The War in Context Christopher Dickey quote
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Apocalypse now
By Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram Weekly, September 7, 2006

I doubt the people who carried out 9/11 realised that they would render an entire Arab generation hostage to psychopathic aggressiveness amid the ultimate metaphysical struggle of good and evil. But if you are among those inclined to believe that those who carried out the appalling hijack attacks, not far from the UN headquarters, are themselves one of the products and many faces of globalisation, then you realise how tragically laden the world is with symbols and symbolism. While 9/11 and the "war on terror" was soon globalised, divisions proliferated also. Perhaps one of the most dangerous consequences of 11 September is that the polarisation between opposing fundamentalisms has shunted aside the thoughtful and constructive quest for the welfare and happiness of all human societies, and of human beings as individuals and as exponents of diverse cultures that are not in adversarial relationships or hierarchically juxtaposed on the basis of some notion of good or bad. [complete article]

The Long War: A self-fulfilling prophecy of protracted conflict -- and defeat
By Michael Vlahos, The National Interest, September 5, 2006

This war -- the Global War on Terrorism, or GWOT -- has had three distinct "stories." Or perhaps it would be better to say that the story of this war has been twice transformed. Its initial incarnation as a "war against terrorism" was a simple story of righteous retribution: kill the terrorists in their mountain lairs. The second began with the president's declaration of an "Axis of Evil." This represented a metamorphosis from "terrorist" enemy to the image of an evil league of enemy powers, and thus the entire significance of the war was elevated. At one rhetorical stroke it was now possible to assert a war narrative equal to the most protean of American struggles. The war could now be given a commanding meaning equal to the mythic claim of World War II itself. Thus it instantly became a grander enterprise, where the transformed narrative actually demanded great efforts and even greater events.

It is the collapse of this enterprise that has birthed yet another story. This third incarnation is a tortured response to debacle in Iraq, where messianic goals and millenarian promise went south. Thus the "Long War," formally unveiled in Rumsfeld’s February 2006 speech to the National Press Club: "The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war."

But the image of a long war -- a dogged, "twilight struggle" -- is not particularly attractive, especially if American failure and losses in Iraq are thus implicitly translated into a slow-bleeding vision of forever war. Such a picture certainly does not make the blood rush or the pulse race. To keep this effort up for "generations" as the president is fond of saying, the purpose driving this war must be great of course. But even more -- and this is its greatest challenge—such purpose must explain the need for generations of pain and sacrifice. [complete article]

9/11 in a movie-made world
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch (and The Nation), September 7, 2006

Only relatively small numbers of New Yorkers actually experienced 9/11: those at the tip of Manhattan or close enough to watch the two planes smash into the World Trade Center towers, to watch (as some schoolchildren did) people leaping or falling from the upper floors of those buildings, to be enveloped in the vast cloud of smoke and ash, in the tens of thousands of pulverized computers and copying machines, the asbestos and flesh and plane, the shredded remains of millions of sheets of paper, of financial and office life as we know it. For most Americans, even those like me who were living in Manhattan, 9/11 arrived on the television screen. This is why what leapt to mind -- and instantaneously filled our papers and TV reporting -- was previous screen life, the movies. [complete article]

9/11 conspiracy theorists
By Michael Powell, Washington Post, September 8, 2006

A recent Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll of 1,010 Americans found that 36 percent suspect the U.S. government promoted the attacks or intentionally sat on its hands. Sixteen percent believe explosives brought down the towers. Twelve percent believe a cruise missile hit the Pentagon.

Distrust percolates more strongly near Ground Zero. A Zogby International poll of New York City residents two years ago found 49.3 percent believed the government "consciously failed to act."

You could dismiss this as a louder than usual howl from the CIA-controls-my-thoughts-through-the-filling-in-my-molar crowd. Establishment assessments of the believers tend toward the psychotherapeutic. Many academics, politicians and thinkers left, right and center say the conspiracy theories are a case of one plus one equals five. It's a piling up of improbabilities. [complete article]

Comment -- There's a profoundly important political message in these numbers -- and it has nothing to do with conspiracy theories. What these numbers express is an extraordinary level of mistrust in government. If a third of a nation believes that its own government might be complicit in the mass killing of its own citizens, how can that nation function as a democracy?
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'Gaza is a jail. Nobody is allowed to leave. We are all starving now'
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, September 8, 2006

Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq.

A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world. Israel has stopped all trade. It has even forbidden fishermen to go far from the shore so they wade into the surf to try vainly to catch fish with hand-thrown nets.

Many people are being killed by Israeli incursions that occur every day by land and air. A total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, of whom 60 had arms or legs amputated, since 25 June, says Dr Juma al-Saqa, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City which is fast running out of medicine. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women. This bloody conflict in Gaza has so far received only a fraction of the attention given by the international media to the war in Lebanon. [complete article]
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Media misses the point on CIA leak story
By Joe Conason, New York Observer, September 11, 2006

To observe the Washington press corps is to wonder why so many people who don't remember what happened yesterday and can't master basic logic are expected to analyze politics and policy. The latest developments in the Valerie Plame Wilson case -- as revealed in Hubris, a new book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn -- proved once more that the simplest analysis of facts is beyond the grasp of many of America's most celebrated journalists.

What Messrs. Corn and Isikoff reveal, among other things, is that the first official to reveal Valerie Wilson's covert identity as a C.I.A. operative to columnist Robert Novak in June 2003 was Richard Armitage, who then served as Deputy Secretary of State. Unlike other Bush administration figures who were involved in leaking Ms. Wilson's identity, such as Karl Rove and Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Mr. Armitage was known to be unenthusiastic about the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

From those two facts, numerous pundits and talking heads have deduced that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were guiltless, that there was no White House effort to expose Ms. Wilson, and that the entire leak investigation was a partisan witch hunt and perhaps an abuse of discretion by the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald. The same pundits now proclaim that Mr. Armitage's minor role somehow proves the White House didn't seek to punish Valerie Wilson and her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, for his decision to publicly debunk the Presidential misuse of dubious intelligence from Niger concerning Iraq's alleged attempts to purchase yellowcake uranium. [complete article]

See also, Armitage voices remorse (NYT).
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Why Iran has the upper hand in the nuclear showdown
By Tony Karon, Time.com, September 7, 2006

Iran's leaders have displayed an almost insouciant calm in the face of U.S. efforts to isolate and pressure them. They responded to the U.S.-backed incentive package -- which Washington cast as a final, take-it-or-leave-it offer -- more than six weeks after the deadline preferred by Washington, and then only to send it back with a "can do better" grade and a 21-page counterproposal. But Iran's defiance may be based on a sound diplomatic calculation. The international community demands that Iran go the extra mile to satisfy concerns over its atomic energy program, but it also insists that the issue be resolved via diplomacy rather than confrontation. For reasons ranging from the price of oil to the turmoil in neighboring Iraq, much of the world outside of the U.S. fears that a confrontation between America and Iran would have disastrous consequences.

Aware of the danger of isolating itself, the U.S. insists that it, too, favors, a diplomatic solution. But Washington's version of a "diplomatic solution" certainly includes sanctions to bring Iran to heel, while for many of Washington's European allies, and for such key Security Council powers as Russia and China, sanctions represent a slippery slide to confrontation. Iran is unlikely to change its position in response to the limited sanctions that will probably be adopted, and it knows that the international community is unlikely to risk the impact on world oil prices of cutting off Iran's crude exports. Many diplomats fear that moves to isolate Iran will harden the position of its regime, and make military confrontation more likely. [complete article]
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Body count in Baghdad nearly triples
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, September 8, 2006

Baghdad's morgue almost tripled its count for violent deaths in Iraq's capital during August from 550 to 1,536, authorities said Thursday, appearing to erase most of what U.S. generals and Iraqi leaders had touted as evidence of progress in a major security operation to restore order in the capital.

Separately, the Health Ministry confirmed Thursday that it planned to construct two new branch morgues in Baghdad and add doctors and refrigerator units to raise capacity to as many as 250 corpses a day.

The morgue expansion plans and the final body count for August show the dramatic surge in violence in Baghdad since U.S.-led foreign troops entered Iraq in 2003. Baghdad's morgue chiefly handles unidentified gunshot victims, now predominantly shot execution-style and often found with hands bound and showing signs of torture.

Since the spring, as sectarian violence has mounted, monthly counts of civilian casualties have reached the highest levels of the war, topping 1,800 at the Baghdad morgue in July. At least 3,438 Iraqis were killed across the country that month, according to Iraqi government figures, nearing the total of roughly 5,000 for the entire first year of the war. [complete article]

Iraq government suspends Al-Arabiya TV over sectarian violence claim
Committee to Protect Journalists, September 7, 2006

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the decision of the Iraqi government today to close the Baghdad bureau of the Dubai-based satellite channel Al-Arabiya for one month.

The station reported that police entered its Baghdad offices to halt operations after the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the suspension.

Al-Arabiya Executive Editor Nabil Khatib told CPJ the channel received a government statement that said its coverage was fomenting "sectarian violence and war in Iraq," without providing evidence.

"We have never been notified by the government, officially or verbally, that we are violating any clause or any law in Iraq," Khatib said.

The U.S.-backed government in Iraq has a history of banning news outlets, threatening and harassing journalists and bringing criminal prosecutions against the media. [complete article]
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Interrogation methods rejected by military win Bush's support
By Adam Liptak, New York Times, September 8, 2006

Many of the harsh interrogation techniques repudiated by the Pentagon on Wednesday would be made lawful by legislation put forward the same day by the Bush administration. And the courts would be forbidden from intervening.

The proposal is in the last 10 pages of an 86-page bill devoted mostly to military commissions, and it is a tangled mix of cross-references and pregnant omissions.

But legal experts say it adds up to an apparently unique interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, one that could allow C.I.A. operatives and others to use many of the very techniques disavowed by the Pentagon, including stress positions, sleep deprivation and extreme temperatures.

"It's a Jekyll and Hyde routine," Martin S. Lederman, who teaches constitutional law at Georgetown University, said of the administration's dual approaches. [complete article]

European watchdog calls for clampdown on CIA
By Nicholas Watt and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, September 8, 2006

The head of Europe's human rights watchdog yesterday called for monitoring of CIA agents operating in Britain and other European countries, after President George Bush's admission that the US had detained terrorist suspects in secret prisons.

Terry Davis, secretary general of the Council of Europe, said CIA agents operating in Europe should be subject to the same rules as British agents working for MI5 and MI6.

"There is a need to deal with the conduct of allied foreign security services agents active on the territory of a council member state," Terry Davis said. "In the UK there is parliamentary scrutiny of the intelligence services but there is no parliamentary scrutiny of friendly foreign services. The UK should be in the lead on this issue."

As part of this process, diplomatic immunity should be reviewed. "Immunity should not mean impunity," he said. [complete article]

See also, Confirmation of CIA prisons leaves Europeans mistrustful (WP) and Decision to move detainees resolved two-year debate among Bush advisers (WP).

Lawyers and GOP chiefs resist proposal on tribunal
By Kate Zernike, New York Times, September 8, 2006

The Bush administration's proposal to bring leading terrorism suspects before military tribunals met stiff resistance Thursday from key Republicans and top military lawyers who said some provisions would not withstand legal scrutiny or do enough to repair the nation's tarnished reputation internationally.

Democrats, meanwhile, said they were inclined to go along with Senate Republicans drafting an alternative to the White House plan, one that would allow defendants more rights. That left Republicans to argue among themselves about what the tribunals would look like and threatened to rob the issue of the political momentum the White House hoped it would provide going into the closely fought midterm elections. [complete article]

Bush calls for greater wiretap authority
By Anushka Asthana and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, September 8, 2006

President Bush urged Congress Thursday to give him "additional authority" to continue his administration's warrantless eavesdropping program. The speech was his latest effort in several days to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by framing the election-year national security debate to political and policy advantage.
[...]
The president's appeal for congressional action to strengthen the legal underpinnings of the National Security Agency's surveillance program ran into roadblocks even as he spoke. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Spector (R-Pa.) suspended efforts to draft legislation until at least next week after Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) proposed new amendments and a bipartisan group of senators urged more hearings. [complete article]
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In border zone, Pakistan backs off from Taliban
By David Montero, Christian Science Monitor, September 8, 2006

In the years since Sept. 11, 2001, Pakistan has displayed a singular dedication to fighting foreign fighters and their local hosts - often at a great price, both real and political. Pouring 80,000 troops and hardware into the tribal zone, the Pakistani military has lost nearly one man for every Al Qaeda operative - totaling several hundred - it has captured or killed. President Pervez Musharraf has nearly lost his life twice in the fight, after Al Qaeda's suicide bombers trained their sights on him. Few contest this record of sacrificial bravery.

But some say that it has come at a great national price: As the battle against Al Qaeda has mounted, so, too, has the military grown in strength and political influence, becoming in essence the very state it is supposed to serve. That has allowed it to break up Al Qaeda's network, but also to rupture the political landscape, splintering parties and institutions into fragments that can barely challenge its rule.

Today, analysts and members of the opposition claim, Parliament and civil society barely function in the shadows of the Musharraf government. As a consequence, the pillars of legitimacy needed to effectively address the causes of extremism - national consensus, social and political development, local governance - have been removed, leaving the military to address the problem the only way it knows how: with helicopter gunships and ground assaults. These measures have consistently failed, however, sowing widespread outrage that has compelled the government to backtrack, signing peace accords like the one this week. [complete article]

Car bomb rocks Kabul near U.S. embassy, killing 16
By Jenny Booth, Michael Evans and Timothy Albone, The Times, September 8, 2006

A large suicide car bomb struck a convoy of military vehicles near the American Embassy in Kabul today, killing at least 16 people, including two US soldiers.

The blast happened as Nato chiefs met in Warsaw to discuss an appeal from the alliance's top military commander for reinforcements to combat resurgent Taleban militants in Afghanistan. A British general said that the fighting in the volatile south was now more ferocious than in Iraq.

Around 30 people, mainly civilian bystanders, were wounded in the explosion, which tore a military Humvee into two burning chunks and scattered debris over a 50-metre radius. [complete article]

NATO general wants more troops in Afghan south
By John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, September 8, 2006

Brig. Ed Butler, the British commander in Afghanistan, told the Press Association news service Thursday that his troops were being attacked a dozen times a day in fighting that was "up close and personal." His soldiers had fired 400,000 bullets since arriving in Helmand province earlier this year, he said.

On Aug. 1, U.S. commanders turned over military responsibility for southern Afghanistan to NATO. The alliance force in the south, led by contingents from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, so far has about 6,000 members, Jones said.

Previously, NATO troops operated largely in the capital, Kabul, and other relatively calm parts of the country. Casualties resulting from their entry into a full-blown combat zone, where the enemy is using weapons and tactics reminiscent of Iraqi insurgents, have rattled public opinion in some alliance countries.

Fourteen British service members died when their Nimrod reconnaissance plane crashed Sept. 2. Five Canadians have been killed in the past week, four from hostile fire and one from an accidental strafing by a U.S. jet. [complete article]
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Turkey's high-stakes march into Lebanon
By M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times, September 9, 2006

Two years ago, in a political profile of Turkish Prime Minister Racep Tayyip Erdogan, Der Spiegel came close to concluding that he could be harboring a secret dream of being an Ottoman sultan.

The German magazine was metaphorically summing up Erdogan's phenomenal march from an obscure Istanbul prison cell to Turkey's prime ministership. But the hunch was stunningly prescient, too.

Curiously, even as the Turkish parliament was bracing this week for a heated debate on the wisdom of deputing troops to Lebanon as part of the United Nations' stabilization force, Erdogan chose a forum of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to speak on the subject.

The venue of the OIC conclave was highly significant - the ornate Dolmabahce Palace overlooking the Golden Horn in Istanbul, the abode of the last Ottoman sultan, Mehmet VI. Referring to the Levant, Erdogan said, "We can't forget our historic responsibility as an OIC member."

With these few words, Erdogan at once summoned memories of the Caliphate and a host of images from a distant past that modern Turkey has consciously tried to obliterate. Earlier in the evening, Erdogan was quoted as saying that a nation cut off from its past would have no future. "We should own our values," he said. [complete article]

Soldiers may be held in Hizbullah bunker
By Clancy Chassay, The Guardian, September 8, 2006

The two Israeli soldiers whose abduction led to Israel's 34-day war in Lebanon are probably being held in one of Hizbullah's bunkers and are unlikely to have been moved around for fear of discovery by Israeli monitoring systems, according to Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 officer and trained negotiator who has worked extensively with Hizbullah.

"The location must be very discreet and somewhere where the guarding logistics have been well prepared," said Mr Crooke, a 30-year veteran of British intelligence. "Almost certainly they are in an extremely well-sealed location as the operation would have been planned months earlier." Mr Crooke believes Israel's monitoring apparatus in operation over Lebanon would make it difficult to move the soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, without being detected. "There is infrared and satellite imaging and the Israeli drones can pick up a huge amount of information," he said.

After the abductions there was widespread speculation that they had been taken to Iran or Syria, but Mr Crooke thinks this unlikely. [complete article]

Lebanese ports still blocked
By Craig S. Smith, New York Times, September 8, 2006

Commercial planes streamed into Beirut's international airport late Thursday after Israel formally ended its eight-week air blockade of Lebanon. But Israel announced that it was not yet lifting restrictions on sea traffic as planned.

"Unfortunately, we don't yet have a presence at the naval level that can implement an arms embargo," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. He said the sea blockade would remain in effect until United Nations forces were ready to help enforce an embargo intended to prevent Hezbollah from rearming after this summer's war.

The mixed signals, which forced frustrated fishermen back to shore less than an hour after beginning their first foray out to sea since July, angered Lebanese government officials and interrupted a round of celebratory speeches at the Parliament building where lawmakers were ending a six-day-old sit-in protesting the blockade. [complete article]
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Pakistan: Hello al-Qaeda, goodbye America
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, September 8, 2006

With a truce between the Pakistani Taliban and Islamabad now in place, the Pakistani government is in effect reverting to its pre-September 11, 2001, position in which it closed its eyes to militant groups allied with al-Qaeda and clearly sided with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

While the truce has generated much attention, a more significant development is an underhand deal between pro-al-Qaeda elements and Pakistan in which key al-Qaeda figures will either not be arrested or those already in custody will be set free. This has the potential to sour Islamabad's relations with Washington beyond the point of no return. [complete article]

See also, Analysis: Pakistan's deal with 'Taleban' (BBC).

Comment So, five years after President Bush launched his "war on terrorism," Osama bin Laden hasn't been caught, al Qaeda once again has a safe haven -- this time provided by a nuclear-armed government -- and the White House is convinced that its strongest political card is "fighting terrorism." Go figure!
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Analysis: Terror war may need name change
By Pamela Hess, UPI, September 5, 2006

The United States should rethink the label it uses for what is known as the "global war on terror," the chief of strategic planning on the Pentagon's Joint Staff said Tuesday.

What is needed, said Army Col. Gary Cheek, is to recast terrorists as the criminals they are.

"If we can change the name ... and find the right sequence of events that allows us to do that, that changes the dynamic of the conflict," said Cheek at the Defense Forum Washington, sponsored by the Marine Corps Association and the U.S. Naval Institute.

"It makes sense for us to find another name for the GWOT," said Cheek. "It merits rethinking. I know our European allies are more comfortable articulating issues of terrorism as criminal threats, rather than war ... It ought to be our goal to partner better with the European allies so we can migrate this from a war to something other than a war." [complete article]

Comment -- Colonel Cheek diplomatically points out that "finding the right time" is key to making the shift from a military to a legal fight against terrorism, though it's obvious that this transition isn't going to occur while George Bush remains in the White House. The problem is, whether terrorism is viewed through a military or a legal prism, in either case there is an intrinsic denial of its political component.

When the Bush administration wraps together Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and al Qaeda, it does so in order to deny that there are any underlying political issues that urgently need to be addressed.

It is noteworthy that three years ago the administration was willing to acknowledge the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In February 2003, the administration asserted that:
Finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a critical component to winning the war of ideas [as part of the U.S.'s National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism]. No other issue has so colored the perception of the United States in the Muslim world. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is critical because of the toll of human suffering, because of America's close relationship with the state of Israel and key Arab states, and because of that region's importance to other global priorities of the United States. There can be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides. America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living beside Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices. The United States will continue to encourage all parties to step up to their responsibilities as we seek a just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict. The United States can play a crucial role but, ultimately, lasting peace can only come when Israelis and Palestinians resolve the issues and end the conflict between them.
Now it has completely backed off from acknowledging the centrality of the Palestinian issue. In the latest articulation of the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, this is the sole reference to the conflict:
Terrorism is not simply a result of Israeli-Palestinian issues. Al-Qaida plotting for the September 11 attacks began in the 1990s, during an active period in the peace process.
Of course there can never be a military or legal solution to a political problem. Yet when it comes to thrashing out the core foreign policy issues, Washington's dominance by Republocrats ensures that the real political debates won't happen.
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President shifts argument, catches critics off guard
By Michael Abramowitz and Charles Babington, Washington Post, September 7, 2006

With a series of forceful speeches on terrorism and a dramatic announcement that he has sent top-tier terrorism suspects to the Guantanamo Bay prison, President Bush this week has demonstrated anew the power of even a weakened commander in chief to set the terms of national debate. [complete article]

See also, Final figure for August violent deaths in Baghdad shows no drop from month before (AP), Sunnis enraged as Iraq prepares to divide itself into regions (The Telegraph), and Iraq ministers, including Interior, may be changed (LAT).

Comment -- Bush and Cheney say Iraq is "the central front in the war on terrorism." Things aren't going well in Iraq. Most Americans are fed up with the war. The Republicans need to change the subject, so they want us to focus on terrorism.

OK.

So, how are things going on the central front in the war on terrorism?
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Failures of imagination
By Eric Umansky, Columbia Journalism Review, September 6, 2006

Reporters and news organizations deserve enormous credit for exposing the abuse and torture of detainees during the U.S. war on terror, more than other institutions or individuals. Without Carlotta Gall, The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, The Washington Post's Dana Priest, and many other reporters, we might well never have learned of the abuse and torture that have occurred in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere.

But just as sweeping attacks against "the media" are too reductive, so too are plaudits. And when the record on torture coverage is examined in detail, an ambiguous picture emerges: in the post-9/11 days, some reporters offered detailed accusations and reports of abuse and torture, only to be met with skepticism by their own editors. Stories were buried, played down, or ignored -- a reluctance that is much diminished but still bubbles up with regard to the culpability of policymakers.

What is true and what is significant are two different matters. Everybody agrees that journalists are supposed to ascertain the truth. As for deciding what is significant, reporters and editors make that judgment, too, all the time -- what story leads on the front page, or gets played inside, what story gets followed up. And when it comes to very sensitive material, like torture, many journalists would prefer to rely on others to be the first to decide that something is significant. To do otherwise would mean sticking your neck out. [complete article]
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Bush justifies CIA detainee abuse
Human Rights Watch, September 6, 2006

President George W. Bush's defense of abusing detainees betrays basic American and global standards, Human Rights Watch said today.

Despite the euphemisms that Bush employed in his nationwide address this afternoon, the "alternative set of [interrogation] procedures" that he tried to justify includes grossly abusive treatment.

Detainees in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been "disappeared," and by numerous credible reports, tortured. While the Bush administration's announcement that it transferred 14 so-called high-value detainees from CIA to military custody is an important step forward -- one that Human Rights Watch has long called for -- this advance is limited by the president's stated intention of leaving the door open for future CIA detentions.

"President Bush's speech was a full-throated defense of the CIA's detention program and of the 'alternative procedures' -- read torture -- that the CIA has used to extract information from detainees," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Although the president adamantly denied that the U.S. government uses torture, the United States has used practices such as waterboarding that can only be called torture." [complete article]

See also, New rules of interrogation forbid use of harsh tactics (WP) and To torture or not to torture? (IPS)
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Secret world of detainees grows more public
By Dan Eggen and Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, September 7, 2006

The secret interrogation of senior al-Qaeda aide Abu Zubaida provided U.S. authorities with the clues they needed to capture the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and other key terrorism suspects around the world, according to new accounts provided yesterday by President Bush and administration officials.

In announcing the transfer of Zubaida and 13 other "high value" terrorism suspects to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Bush disclosed new details about some of the detainees subjected to what he called "tough" interrogation methods, which human rights advocates have condemned as torture. Bush defended an "alternative set of procedures" for interrogations that he said offered critical information about links between suspected terrorists and helped thwart eight plots aimed at killing Americans. [complete article]

See also, Officials relieved secret is shared (WP).

Proposal for new tribunals would hew to the first series
By Kate Zernike and Neil A. Lewis, New York Times, September 7, 2006

Under the measure that President Bush proposed on Wednesday, Khalid Shaik Mohammed and other major terrorism suspects would face trials at Guantanamo Bay in military tribunals that would allow evidence obtained by coercive interrogation and hearsay and deny suspects and their lawyers the right to see classified evidence used against them.

The proposed tribunals would largely hew to those that the Supreme Court rejected in June. The measure says Congress would, by approving the proposed tribunals, affirm that they are constitutional and comply with international law, which the Supreme Court said they did not.

Senate Republicans, who have been working on their own bill, said they were wary of the provisions on hearsay and classified evidence and questioned whether the administration had resolved the problems that the court raised. [complete article]
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Palestinian children pay price of Israel's Summer Rain offensive
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, September 7, 2006

Since the start of the operation, codenamed Summer Rain, at least 240 Palestinians have been killed. One in five were children. According to the PCHR, which has investigated each case, 197 of the dead were civilians and the vast majority were killed in Gaza. Among them were 12 women and 48 children.

Yesterday an Israeli military spokesman said his forces did not target civilians. "Our actions are targeted only at terrorist organisations, terror activities and infrastructure," he said. "It can happen that innocent people are hit. But the responsibility does not lie with the Israeli army, but rather with the terror groups who are working within civilian populations without any regard to the danger they are causing."

More than two months into the Gaza operation Israel has still not secured the release of Cpl Shalit or stopped Qassam rocket fire.

"We believe that the whole offensive against the Gaza Strip is characterised by being an act of revenge and retaliation in which civilians are paying the price," said Hamdi Shaqqura, a founder member of the PCHR [Palestinian Centre for Human Rights] in Gaza City. "They have demonstrated total disregard for the rights of innocent Palestinian civilians. There has been an excessive use of force, a disproportionate use of force in civilian areas, and that explains the high toll of death." [complete article]
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'Quiet transfer' in East Jerusalem nears completion [PDF]
By Elodie Guego, Forced Migration Review, September 6, 2006

Israel is close to implementing a long-term plan to transform the demographic structure of annexed East Jerusalem. Policies to revoke the residency permits of Palestinian Jerusalemites and to Judaise the city have been described as ethnic cleansing.

After victory in the 1967 Six Day war, Israel annexed East Jerusalem - that part of the city that had been under Jordanian rule since the end of the British Mandate in 1948 - together with an additional 64 square kilometres which had been part of the West Bank. Jerusalem thus became Israel's largest city and was declared to be its 'united and eternal capital'. The international community, led by the UN, has continuously denounced this act of unilateral annexation, arguing it is a violation of the fundamental principle in international law prohibiting the forcible acquisition of territory. The international community has consistently considered East Jerusalem to be an occupied territory, thus akin to the West Bank and Gaza.

Their support of the Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem was bolstered by the fact that at the time of occupation Palestinians constituted the majority of residents in this sector of the city. Israel has engaged in a demographic battle to secure Israeli sovereignty over the whole city. For almost four decades successive governments have implemented policies designed to transform the city's population structure and ensure the numeric superiority of Jews. Until the construction of the Wall in and around East Jerusalem, these objectives were pursued through a series of discriminatory regulations to reduce the Palestinian population by rendering their lives increasingly intolerable and encouraging the growth of Israeli settlements in Palestinian neighbourhoods. Today the approximately 230,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites
represent around 30% of Jerusalem's total population. [complete article PDF]
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Senate nixes new restraints on cluster bombs
AP, September 7, 2006

The United States Senate rejected a bid by Democrats yesterday to bar the Pentagon from using cluster bombs near civilian targets and to cut off sales of the bombs unless purchasers abide by the same rules.

In a 70-30 vote, the Senate defeated the amendment to a Pentagon budget bill, which would have blocked use of the deadly munitions near populated areas.

The vote came after the State Department announced last month that it is investigating whether Israel misused American-made cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon. [complete article]
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Shiites submit law to separate Iraq into rival regions
By Sabah Jerges, AFP, September 6, 2006

Iraq's dominant Shiite alliance submitted a draft of a new law to govern the division of the country into autonomous regions, as unabated violence left at least 18 people dead and the authorities said 27 "terrorists" had been executed.
[...]
The United Iraqi Alliance, the dominant Shiite parliamentary bloc, is promoting a "law of regional formation" so that the oil-rich Shiite southern Iraq can win self-rule on the model of the autonomous Kurdish north.

"The law will define how the regions are formed and whether it will be done by the governing council or through popular referendum," said party member Hamid Mualla al-Saadi.

Sunni lawmakers have vociferously opposed the draft law on autonomous regions, saying it is a prelude to a carve-up of the country, which would leave them with just the resources-poor center and west of Iraq.

But in recent days they appear to have softened their opposition, saying they would support the "administrative application of federalism" as long as a strong central government remains. [complete article]

See also, Parliament speaker: Iraq has months to avert collapse (CNN).
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The year of living fearfully
By Fareed Zacharia, Newsweek, September 11, 2006

It's 1938, says the liberal columnist Richard Cohen, evoking images of Hitler's armies massing in the face of an appeasing West. No, no, says Newt Gingrich, the Third World War has already begun. Neoconservatives, who can be counted on to escalate, argue that we're actually in the thick of the Fourth World War. The historian Bernard Lewis warned a few weeks ago that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could be planning to annihilate Israel (and perhaps even the United States) on Aug. 22 because it was a significant day for Muslims.

Can everyone please take a deep breath?

To review a bit of history: in 1938, Adolf Hitler launched what became a world war not merely because he was evil but because he was in complete control of the strongest country on the planet. At the time, Germany had the world's second largest industrial base and its mightiest army. (The American economy was bigger, but in 1938 its army was smaller than that of Finland.) This is not remotely comparable with the situation today. [complete article]

See also, Bush warns of enduring terror threat (WP) and Best defence against terrorism is a split with U.S., say British voters (The Times).
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Appeasing the enemy
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, September 5, 2006

For a moment, forget about the impending risk of the United States falling under the control of an Islamic caliphate, forget about jihadist and Bush administration rhetoric, and consider 9/11 simply in terms of the attackers' targets: The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Capitol or White House. This was an attack on centers of power in the U.S. economy, the U.S. military, and the U.S. government.

Since al Qaeda, armed with box cutters, clearly represented no military threat to the United States in a conventional sense, and since this was an organization whose existential foundation lay in Saudi Arabia (even if its operational base was in Afghanistan), the logical focus of its designs would remain in the Arabian kingdom. Having demonstrated its ability to successfully strike the home base of the infidel force, it would then be greatly emboldened in pursuing its object of pushing American troops out of Saudi Arabia and attempting to drive the Saudi royal family out of power.

If this ever happened under al Qaeda's terms, the whole of the U.S. economy -- not simply icons of the economy -- could be under threat.

In September 2001, it was already clear that if the jihadist threat was to be neutralized, American troops urgently needed to be pulled out of Saudi Arabia. But the troops were there to intimidate Saddam and if they were withdrawn while he remained in power, there would probably be no prospect of him subsequently being removed. From the Bush administration's perspective, regime change in Iraq was the indispensable precondition for troop withdrawal from Saudi Arabia.

On May 1, 2003, President Bush was able to declare "victory." Two days later, another mission was accomplished as Donald Rumsfeld and Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz announced the withdrawal of American troops from Islam's holy land. This might not have been enough to placate Osama bin Laden, but perhaps it would appease enough of his Saudi followers to pacify a looming threat to America's allies in Riyadh and thereby secure the uninterrupted flow of oil from our number one supplier. In early May 2003, it must have looked like everything was unfolding according to plan.

Pure speculation? Of course! But the one thing that we can be absolutely sure about when it comes to understanding al Qaeda and the Bush administration is this: they should be judged not by what they say, but what they do.
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Bush transfers 14 key suspects to Guantanamo
By William Branigin, Washington Post, September 6, 2006

President Bush today announced the transfer to the Guantanamo Bay naval base of 14 al-Qaeda terrorist suspects previously held by the CIA in a secret detention program, and he called on Congress to pass legislation on special military tribunals so that they can be tried for crimes including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In a speech at the White House, Bush said the 14 include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 plot.

He said their transfer "means there are now no terrorists in the CIA program." But he stressed that as more suspects are captured, the continued existence of the CIA secret detention program "will be crucial" in extracting valuable information through interrogations and in preventing new attacks on U.S. soil. [complete article]
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The problems of a mammoth
By Shmuel Rosner, September 6, 2006

Evidently, there is an unbridgeable gap between the Israeli and American attitude to the Iranian threat. About six months ago, in an interview with this writer in Haaretz, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer described the disparity by citing a line by the Czech writer Milan Kundera. "A small nation can disappear, and it knows it." He expressed himself similarly with regard to former president Bill Clinton in the days of Oslo, and about his promise to Israel, that "it would take risks, and we would support."

This is the abyss that cannot be bridged between the consciousness of an American president and that of an Israeli leader: there are risks that a superpower like America can take, but which for a state like Israel are much more complex. There are situations that an American president is unable to imagine, but are practically the daily bread of an Israeli leader, the product of a familiar and painful history.

The moment is growing close, it seems, at which the U.S. leaders are likely to reach that certain point in their attitude to Iran - the moment at which the president's "we will by no means permit" will turn into a traditional capitulation in the form of "the Security Council has again proven that it is incapable of doing anything." [complete article]

Comment -- Here's the bit I don't get when it comes to this way of characterizing the "existential threat" to Israel: If Israel's nuclear weapons only have the deterrent value of being able to wipe out a city such as Tehran (whose population exceeds that of the whole state of Israel), does the fact that millions of Iranians could survive such an attack mean that (in the eyes of Iran's leaders) the losses would be acceptable? That seems to be what Krauthammer and others are suggesting. The wider implication would have to be that in the Middle East, Jews value each other, whereas Arabs and Iranians regard their kinsfolk as expendable.

Shooting the messengers
By Gareth Porter, Asia Times, September 7, 2006

In the struggle over US policy toward Iran, neo-conservatives in the George W Bush administration spoiling for an attack on Iran's nuclear sites have been seeking to convince the public that the US must strike before an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability becomes inevitable.

To do so, they must discredit the intelligence community's conclusions that Iran is still as many as 10 years away from being able to build a nuclear weapon and that such a weapon is not an inevitable consequence of its present uranium-enrichment program. [complete article]

See also, Russia: No military force against Iran (AP).

Groups push for sanctions, fear U.S. will falter on Iran
By Ori Nir, The Forward, September 1, 2006

"Iran's continued defiance of the international community, and its clear role of using proxies to destabilize the region, underscores the need for the [Jewish] community to act forcefully in halting the momentum of Iran's ongoing defiance," said Jess Hordes, director of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League. The Jewish community's efforts "will be broad based," Hordes said, combining discussions with administration officials, members of Congress and representatives of foreign governments.

Some Jewish communal activists are quietly worrying that the Bush administration lacks the resolve and the skill to lead an international effort to isolate Iran and compel the Islamic Republic to give up it pursuit of nuclear weapons. Israeli and American observers are also saying that the United States is increasingly unlikely to attack Iran, favoring an Israeli attack.

Bolstering the administration's leadership and the international community's resolve in the face of Iran’s defiance is "at the top of our agenda," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. [complete article]

War backfiring on U.S., Khatami says
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, September 6, 2006

On the eve of his first trip to Washington, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami warned that U.S. military action in the Middle East has backfired, producing greater terrorism, imperiling the future of Iraq and damaging America's long-term interests.

But the danger of even greater instability in the region will ultimately prevent the United States from launching military strikes against Iran over disputes about its nuclear intentions, he predicted. Although an attack on Iran would create "great damage," Khatami said, "prudence and wisdom" are likely to prevail because of the incalculable "detriment and damage" it would cause to both the region and the United States.

"America will not make the mistake of attacking Iran," he said, adding: "Iran is not Iraq." [complete article]
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The way out is to get out
By Najibullah Lafraie, International Herald Tribune, September 5, 2006

The initial American idea in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 was not to do what the Soviet army had done - not to commit a large force, but to work with allied Afghan militias, a small contingent of Special Forces and massive use of airpower.

But once the military option was adopted, there proved to be no way but to follow the Soviet path.

In the initial stage of the "war on terror" in Afghanistan, which led to the overthrow of the Taliban, less than 450 Special Forces personnel and CIA officers took part.

But before long the United States and its allies were compelled to send in ground troops to pursue Qaeda leaders. By the end of 2005, the total strength of allied forces and the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, was about 31,500.

On a visit to Kabul in December 2005, the U.S. secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, announced a plan to withdraw 3,000 American troops from Afghanistan by the summer of 2006. The "surprising" resurgence of the Taliban, however, shelved that plan indefinitely.

Instead, ISAF under NATO leadership increased its strength to 18,500. At present, the total number of foreign forces in Afghanistan comes to about 40,000. If the situation remains as it is, NATO may be forced soon to commit even more troops to Afghanistan. [complete article]

To achieve security in Afghanistan, Karzai must do a deal with the Taliban
By Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, September 6, 2006

The Afghans beat the Soviets in the 1980s by generating exactly the spirit of nationalist insurgency now fuelled by the brutality of the Nato occupation, especially its casual use of air power. When the Taliban seized control in 1994, they offered the country a sort of order, and even prosperity, based on opium. There is no doubt that they will return, at least to the south. Kabul cannot stop them. Nato certainly cannot. For Blair and Reid, architects of the current deployment, to lump the Taliban in with al-Qaida, 9/11 and the Sunnis in Iraq is an invitation to false strategy. British troops in their £1bn camp in Helmand are as trapped politically as they are militarily. The government is in denial.

Finding a way out of this morass is near impossible. British policy is in hock to Blair's Nato machismo, and early withdrawal is hard to imagine. Since British troops cannot conceivably "defeat" the Taliban, sending reinforcements will merely add to the latter's target list. The present retreat from hearts-and-minds to search-and-destroy may be important for troop morale, but it is the same failed policy adopted by the Americans in Iraq's Sunni triangle. And the Taliban make Iraqis look amateur. They fight as units, are better equipped and have rich allies over every border.

Karzai, besieged in Kabul, knows one thing. He must do a deal with the Taliban as he has with the northern and western warlords. His spring appointment of gangsters and drug-runners as police chiefs and commanders may have appalled his foreign paymasters. But Karzai has only one way to survive outside his capital: buying support from those who can repay with security. In the south that is commanders in league with the Taliban, even if it means Mullah Omar returning to Kandahar. The British could then argue that they have roughly honoured the pledge to achieve security. Either way there is no alternative to negotiation. [complete article]

Pakistan lets tribal chiefs keep control along border
By Ismail Khan and Carolotta Gall, New York Times, September 6, 2006

The central government and tribal elders signed a peace agreement on Tuesday that will allow militants to operate freely in one of Pakistan's most restive border areas in return for a pledge to halt attacks and infiltration into Afghanistan.

The deal is widely viewed as a face-saving retreat for the Pakistani Army, which has taken a heavy battering at the hands of the mountain tribesmen and militants, who are allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But the government may have in effect ceded the militants a sanctuary in the area, called North Waziristan.

In one of the most obvious capitulations since it began its campaign to rout foreign fighters from the area, the government said foreigners would be allowed to stay if they respected the law and the peace agreement. Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda are believed to be among the foreigners who have taken refuge in the area. [complete article]

Comment -- Though it's clear why this is being described as a capitulation, it can just as accurately be viewed as a grudging acceptance of reality. The Federally Administered Tribal Territories (within which North Waziristan is located) have never truly been part of the state of Pakistan. This is a region that couldn't be governed by the British and neither does the government in Islamabad make any greater claims that it exerts control. It is a region along which runs an imaginary line -- the "Durand line" -- supposedly separating Pakistan and Afghanistan, yet as the Pakistan government makes clear in its own description, this is a border that really means nothing to those who live on either side:
The border is inhabited by the same tribes on both sides. Wazirs, Mangals, Gurbaz, Maqbals, Paras, Shinwaris, Mohmands, Safis, Tarkanis and Mushwanis are the tribes note worthy. Under the Durand Agreement same tribes living on either side of the border are allowed free ingress into one another's Countries. Hence no immigration restrictions have ever been imposed, making it a very porous border.
And though many in Washington might not want to trouble themselves by thinking about little geopolitical details such as the above, the one thing that may grab their attention is Pakistan's timing. News about this truce does not suggest that Islamabad has any favor-winning tricks up its sleeve in the form of an October suprise of the "high value" type. If this turns out to be the case, it seems to indicate that they've already concluded there's no point backing a losing Republican horse. Better perhaps to keep those favors in reserve as a reward to dangle in front of the next American president.
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U.S. losing control of al-Anbar province
By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily, IPS, September 6, 2006

The U.S. military has lost control over the volatile al-Anbar province, Iraqi police and residents say.

The area to the west of Baghdad includes Fallujah, Ramadi, and other towns that have seen the worst of military occupation, and the strongest resistance.

Despite massive military operations that destroyed most of Fallujah and much of cities like Haditha and al-Qa'im in Ramadi, real control of the area now seems to be in the hands of local resistance.

In losing control of this province, the U.S. would have lost control over much of Iraq.

"We are talking about nearly a third of the area of Iraq," Ahmed Salman, a historian from Fallujah told IPS. "Al-Anbar borders Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and the resistance there will never stop as long as there are American soldiers on the ground." [complete article]

A third of lawmakers in Iraq skip session
By Louise Roug, Los Angeles Times, September 6, 2006

Iraqi lawmakers returned to work Tuesday, some traveling from the Kurdish north, others from the Sunni Arab west or the Shiite south.

About one-third didn't show up.

After a monthlong vacation, the large number of no-shows at a short parliamentary session prompted dismay among colleagues and created confusion about voting rules.

"No more orphans, no more widows," Mahmoud Mashadani, speaker of parliament and a Sunni Arab, declared in his opening statement, in front of rows of empty chairs. [complete article]
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Learning Lebanon's lessons, once again
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, September 6, 2006

Lebanon is in the peculiar situation of having to rebuild after the 34-day war between Hizbullah and Israel while it is still in the process of rebuilding after the 15-year-long Civil War of 1975-90. Will this time around be different, and not lead to another war in a few years? Will the political balance between Lebanon's 18 officially recognized confessional and sectarian groups regain sufficient equilibrium and stability to drive a long-term economic revival anchored in serious political reform?

To find out, I went to the person who had literally written the book on this subject. By coincidence, as the latest war broke out I had been completing a recently published book about war and economics in Lebanon by the respected Lebanese economist and American University of Beirut professor Samir Makdisi, who also once served as minister of national economy in 1992. [complete article]

See also, Israel to lift Lebanon blockade (BBC), Turkey agrees to deploy troops in south Lebanon (AP), and Senators seek curb on cluster bombs (The Forward).

Gerry Adams: Law limiting family reunification is a 'terrible thing'
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz, September 6, 2006

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams on Wednesday slammed Israeli legislation that makes it difficult for Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs to gain legal status in Israel as a "terrible thing."

Speaking during a meeting with the deputy Knesset speaker, MK Ahmed Tibi, at his East Jerusalem hotel, Adams also called criticized the law that restricts Palestinian appeals for compensation for damage resulting from military operations.

Adams arrived Tuesday night for a visit to the Palestinian territories, following an invitation from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He is expected to meet Wednesday with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas. [complete article]

More than Shalit at stake
By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz, September 6, 2006

Israel is now determined to resist linking two separate cases - that of Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas; and that of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were taken by Hezbollah. Political sources say they are unaware of any information that would suggest Shalit has been transferred to Egypt into the hands of mediators for the Egyptian intelligence services. Intelligence sources, on the other hand, merely say they cannot confirm or deny the report, which appeared in Al-Hayat over the weekend. It is apparent a deal to free Shalit is not yet close to fruition - Olmert has not asked his military advisers to start drawing up a list of Palestinian prisoners who could be released as part of the deal.

While the deal does not seem to be close, there is a growing consensus that if some agreement is reached, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, rather than Hamas, should be allowed to take the credit for freeing Palestinian prisoners. One of the lessons of the previous deal - and something military chiefs complained bitterly about at the time - is that Israel failed to make a goodwill gesture to Abbas in order to strengthen his position within the PA. In retrospect, it is now widely believed that the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip should have been coordinated with Abbas, rather than carried out as a unilateral move that was interpreted by the Palestinians as a withdrawal.

It is clear that Israel must act fast if it wants to cut a deal with Egypt, Abbas and, indirectly, Hamas. Negotiations over the release of Shalit will impact on Damascus, where Hamas' political chief, Khaled Meshal, is in exile. Representatives of the Red Cross and a Turkish envoy have met with him there; one of the meetings was even held at Bashar Assad's presidential palace. Meshal insisted that many Palestinian prisoners be released as part of any deal, but has also said he would be willing for these prisoners to be freed at a later stage. [complete article]
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Even Jordanians seethe with hatred for the West
By Tim Butcher, The Telegraph, September 6, 2006

...Monday's killing should teach us that the existence of good links between a country's elite and the West does not necessarily reflect how the rest of the country feels. And in a country such as Jordan, where more than half of the population are of Palestinian stock and many live in acute poverty, a pro-Western view is far from a given.

Until recently, the two great currents of socio-political development in the modern Middle East have been traditional tribalism versus secular nationalism. Crudely put, it has been the battle of the sheikhs and the presidents.

But an even greater undertow has been felt in recent years with the rise of political Islam. For decades it has been dismissed as a minority, often militant, influence. But the electoral successes of Hamas in the West Bank and of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have shown it as much more mainstream. The sheikhs and presidents might not like it, but they are in danger of being muscled out of the way by the imams. [complete article]
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Wrong path on North Korea
By Donald Gregg and Don Oberdorfer, Washington Post, September 6, 2006

The Bush administration is preparing to implement a new set of comprehensive sanctions against North Korea in response to its recent ballistic missile tests. This would be a grave mistake, likely to lift the already dangerous situation on the Korean Peninsula to a new level of tension. Imposing such sanctions at this time could bring about more of the very actions the United States opposes. They should be reconsidered before lasting damage is done.

U.S. allies and friends in Northeast Asia, including South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, have been notified of the impending actions. These governments have participated along with Washington in the stalled regional talks with North Korea aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program. With the possible exception of Japan, these friendly governments believe that a major new drive to further isolate the Pyongyang regime would be a move in the wrong direction.

The only path to success with North Korea is negotiation, which President Bush and others have endorsed on many occasions. What is needed is sustained engagement to persuade Pyongyang to return to the regional talks and cease its confrontational actions -- not new sanctions that will make such a course even more difficult. [complete article]
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Candidates of both parties turn criticism of Rumsfeld into political chorus
By Adam Nagourney and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, September 6, 2006

Democrats and at least some Republicans appear to agree on one thing as the election approaches: Attacking Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is a way to lift them to victory.

For Democrats, the calculation is clear. They have begun a concerted effort, including pressing for a no-confidence vote on Mr. Rumsfeld in Congress this week, to portray him as the embodiment of what has gone wrong in Iraq.

For a small but growing number of Republicans, attacking Mr. Rumsfeld is a way to criticize how the war has been conducted without turning against the war itself. [complete article]
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The "new Orientalism"
By Alastair Crooke, Bitterlemons, August 31, 2006

The global "war on terror" has allowed western leaders to cast "our" struggle as one for civilization itself--"we" have values, they have none, we want to spread democracy, they hate our freedoms. The West is now defined by its opposition to terrorism and as a defender of civilization. The war on terrorism has transformed orientalism, from a European-based vision of modernity that could be used to "domesticate" non-Europeans, into a program that establishes a frontier between "Civilization" and "the new Barbarism".

The new "Orientalism" offers us new political tools. Since the "new barbarians" live outside of civilization, civilized rules no longer apply to them: if "they" win elections they can still not be part of "us"--office holders and parliamentarians can be abducted and interned without a murmur; members of "barbarian" movements can be arrested and taken away for imprisonment and torture in other countries, and barbarian leaders, whether or not legitimately elected, can be assassinated at the pleasure of western leaders. They "abduct" us, we "arrest" them.

The underpinning of our worldview is based on our idea of what constitutes the legitimate use of power--and, therefore, on the use of violence. It is the bedrock of the Enlightenment. Violence practiced by the nation state is legitimate; violence used by non-state actors is a threat to civilization and the existing world order. The barbarians do not have resistance movements, they are not for liberation, and they are not fighting oppression. To admit so is to admit that we are oppressors, and that cannot be. They are not fighting for their homes: they are "unauthorized armed groups".

Non-state actors who use violence--defined now as "terrorists" in the new lexicon of the Bush-Blair world view--face a double proscription: not only are they outside of civilization and undeserving of having civilized standards applied to them (such as respect toward elected representatives), they are excluded from international law too. Their challenge to "our" Westphalian rules on the use of violence permits us to cast them as barbarians and outlaws. Nor are we constrained by our own rules of war in the military struggle to be waged against them. Why are we bombing them? Because they don't have our values. [complete article]
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9/11: Katrina started at Ground Zero
By David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, TomDispatch, September 5, 2006

One of the great ironies of 9/11 will pass unnoticed in the various memorials and remembrances now descending upon us: In the wake of the attacks, as the Bush administration claimed it was gearing up to protect us against any further such moments by pouring money into the Pentagon and the new Department of Homeland Security, its officials were also reorienting, privatizing, militarizing, and beginning to functionally dismantle the very public health system that made the catastrophe of 9/11 so much less disastrous than it might have been.

It took no time at all for the administration to start systematically undercutting the efforts of experienced health administrators in New York and at the national Centers for Disease Control. By pressing them to return the city to "normal" and feeding them doctored information about dust levels -- ignoring scientific uncertainties about the dangers that lingered in the air -- the administration lied to support a national policy of denial. [complete article]
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Political Islam takes center stage since 9-11
By Andrew Hammond, Reuters, September 5, 2006

"The rise of political Islam in the Middle East, to which the United States and Western governments contributed, only became noticed after September 11 with those attacks," AbuKhalil said.

"The underlying causes for the rise of Islamist movements are non-religious in nature. It's about foreign policy and the stand against corruption and tyranny," he said.

Fred Halliday, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, also pointed to nationalism and the discrediting of past ideologies that have failed in the domestic and foreign arena.

"9-11 was a very important event, but I don't actually think in terms of Islamism in the Middle East it is the main event," he said.

"Political Islam uses a lot of nationalist ideas and themes. Bin Laden says countries are occupied by foreigners and have the right to fight. With him, Hamas or Hizbollah, 80 percent of the rhetoric is secular nationalism reconfigured," Halliday said, adding that Shi'ite Hizbollah also borrows from communism.

Islamist movements today offer empowerment in the face of U.S.-allied governments who argue that fighting the America-imposed order is futile and that Palestinians should make do with what they can get through talks alone.

Islamists, with their slogan "Islam is the solution," say it doesn't have to be that way.

Saudi cleric Saleh bin Humaid captured the zeitgeist during Friday prayers in Mecca this month.

"We are now, with God's will, witnessing a new dawn that implants self-confidence in the (Muslim) nation ... so that it relies on its unity, its people and wise policies rather than on international organizations and resolutions," he said. [complete article]

See also, The world after 9/11 (Seymour M. Hersh, Jon Lee Anderson, and George Packer).
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Iran 'accepts two-state answer' in Mideast
By Guy Dinmore and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Financial Times, September 4, 2006

Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s former president, says Iran would accept a Palestinian state “ready to live alongside Israel” if the elected Hamas government freely adopted such an outcome.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Khatami, a reformist, distanced himself from the hardline statements expressed by Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, his fundamentalist successor, who has called the Holocaust a myth and said Israel should be removed from the map by the Palestinians.

Mr Khatami, a cleric and the most senior Iranian politician to visit the US since the 1979 Islamic revolution, is on a 12-day, private speaking tour. At the weekend he addressed the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America near Chicago, where 13,000 mostly American Muslims greeted him with a standing ovation. [complete article]

See also, 'America's aggression is fuelling extremism', says Khatami (Robert Fisk).
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An Afghan symbol for change, then failure
By David Rhode, New York Times, September 5, 2006

It began last summer.

On a July morning, Taliban gunmen shot dead the province's most powerful cleric as he walked to the main city mosque to lead morning prayers. Five months later, they executed a teacher at a nearby village school as students watched. The following month, they walked into another mosque and gunned down an Afghan engineer working for a foreign aid group, shooting him in the back as he pressed his forehead to the ground and supplicated to God.

This spring and summer, the slow and methodical siege of this southern provincial capital intensified. The Taliban and their allies set up road checkpoints, burned 20 trucks and slowed the flow of supplies to reconstruction projects. All told, in surrounding Helmand Province, five teachers, one judge and scores of police officers have been killed. Dozens of schools and courts have been shuttered, according to Afghan officials.

"Our government is weak," said Fowzea Olomi, a local women's rights advocate whose driver was shot dead in May and who fears she is next. "Anarchy has come." [complete article]

Opium war jeopardising Afghan future, report says
By James Sturcke, The Guardian, September 5, 2006

British and US efforts to decimate the opium industry in Afghanistan have "hijacked" nation-building attempts in the country, and are driving support for the Taliban, a report said today.

The highly critical study of the five years since the US-led invasion found that Afghans are starving to death despite international donor pledges and that the foreign military presence was "fuelling resentment and fear" among the local population.

The report, by the Senlis Council, an international policy thinktank, said that the US-led international community had "failed to achieve stability and security" in the war-torn country and that attacks were perpetuated on a daily basis. [complete article]

See also, Opium harvest at record level in Afghanistan (NYT).

Pakistan 'Taleban' in peace deal
BBC News, September 5, 2006

Pakistan has signed a deal with pro-Taleban militants on the Afghan border aimed at ending years of unrest.

The North Waziristan accord calls on tribesmen to expel foreign militants and end cross-border attacks in return for a reduced military presence.

Tens of thousands of Pakistani troops are fighting foreign Islamic militants and their local supporters in the country's restive tribal belt. [complete article]

New assault takes big toll on Taliban, NATO says
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times, September 4, 2006

NATO and Afghan forces encountered fierce resistance from Taliban rebels on Sunday in a new offensive in southern Afghanistan, where four Canadian soldiers were killed and several were wounded in the fighting, officials said.

A NATO spokesman, Mark Laity, said that reports from the field estimated that as many as 200 Taliban fighters were killed Sunday, with 80 people captured by Afghan troops. Casualty figures for the Taliban, in particular, have been impossible to confirm, but, if true, the toll would be one of the highest in what has been months of intensifying battles in the south. [complete article]
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Reporting Lebanon: Look who's fair and balanced
By Lawrence Pintak, Daily Star, September 5, 2006

The summer of 2006 marked an important milestone for Arab media. Israel and Hizbullah were locked in a bitter conflict that would claim the lives of more than 150 Israelis and over 1,000 Lebanese - a third of them children. Each day brought brutal new images of civilian casualties.

On American television, leading journalists, such as CNN's star presenters Anderson Cooper and John Roberts, regularly referred to Hizbullah as "terrorists" or a "terrorist militia," without bothering to attribute the label to Israeli or US sources. But on the news broadcasts of the Arab world's dominant all-news channels, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyya, such polarizing language was rarely heard.

The irony, of course, is that Al-Jazeera was condemned by the Bush administration for using terms like "martyr," "aggression" and "terrorism" in describing the US invasion of Iraq. Arab journalists should be "unbiased" like their colleagues in America, was the constant refrain from Washington.

"The words 'terror' and 'terrorist' are not in our dictionary," Ahmed Sheikh, Al-Jazeera's chief editor, told me in late summer, as a shaky cease-fire took hold in Southern Lebanon. "We only use them when we are quoting someone."

Nor was a dead civilian or fighter referred to as shaheed, Arabic for "martyr." Such terms are still bandied about on Al-Jazeera's talk shows, which tend to resemble the cable shout-fests in the US, but they have been officially exiled from news reports. [complete article]
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Qatar pledges troops for Lebanon
BBC News, September 4, 2006

Qatar has become the first Arab state to commit troops to a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon by offering 200 to 300 military personnel.

Qatar's foreign minister said the small force showed Arab support for a UN truce resolution last month that ended five weeks of fighting in Lebanon. [complete article]

Israeli minister rules out Syria talks
By Mark Lavie, AP, September 3, 2006

Israel's foreign minister on Sunday ruled out peace talks with
Syria for now, saying Damascus must first end its support for Lebanese and Palestinian extremists.

Tzipi Livni told Israel's Channel 10 TV a move to open peace talks with Syria now would disrupt efforts to stabilize Lebanon after a 34-day war between Israel and the Hezbollah guerrillas.

"The tools are in place to free Lebanon from Syria," she said. "To add other Syrian interests to this 'salad,' if you'll pardon the expression, would in my opinion complicate a process that is acceptable to everyone." [complete article]

See also, Olmert to Knesset defense panel: We'd use more force in war with Syria (Haaretz).

Lebanon seeks to reassert sovereignty over borders
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, September 5, 2006

The Lebanese government sought to reassert authority over its air and sea borders Monday in the face of a seven-week-old Israeli blockade.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said he would take up a German offer to help patrol the waters off Lebanon and seal the land border with Syria only after agreement on operating rules that make clear that the Lebanese military is in charge. His position flew in the face of an Israeli demand that international troops be the ones who guarantee that transport in and out of the country does not include weapons or other supplies for the Hezbollah militia.

In Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said Monday that he would choose a negotiator to mediate between Hezbollah and Israel to win the release of two Israeli soldiers whose capture on July 12 triggered 33 days of war in Lebanon. Israeli officials, however, said Annan had agreed to seek the soldiers' unconditional release and insisted that negotiations were out of the question. [complete article]

See also, War fails to dim Hizbullah's beacon (The Guardian) and Al-Qaeda member: Hizbullah backed by evil (Ynet).
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Hamas on the brink of deal to lead new coalition in move to end funding crisis
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, September 5, 2006

Rival Palestinian factions are close to forming a new power-sharing government which the militant group Hamas expects to lead, the Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said yesterday.

A national unity government is intended to lift the international freeze on funding to the Palestinian Authority, which has left it facing an economic crisis and a wave of strikes by thousands of unpaid civil servants.

But Hamas officials say even in a new joint government with its main political rival, Fatah, the movement will not give explicit recognition to Israel - one of the conditions set by the international community for funding to resume.

Mr Haniyeh, whose Hamas movement won a surprise victory in elections in January, told the Guardian that his party would not give up leadership of the government. "The majority in the parliament will head the government," he said. [complete article]

Across Palestinian territories, support for Hamas erodes
By Joshua Mitnick, Christian Science Monitor, September 5, 2006

On the first day of the Palestinian school year Saturday, Ali Abu Dayeh had abandoned his high school classroom for a falafel stand in central Ramallah.

Eight months ago, the Arabic teacher helped the militant Islamist group Hamas win a majority in the Palestinian parliament, but this weekend Abu Dayeh joined tens of thousands of Palestinian teachers in a civil servant strike to protest the government's failure to pay salaries for the last half year.

"Hamas started with an agenda of reform and change. This program clashed with reality," he says. "Every government needs a political program, but this government has thrown its hands up and said, 'Be patient.' No government should say that." [complete article]
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The slippery slope of expulsion
By Amira Hass, Haaretz, September 5, 2006

When a Civil Administration officer at the Beit El military base extended the tourist visa of Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American businessman from Ramallah, and wrote on it "last permit," he did not do so on his own initiative. When the officer issued what amounts to a deportation order against Bahour from the city in which his family has lived for many generations, and in which he has lived for 14 years with his wife and two daughters, he was only the messenger.

When a border official at the Allenby Bridge two weeks ago denied entry to a Palestinian-Jordanian woman arriving with her husband, a young doctor from Ramallah, he was following orders. So were the border officials who did not allow the Spanish wife of R.I. from Ramallah to return with their two-year-old daughter, and those who prevented S.A., a Ramallah-born Palestinian with Swedish citizenship, from returning to his wife, children and livelihood in Bir Zeit. The official who twice denied entry to P.Z., a Palestinian-American who has invested $300 million in the territories and is a senior director of a Palestinian investment company, was also obeying new rules dictated by the Israeli Interior Ministry. [complete article]

See also, The silent transfer: Israel says I've lived with my family long enough (Sam Bahour).
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Olmert backs off from West Bank pull-out with settlements plan
By Amy Teibel, The Independent, September 5, 2006

The government of the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has issued bids to build 700 homes in the West Bank - its largest settlement construction project since taking office in May.

The construction and housing ministry published adverts in Israeli newspapers requesting proposals for the new construction in the Maaleh Adumim and Betar Illit settlements, both outside Jerusalem.

Kobi Bleich, a ministry spokesman, confirmed that the project was the largest so far by the new government, which was elected on a platform calling for withdrawal from most Jewish settlements. Previously, the government issued bids to build 98 homes in other projects. [complete article]
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Iraq loses its voice of reason
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, September 6, 2006

The saddest news coming from Iraq is the decision of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to cease all political activity and restrict himself to his religious duties in Shi'ite Islam. He said this weekend: "I will not be a political leader anymore. I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."

If Sistani lives up to his word, this means silencing the loudest - and only - remaining voice of reason and moderation in Iraqi politics. This is the same man who used his paramount influence to silence the guns of two Shi'ite insurgencies in 2004. He then wisely ordered his supporters to vote in last years national elections, claiming that it was a "religious duty" to join the political process and jump-start democratic life in Iraq.

This same wise man, who is a democrat at heart, insisted that women, too, must have their say in politics and that they should vote in elections. If their husbands, brothers or fathers forbade them from voting, then it was their right (as authorized by Sistani) to say no and to head to the ballots without approval (something frowned on among conservative Muslims). [complete article]

Iraq's inflation rate hits 70 percent, planning minister says
AP, September 3, 2006

Iraq's inflation rate has soared to reach nearly 70 percent, the country's planning minister said Sunday.

The inflation rate from July 2005 to July 2006 stood at 69.6 percent, Ali Baban said.

"This indicates that inflation not just increased, but it is out of control," he said. [complete article]

Troops cut death, but not fear, in Baghdad zone
By Damien Cave, New York Times, September 4, 2006

Three weeks after American and Iraqi troops began searching, fortifying and patrolling Dora, one of Baghdad's bloodiest neighborhoods, the odor of death on the streets has eased. After 126 bodies surfaced in Dora in July, only 18 turned up in August, according to United States military figures. Killings, most often Sunni against Shiite or vice versa in this mixed neighborhood, dropped as well: 14 were reported last month, down from 73 in July.

But in a country long on disappointment and short on hope, Dora represents only the embryo of progress. It was the first of several violent neighborhoods covered by a new Baghdad security plan -- which seeks to create walled-in sanctuaries where economic development can grow in an environment of safety -- and American and Iraqi officials are still struggling to make residents feel safe enough to let their children play in the streets. [complete article]
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Her Majesty's man in Tashkent
By Craig Murray, Washington Post, September 3, 2006

The courtroom provided a telling introduction. I had recently arrived as British ambassador in Uzbekistan's old Silk Road capital of Tashkent, where I was watching the trial of a 22-year-old dissident named Iskander Khuderbegainov. The gaunt young man was accused with five other Muslims of several crimes, including membership in a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda. The six sat huddled in a cage guarded by 14 Kalashnikov-wielding soldiers. The judge made a show of not listening to the defense, haranguing the men with anti-Islamic jokes. It looked like a replay of footage I'd seen of Nazi show trials.

The next day, an envelope landed on my desk; inside were photos of the corpse of a man who had been imprisoned in Uzbekistan's gulags. I learned that his name was Muzafar Avazov. His face was bruised, his torso and limbs livid purple. We sent the photos to the University of Glasgow. Two weeks later, a pathology report arrived. It said that the man's fingernails had been pulled out, that he had been beaten and that the line around his torso showed he had been immersed in hot liquid. He had been boiled alive.

That was my welcome to Uzbekistan, a U.S. and British ally in the war on terror. Trying to tell the truth about the country cost me my job. Continuing to tell the truth about it dragged me into the Kafkaesque world of official censorship and gave me a taste of the kind of character assassination of which I once thought only a government like Uzbekistan's was capable. [complete article]

See also, Banned in Britain (Washington Post).
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British seize 16 in anti-terror raids
By Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post, September 3, 2006

Authorities arrested 16 people early Saturday in two unrelated anti-terrorism operations in London and Manchester, reflecting growing concern over the threat of homegrown Islamic extremism in Britain.

The larger operation, in London, resulted in the arrests of 14 suspects, including some who were seized when police raided a Chinese restaurant south of the Thames River. Scores of police officers backed by helicopters also searched the 54-acre grounds of an Islamic school in a village southeast of London.

Police said the arrests of two suspects in Manchester were unrelated to the London arrests.

Officials said neither operation was connected to the investigation of an alleged plot to bomb U.S.-bound airliners, in which police arrested 25 suspects last month -- 15 of whom have been charged with terror-related offenses -- nor to the probe into the July 2005 attacks on the London public transportation system in which 52 passengers and four bombers were killed. [complete article]

See also Young Muslims held in terror camp crackdown (The Observer).
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Suspects in German plot angry over drawings?
AP, September 2, 2006

The prime suspects in the failed attempt to blow up two German trains were partially motivated by anger over the recent publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons, a leading investigator said in an interview released Saturday.

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten first published the 12 cartoons in September 2005, including one showing Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb.

Some of the caricatures were republished in German newspapers and other European media months later, sparking protests across the Muslim world, where many considered the cartoons a violation of traditions prohibiting images of their prophet. [complete article]
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Reading the Holocaust cartoons in Tehran
By Roya Hakakian, New York Times, September 4, 2006

In Persia, the land of Queen Esther, whose virtue overcame evil, one could, by wit or by wisdom, overcome every bigot.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rhetoric about the Holocaust may terrify people who don't know Iran. But those who do, find it, above all, tragic. By resuscitating symbols like the swastika and other Nazi-era relics, he is contaminating the Iranian social realm, where such concepts have scarcely existed. No doubt Jews have been mistreated in Iran throughout their long history, but to a degree incomparable to that suffered by Russian and European Jews.

Throughout its 2,000-year presence in Persia, the Jewish community has helped shape the Iranian identity. Some major Persian literary texts survived the Arab invasion of the seventh century because they had been transliterated into Hebrew. Traditional Persian music owes its continuity to the Jewish artists who kept it alive when Muslims were forbidden to practice it. Yet Iranian Jews have had to hide their identity and restrain its expression.

Of all the pain that Muslim Iranians have inflicted upon the Jews, the most persistent is obscurity. We have always been admired for being "completely Iranian," the euphemism for being invisible, indistinguishable from Muslims. We speak Persian. We celebrate the Iranian New Year with as much verve as the next Iranian. Our kitchens smell of Persian cuisine. At our Jewish festivities, we dance to Persian music. In the United States, we have often angered our American counterparts for not wishing to pray in their temples, because we insist on conducting our services in Persian. [complete article]
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Muslims victims of new anti-Semitism as Americans talk of 'Islamic fascists'
By Fawaz Turki, The War in Context, September 4, 2006

The jargon grows more raw and ambiguous. It all began in the media with the facile use of terms like "Islamic terrorism," and "Muslim fundamentalism," "militant Islam" and "Muslim fanatics." And the rest of it.

Then, not to be outdone, legislators on Capitol Hill took to inserting "Islamo-fascism" into their speeches, with one Congressman from the Midwest, who could barely pronounce the word much less expect us to believe he had read Hannah Arendt, resorting to "Muslim totalitarianism." And most recently, in a public statement he made soon after Britain announced it had foiled a plot to blow up aircraft over the Atlantic, President Bush upped the ante again when he said that the US "is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom."

People - including presidents, legislators and media hacks - are entitled to be not so bashful about expressing their convictions in an uncongenial way. It is their constitutional right. The problem here is that when ordinary mortals like you and me resort to a bit of old-fashioned nastiness to express our views about another nation's values, history and faith, it is of no consequence to the broader world. What we say is not likely to be amplified beyond the confines of our limited milieu.

But when presidents, legislators and leading commentators demonize Islam - a faith that is a defining mythology of hope to well over a billion people - the demonization spreads outward in concentric circles of association to touch virtually everyone in society. In no time the terms enter the bloodstream of the native idiom, drilling into it reprehensible habits of perception of The Other.

Dangerous talk

It is not just awfully vulgar to speak, as President Bush did, of "Islamic fascists," but profoundly dangerous as well. The term "fascist" still resonates in the Euro-American historical consciousness, connoting the venomous ideology embraced by Nazi Germany, with its attendant hysteria about the master race and other calculated bestialities.

Islamic fascists? Muslim totalitarianism? When political leaders and opinion writers repeat the monikers, over and over again, these will insinuate themselves into the currency of everyday speech, determining our view of who Muslims are and what their faith stands for.

In 1894, as a case in point, Alfred Dreyfus was found guilty of treason in a French military court. It was discovered later, as is well known, that the trial was a gross miscarriage of justice. But the public debate at the time, with its contortions and fantasies about "Jewish machinations," simply acted as a trigger for the emergence of virulent anti-Semitic feelings that had hitherto lain dormant in French society for a long time.

The new anti-Semitism

Thanks to resort by policymakers and media commentators to irresponsible terms of reference about Islam and its adherents we are very close, in American society, to having a new kind of anti-Semitism - this one directed at Arabs, those other Semites.

To be sure, this posture is not passing largely unnoticed or without challenge, by informed experts in the academic world.

Richard Bulliet, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Columbia University, recently wrote in The Annals, journal of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, "Given the propensities of the non-elite news media to over-publicize, hype, and sell hostility to Islam, we at some point are going to reach a threshold, and it seems not far away, where people no longer need evidence to believe in a generic terrorist threat from religious Muslim fanatics."

Berating Martin Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, for a typically strident speech he had given earlier about "Islamic terrorism," he added: "A speech like this must be viewed as a carefully constructed discourse in which the actual state of affairs is tacitly recognized, but in which the author tries to construct it in such a way as to lead an audience to the notion that there is a penchant for violence among certain Muslims that adequately defines their political stance.

"Islam in this construction is completely secondary. If this kind of rhetoric could be confined to describing a small segment of the world of politically active Muslims, maybe we could live with it. But you can't contain rhetoric like that very easily when our national psyche is in the process of shifting from identifying this person or that group as extremists to beginning to identify Islam as a whole with the subset of violent activists so luridly described in the rhetoric of the press, and in the rhetoric of the government. The tainting of an entire religion and of all of its adherents seems perilously close at hand."

Many idiots

In that regard, what we are witnessing is not a "clash of cultures" so much as a clash if idiocies: the idiocy of terrorists, who happen to be of the Muslim faith - or more accurately, who have appropriated Islam to define their murderous designs - and the idiocy of the neocons, who have their own agenda to pursue, namely, to see a replay of the countless humiliations the West had heaped on the Middle East in modern history, from the Sykes-Picot Agreement to the Balfour Declaration (that formalized establishment of Israel in the heartland of the Arab world), from the French occupation of Algeria to the American occupation of Iraq, and from Washington's support for autocratic regimes in the region in recent years, to its laser-guided-missiles dropped on Lebanon in recent days.

Hot war?

In a piece he wrote for The New Yorker back in 1991, just as the Soviet Union was about to unravel, William Pfaff said: "There are a good many people who think that the war between Communism and the West is about to be replaced by a war between the West and Muslims."

A 'hot war' between the Muslim East and the Christian West? Doubtful indeed. But there is a sense that a confrontation of sorts, a clash of paradigms, if you wish, has surfaced in recent years, and certainly since Sept.11, accelerated by dangerous talk about "Islamic fascists."

The Western world's antipathy to Muslims - to whom Islam is not just a faith but a way of life, an integral part of politics, society and culture - stems from its secular outlook, its belief in the separation of church and state. But the West forgets that that secular outlook is a recent phenomenon in the Christian world. There was a time, not so far back in European history, when Christianity was an equally integral part of Europeans' politics, society and culture.

Muslims "return"

Muslims on the other hand, particularly Middle Eastern Muslims in this case, having failed the challenges of modernity in post-colonial times, betrayed as they were by secular ideologies that proved themselves to be shallow and barren, have "returned" to Islam as a source of political strength and cultural elan, driven as they are by a nostalgia for the absolutes that had defined their sense of self in olden times.

One does not "return" to one's religion in a vacuum, but does so in a time of crisis when one finds no way out, round or through one's malaise. It is no less than obscene to hear people speak, with facile ease, of "Islamic fascists," with the attendant implication being that if you're a Muslim, you are - to one degree or another - a totalitarian bully. These people are better off dealing with how the paradox of modern barbarism, including fascism, all the way from Belsen to Abu Ghraib, sprang, in one intimate way, from the core and locale of Western, humanistic, secular civilization.

Muslims the injured party

Truth be told, it is Muslims who are the injured party in this dispute, if dispute it is, whose dealings with the Euro-American world, over centuries, have been defined by victimization at the hands of expansive imperial powers.

Call Muslims what you wish. But as we do so, let's not forget the intolerance and aggression of "fundamentalist Christianity" during the Crusades and the racial arrogance of "the white man's burden" during the colonial era, or the excesses of "militant Judaism" in our time. When you live in that kind of brittle house, don't throw stones.

George W. Bush should know better than to bandy about a term so ignorant - yes, I think that's the correct word - and still expect to be taken seriously by ordinary Arabs whom his administration is allegedly reaching out to in order to "introduce" to democracy.

Oh, puleeze!

Fawaz Turki, author of several books, including The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile, currently lives in the United States. He has published widely in the American media and lectured at several campuses around the country. He has been writer-in-residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and at SUNY-Buffalo. Mr Turki's work-in-progress deals with the dynamic relationship between culture, language and authority in the Arab world.

(This article first appeared at SaudiDebate.com and is published here with the author's permission.)
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The war on terror, five years on: an era of constant warfare
By Tom Coghlan in Kabul and Kim Sengupta, The Independent, September 4, 2006

Five years ago this week, the Taliban's al-Qa'ida allies made final preparations to launch devastating attacks on America that would precipitate the "war on terror," the US led invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent invasion of Iraq.

Far from ending terrorism, George Bush's tactics of using overwhelming military might to fight extremism appear to have rebounded, spawning an epidemic of global terrorism that has claimed an estimated 72,265 lives since 2001, most of them Iraqi civilians.

The rest, some 30,626, according to official US figures, have been killed in a combination of terror attacks and counter-insurgency actions by the US and its allies. The figures were compiled by the US based National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (Mipt). [complete article]

See also, U.S. winning battles against terror, but may be losing the war (McClatchy).
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Poll: Israelis believed Nasrallah over Peretz
By Anat Breshkovsky, Yedioth, September 3, 2006

Since the end of the war in the north, two main issues have been keeping the public busy: The demand for an account of the failures by the Israeli leadership, and criticism of the press and nature of reports.

A new study, however, buy Dr. Uri Lebel of the Ben Gurion Institute, Beer Sheva University, has found that another problem requires urgent treatment: Israeli PR.

During the poll, entitled "the management of Israeli PR during the second Lebanon war," members of six groups were asked to watch video recordings of Israeli PR in Israel and abroad, and to answer questions. Lebel says he held polls in the past on issues of strategic press, political psychology, and army-media relations. The result of his latest poll show that Israeli PR was so lacking, that in my cases the public was forced to rely on the reports of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Lebel says a good media leader relies on three points – gripping the audience, being watchable, and giving the feeling of certainty.

The participants of the poll were asked who gave the a sense of certainty regarding the continuance of the war, and who was most authentic. The results were unequivocal: The Israeli public chose Nasrallah's speeches as giving it both. [complete article]

Comment -- A good deal of debate on the war on terrorism focuses on the question of whether it is succeeding or failing, yet what seems to becoming apparent to more and more people is that as an overarching approach to foreign policy, the fight against terrorism simply has no credibility. No clearer indication of this can be found than in this report that Israelis found Hassan Nasrallah -- the leader of a so-called terrorist organization -- "more authentic" than Israel's spokespeople.

When George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair, Ehud Olmert, and their representatives, have lost their powers of persuasion in the eyes of the populaces they claim to be defending against terrorism, it's time to end this war -- not through conceding defeat to "the other side", but because no war should continue if its its goals are recognized as unattainable, its presuppositions as baseless, and its commanders as fakes.
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Bush holds to rhetoric of no appeasement as critics fret over failures
By Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, September 4, 2006

Israel's government and public are turning a microscope on what went wrong in Lebanon but, in Washington, US officials reveal no such sense of introspection, saying there will be no internal inquiries into the Bush administration's handling of the inconclusive 34-day war.

Officials dismiss the media pundits and opposition politicians who fret over America's diminished standing in the world and brush aside suggestions that US policies and unconditional support for Israel are fuelling instability in the Middle East.

A Bush administration spokesman told the Financial Times it would be inaccurate to talk about "lessons learned" from Lebanon, although he noted the State Department was looking into Israel's use of US-supplied cluster munitions. [complete article]

Rove's word is no longer GOP gospel
By Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, September 4, 2006

Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, is struggling to steer the Republican Party to victory this fall at a time when he appears to have the least political authority since he came to Washington, party officials said.

Mr. Rove remains a dominant adviser to President Bush, administration officials say. But outside the White House, as Mr. Bush's popularity has waned, and as questions have arisen among Republicans about the White House’s political acumen, the party's candidates are going their own way in this difficult election season far more than they have in any other campaign Mr. Rove has overseen.

Some are disregarding Mr. Rove's advice, despite his reputation as the nation's premier strategist. They are criticizing Mr. Bush or his policies. They are avoiding public events with the president and Mr. Rove. [complete article]

GOP seen to be in peril of losing House
By Robin Toner and Kate Zernike, New York Times, September 4, 2006

After a year of political turmoil, Republicans enter the fall campaign with their control of the House in serious jeopardy, the possibility of major losses in the Senate, and a national mood so unsettled that districts once considered safely Republican are now competitive, analysts and strategists in both parties say.

Sixty-five days before the election, the signs of Republican vulnerability are widespread. [complete article]
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Kurdish leader threatens Iraq secession
AP, September 3, 2006

The leader of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq threatened secession Sunday as a dispute over flying the Iraqi flag intensified.

Massoud Barzani on Friday ordered the country's national flag to be replaced with the Kurdish one, sparking harsh words in Baghdad.

"If we want to separate, we will do it, without hesitation or fears," Barzani, president of the Kurdish region, said during an address to parliament. [complete article]

Maliki insists Kurds must fly Iraqi national flag
By Steve Negus, Financial Times, September 4, 2006

Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, declared yesterday that the national flag should be flown across the nation, countermanding a Kurdish decree that would ban its being flown in the Kurds' northern self-rule region.

The dispute, though mostly symbolic, has the tendency to inflame old tensions over the powers of the self-rule region, in particular its authority over newly developed northern oilfields. "The present Iraqi flag should be hoisted on every inch of Iraqi soil until the parliament takes a decision as laid down in the constitution," Mr Maliki said in a statement issued by his office. [complete article]

In Kurdistan, Iraq seems a million miles away
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, September 4, 2006

The night is young. The women are pretty. Danyar Farok, wearing a sparkly gray shirt and skin-tight acid-washed jeans, and a buddy are strutting along this Kurdish city's main drag.

Maybe they will wind up at one of the outdoor bars in the riverside Sarchinar district. Or maybe they will sit at a teahouse shooting the breeze.

Farok, a 25-year-old high school computer teacher, complains that he and his girlfriend, Medea, can't put together enough money to live together. His artist pal Shakwan Siddik, a 23-year-old with black hair down to his shoulders and sunglasses dangling from an open-collar shirt, is searching for a sunny studio to do his oil paintings.

As for the kidnappings, car bombings, drive-by killings and economic misery unfolding in the rest of Iraq, Farok is blunt.

"I don't care," he says. "The Arabs never cried for us when we were suffering. I'm going to a teahouse with my friend to have some fun." [complete article]
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Knowing better than anyone else
By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, September 3, 2006

"The prevailing assumption is that we know what's best for others, and we are going to use our economic stick to make everyone live in the way we want." This wasn't said by some Californian leftists carrying a battered placard outside the White House to protest its policy of economic coercion. It was actually said in 1996 by Richard Cheney, then chairman of the Halliburton Corp., which was indirectly doing business with Iran. Cheney was furious about the American policy of sanctions against Iran. Now he is vice president of the U.S. and supports sanctions against Iran.

Cheney of 1996 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of 2006 have something in common: They're disgusted by how the world is run by the U.S. And it's not only them. The ideological mishmash that includes the charm of exporting democracy as well as labeling states according to their degrees of 'evil' has become in the best case a cartoon and in the worst, a blood-soaked tragedy in Iraq. The problem is that the marketer of that ideology is the only power today that might be able to block the threat of a nuclear Iran. And there is no choice but to admit that the Israelis are the last party capable of ideologically or politically criticizing the bouncer, even if he looks like a bully and acts like one, too. But the belief in force also deserves examination, precisely because of the feeling that the U.S. doesn't really have a ready answer to the Iranian challenge. [complete article]

If America wanted to talk, Iran would ...
By Michael Slackman, New York Times, September 3, 2006

Many political analysts, Western diplomats and reform-minded people here say a gesture from Washington to Tehran, or more precisely a gesture that demonstrates some degree of respect and openness to Iran, might well be seen here as far more threatening to the leadership than the threat of economic or political sanctions.

"Radicalism has always been supported and strengthened by the West," said Emad Baghi, a former cleric from a highly respected family who heads a human-rights organization here even as he retains good contacts with the judiciary.

In Iran, the term hard-liner is part of the political lexicon, less a pejorative title than a label along the lines of liberal or conservative. In that vein, many Iranians refer to President Bush and his administration as hard-liners. And the conventional thinking here is that hard-liners help hard-liners, with their hard-line policies. [complete article]

Iran's Khatami condemns U.S. policy
By Ian Brimacombe, BBC News, September 3, 2006

Ex-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has delivered a scathing criticism of US foreign policy to an annual gathering of Muslims in Illinois.

He said US anti-terrorism policies were actually inciting terrorism and accused the US of trying to dominate the world. [complete article]
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Who's in the bunker?
By Uzi Benziman, Haaretz, September 3, 2006

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert boasted during a visit to Tiberias last week that while he was touring the northern communities with his head held high, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was holed up in a bunker. The prime minister did not realize that hiding in a bunker is not only a physical state but also a psychological state - and certainly a political one.

The answer to the question of who is under siege two weeks after the war, Olmert or Nasrallah, is not an obvious one. Nasrallah has gone underground, but his leadership within his organization remains firm and his position in the Arab world has become stronger. Olmert's chair on the other hand, is shaky. To tell by his mood, the prime minister's advantage is hardly unequivocal. Is the political distress and depression in which he is mired what he hoped for when he ordered the Israel Defense Forces to open its campaign on July 12?

One does not need Freud's touch to know Olmert would do anything to turn back the calendar to July 11. Today he is engrossed in a desperate struggle for survival, his agenda has changed to the extreme, his mood has become somber, the logic of his government's existence has come crashing down, and his popularity has dived to a unprecedented nadir. [complete article]

See also, Cracks emerge in Israel's coalition government (Daily Star).
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Israel plans for war with Iran and Syria
By Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter, The Sunday Times, September 3, 2006

Threatened by a potentially nuclear-armed Tehran, Israel is preparing for a possible war with both Iran and Syria, according to Israeli political and military sources.

The conflict with Hezbollah has led to a strategic rethink in Israel. A key conclusion is that too much attention has been paid to Palestinian militants in Gaza and the West Bank instead of the two biggest state sponsors of terrorism in the region, who pose a far greater danger to Israel's existence, defence insiders say. [complete article]

Siniora: We reject all Israeli peace overtures
By Eli Ashkenazi and Yulie Khromchenko, Haaretz, September 3, 2006

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday he had made numerous and unsuccessful overtures to his Lebanese counterpart to talk
peace. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's office said no such invitations had arrived and would be rejected anyway.

Olmert said: "How natural it would be if the Lebanese prime minister replied to the many requests I conveyed to him, through different people, to sit down together, shake hands, make peace and end once and for all the hostility, fanaticism and hatred that part of his country feels towards us."

A statement from Siniora's office said: "Nobody has conveyed such invitations. [They] are rejected before they arrive." [complete article]
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Gaza's darkness
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, September 3, 2006

Gaza has been reoccupied. The world must know this and Israelis must know it, too. It is in its worst condition, ever. Since the abduction of Gilad Shalit, and more so since the outbreak of the Lebanon war, the Israel Defense Forces has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately.

Nobody thinks about setting up a commission of inquiry; the issue isn't even on the agenda. Nobody asks why it is being done and who decided to do it. But under the cover of the darkness of the Lebanon war, the IDF returned to its old practices in Gaza as if there had been no disengagement. So it must be said forthrightly, the disengagement is dead. Aside from the settlements that remain piles of rubble, nothing is left of the disengagement and its promises. How contemptible all the sublime and nonsensical talk about "the end of the occupation" and "partitioning the land" now appears. Gaza is occupied, and with greater brutality than before. The fact that it is more convenient for the occupier to control it from outside has nothing to do with the intolerable living conditions of the occupied. [complete article]
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This is the real clash of civilizations -- a brutal war for the bottom rung of Europe's ladder
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, September 11, 2006

[In 2004,] the last for which there are detailed figures, unemployment among Britain's 1.6 million Muslims was three times the national average. Muslim men were especially vulnerable. Their jobless rate in 2004 was 13 percent, compared with 3 to 8 percent for those identified with other religious groups.

Then came the staggering influx of Eastern Europeans. Last week, the British government announced that some 600,000, most of them Poles, had come to work in the United Kingdom over the past two years. According to John Salt, director of migration research at University College London, this is the single largest wave of immigration in British history. Government numbers show that 97 percent of those East Europeans found jobs.

Certainly, not all of them took work away from someone else -- but many did. Indeed, the impact of the new immigrant invasion can be seen on the streets in Muslim neighborhoods across the United Kingdom. A British Muslim of Arab descent who runs a car wash in Hammersmith, in West London, tells a variation on an increasingly common story. He hires Poles and other newcomers, he freely confesses, because "they work hard and they stick around." But "Kam" refuses to give his full name because he fears the anger welling up in the competing communities. "A white Polish person has a better chance than a dark-skinned Muslim at landing a job," he says. "The Eastern Europeans are 100 percent threatening for Muslims. Being Muslim means it's harder to get work. If your name is Mohammad and you speak English, or Richard and you don't, employers will pick Richard."

The London bombings last year and the foiled airline plot in Britain last month have, unjustly but inevitably, raised new barriers of suspicion for young men with Muslim backgrounds. "They have to work much harder today," says Mujtaba Ashraf, a 24-year-old clerk at a corner grocery store in Hammersmith, who is originally from Pakistan. But the frustration fuels anger, opening the way to political exploitation. [complete article]
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I no longer have power to save Iraq from civil war, warns Shia leader
By Gethin Chamberlain and Aqeel Hussein, The Sunday Telelgraph, September 3, 2006

The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war.

Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.

"I will not be a political leader any more," he told aides. "I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters." [complete article]

Top al Qaeda figure in Iraq is captured
By Richard A. Oppel Jr., New York Times, September 3, 2006

American and Iraqi troops have captured a top Al Qaeda figure who supervised the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra in February that set off a wave of brutal sectarian violence, Iraq's national security adviser said today.

In a statement on national television, the adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said that Hamid Juma Faris Jouri al-Saeedi, now the second-ranking Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, had been captured in the past few days at an undisclosed location as he hid among Iraqi families in a residential building. Mr. Rubaie said Mr. Saeedi had been operating near Baquba, north of Baghdad, in the area where the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had sought refuge before he was killed by an American airstrike three months ago. [complete article]

U.S. troops could face death penalty in Iraq case
By Jim Wolf, Reuters, September 3, 2006

A U.S. Army officer has recommended that four U.S. troops face the death penalty if convicted of killing three detainees during a raid in Iraq in May, one of the soldier's lawyers said on Sunday.

The investigating officer, Lt. Col. James Daniel, made his recommendation after finding "aggravating circumstances" in the case, said the lawyer, Paul Bergrin. [complete article]
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Hardball tactics in an era of threats
By Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, September 3, 2006

The crowd was so big it spilled out of the Alexandria courtroom: teachers, parents, the leader of a College Park mosque. Ali Asad Chandia, 29, a bearded man in a crisp, white shirt, sat quietly amid the throng -- a beloved third-grade teacher convicted of supporting terrorism.

"The defendant portrays himself as a mild-mannered, kind individual," federal prosecutor David Laufman told the judge at the sentencing nine days ago. But in Chandia's home and car, he said, FBI agents had found recordings glorifying terrorism, one even asking God to "grant safety to Osama bin Laden."

"That," concluded Laufman, "is who the defendant really is."

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, law enforcement officials pledged an aggressive effort to choke off future plots. People identified as security threats would be charged as soon as a crime could be proven, even if it was well short of a terrorist strike. The Washington area, where seven of the 19 al-Qaeda hijackers spent time before the attacks, became a focus of their investigations.

"Awaiting an attack is not an option," Paul J. McNulty, the deputy U.S. attorney general, said in a recent speech. He described the approach as "preventative prosecutions."

For prosecutors, that effort has been a success: Chandia was the 11th man convicted in what they describe as a "jihad network" in the D.C. suburbs dedicated to supporting military action on behalf of Muslims. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Muslims in the Washington area, even those unconnected to the defendants, wonder and worry about the implications of these cases for their community. Some feel that the prosecutions could increase the stigma Muslims have faced since Sept. 11. And many Muslims say the aggressive law enforcement has been far out of proportion to the offenses, which harmed no one. [complete article]

GOP focus on security issues to sideline other matters
By Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post, September 3, 2006

Congress will return to Washington this week with the Republican majorities in both chambers at risk and GOP leaders planning to turn the floors of the House and Senate into battlegrounds over which political party can best protect the country from terrorists and other security threats.

But in devoting the few remaining legislative days almost exclusively to security issues, Republicans will leave major domestic tasks undone, including President Bush's prized immigration overhaul and long-promised legislation to toughen the restrictions on lobbying after a wide-ranging corruption scandal. No budget plan for 2007 will be completed. Promised relief for seniors struggling with their Medicare prescription drug plans will have to wait. And as many as eight of the 11 bills needed to fund the government will not be passed before the November elections.

That has some Republicans worried.

In Michigan, "the number one issue is the economy," Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) said. "The emphasis they're putting out there now is related to world events and the fact that the national economy is not facing what Michigan is facing. But if you're hungry, you've got less time to delve into international affairs." [complete article]

GOP hopeful says Rumsfeld should resign
By David W. Chen, New York Times, September 3, 2006

State Senator Thomas H. Kean Jr., the Republican nominee for United States Senate in New Jersey, says he is so frustrated with the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq that he is pushing for something that few Republicans have supported: the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In an interview at his campaign headquarters here, just shy of midnight on Friday, Mr. Kean said that he had become dissatisfied over the summer with what he said was Mr. Rumsfeld's refusal to consider "competing points of view."

But what compelled him to advocate publicly for a "fresh face" leading the troops, Mr. Kean said, were Mr. Rumsfeld's recent remarks chiding critics of the war for "moral and intellectual confusion," and comparing them to those who advocated appeasing Nazi Germany in the 1930's.

"By engaging in that kind of rhetoric, this secretary has stepped over the line," Mr. Kean said. [complete article]
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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

On terrorism, Bush maligns history and our intelligence
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, September 2, 2006

Criticize Israel? You're an anti-Semite!
By Rosa Brooks, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2006

Israel's deceptions as a way of life
By Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada, August 31, 2006

Lie by lie: chronicle of a war foretold: August 1990 to March 2003
Mother Jones, August 30, 2006

The final destruction of Babylon
By John F. Robertson, The War in Context, August 30, 2006

Islamists: the tough move from guns to governance
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, August 30, 2006

America's Rottweiler
By Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, August 26, 2006

Putting words in Ahmadinejad's mouth
By Virginia Tilley, Counterpunch, August 28, 2006

Why Bush will choose war against Iran
By Ray Close, Counterpunch, August 26, 2006

Israeli siege leaves Gaza isolated and desperate
By Doug Struck, Washington Post, August 28, 2006

Why it's not working in Afghanistan
By Ann Jones, TomDispatch, August 28, 2006

The war on terror: past, present, future
By Paul rogers, Open Democracy, August 24, 2006
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