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5-17-04: News at Home

Historians vs. George W. Bush
By Robert S. McElvaine
Mr. McElvaine teaches history at Millsaps College. He is the author of EVE`S SEED: BIOLOGY, THE SEXES AND THE COURSE OF HISTORY (McGraw-Hill).

Although his approval ratings have slipped somewhat in recent weeks, President George W. Bush still enjoys the overall support of nearly half of the American people. He does not, however, fare nearly so well among professional historians.

A recent informal, unscientific survey of historians conducted at my suggestion by George Mason University’s History News Network found that eight in ten historians responding rate the current presidency an overall failure.

Of 415 historians who expressed a view of President Bush’s administration to this point as a success or failure, 338 classified it as a failure and 77 as a success. (Moreover, it seems likely that at least eight of those who said it is a success were being sarcastic, since seven said Bush’s presidency is only the best since Clinton’s and one named Millard Fillmore.) Twelve percent of all the historians who responded rate the current presidency the worst in all of American history, not too far behind the 19 percent who see it at this point as an overall success.

Among the cautions that must be raised about the survey is just what “success” means. Some of the historians rightly pointed out that it would be hard to argue that the Bush presidency has not so far been a political success—or, for that matter that President Bush has not been remarkably successful in achieving his objectives in Congress. But those meanings of success are by no means incompatible with the assessment that the Bush presidency is a disaster. “His presidency has been remarkably successful,” one historian declared, “in its pursuit of disastrous policies.” “I think the Bush administration has been quite successful in achieving its political objectives,” another commented, “which makes it a disaster for us.”

Additionally, it is, of course, as one respondent rightly noted, “way too early to make a valid comparison (we need another 50 years).” And such an informal survey is plainly not scientifically reliable. Yet the results are so overwhelming and so different from the perceptions of the general public that an attempt to explain and assess their reactions merits our attention. It may be, as one pro-Bush historian said in his or her written response to the poll, “I suspect that this poll will tell us nothing about President Bush’s performance vis-à-vis his peer group, but may confirm what we already know about the current crop of history professors.” The liberal-left proclivities of much of the academic world are well documented, and some observers will dismiss the findings as the mere rantings of a disaffected professoriate. “If historians were the only voters,” another pro-Bush historian noted, “Mr. Gore would have carried 50 states.” It is plain that many liberal academics have the same visceral reaction against the second President Bush that many conservatives did against his immediate predecessor.

Yet it seems clear that a similar survey taken during the presidency of Bush’s father would not have yielded results nearly as condemnatory. And, for all the distaste liberal historians had for Ronald Reagan, relatively few would have rated his administration as worse than that of Richard Nixon. Yet today 57 percent of all the historians who participated in the survey (and 70 percent of those who see the Bush presidency as a failure) either name someone prior to Nixon or say that Bush’s presidency is the worst ever, meaning that they rate it as worse than the two presidencies in the past half century that liberals have most loved to hate, those of Nixon and Reagan. One who made the comparison with Nixon explicit wrote, “Indeed, Bush puts Nixon into a more favorable light. He has trashed the image and reputation of the United States throughout the world; he has offended many of our previously close allies; he has burdened future generations with incredible debt; he has created an unnecessary war to further his domestic political objectives; he has suborned the civil rights of our citizens; he has destroyed previous environmental efforts by government in favor of his coterie of exploiters; he has surrounded himself with a cabal ideological adventurers . . . .”

Why should the views of historians on the current president matter?

I do not share the view of another respondent that “until we have gained access to the archival record of this president, we [historians] are no better at evaluating it than any other voter.” Academic historians, no matter their ideological bias, have some expertise in assessing what makes for a successful or unsuccessful presidency; we have a long-term perspective in which to view the actions of a current chief executive. Accordingly, the depth of the negative assessment that so many historians make of George W. Bush is something of which the public should be aware. Their comments make clear that such historians would readily agree with conclusion that then-Democratic presidential hopeful Richard Gephardt pronounced a few months ago: the presidency of George W. Bush is “a miserable failure.”

The past presidencies most commonly linked with the current administration include all of those that are usually rated as the worst in the nation’s history: Nixon, Harding, Hoover, Buchanan, Coolidge, Andrew Johnson, Grant, and McKinley. The only president who appeared prominently on both the favorable and unfavorable lists was Ronald Reagan. Forty-seven historians said Bush is the best president since Reagan, while 38 said he is the worst since Reagan. Almost all of the historians who rate the Bush presidency a success are Reagan admirers. Indeed, no other president (leaving aside the presumably mostly tongue-in-cheek mentions of Clinton) was named by more than four of the historians who took a favorable view of the current presidency.

Ronald Reagan clearly has become the sort of polarizing figure that Franklin Roosevelt was for an earlier generation—or, perhaps a better way to understand the phenomenon is that Reagan has become the personification of the pole opposite to Roosevelt. That polarization is evident in historians’ evaluations of George W. Bush’s presidency. “If one believes Bush is a ‘good’ president (or great),” one poll respondent noted, he or she “would necessarily also believe Reagan to be a pretty good president.” They also tend to despise Roosevelt. “There is no indication,” one historian said of Bush, “that he has advisors who are closet communist traitors as FDR had. Based on his record to date, history is likely to judge him as one of America’s greatest presidents, in the tradition of Washington and Lincoln.”

The thought that anyone could rate the incumbent president with Washington and Lincoln is enough to induce apoplexy in a substantial majority of historians. Among the many offenses they enumerate in their indictment of Bush is that he is, as one of them put it, “well on his way to destroying the entire (and entirely successful) structures of international cooperation and regulated, humane capitalism and social welfare that have been built up since the early 1930s.” “Bush is now in a position,” Another historian said, “to ‘roll back the New Deal,’ guided by Tom DeLay.”

Several charges against the Bush administration arose repeatedly in the comments of historians who responded to the survey. Among them were: the doctrine of pre-emptive war, crony capitalism/being “completely in bed with certain corporate interests,” bankruptcy/fiscal irresponsibility, military adventurism, trampling of civil liberties, and anti-environmental policies.


The reasons stated by some of the historians for their choice of the presidency that they believe Bush’s to be the worst since are worth repeating. The following are representative examples for each of the presidents named most frequently:

REAGAN: “I think the presidency of George W. Bush has been generally a failure and I consider his presidency so far to have been the most disastrous since that of Ronald Reagan--because of the unconscionable military aggression and spending (especially the Iraq War), the damage done to the welfare of the poor while the corporate rich get richer, and the backwards religious fundamentalism permeating this administration. I strongly disliked and distrusted Reagan and think that George W. is even worse.”

NIXON: “Actually, I think [Bush’s] presidency may exceed the disaster that was Nixon. He has systematically lied to the American public about almost every policy that his administration promotes.” Bush uses “doublespeak” to “dress up policies that condone or aid attacks by polluters and exploiters of the environment . . . with names like the ‘Forest Restoration Act’ (which encourages the cutting down of forests).”

HOOVER: “I would say GW is our worst president since Herbert Hoover. He is moving to bankrupt the federal government on the eve of the retirement of the baby boom generation, and he has brought America’s reputation in the world to its lowest point in the entire history of the United States.”

COOLIDGE: “I think his presidency has been an unmitigated disaster for the environment, for international relations, for health care, and for working Americans. He’s on a par with Coolidge!”

HARDING: “Oil, money and politics again combine in ways not flattering to the integrity of the office. Both men also have a tendency to mangle the English language yet get their points across to ordinary Americans. [Yet] the comparison does Harding something of a disservice.”

McKINLEY: “Bush is perhaps the first president [since McKinley] to be entirely in the ‘hip pocket’ of big business, engage in major external conquest for reasons other than national security, AND be the puppet of his political handler. McKinley had Mark Hanna; Bush has Karl Rove. No wonder McKinley is Rove’s favorite historical president (precedent?).”

GRANT: “He ranks with U.S. Grant as the worst. His oil interests and Cheney’s corporate Haliburton contracts smack of the same corruption found under Grant.”

“While Grant did serve in the army (more than once), Bush went AWOL from the National Guard. That means that Grant is automatically more honest than Bush, since Grant did not send people into places that he himself consciously avoided. . . . Grant did not attempt to invade another country without a declaration of war; Bush thinks that his powers in this respect are unlimited.”

ANDREW JOHNSON: “I consider his presidency so far to have been the most disastrous since that of Andrew Johnson. It has been a sellout of fundamental democratic (and Republican) principles. There are many examples, but the most recent would be his successful efforts to insert provisions in spending bills which directly controvert measures voted down by both houses of Congress.”

BUCHANAN: “Buchanan can be said to have made the Civil War inevitable or to have made the war last longer by his pusillanimity or, possibly, treason.” “Buchanan allowed a war to evolve, but that war addressed a real set of national issues. Mr. Bush started a war . . . for what reason?”


EVER: The second most common response from historians, trailing only Nixon, was that the current presidency is the worst in American history. A few examples will serve to provide the flavor of such condemnations. “Although previous presidents have led the nation into ill-advised wars, no predecessor managed to turn America into an unprovoked aggressor. No predecessor so thoroughly managed to confirm the impressions of those who already hated America. No predecessor so effectively convinced such a wide range of world opinion that America is an imperialist threat to world peace. I don `t think that you can do much worse than that.”

“Bush is horrendous; there is no comparison with previous presidents, most of whom have been bad.”

“He is blatantly a puppet for corporate interests, who care only about their own greed and have no sense of civic responsibility or community service. He lies, constantly and often, seemingly without control, and he lied about his invasion into a sovereign country, again for corporate interests; many people have died and been maimed, and that has been lied about too. He grandstands and mugs in a shameful manner, befitting a snake oil salesman, not a statesman. He does not think, process, or speak well, and is emotionally immature due to, among other things, his lack of recovery from substance abuse. The term is "dry drunk". He is an abject embarrassment/pariah overseas; the rest of the world hates him . . . . . He is, by far, the most irresponsible, unethical, inexcusable occupant of our formerly highest office in the land that there has ever been.”

“George W. Bush`s presidency is the pernicious enemy of American freedom, compassion, and community; of world peace; and of life itself as it has evolved for millennia on large sections of the planet. The worst president ever? Let history judge him.”

“This president is unique in his failures.”

And then there was this split ballot, comparing the George W. Bush presidencies failures in distinct areas. The George W. Bush presidency is the worst since:

“In terms of economic damage, Reagan.

In terms of imperialism, T Roosevelt.

In terms of dishonesty in government, Nixon.

In terms of affable incompetence, Harding.

In terms of corruption, Grant.

In terms of general lassitude and cluelessness, Coolidge.

In terms of personal dishonesty, Clinton.

In terms of religious arrogance, Wilson.”


My own answer to the question was based on astonishment that so many people still support a president who has:

* Presided over the loss of approximately three million American jobs in his first two-and-a-half years in office, the worst record since Herbert Hoover.
* Overseen an economy in which the stock market suffered its worst decline in the first two years of any administration since Hoover’s.
* Taken, in the wake of the terrorist attacks two years ago, the greatest worldwide outpouring of goodwill the United States has enjoyed at least since World War II and squandered it by insisting on pursuing a foolish go-it-almost-alone invasion of Iraq, thereby transforming almost universal support for the United States into worldwide condemnation. (One historian made this point particularly well: “After inadvertently gaining the sympathies of the world `s citizens when terrorists attacked New York and Washington, Bush has deliberately turned the country into the most hated in the world by a policy of breaking all major international agreements, declaring it our right to invade any country that we wish, proving that he’ll manipulate facts to justify anything he wishes to do, and bull-headedly charging into a quagmire.”)
* Misled (to use the most charitable word and interpretation) the American public about weapons of mass destruction and supposed ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq and so into a war that has plainly (and entirely predictably) made us less secure, caused a boom in the recruitment of terrorists, is killing American military personnel needlessly, and is threatening to suck up all our available military forces and be a bottomless pit for the money of American taxpayers for years to come.
* Failed to follow through in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda are regrouping, once more increasing the threat to our people.
* Insulted and ridiculed other nations and international organizations and now has to go, hat in hand, to those nations and organizations begging for their assistance.
* Completely miscalculated or failed to plan for the personnel and monetary needs in Iraq after the war, so that he sought and obtained an $87 billion appropriation for Iraq, a sizable chunk of which is going, without competitive bidding to Haliburton, the company formerly headed by his vice president.
* Inherited an annual federal budget surplus of $230 billion and transformed it into a $500+ billion deficit in less than three years. This negative turnaround of three-quarters of a trillion dollars is totally without precedent in our history. The ballooning deficit for fiscal 2004 is rapidly approaching twice the dollar size of the previous record deficit, $290 billion, set in 1992, the last year of the administration of President Bush’s father and, at almost 5 percent of GDP, is closing in on the percentage record set by Ronald Reagan in 1986.
* Cut taxes three times, sharply reducing the burden on the rich, reclassified money obtained through stock ownership as more deserving than money earned through work. The idea that dividend income should not be taxed—what might accurately be termed the unearned income tax credit—can be stated succinctly: “If you had to work for your money, we’ll tax it; if you didn’t have to work for it, you can keep it all.”
* Severely curtailed the very American freedoms that our military people are supposed to be fighting to defend. (“The Patriot Act,” one of the historians noted, “is the worst since the Alien and Sedition Acts under John Adams.”)
* Called upon American armed service people, including Reserve forces, to sacrifice for ever-lengthening tours of duty in a hostile and dangerous environment while he rewards the rich at home with lower taxes and legislative giveaways and gives lucrative no-bid contracts to American corporations linked with the administration.
* Given an opportunity to begin to change the consumption-oriented values of the nation after September 11, 2001, when people were prepared to make a sacrifice for the common good, called instead of Americans to ‘sacrifice’ by going out and buying things.
* Proclaimed himself to be a conservative while maintaining that big government should be able to run roughshod over the Bill of Rights, and that the government must have all sorts of secrets from the people, but the people can be allowed no privacy from the government. (As one of the historians said, “this is not a conservative administration; it is a reckless and arrogant one, beholden to a mix of right-wing ideologues, neo-con fanatics, and social Darwinian elitists.”)

My assessment is that George W. Bush’s record on running up debt to burden our children is the worst since Ronald Reagan; his record on government surveillance of citizens is the worst since Richard Nixon; his record on foreign-military policy has gotten us into the worst foreign mess we’ve been in since Lyndon Johnson sank us into Vietnam; his economic record is the worst since Herbert Hoover; his record of tax favoritism for the rich is the worst since Calvin Coolidge; his record of trampling on civil liberties is the worst since Woodrow Wilson. How far back in our history would we need to go to find a presidency as disastrous for this country as that of George W. Bush has been thus far? My own vote went to the administration of James Buchanan, who warmed the president’s chair while the union disintegrated in 1860-61.

Who has been the biggest beneficiary of the horrible terrorism that struck our nation in September of 2001? The answer to that question should be obvious to anyone who considers where the popularity ratings and reelection prospects of a president with the record outlined above would be had he not been able to wrap himself in the flag, take advantage of the American people’s patriotism, and make himself synonymous with “the United States of America” for the past two years.

That abuse of the patriotism and trust of the American people is even worse than everything else this president has done and that fact alone might be sufficient to explain the depth of the hostility with which so many historians view George W. Bush. Contrary to the conservative stereotype of academics as anti-American, the reasons that many historians cited for seeing the Bush presidency as a disaster revolve around their perception that he is undermining traditional American practices and values. As one patriotic historian put it, “I think his presidency has been the worst disaster to hit the United States and is bringing our beloved country to financial, economic, and social disaster.”
Some voters may judge such assessments to be wrong, but they are assessments informed by historical knowledge and the electorate ought to have them available to take into consideration during this election year.

"In the televised speech (on Iraq), Bush explained his plan for the upcoming transfer of power. It`s a two-part strategy. ... Part one, empty out his desk. Part two, rent a U-haul." David Letterman

"President Bush said today that the Iraqis are now in a position to take power. The bad news for President Bush is so are the Democrats."

"Ashcroft went on to say that our way of life is being threatened by a group of radical religious fanatics who are armed and dangerous. Then he called for prayers in the schools and an end to gun control."
Jay Leno
24 Jan 2004 00:04 GMT DJ Iraq Council Member Spends To Win Influence In Washington

Copyright © 2004, Dow Jones Newswires

WASHINGTON (AP)--A member of Iraq`s interim council with long ties to the CIA is undertaking an expensive, carefully crafted strategy to spread his views to influential Americans, an example of how those seeking power in Iraq continue to curry favor in the U.S.

In his years in exile from Iraq, Iyad Allawi was a little-known favorite of CIA officers who were wary of dealing with the flashier, better known exile leader Ahmad Chalabi. Now a member of the U.S.-appointed interim council with a key security position, Allawi has paid prominent Washington lobbyists and New York publicists more than $300,000 in recent months to help him contact policy-makers and journalists.

According to papers filed with the Justice Department, all the money comes from a U.K. citizen, Mashal Nawab, described as Allawi`s close friend and admirer.

An Allawi consultant, Nick Theros, said Allawi recognizes the importance of conveying his message to U.S. leaders while the U.S. remains the occupying power in Iraq. Iraqis also pay close attention to what is being said about their country in the U.S., he said.

"It`s not enough to just work behind closed doors in Baghdad," he said.

The U.S. plans to turn over political power to Iraqis by July 1. But before then, U.S. officials will appoint many of the people who, in regional caucuses this May, will help choose a transitional legislature. That legislature will name a provisional government. The U.S. has said it might alter the process somewhat, under pressure from other Iraqis demanding direct elections.

Some analysts have suggested that Allawi`s publicity and lobbying campaign might have been encouraged as a counterweight to Chalabi`s influence. But Theros said, "There is no official support of any sort, not in any areas of the U.S. government."

Allawi is a neurologist and businessman who, while living in London in 1978, survived an assassination attempt believed to have been ordered by Saddam. He founded the Iraqi National Accord opposition group with a number of former Iraqi military officers.

The group advocated a coup against Saddam. An attempt failed in 1996, but Allawi, with his connections to Iraq`s military and intelligence and to Saddam`s Baathist party, continued to have strong support within the State Department, CIA and the U.K.`s MI-6 intelligence service.

Allawi "had a much better track record for being forthcoming, upright. Allawi was somebody who made a lot more sense than Chalabi," his longtime rival, said Robert Baer, a former CIA operations officer. Chalabi had been convicted of fraud in absentia in Jordan in 1992.

But Laura Mylroie, a critic of the CIA`s handling of Iraq, said, "I think that confidence was entirely misplaced." Mylroie, author of "Bush vs the Beltway," blamed Allawi for what she said was faulty intelligence that endangered U.S. troops at the end of the 1990 Gulf War.

Allawi, like Chalabi, was appointed by the U.S. to the Governing Council. He heads the council`s Supreme Security Committee.

Late in October, when Allawi held the council`s rotating presidency, three U.S. firms that had done work for him submitted their reports to the Justice Department`s Foreign Agent Registration. They were:

-Brown Lloyd James Ltd, a New York-based public relations firm, $12,000 a month.

-The Washington law office of Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP, lobbying at $100,000 a month. Theros said that after two months that was changed to an hourly rate that should result in $50,000 monthly payments.

-Theros & Theros LLP, the consulting business of Theros and his father, Patrick, a former ambassador, $10,000 a month.

Theros, whose firm hired the other two, said the money spent by Allawi was "the going rate here in Washington."

"It doesn`t really happen for less," he said.

No other governing council member has reported spending nearly as much over the last year, according to filings with the Foreign Agent Registration Unit. The only recent filing related to Chalabi`s Iraqi National Congress was by a Washington law firm, Shea & Gardner, that reported receiving $52,000 over six months for services for the affiliated Iraqi National Congress Support Foundation.

Another firm, Burson-Marsteller, has provided services to the foundation under a State Department contract and didn`t file with the Justice unit.

Since October, Allawi has had a somewhat higher public profile. On Dec. 28, he had an op-ed column published in the Washington Post opposing the purging of members of Saddam`s Baath party from government positions. Chalabi has advocated such a policy.

Allawi received worldwide attention the next day when two London-based Arab newspapers quoted him as saying that Saddam had acknowledged depositing billions of dollars abroad and had given interrogators the names of people who knew where the money was.

But Chalabi continues to have a much higher profile in Washington, most recently attending the State of the Union address as a guest in the box of first lady Laura Bush, along with three other Iraqi officials. During Chalabi`s exile years, he, too, worked the Washington establishment to gain influence at the Pentagon and White House.

Baer said Allawi probably learned from his rival`s successes that he needed lobbyists and publicists to try to influence the U.S. policies that would set the course for Iraq`s future.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 23, 2004 19:04 ET (00:04 GMT)

WASHINGTON, DC—As President Bush`s public-approval ratings hit an all-time low, Vice-President Dick Cheney announced Monday that he has been "forced" to throw his hat into the ring for the 2004 presidential race.

Above: Cheney announces his bid for the Oval Office.

"Enough is enough,`" the visibly annoyed Cheney said at a morning press conference. "George blew the whole Iraqi prison-abuse speech, and he barely did better with his Nicholas Berg reaction. Now he`s below 50 percent in the polls. I`m sorry, but I can`t allow him to drag me down with him in November."

"Do I have to do everything around here?" Cheney asked, pausing to gesture angrily around the White House. "I guess I do."

While Cheney has not yet chosen a running mate, he said it "certainly will not be the president."

"I ordered him not to get up there and talk about gay marriage last week, but he insisted," Cheney added. "He said, `This will work.` Yeah, it worked to alienate a ton of voters. I`m sorry, but he`s out."

Cheney said that, while he would rather not run for president, Bush has left him little choice.

"I was perfectly happy letting George take the spotlight," Cheney said. "If things didn`t look so grim, I would`ve continued to direct the re-election campaign from the wings. But I could see that it was time to get out—now, before the first debate."

The announcement of Cheney`s bid for the presidency came as a major surprise, even to political insiders.

"It seems sudden, but it`s not," he said. "I`ve been mulling this over ever since the last State Of The Union address, to be honest. I decided to go through with it last night, when I stopped by the president`s office to discuss a speech I`d dropped off earlier that day and caught him sitting on the couch, watching Fox News and eating Fritos. He hadn`t even picked the damn thing up. I exploded. I said, `That`s it. Next year, I`m running this country myself.`"

Some have called Cheney the most active vice-president in the history of the executive branch. Cheney characterized this view of his term as the "understatement of the year."

"Every damn thing he did right since 2000 I told him to do," Cheney said. "You think Afghanistan was his idea? The tax cuts? The Medicare bill? No, no, and no. But all my years of hard work go right down the drain when he stands up in front of everyone and mispronounces [Italian prime minister] Silvio Berlusconi`s name."

Above: Bush appearing in public holding a chainsaw will no longer affect Cheney`s chances in November.

According to the vice-president, the Cheney Administration would be much more streamlined and efficient than Bush`s administration has been.

"Let me tell you this: It`d be a lot easier just to give a speech myself and do it right, rather than spending six hours trying to explain everything to the president—only to have him botch it anyway," Cheney said. "That `I don`t know what you`re saying and I don`t care` look in his eyes when I start talking policy drives me absolutely bonkers. And he wonders why the reporters are so hard on him."

Continued Cheney: "I spent days, literally days, talking him through the jobs-and-growth plan. But when he had to explain it on his own, he said, and this is a direct quote, `I`d rather that, in order to get out of this recession, that the people be spending their money, not the government trying to figure out how to spend the people`s money.`"

Disgusted, the vice-president threw his hands in the air.

"I don`t have enough time in my day to spend half of it cleaning up George`s mistakes," Cheney said. "I`d rather be preparing strategy for the next couple of wars. Those things don`t just plan themselves."

Few White House officials question Cheney`s intelligence, experience, or political effectiveness.

"Cheney`s definitely got the chops for the job," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said. "Frankly, he`s been very patient with the president. He`s given him every chance to get his act together, but you can`t keep your money on a losing horse."

Cheney`s office has been busy preparing the necessary paperwork to run against Bush. However, he has not yet removed himself from the president`s re-election ticket. Some say Bush campaign officials are trying to convince Cheney to remain on the Bush ticket, even if he runs against him.

"One thing is clear: There is no reason for Dick Cheney to leave the White House come January," Bush campaign advisor Karen Hughes said. "He`s been doing a great job."

When pressed to name a possible running mate, Cheney was somewhat reserved.

"I don`t want to tip my hand," Cheney said. "But right now I`m taking a good long look at the governor of Florida. He seems like he`d be a little easier to handle."
The Onion® is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.
May 29, 2004
Exile With Ties to C.I.A. Is Named Premier of Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 28 — Iyad Alawi, an Iraqi neurologist known for his close ties to the Central Intelligence Agency, was chosen Friday to be the country`s interim prime minister when the Americans transfer sovereignty here on June 30.

Dr. Alawi, a secular-minded Shiite leader, was a compromise candidate endorsed by Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special envoy, after days of intense negotiations involving Iraqi leaders and American officials.

Dr. Alawi, the scion of a prominent Iraqi family, is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and played a central role in the decade-long, American-backed effort to topple Saddam Hussein.

His selection came after Mr. Brahimi tried to appoint a more apolitical technocrat, Dr. Hussain al-Shahristani, to the job, a course that sparked intense opposition from the nation`s largest political parties.

Known for his secretive style and high-level political contacts, Dr. Alawi was until late this week regarded as an unlikely choice to lead the country`s interim government. As an exile, a member of the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and a longstanding recipient of C.I.A. financing, Dr. Alawi is likely to face sharp challenges to his credibility among the Iraqi people.

Mr. Brahimi confirmed his choice following the unanimous approval of the Iraqi Governing Council at a meeting on Friday afternoon. A senior American official in Baghdad said the Bush Administration supported the choice. Mr. Brahimi said he would name the rest of the interim Iraqi government, including a president, in the next few days.

The selection of Dr. Alawi startled some Iraqi leaders and officials at the United Nations, who only days before believed Mr. Brahimi had settled on Dr. Shahristani, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist, to lead the new government. Mr. Brahimi`s acceptance of Dr. Alawi came after Dr. Shahristani ran into stiff opposition from the Iraqi Governing Council, some of whose members represent the country`s most powerful political parties.

The selection came together so quickly that United Nations officials in New York, as well as Mr. Brahimi`s own aides, were caught off guard. "This is not the way we expected this to happen, no," said Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for Secretary General Kofi Annan. "But the Iraqis seem to agree on this name, and if they do, Mr. Brahimi is ready to work with him."

Mr. Annan "respects" the decision, Mr. Eckhard said.

Dr. Alawi is the leader of the Iraqi National Accord, an umbrella organization he set up in 1991 with the help of the United States government. A former member of the Baath Party, Dr. Alawi broke with Mr. Hussein and fled the country for London in 1971, where he lived for most of the time until Mr. Hussein`s fall.

In the 1990`s until now, Dr. Alawi, backed by the C.I.A., was the soft-spoken foil to Ahmad Chalabi, the flamboyant exile to whom he is related through marriage. Mr. Chalabi, backed by the Pentagon, funneled what appears to have been erroneous intelligence to the United States government that helped persuade the Bush Administration to invade Iraq last year.

Dr. Alawi and Mr. Chalabi share an intense personal rivalry and dislike for each other, friends and colleagues say. The two broke in 1996, when Dr. Alawi`s group led a coup against Mr. Hussein that failed. Mr. Chalabi contended that the plot had been compromised by Mr. Hussein`s agents.

In an interview, Mr. Brahimi declined to discuss in detail his selection of Dr. Alawi, but suggested that his choice was the best possible compromise in a difficult political environment. "I don`t want to go back saying who is good and who is bad," Mr. Brahimi said. "I am sure that people know what is happening, although they are divided and they want different things, no one is going to get 100 percent of what they want."

Mr. Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister who was asked by the Iraqis and the Bush administration to help form an interim government here, had said he planned to look across a broad spectrum of Iraqi society in his search for the candidates to run the new government before national elections aimed for the end of this year. Earlier this week, Mr. Brahimi seemed to settle on Dr. Shahristani. But according to several Iraqi officials, Dr. Shahristani withdrew his name when he ran into stiff opposition from political leaders of the country`s powerful Shiite parties.

"Some of the parties have been wanting this post for themselves and they did not feel that a nonpartisan would be the best candidate," said an Iraqi close to the negotiations between Dr. Shahristani and Mr. Brahimi. "Without their full support, the political process would not proceed as smoothly."

With that, Dr. Alawi, one of those Shiite leaders, emerged as a compromise choice between Iraq`s two largest Shiite political parties, the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for Revolution in Iraq. Iraqi officials said each party was pressing Mr. Brahimi to choose its candidate, but neither would support the other`s candidate. They reluctantly agreed to support Dr. Alawi, Iraqis said. "Dawa and Sciri canceled each other out, and Alawi became the choice," said Mahmood Othman, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

In the discussions leading up to his selection of Dr. Alawi, Mr. Brahimi touched off fears among some of the country`s Shiite leaders that he was trying to install a weak leader, with no political base, to make it easier for the Americans and the United Nations to control the nation. Some of those frustrations were still evident Friday.

"There is no real justice in this," said Adnan Ali, a senior leader of the Dawa Party. "We will support it and wait for the elections. But this decision was made without looking at the polls or at public opinion."

A senior American official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Dr. Alawi had campaigned furiously for the job, traversing the country to lock up the support of tribal and religious leaders. The American official said Dr. Alawi emerged as a top candidate in meetings with Mr. Brahimi and three Iraqis on the governing council who "market tested" the various contenders for the job.

Iraqi council members said the council unanimously endorsed Dr. Alawi. L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator here, then entered the room to congratulate Dr. Alawi, followed by Mr. Brahimi.

The American official said that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country`s most powerful Shiite leader, had communicated his approval of Dr. Alawi to the United States government through intermediaries. Ayatollah Sistani`s support is crucial; he has said repeatedly that the Iraqi government that takes over the country on June 30 should act as a caretaker only — passing few laws and signing no treaties — until elections are held early next year.

The American official played down the American role in the sinking of Dr. Shahristani and the ascension of Dr. Alawi. But he said he and other American officials were pleased with the appointment of Dr. Alawi, who made no public appearances on Friday and issued no public remarks.

In a sense, the choice of Dr. Alawi represented the triumph of politics over the notion that Iraq could or should be ruled by a group of apolitical technocrats until democratic elections can be held. "This needs a politican, not a technocrat," said Mr. Ali, the Dawa Party leader. "A technocrat would feel differently about passing something; he wouldn`t have the support of the people."

On the streets, the appointment of Dr. Alawi prompted mixed reactions, with many Iraqis reflecting, for good and ill, on his previous association with Mr. Hussein`s government. "As he was a member of the Baath Party, I would say he has a good knowledge of how to run this country," said Hassan Faleh, a 35-year-old laborer. "The present situation in this country is not easy; we shouldn`t prejudge him."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
`Ahmet der Dieb` hat viele Freunde bei den Neocons.

May 29, 2004
Conservative Allies Take Chalabi Case to the White House

WASHINGTON, May 28 — Influential outside advisers to the Bush administration who support the Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi are pressing the White House to stop what one has called a "smear campaign" against Mr. Chalabi, whose Baghdad home and offices were ransacked last week in an American-supported raid.

Last Saturday, several of these Chalabi supporters said, a small delegation of them marched into the West Wing office of Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to complain about the administration`s abrupt change of heart about Mr. Chalabi and to register their concerns about the course of the war in Iraq. The group included Richard N. Perle, the former chairman of a Pentagon advisory group, and R. James Woolsey, director of central intelligence under President Bill Clinton.

Members of the group, who had requested the meeting, told Ms. Rice that they were incensed at what they view as the vilification of Mr. Chalabi, a favorite of conservatives who is now central to an F.B.I. investigation into who in the American government might have given him highly classified information that he is suspected of turning over to Iran.

Mr. Chalabi has denied that he provided Iran with any classified information.

The session with Ms. Rice was one sign of the turmoil that Mr. Chalabi`s travails have produced within an influential corner of Washington, where Mr. Chalabi is still seen as a potential leader of Iraq.

"There is a smear campaign under way, and it is being perpetrated by the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. and a gaggle of former intelligence officers who have succeeded in planting these stories, which are accepted with hardly any scrutiny," Mr. Perle, a leading conservative, said in an interview.

Mr. Perle, referring to both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the campaign against Mr. Chalabi was "an outrageous abuse of power" by United States government officials in Washington and Baghdad.

"I`m talking about Jerry Bremer, for one," Mr. Perle said, referring to L. Paul Bremer III, the top American administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in charge of the occupation of Iraq. "I don`t know who gave these orders, but there is no question that the C.P.A. was involved."

In Baghdad, coalition authorities vigorously denied Mr. Perle`s assertion. "Jerry Bremer didn`t initiate the investigation," Dan Senor, the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, said in a telephone interview.

Similarly, Mark Mansfield, a C.I.A. spokesman, called Mr. Perle`s accusation that the agency was smearing Mr. Chalabi "absurd." A Defense Department official who asked not to be named said that Mr. Perle`s accusations against the D.I.A. had no foundation.

Mr. Chalabi has been a divisive figure for years in Washington, where top Pentagon officials favored him as a future leader of Iraq and top State Department officials distrusted him as unreliable. Either way, Mr. Chalabi and his exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, fed intelligence to the Bush administration about Iraq`s unconventional weapons that helped drive the administration toward war.

Intelligence officials now argue that some of the intelligence was fabricated, and that Mr. Chalabi`s motives were to push the United States into toppling Saddam Hussein and pave the way for his installation as Iraq`s new leader.

Although Mr. Chalabi`s supporters outside the administration have been caustic in their comments about his treatment, there has been relative silence so far from Mr. Chalabi`s supporters within the administration. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who favored going to war in Iraq and was a patron of Mr. Chalabi, did not respond to numerous requests this week for an interview.

Mr. Wolfowitz`s spokesman, Charley Cooper, said in an e-mail message that Mr. Wolfowitz believed that Mr. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress "have provided valuable operational intelligence to our military forces in Iraq, which has helped save American lives." Mr. Cooper added in the message that "Secretary Wolfowitz hopes that the events of the last few weeks haven`t undermined that."

The current views of Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, are not known. Both strongly supported Mr. Chalabi before and during the war in Iraq.

Last Saturday, participants in the meeting with Ms. Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, said Ms. Rice told them she appreciated that they had made their views known. But she gave no hint of her own opinion, participants said, and made no concessions to their point of view.

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, also attended the meeting. A larger meeting later that day, with Mr. Hadley alone, included Danielle Pletka, a vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, a research institution in Washington.

In an interview, Ms. Pletka said that Mr. Chalabi had been "shoddily" treated and that C.I.A. and State Department people had been fighting "a rear guard" action against him.

"They`ve been out to get him for a long time," Ms. Pletka said. "And to be fair, he has done things and the people around him have done things that have made it easier for them. He is a prickly, difficult person and he drives them crazy. He never takes no for an answer, even when he should."

Ms. Pletka added: "There are questionable people around him — I don`t know how close — who have been involved in questionable activities in Iraq. He is close to the Iranian government. And so all of these things have lent credence to the accusations against him."

Mr. Perle said the action against Mr. Chalabi would burnish his anti-American credentials in Iraq and possibly help him to be elected to political office. "In that regard, this clumsy and outrageous assault on him will only improve his prospects," Mr. Perle said.

Mr. Perle said that he had no business dealings with Mr. Chalabi, but that he believed the C.I.A. and D.I.A. were spreading false information that he did. He also said that Mr. Chalabi was not alone in supplying intelligence to the United States government that turned out to be false.

"I know of no inaccurate information that was supplied uniquely by anyone brought to us by the Iraqi National Congress," Mr. Perle said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company |
May 29, 2004
Surprising Choice for Premier of Iraq Reflects U.S. Influence

UNITED NATIONS, May 28 — After turning to the United Nations to shore up its failing effort to fashion a new government in Baghdad, the United States ended up Friday with a choice for prime minister certain to be seen more as an American candidate than one of the United Nations or the Iraqis themselves.

The man chosen to be prime minister, Iyad Alawi, is the secretary general of the Iraqi National Accord, an exile group that has received funds from the Central Intelligence Agency. His ties with the C.I.A., and his closeness to the United States could become an issue in a country where public opinion has grown almost universally hostile to the Americans.

The announcement of Dr. Alawi`s selection appeared to surprise several at the United Nations.

"When we first heard the news today, we thought that the Iraqi Governing Council had hijacked the process," said a senior United Nations official, referring to the American-picked body that voted to recommend Dr. Alawi earlier on Friday.

A senior State Department official in Washington, as well as a senior American official in Baghdad, said Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy asked by the United States to choose an interim government for Iraq, had indeed selected Dr. Alawi. The State Department official suggested that the Iraqi council had merely ratified the selection after the fact in order to make it seem that the council was the kingmaker.

According to other reports, Dr. Alawi appeared on Mr. Brahimi`s short list of candidates, but it was unclear whether the selection of Dr. Alawi had Mr. Brahimi`s wholehearted support.

Statements from the United Nations seemingly confirmed the idea that Mr. Brahimi was merely bowing to the wishes of the others.

"Mr. Brahimi respects the decision and says he can work with this person," Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for Secretary General Kofi Annan, said in response to a barrage of skeptical questioning. Asked what Mr. Annan`s view was, Mr. Eckhard said: "The secretary general respects the decision, as I said Mr. Brahimi does. `Respect` is a very carefully chosen word."

Some time later, perhaps because of the skepticism that comment engendered, a less circumspect statement was issued in the name of Ahmad Fawzi, Mr. Brahimi`s press spokesman, saying: "Let there be no misunderstanding. Mr. Brahimi is perfectly comfortable with how the process is proceeding thus far."

In a telephone interview from Baghdad, Mr. Brahimi refused to discuss the selection of Dr. Alawi. "I don`t want to go back saying who is good and who is bad," he said.

But in a hint that the selection process had not gone exactly as planned, Mr. Brahimi added, "You know, sometimes people think I am a free agent out here, that I have a free hand to do whatever I want." He noted that he had been asked to take on the job in a letter to Mr. Annan from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the Iraqi Governing Council.

United Nations officials said Dr. Alawi had been on Mr. Brahimi`s list of acceptable candidates for prime minister, although he was not his first choice. The officials said Dr. Alawi had ranked third on the list.

The United Nations is wary of having the world organization or Mr. Brahimi himself appear too close to the United States. At the same time, Mr. Brahimi must balance many competing interests as he moves between the American occupying powers and the Iraqis.

Mr. Brahimi said he felt that regardless of how the selection of Dr. Alawi had emerged, it would free him to proceed rapidly with a host of choices he had settled on for other ranking government positions.

"This is the first name to come out, but there is still the rest of the government to complete," he said. "All of this is going to take place in the next few days, and I am very, very much involved in this process."

Among the jobs he has to fill and for which his aides say he now has names ready to go are a president, two vice presidents and 26 cabinet members for the new government, the members of a preparatory committee planning a national council of Mr. Brahimi`s design for a post-transition and the officials for an electoral commission.

The choices could become known as early as Sunday, aides said.

Mr. Fawzi said Mr. Brahimi and Dr. Alawi had met often. "His name came up frequently in the wide-ranging consultations that Brahimi conducted," Mr. Fawzi said in a telephone interview from the Netherlands, where he had gone from Baghdad on personal business.

United Nations officials said any misgivings that Mr. Brahimi had about Dr. Alawi were not about the man himself but about his past associations and how they might play with the Iraqi public, because of Dr. Alawi`s ties with the C.I.A.

"Let`s see what the Iraqi street has to say about this name," Mr. Eckhard said.

Members of the United Nations Security Council, which this week began negotiating a new resolution for post-transition Iraq, had been expecting Mr. Brahimi to deliver the names for a new government by the end of the month. They had also been told that the names would be made public as a group, not in the sporadic and individual manner that Dr. Alawi`s name emerged Friday.

Asked about those expectations, Mr. Eckhard said, "This is not the way we expected this to happen, no, but the Iraqis seem to agree on this name, and if they do, Mr. Brahimi is ready to work with him."

France, Germany, Russia and China, all opponents of the Iraq war a year ago, complained Tuesday that the draft resolution submitted by Britain and the United States had left unclear the crucial relationships between the new government, the Iraqi armed forces and the United States-led multinational force that will remain in Iraq.

In response, the American and British sponsors of the resolution promised that the names would come in time for the Council to factor them and their views into its deliberations.

Mr. Brahimi said he agreed wholeheartedly with the Security Council members` wishes. "The Security Council is right in saying that this new government must take part in the discussions on the resolution," he said.

Warren Hoge reported from the United Nations for this article, and Steven R. Weisman from Washington.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company |
May 29, 2004
A Hollow Sovereignty for Iraq

President Bush said yesterday that he would transfer "complete and full sovereignty" to an interim Iraqi government in barely a month. But nothing even close to that is likely to happen. Recent developments suggest that this "sovereignty" will have little substance and that the president still has no coherent plan to create the security and political trust required to negotiate a constitution and hold fair elections. The sovereignty timetable remains driven by the American electoral calendar and growing Iraqi impatience with an incompetent and deeply unpopular occupation.

That unpopularity also taints the American-appointed Governing Council, which makes the council`s announcement yesterday of the selection of Iyad Alawi, one of its most prominent members, as interim prime minister disheartening. The choice of Mr. Alawi, a Shiite exile with close ties to former Baathist generals and to the Central Intelligence Agency, hardly signals a fresh start. The manner of his designation raises questions about the authority of the United Nations` special representative, Lakhdar Brahimi. Paul Bremer III, Washington`s proconsul, didn`t even give Mr. Brahimi time to announce his support for Mr. Alawi before striding into the council`s meeting to offer congratulations.

Mr. Alawi and the other appointees — who are expected to be named shortly — will have to overcome serious obstacles to establish legitimacy in the eyes of Iraq`s people. These include the interim government`s lack of an electoral mandate and its dependence on a huge, American-dominated military force, over which it will have little authority.

Because Washington left this issue largely out of the draft resolution now before the Security Council, one of the first acts of the interim government will have to be a one-sided negotiation over American forces that is unlikely to enhance its stature. Under current plans, the new government would have no authority to stop American forces from attacking any Iraqi target. It would have a theoretical right to request a full American withdrawal, which would leave it virtually defenseless.

The United States is handing the interim government a deteriorating military situation. American commanders, desperate to avoid clashes heading into the June 30 transfer, have granted dangerous concessions to Sunni and Shiite insurgents, greatly strengthening the hand of sectarian militias answerable neither to Baghdad nor to Washington.

The latest deal, reached on Thursday in Najaf, handed a partial victory to an anti-American Shiite firebrand, Moktada al-Sadr. The arrest order against him has been "suspended," and he has been allowed to keep his Mahdi Army intact. In return, Mr. Sadr agreed to pull his fighters off the streets of Najaf, and most American soldiers will leave Najaf as well. Mr. Sadr offered a similar deal in mid-April, but Washington turned him down. In the ensuing weeks, relations with Iraq`s Shiite majority grew increasingly — and, it now appears, unnecessarily — strained as American fire pressed ever closer to Najaf`s sacred sites.

The climb-down in Najaf seems like a repeat of the cynical deal American commanders cut four weeks ago with Sunni rebels in Falluja, effectively turning the city over to former Baathist commanders acceptable to the insurgents. If America`s military role is now reduced to partnering with the best-armed insurgents, it is doing nothing to make Iraq more governable by its future elected leaders.

The only comfort to be drawn from the problematic nature of the June 30 transfer of sovereignty is that it at least points in the right direction, toward the eventual end of a mismanaged occupation whose costs mount with every passing day.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Exiled Allawi was responsible for 45-minute WMD claim
By Patrick Cockburn

29 May 2004

The choice of Iyad Allawi, closely linked to the CIA and formerly to MI6, as the Prime Minister of Iraq from 30 June will make it difficult for the US and Britain to persuade the rest of the world that he is capable of leading an independent government.

He is the person through whom the controversial claim was channelled that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could be operational in 45 minutes.

Dr Allawi, aged 59, who trained as a neurologist, is a Shia Muslim who was a member of Saddam Hussein`s Baath party in Iraq and in Britain, where he was a student leader with links to Iraqi intelligence. He later moved into opposition to the Iraqi leader and reportedly established a connection with the British security services. His change of allegiance led to Dr Allawi being targeted by Iraqi intelligence. In 1978 their agents armed with knives and axes badly wounded him when they attacked him as he lay asleep in bed in his house in Kingston-upon-Thames.

Dr Allawi became a businessman with contacts in Saudi Arabia. He was charming, intelligent and had a gift for impressing Western intelligence agencies. After the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraq National Accord (INA) party, which he helped to found, became one of the building blocks for the Iraqi opposition in exile. The organisation attracted former Iraqi army officers and Baath party officials, particularly Sunni Arabs, fleeing Iraq.

In the mid-1990s the INA claimed to have extensive contacts in the Iraqi officer corps. Dr Allawi began to move from the orbit of MI6 to the CIA. He persuaded his new masters that he was in a position to organise a military coup in Baghdad.

With American, British and Saudi support, he opened a headquarters and a radio station in Amman in Jordan in 1996, declaring it was "a historic moment for the Iraqi opposition". After a failed coup attempt that year there were mass arrests in Baghdad. Abdul-Karim al-Kabariti, the Jordanian prime minister of the day, said that INA`s networks were "all penetrated by the Iraqi security services".

Dr Allawi and the INA returned to Iraq after the fall of Saddam and set up offices in Baghdad and in old Baath party offices throughout Iraq.

There were few signs that they had any popular support. During an uprising in the town of Baiji, north of Baghdad, last year, crowds immediately set fire to the INA office.

Dr Allawi was head of the security committee of the Iraqi Governing Council and was opposed to the dissolution of the army by Paul Bremer, the US viceroy in Iraq. He stepped down in protest as head of the committee during the US assault on Fallujah. But his reputation among Iraqis for working first with Saddam`s intelligence agents and then with MI6 and the CIA may make it impossible for them to accept him as leader of an independent Iraq.

29 May 2004 12:14

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Gerard Baker: "If success has many fathers and failure is an orphan, Washington, D.C., is now running the largest and most desperate orphanage in modern intellectual history."

An Iraq Pledge to Watch Closely

By Colbert I. King

Saturday, May 29, 2004; Page A27

"I ordered first a substantial increase in the training and equipment of South Vietnamese forces. . . . The primary mission of our troops is to enable the South Vietnamese forces to assume the full responsibility for the security of South Vietnam."

President Richard M. Nixon, on his Vietnamization policy, Nov. 3, 1969.

"Eventually [Iraqi forces] must be the primary defenders of Iraqi security, as American and coalition forces are withdrawn. . . . At my direction, and with the support of Iraqi authorities, we are accelerating our program to help train Iraqis to defend their country."

President George W. Bush, U.S. Army War College speech, May 24, 2004.

As we observe this Memorial Day weekend celebration and the dedication of the National World War II Memorial, George Bush`s pledge to prepare Iraqis to take over their country`s security should not be overlooked. If ever a presidential declaration deserved close tracking and constant appraisal, especially by Congress, Bush`s pledge to Iraqize that country`s defense is it.

Richard Nixon said much the same thing about Vietnam during the first year of his presidency. `Course, there`s a world of difference between saying and doing. After the launching of Vietnamization, it took four years and an additional 15,000 Americans killed in action before U.S. troops were finally withdrawn from ground combat. And the troops came home only because Americans, war-weary and deeply divided, lost confidence in the White House and its Pentagon advisers, and demanded that Congress impose limitations on U.S. military action.

The burning question this weekend, as we honor those Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, is how long -- and at what additional cost in U.S. sons, daughters and treasure -- will it take before the Bush administration`s ill-fated Iraq venture is mercifully brought to an end?

We learned a bloody and costly lesson 35 years ago by gambling that we could get a foreign country ready in short order to stand and fight on its own. Nixon, as did Lyndon Johnson, underestimated the motivation and fighting skill of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. Or, conversely, both overrated the South Vietnamese force that they equipped, trained and sent into combat. Either way, we got it wrong and the NVA got what it wanted: South Vietnam.

To hear Bush tell it this week, the United States is going to march down that same road. He set a goal of creating an Iraqi army of 35,000 soldiers fully prepared to defend their country. That`s on top of his order to train an Iraqi force of more than 200,000 police and security personnel. As with Nixon, Bush did not announce a timetable for his program. But his objective is clear: The rate of American withdrawal will be calibrated to the growth of Iraqi forces.

Again, how long?

It`s not an idle question. In an appraisal that came in decidedly on the low side, Bush admitted to Monday`s national television audience that "the early performance of Iraqi forces fell short." Fell short? "Some refused orders to engage the enemy," said the U.S. commander in chief. Mr. Bush was way too kind. Would that it were only fear on the battlefield.

What about those Iraqi police who cooperated with the insurgents? I`m referring to reports of Iraqis turning over their weapons and the buildings they were guarding. How about those Iraqis who turned their guns on us? Failures of that kind cannot be chalked up to lack of training or unit cohesion, as Bush suggested this week. Something else may be afoot.

Guns are as plentiful in Iraqi homes as sand in the desert. Yet, with a couple of notable exceptions cited in Bush`s speech, Iraqis are not showing much stomach for taking on and dismantling the terrorist forces, illegal militias and Saddam Hussein loyalist elements that Bush brands as enemies. Could it be the other way around: that the Iraqi people see the Western occupation -- not Arab militias and guerrillas -- as standing between themselves and their future as a self-determining, Islamic nation? A tougher question still: Even if the Iraqis were capable of dealing with the insurgents by themselves, would they? Does the insurgency have their enmity or their quiet admiration?

By Memorial Day 2005, we may have our answer. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz recently told Congress that it may take a year to 18 months to get Iraqi security forces fully trained and equipped -- which is a far cry from Wolfowitz on Nov. 13, 2003, when he told regional U.S. media outlets in a series of interviews that "we are getting enormous support from the people who matter most, and that`s the Iraqi people. We now have over 100,000 Iraqis fighting for their freedom." Or so he hoped at the time.

Today, as a year ago, the primary responsibility for fighting Iraq`s "enemies" rests with the United States. Meanwhile, Iraqi clergy and tribal leaders cut deals that allow a town such as Fallujah, which was once under siege by U.S. Marines, to emerge as a mini Taliban-like state under the control of mujaheddin who resisted the U.S. occupation, according to an Associated Press report on Tuesday. The selling of alcohol can get you a flogging and "Western" style haircuts are forbidden, the AP said. "We must capitalize on our victory over the Americans and implement Islamic sharia laws," cleric Abdul-Qader al-Aloussi told the wire service. Bush said on Monday night: "We`re making security a shared responsibility in Fallujah." Who`s briefing that man?

And down south? After weeks of fighting forces of the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whom we threatened to kill or capture and whose militia we once promised to destroy, the militia and Sadr are still free as birds, thanks to "negotiations" by what Bush calls "respected Shia leaders."

So we have another Memorial Day with U.S. troops far from home being killed and wounded as they provide manpower in another country`s "defense." And what will be the killed-in-action total as of Memorial Day 2005?


© 2004 The Washington Post Company
May 28, 2004
Tales of the New Arabian Nights
Chalabi Baba and the 40 Thieves


Sinbad, step aside. Aladdin and Ali Baba, off with your tawdry tales so we can hear a truly fantastic story from the land of the Arabian Nights.

You would have thought by this stage of this United States presidency, that there was little left to shock. But this is the news from Washington - the CIA has asked the FBI to investigate allegations that the Iraqi exile who almost single-handedly drove the American invasion of Iraq has all the time been a double agent for neighbouring Iran, which was secretly manipulating the US to topple its arch foe, Saddam Hussein.

It strains credulity that Iran, declared by the President George Bush to be an "axis-of-evil" enemy of the US, would set out to sandwich itself between US-dominated neighbours in Iraq and Afghanistan; but too often credulity has to be left at the front door during this Iraq crisis. And it`s not as though Bush needed an excuse to invade. As early as March 2002, according to Time magazine, the President told colleagues: "F--- Saddam, we`re taking him out."

The FBI investigation of the exile Ahmad Chalabi and his Pentagon friends has opened in a week that began with a slightly wild-eyed Bush revealing his new winning plan for Iraq was his old floundering plan. It ended with a peace deal for the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf, Karbala and Kufa which was eerily similar to the deal the US accepted to end the battle of Falluja. Washington`s non-negotiable demands were forgotten and the "thugs" the US was after were allowed to get away.

Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress were the source of much of the discredited US case for war against Saddam; claims of weapons of mass destruction and links to global terrorism. Always suspected by the State Department and the CIA, Chalabi nonetheless mesmerised the Pentagon and the White House and elements of the US media - a point dramatically underscored this week by The New York Times when it admitted just how wrong it was with much of its pre-war reporting on WMD, particularly the work of its Pulitzer Prize winner, Judith Miller, who made great use of - or was greatly used by - Chalabi.

Tension has been rising between Chalabi and Washington at the approach of June 30. That`s when Washington says it will hand sovereign power back to the Iraqis. It`s also the first time the music will stop in the post-invasion game of musical chairs and when it does, Chalabi is among those tipped to be without a seat.

But the tension exploded 10 days ago with joint US-Iraqi raiding parties searching Chalabi`s Baghdad headquarters, waving a bundle of arrest warrants for his associates and fuelling speculation about their role in blackmail, fraud and kidnapping. Chalabi, a disgraced former banker, is accused of positioning his associates to control virtually all the banks in postwar Iraq and of skimming $US22 million ($30.6 million) during the introduction of a new currency last year.

He was airlifted into "liberated" Iraq by the US and immediately appointed to the Iraqi Governing Council - a position from which he took control of the "de-Baathification" of Iraq. This was a process, insisted upon by the US, of stripping all former Baath Party members from public positions. Now it is alleged Chalabi`s teams have been running an extortion racket in which many former officials have been allowed to buy protection from public humiliation.

The investigation of Chalabi is based on CIA claims that it has irrefutable, "rock-solid" evidence that he passed classified US information to Tehran. There`s potential for the neo-conservative element in the Pentagon to be embarrassed here, because of the implication that it gave the tightly-held information to Chalabi in the first place.

The investigation will focus on Chalabi`s long-time intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, a Shia Kurd. Some in Washington claim he has been in Tehran`s pay for years and that he has gone underground since last week`s hit on Chalabi`s bunker.

Another former US intelligence chief was quoted: "The people investigating this aren`t sure yet ... but the Defence Intelligence Agency is looking through its documents and realising they`ve been had. If it turns out to be true, it was certainly a genius operation - (the Iranians) created an anti-Saddam opposition to get rid of him and they got us to pay for it."

Chalabi and Tehran have denied the charges. But with the unravelling of the Bush case for war the picture emerging in Washington is of a conman, as opposed to a neo-con, who hounded susceptible officials and coached Iraqi defectors to tell Washington what it wanted to hear about Saddam.

Chalabi`s supporters have billed last week`s raid and the allegations against him as "the revenge of the CIA".

One of his stoutest defenders, The Wall Street Journal, editorialised on Thursday: "We think Mr Chalabi is a pawn in a much larger battle that is strategic, ideological and personal ... he has long battled the CIA over the best way to topple Saddam ... he is at odds with the UN special envoy (on the future governance of Iraq) ... he is a blunt man who can seem arrogant, even to his friends."

But a gleeful former State Department counter-terrorism official told reporters: "When the story ultimately comes out, we`ll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history - it persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy."

If Scheherazade had come up with stuff like this, we would never have had the stories of Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba. She would have been clamped in irons.

Paul McGeough writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, where this essay originally appeared.
Massoud A. Derhally: `What the Arab world hears when Bush speaks`
Date: Saturday, May 29 @ 09:54:15 EDT

By Massoud A. Derhally, The Daily Star (Lebanon)

As he addressed the influential pro-Israeli American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) recently, US President George W. Bush repeatedly invoked the desire for security as a common denominator between the United States and Israel. Yet not once did he recognize the Palestinians` right to self-defense.

Bush`s wholehearted support for Israel took place while an indiscriminate Israeli onslaught on Palestinians continued in the Rafah area of Gaza, with tanks, bulldozers and helicopters. Yet somehow, Bush couldn`t muster the courage to condemn Israel`s killing of innocent Palestinians, the demolition of Palestinian homes and the displacement of more than 2,000 people. At best the president said: "The unfolding violence in the Gaza Strip is troubling and underscores the need for all parties to seize every opportunity for peace."

The reluctance to unequivocally condemn or rebuke Israel mirrored Bush`s earlier reluctance to immediately issue an apology to Iraqis and Arabs for the systematic abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Events in Iraq are consuming Bush. They are blurring the realities on the ground and complicating US foreign policy when it comes to dealing with Israel. They are also contributing to a disturbing phenomenon underscoring American and Israeli policies: The "war on terrorism" has sanctioned inhumane practices against those deemed to be "the enemy."

It is Washington`s unconditional endorsement of Israel that cultivates and nurtures anti-American sentiment in the Arab world and increases militancy in the region. The US, which many around the world look to as a beacon of higher moral authority, is today, among most Arabs and Muslims, regarded as hypocritical.

Despite the international outcry against Israel`s actions in Rafah, Bush stood before his prospective electoral constituency and ludicrously called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon`s unilateral disengagement plan in Gaza, "a bold, courageous step, that can bring us closer to the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security." Such a message, irrespective of what administration officials say about the evenhandedness of America`s Middle East policy, provides Israel with a blank check to do as it pleases, secure in the knowledge that it will, at most, be reprimanded by the UN Security Council.

To the Arab world, Bush`s AIPAC speech typified the evangelical zeal of the president, but also his inability to grasp the fundamentals lying at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Bush said a secure Israel was in the national interest of the US. But isn`t a secure Palestine also in its interest? The lives of Israelis are sacred. But are the lives of Palestinians so cheap? The words of Israeli soldiers and government officials are credible. Are those of Palestinians merely allegations, fabrications and exaggerations? These are the questions Arabs bring up when asked what they think about US foreign policy in the Middle East.

That the Palestinians are treated as inferior to Israelis by the US, that a majority of Arabs must yield to America`s vision of how the region should behave (lest they be labeled enemies of freedom and democracy, or terrorist collaborators), both speak to Bush`s failures. Instead of leading by example, by consensus or by evenhandedness, the president leads by intimidation and all-or-nothing policies.

This is, at least, how he is viewed in the Arab world, and no light is visible at the end of that tunnel. American sponsored initiatives like Radio Sawa or the Al-Hurra satellite television channel do little to reduce anti-American sentiment. If anything, the outlets are viewed with cynicism and provoke a belief that the US prefers such gimmickry to engaging Arab leaders and peoples, or to putting pressure on Israel to honor its commitments to the Palestinians.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell told Congress that the US invasion of Iraq would play a salient role in shifting the balance of power in the Middle East, so that eventually peace and democracy would emerge from the fog of war. What Powell, Bush and other US officials fail to consider is that Osama bin Laden, Hamas and every other terrorist or militant group that comes out of the region will thrive for as long as there is no just solution to the Palestinian problem.

It would have been more appropriate for Bush to tell his AIPAC audience that Israel`s operation in Gaza would most certainly add fuel to the fire, that it would merely increase Palestinian bitterness and hatred and would definitely provide ammunition to zealots on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli divide to carry on with their destructive agendas.

If Bush had pursued Middle East peace with the same fortitude that he displayed in waging war, he might well have succeeded in bringing about a Palestinian-Israeli settlement. Yet when the US presidential election takes place next November, Bush will primarily be remembered for his legacy of war.

Massoud A. Derhally is a freelance journalist, political commentator and former correspondent of Agence France Presse. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR

Copyright © 2004, The Daily Star.

Reprinted from The Daily Star (Lebanon):
Amy Goodman & David Goodman: `Fatal error: The lies of our (New York) Times`
Date: Saturday, May 29 @ 09:49:29 EDT

By Amy Goodman and David Goodman, ZNet

In our new book, The Exception To the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers and the Media That Love Them, we titled one chapter "The Lies of Our Times" to examine how The New York Times coverage on Iraq and its alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction helped lead the country to war. Yesterday, The New York Times, for the first time, raised questions about its own coverage in an 1,100-word editor`s note. Here is an excerpt from our section of the book on the New York Times and Iraq.

"From a marketing point of view, you don`t introduce new products in August." -- Andrew H. Card, White House Chief of Staff speaking about the Iraq war P.R. campaign, September 6, 2002

In the midst of the buildup to war, a major scandal was unfolding at The New York Times-the paper that sets the news agenda for other media. The Times admitted that for several years a 27-year-old reporter named Jayson Blair had been conning his editors and falsifying stories. He had pretended to be places he hadn`t been, fabricated quotes, and just plain lied in order to tell a sensational tale. For this, Blair was fired. But The Times went further: It ran a 7,000-word, five-page expose on the young reporter, laying bare his personal and professional escapades.

The Times said it had reached a low point in its 152-year history. I agreed. But not because of the Jayson Blair affair. It was The Times coverage of the Bush-Blair affair.

When George W. Bush and Tony Blair made their fraudulent case to attack Iraq, The Times, along with most corporate media outlets in the United States, became cheerleaders for the war. And while Jayson Blair was being crucified for his journalistic sins, veteran Times national security correspondent and best-selling author Judith Miller was filling The Times` front pages with unchallenged government propaganda. Unlike Blair`s deceptions, Miller`s lies provided the pretext for war. Her lies cost lives.

If only The New York Times had done the same kind of investigation of Miller`s reports as it had with Jayson Blair.

The White House propaganda blitz was launched on September 7, 2002, at a Camp David press conference. British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood side by side with his co-conspirator, President George W. Bush. Together, they declared that evidence from a report published by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed that Iraq was "six months away" from building nuclear weapons.

"I don`t know what more evidence we need," crowed Bush.

Actually, any evidence would help-there was no such IAEA report. But at the time, few mainstream American journalists questioned the leaders` outright lies. Instead, the following day, "evidence" popped up in the Sunday New York Times under the twin byline of Michael Gordon and Judith Miller. "More than a decade after Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction," they stated with authority, "Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration officials said today."

In a revealing example of how the story amplified administration spin, the authors included the phrase soon to be repeated by President Bush and all his top officials: "The first sign of a `smoking gun,` [administration officials] argue, may be a mushroom cloud."

Harper`s publisher John R. MacArthur, author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, knew what to make of this front-page bombshell. "In a disgraceful piece of stenography," he wrote, Gordon and Miller "inflated an administration leak into something resembling imminent Armageddon."

The Bush administration knew just what to do with the story they had fed to Gordon and Miller. The day The Times story ran, Vice President Dick Cheney made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows to advance the administration`s bogus claims. On NBC`s Meet the Press, Cheney declared that Iraq had purchased aluminum tubes to make enriched uranium. It didn`t matter that the IAEA refuted the charge both before and after it was made. But Cheney didn`t want viewers just to take his word for it. "There`s a story in The New York Times this morning," he said smugly. "And I want to attribute The Times."

This was the classic disinformation two-step: the White House leaks a lie to The Times, the newspaper publishes it as a startling expose, and then the White House conveniently masquerades behind the credibility of The Times.

"What mattered," wrote MacArthur, "was the unencumbered rollout of a commercial for war."4

Judith Miller was just getting warmed up. Reporting for America`s most influential newspaper, Miller continued to trumpet administration leaks and other bogus sources as the basis for eye-popping stories that backed the administration`s false premises for war. "If reporters who live by their sources were obliged to die by their sources," Jack Shafer wrote later in Slate, "Miller would be stinking up her family tomb right now."

After the war, Shafer pointed out, "None of the sensational allegations about chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons given to Miller have panned out, despite the furious crisscrossing of Iraq by U.S. weapons hunters."

Did The New York Times publish corrections? Clarifications? Did heads roll? Not a chance: Judith Miller`s "scoops" continued to be proudly run on the front pages.

Here are just some of the corrections The Times should have run after the year-long campaign of front-page false claims by one of its premier reporters, Judith Miller.


Scoop: "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts," by Judith Miller and Michael R. Gordon, September 8, 2002. The authors quote Ahmed al-Shemri (a pseudonym), who contends that he worked in Iraq`s chemical weapons program before defecting in 2000. " `All of Iraq is one large storage facility,` said Mr. Shemri, who claimed to have worked for many years at the Muthanna State Enterprise, once Iraq`s chemical weapons plant." The authors quote Shemri as stating that Iraq is stockpiling "12,500 gallons of anthrax, 2,500 gallons of gas gangrene, 1,250 gallons of aflatoxin, and 2,000 gallons of botulinum throughout the country."

Oops: As UN weapons inspectors had earlier stated-and U.S. weapons inspectors confirmed in September 2003-none of these claims were true. The unnamed source is one of many Iraqi defectors who made sensational false claims that were championed by Miller and The Times.

Scoop: "White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons," by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon, September 13, 2002. The article quotes the White House contention that Iraq was trying to purchase aluminum pipes to assist its nuclear weapons program.

Oops: Rather than run a major story on how the United States had falsely cited the UN to back its claim that Iraq was expanding its nuclear weapons program, Miller and Gordon repeated and embellished the lie.

Contrast this with the lead paragraph of a story that ran in the British daily The Guardian on September 9: "The International Atomic Energy Agency has no evidence that Iraq is developing nuclear weapons at a former site previously destroyed by UN inspectors, despite claims made over the weekend by Tony Blair, western diplomatic sources told The Guardian yesterday." The story goes on to say that the IAEA "issued a statement insisting it had `no new information` on Iraq`s nuclear program since December 1998 when its inspectors left Iraq."

Miller`s trumped-up story contributed to the climate of the time and The Times. A month later, numerous congressional representatives cited the nuclear threat as a reason for voting to authorize war.

Scoop: "U.S. Faulted Over Its Efforts to Unite Iraqi Dissidents," by Judith Miller, October 2, 2002. Quoting Ahmed Chalabi and Defense Department adviser Richard Perle, this story stated: "The INC [Iraqi National Congress] has been without question the single most important source of intelligence about Saddam Hussein."

Miller airs the INC`s chief complaint: "Iraqi dissidents and administration officials complain that [the State Department and CIA] have also tried to cast doubt on information provided by defectors Mr. Chalabi`s organization has brought out of Iraq."

Oops: Miller championed the cause of Chalabi, the Iraqi exile leader who had been lobbying Washington for over a decade to support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein`s regime. As The Washington Post revealed, Miller wrote to Times veteran foreign correspondent John Burns, who was working in Baghdad at the time, that Chalabi "has provided most of the front page exclusives on WMD [weapons of mass destruction] to our paper."

Times readers might be interested to learn the details of how Ahmed Chalabi was bought and paid for by the CIA. Chalabi heads the INC, an organization of Iraqi exiles created by the CIA in 1992 with the help of the Rendon Group, a powerful public relations firm that has worked extensively for the two Bush administrations. Between 1992 and 1996, the CIA covertly funneled $12 million to Chalabi`s INC. In 1998, the Clinton administration gave Chalabi control of another $98 million of U.S. taxpayer money. Chalabi`s credibility has always been questionable: He was convicted in absentia in Jordan of stealing some $500 million from a bank he established, leaving shareholders high and dry. He has been accused by Iraqi exiles of pocketing at least $4 million of CIA funds.

In the lead-up to war, the CIA dismissed Chalabi as unreliable. But he was the darling of Pentagon hawks, putting an Iraqi face on their warmongering. So the Pentagon established a new entity, the Office of Special Plans, to champion the views of discredited INC defectors who helped make its case for war.

As Howard Kurtz later asked in The Washington Post: "Could Chalabi have been using The Times to build a drumbeat that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction?"

Scoop: "C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox," by Judith Miller, December 3, 2002. The story claims that "Iraq obtained a particularly virulent strain of smallpox from a Russian scientist." The story adds later: "The information came to the American government from an informant whose identity has not been disclosed."

Smallpox was cited by President Bush as one of the "weapons of mass destruction" possessed by Iraq that justified a dangerous national inoculation program-and an invasion.

Oops: After a three-month search of Iraq, " `Team Pox` turned up only signs to the contrary: disabled equipment that had been rendered harmless by UN inspectors, Iraqi scientists deemed credible who gave no indication they had worked with smallpox, and a laboratory thought to be back in use that was covered in cobwebs," reported the Associated Press in September 2003.

Scoop: "Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert," by Judith Miller, April 21, 2003. In this front-page article, Miller quotes an American military officer who passes on the assertions of "a man who said he was an Iraqi scientist" in U.S. custody. The "scientist" claims that Iraq destroyed its WMD stockpile days before the war began, that the regime had transferred banned weapons to Syria, and that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda.

Who is the messenger for this bombshell? Miller tells us only that she "was permitted to see him from a distance at the sites where he said that material from the arms program was buried. Clad in nondescript clothes and a baseball cap, he pointed to several spots in the sand where he said chemical precursors and other weapons material were buried."

And then there were the terms of this disclosure: "This reporter was not permitted to interview the scientist or visit his home. Nor was she permitted to write about the discovery of the scientist for three days, and the copy was then submitted for a check by military officials. Those officials asked that details of what chemicals were uncovered be deleted." No proof. No names. No chemicals. Only a baseball cap-and the credibility of Miller and The Times-to vouch for a "scientist" who conveniently backs up key claims of the Bush administration. Miller, who was embedded with MET Alpha, a military unit searching for WMDs, pumped up her sensational assertions the next day on PBS`s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: Q: Has the unit you`ve been traveling with found any proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

JUDITH MILLER: Well, I think they found something more than a smoking gun. What they`ve found...is a silver bullet in the form of a person, an Iraqi individual, a scientist, as we`ve called him, who really worked on the programs, who knows them firsthand.

Q: Does this confirm in a way the insistence coming from the U.S. government that after the war, various Iraqi tongues would loosen, and there might be people who would be willing to help?

JUDITH MILLER: Yes, it clearly does.... That`s what the Bush administration has finally done. They have changed the political environment, and they`ve enabled people like the scientists that MET Alpha has found to come forth.

Oops: The silver bullet got more tarnished as it was examined. Three months later, Miller acknowledged that the scientist was merely "a senior Iraqi military intelligence official." His explosive claims vaporized.

A final note from the Department of Corrections: The Times deeply regrets any wars or loss of life that these errors may have contributed to.


Tom Wolfe once wrote about a war-happy Times correspondent in Vietnam (same idea, different war): The administration was "playing [the reporter] of The New York Times like an ocarina, as if they were blowing smoke up his pipe and the finger work was just right and the song was coming forth better than they could have played it themselves." But who was playing whom? The Washington Post reported that while Miller was embedded with MET Alpha, her role in the unit`s operations became so central that it became known as the "Judith Miller team." In one instance, she disagreed with a decision to relocate the unit to another area and threatened to file a critical report in The Times about the action. When she took her protest to a two-star general, the decision was reversed. One Army officer told the Post, "Judith was always issuing threats of either going to The New York Times or to the secretary of defense. There was nothing veiled about that threat."

Later, she played a starring role in a ceremony in which MET Alpha`s leader was promoted. Other officers were surprised to watch as Miller pinned a new rank on the uniform of Chief Warrant Officer Richard Gonzales. He thanked her for her "contributions" to the unit. In April 2003, MET Alpha traveled to the compound of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi "at Judy`s direction," where they interrogated and took custody of an Iraqi man who was on the Pentagon`s wanted list-despite the fact that MET Alpha`s only role was to search for WMDs. As one officer told the Post, "It`s impossible to exaggerate the impact she had on the mission of this unit, and not for the better."

After a year of bogus scoops from Miller, the paper gave itself a bit of cover. Not corrections-just cover. On September 28, 2003, Times reporter Douglas Jehl surprisingly kicked the legs out from under Miller`s sources. In his story headlined AGENCY BELITTLES INFORMATION GIVEN BY IRAQ DEFECTORS, Jehl revealed: An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that most of the information provided by Iraqi defectors who were made available by the Iraqi National Congress was of little or no value, according to federal officials briefed on the arrangement. In addition, several Iraqi defectors introduced to American intelligence agents by the exile organization and its leader, Ahmed Chalabi, invented or exaggerated their credentials as people with direct knowledge of the Iraqi government and its suspected unconventional weapons program, the officials said.

The Iraqi National Congress had made some of these defectors available to...The New York Times, which reported their allegations about prisoners and the country`s weapons program. Poof. Up in smoke went thousands of words of what can only be called rank propaganda.

This Times confession was too little, too late. After an unnecessary war, during a brutal occupation, and several thousand lives later, The Times obliquely acknowledged that it had been recycling disinformation. Miller`s reports played an invaluable role in the administration`s propaganda war. They gave public legitimacy to outright lies, providing what appeared to be independent confirmation of wild speculation and false accusations. "What Miller has done over time seriously violates several Times` policies under their code of conduct for news and editorial departments," wrote William E. Jackson in Editor & Publisher. "Jayson Blair was only a fluke deviation.... Miller strikes right at the core of the regular functioning news machine."

More than that, Miller`s false reporting was key to justifying a war. And The Times` unabashed servitude to the administration`s war agenda did not end with Iraq.

On September 16, 2003, The Times ran a story headlined SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL TO LEVEL WEAPONS CHARGES AGAINST SYRIA. The stunningly uncritical article was virtually an excerpt of the testimony about to be given that day by outspoken hawk John R. Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control. The article included this curious caveat: The testimony "was provided to The New York Times by individuals who feel that the accusations against Syria have received insufficient attention." The article certainly solved that problem.

The author? Judith Miller-preparing for the next battlefront.

Reprinted from ZNet:
Saturday, May 29, 2004
War News for May 28 and 29, 2004


Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis wounded in mortar attack near Green Zone in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Two Japanese journalists, Iraqi interpreter killed in ambush near Mahmoudiyah.

Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis killed in fighting near Najaf.

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi killed, four wounded in fighting near Baquba.

Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers wounded in ambush near Kufa.

Bring ‘em on: US troops attacked with small arms near Abu Ghraib.

Bring ‘em on: Two explosions reported in central Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: US troops mortared near Najaf.

Bring ‘em on: ICDC general and family assassinated near Kirkuk.

Bring ‘em on: CJTF-7 reports three US Marines killed in al-Anbar province.

Bring ‘em on: Two Dutch soldiers wounded in ambush near Samawah.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi police station attacked near Basra.

Six Australian soldiers injured in vehicle accident near Baghdad.

IGC selects interim Iraqi prime minister. “The role of the UN in selecting the interim government remained unclear. A spokesman for Brahimi referred to Allawi as "prime minister-designate" and said Brahimi looked forward to working with him in selecting the members of the interim government. A UN spokesman in New York later told reporters the world body ‘respected’ the selection of Allawi but declined to endorse the nomination despite several invitations by reporters to do so. Chief UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said at the UN later in the day that the announcement was ‘not how we expected it to happen,’ according to Reuters.”

Demographics of US KIAs in Iraq. “Nonetheless, some conclusions can be teased out of the available data. A study done for the Austin American-Statesman by Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing revealed that, although the majority of the war dead come from what the Census Bureau calls "metropolitan" areas, which usually include close-in suburban counties, a disproportionately large share came from "nonmetro" counties. According to Bishop and Cushing, nearly a third (29 percent) of dead troops came from rural areas and small towns, compared with only a fifth (19 percent) of the general population. Given the concentration of political, economic, and cultural power in America`s cities and near suburbs, and the slow dwindling of opportunity in many small towns, this analysis does suggest that the lower middle class is unduly bearing the burden. But the information is hardly conclusive. The definitive answers will take years to disinter. And in the end, the truth, like the dead, may be lost in the fog of war and time.”

General Zinni uncorks on Lieutenant AWOL and his neo-con bunglers. “He says the U.S. military was provided with unrealistic objectives in Iraq. ‘We were in there talking about Jeffersonian democracy, free market economies, changing the face of the Middle East with this one blow. That was ridiculous, and I think now what we have is young kids paying the price...’”

Profiles of IGC members.

Chickenhawks defend Chalabi. “’There is a smear campaign under way, and it is being perpetrated by the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. and a gaggle of former intelligence officers who have succeeded in planting these stories, which are accepted with hardly any scrutiny,’ Mr. Perle, a leading conservative, said in an interview. Mr. Perle, referring to both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the campaign against Mr. Chalabi was ‘an outrageous abuse of power’ by United States government officials in Washington and Baghdad.” Sounds like an effort to impede a national security investigation to me.

Bible-thumping foreign policy. “Organized, motivated and self-confident, evangelicals are girding for two more foreign-policy battles. They seek freedom to proselytize in the Muslim lands of Iraq and Afghanistan. And they want to link any future U.S. aid for North Korea, in case of a nuclear accord, to progress there on human rights.” Just what our foreign policy needs: Elmer Gantry as Secretary of State.

Sergeant loses security clearance for talking to the press. “Sgt. Samuel Provance said he wasn’t surprised when Lt. Col. James Norwood summoned him to Wiesbaden on Friday, less than a week after the sergeant spoke to ABC News about his experiences at the Abu Ghraib. Provance is the only military intelligence soldier who served at the prison to publicly speak about prisoner abuses there, despite orders from his command to keep quiet. Now, Norwood, his battalion commander, has flagged Provance from favorable actions and pulled his top-secret clearance.”


Editorial: “President Bush said yesterday that he would transfer ‘complete and full sovereignty’ to an interim Iraqi government in barely a month. But nothing even close to that is likely to happen. Recent developments suggest that this ‘sovereignty’ will have little substance and that the president still has no coherent plan to create the security and political trust required to negotiate a constitution and hold fair elections. The sovereignty timetable remains driven by the American electoral calendar and growing Iraqi impatience with an incompetent and deeply unpopular occupation. That unpopularity also taints the American-appointed Governing Council, which makes the council`s announcement yesterday of the selection of Iyad Alawi, one of its most prominent members, as interim prime minister disheartening. The choice of Mr. Alawi, a Shiite exile with close ties to former Baathist generals and to the Central Intelligence Agency, hardly signals a fresh start. The manner of his designation raises questions about the authority of the United Nations` special representative, Lakhdar Brahimi. Paul Bremer III, Washington`s proconsul, didn`t even give Mr. Brahimi time to announce his support for Mr. Alawi before striding into the council`s meeting to offer congratulations.”

Opinion: “There is a difference between the administration decision to go to war and the decision of men and women who are called to follow their leader. This leader - the president - has made poor decisions, in my view, and jumped to conclusions before the facts. As a result, we are in a war that may be more unforgettable than any other war in our history. So, on this Memorial Day, I will remember my father, brothers, uncles, friends and relatives who have died or spent time fighting in a war. I will say a prayer of thanks for their brave deeds and place a flower on their final resting place. I also will ask them to pray for us. We may have let loose dogs of war that can`t be tamed until a terrible price is paid.”

Casualty Reports

Local story: Two Nebraska Marines killed in Iraq.

Local story: Maine soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: California soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Maine soldier wounded in Iraq.

Local story: Six Vermont Guardsmen wounded in Iraq.

Local story: California soldier wounded in Iraq.

Local story. Florida Guardsman found dead after returning from Iraq.

Off Topic

Superb rant. “When a new history of the United States of America comes to be written, the narrative will show that the biggest disaster that ever happened to that country was President George W. Bush Jnr., and not the calamity of September 11, 2001. And if George Bush should write his memoirs after being voted out of the White House, he should title the work, ‘Failure’ with the sub-title, ‘How the Son Never Rose.’ George Bush is the clearest example of how, in spite of all the privileges and advantages at one`s disposal, one can easily fail to succeed in life.”

86-43-04. Pass it on.

# posted by yankeedoodle : 4:10 AM
Comments (5)


‘Don’t Rush Me,’ Presumptive Nominee Tells Applebee’s Waitress

While dining at an Applebee’s restaurant in Portland, Oregon yesterday, presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry remained undecided on a running mate and what to have for lunch, campaign officials confirmed.

After brushing off reporters’ questions about potential running mates, Senator Kerry (D-Mass) refused to be pinned down on what he would be eating for lunch despite repeated attempts by his waitress, Jeannine Damico, to take his order.

“Don’t rush me!” Mr. Kerry thundered after Ms. Damico dropped by his table for the fourth time “just to see how he was doing.”

Mr. Kerry reportedly mulled the Applebee’s menu for a full twenty-five minutes before finally ordering his entree, the Crispy Orange Skillet, one of Applebee’s Skillet Sensations™.

The Bush campaign immediately jumped on the Applebee’s incident, using it in campaign ads to paint Mr. Kerry as too indecisive and wishy-washy to be President.

In the ads, a ghostly, echoing voice asks the question, “May I take your order, Mr. Kerry?” to which, ominously, there is no response.

Shortly after the ads aired, Mr. Kerry moved swiftly to defuse the controversy over his lunch order at Applebee’s.

“Choosing a running mate may be the most important decision a president has to make, but ordering lunch is also crucial,” Sen. Kerry told reporters. “I am confident that in ordering the Crispy Orange Skillet, I made the right decision.”

In other news, the major networks defended their decision not to air President Bush’s foreign policy speech on Iraq Monday night, arguing that it was not reality TV.


Andy Borowitz performs and answers audience questions Thursday June 3 at Makor, 35 West 67th Street. 7:30 PM; tickets $12 in advance, $15 at the door. For ticket info, go to www.92y.org.
Den Kampf weiterführen
Rede von Noam Chomsky zur Verleihung des Carl-von-Ossietzky-Preises der Stadt Oldenburg
von Noam Chomsky
Junge Welt / ZNet Deutschland 23.05.2004
* In Anerkennung seiner«kritischen Analysen der Weltordnung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Medien« wurde dem US-amerikanischen Sprachwissenschaftler, Medienkritiker und Philosophen Noam Chomsky am vergangenen Sonntag der Carl-von-Ossietzky-Preis für Zeitgeschichte und Politik der Stadt Oldenburg verliehen. Wir dokumentieren im folgenden ungekürzt Noam Chomskys Erwiderung auf die von Michael Schiffmann gehaltene Laudatio (siehe jW vom 24. Mai 2004).

Ich werde gar nicht erst versuchen, angemessene Worte meiner Dankbarkeit für diese Preisverleihung zu finden, mit der einer der außergewöhnlichsten Persönlichkeiten gedacht werden soll, die mit Leben und Werk das symbolisierte, was das Bestreben anständiger Leute überall sein sollte, und die auf eine Weise Mut und Integrität verkörperte, wie man sie selten in einer Person findet. Es ist für mich ein besonders großes Privileg, daß ich Uri Avnery in den Fußstapfen folgen kann, denn er ist ein Mann, den ich seit vielen Jahren kenne und den ich aufgrund seiner scharfsinnigen und mutigen Schriften und seines prinzipientreuen Handelns für Frieden und Gerechtigkeit zutiefst bewundere.

Vor zwei Jahren stellte Uri Avnery in seiner Ansprache zu Recht Carl von Ossietzky in die Reihe der hebräischen Propheten und erinnerte an die durch den König Ahab ausgesprochene Verdammung des Propheten Elias als »Hasser Israels«. König Ahab, Inbegriff des Bösen in der Bibel, setzte, wie es die gräßlichen Herrscher bis zum heutigen Tage tun, die Staatsmacht mit dem Land selbst, seinen Menschen und ihrer Kultur gleich. Wenn also Elias den mörderischen König ärgerte, so ärgerte er Israel. Bedauerlicherweise bestehen solche Unsitten bis heute fort. Der weit verbreitete Begriff »anti-amerikanisch« ist ein aktueller Beweis hierfür, er widerspiegelt dieselben zutiefst totalitären Annahmen.

Die biblischen Propheten könnte man aus heutiger Sicht durchaus als intellektuelle Dissidenten bezeichnen. Sie lieferten geopolitische Analysen, die den Mächtigen nicht genehm waren. Sie warnten vor den Folgen ihrer Verbrechen. Sie forderten Gerechtigkeit und Einhaltung von Menschenrechten und Menschenwürde. Zu ihren Lebzeiten wurden sie scharf verdammt und dazu noch oftmals streng bestraft. Damals wurden die Schmeichler am Hofe geehrt. Einige Jahrhunderte später haben sich die Werte grundlegend gewandelt. Jetzt ehren wir die Propheten und verdammen die Schmeichler. Doch die Muster und Unsitten der Antike bestehen fort.

Carl von Ossietzky wurde zu seinen Lebzeiten verleumdet und brutal bestraft, man gedenkt seiner heute jedoch zu Recht als einer heroischen Persönlichkeit. Vielen anderen Märtyrern widerfährt dies jedoch nicht.

In meinem Büro im MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology � d. Red.] hängt an der Wand ein Gemälde, das mir ein Jesuitenpriester geschenkt hat. Dieses Gemälde stellt den Todesengel dar, wie er über dem Erzbischof Romero von El Salvador steht, dessen Ermordung im Jahre 1980 ein Jahrzehnt schlimmster Grausamkeiten einleitete. Vor ihm stehen sechs führende lateinamerikanische Intellektuelle, Jesuitenpriester, die 1989 zusammen mit ihrer Haushälterin und deren Tochter durch Kopfschüsse gezielt getötet wurden; dies markierte den Abschluß eines grausamen Jahrzehnts. Dieselben Hände hatten später auch die Massaker während der internationalen Terrorkampagne dargestellt, die Romeros Nachfolger als »Vernichtungskrieg und Völkermord gegen eine wehrlose Zivilbevölkerung« beschrieb.

Wie der ermordete Erzbischof, so waren auch diese jesuitischen Intellektuellen »Stimmen der Stummen« und erlitten dasselbe Schicksal wie viele tapfere und verehrungswürdige Persönlichkeiten in der Menschheitsgeschichte, die jener heldenhaften Berufung gefolgt sind. Und wie der Erzbischof wurden sie zweifach hingerichtet: Auf brutale Weise ermordet, blieben sie obendrein in den aufgeklärten Ländern der westlichen Welt weitgehend unbekannt, was für Intellektuelle ein besonders schlimmes Schicksal ist. Einzig Fachleute oder Aktivisten kennen ihre Namen oder haben eine Vorstellung davon, was sie schrieben. Wer die Lehren der Geschichte kennt, dem können die Gründe hierfür kaum verborgen bleiben, und der wird sich auch des ins Auge springenden, beschämend engen Zusammenhangs zwischen Macht und Straffreiheit bewußt sein.

Das Gemälde hängt an der Wand meines Büros, um mich tagtäglich an die reale Welt zu erinnern. Es hat sich aber auch gezeigt, daß es einen weiteren sehr aufschlußreichen Zweck erfüllt. Es kommen viele Besucher in mein Büro. Die Lateinamerikaner unter ihnen erkennen das Bild mit nahezu unfehlbarer Sicherheit, die Nordamerikaner hingegen praktisch nie. Von den Europäern erkennen es vielleicht zehn Prozent. Es erübrigt sich wohl jeder Kommentar darüber, was dies über unsere eigene moralische und intellektuelle Kultur aussagt. Leider ist das nur ein Beispiel von vielen.

Kurzsichtige Bürokratien

Zum Abschluß seiner damaligen Rede verlieh Uri Avnery der Hoffnung auf Frieden in jener krisengeschüttelten Region der Erde Ausdruck, für den er sich dort so mutig einsetzt. Damals waren die Verhältnisse trostlos. Heute ist das Bild noch weit düsterer, und was sich daraus ergibt, könnte sogar zu nuklearem Terror oder Schlimmerem führen. Aber es kann kein Zweifel daran bestehen, daß auch eine friedliche Beilegung möglich ist. Die vielversprechendste Lösung � die auch von Gush Shalom verfochten wird, der Friedensorganisation, in der Avnery eine führende Rolle spielt � wurde am 1. Dezember in Genf der Öffentlichkeit vorgestellt. Regierungen in aller Welt, jedoch nicht alle, begleiteten diese Präsentation mit Unterstützungserklärungen. Wie die New York Times berichtete, »gehörte die Regierung der Vereinigten Staaten auffälligerweise nicht zu denjenigen, die Unterstützungserklärungen abgaben«. Die Folgen dieser Haltung liegen klar auf der Hand. Ebenso klar ist, daß europäische Initiativen sehr wohl etwas Entscheidendes bewirken könnten. Dies ist bei weitem nicht das einzige Beispiel, es ist nur das bedrohlichste.

Der Ernst der Herausforderungen, mit denen wir konfrontiert sind, läßt sich schwerlich übertreiben. Uns allen ist sehr bewußt, daß Menschen derart schreckliche Vernichtungswaffen entwickelt haben, daß das Überleben unserer Gattung bedroht ist. Wissenschaftler in den USA haben unlängst entdeckt, daß US-Präsidenten über die Auswirkungen eines Atomkrieges »systematisch fehlinformiert« wurden. Sie hätten aufgrund fehlenden Überblicks über die »abgeschirmten Bürokratien«, die Analysen über einen »begrenzten« und »gewinnbaren« Krieg lieferten, das Ausmaß der Zerstörung »ernsthaft unterschätzt«. Dies führe zu einer »institutionellen Kurzsichtigkeit«, die »katastrophale« Folgen haben könne. Ich zitiere aus einem Hintergrundartikel in der bedeutenden US-amerikanischen wissenschaftlichen Wochenzeitschrift Science. Das Problem der institutionellen Kurzsichtigkeit ist ein ernstzunehmenderes als jenes der Pleiten und Manipulationen der Geheimdienstberichte im Zusammenhang mit dem Irak, die in den letzten Monaten die Titelseiten der Presse gefüllt und Schlagzeilen geliefert haben.

Atomare Bedrohung

In der Vergangenheit standen wir mehrmals kurz vor einem Atomkrieg. Im Oktober 2002 fand in Havanna eine hochrangig besetzte Konferenz zum 40. Jahrestag der Kuba-Krise statt, an der maßgebliche Vertreter aller beteiligten Seiten teilnahmen. Sie waren sich schon vorab der Tatsache bewußt, daß diese durch die sowjetische Raketenstationierung ausgelöste Krise »der gefährlichste Augenblick in der Menschheitsgeschichte« war, wie sich der namhafte Historiker und Kennedy-Berater Arthur Schlesinger in Havanna ausdrückte. Aber sie waren schockiert, als sie erfuhren, wie gefährlich die damalige Lage tatsächlich gewesen war. Es wurde aufgedeckt, daß die Welt damals buchstäblich nur ein einziges Wort von einem Atomkrieg entfernt war. Zur Zeit der Raketenkrise war noch nicht bekannt, daß die russischen U-Boote mit atomaren Torpedos bestückt waren. Als die russischen U-Boote von US-Zerstörern angegriffen wurden und die U-Boot-Kommandeure annahmen, daß ein allgemeiner Krieg ausgebrochen sei, erging der Befehl, die Torpedos abzufeuern. Dieser Befehl wurde jedoch noch rechtzeitig von einem der Kommandeure, Wassili Archipow, widerrufen. So konnte eine Eskalation abgewendet werden, die sich ohne weiteres zu einem Atomkrieg hätte steigern können � einem Krieg, der, so hatte Präsident Eisenhower gewarnt, möglicherweise zur Zerstörung der nördlichen Hemisphäre geführt hätte.

Später geschah es sehr oft, daß der Abschuß von Atomwaffen in letzter Minute noch durch menschliches Eingreifen gestoppt werden konnte, nachdem computergesteuerte Warnsysteme fälschlicherweise einen kriegerischen Angriff auf das Land meldeten. In einem Fall, und zwar in Rußland 1995, wurde der Abschuß nur zwei Minuten vor dem geplanten Zeitpunkt gestoppt. Diese Systeme sind nach wie vor auf Hochalarm geschaltet und sowohl in den USA als auch in Rußland computergesteuert.

Zumindest über die US-Systeme wissen wir eine Menge. Ein Untersuchungsbericht des Kongresses aus dem Jahr 1980 stellte fest, daß allein im Jahr 1979 78 Besprechungen zur Beurteilung von Computermeldungen eines Raketenangriffs anberaumt wurden, und dies war ein durchaus normales Jahr. Zwischen 1977 und 1984 gab es 21 000 Fehlanzeigen eines Raketenangriffs; über fünf Prozent davon machten eine genauere Überprüfung erforderlich. Heute, so wird uns berichtet, kommen solche Fehlanzeigen und Fehlalarme täglich vor. Die Systeme der USA räumen eine Frist von drei Minuten zur menschlichen Beurteilung nach Eingang der Warnung vor einem Raketenangriff ein, und danach noch einmal weitere 30 Sekunden für Anweisungen des Präsidenten. Das Pentagon hat ernsthafte Entwicklungsfehler bei den Computer-Sicherheitssystemen entdeckt, die terroristischen Hackern den Zugriff und die Simulation eines Raketenabschusses ermöglichen. Bruce Blair, der bekannte strategische Analytiker, spricht in diesem Zusammenhang von einem »Unfall, der nur darauf wartet, daß er passiert«. Russische Systeme sind weitaus weniger zuverlässig und haben sich im Gefolge des wirtschaftlichen Zusammenbruchs wesentlich verschlechtert. Somit ist die Gefahr eines aus Zufall ausbrechenden finalen Krieges größer geworden.

Provozierte Gegenwehr

US-Analytiker gehen davon aus, daß sich die russischen Militärausgaben in den Jahren unter Bush und Putin verdreifacht haben. Diese Reaktion auf das Säbelrassseln und die Aggressivität der Bush-Administration war zu erwarten. Rußland hat sich nach eigenen Angaben jetzt auch die Bush-Doktrin vom »Erstschlag« zu eigen gemacht, die eine beschönigende Umschreibung für willkürliche Aggression ist. Diese Doktrin, die in der Nationalen Sicherheitsstrategie von Bush formal verkündet wurde, hat Henry Kissinger als eine »revolutionäre« neue Doktrin beschrieben, die das seit dem Westfälischen Frieden Mitte des 17. Jahrhunderts bestehende System ebenso zunichte macht wie die UN-Charta und das moderne Völkerrecht. Die russische Führung hat auch »ein entscheidendes Detail hinzugefügt«, sie hat nämlich laut Presseberichten »festgestellt, daß militärische Gewaltanwendung möglich ist, wenn es Bestrebungen geben sollte, den Zugang Rußlands auf Regionen zu behindern, die für sein Überleben von zentraler Bedeutung sind«. Somit hat sie die Clinton-Doktrin übernommen, wonach die USA zu »einseitiger Anwendung militärischer Gewalt« befugt sind, um den »ungehinderten Zugang zu entscheidenden Märkten, Energiereserven und strategischen Ressourcen« zu gewährleisten, wie das Weiße Haus zur Zeit Clintons dem Kongreß mitteilte.

Vor zwei Monaten führte Rußland seine größten Militärmanöver seit zwei Jahrzehnten durch und testete dabei neue und noch ausgereiftere Massenvernichtungswaffen. Ranghohe Militärs stellten dabei heraus, daß dies eine Reaktion auf die Handlungen der US-Regierung darstelle � auch dies war genauso zu erwarten und vorhergesagt worden. Besorgt äußerten sie sich insbesondere über die Bestrebungen der USA, die Schwelle für den Einsatz atomarer Waffen abzusenken und Mini-Atomwaffen oder sogenannte »bunker busters«, bunkerbrechende Bomben, zur Anwendung zu bringen. Russische Militäranalytiker können nur von den gleichen Annahmen ausgehen wie ihre amerikanischen Amtskollegen, die darüber schreiben, daß sie mit ihren Waffen in Bergen versteckte russische Kommandobunker angreifen könnten, von denen aus die Atomarsenale kontrolliert werden. Das einseitige Insistieren der USA auf Nutzung des Weltalls für offensive militärische Zwecke ist ein weiterer Grund zur Besorgnis. US-Analytiker befürchten, daß Rußland derzeit versuchen könnte, es den USA bei der Entwicklung eines Überschall-Raketenträgers gleichzutun, der aus dem Weltraum wieder in die Erdatmosphäre eintreten und ohne Vorwarnung überall verheerende Angriffe ausführen könnte.

Unter Militäranalytikern aller Seiten ist unbestritten, daß die sogenannte »Raketenabwehr« der USA in Wirklichkeit eine Erstschlagswaffe darstellt und daß der Einsatz solcher Systeme bei den potentiellen Angriffszielen, nämlich Rußland und China, dazu führt, daß diese ihrerseits neue Waffensysteme zu ihrer Überwindung entwickeln. So wie etwa die USA 1968 auf ein kleines Raketenabwehrsystem um Moskau reagierten, indem sie dieses mitsamt den Radareinrichtungen zum Zielobjekt ihrer Atomwaffen machten. Die erste [von den USA � d. Red.] für diesen Sommer angekündigte Stationierungsstufe wurde als politisches Manöver scharf kritisiert, bei welchem unausgereifte Technik von zweifelhafter Zuverlässigkeit zu enormen Kosten eingesetzt würde. Eine ernstzunehmendere Kritik besteht darin, daß das System den Anschein hoher Effizienz wecken könne. In der Logik eines Atomkrieges zählt der Schein und nicht die Wirklichkeit. Eine scheinbare Wirksamkeit wird Reaktionen auslösen, die die Welt der Zerstörung erneut näher bringen.

Erbe und Zukunft

Diese Entwicklungen verlaufen nach einem historischen Muster. Mit erschreckender Eintönigkeit haben Staaten, die über die zerstörerischste Militärmacht verfügen � natürlich stets mit dem Bekenntnis zur Selbstverteidigung �, ihre Zerstörungsmacht immer weiter auszudehnen versucht. Die USA sind eine ungewöhnlich offene und freie Gesellschaft, in diesem Punkt im Grunde einzigartig, und daher verfügen wir über reichhaltige Aufzeichnungen von Dokumentationen über die internen Planungen in diesem Bereich. Der erschreckendste Gesichtspunkt besteht in der Tatsache, daß bei der regelmäßigen Entwicklung von immer schlagkräftigeren Vernichtungswaffen die Sorge über mögliche Vergeltungsschläge, die die USA treffen und aufs Äußerste gefährden würden, bislang keine bzw. kaum eine Rolle gespielt hat. Soweit wir das aufgrund vorliegender Informationen beurteilen können, dürfte diese Feststellung auch für andere Staaten gelten. Die unerbittlichen geschichtlichen Fakten sprechen eine deutliche Sprache. Der Unterschied liegt heute nur darin, daß inzwischen viel mehr auf dem Spiel steht.

Dies ist nur ein kleines Beispiel. In solchen Fällen, und dazu gehören auch lokale Konflikte und Terror, sind konstruktive Lösungen naheliegend; ihre Umsetzung wird jedoch von der »institutionellen Kurzsichtigkeit«, einer herrschenden Doktrin und der gewohnten Autoritätsgläubigkeit und Unterwürfigkeit verhindert. Wir genießen heute ungewöhnliche Freiheiten und Privilegien, die jedoch kein Geschenk von oben sind, sondern das Erbe eines langen und mutigen Kampfes. Freiheit und Privilegien übertragen zugleich Verantwortung und eröffnen Wahlmöglichkeiten. Wir haben die Wahl, das Erbe fallenzulassen, in dessen Genuß wir gekommen sind, und somit dafür verantwortlich zu sein, daß uns das Schlimmste erst noch bevorsteht. Oder wir entscheiden uns dafür, dieses großartige Erbe nutzbar zu machen, den Kampf weiterzuführen und künftigen Generationen Grund zur Hoffnung zu geben. Die Wahl könnte nicht klarer sein, und die Konsequenzen wären kaum dramatischer.

Es ist unsere Pflicht, Carl von Ossietzkys und anderer Märtyrer für die Sache der Freiheit und Gerechtigkeit zu gedenken und sie zu ehren. Noch größer ist allerdings unsere Verantwortung, uns ihrer Sache nach Kräften hinzugeben.


Veröffentlicht mit freundlicher Genehmigung der jungen Welt. Orginal unter: http://www.jungewelt.de/2004/05-28/005.php
May 30, 2004
Report Cited Scant Evidence, Long Detention for Iraqis

WASHINGTON, May 29 — Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were held in Abu Ghraib prison for prolonged periods despite a lack of evidence that they posed a security threat to American forces, according to an Army report completed last fall.

The unpublished report, by Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, reflects what other senior Army officers have described as a deep concern among some American officers and officials in Iraq over the refusal of top American commanders in Baghdad to authorize the release of so-called security prisoners. Some of those prisoners were held for interrogation at Abu Ghraib in the cellblock that became the site of the worst abuses at the prison.

General Ryder, the Army`s provost marshal, reported that some Iraqis had been held for several months for nothing more than expressing "displeasure or ill will" toward the American occupying forces. The Nov. 5 report said the process for deciding which arrested Iraqis posed security risks justifying imprisonment, and for deciding when to release them, violated the Pentagon`s own policies. It also said the conditions in which they were held sometimes violated the Geneva Conventions.

General Ryder`s report, obtained by The New York Times, was based on a review of prisons in Iraq last summer and fall, and it made no mention of abuses at Abu Ghraib. But it warned that the continuing influx of prisoners being arrested as the American-led occupation forces fought a persistent insurrection would strain the system set up to review each case every six months, as required by international law.

"A more disciplined system would reduce the security internee population and inherent challenge of holding Iraqis that feel they have been unjustly detained," he wrote.

Since the scope of abuses at Abu Ghraib first began to come to light late last month, the military has begun to discharge prisoners from the facility at a rapidly accelerated rate. On Friday alone, 624 Iraqi prisoners were freed from the prison, in the fourth such release in May.

But the military has offered little public explanation of the process of deciding who should be released and who should remain in prison. In Baghdad this week, the top American military spokesman in Iraq offered a vigorous defense of the procedures used by American commanders for determining which Iraqi prisoners should be freed.

"We don`t put them in Abu Ghraib to detain them for a period of time or to detain them until proven innocent," said the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt. "They are deemed to be a security threat by a judge through multiple sources of evidence. It`s that simple.

"If they were innocent, they wouldn`t be at Abu Ghraib," he said.

In interviews, senior Army officers have described senior officers on the staff of Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top American commander in Iraq, as having been the major obstacle to releasing prisoners from Abu Ghraib. The officers have said in particular that Brig. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top Army intelligence officer in Iraq, often ruled last fall against the release of prisoners, even against the recommendation of a military police commander and military intelligence officers at the prison.

The report by General Ryder recommended that the final judgments on the release of security prisoners be elevated from the three-person review board in Iraq to the level of an assistant secretary of defense. But American commanders in Baghdad have not announced such a change in procedures.

"The percentage of persons that were released because they`ve served their time — that percentage is zero," said General Kimmitt when he was asked this week about the reasons for the releases. "The number that were released because they were innocent? That number, too, is zero. Persons are held at Abu Ghraib because they are determined to be security threats, imminent security threats here in country."

Tensions between American officials at the prison, including Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, and senior American officers in Baghdad, including General Fast, over the release of prisoners from Abu Ghraib last fall were first described publicly in the investigative report into the abuses by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, which emerged last month.

That report described General Fast, who headed a three-member detainee release board, as sometimes vetoing recommendations to release prisoners that were made by General Karpinski, then the commander in charge at Abu Ghraib, and Col. Marc Warren, a top legal officer on General Sanchez`s staff.

A confidential report in February by the International Committee of the Red Cross said that "military intelligence officers told the I.C.R.C. that in their estimate between 70 percent and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake." Some of those people were released by units in the field without ever being sent to a permanent prison like the main one at Abu Ghraib, the report said.

In interviews since, a senior Army officer who served in Iraq criticized as overly cumbersome a process in which the Iraqi prisoners who had been labeled as security detainees, as opposed to common criminals, could be freed only by the release board.

In one incident described in detail by the senior Army officer, an aggressive roundup in September brought 57 Iraqis into custody. But a review by military intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib determined that only two of them had intelligence value and that the rest should be freed.

An American general at the headquarters in Baghdad overruled that decision, and dictated that all 57 Iraqis be kept in custody. The senior Army officer quoted the general as saying something like, "I don`t care if they are innocent; if we release them, they`ll go out and tell their friends that we`re after them."

In addition, the officer said, early judgments about who was a security prisoner were often made in haste and in error. "But once they were tagged as security detainees, it was very hard to get them released," said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern over retribution from superiors.

Only a few paragraphs of the report by General Ryder have previously been made public. They were summarized or cited in the report by General Taguba, which was completed in March and represented the results of the first major Army inquiry into the abuses, and focused on the conduct of military police. A second major report, by Maj. Gen. George W. Fay, is focusing on the role played by military intelligence, and is expected to be completed next week.

General Ryder`s review last summer of American detention facilities in Iraq was the first of two separate major studies conducted at the time, when the scope of the anti-American insurgency and its impact on American prisons in Iraq was just becoming apparent.

A second study, by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, then the American commander at the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, remains classified. But public accounts by senior American commanders and Pentagon officials have said it focused more closely on issues related to interrogation, and that it included a recommendation that the military police who served as guards at the prison be integrated more closely into an interrogation process overseen by military intelligence officers.

In Baghdad this week, General Kimmitt defended the procedures used by American commanders there as being even more rigorous than those required by international law.

"There is a review board that is set up that is done far more frequently than required by the Geneva Conventions where a board takes a look at that person`s case," General Kimmitt said. "And after a period of time, when those persons are deemed to no longer be a threat to the security of the nation, then they are released."

A review of General Ryder`s report and of other documents and testimony about the detention system shows that there is still considerable uncertainty over the justice of the system, which is strained by the arrests of hundreds of people each week.

General Ryder recommended that "the process of screening security internees should include intelligence findings, interrogation results and a current threat assessment." He said these analyses should be provided to the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, a Pentagon civilian, who should provide "guidance for decisions" on whom to hold and whom to release, ensuring that the military was "carefully determining which detainees are to be classified as security detainees."

American officials in Baghdad have provided no indication that this recommendation was adopted. A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said in Baghdad on Friday that there were still 6,500 Iraqi detainees in Iraq, with 3,000 in Abu Ghraib alone. But he said the detainees` cases were being reviewed by military judges and lawyers, as part of an accelerated process that General Sanchez outlined in early May.

At the time of his report last November, General Ryder said that there were about 3,400 security internees in custody, and that about 900 had been released. It is not known how many prisoners now held in Iraq are classified as security internees.

John H. Cushman Jr. contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
SPIEGEL ONLINE - 29. Mai 2004, 19:44
URL: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,302096,00.html

Terror in Saudi-Arabien

US-Amerikaner und Italiener in Geiselhaft

Al-Qaida-Kämpfer haben in der saudi-arabischen Stadt Chobar etwa 50 Geiseln genommen, darunter US-amerikanische und italienische Staatsbürger. Zuvor hatten die Terroristen nach Angabe des saudi-arabischen Kronprinzen Abdullah mindestens zehn Menschen getötet.

Chobar - In einigen Berichten ist sogar von insgesamt 16 Menschen die Rede, neun Arabern und sieben Ausländern, die bei dem Anschlag im 400 Kilometer nordöstlich der saudi-arabischen Hauptstadt Riad gelegenen Chobar getötet wurden. Mittlerweile halten die islamischen Extremisten dort mindestens 50 Menschen als Geiseln fest.

Kronprinz Abdullah will die Terroristen gewaltsam in die Knie zwingen. "Wir werden diese niederträchtige Gruppe verfolgen, bis wir sie ausgeschaltet haben", erklärte er gegenüber der saudi-arabischen Presseagentur.

Der Hausverwalter des luxuriösen Wohnkomplexes "Oasis" sagte der Nachrichtenagentur Reuters: "Sie haben 50 Geiseln, darunter US-Amerikaner, aber mehr Italiener sowie Araber." Er sagte, die Wohnanlage habe ein italienisches Restaurant. Es lebten 20 Italiener dort. Ein Nachbar berichtete, die Angreifer hätten darauf geachtet, nur nicht-muslimische Bewohner als Gefangene zu nehmen.

Ein Polizeisprecher teilte der Nachrichtenagentur AP mit, die Täter säßen im sechsten Geschoss der Wohnanlage fest. Augenzeugen berichteten, die Angreifer hätten uniformähnliche Kleidung getragen.

Bekennerschreiben al-Qaidas

Die Gruppe bewaffneter Männer hatte zuvor das Gelände zweier Ölfirmen in Chobar gestürmt und nach Angaben des saudi-arabischen Kronprinzen Abdullah mindestens zehn Menschen erschossen. Al-Qaida bekannte sich im Internet zu dem Angriff, der sich gegen US-Unternehmen richte, die muslimische Bodenschätze stehlen würden.

Bei dem Terrorangriff wurde ein US-Amerikaner getötet. Unter den Opfern sind nach Medienberichten auch ein Brite, zwei Philippiner, ein Inder, ein Pakistaner und ein zehnjähriger Junge aus Ägypten. Auch ein kleines Mädchen sei zu Tode gekommen, teilte Kronprinz Abdullah mit. Die vier Angreifer seien umstellt, sagte er bei einem Treffen mit Professoren der König-Abdul-Asis-Universität in Dschiddah. Nach einem Feuergefecht mit Sicherheitskräften verschanzten sich die Terroristen in der Wohnanlage.

SPIEGEL ONLINE - 29. Mai 2004, 18:09
URL: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,302092,00.html

Terror in Saudi-Arabien

Al-Qaidas neues Schlachtfeld

Von Yassin Musharbash

Wieder hat es einen Anschlag gegen westliche Einrichtungen in Saudi-Arabien gegeben. Mindestens 16 Menschen starben, darunter neun Ausländer. Das Terrornetzwerk al-Qaida hat sich zu dem Anschlag bekannt. Der Angriff gehört zur neuen Strategie der al-Qaida, das Wüstenreich mit Terror zu überziehen.

Hamburg - Es ist ein Zufall, und doch ist es keiner: Fast auf die Minute genau parallel zum al-Qaida-Anschlag in der ost-saudischen Stadt Chobar erschien heute im Internet ein neuer Strategieaufsatz des Bin-Laden Statthalters auf der arabischen Halbinsel. Unter der Überschrift "Planung von Operationen" beschrieb Abd al-Aziz al-Mukrin, wie ein beispielhafter Attentatsplan aussehen könnte. Als denkbares Ziel hatte er sich, symbolhaft und zu Demonstrationszwecken, den ihm verhassten saudischen Innenminister Prinz Naif Ibn Abd al-Aziz ausgesucht.

Gegen das saudische Königshaus richtete sich auch der heutige Anschlag - selbst, wenn er in erster Linie im Wüstenkönigreich lebende Ausländer traf. Für das Terrornetzwerk der al-Qaida sind Ausländer und saudisches Establishment längst zu einer Einheit verschmolzen, die mit aller Macht bekämpft werden muss. "Die Allianz aus Ungläubigen und vom Glauben Abgefallenen" heißt es in den einschlägigen Dokumenten zumeist in einem Atemzug. Die Islamisten fordern sowohl ein bedingungsloses Ende der Kooperation der saudischen Herrscher mit westlichen Firmen und Staaten, als auch den Sturz der als ungläubig betrachteten Monarchie selbst.

Bekennerschreiben im Internet

Welche Seite der Allianz sie mit ihren Anschlägen zuerst treffen, ist zweitrangig. Die bevorzugten Anschlagsziele der Terroristen in Saudi-Arabien sind deshalb abwechselnd westliche Einrichtungen oder der saudische Sicherheitsapparat, die Hauptstütze der königlichen Familie im Inneren. "Mit der Hilfe Gottes hat eine Einheit unserer heldenhaften Mudschahedin heute amerikanische Firmen gestürmt, die im Ölgeschäft tätig sind und das Kapital der Muslime stehlen", hieß es in dem Bekennerschreiben, das heute auf eine arabischen Website auftauchte, die schon in der Vergangenheit mehrfach für solche Zwecke benutzt worden war.

Dem heutigen Anschlag fielen dem bisherigen Kenntnisstand zu Folge mindestens neun Ausländer zum Opfer, darunter ein US-Amerikaner, ein Brite und ein zehnjähriger ägyptischer Junge. Sieben saudische Polizisten sollen ebenfalls ums Leben gekommen sein. Die US-Botschaft in Saudi-Arabien hat nach dem Terrorakt am Samstag noch im Land befindliche amerikanische Bürger aufgefordert, das Königreich sofort zu verlassen.

Die Terroristen hatten heute am frühen Vormittag in der Stadt Chobar ein Firmengelände mit Feuerwaffen angegriffen, das westlichen Unternehmen gehört, auf dem aber auch Mitarbeiter dieser Firmen leben. Bilder, die der Sender Arabiya TV ausstrahlte, zeigen unter anderem einen Mann, der offenbar in seinem Wagen erschossen wurde. Nach Eintreffen der Polizei flohen die Attentäter anscheinend in den benachbarten Wohnkomplex. Zwischenzeitlich nahmen sie eine libanesische Familie als Geiseln; diese wurden aber von saudischen Sicherheitskräften befreit. Später hieß es, die Polizei habe das Gebäude, in dem sich die Angreifer wohl verschanzt hielten, gestürmt. Ob auch die Angreifer Verluste erlitten, ist noch unklar. Im Internet bezichtigte sich eine der al-Qaida nahe stehende Gruppe der Tat.

Rekrutierung im Internet

Der Anschlag ist der jüngste in einer Serie von Terrorakten, die Saudi-Arabien in den vergangenen Monaten erschütterten. Erst vor wenigen Wochen kamen Dutzende Ausländer zu Tode, als Selbstmordattentäter das Gelände einer westlichen Firma mit Sprengsätzen angriffen.

Die gestiegene Zahl von Attacken nach Art des heutigen Anschlags deckt sich mit einem verstärkten Interesse der al-Qaida an einer Front in Saudi-Arabien. Vor einem knappen halben Jahr begann Bin-Laden-Statthalter al-Mukrin damit, sich deutlich vernehmbar via Internet an junge, zum islamistischen Kampf bereite Saudi-Araber zu richten. Alle zwei Wochen erscheint seitdem unter dem Namen "Ma`askar al-Battar" ein Online-Magazin, in dem alt gediente Qaida-Kämpfer und -Ideologen Aufsätze verfassen, die Terror rechtfertigen und den Gebrauch von Waffen erklären. Zu jeder Ausgabe steuert auch al-Mukrin selbst einen Text bei, der sich den "militärischen Wissenschaften" widmet.

In den letzten Monaten widmete er sich den Themen "Der Krieg in den Städten", "Entführungen", "Gezielte Attentate" und "Zellenbildung". "An alle, die nach Sprengstoff gefragt haben: Sprengstoff herzustellen ist nicht so schwierig, wie es immer heißt", schrieb al-Mukrin vor zwei Wochen. "So Gott will", versprach er, werde man in dem Magazin bald auch einen Kurs zur Handhabung explosiver Materialien anbieten.

Al-Qaidas Strategie für Saudi-Arabien

Deutlich lässt sich an al-Mukrins Beiträgen seine Strategie für den Dschihad in Saudi-Arabien ablesen: Es geht ihm darum, die Grenze zwischen dem sympathiesierenden Umfeld der al-Qaida und der Stammorganisation selbst zu verwischen. Explizit schrieb er in der letzten Nummer von "Ma`askar al-Battar": Es sei nicht nötig, vor Anschlägen um Erlaubnis zu fragen oder förmlich Mitglied zu werden. Al-Qaida beruhe auf einem System von Zellen, und "strebt nicht vornehmlich nach einer herkömmlichen, organisatorischen Einbindung." Der Dschihad in Saudi-Arabien sei vielmehr eine "allgemeine und ausnahmslose Pflicht" für alle Muslime. Außer Gottes Befehl brauche es nichts weiter; jeder, der den Dschihad begehre, solle einfach mit "seinen Brüdern" eine Zelle bilden.

Gut möglich, dass einige der Anschläge, von denen Saudi-Arabien in den vergangenen Monaten heimgesucht wurde, bereits von solchen Zellen begangen wurden, die sich auf al-Mukrins Aufrufe hin selbständig gebildet haben, ohne in ihrem Leben je einen alt gedienten Qaida-Kämpfer getroffen oder in einem Qaida-Camp gelebt zu haben.

Ob al-Mukrin sich in Saudi-Arabien aufhält, ist unbekannt. Es kann also auch nicht ausgeschlossen werden, dass er selbst aktiv am Geschehen beteiligt ist und die Fäden persönlich in der Hand hält. In letzter Zeit gab es allerdings auch Indizien, dass mehr als nur al-Mukrins Getreue in Saudi-Arabien operieren: Darauf deuten Texte al-Mukrins hin, in denen er sich von solchen Anschlägen in Saudi-Arabien distanziert, bei denen auch Muslime zu Schaden kamen.

Doch ob al-Mukrin der alleinige Chefplaner ist oder nicht: Abreißen wird die Anschlagsserie in überschaubarer Zeit wohl kaum. Darauf deutet zumindest all das hin, was aus mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit authentischen Qaida-Dokumenten zu erfahren ist. Außerdem ist die militante islamstische Opposition in dem fragilen Ölstaat mittlerweile von beachtlicher Größe und Schlagkraft. In der letzten Zeit gebe es "viele Vorbereitungen", warnte al-Mukrin Mitte Mai. Das alles sei notwendig für "Die Ausweitung unseres Dschihades gegen die Feinde Gottes".

Sat 29 May 2004

Will one of these men become the next Osama Bin Laden


FROM the Sahara to the jungles of Indonesia and in the cauldron of unrest that is Iraq, a new generation of terrorists is emerging to take the place of elders who have been killed, captured or forced underground.

Young, violent and energised by a deep hatred for the United States - as well as its western allies and Muslim governments seen as kowtowing to Washington’s will - the new class has been writing a new history of terror in blood, from Istanbul to Madrid to Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.

"These are the men that are the new, 21st-century terrorists," said Evan Kohlmann, a US-based terror expert. He said it is "very literally, a group of second generation Osama bin Ladens".

At the fore of the next generation is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, 38, a former commander for bin Laden, linked to terror groups from North Africa to the Caucuses. He has allegedly maintained ties to al-Qaeda and is believed to be leading resistance to the US occupation of Iraq.

Zarqawi might be the villain of the day, but he is by no means alone among the new faces taking up senior positions in the most feared terror groups.

In Indonesia, Zulkarnaen, a former biology student who is one of the few militants from the region to have trained in Afghanistan, stepped in late last year as operations chief for the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, replacing Hambali after his August arrest. Zulkarnaen, whose real name is Aris Sumarson, is believed to be about 40.

Another new Jemaah Islamiyah leader is Dulmatin, 33, a Malaysian electronics expert nicknamed "Genius" who is believed to have designed the bomb in the 2002 Bali attack that killed more than 200 people.

In Spain, a Moroccan named Amer Azizi, 36, is believed to have supervised the bombings in Madrid, acting as a link between Zarqawi and a cell of mostly Moroccan al-Qaeda members.

In Turkey, authorities say they are looking for a man in his 30s named Habib Akdas who was little known before he allegedly orchestrated bombings in Istanbul in November that killed more than 60 people.

Some of the most virulent new guard are not waiting for the capture or killing of their predecessor to move to the fore.

Last year, Nabil Sahraoui, an Algerian in his mid- to late 30s with a reputation for ruthlessness, ousted the leader of the North African Salafist Group for Call and Combat and quickly pledged allegiance to bin Laden.

Another man experts say will likely be heard from again in the form of acts of savagery is Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Mohsin al-Moqrin, 30, a drop-out trained in Afghanistan who is believed to have had a role in the attacks in May and November 2003 in Saudi Arabia that killed 51.

Men such as bin Laden and his right-hand man, the Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahri, met in the CIA-funded Afghan war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Their focus on international terrorism moved into high gear following the first Gulf war in 1990-91 and the US decision to keep permanent military bases in Saudi Arabia.

Largely ignored by the outside world, they found a home in the chaos of 1990s Afghanistan, which was destroyed by war and ultimately fell under the sway of a young, impoverished Islamic student movement known as the Taleban.

Today’s terrorists have a new incubator: Iraq. The top US commander in the Persian Gulf area, General John Abizaid, acknowledged in March that foreign terrorists have "gotten themselves established" in Iraq. Officials believe Zarqawi is leading them, although some analysts warn other figures might be in the background.

Mohammed Salah, an Egyptian journalist who has focused on al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, said men such as Zarqawi and other terror "stars" are not the end of the story and are probably not behind every attack they are blamed for.

"It is important to note that it could be in al-Qaeda’s interest to propagate certain names while others work in the shadows," he said. "Also, governments sometimes have the tendency to blame any attacks on the known fugitives because they need to blame someone."

Iraq is by far the most troubling spot on the globe, but many analysts point to Africa as another area of concern. Terrorists across the continent have taken advantage of weak, ill-equipped governments and vast, ungoverned spaces.

While most African Muslims are moderates, poverty and discontent have combined to inspire a significant number of young men to join terrorist ranks.

Sahraoui’s Algerian Salafist group was blamed for the kidnapping of 32 European tourists last year. The Algerian group also has connections with similar groups in Libya and Morocco, and many of the leaders trace their beginnings to Afghanistan.

Azizi, the leader of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, who has connections to Zarqawi and the Madrid bombing, trained in Bosnia and Afghanistan and has spent time in Iran.

Two other men appear to be leading Moroccan operations - Abdelkrim Mejjati and Saad Houssaini. Both are wanted for last year’s attacks in Casablanca and in the Madrid bombings.

In East Africa, a Comorian named Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, 30, has been identified as the leader of that region’s terror cell.

Fazul was on the list of seven people the US justice department said last week are wanted for questioning in the midst of a fresh terror scare.

Kenyan police have also accused him of planning the 2002 bombing of a Kenyan hotel and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner.

His apparent second-in-command is a Kenyan named Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who Kenyan police say built the bomb used at the hotel and fired the missile at the airliner.

In the Philippines, Khadaffy Janjalani, thought to be in his 20s, is apparently trying to bring the main faction of the al-Qaeda-linked extremist Abu Sayyaf group back to its religious moorings.

More than two and a half years after the 11 September attacks, bin Laden and Zawahri are still out there, probably in one of the endless mountain folds along the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier.

Followers say that by simply staying alive in the face of the largest manhunt in history, they are winning the battle with the US.

But today’s new guard does not have that luxury and is far more exposed, experts say.

Men like Zarqawi are on the front lines, and they are only important while they are successful in striking out.

The increased risk means the life expectancy of today’s generation of terrorists will likely be short, and turnover at the top of terror networks will be great.

"But these guys don’t care," said Richard Evans, an editor at Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. "They consider themselves to be the first members of the new Islamic vanguard. There will be plenty more Zarqawis bubbling up to the surface over the coming months or years."

This article:


International terrorism:


Kerry Says Global Democracy Is Not His Top Issue
Democratic Candidate Makes National Security an Urgent Priority

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 29, 2004; 5:00 PM

Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States` security.

Kerry, in a one-hour interview Friday night, also rejected setting a date for the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq. Although the notion is gaining favor with more liberal Democrats, the party`s presumptive presidential nominee said "it is not a good idea just in a vacuum" because the timetable for reducing U.S. troops must be dictated by success in holding elections and establishing security and stability.

In many ways, Kerry laid out a foreign-policy agenda that appeared less idealistic about U.S. aims than President Bush or even fellow Democrat former president Bill Clinton. While Kerry said it was important to sell democracy and "market it" around the world, he demurred when questioned about a number of important countries that suppress human rights and freedoms. He said securing all nuclear materials in Russia, integrating China in the world economy, achieving greater controls over Pakistan`s nuclear weapons or winning greater cooperation on terrorist financing in Saudi Arabia trumped human rights concerns in those nations.

"Sometimes we are dealt a set of cards that don`t allow us do everything we want to do at once," he said.

During the interview, he eschewed the soaring rhetoric on freedom and democracy that are commonplace in Bush`s speeches or news conferences. At one point, he stumbled over the words when he tried to emphasize his interest in promoting American values: "The idea of America is, I think proudly and chauvinistically, the best idea that we`ve developed in this world."

Of promoting democracy overseas, Kerry said, "how fast you can do that and how rapidly others can embrace it and what can be expected over a period of time varies from place to place." Emphasizing his interest in setting realistic goals, he added: "Beware of the presidential candidate who just sort of says with a big paintbrush we`re going to make everything all right overnight."

The interview, conducted at his campaign headquarters in Washington, was part of an 11-day effort by the Kerry campaign to flesh out his foreign-policy agenda in preparation for the fall campaign battle. Last Thursday, Kerry outlined what he called his "foreign-policy architecture": rebuilding alliances; modernizing the armed forces; deploying diplomacy, intelligence, economic power and American values to overcome threats; and freeing the United States from its dependence on oil from the Middle East.

On Tuesday, he will give a speech outlining proposals on preventing a terrorist attack using nuclear and biological weapons, which include creating a high-level White House coordinator to oversee his plan to secure nuclear material around the world and accelerating efforts to secure such materials in the former Soviet Union. On Thursday, Kerry will present his proposals for restructuring the armed forces.

Bush`s campaign ads have sought to portray Kerry as a unreliable leftist who would undermine the war on terrorism. The Massachusetts Democrat has countered with a foreign-policy critique that mainly challenges Bush on tactics, not fundamentals. Challenged in the interview on how his approach differed from Bush in certain areas, such as Iraq and arms proliferation, and Kerry often cited more attention to detail or greater urgency�in other words, competence over ideology.

During this period of campaigning, Kerry has not outlined a new strategy for the most vexing foreign policy issue: the situation in Iraq. He articulated a plan for Iraq several weeks ago which, with minor nuances, is similar to Bush`s current approach, though he has argued that Bush has so badly damaged relations with major allies that only a new president can win international support for the U.S. plan in Iraq. (Kerry also argues that Bush has progressively moved toward his position on Iraq.)

Kerry, who has devoted much of his two-decade Senate career to foreign-policy issues, was comfortable and confident in answering questions that hopscotched across the globe and various trouble spots. He provided detailed and sometimes complex answers that occasionally drew on his experiences in meeting leaders in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

He said he would aim to set clear priorities after deciding what is most important and achievable in dealing with other countries. He also said he would balance those goals so no single objective overwhelms the administration or leaves other concerns festering. He accused to the Bush administration of having an "Iraq-centric preoccupation" that has left little opportunity to deal with other pressing problems.

"Do you think they know where Latin America is? It is all part of the same problem," Kerry said. "It is the distinction between what is cosmetic and what is real. In the 20 years that I have been here, I have learned to distinguish between the two. This stuff going on is mostly rhetoric."

Kerry also accused the administration of having no plan to deal with North Korea`s rush to build its nuclear weapons arsenal. He derided the Bush administration`s long effort to set up six-nation talks to resolve the impasse over North Korea`s nuclear ambitions as a "fig leaf" designed to cover up its failure to have a coherent policy.

Kerry said he would immediately begin bilateral negotiations with North Korea -- a goal the Pyongyang government has long sought�but, perhaps in a nod to the sensitivities of the Japanese, South Koreans and Chinese, he also would not abandon the six-nation talks. "I would keep them both going," Kerry said. "I would do the six-party, but I would engage in bilateral discussions."

The Bush administration has argued that bilateral talks would reward North Korea for its behavior, and it was necessary to include the other nations to ensure a regional solution. Kerry declined to say what he would offer North Korea as inducements to give up its weapons but said he would be willing to discuss a broad agenda that includes reducing troop levels on the Korean Peninsula, replacing the armistice that ended the Korean War and even reunifying North and South Korea.

Kerry said Bush had made a serious mistake by not talking directly with Pyongyang. He said his advisers, such as former defense secretary William J. Perry and former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger had told him that when they were in the Clinton administration "they had no illusion that [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il was probably cheating [on nuclear agreements] over here and trouble over there, but they were getting the process of a dialogue to get a verification structure," Kerry said. "You are better off engaged in that effort than disengaged."

Kerry was more cautious on whether he would allow talks with Iran, which has not had relations with the United States since the 1979 revolution. "It is one of the ironies of the Middle East," he said. "You look at Egypt and Saudi Arabia and you have governments who like us and people who don`t. In the case of Iran you have a government who doesn`t and people who do."

But Kerry he would need to know what the United States could expect if it began talks with the Islamic Republic, which is sandwiched between the two countries recently invaded by the United States -- Afghanistan and Iraq. He said he was "prepared carefully to explore the possibilities of what direct engagement might provide. But I`m not just going to engage in it for nothing."

Kerry has regularly attacked Saudi Arabia on the campaign trail as an unreliable partner in the fight against terrorism. He suggested he would punish the Saudis if they did not cooperate more fully on money laundering and the tracking of terrorist financing. "We cannot be hamstrung on Saudi oil," he said. "I don`t believe we have a free voice in the Middle East as long as we are dependent on the oil card. That is exactly what gets played. I think there has been this sweetheart arrangement that has deprived us of that ability."

On Egypt, Kerry said that he would not tie foreign aid to greater openness and reform. "I would first want to link it to the warmth of relationship with Israel and the effort to secure general stability in Middle East," he said. "You have to put your priorities first."

Kerry said that China, which is tightly ruled by the Communist party, could be the "principal partner" in his anti-proliferation effort and it is essential to build a partnership with China that recognizes "the unbelievable economic power and clout" it will acquire in the coming years. "China is moving" on democracy on its own accord, he said, asserting that although the central government is focused on party control, "the contest of different ideas at local levels is quite vibrant."

Kerry said Pakistan is a "critical relationship," and he said he would not immediately pressure President Pervez Musharraf to loosen the reins of power.

"Is he is strong man to a degree? Did he promise elections that have not occurred and all the rest? Yeah," Kerry said. "I don`t see that as the first thing that is going to happen in our priority of making America safer. It is a long term goal It is goal that I will keep on the table. But it is not the first thing that has to happen."

Instead, Kerry said, "I think the first priority is keep those [nuclear] weapons" out of the hands of radical Islamists in Pakistan, with the secondary objective of crushing al Qaeda through better intelligence sharing with Pakistani security services.

Kerry evinced little concern about the possibility that Islamic parties could sweep elections in Middle Eastern nations if open elections were permitted. He said he would not try to thwart the results if it appeared Islamic parties might win.

"The last time I looked, except for Florida, an election is an election," Kerry said.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

American Caligula
Posted May 28, 2004 thepeoplesvoice.org

By: Raymond Ponziny

"Let them hate so long as they fear." - Roman emperor, Caligula


"We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth ..." - George W. Bush

George W. Bush, the schizophrenic by-product of an influential American family grew up in a wealthy decadent world steeped in generations of treachery and political intrigue.
May 30, 2004
Hostages Released After Standoff in Saudi Arabia

Filed at 4:08 a.m. ET

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi authorities freed dozens of American and other foreign hostages Sunday after a shooting rampage turned into a daylong standoff with Islamic militants in the nation`s oil region. A Saudi security official said the lead attacker was in custody and two other suspects were being arrested.

At least 10 people -- including an American -- died in the attack claimed by an al-Qaida-linked group that began Saturday morning when gunmen in military-style dress opened fire on security forces at two oil industry compounds in Khobar, 250 miles northeast of Riyadh. The assailants then fled up the street, taking some 45-60 hostages in a high-rise housing mainly foreigners.

Before the release, Saudi security forces had stormed the walled housing compound and surrounded the attackers on the sixth floor of a building. A security official said one attempt during the night to storm the building where the hostages were being held was abandoned after booby traps were discovered.

But just after sunrise, three security forces helicopters arrived and dropped off commandos. Gunfire, heard sporadically overnight, rang out again. Within a few hours, the standoff was over.

Saudi officials wouldn`t comment on the condition or whereabouts of the hostages, saying only: ``It has ended. One has been arrested and two are in the process of being arrested -- they are surrounded.``

With reports of up to seven gunmen, it wasn`t clear if some of the gunmen had been killed.

Several Saudi newspapers reported Sunday that the attackers threw at least one body from the building where they were holed up and had mutilated some of the bodies of those they killed.

Reporters were kept back from the compound, but a bus carrying Saudi troops and other police and military vehicles could be seen pulling out. As forces withdrew, a Saudi soldier flashed a V-for-victory sign from the window of his gun-mounted vehicle.

Security officials have said 45 to 60 people were being held hostage, mostly Westerners including Americans, Italians and Dutch. But in Rome, the Italian Foreign Ministry said there were no Italians among the hostages. The Dutch Foreign Ministry said three Dutch hostages had been released.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said an American man who worked for an oil company was confirmed dead, but did not identify him or his employer. The Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia said that he had received reports that three Filipinos were killed in the attack.

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia reiterated a call to its citizens to leave the kingdom.

A statement posted on several Islamic Web sites claimed the attack in the name of the Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Brigade and was signed the ``al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula.`` It said the attacks targeted U.S. companies and that a number of ``crusaders`` had been killed.

One Saudi official security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the method of the attack was ``definitely inspired by al-Qaida.``

The second deadly assault this month against the Saudi oil industry came as oil prices have been driven to new highs partly by fears that the Saudi kingdom -- the world`s largest oil producer -- is unable to protect itself from terrorists.

``The terrorists` goal is to disrupt the Saudi economy and destabilize our country. But they will not succeed,`` Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan said in a statement released in Washington. ``With every desperate act of violence, our effort and resolve to destroy the terrorists only grows.``

The Arab satellite station Al-Arabiya reported the Saudi oil minister met with oil executives to assure them that the attack would not affect oil supplies. He planned to meet ambassadors on Sunday for the same purpose, the station said without attribution.

Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born, anti-Western Islamic extremist blamed for past terror attacks in Saudi Arabia and the United States, has vowed to destabilize the oil industry and undermine the kingdom for its close ties to the United States.

Michael Rothman, chief energy strategist at Merrill Lynch in New York, said there might be ``a limited psychological reaction`` in oil markets but that the Khobar attack would not affect supply.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said about 10 Saudis and foreigners were killed in the Khobar attack. The Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh, quoting security officials in its Sunday edition, put the number dead at 16, including seven Saudi security agents. An American man, a 10-year-old Egyptian boy and three Filipinos were among those confirmed killed. British citizens and Saudi guards were also reportedly among the dead.

The Arab News, quoting witnesses, said the attackers dragged the body of an unidentified victim behind their car along a highway. Gunmen who attacked an oil contractor`s office in western Saudi Arabia earlier this month dragged the body of an American victim from the bumper of their car.

According to residents and employees of the Oasis Residential Resorts, where the hostage-taking occurred, the militants asked questions when they arrived that indicated they were trying to separate Muslims from non-Muslims. Islamic militants have been criticized in the Arab world for previous attacks in which Saudis and other Arabs were killed.

Lebanon`s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Chammat, told The Associated Press that five Lebanese hostages had been released.

One of them, Orora Naoufal, said she cowered in her apartment with her 4-year-old son for five hours after a brief encounter with two of the gunmen, whom she described as clean-shaven and wearing military uniforms.

She told AP by telephone that the gunmen asked her where the ``infidels`` and foreigners were, and whether she was Muslim or Christian.

``I replied: `I am Lebanese and there are no foreigners here.``` She said the gunmen told her to ``Go convert to Islam, and cover up and go back to your country.``

The Oasis compound is upscale expatriate housing that includes neighborhood necessities -- shops, restaurants, playgrounds, fitness centers -- in addition to a hotel and leisurely extras such as a grassy beach in a private Gulf cove and an ice-skating rink, according to the compound`s Web site.

One of the targeted oil industry compounds contains offices and apartments for the Arab Petroleum Investment Corporation, or Apicorp, and the other -- the Petroleum Center building -- houses various international firms.

The Egyptian boy who was killed was the son of an Apicorp employee, said Mahmoud Ouf, an Egyptian consular officer in Riyadh. Apicorp, in a brief statement published in the Saudi newspaper Al-Jazirah on Sunday, said three of its employees were among the dead. Apicorp is the investment arm of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Countries.

Offices at the Petroleum Center include a joint venture among Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Total SA and Saudi Aramco; Lukoil Holdings of Russia; and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec. All of those employees were safe, said Shell spokesman Simon Buerk and a Saudi oil industry official, Yahya Shinawi, though it wasn`t clear whether other companies had accounted for all their employees.

In London, the British Foreign Office was investigating reports that a British citizen was killed.

Saudi Arabia relies heavily on 6 million expatriate workers to run its oil industry and other sectors. The kingdom produces about 8 million barrels of oil a day.

Saudi Arabia launched a high-profile crackdown on terrorists after attacks on Riyadh housing compounds in 2003. The most recent attack targeted the offices of Houston, Texas-based ABB Lummus Global Inc. in the western city of Yanbu on May 1, killing six Westerners and a Saudi. Many expatriates left after the Yanbu attack.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press

Las Vegas is at the center of a population boom that has transformed the American desert over the last three decades.

Ein Flash über Las Vegas:
May 30, 2004
Seekers, Drawn to Las Vegas, Find a Broken Promised Land

LAS VEGAS, May 29 — South on Las Vegas Boulevard, well beyond the casino-scraped skyline, there is a three-story hotel where tourists seldom go.

The parking lot is sprinkled with U-Haul trucks and trailers. A school bus stops at the front office. A sign on the lawn offers discounts for guests who stay a week or more.

Inside the no-frills rooms, where sheets and blankets cost extra, a desert city`s promise of new beginnings is regularly put to the test. This busy hotel and others in the Budget Suites of America chain are the cinder-block equivalent of circled wagon trains, a community of dreamers, pioneers and strivers pulling up for a while en route to someplace and something better.

"When we got here, I slept wrapped up in my dad`s shirts," said Jamie Rose Galloway, a toughened California transplant whose family recently passed her 17th birthday in a two-room unit at the back. "We`ve been through worse. We were homeless once and lived in my dad`s truck."

Many newcomers to Las Vegas use the Budget Suites to find their footing in the slippery city, the eye of a population storm that has transformed the American desert from forlorn frontier to chosen land over the last three decades.

The metamorphosis has not only altered the barren landscape — Las Vegas and its suburbs in Clark County unfold across 235 square miles of desert, compared with 38 square miles in 1970 — it has exacted a social price that many newcomers find unbearable.

Based on federal tax returns, the Internal Revenue Service estimates that nearly 55,000 people gave up on their dream of living in southern Nevada last year and moved elsewhere. A study in 2003 by the Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy identified Nevada and its neighbors Arizona and New Mexico as "social recession" states because of chronic problems like crime, child poverty, suicide among the elderly, and high school dropouts.

"It is just growing too fast for its own good," said Sarah S., a 25-year-old bartender from Missouri, who put up at the Budget Suites on her way to Dallas with her husband and 6-year-old daughter after two years in Las Vegas. "I don`t give out our full name to anyone. I learned that living here."

The hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard South, like seven other Budget Suites in the city and its suburbs, is owned by Robert T. Bigelow, a wealthy businessman and U.F.O. enthusiast who a few years ago pledged to spend $500 million developing tourism in space. On earth, Mr. Bigelow`s properties are the buzz of the Internet among people mulling a move to Nevada, the nation`s fastest growing state for 17 consecutive years, and even with the flaws, its newest perpetual dream machine.

"We were pretty lucky and our only problem was kids racing shopping carts down the hill in the parking lot," one new resident, Walt Flesher, wrote in recommending the Budget Suites on the Web site www.movetolasvegas.com. "Smashed into the side of my wife`s car a week before we moved out."

Mr. Flesher, 61, and his wife, Shelley, 57, spent three months in a two-bedroom unit on Boulder Highway, piling their furniture from their townhouse in Anaheim, Calif., into the extra room. They moved out last spring to the southern fringe of the desert after buying a $193,000 house with a brown gravel yard and a twinkling view of the Strip.

A year later, the desert has retreated and the view is now of a column of newer houses with gravel yards. Mr. Flesher`s primary preoccupation, his search for a permanent job, just ended. A computer system administrator by profession, he began working in the front office of a repair shop for Rolls-Royces and other luxury cars. The Fleshers celebrated with a $5.99-per-person steak and lobster dinner at a nearby casino.

"Thank God for the housing inflation in California, because we came out here with a good chunk of change," Mr. Flesher said. "I sent out lots of résumés and made lots of phone calls, but it was hard to even get an interview."

Waiting for the `Brink`s Truck`

The Budget Suites require no long-term commitments or credit cards. While that means little to guests with financial resources, it opens the doors to legions of credit-unworthy Americans. They arrive with a basic yearning for a good job and a house, regardless of the bumps on the road that brought them here.

"People really did once just pass through here, and now more and more they stay," said Hal K. Rothman, a professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has written extensively about the city. "Most everyone who comes here plans to move on. It is an opportunity stop. But what happens when this town loves you, it backs the Brink`s truck up to you, and lets you take what you want."

Jamie Rose`s mother, Lori Galloway, is still waiting for that truck. She is the family`s self-appointed cheerleader, seeing a garden with roses and daffodils in their future even as she recounts one hard-luck story after another.

At one low point in their lives in California, she would slip bologna and cheese under her blouse when buying bread at the grocery store. "What would you have done if your children were hungry?" she asked directly. "I could only afford the bread."

Things here are already better. She can keep meals on the table by making the rounds at church-run food pantries and frequenting bargain buffets at the casinos. She collected her family`s simple white dishware by playing a game the children call Dumpster diving. She found the vacuum cleaner that way, too.

The two blankets on their bed belong to a young mother in an upstairs unit. She lent them when her daughter, who plays with Breanne, Jamie Rose`s 10-year-old sister, told her that Breanne was cold at night. The Galloway sisters share the family`s only bed at the Budget Suites.

"I think this is going to be better for my kids," said Mrs. Galloway, whose 21-year-old son in California is expected to join them here this summer. "Jamie Rose likes to cook, and there is a great culinary school here."

Mrs. Galloway, 44, can take to complaining about gaining weight because of her heart medicine and about a government that does not seem much interested in helping families like hers, though she does collect a disability check every other week. But she catches herself.

"I sure would like a little more house," she said from the hotel sofa that doubles as her bed, before suggesting more cheerfully, "We are more of a family here."

Denny Cowie, who took a room in the building behind the Galloways after a divorce, holds a dark view of the hundreds of dreamy-eyed migrants he has encountered. He calls them "migrates" and says he also has no experience with any metaphorical Brink`s truck doling out easy riches.

Many dreams here go bad, Mr. Cowie explained between sips of beer outside his second-floor room, and his neighbors inevitably come begging - for alcohol, cigarettes, food and money. The downward spiral can get ugly, he said.

"There is nothing like coming home from work and seeing a squad car in the parking lot picking someone up," said Mr. Cowie, himself a migrant from Iowa. "Or watching doors get replaced with big holes kicked in them or TV`s with bullet holes. That stuff happens here all the time."

Like many of the Budget Suites` more grizzled residents, Mr. Cowie, who is 63, hides a softer side. Just inside his room is a desk arranged with yellowing photographs of his six sons from two marriages and the 1951 Ford pickup he used to race. In the kitchenette at the far end, Mr. Cowie keeps a cupboard stocked with bags of macaroni and cans of tomato sauce.

He buys the stash at a nearby 99 Cents Only Store, to give to his hotel neighbors when they run out of food.

Seduction and Delusion

"People can get devoured in this city," said Mr. Cowie, who works at a print shop that produces sex-business handouts available on many street corners. "The people staying here could be waiting for a house or an apartment, or maybe they have run away from something. There`s no way of knowing."

This is Las Vegas, after all, a place of seduction and delusion that treats its residents much like its visitors, anointing some as instant kings and queens while stubbornly refusing to make good on its promise to countless others. The Nevada state demographer, Jeff Hardcastle, said some surveys estimate that for every two new arrivals in Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County, one person leaves. The latest I.R.S. data puts the ratio closer to 1.5 to 1.

"You have people bouncing in and bouncing out," Mr. Hardcastle said.

No matter. More keep coming than leave from all corners of the United States, most in the single-minded pursuit of homeownership.

"There is money to be made in this town," said Rita Pina, 46, of Oakland, Calif., who has set up house in a Budget Suites near the North Las Vegas airport with her husband, Israel. "The plan is to get jobs, and within two years, buy ourselves a house."

The legions of hopeful settlers are so ample that officials here have trouble keeping up with the count. Mr. Hardcastle`s official forecast shows the state`s population growing by 1.3 million over the next 20 years, to 3.6 million. But no one really knows.

Driver`s licenses are one measure. In April, nearly 6,200 people traded in their licenses to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, nearly all of them here in Clark County. They came from 49 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and Canada. In March, the number exceeded 8,000. In 2003, about 250 people a day on average made the switch.

A House Built Every 20 Minutes

The new residents are only the latest to join a human procession decades long that is much bigger than Las Vegas. More than seven million people have moved to four states in the arid Southwest since 1970, churning sand dunes into urban concrete from Tucson to St. George, Utah.

Las Vegas and its suburbs have been a favored destination because of an abundance of work related to the gambling industry and an expanding stockpile of cheap housing. The state`s casinos won $930 million from gamblers in March, breaking a record set in January 2001, with half the money coming from business on the Strip.

Meanwhile, a new house gets built here on average every 20 minutes, and even that is not enough to keep up with the convoy of moving vans rolling into town.

"I am having a very hard time dealing with sellers right now because they are cocky, obnoxious and rude with so many buyers out there," said Rhonda Brinkerhoff, a real estate agent with Century 21 Express. "I made in the first three months of this year what I made in nine months last year. I`ve sold eight houses in the last two weeks. I have two buyers from New York, one from California, one from Ohio, one from Tennessee. They come from everywhere."

In the early years of the desert boom, most of the arrivals were fleeing the rust and snow and depressed fortunes of the Northeast for a place largely unknown beyond its scorched landscape.

Now they are more typically like the Galloways - failed, flawed or fed-up Californians trading one Western dream state for another. Some follow Californian businesses, which are being aggressively courted across the border by the Nevada authorities with tax breaks and other incentives.

"We have companies moving here from California with all of their employees," said A. Somer Hollingsworth, president of the Nevada Development Authority, a membership group that promotes Clark County. "The rule of thumb is that one-third of the people coming here are retirees, one-third come with a job lined up and one-third are looking for a job."

But a generation of migration has shattered many illusions about the costs of the desert pact. People still find houses and jobs here, but they also find air choked with construction dust, overstretched water supplies, poor health care, impossible traffic, soaring rates of teenage suicide and drug abuse and, seeping outward from the Strip, a 24-hour culture of gambling and sex that many newcomers with children ultimately find intolerable. In one indication of how fed up some people have become, mothers with children in tow were among the several hundred people who attended a meeting in March of the Nevada Gaming Commission to protest suggestive casino and hotel billboards.

The study by the Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy reserved the "social recession" designation given to Nevada for the eight states that ranked the worst - from 43rd to 50th - in a composite of 16 social indicators, including such things as infant mortality and average wages, based on data from 2000. Most of the bottom-rung states were in the Deep South.

The survey found that Nevada was 50th in the nation in suicide among the elderly and food stamp coverage, 49th in high school completion and 47th in teenage drug abuse. It ranked 46th in homicides, 44th in teenage suicide and 43rd in child abuse. Its only ranking in the top 10 was 4th for "housing cost burden," a measure of the average construction cost of a house in relation to per capita income.

`There`s No Dream Here`

For many newcomers, even the top 10 ranking is no consolation because they cannot afford to buy a house.

An economic analysis prepared for the Nevada governor in 2002 showed that newcomers tend to be significantly worse off financially than other Nevadans. The report said that the adjusted gross income of the new arrivals was on average 30 percent lower than that of other residents.

The Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, estimates that over a quarter of the newcomers to Clark County have a household income of less than $25,000 a year. Only one in four has a college degree. Meanwhile, the cost of housing has soared, jumping 20 percent on new houses and nearly 30 percent on existing ones in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2003.

"I have no idea why people keep coming," said Ann Sheets, 31, a single mother of three girls who is moving back to Michigan, where she grew up. "I tried for two years, even working two jobs at a time. There`s no dream here. I see people at work in the same clothes they had on the day before."

Ms. Sheets has taken a third-floor room in the Budget Suites through July, when school lets out and she can leave for good. She intentionally chose a hotel away from the Strip, which she considers so offensive that she cupped her hands over the ears of her 7-year-old as she spoke about it.

"You can`t even drive down the street without seeing pictures of half-naked women," said Ms. Sheets, who has worked a variety of jobs, including ones at McDonald`s and on the slot deck at a casino. "Any reasonable parent that wants their kids to grow up and have a future doesn`t want to be here."

It was Ms. Sheets who sent the two blankets downstairs to the Galloways with her middle daughter, Amber, 11. Though Ms. Sheets had not met the Galloways, she had heard about them and their hopes for this city that she was giving up on. An earnest woman whose Mickey Mouse pullover did little to lighten the heaviness she exuded, Ms. Sheets wished them well.

"I don`t see the future here, but I guess everyone is different," she said.

Mrs. Galloway is banking on it. She drove her two daughters and their pint-size dog, Louie, across the Mojave from Riverside, Calif., in a 1992 Mitsubishi Mirage last November. Her husband, Tom, an imposing man with thick tattooed arms and a walrus mustache who hauls drywall on a big rig, arrived later.

There was not much to take with them. Most of their belongings, including the family photo albums and the big-screen television, were lost when they fell behind in payments on a self-storage unit. Still, the car, given to them by church friends, seemed cramped. There was a desktop computer, two big suitcases of clothing, a folder with important family papers and a small but heavy box with a dull brass finish.

The box, displayed prominently with a pair of fuzzy dice atop the television in their Budget Suites room, holds the ashes of Mr. Galloway`s parents.

"He fought under Patton and was there when the jeep rolled over on him," Mr. Galloway, 42, said proudly of his father, Nathan, who worked as a trucker in Los Angeles after leaving the Army. "He helped found the Teamsters. I met Jimmy Hoffa."

Mrs. Galloway slipped into the other room and returned with her father-in-law`s Army discharge orders from the heap of papers in the family folder. She also produced a pair of patches from his uniform.

"Luckily, this was not something we put in storage," she said. "We lost all of his medals. They auctioned them off or something."

Mr. Galloway took a Pepsi from the refrigerator and settled into the couch. The dog quickly nuzzled in his lap.

"I always liked it here in Las Vegas," he said. "It`s fresh and new. I hated California. We just figured, let`s get out of there."

Mrs. Galloway nodded. "The drugs and the gangs there. They have them here, too, but the police seem to be on top of it."

"We figured if we were going to start over again, this was the place," Mr. Galloway said. "There is no state income tax here, and it`s more likely for us to find work. If I lose my license, I can always go do maintenance at a casino."

"If you aren`t careful, you can gamble too much, though," Mrs. Galloway said.

"This is nothing compared to what we`ve been through," Mr. Galloway said.

"Yeah, this is heaven," Jamie Rose said, reaching for a cigarette.

"It`s cleaner here," Mrs. Galloway said. "Look around you. The houses are beautiful and the streets aren`t dirty filthy."

"The schools look nice too," Mr. Galloway said.

"They say the Mafia takes care of them," Mrs. Galloway said. "They all have air-conditioning and computers, and the libraries are nice."

The girls have not gone to school since they moved here, but Mrs. Galloway has filled out the enrollment papers for Breanne, who shares her mother`s smile and neighborliness and has taken to wearing a scarf over hair she just colored black cherry.

Jamie Rose, whose bared midriff reveals a pierced bellybutton, said she would rather start working to help the family get back on its feet. She keeps the card of a talent agent she was handed while watching Sandra Bullock film "Miss Congeniality 2" at the Klondike casino several miles down the boulevard. Getting that card is one of the few stories that makes Jamie Rose smile and seem like someone who just turned 17. Before their car broke down in a department store parking lot, where they finally just left it, the Galloways drove to the casino regularly for its 69-cent dinner special.

"My dream is to be an actress and have enough money to buy my dad a truck and my mom a house and a Viper," Jamie Rose said.

"You know what my dream is?" Mrs. Galloway said. "I`d like to be able to go the market and not have to put anything back."

"My own room and my own bed," Jamie Rose continued.

"A house with a yard to work in," Mrs. Galloway said.

Mr. Galloway`s cellphone rang.

"Tom," he answered.

"That`s the signal," Mrs. Galloway said. "He`s done here. He has to go back to work."

Mr. Galloway hung up. "They`re waiting for me," he said.

"Daddy, can I go to Wal-Mart?" Jamie Rose asked quickly. "I want to go shopping and buy a bathing suit and bras."

"You want to go to Silverton`s for chicken-fried steak?" Mrs. Galloway offered.

"No, I don`t need to go," Jamie Rose said.

"It`s your birthday," Mrs. Galloway said.

"No, no," Jamie Rose said. "It`s too expensive."

"We saved for it," Mrs. Galloway said. "Don`t worry."

Jamie Rose watched from the parking lot as Mr. Galloway jumped the back fence to get to his truck, the rumble of the diesel engine muffling the shouts of boys playing basketball with a storage shed roof as the hoop.

Mrs. Galloway finger-combed her matted curls, straightened her faded cotton tank top and asked a visitor for a ride to a church near the airport, which was handing out soup, canned meat and rice that day. She spoke mostly about how grateful she was to be starting a new life, but she cried all the way.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company |
"One of the amazing discrepancies in American society today is we`re literally changing how medicine is delivered in incredibly positive ways, and yet docs are still spending a lot of time writing things on paper - and sometimes it`s hard to read."
-- George W. Bush

Click here to watch the trailer:http://www.dtriptv.org/watch.html

Coming to the Internet, a `Survivor` Parody of G.O.P.

Published: May 27, 2004

Democrats are hoping that Americans — at least Democratic-leaning Americans — have not yet had their fill of reality television.

Just in time for the summer re-run season, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching a "webisode" Internet parody of the Survivor series, giving visitors to the site at dtriptv.org a chance to vote some of their favorite Republican foes off the island over the next six weeks...
May 30, 2004
Who Tests Voting Machines?

Whenever questions are raised about the reliability of electronic voting machines, election officials have a ready response: independent testing. There is nothing to worry about, they insist, because the software has been painstakingly reviewed by independent testing authorities to make sure it is accurate and honest, and then certified by state election officials. But this process is riddled with problems, including conflicts of interest and a disturbing lack of transparency. Voters should demand reform, and they should also keep demanding, as a growing number of Americans are, a voter-verified paper record of their vote.

Experts have been warning that electronic voting in its current form cannot be trusted. There is a real danger that elections could be stolen by nefarious computer code, or that accidental errors could change an election`s outcome. But state officials invariably say that the machines are tested by federally selected laboratories. The League of Women Voters, in a paper dismissing calls for voter-verified paper trails, puts its faith in "the certification and standards process."

But there is, to begin with, a stunning lack of transparency surrounding this process. Voters have a right to know how voting machine testing is done. Testing companies disagree, routinely denying government officials and the public basic information. Kevin Shelley, the California secretary of state, could not get two companies testing his state`s machines to answer even basic questions. One of them, Wyle Laboratories, refused to tell us anything about how it tests, or about its testers` credentials. "We don`t discuss our voting machine work," said Dan Reeder, a Wyle spokesman.

Although they are called independent, these labs are selected and paid by the voting machine companies, not by the government. They can come under enormous pressure to do reviews quickly, and not to find problems, which slow things down and create additional costs. Brian Phillips, president of SysTest Labs, one of three companies that review voting machines, conceded, "There`s going to be the risk of a conflict of interest when you are being paid by the vendor that you are qualifying product for."

It is difficult to determine what, precisely, the labs do. To ensure there are no flaws in the software, every line should be scrutinized, but it is hard to believe this is being done for voting software, which can contain more than a million lines. Dr. David Dill, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, calls it "basically an impossible task," and doubts it is occurring. In any case, he says, "there is no technology that can find all of the bugs and malicious things in software."

The testing authorities are currently working off 2002 standards that computer experts say are inadequate. One glaring flaw, notes Rebecca Mercuri, a Harvard-affiliated computer scientist, is that the standards do not require examination of any commercial, off-the-shelf software used in voting machines, even though it can contain flaws that put the integrity of the whole system in doubt. A study of Maryland`s voting machines earlier this year found that they used Microsoft software that lacked critical security updates, including one to stop remote attackers from taking over the machine.

If so-called independent testing were as effective as its supporters claim, the certified software should work flawlessly. But there have been disturbing malfunctions. Software that will be used in Miami-Dade County, Fla., this year was found to have a troubling error: when it performed an audit of all of the votes cast, it failed to correctly match voting machines to their corresponding vote totals.

If independent testing were taken seriously, there would be an absolute bar on using untested and uncertified software. But when it is expedient, manufacturers and election officials toss aside the rules without telling the voters. In California, a state audit found that voters in 17 counties cast votes last fall on machines with uncertified software. When Georgia`s new voting machines were not working weeks before the 2002 election, uncertified software that was not approved by any laboratory was added to every machine in the state.

The system requires a complete overhaul. The Election Assistance Commission, a newly created federal body, has begun a review, but it has been slow to start, and it is hamstrung by inadequate finances. The commission should move rapidly to require a system that includes:

Truly independent laboratories. Government, not the voting machine companies, must pay for the testing and oversee it.

Transparency. Voters should be told how testing is being done, and the testers` qualifications.

Rigorous standards. These should spell out in detail how software and hardware are to be tested, and fix deficiencies computer experts have found.

Tough penalties for violations. Voting machine companies and election officials who try to pass off uncertified software and hardware as certified should face civil and criminal penalties.

Mandatory backups. Since it is extremely difficult to know that electronic voting machines will be certified and functional on Election Day, election officials should be required to have a nonelectronic system available for use.

None of these are substitutes for the best protection of all: a voter-verified paper record, either a printed receipt that voters can see (but not take with them) for touch-screen machines, or the ballot itself for optical scan machines. These create a hard record of people`s votes that can be compared to the machine totals to make sure the counts are honest. It is unlikely testing and certification will ever be a complete answer to concerns about electronic voting, but they certainly are not now.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 30, 2004
Tilting the Playing Field

The American public has been treated to such a festival of mea, wea and hea culpas on Iraq lately it could be forgiven for feeling utterly lost. Americans are caught between a president who continues to wax utopian about Iraq and an analytical community that has become consumed by despair. This is no way to run a railroad. There are better ways to think about this problem. A good place to start is by thinking about Russia.

I have a "Tilt Theory of History." The Tilt Theory states that countries and cultures do not change by sudden transformations. They change when, by wise diplomacy and leadership, you take a country, a culture or a region that has been tilted in the wrong direction and tilt it in the right direction, so that the process of gradual internal transformation can take place over a generation.

I believe that history will judge George Bush 41, Mikhail Gorbachev, Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Helmut Kohl, Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand very kindly for the way they collectively took the Soviet Empire, which was tilted in the wrong direction for so long, and tilted it in the right direction, with barely a shot fired. That was one of the great achievements of the 20th century.

Is Vladimir Putin`s Russia today a Jeffersonian democracy? Of course not. But it is a huge nation that was tilted in the wrong direction and is now tilted in the right direction. My definition of a country tilted in the right direction is a country where there is enough free market, enough rule of law, enough free press, speech and exchange of ideas that the true agent of change in history — which is something that takes nine months and 21 years to develop, i.e. a generation — can grow up, plan its future and realize its potential.

Democracy-building is always a work in progress — two steps forward, one step back. No one should have expected a utopian transformation of Iraq. Iraq is like every other tribalized Arab state, where democracy is everyone`s third choice. Their first choice is always: "My tribe wins and my rivals lose." Second choice is: "My tribe loses, so yours must lose too." Third choice is: "My tribe wins and so do my rivals."

Our hope should be that Iraqis back into democracy, back into that third choice — not as a result of reading our Bill of Rights but by reading their own situation and deciding that a pragmatic, power-sharing compromise among themselves is better than endless violence. Democracy will take root in Iraq through realism, not idealism. We did not and cannot liberate Iraqis. They have to liberate themselves. That is what the Japanese and Germans did. All we can hope to do is help them tilt their country in a positive direction so the next generation grows up in an environment where progressive forces and win-win politics are not stymied by a predatory state tilted against them.

"I think this is a good time for sober realism, which means focusing on what is possible in Iraq, and what is the minimum we want from Iraq, not on what we would ideally like in Iraq," notes Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert, whose delightful new book, just out this week, entitled "The Meaning of Sports," contains many parallels between what makes for successful teams and successful countries. "The minimum we want is an Iraq that is reasonably stable, and doesn`t harbor terrorists or threaten its neighbors."

As one who believed — and still does — in the possibility and the importance of tilting the Arab-Muslim world from the wrong directions detailed in the U.N.`s Arab Human Development Reports to the right ones, I detest the politically driven failures of the Bush team in Iraq. In a panic, the Bush team, having lost its exaggerated realist rationale for the war — W.M.D. — has now gone to the other extreme and offered us an exaggerated idealist rationale — that all Iraqis crave freedom and democracy and we can deliver this transformation shortly, if we just stick to it.

We need to rebalance our policy. We still have a chance to do in Iraq the only thing that was always the only thing possible — tilt it in a better direction — so over a generation Iraqis can transform and liberate themselves, if they want. What might an Iraq tilted in the right direction look like? It would be more religious than Turkey, more secular than Iran, more federal than Syria, more democratic than Saudi Arabia and more stable than Afghanistan.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Editorial - The Independent: HOW CAN A FORMER C.I.A. MAN BE AN HONEST BROKER IN IRAQ? - 30 May 2004

This United States administration will never learn. It is critical to George Bush`s hope of re-election in November that the notional handover of power in Baghdad be seen by the Iraqi people as legitimate. Yet the Americans could not stop themselves manipulating the choice of interim prime minister.

As The New York Times reported yesterday, in the kind of headline unique to the American press, "Surprising Choice for Premier of Iraq Reflects US Influence". Amid the confusion of Friday`s news, two facts stand out. One is that Iyad Allawi used to work for the CIA; the other is that he was not chosen by Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy.

Mr Brahimi was the guarantor that the interim government of Iraq would be independent of the US. But Mr Allawi was chosen on Friday by the Iraqi Governing Council, which is generally seen in Iraq as a puppet theatre. Paul Bremer, the chief US administrator, attended the session and congratulated Mr Allawi on his nomination. Mr Brahimi did not. He was left to say, through his spokesman, that he "respects" the decision and could work with Mr Allawi. All he would say himself, when a journalist spoke to him in Baghdad, was: "You know, sometimes people think I am a free agent out here."

Not any more.

The idea that the Iraqi people will rally behind Mr Allawi and accept him as an honest broker charged with overseeing national elections by the end of January 2005 must now be added to the long list of Bush-Rumsfeld delusions. It is difficult to foresee anything other than yet more bloodshed and disorder stretching up to and beyond the US presidential election in November.

What is extraordinary is that the Bush administration, having made so many mistakes in Iraq, each compounding the original disastrous decision to embark on this imperial adventure, continues to make yet more. Iraqi elections were postponed until after the US ones because the Americans feared that they would be won by supporters of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shia leader. That has only incited the nationalist insurgency and strengthened the hand of more extreme Shia leaders. The nomination of Mr Allawi will reinforce both trends.

If our hope that Mr Bush might learn from his mistakes has been repeatedly dashed, however, so has our hope that Tony Blair might at last start to exert his much-vaunted influence on his friend. It was reported that the British advised early elections in Iraq; if so, they were brushed aside. It has been suggested that, in the drafting of the resolution shortly to be considered by the UN, the British have "bounced" the Americans into ceding ultimate authority over US troops in Iraq. But, if it turns out that Iraqi sovereignty means anything at all in the UN resolution, which is more likely: that it was secured by British "influence" or outright French, Russian and Chinese opposition?

The only kind of influence over the Bush administration that matters is the prospect of electoral defeat. The US electorate may have given the President the benefit of the doubt over the invasion itself, but they can recognise incompetence when they see it. This is not a time for whispering in deaf ears, but for the brutal exercise of the threat of American humiliation in Iraq. Mr Blair could, if he wanted, demand a heavy price for continuing to provide Mr Bush with the cover he needs with US domestic opinion. The Prime Minister must use it, or lose any claim to recover some respect from the ruins of Iraq.

4 U.S. Troops Killed Near Baghdad

Sunday, May 30, 2004; 1:02 AM

BAGHDAD, May 30 - Three U.S. Marines were killed in action in the volatile al-Anbar province west of Baghdad on Saturday, while a U.S. army soldier was killed in a separate mortar attack several days earlier, the U.S. military said.

A U.S. military statement issued on Sunday said the soldier was killed in a mortar attack on May 25 south of Baghdad, which also wounded nine soldiers. There was no more information on the circumstances of the deaths.

The al-Anbar province where the Marines were killed includes the flashpoint cities of Falluja and Ramadi.

The U.S. military also said it was investigating the death of a soldier from a unit based in the northern town of Mosul on Friday, which had not been caused by hostile fire.

Since the invasion last March, at least 588 U.S. troops have been killed in action in Iraq.

© 2004 Reuters
May 30, 2004
It Was the Porn That Made Them Do It

THE day was April 2, 2003, the town was Najaf, the mood was giddy, and, yes, the citizens did greet the American liberators from the 101st Airborne Division with cheers. One Iraqi was asked what he hoped the Americans would bring, and Jim Dwyer reported the answer on the front page of The New York Times: " `Democracy,` the man said, his voice rising to lift each word to greater prominence. `Whiskey. And sexy!` "

Well, two out of three ain`t bad.

This joyous memory came rushing back after the grim revelation of yet another kink in the torture regime at Abu Ghraib. As if sexual humiliation and violent abuse weren`t punishment enough, the guards also made prisoners violate Islamic practice by force-feeding them booze.

How do we square the tales of American cruelty with the promise of democracy we thought we were bringing to Iraq? One obvious way might be to acknowledge with some humility that our often proud history has always had a fault line, running from slavery to Wounded Knee to My Lai. (Read accounts of Andersonville, the Confederate-run Civil War prison at which some 13,000 died, for literal echoes of some of Abu Ghraib`s inhumanity.) But there`s an easier way out in 2004: blame Janet Jackson for what`s gone wrong in Iraq, or if not her, then Jenna Jameson.

It sounds laughable, but it`s not a joke. Some of our self-appointed moral leaders are defending the morally indefensible by annexing Abu Ghraib as another front in America`s election-year culture war. Charles Colson, the Watergate felon turned celebrity preacher, told a group of pastors convened by the Family Research Council that the prison guards had been corrupted by "a steady diet of MTV and pornography." The Concerned Women for America site posted a screed by Robert Knight, of the Culture and Family Institute, calling the Abu Ghraib scandal the " `Perfect Storm` of American cultural depravity," in which porn, especially gay porn, gave soldiers "the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion." (His chosen prophylactics to avert future Abu Ghraibs include abolishing sex education, outlawing same-sex marriage and banishing Howard Stern.) The vice president of the Heritage Foundation, Rebecca Hagelin, found a link between the prison scandal and how "our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13."

Some of these same characters also felt that the media shouldn`t show the Abu Ghraib pictures too much or at all — as if the pictures were the problem rather than what they reveal. They are of an ideological piece with Jerry Falwell, who, a mere two days after 9/11, tried to shift the blame for al Qaeda`s attack to the "pagans" and abortionists and gays and lesbians who have "tried to secularize America."

This time the point of these scolds` political strategy — and it is a political strategy, despite some of its adherents` quasireligiosity — is clear enough. It is not merely to demonize gays and the usual rogue`s gallery of secularist bogeymen for any American ill but to clear the Bush administration of any culpability for Abu Ghraib, the disaster that may have destroyed its mission in Iraq. If porn or MTV or Howard Stern can be said to have induced a "few bad apples" in one prison to misbehave, then everyone else in the chain of command, from the commander-in-chief down, is off the hook. If the culture war can be cross-wired with the actual war, then the buck will stop not at the Pentagon or the White House but at the Paris Hilton video, or "Mean Girls," or maybe "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

The hypocrisy of those pushing this line knows few bounds. They choose to ignore the reality that the most popular images of sadomasochism in American pop culture this year have been those in "The Passion of the Christ," an R-rated "religious" movie that many Americans took their children to see, at times with clerical blessings. Mel Gibson`s relentlessly violent, distinctly American take on Jesus` martyrdom is a more exact fit for what`s been acted out in Abu Ghraib than the flouncings of any cheesy porn-video dominatrix.

The other hypocrisy of the blame-the-culture crowd is that "normal Americans" — a phrase favored by Mr. Knight — don`t partake of the "secular" entertainment that is doing all this damage. In other words, the porn that led to prison abuse is all ghettoized in the blue states. The facts say otherwise. Phil Harvey, the president of the North Carolina-based Adam & Eve, one of the country`s largest suppliers of mail-order adult products, said in an interview last week that his business has "for years" been roughly the same per capita throughout the continental United States, with those Deep South bastions of the Bible Belt, Alabama and Mississippi, buying only 10 percent fewer sex toys and porn videos than everyone else. Even residents of the Cincinnati metropolitan area — home to Citizens for Community Values and famous for antismut battles over Larry Flynt and Robert Mapplethorpe — turned out to be slightly larger-than-average users of porn Web sites, according to a 2001 Nielsen Internet survey.

Americans, regardless of location or political affiliation, have always consumed a culture of sex and violence. David Milch`s explicit HBO recollection of the cruelty and carnality that accompanied our "winning" of the west, "Deadwood," is hardly fiction. As Luc Sante and Susan Sontag have pointed out, the photographs from Abu Ghraib themselves have a nearly exact historical antecedent in those touristy snapshots of shameless Americans posing underneath the victims of lynchings for decades after the Civil War. The horrific photos were sent around as postcards in the same insouciant spirit that moved Abu Ghraib guards to e-mail their torture pictures or turn them into screensavers — even though the reigning mass-culture pin-ups of the time were Mary Pickford and Shirley Temple rather than Janet Jackson or Britney Spears.

To blame every American transgression on the culture, whether the transgression is as grievous as Abu Ghraib or the shootings at Columbine or as trivial as lubricious teenage fashions, is to absolve Americans of any responsibility for anything. It used to be that liberals pinned all American sins on the military-industrial complex; now it`s conservatives who pin them all on the Viacom-Time Warner complex. It used to be liberals that found criminals victims of "root causes"; now it`s conservatives who find criminals victims of X-rated causes. Since it`s conservatives who are now in power, we`ve reached the absurd state where we have an attorney general who arrived in Washington placing a higher priority on stamping out porn than terrorism; we have a Federal Communications Commission that is ready to sacrifice a bedrock American value (the First Amendment) to the cause of spanking Bono for using a four-letter word on TV. As Congress threatens to police cable TV as well, we face the prospect that the history in "Deadwood" may yet be airbrushed by the government until it resembles "Little Women."

All of this is at odds with one of President Bush`s most persistent campaign themes. He has repeatedly vowed to introduce "a culture of responsibility in America" in which "each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life." Up to a point. Now he talks about how the Abu Ghraib pictures are not "the America I know." (Maybe he should get out more.) If he really practiced "a culture of responsibility" he would take responsibility for his own government`s actions rather than plead ignorance and express dismay. He might, for instance, explain how his own White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, came to write a January 2002 memo that labeled the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and "obsolete" for dealing with prisoners in the war on terrorism (of which Iraq, we`re told, is a part). The dissemination of that memo`s legal wisdom through the Defense Department and the military command over the past 26 months may tell us more about what led to Abu Ghraib than anything else we`ve heard so far from the administration, let alone any Heritage Foundation press release that finds the genesis of torture in the sexual innuendos of prime-time television.

In his speech last Monday night, the president, reeling in the polls and seeking a life raft, seemed to be well on his way to adopting the cultural defense being pushed by his political allies. He called Abu Ghraib a symbol of "death and torture" under Saddam Hussein and then said that the same prison also "became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops." The idea, it seemed, was to concede American fallibility, if not exactly error. But by reducing the charge to "disgraceful conduct," he was performing a verbal sleight-of-hand that acquitted those troops of torture and found them guilty instead of the lesser crime of pornographic horseplay. (He was also trying to confine culpability to a "few" troops.) Perhaps he hopes that we will believe that what happened at Abu Ghraib is the work of just a handful of porn-addled freaks, and that by razing the prison we can shut the whole incident down the way Rudy Giuliani banished the sex emporiums of Times Square.

But it`s hard to imagine that any of this will fool that man in Najaf who had hoped we`d replace the terror of Saddam with that elixir he rightly called democracy. Whatever else America may represent — whiskey and sexy included — it stands most of all for the rule of law. We won`t bring democracy to Iraq until those of high rank and low alike submit to an all-American prosecution for crimes that clearly extend well beyond the perimeters of pornographic pictures that, in the end, are merely the evidence.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
U.S. Learns Art of the Deal in Iraq
Military softens stance in Najaf and Fallouja to limit casualties and lift hopes for stability.
By Edmund Sanders
Times Staff Writer

May 30, 2004

BAGHDAD — As they struggled to hold together a fragile cease-fire agreement amid sporadic fighting Saturday, American officials were — once again — preparing to carry out a peace deal that calls for significant concessions to an adversary they once vowed to crush.

Crucial details of a tentative agreement in the Iraqi city of Najaf were still being hammered out. But as the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority prepares to transfer sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in a month, it appears eager to reach an accord with militant Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr and his militia by following a strategy similar to the one that helped end the bloodshed in the Sunni town of Fallouja.

The compromises reflect a shift away from relying on force to resolve clashes to an emphasis on political negotiation, experts say. "I too am bothered by talking so loudly and backing off," said retired Maj. Gen. William Nash, a military analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "But the first rule of getting yourself out of a hole is to stop digging."

The new search for political compromise carries risks, such as appearing weak militarily and losing credibility in the already skeptical eyes of Iraqis.

For weeks, U.S. forces threatened to "kill or capture" the young cleric and "crush" his Al Mahdi militia, which seized control of key areas in Najaf and other Shiite holy cities nearly two months ago.

On Thursday, the Americans embraced an offer that could allow Sadr to remain free and delay decisions about disbanding his militia or enforcing an arrest warrant against him on charges that he plotted the killing of a rival.

The proposal came nearly a month after Marines in Fallouja dropped their demands that insurgents hand in their weapons and surrender the killers of four U.S. contract workers.

Instead, the military turned over control of the city to an Iraqi force led by a former officer in Saddam Hussein`s army.

In Fallouja and Najaf, American commanders began with similar objectives: to control the territory, disarm rebels and arrest wanted men.

Yet in each case they accepted a deal that protected Iraqis they had called "thugs" and "terrorists."

Why the sudden change of heart?

Both sets of negotiations were launched amid growing anxiety that the occupation could unravel as the June 30 hand-over of sovereignty approached.

In pursuing the deals, U.S. officials hoped to end the violence, reduce American casualties and increase stability before the interim Iraqi government took office.

U.S. forces were initially unyielding toward the rebellions in Fallouja and Najaf, sending in thousands of troops to enforce order. American troops quickly discovered that the harder they pushed militarily, the stronger the opposition grew politically.

"Because of the severe attitude and reaction by the coalition forces and the efforts to suppress the militias militarily, the militias became more influential in terms of public opinion," said Paul Wilkinson, a professor of international relations at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Before the military closed Sadr`s tiny newspaper in March, the cleric was viewed chiefly as an irritant, a minor Shiite leader who was sometimes ridiculed for having to bus in supporters to listen to his speeches.

The crackdown turned Sadr, whose assassinated father is revered by many Iraqis, into a national symbol of anti-Americanism. His defiant attacks against the occupation struck a chord with thousands of young, disenfranchised Iraqis, who rushed to join his militia. Hundreds, many still in their teens, have fought to their deaths in recent weeks against U.S. forces in Kufa, Najaf and Karbala.

Likewise, in the eyes of many Iraqis, the U.S. attack transformed Fallouja from a fundamentalist enclave tied to Hussein`s regime and stigmatized by the March 31 killing and mutilation of four American civilian contractors into a victim of aggression.

In both cities, the U.S. had little choice but to pull back and search for a political solution.

"If they had pressed on with an attempt to eradicate the militia or to suppress their opponents, the political price would have been so high it would have made the job of establishing a transitional government almost impossible," Wilkinson said.

The compromise in Najaf is also a sign that U.S. strategists may have underestimated the frustration of Iraq`s majority Shiite population and overestimated its sectarianism.

"The coalition made too much of the religious divide," said Charles Heyman, a senior defense analyst at Jane`s Information Group. "Whether they are Sunnis or Shiites or Kurds, Iraqis have a sense of being Iraqi. If a Middle Eastern country tried to take over the U.S., there would be a groundswell of opinion against them, too. There is much more that bonds us together than keeps us apart."

Despite deep divisions among Iraq`s Shiites, their political leaders demonstrated a surprising — if sometimes reluctant — unity when it came to facing American forces.

"There`s a common saying in Iraq," explained one Shiite shopkeeper in Baghdad. "Me and my brother against my cousin. Me and my cousin against the stranger."

Although other Shiite leaders, including Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, frowned on Sadr`s calls to violence and his militia`s seizure of mosques and shrines, they refused to side with the Americans against him.

"Iraqis now feel there is only one enemy against them: the Americans," said Sheik Ahmed Shibani, a Sadr aide. He said the siege in Najaf backfired by unifying Shiites. "It has caused the rise of one Shiite leadership."

Such claims may be premature. Distrust among Shiite factions remains high.

For Americans, the tentative deal in Najaf — as it was in Fallouja — is designed in part to reduce casualties, a senior Pentagon official said.

"The way you avoid casualties is by not fighting," the official said. "And that`s effectively what`s going on down there." That approach has American commanders negotiating with unsavory, "Mafia-like" characters, the official said.

Under the terms of the deal, Sadr agreed to vacate government facilities and send some armed followers home. In return, the U.S. would pull back to small bases in and around Najaf and Kufa. Eventually, Iraqi police would take over security.

It`s too soon to know whether the tentative agreement will hold. It is being tested daily by skirmishes between U.S. troops and Sadr`s militia. On Saturday, U.S. forces said they killed Iraqi militiamen who fired rocket-propelled grenades near Najaf, Reuters reported. Heavier fighting Friday left three Iraqis dead and two Americans wounded.

Although the U.S.` exit strategy in Najaf appears similar to the one it pursued in Fallouja, resolving the standoff in the holy city could prove more complicated. As the center of Iraq`s Shiite community and home to historic shrines, Najaf holds great symbolism for about 60% of the population, raising sensitivity about the presence of U.S. troops.

But a withdrawal could leave a security vacuum that could be equally worrisome, particularly if inter-Shiite clashes escalate.

The compromises in Najaf and Fallouja may also carry long-term costs if they enable local leaders to create fiefdoms. That could undercut the authority of the future government in Baghdad and its security forces, possibly threatening to further splinter the country. Already the Kurds exercise virtual autonomy in the north.

In the short term, however, the U.S. may have few options.

"Rather than trying to eliminate the factions, it is better at this stage to withdraw and allow Iraqi administration of those cities until the new government is set up," Wilkinson said.

"Eventually the new government is going to have to deal with these people if the country is going to remain in one piece. The danger of breaking into separate enclaves is real. But what`s important now is to maintain a certain level of stability."


Times staff writer John Hendren in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Shooting First
The preemptive-war doctrine has met an early death in Iraq
By Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay
Ivo H. Daalder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and James M. Lindsay, vice president and director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, are coauthors of "America Unbound: The B

May 30, 2004

WASHINGTON — Two years ago this week, in a speech at West Point, President Bush formally enunciated his doctrine of preemption. "The war on terror will not be won on the defensive," the president told a graduating class of cadets. "We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act."

Within 10 months, Bush made good on his promise, sending U.S. troops 7,000 miles from home to depose Saddam Hussein. Less than two months after the first bombs were dropped, Bush landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to declare "mission accomplished" before several thousand cheering sailors. Advocates of the new approach to foreign policy felt fully vindicated.

Today, the doctrine of preemption has fallen on hard times. Far from demonstrating the principle`s effectiveness, the Iraq war and its aftermath have ultimately underscored its limits. When Bush addressed the faculty and students at the Army War College last week, he spoke of staying the course in Iraq. But the problems that have plagued the U.S. occupation over the last year make it highly unlikely that preemption is a tactic that he will employ elsewhere anytime soon.

Bush`s preemption doctrine went well beyond anything previous presidents had contemplated. To be sure, the option of using force preemptively had existed for Bush`s predecessors. Some had used it — as Bill Clinton did in 1998 when he ordered an attack on a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, that U.S. intelligence suspected of producing nerve gas. But Bush`s conception of preemption far exceeded responding to an imminent danger of attack. He instead advocated preventive wars of regime change. The United States claimed the right to use force to oust leaders it disliked long before they could threaten its security.

Bush`s radical departure from past practice was based on two assumptions, both of which our experience in Iraq has shown to be flawed. The first was the belief that Washington would have access to reliable intelligence about the intentions and capabilities of potential adversaries. An enemy`s society might be closed, but our modern spy technologies could pry it open. We could peer into secret weapons sites from on high and listen to conversations and other communications without being detected. Our intelligence would be good enough to warn us of impending danger.

That assumption looks dubious 14 months after the fall of Hussein. On the eve of the Iraq war, Bush told the nation that "intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." A week into the war, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld boasted that "we know where they are."

Yet more than a year later, American troops still have not found any weapon of mass destruction (unless a single artillery shell, produced in the 1980s, that possibly contained sarin nerve gas, counts). The prewar intelligence predictions were so far off the mark that the president no longer argues that the war was justified because Iraq`s weapons of mass destruction programs posed a grave threat to American security.

The second assumption that drove Bush`s willingness to launch a preventive war was the belief that the technological edge held by the U.S. made the costs of war, if not cheap, then at least acceptable.

"We have witnessed the arrival of a new era," Bush declared on the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln. In the past, "military power was used to end a regime by breaking a nation. Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime." This belief, which seemed so convincing in the immediate afterglow of the U.S. military`s rapid march to Baghdad, looks naive in the wake of the fighting in Fallouja and Najaf. Not only have the costs of war escalated significantly in the 13 months since the president prematurely declared an end to major combat operations, but the emphasis on breaking regimes ignored the far more difficult task of rebuilding nations once their evil leaders have been ousted. As we now know all too painfully, our success in ousting a tyrant provides no guarantee that we will succeed in creating a stable and acceptable successor government.

With the Iraqi threat having turned out to be far less than advertised and the cost of occupying Iraq far higher, it is hardly surprising that preemption suddenly looks far less attractive. Earlier this year, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the Washington Post that had he known then what he knows now about Iraq`s weapons capabilities, it would have changed "the political calculus; it changes the answer you get" when asking whether to go to war or not.

Many Americans now agree. Polls show that a majority now believes that the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. Persuading them, much less the rest of the world, to launch another preventive war elsewhere in the world would be a tough sell.

It may not matter whether the public can be persuaded. The Iraq occupation has badly strained the capabilities of the U.S. military. To maintain adequate troop levels in Iraq, the Pentagon recently decided to redeploy 3,600 soldiers from South Korea — the first reduction in U.S. force levels on the Korean peninsula since the early 1990s. Congress is considering legislation to increase the size of the Army, but the Pentagon has so far resisted the idea, and even if it passes, it will take several years to expand the force.

An overstretched U.S. military is still more than capable of preventive strikes against terrorist camps or presumed weapons factories. It is in no position, however, to wage a preventive war, let alone sort out the consequences.

Iran and North Korea — the two other charter members of Bush`s "axis of evil" — present far more daunting military challenges than Iraq did. Iran has three times the population, far greater domestic political support and many more friends beyond its borders. North Korea probably has nuclear weapons and, by virtue of the fact that Seoul sits only a few dozen miles from the demilitarized zone, it effectively holds the South Korean capital hostage.

Not being a man given to analyzing his missteps, Bush will not publicly bury the preemption doctrine he unveiled only two years ago. But all doctrines must eventually be measured against experience. And for that reason, Bush`s doctrine of preemption is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Curse of wartime presidents strikes G.W. Bush
Since World War II, no war-waging U.S. head of state has been re-elected
- Richard J. Rapaport
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Uncannily like his father and other presidents before him, George W. Bush is in the crosshairs of the curse of the wartime president.

It goes like this: Since the end of World War II, America has fought in Korea, Vietnam, Gulf I and Gulf II. No president responsible for taking America into those wars, or escalating the conflict, won an additional term.

In 1952, the Korean War forced Harry Truman to forget re-election. In 1968, Vietnam finished off Lyndon Johnson. In 1992, George H.W. Bush`s unwillingness to demobilize a presidency tainted by the perception of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory led to his humbling defeat.

Like father like son, George W. Bush has cloaked himself as a wartime president. Like his father, the younger Bush fails to discern that there is something about America that does not love war or wartime presidents. Instead, Americans favor candidates who evoke the nation`s favorite three words, "peace and prosperity".

In the months running up to what would have been re-election campaigns, Truman and Johnson recognized that war had undermined their ability to deliver the Fair Deal and War on Poverty that were their respective campaign themes. Each recognized that any campaign would devolve into referendums on unpopular wars that they would lose.

In Truman`s case, by 1952 the national voice beckoned him toward retirement. Vice president for 83 days before Franklin Roosevelt`s death in 1945, Truman as president seemed a pale reflection of his titanic predecessor. But presiding over the atomic bombing of Japan, the surrender of the Axis, the Marshall Plan and postwar prosperity, Truman ultimately won America`s respect and an against-all-odds election in 1948.

Exempted from the Republican-promulgated two-term limit on presidential terms established by the 22nd Amendment, Truman could have run in 1952. His inclination had been to run. The presidency, Truman told a Florida audience, "was an all day and night job ... but just between you, me and the gatepost, I like it." Contending, however, with McCarthyism, the Cold War and especially the bloody, unending war in Korea, Truman recognized that 1952 was not his year.

Truman withdrew, bestowing the Democratic nomination on protege Adlai Stevenson. The 1952 race was tight until Dwight Eisenhower`s strategists surprised the nation and the candidate himself by inserting into one of his speeches a pledge that if elected, the old soldier would go to Korea.

The notion that the Republicans possessed a secret plan to end the Korean War drove Truman to apoplexy. "I was furious about the promise,`` Truman later wrote, "because if Eisenhower really had a solution to the Korean War, it was his responsibility to tell it to me and to the American public.``

In 1968, four presidential cycles later, Johnson took a similar jab at Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon. Unsurprisingly, the man who had been Eisenhower`s running mate promised that if elected, he would initiate his own secret plan to end the Vietnam War.

Johnson`s ire mattered little. Vietnam had tainted him as much as Korea had Truman. In February 1968, recognizing the unpopularity of Vietnam and the string of humiliating defeats awaiting him in Democratic primaries, Johnson withdrew as a presidential candidate. His anointed candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, was tainted with the curse, too, and lost to Nixon.

In 1991, lacking Truman`s historical prescience or LBJ`s political savvy, President George H.W. Bush emerged from the Persian Gulf War mistaking American wartime solidarity for personal popularity. Believing the Gulf War had made him politically invulnerable at home, Bush pinned his future on his wartime presidential status, refusing to refocus on the faltering economy.

Thus began one of America`s most precipitous popularity slides. Facing Bill Clinton, a candidate better equipped than any Democrat since FDR to enunciate policies of "peace and prosperity," the elder Bush became the next victim of the curse of the wartime president and lost badly in the 1992 election.

Today, the comparisons with 1952, 1968 and, most particularly, 1992 should give Republicans fits of deja vu. Here we are with a second Bush administration presiding over a Middle Eastern "victory" that has set loose an utter hell of geopolitical demons.

Worse, the younger Bush faces an American electorate that has grown disenchanted with a president utterly clueless about the curse that has finished off every chief executive in recent American history with the hubris to take America to war.

Richard J. Rapaport is a freelance writer.

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/05/30/INGE86ROJD1.DTL
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle

Zu dem Zeichner:
Muslim cartoonist has a different slant
Bendib`s pen tackles controversial issues

Jonathan Curiel, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Scores of U.S. editorial cartoonists have examined the Abu Ghraib prison controversy, but none of them has matched the biting, almost risque commentary of Khalil Bendib.
Bush was sure that Iraq`s oil would be flowing by now ... Another big mistake
Date: Sunday, May 30 @ 10:09:15 EDT

By James Cusick, Sunday Herald (Glasgow)

IN July 2002, the Pentagon`s Defence Policy Board was given a briefing by Laurent Murawiec of the Rand Institute. The advisory group of intellectuals and government officials heard Saudi Arabia described as the enemy of the United States. The Saudis were the "kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent".

The chairman of the board was Richard Perle, a former Pentagon official. Murawiec, in a lengthy presentation, did not outline White House policy. But his views were said to chime with key figures in the Bush administration such as Vice- President Dick Cheney, and the assistant secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz.

The presentation of this anti-Saudi analysis coincided with the growing neo-conservative debate inside President George W Bush`s administration on whether to move militarily against Saddam Hussein`s Iraq.

Perle was one of the loudest advocates of war on Iraq. The briefing by Murawiec argued that removing Saddam would be a means to an end - the end being regime change in Saudi, which the briefing argued was a larger problem because of the way it financed and supported radical Islamic movements worldwide.

Murawiec said the Saudis believed God placed oil in their kingdom as a means of "divine approval"; he said the House of Saud was central to the "self-destruction of the Arab world" and that while there was an Arabia "it need not be Saud".

In the final slide of his presentation a "grand strategy" for the Middle East was offered: it said "Iraq is the pivotal point. Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot."

The Pentagon dismissed the briefing as "not the view of the Department of Defence". But just how important the US regarded the global influence of an oil-rich Saudi and its neighbours, goes back to January 1973 when Washington first drew up a plan to seize oil fields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi to counter the then oil embargo imposed on the West.

The 1973 US adventure in the Middle East never took place. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 did.

Saddam`s Iraq held the world`s second largest oil reserves. But after two decades of war and sanctions, the industry was virtually on its knees, badly in need of investment and new technology to boost production levels.

At its peak, Iraq produced 3.5 million barrels of oil a day. Pre-war estimates made in the US put potential output at 6m barrels a day - a change that would put Iraq in fourth place behind Saudi, the US and Russia.

A year into the US-led occupation of Iraq, and any hopes of Iraq even slightly influencing Saudi-dominated Opec are nil to non-existent. According to Paul Horsnell, the senior energy analyst with Barclays in London, the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is controlling and running Iraq`s oil industry, with only day-to-day control of the nuts and bolts of the industry still in the hands of the Iraqis. With investment, technical contracts, and US oil expertise, the CPA had the means to turn round the ailing Iraqi industry. But according to Horsnell: "The CPA has only made things worse. A year of CPA control has been a story of neglect."

He says the CPA allocated the oil industry in Iraq "a zero capital budget" for this year with little change coming next year. Its control, he claims, has resulted in no new fields coming on-stream, the oil sector is in a chronic slide after the war, and the careless over-production of some Iraqi oil fields have destroyed their future potential, with some, according to Horsnell "now likely to deliver water rather than oil" due to the technical damage inflicted on them.

The transfer of power to the new interim Iraqi government is not expected to change much in the Iraqi oil sector. Iraqi oil is still technically state-owned, but the complex control network of oil revenue by the CPA is unlikely to be merely "handed over" to the new quasi-sovereign government.

Any expectation that the US occupation could quickly turn around the Iraqi oil industry, enabling it to influence or challenge Opec policy, has vanished. Output is currently at 2.8m barrels a day. The end of year target is 3m. By the end of 2005, the CPA is talking about 4m barrels a day, but no leading analysts takes this view seriously. One Seymour Pierce analyst said: "You can`t conjure a million barrels a day from nowhere."

What happens if the new Iraqi government challenges the legal validity of some of the highly lucrative oil contracts handed out to US firms by the CPA is unclear. The United Nations has already expressed its unease at the generated oil revenues in Iraq being used to fund the CPA itself and of pre-war oil-for-food funds, organised by the UN, also finding their way to the control of the CPA.

But the more immediate problem for Bush`s US administration, which needs to ensure current global oil production is increased, is to avoid Iraq descending into a civil war that would both virtually halt Iraqi oil exports, and potentially bring instability to neighbouring Gulf producers on which the US is highly dependent.

Even without the chaos of civil war, the lengthy list of sabotage attacks on Iraq`s oil facilities, and the effects of these attacks on supply capabilities, continues to raise doubts about Iraq`s long-term ability to again become a major player. One analyst said: "Political stability and continuity are crucial here. Iraq is currently without both of them. And nothing on the horizon points to that changing quickly."

Horsnell, however, is clear on one thing: "If there had been no invasion, then the current oil price would be lower."

The instability inside Iraq which has followed the coalition invasion is fuelling another peak in the price of oil, which over the past 50 years has been followed by a period of recession. If there was a neo-conservative plan for the Middle East, and Iraq was thought to be the key, it is unlocking nothing - apart from more trouble.

(c) newsquest (sunday herald) limited.

Reprinted from The Glasgow Sunday Herald:
Who killed Nick Berg?
May 29, 2004

Conspiracy theories about how the kidnapped American died in Iraq are flying around the world. Richard Neville explores the explanations.

Iraq in flames, Washington an object of disgust. What to do? At this pivotal moment, CNN and Fox News are tipped off to a clip of an American citizen being beheaded. The victim is a 26-year-old idealist from Pennsylvania, Nick Berg. Despite the perpetrators being masked, the vile deed is deemed the work of al-Qaeda.

The clip was first "discovered" on an Islamic website in Malaysia. Its Arabic title reads "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American". al-Zarqawi is a 38-year-old Jordanian militant who fled to Iraq in 2001 after reportedly losing a leg in a US missile strike. al-Zarqawi`s face is widely known and he credits himself with the deed, so why a mask?

The timing of the video was brilliant for the West. Media pundits judged the crime a deeper evil than the systemic torture of innocent Iraqis. But some people sensed a rat. But if it was not al-Qaeda, who? Surely not Uncle Sam. That`s too dark, even for the CIA.

While this video shows a human body having its head chopped off, it does not necessarily portray an act of murder. Berg`s headless body was found dumped on a Baghdad roadside on Saturday, May 8.
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Three days later, the "live beheading" clip was uploaded from London to the Malaysian website http://www.al-ansar.biz. The statement in the video is signed with al-Zarqawi`s name, dated May 11. After Fox News and CNN had downloaded the video, it disappeared from the site.

As no autopsy is available, little is known about the state of the body. No time of death, no forensic analysis. On April 6, a month before the discovery of the corpse, Berg had been released from custody. But whose custody?

Dan Senor, adviser to the US Presidential Envoy in Iraq, has said Berg was never held by the Americans. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the Coalition`s deputy head of operations, claimed he was in the custody of Iraqi police from March 24 to April 6. However, the Iraqi police chief, Major-General Mohammed Khair al-Barhawi, told Associated Press "the Iraqi police never arrested the slain American".

Berg`s family are certain his jailers were the US military. His father, Michael, had been told so by the FBI. He has produced an email from a US consular official in Baghdad, Beth Payne, confirming that his son was in the hands of the US. (Later, another official said this was an error.) On April 5 in the Philadelphia office of the US Supreme Court, the Berg family had launched an action against the US military for false imprisonment. The following day, Berg was released.

The issue of custody is significant; in his final moments on screen Berg is wearing an orange jumpsuit of the kind familiar from Guantanamo Bay. The official reasons for Berg`s arrest were "lack of documentation" and "suspicious activities". He carried sensitive electronic equipment for which he lacked documents. In custody, he was visited three times by the FBI. Such interviews are bound to have been recorded but no transcripts have been produced.

After his release, Berg travelled to Baghdad and the $30-a-night Al-Fanar Hotel. A fellow hotel guest told Newsday that Berg recounted how Iraqi police had quickly handed him to US authorities in Mosul and that he had been held the entire time in a jail where his guards were US soldiers.

Berg was in Baghdad to win contracts for his family firm, Prometheus Methods Tower Service, a provider of communications facilities. He often "worked at night on a tower in the neighbourhood of Abu Ghraib", according to The New York Times.

The family last heard from him on April 9, when he said he was planning to leave Iraq via Kuwait as soon as it was safe. Berg was last seen walking with his bags the following day, apparently hoping to find his way through the turmoil engulfing the city and make it to the border.

On March 7, 2004, two weeks before his arrest in Mosul, an "enemies list" had been posted on a conservative website, FreeRepublic.com. The list was compiled from signatories to an anti-war petition, and its implied purpose was to encourage readers to harass those it named.

Berg`s father was on that list, as was the family firm, Prometheus. This information may well have triggered the arrest of Berg in Iraq.

Berg`s politics are not clear. His father, Michael, has described his son as a "staunch supporter" of US President George Bush. Friends said Nick believed he could help rebuild Iraq "one radio tower at a time". According to The New York Times, he was attracted to the Hebrew concept of tikkun olam - healing the world through social action.

The first few seconds of the video shows Berg sitting on a white plastic chair in an orange jumpsuit. He speaks directly to the camera in a relaxed way: "My name is Nick Berg ... I have a brother and sister, David and Sara. I live in Philadelphia." His white chair is identical to those in the photographs of the Abu Ghraib prison tortures, but such chairs are probably common in Iraq. It is highly likely that this segment is edited from the interrogation of Berg during his 13 days of custody.

In the next scene, Berg is sitting on the floor with five masked figures standing behind him. We do not see the figures enter. Berg looks lifeless, though his body appears to make slight movements. A man reads a lengthy Arabic statement in a passionless monotone. He is identified as "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi", a Jordanian associate of Osama bin Laden who is tied to dozens of terrorist acts.

Yet a leaflet recently circulated in Falluja, by no means a reliable source, claims that al-Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniya mountains of northern Iraq during a US bombing. A US military report last month has claimed al-Zarqawi was killed in the bombing of Falluja.

Also, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has said that al-Zarqawi was fitted with a prosthetic leg in a Baghdad hospital, yet the tape shows no evidence of a limp. CNN staff familiar with al-Zarqawi`s voice have been quoted as saying the voice does not sound like his.

Among the many curiosities raised on the web about the fanatical five are:

· They are well-fed, fidgety, and reveal glimpses of white skin.

· Their Arabic is heavily accented (Russian, Jordanian, Egyptian).

· An aside in Russian had been translated as "do it quickly".

· One character wears wears bulky white tennis shoes.

· The man on the far left stands in the familiar "at ease" military posture.

· The men`s scarves are worn and tied by people who "haven`t a clue", says conspiracy theorist Hector Carreon, like actors in Hollywood movies.

· There is even a voice at the end that seems to ask in English, "How will it be done?" [http://www.aztlan.net/nick_berg_how_done.htm]

None of this proves a grand conspiracy, but it does raise questions. In the final segment of the tape, Berg is thrown to the ground, but doesn`t move. During the decapitation, starting at the front of the throat, there is little sign of blood. The scream is wildly out of sync, sounds female, and is obviously dubbed.

Dr John Simpson, executive director for surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, told Ritt Goldstein of the Asia Times, "I would have thought that all the people in the vicinity would have been covered in blood, in a matter of seconds ... if it [the video] was genuine".

Simpson agrees with other experts who find it highly probable that Berg had died before his decapitation.

But there is still the problem of Berg`s slight body movements while sitting on the floor, before the beheading. According to a blogger (internet diarist), Nick Possum, "this footage was subsequently modified frame by frame to make Berg`s body move very occasionally". Apparently, this can be achieved with "commonly available software". [http://www.brushtail.com.au/nick_berg_hypothesis.html]

Possum believes "the available evidence surrounding the case suggests that it was a `black operation` by US psychological warfare specialists ... to provide the media with a moral relativity argument to counter the adverse publicity over torture at Abu Ghraib". The use of FBI footage in the opening sequence, if confirmed, suggests the involvement of high-level US Government operatives.

I do not know who killed Nick Berg, or how he died. But there`s something fishy about this video.

In the end, the question is: who killed Nick Berg, and why?

Copyright © 2004. The Sydney Morning Herald.
Sunday, May 30, 2004
War News for May 30, 2004


Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, nine wounded in mortar attack “south of Baghdad.”

Bring ‘em on: Driver and bodyguard of Iraqi newspaper editor killed in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Three US Marines killed in action in al-Anbar province.

Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis wounded in continued fighting in Najaf.

Bring ‘em on: Six US soldiers wounded by car bomb near Mosul.

One US soldier dies in “non-hostile incident” near Mosul.

Chalabi staffers evicted from offices in Ramadi.

Coalition of the not-so-willing. “South Korean medics and engineers have been rotating in and out of Iraq for nearly a year, but the main dispatch of 3,000 troops is months behind schedule. Originally, the South Koreans were to go to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. But the South Korean government changed its mind in March because of rising violence. Since then, the search for a new location has proceeded at such a slow pace that critics have accused the Koreans of foot-dragging. It now seems unlikely that the troops will be deployed before August.”

Disillusioned. “Jabir Algarawi has returned from Iraq dejected and disillusioned. In December, the north Phoenix resident traveled to his former homeland for the first time in 11 years, eager not only to visit his family in post-Saddam Iraq but excited to play a role in the country`s transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.”

General Zinni lists Lieutenant AWOL’s Top Ten Blunders in Iraq.

Arab press reaction to Iraq’s interim prime minister.

Idaho National Guard mobilized for duty in Iraq. “More than 40 percent of Idaho`s National Guard members will be headed to Iraq with Saturday`s announcement of a full mobilization of the Guard`s 116th Cavalry Brigade. It`s the most extensive call-up of Idaho`s National Guard for overseas military deployment in the state`s history.”

Massive looting continues in Iraq. “In the past several months, the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, Austria, has been closely monitoring satellite photographs of hundreds of military-industrial sites in Iraq. Initial results from that analysis are jarring, said Jacques Baute, director of the agency’s Iraq nuclear verification office: Entire buildings and complexes of as many as a dozen buildings have been vanishing from the photographs.”

OPTEMPO. “American soldiers are firing so much ammunition that the military`s largest supplier of bullets can`t keep up. Tanks that log 800 miles a year in peacetime are grinding through that many miles in a month, wearing out their treads. Fighting in Iraq and increased training back home are straining the military`s supplies and giving manufacturers in the United States a surge in business.”

Lieutenant AWOL’s health care plan for Iraq. “Iraq`s top surgeons, neurologists and other doctors are fleeing Baghdad, bullied into exile by a growing gang of kidnappers seeking hefty ransoms from the country`s affluent elite. ‘The kidnapping of doctors has risen over the past few months, forcing the best practitioners to leave Iraq and settle in neighbouring countries to protect themselves,’ said health ministry public affairs officer May Yassin.”

More of Lieutenant AWOL’s “Support the Troops” tax policy. “The Bush administration opposes a House-passed plan to phase out the Social Security offset, also called the “widow’s tax” feature, of the military Survivor Benefit Plan. But White House budget officials aren’t recommending a presidential veto if the plan appears in the final 2005 defense authorization bill.”


Opinion: "It is our patriotic duty to speak out when egregiously flawed policies and strategies needlessly cost American lives. It is time for the president to ask those responsible for the flawed Iraqi policy -- civilian and military -- to resign from public service. Absent such a change in the current administration, many of us will be forced to choose a presidential candidate whose domestic policies we may not like but who understands firsthand the effects of flawed policies and incompetent military strategies and who fully comprehends the price." The writer is a retired major general in the Marine Corps. He served as director of the expeditionary warfare division in the office of the deputy chief of naval operations.

Analysis: “This time the point of these scolds` political strategy — and it is a political strategy, despite some of its adherents` quasireligiosity — is clear enough. It is not merely to demonize gays and the usual rogue`s gallery of secularist bogeymen for any American ill but to clear the Bush administration of any culpability for Abu Ghraib, the disaster that may have destroyed its mission in Iraq. If porn or MTV or Howard Stern can be said to have induced a ‘few bad apples’ in one prison to misbehave, then everyone else in the chain of command, from the commander-in-chief down, is off the hook. If the culture war can be cross-wired with the actual war, then the buck will stop not at the Pentagon or the White House but at the Paris Hilton video, or ‘Mean Girls,’ or maybe ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.’”

Casualty Reports

Local story: Missouri soldier wounded in Iraq.

86-43-04. Pass it on.

# posted by yankeedoodle : 4:36 AM
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"Newly released transcripts reveal that President Nixon was drunk during the Arab-Israeli crisis of 1973. After hearing this, President Bush said, `Hey, so was I!`" —Conan O`Brien
The Paper Trail
Did Cheney Okay a Deal?

Sunday, May. 30, 2004
Vice President Dick Cheney was a guest on NBC`s Meet the Press last September when host Tim Russert brought up Halliburton. Citing the company`s role in rebuilding Iraq as well as Cheney`s prior service as Halliburton`s CEO, Russert asked, "Were you involved in any way in the awarding of those contracts?" Cheney`s reply: "Of course not, Tim ... And as Vice President, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the Federal Government."

Cheney`s relationship with Halliburton has been nothing but trouble since he left the company in 2000. Both he and the company say they have no ongoing connections. But TIME has obtained an internal Pentagon e-mail sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official—whose name was blacked out by the Pentagon—that raises questions about Cheney`s arm`s-length policy toward his old employer. Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney`s office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year.

The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP`s [Vice President`s] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids. TIME located the e-mail among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.

Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems says the Vice President "has played no role whatsoever in government-contract decisions involving Halliburton" since 2000. A Pentagon spokesman says the e-mail means merely that "in anticipation of controversy over the award of a sole-source contract to Halliburton, we wanted to give the Vice President`s staff a heads-up."

Cheney is linked to his old firm in at least one other way. His recently filed 2003 financial-disclosure form reveals that Halliburton last year invoked an insurance policy to indemnify Cheney for what could be steep legal bills "arising from his service" at the company. Past and present Halliburton execs face an array of potentially costly litigation, including multibillion-dollar asbestos claims.

From the Jun. 07, 2004 issue of TIME magazine
Free at last?


"... Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream ..."
Dr Martin Luther King`s favorite paraphrase of Amos 5:24

SELMA and MONTGOMERY, Alabama - There`s hardly a more moving and powerful statement in the whole United States than the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, designed by Maya Lin with absolute Zen-like simplicity. In white lines radiating like the hands of a clock, a circular black-granite slab details the history and the names of the martyrs of the civil-rights movement from 1954 to 1968, when Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee: ordinary men and women who were the leaders of a true revolution.

Water emerges from the center of the slab and flows gently across the top. Behind it there`s a wall of curved black granite, engraved with King`s words quoted above. Oblivious to Southern heat and humidity, one can actually touch the words, see them behind the water, feel their power.

Any informal conversation in Alabama inevitably touches the point that the civil-rights movement may have brought extraordinary changes to the South, and to the United States as a whole. But in the same breath our interlocutor will add that progress has not erased the legacy of centuries of racial oppression. Today it`s still the same struggle for equality in education, jobs and housing.

There were somewhat subdued commemorations in the US for the 50 years of the landmark Brown vs the Topeka Board of Education, when the US Supreme Court agreed that segregation in public schools denied black children "equal protection" before the law and cultivated a perception that blacks were inferior: in 1955, chief justice Earl Warren finally issued a court order demanding the end of school segregation.

J L Chestnut Jr, a partner at the law firm Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, Pettway & Campbell, offers a very enlightening perspective. After Brown was decided on May 17, 1954, Chestnut "four years later returned to Selma as the first black person to open a law office in the dreadful little town of my birth. It is difficult to even imagine how awful and dangerous it was to be black in the Black Belt of Alabama in 1958." At the time, integrationists "were perceived in the white South as part of an axis of evil. The other parts of the axis were `communists` and `feminists`, but they were less menacing because most white Southerners had never met one."

Chestnut agrees that "the new army of American black voters helped produce some substantial changes on the surface, but beneath the exterior facade, much of that racial and racist substance has not really changed". The United States, says Chestnut, a huge and complex nation, remains controlled by "special-interest ruling groups which are overwhelmingly white and male. Many are racist, others mean well but don`t have a clue about the awful reality of institutional racism or what it means to be an African-American." The "terrible effects of racism and exploitation are still with us today", he adds, giving as an example: "misguided voters in Alabama, black and white, who recently helped millionaires who have never paid their fair share of taxes keep it that way and at the expense of public schools".

His judgment on the administration of President George W Bush is scathing: "Bush and his crowd prefer a more subtle racism, benign neglect, phony race-neutral debate and dishonest denial, an approach that was also perfected in the South. The Bush crowd also understands that a sense of white privilege is much harder to remove than segregation laws."

Many black Americans would agree with Chestnut. And almost certainly, all educated black Americans are fuming with the situation concerning education. There`s a sense that schools with more poor children - almost always black, and the ones who qualify for free breakfast and lunch - have more children who don`t pass.

William Honey, publisher of Montgomery Living magazine, stresses how dysfunctional the Bush educational policy may be: "The sad feature of the No Child Left Behind legislation is that schools with more children who don`t pass are branded `poor`, regardless of the quality of the teachers and administration, and schools with more `advantaged` children are rewarded with more funds to perpetuate the distinction between the education you get if you`re rich or poor."
But there seems to be an exception in Alabama itself: the 100-year-old Highland Elementary, where 80 percent of students get free meals because they`re indeed poor, but at the same time scored very high on the No Child Left Behind testing. The principal, Patricia Kornegay, is adamant: "Poverty is no excuse not to learn." So what`s the secret? It is heavy community support and heavily involved teachers, unsung heroes who have to struggle against lack of funds for professional development, very large classes, and derelict buildings.

The red badge of courage
Montgomery, self-described "Capital City of the American South", bills itself as "courageous, visionary, rebellious". The subtext that cannot be spelled out is that all these qualities seem to have stemmed from its black citizens.

The historic abyss between blacks and whites in Alabama can still be literally felt a single block away from the white-dominated State Capitol, where King ended the 54-mile (87-kilometer) walk from Brown Chapel Church in Selma to Montgomery in 1965, the civil-rights march that was the culmination of the most effective grassroots movement in the history of modern protest. As one looks at the pulpit in Dexter Avenue Baptist Church - where King served as pastor from 1954-60 - one can almost feel him talking about peaceful revolution. This is also where thousands rallied around seamstress Rosa Parks in the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56 that led to an end to official segregation.

The Civil War started officially in Montgomery. Today the city is in full "we support our US military" mode. In Montgomery Living magazine everybody - even in the ads - is white. There`s always a subtle reminder somewhere of Ole Miss, the University of neighboring Mississippi, which was segregated until 1961. Culture is celebrated in the form of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Potential spectators of Titus Andronicus - a graphic story of war very much in evidence after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal - are advised that it "contains adult content".

In neighboring Georgia, George W Bush may win as "the person you most love to hate" in a cheerful poll by a Savannah paper. Not in Alabama. Here, for many people, work is just another place for serious worship. It`s not uncommon to see employees wearing Jesus T-shirts or the new craze - Ten Commandments lapel pins. The Foundation for Moral Law sells them for only US$5 each on its website.

Alabama is one of the most conservative states in the US. Take Gary Palmer, president of the Alabama Policy Institute. In a fascinating bout of historic revisionism, Palmer maintains that former president Jimmy Carter "allowed Iran, a key US ally and perhaps the most Western of the Middle Eastern nations, to be taken over by radical Shi`ites". Nowadays, along with Carter, Senator Teddy Kennedy has become "the most potent propaganda weapon in al-Qaeda`s arsenal for encouraging more deadly attacks against our forces and for undermining the morale of our troops and the American public". The solution in Iraq is, of course, to "stay the course": "If we keep killing or capturing their leaders and their followers wherever they are ... we will eventually win. We will win because we will have demonstrated to the vast majority of Muslims that we have the stomach for the fight." So in the end it`s all Teddy Kennedy`s fault, because he is "trying to slow us down, impeding our chances to win".

The last time a Democrat won in Alabama was 1976. John Kerry`s prospects may be shinier, considering that in a recent Mobile Register-University of South Alabama survey only 43 percent of people in the state now believe in the Bush strategy in Iraq. On the other hand, more than 60 percent believe the Abu Ghraib scandal was an isolated incident, 73 percent think the Pentagon should not release more Abu Ghraib photos, and 66 percent believe Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should not resign. This all means that most people in Alabama are staunch Republicans no matter what.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald`s house in a beautiful, leafy neighborhood is still there: this is where they lived from October 1931 to April 1932, while Scott was writing Tender Is the Night and Zelda - one of four daughters of a judge on the Alabama Supreme Court - was writing Southern Girl, before she had one of her schizophrenia attacks.

The house still exudes an image of some sort of Southern arcadia. But then this passage of F Scott Fitzgerald`s "Echoes of the Jazz Age" creeps into mind, and spoils the magic: "Now once again the belt is tight and we summon the proper expression of horror as we look back at our wasted youth."

The road from Selma
Most army uniforms that appear on CNN and Fox News reports on the war on Iraq are made in Selma by American Apparel, the largest single manufacturer of military uniforms in the US. The firm is in Alabama, although its chief executive officer prefers to live in Austin, Texas. Inside one finds a US version of an Asian sweatshop, with dozens of seamstresses, the contemporary versions of Rosa Parks, working on assembling huge batches of all sorts of clothes, cables hanging from the ceiling and Stars and Stripes dotting the warehouse. Most employees are black. The difference with Asia is that they work eight-hour days maximum, and only five days a week.

There are still hundreds of Civil War-era houses in Selma, all of them marked by blue shields, including the fabulous St James Hotel, the oldest still standing in the South (built in 1837). But the real thing is the Edmund Pettus bridge, still carrying old Highway 80 - the Southern Pacific - over the Alabama river. Here is the intersection of Selma`s Civil War history with the civil-rights movement - which is basically the same struggle.

The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma keeps history alive, using photos and handbills to tell the whole story, centered on local grassroots activists, hugely brave and never celebrated. On March 4, 2005, there will be a huge commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Black Sunday and the march from Selma to Montgomery led by King. In 2000, Bill Clinton became the first sitting US president to come to Selma to join. In 2003, the Reverend Jesse Jackson called it "an annual pilgrimage" and said he "will never miss it": Selma, for him, is "sacred ground". John Kerry has been to the pilgrimage, marching alongside Jesse Jackson.

At the Museum and Institute, a very articulate visitor from Illinois erupts in outrage: "There`s no money for education. And now we can`t finance our addiction to oil. Since last year a barrel of oil went up by $10. Can you imagine if that lasts for a whole year? We would lose $50 billion in consumer spending, and lose 0.5 percent of our economic growth." Faya Ora Rose Toure, chief editor of the museum`s 2004 bridge-crossing commemorative newspaper, from the heights of her Malian name, says almost exactly the same words of a black community leader in Houston two weeks ago: "As we commemorate the voting-rights struggle, we must remember Dr King`s opposition to the Vietnam War. Certainly if he was here today, he would also oppose the war on Iraq."

In 1963 King said, "One day the South will recognize its real heroes." One of these heroes is the now nonagenarian Dorothy Height, who was a leader of the civil-rights movement from the beginning and then was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 41 years. Her book Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir (Public Affairs, 2003) is a must-read. Height is a supreme realist: "There are so many things that have been undone and so many ways in which we have advanced, but at the same time, the poorest seem to be poorer and the poverty among us seems to be entrenched. We have more blacks and women in high positions; we have the value of the Supreme Court`s recent decisions on affirmative action ... But we have to admit that we have a long way to go."

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

May 28, 2004
Highway 61 revisited


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)
An American tragedy (May 11, `04)
In the heart of Bushland (May 12, `04)
The war of the snuff videos (May 13, `04)
The Iraq gold rush (May 14, `04)
The new beat generation (May 15, `04)
Taliban in Texas: Big Oil hankers for old pals (May 18, `04)
Life is a beach. Or is it? (May 19, `04)
Cuba libre (May 21, `04)
Miami vice and virtue (May 22, `04)
Georgia on his mind (May 27, `04) #16894 (s. weitere Postingnummern )
Free at last? (May 28, `04) #17039

DOWN ON HIGHWAY 61, Mississippi - Satan drank his last shot of bourbon, threw the velvet cape over his shoulders and hit the road. The moon was too scared to show up on that night in the Deep South in the 1920s, but the wind has howling like a hellhound. The meeting would be at a solitary Delta crossroads. No witnesses. Robert Johnson, a young black cat from Hazlehurst, Mississippi, grandson of slaves, a bad eye contaminated by cataracts, delicate fingers, gorgeous hands and wavy hair, pinstripe double-breasted suit and pork-pie hat, arrived on time. No words exchanged. No blood spilled. Lightning struck a Gibson Kalamazoo, and the whole Deep South heard the most satanic guitar sound ever extracted by human hands. Robert Johnson didn`t even blink his bad eye, Satan excused himself with a smile, and the whole future of Afro-American popular music was set in stone.

Robert Johnson`s spirit is still here - down on Highway 61, the ultimate blues trip. It`s a very quiet road, especially at night, when the only sound is the car stereo playing "Crossroads". Definitely not like in the 1920s and 1930s, before the mechanization of agriculture, when it was booming with roaming crowds.

The blues springs up from hardship. It`s an instrument of survival, offering release and relief. The blues commands the present moment, demanding that you forget the woes of your past and deal with the trials ahead. But even at a crucial crossroads, confronted by the shifting specter of terrorism and an unwinnable war, the United States still can`t take time off to sing the blues.

Whatever the contradictions of the current exaltation of an art form born of poverty to boost the economy of the poorest state in the union, the blues cannot but help Mississippi`s still depressed local economy. There`s not a single town in the Delta that does not want to have and promote its own blues museum, blues festival, or mythical crossroads. Foreign visitors come to what is regarded as a sacred pilgrimage, and American visitors seem to have shaken off their fears of a Ku Klux Klan revival, an Easy Rider shooting scenario or even obese, evil, local sheriffs.

Sweaty, swaggering, gritty, fiery blues played with volcanic intensity can be heard all over the highway, for instance at the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale or the Walnut Street Blues Club in Greenville, a large river port with a levee lined by garish floating casinos. Clarksdale, Leland, Indianola and many other towns have their annual blues festivals. And the Mother of All Blues Museums is to be found in Clarksdale, in a 1918 railroad depot not far from a mythical crossroads. Most museums have very short funds. That`s not a problem with the Blues and Legends Hall of Fame Museum in Robinsonville, based in one of the region`s nine casinos and barely a half-hour drive from Memphis.

Too many crossroads
US Highway 61 was immortalized by everyone from Roosevelt Sykes to Bob Dylan. "Sixty-One is the longest road I know/ she run from New York city down to the Gulf of Mexico," sang Mississippi Fred McDowell. The number 61 has magical powers: it is a sign, a symbol, a direction forward, a road back home. Enameled "61" pins on lapels used to designate the members of a secret blues society. Sixty-One rips through the Delta, flat, fertile cotton lands with the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers on the curved sides and Vicksburg and Memphis at its south and north poles. Highway 51 is also a blues highway, crawling north toward Memphis. And of course Highway 49 as well, immortalized by Howlin` Wolf. Mississippi has always bred almost the majority of all blues singers, and certainly the majority of the finest blues singers - including the whole Chicago blues scene since the 1930s (Muddy Waters, Elmore James, B B King, among others).

The feeling along the road is summed up by a large, smiling black fellow talking loud about Jesus in an empty, windy street in central Clarksdale: "I got stones in my pathway and my road is dark as night."

The blues - America`s original indigenous musical art form - was influenced by African rhythms and European classical music. As bluesmaster and Vicksburg native Willie Dixon put it, "blues is the roots and everything else is the fruits." The backbone of Highway 61 is the road of the 1930s Great Migration, where the blues from the Mississippi Delta - ruralized, swampy, almost the base for a voodoo ceremony - was born like a lament and traveled upriver, by boat, by train, on the back of a truck, to be finally electrified in Memphis, Kansas City and Chicago. The sound and the voices of Black America were really nurtured on the road, on the railroad tracks, in lonely churches lost in the countryside, at bar counters - and from this poetry in motion sprang up blues, gospel, jazz, rhythm `n` blues and soul. Robert Johnson could not but be a traveling man, undiluted blues material: he lived for the road, whisky and women.

Clarksdale, Mississippi, only 20,000 people, is Ground Zero, the Mecca and Promised Land of the blues. It used to be the cotton capital, the richest city in the Delta. And there it is, at the intersection of Highway 61 and Highway 49: the crossroads, celebrated by a wrought-iron guitar sculpture and unromantically surrounded by Delta Donuts and Abe`s Bar-B-Q. This is not "the" crossroads sung of by Robert Johnson ("I went down to the cross road/ fell down on my knees/ asked the Lord above/ Have mercy, save poor Bob if you please"), because 61 and 49 do not really intersect in Clarksdale. Mythology reigns: locals tell us that Johnson`s deal with the devil may have taken place in the Bonnie Blue Plantation near Clayton or in a graveyard in Crawford. A rambling man surely knew how to pick his own secluded crossroads.

Ike Turner and Sam Cooke were born in Clarksdale. John Lee Hooker left in 1941, when he was 14, to become a blues superstar. The Delta Blues Museum proudly displays the Three Forks sign from one or another incarnation of the store and juke joint where Robert Johnson was poisoned. The museum also treats the blues as a great, living American tradition through its Arts and Education Program , where veterans pass along the blues to teenagers and pre-teens.

Trying to define the blues, Robert Johnson reached for the impossible also in his lyrics. The blues may be "an old heart disease" slowly consuming us. Its poetry is filled with departures, lost letters, trains, cozy kitchens (against the rigors of winter), moans, groans, cars, phonographs evoking sexual appeal, pistols and of course crossroads (in which the bluesman`s soul is always in danger; but he still pursues his intangible belle). The road is almost always dark as a moonless night: but the bluesman can always try to reach the mountaintop, or try to interfere on Judgment Day.

We still see the rolling man, the back-door man, the drunken-hearted man and of course the hard-working man on 21st-century Highway 61. Nineteenth-century German philosophy would have loved Robert Johnson: he regarded man as a prisoner (Arthur Schopenhauer would agree). Life remains hard in Mississippi. No fancy California or Florida conspicuous consumer trappings here. We see countless examples of a generalization of social and physical insecurity, mixed with the vertiginous growth of the inequality that nourishes segregation, criminal behavior, and the dereliction of public institutions.

The poor in Mississippi are even more striking because they live at the heart of an infinitely wealthy empire. And the US system of social insecurity comes with a sociological add-on: when you fall outside the realm of a safety net, you risk being caught in a police and penal dragnet. The percentage of people in jail in the US is six to 10 times as high as in the European Union. About 5 percent of 18-year-old-plus Americans have problems with the law, and this includes one black man in five. Almost a third of the population has a criminal record.

When we`re talking to a black man in a juke joint on Highway 61, inevitably there`ll be a discussion of the fact that blacks are only 12 percent of the US population, but they make up the absolute majority behind bars. As a fellow says in a Greenville bar, "A black man has one chance in three to go to prison at least for one year during his lifetime. A white man has one chance in 23." Works by Bruce Western and Katherine Beckett have demonstrated that incarceration reduces the US unemployment rate: but for the rate to be maintained at such a low level means non-stop expansion of the penal system.

First it was the ghetto; now there`s also the penal system to encircle a population considered for the most part dangerous because superfluous as much economically - Latino and Asian immigrants are more docile - as politically: poor black people don`t vote, and furthermore the center of electoral gravity in the US has shifted to white suburbia. Jail - as well as the ghetto - works under the same logic of exclusion.

Memphis soul
The Mississippi Delta begins in Vicksburg ("The Red Carpet City of the South") and ends probably at the lobby of the grand Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee - where, at Lanksy`s, Elvis used to have his best shirts customized. The owner, Bernard Lansky, is still there, selling exclusive silk rock `n` roll motif shirts now made in China.

The National Civil Rights Museum, at the site of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968, passionately recaptures all the crucial developments of the civil-rights movement. Room 306 can be viewed exactly as it was on April 4, 1968, the day of a shot that changed the world. The emotional impact is still tremendous. We are reminded that only 50 years ago in Little Rock, Arkansas, and only three years after the Supreme Court ruling ending school segregation, white people were marching shouting "Race mixing is communism" and "Save our Christian America". Now, Christian America is whipped into fear at the announcement of an evil, imminent attack by al-Qaeda - the successor to communism.

Memphis gave the United States the supermarket, the drive-in restaurant, Holiday Inn and FedEx, but such mercantile entrepreneurship does not mean there`s no critical thinking. Scott, a musician, thinks that "Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be sent by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia to a 10-year duck-hunting trip in an undisclosed location, so the nation would have time to recover from the problems they created". Tim Sampson, a writer for the Memphis Flyer, thinks that maybe "next time I`ll go mountain biking with Mr Bush and a bunch of married homosexual couples and see if I can really distract him from what he`s doing. Anyway, it`s a good thing that he has that direct link to God, who speaks to him and tells him how to run the country." For Sam Dana, President George W Bush is "raising an awful lot of money to sell damaged goods. Good use of all this money might be to supplement the skimpy [military] service life insurance collected by families of all those he sent to get killed on a fool`s errand."

Commenting on Abu Ghraib, writer Ed Wethers stresses that "Americans don`t read. And we love both sex and the shame it makes us feel. What else can you expect from a nation that, on the one hand, has made Internet sex sites the biggest industry on the web and, on the other, falls into a red-faced faint over Janet Jackson`s Superbowl boob?" At the Stax legend Isaac Hayes` ("The Black Moses") superb restaurant and nightclub near blues-as-Disneyland, former honky-tonk Beale Street, Raymond, a writer, says that "Bush has proven he`s unqualified to lead. [John] Kerry has to prove he`s qualified to lead." He`s very worried about the future: "We are living in moral decline. We need someone to uplift us among the greedy and the gutless."

Graceland still attracts throngs of Elvis Presley worshippers. Very few visit the legendary Sun studios (Bob Dylan kissed the floor). But Highway 61, spiritually, cannot but end at Soulsville, or the corner of College and McLemore streets, the former headquarters of the legendary Stax label and since 2003 the site of the Museum of American Soul Music.

Jim Stewart, the co-founder of Stax with his sister Estelle Axton, born in the small farming community of Middletown, Tennessee, was a pure product of the white-ruled, agrarian, working-class South. Yet he created the pure, raw Stax sound out of an interracial company on the banks of the Mississippi River. Stewart used to say that "we were sitting in the middle of a highly segregated city, a highly hypocritical city, and we were in another world when we walked into that studio".

The studio is there, miraculously rebuilt inside the museum. Stax`s musical esthetic - starting with only one track recording - was pure Mies van der Rohe: less is more. But live, it was nothing but frenzied emotional catharsis. This is the sound that through Otis Redding, at Monterey Pop in `67, finally made white America embrace black music. At Stax, the lament of the blues and the joy of gospel fused into the meanest backbeat on Earth. As Howard Grimes, a drummer at Stax and Hi labels, puts it: "Backbeat means the church feel, the handclap. When they didn`t have pianos in church, you heard the stomping of the feet and the clapping of the hands. The foot was on the beat, and the handclap was on the `and`."

The black-owned Lorraine Motel, where the Stax family used to hang out, and where Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd wrote the classic "In the Midnight Hour" in Wilson Pickett`s room in barely 30 minutes, was a crucial crossroads of music and politics. But within six months, in 1968, Otis Redding`s plane went down, Luther King was assassinated and Stax lost its catalogue to Atlantic Records. It rebounded. The museum, today, is a tribute to true American heroes - and to interracial understanding and mutual joy.

George W Bush will almost certainly capture Tennessee`s 11 electoral votes: after all, he did beat Al Gore in 2000 in his home state. A few days ago, in another music capital, New Orleans, a black R&B musician said, before sipping his hurricane: "You know the problem with this Bush cat? He can`t dance! He`s got no moves. That`s why we`re in this mess."

One might read volumes in this sort of color-coded message to the stiff Bush administration. As the Stax motto goes: "Dance. Try it." And while you`re at it, add a little Otis Redding touch, and try a little tenderness as well.

But the question always remains: Can a white man sing the blues?

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

May 29, 2004
Rummy`s West Point Commencement Message

WEST POINT, NY (IWR News Parody) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a crowd of graduating cadets Saturday that they will help win the global fight against terror by using effective homoerotic torture techniques as those employed at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo prison facilities.

The defense secretary urged the new officers to not entirely rely on the so-called "moral clarity" learned at West Point. He said they should instead embrace the "new neocon morality" that says "anything goes if you are an American", and that the military should not be constrained by such "silly international agreements as the Geneva Convention".
The truth has a force of its own"
In a Salon interview, John Kerry talks about Iraq, his "personal" decision on a running mate and the "craven, petty, childish and destructive" politics of his opponents.
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By Tim Grieve

May 28, 2004 | GREEN BAY, WIS., May 28 -- Outside, the motorcade is a noisy rumble of motorcycle engines and squad-car sirens, a roaring spectacle that stops traffic and pulls folks out of their homes to see what`s coming by. Inside the Secret Service`s black Chevy Suburban, it`s almost impossibly quiet. Two armed agents ride up front, the back flash of red and blue emergency lights illuminating their faces. The press secretary sits alone in the back, thumbing e-mails into his Blackberry. John Kerry is in the middle, waving now and then to well-wishers who can`t see him through the SUV`s dark-tinted, bulletproof glass.

Kerry knows what it`s like to be invisible.

Over the course of the last month, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has spoken out forcefully against the administration`s disastrous adventure in Iraq. Kerry has accused the president of rushing to war, of failing to build alliances, of alienating America`s allies and of misleading America`s citizens. But the New York Times wonders why he`s being so cautious, and the Los Angeles Times asks why he isn`t doing more.

As Kerry turns away from the window and starts to talk, it`s hard to know exactly what the media would have him say that he isn`t saying now. The Bush administration`s "arrogance" has "cost Americans billions of dollars and too many lives," Kerry says. Its deceptions about the war may have taken an even greater toll. Kerry says the White House lacks "any credibility" at home or abroad; indeed, the Bush administration has misled the nation so often now that Kerry says he has no way to know whether the new terror threats John Ashcroft revealed this week represent legitimate national security concerns or simply a political ploy aimed at propping up a foundering president.

Kerry launched an 11-day "focus" on national security issues Thursday morning in Seattle, where he delivered a speech in which he called on the United States to enter a new era of alliance building even as it preserves the right to strike -- preemptively and unilaterally -- when necessary to prevent a terrorist attack. By Thursday evening he was in Green Bay, where he promised a crowd of veterans and military families that he would "never send troops into harm`s way without sending enough troops to get the job done and without a plan to win the peace."

Media second-guessing notwithstanding, Kerry`s message is starting to break through. Big crowds embraced him in Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin this week -- thousands stood in the rain to see him on the Seattle waterfront. Fundraisers in Oregon and Washington beat the Kerry camp`s expectations, and the Seattle event, which brought in an estimated $2.2 million, is believed to have set a record. National polls are giving the first signs that Kerry may finally be edging ahead of Bush, whose public approval ratings have never been worse. Perhaps more encouraging for Kerry is that he`s edging out Bush in the battleground states.

Kerry talked with Salon Thursday night as his motorcade traveled through Green Bay, where he was to campaign Friday before returning to Washington, D.C., for Saturday`s dedication of the World War II Memorial.

At the beginning of May, the New York Times all but declared your candidacy dead. Now the polls -- and the crowds you`ve drawn this week -- seem to suggest you`re very much alive. Has the tipping point come?

Well, we`re five months away still, and that`s a long time in politics. We`ll just keep working day to day. You don`t take anything for granted. You`ve got to go out and meet people and talk to them and ask for their votes and give them a reason why.

Do you have the sense that things are starting to change?

Yeah. There`s a lot of energy, a tremendous amount of energy. I think people are beginning to wake up and feel the broken promises of this administration. On Iraq, on security, on schools, on healthcare, on jobs -- they haven`t paid attention. They haven`t been there for the working people.

You gave a major national security speech in Seattle this morning, but you didn`t talk a lot about your specific plan for Iraq. Your staff suggested that you`d done that before and maybe didn`t feel the need to do that again today. Do you need to do more to get your plan in front of the public, or is this an issue where you`ve decided to stay away and let Bush suffer on his own?

It`s not a question of staying away. I speak about it every day. I think it`s just a question of how much you can fit in one speech. I made it very clear that they`ve had a bad foreign policy, that they`ve broken our alliances, that we shouldn`t go to war just because they want to go to war and that they haven`t done what they need to for the troops. And I will. It`s pretty clear.

What`s the best outcome the United States can reasonably hope for in Iraq now? Is there any hope left of achieving the vision Bush set out for the mission?

There is, if he [would do] it properly, if the president leads and does what`s necessary. But I think he`s made it far, far more complicated than it had to be -- far more risky and tenuous -- and it`s entirely possible that they won`t be able to do it.

Is the only real solution -- the only way to get the world community fully involved -- a change in administrations here?

I think it`s going to take a new president to clear the air, to turn over a new chapter for America, to renew our relationships with the level of trust that`s necessary. I don`t think this administration has any credibility left.

What`s the administration`s credibility with you now? Attorney General John Ashcroft issued warnings this week of possible terrorist attacks over the summer. Did something in the back of your mind say, "Gee, I wonder if this is related to the campaign?" or did you assume immediately that the warnings were legitimate?

I just have no way to measure it. Instead of feeling absolutely confident, I have no way of measuring it.

And you should feel absolutely confident.

I should feel absolutely confident.

According to recent polls, more than 50 percent of the American public now believes that the war in Iraq has not been worth the cost. Do you agree with that assessment?

I`ve always believed that the president went to war in a way that was mistaken, that he led us too rapidly into war, without sharing the cost, without sharing the risk, without building a true international coalition. He broke his promises about going as a last resort. I think that was a mistake. There was a right way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable and a wrong way. He chose the wrong way.

But you voted in October 2002 to give Bush the authority to use force in Iraq. Was that vote a mistake?

No. My vote was the right vote. If I had been president, I would have wanted that authority to leverage the behavior that we needed. But I would have used it so differently than the way George Bush did.

Would there have been a war in Iraq if you had been president?

I can`t tell you that. If Saddam Hussein hadn`t disarmed and all the world had decided that he was not living up to the standards, who knows? You can`t answer that hypothetical. But I can tell you this. I would never have rushed the process in a way that undoes the meaning of going to war "as a last resort."

And that`s what you thought you were authorizing -- war as a last resort?

Absolutely. You know, we got a set of promises: We`re going to build an international coalition, we`re going to exhaust the remedies of the U.N., respect that process and go to war as a last resort. Well, we didn`t.

And not only [did we] not go to war as a last resort, they didn`t even make the plans for winning the peace. They disregarded them. They disregarded [U.S. Army General Eric] Shinseki`s advice, disregarded Colin Powell`s advice, disregarded the State Department`s plan. The arrogance of this administration has cost Americans billions of dollars and too many lives.

The argument that the administration disregarded and disrespected the military seems to resonate strongly with the people who come to see you.

Well, the truth is the truth. The truth has a force of its own. I`m just going out there and telling the truth.

Are the media letting you get your version of the truth out there? Are you frustrated with what Bush would call "the filter"?

I don`t have any way to measure it. I haven`t seen enough of it or felt enough of it. I think people are beginning to look at this thing with a great deal of focus.

The campaign or the war?

The war, and the war`s consequences, and the campaign because the campaign has a direct impact on it.

Al Gore and Ralph Nader have both spoken recently about the consequences of this war -- particularly, the consequences that should be suffered by those who orchestrated the war. Gore has called for the resignation of Bush`s entire Iraq team. Nader has called for the impeachment of Bush himself. Do you believe there should be consequences for the architects of the war, above and beyond the possibility that their leader may not be reelected?

Under normal circumstances, for some people, the answer is yes. I called for Rumsfeld`s resignation months ago over his miscalculations. But I`m running for president to replace all of them. And the fastest way to deal with it is to do that.

Are you surprised that the Rumsfeld issue has disappeared so quickly? There were calls for his resignation, and then -- almost overnight -- there was nothing.

I`m not surprised, but it doesn`t make any difference to me. I called for it five months ago, and it was off the table until the prison problem. I think the impact is sinking in for the American people, and I think the American people will hopefully opt for a forced resignation.

The Bush campaign has spent some $80 million on television advertisements, most of them negative spots attacking you. The president has mocked you as a flip-flopper, and his surrogates are out there attacking you every day. Do you ever find yourself in disbelief over the way you and your record have been treated?

I find it about as craven, petty, childish and destructive in terms of America`s hopes in politics as anything I`ve ever seen.

When you were first thinking of entering the race, did it occur to you that the Bush campaign would use your Vietnam record as a campaign issue? You must have thought, knowing the difference between your record and the president`s, that at least the question of service in Vietnam would be off the table for them.

No, no, no. No, I knew what they do. I knew they`d try to do anything. I saw what they did to John McCain and I saw what they did to Max Cleland. So, you know, we were ready, and I think we beat them back. And the more they want to bring it up, the happier I am. I`m happy to go anywhere in the nation with Dick Cheney and George Bush and have a debate about what they did and what I did during that period of time. Let`s have that debate.

The Republicans did it to McCain again last week, when House Speaker Dennis Hastert suggested that McCain didn`t really know what sacrifice meant. I would have thought that rank-and-file Republicans would have been outraged, that they would have called for Hastert to resign or at least apologize. But it didn`t happen.

There is a kind of turnoff factor-slash-powerlessness that people know exists until the day they get to walk into a voting booth. So I think they just process it, put it in the ledger. And as we get into September and October, I think you`ll see that it will bubble up to the surface.

How do you break through all that? How do you keep people from just throwing up their hands and saying, "Well, both sides are lying about everything"?

I think we`re doing it. I think we`re doing very well. If you look at the battleground states, I`m told that we`re ahead in every one of them. That`s how you break through, by going out and campaigning, talking to real people. I intend to continue to do that. I love going out and meeting people and talking to them, like we did tonight.

You know, we`re having more of a conversation than a shouting match. I think that`s important. I want to talk to people about real choices. I do not want to run for president and not have used that special moment of opportunity to talk about real things with people. So I`m going to lay it out as it is.

Wednesday night in Seattle, you gave a speech at a fundraiser that was almost Reaganesque. The room was very quiet after your wife, Teresa, spoke. And you talked less about the failings of this administration and more about the need to restore faith and hope in America, the need for this country to serve as an example for the rest of the world. It was a speech -- at least 85 or 90 percent of it -- that a lot of Republicans probably would have liked, if only you hadn`t been the one giving it.

I think there`s some truth to that. I understand what you`re saying. But I think we`re breaking through with a lot of them. I can`t tell you how many Republicans have come up to me and said, "Can`t vote for the guy, gonna vote for you." There`s a huge move over of Republicans, and I`m very pleased with that.

The biggest "move over" would be that of John McCain. Is there even a possibility that he will be your vice-presidential pick?

I have just made it as clear as I can that I`m not going to discuss any aspect of this -- process, time, possibilities, hypotheticals. I`m just not going to contribute to any of this. I`m just going to keep it personal.

As you know, the Republican line on you is that you`re a "flip-flopper." Do you think the White House really views you that way, or is this just an intellectually dishonest political exercise?

Of course it is. It`s not only intellectually dishonest, it`s shallow beyond belief. It`s exactly what they said about Bill Clinton, it`s exactly what they said about Al Gore, it`s exactly what they said about John McCain. It is the standard operating approach of Republicans who have nothing to say for themselves, so all they do is try to brand somebody else.

Well, it`s not exactly what they did to McCain. Nobody`s accused you of having an illegitimate love child.

Not yet. I`m waiting for those. That`s probably August or September.

I`ll tell you what. What`s really so craven about it is that they pick something that they implement badly and screw up, like Iraq or No Child Left Behind or the Patriot Act. And when you point out that they screwed it up, they say that you`re "flip-flopping."

But they, on the other hand, break a promise to have no deficit, break a promise not to invade Social Security, break a promise to fund No Child Left Behind, break a promise to introduce the four-pollutant bill and move forward on the environment, break a promise to deal with the real health issues and prescription drugs, break a promise of humility in American foreign policy. I mean, you start running down the list -- I`ve never seen a grander array of flip-flops. This is the biggest "say one thing, do another" administration in modern history.

So maybe when you voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, you were agreeing to never raise any questions about how the president used the power he was given.

I didn`t sign off on that. This is the biggest "my way or the highway" crowd we`ve ever had in Washington. They have no interest in legitimate governance. They have all the interest in power, favor, privilege, perks and reelection.

Does Bush understand what`s going on here? Does he have the capacity to understand that people change their minds when confronted with new circumstances? Or is he so consumed with consistency, with staying the course, that he can`t see that?

You have to go ask him. I`m not making any judgments about him on a personal level. I`m simply talking about the differences we have in terms of policy.

I think it`s important to talk about my vision of the country. I`m offering real plans, real options and choices to make American stronger. And they`re real. My healthcare plan really does lower the cost of healthcare for Americans. My education plan is going to liberate communities from the burden of special needs and help them afford after-school programs and things they need to do. My foreign policy plan is going to make America stronger in the world and deal with terror more effectively. These are the things Americans want, and that`s exactly what I`m going to do.

But how are you going to do that in Iraq? For the guy on the barstool who`s watching it all on TV, how do you explain the difference between what you would do in Iraq and what the Bush administration is already trying to do?

I`m going to keep faith with America`s honor and our obligation to our troops. I will not allow their contribution to be wasted or in vain. I`m going to stand up for them, and not extend them in some stubborn, inappropriate way. I`m going to bring other countries to the table. You know, we`re going to find a resolution that doesn`t have this sort of endless exposure to danger, leaving our troops overdeployed, overextended and undersupported.

Is there a unique opportunity in this campaign for Democrats to seize the high ground on national security and foreign policy in a way they haven`t for a long time?

Well, look, I think Democrats have always been strong on national security. We had Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy. You know, Bill Clinton was tough on Kosovo, tough in Bosnia, tough in Haiti. I think we have a great record. I`m not going to let the Republicans pretend they`re doing something better or have the better ability to do that.

But this is the first time in a long time that a Democrat will lead with that punch.

You bet I`m going to lead with it. I`m not shy about it one iota. I think these guys have made America less safe, and I think I have a plan to make us stronger.

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May 31, 2004
A Worn Road for U.N. Aide

AGHDAD, Iraq, May 30 — When Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, arrived earlier this month, he declared that he would crisscross Iraq to give the people a new government, one that he suggested would be more independent of America`s heavy-handed ways.

Now, as Mr. Brahimi nears the end of his work, Iraqis are discovering that his task was not so simple.

With his slate of appointees expected to be announced in the next day or two, the appointments leaked so far suggest that what Mr. Brahimi ultimately accomplishes may turn out to be less a revolution than a rearrangement, less a new cast of characters than a reworked version of the same old faces.

The reason, Iraqis are beginning to say, has been the unexpected assertiveness of American officials and their allies on the Iraqi Governing Council, coupled with Mr. Brahimi`s surprising passivity, after he was expected to have a free hand.

The danger, some of these Iraqis say, is that the new government could end up looking too much like the old one, an American-appointed council that never gained the acceptance of the people. If that proves true once the appointees are officially announced, they said, the new government could lack the credibility it needs to carry the country through the turbulent period leading to nationwide elections next year. Already, a three-day cease-fire appeared to be unraveling in the south.

"If the purpose of the process is to please the Governing Council and the political players, this will be a short-lived moment, and it will fall apart," said Leith Kuba, an Iraqi leader based in Washington. "The Iraqis will not take it."

So far, it appears that Mr. Brahimi is drawing much of his talent from the council. In his first decision, announced Friday, he agreed to select as prime minister Ayad Alawi, a man from that council who is best known for his connections to the Central Intelligence Agency. One person with knowledge of the negotiations said Mr. Brahimi had been pushed by the Americans into accepting Dr. Alawi, who was not his first choice.

On Saturday, word trickled forth that Mr. Brahimi had gone to the American-appointed council and its bureaucracy for five of the eight leadership posts he was said to have filled.

On Sunday, the alliances shifted when Mr. Brahimi teamed up with American officials in trying to choose an Iraqi president. That seemed to provoke a backlash from members of the Governing Council, who accused Mr. Brahimi and L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator here, of trying to dictate to the only representative body in Iraq.

"The Americans are trying to impose these decisions on us, and we are trying to reject them," said Mahmood Othman, a council member who has been critical of both Mr. Bremer and Mr. Brahimi. "And they talk about sovereignty."

As he promised, Mr. Brahimi roamed across the country to talk with Iraqis about what the shape of their government should be. At the time, he said he hoped to appoint a government of technocrats — experts who stayed above the push-and-pull of politics.

Yet when he settled on a choice for prime minister — Hussein Shahristani, a nuclear scientist and a Shiite — he ran into a wall of opposition from the leaders of mainstream Shiite political parties, who wanted the job for themselves.

Instead of fashioning the kind of savvy compromise for which he is known, Mr. Brahimi appears to have folded, acquiescing to the desires of the Americans, who were promoting Dr. Alawi. While American officials maintain that Dr. Alawi was Mr. Brahimi`s choice, people close to Mr. Brahimi say he reluctantly endorsed him only after American officials aggressively recommended him.

One person conversant with the negotiations said Mr. Brahimi was presented with "a fait accompli" after President Bush`s envoy to Iraq, Robert D. Blackwill, "railroaded" the Governing Council into coalescing around him.

Mr. Brahimi, a former foreign minister of Algeria, was said to be deeply troubled by Dr. Alawi`s ties to the C.I.A. and to the likelihood that Iraqis would regard him as too close to the United States.

After the decision, Mr. Brahimi declined to comment in detail about the selection, but suggested, for the first time, that his role here was far more limited than originally thought.

"You know, sometimes people think I am a free agent out here, that I have a free hand to do whatever I want," he said in an interview last week.

The choice of Dr. Alawi reinforced the surprising role of the Governing Council, whose mandate is about to expire, leaving some of its members eager to latch onto the new government. Opinion polls of Iraqis show that the council has been viewed as little more than a mouthpiece for the United States.

Not only did the council endorse Dr. Alawi, but it also seems to have convinced Mr. Brahimi of its own worth. According to two Iraqis with knowledge of the negotiations, Mr. Brahimi agreed to appoint four council members and its foreign minister to eight of the senior-level government jobs so far.

"I told Lakhdar Brahimi that the members of the Governing Council have no trust from the Iraqi people," said Fakri al-Qaisi, founder of a group of hard-line clerics called the State Council for the Sunnis. "I said the decisions of the Governing Council members have always gone against the will of the Iraqi people."

The deadlock that continued Sunday over the presidency found Mr. Brahimi again endorsing the American choice: Adnan Pachachi, a former Iraqi foreign minister who is a friend. That placed Mr. Brahimi and the Americans at odds with the rest of the Governing Council, which favored Sheik Gazi al-Yawar.

Dan Senor, the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, told reporters on Sunday that the American government did not have "a preferred candidate" for the presidency. But earlier in the day, according to Iraqis, Mr. Bremer told the Governing Council it had to get behind Mr. Pachachi.

It was that kind of heavy-handedness, some Iraqis say, that was supposed to be missing from the new government — and which many had expected Mr. Brahimi to cure.

"It doesn`t fit what Bush says," said Mr. Othman, the council member. "He said Iraqis are free."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Iraq and the Christian Zionists

By C.B. Hanif, Palm Beach Post Editorial Writer
Sunday, May 23, 2004

To understand what is happening in the Middle East, wrote George Monbiot in The Guardian of London recently, you must first understand what is happening in the U.S., where evangelical Christians are driving President Bush`s policies. The explanation slowly is becoming familiar to us, he says, but we still have some difficulty in taking it seriously.

Mr. Monbiot recounts that in the 19th century, "two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative: Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these was the establishment of a state of Israel. The next involves Israel`s occupation of the rest of its `biblical lands` (most of the Middle East), and the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques. The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth."

I had heard of outrage from some Jews in this country that evangelical Christian supporters of the Jewish state have motivations other than security against its Arab neighbors. One Jewish friend likened the idea as, "To save you, we have to kill you." He, too, cited what Mr. Monbiot said makes the idea so appealing to evangelicals:

"Before the big battle begins, all `true believers` (i.e., those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow. The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about," he said, by "seeking to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world/Axis of Evil/United Nations/European Union/France or whoever the legions of the antichrist turn out to be."

Thursday`s rebroadcast of Frontline`s "The Jesus Factor" on PBS recounted Mr. Bush`s personal religious journey and the growing political influence of the nation`s more than 70 million evangelical Christians. Mr. Monbiot describes the political calculus thusly: Fifteen percent to 18 percent of U.S. voters belong to churches or movements that subscribe to these teachings, including 33 percent of Republicans. Among them are some of the most powerful men in America: Attorney General John Ashcroft, several prominent senators and the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, who last year told the Israeli Knesset that "there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking" toward the Palestinians.

Said Mr. Monbiot: "So here we have a major political constituency -- representing much of the current president`s core vote -- in the most powerful nation on Earth, which is actively seeking to provoke a new world war. Its members see the invasion of Iraq as a warm-up act, as Revelation (9:14-15) maintains that four angels `which are bound in the great river Euphrates` will be released `to slay the third part of men.` " And they effectively pressure the president, he said, against any pressure on Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon.

Mr. Monbiot concludes: "The electoral calculation, crazy as it appears, works like this. Governments stand or fall on domestic issues. For 85 percent of the U.S. electorate, the Middle East is a foreign issue, and therefore of secondary interest when they enter the polling booth. For 15 percent, the Middle East is not just a domestic matter; it`s a personal one:

"If the president fails to start a conflagration there, his core voters don`t get to sit at the right hand of God. Bush, in other words, stands to lose fewer votes by encouraging Israeli aggression than he stands to lose by restraining it. He would be mad to listen to these people. He would also be mad not to."

What Rick Perlstein called "the absolute convergence of the neoconservatives with the Christian Zionists and the pro-Israel lobby" ("The Jesus Landing Pad," May 18 Village Voice) suggests that the bloody debacle in today`s Iraq is what the current administration wanted all along. It also may explain some of Mr. Bush`s recalcitrance -- which his supporters liken to steadfastness -- in the face of the realities in Iraq. Most of what has gone wrong there was predicted well before the invasion, by very qualified people in government, and was preceded by massive protest worldwide.

Raney Aronson is producer of the Frontline documentary, which can be viewed at www.pbs.org. In a Washington Post online interview, he was asked whether there is evidence that Mr. Bush "shares the `Christian Zionist` belief that Israel must gain dominance over the Holy Land in order to bring the Second Coming of Christ, the Rapture, etc." President Bush "has not spoken about this issue," said Mr. Aronson. "But I do believe, as he talks so often of his faith, and his belief in the Bible, (that) this is a good question for him to address."

Der Artikel aus dem Guardian, der in #17046 angesprochen wurde.

Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power

US Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush`s Middle East policy

George Monbiot
Tuesday April 20, 2004
The Guardian

To understand what is happening in the Middle East, you must first understand what is happening in Texas. To understand what is happening there, you should read the resolutions passed at the state`s Republican party conventions last month. Take a look, for example, at the decisions made in Harris County, which covers much of Houston.

The delegates began by nodding through a few uncontroversial matters: homosexuality is contrary to the truths ordained by God; "any mechanism to process, license, record, register or monitor the ownership of guns" should be repealed; income tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and corporation tax should be abolished; and immigrants should be deterred by electric fences. Thus fortified, they turned to the real issue: the affairs of a small state 7,000 miles away. It was then, according to a participant, that the "screaming and near fist fights" began.

I don`t know what the original motion said, but apparently it was "watered down significantly" as a result of the shouting match. The motion they adopted stated that Israel has an undivided claim to Jerusalem and the West Bank, that Arab states should be "pressured" to absorb refugees from Palestine, and that Israel should do whatever it wishes in seeking to eliminate terrorism. Good to see that the extremists didn`t prevail then.

But why should all this be of such pressing interest to the people of a state which is seldom celebrated for its fascination with foreign affairs? The explanation is slowly becoming familiar to us, but we still have some difficulty in taking it seriously.

In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion. In the 19th century, two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative: Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these was the establishment of a state of Israel. The next involves Israel`s occupation of the rest of its "biblical lands" (most of the Middle East), and the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques. The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth.

What makes the story so appealing to Christian fundamentalists is that before the big battle begins, all "true believers" (ie those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow.

The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about. This means staging confrontations at the old temple site (in 2000, three US Christians were deported for trying to blow up the mosques there), sponsoring Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, demanding ever more US support for Israel, and seeking to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world/Axis of Evil/United Nations/ European Union/France or whoever the legions of the antichrist turn out to be.

The believers are convinced that they will soon be rewarded for their efforts. The antichrist is apparently walking among us, in the guise of Kofi Annan, Javier Solana, Yasser Arafat or, more plausibly, Silvio Berlusconi. The Wal-Mart corporation is also a candidate (in my view a very good one), because it wants to radio-tag its stock, thereby exposing humankind to the Mark of the Beast.

By clicking on http://www.raptureready.com/, you can discover how close you might be to flying out of your pyjamas. The infidels among us should take note that the Rapture Index currently stands at 144, just one point below the critical threshold, beyond which the sky will be filled with floating nudists. Beast Government, Wild Weather and Israel are all trading at the maximum five points (the EU is debat ing its constitution, there was a freak hurricane in the south Atlantic, Hamas has sworn to avenge the killing of its leaders), but the second coming is currently being delayed by an unfortunate decline in drug abuse among teenagers and a weak showing by the antichrist (both of which score only two).

We can laugh at these people, but we should not dismiss them. That their beliefs are bonkers does not mean they are marginal. American pollsters believe that 15-18% of US voters belong to churches or movements which subscribe to these teachings. A survey in 1999 suggested that this figure included 33% of Republicans. The best-selling contemporary books in the US are the 12 volumes of the Left Behind series, which provide what is usually described as a "fictionalised" account of the Rapture (this, apparently, distinguishes it from the other one), with plenty of dripping details about what will happen to the rest of us. The people who believe all this don`t believe it just a little; for them it is a matter of life eternal and death.

And among them are some of the most powerful men in America. John Ashcroft, the attorney general, is a true believer, so are several prominent senators and the House majority leader, Tom DeLay. Mr DeLay (who is also the co-author of the marvellously named DeLay-Doolittle Amendment, postponing campaign finance reforms) travelled to Israel last year to tell the Knesset that "there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking".

So here we have a major political constituency - representing much of the current president`s core vote - in the most powerful nation on Earth, which is actively seeking to provoke a new world war. Its members see the invasion of Iraq as a warm-up act, as Revelation (9:14-15) maintains that four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates" will be released "to slay the third part of men". They batter down the doors of the White House as soon as its support for Israel wavers: when Bush asked Ariel Sharon to pull his tanks out of Jenin in 2002, he received 100,000 angry emails from Christian fundamentalists, and never mentioned the matter again.

The electoral calculation, crazy as it appears, works like this. Governments stand or fall on domestic issues. For 85% of the US electorate, the Middle East is a foreign issue, and therefore of secondary interest when they enter the polling booth. For 15% of the electorate, the Middle East is not just a domestic matter, it`s a personal one: if the president fails to start a conflagration there, his core voters don`t get to sit at the right hand of God. Bush, in other words, stands to lose fewer votes by encouraging Israeli aggression than he stands to lose by restraining it. He would be mad to listen to these people. He would also be mad not to.

· George Monbiot`s book The Age of Consent: a Manifesto for a New World Order is now published in paperback


Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
The attack at Khobar shows the bitter harvest that America will reap from Iraq
Editorial - The Independent
31 May 2004

The assault on the luxurious Oasis compound at Khobar, which ended in such bloodshed yesterday, will only deepen the sense of foreboding in the West about the risks to foreigners in Saudi Arabia, about the stability of the Gulf region and about oil supplies. Which, of course, is precisely what the militants who stormed the compound and took and killed only non-Muslim hostages, aimed to achieve.

The chilling message subsequently put out in their name spoke of "slaughter" and said the struggle with America would be pursued "in the Arabian peninsula, in Afghanistan, in Iraq" and that the battle with the Saudi regime would continue until the "crusaders" had been expelled from the land of Islam. Opinions may diverge on whether the attackers belonged to al-Qa`ida or some other group. There may be differences, too, about the directness of any link between the conflict in Iraq and the growing frequency of attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia. But a link there assuredly is.

The continuing war in Iraq has done more than anything in recent years to intensify hatred of the West and all it stands for in many parts of the Arab world. The pictures showing the mistreatment of Muslim prisoners by US soldiers inflamed passions still further. There is a burning indignation now against Americans and Westerners in general that will mark the region for generations.

In Saudi Arabia, the US engagement in Iraq and the brutal and incompetent way in which it is perceived to have been conducted, reinforces the view among those of an already anti-Western disposition that their leaders have sold out to the infidel. Any hopes Washington might have had that the closure of its bases in Saudi Arabia would calm anti-American feeling have been disappointed. The call is no longer for US troops to leave, but for Westerners in general to leave, and not just Saudi Arabia, but the whole Muslim world.

In failing to stop at ousting the Taliban and liberating Afghanistan, the United States is now reaping the whirlwind across the whole region. Among the many justifications for the war presented in Washington, and to a lesser extent in London, was the heady ambition to create a swath of new democracies across the Arab world. What is happening is exactly the opposite of what the ousting of Saddam Hussein was supposed to achieve.

The grand plan was for Iraq to shine as a beacon of freedom and democracy, guiding its neighbours into an enlightened 21st century. The vision was for Western-style political reforms, for smooth transitions to accountable government, for peaceful co-existence with Israel and - not least - stable oil supplies to a thirsty West at lower prices. If there is the slightest prospect of such a happy outcome, in even Iraq alone, it is very far off.

Yesterday, as after previous anti-Western attacks, the Saudi authorities were at pains to stress that their country was a predominantly tranquil place, that the regime was not threatened and, especially, that oil production was safe, would remain safe, and would continue at the same pace as before. As if to underline its reliability as the world`s largest producer, Riyadh recently broke with the Opec cartel to meet US requests for an increase in production, even though other producers had declined.

The reality is, though, that Saudi Arabia`s rulers have no choice but to steel themselves for more attacks, dispatch the commandos - as they did yesterday to great effect - and pledge still tighter security. But security by itself threatens increasingly not to be the central issue. One reason why foreigners` compounds are now being targeted is that the protection for the oil infrastructure has been so effective. And even if the compounds are fortified still further, it will still be hard to prevent armed attacks on individual foreigners or groups. More and more the issue is confidence: of expatriate workers and their families, of foreign companies with staff in Saudi Arabia, and above all of the markets. With every new Khobar, that confidence seeps away.
The oil connection

Monday May 31, 2004

The Guardian
The Saudi Arabian authorities made two pledges yesterday immediately after the conclusion of the terrorist attack in the eastern oil city of Khobar. The first, issued by the country`s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, was to eliminate the Islamic militants "with an iron fist". The second, delivered at an emergency meeting with Western oil executives, was to continue to "provide a reliable supply of oil to meet world energy demand". Whether the royal regime can deliver on the first promise is open to doubt, and the very fact that the second one needs to be made is a confession of uncertainty. The Khobar attack comes just under a month since a similar assault at Yanbu: in both cases, armed terrorists were able to emerge without prior detection in an area supposed to be under tight security, and to roam for some time with impunity before being contained. All this was still possible a year after Riyadh had ratcheted up its own "war on terror" amid high publicity and must raise questions about the ability of its security services to gather reliable intelligence and take effective action.

As for the oil, while the militants have not yet struck at the kingdom`s energy infrastructure, they have identified a vulnerable target in the large expatriate community which services the industry. Beyond the immediate effect on foreign confidence, the most important effect is to raise a much larger question about the long-term viability of the Saudi regime. In a situation where no one has the slightest idea what might, or should, replace that regime, who can guarantee that the tap will always be turned on for 8m barrels a day?

Such doubts have of course been raised before, not least after September 11, when the Saudi connection with the hijackers led to widespread disenchantment with Riyadh among the neo-conservatives in the US administration. Although the assault on Iraq would have been launched anyway, the prospect of securing unencumbered access to an alternative oil source strengthened the pro-war argument. Not only has that prospect become a mirage, but the failure to restore peace in Iraq has destabilised Saudi Arabia further. While Saudi claims that its neighbour is now the source for insurgency against the country may be exaggerated, the Iraq debacle has at the least provided vivid "negative lessons" which inspire young militants to take up arms at home.

In spite of yesterday`s claims of responsibility by al-Qaida, it is far too simple to see this attack, or the previous ones, as the product of some master plan devised in the Tora Bora. There are probably close connections between Saudi terrorists and the most infamous Saudi-born terrorist leader: some of them fought with him in Afghanistan (and with western approval) against the Soviet occupation. Yet in a country where a corrupt and privileged elite presides over rising unemployment and diminishing incomes, where there is no room for liberal voices and the only organised opposition is more conservative in religious terms than the regime itself. Extremism has its home-grown rationale.

The western contribution has hardly been helpful: except rhetorically, the US and Britain are committed to a crude relationship of mutual need long based on oil and arms sales. If they really want to help the Saudis move forward, then they need to change the regional environment which far from encouraging democracy is now fertile ground for much worse violence. It is also time to reconsider the West`s oil-driven diplomacy - and not only because it provides an open target for terrorism by making Saudi Arabia the guarantor of stable prices at the pump. By focusing less on energy supplies and more on energy saving, we might begin to convince the people of the Middle East that it is not "all about oil".
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
May 31, 2004
Army Is Investigating Reports of Assaults and Thefts by G.I.`s Against Iraqi Civilians

WASHINGTON, May 30 — The Army is investigating at least two dozen cases in which American soldiers are accused of assaulting civilian Iraqis or stealing their money, jewelry and other property during raids, patrols and house-to-house searches, senior Defense Department officials said Sunday.

In some instances, investigators say, soldiers were reported to have stolen cash from Iraqis they stopped at roadside checkpoints, apparently under the pretext of confiscating money from suspected insurgents or their financial backers.

The Army`s Criminal Investigation Command is also examining at least six cases in which soldiers on missions reportedly kicked, punched or beat civilian Iraqis, or fired their weapons near the Iraqis to scare or intimidate them.

Those statistics and broad descriptions are included in an internal summary prepared earlier this month by the investigation command at the request of senior Army officials who are struggling to understand the scope of mistreatment and potential crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq beyond the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and other Army-run detention sites.

While military officials here and in Iraq say the reports of thievery and lawlessness are isolated cases among more than 135,000 American troops, other military officials say the official numbers probably underestimate the actual offenses because most Iraqis are too frightened to file a formal complaint with the American authorities.

The Army has acknowledged it is investigating 37 deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan involving prisoners in American custody. Other confidential Army documents have chronicled a widespread pattern of abuse involving prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan that implicates more military units than previously known.

But this new summary of previously undisclosed reported abuses, a description of which was provided by a senior Defense official, widens the scope of potential wrongdoing beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib and other prisons, to the daily operations of American forces in Iraq.

"We want to be viewed as liberators and as examples of a professional army working for the good of people," said the Defense official. "To have a soldier act criminally certainly can damage that reputation. For your average Iraqi, the question becomes, what`s the difference between what Saddam Hussein`s forces did and what these soldiers did?"

The summary lists categories of offenses under review — 18 theft and 6 assault cases in Iraq as of May 21 — but it does not describe details of each incident, which units were involved, whether each case is pending or closed, or what, if any, disciplinary action was taken.

The incidents were reported to have taken place in the past 15 months and were reported by Iraqis and, in a few cases, by American soldiers. Military officials said it was difficult to compare those figures with other areas where American troops are operating, including Afghanistan, where the United States has only 10,000 troops, and is conducting far fewer house-to-house searches and roadside checkpoints than in Iraq.

A spokesman for the investigation command did not respond to several phone calls and e-mail messages over the weekend.

Senior military officials have reluctantly acknowledged that small numbers of an American force in Iraq that they characterize as well trained and highly disciplined have committed assaults, thefts and other abuses against civilian Iraqis, outside of detention sites, since American troops invaded Iraq in March 2003. "There have been, sadly, cases where soldiers have operated outside established, trained rules of engagement and rules for the use of force — a very, very small number in a force of over 150,000," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the military`s chief spokesman in Iraq, told reporters on March 22. "While each of those cases is nothing to take great pride in, the fact is that 99-plus percent of the soldiers are operating well within those rules of engagement, under very tough conditions, showing remarkable restraint, day after day, operating inside this country," General Kimmitt added.

One Defense official cautioned Friday that the summary figures for reported thefts and assaults against Iraqis outside detention sites are just the beginning. The official said several Iraqis and some soldiers have come forward since the summary was prepared to make more reports of abuses, emboldened by the highly publicized Abu Ghraib cases.

Human rights advocates have complained for months that American forces had committed abuses on or near the battlefield throughout the 15-month conflict and insurgency in Iraq. A report by the International Committee of the Red Cross that was submitted to the military high command in Baghdad in February concluded that American and other allied forces had carried out "brutal behavior" during arrests of suspected insurgents that "appeared to go beyond the reasonable, legitimate and proportional use of force required to apprehend suspects or restrain persons resisting arrest or capture."

During raids, the report said, the treatment of Iraqis by the American forces "often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."

In one case, the Red Cross reported that on Sept. 13, 2003, allied forces arrested nine Iraqi men in a hotel in Basra. The men were forced to kneel, with their hands and faces against the ground. The soldiers then stamped on the backs of the necks of those prisoners who raised their heads. The soldiers confiscated their money without issuing receipts, Red Cross inspectors said. The report did not make clear whether the soldiers were American, other allied soldiers or a combination.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 19, Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top commander of American forces in the Middle East, sounded a dismissive note about at least some of the Red Cross findings, suggesting that the organization had little understanding of the confusing and deadly circumstances swirling on the battlefield.

"I am aware that the International Red Cross has its view on things," General Abizaid said. "A lot of its view is based upon what happens at the point of detention, where soldiers fighting for their lives detain people, which is a very brutal and bloody event."

Other senior military officials in Washington said the new summary of potential abuses by American soldiers involved Iraqis who were either in American custody on the battlefield or, more likely, had "run-ins" with United States forces in their homes or on the road.

"These are either people who are under U.S. control or they`re just Iraqis caught up in the conflict or at checkpoints," said a senior Army official.

Abdullah Khalil, who worked as an Arabic-speaking translator last spring for units from the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade in and around Balad, Iraq, said in an interview that many Iraqi civilians complained to him about strong-arm tactics or shakedowns by American soldiers. But Mr. Khalil said many Iraqis said they were too frightened of the soldiers to report the abuses.

As the Army`s primary criminal investigative organization, the Criminal Investigation Command, often called the C.I.D., is responsible for conducting criminal investigations in which Army personnel are or may be involved. The command is headed by Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, the Army`s provost marshal or senior law enforcement official, who conducted a review of prisons in Iraq last summer and fall at the request of the ground commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez.

With headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., the investigation command has sent scores of agents and support personnel to Iraq to examine cases ranging from homicide to fraud. The agents have been attached to military police units, and conduct their investigations independently of commanders in the field. The commanders receive the agents` reports, and mete out disciplinary action or initiate criminal charges based on that information and subsequent inquiries.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 31, 2004
Two U.S. Soldiers Die in Clashes in Iraq

Filed at 4:54 a.m. ET

KUFA, Iraq (AP) -- Fighting raged in the Shiite holy city of Kufa early Monday, killing two U.S. soldiers and further eroding a deal to halt clashes with followers of a radical Muslim cleric.

The militiamen, allied with cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, accused the Americans of firing near the main mosque, damaging its outer wall. Attackers ambushed a patrol with small arms fire, killing one soldier, and fired a rocket propelled grenade on a tank, killing another.

The fighting also killed one Iraqi and injured eight others, hospital officials said.

In a report from Kufa, CNN, which has a reporter embedded with 1st Armored Division troops there, spoke of a ``major firefight`` which broke out late Sunday when soldiers tried to secure a police station. CNN quoted soldiers as saying it was the most intense fighting in the area in the past six weeks.

In a separate incident, one Task Force 1st Armored Division soldier died Sunday and two others were wounded when they hit a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, the military reported. More than 800 service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq.

The attacks came as assailants ambushed a convoy of Britons on a northern Baghdad highway Sunday, killing one Iraqi security guard and a bystander, officials and witnesses said.

The attack on the convoy in Baghdad`s Shoala district occurred near dusk as three sport utility vehicles headed south toward the city center. Gunmen in an approaching vehicle opened fire, sending three of the four SUVs careening off the road into barricades.

Crowds of Iraqi youths danced and cheered as rescuers dragged a bloodied body, wearing a flak vest, from the driver`s seat of one vehicle. Others looted tires and set two vehicles on fire.

Two witnesses, Khalid Zaalan, 22, and Qays Hussein, 15, said there was a shootout, and armed Western men jumped from the wrecked SUVs, commandeered a passing car at gunpoint and escaped.

In London, the British Foreign Office said four Britons and another Iraqi jumped out of the vehicles, flagged down a passing Iraqi vehicle and escaped. None of the Britons was hurt but the Iraqi was wounded, the statement said.

A family of three was caught in the crossfire, according to Dr. Mazhar Abdullah of the nearby al-Sadr hospital. The husband was killed and his wife, six months pregnant, was seriously injured, the doctor said.

A preliminary report from the 1st Cavalry Division, responsible for security in Baghdad, said one Iraqi security guard was killed and another was wounded. The report did not mention any missing personnel or an escape.

In Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, Shiite politicians sought to save a three-day-old agreement with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to end the standoff with U.S. soldiers in the holy city and restore government control there.

Al-Sadr`s fighters took over Najaf and its twin city Kufa in early April after occupation authorities cracked down on his militia, closing his newspaper, arresting a key lieutenant and announcing an arrest warrant against him for the murder of a rival cleric. The crackdown triggered an uprising in the once quiet Shiite areas in which hundreds have been killed.

Under a deal announced Thursday with Shiite leaders, al-Sadr agreed to remove his fighters from the streets and begin a dialogue with the clerical hierarchy over the future of his militia and the warrant against him. U.S. troops agreed to halt offensive operations around Najaf and Kufa.

However, daily clashes since the agreement was announced have threatened to scuttle the deal. About 150 policemen sent from Baghdad to replace local policemen who deserted returned to Baghdad -- ostensibly because of lack of accommodation for them.

The move threatens to delay the start of joint patrols -- considered the key to shoring up security in the city as al-Sadr`s militiamen return to their homes.

On Sunday, U.S. troops and al-Sadr`s fighters exchanged gunfire near Najaf`s Valley of Peace cemetery -- the largest burial ground in the Muslim world. The U.S.-appointed governor of Najaf, Adnan al-Zurufi, has accused al-Sadr of failing to honor the truce.

Despite the clashes, Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, who traveled to Najaf to help shore up the agreement, told reporters there was a ``a momentum for peace`` and the fellow Shiite leaders were ``working to implement this so we can avoid any clashes.``

Chalabi met with al-Sadr`s aides Sunday night and afterward told reporters he had worked out a ``detailed plan for the implementation`` of the truce agreement and would present them to U.S. and Iraqi officials Monday.

``We ask both sides to stop hostilities,`` Chalabi said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press
May 31, 2004
A National ID

The very idea of a national identity card has always rankled Americans across the political spectrum. It conjures images of totalitarianism — Big Brother or even the German SS soldier asking to see a citizen`s papers. But in most European countries, people carry national ID`s as a matter of course. And pressure is mounting in America for some kind of security card.

Private companies in the United States are already marketing the idea of providing a secure card for those willing to submit to extra background checks, similar to a concept proposed by the airlines. Tenants of high-rise buildings or workers at chemical plants, for example, also want security without endless body searches and bag checks. It`s time for Congress to begin a serious discussion of how to create a workable national identification system without infringing on the constitutional rights of Americans.

Concerns for security have already forced Americans to flash identification far more frequently than they would ever have imagined before the terrorist attacks of 2001. Driver`s licenses are well on their way to becoming "de facto" national ID`s. Their inappropriateness is one of the most compelling reasons for a national identification card. The states have wildly different standards for determining whether applicants for driver`s licenses really are who they say they are, making them only minimally reliable for security purposes. And turning driver`s licenses into identification cards undermines their original purpose — to make certain that drivers are qualified to handle a car or truck. The very rational argument in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver`s licenses — that it would encourage them to learn to drive safely and to obtain insurance — is undermined if the licenses are also used to demonstrate that a person is not a security risk.

Private corporations are now marketing identification systems based on personal and unique "biometrics" like eye scans or fingerprints. The airlines are also considering ways to create a kind of frequent-flier security pass for those willing to submit to a more intense identification check. These private solutions might allow corporations to work out the kinks in these new security systems, a process that could take years if the government tried to do it. But they are only appropriate for limited uses. Otherwise, the country would become a two-tiered security world where the haves zip through lines and have-nots wait endlessly and endure personal searches.

The concept of a national ID card, on the other hand, presents a host of possible problems, not all of them related to civil liberties. As the New York City Council learned tragically last year when a councilman was killed after he helped get his killer around the screening point, the point of security is not to make sure that people are carrying the correct form of identification. It is to make sure that they do not have a weapon. Almost any identification card that can be created can be counterfeited, and a fake supersecurity pass would present more dangers than a fake driver`s license.

If ever there was a good subject for a study commission, this is it. Congress or President Bush should get the best minds, the experts on security, civil liberties and technology, to start wrestling with the most nettlesome issues in this debate.

How, for instance, would government agencies ensure that documents submitted to obtain an ID card — like birth certificates or driver`s licenses — were not forged? How could access to the central database be limited and protected against misuse, particularly by law enforcement? A card might help Americans move through airports more easily or even cash checks more rapidly. But it would probably have to be voluntary. That also means the police must not be allowed to harass those who choose not to have it.

If we`re going to move to a national identification card, we can`t afford to do it badly. Now is the time to figure out how to create a card that helps identify people but doesn`t rob them of a huge swath of their civil liberties in the process.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
May 31, 2004
America`s Abu Ghraibs

Most Americans were shocked by the sadistic treatment of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. But we shouldn`t have been. Not only are inmates at prisons in the U.S. frequently subjected to similarly grotesque treatment, but Congress passed a law in 1996 to ensure that in most cases they were barred from receiving any financial compensation for the abuse.

We routinely treat prisoners in the United States like animals. We brutalize and degrade them, both men and women. And we have a lousy record when it comes to protecting well-behaved, weak and mentally ill prisoners from the predators surrounding them.

Very few Americans have raised their voices in opposition to our shameful prison policies. And I`m convinced that`s primarily because the inmates are viewed as less than human.

Stephen Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, represented several prisoners in Georgia who sought compensation in the late-1990`s for treatment that was remarkably similar to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. An undertaker named Wayne Garner was in charge of the prison system at the time, having been appointed in 1995 by the governor, Zell Miller, who is now a U.S. senator.

Mr. Garner considered himself a tough guy. In a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of the prisoners by the center, he was quoted as saying that while there were some inmates who "truly want to do better . . . there`s another 30 to 35 per cent that ain`t fit to kill. And I`m going to be there to accommodate them."

On Oct. 23, 1996, officers from the Tactical Squad of the Georgia Department of Corrections raided the inmates` living quarters at Dooly State Prison, a medium-security facility in Unadilla, Ga. This was part of a series of brutal shakedowns at prisons around the state that were designed to show the prisoners that a new and tougher regime was in charge.

What followed, according to the lawsuit, was simply sick. Officers opened cell doors and ordered the inmates, all males, to run outside and strip. With female prison staff members looking on, and at times laughing, several inmates were subjected to extensive and wholly unnecessary body cavity searches. The inmates were ordered to lift their genitals, to squat, to bend over and display themselves, etc.

One inmate who was suspected of being gay was told that if he ever said anything about the way he was being treated, he would be locked up and beaten until he wouldn`t "want to be gay anymore." An officer who was staring at another naked inmate said, "I bet you can tap dance." The inmate was forced to dance, and then had his body cavities searched.

An inmate in a dormitory identified as J-2 was slapped in the face and ordered to bend over and show himself to his cellmate. The raiding party apparently found that to be hilarious.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Garner himself, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections, was present at the Dooly Prison raid.

None of the prisoners named in the lawsuit were accused of any improper behavior during the course of the raid. The suit charged that the inmates` constitutional rights had been violated and sought compensation for the pain, suffering, humiliation and degradation they had been subjected to.

Fat chance.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act, designed in part to limit "frivolous" lawsuits by inmates, was passed by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. It specifically prohibits the awarding of financial compensation to prisoners "for mental or emotional injury while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury."

Without any evidence that they had been seriously physically harmed, the inmates in the Georgia case were out of luck. The courts ruled against them.

This is the policy of the United States of America.

Said Mr. Bright: "Today we are talking about compensating prisoners in Iraq for degrading treatment, as of course we should. But we do not allow compensation for prisoners in the United States who suffer the same kind of degradation and humiliation."

The message with regard to the treatment of prisoners in the U.S. has been clear for years: Treat them any way you`d like. They`re just animals.

The treatment of the detainees in Iraq was far from an aberration. They, too, were treated like animals, which was simply a logical extension of the way we treat prisoners here at home.

E-mail: bobherb@nytimes.com

Terror Suspects Beating Charges Filed in Europe

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, May 31, 2004; Page A01

BERLIN -- The defendant, a Tunisian man with a bushy beard, sits inside a bulletproof glass box in the courtroom. Since his arrest more than a year ago, German authorities have declared the suspect, Ihsan Garnaoui, to be a terrorist and a threat to national security, a man who plotted attacks against U.S. and Jewish targets here.

But since his trial began earlier this month, prosecutors have struggled to make their accusations stick. Witnesses for the state have displayed shaky memories. Security officials have refused to allow two confidential informants to take the stand. And a key police report is missing.

The evidence has been so thin that prosecutors have been unable to provide basic details of the attacks Garnaoui was allegedly planning, such as where they would take place or who else was involved. One of the defendant`s attorneys, Michael Rosenthal, wears a happy grin in court and confidently predicts an acquittal. "There`s nothing there," he said.

The trial already bears the hallmarks of many other failed terrorism prosecutions across Europe that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. European governments have rounded up hundreds of suspects, claiming to disrupt numerous spectacular attacks in the making, only to see the cases collapse months or years later in the courts.

Officials say that difficulties in investigating secretive terror cells, limited cooperation from intelligence agencies and judicial safeguards of defendants` rights have all contributed to this outcome. Muslim spokesmen and civil liberties groups say that police and prosecutors under intense pressure for results often simply go after the wrong people.

European governments have deeply criticized the Bush administration`s decision to keep hundreds of terrorism suspects out of the civilian judicial system and put them instead in the custody of U.S. military or intelligence agencies in places such as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Such tactics are gross human rights violations, many officials here say. But their own approach has produced few convictions.

In Italy, nine Moroccans who had been held for more than two years on charges of conspiring to poison the water supply of the U.S. Embassy in Rome were acquitted last month after prosecutors admitted they lacked evidence against most of the defendants. Two days later, in a separate trial, three Egyptians were cleared of charges that they intended to bomb Rome`s Fiumicino Airport and an American military cemetery.

Those verdicts followed a bungled case last year in which 28 Pakistani men in Naples were exonerated of police claims that they were involved in a convoluted plot with al Qaeda and the Mafia to assassinate a British admiral.

"The reports are completely exaggerated and they create the impression that there is a threat when there isn`t one," said Homza Roberto Piccardo, national secretary of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy. "Muslims come to Italy thinking there is legitimate law enforcement, but those expectations are immediately betrayed."

In Spain, a magistrate in charge of investigating terrorism has indicted dozens of people linked to the Sept. 11 hijackings, but has yet to convict any of them on those charges. In the Netherlands, prosecutors have lost two major terrorism cases, including an alleged conspiracy to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Paris, after judges ruled that evidence obtained by spy agencies was inadmissible in court.

France and Britain have some of the toughest anti-terrorism laws in Europe, enabling them to detain suspects for lengthy periods without trial. But they, too, have had difficulty achieving convictions.

In Britain, 544 people were arrested under anti-terrorist legislation between Sept. 11, 2001, and this January, according to figures provided to Parliament. Total convicted so far: six.

Barry Hugill, a spokesman for Liberty, a British civil liberties group, said authorities could not blame the outcomes on legal technicalities or sympathetic judges. "Given the current climate, the current fear of terrorist attack, getting convictions would not be difficult if there`s even a shred of evidence," he said.

In some cases, police or security agencies are quick to make arrests based on rumor or misinterpreted intelligence, as in the case of 10 people arrested last month on suspicion of planning to blow up the stadium of the Manchester United soccer team.

The suspects were released a week later, after authorities determined they were simply sports fans, not Islamic fanatics. "Anyone who just accepts without question what the security services say, we think is very, very naive," Hugill added.

At the same time, European authorities have been less aggressive than American investigators in the pursuit of some well-known radicals.

U.S. officials unsealed a federal grand jury indictment last week against Abu Hamza Masri, a radical London cleric, accusing him of orchestrating a hostage-taking plot in Yemen, among other crimes. The case involved the 1998 kidnapping of 16 Western tourists, a dozen of whom were British.

British officials have long considered Hamza a public menace because of his outspoken support for al Qaeda and have sought to strip him of his citizenship, possibly so he could be deported. But they have never been able to develop a criminal case against him, or to take him into custody until last week. And that was only in response to a U.S. request for his extradition.

On Friday, British Home Secretary David Blunkett said U.S. officials had simply been able to assemble more evidence against Hamza. "If we had that evidence and it related to our country," Blunkett told BBC radio, "we would have been able to take action through our courts."

In Germany, where the government estimates that more than 30,000 people belong to radical Islamic groups, the biggest targets have similarly remained beyond the reach of the law.

A German court last year did convict a Moroccan man, Mounir Motassadeq, of more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder for aiding the Hamburg al Qaeda cell that carried out the Sept. 11 hijackings. But that verdict was overturned in March by federal appellate judges, who ruled that he was denied a fair trial and deserved a new one. Another alleged 9/11 accomplice, Abdelghani Mzoudi, was acquitted outright in February.

In the Motassadeq case, the appellate court threw out the verdict in part because U.S. officials would not allow testimony or interrogation transcripts from Ramzi Binalshibh, an al Qaeda leader and accused ringleader of the Sept. 11 plot. The defendant`s lawyers had argued that Binalshibh could have verified that their client was unaware of the hijackers` plans.

As a result, some Germans have blamed the United States for the outcome of the case and the fact that Motassadeq remains a free man.

"We have a huge problem with the behavior of the U.S. authorities," said Ulrich von Jeinsen, an attorney representing Americans who lost family members in the Sept. 11 attacks. "It is a question to the American side: What are they willing to give us? It is simple and easy. We will have a reluctance [to pursue other cases in court] unless we have an exchange of cooperation among intelligence services."

Some legal experts, however, said German prosecutors and intelligence agencies should be held at least equally accountable. Christoph Safferling, a criminal law professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, said the appellate judges wanted to send a signal that the German judiciary should be more skeptical of evidence in future terrorism cases.

"When you read the decision handed down, it is in some passages quite angry," Safferling said, referring to the overturning of the Motassadeq verdict. "It is quite angry that this person was convicted on such weak evidence, and also very angry with the intelligence services` [lack of] cooperation."

"The prosecutor was not well prepared in this case," he added. "They were relying on a lot of assumptions and hypotheses but couldn`t prove them. I think they were under political pressure. I think if the prosecutor had really thought about it, maybe he wouldn`t have indicted in the first place."

Public sentiment is building to change laws in an attempt to bolster security. An April poll by the Allensbach Institute found that 57 percent of Germans surveyed feared that there would be terrorist attacks in the country in the near future, the highest level recorded by the firm since shortly after the Sept. 11 hijackings.

Last week, after years of debate, German political leaders reached a compromise on a new immigration policy that among other things will make it easier for the government to deport terrorism suspects and keep them under closer surveillance.

"It needs to be possible to remove these people from Germany," said Reinhard Grindel, a member of the German Parliament from the opposition Christian Democrats. "There were holes in the laws here, and [the new immigration law] will now close them. The political consequence is that these people will no longer be able to stay in Germany."

But some scholars said it was unlikely that Germany would take stronger steps to expand police powers or allow indefinite detentions, in view of memories of Nazi rule and the Gestapo.

Special correspondents Shannon Smiley in Berlin and Stacy Meichtry in Rome contributed to this report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Politicians Taking Top Interim Roles in Iraq
U.N. Envoy Had Sought Technocrats

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, May 31, 2004; Page A12

BAGHDAD, May 30 -- Before U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi returned here a month ago on a mission to form a transitional administration that will take power on June 30, he called for Iraqi politicians to "stay out of the interim government," and sought independent technocrats who would act as caretakers until elections are held next year.

But the results of Brahimi`s work thus far have been the opposite of what he wanted, according to U.N. and Iraqi officials. The leadership now taking shape will be heavy with politicians, prompting concern among diplomats and political analysts here that it could lack legitimacy in the eyes of many ordinary Iraqis. A government without broad support could falter in the tumultuous months after the handover, as an independent Iraq struggles to deal with a violent insurgency, religious and ethnic tensions, a stagnant economy and a host of other problems.

"The stakes are enormous," said a senior U.S. official in Baghdad, who spoke on condition he not be identified by name. "We have to get this one right."

On Friday, Brahimi endorsed Shiite politician Ayad Allawi, a member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, to be prime minister. Then he spent the weekend considering several other politicians and council members for the presidency, two vice presidential jobs and 26 cabinet minister posts.

The choice of president has been particularly contentious. Brahimi and the U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, wanted Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister, to get the job. But a large majority of council members continued to back Ghazi Yawar, a U.S.-educated tribal sheik who holds the council`s rotating presidency. Although a council session was scheduled for Monday to debate the issue, council officials said they had received indications from Brahimi and Bremer that they would drop their insistence on Pachachi.

The political maneuvering came as violence continued to smolder in southern Iraq. U.S. soldiers clashed with Shiite gunmen in Najaf for the second day in a row, shaking a tentative cease-fire with militiamen loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr. Fighting also erupted Sunday night in the neighboring city of Kufa. A CNN reporter embedded with the U.S. troops in Kufa said a "major firefight" occurred when soldiers tried to secure a police station. CNN quoted soldiers as saying it was the heaviest fighting in the area in the past six weeks.

A roadside bomb exploded beside a U.S. Army vehicle south of Baghdad on Sunday, killing one 1st Armored Division soldier and wounding two, the Reuters news agency reported.

In Baghdad, gunmen attacked a convoy of sport-utility vehicles carrying foreigners, killing at least two Iraqis, according to witnesses interviewed by news services. The foreign occupants, who were armed, commandeered a passing car and escaped, the witnesses said.

Brahimi, who was sent to Iraq at the behest of the White House, has been frustrated by both the council`s intransigence and pressure from the U.S. occupation authority to accept its favored candidates, according to people involved in the process.

Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, became committed to the idea of a technocratic caretaker government after speaking to many Iraqis on a visit in April. Politicians, including members of the Governing Council, enjoy little public support. Most political leaders lived in exile until the fall of former president Saddam Hussein, fueling a perception that they are out of touch. Iraqis also remain inherently suspicious of parties because of the abuses of Hussein`s once-powerful Baath Party, which dominated the political scene for more than three decades.

"The majority of Iraqis with whom we spoke told us that, under the circumstances, they favored the establishment of a new caretaker government comprised of honest and technically qualified persons," Brahimi told the U.N. Security Council last month.

But as soon as he arrived back in Iraq in early May, he ran into resistance from the council. "Any future government must enjoy wide popular support so it can run the nation`s affairs at this crucial stage of its history," the council said in a May 8 statement. Such a government, the statement insisted, must have "political capability."

Several members bluntly demanded positions for themselves in the new administration.

U.N. officials initially said Brahimi would not be swayed by the council. "You don`t need all the members to say `Aye,` " a senior U.N. official said at the time. "If there are a few naysayers, you can still pull it off."

Brahimi eventually settled upon a man he reportedly believed was an ideal candidate to be prime minister: Hussain Shahristani, a Shiite Muslim nuclear scientist who spent more than a decade in the Abu Ghraib prison after refusing to work on Hussein`s nuclear weapons project. Shahristani is not affiliated with any party and has spent the past year working on humanitarian aid projects. He also is close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country`s most powerful Shiite cleric, whose support is essential to the viability of an interim government.

But Shiite politicians on the council who wanted the prime minister`s job for themselves refused to support Shahristani. They suggested to Brahimi that they would oppose the interim government if Shahristani were named prime minister, people familiar with the process said.

Over the course of a few days it became clear to Brahimi that he could not bypass the council, U.N. officials said. Making a clean break from the council would have risked a potentially divisive confrontation, an outcome that he and the U.S. government wanted to avoid, the officials said.

When Shahristani withdrew from consideration, Brahimi`s list of candidates able to muster support on the council dwindled to Allawi and two other members, Adel Abdel-Mehdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Ibrahim Jafari of the Dawa party.

There have been differing accounts of the role U.S. officials in Baghdad played in the process. Some people involved in the process said Bremer and White House envoy Robert D. Blackwill supported Shahristani until council members backed away. Others familiar with the negotiations said the U.S. government had been worried that Shahristani was not seasoned enough and not sympathetic enough to American policies, particularly the Bush administration`s desire for U.S. forces to have unfettered power in the country after the handover.

With Shahristani out, Bremer and Blackwill urged Brahimi to back Allawi, whose party has long been supported by the CIA, officials involved in the process said. At the same time, Allawi was actively building support for his candidacy among other members of the council.

The process came to a head on Friday, when the council unanimously nominated Allawi to be prime minister. Bremer and Brahimi, who were aware of the council`s meeting, subsequently endorsed him.

Emboldened by its success, the council has pushed to select much of the rest of the interim government. Members have demanded that Yawar receive the presidency instead of Pachachi. Yawar, a Sunni tribal leader, is a moderate, but he is regarded by members as more independent and less supportive of American policies. Yawar`s tribe, the Shamar, has many Shiite members, and he has the support of most Shiite members on the council.

"Dr. Pachachi represents old Iraq while Sheik Ghazi represents the tribal and Arab values that are important to the people," a senior council official said.

The council`s effort to impose its own candidates extended well beyond the presidency. Several members said they wanted the two vice presidential jobs to go to Jafari and Rowsch Schaways of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, who is a close associate of council member Massoud Barzani.

Council members also pushed for fellow members to assume three important cabinet posts: Abdel-Mehdi as finance minister, Sameer Shaker Sumaidaie as interior minister and Rajaa Habib Khuzai as health minister, Iraqi politicians said.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Alle, ich glaube, 17 Jahre werden die USA von einer Zicadenplage heimgsucht. Hier ein ernstgemeintes Kochrezept von der Post. Colesterinfrei und gesund.

Fresh Cicadas Served Here
Wednesday, May. 19, 2004; 7:53 AM

D.C. resident Jacques Tiziou has a taste for cicadas. Watch him as he collects and prepares the young, tender, winged insects for brunch.


Military Fatalities: US: 813 Total: 923

Mai 04: 81 Tote. Das ist der 4. Platz für den Mai 04, nach 140 Toten für den April 04, 110 für den Nov. 03 und 93 Toten für den März 03.


5/31/04 iribnews: Gunmen kill senior Iraqi official
Gunmen shot and killed a senior official of a main Sunni Islamic party as he was driving home late on Sunday, the deputy head of the party said on Monday.
05/31/04 AP: Car bomb kills two, injures more than 20 in Baghdad
A car bomb exploded on Monday near the headquarters of the U.S.-run occupation authority in Baghdad, killing at least two people injuring more than 20. It was unclear if the bomb was a suicide attack
05/31/04 CJTF: Two Task Force 1st AD Soldiers Die in Separate Engagements
One Soldier was killed when his patrol was ambushed with small arms fire and the other was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his tank during a patrol.
05/31/04 Reuters: Two U.S. Soldiers Killed in Cleric`s Stronghold
Insurgents have killed two U.S. soldiers in the Iraqi city of Kufa, where U.S.-led forces have been fighting the militia of rebel Shi`ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the U.S. military said on Monday
05/31/04 AP: Two Killed in Attack on Convoy in Baghdad
Assailants ambushed a convoy of Britons on a northern Baghdad highway on Sunday, killing one Iraqi security guard and a bystander, officials and witnesses said.
05/31/04 CJTF: 1st AD Soldier Killed, Two Others Wounded in IED Attack
Three Task Force 1st Armored Division Soldiers were wounded at about 6:40 p.m. May 30 when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad...one Soldier died from wounds sustained in the attack.
05/30/04 AP: Major Fighting Reported In Kufa, Najaf
Assailants ambushed a convoy of Westerners on Sunday on a northern Baghdad highway, killing at least two people and possibly abducting others, police and witnesses said. U.S. soldiers came under fire ...
05/30/04 Reuters: Gunmen Kill 2 Foreigners, Seize 3 in Baghdad
Gunmen attacked three civilian vehicles carrying foreigners in northwest Baghdad Sunday, killing two Westerners and seizing three others, witnesses and police at the scene said
05/30/04 AP: Westerner Killed in Baghdad Attack on Three SUVs
Three sport utility vehicles were attacked Sunday evening in the Iraqi capital, and the body of at least one Westerner could be seen in the flaming wreckage.
05/30/04 Novinite: Bulgarians Nab Four Iraq Rebels
Bulgaria`s Karbala troops have seized four Iraqis who tried to sack an arms depot
05/30/04 Reuters: Foreigners Attacked in Baghdad, Some Killed
Gunmen opened fire on two civilian vehicles carrying foreigners in western Baghdad on Sunday and police at the scene said some people had been killed.
05/30/04 AP: Soldier Wounded In Mosul
One soldier also was slightly wounded Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. convoy in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said.
05/30/04 AP: U.S. Soldiers Clash With Gunmen in Najaf
U.S. soldiers clashed with Shiite gunmen in this holy city on Sunday, a day after Najaf`s governor accused radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ...
05/30/04 Reuters: Six Soldiers Wounded by Car Bomb
six soldiers have been wounded in a car bomb attack at a coalition base east of Talafar, the name of the American military base in the northern city of Mosul.
05/30/04 AP: Two blasts hit center of Baghdad
Two explosions were heard near the U.S.-led coalition headquarters in central Baghdad on Saturday, witnesses said.
Monday, May 31, 2004
War News for May 31, 2004


Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers, 20 Iraqi militiamen killed in fighting near Kufa.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, two wounded by roadside bomb “south of Baghdad.”

Bring ‘em on: IGC member assassinated near Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi security guard killed in ambush near Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Two Westerners killed, three kidnapped in ambush near Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers wounded in fighting near Najaf.

Bring ‘em on: Car bomb kills two Iraqis near Green Zone in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Japanese military convoy ambushed near Samawah; casualties are reported.

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis killed, four wounded in mortar attack in Samarra.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqis killed in mortar attack on US positions near Mosul.

Bring ‘em on: Two insurgents killed while planting roadside bomb near Beiji.

Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqi policemen wounded by roadside bomb near Basra.

Lieutenant AWOL’s war trophy. “Ousted Iraq president Saddam Hussein`s pistol has made its way to the White House with United States President George W Bush proudly showing it to select visitors, Time magazine said in a report…’ He really liked showing it off,’ the report quoted an unnamed visitor to the White House as saying. ‘He was really proud of it.’” salvage has the best commentary on this item.

Redeployment. “At Fort Riley, this is the last stop before home for soldiers returning from Iraq. Mandatory "debriefs" like this one, to be conducted for thousands of soldiers in training rooms and auditoriums at bases across the country, are a novelty for the United States military. The sessions were begun in response to a spate of deaths at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2002, when four soldiers were charged with killing their wives in unrelated cases. The sessions reflect the realization that for soldiers and their families, the burdens and sacrifices of deployment go far beyond fighting overseas and waiting at home. As these re-entry sessions show, coping with war is a long-term struggle, a way of life, falling hardest on a sliver of American society: the men, women and children of the military class, hundreds of thousands of them, many clustered in and around bases like Fort Riley.”

More on detainee deaths. “In the aftermath of the international outcry over the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the Pentagon has repeatedly said it thoroughly investigates all accusations of mistreatment and misconduct. But as the handling of the death certificates suggests, many of the known investigations into abuses against Afghan and Iraqi detainees moved glacially, at least until the photographs of hooded, shackled and naked Iraqi prisoners appeared late last month.”


Analysis: Meanwhile, America`s reputation has plummeted, not only in the Middle East but in European and other countries considered long-time allies. Among Arabs, the prevailing view hasn`t improved since the war was launched, Mr. Telhami said. "They believe the war was for oil and for Israel, but not for democracy, not for weapons of mass destruction, not for any of these things that were stated by the U.S."

Analysis: “Now, as Mr. Brahimi nears the end of his work, Iraqis are discovering that his task was not so simple. With his slate of appointees expected to be announced in the next day or two, the appointments leaked so far suggest that what Mr. Brahimi ultimately accomplishes may turn out to be less a revolution than a rearrangement, less a new cast of characters than a reworked version of the same old faces. The reason, Iraqis are beginning to say, has been the unexpected assertiveness of American officials and their allies on the Iraqi Governing Council, coupled with Mr. Brahimi`s surprising passivity, after he was expected to have a free hand. The danger, some of these Iraqis say, is that the new government could end up looking too much like the old one, an American-appointed council that never gained the acceptance of the people. If that proves true once the appointees are officially announced, they said, the new government could lack the credibility it needs to carry the country through the turbulent period leading to nationwide elections next year. Already, a three-day cease-fire appeared to be unraveling in the south.”

86-43-04. Pass it on.

# posted by yankeedoodle : 4:32 AM
Comments (3)
Isn`t that cute? Thousands died so that Bush could play cowboy with Saddam`s gun
Date: Monday, May 31 @ 10:13:23 EDT

From The New Zealand Herald

US President George W Bush is boasting of an unusual piece of memorabilia brought back from Iraq: the pistol clutched by Saddam Hussein when he was discovered by American soldiers in a spider hole outside his home town after the war.

Military officials had the handgun mounted after it was seized from the dishevelled and disoriented Iraqi dictator in his underground hideout in Dawr last December.

The soldiers involved in the capture later presented it to the US President, who keeps it in a small study off the Oval Office, where he keeps his favourite mementoes, according to Time magazine.

He also keeps there a photograph of US Special Forces in Afghanistan praying after burying a piece of the World Trade Centre destroyed in the September 11 attacks.

"He really liked showing it off," a White House visitor who had seen the gun was quoted as saying.

"He was really proud of it."Mr Bush has told select visitors that the gun was unloaded when Saddam was captured - contrary to reports at the time. It is still empty.

The fallen dictator is awaiting trial, in an undisclosed location, for crimes against humanity.

From The New Zealand Herald:
A geostrategy for Eurasia

by Zbigniew Brzezinski

October, 1997 "Foreign Affairs" -- Seventy-five years ago, when the first issue of Foreign Affairs saw the light of day, the United States was a self-isolated Western hemispheric power, sporadically involved in the affairs of Europe and Asia. World War II and the ensuing Cold War compelled the United States to develop a sustained commitment to Western Europe and the Far East. America`s emergence as the sole global superpower now makes an integrated and comprehensive strategy for Eurasia imperative.

Eurasia is home to most of the world`s politically assertive and dynamic states. All the historical pretenders to global power originated in Eurasia. The world`s most populous aspirants to regional hegemony, China and India, are in Eurasia, as are all the potential political or economic challengers to American primacy. After the United States, the next six largest economies and military spenders are there, as are all but one of the world`s overt nuclear powers, and all but one of the covert ones. Eurasia accounts for 75 percent of the world`s population, 60 percent of its GNP, and 75 percent of its energy resources. Collectively, Eurasia`s potential power overshadows even America`s.

Eurasia is the world`s axial supercontinent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world`s three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa. With Eurasia now serving as the decisive geopolitical chessboard, it no longer suffices to fashion one policy for Europe and another for Asia. What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America`s global primacy and historical legacy.

A sustainable strategy for Eurasia must distinguish among the more immediate short-run perspective of the next five years or so, the medium term of 20 or so years, and the long run beyond that. Moreover, these phases must be viewed not as watertight compartments but as part of a continuum. In the short run, the United States should consolidate and perpetuate the prevailing geopolitical pluralism on the map of Eurasia. Tins strategy will put a premium on political maneuvering and diplomatic manipulation, preventing the emergence of a hostile coalition that could challenge America`s primacy, not to mention the remote possibility of any one state seeking to do so. By the medium term, the foregoing should lead to the emergence of strategically compatible partners which, prompted by American leadership, might shape a more cooperative trans-Eurasian security system. In the long run, the foregoing could become the global core of genuinely shared political responsibility.

In the western periphery of Eurasia, the key players will continue to be France and Germany, and America`s central goal should be to continue to expand the democratic European bridgehead. In the Far East, China is likely to be increasingly pivotal, and the United States will not have a Eurasian strategy unless a Sino-American political consensus is nurtured. In Eurasia`s center, the area between an enlarging Europe and a regionally rising China will remain a political black hole until Russia firmly redefines itself as a postimperial state. Meanwhile, to the south of Russia, Central Asia threatens to become a caldron of ethnic conflicts and great-power rivalries.


America`s status as the world`s premier power is unlikely to be contested by any single challenger for more than a generation. No state is likely to match the United States in the four key dimensions of power -- military, economic, technological, and cultural -- that confer global political clout. Short of American abdication, the only real alternative to American leadership is international anarchy. President Clinton is correct when he says America has become the world`s "indispensable nation."

America`s global stewardship will be tested by tension, turbulence, and periodic conflict. In Europe, there are signs that the momentum for integration and enlargement is waning and that nationalisms may reawaken. Large-scale unemployment persists even in the most successful European states, breeding xenophobic reactions that could cause French or German politics to lurch toward extremism. Europe`s aspirations for unity will be met only if Europe is encouraged, and occasionally prodded, by the United States.

Russia`s future is less certain and the prospects for its positive evolution more tenuous. America must therefore shape a political context that is congenial to Russia`s assimilation into a larger framework of European cooperation, while fostering the independence of its newly sovereign neighbors. Yet the viability of, say, Ukraine or Uzbekistan will remain uncertain, especially if America fails to support their efforts at national consolidation.

The chances of a grand accommodation with China could also be threatened by a crisis over Taiwan, internal Chinese political dynamics, or simply a downward spiral in Sino-American relations. Sino-American hostility could strain the United States` relationship with Japan, perhaps causing disruption in Japan itself. Asian stability would then be at risk, and these events could even affect the posture and cohesion of a country like India, which is critical to stability in South Asia.

In a volatile Eurasia, the immediate task is to ensure that no state or combination of states gains the ability to expel the United States or even diminish its decisive role. However, the promotion of a stable transcontinental balance should not be viewed as an end in itself, only as a means toward shaping genuine strategic partnerships in the key regions of Eurasia. A benign American hegemony must still discourage others from posing a challenge, not only by making its costs too high, but also by respecting the legitimate interests of Eurasia`s regional aspirants.

More specifically, the medium-term goal requires fostering genuine partnerships with a more united and politically defined Europe, a regionally preeminent China, a postimperial and Europe-oriented Russia, and a democratic India. But it will be success or failure in forging broader strategic relationships with Europe and China that shapes Russia`s future role and determines Eurasia`s central power equation.


Europe is America`s essential geopolitical bridgehead in Eurasia. America`s stake in democratic Europe is enormous. Unlike America`s links with Japan, NATO entrenches American political influence and military power on the Eurasian mainland. With the allied European nations still highly dependent on U.S. protection, any expansion of Europe`s political scope is automatically an expansion of U.S. influence. Conversely, the United States` ability to project influence and power in Eurasia relies on close transatlantic ties.

A wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve the short-term and longer-term interests of U.S. policy. A larger Europe will expand the range of American influence without simultaneously creating a Europe so politically integrated that it could challenge the United States on matters of geopolitical importance, particularly in the Middle East. A politically defined Europe is also essential to Russia`s assimilation into a system of global cooperation.

America cannot create a more united Europe on its own -- that is a task for the Europeans, especially the French and the Germans. But America can obstruct the emergence of a more united Europe, and that could prove calamitous for Eurasian stability and America`s interests. Unless Europe becomes more united, it is likely to become more disunited again. Washington must work closely with Germany and France in building a Europe that is politically viable, remains linked to the United States, and widens the scope of the democratic international system. Choosing between France and Germany is not the issue. Without both these nations, there will be no Europe, and without Europe there will never be a cooperative trans-Eurasian system.

In practical terms, all this will eventually require America`s accommodation to a shared leadership in NATO, greater acceptance of France`s concerns over a European role in Africa and the Middle East, and continued support for the European Union`s eastward expansion even as the EU becomes politically and economically more assertive. A transatlantic free trade agreement, already advocated by a number of Western leaders, could mitigate the risk of a growing economic rivalry between the EU and the United States. The EU`s progressive success in burying centuries-old European antagonisms would be wen worth a gradual diminution in America`s role as Europe`s arbitrator.

Enlargement of NATO and the EU would also reinvigorate Europe`s waning sense of a larger vocation while consolidating, to the benefit of both America and Europe, the democratic gains won through the successful end of the Cold War. At stake in this effort is nothing less than America`s long-range relationship with Europe. A new Europe is still taking shape, and if that Europe is to remain part of the "Euro-Atlantic" space, the expansion of NATO is essential.

Accordingly, NATO and EU enlargement should move forward in deliberate stages. Assuming a sustained American and Western European commitment, here is a speculative but realistic timetable for these stages: By 1999, the first three Central European members will have been admitted into NATO, although their inclusion in the EU will probably not take place before 2002 or 2003; by 2003, the EU is likely to have initiated accession talks with all three Baltic republics, and NATO will likewise have moved forward on their membership as well as that of Romania and Bulgaria, with their accession likely to be completed before 2005; between 2005 and 2010, Ukraine, provided it has made significant domestic reforms and has become identified as a Central European country, should also be ready for initial negotiations with the EU and NATO.

Failure to widen NATO, now that the commitment has been made, would shatter the concept of an expanding Europe and demoralize the Central Europeans. Worse, it could reignite dormant Russian political aspirations in Central Europe. Moreover, it is far from evident that the Russian political elite shares the European desire for a strong American political and military presence in Europe. Accordingly, while fostering a cooperative relationship with Russia is desirable, it is important for America to send a clear message about its global priorities. If a choice must be made between a larger Europe-Atlantic system and a better relationship with Russia, the former must rank higher.


New Russian ties with NATO and the EU, formalized by the Joint NATO-Russia Council, may encourage Russia to make its long-delayed post-imperial decision in favor of Europe. Formal membership in the Group of Seven (G-7) and upgrading the policymaking machinery of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- within which a special security committee composed of America, Russia, and several key European countries could be established -- should encourage constructive Russian engagement in European political and military cooperation. Coupled with ongoing Western financial assistance and infrastructure investment, especially in communication networks, these steps could bring Russia significantly closer to Europe.

But Russia`s longer-term role in Eurasia win depend largely on its self-definition. Although Europe and China have increased their regional influence, Russia stiff remains in charge of the world`s largest piece of real estate, spanning ten time zones and dwarfing the United States, China, or an enlarged Europe. Territorial deprivation is not Russia`s central problem. Rather, Russia must face the fact that Europe and China are already economically more powerful and that Russia is falling behind China on the road to social modernization.

In these circumstances, Russia`s first priority should be to modernize itself rather than to engage in a futile effort to regain its status as a global power. Given the country`s size and diversity, a decentralized political system and free-market economics would be most likely to unleash the creative potential of the Russian people and Russia`s vast natural resources. A loosely confederated Russia -- composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic -- would also find it easier to cultivate closer economic relations with its neighbors. Each of the confederated entitles would be able to tap its local creative potential, stifled for centuries by Moscow`s heavy bureaucratic hand. In turn, a decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization.

Russia is more likely to make a break with its imperial past if the newly independent post-Soviet states are vital and stable. Their vitality will temper any residual Russian imperial temptations. Political and economic support for the new states must be an integral part of a broader strategy for integrating Russia into a cooperative transcontinental system. A sovereign Ukraine is a critically important component of such a policy, as is support for such strategically pivotal states as Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.

Large-scale international investment in an increasingly accessible Central Asia would not only consolidate the independence of the new countries, but also benefit a postimperial and democratic Russia. Tapping the region`s resources would increase prosperity and prompt a greater sense of stability, reducing the risk of Balkan-type conflicts. Regional development would also radiate to the adjoining Russian provinces, which tend to be economically underdeveloped. The region`s new leaders would gradually become less fearful of the political consequences of close economic relations with Russia. A non-imperial Russia could then be accepted as the region`s major economic partner, although no longer its imperial ruler.


To promote a stable southern Caucasus and Central Asia, America must be careful not to alienate Turkey, while exploring whether an improvement in U. S.-Iranian relations is feasible. If Turkey feels like a European outcast, it will become more Islamic and less likely to cooperate with the West in integrating Central Asia into the world community. America should use its influence in Europe to encourage Turkey`s eventual admission to the EU, and make a point of tre-ating Turkey as a European state, provided internal Turkish politics do not take a dramatically Islamist turn. Regular consultations with Ankara regarding the future of the Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia would foster Turkey`s sense of strategic partnership with the United States. America should also support Turkish aspirations to have a pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan on its own Mediterranean coast serve as a major outlet for the Caspian sea basin energy reserves.

In addition, it is not in America`s interest to perpetuate U.S.-Iranian hostility. Any eventual reconciliation should be based on both countries` recognition of their mutual strategic interest in stabilizing Iran`s volatile regional environment. A strong, even religiously motivated -- but not fanatically anti-Western -- Iran is still in the U.S. interest. American long-range interests in Eurasia would be better served by abandoning existing U.S. objections to closer Turkish-Iranian economic cooperation, especially in the construction of new pipelines from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. In fact, American financial participation in such projects would be to America`s benefit.

Although currently a passive player, India has an important role in the Eurasian scene. Without the political support it received from the Soviet Union, India is contained geopolitically by Chinese-Pakistani cooperation. The survival of Indian democracy is in itself important, in that it refutes better than volumes of academic debate the notion that human rights and democracy are exclusively Western. India proves that antidemocratic "Asian values," propagated by spokesmen from Singapore to China, are simply antidemocratic and not necessarily Asian. India`s failure would be a blow to democracy`s prospects in Asia and would remove a power that contributes to Asia`s balance, especially given China`s rise. India should be engaged in discussions pertaining to regional stability, not to mention the promotion of more bilateral connections between the American and Indian defense communities.


There will be no stable equilibrium of power in Eurasia without a deepening strategic understanding between America and China and a clearer definition of Japan`s emerging role. That poses two dilemmas for America: determining the practical definition and acceptable scope of China`s emergence as the dominant regional power and managing Japan`s restlessness over its de facto status as an American protectorate. Eschewing excessive fears of China`s rising power and Japan`s economic ascension should infuse realism into a policy that must be based on careful strategic calculus. Its goals should be to divert Chinese power into constructive regional accommodation and to channel Japanese energy into wider international partnerships.

Engaging Beijing in a serious strategic dialogue is the first step in stimulating its interest in an accommodation with America that reflects the two countries` shared concerns in northeast Asia and Central Asia. It also behooves Washington to eliminate any uncertainty regarding its commitment to the one-China policy, lest the Taiwan issue fester, especially after China`s digestion of Hong Kong. Likewise, it is in China`s interest to demonstrate that even a Greater China can safeguard diversity in its internal political arrangements.

To make progress, the Sino-American strategic discourse should be sustained and serious. Through such communication, even contentious issues like Taiwan and human rights can be addressed persuasively. The Chinese need to be told that China`s internal liberalization is not a purely domestic affair, since only a democratizing and prosperous China has any chance of peacefully enticing Taiwan. Any attempt at forcible reunification would jeopardize Sino-American relations and hobble China`s ability to attract foreign investment. China`s aspirations to regional preeminence and global status would be diminished.

Although China is emerging as a regionally dominant power, it is not likely to become a global one for a long time. The conventional wisdom that China will be the next global power is breeding paranoia outside China while fostering megalomania in China. It is far from certain that China`s explosive growth rates can be, maintained for the next two decades. In fact, continued long-term growth at the current rates would require an unusually felicitous mix of national leadership, political tranquillity, social discipline, high savings, massive inflows of foreign investment, and regional stability. A prolonged combination of all of these factors is unlikely.

Even if China avoids serious political disruptions and sustains its economic growth for a quarter of a century -- both rather big ifs -- China would still be a relatively poor country. A tripling0f GDP would leave China below most nations in per capita income, and a significant portion of its people would remain poor. Its standing in access to telephones, cars, computers, let alone consumer goods, would be very low.

In two decades China may qualify as a global military power, since its economy and growth should enable its rulers to divert a significant portion of the country`s GDP to modernize the armed forces, including a further buildup of its strategic nuclear arsenal. However, if that effort is excessive, it could have the same negative effect on China`s long-term economic growth as the arms race had on the Soviet economy. A large-scale Chinese buildup would also precipitate a countervailing Japanese response. In any case, outside of its nuclear forces, China will not be able to project its military power beyond its region for some time.

A Greater China becoming a regionally dominant power is another matter. A de facto sphere of Chinese regional influence is likely to be part of Eurasia`s future. Such a sphere of influence should not be confused with a zone of exclusive political domination, like the Soviet Union had in Eastern Europe. It is more likely to be an area in which weaker states pay special deference to the interests, views, and anticipated reactions of the regionally dominant power. In brief, a Chinese sphere of influence can be defined as one in which the first question in the various capitals is, "What is Beijing`s view on this?"

A Greater China is likely to receive political support from its wealthy diaspora in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Jakarta, not to mention Taiwan and Hong Kong. According to Yazhou Zhoukan (Asiaweek), the aggregate assets of the 500 leading Chinese-owned companies in Southeast Asia total about $540 billion. The Southeast Asian countries already find it prudent to defer at times to China`s political sensitivities and economic interests. A China that becomes a true political and economic power might also project more overt influence into the Russian Far East while sponsoring Korea`s unification.

Greater China`s geopolitical influence is not necessarily incompatible with America`s strategic interest in a stable, pluralistic Eurasia. For example, China`s growing interest in Central Asia constrains Russia`s ability to achieve a political reintegration of the region under Moscow`s control. In this connection and in regard to the Persian Gulf, China`s growing energy needs means it has a common interest with America in maintaining free access to, and political stability in, the oil-producing regions. Similarly, China`s support for Pakistan restrains India`s ambitions to subordinate that country, while offsetting India`s inclination to cooperate with Russia in regard to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Chinese and Japanese involvement in the development of eastern Siberia can also enhance regional stability.

The bottom line is that America and China need each other in Eurasia. Greater China should consider America a natural ally for historical as well as political reasons. Unlike Japan or Russia, the United States has never had any territorial designs on China; compared to Great Britain, it has never humiliated China. Moreover, without a viable strategic relationship with America, China is not likely to continue to attract the enormous foreign investment necessary for regional preeminence.

Similarly, without a Sino-American strategic accommodation as the eastern anchor of America`s involvement in Eurasia, America will lack a geostrategy for mainland Asia, which win deprive America of a geostrategy for Eurasia as well. For America, China`s regional power, co-opted into a wider framework of international cooperation, can become an important strategic asset -- equal to Europe, more weighty than Japan -- in assuring Eurasia`s stability. To recognize this fact, China could be invited to the G-7`s annual summit, especially since an invitation was recently extended to Russia.


Since a democratic bridgehead on Eurasia`s eastern mainland will not soon emerge, it is all the more important that America`s effort to nurture a strategic relation