|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
No, Iraq Is not Vietnam
By Tony Karon, Time.com, October 21, 2006
Washington has a bad habit of viewing things elsewhere in the world only through the prism of American experience, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the recent comparisons of Iraq and Vietnam. Both President Bush and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman are wrong in comparing the current violence in Iraq to the 1968 Tet Offensive.
There are, in fact, many reasons why Iraq is nothing like Vietnam or any other U.S. experience, but both sides in the American debate over the war have chosen to ignore them. For the antiwar left, Iraq has always recalled the great American trauma of Vietnam, a misguided war of choice that ended badly after a decade of pointless savagery; for the war's advocates on the right, Iraq recalled the great American triumph of rebuilding postwar Japan and Germany. [complete article] Many Iraqis look to gunmen as protectors
By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, October 21, 2006
Behind the maze of men with guns in Iraq is a very simple truth: their barrels offer protection, something Iraqis say the government has never given them.
On Friday, the web wound tightly around the southern city of Amara, where the two largest and best-armed militias, both made up of religious Shiites, were fighting for control of the city.
But when the prime minister speaks of disarming militias -- those mushrooming armies of men with guns that carry out most of the killing here -- Iraqi brows begin to furrow.
"He's just talking," snapped Fadhil Sabri, a 37-year-old generator repairman in a grease-stained shop in Sadr City, a Baghdad stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia.
"Not now. Not even in 10 years. You need arms to defend yourself," he said.
Iraq is awash in killings, and many are blamed on the Mahdi Army, the militia commanded by a glowering Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr. An indignant Mr. Sadr called his men to fight against the American military twice in 2004. It was bloodied, but survived. Since then the Mahdi Army, and a growing criminal breakaway element, have grown into one of the government’s biggest problems and are a major obstacle to the success of the American enterprise here.
Despite its new rogue fringe, Iraqi Shiites see the Mahdi militia as their most effective protector against the hostile Sunni groups that have slaughtered Shiites and driven them from their homes. Shiites say that as long as the government cannot keep them safe, they cannot support the disarming of militias.
That paradox confronts the American military as it presses the Iraqi government to contain militias like Mr. Sadr's: how is it possible to control a militia when trust among Iraqis has vanished and the government is incapable of containing the spiraling violence? [complete article]
See also, Siege of Amarah reflects trouble in Baghdad (LAT) and 914,000 Iraqis displaced by war, U.N. says (AP). Inside the torture chambers of Grozny
By Adrian Blomfield, The Telegraph, October 21, 2006
For six years, the torture chamber lay hidden in the cellars of what had once been an orphanage for deaf children. The residents of Grozny's October district knew about it. They could hear the screams emanating from its sinister bowels.
The Russian authorities who first controlled it, though, insisted that it was just an ordinary prison.
The Chechen government the Kremlin appointed to succeed them denied it existed at all. But when representatives from the Russian human rights group Memorial managed to sneak in this summer just before the building's demolition, the truth was finally laid bare.
The chilling graffiti on the prison's walls, some of it written in blood, gave some of the most compelling evidence yet of what activists had claimed for years: state-sanctioned torture had been carried out in Chechnya, perhaps systematically, ever since Russian forces took Grozny in early 2000. [complete article]
Comment -- When President Bush says that the United States doesn't engage in or condone the use of torture, he's probably thinking of the kinds of brutal acts described here. Yes, there have been no reports of Guantanamo detainees having their ears cut off. But if U.S. officials are going to discuss human rights issues with their Russian counterparts, how exactly do they press the argument that prisoners shouldn't be treated this way? Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the renditions program, and the secret prisons, mean that the United States has effectively sidelined itself as an international defender of human rights. And if the U.S. can't effectively defend human rights, how can it pretend to be an advocate of freedom? Feds probe a top Democrat's relationship with AIPAC
By Timonthy J. Burger, Time.com, October 20, 2006
Did a Democratic member of Congress improperly enlist the support of a major pro-Israel lobbying group to try to win a top committee assignment? That's the question at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, who are examining whether Rep. Jane Harman of California and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may have violated the law in a scheme to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, according to knowledgeable sources in and out of the U.S. government. [complete article] Lebanon's war with cluster bombs
By Saree Makdisi, Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2006
Israel carried out 7,000 air raids and fired 160,000 artillery projectiles into Lebanon, a tiny country. That's about two air raids and 40 projectiles per square mile.
But the punishment was not evenly distributed. Israel's war was aimed specifically at Lebanon's Shiite population. Shiite neighborhoods in Beirut were destroyed, but other neighborhoods remained untouched. Shiite villages in the south were obliterated -- literally wiped from the surface of the Earth — while nearby Christian villages escaped unscathed, mercifully able to shelter their Shiite neighbors.
Israeli officials said this was a war against Hezbollah, that Hezbollah was hiding in the midst of the population. But this wasn't a war against Hezbollah. It was a war to punish the entire population for its support of the guerrillas. [complete article]
See also, Israeli war plan had no exit strategy (WP). Why Israel should grab Hamas' truce offer
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, October 21, 2006
One of the endlessly fascinating and frustrating aspects of the convergence of American politics with Middle Eastern realities is evident again this season: the application of special rules of conduct to Israel that are not applied to the United States itself. One of the most common themes heard in discussions of US policy in the Middle East these days is that Washington should be speaking to the key players in the region - like Syria, Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah - instead of boycotting them.
Even former Secretary of State James Baker has said something to this effect, which is significant because he heads a team looking into policy options on Iraq for the Bush administration. Yet when it comes to Israel speaking with Hamas in Palestine, the same rational suggestions are not heard. Israel remains a state that enjoys unique standards of behavior in the world, both in terms of what it should and should not do. [complete article] Israel and U.S. agree: Now is not the time for talks with Syria
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz, October 20, 2006
A few short weeks ago, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told Army Radio, with regard to peace talks with Syria, that "if it turned out that there was someone to talk to and something to talk about, the idea would be right." On Tuesday, however, after his meeting with U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Dichter sounded somewhat different.
He said he was for talks "in principle," but at the same time presented three conditions amazingly similar to the unbending American ones: the need for the closing down of the terror organizations in Damascus, for cessation of support for Hezbollah and of intervention in Lebanon, and prevention of the entry of terrorists into Iraq from Syria. On the third point, Dichter revealed another element: as long as the U.S. saw a problem with the Syrian channel, "Israel could not ignore it." [complete article] Residents shut out of West Bank
By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2006
Abdelhakeem Itayem, a Palestinian with American citizenship, was counting on a simple overnight stay when he traveled from the West Bank to Jordan on a business trip.
Six months later, he is still there, trapped in bureaucratic limbo.
Israeli officials, who control the border between Jordan and the West Bank, refused to let him return when he presented his U.S. passport at the crossing from Jordan.
"I came to Amman for one day. I had one suit and a change of clothes for one day. And now I can't go back," Itayem said by telephone from the Jordanian capital, where he has rented an apartment while awaiting an answer.
The long delay has kept him from his wife, Lisa, and their seven children, who remain in the family's home near Ramallah, said Itayem, 41. It also has cost him his job as a manager for a Palestinian distributor of foreign consumer goods. [complete article]
Talks could lead to approval of West Bank settler outposts
AP, October 20, 2006
Unauthorized settler outposts in the West Bank would get official government approval under a deal Israel's defense minister is working out, government officials and settlers said Thursday.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz is negotiating with settler leaders on a deal to take down some of the outposts, move others and give authorization to the rest, according to Emily Amrussi, a spokeswoman for the settlers.
The Defense Ministry confirmed that talks with settler leaders are taking place and would continue, saying Peretz initiated them to defuse tension and allow the evacuation of illegal outposts to proceed. [complete article] Who are the Taleban? The question that is snaring Nato in Tribal wars
By Anthony Loyd, The Times, October 21, 2006
Lying in hospital in Kandahar, with shrapnel wounds in both legs and his left arm, Abdul Qarim has had two days to ponder why his wife, two sons and two daughters were killed in a Nato attack on his village.
"If you call our mothers and children 'Taleban' then that could be one reason," the 60-year-old farmer said yesterday. His family were not Taleban they were Tajiks. "More probably though, some people gave the wrong information to the foreigners -- told them we were al-Qaeda or Taleban."
His experience illustrates the big question that dogs soldiers not just in Kandahar and Helmand but in the whole of Nato's Afghanistan operation: Who exactly are the Taleban? [complete article] Ahmadinejad warns Europe of anger in Middle East
By Devika Bhat, The Times, October 20, 2006
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the outspoken Iranian President, has accused Europe of stirring up hatred in the Middle East by supporting Israel, warning that it "may get hurt" if anger in the region reached a tipping point.
While the President has frequently been vocal in his criticism of the US and Israel, he has rarely directed a specific attack on Europe. In recent weeks however, European nations - previously open to the prospect of negotiations - have been hardening their stance towards Tehran.
Last night it emerged that France, Germany and Britain were close to agreeing the finishing touches of a draft UN Security Council resolution on sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its programme of uranium enrichment. Mr Ahmadinejad’s comments came as diplomats said they expected the resolution to be introduced next week. [complete article] Targeting Muslims - the new Inquisition
By Bradley Burston, Haaretz, October 20, 2006
Were I a Muslim living in the West, I'd be mad as hell. Not to mention terrified.
Were I a Muslim living in the West, I'd begin to believe that a new Inquisition had begun. An inquisition aimed at no one but Muslims.
Were I a Muslim living in the West, my wife, or my sister, or my daughter might well decide to wear a headscarf or a veil when she went out in public. [complete article] Hillary ought to know the serious legal ramifications of allowing torture in 'ticking bomb' scenarios
By Rosa Brooks, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2006
Has Hillary Clinton been watching too many episodes of "24," or is she just determined to prove that she really is entirely without principles?
Whichever it is, Clinton hit a new low last week, telling the New York Daily News that the president should have "some lawful authority" to use torture or other "severe" interrogation methods in a so-called ticking-bomb scenario.
These comments appear to directly contradict her previous statements on the Military Commissions Act, which President Bush signed into law Tuesday. In late September, Clinton objected that the bill "undermines the Geneva Conventions by allowing the president to issue executive orders to redefine what are permissible interrogation techniques. Have we fallen so low as to debate how much torture we are willing to stomach?"
It sure looks that way. [complete article]
Comment -- If laws had to be written to cover each chance-in-a-million scenario, the legislative process would be impossibly large. Strange then that the ticking-bomb scenario has had such a powerful influence in the legalization of torture. Stranger still, there's one part of the time-bomb story that always gets left out. This is the way it goes:
Vice-President Cheney: Mr President, I just got off the phone with the FBI's counterterrorism chief in New York. They have a suspect in custody, he's told them he planted a nuclear device timed to go off in two hours but he won't tell them where he placed it. What are we going to do?Torture by degrees
By Anas Altikriti, The Guardian, October 20, 2006
Over the past few years and since the 11th of September 2001 attacks in the US, several hundreds of suspects, possibly more than 1,600, were detained by British intelligence forces and locked up in various prison facilities. Most were held in Belmarsh, giving it the notorious label of being our very own Guantanamo.
Of those held, some for up to two years, only a few were ever charged, and only a fraction of those were charged with terrorism-related offences. While it may be convenient for the security authorities and possibly even government to cite such figures as proof that the tactics and terror legislation employed are working, no one seems to be asking about the plight of the 98% of those suspects who have or are in the process of being released without being charged with committing any offence.
No one seems to be interested in why they were arrested in the first place, how that reflects on our intelligence gathering and security structures, and what becomes of these people once released back into their communities and wider society.
I have met and spoken to a number of such individuals and I have read the stories of many more. It is clear that the experience of being arrested, mostly by brutal, heavy-handed and merciless raids on their homes in the middle of the night, leaves an indelible scar on their lives and on all those who know them. One such suspect told me that his five year old son, who witnessed his dad being held down and beaten severely on the back by four heavily armed anti-terror officers at 4 am in the morning whilst others ransacked the small household, is still afraid of sitting on his lap two years on from his release from his seven month term in a Belmarsh prison cell. [complete article]
Court told it lacks power in detainee cases
By Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, October 20, 2006
Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.
Beyond those already imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, the law applies to all non-U.S. citizens, including permanent U.S. residents. [complete article]
ICRC concerned over new U.S. terror law
By Demetri Sevastopulo and Daniel Dombey, Financial Times, October 20, 2006
The International Committee of the Red Cross raised concerns on Thursday about recent US legislation that creates military commissions to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and redefines American obligations under the Geneva conventions.
President George W. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act this week. Among other controversial provisions it permits the admission of evidence gained through coercion, and prevents detainees at Guantanamo from challenging their detention in US courts.
Jakob Kellenberger, the ICRC president, said the legislation "raises certain concerns and questions". [complete article] N. Korean leader regrets test
AP, October 20, 2006
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il expressed regret about his country's nuclear test to a Chinese delegation and said Pyongyang would return to international nuclear talks if Washington backs off a campaign to financially isolate the country, a South Korean newspaper reported Friday.
"If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Kim was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China.
Kim told the Chinese delegation that "he is sorry about the nuclear test," the newspaper reported. [complete article]
North Korea 'says no more nuclear tests planned'
By Elsa McLaren, The Times, October 20, 2006
The North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a visiting Chinese envoy that Pyongyang would not conduct further nuclear bomb tests, it has been reported today.
A diplomatic source in China has been quoted by South Korea's Yonhap news agency as saying that the leader had "expressed clearly there was no plan to conduct nuclear tests." [complete article]
U.S. and China urge North Korea to return to talks
By Thom Shanker and Joseph Kahn, New York Times, October 20, 2006
The United States and China spoke today in a unified voice to call for the North Korea to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program, emphasizing hopes for a diplomatic solution to the standoff.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was told by the Chinese government that a special envoy sent by Beijing to North Korea had delivered "a strong message." And the Chinese foreign minister, standing beside Ms. Rice, pledged his nation's commitment to breaking the stalemate over the North’s nuclear program. [complete article]
South Korea tells Rice it won't abandon industrial and tourist ventures with North
By Thom Shanker and Martin Fackler, New York Times, October 20, 2006
The government of South Korea told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday that it had no intention of pulling out of an industrial zone and a tourist resort in North Korea, even though the operations put hard currency into the pocket of its government.
During a news conference with Ms. Rice, the South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon, said he had explained "the positive aspects" of the industrial park at Kaesong and described how the tourism zone around Mount Kumgang was "a very symbolic project" for reconciliation between the Koreas. [complete article] Washington's worst-kept secret: changes are coming in Iraq policy
By Tony Karon, Time.com, October 18, 2006
Baker's panel won't offer a magic bullet, for the simple reason that there isn't one. Even if the Bush Administration did swallow its rhetoric and deal with Tehran and Damascus, achieving a consensus on the distribution of power in Iraq between Iran and the Arab regimes would be a Herculean feat of diplomacy — and the political price set by Iran, in particular, might be beyond what the Administration is willing to pay. A phased withdrawal of troops carries major risks; so does partitioning Iraq or turning to a new "strongman" (the latter two options are not reportedly under consideration by the panel, but do arise in Washington debates). Each option carries as many, if not more, perils than prospects of success. But the very fact that the discussion in Washington has reached this point is a clear sign of an emerging consensus that a failed policy must be changed. [complete article]
Comment -- Another name for the strongman solution is Saddam nostalgia. Yet if George Bush was to put a call through to Saddam's cell and said, "I lost, you win - you can have Iraq back," I suspect that Saddam would ask for a rain check. The fact is, the power he wielded has thoroughly dispersed and neither he nor anyone else is in any position to draw power back to the center.
An authoritarian leader is perched upon a painstakingly constructed authoritarian structure and only because we have an exaggerated sense of personal power in our personality-obsessed culture do we imagine that tyranny resides within the tyrant. Bush sees possible Iraq-Vietnam parallel
By Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters, October 19, 2006
President Bush says he sees a possible parallel in the increase in violence in Iraq and the 1968 Tet offensive that prompted Americans to lose support for the Vietnam War.
But the White House on Thursday said the president had not been making the analogy that Iraq had reached a similar turning point. Instead, he was saying that insurgents were possibly increasing violence to try to influence coming U.S. elections. [complete article]
Tables turned for the GOP over Iraq issue
By Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, October 19, 2006
Four months ago, the White House offered a set of clear political directions to Republicans heading into the midterm elections: embrace the war in Iraq as critical to the antiterrorism fight and belittle Democrats as advocates of a "cut and run" policy of weakness.
With three weeks until Election Day, Republican candidates are barely mentioning Iraq on the campaign trail and in their television advertisements.
Even President Bush, continuing to attack Democrats for opposing the war, has largely dropped his call of "stay the course" and replaced it with a more nuanced promise of flexibility.
It is the Democrats who have seized on Iraq as a central issue. In debates and in speeches, candidates are pummeling Republicans with accusations of a failed war. [complete article]
See also, Poll: Half of Americans think Congress is corrupt (CNN).
What the latest violence reveals about the failed U.S. strategy in Iraq
By Phillip Carter, Slate, October 18, 2006
Sectarian violence exploded in Iraq this weekend, with Shiite and Sunni militants openly battling for control of Balad and Duluiyah, two cities north of Baghdad. The violence began with the kidnapping and beheading of 17 Shiite laborers; so far, nearly 100 Iraqis have perished in the fighting. U.S. forces initially held back, giving the Iraqi police and army the chance to pacify the cities. Once they recognized that this approach had failed, U.S. combat troops moved into Balad on Tuesday, conducting joint patrols in an effort to take back the streets. For now, the unrest seems to have simmered down.
Despite having 140,000 troops in Iraq, our military is still forced to play a game of whack-a-mole with the insurgency and militias, because it cannot dominate the country enough to secure every city and hamlet. The U.S. military constitutes a thin green line capable of containing the insurgency when deployed, but it cannot be everywhere. The inability of Iraqi police and army units to retake Balad on their own demonstrates the continuing problem with the U.S. exit strategy of "standing up" Iraqi security forces so we can "stand down." Without a radical change of strategy, the mission in Iraq will fail. [complete article]
See also, General urges new strategy for Baghdad (NYT). Militias splintering into radicalized cells
By Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, October 19, 2006
The young Shiite men, some wearing black masks, glided from house to house in search of Sunni Muslim men. They arrived at the two-story dwelling of Mohammed Hussein clutching a bomb, neighbors said. As his mother stood at the front gate, they detonated it. Shrapnel and glass flew, sending her to the hospital. A wall fell on a neighbor, sending him to his grave.
Hussein, who is Sunni, arrived home an hour later and immediately blamed a man called Aziz Dinar. Residents in this western Baghdad neighborhood of Hurriyah -- in Arabic, it means freedom -- said Dinar heads the local office of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and elements of his militia, the Mahdi Army.
"We know he is behind all the incidents taking place in Hurriyah," Hussein, 29, a civil servant, said with confidence. "He is the one who destroyed our house."
But in an interview, a leader in Sadr's movement in western Baghdad denied knowing Dinar. "This Aziz Dinar does not represent us in Hurriyah. There are other representatives," said Abdul Hadi al-Mohammadawi. "I have never heard of him."
In the void forged by the sectarian tensions gripping Baghdad, militias are further splintering into smaller, more radicalized cells, signifying a new and potentially more volatile phase in the struggle for the capital. [complete article]
One-Day toll in Iraq combat is highest for U.S. in months
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, October 19, 2006
A roadside bombing and other attacks killed 10 American troops across Iraq on Tuesday, the U.S. military reported Wednesday, making it the deadliest day of combat for U.S. forces in 10 months.
The one-day toll, part of what the U.S. military has said is a 43 percent increase in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces in the capital since midsummer, occurred as casualties among Iraqi troops and civilians are soaring far higher than at any previous time in the war, according to U.S. and Iraqi tallies.
Thursday morning, a suicide attacker drove an oil tanker into the Abu Tammam police station in Mosul, collapsing part of the building, triggering a huge fireball and killing 12 people, Iraqi police officials said. Smaller attacks were launched on four other police facilities in the city at about the same time, officials said. In the northern city of Kirkuk, a car bomb targeting a group of Iraqi soldiers in a crowded market area killed at least eight people and wounded scores more, Reuters reported. [complete article] Eleven U.S. soldiers accused of murder in Iraq to stand trial
By Mira Oberman, AFP, October 19, 2006
Eleven US soldiers will be court-martialed on charges of murdering Iraqis, including four accused of killing a raped girl and her family, the military said.
Two of the four soldiers accused in the rape and murder of the 14-year-old girl and her family could face the death penalty, the US army said in a statement Wednesday.
Four other soldiers are charged with murdering three Iraqi prisoners they had seized in a raid and threatening to kill a fellow soldier if he reported what happened.
Three more are to stand trial for allegedly dragging an Iraqi civilian from his home and shooting him in cold blood, a military court ruled. [complete article] Space: America's new war zone
By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, October 19, 2006
The Bush administration has staked an aggressive new claim to dominate space - rejecting any new treaties that seek to limit the United States' extraterrestrial activities and warning that it will oppose any nations that try to get in its way.
A new policy recently signed by President George Bush, asserts that his country has the right to conduct whatever research, development and "other activities" in space that it deems necessary for its own national interests.
The new policy further warns that the US will take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities "and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile" to those interests. [complete article]
See also, America intends to claim a new empire (Stephen Castle). The unlearned lessons of Abu Ghraib
By Christopher Graveline, Washington Post, October 19, 2006
Army Maj. Gen. George Fay, who investigated Abu Ghraib, wrote in his report that "CIA detention and interrogation practices led to a loss of accountability, abuse, reduced interagency cooperation, and an unhealthy mystique that further poisoned the atmosphere." The power of the CIA's mystique to influence our soldiers should not be underestimated. Army guards reported seeing unknown men in civilian clothes dropping prisoners off and telling the guards not to give the detainees identification numbers, contrary to usual practices under the Geneva Conventions. The civilians exuded an air of confidence that suggested they knew exactly what they were doing and that this departure from the norm was allowed. Similar issues were unearthed in the interrogation booth, including one instance of a man dying during a CIA interrogation at Abu Ghraib.
The CIA conducted its own internal abuse investigation but never reported the results to any military authority in Iraq, creating resentment, the impression of a double standard and confusion in the military ranks as to what were acceptable practices. Having strict controls over interrogations and the ability to hold individual interrogators responsible for their actions is another important lesson stemming from abuses seen in Iraq.
Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, an Army interrogator, exploited the ambiguous language of the "harsh" interrogation approach to wrap an Iraqi general in a sleeping bag, tie electrical cords around the bag and sit on the man's chest in an attempt to scare him with suffocation. The general died. (This was not at Abu Ghraib.) Welshofer was convicted by the military of negligent homicide. But given the language of the new law, it is unclear whether a civilian interrogator performing the same actions would be prosecuted, since it would be impossible to prove that the interrogator "specifically intended" to torture or inflict "severe or serious physical or mental pain." [complete article]
One-third support 'some torture'
BBC News, October 19, 2006
Nearly a third of people worldwide back the use of torture in prisons in some circumstances, a BBC survey suggests.
Although 59% were opposed to torture, 29% thought it acceptable to use some degree of torture to combat terrorism.
While most polled in the US are against torture, opposition there is less robust than in Europe and elsewhere. [complete article] U.K. refuses to back cluster bomb ban as extent of use in Lebanon revealed
By Richard Norton-Taylor and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, October 19, 2006
Britain has joined the US, China and Russia to block a proposed ban on cluster bombs in the wake of extensive use of the weapons during the war in Lebanon.
A group of countries, led by Sweden, is urging a worldwide ban on cluster bombs at arms talks in Geneva. Each bomb contains hundreds of small "bomblets", many of which fail to explode until picked up by inquisitive children or stepped on by civilians.
Israeli forces dropped an estimated 1m cluster bomblets in southern Lebanon this summer - 90% of which were dropped in the last three days of the conflict, a new report from Landmine Action said yesterday. The weapons have left a trail of unexploded munitions that is killing between three and four civilians each day and impeding relief work.
In just one month, the UN identified more than 500 areas hit by cluster bombs, the report said.
Richard Moyes, policy and research manager of Landmine Action, which supports the proposed ban, said Britain's refusal to back a ban was "incredible". "Unfortunately, it is not surprising because the UK has been one of the biggest users of the munitions, in Kosovo and in Iraq," he added. [complete article]
See also, Lebanon mines 'continue to kill' (BBC). Iran must be intimidated, says Israeli leader
By Ron Bousso, AFP, October 18, 2006
Visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stepped up rhetoric against Iran, saying the its controversial nuclear program could be prevented through intimidation.
Speaking to reporters following meetings with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, Olmert said he had told Putin that "there was no chance of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear arms if Iran is not afraid.
"The Iranians should be afraid that something they don't want to happen will occur," he said.
Olmert went on to say that "I made it clear why in my opinion it is important that the Iranians are afraid," but he fell short of mentioning what measures that be taken against the Islamic state. [complete article] Olmert pal seeks tough-guy regime
By Gershom Gorenberg, The Forward, October 20, 2006
Under Lieberman's bill, the public would elect the prime minister directly. This would be in place of the current system by which the head of the largest faction in the Knesset becomes prime minister. The new presidential prime minister would appoint a Cabinet without need for parliamentary approval, and could establish or eliminate ministries of his own volition. Knesset members could not be ministers. The bill also allows the Knesset to declare a state of emergency under which the Cabinet could pass emergency orders with the power of law. And "if the prime minister sees that the Cabinet cannot be convened or that there is a pressing need to issue emergency orders, he may do so..."
While the bill acknowledges the existing Human Dignity and Freedom Law, a limited shield of human rights, it includes no further bill of rights.
The bill leaves in place the current proportional method for electing the legislature itself, in which a party receives seats in accordance with its share of the national vote. But it raises the minimum that a party must achieve to enter parliament to 10% from 2%. Ostensibly, that's aimed at reducing the number of parties in the Knesset.
Critics, though, say that the change would eliminate Arab parties, whose combined strength has never quite reached 10%. That goal would fit Lieberman's wider agenda. He also has called for a law that would condition citizenship on taking a loyalty oath. What's more, Lieberman has proposed a sort of territorial compromise plan that would redraw Israel's borders so that major Jewish settlements would be annexed -- and Israeli Arab towns would be turned over to a Palestinian state. When he first raised the idea, he also spoke of "transfer" of Arab citizens from elsewhere in Israel to the new Palestinian state. [complete article] Livni: Lebanon's calls for peace talks prove war has left its mark
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz, October 19, 2006
Following a call to hold peace talks with Israel by a Hezbollah-allied Lebanese parliamentarian, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (Kadima) on Thursday said "if the war [with Lebanon] would lead to diplomatic negotiations with Lebanon, it would secure a major strategic achievement[for Israel]."
Calling for renewed peace talks between Israel and the Arab states, Nabil Berri was quoted as saying Thursday "now is the time to raise the issue to returning to peace negotiations [with Israel]."
"It is possible that now is a very appropriate time for peace talks," Berri told al-Arabiya newspaper while visiting in Paris. [complete article] Hamas warns Abbas not to call hasty referendum
Daily Star, October 19, 2006
The Palestinian government on Wednesday dismissed President Mahmoud Abbas' idea for installing a temporary government of independent technocrats, as Israel widened its offensive in Gaza by sending tanks to take up positions on the Egypt-Gaza border and killing four Palestinians.
Months of negotiations between Abbas' Fatah party and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya's Hamas movement have stalled over the latter's refusal to renounce violence, agree to abide by past peace deals and to recognize Israel.
Abbas said on Tuesday he had to make a decision soon on the future of the government and that he might seek approval for any move in a referendum.
Speaking to journalists in Ramallah, Abbas said he would like to see a temporary technocratic government formed in order to give him and Hamas time to sort out their differences over a national unity Cabinet.
"A government of technocrats would be the simplest and most practical solution," Abbas said, adding that he still favored a coalition Cabinet that would end a Western embargo.
But Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad replied: "This question is not currently the order of the day ... We want a government that includes both political and technocrat forces. There is a large possibility to find a consensus on these two questions, the political and technocratic characteristics, and what this Cabinet should accept on a national and international level." [complete article]
See also, Hamas' most influential leader, Khaled Mashaal, seen as key to conflict (McClatchy) and Hamas "shocked" by global opposition to its power (Reuters). North Korea heads toward hunger
By Donald Kirk, Christian Science Monitor, October 19, 2006
Even as missile and nuclear tests alienate humanitarian aid donors, North Korea is facing a cold winter in which it is unlikely to be able to feed its people.
The danger of widespread suffering raises the critical question of how the world can unite in a forceful response to North Korea's nuclear test - the focus of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visits this week to Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing - and still rescue the North's hungry people.
Compelled to ask for huge donations of food at the height of a famine that killed some 2 million people in the 1990s, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was confident enough last year to order the World Food Program and other aid-givers to leave or vastly reduce their programs.
But the North may again need aid - at a time when missile tests in July, followed by the nuclear test this month, have reduced donors' desire to rush in to help. [complete article] Militants, Musharraf circling
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, October 20, 2006
The battle between Islamists and Taliban supporters and the pro-Western Pakistan government has intensified with the arrest of dozens of people in a massive crackdown in and around the federal capital, Islamabad.
This follows hard on the heels of the uncovering of a coup plot against President General Pervez Musharraf last week which resulted in over 40 people being arrested. Among these were al-Qaeda-linked personnel from the Air Weapon Complex (AWC) of Pakistan, a leading organization in the field of air-delivered weapons and systems. Two prominent names were Muneer Malik and Ali Ahmed Gondal.
Subsequently, two other staff members at AWC, Shakeel Rabbani and Saqib Zafar, were detained, in addition to more air force officers. These arrests have not been made public, but have been confirmed by Asia Times Online contacts who say that more arrests can be expected within the rank and file of the armed forces. [complete article]
See also, Taliban claim victory after British troops withdraw (Telegraph). No matter what the facts say, President Bush insists that we stay the course
By Andrew J. Bacevich, American Conservative, October 23, 2006
To go on the offensive and to stay there: ever since the end of the Cold War, this vision has animated advocates of U.S. global hegemony. The collapse of communism, they believed, had left the United States in a uniquely advantageous position. The imperative of the moment was to press that advantage, to exploit America's unquestioned military superiority, creating a new world order that would perpetuate American global supremacy and ensure the universal embrace of American values.
To proponents of this view -- whether those inside government like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz or well-connected outsiders like Richard Perle or William Kristol -- 9/11 came as a godsend of sorts. With shock, fear, and anger came breathtaking new possibilities. Old constraints fell away. All that was needed was a suitable launching pad.
This is where Iraq came in. Pathetically weak, vulnerable, and suffering under the boot of a sclerotic dictatorship, Iraq seemingly offered the ideal point of departure for inaugurating this new strategic offensive.
No one seriously expected Iraq to become the central front in the so-called global war on terror. The incursion was supposed to be quick and decisive. No one at senior levels of the Bush administration imagined that it might prove to be protracted and debilitating -- nor did any of the neoconservatives or neoliberals who proclaimed the wisdom of President Bush's new doctrine of preventive war and were eager to have a go at Saddam Hussein. [complete article] America has finally taken on the grim reality of Iraq
By Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, October 18, 2006
The Baker report on an exit strategy from Iraq, leaked this week in the US, is as sensible as it is sensational. It rejects "staying the course" as no longer plausible and purports to seek alternatives to just "cutting and running". Stripped of political sweetening, it concludes that there is none. America must leave Iraq without preconditions and hope that its neighbours, hated Syria and Iran, can clear up the mess. This advice comes not from some anti-war coalition but from the Iraq study group under the former Republican secretary of state, James Baker, set up by Congress with President George Bush's endorsement. Students of Iraq studies should at this point sit down and steady their nerves. Kissinger is in Paris. The Vietnam moment is at hand. [complete article]
See also, 9 U.S. troops slain, driving American October death toll to 67 (AP) and Iraq removes leaders of special police (NYT). Will the Democrats blow it again as they did in 1986?
By Greg Grandin, TomDispatch, October 18, 2006
Iran-Contra field-tested many of the tactics used by the Bush administration to build support for the invasion of Iraq by manipulating intelligence, spinning public opinion, and riding roughshod over experts in the CIA and the State Department who counseled restraint. While the original Iran-Contra battle might be termed a draw -- the eleven convicted conspirators won on appeal or were pardoned by George H.W. Bush -- the backlash has become the establishment.
Today, with that establishment shackled to the most ruinous war in recent U.S. history, the Republicans, taking a page out of Oliver North's songbook, decided that the best defense was to go on the offensive, to turn the upcoming midterm vote into a debate on Iraq and national security. Up until the eve of the recent Foley IM-sex scandal, the strategy seemed like it just might be working once again. The Democrats were losing momentum in the run-up to next month's elections, unanimously consenting to a distended military budget, and watching silently as Republicans, with significant Democratic support, revoked habeas corpus and gave the President the right to torture at will.
Foley-gate, along with a cascade of other scandals, controversies, and bad war news, may indeed now give the Democrats the House, and perhaps even the Senate. But already there are reports that, if they do take over Congress, their agenda will have a remarkably 1986-ish look to it: hearings and calls for more congressional "oversight" of foreign policy that leave uncontested the crusading premises driving the President's extremist foreign policy. [complete article] Israel threatens massive Gaza ground assault
By Jean-Luc Renaudie, AFP, October 17, 2006
Israel has ratcheted up threats of a massive ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, amid an ongoing war of words with the ruling Hamas movement which has vowed to teach the army a harsh lesson.
"Gaza should not become a second Lebanon," said Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev Boim on Tuesday, reiterating a phrase used by Israeli leaders recently to mean the territory should not become a bastion of militant resistance.
"Apparently we will not have any other choice but to launch an expanded operation, like Defensive Shield, in order to destroy the stockpiles of weapons and to hit the terrorist organizations," said Boim, a close ally of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Defensive Shield, the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six Day War, was launched by Israel in 2002. It left more than 200 Palestinians and 29 Israeli soldiers dead and some 5,000 Palestinians detained. [complete article] Gaza doctors say patients suffering mystery injuries after Israeli attacks
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, October 18, 2006
Doctors in Gaza have reported previously unseen injuries from Israeli weapons that cause severe burning and leave deep internal wounds, often resulting in amputations or death.
The injuries were first seen in July, when Israel launched operations in Gaza following the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants.
Doctors said that, unlike traditional combat injuries, there was no large shrapnel found in the bodies and there appeared to be a "dusting" on damaged internal organs.
"Bodies arrived severely fragmented, melted and disfigured," said Jumaa Saqa'a, a doctor at the Shifa hospital, in Gaza City. "We found internal burning of organs, while externally there were minute pieces of shrapnel. When we opened many of the injured people we found dusting on their internal organs."
It is not clear whether the injuries come from a new weapon. The Israeli military declined to detail the weapons in its arsenal, but denied reports that the injuries came from a Dense Inert Metal Explosive (Dime), an experimental weapon. [complete article]
Comment -- While the evidence sounds inconclusive, it would hardly seem surprising if the US military enlisted the services of the IDF to test DIME weapons. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory proudly asserts in a "success story" [PDF] that:
AFRL's dense inert metal explosive (DIME) successfully demonstrated an effective mechanism to reduce collateral damage, helping the warfighter to prevent the loss of public support and, more importantly, the loss of innocent life.Just the ticket for successful urban warfare in a location like Gaza! Yet the underlying assumption -- that a weapon with a limited blast radius will minimize "collateral damage" -- is clearly flawed. What seems much more likely is that it will license soldiers to unleash violence in arenas where they might otherwise have exercised some measure of restraint.
As for the idea that these types of weapons are going to prevent the loss of public support -- which public is the military referring to? Americans and Israelis who want to pretend that they bear no responsibility for the loss of innocent life, or those members of the public in jeopardy of becoming collateral damage? Palestinians who suspect that they have become involuntary subjects in a weapons-testing project are unlikely to view favorably the latest version of "humanitarian warfare." Curing the World's oil addiction
Editorial, Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2006
The first step toward curing an addiction is to admit its existence. So it was encouraging when President Bush admitted in January that "America is addicted to oil." But America hasn't been good about going to recovery meetings -- which makes it harder for the U.S. to get the world's other oil addicts to go too.
For China, India, Japan and every other industrial nation, a steady supply of oil is essential to economic growth. And as competition for oil increases, so does the temptation to make it the focus of foreign policy. Bush has warned against the hazards of this approach, and U.S. history -- especially in the Middle East -- is a catalog of its dangers. But he'd be more convincing, to Americans and other world leaders, if his policy more closely matched his rhetoric. [complete article]
Comment -- The addiction metaphor only goes so far. It implies that the problem can be remedied simply by switching from a dangerous "drug" -- "foreign oil" -- to a "safe" substitute -- alternative energy sources. Few seem willing to engage the larger issue: the ecological, social, psychological, and cultural impact of globalized consumerism.
As America imports goods, it exports a value system. According to that value system a nation's wealth and thus its well-being is directly related to the availability and acquisition of stuff -- stuff that makes life better. Not only does that ethos largely go unchallenged but those who have less are systematically and insistently conditioned to believe that they are inferior to those who have more.
Only if we start to look at the ways that we are actually impoverished by our fixation on consumption will there be any possibility that we can develop a sustainable way of life. U.K. targets the veil, and critics are asking why
By Hamida Ghafour, Globe and Mail, October 18, 2006
For the past two weeks, the image of Islam's most iconic symbol, the black veil drawn across the face, has been plastered all over British television and newspapers.
The debate about the niqab, as it is called, was kick-started two weeks ago by a cabinet minister's comments. But it gained new urgency Tuesday when Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair waded in, calling the veil a "mark of separation" that makes others feel uncomfortable.
"Difficult as these issues are, I think they have to be raised and confronted and dealt with," he said during his monthly news conference.
No one believes his remarks and those of others in the cabinet were accidental. Every comment, every gesture by New Labour is carefully considered. But one question was on nearly everyone's mind Tuesday: Why is the British government pushing this debate now? [complete article]
Comment -- Even if there's some basis for claiming that multiculturalism is more of a feel-good philosophy than a real panacea for widening cultural divisions, the multicultural character of Europe was centuries in the making. The idea that Britain, France, Germany, Italy, or any other European country should now be justified in attempting to reassert its "national character" is nothing more than an effort by politicians to pander to those segments of the population who choose to deny that Europe is what it is because of its colonial past.
If Britain's prime-minister-to-be, Gordon Brown, really wants to engage in a serious debate about British identity, a good place to start would be by acknowledging that we are what we are because Britain is a bastard nation. Strip away all the cultural intrusions - from the Romans all the way through to the modern imperial legacy - and there would of course be no such thing as "Britishness."
Debates about cultural integration cannot be honest unless they include a clear recognition of how our Western cultural melting pots emerged. They aren't the product of modern mobility but come from a long-standing sense of entitlement among Western powers that the non-Western world could be plundered for its resources. It's too late to start advocating some contrived semblance of cultural and material self-sufficiency. We haven't even stopped plundering - let alone considered how if ever we are going to repay our debts. Iraq war cost years of progress in Afghanistan - UK brigadier
By Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, October 18, 2006
The invasion of Iraq prevented British forces from helping to secure Afghanistan much sooner and has left a dangerous vacuum in the country for four years, the commander who has led the attack against the Taliban made clear yesterday.
Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 3 Para battlegroup just returned from southern Afghanistan, said the delay in deploying Nato troops after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2002 meant British soldiers faced a much tougher task now.
Asked whether the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath had led to Britain and the US taking their eye off the ball, Brig Butler said the question was "probably best answered by politicians".
But echoing criticisms last week by General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the army, he added that Iraq had affected operations in Afghanistan. "We could have carried on in 2002 in the same way we have gone about business now. [complete article] Election and empire
By Norman Birnbaum, Open Democracy, October 17, 2006
That a market society is conspicuously unable to mobilise the enthusiasm of its exploited and fragmented citizenry for global hegemony (since its citizens are preoccupied with economic survival and a declining living standard) surely has occurred to [the neoconservatives].
That is why they join President Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney in cultivating fear as the predominant cultural and psychological motive of contemporary American life: fear of "terror," of immigrants, of sexuality, of threats from Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and even of the dying Fidel Castro in Cuba. Fear, too, of the refusal of erstwhile allies and friends (the Europeans) to accept American hegemony. The simple-mindedness, crudity and aggressiveness of the bearing and rhetoric of the president are assets. They are indispensable to Bush's retention of his electoral clients among the more unreflective.
The difficulty, for both Bush and his party, is that his arguments no longer seem so compelling. When Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois ran for president against Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, an enthusiastic supporter told him, "All the intelligent people are for you." Stevenson replied: "Not enough. I need a majority." Bush has drawn upon the once limitless reservoir of American ignorance and primitivism, but no longer has a majority. [complete article] November surprise?
By Tom Englehardt, The Notion, The Nation, October 17, 2006
The US-backed special tribunal in Baghdad signalled Monday that it will likely delay a verdict in the first trial of Saddam Hussein to November 5. Why hasn't the mainstream media connected the dots between the Saddam's judgment day and the midterm elections?
Here's how the story was reported pretty much everywhere: "An Iraqi court trying Saddam Hussein for the killing of Shi'ite villagers in the 1980s could deliver a verdict on November 5, officials said, a ruling which could send the ousted leader to the gallows..."
A possible death-sentence for Saddam and his top lieutenants on November 5? Now, shouldn't that raise a few eyebrows somewhere? If you happen to have a calendar close at hand, pull it over and take a quick look. That verdict would then come, curiously enough, just two days before the midterm elections. It's the sort of thing that--you would think--that any reporter with knowledge of the US election cycle (no less of how Karl Rove has worked these last years) would at least note in an article. But no, you can search high and low without finding a reference to this in the mainstream media. [complete article] Rice's North Korea sanctions mission is no slam-dunk
By Tony Karon, Time.com, October 17, 2006
The very fact that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has had to emphasize that she's sure China will actually implement sanctions against North Korea because Beijing voted for them hints at the doubt and discord that persists over the international community's next move. Rice arrives in Tokyo Tuesday at the start of an Asia tour that will take her to South Korea, China and Russia, in the hope of isolating North Korea as punishment for its nuclear test. But despite the unanimous adoption by the Security Council of a package of sanctions largely targeting trade related to North Korea's weapons program, clear differences remain over the broader strategic question of how to deal with Pyongyang. And reports that the regime has called the sanctions a "declaration of war" and may be preparing a second nuclear test suggest North Korea may be paying little heed to the message from the international community. [complete article] Universities urged to spy on Muslims
By Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, October 17, 2006
Lecturers and university staff across Britain are to be asked to spy on "Asian-looking" and Muslim students they suspect of involvement in Islamic extremism and supporting terrorist violence, the Guardian has learned.
They will be told to inform on students to special branch because the government believes campuses have become "fertile recruiting grounds" for extremists.
The Department for Education has drawn up a series of proposals which are to be sent to universities and other centres of higher education before the end of the year. The 18-page document acknowledges that universities will be anxious about passing information to special branch, for fear it amounts to "collaborating with the 'secret police'". It says there will be "concerns about police targeting certain sections of the student population (eg Muslims)". [complete article] Berri accuses world legislatures of 'blindly' following U.S. orders
Daily Star, October 17, 2006
The country awaits Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's return to Beirut as he is expected to start a series of negotiations and mediations to revive the national dialogue, which was frozen due to the 34-day war with Israel. Berri is currently in Geneva with a parliamentary delegation attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union's (IPU) convention, and is expected back in Beirut by late Wednesday.
During Tuesday' session, Berri criticized the 150-member union for "blindly following America's commands."
Addressing the attendants of the IPU, Berri caused somewhat of a storm, saying: "The US gives out orders, and we [international parliaments] comply with its demands ... too bad we claim to be democratic."
When the head of the IPU's session on Tuesday tried to end Berri's speech, but Berri spoke over him, saying: "It is ok. We had 33 days of patience with your democracy, have patience with us for three minutes." [complete article] Israel rejects Syrian offer on the Golan Heights
By Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy, October 17, 2006
The first and last thing that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem looks at each day at work is a large map of the Middle East with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights shaded in distinctive brown.
"This is my territory," Moallem said as he pointed to the land at the heart of chilly relations between Syria and Israel. "This is my life."
In the wake of this summer's war in Lebanon, the Golan Heights have re-emerged at the center of the latest land-for-peace proposal that some see as a chance to reshape regional dynamics. In an unexpected move, Syrian President Bashar Assad has offered to end his conflict with Israel if it gives back the disputed territory it's held for nearly 40 years. [complete article] Abbas lacks majority in Fatah to oust Hamas government
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz, October 17, 2006
Most Fatah leaders are opposed to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' initiative to dismiss the Hamas government.
Consequently, the Fatah Central Committee has postponed a meeting scheduled to discuss the Abbas proposal.
Abbas has spoken repeatedly of the possibility of invoking his right to dissolve the government and in its place, establish a government of experts. [complete article]
Hamas official: Is violence Palestinian "disease"?
By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters, October 17, 2006
A senior figure in Hamas, the Islamist group that heads the Palestinian government, published an article on Tuesday condemning internal violence and questioning whether it had become a "Palestinian disease".
Ghazi Hamad, a member of Hamas who also acts as the spokesman for the Hamas-led government, said he was disturbed by growing factionalism in the Palestinian territories, including recent deadly clashes between rival political movements.
"Has violence become a culture implanted in our bodies and our flesh?" he asked in the sharply worded article, published in the widely read Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam.
"We have surrendered to it until it has become the master and is obeyed everywhere -- in the house, the neighborhood, the family, the clan, the faction and the university."
It was the second time in recent months that Hamad, who is based in Gaza, had written an opinion piece in al-Ayyam critical of Palestinian in-fighting. [complete article]
Gaza arms buildup brings Israeli raids
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 2006
The newspaper headlines here read like a weather report with a clear forecast: The winds of war are intensifying over the Gaza Strip, the central battlefield of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Since late last week, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have killed 21 Palestinians; Israeli officials said 18 were "terrorist" militants. Over the past few weeks, there's been a steady resumption of Palestinian Qassam rocket launches into Israel, most causing no major injuries.
This latest round of attacks comes amid widely circulated Israeli reports of a buildup of more sophisticated weapons in Gaza, which could put nearby Israeli communities in the line of fire.
But the return of the violent volley, which crescendoed into outright warfare last June following the capture of an Israeli corporal by Palestinian militants, could be different this time. The lessons of the war between Israel and Hizbullah this summer have led the Israeli establishment to some new conclusions: Waiting while a neighbor arms itself is out; preemptive attacks may be the new norm.
"Israel cannot afford to let Gaza turn into a southern Lebanon," says Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv. "The link is that the longer Israel waits, the more likely that they'll have the same abilities for longer-range and better weapons in Gaza." [complete article]
Comment -- The suggestion that Hamas is about to follow in Hezbollah's footsteps is cynical political rhetoric from the Israelis and they know it. Whereas Southern Lebanon has a topography perfectly suited to the construction of underground bunkers and concealing rocket launchers, there is no parallel in Gaza's flat and sandy terrain. Hamas is not about to become Hezbollah, but Gaza is dangerously close to turning into Mogadishu -- something that Israelis should fear much more than any weapon of mass destruction. Families flee Iraqi river towns on 4th day of sectarian warfare
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Muhanned Saif Aldin, Washington Post, October 17, 2006
Families fled in search of safety Monday as open warfare raged for a fourth day between Shiite militias and armed Sunni men in Tigris River towns north of Baghdad. Militias allied with Iraq's Shiite-led government held sway in Balad city, forcing out Sunni families and leaving the bodies of slain Sunni men to rot in the streets, according to police, residents and hospital officials.
The Iraqi government deployed still more reinforcements to try to calm the embattled towns and hold open the main roads, Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Kareem al-Kinani said in the capital. But local police officers accused Shiite-dominated government police forces of working alongside Shiite militias in executing Sunnis and appealed for more help.
The escalating violence in the Tigris River towns in many ways serves as a microcosm of the daily violence roiling Iraq. Sectarian attacks have increased more than tenfold since the start of the year and now claim more than 100 victims a day, according to the Iraqi government.
The violence in Balad was unusual because of the sustained deployment of the militias on the streets, and the killing seemed particularly vicious. Balad was "under siege from all sides," police 1st Lt. Bassim Hamdi said by telephone from the city. "We demand that leaders from both sides intervene to stop the bloodshed. Because if this goes on, it will explode sectarian violence all over Iraq." [complete article]
U.S. officials undermine Baghdad, leader says
By Paul Richter and Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2006
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki told President Bush on Monday that U.S. officials have been undermining his government, and sought reassurance that the administration was not preparing to abandon him.
During a 15-minute morning phone call, Maliki said he was concerned that U.S. officials had openly suggested imposing a two-month deadline for him to gain control of militias and quell sectarian violence, said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.
Maliki said that calls for such a deadline, and proposals for a three-way partition of Iraq, "were undermining his government," Snow said. [complete article]
See also, More than 3,000 Iraqi police sacked: ministry spokesman (AFP). Iraqis ask why U.S. forces didn't intervene in Balad
By Michael Luo, New York Times, October 17, 2006
American military units joined with Iraqi forces on Monday in maintaining a fragile peace between Sunni and Shiite communities in Balad, a rural town north of the capital where an explosion of sectarian violence over the weekend left dozens dead.
In the aftermath of the reprisals, some residents of Balad asked why American troops had not intervened when the killings began in earnest on Saturday. One of the largest American military bases in Iraq, Camp Anaconda, which includes a sprawling air base that serves as the logistical hub of the war, is nearby.
"People are bewildered because of the weak response by the Americans," said one Balad resident who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals. "They used to patrol the city every day, but when the violence started, we didn't see any sign of them." [complete article]
See also, Iraq's Christians flee as extremist threat worsens (NYT). Iraqi death rate may top our civil war -- but will the press confirm it?
By Greg Mitchell, E&P, October 16, 2006
With mass killings occurring every day in Iraq, and Americans falling at one of the highest daily rates of the entire war, it’s no wonder that support for the conflict in the U.S. continues to slip. What the American press, public and political figures have yet to grasp or acknowledge, however, is the true human catastrophe in Iraq, a 21st century holocaust, if I may put it that way. This inconvenient truth -- suggested, if not proven, by the Johns Hopkins study released last week -- seems to be too horrible for many to face, considering the mild or negative reaction to the report in the days following the broad attention it did receive at first.
Would it surprise you to learn that if the Johns Hopkins estimates of 400,000 to 800,000 deaths are correct -- and many experts in the survey field seem to suggest they probably are -- that the supposedly not-yet-civil-war in Iraq has already cost more lives, per capita, than our own Civil War (one in 40 of all Iraqis alive in 2003)? And that these losses are comparable to what some European nations suffered in World War II? You'd never know it from mainstream press coverage in the U.S. [complete article] N. Korea may have plans for 2nd test
By Choe Sang-Hun, International Herald Tribune, October 17, 2006
North Korea may be preparing for a second nuclear test, South Korean and Japanese officials warned Tuesday, and Pyongyang threatened to hit back at any country imposing UN sanctions.
North Korea issued an angry rhetorical barrage calling the UN sanctions, passed unanimously by the Security Council on Saturday after the North conducted an underground nuclear test, a "declaration of war." Pyongyang promised to "deal merciless blows" to countries that breach North Korea's "sovereignty and right to survive." [complete article]
North Korean fuel identified as plutonium
By Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 17, 2006
American intelligence agencies have concluded that North Korea's test explosion last week was powered by plutonium that North Korea harvested from its small nuclear reactor, according to officials who have reviewed the results of atmospheric sampling since the blast.
The officials, who would not speak for attribution because it was an intelligence matter, were responding to specific questions about what had been learned about the nature of the weapon.
As administration and intelligence officials watched for indications that the North might be preparing a second test, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned North Korea on Monday that it risked even further isolation if it took such a provocative action. [complete article] The great experiment
By Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, October 14, 2006
Is it possible to force a whole people to submit to foreign occupation by starving it?
That is, certainly, an interesting question. So interesting, indeed, that the governments of Israel and the United States, in close cooperation with Europe, are now engaged in a rigorous scientific experiment in order to obtain a definitive answer.
The laboratory for the experiment is the Gaza Strip, and the guinea pigs are the million and a quarter Palestinians living there. [complete article] Stoking Muslim anger
By Fawaz A. Gerges, International Herald Tribune, October 13, 2006
While the U.S. debate over Iraq focuses mainly on the effects of the American military presence on Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the Bush administration has little appreciation for how its involvement in Iraq, as well as its staunch support of Israel, is radicalizing mainstream Muslim opinion.
In the past few weeks I have interviewed scores of Muslim activists, human-rights advocates, Islamists, liberals and ordinary citizens. Most have been telling me that the West, particularly the United States, is waging a modern crusade against Islam.
From high school teachers to taxi drivers, America is seen as a new colonial power. Few Muslims accept the American narrative that touts democracy and freedom. They view America's military presence in the Arab heartland as a sinister plot to divide the world of Islam and subjugate Muslims. [complete article] U.S. starts plan to help Hamas opponents
By Adam Entous, Reuters, October 13, 2006
The United States has quietly started a campaign projected to cost up to $42 million to bolster Hamas's political opponents ahead of possible early Palestinian elections, say officials linked to the program.
The plan to promote alternatives to Hamas includes funding to help restructure President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah group and provide training and strategic advice to politicians and secular parties opposed to Hamas Islamists.
"This project supports (the) objective to create democratic alternatives to authoritarian or radical Islamist political options," said one official U.S. document obtained by Reuters. [complete article]
See also, Hamas: Fatah acting as U.S. stooge (AP) and Palestinian charities help Hamas endure (CSM).
Comment -- If China was to spend millions of dollars supporting pro-Chinese entities in order to manipulate the outcome of an election in the United States they would rightly be accused of attempting to undermine democracy. But true to it's Orwellian standards, the Bush administration wants to pretend that its own efforts at undermining democracy in the Occupied Territories are part of a policy for fostering democracy. If the project for spreading democracy across the Middle East is ever going to get off the ground, the enemies of democracy now operating in Washington will first need to be (democratically) kicked out of power. Lieberman to power
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, October 15, 2006
An extreme right-wing government with [Avigdor] Lieberman and without camouflage is preferable to a government without Lieberman that masquerades as center-left. As with the ridiculous struggle against the "illegal" outposts, which in effect legitimizes all of the other "legal" settlements, the struggle against bringing Lieberman into the government is also designed solely to accord a semblance of enlightenment to an extreme right-wing government and to legitimize Labor's participation in it. The opposition of Amir Peretz and some of his colleagues to Lieberman's joining the government is thus tainted with self-righteousness: They are already today members of a government that embarked on a worthless war, that says no to Syria, that is cruel to the Palestinians and fortifies the settlements.
Lieberman says what many people think. His racism and extreme nationalism are already out of the closet, while among many others, those qualities are still concealed deep within, even though they operate according to their spirit. They have no moral advantage over Lieberman. An openly racist and extreme nationalist is preferable to a closet racist and extreme nationalis. [complete article]
Commissions of reconciliation, not inquiry
By Daphna Golan-Agnon, Haaretz, October 15, 2006
No state commission of inquiry is needed in order to know that our prime minister is guilty of not proposing a plan for a better future - a future without checkpoints, without walls, without wars. A future in which we will be able to harvest olives together, Jews and Arabs, without fear. A future in which Jews will not have extra privileges. A future based on the recognition that, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts it: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." [complete article] Israeli police say president should be charged with raping employee
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, October 16, 2006
Police in Israel said last night that the country's president should be charged with raping and sexually assaulting several women who worked for him.
In the most serious allegations faced by an Israeli head of state, Moshe Katsav was also suspected of bugging his staff's telephones and of fraud, police said.
The case, which has dragged on for months, will now pass to the attorney general, who is expected to take several weeks to decide whether or not to bring charges.
"There is prima facie evidence of a number of incidents in which several women who worked under his authority were involved, that the president carried out sex crimes of rape, sexual molestation by force and without consent," the justice ministry and the police said in a joint statement.
He was also suspected of a "violation of a law against eavesdropping", it said. The announcement came after investigations, searches of his office and home, and police interrogations. [complete article] How Hezbollah defeated Israel
By Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry, Asia Times, October 12, 2006
Part one: winning the intelligence war
Hezbollah officials will neither speak publicly nor for the record on how they fought the conflict, will not detail their deployments, and will not discuss their future strategy. Even so, the lessons of the war from Hezbollah's perspective are now beginning to emerge and some small lessons are being derived from it by US and Israeli strategic planners. Our conclusions are based on on-the-ground assessments conducted during the course of the war, on interviews with Israeli, American and European military experts, on emerging understandings of the conflict in discussions with military strategists, and on a network of senior officials in the Middle East who were intensively interested in the war's outcome and with whom we have spoken.
Our overall conclusion contradicts the current point of view being retailed by some White House and Israeli officials: that Israel's offensive in Lebanon significantly damaged Hezbollah's ability to wage war, that Israel successfully degraded Hezbollah's military ability to prevail in a future conflict, and that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), once deployed in large numbers in southern Lebanon, were able to prevail over their foes and dictate a settlement favorable to the Israeli political establishment.
Just the opposite is true. From the onset of the conflict to its last operations, Hezbollah commanders successfully penetrated Israel's strategic and tactical decision-making cycle across a spectrum of intelligence, military and political operations, with the result that Hezbollah scored a decisive and complete victory in its war with Israel. [complete article]
Part two: winning the ground war
Israel's decision to launch a ground war to accomplish what its air force had failed to do was made hesitantly and haphazardly. While Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) units had been making forays into southern Lebanon during the second week of the conflict, the Israeli military leadership remained undecided over when and where - even whether - to deploy their ground units.
In part, the army's indecisiveness over when, where and whether
to deploy its major ground units was a function of the air force's claims to victory. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) kept claiming that it would succeed from the air - in just one more day, and then another. This indecision was mirrored by the Western media's uncertainty about when a ground campaign would take place - or whether in fact it had already occurred.
Part three: the political war
In the wake of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, a public poll in Egypt asked a cross-section of that country's citizenry to name the two political leaders they most admired. An overwhelming number named Hassan Nasrallah. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad finished second.
The poll was a clear repudiation not only of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had made his views against Hezbollah known at the outset of the conflict, but of those Sunni leaders, including Saudi King Abdullah and Jordan's Abdullah II, who criticized the Shi'ite group in an avowed attempt to turn the Sunni world away from support of Iran.
"By the end of the war these guys were scrambling for the exits," one US diplomat from the region said in late August. "You haven't heard much from them lately, have you?"
Mubarak and the two Abdullahs are not the only ones scrambling for the exits - the United States' foreign policy in the region, even in light of its increasingly dire deployment in Iraq, is in a shambles. "What that means is that all the doors are closed to us, in Cairo, in Amman, in Saudi Arabia," another diplomat averred. "Our access has been curtailed. No one will see us. When we call no one picks up the phone." [complete article]
Comment -- Asia Times published these articles in sequence last week so I'm now re-posting the complete series. Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry have an exceptional level of access to information unavailable to news organizations. The organization they run, Conflicts Forum, is increasingly being relied in by those inside Washington who recognize the shortcomings of the Bush administration's policy of refusing to talk to its enemies. U.N. force only protects Israel: top Shi'ite cleric
Reuters, October 16, 2006
Lebanon's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric said on Monday a reinforced international force on the Lebanese border was only there to protect Israel.
Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said United Nations peacekeepers were doing little to stop Israeli violations of Lebanon's sovereignty and urged the Lebanese to treat the force, UNIFIL, with caution.
"The widening of the scope of Israeli violations in the south and other areas in Lebanon and their repetition within the sight and hearing range of UNIFIL forces that don't interfere to stop these violations... affirm that these forces have come here to protect Israel not Lebanon," a statement from Fadlallah said. [complete article] Expecting U.S. help, sent to Guantanamo
By Tim Golden, New York Times, October 15, 2006
Abdul Rahim Al Ginco thought he was saved when the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and overthrew the Taliban regime.
Mr. Ginco, a college student living in the United Arab Emirates, had gone to Afghanistan in 2000 after running away from his strict Muslim father. He was soon imprisoned by the Taliban, and tortured by operatives of Al Qaeda until, he said, he falsely confessed to being a spy for Israel and the United States.
But rather than help Mr. Ginco return home, American soldiers detained him again. Nearly five years later, he remains in the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba -- in part, it appears, on the strength of a propaganda videotape made by his torturers.
"This was a 22-year-old kid who was brutally tortured," one of Mr. Ginco's American lawyers, Stephen R. Sady, said. "And instead of being liberated, he has endured four and a half years of additional confinement."
A bill signed into law by President Bush last December requires the Pentagon to determine if information being used to hold a detainee has been obtained by coercion and "the probative value (if any)" of such information. Another law passed by Congress last month would ban the use of statements made under torture from the military tribunals that are to be used to prosecute some Guantanamo detainees.
But that second law, which awaits the president's signature, would also sweep away most federal court challenges to the detention of Guantanamo prisoners, including perhaps the one filed by American lawyers for Mr. Ginco, who is now 28. [complete article]
'Guantanamo abuse boasts' probed
BBC News, October 14, 2006
The Pentagon has ordered an inquiry into alleged abuses at Guantanamo Bay after reports that camp guards boasted of beating and mistreating detainees.
A marine sergeant who visited the camp has said she understood "striking detainees was a common practice". [complete article] An offer Kim can't refuse
By Aaron L. Friedberg, Washington Post, October 16, 2006
Though the hour is late and the odds long, there is still a chance that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il can be persuaded to give up his nuclear arsenal.
Despite what many have suggested, this cannot be achieved simply through face-to-face negotiations or by offering security guarantees and economic aid. Kim is a cynical realist and will not exchange his nuclear capabilities for empty acts of diplomatic deference or what he would doubtless regard as mere scraps of paper. The hope that he might be tempted to ease the suffering of his people is also sadly misplaced. Kim has been described by psychological profilers as a "malignant narcissist"; he cares only for himself and is indifferent to the pain of others.
Whatever his quirks, Kim is also a cunning and rational strategist with one overriding objective: ensuring his own survival by maintaining an absolute grip on power. The only way to move him is by confronting him with a stark choice -- turn over existing nuclear weapons, dismantle production facilities and submit to rigorous international inspections, or face a steadily rising risk of overthrow and untimely death. This demand can be sweetened with promises of aid and peace pacts, but in the end Kim needs to be presented with an offer he cannot refuse. [complete article]
Comment -- That Friedberg should employ the language and express the mentality of the Mafia should comes as no suprise given the identity of his former boss: the vice president. A Bush policy of 'apres moi, le deluge'
By Geoffrey Aronson, Daily Star, October 16, 2006
During her recent visit to Egypt, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would have profited from a short visit to the bookstore of the American University in Cairo, where she could have purchased the extraordinary memoirs of "The Last Khedive of Egypt," Abbas Hilmi II, which recently went on sale.
Abbas Hilmi succeeded his father as nominal ruler of Egypt in 1892, only to be deposed by the British upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914. His memoir details his constant conflict with Egypt's British overlords who, first in Egypt and later in Iraq and Palestine, championed a long, often bloody era of costly intervention, devising policies for administration and military reform aimed at preventing a unified challenge to its policies and preserving Britain's interests.
For the Bush administration this long and troubled history of the region, and in particular the story of the West's misadventures there, is an empty vessel that neither instructs nor cautions. Washington's absolute and stunning obliviousness to the past, its lack of curiosity about the present, what Abbas Hilmi, in reference to the British occupation of Egypt eloquently described as "this dark abyss of incomprehension," is breathtaking. Policy is not made in a vacuum so much as in a stiff-necked straightjacket undermined by the administration's own shortcomings. Yet the lessons Abbas Hilmi learned more than a century ago from foreigners who neither respected nor feared him still ring true. [complete article] Panel to seek change on Iraq
By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2006
A commission backed by President Bush that is exploring U.S. options in Iraq intends to propose significant changes in the administration's strategy by early next year, members say.
Two options under consideration would represent reversals of U.S. policy: withdrawing American troops in phases, and bringing neighboring Iran and Syria into a joint effort to stop the fighting.
While it weighs alternatives, the 10-member commission headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III has agreed on one principle.
"It's not going to be 'stay the course,' " one participant said. "The bottom line is, [current U.S. policy] isn't working... There's got to be another way." [complete article]
Iraqi insurgent group invites negotiation
CNN, October 16, 2006
One of Iraq's most visible insurgent groups is reiterating its interest in negotiating with U.S. forces.
CNN obtained the professionally produced videotaped message Sunday. In it, the speaker -- whose face is obscured -- offers a set of conditions for what he says could lead to an end to the group's ongoing insurgency and peace with U.S. occupation forces.
The speaker is believed to be Ibrahim al-Shimary, a spokesman for the Sunni insurgent group called the Islamic Army of Iraq.
In the video, he sets two critical conditions for ending the insurgency -- a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops, and a formal recognition of the Iraqi insurgency as party to any talks. [complete article]
Dozens of Iraqis killed in reprisals
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Muhanned Saif Aldin, Washington Post, October 16, 2006
Militias allied with Iraq's Shiite-led government roamed roads north of Baghdad, seeking out and attacking Sunni Arab targets Sunday, police and hospital officials said. The violence raised to at least 80 the number of people killed in retaliatory strikes between a Shiite city and a Sunni town separated only by the Tigris River.
The wave of killings around the Shiite city of Balad was the bloodiest in a surge of violence that has claimed at least 110 lives in Iraq since Saturday. The victims included 12 people who were killed in coordinated suicide bombings in the strategic northern oil city of Kirkuk. [complete article]
The more force you use, the less effective you are
By Michael Schwartz, TomDispatch, October 15, 2006
Recently, the New York Times broke a story suggesting that the U.S. Army and the Marines were about to turn the conceptual tide of war in Iraq. The two services, reported correspondent Michael R. Gordon, "were finishing work on a new counterinsurgency doctrine" that would, according to retired Lt. Gen. Jack Keane, "change [the military's] entire culture as it transitions to irregular warfare."
Such strategic eureka moments have been fairly common since the Bush administration invaded Iraq in March 2003, and this one -- news coverage of it died away in less than a week -- will probably drop into the dustbin of history along with other times when the tactical or strategic tide of war was supposed to change. These would include the November 2004 assault on the city of Falluja, various elections, the "standing up" of the Iraqi army, and the trench that, it was briefly reported, the Iraqis were planning to dig around their vast capital, Baghdad. [complete article] Our broken constitution
By Sanford Levinson, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2006
Most political systems around the world have mechanisms by which leaders who lose the public's confidence can be removed. A model in this regard is Britain, where the Tories unceremoniously dispatched Margaret Thatcher when she was no longer found suitable as their leader, and where the Labor Party is in the process of doing the same with Tony Blair. Under our Constitution, although criminals can be removed, mere incompetents are protected. One need not adopt a parliamentary system in order to construct a system by which Congress could declare "no confidence" in the president and force a replacement.
For now, then, Bush retains his powers -- including the power to veto legislation. This is another extraordinarily undemocratic element of the U.S. system. It allows one man to override the wishes of strong majorities and, in effect, become an independent third house of an already cumbersome legislative process. This "three-house" aspect of our legislative process is one explanation for the difficulty -- often, the impossibility -- of passing innovative legislation and having it signed into law. [complete article] Bush unleashes the nuclear beast
By Joseph Cirincione, Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2006
In their third presidential debate, in October 1960, John F. Kennedy went after Vice President Richard Nixon, blasting him as weak on national security for not stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. France had just tested its first nuclear device, joining the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain as the world's first nuclear powers. Kennedy warned "that 10, 15 or 20 nations will have a nuclear capacity — including Red China — by the end of the presidential office in 1964."
As president, Kennedy sought to fight that dark vision, telling the United Nations: "The weapons of war must be abolished, before they abolish us." He restarted talks on a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, began pursuit of a global nonproliferation pact and signed a treaty with the Soviet Union to ban atmospheric nuclear tests. Although Kennedy did not live to finish the job, in 1968, Lyndon Johnson signed what became the diplomatic crown jewel of his presidency: the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT. President Nixon secured its ratification.
The NPT is now considered one of the most successful security pacts in history. Every nation in the world is a member except Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Most of the 183 member states that do not have nuclear weapons believe what the treaty says: We should eliminate nuclear weapons. [complete article]
N. Korean nuclear conflict has deep roots
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, October 15, 2006
Democrats and Republicans have been quick to use North Korea's apparent nuclear test to benefit their own party in these final weeks of the congressional campaign, but a review of history shows that both sides have contributed to the current situation.
There is more than 50 years of history to Pyongyang's attempt to gain a nuclear weapon, triggered in part by threats from Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower to end the Korean War.
In 1950, when a reporter asked Truman whether he would use atomic bombs at a time when the war was going badly, the president said, "That includes every weapon we have." [complete article]
Restraints fray and risks grow as nuclear club gains members
By William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 15, 2006
The declaration last Monday by North Korea that it had conducted a successful atomic test brought to nine the number of nations believed to have nuclear arms. But atomic officials estimate that as many as 40 more countries have the technical skill, and in some cases the required material, to build a bomb.
That ability, coupled with new nuclear threats in Asia and the Middle East, risks a second nuclear age, officials and arms control specialists say, in which nations are more likely to abandon the old restraints against atomic weapons.
The spread of nuclear technology is expected to accelerate as nations redouble their reliance on atomic power. That will give more countries the ability to make reactor fuel, or, with the same equipment and a little more effort, bomb fuel — the hardest part of the arms equation. [complete article] Iraq violence spreads to oil city of Kirkuk
By Ellen Knickmeyer And Muhanned Saif Aldin, Washington Post, October 15, 2006
The death toll in two days of bloody fighting between two Shiite and Sunni towns in the north rose to at least 80 on Sunday, a hospital official said, with more bodies allegedly lying in the streets and unable to be retrieved.
In all, at least 110 people had died since Saturday in the surge of violence in and around the northern town of Balad, in the northern oil center of Kirkuk, and in Baghdad and other cities, authorities said.
The worst bloodshed took place about 50 miles north of Baghdad, around the predominantly Sunni town of Duluiyah and the larger, predominantly Shiite town of Balad. The two communities are separated by the Tigris River.
The bloodletting there was touched off Friday by the kidnapping and beheading of 17 Shiite laborers working in date-palm groves in Duluiyah. Shiite leaders in the neighboring town said Saturday they asked militias of powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to come from Baghdad to strike back and take revenge. Shiite militias poured into the area, and Balad hospital workers said the bodies of 27 Sunnis had been brought to the hospital by Saturday night, all of them shot to death and bearing holes from electric drills and other signs of torture. [complete article]
The British officer said: 'We are now just another tribe'
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, October 14, 2006
As the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglians prepared to set out on patrol through central Basra yesterday, risking mortar attack and possibly more, all the talk was of their boss's suggestion that they were making the situation worse.
General Sir Richard Dannatt's comments that the British military presence in southern Iraq "exacerbates the security problems" and that they should get out "sometime soon" was met with a mix of frustration and quiet agreement in the heavily fortified Palace compound, a former Saddam palace in southern Basra that now houses the consulate as well as 1,200 coalition troops.
"I can't believe they are saying these things," one embassy official said. "This whole thing is to do with politics and Tony Blair. It's not about what is happening on the ground here, but what is happening there."
Three and a half years after British forces, in the general's words, "effectively kicked the door in" to southern Iraq, many squaddies still believe they are making a difference, and that if they were to withdraw now there would be a messy collapse into open civil war.
Inside the army base yesterday, a tall, thin, 20-something private was preparing his Warrior for a patrol into the city centre. His camouflaged uniform has long since faded under the scorching sun, and his flak jacket was covered with grease. The private, who has been in Iraq for five months, and has a few weeks to go before being relieved, was unimpressed by the general's comments. "He's just saying this because he wants to take us to another fucking war, in Afghanistan or somewhere else," he said. "He doesn't care."
The extent of the deterioration of the security situation in the south of Iraq, however, is unmistakable. Eighteen months ago, when I was last embedded in Basra, the British army still patrolled in berets and without flak jackets. Today they will only emerge in heavily armoured Warrior vehicles, wearing heavy-duty helmets with protective screens across their faces, and body armour to cover their shoulders and upper arms. [complete article] Peace Prize winner sees every cent as a seed
By Paul Watson and Nurul Alam, Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2006
Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh's "Banker to the Poor" who provided loans to help millions of people fight poverty by starting businesses, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yunus, who shared in the $1.4-million prize Friday with the Grameen Bank he founded 30 years ago, pioneered the concept of microcredit. It allows the very poor, who don't qualify for traditional loans, to borrow as little as a few dollars without collateral. The bank's shareholders are the impoverished people it supports.
Yunus, 66, and Grameen Bank were honored for "their efforts to create economic and social development from below," the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced in Oslo.
As Bangladesh celebrated, Yunus said in Dhaka, the capital, that he wanted "to work to create some more new things in the world" and would use the award money to start a company to produce cheap, nutritional food for the poor and to set up an eye hospital for the impoverished. [complete article]
See also, Microcredit, macro problems (Walden Bello). Attacks on journalists continue in Baghdad
By Doug Smith and Saif Rasheed, Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2006
Gunmen killed a radio journalist and kidnapped a television reporter, Iraqi police said Saturday, continuing a spate of attacks that has killed 14 media employees in recent weeks.
Hussam Ahmed, a correspondent for the independent TV station Nahrain, was forced from his car at gunpoint Saturday, police said. The gunmen took him away in another car. There has been no communication from the kidnappers.
Police also reported that another journalist, announcer Raid Qais of Voice of Iraq radio, was shot while driving to work in the Dora neighborhood of south Baghdad on Friday. Qais died instantly, police said.
Three other journalists recently have been kidnapped or killed in roadside attacks, and 11 employees of a television station were killed by gunmen Thursday. A convoy of armed men, some wearing police uniforms, invaded the Al Shaabiya satellite television station and opened fire at executives, technicians and guards. General manager Abdul Raheem Nasrallah was among those killed. [complete article]
Journalist kidnapped in south Afghanistan
By Terry Friel, Reuters, October 15, 2006
Gunmen have kidnapped an Italian photojournalist in southern Afghanistan, news reports and aid workers said Saturday.
The reported abduction of Gabriele Torsello, which Italian authorities have not yet confirmed, came as two NATO soldiers were killed in combat in the south in the bloodiest year since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban rulers in 2001.
NATO said in a statement that the two soldiers were killed and three wounded in a clash with insurgents in Kandahar on Saturday. The alliance did not give the nationalities of the dead. [complete article]
U.S. forces blamed in death of British journalist
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2006
U.S. forces unlawfully fired the heavy-caliber machine-gun bullet that killed British newsman Terry Lloyd after an Iraqi civilian put him in his car and attempted to take him to the hospital when he was wounded shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, a coroner ruled Friday.
After an eight-day inquest that included testimony from Lloyd's cameraman at ITN News, Oxfordshire Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he had "no doubt" the shooting was "an unlawful act," and concluded that Lloyd could have survived an earlier attack by Iraqi forces had U.S. soldiers not opened fire on his rescue vehicle.
Walker said he would ask senior British legal officials to hold those responsible criminally liable, but U.S. authorities denied wrongdoing and said the Marines deployed in southern Iraq during the early days of the war were following the rules of engagement. [complete article] In Somalia, Islamic law is far from uniform
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2006
The public execution was set for 9 a.m., and thousands of men, women and children raced toward a sandy dune where the previous regime killed its political enemies.
A man accused of fatally shooting a Mogadishu businessman in a dispute over a cellphone two weeks earlier knelt and prayed in front of an eight-man firing squad, as impatient spectators whistled, hooted, stood on cars and scrambled up trees for a better view. The death sentence had been imposed swiftly by a local Islamic court. No attorney. No appeal.
The first blast of gunfire didn't do the job, so an officer stepped forward and shot the accused in the head. Then the crowd broke through security lines and rushed toward the body, many yelling, "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!"
Four months after they seized control of Somalia's capital, Islamists have won widespread praise for reestablishing order and stability in Mogadishu and surrounding areas after 15 years of anarchy.
But the Islamists are by no means uniform in their application of justice. In Islamist-run southern Somalia, how you live, and sometimes whether you live, depends largely on where you live. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
Three years after Bush introduced the 'Axis', North Korea, Iran -- and Iraq -- are more dangerous than ever
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, October 10, 2006
Why Bush "lost" Korea
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, October 13, 2006
Bilateral diplomacy could still roll back North Korea's nuclear arms effort
By Selig S. Harrison, Washington Post, October 10, 2006
Study puts war's Iraqi death tally at more than 600,000
By Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2006
Iraq's dark day of reckoning
By Fareed Zacharia, Newsweek, October 16, 2006
America doesn't lift a finger to promote Mideast peace
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, October 8, 2006
A re-run of the Lebanon war in Palestine?
By Hasan Abu Nimah and Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, October 11, 2006
George Bush's war of the words
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, October 10, 2006
Olmert's true colors
By Tom Segev, Haaretz, October 10, 2006
The struggle for Palestine's soul
By Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada, October 7, 2006
Hezbollah leaders caught off guard by scope of Israel's response in war
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, October 8, 2006
The Muslim problem
By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The Cutting Edge, October 7, 2006
The impact of Al-Jazeera
By Khaled Hroub, Index of Censorship, September 15, 2006
Islam has tamed a lawless Somalia, but is it raising an African Taliban?
By Colin Freeman, The Sunday Telegraph, October 8, 2006
Afghanistan five years later: charting the reconstruction
Christian Science Monitor, October 12, 2006
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