<$BlogRSDUrl$>

17 April 2004

Can the Rights of People Simply Disappear by Presidential Order? 

What does it mean when the President of the United States can on his own designate a citizen in the U.S. as an “enemy combatant,” and order the military to hold that person incommunicado, indefinitely, and without charges? The U.S. Supreme Court is now deciding whether the courts even have the right to question the President’s action.

What does it mean when the U.S. military internationally can literally snatch people off the street, designate them as “enemy combatants,” and assert that they are beyond the reach of either U.S. or international law? Many are transported to a facility under total U.S. control and funded by Congressional appropriations, where they are held incommunicado, indefinitely, without charges and some are threatened with trials before a military commission that falls short of basic standards of justice.

If the Supreme Court upholds these actions, it will condone the President’s claim of virtually unlimited “wartime powers” without a formal declaration of war by the Congress, and with no or extremely limited oversight by the courts or the Congress.

On April 20 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the President’s alleged right to create a “law free zone” at the Guantanamo detention center in Cuba. And on April 28, the Court will hear oral arguments on the President’s asserted right to designate citizens as “enemy combatants,” hold them at the U.S. Navy base in Charleston, SC, and deny them the ability to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.

We believe that the President cannot be allowed to create a “legal Black Hole” into which people are dropped with no recourse to the courts or to international law. Among us we hold many varied views on how and why this situation has arisen and what is ultimately needed to ensure justice. But we all agree that this dangerous new presidentially-designated category of “enemy combatants” who have no legal rights is unjust, illegal, and immoral, and cannot be allowed to stand.

The silence over this perilous issue must be broken, and public opposition must be manifested. Join us in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on April 20 and April 28 to declare a resounding NO! Legally permitted, non-violent demonstrations will occur on both days from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm with a program of speakers beginning at 11:am.

Our future and the future of hundreds of anonymous detainees now hang in the balance. This is a watershed event in history. What is at stake is just how much the President will be allowed to get away with. Your silence will be taken as assent.

For more information go to http://www.nlg.org/eccases/

www.notinourname.net

(0) comments
"The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the -- the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice." --George W. Bush--Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2003


"Security is the essential roadblock to achieving the road map to peace."
--George W. Bush, July 25, 2003

(0) comments

George and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamtie 

Go to original

By William Rivers Pitt

Thursday 15 April 2004

The first thing you got was the tie.


You lost the importance of the press conference. You lost the fact that Bush had only done two of these prime time gigs in his entire term, and that he hates them because he isn't good at them. You lost the fact that the 9/11 Commission had been punching him and his administration around the room for the last couple of weeks. You lost the fact that September 11 had been demystified, that the going wisdom now says it could have been stopped by an administration that was actually paying attention. You lost the fact that almost 80 American soldiers and something like 900 Iraqis had been killed in the last month of fighting, that almost 700 American soldiers have been killed since the invasion was undertaken, and that, oh by the way, there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

You lost all of that and were left with the tie around Bush's neck, the gray spotted tie that was flashing and heliographing in the camera's eye like something out of a Hunter S. Thompson fever dream, the mesmerizing swirl of reds and yellows and purples and blues that left the whole press conference behind in a hypnotizing, dazzling, inebriating swirl of flummoxed technology which almost certainly caused Americans from sea to shining sea to lean towards their televisions and exclaim, "Holy Christ, Marjorie, look at the man's necktie!"

But then the shock of the collision between necktie and television wore off, and you were left with the man, and his words, and certainly the most ridiculous press conference since Al Haig blithered about being in charge after Hinckley put a bullet into Ronald Reagan. They sacked Haig pretty much on the spot after that sad display. Would that the American people in the year of our Lord 2004 could be so lucky.

Leaving aside the fact that Bush sounded for all the world like he was speaking through a mouthful of glue - and they say John Kerry is boring on the stump? - the preamble to this train wreck of a press conference is worthy of some analysis:

GWB: This has been tough weeks in that country.

WRP: Huh?

GWB: Coalition forces have encountered serious violence in some areas of Iraq.

WRP: You don't say.

GWB: In the south of Iraq, coalition forces face riots and attacks that are being incited by a radical cleric named al-Sadr.

WRP: And you know why? Because your goober proconsul Paul Bremer shut down al-Sadr's piddly little tabloid newspaper on April 4, giving this pampered brat more street cred than he ever had before. He had plenty of people to whip into a frenzy against American forces, George, because your whole project in Iraq has been utterly devoid of meaning, direction, or even coherent planning. You went and made a free-speech martyr out of al-Sadr by closing down his newspaper, lighting a fuse that has left dozens of Americans and hundreds of Iraqis dead. Kudos, Chief.

GWB: As a proud, independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation, and neither does America. We're not an imperial power, as nations such as Japan and Germany can attest. We're a liberating power, as nations in Europe and Asia can attest as well.

WRP: Brilliant. American military forces remain in Germany and Japan to this very day. That's not much of an object lesson. As for being a 'liberating power' in Asia, I can't imagine you are referring to Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos.

GWB: Were the coalition to step back from the June 30th pledge, many Iraqis would question our intentions and feel their hopes betrayed. And those in Iraq who trade in hatred and conspiracy theories would find a larger audience and gain a stronger hand.

WRP: I can't be sure how up on current events you are, George, but that horse pretty much left the barn.

GWB: In Fallujah, coalition forces have suspended offensive operations, allowing members of the Iraqi Governing Council and local leaders to work on the restoration of central authority in that city. These leaders are communicating with the insurgents to ensure an orderly turnover of that city to Iraqi forces, so that the resumption of military action does not become necessary.

WRP: Translation - American forces were totally shocked by the fury of the Iraqi people after this catastrophe of a military adventure, further shocked by the alliance between Shia and Sunni, and betrayed by ham-handed actions like Bremer's decision to shut down al-Sadr's nothing newspaper. Because the Iraqi fighters seemed perfectly capable of killing dozens of Americans at will, and because this was a political mess for you right during election season, you were forced to sue for a 'cease-fire' with the people you had supposedly defeated. The result of this will be an Iraqi military opposition in Falluja and Najaf that has had time to regroup and rearm. Congratulations. You're about to get even more people killed.

GWB: The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorists who take hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew. We've seen the same ideology of murder in the killing of 241 Marines in Beirut, the first attack on the World Trade Center, in the destruction of two embassies in Africa, in the attack on the USS Cole, and in the merciless horror inflicted upon thousands of innocent men and women and children on September the 11th, 2001.

WRP: Two problems, one of which is the same grammar catastrophe you appear incapable of avoiding. You say "The terrorists who...is serving..." Come on, George. "The terrorists who...are serving..." is the way to work that English language. Make it yours, George. Work it. Beyond that, the fact that you have again connected Iraq to September 11 - and, boy, Beirut was just out of nowhere - is shameful and disgraceful. Just stop. This has been batted down more times than a Serena Williams forehand.

GWB: The terrorists have lost the shelter of the Taliban and the training camps in Afghanistan. They have lost safe havens in Pakistan.

WRP: Um, no. Because you took the best troops out of Afghanistan and threw them into Iraq, the Taliban and al Qaeda are pretty much running around free there again. They have free and open access to Pakistan for the same reason. I hear the heroin crop in Afghanistan this year is going to be simply divine, which works in your favor if you think about it. After all, what good is a severe economic downturn if there isn't cheap access to good smack?

GWB: They lost an ally in Baghdad.

WRP: They never had an ally in Baghdad. Again, this allegation has been disproven more times than Piltdown man. You need to get some new material, George. I suggest invading France immediately. It's not like those cheese-eating surrender monkeys were dead-bang right about this invasion being a disaster in the making. A good military stomping will shut them up, and you can bring back the Freedom Fries fad.

GWB: We will succeed in Iraq. We're carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change.

WRP: Yup, you made the decision the day you showed up in Washington with your band of neocon Vulcans. Never let pesky things like facts get in the way of a decision that has already been made.

That's about as much of that as anyone could stand. My mother had called me by this point screaming, "This is a President? I feel like I want to cry!" I had to break it to her that the worst was yet to come. The press were about to get their shot. Seldom in human history have so many pointed questions gone so amazingly unanswered. Some examples which speak for themselves:

QUESTION: Mr. President, before the war, you and members of your administration made several claims about Iraq: that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers; that Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, we know where they are. How do you explain to Americans how you got that so wrong? And how do you answer your opponents who say that you took this nation to war on the basis of what have turned out to be a series of false premises?

GWB: Well, let me step back and review my thinking prior to going into Iraq. First, the lesson of September the 11th is that when this nation sees a threat, a gathering threat, we got to deal with it. We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. Every threat we must take seriously. Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people. He was a threat because he coddled terrorists. He was a threat because he funded suiciders. He was a threat to the region. He was a threat to the United States.

And we've been there a year. I know that seems like a long time. It seems like a long time to the loved ones whose troops have been overseas. But when you think about where the country has come from, it's a relatively short period of time. And we're making progress. There's no question it's been a tough, tough series of weeks for the American people. It's been really tough for the families. I understand that. It's been tough on this administration. But we're doing the right thing. And as to whether or not I made decisions based upon polls, I don't. I just don't make decisions that way. I fully understand the consequences of what we're doing. We're changing the world, and the world will be better off and America will be more secure as a result of the actions we're taking.

WRP: Ooooookay...raise your hand if you see an answer in there? There are no weapons of mass destruction, despite the fact that Rumsfeld said he knew where they were - and it bears mention that Bush referred to Rumsfeld in his preamble as the Secretary of State. We were hardly welcomed as liberators, and the oil infrastructure is in total disarray. No answers from George. And as far as "We're changing the world" goes, George, there's an old saying: Any jackass can knock down a barn. You change the barn when you smash it, but not many people would label it an improvement. Good thing your triumphalist streak is under control, though.

Moving on:

QUESTION: Mr. President, why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9-11 commission? And, Mr. President, who will we be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?

GWB: We'll find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over. And, secondly, because the 9-11 commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.

FOLLOW-UP: I was asking why you're appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.

GWB: Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9-11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them.

WRP: The talking heads before this press conference were saying it was absolutely, positively vital for Bush to deliver some sort of coherent plan for the immediate future of Iraq, including the handover. Here was a perfect opportunity to explain that plan, and George punted. You'll know when I know, hyuk hyuk hyuk. As for the whole thing about Bush and Cheney appearing together, the answer is pretty plain. George doesn't know much of anything about how his administration is being run, as was made horrifyingly clear in this event. Dick needs to be there to work the strings. The 9/11 Commission couldn't do much with "I love America, I love freedom, I love America, freedom, America, democracy, pzzzzcheeeeezzzz..." That's about all Bush could give them without a wingman.

Moving on:

QUESTION: In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9-11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9-11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?

GWB: I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could've done it better this way or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet. I would've gone into Afghanistan the way we went into Afghanistan. Even knowing what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would've called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein. See, I'm of the belief that we'll find out the truth on the weapons. That's why we sent up the independent commission. I look forward to hearing the truth as to exactly where they are. They could still be there. They could be hidden, like the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm.

One of the things that Charlie Duelfer talked about was that he was surprised of the level of intimidation he found amongst people who should know about weapons and their fear of talking about them because they don't want to be killed. You know, there's this kind of -- there's a terror still in the soul of some of the people in Iraq. They're worried about getting killed, and therefore they're not going to talk. But it'll all settle out, John. We'll find out the truth about the weapons at some point in time. However, the fact that he had the capacity to make them bothers me today just like it would have bothered me then. He's a dangerous man. He's a man who actually not only had weapons of mass destruction -- the reason I can say that with certainty is because he used them. And I have no doubt in my mind that he would like to have inflicted harm, or paid people to inflict harm, or trained people to inflict harm, on America, because he hated us. I hope -- I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

WRP: So much of this question and answer sums up the entire issue that squats incoherently before the American people, and never mind the tacit admission that he is helpless if he doesn't get the questions beforehand. Even Nixon admitted making mistakes. Have you made any mistakes, George? The Towers came down, the Taliban and al Qaeda are back in force in Afghanistan, there are about 700 dead American soldiers and well over 10,000 dead Iraqis in the Middle East, there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they had nothing to do with September 11, Osama bin Laden has been given this great gift because we invaded a Muslim country on a nonexistent pretext, and by the way we failed to catch the guy "Dead or Alive," we have manufactured thousands more terrorists with this invasion, the budget is annihilated, the Homeland Security Department is a total boondoggle...nope, I can't think of any mistakes. By the way, the Iraqi WMDs are hidden at a turkey farm. Pass it on.

The tie only worked for a minute. After that, the only thing hypnotizing on the television was this small fraction of a man playing at being Presidential while the world crashes down around his ears.

God help us all.

© Copyright 2004 by TruthOut.org
Reprinted for educational fair use only.

(0) comments

How the "NewsHour" Changed History 

Go to original

by Norman Solomon

When the anchor of public television's main news program goes out of his way to tell viewers that he's setting the record straight about a recent historic event, the people watching are apt to assume that they're getting accurate information. But with war intensifying in Iraq, a bizarre episode raises some very troubling concerns about the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

Here's what happened:

During a panel discussion April 7 on the NewsHour, while battles raged in close to a dozen Iraqi cities, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel referred to the American authorities' closure of a newspaper that had served as a megaphone for the anti-occupation Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr. "The immediate problem we have to remember is we started this ... with the aggressive policies towards Sadr that came from us, shutting down his press," Col. Sam Gardiner said.

The program's anchor spoke next.

Jim Lehrer: "The reason we shut down his press is because it was calling for violence and anti-American --"

Col. Gardiner: "Sure."

Lehrer: "I just want to get that on the record."

But Lehrer's comment -- ostensibly setting the record straight -- was at odds with the available factual record about Sadr's newspaper. In sync with other news accounts, the New York Times had reported two days earlier that "the paper did not print any calls for attacks."

I contacted the NewsHour and asked whether Lehrer's statement had been based on information contrary to what had been reported in the April 5 edition of the Times. If so, I asked for any citation that backed up his assertion. Or, if Lehrer did not have such a citation, I asked if there were plans for an on-air correction to set the factual record straight on the program (which reaches nearly 3 million viewers across the United States each night).

In reply to my inquiry, a NewsHour spokesperson cited two articles: A Chicago Tribune piece, dated April 5, said that "the pro-Sadr newspaper Al Hawza was shut down ... for allegedly printing false information that incited violence against the coalition." And an April 6 New York Times piece said that the Sadr newspaper "was closed last week after American authorities accused it of printing lies that incited violence."

The NewsHour spokesperson, Lete Childs, told me: "I hope these two articles help you understand the citations for Jim Lehrer's statement to Col. Gardiner."

But the two articles that the NewsHour cited only seemed to underscore the disconnect. Apparently, the NewsHour staff hadn't been able to find a single source to back up Lehrer's on-air statement that "the reason we shut down his press is because it was calling for violence." And the NewsHour did not provide any explanation for why, in sharp contrast to the flat-out report in the New York Times that "the paper did not print any calls for attacks," Lehrer had gone on the air and claimed that it did.

I reached the reporter in Baghdad who'd written the Chicago Tribune article, Vincent Schodolski, and asked if he was aware of any evidence that the American authorities shut down Al Hawza because it was "calling for violence." Schodolski replied: "I have no other citations than the reasons given by the CPA itself." My search of the official Web site for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led occupation authority in Iraq, turned up briefings and news releases with references to Sadr's newspaper -- but no backup for what Lehrer had said on the air.

At a March 30 press conference, Dan Senor of the CPA charged that Al Hawza had tried to "incite violence." That was very much in keeping with what the April 5 New York Times reported -- that while "the American authorities said false reporting, including articles that ascribed suicide bombings to Americans, could touch off violence," nevertheless "the paper did not print any calls for attacks."

Lehrer's refusal to correct his evident error is especially striking because he had emphasized his incorrect statement on the air by immediately adding: "I just want to get that on the record." (My request to a NewsHour spokesperson for a direct comment from Lehrer did not yield any statement from him.)

When I asked whether a decision had been made, one way or the other, about doing a correction on the NewsHour to set the factual record straight, the last piece of stone in the damage-control wall moved into place. I got the message: "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer stands behind the 'Iraq: What Now?' discussion segment from April 7 and will not be making a correction."

Journalists should scrutinize U.S. government spin, not contribute to it.

Here we have what some people believe to be the nation's most credible news program compounding a factual error by refusing to make a correction.

First-rate journalists change history. But not this way.

Norman Solomon is co-author, with foreign correspondent Reese Erlich, of "Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You."

Reprinted for educational fair use only.

(0) comments

16 April 2004

Book Alleges Secret Iraq War Plan 

Go to original

By CALVIN WOODWARD and SIOBHAN McDONOUGH
Associated Press Writers

April 16, 2004, 7:48 AM CDT

WASHINGTON -- President Bush secretly ordered a war plan drawn up against Iraq less than two months after U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan and was so worried the decision would cause a furor he did not tell everyone on his national security team, says a new book on his Iraq policy.

Bush feared that if news got out about the Iraq plan as U.S. forces were fighting another conflict, people would think he was too eager for war, journalist Bob Woodward writes in "Plan of Attack," a behind-the-scenes account of the 16 months leading to the Iraq invasion.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the book, which will be available in book stores next week.

"I knew what would happen if people thought we were developing a potential war plan for Iraq," Bush is quoted as telling Woodward. "It was such a high-stakes moment and ... it would look like that I was anxious to go to war. And I'm not anxious to go to war."

Bush and his aides have denied accusations they were preoccupied with Iraq at the cost of paying attention to the al-Qaida terrorist threat before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A commission investigating the attacks just concluded several weeks of extraordinary public testimony from high-ranking government officials. One of them, former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, charged the Bush administration's determination to invade Iraq undermined the war on terror.

Woodward's account fleshes out the degree to which some members of the administration, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, were focused on Saddam Hussein from the onset of Bush's presidency and even after the terrorist attacks made the destruction of al-Qaida the top priority.

Woodward says Bush pulled Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld aside Nov. 21, 2001 -- when U.S. forces and allies were in control of about half of Afghanistan -- and asked him what kind of war plan he had on Iraq. When Rumsfeld said it was outdated, Bush told him to get started on a fresh one.

The book says Bush told Rumsfeld to keep quiet about it and when the defense secretary asked to bring CIA Director George Tenet into the planning at some point, the president said not to do so yet.

Even Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was apparently not fully briefed. Woodward said Bush told her that morning he was having Rumsfeld work on Iraq but did not give details.

In an interview two years later, Bush told Woodward that if the news had leaked, it would have caused "enormous international angst and domestic speculation."

The Bush administration's drive toward war with Iraq raised an international furor anyway, alienating long-time allies who did not believe the White House had made a sufficient case against Saddam. Saddam was toppled a year ago and taken into custody last December. But the central figure of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, remains at large and a threat to the west.

The book says Gen. Tommy Franks, who was in charge of the Afghan war as head of Central Command, uttered a string of obscenities when the Pentagon told him to come up with an Iraq war plan in the midst of fighting another conflict.

Woodward, a Washington Post journalist who wrote an earlier book on Bush's anti-terrorism campaign and broke the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein, says Cheney's well-known hawkish attitudes on Iraq were frequently decisive in Bush's decision-making.

Cheney pressed the outgoing Clinton administration to brief Bush on the Iraq threat before he took office, Woodward writes.

In August 2002, when Bush talked publicly of being a patient man who would weigh Iraqi options carefully, the vice president took the administration's Iraq policy on a harder track in a speech declaring the weapons inspections ineffective. Cheney's speech was viewed as the beginning of a campaign to undermine or overthrow Saddam. Woodward said Bush let Cheney make the speech without asking what he would say.

The vice president also figured prominently in a protracted decision March 19, 2003, to strike Iraq before a 48-hour ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to leave the country had expired.

When the CIA and its Iraqi sources reported that Saddam's sons and other family members were at a small palace, and Saddam was on his way to join them, Bush's top advisers debated whether to strike ahead of plan.

Franks was against it, saying it was unfair to move before a deadline announced to the other side, the book says. Rumsfeld and Rice favored the early strike, and Secretary of State Colin Powell leaned that way.

But Bush did not make his decision until he had cleared everyone out of the Oval Office except the vice president. "I think we ought to go for it," Cheney is quoted as saying. Bush did.

U.S. forces unleashed bombs and cruise missiles, blanketing the compound but missing the palace. Tenet called the White House before dawn to say the Iraqi leader had been killed. But his optimism was premature. Saddam was alive.

The 468-page book is published by Simon & Schuster. Woodward will be interviewed on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday night to promote the book.

Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press
Reprinted for educational fair use only.



(0) comments

What do the Polls say? 

http://www.pollingreport.com/

(0) comments

THE EGO HAS LANDED 

Bush And Busher: What IS His Problem?

According to Matthijs van Boxsel, author of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF STUPIDITY, "stupidity is not the same as a lack of intelligence...'It's a quality all its own. It's unwitting self-destruction, the ability to act against one's best wishes...It's a typical human talent." Perhaps that begins to explain George W. Bush. As Mark Crispin Miller writes in THE BUSH DYSLEXICON:

"Our president is not an imbecile but an operator just as canny as he is hard-hearted--which is to say that he's extraordinarily shrewd....As Bush himself has often said--it suits a politician to have everybody thinking he's a dunce, especially if he wants to do things his way. The satire that sells him short, therefore, can only work to his advantage, by blinding us to his team's big-time plans and causing us to overlook his own prodigious skill at propaganda." (pp.2-3)

Miller goes on to write that Bush's "gross illiteracy" is often used as a focal topic to cover his more telling failures: "his neglected military service, his many shady business dealings, or his close ties to the likes of Representative Tom DeLay."

But none of this means that Bush is not stupid in van Boxsel's sense: one whose actions appear self-destructive or , to be more specific to Bush's case, one whose actions, both at home and abroad, are, much too often, not in the best interests of our nation. Where does Bush's national self-destructiveness, his willingness to destroy nearly 65 years of national social betterment, come from? Maureen Dowd thinks it's Bush's Attention Deficit Disorder.

Read the rest at BushWatch
http://bushwatch.org/ego.htm

(0) comments

“Submit or Die”: The Siege of Fallujah and Beyond 

Go to original

by Voices in the Wilderness, UK
www.dissidentvoice.org
April 13, 2004

Roughly 800 Iraqis have been killed in the latest escalation of US/UK repression and killing in Iraq. In the first of series of emergency updates Voices UK looks at what’s likely to happen next and the mind-set of some of the US soldiers fighting in Iraq.

A PROLONGED CAMPAIGN OR NEGOTIATIONS?

Though a fragile ­- and incomplete – “cease-fire” is apparently still in place in Fallujah (AP, 12 April), on Sunday the New York Times reported that “American commanders are preparing for a prolonged campaign to quell the twin uprisings in Iraq . . . retaking the cities around Baghdad, if necessary block by block against an entrenched Sunni foe” and conducting “a series of short, sharp, local strikes at small, elusive bands of Shiite militia in southern cities, continuing until the militia was wiped out.” (11 April)

However also on Sunday -- in what the LA Times described as “a significant tactical shift” -- US officials announced that they were “seeking ‘political’ solutions to pacify [Fallujah]” and disband firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia “[a]s guerrillas appeared to extend their influence closer to [Baghdad] … shooting down an Apache helicopter about 3 miles from Baghdad's airport and cutting off communications between military posts on a key road leading west from the city.” (12 April) At the same time “additional U.S. forces have been maneuvering into place, and the military has warned it will launch an all-out assault on Fallujah if talks there between pro-U.S. Iraqi politicians and city officials … fall through.” (AP, 12 April)

OR BOTH?

Noting that, “not a single American journalist has investigated the links between the Israeli army's ‘rules of engagement’ -- so blithely handed over to US forces on Sharon's orders -- and the behavior of the US military in Iraq,” veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk reminds us that, “[i]n besieging cities -- when they were taking casualties or the number of civilians killed was becoming too shameful to sustain -- the Israeli army would call a ‘unilateral suspension of offensive operations.’ They did this 11 times after they surrounded Beirut in 1982.” (The Independent, 11 April). It is possible that this is what we are seeing right now: on Monday the top US commander in the Middle East “called for at least two more brigades -­ up to 10,000 troops -­ to be sent to help quell the upheaval -­ and the most senior US general in Iraq declared that “the mission of US forces is to kill of capture Moqtada al-Sadr.” (Guardian, 13 April)

However even if negotiations “succeed” they are likely to provide only a temporary reprieve. According to the New York Times, “Pentagon policy makers and military officers … are worried that without a successful political process … the current military operations to restore order [sic] throughout restive Sunni and Shiite cities may have to be repeated in months to come.” (12 April) “[U]nless the political side keeps up, we’ll have to do it again after July 1 [when ‘sovereignty’ is nominally being transferred to an Iraqi Interim Government] and maybe in September and again next year and again and again,” a military officer told the paper. However, since the US continues to pursue what the Financial Times’s Middle East editor correctly identified as its “desire to control Iraq’s political transition while making it appear that it is driven by Iraqis,” the prospects of “a successful political process” are, to put it mildly, bleak. (January 17)

“SUBMIT OR DIE”


According to the Washington Post US marines are “eager to plunge back into the fray” in Fallujah. Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, who commands the 5th Marine Battalion there told the paper that “Given the virulent nature of the enemy, the prospect of some city father walking in and getting Joe Jihadi to give himself up is pretty slim … That’s fine, because they’ll get whipped up, come out fighting again and get mowed down ... Their only choices are to submit or die.” (11 April)

To be sure, the men, women and children of Fallujah do appear to have been “mowed down” in large numbers. On Sunday the director of the town’s general hospital, Rafie al-Issawi, estimated -­ on the basis of figures gathered from four clinics around the city as well as the hospital itself -- that more than 600 people had been killed and that “the vast majority of the dead were women, children and the elderly.” (Guardian, 12 April)

SNIPERS: “TRAINED TO BE PRECISE”

Lt. Col. Byrne denies this, stating that, “95% of those were military age males that were killed in the fighting.” Indeed, according to Lt. Col. Byrne, “the marines are trained to be precise in their firepower … [and are] very good at what they do.” (Guardian, 12 April)

Those who have managed to flee the city have been able to give some examples of this precision. For example, Mohammed Hadi, who told the Telegraph that, “US marines snipers had taken up position in the minarets of a local mosque and shot dead his neighbour.” “He was just on his way to buy tomatoes,” he told the paper. And 17-year-old Hassan Monem, who claimed that two of his friends “were shot as they stood in my yard.”

Likewise, Ali, 28, who had managed to escape with part of his family, related how “one man in an Opel drove his wife and children to the bridge so they would walk over. As he drove back to town, an American sniper killed him.” (The Guardian, 12 April) Meanwhile US author Rahul Majahan, who managed to get into Fallujah during the “ceasefire”, found “[a]n ambulance with two neat, precise bullet-holes in the windshield on the driver's side, pointing down at an angle that indicated they would have hit the driver's chest” and “another ambulance again with a single, neat bullet-hole in the windshield” (EmpireNotes.org weblog, 12 April entry)

“CHANGE THE CHANNEL”

The US has come up with a novel method for dealing with the PR problems associated with killing large numbers of Iraqis civilians. Asked on Sunday, what he would tell Iraqis about televised images “of Americans and coalition soldiers killing innocent civilians,” Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the senior military spokesman in Iraq answered “Change the channel.”’ (NYT, 12 April). “[S]tations … showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources,” he asserted. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it does not appear to be working.

“NOW EVERYONE BELONGS TO THE RESISTANCE”

According to Jonathan Steele, “Hundreds of families have driven out of Falluja over the last two days … The stories they tell have a common theme: how the Americans used to be good when they first arrived in Falluja, how arrogance and in sensitivity gradually alienated people, and how now under the pressure of so many deaths almost everyone supports the resistance, the mojahedin.” (Guardian, 12 April)

One such, Adnan Abid, a 35-year-old taxi driver from Fallujah, explained to the Telegraph that “I used to believe it was a good thing the Americans came to Iraq. Now I have lost all hope until the occupation ends.” (12 April) His wife, Hakima, added “There was little resistance in Fallujah before this week . . . Now everyone belongs to the resistance.” Outside a Fallujah school 16-year-old Soran Karim told the New York Times that “killing Americans was not just a good thing”: “It is the best thing. They are infidels, they are aggressive, they are hunting our people.” (11 April)

“MINI-FALLUJAHS FOR MONTHS”

“Falluja captured the world’s headlines,” the Guardian’s Jonathan Steele notes “but all over the Sunni areas there have been mini-Fallujas for months. US troops respond to attacks with artillery fire and air strikes, clumsy house-to-house searches, and mass arrests. In the process they create more enemies and provoke a desire for revenge.”

“We have even lost our right to get undressed for bed," a businessman in the town of Muqdadiya,” told him “recount[ing] how American troops had burst into his home after dark, handcuffed him in his night clothes in front of his terrified wife and children, and taken him away … His ordeal was short compared with the torture he suffered … under Saddam … but he said it left a deeper wound.” “Under Saddam they summoned you to the security police headquarters, and that was where the torture began. They didn't humiliate you in sight of your family,” he explained. (Guardian, 11 April).

Abdul Razak al-Muaimy, a 32-year-old laborer, told the New York Times that American soldiers had humiliated him in front of his children: “They searched my house. They kicked my Koran. They speak to me so poorly in front of my children. It's not that I encourage my son to hate Americans. It's not that I make him want to join the resistance. Americans do that for me.” (11 April).

PICKED UP FOR “WEARING BLACK”

Similar stories abound. Thus David Blair notes the “gleams of loathing” lighting up the eyes of two Iraqis, who had been found, unarmed in Central Baghdad and were now “squatting in the dust their hands tied by plastic restraints.” (Telegraph, 10 April) “We picked up these guys for wearing black,” explained one soldier from the 1st Armoured Division. “All of Sadr's guys wear black. It's like a Viet Cong thing.” “Gunmen loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi'ite leader, do indeed wear black,” Blair notes”But so do Shi'ite pilgrims -- and hundreds of thousands are now converging on … Najaf and Karbala for the Shi'ite festival of Arba'een. Saddam Hussein's regime … rounded up pilgrims around the time of Arba'een by the simple expedient of arresting men in black.”

Plus ca change.

“NOT CONCERNED ABOUT ... IRAQI LOSS OF LIFE”

In an e-mail quoted in the New York Times, Maj Gen James N. Hattis, commander of the First Marine Division, states that “We will always be humanitarian in our efforts. We will fight him on our terms. May God help them when we’re done with them.” (11 April)

Others are less sanguine about the US approach. For example, a senior UK army officer, who has told the Sunday Telegraph that “when US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area … They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are,” “they view [Iraqis] as untermenschen [the Nazi expression for “sub-humans”]. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it’s awful.” (11 April).

Based on “statements on individual incidents by the US military, Iraqi police and hospital officials” Associated Press estimates that “‘about 880 Iraqis [have been] killed around the country” over the past week (AP, 12 April) whilst The Independent on Sunday estimates the Iraqi civilian death toll for the period 4-10 April at 541, with over 1370 civilians injured. (11 April) By contrast US military deaths were placed at 36, and non-US military deaths at 16.

ACT NOW

Last October Kofi Annan observed that “as long as there’s an occupation, the resistance will grow.” (International Herald Tribune, 15 Oct) “[US] commanders say they have no doubt they can achieve [military success], given their force’s superior strength and enough support from Washington and the American people” (NYT, 11 April, emphasis added). We can and must deprive the US (and the British) Government of that support for without an end to the US/UK military occupation the future for Iraq’s people looks grim indeed.

Voice in the Wilderness UK has been working with its American sister group since 1998 to provide information and raise awareness about US/UK policy on Iraq, and to help organize and promote grassroots activism in the UK in solidarity with the Iraqi people. .

(0) comments

The Madness of President George 

Go to original

by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
April 16, 2004

Bush should hold more press conferences, to provide us with ever more windows into the mind of one of the most dangerous men ever to occupy the White House.

Why must we watch? We don't want to end up like pathetic George – blind to reality, muttering clichés, oblivious to the wreckage and evil for which he is responsible. We need to know the truth, and the truth that this man is dangerous came out in spades in his press conference.

Why is he dangerous? He is willfully ignorant of what is going on in Iraq but cocksure that not only is he doing the right thing, but that God is blessing and directing his every decision, even to the point that he imagines himself to be infallible (or, rather, if he is not infallible, he cannot generate any evidence of fallibility when asked).

Why is he one of the most dangerous? Because he autocratically heads the most powerful and well-armed state in the history of the world. He not only has his finger on the button. He has access to many thousands of weapons of mass destruction, and has shown himself to be willing to use them against anyone he regards as a foe. By comparison to his predecessor in the White House, Bush is alarming, the kind of president who seems capable of blowing up the world and calling it good.

Let them live out their fantasies of death and dominion with toys rather than the real world.



(I know that articles like this are supposed to be dispassionate in order to be more persuasive. I am supposed to recite the facts without rhetoric to provide a kind of slowly burning buildup in order to convert those who think George is nothing but a godly man heading the free world’s efforts to protect itself against barbaric enemies. But the situation in which we live is so desperate, it seems to call forth more frank talk. People who are still defending George don't need patient argument; they need shock therapy.)

If you doubt that what I say here is true, see the transcript. In much of what he says, he gets the truth exactly backwards in ways that anyone who reads the news can discern. He admits (for the first time?) that the US is militarily occupying Iraq but claims that those who resist are rejecting "freedom" and "self government." This is like the rapist giving sermons on the need to respect the physical integrity and dignity of his victims.

The occupier who announces to the people through a bullhorn "Submit or Die!" has some chutzpah claiming to be a liberator. This is beyond Orwell. It's evil, crazy, or both. The general who said this ought to have his stars ripped off. The president who ignores this ought to be impeached. The politicians who are ablaze in the face of it ought to be voted out of office. Websites that reviewed that speech the way they review a movie or play (yes, that's you NRO) ought to suffer everlasting disgrace.

We must first deal with the problem that George seems genuinely mad. There was a riddle in nearly every sentence. He spoke like someone dramatically out of touch with what everyone else knows. The whole scene was a bit wacky, as if the uncle who everyone knows is crazy came to the family reunion and was humored because he is family. People were going easy on George just because he seemed like he was speaking about another planet.

Now, here we have a "war" that has proven to be a complete calamity in every conceivable way. The blood and violence are ghastly. It started as a war for democracy and American values and it is ending in body bags, a radicalized population, hundreds of billions wasted, and an emboldened horde of terrorists from all countries. The original rationales for the war are proven hoaxes. The soldiers hate it. The Iraqis hate the soldiers. US trained Iraqis are AWOL. We are talking here about a war disaster of historic proportions, even for the aggressor state.

The press, though, seemed somehow reluctant to point this out, as if George had his finger on a button he could push that would blow them all up. Instead, the press, very gingerly, put him on the couch. What mistakes had he made? Are there things he would do differently? Just asking, George. Not hinting at a thing. Don't take this wrong. Just a normal sort of question every president is asked. Do you think there have been any judgment errors at all? Everyone makes mistakes, you know; nothing to be ashamed of.

Nope, said George, nothing he can think of. It was almost cartoonish. But in real life, it is extremely scary. The press was evidently confused by the whole scene, their eyes darting back and forth to each other in bemusement. The efforts to report on the event the next day were similarly strained. The headlines could have run: "President Bush Has Gone Off the Rails." But since press etiquette demands he be treated with great deference, the stories were all variations of: "George Bush today pledged to continue the offensive in Iraq, while denying his administration has made errors in judgment…"

George isn't the first and certainly won’t be the last crazy president. Power tends to do this to people. The sin of mass murder also does it. It makes them callous, nuts, dangerous. The answer is not to replace him with Kerry, or Clinton, or Carter, or some other person who seems more peaceful in some way. Bush also seemed rather peaceful during the election.

The urgent moral priority of our time is to dismantle the warfare state, disarm the nukes, roll back the empire from every corner of the globe. We want to live in a country even a crazy man can head and not have it be dangerous for us or the world. If George or his successors want to play violent games, someone could just bring them a set of plastic army men and they could have at it all day in the West Wing. Let them live out their fantasies of death and dominion with toys rather than the real world.

Copyright © 2004 LewRockwell.com
Reprinted for educational fair use only.

(0) comments

America's Ayatollah 

Go to original

By Richard Cohen

Thursday, April 15, 2004; Page A25

The term of the moment in Washington is "the wall." This is the legal barrier that once separated the CIA and its investigators from the FBI and its investigators, and which may have contributed to the confusion that enabled the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A more interesting wall, however, was on view Tuesday evening in President Bush's prime-time news conference. It's the one between him and reality.

Never mind that even for Bush, this was a poor performance -- answers that resembled a frantic scavenger hunt for the right (or any) word or, too often, a thought. Never mind that he really had very little to say -- no exit plan for Iraq, no second thoughts about Sept. 11, no wonderment, even, at the apparent disappearance of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and how that might have happened. Like a kid who has been told otherwise, Bush persists in believing in his own version of Santa Claus. The weapons are there, somewhere -- in a North Pole of his mind.

What matters more is the phrase Bush used five times in one way or another: "We're changing the world." He used it always in reference to the war in Iraq and he used it in ways that would make even Woodrow Wilson, that presidential personification of naive morality, shake his head in bemusement. In Bush's rhetoric, a war to rid Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction, a war to ensure that Condoleezza Rice's "mushroom cloud" did not appear over an American city, has mutated into an effort to reorder the world.

"I also know that there's an historic opportunity here to change the world," Bush said of the effort in Iraq. But the next sentence was even more disquieting. "And it's very important for the loved ones of our troops to understand that the mission is an important, vital mission for the security of America and for the ability to change the world for the better." It is one thing to die to defend your country. It is quite another to do that for a single man's impossible dream. What Bush wants is admirable. It is not, however, attainable.

Shortly after Sept. 11, Bush used the word "crusade" to characterize his response to the attacks. The Islamic world, remembering countless crusades on behalf of Christianity, protested, and Bush quickly interred the word in the National Archives or someplace. Nonetheless, that is pretty much what Bush described in his news conference -- not a crusade for Christ and not one to oust the Muslims from Jerusalem but an American one that would eradicate terrorism and, in short, "change the world." The United States, the president said, had been "called" for that task.

Some people might consider this religious drivel and others might find it stirring, but whatever it is, it cannot be the basis for foreign policy, not to mention a war. Yet it explains, as nothing else can, just why Bush is so adamantly steadfast about Iraq and why he simply asserts what is not proved or just plain untrue -- the purported connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, for instance, or why Hussein was such a threat, when we have it on the word of David Kay and countless weapons inspectors that he manifestly was not. Bush talks as if only an atheist would demand proof when faith alone more than suffices. He is America's own ayatollah.

Several investigative commissions are now meeting in Washington, looking into intelligence failures -- everything from the failure to detect and intercept the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to the assertion that Iraq was armed to the teeth with all sorts of awful stuff. But what really has to be examined is how a single man, the president, took the nation and part of the world to war because, as he essentially put it Tuesday night, he was "called" to do it.

If that is the case, and it sure seems so at the moment, then this commission has to ask us all -- and I don't exclude myself -- how much of Congress and the press went to war with an air of juvenile glee. The Commission on Credulous Stupidity may call me as its first witness, but after that it has to examine how, despite our vaunted separation of powers, a barely elected president opted for a war that need not have been fought. This is Bush's cause, a noble but irrational effort much like the one that set off for Jerusalem in the year 1212. It was known as the Children's Crusade.

cohenr@washpost.com

© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Reprinted for educational fair use only.

(0) comments

Bush faces a revolt -- from the U.S. military 

Go to original

The president may see his mission to Iraq as a holy war, but frustrated Pentagon strategists say they're being ignored and ill-treated by the administration.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Sidney Blumenthal

April 15, 2004 | Almost exactly 43 years ago, on April 21, 1961, President John F. Kennedy held a press conference to answer questions on the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles that he had approved. "There's an old saying," he said, "that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan ... I am the responsible officer of the government and that is quite obvious." He expressed private disbelief at and disdain for his sudden rise in popularity: "The worse I do the more popular I get." He remarked to his aide Ted Sorensen: "How could I have been so far off base? All my life I've known better than to depend on the experts. How could I have been so stupid, to let them go ahead?"

On Wednesday, President Bush held only his third prime-time press conference and was asked three times whether he accepted responsibility for failing to act before Sept. 11 on warnings such as the President's Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." "I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet," he said. "... I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick -- as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."

Bush's press conference was the culmination of his recent efforts to stanch the political wounds of his bleeding polls since the 9/11 commission had begun public hearings and the Fallujah killings of four U.S. contractors had set off a spiral of violence in Iraq. Bush had tried to divert blame by declaring that the Aug. 6 memo he was forced to declassify at the commission's insistence contained no "actionable intelligence," even though it specifically mentioned the World Trade Center, federal buildings in New York (many lodged in the WTC), and Washington as targets. Like his national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, he claimed that because that dire memo, written by the CIA with the intention of catching his blurred attention, lacked "a time and place of an attack" it didn't prompt him to do anything.

Bush, in fact, does not read his PDBs, but has them orally summarized every morning by CIA director George Tenet. President Clinton, by contrast, read them closely and alone, preventing any aides from interpreting what he wanted to know firsthand. He extensively marked up his PDBs, demanding action on this or that, which is almost certainly the reason the Bush administration withheld his memoranda from the 9/11 commission.

"I know he doesn't read," one former Bush National Security Council staffer told me. Several other former NSC staffers corroborated his habit. It seems highly unlikely that he read the National Intelligence Estimate on WMD before the Iraq war that consigned contrary evidence and caveats that undermined the case to footnotes and fine print. There is no record that he raised any questions about the abuse of intelligence. Nor is there any evidence that he read the State Department's 17-volume report "The Future of Iraq," warning of nearly all the postwar pitfalls, that was shelved by the neocons in the Pentagon and Vice President Cheney's office. "He probably didn't even know of 'The Future of Iraq,'" said a former NSC staffer.

Nor was Bush aware of similar warnings urgently being sounded by the military's top strategic analysts. I have learned that a monograph, "Reconstructing Iraq," by the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, predicting in detail "possible severe security difficulties" and conflicts among Iraqis that U.S. forces "can barely comprehend," was suppressed by the Pentagon neocons, and only released to U.S. Central Command after Sen. Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, directly intervened. By then, the problems foreseen were already overwhelming Iraq.

A revolt within the military against Bush is brewing. Many in the military's strategic echelon share the same feelings of being ignored and ill-treated by the administration that senior intelligence officers voice in private. "The Pentagon began with fantasy assumptions on Iraq and worked back," one of them remarked to me. Reflecting the developing consensus at that level, the Army War College has just issued a new monograph in which a senior Army strategist accuses the Bush administration of seeking to win "quickly and on the cheap" while having "either misunderstood or, worse, wished away" the predicted problems.

As the iconic image of the "war president" has tattered, another picture has emerged. Bush appears as a passive manager who enjoys sitting atop a hierarchical structure, unwilling and unable to do the hard work that a real manager has to do in order to run the largest enterprise in the world. He does not seem to absorb data unless it is presented to him in simple, crystal-clear fashion by people whose judgment he trusts. He is receptive to information that agrees with his point of view rather than information that challenges it. This therefore leads to enormous power on the part of the trusted interlocutors, who know and bolster his predilections. Thus Rice fulfills Bush's idea of the national security advisor as the comforting briefer.

At his press conference, Bush was a confusion of absolute confidence and panic. He jumbled facts and conflated threats, redoubling the vehemence of his incoherence at every mildly skeptical question. Whenever he could, he drove himself back to the safety of 9/11 -- and then disclaimed responsibility. He attempted to create a false political dichotomy between "retreat" and his own vague and evolving position on Iraq, which now appears to follow Sen. John Kerry's of granting more authority to the U.N. and bringing in NATO.

The ultimate revelation was Bush's vision of a divinely inspired apocalyptic struggle in which he is the leader of a crusade bringing the Lord's "gift." "I also have this belief, strong belief that freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the earth we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom." But religious war is not part of official U.S. military doctrine.


Copyright 2004 Salon.com
Reprinted for educational fair use only.

(0) comments

Al Qaeda will want Bush back  

Go to original

OP-ED—Muqtedar Khan

As we approach November, Bin Laden and his associates will increase the frequency and intensity of their attacks to ensure that George W Bush Wins. Al Qaeda will be determined to make security a bigger issue than economy

Most recently we have seen two examples of Al Qaeda’s political acumen. Their attack in Spain was so well timed that it swung the elections in favour of the anti-war socialist party.

The second instance of Al Qaeda’s political smarts is the recent incessant attacks against soft targets in Iraq and on American troops to underscore the absence of security and stability in Iraq. It probably prevented President George W Bush from having another ‘top gun’ electoral campaign moment on the anniversary of the Iraq invasion.

These attacks have sent the message to the world that America’s invasion of Iraq has increased terrorism not decreased it. Instead of making the world a safer place, America has now endangered its allies as the attacks on Spain and Turkey suggest.

Al Qaeda not only seems to understand the nature of politics and media in democratic societies but also knows how to work the system to gain strategic advantages.

It would be naïve to assume that Al Qaeda will not vote in the coming American elections in November 2004. The issue that we must ponder is how it’s going to cast its ballot? To understand how Al Qaeda will vote, we must try to figure out whom it will prefer in the White House, Bush or Kerry?

If John Kerry wins in November he will probably make the following changes in American foreign policy:

1. He will roll back American unilateralism and seek more international cooperation from Europe, South Asia, Middle East and the UN. Instead of a coalition of the coerced, Kerry will seek a truly international coalition. Coalitions built through a multilateral process will present fewer fissures in the anti-terror campaign for Al Qaeda to exploit.

2. Most probably John Kerry will be interested in reducing rather than expanding the scope and objectives of counter-terrorism. Neocon goals such as reshaping the Middle East, reforming Islam, reconstituting the United States defence doctrines and redefining old Europe, will be abandoned and under Kerry the US will concentrate more on eliminating Al Qaeda and associates than anything else.

3. Much of soft anti-Americanism worldwide is a result of anti-Bushism. Regardless of what Americans think, most of the world finds President Bush uncouth, obnoxious, arrogant, crude and a bully. His defeat itself will reduce anti-Americanism globally and will increase American prospects for victory in this war on terror.

Will Al Qaeda be happy with these developments? I doubt it. Anti-Bushism has helped them divide the world and the growing anger in the Muslim world as a result of George Bush’s policies has helped them gain recruits, clones and support. If Bush loses in November they will lose an important asset. Al Qaeda will become the sole target of US energies and surely that must be a disturbing thought to even those who relish the idea of dying while fighting America.

If George W Bush wins in spite of a terrible economy and millions of job losses:

1. He might interpret the victory as an endorsement of his anti-terror strategy and probably continue to expand the scope and objectives of his war on terror. Perhaps regime changes in Iran, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia may be back on the ‘to do’ list. It is possible that Spain may also figure on the list of regime changes.

2. It is also possible that many European and Middle Eastern states may stop cooperating with the US. Already many nations resent President Bush’s policies and style, they may begin to actively oppose his global agenda. The easiest way to do so is to withdraw from the coalition and call for more UN participation. We might see more and more nations following Spain’s example and disengaging from the American bandwagon.

All of the above will help Al Qaeda pursue its strategic goals: undermine the West, hurt Americans and American interests, destabilise politics and economies in South Asia and the Middle East and cement the growing cleavages between the US and Europe and the US and the Muslim World.

It is in Al Qaeda’s interest that President Bush stays in the White House. Thus at the moment they are anti-American but Pro-Bush. Come November they will vote for Bush. How you may ask?

Fear is the key. If the American voters feel reasonably secure on the terrorism issue then they will focus on economy, unemployment and on cultural issues such as the gay marriage controversy.

If at the time of the elections the priorities of American voters are:

(1) Economy,
(2) Culture, and then
(3) Security, or

(1)Economy,
(2) Security and
(3) Culture,
John Kerry will probably win.



However if by November the voter is either thinking:

(1) Security,
(2) Culture and then
(3) Economy,
Bush will win with a landslide and if the voter is thinking:

(1) Security,
(2) Economy and
(3) Culture,
Bush may win narrowly.



Al Qaeda can make security a more pressing issue than economy by increasing their activities and even by targeting America again. Karl Rove, the president’s political guru will probably work to ensure that culture continues to figure in the American voter’s mind.

But if Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri are both arrested/killed soon, then security will be out of the reckoning and Kerry will win unless new jobs are created in hurry.

As we approach November, Bin Laden and his associates will increase the frequency and intensity of their attacks to ensure that George W Bush Wins. Al Qaeda will be determined to make security a bigger issue than economy so the worse the economy gets the worse terrorism we are likely to see.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is a Non-resident fellow at Brookings Institution. He is also the Chair, Political Science, at Adrian College in Michigan. He is the author of American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom (Amana, 2002)

(0) comments

Feeling a Draft 

Go to original

by Paul Craig Roberts

Lawrence Kaplan, neo-Jacobin ideologue and shameless apologist for the carnage in Iraq, claims that Americans wouldn't mind having 30,000 of our troops killed in Iraq if it achieves Bush's "strategic objectives."

No one knows any longer what these objectives are unless it is to start World War III. The original strategic objectives were all propagandistic lies to justify a gratuitous invasion of a Muslim country, an irrational act that was a strategic blunder that wrecked US foreign policy and isolated the US from the rest of the world.

The year-long Iraqi military adventure has been justified with a series of shifting strategic objectives. First, it was to rid ourselves of the danger of Iraqi WMD. When the befuddled American public learned that there were no WMD, the strategic objective was to sever the al Qaeda-Iraqi terror link. When it became clear that there was no such link, the objective changed to removing a brutal dictator and building democracy.

As it becomes clear that the US is the new dictator – one moreover that has now killed more Iraqi women and children than Saddam Hussein – intending a permanent military occupation under cover of a puppet government, Shiites have joined Sunnis in resisting the occupation, and US casualties have risen to higher rates than during the military conflict with the Iraqi army.

Just as in Vietnam, American generals are calling for more troops. But there are no more troops to send. National Guard and Reserve units are already deployed filling in the manpower gaps. To bolster our forces against the rising resistance, the Pentagon must renege on the promised rotation of 20,000 US troops, requiring them to remain at their combat stations.

Meanwhile, US forces are poised to attack the Shiite holy city of Najaf in order to kill or capture the rebellious cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The US started Sadr's rebellion by closing down a Shiite newspaper that was not sufficiently obsequious to the American dictatorship which has taken Saddam Hussein's place.

Moderate Shiite clerics, who have been attempting to hold the US to its promise of democracy and elections, have indicated that an attack on Najaf would lead to a generalized Shiite uprising.

Such an uprising would involve huge numbers. The calls for more US troops would be urgent. The only source of those troops is to reinstate the draft. If the insane idiots running the Bush administration persist in their macho bully mentality of escalating the conflict, we will have a test of Kaplan's prediction that Americans will gladly sacrifice 30,000 of their sons.

Moderate Shiite clerics cannot be reasonably expected to stand quietly while the US mows down Sadr's followers and destroys holy shrines. Trusting to their numbers prevailing in a democratic election, the Shiites' acceptance of the US occupation has already harmed their credibility and raised questions whether they have been bought by American gold. Until Sadr joined the resistance, only the Sunnis actively resisted the occupation.

A generalized rebellion against the American occupation would likely spill over into generalized conflict in the Middle East – the ignition of which was the precise reason behind the neoconservative plan to invade Iraq. Although utterly discredited by the failure of their "cakewalk" scenario, the neocon ideologues and their Likud Party allies might yet prevail in starting a Middle Eastern war.


(0) comments

Concerns over war rise, poll says 

Go to original

But economic fears said to drop

By Will Lester, Associated Press, 4/14/2004

WASHINGTON -- Public worries about the economy have dropped since last summer, while fears about terrorism and war have been on the rise, an Associated Press poll suggests.

When asked in an open-ended question in July to name the most important problems facing the United States, 9 percent mentioned war. The number almost doubled to 17 percent in an AP-Ipsos poll taken early this month. The number of people who named terrorism has grown from 14 percent to 21 percent now.

The poll offers a glimpse of the nation's leading concerns as the presidential campaign intensifies between President Bush, who has posted stronger poll numbers on national security, and Democrat John Kerry, whom the public views as stronger on economic issues.

In July, US troops had recently completed their conquest of Iraq's armed forces and were at work rebuilding the nation. In recent weeks, US troops have been under increased attacks by insurgents, both from the Sunni and Shi'ite populations.

US troops have killed about 700 insurgents across Iraq since the beginning of the month. At least 78 coalition troops -- almost all Americans -- have died in clashes during that time.

In the poll, pocketbook issues such as the economy and jobs were named by 37 percent, down from 47 percent in July. A smaller percentage of people specifically ranked ''the economy" as the top problem than in July, with the number dropping steeply from 31 percent to 18 percent now, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

Jean Hart, a 52-year-old telecommunications worker from Albany, N.Y., says her views on the country's top problems have shifted sharply from last fall when she was laid off and left without health care. Now, she's working again, but she pays more than $1,000 a month for her health care. Yet she ranks the war in Iraq as her top concern.

''Definitely the war," she said. ''I don't know whether we're getting the full story of why we got in there. It's almost like started by the father" of President Bush.

She said the war struck close to home when one of her co-workers learned recently that fighting in Iraq had claimed his son, the father of three small children.

Health care has dropped slightly as one of the top concerns. Nineteen percent ranked it as a top problem in January, but the number has since slipped to 14 percent.

About one in 20 people mentioned the ''energy crisis," particularly gasoline prices. Last summer, neither energy nor gas prices were on people's minds as a top problem. One in 10 mentioned the energy crisis as one of the nation's top concerns, triple the number who said that last summer.

The biggest change in the AP-Ipsos poll's survey was the increased war concern. Ten percent specifically mentioned the ''war in Iraq" -- compared with 2 percent who named the war as the top problem last summer.

Noreen Hunt, a contracts manager in San Diego, said war in Iraq was the top problem because ''it's killing people."

''It's becoming more of a problem, because it's not getting resolved," she said. ''It looks like Vietnam all over again."

Among those who said war was the top problem, two in 10 said the country is headed down the wrong track. Half that many said the country is headed in the right direction.

The poll of 1,001 adults was taken April 5-7 and has a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points.

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

(0) comments

How Sharon won US backing for Gaza strategy 

Go to original

Suzanne Goldenberg
Thursday April 15, 2004
The Guardian

Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is fond of flaunting his connections in the White House, and the remarkable closeness of his relationship with President George Bush.

The fruits of that friendship were on full view yesterday when Mr Sharon emerged from his talks at the White House with a letter from the American president endorsing Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, while retaining control of the majority of the West Bank.

Nearly 15 years after the first President Bush established the idea under the Madrid accords that peace in the Middle East was impossible unless the Palestinians were brought into the equation, his son appeared yesterday to have lost faith in the idea of a negotiated peace between Israel and its closest Arab neighbour.

The contours of Gaza - and possibly the West Bank - would now be dictated by Israel.

The change of heart was widely credited to Mr Sharon, who persuaded Mr Bush that Yasser Arafat's inability or unwillingness to end Palestinian suicide bombings made him an enemy in the global war on terror.

"The Bush administration seems to have accepted the Sharon premise that there is no partner for negotiations," said Philip Wilcox, a former US consul general in Jerusalem and the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. "It offers commitments to Israel without any corresponding commitments to the Palestinians, which I think is unwise."

The territorial dispensation was not the only milestone victory for Mr Sharon. In his statement yesterday Mr Bush rejected the guiding principle of the Palestinians for the last five decades: the right of return of refugees. The American president also redefined the state department description of Jewish settlements as "obstacles to peace".

In a sense, the double diplomatic coup confirms what has been evident to observers of the Israeli-Palestinian process for months.

With the Bush administration distracted by events in Iraq, Mr Sharon has been able to dictate his terms.

"Sharon took a step in many ways that was revolutionary for him in the withdrawal from Gaza. He is showing real leadership, and when you have a leadership vacuum, the leader that has a plan is going to prevail," said Edward Walker, a former US ambassador to Israel. "There no American leadership in the process, and certainly I don't see leadership among the Palestinians."

But for all his success on American soil Mr Sharon has a struggle ahead of him. On May 2 he is due to present his proposals for a withdrawal from Gaza for the approval of his rebellious Likud party. He needed the White House benediction.

"Sharon must come home with some assurance that the United States does not see it as a first step towards evacuation of most of the settlements," said Menachem Klein of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. "He also wants to be able to say that Washington will back him if he wants to use Apache helicopters to fire on the Gaza Strip after the pull-out."

However, the boost to Mr Sharon caused almost immediate anger and dismay in the Arab world, and could complicate Washington's relations with the rest of the region.

"The United States may lose its status, or what remains of its status, as an honest broker," said Mr Klein. "It will be very difficult for them. It may also make some problems with Hosni Mubarak in Egypt."

Instead yesterday's events will probably confirm the suspicion that the US shares Mr Sharon's opinion that a settlement with the Palestinians can only be imposed, not negotiated.

That may lead to repercussions months or even years from now, but in this election season the White House has other considerations.

Mr Bush is in dire need of a foreign policy success as the costs of America's invasion of Iraq escalate. With no end in sight to an insurrection that has begun to inflict heavy casualties on US military forces and the entire project in Iraq, Washington finds it prudent to fall back on a reliable ally: Israel.

Mr Sharon has also succeeded in wearing down the administration's qualms about the wall he is building through the West Bank by making a few adjustments to the route.

Washington also decided not to penalise Israel by deducting loan guarantees - unlike last year when the wall cost the Jewish state $300m (£170m).

Meanwhile Mr Sharon's aides brought US officials around to Israel's vision for the West Bank, sketching out a division of land in which Israel would retain control of large swaths of territory, and the Palestinians would be confined to isolated pockets.

At the beginning of this month the talk was that Israel would retain three West Bank outposts. On Monday night, Mr Sharon raised the stakes to the five largest Jewish settlement blocks.

However, Mr Bush appeared unperturbed.

Yesterday he appeared to have shed almost all of his reservations about Mr Sharon's vision for the Middle East, calling his plan a historic opportunity, and urging the Palestinians to see it as a first step towards a state.

It seems highly unlikely that the Palestinians will agree.

(0) comments

Countless bad decisions and 681 deaths 

Go to original

By Joseph L. Galloway
Wed, Apr. 14, 2004
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Things have suddenly gotten very ugly in Iraq. Six hundred eighty-one Americans have died there. Soldiers and Marines are dying at the rate of four to six a day.

Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command, has dared to ask his Pentagon bosses for an additional 15,000 to 20,000 troops just so we can hang on by our fingernails. And he has had to freeze the return home of 24,000 soldiers who were headed for the planes after finishing a grueling one-year tour.

The American commanders are struggling to keep open the highways - main supply routes, or MSR's in military-speak - over which truck convoys bring food, ammunition, water and fuel to our troops. These lifelines are vulnerable and the enemy has struck at them repeatedly, smashing and burning and looting truck convoys and sabotaging the roads and bridges.

We never had enough soldiers, enough boots on the ground, to control Iraq. The former chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, told Congress on Feb. 25, 2003, that in his opinion we would need "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" to occupy Iraq. He spoke from experience: Shinseki led the occupation of Bosnia, and he knew how to do the math.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz two days later told Congress that Shinseki's estimates were "wildly off the mark." He added that Iraq would be much more easily occupied than Afghanistan because Iraq had "no ethnic divisions."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had in mind to skin back our forces in Iraq from last year's 130,000 to 110,000 early this year, then 100,000 by late summer, and a mere 50,000 by next summer, 2005. Their places would be taken by the much-heralded Iraqi Security Forces and the newly stood-up and American-contractor-trained Iraq army.

Well, a funny thing happened to the Iraq army on its way to join their American buddies in the dirty street fighting in Fallujah last week: The battalion stopped the trucks, turned around and went home, saying as they went, "We won't fight other Iraqis."

So much for that.

The fast-talking Rumsfeld hasn't been talking nearly as fast or as often lately. Neither has his deputy. Not much seen or heard from Douglas Feith of the Office of Special Plans - of the Office That Didn't Plan - either. Instead, the bad news is allowed to trickle out of briefings in Baghdad that surely will soon be nicknamed, like the ones in Saigon a few wars back, "The Five O'Clock Follies."

The hunt for a scapegoat must have begun by now, which may explain the rush away from the cameras in the Pentagon briefing room. The civilians will certainly want a general or two to fall on their swords. The uniforms would love to see an arrogant civilian or two hanged, drawn and quartered.

We have a modest nomination for the first head to roll: Ambassador L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer, the American demi-proconsul of Baghdad, head of the Civilian Provisional Authority charged with installing Jeffersonian democracy and turning on the lights, water and sewers. Virtually every major decision he had made in Iraq has been wrong, poorly timed or just plain dumb.

Beginning with his decision to demobilize the real Iraq army and send them home with their AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, no paychecks, no future and heaps of anger. Followed by his decision to purge everyone who ever held a Baath Party card from public life and public employment, thus abandoning many Sunnis to hopelessness and anger. Followed by his latest decision to close down Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr's newspaper and provoke him to anger - without any plan to deal with that anger when it spilled over into the streets and inflamed the Shiite community.

Any one of those flawed decisions ought to be a firing offense. Just as the Feb. 27, 2003, testimony of Wolfowitz to the effect that Iraq was going to be easy to occupy ought to have been a firing offense. Just as the testimony of the deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, that the Pentagon did not do any planning for post-war Iraq because the act of planning might have contributed to starting the war ought to have gotten him fired.

I am reminded by these situations, these quotes, these people that there are three human characteristics which taken in combination are almost always fatal: If he is arrogant, ignorant and in charge, someone is going to get killed. The fatalities are seldom among those who get it so wrong.

(0) comments

President Bush on Iraq: hardening hearts and minds 

Go to original

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Iraq, 14 April 2004

George W. Bush responds to questions during a prime-time press conference in the East Room of the White House, April 13, 2004. White House Photo by Paul Morse

By addressing the American people in a prime time news conference on 13 April, President Bush sought to calm growing American anxiety and opposition to his war in Iraq, after two weeks in which more than 80 American military personnel and hundreds of Iraqis have died in widespread chaos and fighting. It remains to be seen whether Bush succeeded in that goal, but many of his assertions are just as likely to further antagonize opinion in the Arab world and perhaps in Iraq itself.

Bush's demeanor was arrogant and unrepentant. Asked on numerous occasions to name things he would have done differently or mistakes he felt he has made, he could not name one. Challenged with the fact that all of the premises for the Iraq invasion had fallen apart, particularly his administration's claim that Iraq not only possessed weapons of mass destruction, but that the US knew where they are, Bush asserted, that the weapons might still be found, or simply invented things. For example, Bush continued to claim that Iraq "had long-range missiles that were undeclared to the United Nations." In fact, Iraq had declared to UNMOVIC its Al-Sumoud 2 missiles, itself reported tests in which the missiles exceeded the allowed 150km range, and the missiles were in the process of being destroyed with full Iraqi cooperation when the US illegally invaded Iraq cutting short the inspections and disarmament process created by the UN Security Council.
Image of Muqtada Sadr with "wanted for murder" slogan taken from website of US Coalition Provisional Authority. US military commanders announced on 12 April that their mission is to "kill or capture" Sadr.

But most disquieting was Bush's decision to ignore the inescapable reality of what is happening in Iraq today. He asserted that all of the violence that has convulsed the country in recent weeks is the work of "Saddam loyalists," foreign terrorists and a new villain, Muqtada al-Sadr. These assertions fly in the face of mounting evidence from many respected American and international journalists and observers that the US occupation is facing growing popular discontent and resistance. In any such situation, the number of people actually taking up arms is always relatively tiny compared to the general population. But the true measure of the strength of resistance is not the number of people with guns, but the number of people who support them and are ready to shelter them. The people Bush is labelling as "terrorists" and "extreme and ruthless" are Iraqis with mothers, fathers, siblings and children.

The US siege of Falluja, which has killed hundreds of Iraqis, and forced thousands to flee from their homes, has inspired feelings of solidarity and support across Iraq and the Arab world. While Bush claims that the United States is crusading for liberty, his officials viciously and unfairly attack Arab TV channels for refusing to censor what no one has disputed are genuine images from Falluja of dead civilians, and children writhing in agony, their bodies punctured with shrapnel. What people in the region see is a mighty power that has no business being in Iraq attacking people who are defending their homes.

By singling out Sadr, Bush is simply presenting the American people with a new "evil" face who can be blamed for the latest trouble. This tactic is designed to mask the reality that behind any such figure are people and movements. Bush's attempt to further discredit Sadr by claiming that he has "publicly supported the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah" is only likely to increase Sadr's cachet across the region as a genuine resistance leader and to confirm the feeling that what motivates the United States first and foremost is a desire to crush Israel's enemies.

Bush's view of the world is simplistic but also highly manipulative. Consider this significant passage from his opening statement:

Above all, the defeat of violence and terror in Iraq is vital to the defeat of violence and terror elsewhere and vital, therefore, to the safety of the American people. Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver. The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorists who take hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew.

We've seen the same ideology of murder in the killing of 241 Marines in Beirut, the first attack on the World Trade Center, in the destruction of two embassies in Africa, in the attack on the USS Cole, and in the merciless horror inflicted upon thousands of innocent men and women and children on September the 11th, 2001. None of these acts is the work of a religion. All are the work of a fanatical political ideology. The servants of this ideology seek tyranny in the Middle East and beyond. They seek to oppress and persecute women.

They seek the death of Jews and Christians and every Muslim who desires peace over theocratic terror. They seek to intimidate America into panic and retreat, and to set free nations against each other. And they seek weapons of mass destruction, to blackmail and murder on a massive scale.


What Bush is trying to do is to imply that there is no difference at all between an Iraqi attacking armed US occupation forces near Baghdad with a roadside bomb and terrorists flying civilian airliners into American skyscrapers. For him it is all the same. In order to save himself politically, he needs to convince Americans that the senseless and unwinnable war in Iraq is part of the global "war on terror" and therefore vitally important to the personal security of all Americans. This cannot be done with logical analysis, because there was never any evidence linking Iraq to the events of September 11, and all the evidence is that the Iraq war has increased terrorism. So Bush's speechwriters do it through emotional appeals and juxtaposing a string of unnconnected events loosely tied together with slogans and generalities about an undefined but apparently pervasive enemy called "They."

But the message his statement sends to people around the world, especially in Iraq and the wider Arab world is different. They may well hear something like this: 'you have no just causes and no valid grievances. Whatever you call resistance is terrorism, no matter where, when or what method you use and it is indistinguishable from the worst atrocities. You never have a right to oppose violence with violence no matter how strong or unjust your opponents are, and everything you do in the name of resistance is really motivated by hatred of Jews, Israel, Christians and America's clients who rule you. If you oppose us for any reason, you are in the camp of Bin Laden.'

Since the very same Arabic satellite channels that the Bush administration accuses of bias carried his press conference, and will repeat it many times to tens of millions of Arabs, it is certain that Bush needlessly hardened many more hearts and minds against the United States.

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of Electronic Iraq

(0) comments

Iraq: The wolf is at the door 

Go to original

By Ehsan Ahrari

With reports on Wednesday of United States warplanes and helicopter gunships firing machine-guns, rockets and cannons at gunmen in the besieged city of Fallujah, a brief truce is being strained to the limit. Reports from non-US sources describe that hundreds of Iraqis have died in Fallujah as a result of a week's intense fighting between Sunnis and the US troops. One Shi'ite member of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) has suspended his membership in that body, and four others have threatened to follow suit in protest against what they label as "collective punishment" of Fallujah residents by the occupation forces for the death and mutilation of the bodies of four American security workers. One member of the IGC has even described that operation as "genocide". If the discussions of a quagmire in Iraq were previously dismissed by the Bush administration as hyperbolic, this time all indications are that the wolf is, indeed, at the door.

One year ago on April 9 Iraqis were celebrating the toppling of a giant-sized statue of Saddam Hussein, an event that will forever be remembered as the defining moment of the end of a brutal era in Iraq. On the first anniversary of that event, on April 9, there was another defining - albeit not a heavily publicized - moment: a US Marine was tearing down the poster of the young Shi'ite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, from the same pedestal that had once carried the statue of the Iraqi dictator. Except, unlike Saddam, Muqtada has emerged as a leader whose popularity is perceptibly increasing. He has already declared his intention of becoming a "martyr" in the Iraqi quest for independence that still defies the besieged nation. Now, a growing number of Iraqis are fighting the awesome military might of the US, their erstwhile "liberator". The unfolding tragedy in Iraq promises to contain even more tragic chapters and gruesome events than before.

The outbreak of hostilities in Fallujah, and the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, reported to be turning into a powerful basis for cooperation between the Sunnis and Shi'ites of Iraq, marks a development beyond the wildest imagination of fiction writers. That cooperation is based on a common perception that "enemies" in Iraq are Western occupation forces, especially its leader, the United States.

One wonders what motivated L Paul Bremer, America's viceroy in Iraq and head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), and the US military commanders to resort to tough actions in Fallujah and Najaf, and to declare Muqtada an "outlaw", or by threatening to use "overwhelming force" to punish those who mutilated the bodies of the American contractors. In the case of Fallujah, the perpetrators of the mutilation could have been extracted through negotiations with city elders or tribal leaders. In the case of Muqtada, the CPA's best option would have been to continue to ignore him as a minor irritation, instead of deciding to confront him through such actions as closing down his newspaper, arresting his aide, and going to the extent of threatening to kill him if he resisted arrest.

For the CPA, prior to the events that led to the escalation of violence in the northern and southern portions of Iraq, the supreme objective was to see that the symbolic transition of authority to the IGC was carried out as smoothly as possible. Fanning the flames of anger through threats of retribution in Fallujah, or heightening confrontation with Muqtada were not measures that would serve America's best interests in Iraq. The consequences for talking tough or reacting impulsively are too severe and serious for America's overall purpose.

Now the forces of moderation - members of the IGC and even Shi'ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani - will be constantly looking over their shoulders if they were to maintain their moderate modus operandi. Political moderation is likely to be seen as an "appeasement" of the occupiers and as "collaboration" more now than ever before. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the alleged al-Qaeda operative in Iraq - who is reported to be the mastermind of a number of terrorist attacks against American forces and Iraqis - could not have imagined a more friendly environment in which to accelerate the pace of his campaign of terror against forces of civility in Iraq, especially against those Iraqis who still dare to dream of a stable and democratic Iraq, and who still have half a mind of cooperating with the Americans.

The feelings of anger, anxiety and insecurity among the IGC were highlighted by the fact that one Shi'ite member, Abdul Karim Mohammedawi, has suspended his membership, and four other members - Salma Khafaji (Shi'ite woman), Ghazi Ajil Yawer (a Sunni from Mosul), Hassani (a representative of Iraqi Islamic Party) - are reportedly contemplating to follow suit.

More to the point, Adnan Pachachi, a senior Sunni member of IGC - and previously a vocal supporter of the occupation, and a person who was showcased by the Bush administration as a representative of the "new" Iraq - has publicly condemned US actions. He told al-Arabiyya television: "We consider the action carried out by US forces illegal and totally unacceptable. We denounce the military operations carried out by the American forces because, in effect, it is [inflicting] collective punishment on the residents of Fallujah." Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, a spokesman of the US military, responded: "Nothing can be further from the truth. We run extremely precise operations focused on people we have intelligence on for crimes of violence against the coalition and against the Iraqi people."

Another member of the IGC, Hachim Hassani, stated: "The coalition has opened too many fronts in Iraq, alienating a large swath of the population. The Iraqi people now equate democracy with bloodshed." A resident of Fallujah was even more poignant when he observed: "It is only 300,000 people living here, a small city, but the way the Americans are fighting it's as if they are fighting a whole continent. Is this the reconstruction and the freedom Bush is talking about? We prefer Saddam's repression."

The very survival of the IGC as a viable entity depends not only on the declaration of a meaningful ceasefire in Fallujah, but, more substantially, on the successful participation of its members to negotiate some sort of resolution.

There is little doubt that the American military power will be able to silence and subjugate the dissenters and protagonists in Iraq, at least for now. But the enormous resentment that its brutal use of force is creating in Iraq is likely to become a profound reason why a Christian superpower will fail in proselytizing Muslim Iraqis into believing in the inherent superiority of democracy. Unfortunately from the Bush administration's perspectives, as the Shi'ites and Sunnis continue to cooperate to oust the US from their country, conflict in Iraq is increasingly perceived along religious lines, not just by Iraqis, but also by most of the Arab Middle East.

If the purpose of the US's continued occupation of Iraq is to create democracy, that purpose is presently witnessing its darkest hour. When will the US bring an end to its occupation of Iraq? Currently, we only hear that it is there to stay for the long haul. How can democracy emerge as a viable form of government if, in the process of its creation, Washington continues to alienate a large number of Iraqis on a sustained basis? Even if the United Nations were to take charge of rebuilding Iraq - an option that is frequently mentioned as US forces continue to face stiffened resistance to their high profile presence and strong-armed maneuvering in that country - the world body has to operate on the basis of some sort of a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, especially American ones.

However, there are no indications to date that the US is thinking about pulling out of Iraq. No one should view this proposition as a sole representative of the thinking and commitment of George W Bush. John Kerry, if he were to be elected as the next US president, is not likely to "cut and run" from Iraq, he has said on many occasions. If the preceding is not the description of Iraq turning into a quagmire for the United States, then no one knows what else it really is.

Ehsan Ahrari, PhD, is an Alexandria, Virginia, US-based independent strategic analyst.

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd

(0) comments

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?