of Fallujah has been on Sunni Arab insurgents. As a rough guess, however, it seems unlikely that those killed and detained made up more than 10 percent of the hard-core insurgents, and that the attack killed or captured large numbers of key leadership cadres - although some do seem to have been affected.

The U.S. has recently talked about a total of some 12,000-16,000 core insurgents, but has never defined what this means. The number of true leadership cadres could be much smaller, but the number of local, part-time and instant volunteers is likely to be two to three times larger. As early as April 2004, an ABC News survey indicated that 38 percent of Arab Sunnis polled in Iraq supported attacks on coalition forces. [complete article]

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Many words, little action from international Iraq conference
By Marc Burleigh, Agence France Presse (via Daily Star), November 25, 2004

It was meant to be a grand forum to help solve the increasingly bloody problem of Iraq.

The result was an expeditious meeting that took a lofty stand but promised little in the way of action.

With the end of the international conference on Iraq, held Monday and Tuesday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the world - and particularly Iraq's citizens - were left to weigh what was actually achieved.

The fact that the representatives of the Western powers, much of the Muslim world, China, Japan, Russia and the United Nations spent only three hours Tuesday seated at the same table to endorse a joint statement already worked out days in advance underlined the sense that it was all just window-dressing. [complete article]

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The best, brightest, wealthiest fleeing Iraq in setback to reconstruction
By Liz Sly, Chicago Tribune (via KRT), November 24, 2004

When the kidnappers who had just released him in return for a $105,000 ransom called his home to ask for an extra $50,000, Shafiq Noori made a decision he never imagined he would make.

He would pack up, get out and leave Iraq for good.

He hired armed guards just long enough to make the necessary arrangements. Then he gathered his wife and children and headed for neighboring Jordan, joining an accelerating exodus of wealthy and middle-class Iraqis that augurs ill for Iraq's attempts at recovery.

"I'm going to stay here," said Noori, 34, who left behind a date-farming business in Baghdad and last month purchased a $200,000 apartment for his family in Jordan's capital, Amman.

"Iraq is my country, and I didn't want to leave," he added as he took his son for a haircut in one of the wealthy Amman neighborhoods favored by Jordan's new refugees. "If the situation gets better, I will go back, but I think it will get worse."

In recent months, tens of thousands of Iraqis have made similar decisions, some spurred by the hazards of daily life in Iraq, some by their personal experiences of kidnapping or armed robbery, and others simply because they see no future in a country that seems to grow more violent with each passing day.

Many of those who are leaving are taking with them the skills, the capital and the expertise that Iraq will need whenever the country becomes stable enough to start the still-stalled process of reconstruction. [complete article]

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An Israeli hawk accepts the president's invitation
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, November 23, 2004

Those looking for clues about President Bush's second-term policy for the Middle East might be interested to know that, nine days after his reelection victory, the president summoned to the White House an Israeli politician so hawkish that he has accused Ariel Sharon of being soft on the Palestinians.

Bush met for more than an hour on Nov. 11 with Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident now known as a far-right member of the Israeli cabinet. Joined by Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., incoming national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and administration Mideast specialist Elliot Abrams, Bush told Sharansky that he was reading the Israeli's new book, "The Case for Democracy," and wanted to know more. Sharansky, with co-author Ron Dermer, had a separate meeting with Condoleezza Rice, later chosen by Bush to be the next secretary of state. [...]

Sharansky's ideas are clear: no concessions, funds or legitimacy for the Palestinians unless they adopt democracy, but a modern-day Marshall Plan for the Palestinians if they embrace democratic ways. The same hard line that worked for Ronald Reagan against the Soviet Union, Sharansky argues in his book, would work for Israel against the Palestinians.

In his book, Sharansky echoes many of Bush's favorite lines, talking of the need for "moral clarity" in fighting evil. Likening the fight against terrorism to the struggle with Nazism and communism, he described a world "divided between those who are prepared to confront evil and those who are willing to appease it" -- a common Bush dichotomy. "I am convinced that all peoples desire to be free," Sharansky writes. "I am convinced that freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere. And I am convinced that democratic nations, led by the United States, have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the globe." [complete article]

Comment -- In April 2003, as American troops assumed control of Baghdad, Sharansky wrote, " it's the turn of Iraqis to experience the overwhelming power of freedom. Men and women who have lived for decades under tyranny will soon know, perhaps for the first time, what it is like to live without fear." A year and a half later, millions of Iraqis are still waiting to find out what it's like to live without fear.

Sharansky and his soul-mate George Bush never miss an opportunity to hold up the promise of "freedom" and "democracy," but the expression that neither wants to use is self-determination. As Palestinians claim the right of self-determination, Israel and America have yet to decide whether this is a right that can be granted or must still be withheld.

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U.S. fails to explain policies to Muslim world, panel says
By Thom Shanker, New York Times, November 24, 2004

A harshly critical report by a Pentagon advisory panel says the United States is failing in its efforts to explain the nation's diplomatic and military actions to the Muslim world, but it warns that no public relations plan or information operation can defend America from flawed policies.

The Defense Science Board report, which has not been released to the public, says the nation's institutions charged with "strategic communication" are broken, and calls for a comprehensive reorganization of government public affairs, public diplomacy and information efforts.

"America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communications strategies," says the 102-page report, completed in September. "Interests collide. Leadership counts. Policies matter. Mistakes dismay our friends and provide enemies with unintentional assistance. Strategic communication is not the problem, but it is a problem."

The study does not constitute official policy, but it is described by the Pentagon's civilian and military leadership as capturing the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire United States government. The debate centers on how far the United States can and should go in managing, even manipulating, information to deter enemies and persuade allies or neutral nations. [complete article]

Comment -- Here's the line aimed at Karl Rove and all those who listen to him: "America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communications strategies." America is known and judged by what it does, not what it says. In spite of this, Karl Rove's gift in manipulating the perceptions of Americans is so effective that most people in this country have little grasp of the contempt for America that now spans the globe. What will it take to convince the majority of this nation that it truly matters how America is perceived around the world?

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Witnesses say U.S. forces killed unarmed civilians
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 24, 2004

Allegations of widespread abuse by US forces in Fallujah, including the killing of unarmed civilians and the targeting of a hospital in an attack, have been made by people who have escaped from the city.

They said, in interviews with The Independent, that as well as deaths from bombs and artillery shells, a large number of people including children were killed by American snipers. US forces refused repeated calls for medical aid for injured civilians, they said.

Some of the killings took place in the build-up to the assault on the rebel stronghold, and at least in one case - that of the death of a family of seven, including a three-month baby - the American authorities have admitted responsibility and offered compensation.

The refugees from Fallujah describe a situation of extreme violence in which remaining civilians in the city, who have been told by the Americans to leave, appeared to have been seen as complicit in the insurgency. Men of military age were particularly vulnerable. But there are accounts of children as young as four, and women and old men being killed. [complete article]

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Shoot the messenger
By Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher, November 24, 2004

"The hardest thing," Darrin Mortenson told me over the phone from California Monday night, "was, after everything I've done, to be called a traitor." Among the things he's done: serve his country as an infantry sergeant and take two tours of duty in Iraq as an embedded reporter for the North County Times of suburban San Diego.

But this week, in defending embattled NBC television reporter Kevin Sites -- the man behind the now-famous video from Fallujah showing a U.S. Marine shooting an injured insurgent -- abuse is coming Mortenson's way in waves. "Yeah," he told me, "I'm getting my butt kicked around here a bit. I try not to take it personally." [...]

"That you would consider the death of a terrorist as something bad tells me all I need to know about you."

"Sorry, I may be old-fashioned, but I prefer Ernie Pyle. At least it seemed as though he wanted Americans to win."

"The distrust of the major media is at the root of all of this."

"Go back to Iraq, with a target on your back."

"If you go back over I hope they take your head."

"Now each and every embed is in enemy territory. What I mean is, a reporter in the combat zones of Iraq now has no friends. ... There is probably not a marine or soldier who will even attempt to save you if they don't accidentally shoot you first." [complete article]

Comment -- If "supporting the troops" means turning a blind eye to their misdeeds we will be laying the foundations for a totalitarian state. And when we have a commander in chief who makes it clear that he values loyalty above everything else, we should understand the direction in which he is beckoning.

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Israeli officer: I was right to shoot 13-year-old child
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, November 24, 2004

An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old.

The officer, identified by the army only as Captain R, was charged this week with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun's magazine into Iman al-Hams when she walked into a "security area" on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.

A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers involved in the incident, played on Israeli television, contradicts the army's account of the events and appears to show that the captain shot the girl in cold blood.

The official account claimed that Iman was shot as she walked towards an army post with her schoolbag because soldiers feared she was carrying a bomb.

But the tape recording of the radio conversation between soldiers at the scene reveals that, from the beginning, she was identified as a child and at no point was a bomb spoken about nor was she described as a threat. Iman was also at least 100 yards from any soldier. [complete article]

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Abbas: I won't give up demand for right of return of refugees
Associated Press (via Haaretz), November 24, 2004

PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas told the Palestinian parliament Tuesday that he would follow in Yasser Arafat's footsteps and demand that Israel recognize the right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.

Abbas spoke a day after the ruling Fatah movement chose him as its candidate in January 9 elections for Palestinian Authority chairman.

But the Fatah "young guard" said Tuesday that they would challenge the decision to name Abbas as Fatah candidate in the elections. [...]

Some of the Fatah rebels are pushing for Marwan Barghouti, the Tanzim leader currently serving five life sentences in Israel, as the movement's candidate to replace the late Yasser Arafat, arguing that the popular Barghouti has a better chance of winning.

Barghouti's wife, Fadwa, said her husband would decide early next week whether to run as an independent.

Abbas, 69, represents the older group of politicians who returned with Yasser Arafat from exile in 1994, while Barghouti, 45, leads the Fatah activists who grew up in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The outcome of the power struggle between the younger and older generation could well determine the next Palestinian leader. [complete article]

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CIA says Pakistanis gave Iran nuclear aid
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, November 24, 2004

A new report from the Central Intelligence Agency says the arms trafficking network led by the Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan provided Iran's nuclear program with "significant assistance," including the designs for "advanced and efficient" weapons components.

The unclassified version of the report, posted Tuesday on the agency's Web site,, does not say explicitly whether Mr. Khan's network sold Iran complete plans for building a warhead, as the network is known to have done for Libya and perhaps North Korea. But it suggests that American intelligence agencies now believe that the bomb-making designs provided by the network to Iran in the 1990's were more significant than the United States government has previously disclosed.

In a recent closed-door speech to a private group, George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, described Mr. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, as being "at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden" because of his role in providing nuclear technology to other countries. A tape recording of the speech was obtained by The New York Times.

Until now, in discussing Iran's nuclear program, American officials have referred publicly only to the Khan network's role in supplying designs for older Pakistani centrifuges used to enrich uranium. But American officials have also suspected that the Khan network provided Iran with a warhead design as well.

The C.I.A. report is the first to assert that the designs provided to Iran also included those for weapons "components." [complete article]

See also, Pakistan's disturbing nuclear trail (CSM) and Pakistan blocks quizzing of AQ Khan (UPI).

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How to create a WIA -- Worthless Intelligence Agency
By Chalmers Johnson, TomDispatch, November 24, 2004

Two weeks after George Bush's reelection, Porter J. Goss, the newly appointed Director of Central Intelligence, wrote an internal memorandum to all employees of his agency telling them, "[Our job is to] support the administration and its policies in our work. As agency employees, we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration or its policies." Translated from bureaucrat-speak, this directive says, "You now work for the Republican Party. The intelligence you produce must first and foremost protect the President from being held accountable for the delusions he has concerning Iraq, Osama bin Laden, preventive war, torturing captives, democracy growing from the barrel of a gun, and the 'war on terror.'"

This approach is not new, even though former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman declares that "the current situation is the worst intelligence scandal in the nation's history." Back in 1973, when James Schlesinger briefly succeeded Richard Helms as CIA director, he proclaimed on arrival at the agency's Virginia "campus": "I am here to see that you guys don't screw Richard Nixon." Schlesinger underscored his point by saying that he would be reporting directly to White House political adviser Bob Haldeman and not to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. In the contemporary White House, Goss need not bother going directly to Karl Rove since Bush's outgoing and incoming National Security Advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen J. Hadley, have both been working for months under Rove's direction primarily to reelect the President. [complete article]

See also, Cooking with Goss (Fred Kaplan, Slate).

The CIA is no 'rogue' agency
By John McLaughlin (Deputy Director of Central Intelligence), Washington Post, November 24, 2004

Seldom in my memory has there been such intense controversy about the CIA. Seldom has so much of what is said been so distorted and misinformed. Seldom has there been so little concern about the potential impact on the agency's ability to perform its mission and the consequences that holds for national security.

The time has come to turn down the temperature of the debate, to take a deep breath, and to get some balance and thoughtfulness into the discussion.

Let's start by dispelling the myth that the CIA has become a "dysfunctional" and "rogue" agency. [complete article]

CIA plans riskier, more aggressive espionage
By John Diamond, USA Today (via Yahoo), November 18, 2004

Director Porter Goss told his new chief of spy operations this week to launch a much more aggressive espionage campaign that would use undercover officers to penetrate terrorist groups and hostile governments such as North Korea and Iran, according to a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of Goss' plans.

The risky new strategy would be a sharp departure from the CIA's traditional style of human intelligence, in which field officers under flimsy cover as diplomats in U.S. embassies try to recruit foreign spies and gather tips from allied intelligence services. Those methods don't work with terror groups or in countries where the United States has no embassies, such as prewar Iraq or present-day North Korea and Iran.

The new strategy is dangerous - agents could gather much better information but would run a much higher risk of being killed if found out. Goss hinted at this strategy during his confirmation hearing and has told agency officials it is key to his effort to revamp the agency to meet new and unconventional threats. [complete article]

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Dangers of the '80 percent solution'
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, November 23, 2004

When you push Bush administration officials to explain America's strategy for the new year in Iraq, you get an answer that I'll call "the 80 percent solution." This analysis is at the root of the administration's hopes for the future, so it's worth giving it a careful look.

President Bush's strategists argue that no matter how bloody the insurgency in Iraq may seem, it will never grow beyond the 20 percent of the Iraqi population that is Sunni Muslim. The rest of Iraq -- roughly 60 percent Shiite and 20 percent Kurdish -- may dislike the U.S. occupation, but it will never unite with the Sunnis, who dominated the former regime of Saddam Hussein that brutalized them.

Thus the quiet in the rest of Iraq as U.S. forces pounded the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah this month. You could almost hear Iraq's Shiites and Kurds muttering: "They had it coming." An Arabic expression conveys the schadenfreude emotion: "The misery of some is for others an advantage." In that phrase lies the cold logic of the 80 percent solution. [complete article]

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In Iraq, setting election date the easiest part
By Barbara Slavin, USA Today (via Yahoo), November 23, 2004

The Bush administration's hopes for Iraq rest heavily on whether Iraqis can shape their political future through elections, but it could be difficult for them to vote on Jan. 30, as now planned.

Analysts who have studied the Iraqi elections process cite worsening violence, logistical problems as mundane as printing and distributing ballots on time, and the fear that many of the nation's potent Sunni Muslim minority will boycott the polls, undermining the legitimacy of the vote.

Iraqis, with U.S. help, "would have to greatly accelerate security improvements and technical preparations" to hold elections on time, says Daniel Serwer, director of Peace and Stability Operations at the U.S. Institute of Peace, an independent, U.S. taxpayer-funded organization in Washington that promotes conflict resolution. "What you've got here is a very tight schedule that would be difficult to meet even under ideal circumstances. It's just not clear if it can physically be done."

Larry Diamond, a democracy expert at Stanford University who served in Iraq for three months this year with the U.S.-led civil administration, says elections might be postponed if there is a likelihood of a massive boycott by Sunni Muslims. Otherwise, he says Iraqis will be "asking themselves, what do we gain by having elections in which a whole sector of the country might be disenfranchised?" [complete article]

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Troops hit sites south of Baghdad
By Anthony Shadid and Bradley Graham, Washington Post, November 24, 2004

U.S., British and Iraqi troops mounted raids Tuesday in a swath of territory south of Baghdad where armed insurgents have seized control of several cities and towns, imposed stringent Islamic law and carried out kidnappings and executions of Iraqi police officers and religious pilgrims at checkpoints along the main roads.

The intensity of the U.S.-led campaign remained unclear, but a new offensive would mark the fourth major assault since October attempting to restore security in Sunni Muslim regions before nationwide elections scheduled for Jan. 30. After Fallujah, where U.S. and Iraqi forces began a week-long offensive on Nov. 8, the region south of Baghdad is one of the country's most perilous. Dubbed by some Iraqis the "triangle of death," the area is less than an hour from Baghdad, giving rebels a launching pad for attacks on the capital.

For weeks, U.S. commanders have been considering an offensive against the region, a string of dusty towns off the west bank of the Euphrates River that is populated by Sunni and Shiite Muslims alike. But any attack had to wait until U.S. forces concluded operations in Samarra, about 65 miles north of the capital, in October, and this month in Fallujah, to the west, and Mosul, in the north. [complete article]

See also, Iraq's forbidding 'triangle of death' (WP).

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Medics testify to Fallujah's horrors
By Jackie Spinner, Washington Post, November 24, 2004

The first time Jose Ramirez saw a human body ripped apart by a rocket, it took hours for him to regain his composure. Nothing in his training as a Navy medical corpsman had prepared him for the sight of the dead Marine brought in September to the military field hospital outside Fallujah.

"I walked around in shock," said Ramirez, 26, of San Antonio, a Navy petty officer third class attached to Bravo Surgical Company. "I've seen people die before on the emergency room table. But what I was trying not to do, what I was trained not to do, is look at the patient with tunnel vision. It reminded me that I had to get prepared."

Two months later, when the first wounded American and Iraqi troops arrived at the hospital after storming Fallujah, Ramirez had braced for the worst.

"It doesn't hit me when I'm working on a patient. But after we're cleaning up, and I see the blood on the floor or I see someone bagging a piece of arm or leg, I know it's going to be in my mind for the rest of my life," Ramirez said. [complete article]

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Mass offensive launched south of Baghdad
By Tini Tran, Associated Press (via Yahoo), November 23, 2004

Some 5,000 U.S. Marines, British troops and Iraqi commandos launched raids and arrested suspected insurgents Tuesday in a new offensive aimed at clearing a swath of insurgent hotbeds south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

In other violence, masked gunmen assassinated a Sunni cleric north of Baghdad -- the second such killing in as many days -- and insurgents hit a U.S. convoy with a roadside bomb near the central Iraq city of Samarra, prompting the Americans to open fire, killing an Iraqi, hospital officials said.

The new offensive was the third large-scale military assault this month aimed at suppressing Iraq's persistent insurgency ahead of crucial elections set for Jan. 30. [complete article]

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Iraq falls short on vote security
By Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, November 23, 2004

Iraqi officials and American commanders plan to rely on Iraqi security forces to protect 9,000 polling places during the coming elections, but there are far fewer trained security officers than Iraqi officials estimate are needed. Moreover, many have performed poorly in the Sunni Arab areas where the worst violence is expected.

Iraqi and American officials believe it is important to deploy Iraqi forces, rather than have American troops police the polls, to ensure the credibility of the vote. But American commanders say that only 145,000 Iraqi security personnel will be trained and ready by election day, now scheduled for Jan. 30, far short of the 270,000 that Iraqi officials say are needed. [complete article]

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Conference on Iraq may encourage leader to meet opponents
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, November 23, 2004

An international conference on Iraq is expected to call on the government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to meet with its political opponents to encourage them to participate in the country's first democratic elections in January, according to a draft of the conference's final communique.

The document also indicated that Iraq's neighbors would be pressured to pledge non-interference in Iraqi affairs by cutting off the flow of would-be insurgents across its borders.

But participants in the conference, which Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and representatives of 19 other countries are attending, were deeply divided during preliminary discussions over whether the communique should include a deadline for U.S. troops to leave Iraq. France and some Arab states had pushed to include a specific date for withdrawal, conference participants said. Compromise language in the draft communique says that the U.S.-led deployment of foreign forces in Iraq is not open-ended and notes that its mandate from the United Nations expires in June. [complete article]

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"[O]ne of the lessons other countries have drawn from the Gulf War is that no nation should even consider a confrontation with the United States military without having a weapon of mass destruction at its disposal, be it nuclear, chemical, or biological." Stephen J. Hadley, Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law 23 (1997) (Hadley has just been appointed as President Bush's new national security advisor.)

If Iran goes nuclear ...
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, November 23, 2004

As recently as April, President Bush said it would be "intolerable" for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon.

Since then problems in Iraq and the presidential campaign have pried attention away from Iran's nuclear ambitions. But now the spotlight is back, intensified by new intelligence suggesting Iran is accelerating its nuclear work.

Yet Mr. Bush's recent rhetoric on the topic has been nuanced - gone is the word "intolerable." The shift may suggest two things: first, a realization that diplomatic options are limited, and second, a realization that Iran has tremendous means of influencing events in Iraq.

Despite those factors, the prospect of Iran possessing a nuclear weapon is cause for concern on several fronts, from the role that Iran's Islamic regime sees for itself in the Muslim world and the specific threat it poses to Israel, to the crucial place it holds as a global oil power. But perhaps the greatest risk is how an Iran declaring itself a nuclear power would almost certainly set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. [complete article]

How to defuse Iran
By Richard Cohen, Washington Post, November 23, 2004

If you ask an American why he keeps a gun, he'll say it's a dangerous world out there. If you ask the average Iranian why his country should have a nuclear weapon, he'll tell you the same thing. The difference between your average American and your average Iranian is that the former, while hardly crazy, is overreacting a bit, while the average Iranian is, as the Brits might say, spot on. If ever a country could use a nuclear arsenal, it is Iran.

This is not an endorsement of Iran's reputed and deeply suspected effort to go nuclear. It is merely an attempt to show that the country President Bush once cited as a card-carrying member of the "axis of evil" is, while somewhat evil, actually being totally rational. For starters, it is surrounded by nations that have at one time or another been enemies -- some of which have nuclear weapons. [complete article]

Comment -- While George Bush and John Kerry agreed that nuclear proliferation is one of the greatest dangers facing the world, neither of them was willing to acknowledge that for a non-proliferation policy to have any moral authority it must be coupled with the goal of global nuclear disarmament. Some argue that disarmament is an unrealistic objective since the nuclear genie is out of the bottle, yet the same argument could be applied to nuclear proliferation. If it's not possible to close the nuclear club why are we supposed to believe that its feasible to limit its size? Pakistan and India joined without invitation. How difficult would it be for South Korea and Brazil to do likewise?

The self-styled champions of moral clarity are in fact utterly amoral when it comes to nuclear weapons. They see nothing immoral about possessing weapons with unparalleled power to unleash indiscriminate violence. Their only concern is who might have his finger on the button. Applying the powers of persuasion of a mobster their message is: do as I say, not as I do - or else I'll destroy you.

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Seoul rows against the U.S. tide
By David Scofield, Asia Times, November 24, 2004

When it comes to North Korea and defusing its nuclear crisis, the United States is finding that South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, who wants to be friends with North Korea, is becoming increasingly obstructionist. US neo-conservatives want to play hard ball, very hard ball, with Pyongyang, and say South Korea is too soft. Who's side is Seoul on, anyhow? they ask.

Roh made clear just how soft - and infuriating to the US - his policy is when he addressed the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles on his way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile. Roh, never one to mince words, stunned many in the audience of foreign-policy experts with his assertion that the central argument underpinning North Korea's nuclear-weapons program - that it is a necessary defense in the face of hostility and threat - is not entirely illogical. But it was a shocking, if frank, pronouncement, to be sure. [complete article]

Hawks push regime change in N Korea
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, November 24, 2004

The coalition of foreign-policy hawks that promoted the 2003 invasion of Iraq is pressing US President George W Bush to adopt a more coercive policy toward North Korea, despite strong opposition from China and South Korea.

By most accounts, North Korea ranked high in bilateral talks between Bush and Northeast Asian leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Santiago, Chile, this past weekend, although the final communique did not address the issue.

Bush reportedly tried to make clear that his patience with Pyongyang and its alleged efforts to stall the ongoing "six-party talks" was fast running out and that Washington will soon push for stronger measures against North Korea in the absence of progress toward an agreement under which Pyongyang would dismantle its alleged nuclear-arms program. [complete article]

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More war
By Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker, November 22, 2004

"You cannot have a country that is free and democratic and respectful of all the people in the country if you have safe havens for people who go around chopping people's heads off," Rumsfeld told reporters as the Marines swept into Falluja. "You can't have a country if that's the case." By that formulation, the insurgents have the advantage, since the Americans cannot control all of Iraq, or even hold the territory they conquer each time the insurgents lure them into battle. Guerrilla fighters need only thwart a great power to claim victory, but a great power must deliver on its promises -- and there are none greater than the promises of freedom, stability, and democracy that the President has made to the Iraqi people. But Bush, instead of addressing the fact that the promises have not been fulfilled, has taken to accusing his critics of racism. "I readily concede there are skeptics, people who say democracy is not possible in certain societies," he said on the fourth day of the fight for Falluja. "But, remember, that was said right after World War II, with Japan." The analogy is as inept as it is grandiose: for one thing, Japan attacked us before we vanquished it and converted it to democracy; for another, the American occupiers of Japan were in no hurry to declare success and bail out. Still, it is true that the trouble in Iraq is not an indigenous incapacity for freedom and self-rule. The trouble is with the way that Bush imagined he could impose those blessings on such a vexed country -- as if simply to be invaded by America is a form of salvation. [complete article]

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Hawks push deep cuts in forces in Iraq
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, November 22, 2004

A growing number of national security specialists who supported the toppling of Saddam Hussein are moving to a position unthinkable even a few months ago: that the large US military presence is impeding stability as much as contributing to it and that the United States should begin major reductions in troops beginning early next year.

Their assessments, expressed in reports, think tank meetings, and interviews, run counter to the Bush administration's insistence that the troops will remain indefinitely to establish security. But some contend that the growing support for an earlier pullout could alter the administration's thinking.

Those arguing for immediate troop reductions include key Pentagon advisers, prominent neoconservatives, and some of the fiercest supporters of the Iraq invasion among Washington's policy elite.

The core of their arguments is that even as the US-led coalition goes on the offensive against the insurgency, the United States, by its very presence, is stimulating the resistance. [complete article]

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Sunni Muslim cleric advocating election boycott killed
By Tim Johnson, Knight Ridder, November 22, 2004

Assailants in the northern city of Mosul on Monday shot and killed a leading cleric of an influential Sunni Muslim group that's called for boycotting Iraq's parliamentary elections, set for Jan. 30.

In separate incidents, private British security guards were blamed for killing an Iraqi policeman in an altercation in central Baghdad, and authorities south of the capital said they found 12 bodies, five of them without heads.

The cleric's assassination was the latest in a spate of violence, much of it apparently intended to derail U.S.-backed plans to hold nationwide elections at the end of January.

Gunmen in a getaway vehicle fired at the cleric, Sheik Feydhi Mohammed al Feydhi, as he left his home in Mosul at 9 a.m., colleagues said. No one was captured.

Feydhi belonged to the Moslem Scholars Association, which opposes the elections, saying they shouldn't be held until American "occupiers" withdraw from Iraq. The group claims to represent 3,000 mosques. [complete article]

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Al-Zarqawi underling emerges as force behind Fallujah insurgency
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, November 21, 2004

A mid-30s Iraqi electrician whose religious fervor drew suspicion from Saddam Hussein's agents long before U.S. forces invaded Iraq became the most-feared man in Fallujah during the city's six months under insurgent control.

While U.S. official pronouncements about rebel leaders have focused on Jordanian terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, rebel fighters and others who escaped the U.S. assault on Fallujah say the real power there was wielded by Omar Hussein Hadid, technically al-Zarqawi's underling but in fact the Iraqi face that allowed al-Zarqawi to remain there.

"Inside Fallujah, Omar was the leader. Even Abu Musab couldn't say no to him," said a mufti, or spiritual adviser, who sat on the council that directed the insurgents in Fallujah. Now hiding in Baghdad, the cleric spoke to Knight Ridder on condition of anonymity.

"If Abu Musab didn't cultivate the support of Omar, he never would've been allowed to stay in Fallujah," the mufti said. [complete article]

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Palestinians believe they can build Arab world's first democracy
By Karin Laub, Associated Press (via San Francisco Chronicle), November 20, 2004

Arafat's interim successor, Mahmoud Abbas, is pitted against younger Fatah activists led by Marwan Barghouti, an uprising leader jailed by Israel and according to polls the most popular Palestinian politician.

Long excluded by Arafat, the younger group is clamoring for influence, but the old-timers appear to be resisting.

Barghouti, sending messages from his prison cell, wants a primary to pick Fatah's candidate, but the old guard insists on anointing Abbas without further debate next week.

If so, Barghouti, 45, is expected to run as an independent, posing a major threat to Abbas' election prospects. Polls suggest support for Abbas, 69, is in single digits.

Until Arafat's death this month, after 40 years at the helm of the Palestinian independence movement, Barghouti wouldn't have dared make his move.

At Barghouti's headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, preparations were in full swing last week. Campaign posters showing Arafat holding up a photo of the jailed Barghouti were stacked in one room, ready for distribution.

Head campaigner Saed Nimr said he can muster at least 1,000 volunteers in the Ramallah area alone. [complete article]

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Powell 'pushed out' by Bush for seeking to rein in Israel
By Charles Laurence and Philip Sherwell, The Telegraph, November 21, 2004

Colin Powell, the outgoing US secretary of state, was given his marching orders after telling President George W Bush that he wanted greater power to confront Israel over the stalled Middle East peace process.

Although Mr Powell's departure was announced on November 15, his letter of resignation was dated November 11, the day he had a meeting with Mr Bush.

According to White House officials, at the meeting Mr Powell was not asked to stay on and gave no hints that he would do so. Briefing reporters later, he referred to "fulsome discussions" - diplomatic code for disagreements.

"The clincher came over the Mid-East peace process," said a recently-retired state department official.

"Powell thought he could use the credit he had banked as the president's 'good cop' in foreign policy to rein in Ariel Sharon [Israel's prime minister] and get the peace process going. He was wrong." [complete article]

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Israeli commander indicted for shooting 13-year-old girl
By Amos Harel, Haaretz, November 23, 2004

An indictment was handed down in the Southern Command's Military Court Monday against Captain R., a Givati company commander accused of illegally using his weapon to kill 13-year-old Imam al Hamas, a Palestinian girl who was on her way to school near the Girit outpost in southern Gaza.

Military prosecutors issued a five-count indictment against the officer, including two counts of illegally using his weapon, and one count each of obstruction of justice, conduct unbecoming an officer, and improper use of authority. The officer, who has been suspended, was not identified.

Channel Two's documentary show Fact broadcast last night the army communications network tape recording of the real-time events, including videotape, in which R. is heard explicitly stating he "verified the kill." The tape showed that the soldiers at the outpost kept firing at the girl even after she had been identified by soldiers as "about 10 years old." [complete article]

Comment -- It has been widely reported that the Pentagon has consulted with the Israeli Defense Forces in order to draw on the IDF's experience in handling an occupation. The incident described above and the shooting of an injured insurgent in Falluja filmed by NBC's Kevin Sites bear a striking similarity. Both involved the so-called verification of a kill. By fusing together the killing and the killed, the killer abstracts himself from the equation.

Some people will take offense at the idea that a comparison should be made between an Israeli soldier pouring bullets into the body of a 13-year old school girl and an American soldier shooting an injured insurgent in the midst of urban warfare. After all, as Kevin Sites points out, "the rules of engagement in Falluja required soldiers or Marines to determine hostile intent before using deadly force." But a thread ties together these two events. This is the path of occupation -- a gradual process of degeneration in which the enemy eventually becomes so ill-defined that it can include a child on her way to school.

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It can happen here
Haaretz, November 22, 2004

Anyone who was taken by surprise by the appalling testimonies published in Yedioth Ahronoth last Friday about the mutilation of bodies of Palestinian militants and of innocent victims, probably assumed that the Israel Defense Forces is the world's most ethical army. But the IDF is, in fact, like every other occupying force, and the belief that "it can't happen here" is the result both of ignorance and of turning a blind eye to what actually goes on in the territories.

According to the testimonies in Friday's story, and on various Web sites, and in the reports of Machsom [Roadblock] Watch, such behavior is not peculiar to one army unit, but typical of many combat units. "Confirming the kill", i.e. shooting at close range wounded Palestinians who no longer are dangerous, playing macabre games with body parts while posing for a photo, and even sticking a decapitated head on an iron rod with a cigarette dangling from its mouth - all these atrocities have occurred in the IDF. Although it often seems that the public prefers not to know, and not to damage the IDF's reputation, such testimonies may actually serve to save the army and society from profound moral atrophy. Taking pride in the "purity of arms" or attempting to fine-tune the language of an ethical war code are empty slogans, if not accompanied by authoritative action.

The IDF spokesperson, in response to Yedioth Ahronoth, spoke about the fact that soldiers are operating in a "complex reality" - a phrase that betrays understanding for the soldiers' behavior. But this complex reality is in fact quite simple. For decades the IDF and the settlers have acted as they pleased in the territories, while the Palestinians' image as human beings with rights and with a face has gradually diminished. The process of dehumanization has reached a peak during the last four years, and certainly where there is no respect for human life, there can be no respect for the dead. [complete article]

See also, Probe ordered into claims that soldiers abused dead Palestinians (Haaretz) and Israel's Abu Ghraib? (CSM).

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Fears over elections timed to coincide with haj pilgrimage
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 22, 2004

The announcement that the first elections in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime will be on 30 January was greeted yesterday with warnings that a viable poll could not take place in the continuing climate of violence.

The election campaign will also coincide with the haj in mid-January, and the transit of several million pilgrims from Muslim countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan overland through Iraq to Mecca.

The elections must be held by the end of January for a transitional parliament which will, in turn, pick a new government and oversee the adoption of a constitution, according to the American's timetable for the establishment of representative government.

Diplomatic and military sources say that they expect a determined effort by Islamist groups to smuggle in fighters among the worshippers, with little chance of detecting them. The sheer number of pilgrims will, they say, create a logistical nightmare beside a political campaign in which 120 parties are taking part.

One officer said that those planning the transitional process appeared not to have taken the Muslim calendar into consideration. [complete article]

See also, Vote threatened by violence, calls for Sunni Muslim boycott (Anthony Shadid, Washington Post) and
Iraq vote a priority for Shiite leader (Los Angeles Times).

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Officers see need for bigger Iraq force
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post, November 22, 2004

Senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq say it is increasingly likely they will need a further increase in combat forces to put down remaining areas of resistance in the country.

Convinced that the recent battle for Fallujah has significantly weakened insurgent ranks, commanders here have devised plans to press the offensive into neighborhoods where rebels have either taken refuge after fleeing Fallujah or were already deeply entrenched.

But the forces available for these intensified operations have become limited by the demands of securing Fallujah and overseeing the massive reconstruction effort there -- demands that senior U.S. military officers say are likely to tie up a substantial number of Marines and Army troops for weeks. [complete article]

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'This is now the most dangerous place in Iraq. We are coming up against Zarqawi's people'
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 22, 2004

The attack on Yusufiyah began at just after eight in the morning. Round after round of rockets, then mortar shells and machine-gun fire racked the US Marines' base, in an intense and unrelenting barrage.

A relief patrol ran into a well-prepared ambush. Artillery and air strikes had to be called in, but even after that the battle went on for four more hours. The assault was part of a hidden, and largely unreported, war of attrition taking place in the most dangerous part of Iraq. With Fallujah now, in effect, in American hands, the fighting has moved on to north Babil and the so-called Triangle of Death.

About 120 militants are believed to have taken part in the Yusufiyah operation, and the Americans claim to have killed 40 of them. One marine was killed and seven others injured.

Such attacks have become increasingly common, and the scale of action, as well as the body count, is now among the highest in the country. The shadow of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi hangs over this bitter conflict. The US military and Iraqi sources say the Jordanian militant leader has taken refuge in the area after leaving Fallujah. [complete article]

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British commander fears army will remain in Iraq for years
By Colin Brown, The Independent, November 22, 2004

British troops will be sent to help the US in conflict zones anywhere inside Iraq, prompting fears that soldiers could be stuck in the most dangerous parts of the country fighting insurgents for years to come.

General Sir Mike Jackson, the officer commanding the Army, said in an interview with The Independent yesterday that troops could again be dispatched outside the Basra area to help the US and Iraqi forces if the insurgent threat escalates. The deployment could also go on beyond the end of 2005 when the US mandate for the coalition to stay in the country expires. "It is event-driven," he said.

Sir Mike's remarks will raise fears among critics of the war that Britain is being sucked deeper into the mire in Iraq by extending its mission. [complete article]

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Iraq, the press and the election
By Michael Massing, New York Review of Books (via TomDispatch), November 22, 2004

In the end, the war in Iraq did not have the decisive impact on the election that many had expected. In the weeks before the vote there were the massacre of forty-nine Iraqi police trainees; a deadly attack inside the previously impenetrable Green Zone in Baghdad; the refusal by an army unit to carry out a supply mission on the grounds that it was too dangerous; the explosion of several car bombs at a ceremony where soldiers were handing out candy, killing dozens of children; the abduction of contractors, journalists, and aid workers, including the director of the CARE office in Baghdad; the release of a report holding the highest reaches of the Pentagon and the military responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib; a report by President Bush's hand-picked investigator confirming that Iraq had long ago lost its ability to produce weapons of mass destruction; and the spread of the insurgency to every corner of the country, bringing reconstruction to a virtual halt. All of this, in the end, counted for less to voters (if the exit polls are to be believed) than such issues as whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry and whether discarded embryos should be used for stem cell research.

How did this happen? In many ways, George Bush's victory seems to have confirmed the fact that large numbers of voters in America today are very conservative, dominated by strong attachments to God, country, and the traditional family. At the same time, it's not clear to what extent the public was aware of just how bad things had gotten in Iraq. For while there was much informative reporting on the war, a number of factors combined to shield Americans from its most brutal realities. A look at these factors can help to understand some neglected aspects of George Bush's victory. [complete article]

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Spats over security roil summit in Chile
By Mike Allen, Washington Post, November 22, 2004

U.S. officials said Chilean police had been chafing for a week about a demand by Secret Service agents that they control the president's space, even when he was on sovereign turf. Now, it was payback time.

In the fracas that ensued, amid a flurry of half nelsons, one Secret Service agent wound up jammed against a wall. "You're not stopping me! You're not stopping me! I'm with the president!" an unidentified agent can be heard yelling on videotape of the mayhem.

It took Bush several minutes to realize what was happening. The president and the first lady walked on through the door onto a big red carpet, looking relaxed. They greeted Lagos and his wife, Luisa Duran. "You want us to pose here?" Bush asked Lagos with a grin, and they turned to face a wall of flashes.

Then Bush either realized he was missing something, or he heard the commotion. The president, who is rarely alone, even in his own house, turned and walked back to the front door unaccompanied, facing the backs of a sea of dark suits. Bush, with his right hand, reached over the suits and pointed insistently at Trotta. At first the officials, with their backs to him and their heads in the rumble, did not realize it was the president intervening. Bush then braced himself against someone and lunged to retrieve the agent, who was still arguing with the Chileans. The shocked Chilean officials then released Trotta.

Trotta walked in behind Bush, who looked enormously pleased with himself. He was wearing the expression that some critics call a smirk, and his eyebrows shot up as if to wink at bystanders. [complete article]

Comment -- Since George Bush is likely to face similar problems over the next four years, perhaps it's time for him to unilaterally declare the creation of Bushland, a shifting sovereign state that extends say a hundred feet away from him wherever he goes. No doubt Roberto Gonzales can come up with a legal justification for Bush's declaration of independence.

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Why America has got it so wrong on Iran
By Peter Beaumont, The Observer, November 21, 2004

What is the likely outcome of a confrontation between the US and Iran? I don't mean the la-la-land futurology, still being served up by friends of the Bush Administration over the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, about how the world will still be a safer place and democracy will spread to areas other Presidents couldn't reach.

I prefer to subscribe to a reality that says that the US and its allies have screwed up twice and that Washington is threatening to do so again. That we sleep-walked into an unfolding disaster in Iraq, despite ample warnings of its tragic course. That says that still lawless Afghanistan - awash with a bumper crop of opium - is a glass more than half-empty. And that says Iran is another accident about to happen.

The screw-up view of history sees US foreign policy backfire again as, seduced by its own ideological certainty that all it does is right, it continues its project to create a series of failed and fragile states running seamlessly from the borders of Pakistan to within spitting distance of the Dead Sea. Osama bin Laden could not have planned it better.

Which leads to the question, is there any evidence at all that Bush's new foreign policy team is likely to be more adept at dealing with Iran than with the previous two crises it confronted? [complete article]

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Pentagon turns heat up on Iran
By Peter Beaumont and Gaby Hinsliff, The Observer, November 21, 2004

Pentagon hawks have begun discussing military action against Iran to neutralise its nuclear weapons threat, including possible strikes on leadership, political and security targets.

With a deadline of tomorrow for Iran to begin an agreed freeze on enriching uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons, sources have disclosed that the latest Pentagon gaming model for 'neutralising' Iran's nuclear threat involves strikes in support of regime change.

Although the United States has made clear that it would seek sanctions against Iran through the United Nations should it not meet its obligations, rather than undertake military action, the new modelling at the Pentagon, with its shift in emphasis from suspected nuclear to political target lists, is causing deep anxiety among officials in the UK, France and Germany. [complete article]

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Not much of an opening in the mullahs' robes
By Dan De Luce, Washington Post, November 21, 2004

A real live American is a rare find in Iran these days. At an official "Death to America" rally in Tehran last year, a horde of giggling chador-clad high school girls asked for my autograph. Like many other Iranians I talked to during the 18 months I spent working there, they were tired of the regime's rants about the "Great Satan" and greeted me like a long-lost cousin.

Our absence has made the Iranian heart grow fonder, though that emotion reflects resentment toward the clerics at the top more than innate enthusiasm for America. Despite widespread frustration with the regime's repressive methods and rank hypocrisy, no organized opposition movement or leader has emerged to harness public anger. Contrary to what some neoconservatives might tell you, Iran is not on the verge of revolution. [...]

Even if revolution seems far away, Islamic militancy has proved a colossal failure. Once in power, Islamists found their simplistic, distorted ideology could not satisfy the needs of the population. Instead of social harmony and spiritual revival, the Islamic revolution has turned young people away from the mosque, widened the gap between the rich and poor, oppressed women and stifled freedom of expression. But because there is no Lech Walesa or Nelson Mandela organizing against the theocracy, change will not come soon.

One sure way to derail the cause of democracy would be heavy-handed U.S. action. Iranians retain a deep sense of national pride, and a clumsy covert operation or a stray bomb from the United States would be a gift to the mullahs. Air raids or other intervention of this kind would turn the focus away from the regime's failures and revive the idea of America as the villainous imperial meddler. The troubled American-led occupation of Iraq next door has already given the regime a rationale for cracking down on dissent at home and painting its critics as traitors. [complete article]

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Children pay cost of Iraq's chaos
By Karl Vick, Washington Post, November 21, 2004

Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

"These figures clearly indicate the downward trend," said Alexander Malyavin, a child health specialist with the UNICEF mission to Iraq.

The surveys suggest the silent human cost being paid across a country convulsed by instability and mismanagement. While attacks by insurgents have grown more violent and more frequent, deteriorating basic services take lives that many Iraqis said they had expected to improve under American stewardship. [complete article]

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A doctrine left behind
By Mark Danner, New York Times, November 21, 2004

It seemed somehow fitting, and fittingly sad, that Colin Powell saw his resignation accepted as secretary of state on the day marines completed their conquest of Falluja, ensuring that the televised snapshots of glory drawn from his long public career would be interspersed with videotape of American troops presiding over scenes of urban devastation in a far-off and intractable war.

As I watched images from Mr. Powell's life flicker past, and as the fruits of the American victory became clear - a ravaged city; an elusive enemy, most of whom had escaped; a countrywide counterattack in which insurgents seized parts of Mosul - I felt a ghostly echo of words I could not quite grasp. Two days later, watching an American general declare that in Falluja our forces had "broken the back of the insurgency," I felt the sentences I'd struggled to recall suddenly take shape; I reached for Mr. Powell's memoir and found these bitter lines:

"Our senior officers knew the war was going badly. Yet they bowed to groupthink pressure and kept up pretenses. ...Many of my generation, the career captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand."

Those plain words about Vietnam stand out with refreshing immediacy today, in this age of the destruction of the fact, when incontrovertible but unwelcome information is dismissed as partisan argument. What might the Colin Powell who wrote those words, or the younger officer in Vietnam who envisaged his future as a man who could never "quietly acquiesce," have said about our present war? What might "many of his generation" - who are indeed the men now commanding in Iraq - have said, had they not themselves quietly acquiesced? [complete article]

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The president's yes man
By Alan Berlow, Washington Post, November 21, 2004

In nominating Alberto Gonzales to be the next attorney general, President Bush has selected a man with a long record of giving him the kind of legal advice he wants. Unfortunately, that advice has not always been of the highest professional or ethical caliber.

Gonzales is perhaps best known for a controversial January 2002 memorandum to the president in which he argued that Geneva Convention proscriptions on torture did not apply to Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners, and that the conventions are, in fact, "obsolete."

This interpretation of international law, which many have linked to the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, will no doubt be a focus of confirmation hearings. Senators might also want to quiz Gonzales about a less well-known June 1997 memo involving another treaty, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Written when Gonzales was counsel to then-Gov. George W. Bush, the memo puts forward the novel view that because the state of Texas was not a signatory to the Vienna Convention, it need not abide by the treaty. Or, put another way, Texas is not bound by Article VI of the Constitution, which states that U.S. treaties are "the supreme Law of the Land." [complete article]

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Sycophant spies
By David Wise, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2004

At least now it's in the open. According to an astounding internal memo slipped to the press last week, Porter J. Goss, the new head of the CIA, expects his spies to "support the administration."

From time to time over the years, critics have accused the CIA of "politicizing" intelligence. The memo the CIA director sent to the agency's employees leaves no doubt. It tells the spies to get on the team, get with the program. The document left the impression that in the second Bush administration, the White House will run the CIA.

This marks the first time -- as far as the public knows at least -- that a CIA director, in writing, has ordered the agency's spies and analysts to back the president. Why does it matter? Because a president, in theory, relies on the CIA to present facts neutrally, honestly and objectively so that he can base his policies on accurate information. The CIA's analysts are not supposed to be cheerleaders.

Yet the Goss memo, leaked to the New York Times last week, tells the CIA's employees that their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work," adding: "As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies." [complete article]

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Theatre of terror
By Jason Burke, The Observer, November 21, 2004

When they kicked down the door of the living room of a house in the western Iraqi city of Falluja on Friday, US marines from the 3/5 Lima Company discovered an improvised television studio equipped with video cameras, banks of computers and cutting-edge editing equipment.

According to Captain Ed Batinga, who led the soldiers, an off-white wall behind a wooden table at one side of the room was spattered with blood and draped with the black-and-gold flag of the Islamic militant group believed to be behind the killing of dozens of hostages in Iraq in recent months.

The marines were too late to save Margaret Hassan, a slim, spry, 59-year-old Irish-born woman who had lived in Iraq for 32 years, and was shot dead at point-blank range by an Iraqi insurgent some time last week. She had been held captive for nearly a month and died dressed in a Guantanamo Bay-style orange jumpsuit.

The first and last act of Mrs Hassan's abductors was to release a videotape. The first reached the television station al-Jazeera within hours of Mrs Hassan being taken hostage. The last, which has not yet been broadcast, shows her death.

The videos are one of the most shocking elements of the war in Iraq. Scores have now been released by Iraqi insurgents. To many the terrorists' use of the media seems a radical innovation. It isn't. The Iraqi videos are part of a genre of propaganda tools developed over decades. This is simply the moment that the terrorist film-makers have started to reach a mass audience. In the longer term, the videos are rooted in the essence of the militants' project, which is the project of all terrorists - dramatic spectacle. Or, put another way, theatre. [complete article]

See also, Tuning in to terror, America is stressing out (WP).

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Doubts fly on terror report's reliability
By Josh Meyer, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2004

Five months after embarrassed State Department officials acknowledged widespread mistakes in the government's influential annual report on global terrorism, internal investigators have found new and unrelated errors — as well as broader underlying problems that they say essentially have destroyed the credibility of the statistics the report is based on.

In a 28-page report, the State Department's Office of Inspector General blamed the problems on sloppy data collection, inexperienced employees, personnel shortages and lax oversight. Investigators also concluded that the procedures used by the State Department, CIA and other agencies to define terrorism and terrorist attacks were so inconsistent that they couldn't be relied upon.

The department's independent investigative unit concluded, however, that politics played no role in allowing so many mistakes to be published in the original version of the "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report for 2003.

The 2003 report said that terrorist attacks and related deaths had dropped to the lowest levels in three decades, and top Bush administration officials immediately cited it as proof of their success in the global war on terrorism.

But the underlying data actually showed a sharp increase, to a 21-year high. [complete article]

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Afghanistan: a nation abandoned to drugs
By Nick Meo and Leonard Doyle, The Independent, November 19, 2004

Three years after the fall of the Taliban, the United Nations issued a dramatic plea for help yesterday, saying that Afghanistan's opium crop is flourishing as never before and the country is well on the way to becoming a corrupt narco-state.

The UN's annual opium survey reveals that poppy cultivation increased by two-thirds this year, a finding that will come as a deep embarrassment to Tony Blair, who pledged in 2001 to eradicate the scourge of opium along with the Taliban.

So alarmed is the UN that it is suggesting a remedy more radical than any that has been put forward before - bringing in US and British forces to fight a drugs war similar to the war on terror. It wants them to destroy farmers' crops on a massive scale before they can be harvested.

The report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC) says the narcotics trade is far bigger than anybody had realised. Most experts in Afghanistan believe it is a more significant factor in the continuing violence and instability than the Taliban insurgency. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

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.

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.

Holding a veto at the U.N. Security Council, China has become the key obstacle to putting international pressure on Iran. During a visit to Tehran this month, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing signaled that China did not want the Bush administration to press the council to debate Iran's nuclear program. U.S. officials have expressed fear that China's veto power could make Iran more stubborn in the face of U.S. pressure.

The burgeoning relationship is reflected in two huge new oil and gas deals between the two countries that will deepen the relationship for at least the next 25 years, analysts here say.

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.

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."

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.

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.

At least 36 journalists have been killed covering this war. Everyone seems to know someone who's been taken hostage. We share our nightmares of terrorists cutting off our heads. Word of new abductions brings guilty relief: Thank God it wasn't me.

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.

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%.

The overwhelming majority of insurgents, several senior commanders said, are drawn from the tens of thousands of former government employees whose sympathies lie with the toppled regime of Saddam Hussein, unemployed "criminals" who find work laying roadside bombs for about $500 each and Iraqi religious extremists.

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.

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.

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.

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