The War in Context  
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President has little to say about questions on Rove
By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, November 5, 2005

President Bush was asked four times on Friday about Karl Rove and the C.I.A. leak investigation, and four times he refused to answer.

Speaking to reporters in this seaside resort city at the 34-nation Summit of the Americas, Mr. Bush also declined any comment on the future of Mr. Rove, his chief political adviser.

The president did not use the opportunity to offer a public endorsement of Mr. Rove, who remains under investigation in the leak inquiry. Nor did Mr. Bush address speculation in Washington about whether Mr. Rove would stay on as his deputy chief of staff.

Asked if there were discussions at the White House about whether Mr. Rove would remain in his job, Mr. Bush replied that "the investigation on Karl, as you know, is not complete, and therefore I will not comment about him and/or the investigation." [complete article]

Comment -- Hearing his faltering remarks about "Karl", I got a sense that Bush is beginning to timidly peek into the chasm down which he will fall if deprived of the guiding hand that has steered his whole political career.

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FBI: Iraq-Niger papers part of scheme
By Bryan Bender and Michael Kranish, Boston Globe, November 5, 2005

A set of forged documents outlining an alleged Iraqi deal to buy nuclear materials from an African country -- a claim that famously wound up in President Bush's State of the Union speech in 2003 -- was probably "part of a criminal scheme for financial gain," the FBI said yesterday.

The FBI said it had "discounted" widely discussed theories that the documents "were part of an effort to influence US policy" in the months leading up to the US invasion of Iraq.

But much mystery remains about the documents alleging a deal between Saddam Hussein and Niger for a uranium byproduct called yellowcake. The FBI did not issue details other than a one-paragraph statement, and a spokesman did not say whether the agency had been able to determine who forged the documents. [complete article]

Comment -- It sure sounds like the FBI is trying to serve the interests of the Bush administration. If questions remain about how the documents were produced, these can't be separated from questions about how they were used.

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Writers jailed in 2002 for political satire
By James Rupert, Newsday, October 31, 2005

Badr Zaman Badr and his brother Abdurrahim Muslim Dost relish writing a good joke that jabs a corrupt politician or distills the sufferings of fellow Afghans. Badr admires the political satires in "The Canterbury Tales" and "Gulliver's Travels," and Dost wrote some wicked lampoons in the 1990s, accusing Afghan mullahs of growing rich while preaching and organizing jihad. So in 2002, when the U.S. military shackled the writers and flew them to Guantanamo among prisoners whom Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared "the worst of the worst" violent terrorists, the brothers found life imitating farce.

For months, grim interrogators grilled them over a satirical article Dost had written in 1998, when the Clinton administration offered a $5-million reward for Osama bin Laden. Dost responded that Afghans put up 5 million Afghanis -- equivalent to $113 -- for the arrest of President Bill Clinton.

"It was a lampoon ... of the poor Afghan economy" under the Taliban, Badr recalled. The article carefully instructed Afghans how to identify Clinton if they stumbled upon him. "It said he was clean-shaven, had light-colored eyes and he had been seen involved in a scandal with Monica Lewinsky," Badr said.

The interrogators, some flown down from Washington, didn't get the joke, he said. "Again and again, they were asking questions about this article. We had to explain that this was a satire." He paused. "It was really pathetic." [complete article]

Comment -- According to the Global Index of Ironically Challenged Nations, the United States ranks number 1. Media organizations, acutely aware of the risk of readers or viewers not getting jokes, frequently display clear warnings that a linguistically challenging event (generally labelled "humor" or "satire") is coming up. Perhaps as Karen Hughes continues her efforts in public diplomacy she should include in her brief a clear message to the world: Don't try and make jokes about America - you might end up in Guantanamo.

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U.S. launches major offensive near Syrian border of Iraq
AP (via NYT), November 5, 2005

American and Iraqi forces launched a major offensive Saturday near the porous Syrian border aimed at destroying al-Qaida in Iraq's ability to smuggle foreign fighters, money and equipment through the region.

The U.S. military also announced that two soldiers were killed by insurgents in other areas of Iraq on Friday.

The offensive in the town of Husaybah of about 2,500 U.S. forces and 1,000 Iraqis -- including local forces acting as scouts -- will remove insurgents from the western province of Anbar ahead of Iraq's parliamentary election on Dec. 15, the U.S. military said. [complete article]

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Rebel cleric on the rise again, this time in political arena
By Matthew Schofield, Knight Ridder, November 4, 2005

Firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whom U.S.-led coalition forces wanted captured or killed a year ago, could become Iraq's political kingmaker, a behind-the-scenes force shaping the outcome of the country's December elections.

"Sadr's movement is powerful in Iraq," said Hazim Ali, a political analyst at Baghdad University's International Studies Center. "I would expect him to be able to bring in at least 2 million votes." Ten million Iraqis voted in the recent constitutional referendum.

Ali said al-Sadr is capitalizing on his unbending rebel image to mobilize a substantial following. The result could put him in a commanding position to build a coalition to assemble the next government.

That's why Iraq's major political parties recently have been courting al-Sadr and why the decision to align his followers with the United Iraqi Alliance, the ruling Shiite Muslim coalition, is important to helping them maintain control of the government. [complete article]

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U.S. should repay millions to Iraq, a U.N. audit finds
By James Glanz, New York Times, November 5, 2005

An auditing board sponsored by the United Nations recommended yesterday that the United States repay as much as $208 million to the Iraqi government for contracting work in 2003 and 2004 assigned to Kellogg, Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary.

The work was paid for with Iraqi oil proceeds, but the board said it was either carried out at inflated prices or done poorly. The board did not, however, give examples of poor work.

Some of the work involved postwar fuel imports carried out by K.B.R. that previous audits had criticized as grossly overpriced. But this is the first time that an international auditing group has suggested that the United States repay some of that money to Iraq. The group, known as the International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq, compiled reports from an array of Pentagon, United States government and private auditors to carry out its analysis. [complete article]

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Former Powell aide links Cheney's office to abuse directives
AFP (via IHT), November 3, 2005

Vice President Dick Cheney's office was responsible for directives that led to U.S. soldiers' abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, a former top State Department official said Thursday.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, told National Public Radio he had traced a trail of memos and directives authorizing questionable detention practices up through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office directly to Cheney's staff.

"The secretary of defense under cover of the vice president's office," Wilkerson said, "regardless of the president having put out this memo" - "they began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to what we've seen."

He said the directives contradicted a 2002 order by President George W. Bush for the U.S. military to abide by the Geneva conventions against torture.

"There was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of defense, down to the commanders in the field," authorizing practices that led to the abuse of detainees, Wilkerson said. [complete article]

Listen to the NPR interview here.

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American gulag
Editorial, Boston Globe, November 4, 2005

Members of Congress were dismayed last month when Vice President Dick Cheney, joined by CIA Director Porter Goss, lobbied them to exempt CIA employees from a bill that would bar cruel or degrading treatment of all prisoners in US custody. Their efforts were spurned in the Senate, where the provision, advanced by Senator John McCain, passed with 90 votes.

Cheney's desire to give CIA jailers and interrogators special status raises the question of whether Americans are torturing or otherwise coercing detainees at the "black site" prisons described Wednesday in The Washington Post. According to officials quoted by the Post, some 30 prisoners suspected of being high-level Al Qaeda members are "kept in dark, sometimes underground cells, they have no recognized legal rights, and no one outside the CIA is allowed to talk with or even see them, or to otherwise verify their well-being."

In America, even those accused of the most heinous murders have a right to see a lawyer and to assert their innocence. But this emblem of democracy is being trampled before the world. And the Bush administration seems deaf to the growing complaints from our allies and our own citizens. Cheney in particular was pushing for the CIA exemption only days before felony charges were filed against his top aide, Lewis Libby. And in replacing Libby, Cheney has shown no sign of reform. [complete article]

See also, U.S. faces scrutiny over secret prisons (WP).

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Source of forged Niger-Iraq uranium documents identified
By Elaine Sciolino and Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times, November 4, 2005

Italy's spymaster identified an Italian occasional spy named Rocco Martino on Thursday as the disseminator of forged documents that described efforts by Iraq to buy uranium ore from Niger for a nuclear weapons program, three lawmakers said Thursday.

The spymaster, Gen. Nicolò Pollari, director of the Italian military intelligence agency known as Sismi, disclosed that Mr. Martino was the source of the forged documents in closed-door testimony to a parliamentary committee that oversees secret services, the lawmakers said.

Senator Massimo Brutti, a member of the committee, told reporters that General Pollari had identified Mr. Martino as a former intelligence informer who had been "kicked out of the agency." He did not say Mr. Martino was the forger.

The revelation came on a day when the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that it had shut down its two-year investigation into the origin of the forged documents. [complete article]

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Bush heads into bandit country
By Gerard Baker, The Times, November 3, 2005

As he prepared for the trip, the President was on his best diplomatic form. He told reporters from Latin American newspapers: "I've never been to Argentina. I'm looking forward to going ... I hear it's a spectacular country ... I 'm looking forward to going to Brazil. And I've never been to Panama. So this will be a great experience for me to continue visiting these magnificent countries in our neighborhood."

He will need more than Texan charm to make his trip a success, however. In Argentina and Brazil official events will be overshadowed by massive anti-Bush protests. The footballer Diego Maradona will lead the demonstrations in Mar del Plata.

Mr Bush's problems in Latin America are in some ways no different from those he encounters almost everywhere in the world. His portrayal in the Latin American media as a unilateralist, war-mongering, half-witted religious bigot would be instantly recognisable to viewers and readers of television and newspapers in Europe or the Middle East. [complete article]

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Bush's popularity reaches new low
By Richard Morin and Dan Balz, Washington Post, November 4, 2005

For the first time in his presidency a majority of Americans question the integrity of President Bush, and growing doubts about his leadership have left him with record negative ratings on the economy, Iraq and even the war on terrorism, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.

On almost every key measure of presidential character and performance, the survey found that Bush has never been less popular with the American people. Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent disapprove of his performance in office -- the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls. [complete article]

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Voted in, Hamas sets a West Bank city astir
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, November 3, 2005

The mayor won a landslide victory from the inside of an Israeli jail, and still sits there today. The city banned a cultural festival from its grounds, in no small part because singing, dancing and the mixing of men and women reflects "a Western mentality."

And yet, the budget deficit has been tamed, city employees are getting raises and more roads are being paved courtesy of the new party in power - Hamas.

A lot of eyes are fixed on Qalqilya, where the radical Islamic group Hamas won every seat on the city council five months ago. It was a major shock for Fatah, the dominant faction in the Palestinian Authority, and is emerging as a test case of Hamas's foray into electoral politics. [complete article]

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War by remote control
By Meron Benvenisti, Haaretz, November 3, 2005

As opposed to the expectations of many, the disengagement has not brought about real progress toward peace, but undoubtedly caused a revolutionary change in the way war is conducted. The violence of body touching body and eye meeting eye, the friction saturated with hatred at the checkpoints and in the alleyways, and the sight of spilled blood - the intimate violence of conflicted communities - is changing in front of our eyes, and has become a push-button war, shooting via TV screens, robots and computers, and long range artillery.

There's no more need to occupy territory and fill it with soldiers; it's possible to position a battery of cannons and mark out "killing zones" that are no less effective than the occupation in practice, and allow sticking to the fiction that "the occupation of Gaza is over." [complete article]

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Like a thorn in the heart: settlements and settlers in East Jerusalem
By Meir Margalit, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, October 31, 2005

In the wake of the Oslo Accords and later peace plans, the settlement project in East Jerusalem won greater impetus, in light of the possibility that Jerusalem could be divided as part of an overall peace agreement. Israel's government and the Jerusalem municipality function on the assumption that the Western powers will eventually enforce a diplomatic arrangement in the form of a 'road-map' featuring some sort of division. When that time comes, the deployment of settlements will determine the city's boundaries, just as in 1948 the map of settlements were used to chart the new state's borders. As a result, both the state and the municipality are making tremendous efforts to create 'facts on the ground' that will rule out any future division of the city.

The settler project is a well-thought-out and deeply dangerous attempt by right-wing Israelis to thwart future peace-plans. Quietly and furtively, Israel's government is using the settlers to seal up the last loopholes through which peace can conceivably make its way, and is creating significant facts liable to bury the peace process. [complete article]

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In Paris suburbs, anger won't cool
By Katrin Bennhold, International Herald Tribune, November 4, 2005

Talk to people outside the Bilal mosque in this rundown suburb north of Paris and they will tell you what has gone wrong: why rioters for the past week have confronted the police in overnight bursts of anger in the streets, torching cars, hurling rocks and even firing bullets in the worst civil disobedience in France in more than a decade.

Beyond the poverty and despair of life in the shoddy immigrant communities ringing the shining French capital, local Muslims say, there is no one left with any sway over the rioting youths. Parents, the police and the government have all lost touch, they say. [complete article]

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Ruin and dislocation persist in Pakistan weeks after quake
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times, November 4, 2005

Two children with cholera were brought to a Japanese Red Cross medical tent in this mountain town on Thursday, doctors said, raising fears that the grim conditions among the homeless and wounded survivors of the earthquake on Oct. 8 were deteriorating further as winter set in.

Work here in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir has just begun to dig out the bodies of about 100 children crushed when their primary school collapsed. In a sign of the continuing threats to public health in the earthquake zone, six bodies that were retrieved Wednesday night had been left just yards from the medical center.

To compound the problems that continue 26 days after the quake, what was suspected of being a missile attack on an American helicopter near here on Tuesday raised concerns that Kashmiri militants were turning their sights to the American military, which has been second only to the Pakistani military in its contributions to the relief effort. [complete article]

See also, Pakistan quake toll tops 73,000 (The Guardian).

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Killers rendered in shades of gray
By Rachel Abramowitz, Los Angeles Times, October 30, 2005

When the towers came down on Sept. 11, Stephen Gaghan, the Oscar-winning writer of "Traffic," realized in a flash that "Hollywood has done a terrible job creating villains." It all used to be so simple, so black and white. There were the good guys and the bad guys -- not people willing to blow themselves up in order to blow up their enemies.

This fall Gaghan and the Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad will release films that represent ambitious attempts to unearth the root causes of terrorism and suicide bombers. Both happen to come from the Warner Bros. conglomerate -- Gaghan's $50-million "Syriana," from big Warner's, and Abu-Assad's $2-million "Paradise Now," from Warner's new specialty division, Warner Independent. Both are thrillers in a sense -- but without the genre's usual catharsis. In a throwback to the politically engaged films of the '70s, the point isn't to reassure moviegoers but to provoke them. [complete article]

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Chief Syrian suspect is at center of power
By Michael Slackman and Katherine Zoepf, New York Times, November 3, 2005

It was a love story that captured the imagination of many Syrians: A man and a woman defied her father, eloped and lived happily ever after. But for many people, it was not the romance that made the story compelling. It was how the tale spoke to power.

The woman was Bushra al-Assad, the daughter of former President Hafez al-Assad, and the man, Asef Shawkat, was to become Syria's head of military intelligence.

The former president and his oldest son, Basil, opposed Bushra's marrying Shawkat, a divorced father of five who was 10 years her senior. But after Basil died in a car crash and Bushra insisted, they eloped - and a decade later have emerged as one of the most powerful couples in Syria.

"Anyone who could go into the home of Hafez Assad and take his daughter away without his permission has the power to do anything," said a television newscaster in Syria who has met Shawkat several times. The newscaster, who originally spoke on the record, called back later, agitated, and asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

It is to a large degree because of Shawkat's position at the center of Syrian authority that the government finds itself backed into a corner by a United Nations investigation into the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. [complete article]

See also, The looking-glass war (Christopher Dickey) and U.S. military action against Syria would lead to disaster (Jonathan Steele).

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U.N. debates Iraq mandate extension
By Steve Negus, Financial Times, November 3, 2005

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday began a debate on extending the mandate of US-led foreign forces in Iraq, which is set to expire at the end of this year.

Iraqi politicians, meanwhile, say that there may need to be new regulations on how US troops operate to satisfy the demands of Sunni Arabs, who are expected to wield new power after elections set for December 15.

UN Security Council resolution 1546, which gives the US-led multinational force broad licence to maintain security in Iraq, expires after the December elections and the subsequent formation of a government ends Iraq's transitional "political process". [complete article]

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America's forgotten veterans of Iraq conflict
By Alec Russell, The Telegraph, November 3, 2005

It is a busy Friday night on Washington's K Street. Grey-suited politicos stride along the avenue which is to lobbyists what Fleet Street once was to the British press. Outside the Capital Hilton bellhops in scarlet livery greet the guests.

Then, amid the limos, a coach and a minibus daubed with pastel Stars and Stripes pull up and disgorge dozens of hobbling and wheelchair-bound young men and women. Within minutes they are whisked downstairs to an Irish-American steak bar - and K Street is once again its high-rolling self.

The ritual has been repeated every Friday for the past two years. Unsurprisingly, few in Washington know about it. As any veteran will tell you, the wounded are always a war's forgotten ones.

Two and a half years after the fall of Saddam Hussein the Iraq war is proving no exception. While much was made of the US death toll recently reaching 2,000, little has been said of the 15,000 who have returned home mutilated. [complete article]

See also, Family loses home to Katrina, son to war (AP) and Youths in rural U.S. are drawn to military (WP).

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4 officers join Air Force evangelism suit
AP (via NYT), November 3, 2005

Four Air Force officers have joined a lawsuit claiming senior officers and cadets at the Air Force Academy illegally imposed Christianity on others at the school.

Four second lieutenants, all graduates with the class of 2004, joined the suit filed by a Jewish graduate of the academy and former Air Force officer, Mikey Weinstein, said Sam Bregman, Weinstein's lawyer. He identified them as Casey Weinstein, one of Mikey Weinsten's sons, Jason Spindler, Patrick Kucera and Ariel Kayne.

"Any argument that Mr. Weinstein didn't have standing -- that argument is over," Bregman said.

Weinstein's federal suit said he had failed to win an assurance from the Air Force that Christian chaplains would stop proselytizing. The suit prompted a proposed new set of guidelines on religious conduct in the Air Force. [complete article]

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Superiority complex
By Tim Naftali, Slate, November 2, 2005

[Yesterday's] revelations in the New York Times about the Bush administration's internal debate over how to treat foreign detainees highlight the unprecedented role that Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff are playing in setting national security policy. In the Constitution, the vice president is the nation's understudy. He is not supposed to be in the chain of command. Cheney knows this better than most: In 1989, when he was George H.W. Bush's secretary of defense, Cheney slapped down Vice President Dan Quayle for calling a meeting of the National Security Council about a coup attempt in the Philippines while the president was out of the country.

Yet now the Office of the Vice President is dictating the rules by which the U.S. military interrogates and detains terrorist suspects. This is being done subtly. All the Office of the Vice President has to do is informally convey its opposition to complying with international law in this area, and any such effort is thwarted. [complete article]

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Policies on terrorism suspects come under fire
By Dana Priest and Josh White, Washington Post, November 3, 2005

The Bush administration's policies for holding and detaining suspected terrorists came under sharp scrutiny and criticism yesterday after disclosure that the CIA had set up covert prisons in several Eastern European democracies and other countries.

The U.N. special rapporteur on torture said he would seek more information about the covert prisons, referred to in classified documents as "black sites." Congressional Democrats and human rights groups warned that the secret system would damage the U.S. image overseas.

House Democrats said they plan to introduce a motion as early as today to endorse language in the defense spending package written by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), which would bar cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, including those in CIA hands. The motion would instruct House conferees to accept McCain's precise measure.

Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), ranking Democrat on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, urged the United States to adopt a doctrine of "no torture, no excuses," and said Congress needs to speak on the issue. "The United States of America and the values we reflect abhor human rights violators and uphold human rights," Murtha said in a statement. [complete article]

See also, E.U. probing reports of secret CIA prisons (AP).

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Senate to probe how case for war was made
By Gail Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, November 3, 2005

By moving the Senate into a secret session for two hours this week, Democrats put a politically charged question back on the table: Did the Bush administration exaggerate the case for war against Iraq?

Emboldened by last week's indictment of former top White House aide I. Lewis Libby, Democrats Tuesday used an obscure parliamentary rule to capture the Senate floor. In doing so, they infuriated Republicans but won a timetable to complete a long-delayed Senate investigation of whether the White House manipulated the intelligence used to justify invading Iraq.

An earlier phase of this probe, completed in July 2004, offered a searing critique of prewar intelligence estimates. Its conclusions were amplified in a report by the 9/11 commission the following month. Together, these reports spurred legislation to reform US intelligence agencies.

But neither review examined whether government officials tendentiously misused intelligence. Democrats argued for months that this element - not just reviewing failures of the intelligence community - must be part of the committee's oversight responsibility.

Now, so-called Phase 2 would investigate whether public statements, testimony, and reports by US government officials were supported by available intelligence. It would also probe whether a Pentagon policy group under Douglas Feith ginned up the case for war, preempting other intelligence. [complete article]

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Bush war policy is now in play
By Janet Hook and Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2005

For months, the politics of the Iraq war have been frozen in place, with stalwart Republicans defending President Bush's policy and most Democrats shunning a direct challenge.

Now the ice has begun to crack.

In the face of solidifying public opposition to the war, a mounting U.S. body count and a renewed focus on the faulty intelligence used to justify the war, Democratic lawmakers and candidates have sharpened their critique of the administration's policy and, in some cases, urged a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"The mood has really shifted," said Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), who in August became the chamber's first member to call for a troop withdrawal. "We are in a whole different period." [complete article]

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Press secretary on trial in the briefing room
By Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, November 3, 2005

Though Mr. Libby has not been convicted of charges that he lied in the investigation and was not accused of leaking the agent's identity, and Mr. Rove has not been charged with any wrongdoing, Mr. McClellan's broad assurance that they were "not involved" now seems, based on what is known publicly about the case, to have been misleading if not downright false.

Under a barrage of sometimes angry questions from a press corps that feels it was lied to, he has been unwilling or unable to acknowledge that his previous statements are, to use a phrase famously invoked by a predecessor, inoperative. Yet he has offered no defense of them either, and has instead appealed to the better instincts of his journalistic inquisitors, a risky strategy in the midst of a criminal inquiry that has reached into the top ranks of the White House, but perhaps the only one available to him. [complete article]

Comment -- And what exactly would those "better instincts" be? To kowtow to the powers that be and assume the posture that so many New York Times' reporters clearly find most comfortable?

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Rove's future role is debated
By Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, November 3, 2005

Top White House aides are privately discussing the future of Karl Rove, with some expressing doubt that President Bush can move beyond the damaging CIA leak case as long as his closest political strategist remains in the administration.

If Rove stays, which colleagues say remains his intention, he may at a minimum have to issue a formal apology for misleading colleagues and the public about his role in conversations that led to the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to senior Republican sources familiar with White House deliberations.

While Rove faces doubts about his White House status, there are new indications that he remains in legal jeopardy from Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's criminal investigation of the Plame leak. The prosecutor spoke this week with an attorney for Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about his client's conversations with Rove before and after Plame's identity became publicly known because of anonymous disclosures by White House officials, according to two sources familiar with the conversation. [complete article]

See also, Is Rove a security risk? (Jonathan Alter).

Comment -- Karl Rove's strategy right now is probably Washington's favorite: wait. Now Libby's been indicted the legal process will be tortuously slow, allowing plenty of time for the media's interest to wane and for the nation's attention to move elsewhere. After all, the complexities of the leak scandal are difficult even for news junkies to follow and the fact is that those of us who want to hear the final word on who forged the Niger documents are in a small minority. Time is on my side - Rove must be thinking - and maybe he's right.

Even so, the situation must be much more difficult for President Bush. Is Rove really indispensible or an increasing liability? If Bush was telling the truth when he said he wanted to find out who was behind the leak, he now knows that Rove lied to him when disavowing any involvement. Bush can tell himself that Rove lied in order to protect the president but faith in an aide's loyalty can't completely dissolve broken trust.

On the other hand, if Bush is tempted to follow the advice of those who counsel that now is the time bring fresh blood into the White House, how much confidence can he have in his own ability to forge a new path without the help of "The Architect"?

And while Bush and Rove have good reason to retain faith in the media's ability to drive most Americans to distraction, the attention that never appears to waver is that of Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

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Bush aide denies ties to fake Iraq-Niger documents
By Adam Entous, Reuters (via WP), November 2, 2005

President George W. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, denied on Wednesday that he or his staff received fake documents in 2002 that showed Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, a claim that formed part of the administration's case for going to war.

After consulting with a member of his staff "to refresh my memory," Hadley told reporters that the documents were first obtained by the State Department and then shared with the CIA, and that he does not recall ever discussing the issue with Italian intelligence officials.
Asked if he or any member of his staff met with Italian intelligence outside the White House when the issue was discussed, Hadley said: "I can tell you my recollection. My recollection is no, not here, not anyplace else." [complete article]

Comment -- Sounds like Hadley might be having "memory" problems similar to those that recently afflicted Judith Miller. Trouble is, Miller plays quite a plausible scatterbrain, while (according to Brent Scowcroft) Hadley is "incredibly smart, works just all the time, is meticulous almost to a fault." So why's this bureaucratic Clark Kent incapable of making an emphatic, unambiguous denial? Why's he leaning so heavily on the frail power of recollection?

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Arab League plan for Hussein exile went sour, Arab leader says
By Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, November 2, 2005

Months before the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein tentatively accepted a proposal to go into exile and avert war, but Arab leaders scuttled the deal, unable to reach consensus on it, senior officials in the United Arab Emirates said this week.

Sheik Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and son of the late president, Sheik Zayed al-Nahyan, told the pan-Arab news channel Al Arabiya on Saturday that his father had received conditional acceptance from Mr. Hussein to go into exile before the invasion of Iraq, in exchange for amnesty and protection.

The sheik's claim is the first official admission that Mr. Hussein was considering stepping down under the deal, which was presented at emergency Arab League summit talks at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik in March 2003, before the invasion. The proposal sought to avert the war.

"We had gotten final agreement from the different parties, the main players in the world and the person concerned - Saddam Hussein," Sheik Muhammad told Al Arabiya in a program commemorating the one-year anniversary of his father's death. [complete article]

Comment -- That the initiative described here failed to bear fruit "is," as a senior member of the Arab League is quoted as saying, "all history." The real story, however - the story that the Times does not report - is this: What was the role of the Bush administration in this process? Did it lend any support? Or was the administration a passive bystander, convinced (and perhaps perversely satisfied) that this Arab initiative would fail?

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Anger spreads across Paris suburbs after death of Muslim boys
By Molly Moore, Washington Post, November 2, 2005

Clashes between angry youths and French police spread to at least six Paris suburbs overnight, with police firing tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at street fighters who lobbed Molotov cocktails and burned cars and trash bins.

With unrest expanding through the northern suburbs of high-rise apartments that house some of France's poorest immigrant populations, senior government officials were debating how to curb the violence during Wednesday morning's weekly cabinet meeting.

The clashes began last Thursday after two African Muslim teenagers were electrocuted in the northeastern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois while trying to evade police. On Sunday, as the street fighting continued, a police tear gas canister landed inside a mosque during Ramadan prayers, further inflaming the impoverished communities. [complete article]

Paris in flames: the limits of repression
By Patrice de Beer, Open Democracy, November 2, 2005

This is not the first racial riot – and it certainly won't be the last – in the suburban ghettoes of France or other European countries. Youth violence, and more particularly violence in immigrant communities – legal or illegal, involving French citizens or not – has been here for a long time, and seems here to stay. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister and candidate to succeed president Jacques Chirac at the Elysee palace in 2007 – the two men hate each other despite belonging to the same UMP party – has adopted a repressive, law-and-order, zero-tolerance strategy towards the banlieues.

The rhetoric is as polarising as it is simple: it threatens evildoers ("them") with jail sentences if they dare threaten the law-abiding citizens ("us"). Until now, this hyper-mediatic policy has paid off, helping make "Sarko" – himself the son of an Hungarian immigrant – one of the most popular politicians in France. [complete article]

See also, Ghettos shackle French Muslims, French Muslims face job discrimination and Headscarf defeat riles French Muslims (BBC).

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Shiite power struggle simmers in Najaf
By Jill Carroll, Christian Science Monitor, November 2, 2005

On a recent Friday night here families thronged the brightly lit shops to buy clothing, jewelry, and religious trinkets on streets absent of foreign troops.

It was a scene of startling normalcy for Iraq where few people venture out after dark for fear of insurgent attacks, coalition firefights, or plain criminality. But while nightlife has returned to this southern city largely free of insurgent bombs, the civil strife between Shiites is brewing just below the surface.

The political fight for the control of the country's Shiite holiest city turned Najaf into a battlefield last summer when forces loyal to rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr engaged in fierce firefights with US forces. And in August, skirmishes involving Mr. Sadr's supporters turned Najaf's streets violent again, this time clashing with the militia of the ruling Shiite religious party the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

Today, in the shadow of the city's gold dome and tile porticoes of the Imam Ali shrine that makes Najaf Shiite Islam's capital, a barely restrained tension between SCIRI and Sadr supporters continues. [complete article]

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Damascus may get a deal, but can the regime survive it?
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, November 2, 2005

I was at the United Nations in New York on Monday when the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1636 demanding Syria's full cooperation in the investigation of the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It was very clear that Syria is in much deeper trouble than it seems to acknowledge. The significance of the UN vote is that the Security Council took the unprecedented step of taking specific action to support an international investigation into the actions of individuals and organizations in one country, Syria, related to a capital crime committed in another country, Lebanon.

Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Syrian government are being squeezed into a diplomatic corner, isolated and pressured politically, and are having their sovereignty slowly whittled away. This important trend was manifested by five key aspects of the resolution: it was adopted unanimously, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that requires mandatory compliance and authorizes enforcement measures, in the presence of the foreign ministers of most council members; it also affirms a concern about possible Syrian involvement in the Hariri murder, and demands specific Syrian actions, including detaining officials and individuals who are part of the inner circle of power and are considered suspects in the attack. [complete article]

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'Unknown' given Iran oil ministry
BBC News, November 2, 2005

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has nominated a man with little experience of the energy business to be his country's new oil minister.

Sadeq Mahsuli, a former Revolutionary Guards commander like the president, was among the nominations to four ministries in the cabinet. Mr Mahsuli now faces a vote of confidence in the Iranian parliament. The previous nominee, Ali Saeedlou, was rejected by the Majlis for a similar lack of experience.
Mohsen Yayhavi, a board member of Iran's National Oil Company (NIOC) and member of the Majlis energy committee, told Reuters that he had not heard of Mr Mahsuli. "Nobody in the parliament knows him either," he said. "Presumably the amount of information that we have about him is about as much as he knows about oil." [complete article]

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CIA holds terror suspects in secret prisons
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, November 2, 2005

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA's unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA's covert actions. [complete article]

See also, Detainee policy sharply divides Bush officials (NYT) and Suspected al-Qaeda leader escapes U.S. military prison (AP).

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Toward a virtual caliphate
By Peter Mandaville, YaleGlobal, October 27, 2005

The recent "Zawahiri- Zarqawi Letter" – purportedly a missive on strategy and tactics from Al-Qaida's #2 to their man in Iraq – once again raises the question of bin Laden's capacity to inspire and animate Islamist radicalism across borders and continents. All the more so when considered in light of the July bombings in London and renewed attacks in Bali, Indonesia.

While questions persist about the authenticity of the letter, it nevertheless provides an opportunity to reconsider the larger question of how Islamic religious authority functions in a globalized world. While many hold up the specter of al-Qaida as a de-territorialized "brand name" seeking to rally the masses of the umma (the world community of Muslims) around militant religious radicalism, al-Qaida is not the only game in town in terms of the transnational forces competing for Muslim hearts and minds. Indeed, it is possible today to point to an emerging infrastructure – on the internet and satellite television, in widely-circulated books, through major international conferences and research centers – of a countervailing effort by mainstream Islamic scholars to challenge al-Qaida's global rhetoric. [complete article]

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Watching al-Jazeera
By Marc Lynch, Wilson Quarterly, Summer, 2005

The Arab satellite television station al-Jazeera is the enemy, or so we are told: "jihad TV," "killers with cameras," "the most powerful ally of terror in the world." Shortly after 9/11, Fouad Ajami, distinguished professor of Near Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University, luridly described the station in an influential New York Times Magazine essay as a cesspool of anti-American hate that "deliberately fans the flames of Muslim outrage." In June, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told attendees at an Asian defense conference that if they were to watch al-Jazeera day after day, "even if you were an American you would begin to believe that America was bad." Even Newsweek International's normally temperate Fareed Zakaria loses his composure when faced with al-Jazeera, which "fills its airwaves with crude appeals to Arab nationalism, anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and religious fundamentalism." Denunciation of al-Jazeera is impressively bipartisan and a starting point for many of the post-9/11 debates over public diplomacy and the war of ideas in the Middle East.

This consensus is all the more remarkable given how few of the critics speak Arabic or have ever actually watched al-Jazeera. If they had, they might well arrive at a more nuanced judgment. They would certainly find some support for their disgust. Al-Jazeera may have never broadcast a beheading video, but it has shown many clips of terrified hostages begging for their lives. It airs lengthy statements by Osama bin Laden and invites extremists on its talk shows. Watching the Egyptian radical Tala'at Ramih rhapsodize over the beheading of Western hostages on one popular talk show, or Americans and Iraqi civilians die bloody deaths, as shown on raw video footage, or ex-Nazi David Duke discuss American politics at the station’s invitation, it's easy to see why al-Jazeera is such a tempting target.

But these incendiary segments tell only half the story. Al-Jazeera is at the forefront of a revolution in Arab political culture, one whose effects have barely begun to be appreciated. Even as the station complicates the postwar reconstruction of Iraq and offers a platform for anti-American voices, it is providing an unprecedented forum for debate in the Arab world that is eviscerating the legitimacy of the Arab status quo and helping to build a radically new pluralist political culture. [complete article]

Rumsfeld backs Smith as spokesman
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, November 2, 2005

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday endorsed Dorrance Smith to be his chief spokesman, despite opposition from Senate Democrats who are troubled by Smith's allegations of a "relationship" between U.S. television networks, the al-Jazeera satellite TV channel and terrorist groups.

"I've interviewed him, several times, and find him to be a very intelligent, thoughtful, experienced person," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news briefing. "I expect that he ultimately will be confirmed."

Rumsfeld said he knew of but had not read an April 25 Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Smith, "The Enemy On Our Airwaves," that is a focus of Senate opposition to Smith's nomination to be assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. The article suggested that U.S. television networks are "a tool of terrorist propaganda" because they re-air al-Jazeera footage of terrorist activities. The article implied that the U.S. networks had not scrutinized the relationship with al-Jazeera -- and, by association, with terrorists -- because they felt "a certain safety in being in bed together" and did not want to give up their "tainted video." [complete article]

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To survive, Bashar Assad will have to fight his family
By Patrick Seale, Daily Star, October 31, 2005

The political storm caused by the Mehlis report into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has, paradoxically, provided Syria's President Bashar Assad with a golden opportunity. For the first time since he came to power in 2000, he has a unique chance to impose his authority on rival power centers and emerge as the real ruler of Syria.

In their different ways, both the international community and his own public are urging him to act. They are encouraging him to carry out a "corrective movement" against undisciplined barons of his regime, including men close to him, similar to the palace coup which brought his late father, Hafez Assad, to power in 1970. The choice before Assad is clear: either continue to claim that Syria is innocent of the murder of Hariri and that the charges in the Mehlis report are unsound and politically motivated or recognize that mistakes have been made and carry out a purge of the top security officials named in the report. [complete article]

See also, U.N. probe 'can quiz key Syrians' (BBC) and Syria upbeat on ability to cope with U.N. sanctions (FT).

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Iran sacks diplomats in purge of reformers
By Ramita Navai and Richard Beeston, The Times, November 2, 2005

President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has ordered an unprecedented purge of senior ambassadors who are regarded as too liberal for the policies of his administration, The Times can disclose.

At least 20 heads of mission and other top diplomats have been sacked or reassigned in the biggest shake-up since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The majority were appointed during the decade of rapprochement with the West that Mr Ahmadinejad has abruptly reversed.

Four of the envoys, the ambassadors to London, Paris, Berlin and the representative to the United Nations in Geneva, were involved in months of delicate mediation between Iran and Europe over Tehran's nuclear programme.

Iranian and Western officials told The Times that they feared the purge was a sign of a further hardening of the provocative foreign policy that has isolated Mr Ahmadinejad's regime.

One of the most prominent victims of the diplomatic cull is Mohammad Hossein Adeli, the urbane, American-educated Ambassador to London, who has served only for 12 months and is the first Iranian envoy since the Islamic Revolution who speaks fluent English. [complete article]

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U.S. division vacates compound in heart of Hussein's home turf
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, November 2, 2005

Under a cloudless autumn sky in the heart of Saddam Hussein's home region, commanders of the U.S. Army's 42nd Infantry Division withdrew Tuesday from a sprawling 18-palace compound that has been a U.S. base since 2003.

They called the move a step toward reducing the visibility of U.S. troops and eventually withdrawing them altogether. In Baghdad, meanwhile, the military reported that a roadside bomb had killed an American soldier in central Iraq on Monday, bringing the number of U.S. troops killed in October to at least 93. [complete article]

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Only Iraqi forces can eliminate 'thugs,' U.S. commander says
By Drew Brown, Knight Ridder, November 1, 2005

The stubborn insurgency in western Iraq can be brought "to an acceptable level," but that effort is going to depend on building Iraqi security forces and gaining the confidence of the people in the region, a top Marine Corps general said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said he couldn't estimate the level of support that insurgents have in Sunni-dominated al Anbar province, where U.S. troops are frequently attacked. But he suggested that the insurgency wouldn't subside until the "thugs and intimidators" behind it were eliminated from the local populace, which only Iraqi forces can accomplish. [complete article]

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U.S. soldier to face trial over murder of superior officers in Iraq
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 2, 2005

For the first time in the Iraq conflict, a US soldier is facing court martial, charged with murdering superior officers - an echo of the notorious "fraggings" of the Vietnam War.

A military tribunal recommended yesterday that Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, 37, be tried and face a possible death sentence if convicted of killing two officers. He may also be charged with the "use of a weapon of mass destruction" against a US citizen abroad.

Captain Philip Esposito and Lieutenant Louis Allen died in an explosion at a military base in Tikrit. It was thought at first that an insurgent rocket was responsible for the attack on one of Saddam Hussein's palaces which had been taken over by the US military. But army investigators have accused Staff Sgt Martinez of using mines and grenades to carry out the blast.

The same type of fragmentation grenades were used in the latter stages of the Vietnam War when soldiers - resentful at being sent to an unpopular war - targeted those above them. The inevitable analogy is the one the US authorities are desperate to avoid. [complete article]

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Civilian contractors in Iraq dying at faster rate as insurgency grows
By Seth Borenstein, Knight Ridder, November 1, 2005

As the nation focused last week on the 2,000th U.S. soldier who died in Iraq, Gloria Dagit of Jefferson, Iowa, got a box filled with the belongings of her son, Keven, who was killed when his convoy of trucks was ambushed in northern Iraq.

Keven Dagit's death Sept. 20 - along with two other truckers - didn't register on the tally of Iraq deaths broadcast daily. That's because they were civilians working for U.S. defense contractors.

As the violence of the protracted war continues and some 75,000 civilian employees struggle to rebuild the war-torn nation and support the military, contractor casualties mount. Their deaths have more than tripled in the past 13 months.

As of Monday, 428 civilian contractors had been killed in Iraq and another 3,963 were injured, according to Department of Labor insurance-claims statistics obtained by Knight Ridder. [complete article]

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What Bush wants to hear
By David Cole, New York Review of Books (via TomDispatch), November 1, 2005

Few lawyers have had more influence on President Bush's legal policies in the "war on terror" than John Yoo. This is a remarkable feat, because Yoo was not a cabinet official, not a White House lawyer, and not even a senior officer within the Justice Department. He was merely a mid-level attorney in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel with little supervisory authority and no power to enforce laws. Yet by all accounts, Yoo had a hand in virtually every major legal decision involving the U.S. response to the attacks of September 11, and at every point, so far as we know, his advice was virtually always the same -- the president can do whatever the president wants.

Yoo's most famous piece of advice was in an August 2002 memorandum stating that the president cannot constitutionally be barred from ordering torture in wartime -- even though the United States has signed and ratified a treaty absolutely forbidding torture under all circumstances, and even though Congress has passed a law pursuant to that treaty, which without any exceptions prohibits torture. Yoo reasoned that because the Constitution makes the president the "Commander-in-Chief," no law can restrict the actions he may take in pursuit of war. On this reasoning, the president would be entitled by the Constitution to resort to genocide if he wished. [complete article]

War powers in the age of terror
By Andrew J. Bacevich, New York Times, October 31, 2005

When senators this month asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about possible military action against Syria or Iran, she recited the administration's standard response: all options remain "on the table." Pressed on whether any such action might require congressional authorization, Ms. Rice demurred. "I don't want to try and circumscribe presidential war powers," she said, adding that "the president retains those powers in the war on terrorism and in the war in Iraq."

Although Ms. Rice's evasion exhausted the committee's attention span, the war powers issue cries out for attention. In a post-9/11 world, what limits - if any - exist on the president's authority to use force? [complete article]

See also, The House's abuse of patriotism (NYT) and Names of the detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (WP).

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Trial could pit Libby's interests against Bush's
By Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, November 1, 2005

Rove remains a focus of the CIA leak probe. He has told friends it is possible he still will be indicted for providing false statements to the grand jury.

"Everyone thinks it is over for Karl and they are wrong," a source close to Rove said. The strategist's legal and political advisers "by no means think the part of the investigation concerning Karl is closed."

Cooper's attorney, Dick Sauber, said Fitzgerald certainly meant it when he told Luskin last week that Rove remains in legal jeopardy and under investigation. "It wouldn't surprise me knowing how careful he is and how much he doesn't want to be seen as trigger-happy, that he is going through each of those things [that Rove presented] and seeing if they can be verified or not," Sauber said. [complete article]

See also, What did Cheney know, and when did he know it? (Nicholas D. Kristof).

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What the 'shield' covered up
By E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, November 1, 2005

Has anyone noticed that the coverup worked?

In his impressive presentation of the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby last week, Patrick Fitzgerald expressed the wish that witnesses had testified when subpoenas were issued in August 2004, and "we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005."

Note the significance of the two dates: October 2004, before President Bush was reelected, and October 2005, after the president was reelected. Those dates make clear why Libby threw sand in the eyes of prosecutors, in the special counsel's apt metaphor, and helped drag out the investigation.

As long as Bush still faced the voters, the White House wanted Americans to think that officials such as Libby, Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney had nothing to do with the leak campaign to discredit its arch-critic on Iraq, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.

And Libby, the good soldier, pursued a brilliant strategy to slow the inquiry down. As long as he was claiming that journalists were responsible for spreading around the name and past CIA employment of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, Libby knew that at least some news organizations would resist having reporters testify. The journalistic "shield" was converted into a shield for the Bush administration's coverup. [complete article]

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Washington gadfly
By Michael Posner, Globe and Mail, October 31, 2005

Seymour Hersh, one of journalism's crankier bulldogs, was in an upbeat mood. At least for him. A confidential, well-placed source had told him that U.S. special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's 22-month inquiry into the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, wife of ex-diplomat Joseph Wilson IV, would go further than anyone had heretofore thought.

"He's going to save America," Hersh predicted, on the phone from his home in Washington, just days before Fitzgerald announced indictments against I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, on Friday. [complete article]

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Military faces parental counterattack
By Lori Aratani, Washington Post, November 1, 2005

For as long as Principal Alan Goodwin can recall, military recruiters -- in their crisp, carefully pressed uniforms -- have stopped by Walt Whitman High School to chat with students about the benefits of a career in the armed forces. They set up tables, greeted students with a firm handshake and passed out glossy brochures.

But a visit this fall to the Bethesda school by recruiters had parents firing off frantic missives on the school listserv. They demanded to know exactly what recruiters were doing on campus and why the parents had not been told in advance. Goodwin was puzzled.

Recruiters "have been allowed on campus for as long as I can remember," Goodwin said. "But maybe people are more sensitive about it now because of the war."

In past years, parents at Whitman and other high schools across the country may have paid scant attention to calls from military recruiters, but as the war in Iraq continues and the number of casualties grows, parents seem to be growing increasingly sensitive. [complete article]

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The game's still on for Sunnis
By Gareth Porter, IPS (via Asia Times), November 2, 2005

Even as the votes in the constitutional referendum were still being counted on October 16, [US Ambassador Zalmay] Khalilzad had said the high Sunni voter turnout "was a good indication that our approach to the Sunnis is producing results". US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed the same theme, declaring, "The Sunnis are joining the base of this broad political process."

This view of the relationship between the Sunni population and insurgency is politically convenient for the administration. However, the evidence indicates that the overwhelming majority of Sunnis went to the polls on October 15 not because they had been urged to do so by Sunni politicians, but because Sunni clerics and armed organizations had agreed on a campaign to defeat the constitution.

The nearly complete absence of violence that could disrupt the poll throughout most of the Sunni heartland, which US military spokesman Major General Rick Lynch later credited to the "vigilance of American and Iraqi security forces", was in fact the result of a decision by the leaders of major Sunni insurgent organizations in August to get out the maximum number of Sunni votes against the constitution. [complete article]

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Cheney's new security adviser linked to bogus information on Iraq
By Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel, Knight Ridder, October 31, 2005

Vice President Dick Cheney replaced I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby as his national security adviser on Monday with an aide identified by a former Iraqi exile group as the White House official to whom it fed information on Iraq that turned out to be erroneous.

The Bush administration relied on some of the information from the Iraqi National Congress to argue that Saddam Hussein had to be ousted before he could give banned biological or chemical weapons to al-Qaida for strikes on the United States.

But no such weapons were discovered after the March 2003 invasion, and U.S. intelligence agencies and the independent commission on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks found no evidence of operational cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida.

The White House announced on Monday the elevation of John Hannah to replace Libby as Cheney's national security adviser. Earlier in the day it announced that Libby would be arraigned Thursday in federal court on charges of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice. He was expected to plead innocent.

The White House also announced that David S. Addington, who's been Cheney's legal counsel, would assume Libby's duties as chief of staff. Like Hannah, Addington has played a quiet, though influential, role in the vice president's office. The Washington director of Human Rights Watch accused Addington of helping draft policies that led to the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. [complete article]

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Guantanamo suicide tries seen as sign of desperation
By Josh White, Washington Post, November 1, 2005

Jumah Dossari had to visit the restroom, so the detainee made a quick joke with his American lawyer before military police guards escorted him to a nearby cell with a toilet. The U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had taken quite a toll on Dossari over the past four years, but his attorney, who was there to discuss Dossari's federal court case, noted his good spirits and thought nothing of his bathroom break.

Minutes later, when Dossari did not return, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan knocked on the cell door, calling out his client's name. When he did not hear a response, Colangelo-Bryan stepped inside and saw a three-foot pool of blood on the floor. Numb, the lawyer looked up to see Dossari hanging unconscious from a noose tied to the ceiling, his eyes rolled back, his tongue and lips bulging, blood pouring from a gash in his right arm.

Dossari's suicide attempt two weeks ago is believed to be the first such event witnessed by an outsider at the prison, and one of several signs that lawyers and human rights advocates contend point to growing desperation among the more than 500 detainees there. Lawyers believe Dossari, who has been in solitary confinement for nearly two years, timed his suicide attempt so that someone other than his guards would witness it, a cry for help meant to reach beyond the base's walls. [complete article]

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Basra bomb kills 20 as Iraq violence escalates
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 1, 2005

At least 20 people were killed yesterday in a car bomb blast aimed at shoppers in Basra in one of the worst attacks in British-controlled southern Iraq since the war. In Baghdad seven American soldiers were killed, making October the bloodiest month for the US since January.

The carnage continued throughout the country with reports that about 40 people, many of them women and children, had been killed in American air strikes in the west towards the Syrian border. [complete article]

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Iraq asks U.N. to let forces stay
Reuters (via ABC-au), November 1, 2005

Iraq has asked the United Nations (UN) Security Council to let a US-led multinational force remain in Iraq for another year, acknowledging its own troops could not yet assure national security.

The request came in a letter to the 15 nation council from Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.

"This means that basically the mandate and the status of the multinational force will be discussed in the coming weeks so that from January 1, 2006, we will have a consistent military presence in Iraq as happened in the past," Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, the Foreign Minister of Romania and Security Council president for October, said. [complete article]

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Funds fade, deaths rise as Iraq rebuilding lags
By James Glantz, New York Times, October 31, 2005

As the money runs out on the $30 billion American-financed reconstruction of Iraq, the officials in charge cannot say how many planned projects they will complete, and there is no clear source for hundreds of millions of dollars a year needed to operate the projects that have been finished, according to a report to Congress released yesterday.

The report, by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, describes some progress but also an array of projects that have gone awry, sometimes astonishingly, like electrical substations that were built at great cost but never connected to the country's electrical grid.

With more than 93 percent of the American money now committed to specific projects, it could become increasingly difficult to solve those problems.

Issues like those "should have been considered before," said Jim Mitchell, a spokesman for the inspector general's office. "It's very critical right now, with so little of the U.S. money left to be committed, that they're going to have to make these determinations very quickly." [complete article]

See the October 30 report (114-page PDF) of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

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An Iraqi city becomes turnaround story
By Dan Murphy, The Christian Science Monitor, October 31, 2005

Last January, Baquba was symbol of everything going wrong in Iraq - and its neighborhood of Buhritz was a symbol for everything going wrong in Baquba.

This city just 50 miles north of Baghdad was crawling with Sunni Arab mortar teams, snipers, and bombmakers. They had made parts of the city their own, killing police when they found them and driving the rest into hiding. Their grip was so strong that only 60 percent of the region's polling places opened for Iraq's first post-Saddam election. In Buhritz, not a vote was cast; some polling sites were torched.

But today, US commanders are pointing to Baquba as a symbol of what might go right. Every polling place stayed open all day for the Oct. 15 referendum that approved Iraq's new constitution earlier this month. Violence was light, while voter turnout was high.
[After two soldiers were killed in June by a roadside bomb, the] Army shut down the area for six weeks - basically letting no one in and no one out - and began major sweeps through the area. [Commanding officer, Lt. Col. Rob] Risberg said the operation had a twofold objective: To capture fighters in the area and to persuade residents not to support them.

Risberg was helped by Capt. Bobby Ray Toon, from Grannies Neck, Texas, who was directly responsible for Buhritz. In the Army as an enlisted man for 18 years, he recently attended officer candidate school and was put in charge of a company of about 150 men. His experience made it easier for him to make the right calls in dealing with local civilians, problems that take as much political as military savvy.

Each time an attack originated in the area, Risberg would have a nearby palm grove shelled, sometimes as often as every 15 minutes the whole night. He'd also further restrict residents' movement. "We were trying to show them that you're going to help us clean up this area or you're going to pay the price," he explains. "I didn't care which." [complete article]

Comment -- Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Does the Army contend that upholding the Geneva Conventions makes it difficult for things to "go right" in Iraq?

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Why Bush won't topple Bashar
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, October 28, 2005

If the outcome of the Iraq war had been even remotely close to that imagined by its architects, the authoritarian regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria would be ripe for the plucking right now. As loathed by the Bush administration as it is by its own Sunni majority (although for entirely different reasons), the minority Allawite autocracy – whose real power is centered less in an ethnic group than in a series of extended family and patronage network that intersect with the levers of power in the security apparatuses – appears to be more brittle than ever. Under different circumstances, the UN report that fingers top Syrian officials for involvement in the killing of Rafik Hariri, the Saudi citizen and protege murdered in Lebanon on Valentine's Day after he refused to do Syria's bidding in the Lebanese political process, would provide the U.S. the excuse needed to launch political, economic and even military initiatives designed to bring down the regime. (And, by the way, this one actually does have weapons of mass destruction – a stock of chemical warheads that Damascus has been amassing since the 1970s, which they see as their strategic counterweight to Israel's nuclear capability.)

Instead, the U.S. looks likely to hesitate, having learned a nasty lesson in Iraq: Before you take down a regime, consider whether you find the plausible alternatives more or less palatable than the status quo. (One of the basics of foreign policy realism 101, you might have thought, but these guys had to learn the basics the hard way.) And the answer, in the case of Syria, is far from clear. Indeed, the consensus even in Israeli strategic circles is that there is no "good alternative" to Bashar's regime. They want him bloodied and intimidated into toeing Washington's line, but not toppled – a position that probably accords with that of the dominant element in the Bush administration. But given this administration's track record of intervention in the Middle East – anything but surgical – even the likely attempt to calibrate pressure on Damascus to achieve this outcome could spin easily out of control. (Put it this way, if the neophytes and ingenues running the show today had been in charge in 1962, the Cuban missile crisis would far more likely have resulted in a U.S.-Soviet military showdown.) [complete article]

See also, Security Council tells Syria to cooperate and Death of Syrian minister leaves a sect adrift in time of strife (WP).

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Iran's zealot in chief does Bush a favour
By Tony Allen-Mills and Ramita Navai, The Sunday Times, October 30, 2005

Although there could scarcely be two more different political capitals than Washington and Tehran, regional experts have found remarkable parallels in the careers of the Iranian and American presidents. Were it not for their different languages and family backgrounds, Bush and Ahmadinejad might be political "soulmates", according to Juan Cole, a Middle East historian at the University of Michigan.

Both men relied on right-wing religious forces for their recent election success. Both campaigned as comparative "outsiders", denouncing their respective political establishments. Bush first ran for president as governor of Texas and frequently criticised Washington insiders; Ahmadinejad ran as mayor of Tehran denouncing central government corruption.

Both men have exploited their personal piety -- Bush with evangelical Christians and Ahmadinejad with fundamentalist Muslims. And both see themselves not as intellectual policy makers but as down-to-earth problem solvers.

Bush, a former businessman, runs his administration on a corporate model; Ahmadinejad, who has a doctorate in engineering, made his political reputation as a manager of Tehran's sprawling municipality.

The similarities may also extend to an unswerving belief in their nations' rectitude and a refusal to admit to mistakes. In the case of Iran's nuclear ambitions, the two men are set on a collision course that neither seems interested in avoiding. [complete article]

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Truth about torture
By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, November 7, 2005

Army Capt. Ian Fishback is plainly a very brave man. Crazy brave, even. Not only has the 26-year-old West Pointer done a tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, he has had the guts to suggest publicly that his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, lied to Congress. After making headlines a month ago for alleging that systematic interrogation abuses occurred in Iraq -- and that the Pentagon was not forthright about it -- the plain-spoken Fishback went back to Fort Bragg, N.C. He is now practicing small-unit tactics in the woods for a month as part of Special Forces training. After that, he hopes to fight for his country once again overseas.

Fishback's courage in taking a lonely stand may be paying off. Inspired by his example, "a growing critical mass of soldiers is coming forward with allegations of abuse," says Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch, the New York-based activist group that first revealed Fishback's story. One of them is Anthony Lagouranis, a Chicago-based Army specialist who recently left the military. He supports Fishback's contention that abuses in Iraq were systematic -- and were authorized by officers in an effort to pressure detainees into talking. "I think our policies required abuse," says Lagouranis. "There were freaking horrible things people were doing. I saw [detainees] who had feet smashed with hammers. One detainee told me he had been forced by Marines to sit on an exhaust pipe, and he had a softball-sized blister to prove it. The stuff I did was mainly torture lite: sleep deprivation, isolation, stress positions, hypothermia. We used dogs." [complete article]

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Did Cheney know Plame was undercover?
By David Corn, The Nation, October 31, 2005

The Scooter Libby indictment is rather straightforward. He first told FBI agents and later the grand jury that he had no independent information regarding Joseph Wilson and his wife Valerie (and her employment at the CIA). He said that he only had picked up rumors about Wilson's wife from reporters and that this was the information he passed to other reporters. He said he wasn't even certain the scuttlebutt he had shared with the journalists was correct. Yet special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald uncovered evidence, which seems rather strong, that Libby actively gathered information on the Wilsons from the CIA and the State Department before talking to reporters about Valerie Wilson.

And the most intriguing piece of evidence Fitzgerald mentioned in the indictment (with, alas, no elaboration) was that on June 12, 2003--nearly a month before Joseph Wilson published his now-infamous op-ed piece on his trip to Niger but several weeks after he had shared information about this trip with the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof as an anonymous source--Vice President Dick Cheney told Libby, in the words of the indictment, that "Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division."

By sharing this information with Libby, Cheney was telling his chief of staff that Wilson's wife was employed by the Operations Directorate of the CIA--the clandestine service of the intelligence agency where undercover officers work. The Counterproliferation Division is part of the DO--as it been called within the CIA--and anyone familiar with the CIA, especially a senior administration official obsessed with weapons of mass destruction ought to know that. [complete article]

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The price of loyalty
By Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, November 7, 2005

The posthumous Purple Heart rested near the folded American flag on the modest dining-room table of his parents' home in Cleveland. Edward (Augie) Schroeder, a Boy Scout turned Marine, was killed along with 13 other soldiers on their fifth trip into Al Hadithah, Iraq, to clean out insurgents. Their fifth trip. "When you do something over and over again expecting a different result," Augie's grieving father, Paul, told me, "that is the definition of insanity." As the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq reached 2,000 last week, Paul Schroeder concluded that the military had not sent enough troops to Iraq to do the job properly and that the president was incompetent: "My son's life was thrown away, his death was a waste." Then, noting that he shared a birthday with his boy, he broke down and said he would not be able to celebrate his own birthday anymore.

The Schroeders were on my mind as I watched Patrick Fitzgerald's skillful press conference. He laid out the seriousness of blowing the cover of CIA operatives. He explained clearly why Scooter Libby had been indicted. He even struck a blow against rogue prosecutors (like Kenneth Starr, though he didn't mention him) whose staffs routinely leak to the media in violation of the law. But Fitzgerald was wrong on one count, at least metaphorically. "This indictment is not about the war," he said. Oh, yes, it is. [complete article]

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The moral implications of failure in Iraq
By John Steinbruner, ArmsControlWonk, October 27, 2005

As long as there is any plausible hope that the continuation of the United States military operation in Iraq will eventually produce an acceptable outcome, the Bush administration will predictably cling to it. So will the president's domestic political base, the American press and much of the broader electorate. It is increasingly evident, however, that the circumstances in Iraq cannot be molded to American sentiment. It is time to begin to face the probable implications of what we have done.

It remains possible that the violent process of attrition now occurring will eventually turn in our favor and that those in Iraq who primarily want personal security and economic opportunity will be able to forge a political system able to establish basic legal order. It is at least as probable, however, and very likely more so that the insurgency generated by United States occupation will prove to be the social equivalent of a lethal infection as violent dissidents infiltrate and abort the efforts to establish viable Iraqi institutions. Unwelcome as the thought may be, we have to consider the grim possibility that continued American presence will drive the reconstruction process to a disastrous outcome – one that assures repression in Iraq and violence in the region for decades to come.

The irremediable problem is that the United States did not initially establish the legitimacy of its assault on Iraq and has no realistic prospect of doing so after the fact. With that vital ingredient missing, the United States cannot itself accomplish stabilization and reconstruction and cannot provide the tutelage that might enable an emerging Iraqi government to do so. Ultimate outcomes in these circumstances depend far more on legitimacy than on firepower, the adroitness of military operations or sheer political will.

Unfortunately and indeed tragically, arbitrarily scheduled termination of the United States military operation promises to be even worse than indefinite continuation. As is widely recognized, American withdrawal could readily trigger a yet more violent civil war in Iraq with yet more dangerous regional implications. The only meaningful alternative even remotely visible depends on transferring primary responsibility and operational control of the stabilization and reconstruction process to a more representative international entity not implicated in the original assault and better able to evoke universal justifying principles. That entity does not currently exist. It would have to be created for the occasion. The United States would have to provide financial and military support without attempting to exercise control.

Such a formula would be anathema to those who initiated the war and very unpopular within the American political system generally. It could well come to that nonetheless. Exploring the possibility can reasonably be considered a moral obligation.

John Steinbruner is Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland and Director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM). The article above comes from Dr Jeffrey Lewis' excellent blog, ArmsControlWonk.

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Bush is in ethical meltdown but all the liberals can do is gloat
By Gary Younge, The Guardian, October 31, 2005

Liberals called it "Fitzmas". And it was a long time coming. But even though it took almost two years for special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to make it down the chimney, it was worth the wait. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff of vice-president Dick Cheney, faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $1.25m if found guilty of lying over his role in leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent. Meanwhile, the continuing investigation of George Bush's consiglieri, Karl Rove, holds out the possibility of further charges against a more senior White House staff member.

In a week that saw Bush withdraw his supreme court nominee, Harriet Miers, and that followed a week in which Tom DeLay, the Republican house leader, was arrested for money laundering and conspiracy, liberals were gorging themselves on a festival of alleged corruption, criminality and incompetence prepared and served by conservatives.

The extent to which these most recent developments have exposed the Bush administration's real agenda and modus operandi should be welcomed. But legal defeats for the right should not be mistaken as political victories for the liberal-left, which has yet to convince anyone that it represents a meaningful alternative. [complete article]

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'If I were Cheney I'd be sweating a little'
By Andrew Sullivan, The Sunday Times, October 30, 2005

No politician would want a prosecutor like Pat Fitzgerald. For two long years he has toiled on an immensely complicated case, involving slippery, smart Washington players, the kind of case where leaks are common, spin is routine and ideological motivation on the part of the prosecutor is taken for granted.

Not this time. Watching Fitzgerald's press conference on Friday was to witness that rare event: a public official whose integrity seemed unimpeachable. Here was a pasty-faced Irish-Catholic bachelor, the son of a New York doorman, educated by Jesuits, speaking with rapid-fire ferocity and almost preternatural precision. In two years: no leaks from his office. Under his belt in previous cases: terror master Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, mobsters in Chicago, and several key state politicians in Illinois.

Fitzgerald also has a record of being ahead of the game. He started investigating the activities of Osama Bin Laden as long ago as 1996. In the Illinois corruption case, Fitzgerald raised an investigation into a truck accident in 1998 into a progressively brutal exposure of government corruption.

By December 2003, the investigation culminated in an indictment of George Ryan, the former governor. The case continues -- but its course is instructive of Fitzgerald's methods. [complete article]

Comment -- If Fitzgerald now has Cheney in his sights, but as one former federal prosecutor says "there's no ability to go past Libby unless Libby were to turn on his boss, and that doesn't seem likely", the conventional wisdom is that as a loyal lieutenant, Libby will gallantly fall on his sword. The question is, if that sword if being firmly grasped by Karl Rove, might the White House edifice of collective loyalty rapidly fall apart?

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The White House criminal conspiracy
By Elizabeth de la Vega, TomDispatch, October 30, 2005

Legally, there are no significant differences between the investor fraud perpetrated by Enron CEO Ken Lay and the prewar intelligence fraud perpetrated by George W. Bush. Both involved persons in authority who used half-truths and recklessly false statements to manipulate people who trusted them. There is, however, a practical difference: The presidential fraud is wider in scope and far graver in its consequences than the Enron fraud. Yet thus far the public seems paralyzed.

In response to the outcry raised by Enron and other scandals, Congress passed the Corporate Corruption Bill, which President Bush signed on July 30, 2002, amid great fanfare. Bush declared that he was signing the bill because of his strong belief that corporate officers must be straightforward and honest. If they were not, he said, they would be held accountable.

Ironically, the day Bush signed the Corporate Corruption Bill, he and his aides were enmeshed in an orchestrated campaign to trick the country into taking the biggest risk imaginable -- a war. Indeed, plans to attack Iraq were already in motion. In June, Bush announced his "new" pre-emptive strike strategy. On July 23, 2002, the head of British intelligence advised Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the then-secret Downing Street Memo, that "military action was now seen as inevitable" and that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Bush had also authorized the transfer of $700 million from Afghanistan war funds to prepare for an invasion of Iraq. Yet all the while, with the sincerity of Marc Antony protesting that "Brutus is an honorable man," Bush insisted he wanted peace. [complete article]

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Cheney's Cheney
By Evan Thomas, Newsweek, November 7, 2005

[It is] likely that Libby was caught up in an ancient trap of the Best and the Brightest, the belief that they do not have to play by normal rules when they serve a higher calling, and that small lies can be told to protect higher truths. "National security" is usually the justification (see Watergate, Iran-contra). Judging from the indictment and what we know about Libby's own zeal, the vice president's chief of staff believed that he was protecting his boss in a great cause, the defeat of Islamo-fascism. If so, Libby's hubris may backfire. It's doubtful that Cheney has any legal exposure from his subordinate's alleged crimes, but the sensation over Libby's indictment is sure to bring renewed investigation into deeper and more serious charges of wrongdoing: that the Bush administration, and in particular the powerful, secretive vice president, willfully bent the facts to lead America into the Iraq war. Libby has always been known as Cheney's Cheney. He does not seem like the sort to go freelancing. [complete article]

See also, A leak, then a deluge (WP), In indictment's wake, a focus on Cheney's powerful role (NYT), Indictment gives glimpse into a secretive operation (NYT), Who talked? It wasn't the special prosecutor (LAT), Journalists treated as eyewitnesses (WP), and Novel strategy pits journalists against source (NYT).

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U.S. quietly issues estimate of Iraqi civilian casualties
By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, October 30, 2005

In the first public disclosure that the United States military is tracking some of the deaths of Iraqi civilians, the military has released rough figures for Iraqis who have been killed or wounded by insurgents since Jan. 1 last year.

The estimate of dead and wounded Iraqi civilians and security forces was provided by the Pentagon in a report to Congress this month.

It appeared without fanfare in a single bar graph on Page 23 of the document. But it was significant because the military had previously avoided virtually all public discussion of the issue.

The count is incomplete - it provides daily partial averages of deaths and injuries of Iraqis at the hands of insurgents, in attacks like bombings and suicide strikes. Still, it shows that the military appears to have a far more accurate picture of the toll of the war than it has been willing to acknowledge.

"They have begun to realize that when you focus only on the U.S. it gives the impression that the U.S. doesn't care about Iraqis," said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research group in Washington. "In these kinds of political battles you need to count your allies, not just yourself." [complete article]

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Kurds reclaiming prized territory in northern Iraq
By Steve Fainaru, Washington Post, October 30, 2005

Providing money, building materials and even schematic drawings, Kurdish political parties have repatriated thousands of Kurds into this tense northern oil city and its surrounding villages, operating outside the framework of Iraq's newly ratified constitution and sparking sporadic violence between Kurdish settlers and the Arabs who are a minority here, according to U.S. military officials and Iraqi political leaders.

The rapidly expanding settlements, composed of two-bedroom concrete houses whose dimensions are prescribed by the Kurdish parties, are effectively re-engineering the demography of northern Iraq, enabling the Kurds to add what ultimately may be hundreds of thousands of voters ahead of a planned 2007 referendum on the status of Kirkuk. The Kurds hope to make the city and its vast oil reserves part of an autonomous Kurdistan.

Kurdish political leaders said the repatriations are designed to correct the policies of ousted President Saddam Hussein, who replaced thousands of Kurds in the region with Arabs from the south. The Kurdish parties have seized control of the process, they said, because the Iraqi government has failed to implement an agreement to return Kurdish residents to their homes.

But U.S. military officials, Western diplomats and Arab political leaders have warned the parties that the campaign could work to undermine the nascent constitutional process and raise tensions as displaced Kurds settle onto private lands now held by Arabs. [complete article]

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Military shares public's declining support for Bush, war
By Tim Whitmire, AP (via Journal Now), October 28, 2005

More than half of North Carolina military members surveyed in the latest Elon University poll disapprove of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and his overall job performance.

Nearly 53 percent of military members said they strongly disapproved or disapproved of Bush's handling of his job. And just more than 56 percent of that same group strongly disapproved or disapproved of how he has dealt with the Iraq war.

Overall, 53 percent of those surveyed did not approve of Bush's job performance, while 57 percent did not approve of his handling of the Iraq war.

"We see that those most involved in the Iraq situation, the military, are not so different from the general public after all and share the same concerns about Iraq," said Hunter Bacot, the poll's director. "Conventional wisdom might suggest that the military would be more supportive of Bush in Iraq, but that simply isn't the case if you look at the numbers." [complete article]

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The real Sunnis: Please stand up
By John F. Burns, New York Times, October 30, 2005

For those exhausted by Iraq's relentless violence and sectarianism, there are few tonics like a conversation with Adnan Pachachi. At 82, Mr. Pachachi is an Iraqi patrician who began his diplomatic career in Washington on the day in April 1945 when Franklin D. Roosevelt's coffin arrived at Union Station from Warm Springs, Ga. A fugitive from Saddam Hussein's brutality, he returned to Iraq 30 months ago in the hope of restoring the political civilities many Iraqis say were swept away with the assassination of King Faisal II in 1958.

Mr. Pachachi is a Sunni, but he believes that Sunnis and Shiites, Kurds and Arabs, and Iraq's minorities, are not by nature disposed to the current politics of religious and ethnic division. He regards the years of repression under Mr. Hussein, a Sunni whose main victims were Shiites and Kurds, as less a matter of Sunnis bludgeoning others to gain minority privilege than the work of a tyrant who betrayed Sunnis' instincts for a common life. Although seething mosques and insurgents dominate the Sunni heartland now, he says, most Sunnis, at heart, would prefer an inclusive, secular Iraq. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Al-Sistani said to weigh pullout demand
By Hamza Hendawi, AP (via The Guardian), October 28, 2005

Downing Street Memo's sequel: Roots of a scandal
By Jefferson Morley, Washington Post, October 28, 2005

Big rise in profit puts oil giants on defensive
By Jad Mouawad and Simon Romero, New York Times, October 28, 2005

Iran on course for a showdown
By Safa Haeri, Asia Times, October 28, 2005

A new Sunni strategy in Iraq
By Jill Carroll, Christian Science Monitor, October 28, 2005

Iraqi insurgents: 'We don't need al-Qaida'
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, October 27, 2005

U.S. operatives killed detainees during interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq
ACLU, October 24, 2005

The White House cabal
By Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2005

Quartet envoy: Israel acting as if disengagement never happened
By Amira Hass, Haaretz, October 24, 2005

Why didn't Bush's foreign-policy critics speak out a year ago?
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, October 24, 2005

World for many Baghdad residents has shrunk to inner sanctum of home
By Matthew Schofield and Mohammed Alawsy, Knight Ridder, October 24, 2005

U.S. troops fighting losing battle for Sunni triangle
By Adrian Blomfield, The Telegraph, October 23, 2005

Secret Ministry of Defence poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops
By Sean Rayment, The Telegraph, October 23, 2005

Money for nothing
Billions of dollars have disappeared, gone to bribe Iraqis and line contractors' pockets

By Philip Giraldi, The American Conservative, October 24, 2005

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