|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Charges sought against Rumsfeld over prison abuse
By Adam Zagorin, Time, November 10, 2006
Germany was chosen for the court filing because German law provides "universal jurisdiction" allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world. Indeed, a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset. Rumsfeld's spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the case a "a big, big problem." U.S. officials made clear the case could adversely impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld indicated he would not attend a major security conference in Munich, where he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, unless Germany disposed of the case. The day before the conference, a German prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter, saying there was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not deal with allegations in the complaint.
In bringing the new case, however, the plaintiffs argue that circumstances have changed in two important ways. Rumsfeld's resignation, they say, means that the former Defense Secretary will lose the legal immunity usually accorded high government officials. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that the German prosecutor's reasoning for rejecting the previous case -- that U.S. authorities were dealing with the issue -- has been proven wrong.
"The utter and complete failure of U.S. authorities to take any action to investigate high-level involvement in the torture program could not be clearer," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a U.S.-based non-profit helping to bring the legal action in Germany. He also notes that the Military Commissions Act, a law passed by Congress earlier this year, effectively blocks prosecution in the U.S. of those involved in detention and interrogation abuses of foreigners held abroad in American custody going to back to Sept. 11, 2001. As a result, Ratner contends, the legal arguments underlying the German prosecutor's previous inaction no longer hold up. [complete article]
See also, Deconstructing Don Rumsfeld (Georgie Anne Geyer). 'I prefer fewer declarations and more deeds'
Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh interviewed by the Jerusalem Post, November 10, 2006
What should be done to prevent the nuclearization of Iran?
I will divide my answer into different layers. I still hope the international community will take effective sanctions against Iran, though the chances are not high. We should explain to the [western] nations that they are the next targets on Ahmedinejad's list, and the dangers he poses to western democracies cannot be ignored. My working assumption is that they won't succeed. Then I have to think about what the Jewish state can do about the danger. The danger isn't as much Ahmadinejad's deciding to launch an attack, but Israel's living under a dark cloud of fear from a leader committed to its destruction. He is inspired by a mystical Islamic belief. He thinks he will bring the Muslim messiah, the 12th Imam. I am afraid that under such a threat, most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with their families; and Israelis who can live abroad will. People are not enthusiastic about being scorched. I am afraid Ahmadinejad will be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That's why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs.
How do we do that?
First of all, by improving our defense systems. We developed and produced the Arrow, the only system that can intercept nuclear missiles. Depending on the altitude, when intercepted, the warheads do not detonate. But Israel needs to substantially improve its indigenous long-range capacities. This is a system against ballistic missiles and not the cheap, stupid rockets that cause all the problems in Sderot. To target those rockets, Peretz asked Defense Minister Director-General Gabi Ashkenazi to submit to him recommendations among four existing anti-missile systems that could be developed and produced. He will submit his recommendations quite soon. I am not advocating an Israeli preemptive military action against Iran, and I am aware of all of its possible repercussions. I consider it a last resort. But even the last resort is sometimes the only resort. [complete article] Marines get the news from an Iraqi host: Rumsfeld's out. 'Who's Rumsfeld?'
By C.J. Chivers, New York Times, November 10, 2006
Hashim al-Menti smiled wanly at the marine sergeant beside him on his couch. The sergeant had appeared in the darkness on Wednesday night, knocking on the door of Mr. Menti's home.
When Mr. Menti answered, a squad of infantrymen swiftly moved in, making him an involuntary host.
Since then marines had been on his roof with rifles, watching roads where insurgents often planted bombs.
Mr. Menti had passed the time watching television. Now he had news. He spoke in broken English. "Rumsfeld is gone," he told the sergeant, Michael A. McKinnon.
"Democracy," he added, and made a thumbs-up sign. "Good."
The marines had been on a continuous foot patrol for several days, hunting for insurgents. They were lost in the hard and isolating rhythms of infantry life.
They knew nothing of the week's news.
Now they were being told by an Iraqi whose house they occupied that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, one of the principal architects of the policies that had them here, had resigned. "Rumsfeld is gone?" the sergeant asked. "Really?"
Mr. Menti nodded. "This is better for Iraq," he said. "Iraqi people say thank you."
The sergeant went upstairs to tell his marines, just as he had informed them the day before that the Republican Party had lost control of the House of Representatives and that Congress was in the midst of sweeping change. Mr. Menti had told them that, too.
"Rumsfeld's out," he said to five marines sprawled with rifles on the cold floor.
Lance Cpl. James L. Davis Jr. looked up from his cigarette. "Who's Rumsfeld?" he asked. [complete article]
Comment -- This is reporting at its best: a vignette on the lives of U.S. marines in Iraq that recounts a few fleeting exchanges between a handful of individuals and in so doing captures the whole scope of the war.
When an Iraqi trapped in his house in Anbar province understands more about American politics than the American soldiers occupying his house seem to understand about either American or Iraqi politics, it's time to ask not only what America is doing in Iraq, but what is the nature of duty and military service if it can be so mindless? We romanticize the iconic figure of the soldier with the notion that he is willing to place the needs of the nation above his own, yet politely avoid asking how a nation can really be defended by those whose understanding of that nation is so limited. Key Republican joins Dems opposing Bolton nomination
CNN, November 10, 2006
This is probably not what President Bush had in mind when he stressed bipartisanship after the Democratic Party's midterm elections sweep.
A key Senate Republican has joined Democrats in opposing one of Bush's initiatives for the lame-duck Congress: John Bolton's nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
With leaders from both parties promising a new bipartisan Washington, Bush began efforts to get two of his most controversial decisions approved before the Democrats take over.
Along with Bolton's nomination, Bush said he would like to move forward on legislation to retroactively authorize the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. [complete article] Vice-president faces isolation over Iran and Syria after key ally leaves Pentagon
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, November 10, 2006
Donald Rumsfeld's replacement by Robert Gates at the Pentagon could mark the most significant shift in the balance of power inside the Bush administration since it took office nearly six years ago, with consequences for both Iraq and Iran.
Political observers in Washington predicted that the appointment could pave the way for talks with Iran and Syria in a bid to contain the violence in Iraq, and could also put off a military confrontation with Iran over its nuclear programme.
Donald Rumsfeld's departure and the Democratic takeover of Congress leaves Dick Cheney isolated in Washington, and almost alone in his backing for a military solution to the Iranian challenge. The Cheney-Rumsfeld axis acted as a stone wall around the White House, keeping out criticisms and doubts. Now, those doubts are beginning to seep in, opening the way for a fundamental rethink of policy. [complete article] Iraqi official: 150,000 civilians dead
Steven R. Hurst, AP, November 10, 2006
A stunning new death count emerged Thursday, as Iraq's health minister estimated 150,000 civilians have been killed in the war -- about three times previously accepted estimates.
Moderate Sunni Muslims, meanwhile, threatened to walk away from politics and pick up guns, while the Shiite-dominated government renewed pressure on the United States to unleash the Iraqi army and claimed it could crush violence in six months.
After Democrats swept to majorities in both houses of the U.S. Congress and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld resigned, Iraqis appeared unsettled and seemed to sense the potential for an even bloodier conflict because future American policy is uncertain. As a result, positions hardened on both sides of the country's deepening sectarian divide. [complete article] Democrats may urge more contact with U.S. adversaries
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, November 10, 2006
The Democratic takeover of Congress will raise the profile of lawmakers who have repeatedly urged the Bush administration to talk to key adversaries such as Iran, North Korea and Syria, increasing pressure on the White House to stop placing restrictions or conditions on such discussions.
The incoming chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee -- Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Rep. Tom Lantos of California, respectively -- have long argued that the administration's approach to dealing with adversaries has hamstrung diplomacy. Iran and Syria are problematic neighbors of Iraq, and critics have charged that not talking to Damascus and Tehran has hurt efforts to end the violence in Iraq.
Although outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) is also an advocate of greater engagement, the new Democratic leaders say they are more likely to call hearings and demand explanations from administration officials. Lantos, who has often visited such countries as Libya and North Korea, said he is "passionately committed to having a dialogue with people we disagree with." [complete article] Understanding Gates
By James Mann, Washington Post, November 10, 2006
In the early months of 1989, the overriding foreign policy issue for the new George H.W. Bush administration was how to deal with Mikhail Gorbachev. Did the Soviet leader represent fundamental change, or was he merely a new face for the same old policies?
The administration was divided. James Baker, the secretary of state, wanted to test out Gorbachev. The anti-Gorbachev hawks were led by Robert M. Gates, the deputy national security adviser. Gates's principal ally was then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.
Baker vs. Gates/Cheney: That alignment should serve as a warning to those who view Wednesday's appointment of Robert M. Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as representing the triumph of Bush the Father's administration over Bush the Son's. Any such analysis is far too simplistic. Gates's nomination unquestionably stands for one proposition: a long-awaited recognition that the administration's war in Iraq has been a disaster. But the broader interpretation of the appointment as representing a victory of Bush 41 over Bush 43 -- or of one school of thought over another -- breaks down when you look at Gates's background and the history of the 1980s and early '90s.
For one thing, that analysis depends on a selective view of the Bush 41 administration. Yes, it included Gates; then-national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, a determined opponent of the current Iraq war; and Baker, who is now head of a bipartisan group searching for a new Iraq policy. But Vice President Cheney was a charter member of the Bush 41 administration. So were Cheney's former aide Stephen Hadley, the current national security adviser, and Condoleezza Rice -- who have been among the principal architects of the war in Iraq. [complete article] Relief suffuses world views of U.S. vote
By Molly Moore and Peter Finn, Washington Post, November 10, 2006
For Europe and much of the rest of the world, U.S. voters' repudiation of the Bush administration in midterm elections Tuesday and the dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday confirmed the widespread view that President Bush and his policies have done more to tarnish America's image abroad and strain its global relations than any other U.S. president in recent history.
The Socialist Group in the European Parliament, the legislative body's second-largest voting bloc, called the election results "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world."
The seismic political shift in the United States was greeted in many places less with jubilation than with a sense of relief that Americans had at long last come to their senses. [complete article]
Democrats are set to subpoena
By Richard B. Schmitt and Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2006
Rep. Ike Skelton knows what he will do in one of his first acts as chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Democratic-led House: resurrect the subcommittee on oversight and investigations.
The panel was disbanded by the Republicans after they won control of Congress in 1994. Now, Skelton (D-Mo.) intends to use it as a forum to probe Pentagon spending and the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war.
It has been 12 years since Democrats were in control of both the House and Senate. But they are looking to make up for lost time, and in some cases, make the Bush administration and its business allies sweat. [complete article]
Britain 'not tough' enough with U.S.
PA, November 9, 2006
A former US assistant defence secretary has blamed Britain for failing to "raise the alarm" with Washington over failings in the administration of Iraq following the war.
Kenneth Adelman, who served under Donald Rumsfeld during his first stint at the Pentagon in Gerald Ford's administration of the 1970s, said that British officials must have seen that policies being pursued in Iraq were "insane".
And he said that the UK should have been "very frank and very tough" with George Bush's administration about concerns over policies such as the dismantling of Saddam Hussein's army and Iraq's civil service. [complete article]
Comment -- Neocon vaudeville doesn't get better! While common sense might tell them that now's the time to take refuge in a safe haven overseas -- I'm sure Vladamir Putin or others would be obliging enough to offer secluded mansions for a suitable price -- Adelman and his fellow neocon fugitives can't resist the spotlight. Of course their purpose is to enter the spotlight in order to suggest it should be pointing elsewhere. This time the "don't-blame-us" performance takes a new turn. Don't blame the neocons - the Brits should have saved the Bush administration from its own folly. But why, pray, Mr. Adelman, were the neocons themselves not in a perfect position to intercede? Too busy serving as cheerleaders to be able to voice their criticisms?
Pro-gun, anti-abortion and fiscally conservative: meet the neo-Dems
By Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, November 10, 2006
The forging of a cohesive domestic reform agenda will be complicated by the fact that several of the new intake of Democrats in the Congress are socially conservative and in favour of policies traditionally associated with the Republicans they ousted. Some of them are pro-guns while others are anti-abortion. Some oppose stem cell research using human embryos, and many are on the wing of the Democratic party that believes in fiscal rectitude and tight control on public spending.
The conservative Democrats, or new Democrats as they are sometimes called, were disproportionately represented in the most highly contested races against Republicans, and are likely to form a substantial bloc within the new members.
Heath Shuler, a former American football celebrity who now holds a House of Representatives' seat for North Carolina, is representative of the group. He has an evangelical Christian background and is on the right of the argument on many social issues such as abortion. [complete article] In letter, radical cleric details CIA abduction, Egyptian torture
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, November 10, 2006
In an account smuggled out of prison, a radical Muslim cleric has detailed how he was kidnapped by the CIA from this northern Italian city and flown to Cairo, where he was tortured for months with electric shocks and shackled to an iron rack known as "the Bride."
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, wrote an 11-page letter describing his 2003 abduction at the hands of the CIA and Italian secret service agents. He somehow transferred the document out of Egypt -- where he remains in custody -- and into the hands of Italian prosecutors who are investigating his disappearance.
In his letter, Nasr described how his health had badly deteriorated. He had lost hearing in one ear from repeated beatings, he said, and his formerly pitch-black hair had turned all white. He said he was kept in a cell with no toilet and no lights, where "roaches and rats walked across my body."
He also gave a graphic account of Egyptian interrogation practices, including how he would be strapped to an iron rack nicknamed "the Bride" and zapped with electric stun guns.
On other occasions, he wrote, he was tied to a wet mattress on the floor. While one interrogator sat on a wooden chair perched on the prisoner's shoulders, another interrogator would flip a switch, sending jolts of electricity into the mattress coils. [complete article] 12 Israeli jets violate Lebanese airspace as Paris seethes over mock attacks
Daily Star, November 10, 2006
Twelve Israeli jets violated Lebanese airspace on Thursday, a few hours after Paris summoned Israel's ambassador in protest over Israeli warplanes diving on French UN peacekeepers in the South, the Lebanese Army said. The fighter-bombers entered Lebanon at 12:25 p.m. and flew high over the coastal town of Naqoura, headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) near the borders with Israel, an army statement said.
They then flew over other Southern regions before flying at a lower altitude over the eastern city of Baalbek, the army added. The 12 planes left Lebanese airspace at 1 p.m. after flying over Tripoli and Akkar in the North.
France on Thursday summoned Israeli ambassador Daniel Shek to complain about an incident in which Israeli warplanes dived menacingly on French UN peacekeepers, officials said.
French officials said Israeli military aircraft dived toward French troops serving with UNIFIL, who came very close to opening fire.
Israel, U.S. ponder new ways to collect intelligence in Lebanon
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, November 10, 2006
Israel and the United States are considering alternative methods for collecting intelligence in Lebanon that would replace the overflights of Lebanese airspace by Israel Air Force jets.
"We do not want to embarrass the government of Lebanon and create tensions with the states who deployed, at our request, troops to the United Nations force. If a solution can be found that would not require the overflights, and we could have another means to learn what goes on over there perfect," a senior political source in Jerusalem said Thursday.
"If they will find a way to provide us with the information, that will be a very good solution," the source added. [complete article]
Comment -- Israeli officials seem to imagine that whatever military action can be described as occurring in accordance with procedure and necessity will thereby meet international acceptance if not approval. IAF continuing operations over Lebanon are thus referred to under the rubric of "intelligence gathering" yet mock bombing raids clearly have everything to do with psyops and nothing to do with intelligence. Are we supposed to believe that Israel does not already have free access to US spy satellite images of Lebanon and thus needs to enter discussions now in order to meet an unfulfilled need? Who do the Israelis (and Americans) think they're kidding? The white man's club
By Alastair Crooke, Conflicts Forum, November 9, 2006
The metaphor of an officers' club may seem a harsh parallel to draw in respect to the Quartet for some, but it reflects two aspects of the Quartet's current posture that are important to draw out. The first -- and this has been a persistent trait -- has been its disconnection from reality with its smug officers' mess ethos; and the second has been its failure to do politics, or as Senator George Mitchell used to say, to do the "choreography."
That is, it is easy to post new rules and make declarations, it is much harder to do the hard shuttle diplomatic work of patching together the moves and accompanying statements, which is how political progress in reality is achieved. Doing this work does, of course, require talking. And, of course, Quartet members have determined that they cannot talk to those with whom it is necessary to resolve the present impasse.
On the basis of the Quartet's reluctance either to do choreography or to reflect reality, it is likely that a Hamas candidate will not be addressed by members. [complete article] Abbas-Meshal talks moves PA unity government closer
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Haaretz, November 10, 2006
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the exiled leader of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal, spoke on the telephone Thursday, the first time the two have had any contact since Meshal made a speech in Damascus attacking Abbas' leadership.
Palestinian sources told Haaretz on Thursday the two agreed to hold a meeting, probably in Cairo, along with representatives of other Palestinian factions, after Abbas signs an agreement with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on the formation of a new Palestinian government of national unity.
It was also agreed that the new government of technocrats would not be brought before the Palestinian Legislative Council (the Palestinian Authority's parliament) for approval before all Hamas ministers and legislators held by Israel since the abduction of Gilad Shalit in June are released. [complete article]
Hamas says no leading politicians in next government
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Reuters, November 9, 2006
The Hamas and Fatah Palestinian groups have agreed to exclude prominent politicians from a new unity government they are discussing, a high-level Hamas member said on Friday.
"We are almost done with the arrangements to form a national unity government with membership based on professionalism and merit. No leading political symbols will be in it," Izzat al-Rishq, who is a member of Hamas politburo, told Reuters in the Syrian capital.
The two feuding groups have also agreed that ministers in the next government will reflect the composition of the Palestinian parliament, where Hamas has more members than Fatah. [complete article]
In Gaza clan, the strife hits home
By Richard Boudreaux, Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2006
It took three generations for the descendants of Abdullah Athamna and his three wives to grow into one of this town's largest and most respectable middle-class families.
It took 15 minutes of errant Israeli artillery fire into a row of apartment buildings to kill 16 members of the clan and push surviving relatives, once aloof toward armed struggle, into a vengeful fury.
In an outburst that could foreshadow an escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tens of thousands of Palestinians wept in anguish and screamed for retaliation as they crowded into a cemetery here Thursday to bury the Athamnas and two other victims of the shelling. [complete article] Speech at the Rabin memorial
By David Grossman, International Middle East Media Center, November 6, 2006
"Behold land, for we hath squandered," wrote the poet Saul Tchernikovsky in Tel Aviv in 1938. He lamented the burial of our young again and again in the soil of the Land of Israel. The death of young people is a horrible, ghastly waste.
But no less dreadful is the sense that for many years, the State of Israel has been squandering, not only the lives of its sons, but also its miracle; that grand and rare opportunity that history bestowed upon it, the opportunity to establish here a state that is efficient, democratic, which abides by Jewish and universal values; a state that would be a national home and haven, but not only a haven, also a place that would offer a new meaning to Jewish existence; a state that holds as an integral and essential part of its Jewish identity and its Jewish ethos, the observance of full equality and respect for its non-Jewish citizens.
Look at what befell us. Look what befell the young, bold, passionate country we had here, and how, as if it had undergone a quickened ageing process, Israel lurched from infancy and youth to a perpetual state of gripe, weakness and sourness.
How did this happen? When did we lose even the hope that we would eventually be able to live a different, better life? Moreover, how do we continue to watch from the side as though hypnotized by the insanity, rudeness, violence and racism that has overtaken our home? [complete article] It wasn't only Rumsfeld's war
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, November 9, 2006
The news that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to be the Bush Administration's ritual sacrifice on the altar of its electoral rebuke comes as no surprise: It had been obvious for months now the call for Rumsfeld's head is a kind of consensual fetish among those who supported the Iraq war for not having to deal with their own culpability in the catastrophe it inevitably became. I say "inevitably" because you don't have to have a working knowledge of Iraqi history to have anticipated how Iraqis would respond to their country being occupied by a foreign army -- you simply needed to have watched "Red Dawn" back in the 80s. (A working knowledge of Iraqi history, as many U.S. military types who quietly but firmly opposed the war had, would certainly have helped anticipate some of the specific sectarian and regional consequences, but that's another matter.)
But instead of admitting and reckoning with the fact that the war they advocated was a catastrophically bad idea, everyone from neocon hacks to flip-flopping Democrats, Bob Woodward (arch channeler of White House sources) and the self-styled "liberal hawks" of the chattering classes, like Peter Beinart and George Packer, have signed on to the notion that it was a good war, the right war, executed badly, because Rumsfeld adhered to some bizarre capital-intensive theory of warfare. In other words, if Rumsfeld had simply sent more troops, the outcome would have been different. [complete article]
See also, Why Robert Gates is the best man for Rummy's job (Fred Kaplan). Stage set for Iraq policy shift
By Glenn Kessler and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, November 9, 2006
Democratic control of the House and possibly the Senate, combined with the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, has set the stage for a dramatic shift in the Bush administration's policy toward the Iraq war, lawmakers and experts said. The contours of a new policy are not clear, but there is likely to be more pressure on the Iraqi government to rein in sectarian violence and a growing clamor from Democrats to begin a drawdown of U.S. troops.
Rumsfeld is slated to be replaced by Robert M. Gates, a member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group who has spent recent weeks learning the problems of the administration's current approach. Unlike Rumsfeld, who was widely seen as a roadblock to a shift in strategy, Gates is expected to be much more receptive to implementing the group's recommendations, due to be made public about Dec. 7. [complete article] Plebiscite on an outlaw empire
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, November 9, 2006
The wave -- and make no mistake, it's a global one -- has just crashed on our shores, soaking our imperial masters. It's a sight for sore eyes.
It's been a long time since we've seen an election like midterm 2006. After all, it's a truism of our politics that Americans are almost never driven to the polls by foreign-policy issues, no less by a single one that dominates everything else, no less by a catastrophic war (and the presidential approval ratings that go with it). This strange phenomenon has been building since the moment, in May 2003, that George W. Bush stood under that White-House-prepared "Mission Accomplished" banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared "major combat operations have ended." [complete article] Special announcement -- Regular readers here may know that I've long respected the work of Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry, so it's with great honor that I announce that I recently became the managing editor and an advisory board member for their organization, Conflicts Forum.
Through their long-standing connections with the leaders of political Islam, Crooke and Perry have been able to start a process through which Islamist organizations that have already demonstrated their political legitimacy via the electoral process, now have the opportunity to make themselves heard in the West -- even while these groups continue to be shunned by Western governments.
Engaging the political leaders of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Jamaat-e-Islami is and will continue to be an essential component in the realignment of relations between the West and the Muslim world.
While this engagement challenges some of the premises behind the war on terrorism, it is the only way of overcoming misleading assumptions that have given rise to a widely-held misperception of an "Islamic threat to the West."
At Conflicts Forum's web site, you can learn more about the organization, who's involved, what we offer, read articles about the issues and through commenting, join the discussion on the rise of political Islam.
I encourage you to sign up for email notifications that you'll receive whenever the site is updated. (See the sign-up box on the left side of the Conflicts Forum home page.)
Meanwhile, I will continue running The War in Context -- in fact, by early next year I hope to upgrade the site and incorporate new features.
Paul Woodward, November 8, 2006 A loud message for Bush
By Robin Toner, New York Times, November 8, 2006
Everything is different now for President Bush. The era of one-party Republican rule in Washington ended with a crash in yesterday's midterm elections, putting a proudly unyielding president on notice that the voters want change, especially on the war in Iraq.
Mr. Bush now confronts the first Democratic majority in the House in 12 years and a significantly bigger Democratic caucus in the Senate that were largely elected on the promise to act as a strong check on his administration. Almost any major initiative in his final two years in office will now, like it or not, have to be bipartisan to some degree.
For six years, Mr. Bush has often governed, and almost always campaigned, with his attention focused on his conservative base. But yesterday's voting showed the limits of those politics, as practiced -- and many thought perfected -- by Mr. Bush and his chief political adviser, Karl Rove. [complete article]
See also, Iraqis doubt U.S. election results will affect them (McClatchy). 19 Palestinians killed in IDF shelling in northern Gaza
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Haaretz, November 8, 2006
Israel Defense Forces artillery shells struck a residential area in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun early Wednesday, killing at least 19 Palestinians and wounding dozens of others.
Ten children and seven women were among the dead, the Palestinain Health Ministry said, adding that 18 of the victims were members of the Athamna family.
Khaled Radi, a Palestinian Health Ministry official, said all of those killed were civilians. According to witnesses, the victims were sleeping when the 15-minute barrage of shells first hit. [complete article]
See also, Khaled Meshal: Hamas will retaliate 'by deed, not words' (Haaretz). The axis of not quite as evil
By Mark Perry, Conflicts Forum, November 2, 2006
...we didn't invade Iraq because we thought they had weapons of mass destruction. We invaded Iraq because we knew they didn't. By this through-the-looking-glass logic, the only nations and movements worth attacking are those that are the least capable of hitting back. That sounds glib, but it is supported by the facts. During his recent address before the United Nations Security Council, Bush laid out a new axis of evil -- Hamas and Hezbollah (this is, it seems, the "axis of not quite as evil, but still evil"). Hamas and Hezbollah were each mentioned three times. Al-Qaeda, the movement that attacked the World Trade Center and killed thousands of Americans was mentioned once. Once. North Korea was never mentioned.
America has a great military man, but his name is not George Patton. His name is Fox Conner. He was a brigadier general and war theorist earlier in the last century, and was responsible for tutoring some of our greatest military leaders -- like George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower. His view was that dictators would always fight better, because they ruled by fear. Democracies do not have that, ah, luxury. So, he said, democracies must follow three rules when it comes to fighting a war: never fight unless attacked, never fight alone, and never fight for long. The Bush administration has got it exactly backwards -- we attacked a country that didn't attack us, we did it virtually by ourselves, and we have now fought longer in Iraq than we did against Germany and Japan. [complete article] U.S. diplomat suggests dismissal of Polish deputy PM over Iraq
By Slawek Szefs, Polskie Radio, November 7, 2006
Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga is meeting with the US ambassador in Warsaw to discuss an opinion voiced by his deputy Kenneth Hillas concerning criticism of Poland's deputy Prime Minister Roman Giertych.
The scandal broke out when leading Polish newspapers published information contained in a memorandum of a meeting of deputy US ambassador Kenneth Hillas with Leszek Jesien, secretary of state at the Prime Minister's Office.
During their talks, Mr. Hillas commented on deputy premier Roman Giertych's appeal for a public debate on Poland's participation in the military campaign in Iraq and the consequences of the mission on the civillian population there, which suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties as a result of international involvement in their country. An American report set this number at 650 thousand victims. The memorandum mentions Mr. Hillas' remark on the proposition to the effect that... 'should a deputy government head in Germany, France or Denmark make such a statement, he would be dismissed from his post'.
Roman Giertych reacted strongly to the words of the American deputy ambassador and labelled it direct foreign interference into the affairs of a sovereign country. [complete article]
Comment -- In the very same week that roughly half Americans with the opportunity to do so are exercising their democratic rights, the Bush administration has been busy undermining democracy elsewhere. What an extraordinary irony that in Poland, the country celebrated for triggering the downfall of totalitarian communism, the deputy prime minister should now say, "Maybe we have created a situation in which Poland has allowed the US to exercise absolute power over its foreign policy."
Poland is no exception. In Nicaragua, the US ambassador was openly campaigning against nemesis to the neocons, Daniel Ortega. Not surprisingly, Nicaraguans have told the US to go stuff it -- even in the face of threats of economic retaliation. So much for the state of global democracy -- it seems to flourish more in spite of rather than because of American efforts! After Nov. 7, U.S. still faces the rude shock of defeat
By Immanuel Wallerstein, San Francisco Chronicle, November 5, 2006
The primary problem of the leadership of the Democratic Party is that it believes, at least as much as the Republicans, that the United States is the center of the world, the font of wisdom, the great defender of world freedom -- in short, a deeply virtuous nation in a dangerous world.
Worst of all, they seem to believe that, merely by purging the element of exaggerated unilateralism practiced by the current regime, they will be able to restore the United States to a position of centrality in the world system, and regain the support of their erstwhile allies and supporters, first of all in Western Europe and then everywhere else in the world. They seem to believe that it's a matter of form, not substance, and that the fault of the Bush regime is that it wasn't good enough at diplomacy. [complete article] Fighting over who lost Iraq
By Andrew J. Bacevich, Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2006
As the endgame in Iraq approaches, the score-settling promises to get downright ugly. Those who observe this spectacle will need a strong stomach.
Still, whatever their political inclinations, Americans should welcome this debate. At a bare minimum, the eruption of blame and backstabbing will offer considerable entertainment value. To read (on the Vanity Fair website) that neoconservative David Frum, former White House speechwriter and author of a fawning tribute to Bush, has discovered that "the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas," is simply a hoot.
More substantively, the purging of political elites infesting Washington always has a cleansing effect. Figuring out "who lost Iraq?" ought to provide the occasion for throwing out more than a few rascals who hold office and discrediting others -- a process that will no doubt get a kick-start with today's midterm elections. With luck, those surviving will be at least momentarily chastened, perhaps giving rise to an Iraq syndrome akin to the Vietnam syndrome, and which at least for a while will save us from another similar debacle. [complete article] Where Plan A left Ahmad Chalabi
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, November 5, 2006
For Ahmad Chalabi, Iraq is an abstraction again. Once again, his native country is a faraway land ruled by somebody else, a place where other people die. It's a place to be discussed, rued, plotted over, from a parlor on an expensive Western street. Iraq's new leaders, the men who excluded Chalabi from the government they formed this spring, still call for advice -- several times a day, Chalabi says. He is here in London, his longtime home in exile, temporarily, he says, taking his first vacation in five years. At lunch at a nearby restaurant an hour before, he ordered the sea bass wrapped in a banana leaf. He walks the streets unattended by armed guards.
But the interlude, Chalabi says, is just that, a passing thing. His doubters will come back to him; they always have. As ever, he wears a jester's smile, wide and blank, a mask that has carried him through crises of the first world and the third. Still, a touch of bitterness can creep into Chalabi's voice, a hint that he has concluded that his time has come and gone. Indeed, even for a man as vain and resilient as Chalabi, his present predicament stands too large to go unacknowledged. Once Iraq's anointed leader -- anointed by the Americans -- Chalabi, at age 62, is without a job, spurned by the very colleagues whose ascension he engineered. His benefactors in the White House and in the Pentagon, who once gobbled up whatever half-baked intelligence Chalabi offered, now regard him as undependable and -- worse -- safely ignored. Chalabi's life work, an Iraq liberated from Saddam Hussein, a modern and democratic Iraq, is spiraling toward disintegration. Indeed, for many in the West, Chalabi has become the personification of all that has gone wrong in Iraq: the lies, the arrogance, the occupation as disaster. [complete article] Many oppose death penalty for Hussein
By Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, November 7, 2006
European politicians on Monday spoke out against the death sentence for Saddam Hussein. Arab officials and commentators derided what they said was a flawed and politicized trial, while for the first time broadly acknowledging Mr. Hussein’s crimes.
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, speaking to reporters on Monday, said he opposed the death penalty for Mr. Hussein, joining several other European leaders and European Union officials who announced their opposition to the sentence. When pressed by reporters, Mr. Blair spoke of his longstanding opposition to capital punishment. He said he did not intend to protest the sentence, and condemned Mr. Hussein’s brutality. [complete article]
Hussein asks Iraqi factions to reconcile
John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, November 8, 2006
A subdued Saddam Hussein returned to his Kurdish genocide trial in Baghdad on Tuesday, two days after another court sentenced him to death for war crimes, and in an unusually conciliatory moment called for the people of war-torn Iraq to forgive one another. [complete article]
Iraq charges 100 over prison torture
Reuters, November 7, 2006
Iraq's Interior Ministry has charged nearly 100 employees, including a police general and other high-ranking officers, with involvement in torturing detainees at a prison in Baghdad known as Site 4.
Police and other forces of Iraq's Shi'ite-led Interior Ministry have long been accused by Sunni Arabs of operating torture centers and dungeons holding Sunni detainees. [complete article]
The day the hatred boiled over in Balad
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2006
There were no heroes here.
When gunmen murdered dozens of people in this once peaceful Shiite market city over two days last month, no one stepped in to stop the killing. Not U.S. forces, whose stated purposes in Iraq include preventing all-out civil war. Not the Iraqi security forces, who mostly turned a blind eye to the massacre. Not the people of Balad, who allowed decades of fear and hatred to overwhelm their better instincts.
Perhaps nothing could be done. Perhaps Iraq's Shiite-Sunni feuds have become so heated that not even 140,000 U.S. soldiers can stop the country's increasingly brutal civil war. [complete article]
Fallujah once again beset by violence
By Jay Price and Mohammed al Dulaimy, McClatchy, November 6, 2006
When gunmen hid a bomb in front of his house a few days ago, intending to use it against U.S. or Iraqi troops, Majeed al-Rawi had only one option: Move out.
"If I report it to the Americans, I will be killed by the men who put it there, and if I don't, my family will be killed either by the explosion or the Americans," the car dealer said. "This is not a way to live; this is a way to hate life."
Two years after American troops launched a devastating ground assault aimed at purging the heart of the Iraqi insurgency, Fallujah once again is a violent place. [complete article] Muslim officer sacked from guarding Blair
By Robert Verkaik, The Independent, November 7, 2006
An experienced Muslim firearms officer has begun race and religious discrimination proceedings against the Metropolitan Police after he was removed from a close-protection unit guarding senior dignitaries, including Tony Blair. Amjad Farooq, 39, a father of five, was told he was a threat to national security because his children had attended a mosque associated with a Muslim cleric linked to a suspected terrorist group.
The officer was also told that his presence might upset the American secret service which worked closely with the Met's close-protection group.
His case raises further concerns about the treatment of Muslim firearms officers working in Metropolitan Police Force. Last month, at the height of the conflict in southern Lebanon, PC Alexander Basha was excused from guarding the Israeli embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens, central London, because of concern about his family links with Lebanon. [complete article]
See also, Case exposes Britain's multicultural tensions (Robert Verkaik).
Comment -- The issue here can be framed as one of security policy but it is equally a matter of civic philosophy. The Blair-Bush era has been one that has encouraged the citizenry of Britain and America to allow themselves to be governed by fear. What sparked that fear was real, yet fear by its nature metastasizes and takes hold wherever it is given room to grow. We have been fed the lie that safety is the antidote but really there is only one way of challenging fear: with courage. Al Jazeera International, coming to a TV near you
FP Passport, November 6, 2006
Al Jazeera International, after a few months of delay, is set to go live on November 15. It expects to reach 40 million viewers around the world that first day. Distribution in the United States is still being negotiated, and the promo below looks specifically designed to convince prospective cable carriers that the network has the kind of bona fides it needs to compete with CNN and BBC. [complete article] Occupied Palestinian Territories: Authorities must address violence against women and girls
Human Rights Watch, November 7, 2006
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has failed to establish an effective framework to respond to violence against women and girls, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Despite the current political and economic crisis, there are steps that the PA can and should take to address these abuses as a priority issue within its security agenda.
The 101-page report, "A Question of Security: Violence Against Palestinian Women and Girls," based on field research conducted in the West Bank and Gaza in November 2005 and early 2006, documents dozens of cases of violence ranging from spousal and child abuse to rape, incest and murders committed under the guise of family "honor." There is increasing recognition of the problem, and some PA officials have indicated their support for a more vigorous government response, but the PA has taken little action to prevent these abuses. As a result, violence against women and girls is often unreported, and even when it is, it usually goes unpunished. [complete article] Man gets life sentence for terror plot
By James Sturcke, The Guardian, November 7, 2006
Dhiren Barot, who meticulously researched a plot to commit mass murder on a "colossal and unprecedented scale" in Britain and the US, was today jailed for life.
Judge Mr Justice Butterfield said Barot's plans would have caused carnage affecting millions of people if they had succeeded, and said he must serve at least 40 years before being considered for parole.
"This was no noble cause," the judge said. "Your plans were to bring indiscriminate carnage, bloodshed and butchery, first in Washington, New York and Newark, and thereafter the UK, on a colossal and unprecedented scale. [complete article]
See also, A quiet, middle-class boy who turned into a jihad warrior bent on killing (The Telegraph). Fewer Pakistanis rally to support Islamists
By David Montero, Christian Science Monitor, November 7, 2006
For a week after missiles destroyed a madrassah, or religious school, in Pakistan's tribal belt suspected of harboring al-Qaeda officers, thousands of angry men, many armed, have stormed through the area's main towns, chanting jihad against America and endorsing suicide attacks.
But hundreds of miles away, in the cosmopolitan cities of Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, relative silence has prevailed.
The difference in response is telling, observers say. It underscores not only an important gap in understanding between the tribal areas and the rest of the country - a gulf that helps keep the area underdeveloped and prone to extremism - but an erosion of the Islamist parties' power on the national stage. [complete article] The couch potato's guide to election night
By Michael Schwartz, TomDispatch, November 6, 2006
If you have a political bone in your body -- even if you're usually a cynic about elections -- you're undoubtedly holding your breath right now. With the 2006 midterm elections upon us, the question is: Will the Democrats recapture at least the House of Representatives and maybe even take the Senate by the narrowest of margins?
There is very little agreement about what might happen if a change in Congressional control takes place. The Bush administration, of course, has trumpeted the direst of warnings, predicting (in sometimes veiled ways) nothing less than the demise of the country. Less apocalyptic predictions include an expectation among 70% of potential voters (as reported in the latest New York Times poll) that "American troops would be taken out of Iraq more swiftly under a Democratic Congress." The more cynical among us hope for at least a few challenging congressional investigations of administration activities at home and abroad.
So we will go into Tuesday looking for that tell-tale count that will indicate a Democratic gain of 15 or more seats in the House; and -- a much bigger if -- six seats in the Senate. We probably face a long night sorting out so many disparate races -- and our traditional counters, the TV networks, won't even begin their task until the polls close on the East coast. So we could face a long day's journey into night, if we don't have some other "benchmarks" -- to use a newly favored administration word -- and issues to ponder. [complete article]
Comment -- The one person with arguably the most powerful vote in this election is apparently just going to sit back and watch. This time around it seems like Osama bin Laden will have no pre-election message for the American people. Marc Lynch has been watching closely for tell-tale hints, but at this point there's no sign that a video or audio tape is on the way. There are those who will argue that this indicates that al Qaeda has reached the conclusion that the GOP has outgrown its usefulness, but its equally possible that bin Laden and Zawahiri don't have a strong investment in any particular outcome.
Meanwhile, just as in March 2003 when the Bush administration turned out not to have a post-war plan, in November 2006, the Democratic Party has no clear plan in the increasingly likely event that it regains control of Congress. No more "stay the course." Instead, there'll be a new and improved course for Iraq, but as yet, no one seems to know what that new course might look like.
Oh well, don't forget to vote. Sorry if I sound less than enthusiastic. Saddam and America's Republicans
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, November 6, 2006
...the Republicans would like us to believe that holding Saddam responsible for what he did means, for some reason, they should escape responsibility for what they've done. Perhaps they believe Americans are just suckers for sagas of redemption. All you have to do is turn your eyes toward the sky, pray for forgiveness, and rake in the votes.
Certainly they've made it clear that the only jury they listen to is the electorate. You remember President George W. Bush smugly telling The Washington Post in January 2005, "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections."
Another accountability moment is coming. Sunday was judgment day for Saddam, who probably will hang. Tuesday will be judgment day for Republicans. What will happen to them afterward, well, we'll have to wait and see. [complete article]
See also, November Surprise, the sequel (Tom Engelhardt). Far from healing Iraqi divisions, this trial has deepened them
By Bronwen Maddox, The Times, November 6, 2006
This is victor's justice. There is a tiny chance that it will calm Iraq's turmoil, but much more likely, it will have the opposite effect.
The verdict is no surprise. One hundred per cent of Iraqis anticipated it; 80 per cent with a sense of vindication, 20 per cent with fury.
The only doubt yesterday was whether the court would consider that the Dujail case was sufficiently strong to warrant the death penalty, or whether it would wait for one of the later charges, where the chain of command from Saddam Hussein to the killings might be more firmly established. But it didn't. [complete article] Bush & Blair: The Iraq fantasy
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, November 5, 2006
"When does the incompetence end and the crime begin?" asked an appalled German Chancellor in the First World War when the German army commander said he intended to resume his bloody and doomed assaults on the French fortress city of Verdun.
The same could be said of the disastrous policies of George Bush and Tony Blair in Iraq. At least 3,000 Iraqis and 100 American soldiers are dying every month. The failure of the US and Britain at every level in Iraq is obvious to all. But the White House and Downing Street have lived in a state of permanent denial. On the Downing Street website are listed 10 "Big Issues" affecting the Prime Minister, but Iraq is not one of them. [complete article] IDF preparing for another conflict by next summer
By Amir Oren, Haaretz, November 6, 2006
Syria and Hezbollah are likely to start a war against Israel next summer, according to General Staff assessments that have been gathered during a series of meetings in recent weeks. While there is no specific estimate concerning the timing of a potential attack, all preparations are being made to ensure maximum preparedness in advance of summer, 2007. [complete article]
Hezbollah uses influence to jockey for power in Beirut
By Michael Slackman, New York Times, November 6, 2006
Not long before Hezbollah set off a war with Israel last summer, it found itself under pressure in talks with other Lebanese political groups -- those aligned with the United States -- to give up its weapons and help remove the pro-Syrian president from office.
On Monday, most of those same leaders are expected to sit down again, but this time the issues of Hezbollah’s arsenal and the president's tenure are not even on the agenda.
Instead with Hezbollah, a militant Islamic group, being seen as the victor in the war, the tables have turned. Hezbollah is pressing its case for effective control of the government and a new election law, warning that otherwise it would move to bring down the government and force a new parliamentary election. [complete article]
Listen to Maj. Gen. Stern
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, November 6, 2006
A bloodbath is taking place in Beit Hanun, the Israel Defense Forces runs rampant and kills at least 37 people in four days - and Israeli public opinion yawns with indifference. A brigade commander tells his soldiers, who killed 12 people in one day: "You've won 12:0," and the soldiers grin broadly. This is the moral nadir we have reached, following a long slide down a slippery slope: Human life has become cheap.
Proof of this came at the end of the week from the big mouth of Major General Elazar Stern, the head of the IDF Personnel Directorate, who occasionally says true things. "The IDF's excessive sensitivity to human life led to some of the failures in the Lebanon war - and this should not happen," Stern told Channel 7. Stern should be praised for these forthright words: Those who embark with unbearable lightness on a futile war of choice cannot allow themselves the luxury of showing sensitivity for the lives of their soldiers. In war, soldiers not only kill, but are also killed. This should have been stated in advance.
But the general's remarks are also tainted with hypocrisy: Those who over a few months kill more than 1,000 Lebanese and 300 Palestinians for dubious reasons do not have the right to speak about sensitivity to human life. The fact that the public protest against the war did not take off demonstrates that after having lost all sensitivity for the lives of others, we are also gradually losing sensitivity for the lives of our children who are killed in vain. The contempt for human life starts with the lives of Arabs and ends with the lives of Jews. [complete article]
See also, Olmert to press on with Gaza offensive (The Guardian). Turkish official warns of chaos if Iraq is split up
AP, November 6, 2006
Turkey's foreign minister warned Sunday that dividing Iraq along religious or ethnic lines would create chaos, and suggested that neighboring nations would not acquiesce to a partition.
"There are those who think that dividing Iraq might be better, that this chaos might end," Abdullah Gul told reporters. "This is what we say: Don't even think of such an alternative because that would lead Iraq toward new chaos." [complete article] Official: Iran ready to negotiate with U.S. on Iraq
AP, November 5, 2006
Iran said Sunday it is open to negotiations with the United States on Iraq but hinted it would continue to refuse to talk with Washington about its controversial nuclear program.
As the U.N. Security Council geared up for a protracted debate over sanctions, Iran also praised Russia's "softer" stance on Tehran's nuclear activities.
"Russians' stance is better than other ... countries. They have a softer policy. Since the beginning, their stance was different," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini.
Hosseini said that Iran would consider talks with the U.S. over regional issues, including Iraq, if Washington requested. He would not elaborate, and there was no immediate response from the United States on the offer. [complete article] U.S. analysts had flagged atomic data on web site
By William J. Broad, New York Times, November 4, 2006
Two weeks before the government shut down a Web site holding an archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war, scientists at an American weapons laboratory complained that papers on the site contained sensitive nuclear information, federal officials said yesterday. Two documents were quickly removed.
The Bush administration set up the Web site last March at the urging of Congressional Republicans, who said giving public access to materials from the 48,000 boxes of documents found in Iraq could increase the understanding of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein.
But among the documents posted were roughly a dozen that nuclear weapons experts said constituted a basic guide to building an atom bomb. They were accounts of Mr. Hussein's nuclear program, which United Nations inspectors dismantled after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. [complete article] Report: Feds refusing FBI terror cases
By Lara Jakes Jordan, AP, November 5, 2006
The Justice Department increasingly has refused to prosecute FBI cases targeting suspected terrorists over the past five years, according to private researchers who reviewed department records.
The government says the findings are inaccurate and "intellectually dishonest."
The report being released Monday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University raises questions about the quality of the FBI's investigations.
Prosecutors declined to bring charges in 131 of 150, or 87 percent, of international terrorist case referrals from the FBI between October 2005 and June 2006, according to the report. The study was based on the most recent data available from the Justice Department's executive office for U.S. attorneys. [complete article] A response to Vanity Fair
National Review, November 5, 2006
On Friday, Vanity Fair issued a press release highlighting excerpts of a piece in their January issue on "neoconservative" supporters of the war in Iraq who today, unsurprisingly, have some negative things to say about how the war is going and how the Bush administration has been handling it.
In the wake of the press release -- which has gotten considerable play on the Internet -- some of those "neoconservatives" highlighted in the article have responded to the excerpts and its misrepresentations, in some cases, of what they said. We collect some of those reactions -- including from Eliot Cohen, David Frum, Frank Gaffney, Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, and Michael Rubin -- below. [complete article] Neo culpa
By David Rose, Vanity Fair, November 3, 2006
As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war's neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence. In a series of exclusive interviews, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, and others play the blame game with shocking frankness. Target No. 1: the president himself.
I remember sitting with Richard Perle in his suite at London's Grosvenor House hotel and receiving a private lecture on the importance of securing victory in Iraq. "Iraq is a very good candidate for democratic reform," he said. "It won't be Westminster overnight, but the great democracies of the world didn't achieve the full, rich structure of democratic governance overnight. The Iraqis have a decent chance of succeeding." Perle seemed to exude the scent of liberation, as well as a whiff of gunpowder. It was February 2003, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the culmination of his long campaign on behalf of regime change in Iraq, was less than a month away.
Three years later, Perle and I meet again at his home outside Washington, D.C. It is October, the worst month for U.S. casualties in Iraq in almost two years, and Republicans are bracing for losses in the upcoming midterm elections. As he looks into my eyes, speaking slowly and with obvious deliberation, Perle is unrecognizable as the confident hawk who, as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, had invited the exiled Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi to its first meeting after 9/11. "The levels of brutality that we've seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity," Perle says now, adding that total defeat—an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic "failed state"—is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely. "And then," says Perle, "you'll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating."
According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says, "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.… I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty." [complete article]
See also, Cheney vows 'full speed ahead' on Iraq war (WP).
Comment -- Neocon mea culpa? Not quite. Perle et al might feel like they were let down by George Bush, yet most of their disappointment seems to be that he turned out not to have been a perfectly responsive puppet. Had the neocons not only instigated but also planned and managed the war -- they'd have us believe -- everything would have worked out just fine. Undiminished masters in conceiving a policy for re-shaping the Middle East, they'd like to suggest that their only failing was that they weren't astute enough to judge the capabilities of those they were advising. Iraq falls but neoconservative hubris turns out to be immutable. Time for Rumsfeld to go
Editorial, Army Times, November 4, 2006
For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don't show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.
Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.
And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.
Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.
This is a mistake. It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.
These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many privately feared would fail. They have kept their counsel private, adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of subordination of the military to civilian authority.
And although that tradition, and the officers' deep sense of honor, prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe it.
Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.
This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:
Donald Rumsfeld must go. [complete article] Jews and Arabs can never live together, says Israel's vice PM
By Harry de Quetteville, The Sunday Telegraph, November 5, 2006
When Avigdor Lieberman, a populist Israeli politician frequently compared to Austria's Jorg Haider and France's Jean-Marie le Pen, proposed to bus thousands of Palestinians to the Dead Sea and drown them there, he was just a fringe member of government.
That was three years ago. But last week the controversial nationalist joined the coalition government led by Ehud Olmert in a much more senior role, as vice prime minister with special responsibility for Israel's most pressing issue: the threat from Iran.
In his first interview since taking office – exclusively with The Sunday Telegraph – Mr Lieberman said that the best means of achieving peace in the Middle East would be for Jews and Arabs to live apart, including those Arabs who now live inside Israel. [complete article]
Comment -- There's a universally understood name for what Lieberman is advocating: apartheid. The question is, are Lieberman's views as far outside the mainstream as they are being cast, or is he simply spelling out the logical direction in which Israel's policies were already moving? Lieberman might speak in crudely racist terms that offend "moderates," yet euphemisms such as Israel's "demographic problem" are already accepted elements in mainstream discourse. As Gideon Levy recently wrote:
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 nationalist.
Hamas, Fatah agree on Palestinian unity govt: minister
AFP, November 5, 2006
A Palestinian minister has said the ruling Hamas party had reached agreement with president Mahmud Abbas's moderate Fatah on a national unity government, but a spokesman for the radical Islamist group would only say "important progress" had been made.
"We've reached an agreement on everything -- on the forming of the government, the name of the future prime minister, the criteria for appointing new ministers and the programme," minister for prisoner affairs Wasfi Kabha told AFP, without elaborating. [complete article]
Israel presses attacks in Gaza, killing a rocket maker
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, November 5, 2006
Israel continued its military offensive in Gaza on Saturday, destroying a minivan containing a Hamas rocket maker and two associates and demolishing at least five homes in Beit Hanun, on the Gaza-Israel border.
The rocket maker, identified by Hamas as Louay al-Burnu, was killed Saturday in Gaza City with two other members of the militant faction. Another Hamas fighter was killed in a gun battle with Israeli forces after firing an antitank rocket near Beit Hanun, and an Israeli noncommissioned officer was badly wounded. A Palestinian civilian, Marwan Abu Harbid, 46, died when an Israeli tank shell hit his home, burying him inside, a relative told The Associated Press.
In nearby Jabaliya, a Hamas member died from wounds from an artillery shell, which wounded four other members of Hamas's military wing. Later Saturday, two brothers, both members of Hamas, were killed in a helicopter strike, as was a 16-year-old Palestinian, according to Agence France-Presse. [complete article] Nuclear steps put region on brink of most fearful era yet
By Richard Beeston, The Times, November 4, 2006
It is one of the world's most unstable regions, where conflicts over land, ideology and religion have raged for centuries.
Yet the Middle East may now be entering the most precarious era of its history, with the sudden rush by Arabs, Iranians and Turks to master nuclear technology and one day unlock the secrets to the atomic bomb.
Yesterday's disclosure that Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and smaller states such as Tunisia and the UAE want to acquire nuclear technology was suspected for some time, but the headlong race into the atomic age came as a shock. [complete article]
See also, Six Arab states join rush to go nuclear (The Times) and Treaty is left in shreds by new race (The Times). CIA review highlights Afghan leader's woes
By David Rohde and James Risen, New York Times, November 5, 2006
A recent Central Intelligence Agency assessment found that the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, had been significantly weakened by rising popular frustration with his American-backed government, American officials say.
The assessment found that Mr. Karzai's government and security forces continued to struggle to exert authority beyond Kabul, said a senior American official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. The assessment also found that increasing numbers of Afghans viewed Mr. Karzai's government as corrupt, failing to deliver promised reconstruction and too weak to protect the country from rising Taliban attacks.
"The ability to project out into the countryside, perceptions of corruption in the government," said the official, listing Afghan complaints. "The failure to deliver the services."
The assessment, which was conducted before Mr. Karzai's visit to Washington in late September, echoes the frustration that has gathered force in Afghanistan since the spring, and American officials in Washington and Kabul are expressing increasingly dire warnings regarding the situation here. Ronald E. Neumann, the American ambassador in Kabul, said in a recent interview that the United States faced "stark choices" in Afghanistan. Averting failure, he said, would take "multiple years" and "multiple billions." [complete article] Saddam is sentenced to death, and Iraq shrugs
By Aparisim Ghosh, Time.com, November 5, 2006
For those seeking omens on Saddam Hussein's day of judgment, Mother Nature obliged: Sunday dawned wet, cool and clean in Baghdad after overnight showers rinsed the city of several layers of desert sand. Late in the morning, Ahmed Hussein, a government-employed street sweeper, looked up into the overcast and still-rumbling skies and nodded approvingly. "This is the right weather for a day like this," he said. "The rain is God's blessing upon the verdict."
But for many Iraqis, the death sentence passed on their former dictator Sunday was not so much a cleansing autumnal rain as just another thunderclap -- albeit a particularly loud one -- in the middle of a terrible and unending storm. Once the clatter of celebratory gunfire that greeted the verdict had died down, Iraqis' thoughts returned to their own future, and the depressing realization that it is no less bleak than it was yesterday. "Whether Saddam lives or dies is not important to me," shrugs Imad Mohammed, a computer technician. "I'm not even sure whether my family and I will live or die." [complete article]
Comment -- World reaction to Saddam Hussein's death sentence has been predictable, yet it's ironic that in Britain, less than a month after the minister responsible for human rights said, "We reiterate our principled opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances," Britain's foreign secretary welcomed today's verdicts and sentences. I guess Blair's sycophantic ministers are never willing to pass up an opportunity to please their pro-death penalty American friends. That Britain, as a member of the European Union's campaign towards the universal abolition of the death penalty, might today find it convenient to say nothing about the issue, begs the question: why would such a government expect anyone or any other government to take seriously any expression of its principles?
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
This is Baghdad. What could be worse?
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, October 29, 2006
Tea and kidnapping - behind the lines of a civil war
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, October 29, 2006
How to cut and run
By William E. Odom, Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2006
What's behind the growing Baghdad-Washington rift
By Tony Karon, Time.com, November 1, 2006
Baker panel to avoid calls for Mideast peace push
By Nathan Guttman, The Forward, November 1, 2006
Pause for peace
By Ahmed Yousef, New York Times, November 1, 2006
A Palestinian question: Where has America gone?
By Jamil Hamad, Time.com, October 26, 2006
Islamism's failure, Islamists' future
By Olivier Roy, Open Democracy, October 30, 2006
A radical idea: How Muslims can be European, too
By Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, October 31, 2006
Taliban plan to fight through winter to throttle Kabul
By Jason Burke, The Observer, October 29, 2006
The horrors of "extraordinary rendition"
By Maher Arar, FPIF, October 18, 2006
"The president knows more than he lets on"
Ron Suskind interviewed by Der Spiegel, October 27, 2006
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A daily record of America's post-9/11 impact on the world. Researched, edited and sprinkled with comments and commentary by Paul Woodward
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