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American forces, under attack, carried out airstrikes on Monday against armed supporters of the rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr near the Shrine of Abbas in the holy city of Karbala, Iraq.

May 18, 2004
U.S. Forces, Under Attack, Strike Rebel Cleric`s Fighters Near Shrine

ARBALA, Iraq, May 17 — In its riskiest attack yet against the forces of a rebel Shiite cleric, the American military called in an airstrike early Monday morning to kill fighters standing about 160 feet away from one of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam, military officials said.

The strike came after nearly a week in which tenacious insurgents supporting the cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, fought daily battles in downtown Karbala against soldiers of the First Armored Division. The insurgents have killed 3 American soldiers and wounded at least 55, frustrating American commanders who had hoped to break the insurgency by raiding a mosque used as a rebel stronghold last Tuesday.

After hours of debate on Sunday, commanders called in an AC-130 gunship, which began pounding at insurgent positions with 40-millimeter cannon fire around 12:30 a.m. Monday. An American officer at the scene said the insurgents had clustered on a street corner about 160 feet from the golden-domed Shrine of Hussein, dedicated to the martyred grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

As many as 16 insurgents were killed in the airstrike and at least five were wounded, said Maj. Mark Grabski, executive officer of the First Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment of the First Armored Division. Thirteen other insurgents were killed in battles in the area, said Dan Senor, an occupation spokesman, citing a count by Polish forces here.

The intense, rhythmic pounding from the cannon fire could be heard as far away as Camp Lima, the military base five miles to the east.

Across the south, Mr. Sadr`s followers have launched fierce counterattacks against occupation forces. An Italian soldier died on Monday from injuries suffered the previous day in battle in the city of Nasiriya, The Associated Press reported. Militiamen chased Italian soldiers out of a military base and to the outskirts of the city, and civilian workers have abandoned the besieged office of the occupation authority.

Here in Karbala, ever since American soldiers raided and occupied the Mukhaiyam Mosque, the insurgent stronghold, Mr. Sadr`s followers have been regrouping around the Shrine of Abbas and Shrine of Hussein, just 600 feet east of the mosque.

American commanders had held back from attacking the insurgents there for fear of damaging the shrines and inflaming Shiite Muslims around the world. But insurgents continued firing mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades at the occupied mosque from the shrine area, including from a second-floor window in the Shrine of Hussein. Lt. Col. Garry P. Bishop, the commanding officer of American forces here, decided the fighters had to be killed.

Major Grabski and Capt. William Thomas Byrns, the commander of a tank company in the area at the time of the airstrike, said there had been no damage to the Shrine of Hussein. An Iraqi reporter working for The New York Times in Karbala said it appeared some tiles might have sustained minor damage.

"Things blow up when they engage targets, and they blow up pretty big," Captain Byrns said of the AC-130. But, he added, "those things are extremely accurate."

In April, after Mr. Sadr`s militia began fighting, Shiite leaders issued dire warnings to American commanders not to enter the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala or mosques. But since then, there have been signs that top Shiites have grown weary of Mr. Sadr. There has been little outrage from residents, even after American troops began using the mosque here as a base.

Mr. Sadr and his armed supporters have used holy sites as shields during a six-week uprising against the occupation forces. Shortly after he ignited the revolt, Mr. Sadr barricaded himself in the nearby city of Najaf and posted members of his militia, the Mahdi Army, around the Shrine of Ali there, dedicated to the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. The American military has occupied a former Spanish base on the outskirts of Najaf but has held back from entering the downtown area, despite statements by commanders that they intended to kill or capture Mr. Sadr.

Last Friday, American tanks and insurgents engaged in a battle in a sprawling Shiite cemetery close to the city center. Supporters of Mr. Sadr claimed afterward that American bullets had hit the golden dome of the Shrine of Ali. But a spokesman for the occupation forces denied that American soldiers were responsible.

On Sunday afternoon, insurgents with checkered scarves covering their faces and carrying AK-47 assault rifles, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers wandered around the shrine area. A freelance photographer for The New York Times reported seeing many armed men along a road surrounding the Shrine of Hussein. The men had at least a dozen rocket-propelled grenades, and some wore bulletproof vests.

Near one corner, fighters sat in a circle around a small fire brewing tea. Gunfire could be heard nearby. Several men leaned their AK-47`s against a wall and prayed, kneeling.

At one point, a group of about 10 men reloaded their weapons and peered around the corner to where they had set up a heavy machine gun 50 yards away on a median in the road. Insurgents fired the gun every minute or so in long bursts.

There were about 70 fighters on that corner of the shrine. They looked relaxed, joking and laughing. They seemed confident that the Americans would not attack them if they stayed in the shrine area.

"The situation is under control with the help of Allah and the Imam Mahdi," said a man in a blue ski mask who declined to give his name. "We`re fighting them with rifles and R.P.G.`s while they`re using tanks and helicopters. We want peace. We want the Americans to leave the holy cities."

After the 20-minute airstrike on Monday, an eerie stillness settled over downtown Karbala. "This morning it was very quiet, almost strangely quiet," Major Grabski said.

But by afternoon, insurgents had begun attacking the Americans again. Soldiers killed at least three militiamen. Gunfire and explosions echoed across the death zone of this holy city.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

An Army sniper in Karbala on Monday. At right is the Shrine of Abbas.

Ever since American soldiers raided and occupied the Mukhaiyam Mosque (picture), the insurgent stronghold, Moktada al-Sadr`s followers have been regrouping around the Shrine of Abbas and Shrine of Hussein, just 600 feet east of the mosque.
Bei solchen Freunden braucht man keine Feinde mehr.

May 18, 2004
U.S. to Halt Payments to Iraqi Group Headed by a Onetime Pentagon Favorite

ASHINGTON, May 17 — The United States government has decided to halt monthly $335,000 payments to the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, an official with the group said on Monday.

Mr. Chalabi, a longtime exile leader and now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, played a crucial role in persuading the administration that Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power. But he has since become a lightning rod for critics of the Bush administration, who say the United States relied on him too heavily for prewar intelligence that has since proved faulty.

Mr. Chalabi`s group has received at least $27 million in United States financing in the past four years, the Iraqi National Congress official said. This includes $335,000 a month as part of a classified program through the Defense Intelligence Agency, since the summer of 2002, to help gather intelligence in Iraq. The official said his group had been told that financing will cease June 30, when occupation authorities are scheduled to turn over sovereignty to Iraqis.

Internal reviews by the United States government have found that much of the information provided as part of the classified program before American forces invaded Iraq last year was useless, misleading or even fabricated.

A Pentagon official said Monday night said he was not able immediately to confirm the status of the Pentagon`s relationship with Mr. Chalabi`s group. On April 27, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, asked at a news briefing about whether the payments to Mr. Chalabi`s group were going to end, said, "To my knowledge, that`s not been determined."

The official of Mr. Chalabi`s group said the classified program had originally been scheduled to end Sept. 30, 2003, but was extended twice — to Dec. 31, 2003, and then again, to June 30, 2004. The official said he did not know why the government decided not to extend the program again.

In recent months, Mr. Chalabi, once viewed as a potential leader of postwar Iraq, has been at odds with the Bush administration on a series of policy questions. He has criticized Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations official who is organizing an Iraqi government to take control of the country on July 1 and whose efforts have been embraced by the White House. He has also been at the center of a battle between the Governing Council and American occupation authorities over who should investigate corruption allegations in the United Nations oil-for-food program for Iraq.

The official of the Iraqi National Congress defended the group`s intelligence-gathering, saying its role providing weapons intelligence had been overblown and that it had helped capture 1,500 insurgents, mostly loyalists of Saddam Hussein.

Michael Rubin, who spent eight months in Iraq as an adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, the occupation administration, and is now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research center in Washington, said: "The truth of the matter is that the I.N.C.-provided information rolled up a lot of insurgent cells that were targeting American soldiers. It stopped bombings and terrorist attacks that were aimed at U.S. troops. That program saved a lot of lives."

But Mr. Chalabi`s critics characterize him as a political opportunist.

On Sunday, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, described Mr. Chalabi as a "darling of the vice president and of some of the civilians in the Defense Department," adding that Mr. Chalabi is "a problem" and "not part of the solution."

"There seems to be an unwillingness to break from him," Mr. Biden said on NBC`s "Meet the Press."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 18, 2004
Wolfowitz Target of Democrats Ire on Iraq

Filed at 3:16 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As details of prison abuses in Iraq surfaced, many Democrats on Capitol Hill demanded that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld resign. But not Sen. Carl Levin. The top Senate Democrat on a key military committee said he is wary about who might be the post-Rumsfeld secretary.

``If it would be his deputy, I don`t see that that would represent a change at all in terms of the direction we should go,`` Levin told reporters this month.

Rumsfeld`s deputy is Paul Wolfowitz. If Democrats are dissatisfied with Rumsfeld, that doesn`t compare to the disdain some feel for the man seen as the intellectual architect of the Iraq war.

Some of their anger spilled out at last week`s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., told Wolfowitz his credibility had been undermined because he had ``made numerous predictions, time and time again, that have turned out to be untrue and were based on faulty assumptions.``

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., accused Wolfowitz of ``dissembling and avoidance of answers.``

His appearance Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may not be much easier. Chairman Dick Lugar, R-Ind., top Democrat Joseph Biden of Delaware and other committee members have accused the Pentagon repeatedly of planning inadequately for post-Saddam Iraq.

Wolfowitz is at the center of the Iraqi storm because few other high-level Bush administration officials have argued as forcefully about the need to topple Saddam Hussein and as optimistically about prospects for post-Saddam Iraq.

To Republicans who supported the war, Wolfowitz was a prescient critic of U.S. policies in the 1990s, which sought to restrain Saddam without necessarily bringing him down. Wolfowitz spoke out about Saddam`s brutality to his people and how he threatened the Middle East.

He had criticized the first Bush administration, in which he served as undersecretary of defense for policy, for failing to ``deal with Saddam`` after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

In the 1990s, as dean of an influential think tank, Wolfowitz described the Clinton administration`s policy on Iraq as ``a muddle of confusion and pretense`` and urged it to move more forcefully against Saddam.

As the Bush administration began setting its sights on Iraq, it was Wolfowitz who frequently went to Capitol Hill to warn of Saddam`s dangers. He described how a liberated Iraq could spread democracy through the region and advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

He also sought to assuage lawmakers` worries about the difficulties and costs of winning the war and setting up a democratic government.

After Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, said in February 2003 that several hundred thousand troops would have to stay in Iraq after the war, Wolfowitz told a House panel that ``we can say with reasonable confidence`` the estimate was ``way off the mark.``

He also suggested that countries that were unwilling to participate in the war against Saddam would be willing to send in peacekeeping troops after the conflict was ended.

A year after Saddam was toppled, no such surge in foreign troops has appeared, and the United States still has 135,000 soldiers in the country. Wolfowitz said last week he had rejected Shinseki`s estimate because it was different from that of Gen. Tommy Franks, who oversaw military operations in Iraq as head of Central Command.

Wolfowitz also predicted before the war that Iraqis ``are going to welcome us as liberators. And when that message gets out to the whole Arab world, it is going to be a powerful counter to Osama bin Laden.`` But surveys have shown that Iraqis have mixed opinions about the war, and U.S. prestige among Arabs in general has been especially hurt by the prison abuse scandal.

Wolfowitz had assured lawmakers that the costs of a war to U.S. taxpayers would be limited because of Iraq`s oil revenue and frozen assets. ``We`re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon,`` he told a House committee in March 2003.

As Congress considered an $87 billion package last September that mostly benefited Iraq, Levin read back that quote to Wolfowitz.

``Talk about rosy scenarios,`` Levin said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Pres
May 18, 2004
Voting Machines for New York

As concerns have grown about the reliability of electronic voting machines, a nationwide groundswell has been forming to demand that the machines produce paper records of votes that voters can check. California will require all electronic voting machines in the state to produce such records by 2006, and Ohio adopted the same rule this month. New York State should have been in the forefront of this movement, but its elected officials have been dragging their feet. If New York acts quickly and resolutely now, however, it can not only protect the reliability of its own votes, but can also help make verifiable paper trails a national standard.

The Help America to Vote Act, a reform law passed after the 2000 election mess, makes billions of dollars available to the states for improved voting machines. As highly paid lobbyists have descended on Albany to fight for rules that favor the voting-machine companies that hired them, the Legislature has approached the critical question of voting machine standards in slow motion. It is critical that the lawmakers resolve the issue in the next few weeks, before the June adjournment. Further delay could leave manufacturers unable to produce acceptable machines in time for 2006 and could risk the loss of millions of dollars in federal funds.

To ensure the integrity of the voting system, the Legislature should require that all electronic voting machines in the state produce a voter-verifiable paper trail. It should also mandate manual audits of a reasonable percentage of the state`s voting machines to check their tabulations against the paper records. The Legislature should also insist that manufacturers reveal their computer code to state and local officials to show that there are no software errors or secret instructions to steal votes.

New York`s rules on voting machines should be drafted broadly enough that many manufacturers can compete for the business. There should not be variations in the quality of the machines from county to county, but there is nothing wrong with having different companies provide machines to different parts of the state. Some states, like Georgia and Maryland, have made the mistake of buying all their machines from one manufacturer, leaving them with little leverage in the case of bad performance.

To encourage competition, the Legislature should drop New York`s silly "full-face ballot" rule, which requires that all candidates and ballot questions must be seen at once by the voter. Incumbents like it because they do not want their names to be overlooked, but since almost no other states have such a rule, it could discourage voting machine companies from bidding for New York`s business.

In an age when consumers expect to be offered a receipt every time they use an A.T.M. or buy gasoline, it is hard to believe that there is opposition to paper records for electronic voting. But the opposition has been strong. Many local election officials and voting machine companies are fighting paper trails, in part because they will create more work and will raise difficult questions if the paper and electronic tallies do not match. Officials in places that have invested heavily in electronic machines that do not produce a paper trail, like Florida and Georgia, have been particularly vehement.

As many computer scientists have explained, voters cannot trust electronic machines that do not produce voter-verifiable records. If New York throws its weight behind California, Ohio and several other states to require them, the odds are good that such records will become the national standard and that even states like Florida will have to retrofit their machines to produce them. It is too late for New York to lead the movement for reliable electronic voting, but if it acts in the next few weeks, it can still be an important part of the solution.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 18, 2004
For Conservatives, Mission Accomplished

Last week Washington was the site of the biggest birthday party you never heard of. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of the American Conservative Union, and the guest list included all the grandees of right-wing America, from Senator Mitch McConnell to Phyllis Schlafly to Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association to, of course, President Bush.

In his speech, the President promised that "for our blessed land the best days lie ahead," and was greeted with several foot-stomping ovations and cries of "Four more years!" But the real flavor of the event was captured by what the president called the "fine group of decent citizens" gathered at the tables in front of him — members of the N.R.A., the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Foundation and countless other groups that make up Conservative America. One man wore a tie with the Ten Commandments; women carried handbags in the colors of the American flag; and when the narrator of a film about the conservative union used the phrase "right-wing nuts," the room roared its approval.

This is the type of partisan anniversary that only one side of America pays attention to — the side that watches Fox News Channel (the host for the evening was that network`s Tony Snow). Yet every Democratic politician in the land could have learned a great deal by attending. It would be going a little far to say that the A.C.U. ought to have celebrated under a banner labeled "Mission Accomplished," but it is because of such groups that the right has out-organized, out-fought and out-thought liberal America over the past 40 years. And the left still shows no real sign of knowing how to fight back.

To consider the ground that liberals have ceded, one must look back at the union`s founding in a cramped living-room in 1964, a few days after Lyndon B. Johnson had thrashed the first fully paid-up conservative presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater. Back then, the self-styled "Mr. Conservative" seemed to come from another planet. "When in all our history," asked the political theorist Richard Hofstadter, "has anyone with ideas so bizarre, so archaic, so self-confounding, so remote from the basic American consensus got so far?"

Fast forward to today. A Republican Party that is more conservative than Mr. Goldwater could have imagined controls the White House, Congress, many governors` mansions and a majority of seats in state legislatures. Back in 1964, John Kenneth Galbraith smugly proclaimed: "These, without doubt, are the years of the liberal. Almost everyone now so describes himself." Today, a Gallup poll tells us, twice as many Americans (41 percent) describe themselves as "conservative" than as "liberal" (19 percent).

Democrats have come up with all sorts of excuses, from the evils of Richard Nixon`s "Southern strategy" to the "stolen" election of 2000. They usually ignore the fact that the right has simply been far better at producing agenda-setting ideas. From welfare reform in Wisconsin to policing in New York City, from the tax-cutting Proposition 13 in California to regime change in Baghdad, the intellectual impetus has, for better or worse, come from the right. As President Bush bragged at last week`s party, the right is "the dominant intellectual force in American politics."

Yet many Democrats insist this will change once Mr. Bush is ejected from the White House. This shows how little they have learned. First, the right has a history of advancing its agenda under Democratic executives (welfare reform came about under Bill Clinton). More important, it has organized itself for a much longer battle. Whenever it has been forced into retreat — as after Watergate — the flame has burned eternal at places like Heritage, the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute, and at their smaller cousins in virtually every state.

Brains are nothing without political brawn. That`s why the American Conservative Union disciplines Congressional Republicans by rating them according to their purity (the average rating for House Republicans has risen from 63 percent in 1972 to 91 percent in 2002). Yes, liberal environmental and abortion rights groups rate members of Congress too, but those figures are more effective as fodder for conservative attack ads than as a way to keep Democrats in line.

There are other battalions of foot soldiers, too. Americans for Tax Reform, which had a table at the dinner, rigidly enforces the party`s pledge not to raise taxes. Focus on the Family (which has a campus in Colorado Springs so big that it has its own ZIP code) concentrates on promoting family values. Sometimes these groups feud — Cato libertarians have plenty of differences with Focus on the Family`s social conservatives — but as all the back-slapping at the party showed, they share a sense of movement.

In theory, liberals have more than enough brain and brawn to match conservative America. The great liberal universities and foundations have infinitely more resources than the American Enterprise Institute and its allies. But the conservatives have always been more dogged. The Ford Foundation is as liberal as Heritage is conservative, but there is no doubt which is the more ruthless in its cause.

Now, perhaps, a few liberals are waking up to the task that confronts them. Americans Come Together, a group backed by the billionaire George Soros, already has 20 offices and 450 employees in Ohio alone. John Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, has founded the Center for American Progress, which Democrats are calling "the liberal Heritage." But it still seems that liberals are purely reactive. Barry Goldwater may have been strong meat, but at least he had ideas. By contrast, Americans Come Together`s entire raison d`être (like that of the John Kerry campaign) remains negative: to send Mr. Bush back to Texas.

"There is no such thing as spontaneous public opinion," Beatrice Webb, the great British leftist, once said. "It all has to be manufactured from a center of conviction and energy." The American Conservative Union is just one of many such centers on the right; it`s a lesson that liberal America seems unable to learn.

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, writers for The Economist, are the authors of "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company |
May 18, 2004
In Iraq, America`s Shakeout Moment

There`s something about our venture into Iraq that is inspiringly, painfully, embarrassingly and quintessentially American.

No other nation would have been hopeful enough to try to evangelize for democracy across the Middle East. No other nation would have been naïve enough to do it this badly. No other nation would be adaptable enough to recover from its own innocence and muddle its way to success, as I suspect we are about to do.

American history sometimes seems to be the same story repeated over and over again. Some group of big-dreaming but foolhardy adventurers head out to eradicate some evil and to realize some golden future. They get halfway along their journey and find they are unprepared for the harsh reality they suddenly face. It`s too late to turn back, so they reinvent their mission. They toss out illusions and adopt an almost desperate pragmatism. They never do realize the utopia they initially dreamed about, but they do build something better than what came before.

This basic pattern has marked our national style from the moment British colonists landed on North American shores. Overly optimistic about the conditions they would find, the colonists were woefully undercapitalized, underequipped and underskilled. At Jamestown, there were three gentlemen and gentlemen`s servants for every skilled laborer. They didn`t bother to plant enough grain to see them through the winter.

But they learned and adapted. Settlement companies were compelled to send more workers, along with axes, chisels, scythes, millstones and seeds. Eventually the colonies thrived.

Centuries later, it was much the same. The guides who aided and fleeced the pioneers who moved West were struck by how clueless many of them were about the wilderness they were entering. Their diaries show that many thought they could establish genteel New England-style villages in short order. They leapt before they looked, faced the shock of reality, adapted and cobbled together something unexpected.

And it is that way today. We are tricked by hope into starting companies, beginning books, immigrating to this country and investing in telecom networks. The challenges turn out to be tougher than we imagined. Our excessive optimism is exposed. New skills are demanded. But nothing important was ever begun in a prudential frame of mind.

Hope begets disappointment, and we are now in a moment of disappointment when it comes to Iraq. During these shakeout moments, the naysayers get to gloat while the rest of us despair, lacerate ourselves, second-guess those in charge and look at things anew. But this very process of self-criticism is the precondition for the second wind, the grubbier, less illusioned effort that often enough leads to some acceptable outcome.

Today in Iraq local commanders seem to be allowed to try anything. We are allowing former Baathists to man a Falluja Brigade to police their own city. We are pounding Moktada al-Sadr while negotiating with him. There is talk of moving up elections so when an Iraqi official is assassinated, he is not seen as a person working with the U.S., but as a duly elected representative of the Iraqi people.

Some of these policies seem incoherent, but they may work. And back home a new mood has taken over part of the political class. The emerging responsible faction has no time now for the witless applause lines the jeering jackdaws on left and right repeat to themselves to their own perpetual self-admiration and delight. Even in a political year, most politicians do not want this country to fail.

There are, for example, members of Congress from both parties who feel estranged from this administration. They feel it does not listen to their ideas. But in this troubled hour, they are desperate to help. If but a call were made, they would burst forth with intelligent suggestions: about Iraq, about political tactics, about getting additional appropriations.

Remember, the most untrue truism in human history is that there are no second acts in American life. In reality, there is nothing but second acts. There are shakeout moments and, redundantly, new beginnings. The weeks until June 30 are bound to be awful, but we may be at the start of a new beginning now.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 18, 2004
The Wastrel Son

He was a stock character in 19th-century fiction: the wastrel son who runs up gambling debts in the belief that his wealthy family, concerned for its prestige, will have no choice but to pay off his creditors. In the novels such characters always come to a bad end. Either they bring ruin to their families, or they eventually find themselves disowned.

George Bush reminds me of those characters — and not just because of his early career, in which friends of the family repeatedly bailed out his failing business ventures. Now that he sits in the White House, he`s still counting on other people to settle his debts — not to protect the reputation of his family, but to protect the reputation of the country.

One by one, our erstwhile allies are disowning us; they don`t want an unstable, anti-Western Iraq any more than we do, but they have concluded that President Bush is incorrigible. Spain has washed its hands of our problems, Italy is edging toward the door, and Britain will join the rush for the exit soon enough, with or without Tony Blair.

At home, however, Mr. Bush`s protectors are not yet ready to make the break.

Last week Mr. Bush asked Congress for yet more money for the "Iraq Freedom Fund" — $25 billion for starters, although Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, says that the bill for the full fiscal year will probably exceed $50 billion, and independent experts think even that is an underestimate. And you know what? He`ll get it.

Before the war, officials refused to discuss costs, except to insist that they would be minimal. It was only after the shooting started, and Congress was in no position to balk, that the administration demanded $75 billion for the Iraq Freedom Fund.

Then, after declaring "mission accomplished" and pushing through a big tax cut — and after several months when administration officials played down the need for more funds — Mr. Bush told Congress that he needed an additional $87 billion. Assured that the situation in Iraq was steadily improving, and warned that American soldiers would suffer if the money wasn`t forthcoming, Congress gave Mr. Bush another blank check.

Now Mr. Bush is back for more. Given this history, one might have expected him to show some contrition — to promise to change his ways and to offer at least a pretense that Congress would henceforth have some say in how money was spent.

But the tone of the cover letter Mr. Bush sent with last week`s budget request can best be described as contemptuous: it`s up to Congress to "ensure that our men and women in uniform continue to have the resources they need when they need them." This from an administration that, by rejecting warnings from military professionals, ensured that our men and women in uniform didn`t have remotely enough resources to do the job.

The budget request itself was almost a caricature of the administration`s "just trust us" approach to governing.

It ran to less than a page, with no supporting information. Of the $25 billion, $5 billion is purely a slush fund, to be used at the secretary of defense`s discretion. The rest is allocated to specific branches of the military, but with the proviso that the administration can reallocate the money at will as long as it notifies the appropriate committees.

Senators are balking for the moment, but everyone knows that they`ll give in, after demanding, at most, cosmetic changes. Once again, Mr. Bush has put Congress in a bind: it was his decision to put American forces in harm`s way, but if members of Congress fail to give him the money he demands, he`ll blame them for letting down the troops.

As long as political figures aren`t willing to disown Mr. Bush`s debt — the impossible situation in which he has placed America`s soldiers — there isn`t much they can do.

So how will it all end? The cries of "stay the course" are getting fainter, while the calls for a quick exit are growing. In other words, it seems increasingly likely that the nation will end up disowning Mr. Bush and his debts.

That will mean settling for an outcome in Iraq that, however we spin it, will look a lot like defeat — and the nation`s prestige will be damaged by that outcome. But lost prestige is better than ruin.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

As Violence Deepens, So Does Pessimism

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 18, 2004; Page A01

BAGHDAD, May 17 -- With stunning brazenness, pinpoint timing and devastating force, the suicide car bomber who killed the head of Iraq`s Governing Council on Monday gave shape to a feeling among Iraqi and U.S. officials and common citizens that the country is almost unmanageable.

With the transfer of limited powers to a new Iraqi government scheduled to take place in six weeks, U.S. and allied forces have been unable to eradicate threats to Iraq`s stability, and no one has predicted a reduction in violence before the June 30 handover.

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is trying to create the caretaker government that will assume authority, but on Monday debate over the details of his plan took a back seat to a more basic question: If Iraq`s titular president, Izzedin Salim, can be blown up at the gates of occupation headquarters, what kind of country is being handed over to Iraqis?

"We could not imagine the deterioration leading to such a point. It`s getting worse day after day, and no one has been able to put an end to it. Who is going to protect the next government, no matter what kind it is?" said Abdul Jalil Mohsen, a former Iraqi general and member of the Iraqi National Accord, a prominent party represented on the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, which Salim headed this month under a rotating system.

"There`s no question: A small band of people can paralyze the country," said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member of the council. "They are armed and organized and this is the difficulty. The people who did this have no respect for anything of value. It`s a real danger to Iraq, the Iraqis and to an agenda to achieve any kind of democracy."

Inside the Green Zone, the heavily fortified U.S. administration compound that Salim was about to enter when the suicide bomber struck, expectations are grim. "It will take a lot of doing for this not to end in a debacle," a senior occupation official said. "There is no confidence in the coalition. Why should there be?"

On Baghdad`s hot and dusty streets, Iraqi working people also expressed a deep sense of pessimism. "Our country is at a loss. I don`t think that even after the handover the government will control things," said Ali Fakhri, who owns a fabric store in the Kadhimiya district.

"Just look around," said Bakran Ohan, who sells baby clothes. "Do you see any police? Any soldiers? There is a complete lack of security. It won`t change from day to night on June 30."

Salim`s death was a high-profile reminder of the broader violence affecting Iraq. Central Iraq, home to a long-running revolt by Sunni Muslims, is plagued by daily roadside bombings, occasional car bombings and frequent assassinations of Iraqis working with the U.S.-led administration. To the south, frequent clashes over the past six weeks have pitted U.S. and allied forces against a persistent insurgency led by Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr. Fighting has all but paralyzed several southern cities.

Hostile bands operate freely in cities that straddle the main routes in and out of Baghdad. Foreigners who travel Iraqi roads run the risk of being kidnapped, and reconstruction projects in many parts of the country have come to a standstill.

Car bombs have been used repeatedly with devastating effect in Baghdad and other parts of the country since August, when the first of them destroyed the Jordanian Embassy. Since then, targets have included the U.N. headquarters, Red Cross headquarters, several police stations and two entrances to the Green Zone.

U.S. officials say assassinations and attacks on government buildings are designed to drive a wedge between the occupation authority and Iraqi citizens. When the Iraqi National Accord issued a letter of condolence after Salim`s slaying, it noted that six of its members have been killed over the past six months. Salim is the second Governing Council member to be killed since the group`s formation last summer.

Since late April, the Iraqi press has reported at least a dozen attempts to kill Iraqis working -- or suspected of working -- with the Americans. On April 28 in Baghdad, a mob hanged three men, each accused of working "as a spy for the enemies of Islam," according to a message left at their feet. The next day, gunmen shot an employee of Baghdad`s Sadr City district town hall at his home. The assailants left a letter in his pocket warning against holding a funeral. On May 8, gunmen in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad, killed the head of the town council as he drove on a main street. Farther south in Samawah the next day, gunmen ran the car of the deputy mayor off the road and shot him and three passengers.

Last week, a man in a red mask put a stick of dynamite at the door of a local tribal leader, Roukan Mughier Atwan. It exploded while Atwan was trying to douse it with water, killing him and one of his daughters. Atwan had met with U.S. officials, part of consultations that military authorities try to carry on with traditional leaders; his brother, Thayer, said a letter had been posted nearby promising death to anyone who helped the Americans.

"There was a list of 14 names in the marketplace," including that of his brother, Thayer said. "But later, it was refuted publicly. I guess someone did not listen."

Atwan`s death closely followed the May 8 detonation of a remote-control bomb outside the house of Muayyad Ayad, a police official from Habhab, 13 miles north of Baqubah. Ayad survived, but two female bystanders and a male cousin were killed. The same day in nearby Miqdadiyah, gunmen attacked the mayor`s house, injuring an Iraqi policeman.

To the west in Samarra, police were also a target last week. On Tuesday, insurgents raided a police station, drove off seven officers and blew up the building and two patrol cars. A group called the Army of Truth circulated a leaflet that called for U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces to leave town. They also said that any building flying the new, U.S.-approved blue and white Iraqi flag would be blown up.

In Fallujah, west of the capital, a U.S.-endorsed agreement to allow patrols by former members of ousted president Saddam Hussein`s army quieted the city after a month of combat. Nonetheless, the area around Fallujah is heavy with roadside bombs and ambushes. Over the weekend, U.S. Marines reported on a goodwill visit to the town of Kharma, on the road from Baghdad to Fallujah. As soon as they left, insurgents peppered the town with rockets, according to the 1st Marine Division.

The roads south from Baghdad have become alleys for ambushes and kidnapping, area residents say. Two Russian electrical workers, nabbed near Latifiyah, were released Monday after two weeks in captivity; one of their comrades was killed during the kidnapping.

Even residents of Latifiyah said they had been terrorized by gangs of insurgents. They insist the attackers are not local people, but fundamentalist Wahhabi Muslims hiding among the date groves. "We don`t use the main road to Latifiyah," said Ali Hamza Khazraji, a tribal leader who took a reporter to his home last week.

"These Wahhabis hate the Christians. Foreigners can`t come here," he said, explaining the kidnappings. "We have lots of trees. They can shoot and hide."

Violence in the south has forced U.S. troops originally slated for duty in and near Baghdad to fight far afield. U.S.-led forces killed about 50 members of Sadr`s militia on Monday, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmit told reporters in Baghdad. U.S. troops killed 17 militiamen in Karbala and 13 more in other areas, including Najaf, where the 31-year-old Sadr has taken refuge. A helicopter rocketed some vehicles in southeast Iraq, killing insurgents who were loading weapons onto them, Kimmit said.

In Nasiriyah, Italian paramilitary police withdrew from a downtown government building to a base on the outskirts of the city after three days of taking fire from Sadr`s forces and suffering one fatality. Kimmit denied that the Italians had retreated. "They just moved to a more secure camp," he said.

He also brushed aside reports that plans to transfer U.S. troops from South Korea to Iraq had been prompted by the fighting in the south. On Sunday, Kim Sook, a Foreign Ministry official, told reporters in Seoul that "the U.S. government has told us that it needs to select some U.S. troops in South Korea and send them to Iraq to cope with the worsening situation."

The issue of who should be in charge of Iraqi security was hotly debated here in the aftermath of Salim`s assassination. Members of the Governing Council argued that Iraqis must be put in control -- now -- with forces drawn from existing militias. The United States is seeking to retain command of the Iraqi security services that are being assembled and trained with American money and has largely resisted creation of units from party or ethnic-based militias.

Ahmed Chalabi, a council member who heads the Iraqi National Congress and has close ties with the Pentagon, said at a news conference Monday that "the Iraqi government must have exclusive and complete control over the army and security services of Iraq."

Hamid Bayati, a spokesman for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, another party on the Governing Council, said: "Iraqis know the country. They are more capable in getting information. They should be responsible."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Set a Date to Pull Out
The danger is not that we will cut and run but that the Iraqis will insist that we get out.

By James Steinberg and Michael O`Hanlon

Tuesday, May 18, 2004; Page A19

American policy in Iraq faces a crisis. Mainstream U.S. political leaders, including President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry, have continued to insist that we must "stay the course" and that "failure is not an option." But these slogans are not enough to rescue a failing policy. The success of our mission has depended from the outset on the perception by the Iraqi people that our presence is necessary to secure their own future. Today that premise is increasingly in doubt.

Unless we restore the Iraqi people`s confidence in our role, failure is not only an option but a likelihood. Critical to achieving our goal is an announced decision to end the current military deployment by the end of next year, following the Iraqi adoption of a constitution, together with greatly intensified training for the Iraqi security forces. Otherwise, the issue may well be not how long we want to stay but how soon the Iraqis kick us out.

From the beginning the administration`s strategy assumed that the United States would be welcomed as "liberators" by most Iraqis. Yet the failure of the U.S.-led provisional authority to provide basic security for many, and the slow pace of reconstruction, has eroded support for our presence. The Abu Ghraib outrages and the recent escalation of fighting have further undermined our position. A majority of Iraqis now believe their country is worse off than before Saddam Hussein was overthrown, according to a recent poll.

This dramatic loss of support undermines the legitimacy of our continued military presence. It also makes our task of stabilizing the country nearly impossible.

The problem is compounded by our own ambivalence about the political transition in Iraq. Although we defined our mission as liberation, we have been deeply reluctant to trust the Iraqi people to set their own course. From the decision to install a handpicked interim governing council, to our initial reluctance to support early elections for the limited authority we plan to grant the transition government after June 30, the message is that we will not permit self-determination in Iraq until Iraqis choose a government that meets our goal: a Western-style democracy broadly supportive of U.S. interests in the region.

That objective was wildly ambitious even before the military operation began; today it is simply unattainable in the near term. The more we talk about staying "as long as it takes" the more it appears we are trying to impose our vision on Iraq -- further alienating the Iraqi public. The danger is not that we will cut and run but that the Iraqis will insist that we get out, leaving behind a security vacuum that could ignite civil war and wider regional strife.

How can we avoid such a disaster? First, we must make clear that our military presence in Iraq is designed to permit the Iraqis to freely choose their own future -- even if it is not fully to our liking. We should indicate not just that we will leave if asked but that we will ourselves plan to end the deployment of coalition forces following the election of an Iraqi government and the adoption of a new constitution next year. We should make clear that we (as part of a wider international coalition) would be prepared to stay beyond that time -- but only at the request of the new Iraqi government, and as part of a new, U.N.-sponsored mandate on terms that are acceptable to the new Iraqi government and to us.

Second, we must be clear about our legitimate security interests in Iraq. We have a right to insist that a new Iraqi government not threaten peace and security -- by developing weapons of mass destruction, harboring terrorists or attacking other nations. And we should certainly seek to use our influence to encourage a tolerant, pluralist society. But because this is a responsibility Iraq owes to all, not just us, we should shift the focus away from the United States as the enforcement arm of the international community to Iraq`s neighbors and others that share these interests, including NATO and the United Nations. We should begin by convening a major international summit on Iraq, involving not only Western allies but also Arab leaders and Iraqis, at the time of the NATO summit next month in Istanbul. And we should invite the International Atomic Energy Agency to play a role in ensuring that a new Iraqi government does not pursue weapons programs.

Third, we should accelerate the training and equipping of new security forces for Iraq. Less than 10 percent of the necessary numbers of soldiers and police have been properly trained to date. Filling this vacuum is critical to the success of this strategy, because indigenous forces are far more likely than foreign forces to succeed in defeating the residual Baathist and foreign fighters in Iraq. If Arab countries and NATO devoted just 10 percent of their police and military training capacity to Iraqi forces, we could complete an intensified training process by next year.

Some will see this as cut-and-run. It is not. Unlike the case with most previous stabilization missions, our own enduring commitment to success in Iraq is beginning to work against us. It breeds cynicism among Iraqis that we are like the colonialists of old, planning to stay indefinitely to keep our hands on their oil and to use Iraq for our own, broader foreign policy objectives. The lesson of our history is that our best partners are those who freely choose to be. We must give the Iraqis the opportunity to seize that possibility for themselves.

James Steinberg was deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration and is vice president and director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution; Michael O`Hanlon is a senior fellow there.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Pervasive Abuse Alleged by Freed Detainees, Red Cross
By Tracy Wilkinson and Alissa J. Rubin
Times Staff Writers

May 18, 2004

BAGHDAD — It begins with a blast at the front gate in the middle of the night. Troops pound their way into the home. Males are rounded up. They disappear into a chaotic system of U.S.-run jails and prison camps and emerge months later, sometimes battered and often never knowing of what crime they are accused.

That has been the experience of many of the nearly 40,000 Iraqis who have been detained and released by U.S. forces occupying Iraq for more than a year.

As much of the world focuses on Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, dozens of detainees and their families, along with scathing reports from international human rights groups, describe mistreatment at detention centers under U.S. control from Basra and Umm al Qasr in the south to Tikrit and Mosul in northern Iraq.

Even as the White House continues to argue that photographed abuse at Abu Ghraib was an isolated case, interviews with detainees and human rights reports demonstrate that abuse in various forms was systemwide.

"They just don`t know how to handle us properly," said Ghazwan Alusi, 26, a car dealer held in two prisons for four months late last year. He described being transported from one detention center to another 600 miles away, hogtied by the arms and legs to other prisoners in the back of an uncovered truck.

"We were treated worse than animals," he said.

Much of the treatment alleged by freed Iraqi prisoners does not constitute torture. Not everyone was subjected to the aggressive interrogation techniques, from sleep deprivation to threats and beatings, that now are banned. And it remains to be seen whether any other detention facilities were as bad as cellblock 1A at Abu Ghraib, where sexual torture was employed.

But Iraqis say even the routine treatment is humiliating and unjust, especially for the vast majority of those rounded up in sweeps by U.S. troops, who cast an ever-wider net, sometimes with faulty intelligence. The detainees were often denied access to lawyers and seldom charged with a crime.

Sheik Abdul Sattar, 71, was watching television with his wife of 50 years in the early morning of April 25 when he heard the sound of machine-gun fire, he said. Afraid that a grandchild had found the family Kalashnikov, he shouted out, "What`s going on?" and started to hoist himself off the sofa.

As he looked up, he saw a U.S. soldier towering over him and heard him shout: "Put your hands up!"

Sattar watched the soldiers throw his grown sons to the floor, handcuff them with plastic "flexicuffs" and pull hoods over their heads. A moment later, it was Sattar`s turn. He was pushed flat on his face, he said, a bag was pulled over his head and his hands were tightly cuffed behind his back. An ill man who walked with difficulty, he was dragged on the ground, suffering bruises and a twisted ankle.

Hours later, the hood was taken off and Sattar found himself in the total darkness of a closet so narrow that he could only stand. It was almost a day before he saw light again, he said, emanating from an electric bulb in a small, wood-frame cell.

The details of Sattar`s arrest are similar to those of thousands of Iraqis detained by U.S.-led occupation forces, according to a February report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The report alleges that the abuses were part of a pattern at detention centers across Iraq. The Red Cross lists a dozen methods used, including three that involve sexual abuse.

Throughout the first months of the occupation, detainees frequently made an initial and indefinite stop at Baghdad`s international airport and its Camp Cropper, which housed a military intelligence section charged with running interrogations and screening new detainees.

Alusi, the car dealer, said he was picked up by a U.S. patrol on May 16, 2003, for a curfew violation. He was taken to a nearby school and told that he would be freed at dawn.

But in the morning, soldiers put a bag on his head, bound his hands and bundled him off to the airport, he said. He and 300 to 400 other detainees were corralled in a dusty patch of desert surrounded by concertina wire.

Alusi was jailed alongside Sadun Hamadi, the 75-year-old former speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly, who lay on a single blanket in a sweltering tent, using his shoes as a pillow.

Alusi said he offered to bring water to the respected statesman, but the guards required Hamadi to get it himself. In his underwear, before all to see, Hamadi crossed the sand to retrieve a bit of water.

"Oh my God," Alusi recalled thinking to himself. "If they do this to him, a man of his position, what is in store for the rest of us?"

According to the Red Cross, those who potentially could provide useful information at the airport were singled out for aggressive questioning. It "was part of the military intelligence process to hold a [detainee] naked in a completely dark and empty cell for a prolonged period, to use inhumane and degrading treatment, including physical and psychological coercion … to secure their cooperation."

As the hot summer dragged on, Alusi and other inmates protested. Some became violent.

About 1,200 were transferred to Camp Bucca, another detention facility in the southern port town of Umm al Qasr. Alusi and the others were loaded into the backs of metal-paneled trucks. Each prisoner was cuffed to the next, at both the arms and legs, bouncing painfully over the rutted back roads on the 600-mile journey, their heads slamming against the sides of the trucks.

At one point, an American soldier bumped his head and was evacuated by helicopter. But the prisoners, Alusi said, were swooning and retching from the heat, with little water and no relief. He claimed that several prisoners died, but that could not be confirmed.

Alusi said conditions were better at Camp Bucca. But the camp gets mixed reviews from human rights groups.

The Red Cross said intimidation and the threat of attack — such as aiming a rifle at a prisoner`s head — was used during interrogation at Camp Bucca, but beatings and hoodings were far less common than in other detention centers. Guards regarded their charges with hostility and "general contempt," the Red Cross said.

The Christian Peacemakers Team, a U.S.-based advocacy group, documented 72 cases of abuse at U.S.-run prisons in Iraq between May 31 and Dec. 20. It reported its findings to L. Paul Bremer III, the occupation`s top civilian official, in a letter dated Jan. 9 and to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of military forces, in a letter a day earlier.

Privately, the Red Cross began notifying occupation officials of abuse last year, and Amnesty International raised the alarm publicly last summer. The Los Angeles Times wrote about allegations of prisoner abuse as far back as July, as did other media sources.

Abu Ghraib figures prominently in the reports, but so do the other facilities. In its findings, the Red Cross also singles out seven smaller jails in Baghdad for allegations of abusive treatment.

One of them, the Salhiyye jail, is where Suad Mirza spent four of the six months she was in detention. Mirza was arrested in mid-July, and her two sons, Hussein and Ali, 2 1/2 weeks before that. Hussein, a high school senior, was studying for final exams when American soldiers burst into the Mirza home. Ali, 22, a university student, had just returned from a trip to Jordan.

Mirza understands that her husband`s close relationship with ousted dictator Saddam Hussein would have focused scrutiny on her family. A Kurd, Sabegh Mirza was a Hussein bodyguard for two decades. But Suad Mirza said her husband was forced out of government a dozen years ago. He suffered a series of strokes and has been a bed-ridden paraplegic for about five years.

"I swear to God, maybe my husband and I knew Saddam. But my son [Hussein]? He was 6 when my husband left the regime," she said. From the time she arrived at the jail, she was questioned regularly by an American officer she described as tall and fit with blondish hair and blue eyes, accompanied by an Iraqi interrogator.

Mirza is the rare woman who has come forward and talked about her imprisonment — most are too ashamed or terrified. Mirza said she was not physically abused. But her interrogators repeatedly threatened her family in an effort to extract information. They threatened to have her daughters raped and her house looted, she said. They jailed her, initially, in a crowded cell with common male criminals who she believed were on drugs.

"This woman is a terrorist," she said she overheard the U.S. officer telling the Iraqi. "Treat her in the worst possible way."

Most of the questioning centered on whether she knew anything about the insurgency and on a crate of pistols — her husband`s collection, she said — found in her house during last year`s raid.

She eventually was released without being charged. Her older son, Ali, remains at Abu Ghraib, and Hussein, 18, is at Camp Bucca.

"The Iraqi people are angry, primarily because so many people are being detained arbitrarily. It`s a harsh and inhumane detention," said Thamer Sultan, a tribal leader from the largely anti-American town of Tikrit. Now, with the Abu Ghraib scandal revealed, he said, "anger over the mistreatment is just an extension of that already pervasive anger. It only adds to the outrage."

Sultan, whose son, nephew and cousin are or have been detained, is a former army general who had a falling out with Saddam Hussein several years ago and now is a consultant to the occupation authority in the Tikrit region. His son, Omar, was held for a month and beaten by military police in December, he said, even though the young man was pointing out arms caches and providing other intelligence.

When Sultan complained about his son`s beating to Bremer`s representative in Tikrit, he was told that such treatment at the hands of U.S. soldiers was impossible.

"The bruises and marks were visible," Sultan said.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
The annual spring jacaranda bloom is on brilliant display on Myrtle Street in Santa Ana and throughout the Southland. A slight breeze can cause the faintly fragrant 2-inch-long flowers to cascade from a tree�s canopy. Lavender-colored streets and sidewalks are a beautiful sight, but the blooms can be a sticky nuisance underfoot.
(Don Bartletti / LAT)
Inquiry Into Leak Looks to Reporters
By Richard B. Schmitt
Times Staff Writer

May 18, 2004

WASHINGTON — The investigation into whether the Bush administration illegally exposed the identity of an undercover CIA operative has turned to some of the journalists covering the inquiry.

A special prosecutor has asked reporters for the Washington Post and Newsday to sit for questions in connection with the investigation of the case, the papers acknowledged Monday. Other journalists might also be targeted for questioning, sources said.

The informal requests suggest that the 5-month-old probe into the alleged "outing" of CIA operative Valerie Plame may be entering a critical phase. They also raise the possibility of journalists being subpoenaed to testify about the case before a federal grand jury.

The special prosecutor, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald, is trying to determine how Plame`s CIA connection ended up in a Robert Novak syndicated column published July 14 and whether laws governing the intentional disclosure of agency operatives were broken in the process.

Plame`s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, has alleged that the exposure was political payback by the Bush White House for writing an op-ed article, published July 6 in the New York Times, challenging a claim made by the president in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was seeking to purchase "significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Wilson had visited Niger, the African country cited in an intelligence report, to assess the claim for the CIA. Wilson concluded that it was baseless.

Eric Lieberman, associate counsel for the Post, said he received a call from Fitzgerald last week requesting an opportunity to speak with two Post reporters about the case. Lieberman said he had not yet responded to the request. He said that Fitzgerald had declined to discuss what information he was seeking.

Newsday also acknowledged being approached by Fitzgerald. "We were contacted. Our reporters have not spoken to the government," editor Howard Schneider said in a prepared statement, declining further comment.

A lawyer for Novak, James Hamilton, declined comment when asked whether the columnist had received such a request.

Since Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft chose him in December to head up the investigation, Fitzgerald, who is the top federal prosecutor in Chicago, has questioned members of the White House staff and subpoenaed various documents, including transcripts of phone calls from Air Force One.

Whether the latest requests are an indication that he is close to making a case — or is still struggling to make one — is impossible to tell. Fitzgerald is also said to be looking into whether any people he has interviewed may have lied under oath.

Criminal prosecutions arising from a leak of classified information are notoriously hard to prove without the cooperation of journalists, who by tradition decline to reveal their sources of information.

Some people close to the case viewed the requests as a prelude to subpoenaing the journalists.

"I take it they do not have a smoking gun," said one lawyer close to the case who requested anonymity. He noted that Justice Department policy requires that, before calling journalists to a grand jury, prosecutors must first make an attempt to talk with them on a voluntary basis.

A spokesman for Fitzgerald declined to comment about the investigation.

Both newspapers have reported critical facts about the events leading up to the identification of Plame, as well as the subsequent investigation.

Newsday was considered the first publication to report that the Novak column had blown Plame`s status as an undercover CIA officer. The Post reported that, two days before the Novak column appeared, one of its reporters had a conversation with an unnamed administration official who identified Wilson`s wife as an agency analyst, without mentioning her by name.

In his new book, Wilson recounts receiving a phone call around the same time from veteran Post national security correspondent Walter Pincus, "who alerted me that `they are coming after you.` "

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Scandal`s Shame, Massachusetts` Pride
Robert Scheer

May 18, 2004

What a wonderful image of democracy and tolerance the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has presented to the world by allowing same-sex marriages. At a time when elements of the U.S. military machine have perverted homosexual acts into a form of torture, the sight of responsible and joyful gay adults freely choosing the commitment of marriage could not be more timely.

The lesson is that freedom is indivisible. In Massachusetts, it is up to the individual and not the state to define the essence of the human experience when it comes to love and marriage. It should make us proud patriots that the battle for freedom has won new ground and that full human rights are sacred in at least one state of the nation that claims to lead the free world.

Yes, human rights, for unless homosexuals are granted full civil rights, no other rights are secure. Hitler proved that by exterminating the "abnormal ones," whose pink triangles marked them for death, alongside the Jews. Homosexuals were a favored target of the Taliban goons in Afghanistan, who routinely crushed gays to death under a wall of stones. And they were once interned in camps in Fidel Castro`s Cuba.

Sexual fascism — the violent denial of the fundamental right of human beings to define their essential nature in an open and accountable manner — is at the heart of totalitarianism, whether in an Islamic, a Christian or a Marxist context.

Yet, despite living in a democratic society, we are not immune to exploiting sex as a means of social control. U.S. sodomy laws — until last year`s Supreme Court ruling in a Texas case — made gay sex between consenting adults illegal. At the same time, the U.S. prison system practically institutionalizes male-on-male rape as a form of punishment and intimidation.

And now comes the scandal of Abu Ghraib, which appears to go far beyond a few reservists on an S&M power trip.

Because of the severe psychological consequences of sexual humiliation for conservative Muslims, U.S. military jailers have been routinely stripping Arab prisoners and taking nude photos of them in camps and prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. According to Seymour Hersh in the May 24 New Yorker, this practice was not devised by deranged reservists at the bottom of the military hierarchy at Abu Ghraib but came from the top — from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"Rumsfeld and [Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen] Cambone … expanded the scope of [a top-secret intelligence-gathering program], bringing its unconventional methods to Abu Ghraib. The commandos were to operate in Iraq as they had in Afghanistan. The male prisoners could be treated roughly, and exposed to sexual humiliation," reports Hersh, relying on insider intelligence sources. The Pentagon denies it authorized abuse but has admitted to having a policy of routinely allowing prisoners to be stripped naked and in other ways humiliated.

If the goal in Iraq was really to win hearts and minds to the American model of democracy, why would Rumsfeld impose such a shortsighted policy of torture? Was this ends-justify-the-means cynicism or just an act of desperation to save a tragically stupid war?

In the end, the irony is grim: The U.S. military bans openly gay soldiers but apparently does not effectively screen out heterosexual sadists. Meanwhile, at home the president tries desperately to make an election-year issue out of preventing free adults from civilly consecrating same-sex partnerships.

Unfortunately, there are many in this country, at least in the political class, who claim to support the rights of the individual abroad while struggling to limit them at home. Yet, as with classic images from earlier civil rights movements, such as that of a poised black girl walking to school through a jeering crowd, the dramatic scenes of joy and love now unfolding in Massachusetts are likely to be looked back upon by future generations with a "what took us so long?" relief.

Bush has condemned the Massachusetts high court for tampering with the "traditional values" enshrined in the Constitution. But we should be grateful for such tampering, or we would still have slavery and women still would not be allowed to vote.


Robert Scheer writes a weekly column for The Times and is coauthor of "The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq" (Seven Stories Press/Akashic Books, 2003).

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Eine Abrechnung mit der Afghanistan-Politik der UN.

The Wrong Way to Build a Nation
His Afghanistan mission fizzled. How can Brahimi be right for Iraq?
By Kathy Gannon

May 18, 2004

Afghanistan is pretty much off the international radar screen these days. But it wasn`t so long ago that the United Nations was called upon to bring stability, self-rule and security to the country — a mandate not unlike the one it faces today in Iraq.

Adding to the similarity is Lakhdar Brahimi, the man heading the U.N. team in Iraq, who also navigated Afghanistan`s post-Taliban transition.

Yes, they are two very different countries: Iraq with an educated people, an infrastructure that once worked and institutions with competent functionaries. Then there is Afghanistan, destroyed by more than two decades of war, with a largely uneducated population and no institutions to speak of.

Yet there are enough parallels to make an examination of how the U.N. fared in Afghanistan valid. Chief among these parallels are the ethnic and religious divisions that have plagued both countries for generations. So what can we learn from the first experience as we get started on the second? If we graded the U.N.`s performance in Afghanistan, here`s how it would rate:

• Security: This would have to be an F, given that Brahimi himself, in his farewell speech, admitted, "There is fear in the heart of every Afghan because there is no rule of law." How did this happen? Right from the outset, Brahimi and the U.N. made concessions that led to an insecure Afghanistan. The ink hadn`t even dried on the Bonn agreement that brought the first post-Taliban government to power in Afghanistan when the U.N. let armed militias flout the accord. These militias stayed in Kabul in defiance of this agreement, which demanded they be evicted.

The U.N. compromised away Afghanistan`s security step by step so that it could meet a series of deadlines: two loya jirgas (grand councils), a constitution and elections.

That Afghanistan today is a struggling nation, overrun by drugs and undermined by powerful militias and their warlord leaders-turned-government-ministers, reflects a United Nations that measures itself by successes on paper, not on the ground.

• Development: another failing grade. The Afghans` expectations following the collapse of the Taliban were high, maybe too high. Today, nearly three years later, they are a deeply disappointed people. They have seen very little development outside of the cities. Jobs are rare, the infrastructure is still woefully inadequate and little substantive change has come to their daily lives. Yet Afghans see international aid workers in fleets of large, four-wheel-drive vehicles, living in grandly refurbished and rebuilt homes.

• Self-governance: Another disappointment. Elections have been postponed until September, and most Afghans aren`t registered to vote. It`s still not clear whether elections will be just for a president or for the assemblies as well.

Any criticism of the former moujahedeen, who are now power brokers and government ministers, is met with death threats and demands for apologies. The new constitution does some good for women, giving them two representatives from each province. But the violent reaction from the men to criticism of moujahedeen from a woman delegate is just one example of how far women in Afghanistan still have to travel.

• Ethnic and religious rapprochement: The U.N. failed here as well. It did nothing in Afghanistan to stop a cycle of discrimination and linguistic chauvinism. Its inaction actually encouraged discrimination against ethnic Pashtuns because they had been the backbone of the Taliban. Worse, it created a feeling among Pashtuns that they had no political recourse.

Getting this right at the outset of a post-conflict situation seems critical. Pandering to ethnic and religious discriminations and giving one group prominence because it was previously the target of discrimination is a losing game. Such a course also doesn`t recognize that at the very heart of ethnic discrimination is power, either getting it or retaining it. Taking this path, as the United Nations always does, only promises further power struggles.

During the Taliban regime there was discrimination against Dari-speaking Afghans. But before the Taliban, Dari-speaking Afghans discriminated against Pashto speakers. It`s a cycle we can`t understand, but one we can easily — and wrongly — perpetuate through acceptance, which the United Nations does.

• Stability: It`s a tenuous stability that seems likely to collapse when international forces leave the country. Yet to Afghans, that`s what seems likely in the face of militia activity, ethnic divisions and little development or reconstruction.

The report card for the United Nations and its chief architect in Afghanistan speaks for itself. We can only hope they will do better in Iraq.


Kathy Gannon, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is on leave as Associated Press bureau chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she has been a reporter for 15 years.
Da durch die Entscheidung des Gerichts in Massachusetts zu Gunsten der Homoehe das Thema wieder stark in den Vordergrund gerückt ist, hier eine Umfrage von Gallup von gestern. Es ist verwunderlich wie die Stimmung sich verändert hat.

May 17, 2004
Support for Gay Marriage/Civil Unions Edges Upward
Public remains divided on constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage

Ganze Umfrage:

by David W. Moore and Joseph Carroll


PRINCETON, NJ -- Same-sex marriages have been cleared to become legal Monday in Massachusetts after a federal judge last week refused a challenge to the Massachusetts court ruling that granted same-sex couples the right to marry. A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey finds a modest increase in the number of Americans who support giving gay couples some of the legal rights that heterosexual couples enjoy. The public is about evenly divided on a law that would establish gay civil unions with some of the same rights that marriages have, and it remains more opposed than supportive of giving gay marriages the same legal status as traditional marriages. However, for both proposals, there is somewhat greater support today than there was several months ago. Still, there has been little change in the ambivalence the public expresses about adopting a constitutional amendment that would effectively ban gay marriage, with slightly more people in support than opposed.

The poll, conducted May 2-4, 2004, finds that when the question on civil unions is asked before any mention of gay marriage, 49% of Americans favor and 48% oppose "a law that would allow homosexual couples to legally form civil unions, giving them some of the legal rights of married couples." These views are similar to those expressed a year ago, in a May 5-7, 2003, poll, which also found a divided public, 49% in favor and 49% opposed. But the following July, in the wake of a Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas law that prohibited sodomy between same-sex couples, there appeared to be a public backlash, as support for civil unions dropped to 40% and opposition increased to 57%.
Would You Favor or Oppose a Law That Would Allow Homosexual Couples to Legally Form Civil Unions?
Moore`s `Fahrenheit 9/11` ignites Cannes audiences
Monday, May 17, 2004
©2004 Associated Press

URL: sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2004/05/17/entertainment0158EDT0183.DTL

(05-17) 22:58 PDT CANNES, France (AP) --

Michael Moore is usually his own leading man in his satiric documentaries. With "Fahrenheit 9/11," Moore turns the job over to his chief target: President Bush.

"I was the straight man, and Bush wrote the funniest lines," Moore said at the Cannes Film Festival, where his harsh condemnation of post-9/11 U.S. policy charmed, riled and disturbed audiences in its debut Monday.

The main figure in his previous documentaries, Moore spends far less time on screen here.

"The material didn`t need the help. It was strong enough already. And I feel that a little bit of me probably goes a long way," Moore said. "But the film I feel is clearly in my voice. My voice, my vision, and the way I see things. My sense of humor."

Interviews with Bush critics, comments by disillusioned U.S. soldiers in Iraq and mocking footage of often inelegant Bush speeches dominate the film.

In a clip of the president on the golf course, Bush stares sternly into the camera and calls "on all Americans to stop these terrorist killers. Now watch this drive," and Moore cuts to Bush swinging away. In another, Bush`s rendering of the adage "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" becomes almost unrecognizable.

If Moore gets the movie into U.S. theaters this summer as planned, the title "Fahrenheit 9/11" could become a rallying cry in the fall election for voters hoping to see Democratic challenger John Kerry defeat Bush.

"Will it influence the election? I hope it just influences people to leave the theater and become good citizens," Moore said. "I`ll leave it to others to decide what kind of impact it`s going to have on the election."

The movie reiterates other accusations about the Bush family`s financial connections to Saudi oil interests and the family of Osama bin Laden. Moore charges that the White House was asleep at the wheel before the Sept. 11 attacks, then used fear-mongering of future terrorism to muster support for the Iraq war.

Yet Moore -- the provocateur behind the Academy Award-winning "Bowling for Columbine," which dissected American gun culture -- packages his anti-Bush message in a way that provokes both laughs and gasps.

The film opens with a whimsical recap of the 2000 presidential campaign and the rancor after Florida`s photo-finish vote threw the election to Bush over Democratic rival Al Gore.

"Was it all just a dream?" Moore ponders. "Did the last four years even happen?"

The Sept. 11 attacks play out with no images of the planes that destroyed the World Trade Center or damaged the Pentagon. Instead, Moore fades to black and provides only the sounds of the planes crashing into the towers, before fading in again on tearful faces of people watching the devastation and a slow-motion montage of floating ash and debris after the buildings collapsed.

Moore examines Saudi financial ties to the Bush family and presents post-Saddam Iraq as an economic development zone for American corporations.

Graver in tone than "Bowling for Columbine," the film includes grisly images of dead Iraqi babies and burned children, along with amputees and other U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq.

Even those skeptical of Moore, who draws criticism that he skews the truth to fit his arguments, were impressed.

"I have a problematic relationship with some of Michael Moore`s work," said James Rocchi, film critic for DVD rental company Netflix, saying he found Moore too smug and stunt-driven in past work. "There`s no such job as a standup journalist."

Yet in "Fahrenheit 9/11," Rocchi said, Moore presents powerful segments about losses on both sides of the Iraq war and the grief of American and Iraqi families.

"This film is at its best when it is most direct and speaks from the heart, when it shows lives torn apart," Rocchi said.

Moore still is arranging for a U.S. distributor. Miramax financed the movie, but parent company Disney blocked the release because of its political overtones.

In the days before Cannes, Moore`s Disney criticism whipped festival audiences into a fever for "Fahrenheit 9/11." Hollywood cynics called it Moore`s usual showmanship, but when the movie finally unspooled, it earned resounding applause at Monday`s press screenings.

"You see so many movies after they`ve been hyped to heaven and they turn out to be complete crap, but this is a powerful film," said Baz Bamigboye, a film columnist for London`s Daily Mail. "It would be a shame if Americans didn`t get to see this movie about important stuff happening in their own backyard."

"Fahrenheit 9/11" seems assured of U.S. release, however. Miramax bosses Harvey and Bob Weinstein are buying back the film and finding another distributor. Moore hopes to have it in theaters by Fourth of July weekend.

Harvey Weinstein showed up outside the Cannes theater after the first "Fahrenheit 9/11" screening. He declined to speak at length, but as reporters asked if the film would be released, he said, "Have I ever let you down?"

The film takes its title from Ray Bradbury`s "Fahrenheit 451," which refers to the temperature needed to burn books in an anti-Utopian society. Moore calls "Fahrenheit 9/11" the "temperature at which freedom burns."

Moore revisits his hometown of Flint, Michigan, whose economic distress after General Motors plant closings was the subject of his first film, "Roger & Me."

Moore talks with Lila Lipscomb of Flint during her daily routine, hanging an American flag in front of her house. He returns later as Lipscomb reads the heart-wrenching final letter from her son, Michael Pedersen, killed in action in Iraq.

Her patriotism turned to bitterness against the federal government, Lipscomb journeys to Washington, D.C. Near the end of the film, staring at the White House, Lipscomb says, "I finally have a place to put all my pain and anger."

©2004 Associated Press
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
War News for May 18, 2004


Bring ‘em on: British contractor assassinated in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers killed in fighting in al-Anbar province.

Bring ‘em on: Nine Iraqi militiamen killed in continued fighting in Karbala.

Bring ‘em on: Two foreign civilians killed, one wounded in Mosul shooting.

Bring ‘em on: Heavy fighting continues in Najaf.

Italian troops re-occupy their base near Nasiriyah.

Sistani urges US and Mahdi forces to withdraw from Karbala and Najaf.

UK sends 3,000 more troops to Iraq. “And the British military is said to be increasingly upset at the willingness of US troops to ‘kill, kill and kill again’, according to a former British officer. The British chief of the General Staff, Sir Michael Jackson, said there was "military friction" last month when he gave evidence to a parliamentary committee. As a result of the growing rift, British commanders are becoming increasingly reluctant to commit troops to zones not under British control, according to Newsweek magazine.”

Rummy’s happy-spin of the day. “Yesterday, in a speech to a warmly receptive audience at Washington`s conservative Heritage Foundation, Mr. Rumsfeld lashed out at supporters of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and at those battling the U.S. occupation. ‘There`s a lot of intimidation going on,’ Mr. Rumsfeld said. ‘The former regime elements, the Baathists and the terrorists are trying to intimidate the Iraqi people.’"

Desperate measures. “The Defense Department, strapped for troops for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, has proposed to Congress that it tap the Internal Revenue Service to locate out-of-touch reservists. The unusual measure, which the Pentagon said has been examined by lawyers, would allow the IRS to pass on addresses for tens of thousands of former military members who still face recall into the active duty. The proposal has largely escaped attention amid all the other crises of government, and it is likely to face opposition from privacy rights activists who see information held by the IRS as inviolate.” Would these be the same lawyers who examined Rummy`s interrogation policies?


Analysis: “Indeed, intelligence and regular Army sources have told UPI that senior officers and officials in both communities are sickened and outraged by the revelations of mass torture and abuse, and also by the incompetence involved, in the Abu Ghraib prison revelations. These sources also said that officials all the way up to the highest level in both the Army and the Agency are determined not to be scapegoated, or allow very junior soldiers or officials to take the full blame for the excesses…. But what enrages many serving senior Army generals and U.S. top-level intelligence community professionals is that the "few" in this case were not primarily the serving soldiers who were actually encouraged to carry out the abuses and even then take photos of the victims, but that they were encouraged to do so, with the Army`s well-established safeguards against such abuses deliberately removed by high-level Pentagon civilian officials”

Analysis: “Acting out of weakness and haste, the CPA is simply folding these militias into the new Iraqi Army and police. Such militias owe their primary loyalty to religious groups like the Dawa and the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which have strong fundamentalist leanings. Others have ties to smaller, less well-known groups. But the general phenomenon of armed groups is on the rise—easy in a country in which virtually every male over 14 owns a Kalashnikov. Over time, these political groups will struggle for power—and their militias will help them do battle. When elections are held, they will use force and money to ensure that the results come out their way.”

Opinion: “Before the war, officials refused to discuss costs, except to insist that they would be minimal. It was only after the shooting started, and Congress was in no position to balk, that the administration demanded $75 billion for the Iraq Freedom Fund. Then, after declaring ‘mission accomplished’ and pushing through a big tax cut — and after several months when administration officials played down the need for more funds — Mr. Bush told Congress that he needed an additional $87 billion. Assured that the situation in Iraq was steadily improving, and warned that American soldiers would suffer if the money wasn`t forthcoming, Congress gave Mr. Bush another blank check.
Now Mr. Bush is back for more. Given this history, one might have expected him to show some contrition — to promise to change his ways and to offer at least a pretense that Congress would henceforth have some say in how money was spent.”

Casualty Reports

Local story: New Jersey soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Pennsylvania Guardsman killed in Iraq.

Local story: Virginia soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: California soldier dies in Iraq.

Local story: Texas soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Tennessee airman dies in Iraq.

Local story: Louisiana soldier dies in Iraq.

Local story: Utah Marine wounded in Iraq.

Local story: Michigan soldier wounded in Iraq.

Local story: Arkansas soldier wounded in Iraq.

Local story: New York soldier wounded in Iraq.

Rant of the Day

The Bushies claim that releasing more pictures of Iraqi prisoner abuse would violate the Geneva Convention. Here’s a little blast from the past, when broadcasting humiliating pictures of an Iraqi prisoner was policy and the Bushies didn’t need no stinking Geneva Conventions. “Dec. 22 Issue - In a part of the world where pride and dignity mean everything, the images were clearly intended to shame. A nameless doctor or medical technician, wearing rubber gloves, was seen closely examining the man`s hair, perhaps looking for vermin. Prodded with a tongue depressor, the man opened his mouth; the doctor peered at the pink flesh of his throat and scraped off a few cells for DNA identification. Then the world saw the man`s face. Haggard, defeated, slightly disgusted and unquestionably Saddam Hussein, tyrant and terrorist, sadist and murderer, object of one of the greatest manhunts in history.”

In the Army, this is called leading by example. Piss-poor leadership, to be sure, but leadership none the less.

86-43-04. Pass it on.

# posted by yankeedoodle : 2:57 AM
Comments (9)

May 18, 2004. 06:51 AM

Anti-Bush polemic funny, emotional yet very powerful
Confident it will be released before the U.S. election


It took five separate screenings to accommodate the press demand to see Michael Moore`s heavily anticipated anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, and when it came to turning up the political heat here, neither the movie nor its maker failed to disappoint.

The audience at a afternoon gala screening responded with a 20-minute standing ovation. Festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux told the New York Times it was the longest he had ever witnessed in Cannes.

A scorching indictment of the current U.S. administration`s military engagement in Iraq that colours the entire enterprise as being rooted in the Bush family`s business relations with Saudi oil money and members of Osama Bin Laden`s family — and featuring some harrowing footage shot by freelance camera crews of prisoner abuse, bombed Iraqi civilians and dead-of-night military raids on Iraqi homes — Fahrenheit 9/11 is a considerably more sober, impassioned and focused film than Moore`s previous record-breaking box office documentary success Bowling For Columbine. It also features, for better or worse, considerably less Michael Moore on screen.

Following a narrative line that traces President George W. Bush`s military record, business ventures, political history and pre- and post-9/11 presidency, the film meticulously lays out a deeply sinister and cynical conspiracy that ends up with powerfully graphic — and many previously unseen — images of dead and mutilated bodies on both sides of the current conflict.

The implication is as clear as it is unsubtle: Moore is laying the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and coalition forces right on the front steps of the White House, and purely for the purposes of economic gain.

While inescapably a partisan and flatly polemical work, Fahrenheit 9/11 makes its case meticulously and convincingly, and uses all of the pop cultural rhetorical methods that have made the director not only the most popular documentary maker of his generation, but one of the most prominent American figures lashing out against the Bush administration: He knows how to talk in the language of TV.

At one point in the film Bush is seen in the primary school classroom where he first learned of the planes being flown into the World Trade Center towers, and Moore slows the footage down so that Bush is seen to be blinking uncomprehendingly and endlessly, a child`s storybook open ridiculously before him, as a counter in the corner of the screen counts out the nine minutes before the President seemed to react.

"What was he thinking?" Moore`s voiceover asks. Later, he surmises what the President might have been thinking over an image of Saddam Hussein: "I think I`d better blame this guy."

Elsewhere, the plane carrying certain Bush-connected members of the Bin Laden family out of the United States on the morning of the attacks takes to the air with the Animals` "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" roars on the soundtrack.

In possibly the most emotionally powerful moment of the film, a mother who lost her son in the war goes to the White House and to be confronted by another woman who insists that all the anti-war activity going on there is just "staged."

"My son is dead," she says, tears and fury rising in her eyes. "That wasn`t staged."

Certain to be divisive and controversial, and already the subject of considerable discussion concerning its troubled distribution history first with Mel Gibson`s Icon Pictures (which Moore alleges dropped the film because of high-level and possibly even administration interference) and more recently the Walt Disney Company, Fahrenheit 9/11 seems expressly designed to mobilize viewers to get out and vote against George W. Bush this November.

First it needs to find distributor, however. Currently without one, Moore is nevertheless completely confident that someone will pick up the film and get it out a widely and immediately as he`d like.

He`s undoubtedly right — if as much for economic as political reasons. If Columbine was any indication, this movie could make a pile.

Yet, while Moore`s insistence that "this film will open in the United States before the election" and in "shopping malls and multiplexes" instead of art houses — he has also said he`d like to see it available on DVD by October — he played curiously coy in the post-screening press conference when asked directly if he hoped the movie might serve to hinder President Bush`s chances of re-election in November. "I just make movies I`d like to see on a Friday night," he shrugged.

It was perhaps the only question that suggested such a neutrally entertaining agenda. On every other matter, from Bush`s relationship with Tony Blair ("What`s Blair doing with this guy?" he asked of British journalists), to what he`d like viewers to get from the film ("I want them to be in shock and in awe") to the current climate of mainstream media silence on Iraq ("Americans do not like things being kept from them"), Moore seemed to stress both the urgency and immediacy of the movie`s mission. But he wouldn`t agree that the movie has been designed to vote Bush out.

Describing a relationship with the Miramax production company that allowed him to add any additional material he needed between now the release to keep the film up to date, he said he remained undecided as to whether he`d change the film to accommodate either current or future developments from Washington or Iraq. "I might, but this is a complete work."

On the issue of his own relative absence in the film — in which he appears on screen perhaps one-fifth of the time he was on in Bowling For Columbine — save for voiceover and general editorial point of view, Moore said, "This time I was the straight man. Bush wrote all the best lines."

"The subject just didn`t need the help," he added. "Besides, a little of me tends to go along way. And sometimes less is better."

When no one stood to take issue with Moore on this point, he was asked if he planned on screening Fahrenheit 9/11 at the White House.

It was his turn to laugh. "I would love to have a White House screening," he deadpanned.

"I would attend it. And I would behave."

Seems unlikely. God knows, if there`s any place where a little Michael Moore will go a long way, especially after this movie opens this summer across America, it will be in the White House.

Additional articles by Geoff Pevere
George Soros: `The war on terror: Victims turning perpetrators`
Date: Tuesday, May 18 @ 09:52:33 EDT
Topic: Foreign Policy

By George Soros

Commencement Address, delivered at the Columbia School of International & Public Affairs, Monday, May 17, 2004m Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City

Today, you are graduating from the School of International & Public Affairs. This ought to be an occasion for celebration. You have successfully completed your studies and you are about to enter the real world. But the real world is a very troubled place and international relations are at the core of our troubles. So it may be appropriate to pause for a moment and reflect on the world you are about to face.

Why are we in trouble? Let me focus on the feature that looms so large in the current landscape - the war on terror. September 11 was a traumatic event that shook the nation to its core. But it could not have changed the course of history for the worse if President Bush had not responded the way he did. Declaring war on terrorism was understandable, perhaps even appropriate, as a figure of speech. But the President meant it literally and that is when things started going seriously wrong.

Recently the nation has been shaken by another event: pictures of our soldiers abusing prisoners in Saddam`s notorious prison. I believe there is a direct connection between the two events. It is the war on terror that has led to the torture scenes in Iraq.

What happened in Abu Ghraib was not a case of a few bad apples but a pattern tolerated and even encouraged by the authorities. Just to give one example, the Judge Advocate General Corps routinely observes military interrogations from behind a two-way mirror; that practice was discontinued in Afghanistan and Iraq. The International Red Cross and others started complaining about abuses as early as December 2002.

It is easy to see how terrorism can lead to torture. Last summer I took an informal poll at a meeting of eminent Wall Street investors to find out whether they would condone the use of torture to prevent a terrorist attack. The consensus was that they hoped somebody would do it without their knowing about it.

It is not a popular thing to say, but the fact is that we are victims who have turned into perpetrators. The terrorist attacks on September 11 claimed nearly 3,000 innocent lives and the whole world felt sympathy for us as the victims of an atrocity. Then the President declared war on terrorism, and pursued it first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. Since then the war on terror has claimed more innocent victims than the terrorist attacks on September 11. This fact is not recognized at home because the victims of the war on terror are not Americans. But the rest of the world does not draw the same distinction and world opinion has turned against us. So a tremendous gap in perceptions has opened up between us and the rest of the world. The majority of the American public does not realize that we have turned from victims into perpetrators. That is why those gruesome pictures were so shocking. Even today most people don`t recognize their full import.

By contrast, the Bush administration knew what it was doing when it declared war on terror and used that pretext for invading Iraq. That may not hold true for President Bush personally but it is certainly true for Vice President Cheney and a group of extremists within the Bush administration concentrated in and around the Pentagon. These people are guided by an ideology. They believe that international relations are relations of power not law and since America is the most powerful nation on earth, it ought to use that power more assertively than under previous presidents. They advocated the overthrow of Saddam Hussein even before President Bush was elected and they managed to win him over to their cause after September 11.

The invasion of Afghanistan could be justified on the grounds that the Taliban provided Bin Laden and Al Qaeda with a home and a training ground. The invasion of Iraq could not be similarly justified. Nevertheless, the ideologues in the administration were determined to pursue it because, in the words of Paul Wolfowitz, "it was doable." President Bush managed to convince the nation that Saddam Hussein had some connection with the suicide bombers of September 11 and that he was in possession of weapons of mass-destruction. When both claims turned out to be false, he argued that we invaded Iraq in order to liberate the Iraqi people.

That claim was even more far-fetched than the other two. If we had really cared for the Iraqi people we would have sent in more troops and we would have provided protection not only for the Ministry of Oil but for the other Ministries and the museums and hospitals. As it is, the country was devastated by looting.

I find the excuse that we went into Iraq in order to liberate it particularly galling. It is true that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant and it is good to be rid of him. But the way we went about it will make it more difficult to get rid of the likes of Saddam in the future. The world is full of tyrants and we cannot topple them all by military action. How to deal with Kim Jong-il in North Korea or Mugabe in Zimbabwe or the Turkmenbashi of Turkmenistan is the great unsolved problem of the prevailing world order. By taking unilateral and arbitrary action, the United States has made it more difficult to solve that problem.

I am actively engaged in promoting democracy and open society in many parts of the world and I can testify from personal experience that it cannot be done by military means. In any case, the argument has become unsustainable after the revelations about the torture of prisoners. The symbolism of Saddam`s notorious prison is just too strong. We claimed to be liberators but we turned into oppressors.

Now that our position has become unsustainable, we are handing over to local militias in Falluja and elsewhere. This prepares the ground for religious and ethnic divisions and possible civil war à la Bosnia, rather than Western style democracy after we transfer sovereignty.

The big difference between us and Saddam is that we are an open society with free speech and free elections. If we don`t like the Bush administration`s policies, we can reject him at the next elections. Since President Bush had originally been elected on the platform of a "humble" foreign policy, we could then claim that the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq constitute a temporary aberration induced by the trauma of September 11.

I would dearly love to pin all the blame on President Bush and his team. But that would be too easy. It would ignore the fact that he was playing to a receptive audience and even today, after all that has happened, a majority of the electorate continues to have confidence in President Bush on national security matters. If this continues and President Bush gets reelected, we must ask ourselves the question: "What is wrong with us?" The question needs to be asked even if he is defeated because we cannot simply ignore what we have done since September 11.

We need to engage in some serious soul-searching. The terrorists seem to have hit upon a weak point in our collective psyche. They have made us fearful. And they have found a willing partner in the Bush administration. For reasons of its own, the Bush administration has found it advantageous to foster the fear that September 11 engendered. By declaring war on terror, the President could unite the country behind him. But fear is a bad counselor. A fearful giant that lashes out against unseen enemies is the very definition of a bully, and that is what we are in danger of becoming. Lashing out indiscriminately, we are creating innocent victims and innocent victims generate the resentment and rage on which terrorism feeds. If there is a Single lesson to be learned from our experience since September 11, it is that you mustn`t fight terror by creating new victims.

By succumbing to fear we are doing the terrorists` bidding: we are unleashing a vicious circle of violence. If we go on like this, we may find ourselves in a permanent state of war. The war on terror need never end because the terrorists are invisible, therefore they will never disappear. And if we are in a permanent state of war we cannot remain an open society.

The war on terror polarizes the world between us and them. If it becomes a matter of survival, nobody has any choice but to stick with his own tribe or nation whether its policies are right or wrong. That is what happened to the Serbs and Croats and Bosnians in Yugoslavia, that is what happened to Israel, and that is the state of mind that President Bush sought to foster when he said that those who are not with us are with the terrorists.

That attitude cannot be reconciled with the basic principles of an open society. The concept of open society is based on the recognition that nobody is in possession of the ultimate truth. Might is not necessarily right. However powerful we are, we may be wrong. We need checks and balances and other safeguards to prevent us from going off the rails. After September 11, President Bush succeeded in convincing us that any criticism of the war on terror would be unpatriotic and the spell was broken only 18 months later when the Iraqi invasion did get us off the rails.

Now it is not enough to reject the Bush administration`s policies; we must reaffirm the values and principles of an open society. The war on terror is indeed an aberration. We must defend ourselves against terrorist attacks but we cannot make that the overarching objective of our existence.

We are undoubtedly the most powerful nation on earth today. No single country or combination of countries could stand up to our military might. The main threat to our dominant position comes not from the outside but from ourselves. If we fail to recognize that we may be wrong, we may undermine our dominant position through our own mistakes. We seem to have made considerable progress along those lines since September 11.

Being the most powerful nation gives us certain privileges but it also imposes on us certain obligations. We are the beneficiaries of a lopsided, not to say unjust, world order. The agenda for the world is set in Washington but only the citizens of the United States have a vote in Congress. A similar situation, when we were on the disadvantaged side, gave rise to the Boston Tea Party and the birth of the United States.

If we want to preserve our privileged position, we must use it not to lord it over the rest of the world but to concern ourselves with the well-being of others. Globalization has rendered the world increasingly interdependent and there are many problems that require collective action. Maintaining peace, law and order, protecting the environment, reducing poverty and fighting terrorism are among them. We cannot do anything we want, but very little can be done without our leadership or at least active participation. Instead of undermining and demeaning our international institutions because they do not necessarily follow our will, we ought to strengthen them and improve them. Instead of engaging in preemptive actions of a military nature, we ought to pursue preventive actions of a constructive nature, creating a better balance between carrots and sticks in the prevailing world order.

As graduates of a school of international affairs, I hope you will have an opportunity to implement this constructive vision of America`s role in the world.

Thank you.

The URL for this story is:
Anthony Sampson: Brahimi: the UN can play only a limited role in exit strategy
The Independent
18 May 2004

While Washington and London continue publicly to put much hope in the United Nations as a key part of their exit strategy for Iraq, the UN is making it clear that it can only play a very limited role. Lakdhar Brahimi, the UN representative in Baghdad, has now left no doubt about those limitations.

"I have been suggesting to everyone to stop speaking about a `vital` role for the UN," he told me yesterday. "A role would be enough. The coalition must define it and give the UN the tools to do the job." And he emphasised: "I won`t be involved myself."

Mr Brahimi made that clear to Tony Blair, with whom he talked two weeks ago, and he has made the same point to foreign ministers and heads of government in Europe, including President Jacques Chirac. But both Mr Blair and Mr Bush are continuing to talk as if the UN, led by Mr Brahimi, can take much of the burden of responsibility for Iraq`s future.

Behind Mr Brahimi`s unease lie the growing problems of assembling a new Iraqi council to take responsibility in Baghdad after 30 June, a task that will become more difficult after the assassination yesterday of Ezzedine Salim, the man who was president of the existing Governing Council.

Mr Brahimi has been determined to select a "technocratic" council, which would not be subject to powerful political pressures, like the existing council, which has been strongly influenced by the current American appointee Ahmed Chalabi.

Mr Chalabi has been widely discredited in Iraq, as an autocratic former exile in America with a shady past as the head of a collapsed bank in Jordan. He was thought to be responsible for much of the wrong information about Iraq before the Allies went to war.

And he has been blamed for many of the the post-war decisions in Baghdad, as the chief Iraqi adviser to the American pro-consul Paul Bremer, including the decision to purge all Baathists from all the responsible positions.

Mr Chalabi has now lost the confidence of Mr Bremer, who has reversed his decision about excluding all Baathists, but he retains the backing of powerful friends in Washington and is fighting hard to maintain his influence on the new council, from which Mr Brahimi has been determined to exclude him.

Mr Chalabi has been has also been currying favour with Shia by adopting a more religious style, and he has also been visiting Israel, to gain support from Ariel Sharon`s government. Mr Sharon`s spokesmen have been turning their guns on Mr Brahimi, particularly after he publicly stated that Israeli-Palestinian conflict was poisoning the Middle East.

At the same time, conservatives in Washington have been seeking to undermine the UN by attacking its handling of the oil for food programme before the Iraq war. Large sums of money were siphoned off that scheme by Saddam Hussein and his cronies. Despite warnings from the UN about the corruption, neither the US government nor the Security Council took effective action.

Senior UN officials are therefore very wary of agreeing to take further heavy responsibilities for Iraq`s future, without a much more binding commitment from the US, the UK and other members.

They are concerned that Mr Bush and Mr Blair will use the UN as a convenient receptacle to take the blame for future disasters, while not allowing it the independence required to inspire the confidence of the Iraqi people. They further believe that Allied military forces will retain real control over security in Iraq.
May 18, 2004
Senators Press Wolfowitz on Duration of U.S. Security Role
International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON, May 18 — Members of Congress pressed the Bush administration today to accelerate Iraqi elections, speed the handover of full sovereignty and step up talks on a new United Nations resolution.

But a top Pentagon official said it was too soon to say how long a large United States military force might have to remain in the deeply unsettled country.

As the June 30 deadline nears, the administration is under intense pressure, militarily and politically, to turn over greater powers to an interim government, whose members have yet to be named. The pressure grew further with the Iraqi prison abuse scandal, and with the killing Monday of the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ezzedine Salim.

Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Republican who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, has pressed the administration for weeks to answer key questions about what will happen on June 30 and afterward. Today he urged officials to do everything possible to accelerate the political transition and to speed elections.

Delays, he said, "undercut United States credibility and increase suspicions among Iraqis." Lugar called for opening a United States embassy in Baghdad even before June 30, and accelerating the negotiations on a United Nations resolution covering sovereignty and other matters.

While administration officials agreed on the need for speed, the deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, could not answer one key question on which foreign support for Iraq will largely turn: how long United States forces would retain chief responsibility for security in Iraq.

"The course of war is simply not something one can determine," Wolfowitz told a Democratic questioner in the Lugar committee, but "very substantial" Iraqi security forces would be trained and ready by year`s end.

Did that mean, Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin asked him, that by the year`s close the United States would no longer be primarily responsible for security?

"Senator," Wolfowitz replied, "that`s more than what I just said."

Senators pressed some basic questions, such as who will lead the interim government, and what authority it will have over Iraqi security forces, courts and prisons. Just last week Secretary of State Colin L. Powell addressed one key point of uncertainty, saying that an interim government could order coalition forces, including United States troops, to leave, though he viewed that as unlikely.

Of late, congressional committees have been plunging into their oversight role in an activist way that tends to happen most in time of war or crisis. Iraq was the focus today in several congressional venues. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who spent a full day before congressional committees May 7 explaining and apologizing for the abuse scandal, met behind closed doors with members of the House Armed Services Committee.

The confluence of the funding requests with the latest Iraqi violence and the abuse scandal, along with polls showing eroding public support for the war amid the uncertainties of transition, produced some unusually anguished questioning.

Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, said that she senses Americans were as distraught over setbacks in Iraq as had ever been, and that the two top administration officials appearing before the Foreign Relations Committee — Mr. Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage — appeared not to appreciate this.

"Listening to you," she said, "one would never know what`s happening in America, how people are so distraught over this.

"And I think if you look at the faces of the colleagues, my colleagues, I`ve never seen us quite look this way."

And Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, quoted senior army officers as criticizing what they considered an incoherent strategy for Iraq that might mean that "we will lose strategically."

"The American people may not stand for it," he said. "There`s cause for alarm."

Senator Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat who has frequently criticized administration conduct in Iraq, warned that "we`re losing the support of the Iraqi people" and appeared to lack "an effective political strategy" to regain it.

Senator Lugar said that he feared the Bush administration would lose support at home and abroad, as well, unless it furnished a detailed plan to "prove to our allies and to Iraqis that we have a strategy and that we are committed to making it work."

The prison abuse scandal was a powerful undercurrent throughout the day, though not to the extent of last week, when it spilled into hearings meant to focus on other matters.

Lawmakers said they were only partly satisfied with the answers they obtained today.

Mr. Wolfowitz, when asked whether American troop strength would remain around its current level of more than 135,000 through next year, would not venture a guess. "I have no idea what it will — I mean, I really don`t know," he said.

Mr. Armitage confirmed that Iraq forces would operate after June 30 under an Iraqi general "in partnership" with coalition forces led by a United States general.

But could they, he asked rhetorically, "opt out of an operation" if they objected to it? "The answer to that has to be yes," Mr. Armitage said.

"They are sovereign and they will be in charge of their forces."

Mr. Armitage also said that control of military prisons would be given to Iraqis "as rapidly as possible."

Mr. Lugar urged the officials to accelerate the opening of the new United States Embassy, a huge facility with perhaps 1,400 employees, an annual budget of $1 billion, and control, once the Coalition Provisional Authority shuts its doors June 30, over yearly reconstruction spending of $20 billion.

But Mr. Armitage said the administration wanted to avoid overlap between the outgoing provisional authority and the embassy, which will use some of the same buildings. "We want to make sure that there is a clean break," he said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Bush Renominates Greenspan as Chairman of the Fed

By Nell Henderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 18, 2004; 5:09 PM

President Bush today nominated Alan Greenspan to serve a fifth term as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, providing financial markets with a source of stability at a time of economic transition.

Bush said more than a year ago that he intended to nominate Greenspan, 78, whose term as chairman expires June 20. And Greenspan had indicated then he would happily accept. But the lack of movement on the matter since then had provoked some speculation among analysts that either of the two men might have had a change of heart.

The president put that to rest today, issuing a statement announcing his intention to renominate the chairman and adding, "Alan Greenspan has done a superb job . . . and I have great confidence in his economic stewardship."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan went further, saying that "the president wants [Greenspan] to continue to serve as long as possible."

Greenspan, who met with Bush today, responded with a statement saying he was honored by the nomination and the opportunity "to continue my service" as central bank chief.

Financial markets had little reaction to the news, a welcome respite from recent swoons that pushed some stock indexes Monday to five-month lows, as investors worried about record oil prices, rising interest rates and higher inflation.

"If it hadn`t happened, there would have been great instability" in the markets, said Diane Swonk, chief economist for Bank One Corp. The action provides "much needed certainty in what was becoming an uncertain world."

Senate confirmation should be swift, given the breadth of Greenspan`s support on the Senate Banking Committee. The panel`s chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), "believes Chairman Greenspan has done an outstanding job and looks forward to supporting his nomination in the Senate," said Andrew Gray, communications director for the panel.

Greenspan was first appointed Fed chairman in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan to replace outgoing chairman Paul Volcker, who has been credited with launching the long, painful and ultimately successful central bank campaign to bring inflation down from the double-digit highs it hit in the late 1970s.

Greenspan was reappointed as chairman once by the President George H.W. Bush, father of the current president, and twice by President Clinton. His current four-year term as Fed chief expires June 20.

If confirmed, his next four-year term as chairman would expire June 20, 2008. But it`s not clear whether he will continue that long because his term as a Fed board member expires in less than two years.

The Fed chairman must be selected from the seven Fed Board members. Although the chairman can be reappointed, a board member may not serve more than one full 14-year term. Greenspan served out the last years of Volcker`s board term, and was reappointed to a board term that will expire Jan. 31, 2006.

Greenspan could choose to step down as chairman then, if he felt it inappropriate to continue in an expired board seat. But under the law, he also could continue in the board seat until the Senate confirms a successor. If the president did not nominate a successor, Greenspan could continue in the seat and as chairman for the next four years.

McClellan, responding to reporters` questions, declined to speculate about what will happen when Greenspan`s board term expires.

In 2000, Clinton renominated Greenspan as chairman early in the year, removing it as a campaign issue or source of financial market jitters in an election year.

Clinton had not acted so preemptively in 1996. Instead, he allowed Greenspan`s term as chairman to lapse, forcing him to serve as chairman "pro-tem" from March 3 until he was confirmed by the Senate June 20.

In 1991, the first President Bush waited until Aug. 9, two days before Greenspan`s term as chairman was about to expire, to give him a recess appointment to continue as chairman.

Some of the jitters about Greenspan`s prospects this year arose from memories of how the first Bush White House blamed the Fed chairman for not cutting interest rates fast enough in response to the 1990-91 recession, costing that president the 1992 election.

The elder Bush once said of Greenspan, "I reappointed him and he disappointed me."

This presidential election year, Greenspan has made clear that the Fed will start raising interest rates soon to prevent the rapidly growing economy from fueling a takeoff in inflation. Many analysts and investors expect the Fed to raise its target for short-term rates from 1 percent to 1.25 percent at the next policymaking meeting in late June. Many other interest rates determined by the markets, such as mortgage rates, have already jumped higher in anticipation and appear headed up farther.

But Bush emphasized the positive today, crediting his tax cuts and the Fed`s low interest rate policy with stimulating the economy`s robust recovery from the 2001 recession. "Sound fiscal and monetary policies have helped unleash the potential of American workers and entrepreneurs and America`s economy is now growing at the fastest rate in two decades," Bush said in the statement.

Another set of rumors about the Fed chairman`s future swirled around Greenspan`s age and health, provoked apparently by the fact that he cancelled a scheduled public appearance earlier this year because of a bad cold.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

"Earlier today, President Bush delivered a commencement speech at a university in Wisconsin. Very nice, yeah. Very inspirational speech. Apparently, Bush told the students, `You can do anything in life if your parents work hard enough.`" Conan O`Brien

Jay Leno: "I saw an embarrassing incident in a casino earlier today. A guy from Florida standing in one of those -- in front of one of those video poker machines, trying to cast his vote for President."

"Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Iraq and he told everyone, `No pictures.` ... He visited that famous prison and he said he has all those guards under control now. In fact, he said he`s got them all on a very short leash."
—Jay Leno

"A Bush administration official told Congress yesterday that the war in Iraq could cost almost 60 billion dollars. President Bush said he plans to pay for it with a video series called `Prison Guards Gone Wild." —Conan O`Brien

"Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Baghdad this week where he told reporters, `If anyone thinks I`m here to throw water on a fire, they`re wrong.` So, more bad news for Iraqi prisoners who are on fire." —Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live`s "Weekend Update"
Ein Katastrophenszenarium?

Domino-Effekte können zum totalen Blackout an den Börsen führen

Artur P. Schmidt und Markus R. Ginsig 18.05.2004

Die Entwicklung an den Finanzmärkten verheißt nichts Gutes, Millisekundenpleiten können Märkte in Rekordzeiten einbrechen lassen

Jeder Markt hat seine eigenen Gesetzmäßigkeiten. Zu diesen gehört, dass es nach einem Crash normalerweise Jahrzehnte dauert, bis sich ein ähnlicher Bubble wiederholt. Paradoxerweise liegen an der Nasdaq aktuell die Kurs-/Gewinn-Verhältnisse wieder über 80 und die Aktienkäufe auf Kredit übersteigen sogar die Rekordmarke vor dem Crash 2000. Ein abermaliger Vertrauensverlust dürfte die USA jedoch in eine Depression stürzen, von deren Konsequenzen sich Amerika, ähnlich wie Japan in den 90er Jahren, erst wieder nach 10 bis 15 Jahren erholen dürfte. Die Alarmzeichen an den Börsen stehen trotz der aktuellen Konjunkturerholung auf dunkelrot. Wegen der zunehmenden Inflationsgefahren, der Schwäche des US-Dollar und dem damit verbundenen Rückgang der Ausländerkäufe bei US-Staatsanleihen werden die US-Zinsen in naher Zukunft zu steigen beginnen. Hinzu kommt, dass der durch eine ausufernde Überschuldung aufgeblähte US-Immobilienmarkt, die geringen Volatilitäten, der starke Optimismus sowie hohe Insiderverkäufe an den Aktienmärkten zu äußerster Vorsicht mahnen.

Vieles deutet darauf hin, dass die Finanzmärkten gerade das Auge des Hurricane verlassen und sich auf einen Baisse-Markt zubewegen, der sich in den kommenden Monaten zu einem "Perfect Storm" entwickeln kann. Hier gilt es, das neue Phänomen der Millisekundenpleite an den Finanzmärkten zu beachten, d.h. dass Märkte bei extremen Störeinflüssen und internen Systemschwächen in Rekordzeit einbrechen können, wie der gestrige Crash am indischen Aktienmarkt verdeutlichte.

Weltpaniken und Crash-Situationen

Der deutsche Medienphilosoph Peter Sloterdijk hat die Weltpanik als das alltägliche Ereignis des 21. Jahrhunderts identifiziert. Auslöser für eine Weltpanik an den Finanzmärkten, die zu einem Mega-Crash führen kann, sind z.B. ein sehr starker Ölpreisanstieg, ein hoher Kursverlust des US-Dollar oder Terroranschläge vom Ausmaß des 11. September. Wenn die amerikanische Währung bereits gegen einen instabilen Euro schwächelt, dann könnte den Märkten bei extremen Störgrößen ein regelrechter Dollar-Crash bevorstehen, der zu einer Kapitalflucht aus Amerika führen würde. Ein Zinsanstieg wäre dann unvermeidbar, wenn der Schuldner USA seine eigenen Schulden refinanzieren muss.

Dieses Szenario könnte einen Domino-Effekt für die US-Ökonomie zur Folge haben, der eine der größten Kontraktionsphasen der amerikanischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte einleiten würde. Der heute immer mehr ausufernde Handel von Derivaten und Hedge-Fonds könnte ebenfalls einen solchen Effekt herbeiführen. Die heutige Generation der Anleger hat bisher nur Haussephasen an den Weltbörsen und noch nie eine langanhaltende Phase der kreativen Zerstörung erlebt, wie diese der österreichische Ökonom Schumpeter beschrieben hat. Sollte diese kommen, ist kaum ein Anleger strategisch auf diese Situation vorbereitet.

Die Logik des Misslingens

Wenn in Folge eines starken Abschwunges der Märkte US-Anleger, die ihre Häuser auf Kredit gekauft haben, diese unter dem Einkaufspreis verkaufen müssen, so verringert sich deren Kaufkraft erheblich. Dies könnte viele Haushalte in den privaten Konkurs treiben.

Dann wird sich der Kaufrausch der 90er Jahre bitter rächen. Die ausgewiesenen Produktivitätsfortschritte der US-Wirtschaft werden sich als das erweisen, was diese wirklich sind, nämlich Charlie Chaplins Vision der "Modernen Zeiten", bei denen Roboter und Automatisierung eine "Jobless Recovery" anführen, die die Ouvertüre für eine Wirtschaftstragödie bilden wird, deren Höhepunkt in einer bisher nie dagewesenen Massenarbeitslosigkeit kulminieren wird.

Schuld an dieser Misere sind die heutigen linearen Steuerungsmodelle, die in einer ökonomischen Schönwetterphase entstanden sind, jedoch in einer komplexen Welt mit hohen Volatilitäten, großen Verwerfungen und unbekannten Störgrößen versagen. Fehlende Navigationssysteme führen zu einer Logik des Misslingens, deren finales Ende in einer Schuldenwirtschaft, der Manipulation von Statistiken und letztlich auch in der Arbeitslosigkeit vieler Menschen gipfelt.

Lenkungs-Cockpits sind ein Muss!

Bei unerwarteten Störgrößen oder Katastrophen sind die psychologischen Wirkungen auf die Finanzmärkte direkt sichtbar und die Stimmung in der Wirtschaft kann in Echtzeit kippen. Moderne kybernetische Ansätze für die Ökonomie sind in der Lage, die Faktoren Komplexität und Feedback im Rahmen von Modellen zu berücksichtigen.

So wirken sich beispielsweise die Konsequenzen einer niedrigen Sparquote in Japan in einer schwierigeren Refinanzierung der amerikanischen Staatsdefizite aus, was zu einem starken Anstieg der langfristigen Zinsen führt. Ein anderes Beispiel ist die verspätete Anhebung der Zinsen trotz einer sehr hohen Inflationsrate. Dies führt zu einem Bubble im Bereich der in Anspruch genommenen Kredite, was im Falle eines starken Zinsanstieges Schwierigkeiten im Immobilienbereich sowie bei den Konsumentenkrediten heraufbeschwört.

Kybernetische Modelle erlauben die Steuerung und Lenkung der Wirtschaft durch eine Navigation und Früherkennung von Risiken wie in einem Flugzeug-Cockpit. Wer will schon in einem Flugzeug sitzen, in dessen Cockpit die Monitore falsche Werte anzeigen.

Domino-Effekte sind vorhersagbar

Die heutige Netz-Ökonomie braucht kybernetische Modelle, welche in allen Phasen von Wirtschaftszyklen funktionieren, um Bubbles frühzeitig entgegenzuwirken. Die bisherige Ignoranz gegenüber Systemrisiken führt nicht zu Lösungen, sondern zu vorhersehbaren Domino-Effekten und Katastrophen. Deshalb benötigen wir kybernetische Modellansätze und Lenkungs-Cockpits nicht nur im Management, sondern auch in der Politik, wenn wir überlebensfähige Strategien entwickeln und die Risiken minimieren wollen.

Stafford Beer, der berühmte britische Managementkybernetiker, hatte vor, ein derartiges Cockpit einst für das Land Chile zu etablieren. Die Ermordung Salvador Allendes durch den von Amerika unterstützten späteren Diktator Pinochet bereitete jedoch dem bereits im fortgeschrittenen Stadium befindlichen Projekt ein jähes Ende. Stafford Beer wollte, dass die Politik nicht mehr durch Wahlzyklen gesteuert wird, sondern durch Wechselwirkungen berücksichtigende Indikatoren, die unabhängig von der jeweiligen Regierungspartei eine wirksame Lenkung eines Staates ermöglichen.

Wie sicher ist die Zukunft der Arbeitsplätze?

Wirtschaftliche Erholungsphasen ohne eine genügende Zahl neuer Arbeitsplätze sind das besondere Kennzeichen einer auf Pump finanzierten Ökonomie. Niemand möchte das Risiko eingehen, wenn die Zinsen steigen, auf dem falschen Fuß erwischt zu werden. Dem angeblichen Mangel an qualifiziertem Personal steht heute eine dramatische Verschlechterung der Rahmenbedingungen gegenüber.

Immer mehr Firmen überlegen sich, im Ausland zu produzieren und verlagern dorthin ihre Standorte. Die Verlagerung von Hightech-Arbeitplätze nach Indien und China ist für Hochlohnländer die ökonomische Höchststrafe, da es die oben erwähnten Krisengefahren verstärken wird. Zukünftig werden jedoch nicht nur Arbeitsplätze sondern durch die neuen wirtschaftlichen Attraktoren auch das Kapital die Hochlohnländer in Nordamerika und Europa verlassen. Dies hat erhebliche Konsequenzen, denn ohne Konsumenten mit Arbeitsplatz gibt es keine Kaufkraft, ohne Kapital gibt es keine neuen Arbeitsplätze und ohne Wirtschaftswachstum keinen Abbau der Staatsschulden, die in den USA mittlerweile das gigantische Ausmaß von 34 Trillionen US-Dollar angenommen haben. Ein ähnliches Szenario gilt auch für Europa, welches ja bekanntlich die Grippe bekommt, wenn Amerika hustet.

Konsequenzen für Deutschland

Die Zeiten der hohen Löhne dürften sich in Deutschland definitiv dem Ende nähern. Wo es immer weniger zu verteilen gibt, muss man sich einschränken. Diese Erkenntnis setzt sich erfahrungsgemäß in den reichsten Ländern der Welt am langsamsten durch. Wem es jahrzehntelang zu gut gegangen ist, kann sich nicht vorstellen, welche Einschränkungen noch auf einen zukommen können. Zwar wird langfristig der absehbare, demographisch bedingte Rückgang der Erwerbsbevölkerung den Arbeitsmarkt entlasten, jedoch darf hierbei nicht außer Acht gelassen werden, dass eine rückläufige Erwerbsbevölkerung das Wachstum des Bruttosozialproduktes negativ beeinflusst und im Extremfall sogar zu einer längeren Rezession oder sogar Depression führen kann.

Die einzige Möglichkeit, hier entgegenzuwirken, ist eine proaktive Zuwanderungspolitik fremder Arbeitskräfte kombiniert mit einer wirksamen Bildungspolitik. Beide Faktoren stellen sicher, dass neue Ideen und Kreativität die Innovationsrate erhöhen. Nur wenn Deutschland im Bereich der Innovationen wieder weltweit eine Führungsrolle übernehmen kann, wird es gelingen, die Phase der kreativen Zerstörung, die vor uns liegt, zu überwinden und gestärkt aus dieser hervorzugehen.


Telepolis Artikel-URL: http://www.telepolis.de/deutsch/special/eco/17446/1.html
May 19, 2004
Officer Says Army Tried to Curb Red Cross Visits to Prison in Iraq

WASHINGTON, May 18 — Army officials in Iraq responded late last year to a Red Cross report of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison by trying to curtail the international agency`s spot inspections of the prison, a senior Army officer who served in Iraq said Tuesday.

After the International Committee of the Red Cross observed abuses in one cellblock on two unannounced inspections in October and complained in writing on Nov. 6, the military responded that inspectors should make appointments before visiting the cellblock. That area was the site of the worst abuses.

The Red Cross report in November was the earliest formal evidence known to have been presented to the military`s headquarters in Baghdad before January, when photographs of the abuses came to the attention of criminal investigators and prompted a broad investigation. But the senior Army officer said the military did not start any criminal investigation before it replied to the Red Cross on Dec. 24.

The Red Cross report was made after its inspectors witnessed or heard about such practices as holding Iraqi prisoners naked in dark concrete cells for several days at a time and forcing them to wear women`s underwear on their heads while being paraded and photographed.

Until now, the Army had described its response on Dec. 24 as evidence that the military was prompt in addressing Red Cross complaints, but it has declined to release the contents of the Army document, citing the tradition of confidentiality in dealing with the international agency.

An Army spokesman declined Tuesday to characterize the letter or to discuss what it said about the Red Cross`s access to the cellblock.

In an interview, however, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, whose soldiers guarded the prisoners, said that despite the serious allegations in the Red Cross report, senior officers in Baghdad had treated it in "a light-hearted manner."

She said that she signed the Army`s response on Dec. 24, but that it had been drafted primarily by Army lawyers who reported to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top American commander in Iraq.

General Karpinski said she did not see the Red Cross complaint until late November, and questioned how the staff judge advocate for General Sanchez, and his team of lawyers, had dealt with the matter. "It was an unusual routing because they had possession of it before I knew the letter existed," she said of the Red Cross complaint.

"If I had been informed, and I had been drawn into this in any way, I would have said, `Hold on a second, because not in my facility you don`t,` " General Karpinski said of the abuses detailed in the report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which she said she did not see until at least two weeks after it was submitted. "We followed the rules, and we gave unrestricted access to the I.C.R.C., and it validated our operations, actually."

General Karpinski, who has been disciplined for her performance as commander at the prison, would not say whether she had objected to any part of the Dec. 24 letter at the time. It was unclear whether she had felt compelled to sign a letter drafted by aides to her superiors.

For several months in Iraq, Red Cross inspectors had exercised the right to drop in on Army-run prisons without notifying prison officials in advance.

The senior Army officer questioned the rationale for the Army`s assertion in November that Red Cross visits should be scheduled.

"I know what they were communicating in that letter: They wanted the I.C.R.C. to schedule visits for those particular cellblocks, because it could interrupt any of the military intelligence," said the officer. "The position that they were taking was that the I.C.R.C. could not have unrestricted access to those particular cellblocks."

Other top Army officers in Washington have said the behavior described by the Red Cross in October had warranted a criminal investigation.

"I do not know if she in fact started an investigation into those, because they are serious," Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of Army intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 11. "As soon as we hear about one of those allegations, an investigation should begin right away and we shouldn`t wait for it."

General Alexander told senators that the abuses Red Cross inspectors witnessed "sounded the same as some of the abuses that we`re seeing" in photographs taken by military guards that are now circulating worldwide.

In an interview on Tuesday, the White House general counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, said he had not been aware that the issue of whether the Red Cross should be allowed to conduct such inspections was a point of dispute. He added, however, that he might have had "concerns" about allowing such inspections.

"Part of the concerns is whether or not there were interrogations that might be interrupted under a spot check," Mr. Gonzales said. "Obviously, we would work with the I.C.R.C. to arrange visits" under appropriate circumstances, he said.

While he said he could not speak for everyone at the White House, he added that "I don`t recall being made aware" of the issue.

The Red Cross report and General Karpinski`s comments seem at odds with the accounts of other senior military officials.

Earlier this month, Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, the deputy commander of American forces in the Middle East, told senators that the military had no inkling of the magnitude of the prisoner abuses until a soldier turned over copies of incriminating pictures to investigators on Jan. 13.

"There were reports that there was trouble in those places, but not of the character we`re talking about here," General Smith said. He said that after General Karpinski`s Dec. 24 letter, improvements were made at the prison.

"The I.C.R.C. came back and visited 4 through 8 January and they — the indication from there was that there were improvements," he said.

The disclosures about the Army`s response to the Red Cross complaints came as new details emerged about the death of an Iraqi prisoner in C.I.A. custody last fall.

Central Intelligence Agency officers who brought a hooded man to Abu Ghraib ordered military guards at the prison not to remove the empty sandbag that covered his head, according to the sworn testimony of a military guard. Only after the prisoner slumped over dead during questioning was the hood removed, revealing that the man had severe facial injuries.

The incident was described in testimony at a closed hearing early last month in the case of Sgt. Javal S. Davis, one of the accused prison guards. The statements were made by two members of Sergeant Davis`s unit, Specialists Bruce Brown and Jason A. Kenner. Their testimony appears to provide fresh clues to the mysterious death of a man identified by the American authorities only by his last name, Jamadi.

Mr. Jamadi is believed to be the man whose body was packed in ice and photographed at Abu Ghraib. The picture, among a group that depicted degrading treatment of detainees, has circulated widely on computer networks as one of most graphic images in the prisoner abuse scandal.

Neither Specialist Brown nor Specialist Kenner identified Mr. Jamadi by name, but Mr. Jamadi appears to be the man they described because C.I.A. officials have said he is the only person who died during an interrogation carried out by an agency employee. Both men said that the detainee had been brought to Abu Ghraib by an "O.G.A.," or other government agency, which usually referred to the C.I.A. or another intelligence agency.

The two witnesses` statements are significant because the C.I.A.`s inspector general is investigating the death of Mr. Jamadi, along with two other deaths in which C.I.A. or contract workers for the agency were involved. One was in western Iraq in November 2003, the other in Afghanistan in June 2003. The Justice Department is also examining the three deaths to decide whether to open a criminal investigation into the matter.

A senior intelligence official said that Mr. Jamadi was hooded when he was picked up at the Baghdad airport after being captured earlier in the day by Navy Seals and that he had never been touched by C.I.A. interrogators or translators. A spokesman for the Seals has said the detainee had not been mistreated by its personnel. The witness accounts were first reported Tuesday by The Los Angeles Times.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon formally adopted regulations for dealing with the hardest-core detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who might be held for years, because they are judged to remain a threat to United States forces. The regulations provide for a quasi-parole board of three military officers who would conduct an annual review to determine if the detainees have ceased to be a threat and may be released.

The prisoners could have their home governments and family members take part in the review. Officials said, however, that the proceedings would be closed to the public because they would involve discussion of classified issues.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld met for about three hours behind closed doors with House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss a range of Iraq issues, but Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers had agreed to say nothing after the session, and Mr. Rumsfeld did not speak publicly.

On Wednesday, the first court-martial of a soldier accused of abusing Iraqi detainees, Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits of the Army, opens in Baghdad. On Tuesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch said the American occupation authorities had denied Iraqi and international human rights groups requests permission to attend the trial.

Reporting for this article was contributed by David E. Sanger, David Johnston, Carl Hulse and Neil A. Lewis.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 19, 2004
Cleric Tells Fighters and Occupiers to Leave Iraq Sacred Cities

KARBALA, Iraq, May 18 — The country`s most influential cleric called Tuesday for the withdrawal of all armies from two holy cities, Karbala and Najaf, in an effort to end days of bloody fighting and preserve the sanctity of Shiite shrines.

The Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, demanded in a statement that "armed forces" must "leave the holy cities and open the way for the police and tribal forces." His remarks were directed at both American troops and militiamen loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, a young rebel cleric who ignited an insurrection against the occupation forces six weeks ago.

Ayatollah Sistani also asked people to stage peaceful protests in the cities against the fighting.

In a parallel development, two of Washington`s strongest allies in Iraq, Italy and Poland, called for the transfer of real authority to the Iraqis on June 30.

American and other occupation troops have been clashing in cities across southern Iraq with rebel Shiite militias.

The fiercest battles have been in Karbala, where American soldiers are dug in at a mosque once held by the insurgents. Last Friday, violence erupted in the sprawling cemetery near the center of Najaf, as American tanks encircled the area to kill militiamen who were firing mortars from among the graves.

The battles have been inching ever closer to the Shrine of Ali in Najaf and the Shrines of Hussein and Abbas in Karbala, dedicated to the three most revered martyrs of Shiite Islam.

Ayatollah Sistani`s statement, issued by his office, was his strongest criticism of the fighting between the Americans and Mr. Sadr. Though Ayatollah Sistani is believed to dislike Mr. Sadr, and the Americans are relying on him to rein in the rebel cleric, the ayatollah noticeably did not single out either side. The Shiite religious establishment has yet to condemn Mr. Sadr, presumably because senior clerics are reluctant to turn on one of their own.

Some clerics have already asked Mr. Sadr to withdraw from the holy cities, but he has yet to comply, and it is unlikely that he will heed Ayatollah Sistani`s demands, even though he has said he will disarm his militia if the grand ayatollahs demand it.

Mr. Sadr`s influence is based on the popularity of his martyred father, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who denounced Ayatollah Sistani and other senior clerics for what he called their complacency in the face of Saddam Hussein`s oppression.

On Tuesday afternoon, occupation officials said they had not received a copy of Ayatollah Sistani`s statement. "We have to obviously look closely at it, make a determination as to whether or not Ayatollah Sistani has expressed wishes on this particular issue," said Dan Senor, a spokesman for the occupation.

An American officer said in an interview in Karbala that the military would press its campaign against Mr. Sadr.

"He is going to either have his militia lay down their arms, or we`re going to defeat them," said the officer, Brig. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, assistant division commander for support of the First Armored Division, which is trying to crush Mr. Sadr`s forces.

General Hertling, on a visit from Baghdad, said there were indications that a steady flow of fighters from outside the cities was bolstering the insurgent Mahdi Army, which is generally made up of young, poor Shiite men. The general declined to give more details on the fighters, but field commanders here in Karbala said members of Mr. Hussein`s elite Special Republican Guard, mostly well-trained Sunni Arab warriors, could be joining the insurgent forces here.

After American soldiers occupied the Mukhaiyam Mosque in downtown Karbala, an insurgent stronghold, on May 12, they found identification cards that an Iraqi interpreter said were Iranian. The military is still examining the cards and other documents to determine their origins, said Capt. Noel Gorospe, a spokesman for the First Armored Division.

While Ayatollah Sistani`s demands would hold little sway with non-Shiite insurgents, among many Shiites his word as a member of the marjaiah, a council of four grand ayatollahs of Najaf, is tantamount to an edict from Allah. Many Sunni Muslims also respect him, but they do not accord him the same level of reverence.

In his statement, the ayatollah also asked people to stay away from the Shrine of Ali in Najaf because of the potential for danger there, and he called for a demonstration in Karbala on Wednesday morning to protest the violence in the two holy cities.

Occupation forces and insurgents have battled each other on the very edge of the Shrine of Hussein here in Karbala. American commanders say insurgents are firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades from the shrine area and from a second-floor window in the shrine itself.

Early Monday morning, the Americans called in an airstrike on insurgents about 160 feet from the shrine, pounding them with 40-millimeter cannon fire from an AC-130 gunship.

Few Iraqis have protested such attacks despite the proximity of the strikes to the holy sites, a possible indication of the unpopularity of Mr. Sadr and his militia.

American officers here say the best evidence that outside fighters are working with the Mahdi Army is the obvious skill of some of the insurgents, especially the snipers. Mortar fire has become very precise.

American soldiers killed at least three militiamen in fighting on Tuesday, military officials reported.

[Early Wednesday, four Iraqis were killed in clashes between American troops and followers of Mr. Sadr near the Shrine of Hussein, Reuters reported, quoting hospital officials.]

General Hertling rode in a convoy of Humvees down to the Mukhaiyam Mosque on Tuesday afternoon to survey the scene. Two M-113 armored personnel carriers were parked on the edges of the courtyard, which was covered with glass and rubble from the constant mortar shelling. Toilet stalls along one side of the courtyard reeked of human waste.

In a four-story hotel adjacent to the mosque, soldiers crouched behind machine guns and sandbags and stared through holes in the walls at the dense cityscape. Two Polish snipers stood in one room, their rifles trained east, in the direction of the holy shrines. Automatic gunfire could be heard in the distance.

"Right now, we just need to be able to go into the city," said Lt. Col. Garry R. Bishop, referring to the central shrine area. "They`re using it as a sanctuary."

He said the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an influential Shiite party, had promised it would keep the Mahdi Army from entering the shrines. For whatever reason, it failed to do so.

G.I.`s Transferred From Korea

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday officially ordered the transfer of about 3,600 American soldiers from South Korea to Iraq. The one-year deployment, which the Pentagon said would begin in late summer, will mark the first cut in the 37,000-soldier Korean mission since the end of the cold war.

The announcement of the deployment, of the Second Infantry Division, Second Brigade, stressed Washington`s commitment to South Korea as North Korea seems to be building a nuclear arsenal. "The Department of Defense will maintain its commitment to the defense of Korea and to the security and stability of the region," the statement added.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 19, 2004
Officers Say U.S. Colonel at Abu Ghraib Prison Felt Intense Pressure to Get Inmates to Talk

WASHINGTON, May 18 — As he took charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison last September, Col. Thomas M. Pappas was under enormous pressure from his superiors to extract more information from prisoners there, according to senior Army officers.

"He likened it to a root canal without novocaine," a senior officer who knows Colonel Pappas said of his meetings with his superiors in Baghdad. Often, the officer said, Colonel Pappas would emerge from discussions with two of them, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast and Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, without a word, but "clutching his face as if in pain."

Colonel Pappas, commander of the 205th Intelligence Brigade, relocated his headquarters from Camp Victory, near the Baghdad airport, to Abu Ghraib just days after a visit to Iraq last fall by another high-ranking Army officer, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller. General Miller encouraged the Army colonel to have his unit work more closely with military police to set the conditions for interrogations.

By the end of September, Colonel Pappas had asserted control of Tier 1 of the prison`s "hard site," used for interrogation of Iraqi prisoners, which he maintained until February, when he and his brigade were transferred to Germany at the end of their yearlong tour. After Nov. 19, by order of General Sanchez, Colonel Pappas and his brigade took command of all of Abu Ghraib prison, taking over authority from the 800th Military Police Brigade.

Now Colonel Pappas, who in sworn testimony to a senior Army investigator acknowledged that his subordinates directed military police officers to strip Iraqi prisoners naked and to shackle them, is the highest-ranking officer on active duty known to be under investigation for the abuses committed at Abu Ghraib prison.

From his current post in Wiesbaden, Germany, he has declined all interview requests, but people who know him well described him as a smart, quiet, studious officer who was intent throughout his command on pleasing his superiors.

Less than a year ago, Colonel Pappas, then 44 and newly promoted, graduated from a one-year master`s course at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., where he impressed professors as thoughtful, articulate and well-grounded.

In heading to Iraq to take charge of the 205th Intelligence Brigade, he was embarking on the most important assignment of a 22-year career.

"He was excited; he had been promoted, and he knew that the new challenges that he was taking on were important," said Prof. Jeffrey H. Norwitz, who taught Colonel Pappas in a three-month seminar on making national security decisions and described him as a superb student who appeared headed for the Army`s highest ranks.

On Tuesday, however, the colonel`s younger brother, John, said that he had called from Germany recently to say that he and his wife, Becky, were "maintaining" in the middle of the storm.

"They`re just waiting for all the stuff to be finalized, and then whatever happens, happens," John Pappas, of Middletown, N.J., said.

He said he found it hard to believe his brother could have been involved in the worst of the abuses.

"It doesn`t seem to me that he would throw away his career to do something like that," he said. "I don`t see him as giving an order to sodomize a prisoner. If he had gotten directives or orders that they could strip someone down or something, maybe."

Colonel Pappas was born in Washington in 1959, and grew up on a quiet, leafy street in Belford, N.J., about two miles west of Sandy Hook. His father, Thomas A. Pappas, was a systems analyst at Bell Labs, John Pappas said, and the young Tom Pappas was a Boy Scout who took an early interest in camping and military affairs, a former neighbor said.

"The whole family would take camping trips, and Thomas, as far as I know, was always one to stay out of trouble," said Mary Beth Hall, who still lives in Belford, two doors down from the ranch-style house where the Pappas family lived for 30 years. "He was just a good kid."

A photograph of the young Thomas Pappas in the Rutgers yearbook of 1981, when he graduated with degrees in political science and English, shows a thin man with dark, penetrating eyes in a coat and tie. After graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army.

He climbed the Army ranks as an intelligence officer, with posts in South Korea, Europe and the United States, including stints at Fort Meade, Md., as commander of a unit that serves under the National Security Agency, and, in Fort Huachuca, Ariz., headquarters of the Army Intelligence School, from 2001 to 2003, where he served as a senior officer involved in planning and designing the future of the Army intelligence corps.

A former senior Army intelligence officer described Colonel Pappas as highly regarded, "with a reputation for professional competence and for being a straight shooter."

There is no indication that Colonel Pappas, whose expertise was in strategic and tactical intelligence, ever worked or was trained as a military interrogator, Army officials said. An Army officer who served with him at Abu Ghraib said that as far as interrogations at the Iraq prison were concerned, "he seemed to be learning on the fly."

During his year at the Naval War College, which serves as a prestigious finishing school for promising officers, Colonel Pappas was the highest-ranking officer in the seminar taught by Professor Norwitz. In that role, he was a leader as well as a student in the class of about 18, the professor said.

"Flat out, Tom was probably my best student in the seminar," Professor Norwitz said. "Here at the War College people say it`s very hard to fail and very hard to get an A. That`s true. In my seminar, Tom was an A-plus student."

In Iraq, as the new commander of the 205th Brigade, Colonel Pappas first set up his headquarters at Camp Victory, which was also the site of the home and office of General Sanchez and his staff.

But in September, at General Miller`s encouragement, he moved to Abu Ghraib, and by the end of that month, by several accounts, his military intelligence unit had effectively taken control of Tier 1 from the 800th Military Police Brigade. The brigade was commanded by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, an Army Reserve officer, although military police from that unit remained as guards.

It was in that part of Abu Ghraib that the acts of sexual humiliation and other abuse are reported to have taken place in a period that began after early October, as the anti-American insurgency was mounting.

To date, seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company have been charged in that affair. But a report completed in February by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba identified Colonel Pappas and three others, two of them civilians, as having been "directly or indirectly responsible" for the actions.

"I know that they were absolutely pressuring him to get more out of the intelligence teams," a senior Army officer said of Colonel Pappas`s superiors, including Generals Sanchez, Fast and Miller. "Tom was really really smart, but he was very much — I don`t know if the right word is in awe or intimidated. But it was mostly them telling him what he was going to do."

John Holl contributed reporting from Belford, N.J., for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 19, 2004
Kerry Is Expected to Meet With Nader

WASHINGTON, May 18 - Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, plans to meet Wednesday afternoon with Ralph Nader, whose independent bid for the White House has many Democrats worried about losing votes on their party`s left flank.

The meeting comes amid rising concern in and around the Kerry camp that Mr. Nader`s strong opposition to the war in Iraq could gain traction as approval for President Bush`s handling of the war plummets. Mr. Nader has ratcheted up his rhetoric on Iraq in recent days.

Stephanie Cutter, Mr. Kerry`s communications director, said there was no set agenda for the meeting, but predicted they would "discuss the obvious," an apparent reference to many Democrats` urging Mr. Nader to drop out or risk securing President Bush`s re-election. Many in the party blame Mr. Nader, who won more votes than the Republicans` margin of victory in key states like Florida and New Hampshire, for Mr. Bush`s ascension to the White House.

Mr. Nader could not be reached for comment late Tuesday night but told The Associated Press that leaving the race was not an option. He said he planned to discuss "certain common policies" with Mr. Kerry, adding, "I think that`s for the good of our country and for the benefit of the American people that are being ignored or repudiated by the Bush regime."

Mr. Kerry returned here Tuesday after campaigning in Portland, Ore., where Mr. Nader is popular.

Mary Beth Cahill, Mr. Kerry`s campaign manager, said this week that she paid close attention to Mr. Nader`s campaign but that she was confident his movement would fade. "The people who know Ralph Nader best are the most adamant about what the 3 to 5 percent he would get would mean in November," she said.

Last month, Mr. Kerry said he respected Mr. Nader and that he would not attack him. "I`m just going to try to talk to his people and point out that we`ve got to beat George Bush," Mr. Kerry said. "And I hope that by the end of this race I can make it unnecessary for people to feel they need to vote for someone else."

Kevin Zeese, a spokesman for Mr. Nader, said that he was unsure of Mr. Kerry`s agenda for the meeting but that the question of Mr. Nader dropping his campaign was "not going to come up."

"We don`t plan to ask Kerry to withdraw from the race, and we don`t think he`ll ask us because it`s pretty clear were not going to drop out," he said. "From our perspective, we`re going to say the kind of thing that Ralph has already been saying, which is to explain how our second front against George Bush is going to help remove him from power."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 18, 2004
Nato warned of danger to Afghan role
By Judy Dempsey in Brussels

Nato`s top official warned on Tuesday that the alliance`s peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan was at a critical juncture and could fail.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato secretary general, has been anxious about the progress of Nato`s first mission away from its European base, but he told ambassadors during a lunch near alliance headquarters in Brussels that member states had to immediately deliver promised personnel and equipment.

A senior diplomat at the lunch said: "Today [the secretary general] considers the situation not only extraordinarily frustrating. There is even talk about the future of the mission itself. The mission is at a critical juncture."

Iraq was complicating matters, another diplomat added, by sucking away from Afghanistan valuable military and personnel resources from Nato nations engaged in both countries.

Afghanistan is seen as the test case for Nato`s ability to operate "out of area". Nato, which took over command of international force in Afghanistan last August, has 6,500 troops in the country.

A senior military official said: "Failure will completely damage Nato`s credibility in finding a role in the post-cold-war era".

It has been unable to establish five small military and civilian units to provide security and extend the government of Hamid Karzai beyond Kabul. Even if the teams are set up, Nato can not provide back-up, such as logistics, communications and aircraft, which could make it harder to provide security during September`s planned elections.

Another Nato diplomat said: "We can provide only limited security. This has been an extraordinarily bruising experience".

The blunt warnings reflect a collapse of morale inside the alliance just as it was recovering from the bitter disputes during the run-up to the US-led war in Iraq last year.

Diplomats said the low morale stemmed from frustration among Nato`s top civilian and military staff after attempts to persuade the 26 member nations to deliver to Afghanistan military capabilities promised six months ago.

An alliance diplomat said: "We are asking for only single-digit contributions [of materiél]. Even that seems impossible, despite Nato having on paper access to over 1,000 helicopters".

Turkey has yet to deliver four helicopters pledged last January. It said it had neither money nor transport to fulfil its promise - breaking a "golden rule", which makes Nato states responsible for paying the costs of equipment or staff deployed abroad, diplomats say.

In Kabul, the medical team provided to Nato by Norway for a limited period has not yet been replaced. Nato is still short of heavy cargo aircraft vital in a such a large country.

© Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2004.

The bald eagle, which was nearly extinct 40 years ago, is now the focus of "a fantastic conservation story.

Das nationale Symbol der USA wird nicht aussterben.

May 19, 2004
Thriving Bald Eagle Finding Its Way Off Endangered List

WASHINGTON, May 18 - The bald eagle, whose majestic profile was in danger of disappearing from the American wild 40 years ago, has returned in such force that only two states lack breeding pairs and the bird is likely to be removed from the list of threatened species by the year`s end.

"As a lot of people have recognized, the bird`s numbers are terrific," David Smith, the deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks in the Department of the Interior, said Tuesday.

"If the numbers bear out," Mr. Smith added, "we hope to get to final delisting" by the end of the year.

The tentative decision, likely to go into effect more than five years after it was first proposed by the Interior Department, is being hailed by some environmentalists as a tribute to the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act, although some biologists have expressed concern that the expansion of subdivisions and summer homes will deprive the burgeoning eagle population of nesting sites.

Nonetheless, "There`s no question it`s a fantastic conservation story," said Bryan D. Watts, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

The expected change was first reported by The Associated Press.

In Virginia alone, the number of nesting pairs of eagles has risen to 435 from 260 in the last five years, according to the federal Fish and Wildlife Service; Virginia has more nesting pairs than the entire country did in 1963, when the effects of chemicals like DDT, which weakened the birds` eggshells, and PCB`s, which poisoned their diet, had brought the species to its low ebb.

Nationwide last year there were 7,678 nesting pairs; only Vermont and Rhode Island had none, according to federal statistics.

The driving force behind the eagle`s strong recovery was "the banning of DDT and PCB`s and the protection that the Endangered Species Act did give to the habitat, which allowed the birds to come back and to repopulate some of their historic areas," said Bruce E. Beans, the author of "Eagle`s Plume: The Struggle to Preserve the Life and Haunts of America`s Bald Eagle" (University of Nebraska Press, 1997). And, he added, "particularly in the East, it`s required a lot of intensive hands-on work by both biologists and volunteers."

Mr. Smith said he believed that a separate law protecting bald and golden eagles should provide more than adequate protection to warrant taking away the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

The decision, Mr. Smith said, "has been evolutionary. We`ve been working on it for quite a while." He also said that when the department presents its proposal this summer, it will seek comments on both the current status around the country and how the eagle`s condition can be monitored and safeguarded.

Michael J. Bean, the chairman of the wildlife program for the legal group Environmental Defense, which a week ago called for Interior to delist the eagle, welcomed the decision, saying: "It has clearly recovered. Its recovery needs to be recognized with a delisting. Second, there is a pervasive sense that E.S.A. has failed because so few have been taken off the list. The eagle has clearly recovered. It`s an enormous success. Taking it off the list will drive that point home."

The Fish and Wildlife Service`s Web site lists 1,288 species as endangered or threatened as of the end of 2002. Since the act was passed in 1973, 30 species have been removed from the list. Of these, 13 have been recovered; many of the others are extinct.

The bald eagle will remain protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, originally passed in 1940. That law prohibits the "taking" of and commerce in the birds; "taking" is defined as pursuing, shooting or shooting at, wounding or killing, poisoning, trapping, molesting or disturbing.

Professor Watts said in a telephone interview on Tuesday: "The question has been over the past couple of years: What is going to be the day-to-day use of the eagle act to protect eagle territories? That`s what everyone was waiting for. If we felt it would be protected similarly under the eagle protection act as under the Endangered Species Act, I don`t think anyone would be concerned."

Mitchell Byrd, an emeritus professor of biology at William and Mary who, like Professor Watts, has cautioned about the impact of development on eagle populations, said in an interview Tuesday, "The eagle population is progressively increasing and habitat progressively decreasing and our contention has been that some time in the future these lines are going to cross."

Professor Byrd added, "One potential salvation is that eagles seem to be adapting" to humans.

But, he said, it remains unclear if the birds` adaptation is widespread. And it is also not clear if the birds that live close to humans, like those in Florida that frequent commercial centers, "are going to be as successful as they would have been in more pristine environments."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 19, 2004
Nuts With Nukes

There is one force that could rescue Iran`s hard-line ayatollahs from the dustbin of history: us.

For all its denials, Iran seems to be pushing for nuclear warheads and for missiles to carry them. It could make its first weapon in two years, and it could eventually produce enough enriched uranium at Natanz for 25 weapons a year.

Iran`s leaders have regularly gotten away with murder. They apparently helped bomb U.S. marines in Lebanon in 1983, a Jewish center in Argentina in 1994 and U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996. So it`s easy to understand why President Bush declared recently that it`s "intolerable" for Iran to be on the road toward nuclear weapons, adding, "Otherwise they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations."

To Mr. Bush, not unreasonably, Iran conjures up a frightening combination: nuts with nukes. The push for a tougher approach toward Iran isn`t partisan, and a President Kerry might also pursue a more confrontational, albeit more multilateral, approach to Iran.

But that would be a mistake.

First, it won`t work. If we haul Iran before the Security Council, it will restart its programs (it has suspended at least some) and kick out inspectors. Iran will respond to more pressure not by dropping its nuclear program, but by accelerating it.

Second, we`ll create a nationalistic backlash in Iran that will keep hard-liners in power indefinitely. Our sanctions and isolation have kept dinosaurs in power in Cuba, North Korea and Burma, and my fear is that we`ll do the same in Iran.

What I fear is this: Over the next year or two, the West will press Iran harder, Iran will halt its nuclear cooperation and evict inspectors, Israel will bomb a couple of Iran`s nuclear sites (a possibility widely discussed in security circles, although it would slow Iran`s nuclear progress without ending it), and Iran`s ayatollahs will benefit from a nationalistic surge to stay in power and rule more rabidly than ever.

"We love America," began Mansour Jahanbakhsa, a businessman, in a typical comment, but he added that Iran should develop nuclear weapons. "Iranians would become angry at meddling by America," he said, and his demeanor changed. "We are an old country with an ancient civilization, and we are proud of it. How come Israel can have them and we can`t? It makes me angry."

A young woman, Maryan Nazeri, complained about the regime but said she would support it in a confrontation over nuclear weapons. "We`re going to have them," she said. "Maybe we do already. It`s our right. We`re Iranians, so what do you expect? Just as you want America to be strong, we want Iran to be strong."

Then Massoud Taheri scolded: "Your president calling us a rogue nation and disrespecting our 5,000 years of civilization is offensive. How many years of civilization do you have?"

Our goal should be regime change in Tehran. But if Mr. Bush (or Mr. Kerry) pushes Tehran too hard over nukes, we`ll fail to get rid of either the nuclear program or this regime.

The only alternative is engagement — the precise opposite of the sanctions and isolation that have been U.S. policy under both Presidents Clinton and Bush. Sanctions are even less effective against Iran than against, say, North Korea, because Iran oozes petroleum and is independently wealthy. Isolation by the U.S. has accomplished even less in Iran than it has in Cuba.

So we should vigorously pursue a "grand bargain" in which, among other elements, Iran maintains its freeze on uranium enrichment and we establish diplomatic relations and encourage business investment, tourism and education exchanges.

"What would destroy the conservatives [in Iran] would be a money flood" of American investment, says Hooshang Amirahmadi, the president of the American Iranian Council. "In just a few years, the conservatives would be finished."

The bottom line is that we could soon have a pro-American Islamic democracy as a beacon for hope in the Middle East — in Tehran, not Baghdad. The risk is that we`ll blow it.


Iran is a dazzling smorgasbord, from its "Death to America" murals to its winding bazaars. You can join me on a multimedia tour of Iran here.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Zero Tolerance for Iraq War Pundits

NEW YORK--A year and a half late and 30,000 lives short, supporters of the war in Iraq finally admit that they were wrong.

When I appeared on Bill O`Reilly`s show recently, his bellicose bravado was MIA. We argued about Bush and war, but he studiously avoided talking about Iraq. The Fox News demagogue limited his attacks to my opposition to the war against Afghanistan. To his credit O`Reilly, formerly a ferocious advocate of the Iraqi invasion, was one of the first media war promoters to concede that Iraq had never been a threat to the United States. "I was wrong," he told ABC in February. "I think every American should be very concerned" that weapons of mass destruction have not been found.

Over at The New York Times, two pro-war columnists who repeatedly parroted the Bush party line--arguing that Gulf War II was a noble experiment in Middle Eastern democracy, accusing opponents of appeasing Saddam and repeatedly ridiculing skeptics as knee-jerk pacifists who didn`t care about the long-suffering Iraqis--have ordered up a heaping plate of crow. "We went into Iraq with what, in retrospect, seems like a childish fantasy," allows Republican war pimp David Brooks. "We were going to topple Saddam, establish democracy and hand the country back to grateful Iraqis. We expected to be universally admired when it was all over. For us to succeed in Iraq," he concludes now, "we have to lose [to the insurgency]."

"I supported the war and now I feel foolish," says CNN`s Tucker Carlson.

Thomas Friedman, a 1949-style Cold War liberal who spilled tens of thousands of words pushing a war sold using lies, confesses that he projected good intent on a White House where idealism was in short supply: "I thought the administration would have to do the right things in Iraq--from prewar planning and putting in enough troops to dismissing the secretary of defense for incompetence--because surely this was the most important thing for the president and the country. But I was wrong."

Back in August 2002, Newsweek hawk Fareed Zakaria argued: "Done right, an invasion would be the single best path to reform the Arab world. Were Saddam`s totalitarian regime to be replaced by a state that respected human rights, enforced the rule of law and created a market economy, it could begin to transform that world." And if done right, tax cuts could have stimulated the economy. But Bush hadn`t done anything right when Zakaria wrote that. The Administration`s brazenly dishonest and inept post-9/11 record--not the right`s fictional knee-jerk "Bush-bashing"--is why half the country never trusted his blandishments about WMDs, the fictional Saddam-Osama link, or nation-building.

Ah, but the new and improved Zakaria finally gets it: "On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq, [Bush`s] assumptions and policies have been wrong. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw."

We`re supposed to be grateful that Zakaria and his fellow war pimps are--finally!--recognizing reality. At least they`re better than Bush, who still thinks torture can convert the Iraqis to democracy: "I won`t yield," he said May 13. But these prominent pundits too have blood on their hands.

Had they stood firmly against the war and Bush, on the right side of history, they might have helped slow or even reverse the rush to war during the winter of 2002-3. Their failure to accurately assess the case for war, coupled with their willful blindness to this Administration`s neofascist tendencies, contributed to needless carnage, attacks on individual rights and the creation of dozens of covert CIA gulags around the world. Every time someone was raped at Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base or Gitmo, Tom Friedman and Christopher Hitchens and Bill O`Reilly and David Brooks were de facto accomplices.

The WordPerfect Warriors` journalistic failings are even more pronounced than their moral ones. On an issue with enormous political and historical ramifications for our country, they got the story wrong. They believed in WMDs at a time when the vintage of the government`s evidence (none of it was more recent than 1998) ought to have tripped BS detectors. They trusted the White House`s promises to rebuild Iraq despite its dismal record in Afghanistan. They never considered that removing a dictator who had killed all of his major opponents might open up a power vacuum. And they never questioned Bush`s original sin, his partisan politicization of 9/11.

They should have known better--lots of us did. Or they did know better and lied about it. Whether their integrity or their intelligence was compromised, they should never again be taken seriously.

The pro-war pundits got the biggest story of their careers dead wrong. Now a lot of people are wrongly dead. The fact that this sorry lot still draw paychecks is a tribute to America`s infinite capacity for forgiveness.


RALL 5/18/04
This handover in Iraq is not a policy - it is a cynical public relations gimmick
The price for allowing policy to be determined by Mr Bush`s electoral needs will be paid in blood
Patrick Cockburn
The Independent
19 May 2004

Soon after United States occupation officials took over Saddam Hussein`s palace complex in central Baghdad as their headquarters last year there was an alarming development. The lavatories in the palaces all became blocked and began to overflow. Mobile toilets were rapidly shipped into the country and installed in the palace gardens.

It turned out that American officials, often bright young things with good connections with the Bush administration in Washington, did not know that lavatories are used in a slightly different way in the Middle East compared to back home. In particular water fulfills the function largely performed by paper in the West. The water pipes in Saddam`s palaces were not designed to deal with big quantities of paper and became clogged, with spectacularly unsavoury results.

It was the first of many mistakes made by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which has now ruled Iraq for a year-based on inadequate local knowledge. It has been one of the most spectacularly incompetent regimes in history. If Paul Bremer, the US viceroy in Iraq, decided important issues by flipping a coin he would surely have had better results.

At moments Mr Bremer has the manic activity and self-confidence of Inspector Clouseau as he bounces from crisis to crisis, many of his troubles of his own creation. In April he managed to turn the insurgents in Fallujah, previously regarded by most Iraqis as dangerous hillbillies, into nationalist heroes. At the same time he went after Muqtada Sadr, the Shia cleric, whose popular base was always small, and allowed him to pose as a martyr. The main feature of American policy-making in Iraq is division. Nowhere in the world is it more necessary for military and political strategy to be united than Iraq. But Mr Bremer and the uniformed army hardly seem to communicate. The civilians in the Pentagon and the Neo-Cons have their own policy as do the State Department and the CIA. The White House is mainly concerned that, whatever is really happening on the ground in Iraq, it can be presented in a way which will not lose Mr Bush the presidential election in November.

Out of this mélange of rivalries it would be surprising if any sensible policy emerged and there is, indeed, no sign of one doing so. Downing Street and the White House are now both talking up the handover of sovereignty to Iraqis on 30 June and the creation of new Iraqi security forces to, in time, replace the 135,000 US and 7,500 British soldiers.

This is less a policy than a cynical public relations gimmick. The allies have been trying to build up the Iraqi security forces for over a year. But when the uprisings began last month, 40 per cent of the US-trained forces promptly deserted while 10 per cent mutinied and changed sides, according to the US army. The reality, as Dr Mahmoud Othman an independent member of the Iraqi Governing Council says, is that Iraqis will not fight other Iraqis on behalf of a foreign power.

Of course the purpose of the exaggerated significance now being given to the handover of sovereignty to an interim government in six weeks` time is to pretend that now there will be a legitimate authority in Iraq. Over the past year, the CPA has repeatedly said it will delegate power to Iraqis. It has never happened and is unlikely to happen now. The US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council found that it was expected to give an Iraqi flavour to decisions taken by Americans. They were told they would be consulted on important security decisions only to wake up one morning to find US marines besieging Fallujah. They were seen by more and more Iraqis as collaborators with an increasingly detested occupation.

The council is now to be replaced by a government of technocrats supposedly more acceptable to Iraqis than their predecessors. It will be chosen in part by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy, and is to pave the way for elections in Iraq next January.

Again the most striking aspect of this plan is gimmickry. There was a moment straight after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein when the UN might have played a role in Iraq. But at that point, as one Iraqi leader put it, the US was drunk with victory and determined to keep the UN out. Since then the UN headquarters in Baghdad has been reduced to heap of ruins and many of its staff killed.

It is unlikely that many countries belonging to the UN would at this stage want to risk any of its officials or soldiers in Iraq. Mr Brahimi, supposedly a key player in creating a new Iraqi administration, hardly dared set foot outside the heavily defended green zone, where the Coalition has its headquarters, during his recent visit. The UN also has a shrewd suspicion that all it is being asked to do is to take a share in responsibility for a crisis over which it will have no influence.

After 30 June the US army will retain control over the Iraqi security forces in Iraq. It is unclear if Iraq will even be able to spend its own oil revenues. Nobody knows who will be in the new government. It does not even have a building from which it will function because the Coalition shows no sign of leaving Saddam`s palaces. The degree to which important decisions about the handover of sovereignty have been left to the last minute underlines that, at the end of next month, real power will not change hands.

British officials who admit this say that the really important date will come in seven months` time when there is an election in Iraq. Here they are on slightly firmer ground. The occupiers should have organised an election as soon as possible after the invasion. They would then have been able to deal with elected Iraqi leaders with some claim to legitimacy.

But there were no elections before because the Americans feared Shia parties beyond American control would win. So US officials cancelled local elections. Mr Bremer certainly did not want the elections over the summer because he feared they would be won by Islamic parties, even though British and American military commanders confirmed privately that a poll could be organised.

In Najaf, the Shia shrine city, the occupying forces even managed to appoint a Sunni governor, which was a bit like giving Rev Ian Paisley a position of responsibility overseeing the Vatican. Fortunately the governor did not last long in that role. He was arrested for kidnapping and is now in jail.

The important point about the Iraqi elections is the timing. They will not take place before the US presidential elections in November. This allows Mr Bush to say that Iraq is on track towards democracy.

There will be a price to pay for allowing Iraq policy to be determined by Mr Bush`s electoral needs. It is a price which will be paid in blood. I have met no Iraqis who think anything is going to change at the end of next month. More and more they believe that the only way to end the occupation is by armed resistance. If the British Government believes that 3,000 extra soldiers will really do anything to restore order then they have once again underestimated the gravity of the crisis.
Doctrine of `kill, kill and kill again` angers British officers
By Kim Sengupta

19 May 2004

Senior British officers are angry and despondent at what they see as a US doctrine in Iraq of "kill, kill and kill again", and are determined that their troops should not be under direct American command, according to a report.

The simmering tension between the militaries of the two allies has been highlighted in the American magazine, Newsweek, which also describes how a British officer unsuccessfully urged his US counterparts to do the "decent thing" and free the Iraqi inmates from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

The British protest over Iraqi prisoners is said to have taken place at a staff meeting attended by American Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was subsequently suspended for failure to prevent abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib by troops under her command, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq, and a military legal team.

The British officer said: "The best solution is to find a way to release these people instead of building more and more detention facilities. Why don`t we just do the decent thing?" Brig Gen Karpinski recalled that the British "effrontery" was received with incredulity by American commanders. "They looked at him like, `who asked you?`"

The report states: "The difference in style - Do the decent thing...who asked you?- is stark. So much so, Newsweek has learnt, as to become a serious obstacle to military cooperation."

The report of discord between the US and British commanders comes at an especially critical time, with continuing turmoil in Iraq and the Government about to announce the large scale deployment of extra troops.

Senior British officers have been resisting pressure from Downing Street both on the deployment and also on placing troops outside the British controlled zone at flashpoints like Najaf.

Tony Blair`s official spokesman said yesterday that the sending of extra troops would be tied to a drive towards forming an Iraqi army, and police and intelligence services. The Prime Minister is said to have won agreement on this from President George W Bush during two telephone conversations in recent weeks.

Mr Blair`s spokesman said this speeding up of the political and security "twin track" was "a recognition that the key to success is to give the Iraqis what they want, which is as much control and responsibility as quickly as possible."

Major General David Petraeus, a senior US officer in Iraq, has been asked to study how British forces are training Iraqi forces in policing and counter-terrorism in the Basra region.

However, some British trained Iraqi policemen, carrying British supplied arms, joined with the militia of the Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr when they took over the governors` mansion in Basra. And a recent Amnesty International report accused the same force of being involved in the killing of prisoners.

19 May 2004 11:14

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Seymour Hersh, At the Front Lines On War Scandals

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page C01

Is Seymour Hersh becoming . . . respectable?

Thirty-five years after breaking the news of the My Lai massacre, the tenacious, hot-tempered reporter is winning praise for his disclosures about U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. He`s on the tube touting his findings with Bob Schieffer, George Stephanopoulos, Wolf Blitzer, Bill O`Reilly. He`s just won a National Magazine Award. "If there`s a journalistic equivalent to Viagra, he`s on it," gushes Newsweek.

A Pentagon spokesman is ripping him for "outlandish" and "conspiratorial" reporting, but the media establishment is embracing the Cleveland Park resident as never before.

"He is doing what he is built to do and is obsessed with doing," says New Yorker Editor David Remnick, who has been up late crashing Hersh`s pieces into the magazine. "He`s just boiling with energy."

Remnick says he enjoys editing Hersh because "anyone that passionate about what they`re doing is gold to me. . . . Even if the phone is hung up abruptly or someone shouts at someone, it`s forgotten five minutes later."

Hersh, 67, is of the story-is-more-important-than-me school and declined to be interviewed. "Oh my God, this is all so tedious," he told a Washington Post reporter who asked about his background in 2001. "What the hell does it have to do with anything I write?"

There is a trust-me aspect to Hersh`s reporting, given his heavy reliance on unnamed sources. His latest piece quotes a "senior CIA official," "former high-level intelligence official," "military analyst," "government consultant" and "Pentagon consultant."

"I know every source that`s not named," Remnick says. "The [fact] checkers talk with those sources. Would he and I want people to be on the record? Of course. It`s a trade-off we sometimes have to make."

It was Hersh who helped force the Abu Ghraib prison scandal out in the open. While "60 Minutes II" beat him by a hair, the CBS program went ahead -- after delaying at the Pentagon`s request -- upon hearing that Hersh was close to publishing. Hersh disclosed the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba on "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" at the prison, and obtained the disturbing photo of dogs being used to threaten a cowering, naked Iraqi.

He followed up last weekend with a report that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had approved the expansion of a secret program allowing harsh interrogation of detainees that Hersh contends led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita says Hersh "threw a lot of crap against the wall and he expects someone to peel off what`s real. It`s a tapestry of nonsense. To some degree he became the story." DiRita declined to discuss whether Rumsfeld had authorized tougher interrogation tactics, and Remnick dismissed the comment.

Hersh has a pugilistic quality that seems to invite such attacks. A onetime volunteer for Eugene McCarthy`s antiwar campaign, he doesn`t pretend to be a neutral observer.

Appearing with two senators Sunday on "Face the Nation," Hersh challenged them: "If you convene a serious hearing and I assure you some senior officers will come and -- if you give them enough protection -- and tell you things that will really knock your socks off. So go for it."

And on "Late Edition," Hersh didn`t hesitate to invoke a Nazi parallel: "You`re seeing two attack dogs, German shepherds, snarling, it`s a scene from, you know, Third Reich, you name it."

Hersh`s stock has risen and fallen over the years as he has gotten into scrapes with some of the capital`s most influential power brokers. But he keeps bouncing back.

Though Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize for his story about U.S. soldiers killing civilians in Vietnam -- he sold it to a tiny news service after national magazines had turned it down -- he has always seemed an outsider. While he spent much of the 1970s at the New York Times, where he scored some Watergate scoops and broke a huge story about CIA domestic spying, it was never a comfortable fit.

In 1983 Hersh made another big splash with a tough book about Henry Kissinger that tarnished the former secretary of state even as critics accused the author of pushing his evidence too far.

His lowest point came in 1997, when Hersh acknowledged he had been peddled some phony JFK documents. Though the bogus papers never made it into his book "The Dark Side of Camelot," Hersh was pilloried, and criticized as well for including so much salacious sexual material about Jack Kennedy.

In 2000 Hersh got into a huge public fight with former Gulf War Gen. Barry McCaffrey, charging that his division had destroyed a retreating Iraqi unit. Even before the piece ran, McCaffrey, insisting that the Iraqis were still fighting, accused Hersh of conducting "defamatory" interviews out of "personal malice." One McCaffrey supporter, retired Col. Ken Koetz, maintained that Hersh had said, "I really want to bury this guy." Hersh denied making such a comment.

When Hersh charged last year that administration defense adviser Richard Perle was inappropriately mixing business and politics in his dealings with two Saudi figures, Perle likened him to a "terrorist." Perle threatened to sue Hersh, but never did.

"A lot of Washington journalists act like hedge-trimmers or pruning shears," says Time defense correspondent Mark Thompson. "Sy is a noisy, smoke-spewing chain saw -- and a relentless stump-grinder, to boot."

Bill Kovach, who once edited Hersh as the Times`s Washington bureau chief, says that "he`s maintained a kind of groundfire of anger at abuses of power unlike any I`ve ever seen."

And how does Hersh unearth his information? "He`s relentless," Kovach says. "He`s rapid-fire. He asks two or three questions at a time. He just keeps going and going until he gets where he wants to go. He religiously tracks these sources, he talks to them all the time."
The Bib Brouhaha

The Baltimore Sun has barred reporter Pat Meisol from writing about state government.

The reason: She gave a baby bib to Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich and his wife, Kendel, after their son was born, and her name turned up on a 22-page list of presents at the gubernatorial mansion.

A childish overreaction? "I`m pretty outraged," the feature writer says. "I`ve been really loyal to this newspaper and I think they treated me unfairly. Buying a bib for the baby is a business expense -- no different from taking someone out for dinner or a drink. . . . I`m spending hundreds of dollars on dinners with some of these guys in Annapolis."

The bib cost $22.

Managing Editor Anthony Barbieri says that unlike the "institutional" expense of entertaining a source, "my feeling is a gift is a personal expression of affection for a public official." While Meisol is "perfectly capable of writing an absolutely objective story" about the Ehrlichs, "we need to be extraordinarily careful" about perceptions.

But Meisol says it`s all about "maintaining relationships" with people like Kendel Ehrlich. "I`m not a friend of hers."

Also on the gift list was Sun editorial writer Karen Hosler, who told her paper she had been "thoughtless" in joining in her husband`s gift of tree-planting in the baby`s honor. The paper says Hosler, who was avoiding state politics because of a friendship with the Ehrlichs, now can`t write anything related to Maryland issues.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Sistani Demands Exit of Najaf Combatants
Top Shiite Cleric Rebuffs Rival`s Call to Arms

By Daniel Williams and Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page A17

BAGHDAD, May 18 -- Iraq`s supreme Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, demanded Tuesday that all armed forces leave the holy city of Najaf and called on fellow Shiites not to join in a bloody uprising there against U.S. forces. It was his first public effort to end a weeks-old rebellion mounted by the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.

Sistani was apparently responding to a call to arms issued earlier in the day by Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia has largely controlled Najaf for weeks. Sistani`s words are often heeded by Shiites, although his call Tuesday was not a religious order, or fatwa.

Sadr had invited all Iraqis to come to the southern city and support his uprising, which U.S. troops are struggling to contain. The revolt is one of several serious security issues that U.S. officials face before the scheduled transfer of limited authority to an Iraqi interim government on June 30.

U.S. military options are constricted in part because Najaf is home to one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam, the Shrine of Imam Ali, and a vast graveyard that is the most favored burial spot among Shiites because of its proximity to the mosque.

For the past month, U.S. officials have been hoping that Sistani would challenge Sadr, whose authority stems largely from his militia, which numbers in the thousands. Sadr has said he would follow a request from Sistani to withdraw from the city, but his rhetoric has grown increasingly militant the longer he has kept U.S. forces at bay.

"So rise up my beloved people," Sadr said in the statement issued by his office in Najaf. He called on "the people of great Iraq to express your opinion" in Najaf "as a reply to the serial violations, in order to be the best people for the best sacred shrines."

Sistani has traditionally shied from political matters. His boldest such overture came last November, when he called for direct elections to establish a post-occupation government, rather than a caucus system favored at the time by U.S. officials.

Tuesday`s formal statement, a rare personal message to the public by a man who usually communicates indirectly through aides, came a day after his offices in Najaf were fired on -- by Sadr`s men, according to some accounts.

The conflicting statements by Sistani and Sadr appeared to open the way for a test of wills between two clerics with vastly different views of Islam`s role in the political future of Iraq. After years of suffering under former president Saddam Hussein`s Sunni-led government, Shiites, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq`s population, are seeking a representative stake in a post-occupation government.

Shiite communities were once largely receptive to the U.S. invasion as the only viable way to oust Hussein. But the current divisions among Shiites are not only complicating U.S. efforts to establish a broadly acceptable interim government, they are also raising the specter of violence between armed militias loyal to rival Shiite groups.

"We could have a confrontation between Shiite groups in Najaf, and this would be dangerous," said Fatih Kashif Ghitta, a prominent Shiite cleric.

Sadr, who is wanted by U.S. authorities in connection with the killing last year of a rival Shiite cleric, has used his militia, made up largely of disenfranchised young men, to become a major player in Iraq`s sectarian politics. Shiite leaders have suggested that Sadr, 31, be given a role in the next government as an incentive for him to demobilize his militia.

On Tuesday, Sadr`s forces struck again at U.S. troops, after suffering heavy casualties on Monday. Using mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, his men fired on a small U.S. military camp located between Najaf and Kufa, a town six miles to the northeast that is also a Sadr stronghold. Two U.S. tanks maneuvered toward the camp from a police station in town and were ambushed. There were no reports of casualties on either side.

Sustained fighting in the south has engaged U.S. troops for more than 10 days.

U.S. commanders initially urged patience, hoping to avoid damage to the shrine in Najaf and a pair of shrines in Karbala, a holy Shiite city farther north, where Sadr`s militia has also mounted resistance to occupation forces. Rather than confronting U.S. troops directly at the outskirts of the cities, Sadr`s men have taken up positions deep inside them and near religious sites. U.S. forces have pursued militia forces, risking damage to the shrines.

So far, Shiite religious leaders who want Sadr removed have complained little about the American tactics. In neighboring Iran, whose population is almost entirely Shiite, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme religious leader, this week called on Shiites worldwide to condemn the U.S. offensive across southern Iraq.

U.S. officials had hoped that Shiite leaders could persuade Sadr to abandon his rebellion, disband his militia and give himself up either to U.S. forces or religious leaders and face charges in the killing of Abdel-Majid Khoei, a cleric who was stabbed in April 2003 after returning to Iraq from exile in Britain.

Talks between Sadr and Shiite mediators have broken down over terms that would have put Sadr in their hands rather than in U.S. custody. Without specifying the exact cause, Shiite officials are blaming the United States for the breakdown. "The Americans have added a condition," said Hamid Bayati, a spokesman for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which wants Sadr out of Najaf.

The continuing violence has exasperated Najaf residents. "From the first day of the crisis, our business stopped. We depend on tourists, and now there are none," said Hadi Basheer, 50, who sells souvenirs.

Ali Hussein, 28, a taxi driver, accused Sadr`s militia of harboring common criminals and sympathizers of Hussein. "I want the Americans to solve this, because the Mahdi Army is growing in power," he said.

Special correspondent Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company
U.S. Faces Growing Fears of Failure
Wolfowitz Concedes Errors as Damage Control Continues

By Robin Wright and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page A01

The Bush administration is struggling to counter growing sentiment -- among U.S. lawmakers, Iraqis and even some of its own officials -- that the occupation of Iraq is verging on failure, forcing a top Pentagon official yesterday to concede serious mistakes over the past year.

Under tough questioning from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, a leading administration advocate of the Iraq intervention, acknowledged miscalculating that Iraqis would tolerate a long occupation. A central flaw in planning, he added, was the premise that U.S. forces would be creating a peace, not fighting a war, after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

"We had a plan that anticipated, I think, that we could proceed with an occupation regime for much longer than it turned out the Iraqis would have patience for. We had a plan that assumed we`d have basically more stable security conditions than we`ve encountered," Wolfowitz told the senators.

The testy hearing reflected growing anxieties with only six weeks left before political power is to be handed over to Iraqis. The United States is now so deeply immersed in damage control -- combating security problems and recriminations from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and making a third attempt at crafting an interim government in Baghdad -- that lawmakers and others say Iraq faces greater uncertainty about the future than it did when the occupation began with great expectations a year ago.

"There are a lot of people across this country who are very, very worried about how this is progressing, what the endgame is, whether or not we are going to achieve even a part of our goals here -- and the growing fear that we may in fact have in some ways a worse situation if we`re not careful at the end of all this," warned Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), echoing comments of several committee members.

President Bush acknowledged yesterday that the United States is facing "hard work" in Iraq that is "approaching a crucial moment." But he said he will not be swayed from the goal of helping Iraq become a "free and democratic nation at the heart of the Middle East."

"My resolve is firm," he said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "This is an historic moment. The world watches for weakness in our resolve. They will see no weakness. We will answer every challenge." But lawmakers challenged Wolfowitz with their fears that the U.S.-led coalition still does not have a viable plan in place for the transition -- and that failure could be costly.

"A detailed plan is necessary to prove to our allies and to Iraqis that we have a strategy and that we are committed to making it work. If we cannot provide this clarity, we risk the loss of support of the American people, loss of potential contributions from our allies and the disillusionment of Iraqis," said Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the panel.

U.S. successes in Iraq have been "dwarfed" by two deficits created by the administration -- a "security deficit" and a "legitimacy deficit," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.).

The public criticism on Capitol Hill mirrors growing alarm expressed in private throughout the U.S. foreign policy community as well as among Iraqis about the political transition and deteriorating security. The U.S.-led coalition has dramatically lowered its goals, they say, from an early pledge to create a stable, democratic country that would be a model for transforming the greater Middle East, to scrambling to cobble together an interim government by June 30 that will have only limited political authority and still depend on more than 130,000 foreign troops.

"We`ve sacrificed the preferable to that which is most expedient," said a U.S. official involved with Iraq policy. "We`ve gone from hoping for a strong and empowered government to one that can survive, literally, until a new constitution is drafted."

With mounting instability, from the assassination of a top Iraqi politician to kidnappings for ransom of prominent professionals and their children, Iraqis close to the negotiations by U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi are now warning that credible politicians or technocrats may not be willing to accept jobs in the interim Iraqi government.

"Anyone in his right mind would say, `What you`re giving me is an impossible task and a no-win situation,` " said an Iraqi adviser to a member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

The crisis over mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib has also complicated the political transition, with fears among Iraqis that any association with an interim government named by U.N. and U.S. diplomats will undermine their political aspirations.

Some military officers are also concerned that Washington is now cutting back on its original goal of eliminating major flash points in Iraq before June 30. They say the United States has basically retreated in Fallujah, handing over control of the Sunni city to a former Iraqi general who is now commanding some of the very insurgents U.S. forces were fighting -- again, in the name of expediency.

"What we`re trying to do is extricate ourselves from Fallujah," said a senior U.S. official familiar with U.S. strategy who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. "There`s overwhelming pressure with the Coalition Provisional Authority and the White House to deliver a successful Iraq transition, and Iraq is proving uncooperative."

In his testimony, Wolfowitz expressed optimism about trends in Iraq. "We`re not trying to suggest by any means that this is a rosy scenario, but we do think that Iraq is moving forward toward self-government and self-defense, and that`s the key to winning," he said.

But in response to persistent questioning, Wolfowitz said the United States had been "slow" in creating Iraqi security forces and too severe in its early policy of de-Baathification, or barring from government jobs and political life tens of thousands of Iraqis who were members of Hussein`s ruling Baath Party.

He listed other shortcomings in planning, including underestimating the resilience of Hussein or his supporters, their postwar operational capabilities and financial resources. Wolfowitz also said he did not know how many U.S. troops would remain posted to Iraq over the next 18 months. "It could be more, it could be less" than the level of 135,000 troops the Pentagon has said it plans to keep in Iraq through 2005.

And he conceded that the question of how Iraq will operate after June 30 remains unsettled, adding that officials would have a better idea of how Iraqi sovereignty will work "as soon as we know who our counterparts are."

In Britain, the closest U.S. ally in Iraq, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also conceded that the Iraq situation is more troubled than the coalition predicted. "It`s palpable that the difficulties which we faced have been more extensive than it was reasonable to assume nine months ago," he said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp.

Researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

The Security Dilemma

Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page A22

THERE HAS been general agreement in and outside of Iraq for more than a year that security is the country`s biggest single problem. The Bush administration has tried to tackle it in various ways -- from training Iraqi police forces to recruiting foreign troops to making deals with former Baathist generals -- and yet the violence worsens. In the wake of Monday`s car bombing, which killed the president of Iraq`s governing council, senior coalition officials were conceding that the country was close to anarchy. Still, the administration remains curiously and disturbingly unwilling to reconsider its strategy or adopt more dramatic measures.

To be sure, there are no quick fixes, despite the tone of some of the rhetoric in Washington. Many Democrats in Congress, for example, have suggested variations on the theme of handing Iraq over to NATO and the United Nations. We endorsed those ideas a year ago and still like them in principle. But key NATO governments, including France and Germany, remain opposed to any alliance deployment in Iraq, and they command the only substantial reserves of troops that might be made available for such a mission. The United Nations, too, long ago opted out of any large-scale mission. Nor does it seem likely that Middle Eastern states will send forces; Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told a Senate hearing yesterday that they were "neuralgic" on the subject.

A number of senators, both Democratic and Republican, have called for the dispatch of tens of thousands more U.S. troops, on top of the administration`s recent decision to cancel a planned drawdown of 20,000 soldiers. This, too, strikes us as a step that should be tried -- and one the administration is wrong to resist. But more troops will be difficult to muster -- one brigade is already being withdrawn from U.S. forces in South Korea -- and senior officers have said the Army and its reserves already are under severe strain. Nor will Iraqis welcome the deployment of more GIs; any security gains will come at the risk of compounding the anti-American political backlash that helps sustain the insurgents.

The administration clings to its own plans to rapidly train tens of thousands of new Iraqi security forces; Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry agrees but says it should be done better and faster. This, too, should be pursued with more urgency -- but Iraqi units will not solve the security problem anytime soon. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz told the Senate hearing that it might be a year or 18 months before they are fully trained, equipped and organized.

It may be, as pessimists contend, that there is now no way to restore order to Iraq -- that chaos and civil war are inevitable. But we believe a solution may still lie in the aggressive embrace of all the strategies under discussion. Iraq needs more American troops, and more of its own security forces and any other foreign allied troops that can be collected, and it needs them soon, to make possible the staging of elections by early next year.

Only dramatic steps by President Bush will make such reinforcements possible. He must address Congress and the American public and explain why more soldiers must be sent, and how the resulting costs and disruption will be managed. He should agree to a permanent increase in the size of the U.S. Army, which will, at least, mean that there will be relief on the horizon for overtaxed divisions and reserve units. He should publicly and personally appeal to U.S. allies, in Europe and elsewhere, for help in providing the necessary security for elections; an extraordinary summit meeting on Iraq would be one way to do it. Above all, Mr. Bush should make clear that he is prepared to take bold and creative action to improve security in Iraq -- and not just "stay the course."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Crutch of Cheap Credit

By Robert J. Samuelson

Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page A23

Here`s a big story that didn`t happen: The U.S. economy did not collapse, dragging down the rest of the world. Considering all the bad news (the stock and tech bubbles, Sept. 11, corporate scandals, the Iraq war), it might have. The escape from calamity had many causes, including optimistic American consumers and the Bush tax cuts. But none mattered more than the Federal Reserve`s policy of cheap credit. Alan Greenspan and others have now signaled that its days are numbered. What comes next? The fear is that everything puffed up by cheap credit (including housing prices and stocks) will go flat. The hope is that the recovery no longer needs the crutch of cheap credit.

A crutch it`s clearly been. From Jan. 3, 2001, to June 25, 2003, the Fed reduced its overnight interest rate (the federal funds rate) from 6.5 percent to 1 percent -- the lowest in more than four decades. The cuts worked. In a recession, auto sales and housing construction typically suffer. Not this time. "We didn`t lose the jobs in automobiles and housing that we usually lose in a recession," says economist Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon University. Because automakers could borrow cheaply, they could lend cheaply (aka buyers` "incentives``). Car and light-truck sales slipped only slightly, from 17.3 million in 2000 to 16.7 million in 2003.

Housing did even better, because mortgage rates declined from an annual average of 7.5 percent in 2000 to 5.8 percent in 2003 (on 30-year fixed-rate loans). Home construction rose from 1.57 million units in 2000 to 1.85 million in 2003. Millions of homeowners also refinanced existing mortgages at lower rates. They reduced monthly payments, shortened maturities or borrowed more against rising housing values, which were pumped up by low mortgage rates. Since the end of 2000, household debt has increased a third, to $9.4 trillion. The extra cash financed home improvements and more shopping.

All this helped offset corporate cutbacks. After the economic boom, companies had surplus workers and investments -- factories, machinery, offices. To restore profits, they cut payrolls and investment spending. Cheap credit also helped this recuperative process. It enabled businesses to reduce interest costs and refinance short-term debt at favorable rates. Among large nonfinancial corporations, interest costs dropped from 20 percent of cash flow in 2001 to 14 percent in 2003, reports the Fed.

Finally, cheap credit went global. As Americans spent, U.S. imports rose. Dollars flowed abroad. When those dollars arrived elsewhere, they were often converted into local currencies by foreign central banks (the Fed`s counterparts). America`s easy money fostered easy money abroad, particularly in Asia. "Central banks have colluded . . . to keep the global economy afloat," says Robert Gay of Commerzbank Securities.

What`s tricky is that, except for the overnight federal funds rate, the Fed doesn`t control any interest rate. Banks, pension funds and others actually set market interest rates (on mortgages, business loans, bonds) based on their views of inflation and risk. When the Fed cuts the funds rate, it simply buys U.S. Treasury securities from banks and others. The cash used to pay for those securities gives banks more lending funds, which -- other things equal -- could reduce other rates. The Fed succeeded because inflationary expectations were subsiding and because the Fed itself reduced the perception of risk.

It influenced long-term rates by encouraging the "carry trade``: Investors borrow short-term money at low rates (say 2 percent) and lend it at higher long-term rates (say, 5 or 6 percent). A lot of that happened. From 2000 to 2003, bank lending rose about $1 trillion. Banks used cheap deposits to buy mortgages and bonds. As more money moved into these investments, their interest rates fell. But the carry trade is risky: if short-term interest rates rise, it can become unprofitable. So, last year the Fed reassured investors. The Fed funds rate would stay low for "a considerable period," it said. The Fed shaped "expectations of long-term bond investors in a very creative way," notes Mark Zandi of Economy.com.

Unfortunately, cheap credit cannot last indefinitely, because, once the economy improves, it will rekindle inflation: too much money chasing too few goods. Worsening inflationary psychology will push up market interest rates. With better job growth, Greenspan and the Fed have reached this juncture. The Fed has withdrawn its "considerable period" pledge and indicated that the Fed funds rate will soon rise from 1 percent. Market interest rates have already increased, because views of inflation and risk have deteriorated. In mid-March, the rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 5.4 percent; now it`s above 6 percent.

What`s unknown is the economy`s ability to withstand higher rates. One favorable sign: about 80 percent of household debt (mainly mortgages) is at fixed interest rates, estimates the Fed. Most borrowers won`t be hit with higher monthly payments. Another good sign: Corporate America has experienced a shakeout. The survivors have restored profitability and captured sales from weaker competitors; they`re expanding. But dangers lurk. Higher interest rates could lure money from stocks. Tighter credit could spread abroad. Higher interest rates could hurt auto sales, home construction and real estate values. Borrowing against higher housing prices will drop. In 2003 household debt was already 113 percent of disposable income; in 2000 it was only 97 percent. Overborrowed consumers could become more cautious.

For Greenspan, this may be his last hurrah; by law, his Fed appointment ends in early 2006. The Fed needs to raise rates fast enough to prevent market rates from taking off -- and slowly enough not to choke the recovery. It`s a delicate maneuver. By pulling it off, Greenspan would ensure his reputation.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company
LIMA, OH (IWR News Parody) - President Bush this afternoon broke his nose by running head first into his limo door. According to White House sources Mr. Bush was suffering from `psychological relapse`http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&c2coff=1&q=b… brought on when Mr. Bush came in contact with powdered sugar at the Nickles Bakery in Lima.

Death of a Salesman

By Harold Meyerson

Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page A23

"Nobody dast blame this man," says Charley in a spontaneous eulogy for his neighbor, Willy Loman, in the concluding scene of Arthur Miller`s tragedy. "A salesman is got to dream, boy."

And certainly nobody blames Nicholas Berg, beheaded in Iraq by ghouls from the Dark Ages. Berg had his dreams, and they weren`t just of business opportunities in Iraq. Though just 26, Berg was already something of a globetrotter in the cause of building a better world. Working through the American Jewish World Service, he`d gone to Kenya to help construct a water access project -- the kind of project that Africa needs most, and for which Berg`s idealism, engineering skills and evident affability suited him to a tee.

Ruth Messinger, the former Manhattan borough president and a practical idealist who knows one when she sees one, called Berg "an unbelievable person -- highly skilled, highly humanitarian."

But what on earth possessed Berg to venture off to Iraq by himself to maintain and repair radio transmission towers? Berg`s family says the idea sprouted after he attended a government-sponsored trade fair for businesses considering investments in Iraq. When Berg got to Iraq, however, State Department officials tried to talk him out of the idea and apparently even offered him a free ticket home.

In a sense, the battle between the Defense Department`s deadly fantasies and the State Department`s sober realism was being played out for the destiny of Nicholas Berg. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) -- established by and answerable to Donald Rumsfeld and his merry band -- has determinedly been recruiting U.S. businesses to come to Iraq, even as the State Department has been warning Americans to stay far away.

But U.S. businesses -- save for construction and security companies whose costs are picked up by the U.S. government -- have not been coming, much less investing. To date, PepsiCo is the only U.S.-based company to have made a sizable investment in Iraq. Despite the fact that the CPA has decreed a series of right-wing business panaceas that the Iraqis themselves might balk at (and that Americans have balked at), such as a flat tax on personal and corporate income, U.S. businesses still place a higher premium on security than on the economic brainstorms of Steve Forbes.

Though the Bush administration has failed to persuade its corporate friends to plunge into Iraq, all is not lost. In George W. Bush`s America, there are plenty of low-wage workers desperate for the middle-income wages and health benefits that our construction and security companies are offering in Iraq -- with the cost picked up by U.S. taxpayers. Wal-Mart can afford not to follow PepsiCo into the swirl of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, but workers in the Wal-Mart economy have far less discretion.

A remarkable story in the May 17 Post profiled a number of low-wage, non-union truck drivers, machine operators, cooks and the like who are going to work for Halliburton`s KBR and other such firms in Iraq. In most cases, the workers profiled had the gravest misgivings about going over, but decided in the end to go because their families needed the health insurance or the money to buy a decent house.

This puts a whole new light on what many of us have considered one of America`s gravest problems. At first glance, the fact that one-quarter of the U.S. workforce makes no more than $8.70 an hour (as one recent Russell Sage study concluded), or that 44 million Americans have no health coverage, is proof positive of a dysfunctional political economy.

But it turns out to be plenty functional after all. Who would run the risk of meeting the fate of the four contract security workers in Fallujah if they could make decent wages and cover their families` medical expenses by doing the same job here at home? Wilsonianism abroad -- belligerent but on the cheap -- meets social Darwinism at home: Clearly, this is one instance where Bush`s foreign policy and domestic policy work well together.

And that foreign policy, it becomes clearer every day, was rooted in the dreams of our salesmen. No, not Nicholas Berg`s. The dreams that mattered were those of the administration`s war hawks, from George W. Bush on down: that reconstruction would be easy; that there would be no consequences from our preemptive, unilateral war that we couldn`t handle; and that we could remake Iraq in our flat-tax image even though we didn`t know the territory. Bush and his crew sold this dream to Berg even as, in 2002 and 2003, they sold it to the American people and Congress. It was one part fantasy and one part fraud, and it created a self-defeating occupation from which there`s no easy exit. These salesmen took credit and now deserve blame. As Willy Loman`s widow insists, "Attention must be paid."


© 2004 The Washington Post Company
From AxisofLogic.com

Our man in Baghdad: his gray eminence, John Negroponte
By W. E. Gutman
May 20, 2004, 15:02

Any lingering doubts that the inmates have taken over the asylum were recently dispelled with the nomination by President George W. Bush (and the virtually unopposed confirmation by Congress) of John Negroponte, as Ambassador to Iraq. Mr. Negroponte is now U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

A man with skeletons in his political closet, Negroponte will be charged with the "pacification" and "democratization" of a nation that has never known democracy and which is now at war with itself -- a case of déjB vu for the veteran civil servant.

Described as a career diplomat "devoid of convictions, only unflinching loyalty to the body politic," Negroponte is accused of concealing from Congress human rights abuses in Central America. While ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, Negroponte directed the secret arming of Nicaragua`s "contra` rebels and is charged by human rights groups of overlooking a CIA-funded Honduran death squad -- the infamous Battalion 3-16 -- while at his post.

Although Negroponte has vehemently denied any knowledge of the atrocities, declassified documents and disclosures by former death squad members cast doubt on his sincerity. Former embassy colleagues interviewed by this writer affirmed with manifest cynicism that Negroponte, who professes to be a staunch advocate of human rights, was indeed involved in human rights, "but not quite the way he claimed."

A former U.S. Embassy official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that "dispatches about the human rights situation in Honduras [under Negroponte`s watch] were so sanitized that cadres at the embassy in Tegucigalpa joked that they were written about Norway...."

José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch/Americas, called Negroponte "the ostrich ambassador: He never saw anything wrong. He never heard about any human rights violations. It was like he was living on a different planet."

The hasty expulsion from the U.S. of several former death squad members has also raised question. The men, who had been granted asylum in the U.S. and Canada in exchange for their discretion, were deported to Honduras within days of Negroponte`s nomination to the U.N.

One of them, General Luis Alonzo Discua Elvir, who served as Honduras` deputy ambassador to the U.N. until the State Department revoked his visa in 2001, went public with details of U.S. support for the death squad he co-founded.

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Negroponte was "at the center of a clash over deep disagreements we had about the role the U.S. should play in Central America and, more importantly, the way -- often secretive or, at best, unclear -- in which policy was being conducted."

Kerry added that "new information suggests that the U.S. Embassy in Honduras knew more about human rights violations than was communicated to Congress and the public."

Negroponte, a long-time protégé of Secretary of State Colin Powell, has spent 37 years in the foreign service. He was an envoy in Vietnam and served as ambassador in Mexico and the Philippines.

In 1981, President Reagan sent Negroponte to Honduras, the "banana republic" Washington commandeered as a base for covert military operations against the leftist Sandinistas who controlled neighboring Nicaragua.

On several occasions Jack Binns, Negroponte`s predecessor in Honduras, warned the State Department that violence against political opponents of the puppet Honduran government had been on the rise. He first got the cold-shoulder treatment then was summoned to Washington and reprimanded by Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Enders for reporting human rights abuses through official channels.

"He [Enders] was afraid it would leak and make it more difficult for us to continue our economic and security assistance to the contras," said Binns, now retired. Binn`s stint at ambassador lasted only a year, ending shortly after protesting the violence in Honduras.

At Negroponte`s behest, U.S. military aid to Honduras ballooned from $4 million to $77.4 million. He also helped orchestrate a cabal now known as the "Iran-Contra Affair," during which arms were funneled through Honduras to help the contras overthrown the constitutionally elected Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

Negroponte looked the other way when atrocities were committed in Central America. In light of recent revelations of prisoner abuse at the hands of U.S. military in Iraq, one wonders what kind of message the Bush administration is sending about human rights by posting Negroponte to represent the U.S in Baghdad. Worse, what kind of message does Mr. Bush send about his own moral values?

© Copyright 2004 by AxisofLogic.com

W. E. Gutman is a veteran journalist on assignment in Central America since 1991. He lives in southern California.
Gestern las ich noch etwas anderes.

Funding for Chalabi`s Group Will End
Pentagon had drawn fire from lawmakers over its support of the Iraqi National Congress.
By Mary Curtius
Times Staff Writer

May 19, 2004

WASHINGTON — Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial Iraqi exile once favored by high-ranking Bush administration officials to lead postwar Iraq, is losing his Pentagon funding, a senior U.S. official told a Senate committee Tuesday.

For months, congressional critics have complained about the $340,000 a month the Pentagon has been paying Chalabi and his group, the Iraqi National Congress, money that continued to flow even after U.S. intelligence agencies found that prewar information provided by the INC about then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein`s weapons programs was at times misleading, inflated or even fabricated.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, one of Chalabi`s strongest supporters in the administration, said the Pentagon had decided to stop funding the INC.

Wolfowitz`s explanation was terse. The decision, he said, "was made in light of the process of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people. We felt it was no longer appropriate for us to continue funding in that fashion."

Wolfowitz also praised the INC`s efforts in Iraq.

"There`s been some very valuable intelligence that`s been gathered through that process that`s been very valuable for our forces," he said. "But we will seek to obtain that in the future through normal intelligence channels."

A spokesman for the INC said the payments would probably end June 30, the day the U.S. is scheduled to hand over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.

It was unclear whether the cutoff marked a final break between Chalabi — who for years was one of the most effective Iraqi exiles in lobbying for help to overthrow Hussein`s regime — and the Bush administration.

So-called neoconservatives, who have been among Chalabi`s strongest supporters in Washington, expressed anger Tuesday.

"I think that the Iraqi National Congress and Ahmad Chalabi in particular are the best hope for Iraq, so of course I think it is a mistake," said former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle.

The Pentagon`s money was "funding an intelligence operation which I am reliably informed saved American lives," Perle said. "If it isn`t reconstituted in some other form, it is possible that lives will be lost because we`ll be deprived of that intelligence."

But Chalabi also had harsh opponents, both in the U.S. and in the Arab world. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), one of Chalabi`s most consistent critics, welcomed the Pentagon`s decision.

"Too many of the members of the administration banked too much on Chalabi," Biden said in an interview. "That is part of the reason why we lacked legitimacy in Iraq in the first place."

A spokesman for the INC in Washington said Tuesday that the group had expected the cutoff.

"It was natural" that the Pentagon`s financial support for the INC would end June 30, said Entifadh Qanbar, the spokesman. It would be improper, he said, for the U.S. to continue funding Iraqi political parties in a newly sovereign nation.

The INC, he said, has other sources of funding that will make it possible for the group to continue its political activities in Iraq, and the loss will not affect the group`s relationship with the U.S.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Mentally Ill Killer Is Put to Death in Texas
Gov. Perry disregards a prison board`s recommendation that the schizophrenic man`s sentence be commuted to life in prison.
By Scott Gold
Times Staff Writer

May 19, 2004

HOUSTON — Texas prison officials executed a killer Tuesday who was a diagnosed schizophrenic and once claimed that a plate of beans had spoken to him.

Kelsey Patterson, 50, was killed by lethal injection. His execution brought to an end a case that had ignited debate over condemning the mentally ill to die.

Patterson was convicted in the 1992 slaying of a businessman and the man`s secretary in his hometown of Palestine, Texas. After the shootings, Patterson went home, took off all his clothes except his socks and stood in the middle of the street until the police came. Investigators never determined a motive.

Delusional and paranoid, Patterson believed until the end that he had been granted amnesty from execution, said his attorney, J. Gary Hart. As a result, Patterson refused to fill out forms that are associated with executions here, which meant he did not request a final meal. Guards made sandwiches and cookies available to him.

Relatives of both victims, 63-year-old Louis Oates and 41-year-old Dorothy Harris, watched as prison officials asked Patterson whether he wanted to make a last statement. Patterson replied: "Statement to what?" He then launched into a rambling defense of sorts, including: "My truth will always be my truth. There is no kin and no friend, no fear [of] what you do to me, no kin to you, undertaker."

The U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed executing the mentally retarded, calling such an act cruel and unusual punishment. No similar protections are offered to the mentally ill, and civil rights advocates and death penalty opponents seized on the Patterson case in recent months to illustrate what they perceive as a disparity. They have argued, for instance, that professional mental health experts, not judges, should determine a suspect`s competency to stand trial.

On Monday, that campaign gained traction when the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 5-1 that Patterson`s sentence should be commuted to a life prison term. The vote, a recommendation to Gov. Rick Perry, was seen as extraordinary in a state that executes more people each year than any other.

Commission members were swayed by a petition written by Hart, who has fought to spare Patterson`s life for more than seven years — though Patterson has never cooperated or participated in his defense. The petition argued that because of Patterson`s severe mental deficiencies, an execution would not "serve either the retributive or deterrence goals of capital punishment."

Less than an hour before Patterson was scheduled to die, however, Perry announced that he was rejecting the board`s advice. The U.S. Supreme Court also declined to intervene.

"Death penalty decisions are never easy, and this one is particularly difficult," Perry said. "This defendant is a very violent individual. Texas has no life without parole sentencing option, and no one can guarantee this defendant would never be freed to commit other crimes were his sentence commuted."

Hart called the decision shortsighted. Considering that both the mental health and criminal justice systems had failed to protect Patterson or prevent him from harming others, the case was tailor-made for executive clemency, he said.

For example, Hart said, Perry argued that courts "have reviewed this case no fewer than 10 times," but judges have questioned Patterson`s competency repeatedly during those proceedings. Patterson told authorities that someone else controls his movements by remote control. He had a history of irrational, angry behavior, had been hospitalized on antipsychotic medication and had been ruled incompetent to stand trial on two assaults before the fatal shootings.

"The governor either ignored or misunderstood the purpose of executive clemency," Hart said. "It is not to ratify what courts have done. The system was unable to handle Kelsey Patterson and his mental illness. I would be the last person to say that any kind of mental illness should excuse someone from the death penalty. But when someone is profoundly disturbed … my God."

Anderson County, Texas, Dist. Atty. Doug Lowe, whose office won the original conviction in the case, said the governor`s decision was correct.

"I`m not making a moral judgment," he said. "All I`m saying is that there were 12 citizens in this case who felt that the just punishment was the death penalty. Their judgment should be realized."

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
In God, and the GOP, They Trust
A belief in free will puts frequent churchgoers in the Republican fold.
By David Klinghoffer

May 19, 2004

If the last presidential election was any indication, the outcome of November`s contest will be decided in large part by voters` religious commitments. The more often you attend church, the more likely you are to vote Republican. What polling data don`t tell us is why the religiously observant vote as they do.

The statistical trend is striking. In 2000, Voter News Service reported that the 14% of voters who attended religious services more than once a week voted for George W. Bush over Al Gore by 63% to 36%. Meanwhile, the 14% who never went to services supported Gore over Bush by an equally commanding margin, 61% to 32%.

What is it about the policy positions and cultural attitudes described as Republican or conservative that makes them so attractive to religious voters? What principle links, say, a passionate defense of gun ownership and a strong preference for low taxes? The link can be summarized in three words: individual moral responsibility.

For more than a century, our culture has been divided on the question of whether individual moral actors may justly be held responsible for their deeds. Marx and Freud rocked the 19th century faith in moral responsibility and freedom of will, arguing that human beings are unknowingly in the grip of, respectively, powerful economic and psychosexual forces. Later analysts would discover other latent structures in society that supposedly determine our moral choices.

Today, the ideological struggles of liberals and conservatives mirror the clash initiated by Marxists and Freudians with 19th century individualism. Conservatives encourage individuals to make their own choices, except where those choices invariably harm the innocent (as in abortion) or undermine the pillars of civilization itself (as in gay marriage). Liberals see the function of government as parental, with citizens in the role of children too unaware and irresponsible to cross the street by themselves.

Consider the following admittedly broad generalizations:

The gun control debate pits conservatives, who are content to place moral responsibility on the gun owner, against liberals, who think that that responsibility can safely be placed on only the state.

Liberals tar conservatives for their apparent stinginess on government social spending, but conservatives respond that society should depend more on individuals to support the needy. Heavy taxes are a sign that society has relieved the individual of that responsibility.

Affirmative action bothers conservatives, who think even a person from a historically oppressed race is free to rise above the suffering of his ancestors. Liberals doubt that transcending the structure of institutionalized racism is always possible.

The Iraq war troubles liberals, who think that only the collectivity — in this case, the international community in the form of the United Nations — should take responsibility for making war. Conservatives argue that the individual moral actor, or a single country when it comes to war, can make that decision for itself.

Conservatives dislike the myriad safety regulations — for example, anti-smoking laws and lawsuits — promulgated by liberals. The question is whether a person is responsible for his own health, or whether the collectivity, the state, needs to step in and assume responsibility.

On education, conservatives accept the judgments of individual parents as to children`s best interests; hence the enthusiasm for school choice and home schooling. Liberals feel better when society — the state, the teachers unions — takes the responsibility to educate children on itself.

And so on. Generally speaking, liberalism distrusts the individual, while conservatism trusts him enough to give him a chance to make the right, or the wrong, decision. If he makes the wrong one, he will have to answer to his own conscience, or to his God.

Looked at this way, it becomes apparent why religious Americans gravitate to conservatism. By far the majority of them are Christians and their biblical religion is premised on the idea of individual moral responsibility. Traditionally, religious faith presumes that God commands us to act in certain ways — which in turn presumes moral freedom. Otherwise, how could God hold us responsible if we refuse to obey?

Not all Democrats fully accept the strictly "liberal" view, of course, but they belong to a party that, of the two main parties in American political life, is the one identified with the belief that moral choices are profoundly conditioned by circumstance and therefore aren`t truly free. It may be too much to suggest that God himself is a Republican. Then again, it may not.

David Klinghoffer is a columnist for the Jewish Forward. His most recent book is "The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism" (Doubleday, 2003).
SPIEGEL ONLINE - 19. Mai 2004, 11:56
URL: http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/gesellschaft/0,1518,299817,00.h…

Medienchaos im Irak

Pixel statt Patronen

Von Hans Michael Kloth

Seit Saddams Sturz rauscht auch im Irak ein freier Blätterwald, doch seriöser Journalismus hat es schwer. Unprofessionalität und Propaganda beherrschen die Medien, wer auf Unabhängigkeit und Qualität setzt, bekommt schnell Probleme. Die Amerikaner versuchen, den selbst entfachten Bildersturm unter Kontrolle zu bringen.

Am 29. März stürmten schwer bewaffnete GIs die Räume der Wochenzeitung "al-Haussa" in Bagdad. Sie schickten die Redakteure nach Hause und verriegelten die Eingangstür mit Ketten. Das Blatt stachele zu Hass und Gewalt auf und bedrohe die Sicherheit des Irak, begründete US-Zivilverwalter Paul Bremer die Zwangsmaßnahme. Wenige Tage nach dem Verbot seines Sprachrohrs rief der radikale Schiitenprediger Muktada al-Sadr zum Aufstand auf: "Wir werden von den Besatzern und Imperialisten angegriffen", donnerte der Fanatiker beim Freitagsgebet: "Schlagt zurück!"

Fast zwei Monate später haben die US-Truppen al-Sadrs Revolte noch immer nicht voll unter Kontrolle, und die Folgen des "al-Haussa"-Verbots hängen wie ein Menetekel über der zarten Pflanze Pressefreiheit im Irak. Unübersehbar haben sich die Amerikaner in der Medienpolitik, dem Schlüsselstein ihrer Demokratisierungskampagne für den Irak, in ein tiefes Dilemma manövriert "Worte fördern Gewalt", analysiert Monroe E. Price, Direktor des Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research in London, das die Medienentwicklung im Irak beobachtet, "aber ihre Unterdrückung kann genau so Gewalt hervorrufen."

"Freedom of Speech", die Freiheit des Wortes, steht auf der Liste der amerikanischen Werte ganz weit oben, und so vergab Washingtons Statthalter Bremer nach Saddams Sturz gleich haufenweise Lizenzen; mittlerweile erscheinen im Irak weit über einhundert Zeitungen. Doch längst hat der Fluch der gut gemeinten Tat die Amerikaner eingeholt, denn einfach nur Meinungsfreiheit macht noch lange keine freiheitliche Presse.

Recherche am Radio

So gibt es kaum erfahrene Redakteure im Irak, nur Anfänger oder alt gediente Journalisten aus den gleichgeschalteten Medien der Saddam-Diktatur. "Die Grundidee von Berichterstattung - das unabhängige Sammeln von Informationen - ist den meisten irakischen Journalisten fremd", sagt Hiwa Osman, der früher bei der BBC war und nun für das renommierte Londoner "Institute of War and Peace Reporting" im Irak Journalisten ausbildet. "Die Hauptschwierigkeit ist, den Kursteilnehmern zu vermitteln, dass es weder auf sie noch auf ihre Meinung ankommt."

Freimütig habe ihm ein irakischer Journalist erklärt, berichtet Osman, wie er seine Artikeln recherchiere: Den ganzen Tag Radio hören und einfach aufschreiben, was ihm zu diesem oder jenem Thema so einfalle. Obrigkeitsfixierung, Nepotismus und die Omnipräsenz der Altkader tun ein Übriges. Die Radio-Journalistin Miriam al-Attija etwa wurde für immer von der Berichterstattung über Regierungsangelegenheiten ausgeschlossen, nachdem sie ein Mitglied des Regierungsrates der Lüge in einer Pressekonferenz bezichtigt hatte. Später wurde ihr von ihrem Arbeitgeber Radio Sawa gekündigt - den Job erhielt der Bruder des Pressesprechers des Regierungsrates.

Gerüchte, Erfindungen, Meinungen werden auf diese Weise im Irak zu harten Nachrichten. Ohne Beleg, gleichwohl als Tatsache vermeldete etwa eine Gazette kürzlich, der israelische Ministerpräsident Ariel Sharon habe sich heimlich eine Woche lang in Bagdad aufgehalten. Eine andere Zeitung glänzte mit der vollkommen hanebüchenen Behauptung, mehr als die Hälfte der Mitglieder des irakischen Regierungsrates seien gar keine Iraker.

Übermacht der Demagogen

Nur eine Handvoll versucht sich in seriösem Journalismus: neben den nach wie vor in London ansässigen "al-Saman" und "al-Sharq al Awsat" noch die liberale "al-Nahda" und die linke "al-Mada". Letzere war es, die im Januar einen echten Scoop landete, als sie ein Liste mit 260 Namen aus 46 Ländern veröffentlichte, die von Saddam mit Gratis-Gutscheinen für irakisches Öl beschenkt worden waren - darunter der frühere französische Innenminster Charles Pasqua.

Aber wie Hassprediger al-Sadr seine Postille benutzt, um die schiitischen Iraker mit absurden oder verzerrten Gräuelgeschichten über angebliche Untaten der Besatzer in Wallung zu bringen, so betrachten auch andere mehr oder minder extreme Gruppierungen Zeitungen vor allem als nützliche Kampfinstrumente, nicht als unabhängige Nachrichtenquellen. Dabei eint die unterschiedlichen, oft verfeindeten Strömungen inzwischen der militante Anti-Amerikanismus.

Die Amerikaner haben es indes versäumt, rechtzeitig Maßstäbe zu setzen, um wenigstens den schlimmsten Ungeist in der Flasche zu halten. Erst vor drei Wochen berief Bremer eine "Irakische Medien- und Kommunikationskommission" (ICMC) unter Sijamend Zaid Othman, einem Exiliraker und frühen Vizepräsidenten der Presseagentur UPI. Als Keimzelle einer künftigen Regulierungsbehörde soll die Kommission ein Mediengesetz erarbeiten, das professionelle und ethische Standards festschreibt. Bis es allerdings so weit ist, müssen die Amerikaner weiter damit leben, dass ihnen "Zensur" entgegen schallt, wo sie gegen einen "Missbrauch der Pressefreiheit" vorgehen. Und wie verheerend der Eindruck sein kann, mit zweierlei Maß zu messen, bekommen die USA derzeit in der Folteraffäre zu spüren.

Da hilft es wenig, wenn sich die Übergangsadministration auch noch ungeschickt anstellt. Dass Bremer "al-Haussa" per Dekret dichtmachte, betrachten viele Experten als Fehler. "Die Schließung war eine Aufgabe der Iraker", sagt etwa IWPR-Berater Osman. Das Dekret sei "ein stumpfes, grobes Instrument", glaubt auch Stanhope-Direktor Price, weil es etwa keine Möglichkeit für eine unabhängige Überprüfung von Maßnahmen vorsehe. Ironischerweise unterzeichnete Bremer wenige Tage vor dem Verbotsbeschluss die Gründungsurkunde der ICMC, die ein geordnetes Verfahren mit Widerspruchsmöglichkeit vorsieht.

"Wir werden abgewürgt"

Inzwischen machen die ersten pro-amerikanischen Blätter dicht: "Iraq Today", eine solide englischsprachige Wochenzeitung, die ganz auf Linie des Pentagon lag, musste ihr Erscheinen zumindest zeitweise einstellen, angeblich aus "finanziellen Gründen", so Herausgeber Hussein Sinjari, ein Kurde. Der in den USA ausgebildete Chefredakteur Hassan Fattah setzte sich nach Drohungen lieber in die Türkei ab. "Im Irak die Wahrheit zu sagen, ist die härteste Aufgabe überhaupt", schrieb Fattah Anfang des Jahres.

So stößt Statthalter Bremer mit seiner Medienpolitik mittlerweile selbst bei der loyalen Presse auf heftige Gegenwehr. "Wir dachten, die Amerikaner seien hier, um eine freie Presse zu schaffen", klagt etwa Ismael Zayer, Chefredakteur der auflagenstärksten, von den USA mit 1,5 Millionen Dollar im Jahr finanzierten Zeitung "al-Sabaah" ("Der Morgen"). "Stattdessen werden wir abgewürgt." Zayer, der 1980 vor Saddam nach Deutschland flüchtete und anschließend als Korrespondent für das Londoner Blatt "al-Hayat" arbeitete, hat in seiner kurzen Amtszeit bei "al-Sabaah" bereits zwei Attentatsversuche militanter US-Gegner überlebt. Vor der Redaktion wurden bisher nicht weniger als fünf Mal Bomben gefunden und entschärft.

Doch nun hat sich Zayer auch mit den Amerikanern überworfen, denn die goutierten sein Streben nach Unabhängigkeit von der Übergangsverwaltung nicht: Demonstrativ quittierten er und zahlreiche "al-Sabaah"-Redakteure Anfang Mai den Dienst und kündigten die Gründung einer eigenen Zeitung namens "al-Sabaah al-Jadid" ("Der neue Morgen") an. Die Journalisten wollen nicht, dass ihr Blatt dem "Irak Media Network" (IMN) einverleibt wird, in dem Bremers Medien-Manager David Sedgley den alten staatlichen TV-Sender "al-Iraqija", zwei Radiostationen und eben "al-Sabaah" angeblich zu einem öffentlich-rechtlichen Medienverbund nach BBC-Vorbild, zunächst aber wohl zu einem schlagkräftigen Propaganda-Apparat für die USA vereinen soll.

Ein Beauftragter der US-Zivilverwaltung würde dann laut Dekret Nummer 66 formal zum Chefredakteur bestellt - als Aufseher wurde bereits eine kuweitische Medienfirma als Subunternehmer des Telekommunikationskonzerns Harris Corporation auserkoren. Die Firma aus Florida, die rund 70 Prozent ihres Geldes mit Regierungsgeschäften machen soll, hat vom Pentagon den 165-Millionen-Dollar-Auftrag zum Aufbau des IMN ergattert. Sedgley, im Hauptberuf Harris-Manager, tut Zayers Kritik als "Beschwerden eines unzufriedenen Mitarbeiters" und die Rebellion als Sturm im Wasserglas ab. Dabei hatte er den Journalisten noch Mitte April als "sehr starke Persönlichkeit" gelobt, der eine "glaubwürdige Zeitung geschaffen" habe.

Digicam statt Sturmgewehr

Ausstrahlung eines Bin Laden-Videos auf "al-Dschasira": Unfaire Berichterstattung?
Das Hauptproblem für die Amerikaner ist ohnehin das Fernsehen, denn bei einer Analphabetenrate im Irak von über 40 Prozent zählen im Krieg um Herzen und Köpfe Bilder, nicht Worte. Zutiefst frustriert die Amerikaner, dass Aufnahmen von um sich feuernden, jetzt sogar von folternden GIs die Wahrnehmung der Iraker dominieren. "Alles, was die Leute zu sehen bekommen, ist, wie das Minarett von amerikanischem Feuer getroffen wird und einstürzt", zitierte die "New York Times" die Klage eines hohen US-Offiziers: "Die Bilder, wie Kämpfer von Moscheen und Minaretten aus auf uns schießen, sehen sie nicht." US-Kommandeure haben ihren Soldaten darum jetzt befohlen, in vorderster Front neben dem Sturmgewehr auch ihre privaten Digitalkameras einzusetzen - Pixel sind im Irak durchschlagskräftiger als Patronen.

Den enormen Einfluss der beiden großen arabischen Satellitenstationen "al-Dschasira" und "al-Arabija", die sie der unfairen Berichterstattung beschuldigen, wollen die Amerikaner mit zwei eigenen TV-Sendern brechen. Zum Sendestart von "al-Hurra" ("Der Freie"), einem flott gemachten Satellitenprogramm, gab es am 14. Februar gleich ein Interview mit Präsident George W. Bush höchstselbst; um auch terrestrisch senden zu können, hat der US-Kongress jüngst noch einmal 40 Millionen auf das Startbudget von 60 Millionen Dollar draufgepackt

Das IMN hat derweil Saddams alten Staatssender "al-Iraqija" unter seine Fittiche genommen und geht den entgegengesetzten Weg: Das bisher nur konventionell über Antenne zu empfangende Programm soll bald auch über Satellitenschüsseln zu sehen sein, die sich im Irak explosionsartig verbreiten. Das Programm wird langsam weniger langweilig, aber "al-Iraqija" hat ein doppeltes Problem: Der Sender werde "geführt von Profis, die keine Ahnung vom Irak haben", so Experte Hiwa Osman, "und gemacht von Irakern, die keine Ahnung haben vom Journalismus". Er sei letztlich "ein Schaufenster der US-Zivilverwaltung, besetzt mit Baath-Parteigängern", einstigen Anhängern Saddams.

Zweifelhafte Interpretation

Laut einer Umfrage im Auftrag des US-Außenministeriums greifen zwar mittlerweile 40 Prozent der Iraker zuerst auf den offiziösen Sender als Informationsquelle zurück, deutlich mehr als auf "al-Arabija" (29 Prozent) beziehungsweise "al-Dschasira". (11 Prozent). Dass sein Sender "relevanter, akkurater und bedeutender als unsere Wettbewerber" sei, wie Bremers Medienberater Dorrance Smith aus der Umfrage herausliest, belächeln andere Beobachter als Wunschdenken. Die Zuschauer würden "al-Iraqija" - dem Paul Bremer wöchentliche Interviews gibt, ohne harte Fragen fürchten zu müssen - nur als direkte Quelle für Wissen über Denken und Handeln der Zivilverwaltung konsumieren, glaubt Hiwa Osman, nicht weil sie das Programm toll fänden. "Es läuft absolut nicht gut", so Osmans Urteil: "Das IMN verliert bei der irakischen Öffentlichkeit an Boden."

Auch von liberalen arabischen Kommentatoren bekommt das IMN keine gute Noten. Ein "schlechtes Modell" und eine "verfaulte Struktur", nannte der Chef der Londoner Organisation Arab Press Freedom Watch das IMN in der offiziösen ägyptischen Zeitung "al-Ahram". Die Entwicklung von "al-Iraqija" wie auch "al-Sabaah" seien "Beispiele für das Versagen der Medienpolitik der Übergangsregierung".

More than half of the American public believes it was not worth going to war in Iraq.
All in all, do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq, or not?

May 19, 2004
Despite Decline in Overall Ratings, Bush Retains Strong Republican Support
But Bush has only a 14% approval rating among Democrats at this point

George W. Bush`s Job Approval Ratings
by Partisanship
Selected Trend 2001-2004
Americans no longer agree on what is moral truth
Patrick J. Buchanan, Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle
URL: sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/05/19/EDGD56NFRQ1.DTL

"SO, HOW do we advance the cause of female emancipation in the Muslim world?" asks Richard Perle in "An End to Evil." He replies, "We need to remind the women of Islam ceaselessly: Our enemies are the same as theirs; our victory will be theirs as well."

Well, the neoconservative cause "of female emancipation in the Muslim world" was probably set back a bit by the photo shoot of Pfc. Lynndie England and the "Girls Gone Wild" of Abu Ghraib prison.

Indeed, the filmed orgies among U.S. military police outside the cells of Iraqi prisoners, the S&M humiliation of Muslim men, the sexual torment of their women raise a question. Exactly what are the "values" the West has to teach the Islamic world?

"This war . . . is about -- deeply about -- sex," declaims neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer. Militant Islam is "threatened by the West because of our twin doctrines of equality and sexual liberation."

But whose "twin doctrines" is Krauthammer talking about? The sexual liberation he calls our doctrine belongs to a `60s revolution that devout Christians, Jews and Muslims have been resisting for years.

What does Krauthammer mean by sexual liberation? The right of "tweeners" and teenage girls to dress and behave like Britney Spears? Their right to condoms in junior high? Their right to abortion without parental consent?

If conservatives reject the "equality" preached by Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, NARAL and the National Organization for Women, why seek to impose it on the Islamic world? Why not stand beside Islam, and against Hollywood and Hillary?

In June 2002 at West Point, President Bush said, "Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time and in every place."

But even the Democratic Party`s presumptive presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry, does not agree with President Bush on the morality of homosexual unions and stem-cell research. On such issues, conservative Americans have more in common with devout Muslims than with liberal Democrats.

The president notwithstanding, Americans no longer agree on what is moral truth. For as someone said a few years back, there is a cultural war going on in this country, a religious war. It is about who we are, what we believe and what we stand for as a people.

What some of us view as the moral descent of a great and godly republic into imperial decadence, neocons see as their big chance to rule the world.

In Georgia recently, the president declared to great applause: "I can`t tell you how proud I am of our commitment to values. . . . That commitment to values is going to be an integral part of our foreign policy as we move forward. These aren`t American values, these are universal values. Values that speak universal truths."

But what universal values is he talking about? If he intends to impose the values of MTV America on the Muslim world in the name of a "world democratic revolution," he will provoke and incite a war of civilizations America cannot win because Americans do not want to fight it. This may be the neocons` war. It is not our war.

When Bush speaks of freedom as God`s gift to humanity, does he mean the First Amendment freedom of Larry Flynt to produce pornography and of Salman Rushdie to publish "The Satanic Verses," a book considered blasphemous to the Islamic faith? If the Islamic world rejects this notion of freedom, why is it our duty to change their thinking? Why are they wrong?

When the president speaks of freedom, does he mean the First Amendment prohibition against our children reading the Bible and being taught the Ten Commandments in public school?

If the president wishes to fight a moral crusade, he should know the enemy is inside the gates. The great moral and cultural threats to our civilization come not from outside America, but from within. We have met the enemy, and he is us. The war for the soul of America is not going to be lost or won in Fallujah.

Unfortunately, Pagan America of 2004 has far less to offer the world in cultural fare than did Christian America of 1954. Many of the movies, books, magazines, TV shows, videos and much of the music we export to the world are as poisonous as the narcotics the Royal Navy forced on the Chinese people in the Opium Wars.

A society that accepts the killing of a third of its babies as women`s "emancipation," that considers homosexual marriage to be social progress, that hands out contraceptives to 13-year-old girls at junior high school ought to be seeking out a confessional -- better yet, an exorcist -- rather than striding into a pulpit like Elmer Gantry to lecture mankind on the superiority of "American values."

©2004 San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
War News for May 18, 2004

Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed in action in al-Anbar province.

Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed in fighting in central Karbala.

What you don’t read in the US media. “Since late April, the Iraqi press has reported at least a dozen attempts to kill Iraqis working -- or suspected of working -- with the Americans. On April 28 in Baghdad, a mob hanged three men, each accused of working "as a spy for the enemies of Islam," according to a message left at their feet. The next day, gunmen shot an employee of Baghdad`s Sadr City district town hall at his home. The assailants left a letter in his pocket warning against holding a funeral. On May 8, gunmen in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad, killed the head of the town council as he drove on a main street. Farther south in Samawah the next day, gunmen ran the car of the deputy mayor off the road and shot him and three passengers.”

Trained, highly skilled contractors. “He had no military experience in interrogation. As a junior Navy intelligence specialist, a petty officer third class, he did all of his work in an office, reading and analyzing intelligence reports, the Navy said. But just three months later, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba began his investigation of prisoner abuses and found that Mr. Stefanowicz was directing some of the military police officers linked to abuses. He was, therefore, "directly or indirectly responsible" for the abuses, the general wrote.”

More desperate measures. “Iraq`s government is scrambling to find members for an elite security team to protect top officials, but time is so short and quality candidates so scarce that former Baathist bodyguards and special forces are being recruited.”

Another soldier reports detainee abuse. “Sgt Provance claimed that dozens of soldiers were involved in mistreating Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib, despite claims by top Bush administration officials that it was perpetrated by a group of rogue soldiers.”

Iranian Shi’ites protest US battles near Najaf. “Tens of thousands of Iranians took part in a state-sponsored rally on Wednesday to demand U.S.-led forces leave Iraq. Shi`ite Muslim Iran has voiced growing opposition to the occupation of its western neighbour in recent days with senior government and religious figures incensed by the presence of U.S. military forces in the holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala.”

US soldier pleads guilty to abuse charges in Baghdad.

Wolfowitz of Arabia. Clueless, as usual. “In Washington, deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz was unable to say how long the United States will keep a large military force in Iraq. ‘We don`t know what it will be,’ he told the Senate foreign relations committee yesterday. ‘We`ve had changes, as you know, month by month. We`ve had several different plans.’”

Chalabi loses US taxpayer subsidies. “The Iraqi National Congress was informed last Friday that the $335,000 monthly payment it`s received from the Defense Intelligence Agency would stop in June, they said. The payments were first reported by Knight Ridder on Feb. 21. The funding cutoff represents a major setback to administration hard-liners, who had hoped to position INC leader Ahmad Chalabi to head a democratic Iraqi government that would sign a peace treaty with Israel, allow the United States to build permanent military bases in Iraq, and serve as a model for the rest of the Middle East.”


Opinion: A few weeks ago, Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, said, ‘I think no one can properly assert that the failure to find Iraqi WMD stockpiles undermines the reasons for the war.’ Really? Well then let me assert it improperly. You told us that it was why we had to go to war, and you can`t just stand there and lie about it now. This is like trying to debate the Red Queen. Sometimes it`s more a matter of the neocons not being able to get their act together. Paul Wolfowitz, my fave, said the other day, ‘No one ever expected this would be a cakewalk.’ Actually, those were the very words rather famously used by his neocon buddy Ken Adelman, who predicted the war would be a cakewalk. But nothing tops Wolfowitz`s classic declaration, ‘There is no history of ethnic strife in Iraq.’”

Casualty Reports

Local story: Oregon Marine killed in Iraq.

Local story: Kentucky soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Two Pennsylvania Guardsmen killed in Iraq.

Local story: North Carolina soldier killed in Iraq.

Monkey Mail!

To yankeedoodle@gmail.com
From xxxxxx@hotmail.com

Subject: Wow! Your blog.

Any respect I could have had for you is washed away by your "Stink Tanks" and "Fruit Baskets" link sections.

Obviously someone can`t see that organizations like the Heritage Foundation promote free markets and limited governments. This you call a "Stink Tank". Some "intellect" you`ve got there.

86-43-04. Pass it on.

# posted by yankeedoodle : 4:35 AM
Comments (11)

Military Fatalities: US: 792 Total: 902

Mai 2005: 55


05/19/04 zanesvilletimesrecorder: Soldier with Zanesville unit killed
Sgt. James W. Harlan, 44, Owensboro, Ky., died at Camp Anaconda, Iraq, when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb next to his vehicle.
One Soldier was killed by small arms fire while on patrol near Muqdadiyah around 4:30 p.m. The attacker fired on the patrol from a cemetery. The second Soldier died after an electrical accident around 6 p.m. at a Coalition base near Bayji.
05/19/04 keynoter: Bomb injures Keys man
Cpl. Darick Pennell, 25, of Key Largo was seriously injured Saturday when a bomb exploded near the Bradley fighting vehicle he was riding.
A British civilian worker has been killed in Iraq, the Foreign Office has said.
05/19/04 AP: Iraqi suicide bomb kills Owensboro reservist
Staff Sgt. James William Harlan, 44, a reservist with the 660th Transportation Company in Cadiz, Ohio, died yesterday, said his brother, Kenny Harlan of Owensboro. News of his death stunned his family.
05/19/04 wkyt: Kentucky Reservist Injured In Iraq Returns Home
Navy Seabee Reservist Gregory Risner was hurt in two seperate bombings between the end of April and beginning of this month.
05/19/04 Reuters: Four Iraqis Killed in Clashes with U.S. Near Shrine
U.S. troops and followers of rebel Shi`ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr clashed near one of Shi`ite Islam`s holiest sites early on Wednesday and four Iraqis were killed and nine wounded, witnesses said.
05/18/04 CJTF: Marine Dies in Al Anbar Province
Marine assigned to I Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in action May 18 in the Al Anbar Province while conducting security and stability operations
05/18/04 DOD: Casualty Identified
Sgt. James W. Harlan, 44, of Owensboro, Ky., died May 14 at Camp Anaconda, Iraq, when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb next to his vehicle
05/18/04 DOD: Casualty Identified
Pfc. Brian K. Cutter, 19, of Riverside, Calif., was found unconscious on May 13, and was later pronounced dead in Al Asad, Iraq.
05/18/04 PalmBeachPost: Injured Seabee from Loxahatchee returns from Iraq
Petty Officer 2nd Class James Nappier, 45, was wounded by mortar fire in the yard of the Marine base at Ramadi, west of Baghdad May 2. The attack killed five sailors and wounded 28.
05/18/04 AP: Suicide suspected in Iraq death of N.C. airman
An airman from Tennessee and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina who died of non-hostile injuries in Iraq is believed to have committed suicide, the Defense Department said.
05/18/04 StarsandStripes: 1st ID soldiers capture suspects in mortar attacks
The attack occurred about 5:20 p.m. and injured 10 people, including seven soldiers and three non-American civilian workers, said Maj. Richard Spiegel, spokesman for the 13th Corps Support Command, based at Anaconda.
05/18/04 AP: Relatives say 20-year-old soldier killed in Iraq
Pfc. Mark Kasecky, of Stowe Township, a National Guardsman, was apparently on patrol when a bomb blew up his Humvee, according to his mother, Emily Arnold, who said she learned of his death from a chaplain and Army sergeant.
05/18/04 PlainDealer: Soldier`s family spurs fix by Army
The U.S. Army is operating under new procedures for communicating with the families of wounded soldiers following a mishandled situation involving a Geauga County staff sergeant killed in Iraq, military officials said.
05/18/04 10nbc: Rochester Soldier injured in Iraq
Roberto Santiago was wounded by a rocket propelled grenade May 13th near Karbala. Santiago suffered wounds in the face, left arm and leg, and back.
05/18/04 MarineCorpsNews: Soldier Awarded 2nd Purple Heart
Pfc. Quinton D. Graves, a 19-year-old from Salt Lake City assigned to Company G, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, is the first Marine in the 1st Marine Division to be awarded the Purple Heart twice during this deployment to Iraq
05/18/04 AP: Mortar shells hit houses in Baghdad
... two mortar shells fell on houses in Baghdad near a compound formerly used by the Iraqi security service. Three civilians were injured in that attack.
05/18/04 whotv: U-S military reports deadly shooting attack
The U-S military says gunmen have fired on a convoy of civilian cars in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
05/18/04 Paragoulddailypress: Injured soldier needs help
The family of a local soldier who was recently injured in combat in Iraq is seeking donations to a fund the family has set up...
Army, CIA want torture truths exposed

By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Published 5/18/2004 7:16 AM

WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) -- Efforts at the top level of the Bush administration and the civilian echelon of the Department of Defense to contain the Iraq prison torture scandal and limit the blame to a handful of enlisted soldiers and immediate senior officers have already failed: The scandal continues to metastasize by the day.

Over the past weekend and into this week, devastating new allegations have emerged putting Stephen Cambone, the first Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, firmly in the crosshairs and bringing a new wave of allegations cascading down on the head of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when he scarcely had time to catch his breath from the previous ones.

Even worse for Rumsfeld and his coterie of neo-conservative true believers who have run the Pentagon for the past 3½ years, three major institutions in the Washington power structure have decided that after almost a full presidential term of being treated with contempt and abuse by them, it`s payback time.

Those three institutions are: The United States Army, the Central Intelligence Agency and the old, relatively moderate but highly experienced Republican leadership in the United States Senate.

None of those groups is chopped liver: Taken together they comprise a devastating Grand Slam.

The spearhead for the new wave of revelations and allegations - but by no means the only source of them - is veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. In a major article published in the New Yorker this week and posted on to its Web-site Saturday, Hersh revealed that a high-level Pentagon operation code-named Copper Green "encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation" of Iraqi prisoners. He also cited Pentagon sources and consultants as saying that photographing the victims of such abuse was an explicit part of the program meant to force the victims into becoming blackmailed reliable informants.

Hersh further claimed in his article that Rumsfeld himself approved the program and that one of his four or five top aides, Cambone, set it up in Baghdad and ran it.

These allegations of course are anathema to the White House, Rumsfeld and their media allies. In a highly unusual step for any newspaper, the editorially neo-conservative tabloid New York Post ran an editorial Monday seeking to ridicule and discredit Hersh. However, it presented absolutely no evidence to query, let alone discredit the substance of his article and allegations.

Instead, the New York Post editorial inadvertently pointed out one, but by no means all, of the major sources for Hersh`s information. The editorial alleged that Hersh had received much of his material from the CIA.

Based on the material Hersh quoted, his legendary intelligence community contacts were probably sources for some of his information. However, Hersh has also enjoyed close personal relations with many now high-ranking officers in the United States Army, going all the way back to his prize-winning coverage and scoops in Vietnam more than 30 years ago.

Indeed, intelligence and regular Army sources have told UPI that senior officers and officials in both communities are sickened and outraged by the revelations of mass torture and abuse, and also by the incompetence involved, in the Abu Ghraib prison revelations. These sources also said that officials all the way up to the highest level in both the Army and the Agency are determined not to be scapegoated, or allow very junior soldiers or officials to take the full blame for the excesses.

President George W. Bush in his weekly radio address Saturday claimed that the Abu Ghraib abuses were only "the actions of a few" and that they did not "reflect the true character of the Untied States armed forces."

But what enrages many serving senior Army generals and U.S. top-level intelligence community professionals is that the "few" in this case were not primarily the serving soldiers who were actually encouraged to carry out the abuses and even then take photos of the victims, but that they were encouraged to do so, with the Army`s well-established safeguards against such abuses deliberately removed by high-level Pentagon civilian officials.

Abuse and even torture of prisoners happens in almost every war on every side. But well-run professional armies, and the U.S. Army has always been one, take great pains to guard against it and limit it as much as possible. Even in cases where torture excesses are regarded as essential to extract tactical information and save lives, commanders in most modern armies have taken care to limit such "dirty work" to very small units, usually from special forces, and to keep it as secret as possible.

For senior Army professionals know that allowing patterns of abuse and torture to metastasize in any army is annihilating to its morale and tactical effectiveness. Torturers usually make lousy combat soldiers, which is why combat soldiers in every major army hold them in contempt.

Therefore, several U.S. military officers told UPI, the idea of using regular Army soldiers, including some even just from the Army Reserve or National Guard, and encouraging them to inflict such abuses ran contrary to received military wisdom and to the ingrained standards and traditions of the U.S. Army.

The widespread taking of photographs of the victims of such abuses, they said, clearly revealed that civilian "amateurs" and not regular Army or intelligence community professionals were the driving force in shaping and running the programs under which these abuses occurred.

Hersh has spearheaded the waves of revelations of shocking abuse. But other major U.S. media organizations are now charging in behind him to confirm and extend his reports. They are able to do so because many senior veteran professionals in both the CIA and the Army were disgusted by the revelations of the torture excesses. Now they are being listened to with suddenly receptive ears on Capitol Hill.

Republican members in the House of Representatives have kept discipline and silence on the revelations. But with the exception of the increasingly isolated and embarrassed Senate Republican Leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, other senior mainstream figures in the GOP Senate majority have refused to go along with any cover-up.

Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Pat Roberts of Kansas and John Warner of Virginia have all been outspoken in their condemnation of the torture excesses. And they did so even before the latest, most far-reaching and worst of the allegations and reports surfaced. Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, lost no time in hauling Rumsfeld before it to testify.

The pattern of the latest wave of revelations is clear: They are coming from significant numbers of senior figures in both the U.S. military and intelligence services. They reflect the disgust and contempt widely felt in both communities at the excesses; and at long last, they are being listened to seriously by senior Republican, as well as Democratic, senators on Capitol Hill.

Rumsfeld and his team of top lieutenants have therefore now lost the confidence, trust and respect of both the Army and intelligence establishments. Key elements of the political establishment even of the ruling GOP now recognize this.

Yet Rumsfeld and his lieutenants remain determined to hang on to power, and so far President Bush has shown every sign of wanting to keep them there. The scandal, therefore, is far from over. The revelations will continue. The cost of the abuses to the American people and the U.S. national interest is already incalculable: And there is no end in sight.

Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International
Taliban in Texas: Big Oil hankers for old pals


HOUSTON - The Taliban must have had a ball in this Texas city when they came to visit the control tower of Planet Oil in the late 1990s to negotiate the Trans-Afghan Pipeline (TAP). One can imagine Mullah Omar`s finest, in full black-turbaned regalia, at the Houston Galleria - amid all those blond, dermatologically sublime trophy wives credit-carding their way to the Valhalla of conspicuous consumption at Saks, Macy`s, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. Not to mention all those steak houses! And all those sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) - not only Kandahar-friendly Toyota Land Cruisers but Durangos, Silverados, Pajeros, Discoveries and even BMWs!

Of course this was ages before the cluster-bombing of the Taliban back to Jurassic Park became the secret casus belli for the "war on terra" after September 11, 2001. And it was before those gas-guzzling SUVs had to deal seriously with soaring oil prices, or at least not to the heights we are seeing now. On Monday a barrel of US light crude hit US$41.65, the highest price since the New York Mercantile Exchange launched its crude-oil contract in 1983.

Between the Taliban taking over Kabul in September 1996 and the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in the summer of 2001, neither the administration of president Bill Clinton nor that of his successor, President George W Bush, ever designated Afghanistan as a terrorist or even a rogue state: the Taliban were wined and dined as long as they played the Pipelineistan game in Central Asia (see Pipelineistan revisited, December 24-25, 2003). Unocal - which had put the CentGas Pipeline Consortium in place - hired Henry Kissinger as a consultant. Unocal also hired two very well-connected Afghans: Zalmay Khalilzad, a Pashtun with a PhD from the University of Chicago and former Paul Wolfowitz aide, and Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun from Kandahar. In 1996, both Khalilzad and Karzai were ultra-pro-Taliban. Karzai is now Afghanistan`s US-backed ruler. Khalilzad also made splendid career moves: Bush-appointed National Security Council member (working under Condoleezza Rice), "special envoy" to Afghanistan (only nine days after the Karzai government was sworn in), and current US ambassador.

The Taliban didn`t want to play ball: every time, they wanted more money and more investments for the roads and the infrastructure of their ravaged country - until an exasperated Washington decided to finish them off. This was discussed in Geneva in May 2001, at the G8 summit in Genoa in July 2001, and finally at a Berlin hotel, also that July, a meeting involving US, Russian, German and Pakistani officials. Asia Times Online later learned in Islamabad that the US plan was to strike against the Taliban from bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan before October 2001. Then the terrorist attacks of September 11 happened, providing Washington the perfect excuse to go it alone.

There`s still no oil flowing through Afghanistan - not yet. With the price of oil now at its highest level since 1983, the US population is getting restless. The so-called US summer driving season - from April to September - will have gasoline averaging $1.94 a US gallon (about 51 cents a liter; it is already $2.30 a gallon, or more than 60 cents a liter, and up in California). A stop at Continental Airlines headquarters in downtown Houston reveals that the airline has increased its freight rates from 15 cents to 20 cents per kilogram.

But for corporate Houston - where virtually everyone`s mood is inextricably related to the price of a barrel - expensive oil is good business. Seth Kleinman, an analyst for PFC Energy Group, goes straight to the point: "These are market fundamentals. Demand is incredibly strong and supply does not follow. Americans love their SUVs. Car makers are offering 0 percent APR [above prime rate] financing. And refining capacity also does not follow demand. No new refinery was built in the US in the last 20 years."

Whatever happens, there is a consensus all over Houston: there will be no new oil shock, at least for the foreseeable future - only what financial circles are calling "Chinese torture" - prices slowly going up.

What if they invaded Texas?
Houston is not a down-tempo chill-out groove kind of place; it`s more like ZZ Top playing on a turbo Cadillac. But Houston - as people in cooler-than-thou Austin are fond of saying - is desperately trying to be hip. The severe glass-and-steel towers of downtown are being sweetened by water gardens on Main Street. The spectacular collapse of Enron in December 2001 voided two downtown towers, and there are plenty of second-hand Porsches for sale or for rent. Enron - in essence a giant casino - was involved in everything from oil, gas and electricity to timber, water, communications and the Internet, with a turnover of more than $100 billion. But Enron executives were sort of pardoned by the city because they`re considered to be the modern version of 19th-century wildcatters.

With Halliburton the story is more complicated. Halliburton is making a killing of some $9 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq`s oil industry and to service US troops. Halliburton`s stock has already risen 11 percent this year. But it is not being forgiven. The United for Peace and Justice coalition is calling for a mass protest on Wednesday against war profiteering and crony capitalism outside Halliburton`s annual shareholder meeting.

The oil capital of the world is transfixed by Iraq. Referring to the beheading of Nick Berg, John Nugent says: "The abuse of captives at Abu Ghraib, while unjustified, is a poor excuse for murder." John Mundy says, "We should bring all our troops home and recognize that we cannot negotiate with fanatics. We cannot pacify or buy them off with good works." But Anna Miller says, "We did not find weapons of mass destruction or al-Qaeda in Iraq. However, we did find the terrorists, and they are us."

Support for Bush is far from monolithic. "Troops Yes Bush No", reads a bumper sticker on a Jaguar. KPFT 90.1 FM, an excellent community radio, insists on "giving a voice to the voiceless" - and they come from everywhere in this multicultural city of 5 million: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, black musicians, the Reverend Robert Muhamad, defenders of South Dakota Indians. The Christmas Coup Comedy group produces an outstanding mix with snippets of Bush press conferences and booming metallic beats ("Bring Them On").

At a Brazilian steak house in the steak-house Valhalla of Westheimer Avenue, among the ballet of gauchos serving prime cuts on sticks, the gloves slowly are off. "War is good for business," says a red-meat fan, especially with the barrel at $41.65. "And since it`s not going down, this is good for reviving oil production in the Gulf of Mexico." This means more wealth for Houston. Iraq reconstruction is a more problematic affair. Halliburton is making billions, but how long will it last? "What if this Muqtada [al-Sadr] guy steals the elections?"

"By God, they should be so lucky to be occupied, we`re doing them a great favor." This may seem to be a consensus, like "We can`t make those Arabs happy. And we can`t rule in the Middle East either." Everyone agrees that "similar things go on in our prisons ... Our prison population exploded because of the war on drugs, a third generation of failure ... There`s a sheriff in Arizona who ordered pink underwear for people in jail."

But some Texans are somewhat startled when they learn that the British Empire, via Lord Curzon 80 years ago, wanted to create "an Arab facade veiled by constitutional fictions" in Iraq and the Middle East.

They also start thinking when they are reminded that the last time America was occupied was in the early 19th century; as for Britain, it was during the Roman Empire. This leads to a thoughtful conclusion: "That`s right. If someone invaded Texas, we would do the same thing."

Big Oil and bigger military
The people at the Petroleum Intelligence Group in Houston confirm it, as well as the Don`t Mess With Oil elite at the Petroleum Club (housed since 1963 on the top two floors of the Exxon Tower, only 1,500 selected members, regal lunches with $50 lobsters and bottles of sublime Margaux only for members): Big Oil is not exactly fond of this war and its aftermath - especially with news like this week`s bombing of a pipeline near Basra, instantly cutting 25 percent of Iraq`s exports. What the oil majors were saying more than a year ago, before the war, has become a reality: Iraq is terribly dangerous. Ergo, bad for business. In terse Texas oilspeak, this is the message: Bush`s priorities were never the oil business`s priorities. And the elite is really worried about what the neo-cons are up to next.

What do the intellectuals of the conservative establishment have to say about this? On the sprawling, extremely wealthy campus of Rice University, the James Baker III Institute for Public Policy regally sits as a sumptuous neo-Byzantine spectacle - hall of fake Greek columns, round table fit for royalty, priceless Persians, and of course a gallery of photos of the former secretary of state smiling alongside every player and his neighbor during the Cold War.

The director of the institute is ambassador Edward Djerejian, a former official of the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush and Bill Clinton, and allegedly one of the best American specialists on the Middle East. But his secretary says his schedule is very hectic, so "he has decided to decline the interview due to time constraints". A Rice University PhD now living in Austin has a different take: "The last thing these people want now in the middle of this mess is to talk to a journalist they don`t know about American foreign policy in Iraq and the Middle East." It`s also a pity not to hear the hectic Djerejian`s take on how his boss - senior partner of the Houston and Washington law firm Baker & Botts - masterminded the scheme to get the Supreme Court to appoint George W Bush president in 2001. Baker & Botts, by the way, keeps a very substantial office in Baku, Azerbaijan, a key node of Pipelineistan. Yes, it is always about oil.

It`s raining Texas cats and dogs, so detailed research at Rice University may yield some enlightenment. In January 2001, George W Bush created the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG), directed by Vice President Dick Cheney. When they published the so-called Cheney Report, one thing was clear: the priority for this administration was never the "war on terra", but America`s dependence on energy sources. The Cheney Report was not strategic analysis. But it was published during the Enron scandal - with Enron executives working as NEPDG members. Question: What were they really up to?

Last July, the Department of Commerce was forced by the Supreme Court to unveil the documents used by the Cheney Energy Task Force. There are maps of oilfields in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as well as charts detailing which foreign companies closed deals with Saddam Hussein for oil exploitation in Iraq. Among other things, these documents prove that long before September 11, 2001, regime change in Iraq was the order of the day.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, energy secretary for the last two years of the Clinton administration and now widely tipped to be Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry`s running mate, has a starring role in all this. In February 2000, Richardson went on a tour of all member states of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) except Iraq, Iran and Libya. He discovered that none of these countries had excess production capacity. Conclusion: an energy crisis, sooner or later, would be inevitable. Matt Simmons, a consultant for the Council on Foreign Relations, learned about this by e-mail and later became a consultant to the Bush administration.

The eighth chapter of the Cheney Report, titled "Strengthening Global Alliances", says it`s imperative for the United States to get rid of strategic, political and economic obstacles in its quest to ensure the extra 7.5 million barrels of oil a day it will need by 2020. This is the equivalent of the current total consumption of India and China put together. As most of the countries that are among these "obstacles" are politically and socially unstable, this means that secure supplies to the US imply the presence of US troops. The Cheney Report stresses the growing US - as well as Asian and Western European - dependence of Middle East oil. And as the solution for the energy problem, it proposes a military solution. This is the meaning of General Tommy Franks saying on the record that "we will be in Afghanistan for years", and the meaning of the 14 US military bases to be built in Iraq.

At the time, the Cheney Energy Task Force also had to refer to the United Nations sanctions imposed on Iraq. Lifting the sanctions on Iraq would mean the go-ahead for contracts frozen by the sanctions - most with Russian and European companies and not with US companies, since Saddam was not in business with the US. So war was the only option to get the big prize - the second-largest oil reserves in the world, which come as well with very low production costs.

It`s possible to extract a major conclusion from the Cheney Report. The White House says that the terrorists want to destroy the American way of life. But what if the whole thing is upside down? To preserve an American way of life that guzzles - and wastes - tremendous amounts of energy, Washington is forced to go military all the way, under the pretext of the "war on terra". And the process, on top of it, feeds on itself. Who is the largest world consumer of energy? It`s the US Army.

Houston, one of the world capitals of oil, red meat and frenetic consumption, misses its Taliban. But no more Taliban in Texas does not mean that Texas does not need the Taliban. In line with the Cheney Report and with oil ever more expensive, now more than ever there`s need for the Trans-Afghan Pipeline (TAP), which would bring oil and gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistani ports and then to the United States. Hamid Karzai cannot maintain order even in Kabul. Fickle Washington may change its mind - again - and issue a "Houston, we got a (Taliban) problem". Then sooner or later those dashing, black-turbaned Pashtuns will be seen parking their brand-new SUVs at the Galleria.

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

May 18, 2004
Life is a beach. Or is it?


Also in this series:
Bush against Bush (Apr 30, `04)
Kerry, the Yankee muchacho (May 7, `04)
You have the right to be misinformed (May 8, `04) 1.-3.Teil 08.05.05
An American tragedy (May 11, 04) #16184
In the heart of Bushland (May 12, 04) #16186
The war of the snuff videos (May 13, `04) #16338
The Iraq gold rush (May 14, `04) #16340
The new beat generation (May 15, `04) #16342
Taliban in Texas: Big Oil hankers for old pals (May 18, `04) #16567

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida - Early on Sunday, a 10-story building was imploded in this aspiring, subtropical Venice. Call it Ground Zero by the beach.

It was a drill: the building had been bombed by "terrorists" and people were still trapped inside, so 200 specialists including a federal tactical response team, firefighters and paramedics from all over South Florida had to rescue 30 mannequins by all means available. Members of the tactical response team had working experience on the Oklahoma City bombing and on the attacks of September 11, 2001. This mini-September 11 did indeed look like September 11, not only because of the symphony of beeps that go off after a firefighter is motionless for more than 30 seconds, but because the controlled implosion looked eerily similar to the collapse of both Word Trade Center towers. Locals didn`t - or preferred not to - make the connection. They opted for having their photos taken beside this South Florida heap of concrete, steel and glass that soon will be replaced by a supermarket.

There will be no hanging chads in 2004. And no suspicious Supreme Court ruling. But Florida remains a key swing state. The re-election campaign of President George W Bush counts on the formidable regimenting machine of brother Jeb, the state governor. The campaign of Democratic challenger John Kerry will pull out all stops to capture the absolute majority of the key Latino, African-American and Jewish votes.

With more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and myriad opportunities for deep sea fishing, speed-boating, sailing, windsurfing, Jet-Skiing, water-skiing, parasailing and diving their way into instant gratification, one might assume residents of this mouth-watering paradise rescued from the swamps in the early 20th century would have no time for politics. Wrong. When asked who is their favorite Bush in office, the answer is not W or Jeb. It`s Delsa. Delsa Bush is a single mother born in Mississippi who recently became the first black woman to be appointed chief of police in neighboring West Palm Beach.

It`s true that the major local attraction is the wonderfully tacky International Swimming Hall of Fame (the pool is great, though). It`s true that some fabulous Art Deco heritage is drowned in a swamp of man-made "exotic landscapes". Its true mausoleums to the fine art of lap dancing break new barriers in the swank-meets-sleaze department. It`s true that an avalanche of Botox specialists ("10 years to get it ... 10 minutes to get rid of it"), micro-dermabrasion, breast implants, invisible hair surgery, mesotherapy, face lifts, eye lifts, tummy tucks, nasal surgery and labia minora reduction can only be summarized by this slogan of a cosmetic surgery boutique: "Transform your body or your money back."

But politics is high on the collective agenda. Here`s a sample of local public opinion.
# On Abu Ghraib: "That soldier who released the pictures of Iraqi prisoners being abused should be held responsible for the death of Nick Berg. He is a traitor" (a Floridian Latino). "We should not have had female soldiers in Abu Ghraib in the first place. This offends Muslim religious beliefs as much as the humiliation did" (a Floridian WASP).
# On jobs: "The president`s re-election is not the most important issue. Education, health care, jobs and the economy all pale in importance to this crisis of the armed forces. If he were to apply all his energies to helping the military crisis, he would gain far more votes than by campaigning" (a black unemployed Floridian).
# On the state of the union: "Borders closing, steady censorship of ideas and greedy motives for siege operations lead me to believe that George Orwell`s fantastic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is soon to become a reality. Perhaps if we think about the laws we allow to pass, the US can continue to boast that it is a free nation" (a Jewish Floridian).

In the not-subdued glamour of Seven Isles Drive, or Lauderdale as Little Venice, inside a Mediterranean mansion with all the trappings and a 75-foot (23-meter) mega-yacht parked outside (there are 40,000 resident yachts, more per capita than anywhere in the United States; 100 marinas; and a labyrinth of almost 500 kilometers of inland waterways), a retired multimillionaire says the whole Iraq thing is "a non-issue. We should get our troops out and stop this mess. We`re running huge deficits. Our credibility is in tatters. This is very bad for business. Wanna go for a boat ride?"

Further north, far away from the maze of waterfront inns rented for the day or for the season at modicum prizes, on Cap`s Place, a quintessential Florida hangout in business since 1929 that drew Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in their time, it`s quite something to find a daiquiri faithful in a somber mood: "I`d say that the myth that America is exceptional in moral terms, high above the rest of the world, something backed by the economic and military might of the US, that is gone, buddy."

The beautiful and the damned
South Florida, like the rest of America, is still feeling the shock waves of what Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker - once again - has exposed (Newsweek is following the same path): how an ultra-secret unit of 200 Pentagon insiders conducted a black operation against high-value al-Qaeda targets that then ran amok when transferred against the Iraqi resistance. General Geoffrey Miller himself - the former head of Guantanamo - recently said on the record that the counter-insurgency process in Iraq was "Gitmoized". The statement by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld`s spokesman Larry Di Rita that the "assertions ... are outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture" is being described as "a classic non-denial denial".

There`s widespread speculation among the chattering classes that this may become the nail in Rumsfeld`s coffin - and as each day Iraq becomes an increasingly major factor in the presidential election, it may play all the way to November. At this past weekend`s meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion research, Douglas Strand, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, said that "Iraq is sucking the life out of other issue deliberations". Bush`s approval on Iraq is now down at 35 percent: it was 44 percent in April. His overall job approval is now down to 42 percent.

How could Bush not have suspected something was rotten at Abu Ghraib? Part of the answer may lie in an insider account published by the Washington Times on Bush`s reading habits. Bush says: "My antennae are finely attuned. I can figure out what so-called `news` pieces are going to be full of opinion, as opposed to news. So I`m keenly aware of what`s in the papers, kind of the issue du jour. But I`m also aware of the facts." The problem is that the "facts" come from the newspapers themselves, delivered every day to the president in ultra-digested - and edited - form. Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, the first person to see Bush in the morning, gives him "a quick overview and [gets] a little reaction from him. Frequently, I find that his reaction kind of reflects Laura Bush`s take."

So First Lady Laura Bush apparently reads most of each newspaper, while Bush only reads the sports pages - every day. Bush, in his own words, likes to "have a clear outlook. It can be a frustrating experience to pay attention to somebody`s false opinion or somebody`s characterization, which simply isn`t true." A conclusion is inevitable: Bush sees reading as an exercise on finding bias by the so-called "liberal media". So he reads practically nothing, as a way of preserving his "clear outlook" and not having to confront it with a critical point of view. In other words: by denying any form of criticism, his view remains the Absolute Truth.

South Florida is flocking in droves to watch Troy, in which Brad Pitt as a mask-sword-and-sandals Terminator makes a mockery of legendary Greek hero Achilles, if not Homer himself, in their tombs. Pitt strikes endless poses as if he`s playing for an audience at a South Florida Muscle Beach. There`s no pathos, except in the plight of Trojan Prince Hector (Eric Bana) and Trojan King Priam (Peter O`Toole, chewing up everybody on screen with his Shakespearean gravitas).

A comparison with Iraq is inevitable. Troy - like Baghdad - was invaded because of power, not a flimsy excuse (Prince Paris escaping with Helen of Sparta; weapons of mass destruction). The Trojans fight to their death, as the Iraqi resistance will. But unlike Homer`s account of the Trojan tragedy, there`s nothing larger than life in Iraq, only sordidness: Saddam Hussein running away, the Pentagon buying the Republican Guards, Bush declaring the war "over", Abu Ghraib, and now F-16s bombing holy Karbala, which for any Shi`ite in the world is worse than any Terminator nightmare from hell. There`s no sense of sacrifice (Hector), no sense of tragedy (Priam), no sense of hubris (Achilles). And most of all no one seems to merit the line Achilles delivers to Priam as he drags home the slain body of his son Prince Hector: "You`re a much better king than the one I`m fighting this war for."

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

May 19, 2004
U.S. strike kills 40 at Iraqi wedding party

The Associated Press

May 19, 2004, 1:43 PM EDT

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A U.S. helicopter fired on a wedding party early Wednesday in western Iraq, killing more than 40 people, Iraqi officials said. The U.S. military said it could not confirm the report and was investigating.

Lt. Col Ziyad al-Jbouri, deputy police chief of the city of Ramadi, said between 42 and 45 people died in the attack, which took place about 2:45 a.m. in a remote desert area near the border with Syria and Jordan. He said those killed included 15 children and 10 women.

Dr. Salah al-Ani, who works at a hospital in Ramadi, put the death toll at 45.

Associated Press Television News obtained videotape showing a truck containing bodies of those allegedly killed.

About a dozen bodies, one without a head, could be clearly seen. but it appeared that bodies were piled on top of each other and a clear count was not possible.

The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television reported that more than 20 people were killed and 10 injured in the attack.

Iraqis interviewed on the videotape said partygoers had fired into the air in a traditional wedding celebration. American troops have sometimes mistaken celebratory gunfire for hostile fire.

"I cannot comment on this because we have not received any reports from our units that this has happened nor that any were involved in such a tragedy," Lt. Col. Dan Williams, a U.S. military spokesman, wrote in an e-mail in response to a question from The Associated Press.

"We take all these requests seriously and we have forwarded this inquiry to the Joint Operations Center for further review and any other information that may be available," Williams said.

The video footage showed mourners with shovels digging graves. A group of men crouched and wept around one coffin.

Al-Ani said people at the wedding fired weapons in the air, and that American troops came to investigate and left. However, al-Ani said, helicopters attacked the area at about 3 a.m. Two houses were destroyed, he said.

"This was a wedding and the (U.S.) planes came and attacked the people at a house. Is this the democracy and freedom that (President) Bush has brought us?" said a man on the videotape, Dahham Harraj. "There was no reason."

Another man shown on the tape, who refused to give his name, said the victims were at a wedding party "and the U.S. military planes came... and started killing everyone in the house."

In July 2002, Afghan officials said 48 civilians at a wedding party were killed and 117 wounded by a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan`s Uruzgan province. An investigative report released by the U.S. Central Command said the airstrike was justified because American planes had come under fire.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.
May 19, 2004
Fighting Continues in Holy Iraq City Despite Protest by Shiites

KARBALA, Iraq, May 19 — Hundreds of people marched through the streets of this holy city today to protest fighting between American forces and militiamen loyal to a rebel Shiite cleric. Battles continued near revered shrines in the downtown area.

The protesters had gathered at the behest of the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential cleric in Iraq. The ayatollah`s office here called Tuesday for a demonstration against the presence of both American and insurgent forces in the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. The ayatollah issued a statement the same day demanding a military withdrawal from the cities.

It is the strongest criticism Ayatollah Sistani has made against the bloody fighting in recent weeks, though no commanders on either side have heeded him.

The crowd in Karbala numbered from 200 to 300 and gathered in the morning at the Hussein Hospital. It was significantly smaller than protests over other issues the ayatollah had called for before, possibly because of the firefights raging in the middle of this city. As the protesters marched toward the golden-domed Shrine of Hussein, they asked that tribal sheiks and police forces be given responsibility for security in this city.

American F-16 fighter jets swooped overhead as the marchers spilled into the streets.

For more than two weeks, the First Armored Division has been fighting insurgents led by Moktada al-Sadr, the 31-year-old rebel cleric who lives in Najaf. The battles here have crept closer and closer to two of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam, the Shrine of Hussein and the Shrine of Abbas, dedicated to revered Shiite martyrs. Early Monday morning, an American AC-130 gunship fired 40-millimeter cannon shells at a group of insurgents clustered about 160 feet from the Shrine of Hussein.

Today, American tanks were parked about 600 feet from the shrine. One Iraqi witness said they appeared to be encircling it. There were firefights throughout the day in the alleyways of the downtown area, where American forces have holed up in the Mukhaiyam Mosque, which soldiers occupied on May 12 after a pitched battled with insurgents in the area. The mosque now comes under daily attack from militiamen launching mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades.

At least eight insurgents were killed in the fighting, said Capt. Noel Gorospe, a spokesman for the First Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment of the First Armored Division. There were no American casualties, he said. Polish forces also fought militiamen.

For the first time, the Americans called in F-16`s to fly over the area and provide surveillance. They did not fire on any targets, Captain Gorospe said.

By evening, insurgents had fired at least three mortar rounds and 13 rocket-propelled grenades at American soldiers, the captain said. He added that soldiers came under sniper fire five times. One especially skilled sniper has killed two American soldiers and wounded four since the American forces took over the Mukhaiyam Mosque.

In total, four American soldiers have been killed and at least 52 wounded during the two-week offensive against Mr. Sadr`s forces here. The battle for Karbala is the fiercest fighting in Iraq at the moment, and it is certainly the most intense fighting the soldiers of the First Armored Division have taken part in since they arrived last May.

The battle zone poses enormous risks for the American forces. There is the potential for damage to the shrines, which could anger Shiite Muslims around the world. Insurgents have grouped around the shrines, especially around the Shrine of Hussein, in hopes that the Americans will hold their fire or damage the shrines.

Col. Pete Mansoor, commander of the First Brigade of the First Armored Division, said rocket-propelled grenades have been fired at tanks at least once from the Shrine of Hussein. A Predator drone flying overhead at the time recorded the projectiles originating from the shrine, he said.

But today, it appeared that the Mahdi Army had been barred from entering the shrine by armed guards appointed by the offices of the marjaiah, the four grand ayatollahs living in Najaf. Mahdi fighters stood about 150 feet from the Shrine of Hussein, while about 80 men armed with automatic rifles and working for the Shrines Protection Force stood inside the two central shrines.

The wide plaza separating the two shrines was relatively empty, though it is usually thronged with Shiite pilgrims. Some residents of the area have barricaded themselves in their homes for two weeks as the fighting has raged. Men working to maintain the shrines have retreated from the plaza into the shrines to seek shelter.

Members of the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a powerful Shiite political party, were nowhere to be seen. American commanders said the group had promised to secure the shrines. But the group apparently is not popular among residents of Karbala and would have little support if it went into battle against the Mahdi Army.

An Iraqi employee of The New York Times contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Electricity Production in Iraq Remains Below Pre-War Levels
by Dahr Jamail (bio)

Baghdad , May 14 - Contrary to US President George Bush`s recent statement that electricity in Iraq "is now more widely available than before the war," Iraqi officials say the power supply in their country has not yet been repaired to pre-war levels. Bush made the claim in his May 1, 2004 speech commemorating the one-year anniversary of the "mission accomplished" address he delivered from aboard the USS Lincoln.

Twelve months later, it appears as though the majority of Iraqis have seen little improvement in their power supplyp>

At the Al-Dora power station in Baghdad on May 3, the deputy manager of the plant, Bashir Khalaf Omair, said that electricity output in Iraq prior to the March, 2003 invasion was around 5,000 Megawatts (MW) a day.

Iraq`s Acting Minister of Electricity, Ra`ad Al-Haris, said in an interview Thursday that the current supply of electricity produced in Iraq measures between 3,600-4,000 MW.

Currently, even in the best neighbourhoods of Baghdad there is only twelve hours of electricity per day, and this only intermittently. Most areas of the city have between six and eight hours of power per 24 hours.

Baghdad resident Salam Obidy is frustrated by the unreliability of the electrical grid. "I have three hours on, and four hours off," he said. "Mostly it is completely unscheduled. Yesterday I spent all night not sleeping because it was so hot."

And it is only getting hotter. The temperature during the day in Baghdad is beginning to approach 100 degrees now. It consistently climbs to 110-120 degrees in July and August.

In the Al-Adhamiyah district of Baghdad, a man named Abu Talan also complained about the lack of electricity in his neighbourhood. "My family and I sometimes have thirteen hours with no electricity whatsoever," he said. "Usually we average six hours per day. If there is no fuel for our small generator, we all suffer."

According to deputy manager Omair, Iraq has suffered from a shortage of electricity since the 1991 Gulf War during which American pilots bombed power plants. He added that prior to the 1991 war, Iraq was producing 9,500 MW of electricity per day.

"The parts we need come from Italy and Germany," Omair said, "and the security situation has made it more difficult to get these imported."

In addition to sabotage of gas and transmission lines in Iraq, as well a shortage of supplies, the reconstruction problems in Iraq have been underscored by the mass exodus of foreign contractors.

"Bechtel is responsible for the rehabilitation here," Omair explained. "The companies they subcontracted to, Siemens and Babcock, have pulled out their engineers. Without their presence, the Iraqi companies Al-Marjal and United Company, have been unable to do as much work."

Companies that were working on many of the electricity projects include U.S.-based Seimens-Westinghouse, Bechtel, and General Electric, along with two Russian companies, Tekhnopromexport and Inter Energo Servis (IES), according to the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity.

Yet, according to Al-Haris, the acting electricity minister, many of these companies began departing Iraq prior to the invasion in March, 2003 -- well before the most recent round of exits caused by the deteriorating security situation under the U.S. occupation.

"The work in these stations was started during the past regime," Al-Haris said, "but it was stopped before the war when the companies left Iraq, and the work is still stopped." Al-Haris added, "There are tens of trucks stopped on the border of Turkey, Jordan, and Syria, and they cannot enter because of the bad security situation. All the equipment in the trucks is very important to continue our work."

He reported that another problem is the huge consumption of electricity in Iraq and the huge quantity of electrical consumer goods people are buying. He said, "The annual increase of the consumption of the electricity in the entire world is about 3-5 percent, but in Iraq it is 30 percent."

Both officials stated that the goal they have promised the people of Iraq is to provide 6,000 MW by July 1.

Acting Minister Al-Haris said, "We hope that the companies will come back to Iraq to continue their work soon. We received promises from them, and I hope that the program of work will remain [in place], as we are promising the people 6,000 MW [a day by] the beginning of July. Anyhow, 6,000 MW is not enough for the country because we are expecting the need will be about 7,000-7,500 MW."

"Even if the German engineers who were working in the Al-Dora power plant returned tomorrow," said assistant plant manager Omair, "they would need four to five months to get our remaining two generators online."

When asked if he thought the goal of generating 6,000 MW for Iraq by the first of July was possible, Omair said, "I hope so."

© 2004 The NewStandard.
May 20, 2004
U.S. Advisers to Stay in Iraq After June 30

WASHINGTON, May 19 — About 200 American and international advisers will continue to work at 26 Iraqi ministries as consultants after the June 30 transfer of authority to Iraq, Bush administration planners said Wednesday.

"We want the Iraqis to understand that we are not abandoning them," said Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone, who is managing the transition for the State Department. He spoke at a briefing sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace.

At the same time, American reconstruction teams will set up four regional headquarters around the country to continue managing the billions of dollars in American aid that has not yet been spent.

With just six weeks left before the transfer, Mr. Ricciardone and the retired general who is representing the Defense Department, Claude M. Kicklighter, are immersed in personnel and real estate issues as well as security and communications concerns. They acknowledged that many of their solutions would be improvised at the last minute.

As American control shifts from the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Pentagon to the State Department, officials are scrambling to staff a new embassy that will be among the world`s largest, with as many as 1,000 American staff members and 700 Iraqi personnel.

Establishing security for embassy personnel is a paramount concern. After the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia, in which 19 Americans died, "we learned that there can be no gray areas with respect to U.S. security," Mr. Ricciardone said.

After the transfer of power, the administration plans to retain control of numerous buildings within the so-called Green Zone, a compound of about four miles square that includes the former Republican Palace and was a stronghold of Baathist supporters of the Saddam Hussein government.

The area will probably remain cordoned off, with checkpoints run by members of the multinational force.

It is still unclear whether the administration will try to buy or rent the properties it now occupies or otherwise negotiate a deal with Iraq. Officials said lawyers were exploring the options.

"There will have to be an arrangement with the government of Iraq for use of that land," said Adam Ereli, the State Department spokesman, who added that the subject was not a significant obstacle. "This is an issue that we deal with in embassies around the world."

Mr. Ricciardone said the embassy would rely on outside contractors, at significant expense, to provide security in the Green Zone. "We do not have nearly enough diplomatic security" for the task, he said. Privileges and immunities for the contract workers have yet to be resolved.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 20, 2004
Disputed Strike by U.S. Military Leaves at Least 40 Iraqis Dead

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 19 — About 40 Iraqis were killed Wednesday by American forces in an attack near the volatile border with Syria. American officials said they had fired on a suspected guerrilla safe house, but Iraqis said the Americans had strafed civilians at a wedding party.

American military officials said the attack occurred in the open desert on Wednesday evening, about 15 miles from the Syrian border and southwest of the town of Qusaiba. In a statement, American officials said they had called in air support after an American military operation in the area had come under hostile fire.

After the attack, the Americans said they had recovered "numerous weapons," cash and foreign passports.

Associated Press Television News broadcast film, said to be taken at the scene, showing a truck heaped with bloody bodies, many of them wrapped in blankets. Several of the bodies shown appeared to be those of children.

Both the American and the Iraqi accounts agreed that about 40 people had died. But some Iraqis and several reports in the Arab press said the attack had killed civilians, not insurgents.

Al Arabiya, a television network based in Dubai, quoted witnesses as saying American planes had bombed a wedding party in Makr al-Deeb, a village near the Syrian border. The film included pictures of shrouded bodies and scenes of men digging graves.

On the broadcast, an unidentified man told Al Arabiya, "The American planes dropped more than 100 bombs on us. They destroyed the whole village. We didn`t fire any bullets."

The Associated Press quoted Lt. Col. Ziyad al-Jbouri, the deputy police chief of Ramadi, as saying that between 42 and 45 people had died, including 15 children and 10 women.

The Associated Press also quoted Dr. Salah al-Ani, a hospital worker in Ramadi, as saying 45 people were dead.

Ramadi is the capital of the province of Al Anbar, which includes the area around Qusaiba.

Iraqis interviewed by Associated Press Television said revelers had fired volleys of gunfire into the air in a traditional wedding celebration just before the American attack.

American troops have mistaken celebratory gunfire for hostile fire at least once before. In July 2002, officials in Afghanistan said that at least 48 civilians at a wedding party were killed and 117 wounded by an American airstrike in the province of Oruzgan.

A report released afterward by the United States Central Command said the airstrike was justified because American planes had come under fire.

In Iraq, it was impossible to sort out the conflicting claims late Wednesday.

The area near the strike is a vast, desolate place crisscrossed by smugglers. American officials have long suspected the area to be a transit point for foreign and Iraqi guerrillas and have condemned the Syrian government for not cracking down on the traffic.

Last June, American commandos attacked a convoy of cars and trucks in the area, engaging in firefights with Syrian border guards. American officials said the convoy appeared to contain high ranking members from Saddam Hussein`s government. But the results of the raid were inconclusive.

The conflicting reports of the attack near the Syrian border came as up to 300 people marched through the streets of Karbala to protest fighting between American forces and militiamen loyal to a rebel Shiite cleric, and battles continued near revered shrines in the downtown area.

The protesters gathered after a request on Tuesday from the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, which called for a demonstration against the presence of American and insurgent forces in the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. The ayatollah also issued a statement demanding a military withdrawal from both cities.

It was the strongest criticism that Ayatollah Sistani, the most influential Shiite in Iraq, had made against the fighting in recent weeks, though no commander on either side has heeded him.

The protesters in Karbala gathered in the morning at the Hussein Hospital. The protest was significantly smaller than those others called for by the ayatollah, possibly because of firefights raging in the middle of the city. As the protesters marched toward the golden-domed Shrine of Hussein, they asked that tribal sheiks and police forces be given responsibility for security in the city.

American F-16 fighter jets, called in to provide surveillance of the city, swooped overhead as the marchers spilled into the streets.

For more than two weeks, the First Armored Division has been fighting insurgents here led by Moktada al-Sadr, the 31-year-old rebel cleric who lives in Najaf. The battles have crept closer and closer to two of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam, the Shrine of Hussein and the Shrine of Abbas, dedicated to Shiite martyrs.

Early Monday morning, the American military called in an airstrike from an AC-130 gunship, which fired 40-millimeter cannons at a group of insurgents clustered about 160 feet from the Shrine of Hussein. The F-16`s did not take part in firing, the military said.

On Wednesday, American tanks were parked about 600 feet from the shrine. One Iraqi witness said they appeared to be encircling the building.

There were firefights throughout the day in the alleys of the downtown area. American forces have occupied the Mukhaiyam Mosque since May 12, after a pitched battled with insurgents. The mosque now comes under daily attack from militiamen firing mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades.

At least eight insurgents were killed in fighting, said Capt. Noel Gorospe, a spokesman for the First Battalion, 37th Armor, of the First Armored Division. There were no American casualties, he said. Polish forces also fought militiamen.

By evening, insurgents had fired at least 3 mortar rounds and 13 rocket-propelled grenades at American soldiers, Captain Gorospe said. He added that soldiers had come under sniper fire five times. One especially skilled sniper has killed two American soldiers and wounded four since the American forces took over the Mukhaiyam Mosque.

In total, 4 American soldiers have been killed and at least 52 wounded during the two-week offensive against Mr. Sadr`s forces here.

Col. Pete Mansoor, commander of the First Brigade of the First Armored Division, said rocket-propelled grenades had been fired at least once from the Shrine of Hussein at tanks. A Predator drone flying overhead at the time recorded the projectiles originating from the shrine, he said.

But on Wednesday, it appeared that the militia forces, called the Mahdi Army, had been barred from entering the shrine by armed guards appointed by the offices of the marjaiah, the four grand ayatollahs living in Najaf. Mahdi fighters stood about 150 feet from the Shrine of Hussein, while about 80 men armed with automatic rifles and working for the Shrines Protection Force stood inside the two central shrines.

Members of the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a powerful Shiite political party, were nowhere to be seen. American commanders said the group had promised to secure the shrines. But the group is apparently not popular among residents of Karbala and would have little support if it went into battle against the Mahdi Army.

Dexter Filkins reported from Baghdad, Iraq, for this article, and Edward Wong from Karbala.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 20, 2004
Rates Rise, Changing Face of Home Sales

As mortgage rates climb, fewer home owners are refinancing their old loans, and potential purchasers are reconsidering when - or whether - to buy. Their choices could reshape the housing market ahead, economists said, and even affect other spending decisions.

Refinancings, which accounted for more than half of all the home loans last year, are shrinking fast. After three years of easily switching to better terms on their mortgages and frequently taking out cash, consumers can no longer rely so heavily on refinancing to shore up their family budgets and maintain their spending.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said yesterday that refinancing activity fell 17 percent last week to its lowest level since the start of the year, as the standard 30-year mortgage rate has risen to 6.2 percent since flirting with 45-year lows in mid-March. In the intervening weeks, refinancing activity has fallen almost two-thirds.

"What consumers are seeing for the first time is a rapid rise in rates," said Anthony Meola, executive vice president for home loans production at Washington Mutual, a big servicer of home loans.

The sharp appreciation in home prices that consumers have come to rely on for household wealth will probably diminish if rates continue to rise, though the National Association of Realtors estimates that the 30-year rate would have to rise to 8 percent to seriously impede home sales. Rising rates make homes more expensive for consumers and will damp total home sales and home prices.

At the average fixed rate of 5.34 percent recorded last March by the Mortgage Bankers Association, a monthly payment of $1,000 would have covered a 30-year mortgage of about $180,000. Using last week`s rate of 6.21 percent, that $1,000 payment could handle $164,000.

But in the short term, people are buying homes at an enthusiastic pace. Many people planning to buy have already applied for a loan, and some may act quickly to avoid being priced out of the home they desire. "Whenever interest rates rise, people jump off fences, so there`s some of that going on," said David Lereah, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors.

Two weeks ago, applications for home loans, excluding refinancings, were near a record level and fell only 8 percent last week, said the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"What this tells us is that home sales will stay very strong at least until the middle of the summer," said David Berson, chief economist of Fannie Mae, the giant mortgage finance company.

After three months of shopping for a home, Haroon Rashid, a purchasing associate for a textile company in New York, applied two days ago for pre-approval on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. "I would like to buy as soon as possible before the interest rates go up even more," said Mr. Rashid, 29, who is hoping to find a two-bedroom house or condo in New Jersey for less than $200,000. He was quoted a rate of 6.27 percent. "My friend got a house just two months ago - he got 5.3 percent."

According to bankers, many home buyers are asking for adjustable rates, in search of the lowest monthly payment. And they are reacting more quickly than they have in the past, propelling adjustable-rate mortgages, or A.R.M.`s, to 35.2 percent of all mortgage applications last week.

The only other times that adjustable-rate mortgages accounted for such a large share of the applications were in January 2000 and November 1994, said Douglas Duncan, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association. In those cases, the average 30-year rate had risen at least 2 percentage points from its lows before adjustable loans gained such popularity. This time the rate has climbed only 1.30 percentage points since touching its low last June.

"For a much smaller increase in long-term interest rates, we`ve got a much larger increase in A.R.M. share," Mr. Duncan said.

Some anecdotal evidence suggests that nervous sellers are cutting their asking prices in certain markets. Barbara Simmons, the owner of Realty World Equity Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif., said that Ventura County, particularly Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Camarillo, "has seen more price reductions in the last two weeks than I have seen in the last two years."

Some homeowners are eager to sell because they believe home prices have risen as much as they can, especially now that mortgage rates are increasing. "Our response to the interest rates going up was to sell our house instead of refinance," said Lori Mackey, a children`s author and the founder of a financial literacy group for children. She and her husband, Dana, closed the sale of their home in Agoura Hills, Calif., on Monday for $860,000, a gain of $320,000 in the two years they have owned it.

"I can`t believe it," Ms. Mackey, 42, said. "We are now debt free, have savings, and still plenty of money left over to buy another house." She said they would wait to buy a new home because they expect that the higher interest rates would drive prices down.

Still, mortgage rates are exceedingly low by historical standards. For instance, the average 30-year rate over the last 10 years is 7.3 percent, and the lowest rate in the 1990`s was 6.83 percents, according to HSH Associates, a mortgage research firm based in Pompton Plains, N.J.

"That doesn`t make it any less painful perhaps, but some perspective is necessary," said Keith Gumbinger, a vice president of HSH Associates. "Interest rates cannot be considered to be high, by any means."

Walt Molony, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, agreed: "Interest rates are still at their lowest levels since the 1960`s, and for the lion`s share of buyers, it has no impact. But the low-to-moderate income homebuyers - they are being priced out."

Still, consumers seem spooked. "We see some overreacting," said Robert Walters, chief economist of Quicken Loans in Livonia, Mich. "They say, `Rates are rising, I need to lock in a 30-year rate.` But the rate environment is less important than matching a mortgage to your situation.

Unlike other rate increases in the last year, this time many consumers feel more confident about their jobs and about earning enough money to pay more, housing economists said.

"It`s important to note that the reason interest rates are rising is because of a healthier economy," Mr. Lereah said. "And that provides consumers with the wherewithal to buy homes."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 19, 2004
Q&A: `Bullish` on Iraq

From the Council on Foreign Relations, May 19, 2004

David S. Patel, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University who spent seven months in Iraq, mostly in Shiite areas in the south, says the country will overcome its difficulties and emerge from the current upheaval a unified state. "I`m bullish on Iraq," he says. "I think the country can definitely stick together, and I think it will. I was surprised at the degree of Iraqi nationalism." He cautions that "there are going to be some very large speed bumps between June 30," when sovereignty is returned to the Iraqis, and the national elections scheduled for January 2005. Still, he expects that the uprising led by Muqtada al-Sadr will be put down and that the rebellious cleric will be sent into exile. And, although Iraqis are not yet up to providing their own security, he says they are in charge of most government ministries.

Patel, who recently wrote an article about Iraqi politics in Arab Reform Bulletin, was interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman, consulting editor for cfr.org, on May 18, 2004.

How long were you in Iraq?

I arrived last September, and I was there until early March.

Were you mostly in the south?

Mostly in the south, in Basra, but I traveled extensively throughout the country. I went up to Baghdad perhaps once a month. I visited Najaf and Karbala. I`ve been through parts of the so-called Sunni triangle, and then on my way out, I spent two weeks up in the Kurdish area, in Sulaimaniya and Hawler/Irbil, leaving via Turkey.

Were you focusing on the Shiites? Your article was about Islam in general, Sunnis and Shiites.

I was mostly interested in the Shiites and their mosques and religious leaders.

Do you speak Arabic?

I speak Arabic fairly well, well enough to get around.

There`s a lot of concern in the United States about Sadr in Najaf and Karbala. How do you think this is going to play out?

The confrontation with Muqtada Sadr was inevitable. It`s been building for a long time. And it is good that it`s happening now, not after June 30 [the handover date of Iraqi sovereignty]. The United States can confront him now. If they didn`t confront him now, there was going to have to be some sort of confrontation between Sadr and Iraqi authorities. I think the situation with him is going to calm down fairly quickly, but I`ve been saying that for four weeks now. There have been a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations between CPA [the Coalition Provisional Authority] and the Sadr followers both through the religious authorities and through other political parties. I think some agreement will be reached, probably an agreement that sends him into exile, maybe to Iran or, as some people think, to Azerbaijan, until there`s a transition to Iraqi sovereignty after June 30.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who seemed to have so much influence over the CPA, has been rather muted in his criticism of Sadr. Is this because Sistani does not have armed troops?

Sistani does not have armed troops himself, but Sistani does have a number of tribes that, though not loyal to him, follow his lead and have a lot of armed militias. There`s a group up in Karbala called Ansar al-Sistani, and there`s also a number of religious groups and political parties that have very, very large militias, much larger than Muqtada Sadr`s and much better trained than the Jaish-i-Mahdi [the Sadr militia], that are closely associated with Sistani.

Sistani has benefited from this standoff. A lot of the Western newspapers are saying that his quietism [the tradition in Islam in which clerics shun politics] has weakened him; I think quite the opposite. Muqtada Sadr hasn`t been able to galvanize a lot of support. And, although a lot of people say that the Sadr followers are a movement, a movement that has been in Iraq for more than a decade, I think that it`s important to recognize that Muqtada Sadr and his Jaish-i-Mahdi are only one branch of the movement formed by the followers of his father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, and his marja`iyat [religious authority].

What do you think of the U.S. policy of moving gradually against Sadr and being careful not to harm the holy sites in Najaf and Karbala?

The move against him was smart. Now, the way [U.S. forces] did that move probably wasn`t the best. The early rhetoric we heard from [U.S. military officials] about [plans to] "capture or kill" [Sadr] was not particularly useful and probably made it more difficult for some of the [Iraqi] intermediaries to reach some sort of compromise with him. But [officials] did back off that fairly quickly. And we constantly hear from Baghdad that a uniquely Iraqi solution will be found for the problem, and [coalition officials] have given some space for groups to negotiate with [Sadr]. [Coalition forces] haven`t moved in, like you said, to the degree that they could have. There does seem to be restraint on the part of the United States.

Is the situation in Falluja now under control, as far as you can tell?

I don`t know. There are still some lingering issues that need to be resolved in Falluja. It`s not quite clear to me who the fighters there are. Maybe 10 to 15 percent of the [fighters] there are foreign insurgents. I think they need to be dealt with in a certain way. A lot of the people who are there are former soldiers in the Iraqi Army who feel like they have been marginalized, who feel like they have not been given a voice in the political process. They need to be dealt with in a different way, and I think they are. Reversing some of the de-Baathification policies, bringing some of these officers and NCOs [noncommissioned officers] back into the armed forces and security services, and giving some Sunni Arab tribal leaders and some of the leaders who were affiliated with the Baath at low levels a voice in the post-June 30 government, is going to help calm the situation both in Falluja and in some of the other areas.

Can the Iraqis take over and run a government that will not lead to immediate civil war?

I`m bullish on Iraq. I don`t think the Iraqis are close yet to taking control of security. That seems very clear. The police have performed very poorly in much of Iraq, and the Iraqi Army units have not done much better. But from what I understand, on most other issues Iraqis already are running day-to-day operations.

Iraqis are running the ministries--they have been in Basra for quite a while and they have been in Baghdad to an increasing degree. Just a few months ago, you used to see large crowds of people gather outside CPA headquarters asking for simple things like pensions, jobs, or positions in the police. Those people don`t stand outside CPA anymore; now they stand outside the Basra government buildings--when the Basra government buildings aren`t being occupied by Muqtada Sadr`s Jaish-i-Mahdi.

What are the chances for a united Iraq? Several observers have said Iraq should be a loose federation, with significant autonomy for the Kurds. Do you think the country can stick together?

I think the country can definitely stick together, and I think it will. I was surprised at the degree of Iraqi nationalism. There is an Iraqi identity. It`s going to be a challenge to convince the average Kurds up in the northern areas that they have some stake in this larger country. A lot of them recognize it, but they haven`t fully absorbed it yet. I do think the country will stick together, and I think that plans for a U.S. pullout or plans to divide the country up are very short-sighted.

The biggest mistake that people in the West make about Iraq is [they fail to grasp] that most Iraqis do not primarily define themselves in ethnic or religious terms. They don`t define themselves as Sunni Arab or Shiite Arab or even Kurd. The more we constantly reinforce this and say that [Iraq] is three nations, you are going to start seeing people in Iraq following that. But I don`t think that`s a natural tendency. I don`t think that the cleavages are primordial or ingrained. We need to be very careful about this. The coalition made a few wrong steps early on by assuming that you need to have representation of Sunni Arabs and Kurds in proportion to their demographic constituency. We need to encourage the development of constituencies that are not just along ethnic or religious lines.

Who is likely to take over the leadership after June 30? The U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, has talked about an interim government led by technocrats. Do you think this will fly with Iraqis?

I think if you talk to the average Iraqi, "technocrats," whatever that term means, is the right move. The average Iraqi seems to think if you put economists in charge of the economy and the educators in charge of education, all politics will be removed. I`m not sure that`s accurate, but it is a common view of people coming out of authoritarian governments. None of the political parties poll very well. None of the individual leaders garner more than six to seven percent in hypothetical elections. There`s not [much] support for any of the parties, and I think Iraqis want to see technocrats running the country, at least in the short term. It allows some of the parties to form constituencies from which they can compete.

When it comes to national leaders, I think [former Iraqi foreign minister Adnan] Pachachi is the one person who right now seems unthreatening to religious parties, political parties, and average Iraqis. His is a well-known name. He is respected, he has experience in government, and most importantly, he doesn`t have a large party backing him. He`s in his early eighties. People could see him as being a transition person for a two-to-four-year period, until each party felt it would have a chance of doing well in elections. [Few Iraqis think] he`s going to be a [Russian President Vladimir] Putin [who was put in office with no political base, solidified his power, and seems politically unassailable now].

So you endorse the idea of a technocrat-run temporary government?

The goal is to find out what the Iraqi people want. I think the idea is good. I don`t know how it will work in practice. It`s not clear to me exactly what the political parties are supposed to do in this interim period: if they are supposed to go home or if they are still, somehow, to be involved in legislating. As I understand it, legislative authority during this interim period hasn`t been fully resolved. There are going to be some very large speed bumps between June 30 and elections in January. I think the Islamists are going to make another attempt to change personal status laws, such as [those affecting] women`s rights; if they [can`t change] the law I think they will try to [undercut it] administratively. The nature of federalism--how many provinces, the relationship between autonomous regions, if there are autonomous regions, and the center, power-sharing--these issues still need to be worked out.

Are Iraqis happy with the idea of the United States remaining as a security force, or do they want the United States to leave?

Most Iraqis, even though they have been frustrated at the slow pace of progress and the slow process of reconstruction, realize that a continued American presence is necessary for the short to medium term to maintain stability. That`s what all Iraqis want. Most Iraqis aren`t that interested in the political process. They want some sort of stability. Most Iraqis haven`t been able to consume any foreign goods since 1991. On the street now, the economy is booming. People with disposable income are buying cell phones, satellite dishes, microwaves, air conditioners, food processors, used cars. This is what Iraqis want: they want some sort of government to provide them stability where they are able to reintegrate themselves into the world, be able to travel, enjoy what they haven`t had since 1991 [when economic sanctions were imposed], if not earlier.

Has life improved in the past year?

Look at what Iraqis say. [According to an ABC-ARD-BBC-NHK poll ], 56 percent say their life has improved. More important, even more Iraqis think their life is going to improve further in the next year. I think that`s the best indication.

Did you have trouble moving around the country? Did you try to keep your American identity unknown?

No, I told people I`m American. As long as I didn`t speak, they assumed I was an Arab. In the south, I was arrested five times because they thought I was a foreign Arab. They thought I might be Syrian or something like that. I`ve been picked up five times: three times by the Iraqi police and twice by religious militias. Once they found out I`m American, they let me go.

Copyright 2004
May 19, 2004
Iraq`s rebel cleric gains surge in popularity
By Roula Khalaf in Baghdad

An Iraqi poll to be released next week shows a surge in the popularity of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical young Shia cleric fighting coalition forces, and suggests nearly nine out of 10 Iraqis see US troops as occupiers and not liberators or peacekeepers.

The poll was conducted by the one-year-old Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, which is considered reliable enough for the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority to have submitted questions to be included in the study.
The tabular content relating to this article is not available to view. Apologies in advance for the inconvenience caused.

Although the results of any poll in Iraq`s traumatised society should be taken with caution, the survey highlights the difficulties facing the US authorities in Baghdad as they confront Mr Sadr, who launched an insurgency against the US-led occupation last month.

Conducted before the Abu Ghraib prisoners` scandal, it also suggests a severe erosion of American credibility even before Iraqis were confronted with images of torture at the hands of US soldiers.

Saadoun Duleimi, head of the centre, said more than half of a representative sample - comprising 1,600 Shia, Sunni Arabs and Kurds polled in all Iraq`s main regions - wanted coalition troops to leave Iraq. This compares with about 20 per cent in an October survey. Some 88 per cent of respondents said they now regarded coalition forces in Iraq as occupiers.

"Iraqis always contrast American actions with American promises and there`s now a wide gap in credibility," said Mr Duleimi, who belongs to one of the country`s big Sunni tribes. "In this climate, fighting has given Moqtada credibility because he`s the only Iraqi man who stood up against the occupation forces."

The US authorities in Baghdad face an uphill battle to persuade Iraqis that the transfer of sovereignty on June 30 will mark the end of the US occupation. The removal of US troops was cited in the poll as a more urgent issue than the country`s formal status.

Respondents saw Mr Sadr as Iraq`s second most influential figure after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country`s most senior Shia cleric. Some 32 per cent of respondents said they strongly supported Mr Sadr and another 36 per cent somewhat supported him.

Ibrahim Jaafari, head of the Shia Islamist Daawa party and a member of the governing council, came next on the list of influential Iraqis. Among council members, Adnan Pachachi, the Sunni former foreign minister, came some distance behind Mr Jaafari. Mr Pachachi is regarded as the apparent favourite for the ceremonial post of president when a caretaker government takes over.

© Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2004.
May 20, 2004
What Prison Scandal?


Maybe anyone who was once married to Liz Taylor — at a time when she favored tiger-striped pantsuits and Clyde`s chicken wings — would not flinch at wrangling with another aging sex symbol and demanding diva: Rummy.

Or maybe, at 77, Senator John Warner is at a stage in life where he can`t be intimidated into putting a higher value on Republican re-election prospects than on what he sees as the common good.

In a bracing display of old-fashioned public spiritedness, the courtly Virginian joined up with the crusty Arizonan, John McCain, to brush back Rummy and the partisan whippersnappers in Congress who are yelping that the Senate Armed Services Committee`s public hearings into prison abuse by American soldiers are distracting our warriors from taking care of business in Iraq.

"I think the Senate has become mesmerized by cameras, and I think that`s sad," said a California Republican, Representative Duncan Hunter.

Then Senator John Cornyn of Texas weighed in, suggesting that Mr. Warner, a Navy officer in World War II, a Marine lieutenant in the Korean War and a Navy secretary under Nixon, and Mr. McCain, who lived in a dirt suite at the Hanoi Hilton for five years, were not patriotic. Their "collective hand-wringing," Mr. Cornyn sniffed, could be "a distraction from fighting and winning the war."

Rummy had a dozen Republican senators over to the Pentagon for breakfast on Tuesday, and Mr. Cornyn said the secretary was exasperated by the "all-consuming nature" of the Congressional hearings.

The man who David Plotz of Slate says is widely "considered one of the dumbest members of Congress" chimed in, dumbly. Following up on his inane rant defending the soldiers accused of abuse at Abu Ghraib and whingeing about "humanitarian do-gooders," Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma wondered whether Mr. Warner was trying to help the Democrats with public hearings.

The most absurd cut was delivered by Speaker Dennis Hastert, who responded to Mr. McCain`s contention that Congress should not enact tax cuts during wartime because it prevented a sense of shared sacrifice by barking: "John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda. There is sacrifice in this country."

It just shows how completely flipped out the Republicans are about how the Iraq occupation is going that they are turning on a war hero and P.O.W., and on a man who enlisted in not one war, but two.

It`s hard to believe that even if the generals weren`t testifying here, they could do much to stop the spiral into anarchy there, with each day bringing some new horror.

Gen. John Abizaid told the panel that the hearing helped establish an image in the Arab world that Americans face up to their problems and handle them in the open. Certainly, he wasn`t echoing the often Panglossian view of Donald Rumsfeld yesterday. He predicted that "the situation will become more violent" after the June 30 transfer of power and that he might then require more than the 135,000 troops now in Iraq.

Senator McCain, who has long advocated more troops, said that the Pentagon and its cheerleaders were silly to think they could throw a blanket over incendiary developments. "It`s only a matter of time before the Pentagon`s new disc of abuse pictures starts bouncing around the Internet," he said.

When I asked about Mr. Hastert`s crack about visiting Walter Reed, the man whose temper used to be so close to the surface just laughed. "My," Mr. McCain murmured,