The War in Context  
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Fitzgerald expands probe to prewar intel, October 22, 2005

As readers found out on Wednesday, prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation into the Plame leak case has broadened to include a probe into the catalyzing event that set off the "outing" of CIA agent Valerie Plame to begin with: the Niger uranium forgeries. These documents, which purported to show that the Iraqis were trying to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger, were utilized by the Bush administration in making the case for war – but, alas, they turned out to be crudely done fakes. The question of who forged them has always been at the heart of this case, and now it looks like Fitzgerald is getting close to the answer. [complete article]

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Special prosecutor in CIA leak case starts web site
By Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, October 22, 2005

The prosecutor investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity put up an official Web site for making public announcements yesterday, fueling the belief of lawyers involved in the case that he will announce charges against some administration officials next week.

Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald told attorneys for administration officials late last week that he was nearing decisions about possible charges. Without fanfare, the office put up a site at .

"It sure doesn't look like he's folding up his tent and going home without some charges," said one lawyer involved in the case who asked not to be identified. [complete article]

See also, Leak prosecutor is called exacting and apolitical (NYT).

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New constitution may not halt Iraq's fragmentation
By Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder, October 21, 2005

A week after a historic referendum on a new constitution, Iraq looks much as it did before the vote: Kurdish militias patrol the north, warring Shiite Muslim militias wrestle for control of the south and in the center, an insurgency supported by an angry Sunni Muslim Arab minority battles U.S. forces, the Iraqi government and the Shiites.

No one expected an overnight transformation. But it remains uncertain whether the new constitution and Wednesday's brief appearance of Saddam Hussein in a courtroom cage can halt or even slow the violence and sectarian divisions that have steadily gained momentum since the U.S.-led invasion 31 months ago.

"Today marks another momentous step toward the building of a new Iraq," U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said in a statement at the start of Saddam's trial. "Like the constitutional referendum we have just witnessed, the trials ... at the Iraq Special Tribunal will help pave the path to a democratic and independent Iraq, based on the rule of law."

Khalilzad's optimism may prove right, but the perennially sunny comments by U.S. leaders on past events, such as the capture of Saddam, the transfer of sovereignty and January's National Assembly elections, have been premature at best. And today's reasons for skepticism extend far beyond concern over the insurgency. [complete article]

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'Gunmen surrounded us, firing into the windscreen. The dreaded moment had arrived: kidnap'
By Rory Carroll, The Guardian, October 22, 2005

We finished the interviews, deep in the Baghdad slum known as Sadr City, and the Guardian's two vehicles started heading back to the hotel. The street was deserted until three cars, including a police Land Cruiser, sliced around a corner and into our path. Gunmen piled out and surrounded us.

One pistol-whipped Safa'a, the driver, spraying his blood on to my lap. Another wrestled the translator, Qais, out of the door on to the ground. Another pumped three bullets into the windscreen of the follow-up vehicle, narrowly missing the driver, Omar.

It was 2.15pm on Wednesday, and a moment I had dreaded since moving to Iraq nine months earlier had arrived: kidnap. [complete article]

See also, Iraqi police praised as four arrested over abduction (The Guardian).

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Cover-up issue is seen as focus in leak inquiry
By David Johnston, New York Times, October 21, 2005

As he weighs whether to bring criminal charges in the C.I.A. leak case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel, is focusing on whether Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, sought to conceal their actions and mislead prosecutors, lawyers involved in the case said Thursday.

Among the charges that Mr. Fitzgerald is considering are perjury, obstruction of justice and false statement - counts that suggest the prosecutor may believe the evidence presented in a 22-month grand jury inquiry shows that the two White House aides sought to cover up their actions, the lawyers said.

Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have been advised that they may be in serious legal jeopardy, the lawyers said, but only this week has Mr. Fitzgerald begun to narrow the possible charges. The prosecutor has said he will not make up his mind about any charges until next week, government officials say. [complete article]

CIA leak queries look at disclosure of classified data
By John D. McKinnon, Anne Marie Squeo and Joe Hagan, Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2005

Mr. Fitzgerald's initial mission was to see if the leaking of Valerie Plame's name violated a 1982 act that bars the intentional disclosure of an undercover intelligence operative's identity.

But lawyers and others close to the case say he may be piecing together a case that White House officials conspired to leak various types of classified material in conversations with reporters -- including Ms. Plame's identity but also other secrets related to national security.
Yesterday, one former administration official said Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff, had discussed former diplomat Joseph Wilson and the role of his wife, Ms. Plame, with White House staffers in 2003. That buttresses the possibility that Mr. Fitzgerald is investigating charges related to leaking classified information.

The former official said Mr. Rove had these discussions after Mr. Wilson went public with claims that the Bush administration had twisted intelligence to build support for the Iraq war. Mr. Rove discussed discrediting Mr. Wilson, the former official said, adding that Mr. Rove didn't necessarily name Ms. Plame or make her a key talking point in conversations with other White House officials. Prosecutors have been told of these internal discussions.

Robert Luskin, an attorney for Mr. Rove, said, "The allegation is maliciously false."

A charge of leaking classified information might seem a stretch in Washington, where many believe that too much information is deemed classified -- and where, in any case, such information routinely passes among White House officials, congressional staffers and the media.

But there are some relevant earlier cases. A current investigation into the leaking of classified Pentagon information to the Israeli lobbying group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has resulted in three indictments. [complete article]

Comment -- As one famous political observer has noted, there's "a lot of chatter, a lot of speculation and opining" going on here. At least on this point, I can't really disagree with Bush. And let's not forget while we're all caught up in this furious speculation about which particular indictments are going to be made, it's still possible that Fitzgerald will end his inquiry with nothing.

The interests of those who fear the indictments are actually being served by the press ramping up expectations. If the indictments come through then the build-up will have helped diffuse much of the shock. If they don't come through, Bush supporters will be trumpeting that this whole affair was just a political show.

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Bush critic became target of Libby, former aides say
By Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2005

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff was so angry about the public statements of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a Bush administration critic married to an undercover CIA officer, that he monitored all of Wilson's television appearances and urged the White House to mount an aggressive public campaign against him, former aides say.

Those efforts by the chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, began shortly after Wilson went public with his criticisms in 2003. But they continued into last year -- well after the Justice Department began an investigation in September 2003, into whether administration officials had illegally disclosed the CIA operative's identity, say former White House aides.

While other administration officials were maintaining a careful distance from Wilson in 2004, Libby ordered up a compendium of information that could be used to rebut Wilson's claims that the administration had "twisted" intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq before the U.S. invasion. [complete article]

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Suddenly, it's a vast left-wing conspiracy
By Jonathan Chait, Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2005

I've been waiting for quite a while now for conservatives to come up with a theory to explain why large chunks of the Republican Party are, or soon will be, under indictment. The argument I've been anticipating has finally arrived, in the form of a long lead editorial in the latest edition of the influential conservative magazine the Weekly Standard.

The editorial, written by Standard Editor William Kristol and longtime conservative activist Jeffrey Bell, begins by acknowledging the uncomfortable fact that "the most prominent promoters of the conservative agenda of the Bush administration" are facing legal troubles of one kind or another. It cites the legal imbroglios of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. It neglects to mention David Safavian, the chief of staff at the General Services Administration in the Bush administration; conservative activist/superlobbyists Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon; and Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe) and Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), and perhaps some others I'm forgetting.

Anyway, one conclusion you could draw from all these examples is that the Republican Party has gotten a bit corrupt. The Standard does not, however, draw this conclusion. Another possibility is that it's all just a coincidence. The Standard doesn't conclude that, either. Instead, the editorial declares, "a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives." [complete article]

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Hariri probe puts Syria on collision course with U.N.
By Nadim Ladki, Reuters, October 21, 2005

Syria headed on Friday for a diplomatic showdown with the Security Council after a U.N. probe implicated high-ranking Syrian officials in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

The probe led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis named as suspects in the February 14 killing members in the inner circle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and top pro-Syrian Lebanese officials, with suspicion cast even on President Emile Lahoud.

Syria dismissed the charges as "far from the truth", while Lahoud denied them and indicated he would not be driven from office despite at least one call for him to resign.

The United States and its allies appeared to be laying down the ground for economic sanctions against Syria, whose decades-long domination of its far smaller neighbor Lebanon was strongly opposed by Hariri.

A report submitted to the 15-nation Security Council on Thursday said there was probable cause to believe the decision to kill Hariri could not have been taken "without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security official(s)", nor carried out without the complicity of Lebanese security services. [complete article]

"Washington and Damascus Between Confrontation and Cooperation," by Moshe Ma'oz
Joshua Landis' Syria Comment, October 21, 2005

Moshe Ma'oz is Israel's foremost Syria scholar. He wrote the following report for the US Institute of Peace in August. It is the best overview of how and why Syria-US relations have arrived at their present state of confrontation. His proposal for how both sides can climb down from this confrontation is reasonable. It probably makes too much sense to be followed by either side. In my view, he correctly emphasizes the extent to which ideology has determined the stance of both sides. He believes that ideology has gotten in the way of responsible politics.

It is hard to see how a climb down can be managed now that the Mehlis Report has been published. It is grey, but Syria is clearly being implicated. No indictments have yet been made. Until indictments are made both sides will engage in a war of words to try to sway public opinion to their side. The hawks in the West and Lebanon will insist it makes a clear link to the highest levels of Syria's leadership. Syria will insist that it is murky and highly politicized, that there is no smoking gun, and that Syria is being implicated without proof. [complete article]

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Saddam case lawyer taken by men in suits - witnesses
By Michael Georgy, Reuters, October 21, 2005

A lawyer involved in the Saddam Hussein trial who was found dead was abducted by armed men in suits and ties who identified themselves as Interior Ministry employees, witnesses said on Friday.

Their accounts could not be independently checked. The Interior Ministry has repeatedly denied allegations from minority groups that it sanctions hit squads run by Shi'ite militiamen.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said he had no information on the gunmen who kidnapped the lawyer Saadoun Janabi, whom Baghdad lawyers said was an old friend of Saddam himself. [complete article]

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On trial: clear case of hypocrisy
By Gwynne Dyer, Journal Now, October 21, 2005

If they had taken Adolf Hitler alive in 1945, they would certainly have put him on trial. But what if they had ignored Hitler's responsibility for starting World War II and his murder of 6 million Jews, and simply put him on trial for torturing and executing a couple of hundred people whom he suspected of involvement in the July 1944 plot to kill him? You would find that bizarre, would you not?

Well, Saddam Hussein's trial started Wednesday, and that is the sort of charge chosen by the Iraqi government and its American supervisors. After only three hours, the trial was adjourned until Nov. 28, mainly because most of the witnesses were too frightened to show up, but by then, the prosecution strategy was entirely clear.

The former Iraqi dictator is not being tried for invading Iran in 1980 and causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, nor for using poison gas on Iranian troops and on rebellious Kurds in Iraq itself (notably at Halabja in 1988, when at least 5,000 Iraqi Kurd civilians died), nor for invading Kuwait in 1990, nor for slaughtering tens of thousands of Iraqi Shias in the course of putting down the revolt that followed his defeat in that war.

He is being tried for the deaths of 143 people from the mainly Shia town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an assassination attempt against him during a visit to that town in July, 1982. It is a very peculiar choice, and the explanation offered by one of the five judges on the Iraqi Special Tribunal - "The Dujail case is the easiest to put together as far as evidence-gathering and preparation is concerned, (because) there are documents that have been seized and verified concerning the case" - doesn't hold water.

The United States seized all the documents concerning all of Saddam's abuses during its invasion of Iraq 2 1/2 years ago. It also has at least half of Saddam's former senior ministers and generals in its prisons, and could easily find many who would give evidence against him in return for clemency for themselves. If Washington wanted to see Saddam tried for his truly monstrous crimes, then that would happen. But it probably won't. [complete article]

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Iraq: life after the constitution
By Dilip Hiro, YaleGlobal, October 20, 2005

The White House has a sound reason to feel upbeat about the referendum on the Iraqi constitution on October 15. The turnout was satisfactory, and the day passed relatively calmly. What is more, the disaffected Sunnis participated in the voting on a large scale. But this participation may not signal an end to the insurgency, facilitating the withdrawal of Anglo-American troops. Nor would the successful adoption of a democratic constitution in Iraq necessarily presage the flowering of democracy in the rest of the Middle East. [complete article]

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Alleged desecration of bodies investigated
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post, October 21, 2005

The senior U.S. operational commander in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, flew to the southern city of Kandahar yesterday to confer with officers about the alleged burning of two Taliban fighters by U.S. soldiers in the area as the Bush administration moved to try to limit the damage from the reported incident.

Fearing a Muslim backlash against television images of the apparent desecration, the State Department sent U.S. embassies instructions "to engage on this issue" and to stress that the pictures do not reflect U.S. values or the actions of "the vast majority" of the U.S. military, said spokesman Sean McCormack.

Specialists in U.S.-Muslim relations warned that the alleged incident could deepen hostility against the United States and further damage an American image already tarnished by scandals over mistreatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"If true, the incident would fit a seeming pattern that has emerged of the U.S. military gaining enough knowledge of Islamic culture and sensitivities to devise ways of offending Muslims," said Khaled Abu el Fadl, a specialist in Islamic law at UCLA law school. [complete article]

See also, Afghan clerics voice anger over a report alleging US burning of Taliban bodies (AP).

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Bush backs away from timetable for setting up Palestinian state
By Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, October 21, 2005

President George W. Bush yesterday backed away from the goal he set a year ago to help establish an independent Palestinian state by the end of his second term.

With Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president at his side at a White House press conference, Mr Bush said he could not tell when Israelis and Palestinians would live side by side in two democratic states, and denied he had expressed the hope of this happening by the end of 2008.

"So you said I would like to see two states before I get out of office. Not true," he told an Arab reporter. "I'd like to see two states. And if it happens before I get out of office, I'll be there to witness the ceremony. And if it doesn't, we will work hard to lay that foundation so that the process becomes irreversible." [complete article]

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Cheney, CIA long at odds
By Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2005

For more than a decade, Dick Cheney has tussled with the CIA, first as secretary of Defense and later as vice president. Now that long and tortured history forms the backdrop of a federal probe into who named an undercover agency officer -- an inquiry that is centering in part on Cheney's office.

Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has interviewed not only the vice president but also his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and several other current and former Cheney aides as he seeks to learn who told reporters about the agent and whether anyone obstructed his inquiry.

Cheney's long relationship with Libby, and their shared doubts about the CIA, help explain why the vice president and his staff would draw the prosecutor's interest. Fitzgerald is in the final stages of deciding whether to issue indictments, according to defense lawyers in the case, and his decision could roil a White House struggling with sinking poll numbers, a troubled Supreme Court nomination and other problems. [complete article]

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Secrets, evasions and classified reports
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, October 19, 2005

The lengthy account by New York Times reporter Judy Miller about her grand jury testimony in the CIA leak case inadvertently provides a revealing window into how the Bush administration manipulated journalists about intelligence on Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

Whatever the implications for special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's probe, Miller describes a conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, on July 8, 2003, where he appears to significantly misrepresent the contents of still-classified material from a crucial prewar intelligence-community document about Iraq.

With no weapons of mass destruction having been found in Iraq and new questions being raised about the case for war, Libby assured Miller that day that the still-classified document, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), contained even stronger evidence that would support the White House’s conclusions about Iraq's weapons programs, according to Miller's account.

In fact, a declassified version of the NIE was publicly released just 10 days later, and it showed almost precisely the opposite. [complete article]

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Kidnapped reporter freed in Iraq
BBC News, October 20, 2005

An Irish reporter kidnapped in Baghdad on Wednesday has been freed unharmed, the Guardian newspaper has said.

Rory Carroll, 33, was "safe and well" and was in the Iraqi capital's Green Zone, the Guardian's foreign desk said.

It said Mr Carroll was in good spirits and had spoken to his family and told the paper his captors had treated him well. Their identity is unclear. [complete article]

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Cheney 'cabal' hijacked U.S. foreign policy
By Edward Alden, Financial Times, October 20, 2005

Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government's foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.

In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

"Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences." [complete article]

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The report they forgot
By Laura Rozen, The American Prospect, October 19, 2005

In February 2004, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (SSCI) announced that it had unanimously agreed to expand its investigation of prewar Iraq intelligence from focus on intelligence community blunders and into the more controversial area of "whether intelligence was exaggerated or misused" by U.S. government officials. The committee's ranking Democrat, Jay Rockefeller, struck the agreement with Chairman Pat Roberts -- provided, Roberts insisted, that the probe into policy-makers' activities wait until after the presidential election.

It's now more than a year later, and Rockefeller is still waiting -- the Phase II report has yet to appear. What happened? And why isn’t Rockefeller making more of a fuss? [complete article]

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Rove told jury Libby may have been his source in leak case
By Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, October 20, 2005

White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove's account said yesterday.

In a talk that took place in the days before Plame's CIA employment was revealed in 2003, Rove and Libby discussed conversations they had had with reporters in which Plame and her marriage to Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV were raised, the source said. Rove told the grand jury the talk was confined to information the two men heard from reporters, the source said. [complete article]

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Army examining an account of abuse of 2 dead Taliban
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, October 20, 2005

The Pentagon announced Wednesday night that the Army had started a criminal investigation into allegations that American soldiers in Afghanistan had burned the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters and then used the charred and smoking corpses in a propaganda campaign against the insurgents.

The events were shown on an Australian television program, broadcast there on Wednesday night, depicting what is described as an American psychological operations team broadcasting taunts over a loudspeaker toward a village thought to be harboring Taliban fighters and sympathizers, according to a transcript of the program. It was posted on the Web site of the Special Broadcasting Service, An American soldier, an Afghan soldier, and two Taliban had just been killed in fighting there, the transcript of the program said. [complete article]

From the SBS transcript:
At the top of the hills above the village the soldiers have taken the tactics of psychological warfare to a grotesque and disturbing extreme. US soldiers have set fire to the bodies of the two Taliban killed the night before. The burning of the corpses and the fact that they've been laid out facing Mecca is a deliberate desecration of Muslim beliefs.

SOLDIER: Wow, look at the blood coming out of the mouth on that one, fucking straight death metal.

PsyOps specialist Sergeant Jim Baker then broadcast an inflammatory message over the loudspeakers in order to taunt and bait the enemy.

SGT JIM BAKER Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be.

SOLDIER 2: The first message we sent was - Attention, Mullah Tahir, Mullah Sadar, Mullah Kairadullah, Mullah Abdullah Khan and other Taliban, we know who you are. Your time in Afghanistan is short. You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Talibs but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are.
And the second one. Attention Mullah Tahiir and other Taliban fighters, we have you surrounded, there is no way for you to escape. Come down from the mountains now and you will not be harmed. We will give you food and cold water. If you persist and stay in the mountains it will become your graveyard.

The soldiers say they're burning the bodies for hygiene purposes but out here, far away from the village, this appears to make no sense.
These soldiers have clearly been trained to denigrate and enrage Muslims. Such blatant disrespect for the corpses of their enemy is a breach of the Geneva Convention. It also heightens the perception of local people that the Americans are just as barbarous as the Taliban say they are.

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Efforts to find missing reporter
BBC News, October 20, 2005

Diplomatic efforts are continuing to try to locate an Irish newspaper journalist feared kidnapped in Iraq.

Rory Carroll, a 33-year-old Iraq correspondent for the Guardian, is reported to have been taken by armed men while on assignment in Baghdad.

The paper's editor, Alan Rusbridger, said the paper was "deeply concerned" at his disappearance. [complete article]

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Defiant Hussein, co-defendants plead not guilty, win trial delay
By Richard Boudreaux and Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2005

An imperious, defiant Saddam Hussein waged a theatrical struggle to control the opening of his murder trial Wednesday, sparring repeatedly with the chief judge and challenging the legitimacy of the Iraqi court. He and seven former aides then pleaded not guilty and won a 40-day postponement of the proceedings.

"I am the president of Iraq," the ousted dictator declared from behind a cage-like metal barrier in his former Baath Party headquarters building, which has been converted into a courtroom. "I will not answer to this so-called court." [complete article]

See also, In Iraq, two views: hero or villain (WP).

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Their only redemption is to withdraw in the new year
By Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, October 19, 2005

Beware good news from Iraq this week. Some such news there will be. The federal constitution seems likely to pass referendum muster. It is the one thing that may yet forestall the country's formal partition.

Between now and elections for a new government in December there should be a semblance of political activity. As democracy it is a pastiche. Its leaders are entombed in the mightiest fortress on Earth, the Americans' Green Zone in Baghdad, while voting is not political but religious and ethnic. But it will be enough for the occupiers to claim that things are "getting better", and therefore that they should stay.

Last week I returned to Iraq for the first time since the end of 2003. If the essence of "getting better" is security then things are incomparably worse. I could no longer walk the streets or visit friends. Anyone associating with foreigners risks execution. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, academics are fleeing abroad for fear of kidnap. The National Museum has closed. Visiting VIPs must go everywhere by helicopter. The Iraqi head of Baghdad's military academy must change into civilian clothes before leaving his base. After nearly three years of American rule, Baghdad is simply the most terrifying city in the world. [complete article]

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Rice declines to give senators timeline for Iraq withdrawal
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, October 20, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faced testy criticism yesterday from both Republican and Democratic senators for what they called a vague and troubled strategy in Iraq and for the administration's refusal to offer a concrete timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Rice avoided answering questions about whether American troops would still be in Iraq in five or 10 years, noting only that insurgents would continue to kill innocents for "a long time." In a new effort to stabilize Iraq, she said, the United States will deploy civilian-military teams throughout Iraq next month to foster nation-building, from courts and social services to sewage treatment. [complete article]

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Israel plans W Bank 'apartheid' roads
Aljazeera, October 19, 2005

Israel is considering a permanent ban on Palestinians using major roads in the occupied West Bank, security sources have said, drawing Palestinian condemnation of the idea as a form of apartheid.

Israel barred private Palestinian vehicles from several West Bank highways on Monday, expanding a network of settler-only routes, a day after Palestinian fighters killed three young Jewish settlers in a drive-by shooting.

The army had billed the new restrictions as temporary to protect Israelis from further attack in the territory, which many analysts believe will become the focus of renewed violence following Israel's pullout from Gaza last month. [complete article]

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U.S., France to introduce U.N. resolutions against Syria
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, October 19, 2005

The United States and France are planning to introduce two U.N. resolutions next week aimed at holding Syria to account for meddling in Lebanon and for its alleged links to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, according to several sources close to the diplomacy.

The moves would be the toughest international action ever taken against Syria and would be designed to further isolate President Bashar Assad, who for the first time is getting the cold shoulder from key Arab governments such as those in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Western envoys said.

The impending actions will be "the perfect storm for Damascus," said a Western diplomat at the United Nations, speaking on the condition of anonymity because planning is still underway. "It's pretty clear the Syrians don't have any friends left." [complete article]

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Death toll in Pakistan may be much higher
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2005

Relief officials and local government leaders in northern Pakistan have reported dramatically higher death tolls from the devastating Oct. 8 earthquake, with estimates reaching 100,000, the army's chief spokesman said Monday.

The government has decided against revising its official estimate of 38,000 killed until its relief coordinator completes a survey, but it acknowledges that the final toll is likely to be much higher, said the spokesman, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan. [complete article]

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Military recruiting ads zero in on mom, dad
Parents, many of whom never served, are told of benefits

By Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, October 18, 2005

With public support for the Iraq war dropping and military recruits becoming harder to attract, the Pentagon started an ad campaign Monday that skips patriotic images and focuses on the difficult conversations that young people have with their parents about joining up.

The $10 million campaign by the military's marketing arm urges parents to "make it a two-way conversation" with children looking to join the military. In four 30-second spots on cable networks and in print ads in publications ranging from O, The Oprah Magazine to Field and Stream, the appeals urge parents -- many of whom, the Pentagon realizes, have never served in the military -- to learn more about the services. [complete article]

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Spanish judge issues warrant for three GIs
By Maria Jesus Prades, AP (via WP), October 19, 2005

A judge has issued an international arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers whose tank fired on a Baghdad hotel during the Iraq war, killing a Spanish journalist and a Ukrainian cameraman, a court official said Wednesday.

Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant for Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, all from the U.S. 3rd Infantry, which is based in Fort Stewart, Ga.

Jose Couso, who worked for the Spanish television network Telecinco, died April 8, 2003, after a U.S. army tank crew fired a shell on Hotel Palestine in Baghdad where many journalists were staying to cover the war. [complete article]

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U.S. faces Iraq 'reconstruction gap'
By Griff Witte, Washington Post, October 19, 2005

The federal official overseeing spending to rebuild Iraq told Congress yesterday that the U.S. government faces a multibillion-dollar "reconstruction gap" that separates its plans from what it can afford.

Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said administration promises to use $18 billion Congress allocated to rebuild water, electricity, health and oil networks to prewar levels or better are running into cold reality. "We are going to provide something less than that," he said. [complete article]

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Review is set for U.S. forces in terror fight
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, October 19, 2005

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has assigned a retired four-star general to review the Special Operations Command, the military headquarters with the lead role in counterterrorism, and assess how it can perform more effectively.

The decision to have the officer, Gen. Wayne A. Downing, a former head of the command, conduct the review reflects Mr. Rumsfeld's impatience with the progress in the fight against global terrorism, and his periodic desire to summon outside experts to bring a fresh eye to daunting problems. Earlier this year, for instance, Mr. Rumsfeld dispatched another retired senior officer to Iraq to assess the training of Iraqi security forces.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Special Operations Command has sharply increased its budget and forces, and has grappled with expanded and more complex missions in the fight against terrorism. [complete article]

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Dick Cheney's covert action
By Larry C. Johnson,, October 19, 2005

Face it, America. You've been punk'd.

It is now quite clear that the outing of Valerie Plame was part of a broader White House effort to mislead and manipulate U.S. public opinion as part of an orchestrated effort to take us to war. The unraveling of the Valerie Plame affair has exposed their scam -- and it extends well beyond compromising the identity of a CIA officer. In short, the Bush administration organized and executed a classic "covert action" program against the citizens of the United States.

Covert action refers to behind-the-scenes efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies to plant stories, manipulate information and shape public opinion. In other words, you write stories that reporters will publish as their own, you create media events that tout a particular theme, and you demonize your opponent. Traditionally, this activity was directed against foreign governments. For example, the U.S. used covert action extensively in Greece in the 1960s to help fend off communists. Covert action also played a major role in rallying world support for the Afghanistan mujahideen following the Soviet invasion in 1979.

Revelations during the past week about the Plame affair make it clear that the Bush administration used covert action against its own citizens. [complete article]

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Guardian journalist kidnapped in Baghdad
The Times, October 19, 2005

Rory Carroll, Baghdad Correspondent of The Guardian, was kidnapped today in the Iraqi capital.

Carroll, a 33-year-old Irish national, was abducted as he left a house in Baghdad's Sadr City area after watching the televised trial of Saddam Hussein with an Iraqi family.

"It is believed Mr Carroll may have been taken by a group of armed men," the newspaper said. "The Guardian is urgently seeking information about Mr Carroll's whereabouts and condition." [complete article]

Audio statement from The Guardian in Arabic (mp3).

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Juan Cole on withdrawal from Iraq
Juan Cole interviewed by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, October 19, 2005

Juan Cole: ...if a withdrawal is done in the wrong way, or unwisely, here's what could happen:

You've already got this low-intensity sectarian war going on in a province like Babel. Twenty-two guys'll show up dead in the morning, bullets behind their ears, mafia-style. They'll be Shiites or they'll be Sunnis. So you know the two sides -- at night, when the U.S. can't see them so well -- are already fighting it out with each other. And it's over land. Babel province was traditionally heavily Shiite. Saddam expelled Shiites and brought in Sunnis. It was part of his planting of Sunnis.

TomDispatch: As in Kirkuk…

JC: That was Arabization, this was Sunnitization. So let's say the U.S. is not around much anymore, what's going to happen if you have a whole brigade of Sunni fighters come down from Mahmudiyah and attack Hila? That sort of thing happened in Lebanon during the civil war. These neighborhood militias can become armies and leave their areas to wage war against other neighborhood militias that become armies. Now, if that started happening, and if the Sunni Arabs started to win, it's inevitable that the Revolutionary Guards will come across the border from Iran to help the Shiites. Iran's not going to sit by and allow Iraq's Shiites to be massacred. If that happened, the Saudis, the Jordanians, and the Syrian Sunnis are not going to stand by either and let Iranian Revolutionary Guards massacre Sunni Arabs in reprisal. They're going to come in. You could simultaneously be having Kurdish massacres of Turkmen which would bring Turkey in. So you could end up with a regional low-intensity war. Think of the Spanish Civil War. [complete article]

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Sunni leaders: voting fraud casts shadow over poll
By Steve Negus, Financial Times, October 18, 2005

Sunni Arab leaders claimed that irregularities in voting in one closely-contested governorate risked endangering the legitimacy of Saturday’s constitutional referendum.

With the vote much closer than expected, even the possibility of fraud will inflame tensions between the predominantly Shia and Kurdish supporters of the charter, and a Sunni community that seems to have turned out in force against it.

Early results had shown dramatic regional splits, with the “yes” vote running between 85 to 95 per cent in the predominantly Shia southern provinces and up to 98 per cent in the Kurdish governorate of Kurdistan. However, most voters in at least two predominantly Sunni Arab governorates, Anbar and Salaheddin, appear to have voted against the constitution. [complete article]

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A year later, Goss's CIA is still in turmoil
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, October 19, 2005

When Porter J. Goss took over a failure-stained CIA last year, he promised to reshape the agency beginning with the area he knew best: its famed spy division.

Goss, himself a former covert operative who had chaired the House intelligence committee, focused on the officers in the field. He pledged status and resources for case officers, sending hundreds more to far-off assignments, undercover and on the front line of the battle against al Qaeda.

A year later, Goss is at loggerheads with the clandestine service he sought to embrace. At least a dozen senior officials -- several of whom were promoted under Goss -- have resigned, retired early or requested reassignment. The directorate's second-in-command walked out of Langley last month and then told senators in a closed-door hearing that he had lost confidence in Goss's leadership. [complete article]

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Niger uranium forgery mystery solved?
By Justin Raimondo,, October 19, 2005

Whoever leaked Plame's name and CIA affiliation was trying to scare off any further inquiries into the whole Niger uranium funny business, underscoring the key question in all this: who was behind the Niger uranium forgeries?

Even as the FBI was following the trail of the forgers, the Italians were looking into the matter from their end. A parliamentary committee was charged with investigating, and they issued a heavily redacted report: now, I am told by a former CIA operations officer, the report has aroused some interest on this side of the Atlantic. According to a source in the Italian embassy, Patrick J. "Bulldog" Fitzgerald asked for and "has finally been given a full copy of the Italian parliamentary oversight report on the forged Niger uranium document," the former CIA officer tells me:
"Previous versions of the report were redacted and had all the names removed, though it was possible to guess who was involved. This version names Michael Ledeen as the conduit for the report and indicates that former CIA officers Duane Clarridge and Alan Wolf were the principal forgers. All three had business interests with Chalabi."
[complete article]

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No final report seen in inquiry on CIA leak
By David Johnston and Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, October 19, 2005

The special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case has told associates he has no plans to issue a final report about the results of the investigation, heightening the expectation that he intends to bring indictments, lawyers in the case and law enforcement officials said yesterday.

The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is not expected to take any action in the case this week, government officials said. A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

A final report had long been considered an option for Mr. Fitzgerald if he decided not to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, although Justice Department officials have been dubious about his legal authority to issue such a report.

By signaling that he had no plans to issue the grand jury's findings in such detail, Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to narrow his options either to indictments or closing his investigation with no public disclosure of his findings, a choice that would set off a political firestorm. [complete article]

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Pro- and anti-Judy Miller fallout grips 'New York Times' newsroom
By Joe Strupp, Editor and Publisher, October 18, 2005

The New York Times may have hoped to turn the page with Sunday's lengthy article on reporter Judy Miller's entanglement in the CIA leak investigation, but the paper and its star reporter continue to be the focus of media attention. On Tuesday, the Times newsroom was still buzzing about what will happen next.

Inside the paper, some reporters say Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. will take the blame for leading the paper's defense of Miller. Still others point to Executive Editor Bill Keller, who admitted Sunday that he would have done things differently in the Times' handling of the case.
"We have learned that the executive editor of The New York Times can lose his job," one Times reporter said, referring to former executive editor Howell Raines, who was fired after the Jayson Blair scandal two years ago. "But it seems the publisher is in more trouble. We know that Arthur was driving the editorials, and we were constrained from writing anything."

Another longtime staffer agreed, noting, "The big issue is Sulzberger. He is the one who turned the paper over to Miller and he is left holding the bag."

Keller and Sulzberger have not returned calls this week from E&P seeking comment. Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins, whose section published numerous editorials supporting Miller in recent months, also could not be reached.

As opposed to the Blair scandal, which exposed the former Times reporter's ability to make up facts, lie about his reporting, and plagiarize, some staffers contend that the Miller story could have a greater impact. [complete article]

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Burning questions
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, October 18, 2005

Judy [Miller] says she went to jail to uphold the promise of confidentiality she made to [Lewis] Libby. But Libby, she says, probably wasn't the source of [the reference in Miller's notes to "Valerie] Flame." So did Judy go to jail to protect the confidentiality of a source whose name she couldn't recall? Not quite. That source is still protected, it would seem, even if Judy's memory is jogged. Before she finally agreed to testify to the grand jury, according to The New York Times, her lawyer Edward Bennett "assured" special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald "that Ms. Miller had only one meaningful source. Mr. Fitzgerald agreed to limit his questions to Mr. Libby and the Wilson matter." So it would seem that Mr. Fitzgerald was willing to allow the unnamed source to remain unremembered by Ms. Miller, as long as Mr. or Ms. Source wasn't Mr. Scooter Libby. Not a great advance in the case, it would seem.
Given the way Judy takes notes, I'm not surprised that she can't remember who first gave her the name of "Flame." I've even seen speculation that it came from one of her other not-so-reliable sources, Iraqi exile leader (and now vice president) Ahmad Chalabi, who peddled so many of the WMD rumors that wound up as facts in the Times. Ahmad keeps close tabs on his enemies, and I know first-hand that he counted many people at the CIA on that list. When I e-mailed one of Chalabi's aides to ask point blank if Chalabi was Judy's source for Plame's name, the aide responded: "Come on Chris ... get back to serious work." That seemed like a non-denial denial, so I asked again. "I'm not going to dignify it any further," was the reply. "It is utter rubbish and you really should know better than to even listen to such rehashed 'Chalabi is the root of all evil' claptrap."

So, I don't know if Ahmad was the source. But I do know this. His agenda was to get Saddam ousted at any price and position himself near the center of power, not protect the integrity of the American press or, for that matter, of the U.S. president. Chalabi's secret was simple: he told the administration hawks whatever they wanted to hear. "They said 'anything you come across on terrorism and WMD, please let us know,'" the same Chalabi aide told me a couple of years ago. "We had no idea they had no other sources or means to test this stuff."

Well, that's a problem, isn't it? And what if you're the reporter hearing from the administration what it wants to regard as the truth? How do you check this stuff out? And if you can't, do you just drop the story? Of course you should. But do you? What will your sources say to you then? Will they remain sources at all? [complete article]

Comment -- I've just picked out the juicy bit in the who dunnit story but Christopher Dickey's broad thrust is really directed at the future of journalism in a country which Robert F. Kennedy Jr. aptly described as home to "the best-entertained and the least-informed people on the face of the earth."

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Juan Cole on George Bush's Iraq (part one)
Juan Cole interviewed by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, October 18, 2005

TomDispatch: About the President's most recent global terror speech you wrote, "Mr. Bush, I don't recognize the world you paint." Could you start by laying out for us what's missing from our picture of Iraq -- not just Bush's picture, but the mainstream media's?

Juan Cole: It's not just from Iraq. It's our picture of the world. The United States is a peculiarly insular society. Most people here haven't traveled very much and our mass media, all television news of any significance, is controlled by about five corporations. We have a tradition in the State Department and our press corps of preferring generalists and being suspicious of deep expertise as a form of bias. So a journalist covering Iraq, who knows the Middle East well and knows Arabic, might well be seen as someone too entangled with the region to be objective. The American way of ensuring objectivity is to parachute generalists into a situation and have them depend on local informants. The whole theory of it is wrong. The BBC, for example, wouldn't dream of having most of its Middle Eastern coverage done by people who don't know Arabic.

Basically, the public is informed about things like the Middle East by generalist journalists who were in Southeast Asia or Russia last year, and by politicians and bureaucrats who were dealing with some other region last week. And then there's official Washington spin, and the punditocracy, the professional commentators, mainly in New York and Washington, who comment about the Middle East without necessarily knowing anything serious about it. Anybody who's lived in parts of the world under the microscope in Washington is usually astonished at how we represent them. You end up with an extremely persistent set of images that almost no actual information is able to make a dent in. [complete article]

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Iraqi poll result delayed by vote-rigging probe
By Simon Freeman, The Times, October 18, 2005

Iraqi election officials are investigating claims of vote-rigging in the referendum on the constitution after evidence that turnout could be impossibly high in some Shia and Kurdish provinces.

The official result, which had been due at the end of this week, has been delayed after it emerged that in some areas 99 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote "yes".

The suggestion of fraud has raised fears that the referendum will add to a sense of alienation among the minority Sunni community, fuelling a new wave of attacks against coalition forces, politicians and Shia Muslim neighbourhoods. [complete article]

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Agency charged with spending oversight in Iraq left country in '04
By Seth Borenstein, Knight Ridder, October 17, 2005

The chief Pentagon agency in charge of investigating and reporting fraud and waste in Defense Department spending in Iraq quietly pulled out of the war zone a year ago - leaving what experts say are gaps in the oversight of how more than $140 billion is being spent.

The Defense Department's inspector general sent auditors into Iraq when the war started more than two years ago to ensure that taxpayers were getting their money's worth for everything from bullets to meals-ready-to-eat.

The auditors were withdrawn in the fall of 2004 because other agencies were watching spending, too. But experts say those other agencies don't have the expertise, access and broad mandate that the inspector general has - and don't make their reports public. [complete article]

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Cheney's office is a focus in leak case
By Jim VandeHei and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, October 18, 2005

As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name hurtles to an apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney's office, according to lawyers familiar with the case and government officials. The prosecutor has assembled evidence that suggests Cheney's long-standing tensions with the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame.

In grand jury sessions, including with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Fitzgerald has pressed witnesses on what Cheney may have known about the effort to push back against ex-diplomat and Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV, including the leak of his wife's position at the CIA, Miller and others said. But Fitzgerald has focused more on the role of Cheney's top aides, including Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, lawyers involved in the case said.

One former CIA official told prosecutors early in the probe about efforts by Cheney's office and his allies at the National Security Council to obtain information about Wilson's trip as long as two months before Plame was unmasked in July 2003, according to a person familiar with the account. [complete article]

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Officials unaware of reporter's special status
By Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, October 17, 2005

Officials from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon say they have no idea what New York Times reporter Judith Miller was talking about when she claimed to have been given a "security clearance" while she was embedded with a U.S. Army unit in Iraq in 2003.

In a first-person account of her recent testimony before a federal grand jury, published in the newspaper on Sunday, Miller wrote the Pentagon had given her "clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment 'embedded' with a special military unit hunting for unconventional weapons." [complete article]

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A crusade in support of a flawed crusader
By Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2005

Media corporations are arguably the most important yet least examined centers of power in our society. The owners of the Fourth Estate have a unique ability to direct the searchlight of inquiry upon others while remaining powerfully positioned to deflect it from themselves.

That is the blunt message of the belated but devastating report in Sunday's New York Times on how the paper turned reporter Judith Miller's "case into a cause." In its zeal to present its own discredited reporter as a 1st Amendment hero, the "paper of record" badly neutered its news department's coverage of the Miller saga and deployed its editorial page as a battering ram in her defense, publishing 15 editorials supporting Miller's protection of her White House source. [complete article]

See also, New York Times story on leak raises questions (LAT).

Comment -- As much as the New York Times is currently a target of criticism, I get the sense that the majority of its critics are pulling their punches. To avoid the risk of offending friends or precipitating some kind of journalistic blowback, no one wants to say flat out, this is an institution that is rotten at the core. Former Times reporter and editor, John L. Hess, was an exception. In a review of Hess' 2003 memoir, My Times: A Memoir of Dissent, Louis Proyect writes:
The Times is essentially a joint dynasty of the Sulzberger and Ochs families. The current publisher is Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. In a chapter titled "Meet the Family," Hess dismisses the dynasty as consisting of incompetent, high society wastrels with a penchant for drugs and booze, whose commitment to progressive values was verbal at best. After Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to congress, voted against going to war in 1917, The Times editorialized that this was "final proof of feminine incapacity for straight thinking." When black soldiers returned from the war and demanded equal rights, the violence directed against them prompted The Times to wax nostalgic for the prewar days when most blacks "admitted the superiority of the white race and troubles between the two races were unheard of."

In 1963 Hess went to work at the Paris bureau of The New York Times, where on good days, he felt like he "had the best job in the world." Although his superiors assigned Hess to what amounted to puff pieces, like a carnival in the Pyrenees to attract wives for its unmarried men, there was always more than a bit of that John Reed in him that uncovered deeper social meanings. In this instance, Hess honed in on the true problem, which is that young women had fled to the lowlands to escape economic hardship. One white-haired mother of seven told him that "My faith, life must be better elsewhere."

Eventually Hess was drawn into covering the Vietnam War, but with the expected clashes with management over what and how to report. When he filed an article about the massacre of 300 villagers in Quang-nai Province in 1969, he was disconcerted to discover it was carried as a sidebar to another article and not placed on the front page where it belonged.

Subsequently, he learned why the foreign desk had decided to bury the article. They thought that "the absence of substantiation and the recent spate of similar allegations from many sources all pointed to extreme caution in handling a story with the emotional impact of this one." In Hess's view, this reflected a "crippling malady of the Times: its allergy toward sources that challenge the establishment's truths." Clearly, not much has changed since 1969, especially in light of Judith Miller's dispatches from Iraq.

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Rove's contingency plan
By Vivieca Novak and Mike Allen, Time, October 16, 2005

Karl Rove has a plan, as always. Even before testifying last week for the fourth time before a grand jury probing the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity, Bush senior adviser Rove and others at the White House had concluded that if indicted he would immediately resign or possibly go on unpaid leave, several legal and Administration sources familiar with the thinking told Time.

Resignation is the much more likely scenario, they say. The same would apply to I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the Vice President's chief of staff, who also faces a possible indictment. A former White House official says Rove's break with Bush would have to be clean -- no "giving advice from the sidelines" -- for the sake of the Administration.

Severing his ties would allow Rove -- who as deputy chief of staff runs a vast swath of the West Wing -- to fight aggressively "any bull___ charges," says a source close to Rove, like allegations that he was part of a broad conspiracy to discredit Plame's husband Joseph Wilson. Rove's defense: whatever he did fell far short of that. [complete article]

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U.S. airstrikes kill 20 Iraqi civilians
By Solomon Moore, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2005

On Saturday, five U.S. Army soldiers were killed on the outskirts of Ramadi when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle.

Today, military officials described the three airborne attacks carried out the day before. An F-15 fighter launched the first strike at 1:25 p.m. Sunday, after an aviator saw about 20 men near the crater caused by the earlier roadside attack.

Military officials said the aviator suspected that the men were planting another explosive device and released a bomb, killing an unknown number of suspected insurgents. [complete article]

Comment -- Here's a question for every single journalist who has ever attended a press briefing from military officials: When is an official explanation of an event so lacking in credibility that it should not be repeated?

At this point, we all know that a burnt out US military vehicle on the streets of a city in the Sunni triangle will quickly draw a celebratory crowd of onlookers along with those pulled by nothing more than curiosity in examining the detritus of war. I know this and I'm sure the pilot of the F-15 described above also knows this. And I'd also bet that the sight of some Iraqis who looked like they were celebrating the deaths of his comrades fueled that pilot's lust for revenge. With an unseen nod and a wink he probably told his controller something like this (adapted from a report in The Independent, October 6, 2004):

Pilot: I got numerous individuals on the road. They could be planting a bomb. You want me take those out?
Controller: Take 'em out.
Pilot: Ten seconds
Controller: Roger
Pilot: Impact! Oh dude...

But that's not the official account. If it was, the question now would be: will those involved be charged with committing war crimes? I guess if we just stick with the official account, that question doesn't need to be asked.

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Professor of death
By Aparisim Ghosh, Time, October 17, 2005

"Daddy, I want to be a martyr. Can you get me an explosive belt?"

When Abu Qaqa al-Tamimi's 9-year-old son asked for his help in becoming a suicide bomber, he was, to say the least, taken aback. "This is not what you expect to hear from a little boy," says al-Tamimi, an Iraqi man in his late 40s with close-cropped hair and a thin beard lining a round face. "I didn't know what to say." The son had even come up with a proposed target. "There was an American checkpoint near his school, and he said, 'They won't suspect me because I'm a kid, so I can walk right up to them and explode the belt.'"

Like other Iraqi parents, al-Tamimi frets about the emotional toll on his child caused by the daily onslaught of suicide bombings. But al-Tamimi bears a personal responsibility for his son's bizarre ambitions. For the past 13 months, al-Tamimi has played a crucial, and murderous, role in the Iraqi insurgency: he is one of a small number of operatives who provide would-be suicide bombers with everything from safe houses to target information and explosives. [complete article]

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Military strategy in Iraq: What is it?
By Mark Sappenfield, Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 2005

In refocusing the nation's attention on the war on terror in past weeks, both the president and his critics in Congress are increasingly turning to a fundamental yet frequently overlooked aspect of the Iraq conflict: whether the United States has a clear military strategy to defeat the insurgency.

Time and again, the Bush administration has stated that the way to ultimately break the insurgency is to create a strong and democratic Iraq. But that's the political path to victory, measured in mileposts such as last weekend's constitutional referendum. How to assess the military's progress in subduing - or at least managing - an enemy that refuses to stand and fight is a question that only now is getting asked.

This conflict is the sort that the armed forces have avoided since Vietnam, where the Pentagon never found adequate answers to similar strategic questions. But America's more aggressive post-Sept. 11 stance suggests that this is the warfare of the future - and the military must learn how to cope with it.

Now, pressed by Congress and an impatient public, President Bush and Pentagon leaders have begun to articulate the vision behind their current course - casting Iraq as a battle of wills in which American forces will help an improving Iraqi Army hunt down and destroy terrorists. But after 2-1/2 years of halting progress, doubts are growing among military analysts and a more combative Congress that this is a winning strategy - or even a strategy at all. [complete article]

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Loyalties lie with clerics, not with politicians, in Najaf
By Jonathan Finer and Naseer Nouri, Washington Post, October 17, 2005

No one in Najaf wore a bigger smile to the polls Saturday than Falah Hassan Sarraf.

The electrical engineer and his wife were so keen to vote in Iraq's constitutional referendum that they hardly slept the night before, he said. And they brought along their three young daughters to share in the moment.

But when asked what they liked so much about the document, which even the Shiite Muslim politicians who dominated its drafting have acknowledged is far from perfect, Sarraf gave what turned out to be a common response in this Shiite spiritual center.

"We are with the marjiya ," he said, referring to the members of the highly influential Shiite religious council that asked followers to support the referendum. "If they say 'Vote yes,' we vote yes." [complete article]

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We do not deserve these people
By Anatol Lieven, London Review of Books, October 20, 2005

A key justification of the Bush administration's purported strategy of 'democratising' the Middle East is the argument that democracies are pacific, and that Muslim democracies will therefore eventually settle down peacefully under the benign hegemony of the US. Yet, as Andrew Bacevich points out in one of the most acute analyses of America to have appeared in recent years, the United States itself is in many ways a militaristic country, and becoming more so:
at the end of the Cold War, Americans said yes to military power. The scepticism about arms and armies that informed the original Wilsonian vision, indeed, that pervaded the American experiment from its founding, vanished. Political leaders, liberals and conservatives alike, became enamoured with military might.

The ensuing affair had, and continues to have, a heedless, Gatsby-like aspect, a passion pursued in utter disregard of any consequences that might ensue.
The president's title of 'commander-in-chief' is used by administration propagandists to suggest, in a way reminiscent of German militarists before 1914 attempting to defend their half-witted kaiser, that any criticism of his record in external affairs comes close to a betrayal of the military and the country. [complete article]

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License to torture
By Anthony Lewis, New York Times, October 15, 2005

The most profound issue that will face the Supreme Court in the coming years is not the one animating many of the conservatives angry at Harriet Miers's nomination to the court, abortion. It is presidential power.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush and his lawyers have asserted again and again that the "war on terror" clothes the president as commander in chief with extraordinary, unilateral power - the power, for example, to designate an American citizen as an enemy combatant and imprison him indefinitely, without trial or a real opportunity to demonstrate innocence.

The right to legal abortion is a subject that moves millions of Americans, con and pro. But the claim of essentially unchecked presidential power goes to the very nature of the American political system. [complete article]

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For U.S., a hard road is still head in Iraq
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, October 17, 2005

For the Bush administration, the apparent approval of Iraq's constitution is less of a victory than yet another chance to possibly fashion a political solution that does not result in the bloody division of Iraq.

Publicly, administration officials hailed the result but privately some officials acknowledged that the road ahead is still very difficult, especially because Sunni Arab voters appeared to have rejected the constitution by wide margins. As one official put it, every time the administration appears on the edge of a precipice, it manages to cobble together a result that allows it to move on to the next precipice. [complete article]

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Window into al Qaeda
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, October 16, 2005

Rarely in wartime is it possible to read over the shoulder of the enemy and discover his most intimate thoughts about the battle. But the United States is claiming just such an intelligence coup with the capture of a letter from Ayman Zawahiri, the cerebral chief strategist of al Qaeda, to his hotheaded field commander in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi.

The July 9 Zawahiri letter was released Tuesday by the office of John Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence. If authentic, the letter takes us inside the tent of al Qaeda's battered but clear-eyed leadership as it plans the next stage of its global jihad.

Al Qaeda in Iraq claims that the letter is a fake, but I would say that, too, if someone had intercepted my battle plans. More troubling is a critique by Juan Cole, one of the leading American experts on Shiite Islam. After carefully reviewing the Arabic text, he argued on his Web site Friday that some of the usage sounds like that of a Shiite or perhaps a Pakistani but not an Egyptian Sunni like Zawahiri. Not so, insist the CIA's Arabic-speaking analysts. "We have the highest confidence in the letter's authenticity," a senior intelligence official reiterated Friday. [complete article]

Comment -- It's ironic that the debate about this letter's authenticity is largely a product of the overstated claims of US intelligence. There's a difference between asserting that the letter is authentic (ie., neither CIA black ops nor a Shiite fabrication) and claiming knowledge about the author or the intended recipient. Let's suppose that the letter, signed by "Abu Muhammad" and referring to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the third person, had not been described as a letter from Ayman Zawahiri to Abu Musab Zarqawi. It could simply have been said to be a communication from Zawahiri's organization to Zarqawi's organization. Much of the debate about its authenticity would thereby have been circumvented and the focus more clearly directed at the letter's content. Yet in the absence of clear-cut evidence, an assumption was presumably made: unless this communication could be cast in terms of the high drama of an intercepted missive between two infamous fugitives, no one would pay much attention. True to the spirit of the age, personality was allowed to overshadow substance.

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In unruly Gaza, clans compete in power void
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, October 17, 2005

Tawfiq Abu Khoussa is the spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza and sits at the epicenter of what should be state power here.

But when some of Gaza's many gunmen fired shots at his office, Mr. Khoussa did not seek protection from the Palestinian police or security services. He called on gunmen from his own powerful hamulla -his clan or tribe - to protect him.

Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, a prominent psychiatrist here, is not surprised. "Who rules Gaza?" he asked. "It's certainly not the central Palestinian Authority." There is no law or security here, he said, adding, "The reality is that the Gaza Strip is controlled from outside by Israel and from inside by groups intertwined with security forces and tribes." [complete article]

See also, Israel suspends contacts with Palestinians (AP).

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Iraq envoy's tell-all memoir blocked
By Martin Bright, The Observer, October 16, 2005

The Foreign Office has effectively killed the publication of a controversial fly-on-the-wall memoir of the Iraq war by one of Britain's most senior diplomats, which would have called the conflict 'politically illegitimate'.

In a move that brought immediate accusations of censorship from its author, The Observer can reveal that Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations during the preparations for war in 2003 and the Prime Minister's envoy to Iraq following the war, has been blocked in his efforts to reveal 'certain truths' about the conflict. He was uniquely well-placed to provide the inside story of the conflict and its aftermath.

But this weekend his publishers in Britain and America were set to pull the plug on the book after the Foreign Office demanded drastic cuts and the removal of references to conversations between Greenstock and the major players in the conflict, including Tony Blair and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

Greenstock told The Observer he was considering other ways of getting his story out: 'My personal view is that it might be worth saying what I want to say rather than being censored to blandness.' [complete article]

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Cheney may be entangled in CIA leak investigation, people say
Bloomberg, October 17, 2005

A special counsel is focusing on whether Vice President Dick Cheney played a role in leaking a covert CIA agent's name, according to people familiar with the probe that already threatens top White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis Libby.

The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, has questioned current and former officials of President George W. Bush's administration about whether Cheney was involved in an effort to discredit the agent's husband, Iraq war critic and former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson, according to the people.

Fitzgerald has questioned Cheney's communications adviser Catherine Martin and former spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise and ex-White House aide Jim Wilkinson about the vice president's knowledge of the anti-Wilson campaign and his dealings on it with Libby, his chief of staff, the people said. The information came from multiple sources, who requested anonymity because of the secrecy and political sensitivity of the investigation. [complete article]

See also, Miller's lawyer says Libby may face 'problem' in probe (WP).

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It's Bush-Cheney, not Rove-Libby
By Frank Rich, New York Times, October 16, 2005

There hasn't been anything like it since Martha Stewart fended off questions about her stock-trading scandal by manically chopping cabbage on "The Early Show" on CBS. Last week the setting was "Today" on NBC, where the image of President Bush manically hammering nails at a Habitat for Humanity construction site on the Gulf Coast was juggled with the sight of him trying to duck Matt Lauer's questions about Karl Rove.

As with Ms. Stewart, Mr. Bush's paroxysm of panic was must-see TV. "The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts," Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post. Asked repeatedly about Mr. Rove's serial appearances before a Washington grand jury, the jittery Mr. Bush, for once bereft of a script, improvised a passable impersonation of Norman Bates being quizzed by the detective in "Psycho." Like Norman and Ms. Stewart, he stonewalled.

That stonewall may start to crumble in a Washington courtroom this week or next. In a sense it already has. Now, as always, what matters most in this case is not whether Mr. Rove and Lewis Libby engaged in a petty conspiracy to seek revenge on a whistle-blower, Joseph Wilson, by unmasking his wife, Valerie, a covert C.I.A. officer. What makes Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation compelling, whatever its outcome, is its illumination of a conspiracy that was not at all petty: the one that took us on false premises into a reckless and wasteful war in Iraq. That conspiracy was instigated by Mr. Rove's boss, George W. Bush, and Mr. Libby's boss, Dick Cheney. [complete article]

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Bush is in no hurry on Katrina recovery
By Peter G. Gosselin, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2005

Almost two months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and a month after promising in a nationally televised speech to help rebuild the region "quickly," President Bush has settled on a cautious, piecemeal approach that even many members of his own party fear will stall reconstruction and sow economic disarray.

Bush has made highly publicized trips to Louisiana and Mississippi on average of once a week since the storm, but the administration has yet to introduce legislation for two of the three proposals the president highlighted during his September speech from New Orleans.

In the case of the third proposal, $5,000 accounts to help workers left unemployed by the hurricane, an administration-drafted House bill would provide aid for fewer than a quarter of the jobless.

Despite mounting evidence that Washington is having trouble putting to use most of the $62 billion in emergency funds approved by Congress so far, the president has resisted appointing a recovery coordinator or further detailing his vision of how to tackle rebuilding. In interviews last week, he explained that he wanted state and local officials to act first. [complete article]

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U.S.: 70 Iraqis killed in airstrikes
By Thomas Wagner, AP (via ABC), October 17, 2005

U.S. helicopters and warplanes bombed two villages near the city of Ramadi, a hotbed of Sunni-Arab insurgents west of Baghdad, killing around 70 Iraqis, the military said Monday. The military said all the dead were militants, though witnesses said at least 39 were civilians.

The violence on Sunday occurred a day after Iraq voted on and apparently passed a landmark constitution that many Sunnis opposed. On referendum day, a roadside bomb killed five U.S. soldiers iin a vehicle in the Al-Bu Ubaid village on the eastern outskirts of Ramadi. [complete article]

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Iraqi republic will - explicitly - not be Arab
By David Hirst, Daily Star, October 14, 2005

In the great settlement that followed World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, one of the Middle East's largest ethnic groups, the Kurds, were the main losers. They had been promised a state of their own, but, thanks to Ataturk's nationalist rebellion and abandonment of the project by the Western powers, they ended up as minorities, more or less severely repressed, in the four countries, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria, among which their vast domains were divided.

The Kurds are set to become the greatest beneficiary of whatever new order emerges from the current Western intervention in the region's affairs. This hasn't reached the scale of the earlier one, being mainly confined, in its radical form at least, to Iraq, but, in its expanding - and unplanned - ramifications, it could well be on the way. After all, its chief architects, the Bush Administration's pro-Israeli, neo-conservative hawks, with their grandiose ideas of "creative chaos" and "regime change" everywhere, always saw Iraq, conceptually, as the springboard of an enterprise that, to succeed, had to be region-wide or not at all. In this respect if no other, they are in unison with the inhabitants of the Middle East themselves, for whom it is virtually axiomatic that what happens in Iraq profoundly affects everyone else.

At all stages in the Iraqi drama, Arab pundits and politicians have dwelt apprehensively on these wider implications. And so they are doing now with the new Iraqi constitution. It is the latest and possibly the most fateful of them, enshrining as it does, under the general heading of "federation," a whole new concept of statehood and identity. [complete article]

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Visit Baghdad and you can see our golden chance for an exit
By Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times, October 16, 2005

Good news. The much-reviled constitution on which Iraq voted yesterday is the best thing that America has given this country in two decades. No other mechanism could possibly hold Iraq together. And praise be, the predicted Sunni veto may not have occurred. Last-minute manoeuvres by Zalmay Khalilzad, the wily American ambassador, enabled the Sunni leaders to think that they can change everything later. The bizarre compromise may have saved the day.

Like the invasion or hate it, that is the good news. The bad news is that a golden opportunity now offered to Britain and America to withdraw from Iraq and restore Iraqi dignity and sovereignty seems certain to be missed.

This past week I found Baghdad's Green Zone fortress still echoing to the age-old cry of military occupation, that "they still can't do without us". Since my last visit this enclave has become a Vatican-like state within a state. Every expedition against insurgents is more counter-productive. Everyone working for the regime risks a brutal death. The Great Mistake staggers on through bloodshed without exit and expense without end. [complete article]

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My four hours testifying in the Federal grand jury room
By Judith Miller, New York Times, October 16, 2005

I interviewed Mr. Libby for a second time on July 8, two days after Mr. Wilson published his essay attacking the administration on the Op-Ed Page of The Times.

Our meeting, which lasted about two hours, took place over breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington. I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I almost certainly began this interview by asking about Mr. Wilson's essay, which appeared to have agitated Mr. Libby. As I recall, Mr. Libby asserted that the essay was inaccurate.

Mr. Fitzgerald asked about a notation I made on the first page of my notes about this July 8 meeting, "Former Hill staffer."

My recollection, I told him, was that Mr. Libby wanted to modify our prior understanding that I would attribute information from him to a "senior administration official." When the subject turned to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Libby requested that he be identified only as a "former Hill staffer." I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill.

Did Mr. Libby explain this request? Mr. Fitzgerald asked. No, I don't recall, I replied. But I said I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson. [complete article]

Comment -- As Judith Miller and Lewis Libby were obviously aware, it is quite easy to make a factually true statement (in this case, to describe Libby as a "former Hill staffer") with the clear intention of being deceptive. Maintaining source confidentiality solely involves withholding information; it does not create a right to connive with that source in his attempts to disguise himself. As soon as Miller accepted Libby's request to refer to him as a "former Hill staffer," she had crossed the line from being a reporter to being a co-conspirator.

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The Miller case: A notebook, a cause, a jail cell and a deal
By Don Van Natta Jr.,Adam Liptak and Clifford J. Levy, New York Times, October 16, 2005

... an examination of Ms. Miller's decision not to testify, and then to do so, offers fresh information about her role in the investigation and how The New York Times turned her case into a cause.

The grand jury investigation centers on whether administration officials leaked the identity of Ms. Plame, whose husband, a former diplomat named Joseph C. Wilson IV, became a public critic of the Iraq war in July 2003. But Ms. Miller said Mr. Libby first raised questions about the diplomat in an interview with her that June, an account suggesting that Mr. Wilson was on the White House's radar before he went public with his criticisms.

Once Ms. Miller was issued a subpoena in August 2004 to testify about her conversations with Mr. Libby, she and The Times vowed to fight it. Behind the scenes, however, her lawyer made inquiries to see if Mr. Libby would release her from their confidentiality agreement. Ms. Miller said she decided not to testify in part because she thought that Mr. Libby's lawyer might be signaling to keep her quiet unless she would exonerate his client. The lawyer denies that, and Mr. Libby did not respond to requests for an interview.

As Ms. Miller, 57, remained resolute and moved closer to going to jail for her silence, the leadership of The Times stood squarely behind her.

"She'd given her pledge of confidentiality," said Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher. "She was prepared to honor that. We were going to support her." [complete article]

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After 'NY Times' probe: Keller must fire Miller, and apologize to readers
By Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher, October 15, 2005

It's not enough that Judith Miller, we learned Saturday, is taking some time off and "hopes" to return to the New York Times newsroom. As the newspaper's devastating account of her Plame games -- and her own first-person sidebar -- make clear, she should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism, and her own newspaper. And Bill Keller, executive editor, who let her get away with it, owes readers, at the minimum, an apology instead of merely hailing his paper's long-delayed analysis and saying that readers can make of it what they will. [complete article]

Comment -- It's a bit late in the day to expect a major mea culpa from the Times' senior management. The fact that they never chose to rein in Judith Miller seems to say as much about the paper's culture as it says about this particular "intrepid" reporter. Having privileged access to the highest levels of an administration is incompatable with wanting to maintain an image of the newspaper as being above reproach. Clearly, the Times values its connections above everything else.

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Why Musharraf had to eat humble pie
By Jason Burke, The Observer, October 16, 2005

President Pervez Musharraf, now in his sixth year in power, is not given to public apologies. But last week he went on television to say sorry for his government's inadequate response to last weekend's earthquake.

Although Musharraf's apology was out of the ordinary, the sight of a government in the Islamic world failing to deliver effective aid in a natural disaster is not.

In 1989, when a major earthquake struck the Tipasa region in Algeria, the official response was pathetic. In Egypt, three years later, the poorer districts of Cairo itself did not see a government official for days after a tremor killed hundreds. In Turkey, too, the civilian government and the powerful military failed lamentably after a tremor in 1999 killed nearly 20,000 and left 50,000 homeless.

However, in each case there was one set of organisations that provided help swiftly and effectively: the Islamic religious groups. So it should be no surprise that in Pakistan it was activists like those of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an ultra-hardline group with past links to a banned militant group, who took up the slack.

But why? First, states such as Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan and, until recently, Turkey harass and obstruct secular, often liberal, NGOs, leaving the way clear for the religious networks. In addition, these networks are dedicated and uncorrupt, while government bodies are riddled with corruption, laziness and incompetence. The religious groups are organised and disciplined, with considerable funds from mosque and private collections at home and abroad. [complete article]

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Extremists fill aid chasm after quake
By John Lancaster and Kamran Khan, Washington Post, October 16, 2005

The army was slow to respond, and international aid agencies are in some ways just getting started. But here amid the rubble and the rain at the heart of Pakistan's earthquake zone, the zealous foot soldiers of Jamaat ul-Dawa, one of the country's most prominent Islamic extremist groups, are very much in evidence.

On a sloping muddy field near the rushing Neelum River, the group has established a large field hospital complete with X-ray equipment, dental department, makeshift operating theater, and even a tent for visiting journalists. Dispensaries are piled high with donated stocks of antibiotics, painkillers and other medical supplies.

"Even the army people have come over here to get first aid," said Mohammed Ayub, a long-bearded urologist from Lahore who is volunteering at the field hospital. "The casualties and destruction are so much that they are unable to cope."

Jamaat ul-Dawa is no ordinary charity. Founded in 1989 under a different name, it is the parent organization of Lashkar-i-Taiba, one of the largest and best-trained groups fighting Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan province of Kashmir. Lashkar-i-Taiba has been linked by U.S. authorities to al Qaeda and in 2002 was banned by Pakistan's government as a terrorist organization. [complete article]

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Rice is rebuffed by Russia on Iran
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, October 16, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed on Saturday to persuade Russia to take a tougher line on Iran's nuclear program, an issue the Bush administration wants to take to the U.N. Security Council if Tehran does not resume negotiations to limit its ability to produce the world's deadliest weapon.

After talks that went almost twice as long as scheduled, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia wanted to pursue negotiations within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, and that it was not ready to take more drastic action. [complete article]

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Rice: Iraq consititution likely approved
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, October 16, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday initial assessments indicate that Iraqis had probably approved a controversial constitution, although the turnout alone showed the fragile new political process has taken hold despite a deadly insurgency. [complete article]

In Fallouja, lining up to have their say
By Solomon Moore, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2005

The referendum on Iraq's constitution was important enough to Mufeed Abed Ghafour that he cast not just one, but five ballots. Ghafour walked into a polling station at Al Asad School on Saturday and cast a ballot for himself, his wife and his three children. [complete article]

Sunni turnout is high in vote on Iraqi charter
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Omar Fekeiki, Washington Post, October 16, 2005

Sunni Arab voters turned out in force for Iraq's constitutional referendum Saturday as insurgents largely suspended attacks, granting Sunnis a chance to try to defeat the U.S.-backed charter and giving much of the country a rare day of peace that belied the deep fractures exposed by the vote. Voting en masse for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Sunni Arabs cast ballots in large numbers, according to electoral officials and witnesses. Turnout in areas populated by the country's Shiite majority and ethnic Kurds, whose political leaders drafted the proposed constitution, was described by officials as low. [complete article]

Two sides of the Sunni vote: deserted polls and long lines
By Sabrina Tavernise and Edward Wong, New York Times, October 16, 2005

A heavy boom shook what was left of the windows in polling station No. 1, a provincial council building in the west of this embattled Sunni Arab city. Bursts of automatic gunfire immediately followed. The polls had been open for exactly three minutes, and insurgents here had already staked their claim on the vote. In the eastern neighborhood of Sufiya, security guards working for tribal sheiks in charge of protecting 14 polling centers had to hold off insurgents for nearly half an hour on Friday. Armed men returned on the day of the vote, strafing three schools. [complete article]

Iraqis vote on constitution; more minority Sunnis participate
By Nancy A. Youssef and Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder, October 15, 2005

The Sunni-led insurgency barely caused a ripple Saturday by Iraq standards. By early evening, insurgents had launched 47 attacks on voting centers and American and Iraqi troops, according to Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a top U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. The figure was likely to increase as reports filtered in. By contrast, however, during national elections on Jan. 30 guerrilla fighters launched 347 attacks in a single day. But, Boylan cautioned, "We've seen in the past there is an ability to strike when they want to. We're not going to paint too rosy a picture yet." [complete article]

Iraq constitution: Voters speak
BBC News, October 15, 2005

Youssef, doctor from Basra, Sunni -- I am going to vote "yes". Although I'm not convinced by the constitution itself, we have to start somewhere. Most educated people here are almost embarrassed to take part. We're not going to vote blindly. We don't care who will take power, the main objective is to have a country where law and order is the guiding force. And I don't think this will happen for a few years. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Iraq: The state we're in
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, October 14, 2005

World may have to live with nuclear Iran - U.S. study
Reuters (via Yahoo), October 13, 2005

Sectarian resentment extends to Iraq's army
By Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder, October 12, 2005

Musharraf is facing his 'Katrina moment'
By Ahmed Rashid, Daily Telegraph, October 12, 2005

Iraqi Sunnis focus beyond Saturday's vote
By Solomon Moore, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2005

Al Qaeda's golden opportunity
By Fawaz A. Gerges, AlterNet, October 11, 2005

Yemeni anti-terror scheme in doubt
By Tim Whewell, BBC News, October 11, 2005

A front-row seat in the plodding war on the Taliban
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 2005

Iraqis' broken dreams
By Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, October 10, 2005

American debacle
By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2005

An American in chains
By James Yee, The Sunday Times, October 9, 2005

Dobson spiritual empire wields political clout
By Brian MacQuarrie, Boston Globe, October 9, 2005

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EMAIL UPDATES -- Click here to sign up for weekly email updates -- a digest of key articles from the last seven days. (Please include your name in the message and put "subscribe" in the subject line.)

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