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Robert Fisk: Attacked for telling some home truths
(Robert Fisk, The Independent, 26 November 2003)
In Iraq, they are just numbers, bloodstains on a road. But in the little town of Madison in Wisconsin last week, they were all too real on the front page of the local paper, the Capital Times. Sergeant Warren Hansen, Specialist Eugene Uhl and Second Lieutenant Jeremy Wolfe of the 101st Airborne Division were all on their way home for the last time. . . . Hansen's father had died in the military. Uhl would have been 22 at Thanksgiving but had written home to say he had a "bad feeling". His father had fought in Vietnam, his grandfather in the Second World War and Korea. Two of the three men were killed in the Black Hawk helicopter crash over Tikrit just over a week ago. . . . But of course President Bush, our hero in the "war on terror", won't be attending their funerals. The man who declined to serve his nation in Vietnam but has sent 146,000 young Americans into the biggest rat's nest in the Middle East doesn't do funerals. . . . Nor do journalists, of course. The American television networks have feebly accepted the new Pentagon ruling that they can't show the coffins of America's young men returning from Iraq. The dead may come home but they do so in virtual secrecy. . . . Take the case of Drew Plummer from North Carolina who enlisted during his last year in high school, just three months before 11 September 2001. Home on leave, he joined his father, Lou, at a "bring our troops home" vigil. Lou Plummer is a former member of the US 2nd Armoured Division whose father, unlike Mr Bush, served his country in Vietnam. Asked for his opinion on Iraq by an Associated Press reporter, Drew Plummer replied that "I just don't agree with what we're doing right now. I don't think our guys should be dying in Iraq. But I'm not a pacifist. I'll do my part." . . . But free speech has a price for the military in America these days. The US Navy charged Drew Plummer with violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: Disloyal Statements. At his official hearing, he was asked if he "sympathises" with the enemy or was considering "acts of sabotage". He was convicted and demoted. . . . Yet still the US press turn their backs on this. How revealing, for example, to find that the number of seriously wounded soldiers brought home to America from Iraq is approaching 2,200, many of whom have lost limbs or suffered facial wounds. In all, there have been nearly 7,000 medical evacuations of soldiers from Iraq, many with psychological problems. . . . All this was disclosed by the Pentagon to a group of French diplomats in Washington. The French press carried the story. Not so the papers of small-town America, where anyone trying to tell the truth about Iraq will be attacked. . . . David Brooks writes that "history shows that Americans are willing to make sacrifices. The real doubts come when we see ourselves inflicting them. What will happen to the national mood when the news programmes start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause.
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posted by Lorenzo 12:22 PM

Why anti-US attacks have spread to Iraq's north
(Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, November 28, 2003 edition)
In recent weeks, Mosul has witnessed a spate of roadside bombings, assassinations, and rocket attacks against American troops and their Iraqi allies. . . . According to Iraqi authorities in Mosul, the upsurge in attacks is part of a deliberate strategy by the insurgents to expand guerrilla operations northward from the so-called Sunni triangle, until now the focus of most anticoalition violence. . . . "Members of the former regime are working with Islamists in Mosul and from elsewhere, including from outside the country, and they are being paid by Saddam [Hussein] and Izzat Ibrahim [al-Duri]," says Mohammed al-Kaki, who heads the military wing of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) here. Mr. Duri was vice president of the Baath Party's Revolutionary Command Council, Iraq's highest governing body, and Mr. Hussein's closest confidant. He is the Coalition's second-most wanted man. . . . Coalition forces say that Duri is directing much of the insurgency campaign. Senior Iraqi security officials are linking the beginning of the anticoalition attacks with Duri's arrival three months ago in a small village east of Mosul. . . . General Awni says that there is no shortage of anti-US volunteers. "All the high-ranking Baathists in the security and intelligence services no longer receive their salaries, and most of them are from Mosul. They have reason to be angry and are willing to accept money to fight the Americans," he says. . . . "The economic situation has to improve," says Hamid Ibrahim, owner of a clothing store. "The opposition are hiring poor people because there are no jobs. A poor person will do anything to feed his family. Democracy is fine, but you can't eat ideas." . . . The attacks against US forces include the execution Sunday of two soldiers on a busy street. The same day, an Iraqi police colonel in charge of security for oil installations was shot as he left a mosque. . . . US forces also suffered their highest number of casualties in a single incident when two Blackhawk helicopters collided two weeks ago, apparently while avoiding ground fire. Seventeen soldiers died. . . . "Why was there a war?" he asks. "They never found any weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was a stable country before the Americans came. Everyday there is resistance now and it's a very strong resistance. The Americans will be resisted no matter how long they stay."
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posted by Lorenzo 3:10 PM

Guantanamo treatment is 'monstrous', says law lord
By Robert Verkaik Legal Affairs Correspondent - © 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
26 November 2003

One of the country's most senior judges launched an unprecedented attack on US treatment of the 660 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay last night, saying they will become martyrs in the Muslim world. Breaking with the convention that law lords do not speak out on politically sensitive issues, Lord Steyn described their imprisonment as a "monstrous failure of justice" and the military tribunals that will try them as kangaroo courts. Lord Steyn, one of 12 judges who sits in the country's [Britain] highest court, is understood to have been wrestling with his conscience for weeks. Lord Steyn said in a speech to lawyers in London last night that judges "have the duty, in times of crisis, to guard against an unprincipled and exorbitant executive response.

He described the military commissions set up to try the Guantanamo detainees as kangaroo courts. "It derives from the jumps of the kangaroo, and conveys the idea of a pre-ordained arbitrary rush to judgment by an irregular tribunal which makes a mockery of justice." The trials would be "a stain on United States justice".

He was also critical of the British policy of negotiating a separate agreement with the Pentagon so that British prisoners would not receive the death penalty. "This gives a new dimension to the concept of 'most-favoured nation' treatment in international law. How could it be morally defensible to discriminate in this way?"
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 10:06 AM

US continues to humiliate Iraqis

(Lawrence Smallman, Aljazeera.net, 23 November 2003)
Pictures of US soldiers searching young girls on their way to class have provoked renewed international outrage. . . . Exclusive photos show US-led occupation forces frisking schoolgirls – a move condemned by the girls’ parents and international human rights organisations alike. . . . One father, Abu Muhammad, told Aljazeera.net on Sunday that if he ever hears his daughter has been touched by American soldiers again, he would “not be responsible for the consequences”. . . . “This humiliation has got to end now. I refuse to live like this. I’d rather die and I’ll take a few soldiers with me – and that’s a promise, not a threat.” . . . CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is already conducting an investigation and seeking legal advice after previous Aljazeera.net pictures showed troops tying up little girls in their own home. . . . Washington CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said such treatment of young children can only increase resentment of American troops in Iraq, a development that will “ultimately demoralise troops further”. . . . Central Military Command in Florida says the security of US soldiers comes before any “hearts and minds operation or the rights of Iraqi children”. . . . Central Command refused to comment on the latest series of pictures, but two weeks ago Major David Farlow warned Aljazeera.net not to publish similar photos on this site. . . . Covering up . . In another heavily-criticised development, US-led occupation forces now regularly put bags over the heads of Iraqi detainees. . . . The blanket policy has become a regular occurrence at the time of arrest with no regard for whether the people detained are guilty of any crime or not. . . . US human rights advocates and lawyers believe Washington is quietly embracing this psychological torture as an acceptable means in its desperate search for information that may crush Iraq’s resistance movement. . . . The US director of Physicians for Human Rights, Holly Burkhalter, condemns the policy as unacceptable.
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posted by Lorenzo 10:00 AM

Cost of War on Iraq
Click on the above link to see a real-time running total of the cost of America's war on Iraq. The page also allows you to see how that money could have been used for social issues, such as Pre-School, Kids Health, Public Education, College Scholarships, and Public Housing. It even has numbers for your local community relative to its size. This is a very informative Web site.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 16, 1953
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posted by Lorenzo 4:01 PM

War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal
(The Guardian, November 20, 2003)
International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal. . . . In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing." . . . Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable. . . . Mr Perle, who was speaking at an event organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, had argued loudly for the toppling of the Iraqi dictator since the end of the 1991 Gulf war. . . . "They're just not interested in international law, are they?" said Linda Hugl, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which launched a high court challenge to the war's legality last year. "It's only when the law suits them that they want to use it." . . . Mr Perle's remarks bear little resemblance to official justifications for war, according to Rabinder Singh QC, who represented CND and also participated in Tuesday's event. . . . Mr Perle's view is not the official one put forward by the White House. Its main argument has been that the invasion was justified under the UN charter, which guarantees the right of each state to self-defence, including pre-emptive self-defence. On the night bombing began, in March, Mr Bush reiterated America's "sovereign authority to use force" to defeat the threat from Baghdad. . . . The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has questioned that justification, arguing that the security council would have to rule on whether the US and its allies were under imminent threat. . . . "I think Perle's statement has the virtue of honesty," said Michael Dorf, a law professor at Columbia University who opposed the war, arguing that it was illegal. . . . "And, interestingly, I suspect a majority of the American public would have supported the invasion almost exactly to the same degree that they in fact did, had the administration said that all along."
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posted by Lorenzo 10:03 AM

Italian Quits U.S. Led Iraq Authority
(Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, 17 November 2003)
An Italian official resigned from the U.S.-led administration running Iraq, saying it is mismanaging reconstruction, out of touch with Iraqis and only fueling their anger, the Foreign Ministry and news reports said Monday. . . . "The provisional authority simply doesn't work," Marco Calamai, a special counselor to the authority in the province of Dhi Qar, told reporters in announcing his resignation . . . Calamai said only an interim authority headed by the United Nations could turn things around. . . . He said the American-led administration, headed by L. Paul Bremer, doesn't understand Iraqi society and has muddled reconstruction projects by delaying financing. He said its policies were in part to blame for last week's attack on the Italian Carabinieri barracks that killed 19 Italians, as well as 14 others. . . . The U.S.-led authority has created "delusion, social discontent and anger" among Iraqis and allowed terrorism to "easily take root," Corriere quoted Calamai as telling Italian journalists Sunday in Nasiriyah. . . . The attack on the barracks "is the consequence of a mistaken policy and an underevaluation of the complexity of the social structure of Iraq," he said. "There needs to be a radical change with respect to the policies taken so far by the USA." . . . The U.S.-led coalition has been struggling to deal with an anti-occupation insurgency that has only grown deadlier with time since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April. Faced with worsening security, Washington decided last week to hand over power to Iraqis by June, dropping its old timetable that called for Iraq first to formulate a constitution and hold elections. . . . In an interview with the leftist daily L'Unita a day before, Calamai complained that the British and Americans had marginalized the Italians. "They don't consult us, they don't involve us, even though their security depends on us." . . . Calamai told reporters that reconstruction projects promised and financed by the administration "have had practically no results," and that bureaucratic delays had prevented promised money from reaching some rehabilitation projects. . . . Some $400,000 a month was supposed to be made available for projects in Dhi Qar alone, but "because of the muddled organization of the CPA, only a fraction has been spent," Corriere quoted him as saying.
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posted by Lorenzo 7:40 PM

There are so many echoes of Vietnam in Iraq
(Charles Glass, The Independent, 13 November 2003)
The US armed forces launched their first air raid against post-war Iraq last week, when F-16 fighter-bombers dropped 500-pound bombs on Tikrit. The new campaign against Iraq's resistance fighters, dubbed Operation Ivy Cyclone, recalls President Lyndon Johnson's Operation Rolling Thunder over Vietnam in 1965. That campaign of bombing Vietnam would eventually see Indochina devastated by 7 million tons of aerial explosives. . . . These are early days in Iraq, where the conflict between a growing percentage of the native population and the occupying forces is escalating far more rapidly than it did in Vietnam. It took two years, from 1963 to the end of 1964, for American combat deaths to reach 324. The US has surpassed that figure in only seven months in Iraq, where 398 American soldiers have died already. In the last 12 days, 38 have been killed. As for the Iraqi dead, the US does not count them with similar precision. Vietnam offers examples to the US, but it is learning the wrong lessons. . . . Parallels with Vietnam are asserting themselves again and again in Iraq. They start with the justification for committing American troops to battle. In both cases, politicians lied to persuade Congress and the public to go along. In 1964, the year Lyndon Johnson officially upgraded the US military role from advisory to combat, the secretaries of state and defence accused North Vietnam of attacking the USS Maddox. . . . The Johnson administration's deception, like George Bush's over Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, worked. Johnson won passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, allowing him to take "all necessary measures". Bush passed his war resolution after telling Congress that Saddam was threatening the US. The Bush administration's dance around facts to achieve the invasion of Iraq made Johnson's chicanery look amateur. . . . Tonkin was shown to be a lie when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The lies over Iraq were exposed almost as soon as the US erected barriers in Baghdad to protect itself from the people it had liberated. No one found the nuclear programme, the Niger uranium or the elusive connection to al-Qa'ida. From the beginning in Iraq, as in Vietnam, the credibility gap lay wide open. . . . As in Iraq, getting into Vietnam was easier than getting out. The US attempted to impose a viable South Vietnamese government and army capable of defeating the popular resistance of the National Liberation Front. It never succeeded. The Bush administration tried a similar manoeuvre with its appointment last July of the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). Now Paul Bremer, head of the occupyin g administration, has been recalled amid reports that they are seeking alternatives to the IGC. . . . When American soldiers died in Vietnam, the US reacted with various programmes to protect them: saturation bombing, camps called strategic hamlets in which it confined hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese peasants, and the Phoenix Programme, under which the CIA and Special Forces assassinated 30,000 suspected Viet Cong cadres. The CIA chief William Colby called Phoenix the only successful operation of the war. How far is the US willing to go to preserve the notion that it can impose a government acceptable to both itself and the Iraqi people? Will it employ the old techniques, the only ones in its counter-insurgency arsenal, as it suffers more casualties? Old words come howling out of the past: body count, kill ratio, search and destroy, destroying the village to save it and the light at the end of the tunnel. . . . America lost 58,000 dead in Vietnam. It killed two million Vietnamese. It was warned against that war, as it was warned against this one - and often by the military men who did not want their soldiers to risk their lives except in defence of their own country. . . . The last exit strategy in Vietnam was Vietnamisation, training South Vietnamese soldiers to fight South Vietnamese guerrillas. Now the word is Iraqisation and amounts to the same thing. In Vietnam, the US created a state apparatus that was corrupt and a local army that did not want to fight. Both collapsed when America pulled out. In Iraq, the Bush administration promises a different outcome - despite pursuing the same goals with the same methods.
The author was ABC News Chief Mideast correspondent, 1983-1993
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posted by Lorenzo 5:36 PM

Iraq Goes Sour
(New York Times, November 16, 2003)
he American involvement with Iraq appears to have turned a corner. The Bush administration's old game plan — drafting a constitution, followed by elections, followed by American withdrawal — has been replaced by a new timetable. It's a bit cynical to say that the plan is to toss the whole hot potato to whatever Iraqis are willing to grab it. But the White House thinking is veering close. . . . President Bush gambled vast amounts of American money, influence and American and Iraqi lives on the theory that toppling Saddam Hussein would make the world safer and make the Mideast a more stable and democratic region. Obviously, the Iraqi people are better off without a vicious tyrant in power. But if the American forces leave prematurely, the country will wind up vulnerable to another dictator and possibly more of a threat to the world than it was before. Yet the administration is giving the impression of having one foot out the door, while doggedly refusing to take the only realistic next step — asking the United Nations to take over the nation-building. . . . The people who believed that Iraq was armed to the teeth with illegal weapons also based that opinion on simple logic. If Saddam Hussein did not have them, surely he would have cooperated fully with weapons inspectors rather than allow his country to be invaded. The very fact that he never backed down seemed to be proof he had something terrible to hide. But the Bush administration knew that as the countdown to invasion ticked away, Iraq had reached out through middlemen with an offer to allow not just full inspections, but inspections by American troops. It was an offer that might, in the end, have turned out to be meaningless. But the fact that the administration chose not to pursue it is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that the White House regarded the run-up to the war not as a time for trying to avoid conflict, but as a time for public relations moves meant to give the American people the impression that there was no way out. . . . Most experts, in and out of government, believed that the American military could quickly defeat the Iraqis. But there were far fewer who thought that once the Hussein government had been toppled it would be easy to make Iraq secure, get the country back on its feet and establish a democratic successor. The Bush administration had even less reason to make that conclusion, since the State Department's own internal studies, done in preparation for the attack, outlined the obvious pitfalls. Vice President Dick Cheney had listed some of the same perils in 1991 when he defended the decision not to march on to Baghdad during the first gulf war. (American troops, he opined, would find themselves in a "quagmire.") . . . What, then, caused the administration to invade with so little preparation for what would happen after the fighting, and so much confidence that the Iraqis could quickly take the reins of power? Once again, it seems most likely that the Defense Department and the president's security advisers believed the reassurances of Mr. Chalabi and the other Iraqi exiles. The administration seems to have placed its bets on information given by the very people who had the most to gain from the invasion. . . . If the administration winds up turning Iraq over to the council in anything like its current form, it seems wildly unlikely that the next government will be able to survive for any period of time without civil war, or the same kind of brutality that caused the world to recoil from Saddam Hussein. The Middle East would wind up an even less stable place than it is now. The war on terror would be far more difficult to fight. Iraq, which was probably not a major haven for international terrorists before the invasion, could easily turn into one. . . . The only real chance for a peaceful future for Iraq lies in a government made up of representatives of all the critical factions, working together to resolve problems fairly and peacefully. The only way to get leaders with the skills to accomplish that supremely difficult task is to train them. The best training is the very process of writing the constitution that the Bush administration now rejects as too time-consuming. . . . Iraqis are growing weary of American occupation and the White House argues that they will not tolerate the current situation long enough for a constitution to be prepared. That is the precise reason that the job should be turned over to the United Nations. The United Nations has far more international experience, credibility and reputation for neutrality in these matters than the United States does. There is certainly no guarantee it can succeed. There is only the certainty that the Bush administration, which has made all the wrong bets so far, does not have any better options.
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posted by Lorenzo 5:27 PM

Clark: Iraq war used to settle score
(Kevin Landrigan, The Telegraph, November 6, 2003)
The attack against Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism, but was the work of military leaders in the Bush administration with a long score to settle, retired Gen. Wesley Clark charged Wednesday. . . . The Democratic presidential candidate predicted that poor planning and the cost of the Iraq war aftermath would lead to a political realignment, since Americans no longer see Republicans as more trustworthy on national security issues. . . . “The legacy of Vietnam will be put to rest by the legacy of Iraq,” Clark said . . . Rumsfeld wrote a memo five hours after the terrorist attacks that ordered up intelligence on whether it could be used to “hit S.H.,’’ referring to Saddam. . . . “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not,” the memo said, according to those reports.

[COMMENT: Also see Beyond Bush Part II for an interesting take on who might be behind Wesly Clark and others. Nothing we know right now is very straight forward. Think for yourself and question the motives, advisors, and powers behind every candidate.]
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posted by Lorenzo 5:29 PM

U.S. Government Spurned Peace Talks Before the War With Iraq

(Brian Ross and Chris Vlasto, Information Clearing House, November 6, 2003)
A possible negotiated peace deal was laid out in a heavily guarded compound in Baghdad in the days before the war, ABCNEWS has been told, but a top former Pentagon adviser says he was ordered not to pursue the deal . . . Imad Hage, the president of the American Underwriters Group insurance company and known in the region as having contacts at the Pentagon, told ABCNEWS he was first approached by an Iraqi intelligence official who arrived unannounced at his office in Beirut. . . . A week later, according to Hage, he and an associate were asked to come to Baghdad, when Hage says he met with Saddam Hussein's chief of intelligence, Gen. Tahir Habbush, later labeled the Jack of Diamonds in the deck of cards depicting the most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein's regime. Habbush is still at large. . . . "He was conveying a message," said Hage. "He was conveying an offer." Hage said Habbush laid out terms of a negotiated peace during a four-hour session beginning at midnight at a compound in Baghdad. . . . Hage said Habbush repeated public denials by the regime that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but offered to allow several thousand U.S. agents or scientists free rein in the country to carry out inspections. "Based on my meeting with his man," said Hage, "I think an effort was there to avert war. They were prepared to meet with high-ranking U.S. officials." . . . Hage said Habbush also offered U.N.-supervised free elections, oil concessions to U.S. companies and was prepared to turn over a top al Qaeda terrorist, Abdul Rahman Yasin, who Haboush said had been in Iraqi custody since 1994. . . . Yasin remains at large and is now thought to be one of the people behind the recent wave of attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq. . . . According to Pentagon e-mails obtained by ABCNEWS, Hage's report of the Iraqi offer was forwarded to Defense Department officials on Feb. 20, including Jaymie Durnan who, at the time, was the top aide to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. . . . Hage said Perle informed him that Washington had refused to allow him to meet with Habbush to discuss the Iraqi peace offer. "He indicated that the consensus was it was a no-go," said Hage, who has dual American citizenship and is known by many in Lebanon for his ability to work with all groups. . . . Hage, an emerging political leader in Lebanon who is considered pro-United States, said the United States missed a chance to avert war. "It seemed to me there was a genuine offer that was on the table and somebody should have talked, at least talked," Hage said.
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posted by Lorenzo 5:20 PM

NEWSFLASH - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 16 November 2003: Paul Bremer, American-installed ruler of Iraq, has announced his own departure. It was all phrased in convoluted and dupliticous language of course, but the reality is that the Bush Administration is strategically
floundering and what Bremer told U.S. Sunday talk-shows -- "The American occupation is to end by June but the American presence is to continue" -- attempted to mask a major policy change in Washington. . . . Asked specifically for the first time if this meant he would be leaving Iraq definitely by June Bremer responded, in a low-key uncharacteristic way, "yes" . . . . The realities are that Bremer was urgently called back to Washington just a few days ago where he was told he was failing and was going to be out. About the same time a 'top secret' CIA analysis was somehow leaked warning that the US now risked losing in Iraq. Thus the reasons for Washington's abrupt shift are largely political at this point in time. The Bushies want to be sure their man can claim 'progress' in Iraq by next summer before the election no matter what. Bremer was told to go back to Baghdad, to shake-up the American-chosen-installed Governing Council, to change the focus from real elections and a new Constitution to chosen representatives and an 'interim Constitution', and to proclaim a return to 'Iraq sovereignty' sooner rather than later. Oh yes, there is to be a little 'side- agreement', according to Bremer, between the American-chosen-installed Governing Council and the U.S. that American troops (and corporations) will stay. Sovereignty will be proclaimed in words, denied in reality -- the Americans are getting good at this kind of thing with practice now in so many places around the world including Occupied Palestine with all the talk of a 'Palestinian State' that is in reality will certainly not be anything of the sort. Wearing the red-white-and blue -- blue shirt, red and white striped tie -- Bremer was told to rush his announcement by appearing on a number of the network Sunday talk-shows. He was not his usually combative and assertive self. He was doing what he had been told in Washington he must -- announce his own departure no later than next June. But who knows...Washington is indeed strategically floundering and June is a very long time to go with the US troops dying and bleeding at an escalating pace and public awareness growing about how American multi-billions are flowing from Congress to Baghdad and then into the pockets of US corporate titans closely linked to top players in the Bush regime. . . . Meanwhile...the region is being prepared for still greater warfare as the Pentagon/neo-con/Israeli 5-year plan to regime change at least seven countries proceeds (with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia not even on that list). Of course...this all depends on Cheney, Rummie, Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams and their dozens of senior operatives retaining power in the election now less than a year away. Among other things they may be counting on some new 9/11 taking place so they can rally the country behind their crusade one more time come what may.
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posted by Lorenzo 12:02 PM

Bush and Blair agree Iraq exit plan to end occupation
(The Observer, November 16, 2003)
President George Bush and Tony Blair have agreed an exit strategy for pulling out of Iraq, officially ending the occupation next year while committing troops to the region until 2006. . . . the two leaders will make the blueprint the centrepiece of their discussions during Bush's state visit to Britain this week. . . . In a series of coordinated briefings from Washington, London and Baghdad, officials said the Iraqi Governing Council set up by the Americans would see its sovereignty transferred to a transitional government picked by delegates to a national conference. That body would then plan for national elections and the drawing up of a constitution for Iraq. . . . British officials told The Observer that, although the occupation of Iraq would be over next year, it was likely that troops would need to stay, possibly until 2006. 'The whole process will take two to three years, as in Afghanistan,' said a senior Number 10 official closely involved in the Iraq negotiations. . . . 'The first phase is the handing over of power to the transitional government, at which point the occupation ends. This is followed by an electoral process which includes a census and constitutional convention and finally elections to a fully sovereign Iraqi government.' . . . It is the first time Downing Street has spoken of the end of the occupation and marks a significant shift in the 'acceleration' process of handing Iraq back to the Iraqis. Officials in Washington hope that by ending the increasingly unpopular notion of 'occupation' and giving the new government the power to run its own security affairs in a partnership with coalition forces, Iraqis can be persuaded that foreign troops are on their soil to help them. . . . Announcing the new proposal yesterday, the current president of the Governing Council, Jalal Talabani, said: 'The new government will be in charge of negotiating with the occupying forces over how to regulate their presence in the country.' . . . The decision reveals a reversal of Washington's policy since America had originally hoped to have a constitution in place before moving towards national elections. . . . It also reflects the difficulties that the members of the governing council have had in drawing up a constitution, especially over the issue of the role of the clergy in a new democratic Iraq. Talabani stressed at the press conference that the end of the US occupation would not necessarily mean the exit of all American troops. . . . [NOTE: Yesterday's helicopter crashes and the death of a US soldier who was killed by a Baghdad roadside bomb brought US military deaths since the war began in March to 418.]
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posted by Lorenzo 7:38 PM

CIA worried that the war in Iraq might be lost
(Julian Borger and Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 13, 2003)
The White House yesterday drew up emergency plans to accelerate the transfer of power in Iraq after being shown a devastating CIA report warning that the guerrilla war was in danger of escalating out of US control. . . . The report, an "appraisal of situation" commissioned by the CIA director, George Tenet, and written by the CIA station chief in Baghdad, said that the insurgency was gaining ground among the population, and already numbers in the tens of thousands. . . . One military intelligence assessment now estimates the insurgents' strength at 50,000. . . . An intelligence source in Washington familiar with the CIA report described it as a "bleak assessment that the resistance is broad, strong and getting stronger". . . . "It says we are going to lose the situation unless there is a rapid and dramatic change of course," the source said. . . . "There are thousands in the resistance - not just a core of Ba'athists. They are in the thousands, and growing every day. Not all those people are actually firing, but providing support, shelter and all that." . . . Although, the report was an internal CIA document it was widely circulated within the administration. Even more unusually, it carried an endorsement by Paul Bremer, the civilian head of the US-run occupation of Iraq - a possible sign that he was seeking to bypass his superiors in the Pentagon and send a message directly to President George Bush on how bad the situation has become. . . . It is understood that Mr Bremer's administration is concerned about the impact of the decision by US forces to escalate their offensive against the insurgents, anxious that bombing and heavy-handed raids will increase popular support for the insurgency.
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posted by Lorenzo 4:23 PM

US death toll in Iraq starts to make mark on history
(The Cape Argus, November 14, 2003)
The American death toll in Iraq has surpassed the number of US soldiers killed during the first three years of the Vietnam War. . . . A Reuters analysis of US defense Department statistics showed that the Vietnam War, which the army says officially began on December 11, 1961, produced 392 fatal casualties from 1962 to the end of 1964, when US troop levels in Indochina stood at just over 17 000. . . . By comparison, a roadside bomb attack that killed a soldier in Baghdad on Wednesday brought to 397 the tally of US dead in Iraq, where US forces number about 130 000 troops - the same number reached in Vietnam by October 1965. . . . The casualty count for Iraq apparently surpassed the Vietnam figure last Sunday, when a US soldier killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack south of Baghdad became the 393rd American casualty since Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 20. . . . But not until September 1965, after congress had approved the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, did Washington begin its huge escalation of the war effort. Casualties in Vietnam soared to 1 926 in 1965 and peaked at 16 869 in 1968, the year of the Tet offensive. . . . More than 58 000 US military personnel died in Vietnam before the war ended. - Reuters

[COMMENT: I wonder how many young American women and men will be slaughtered in Iraq before we call an end to Bush's War? What is the number of deaths we must reach before the US public says "ENOUGH!" ? It seems certain that the toll will reach 500 quite soon. So is the magic number 1,000, 5,000, or must we reach 50,000 US deaths before the Bush gang is driven out of Washington? Are you willing to sacrifice your life, or the lives of your children and grandchildren, just to satisfy the Cheney-Bush-Rumsfeld-Powell-Rice lust for oil and power? My guess is that those who are blindly supporting Bush's War are only willing to sacrifice the lives of poor people who can find no other job than that of mercenary for the oil companies.]
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posted by Lorenzo 10:55 AM

Defense Department Deletes Notice About Draft Boards
The Memoryhole

>>> On 23 Sept 2003, the Defense Department Website called "Defend America" posted a notice for people to join local draft boards. "If a military draft becomes necessary," the notice explained, "approximately 2,000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines."

In early November, that notice started to receive media attention, with articles from the Associated Press, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer , the Oregonian, the Toronto Star, the BBC, and London Guardian (unsurprisingly, none of the major papers or networks in the US covered it).

In a familiar turn of events, the notice suddenly disappeared from the Website.

******Gotta protect that fragile American psyche from the ravages of the reality of a policy of Imperialism. Don't want them to realize that in order to continue providing young men and women for the Iraqi Proconsul to turn into "heroes" (whom Bush wants to keep their final return to the Homeland kept out of the news), they are going to have to resort to conscription (oooh, another bad word), especially after some enterprising journalist took a survey of the troops currently in the TOO and determined that about 50% of the troops would not re-enlist. But that's just this old curmudgeon's opinion******

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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 6:28 PM

GI Kills Head of Council in Baghdad Slum

By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
BAGHDAD, Nov. 10 -- The U.S. military and residents of Baghdad's largest neighborhood differ on the circumstances of Muhannad Kaabi's death. Did he reach for a gun? Did he try to wrestle a U.S. soldier to the ground? Was he killed in cold blood? They do, however, agree on the aftermath, another potential setback in U.S. efforts to court support among the crucial constituency of Sadr City. After a shouting match and fight that lasted a few minutes Sunday, a soldier shot Kaabi, the man leading the U.S.-supervised council that runs the slum, which is home to as many as 2 million people. His death left supporters of U.S. efforts grasping for explanations and handed detractors new evidence that tranquility under the occupation is impossible. "Why would they use force against him?" asked Thamer Hamad, 30, a neighbor who joined the funeral procession Monday that escorted Kaabi's flag-draped coffin from his home. "He was the representative of this city and people trusted him."

The U.S. military, without referring to Kaabi by name, said in a statement that soldiers blocked the vehicle from entering the gate... Kaabi got out and argued with the soldiers, it said. He then got back in the car and attempted to drive through the barricade. The statement said a soldier fired a warning shot, and Kaabi got out again, and fought with the soldier and grabbed at his weapon. At that point, the statement said, another soldier fired two more warning shots. "The driver continued to fight and wrestled the soldier to the ground while attempting to pull the weapon away from the soldier," the statement said. "The other soldier shot the driver in the upper leg."

Iraqi guards who patrol the entrance with U.S. forces denied that Kaabi reached for the soldier's gun or tackled him. Several guards who said they witnessed the incident said Kaabi -- known even to them for his temper -- yelled in English at the soldiers as they tried to search his car. One of the soldiers bumped him with his chest, then pushed him and a shoving match ensued. The fight lasted a couple of minutes, the guards said, and another soldier fired a warning shot into the air. Seconds later, they said, the same soldier fired another shot that struck the slightly built Kaabi, who died a few hours later at a military hospital. "They fired the second bullet deliberately, 100 percent," said Jassem Kadhim Abboud, 40, a city hall employee, who said he witnessed the incident. "It was killing for the sake of killing. It was not self-defense."

While U.S. officials insisted the shooting of Kaabi remained under investigation, they clearly worried Monday about the fallout. "We're concerned about how the good people of Iraq view this. We're concerned about how people might turn this in ways that should not be done," said Col. William Bishop, a civil affairs officer who works with the 41-member council in Sadr City and eight others in Baghdad. "It's a sad event and a good man died, and I'm still not sure exactly what happened." About 200 people poured into the street outside Kaabi's house, within walking distance of the U.S. military base in the area. Women beat their chests in traditional mourning. Men carried the coffin, draped in an Iraqi flag, and shouted, "There is no god but God." Along the procession, residents held up banners denouncing "the criminal act which the infidel Americans committed." Other banners declared Kaabi a martyr and labeled his killing an assassination. "It's so strange. Why would they do something like this?" asked Salim Jabbar, a relative of Kaabi's. "This is the policy of occupation. They don't respect people. They respect only those who serve their interests." Outside Kaabi's house, some relatives traded conspiracy theories, wild speculation that is familiar in Baghdad. He was honest and incorruptible, they said. Perhaps he was not heeding the wishes of the U.S. administration, so he was killed. "This is what we think," said Sawali Kaabi, another relative. "It was deliberate."
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 6:00 PM

Government To Call More Troops One Week After Bush Says They're Not Needed
President Bush indicated just last week that additional U.S. troops would not be needed in Iraq, saying, "General Abizaid makes the decision as to whether or not he needs more troops... And he told me he does [have enough troops]." But Thursday, the Pentagon announced plans to temporarily increase troop levels by as many as 50,000 in Iraq . . . Today's announcement included the news that 20,000 Marines will help fill the gap of departing Army troops, a step not taken since the Vietnam War. Senator John McCain said of the current administration strategy, "There does not appear to be a strategy behind our current force levels in Iraq other than to preserve the illusion that we have sufficient force levels in place to meet our objectives." . . . The announcement came as the Iraqi Governing Council formally rejected the possibility that Turkey might deploy 10,000 Turkish troops in Iraq, which the Bush administration had hoped could bring relief to U.S. troops. . . . In addition to the latest news on troop movements, the Pentagon has been moving in the past several weeks to fill the 16 percent of vacancies on local draft boards. The government last sought to fill all draft board positions in 1981 at a critical moment in the Cold War, shortly after Ronald Reagan took office. Secretary Rumsfeld dismissed the idea of reinstating the draft earlier this year, saying, "We're not going to reimplement a draft. There is no need for it at all." . . . The draft has not been used since 1973, as the Vietnam War was winding down.
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posted by Lorenzo 12:17 PM


Click to see more pictures of US Troops Brutalizing Iraqi Civilians
These photographs are truly disturbing. It is no wonder that the people of Iraq hate the American occupiers. The behavior of the US Army now seems indistinguishable from that of their Israeli masters. The people of Palestine are terrorized by the Israelis and the people of Iraq are terrorized by the Americans. . . . Madness, utter madness.
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posted by Lorenzo 5:32 PM

US Detains Relatives of Suspects in Iraq Attacks
60-year-old Aufa Towqan awoke at 3 a.m. on a cool Saturday. Her husband was away, working as a night watchman. Her daughter-in-law and mother-in-law were still in bed. The house cloaked in darkness, she bowed her head in prayer, as was her custom on a restless night. And moments after she whispered the first ritual words of faith, she said, U.S. soldiers charged through her battered front door. . . . "They were pointing their guns and yelling at us in English," she said, "and I didn't understand them." . . . The soldiers were seeking her fugitive son, Thamer, 31, whom she said she has not seen in four months. They detained her, another son and the other women instead -- one of them, by villagers' accounts, well over 100 years old. She said brown burlap bags were placed over their heads. Terrified and crying, they were driven in Humvees to the nearby U.S. base at Habbaniya. . . . Standing outside her home Wednesday, her hair covered by a black veil and her weathered face adorned with the green tattoos of rural Iraq, Towqan groped for the right words to denounce the five-day detentions, which ignited protests last month in Khaldiya. She found them in the religion that infuses this Sunni Muslim region west of Baghdad. . . . "God does not accept this," she said simply. . . . occurrences have unleashed more anger and etched deeper the cultural divide than several recent arrests of wanted men's relatives -- particularly women -- in Khaldiya and nearby hamlets in the Euphrates River valley. Some villagers insist the relatives have been taken as hostages to force fugitives to turn themselves in . . . Head of the Albu Fahd, a tribe that he says has 100,000 men, Mukhlif insists there are two red lines in the tribal code that have been infused with new vigor since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government: killing an innocent person or mistreating someone's family. "You cannot let either of these pass without a response," said Mukhlif, who speaks with the slow cadence of authority. "You have to take revenge." . . . "I told them they were creating enemies for themselves," the sheik said. "If they don't exist already, you'll make them exist now. They can try to get closer and closer to the people, but these actions wipe everything out." . . . Stories build on themselves, and even rumors -- of soldiers breaking down doors, stealing gold and money -- stand as undisputed truths. . . . Running deep in conversations among local people is the fear that U.S. forces are determined to reshape Iraqis' identity. . . . "In Saddam's time, when he repressed us, he put a gun to our head and fired a bullet. Now, [U.S. soldiers] put us on the ground and step on our head," Ali said. "Would you accept that? It's more dignified to put a bullet in my head." . . . A protest involving about 100 people erupted on the fourth day after the women's arrest. The next day, led by a convoy of dozens of motorcycles flying Iraqi flags, hundreds marched to the U.S. base in Habbaniya. Banners read, "Our religion rejects the arrest of women." . . . As helicopters flew overhead, the crowd chanted: "There is no god but God. America is the enemy of God." Iraqi police, responsible for security along the route, themselves shouted slogans demanding the women's release, witnesses said. . . . On Wednesday morning, Towqan sat outside her house. Her three grandchildren played in the yard. No admirer of Hussein, she was even less approving of U.S. forces. Her perspective was shaped by religion, framed in absolutes that leave little room for gray. . . . "Wild animals are better than the Americans," she said. "They're trying to destroy Islam. They don't like Muslims. They want us to be infidels like them. But we have God, and God is stronger than them. He will rid us of these people."
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posted by Lorenzo 9:38 AM

A First Hand Report of Wounded US Troops in Walter Reed Medical Center
It started as just another C-SPAN call-in show bright and early on October 27. Then moderator Peter Slen punched up a call from south Florida. Here's an edited transcript: I had the occasion the other day to spend the entire day with troops that had come back from Iraq and had been wounded and—I also visited troops during the Vietnam era, but the thing that I was most shocked by, as I walked into the hospital, the first person I ran into was a boy about 19 or 20 years old who'd lost both of his arms. And when I walked into the hospital and visited all these boys all day long—everyone had lost either one arm, one limb, or two limbs . . . and there were a lot of legs that seemed to be missing. A couple of the boys told me it was because the rockets pierce their vehicles so much, it's like being kind of in a tin can. Three guys in the same vehicle have lost a leg. Another thing that I saw was that if they'd lost one leg, that the shrapnel that had hit the other leg had been so devastating that they were having to pull, like, the thigh—you know, the muscle and the thigh—around the bottom of the calf to try to make the leg workable. But in some cases these boys had lost one leg and the other leg was so damaged that they weren't sure what they were gonna be able to do.

they were great guys. . . . They had the most unbelievable courage. It took everything that I have as a person to—to not, you know, break down while I was talking to these guys. But I just think that if there was no reason for this war, this was the most heinous thing I'd ever seen. And also I wonder why are none of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the president—why aren't they taking pictures with all these guys? Because I don't understand why these guys are so hidden and why there aren't pictures of them, because you know, talking about the dead and the wounded, that's two different things, but these wounded are so devastatingly wounded. It's unbelievable. It's just unbelievable to me. You know, if you're going to send these people to war, then don't hide them. Have some news coverage where people are sitting and talking to these guys and seeing how they are and seeing their spirit. It's just—I think it's a crime.

[NOTE: The person calling in to CSPAN to tell this story was Cher.]
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posted by Lorenzo 9:06 AM

Some thoughts about US casualties in Iraq by Michael Moore
So what do you tell his parents, hmm? What did he die for? To protect America? No. So what's the reason? What would Haliburton (the US oil giant formerly run by Vice-President Dick Cheney and now helping to rebuild Iraq) say if they knocked at the door? 'Sorry your son died, but I think we're going to get that oil as a result of it. So hey, come on, cheer up. At least Arnie can fill up his Hummer now.'

It's so disgraceful and so disgusting.

--Michael Moore
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posted by Lorenzo 10:55 AM

Pentagon Disgraces US Troops and Manages War Coverage By Limiting Coffin Pictures
(Helen Thomas, The Boston Channel, October 29, 2003)
One of the lessons the U.S. government apparently learned from the Vietnam War is this: Don't let the American public see coffins arriving home with U.S. casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . Coffin images during the Vietnam era -- along with photos and video of body bags in the field and military officials talking constantly about "body counts" -- had a tremendous impact in prompting antiwar sentiment at home. . . . In a move by the Bush administration to suppress distressing images of war, the Defense Department issued a directive last March on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq that declared: "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein (Germany) airbase or Dover (Del.) base, (and) to include interim stops." . . . Under the Pentagon clamp down, American fatalities will be reduced to statistics and the public will see little of the human side of the war. . . . President Bush has not attended any memorials or funerals for the Iraqi war dead . . . I can understand why the White House and the Pentagon want to shut down coffin coverage on the nightly news. . . . The photos would be disturbing to anyone and -- if the war goes on much longer -- politically damaging to the president. But the families of the fallen Americans should not have to grieve alone. We can only share by knowing.
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posted by Lorenzo 6:36 AM

Burying the hatchet: US, Israel see Sunni-Shiite alliance emerging
(The Daily Star, 1 November 2003)
For years, the idea of an Islamic alliance between Sunni and Shiite extremists has been a nightmare scenario for Western intelligence agencies, their allies in the Muslim world and Israel. . . . Ever since the 1980s, there have been indications that hard-liners from both sects have been setting aside the theological differences that have kept them apart from 14 centuries and possibly even cooperating now and then on particular operations in which the interests of all concerned are advanced. . . . But no formalized hard-and-fast alliance between Shiite and Sunni hard-liners, dedicated to attacking the West and its Arab friends, ever seemed to emerge. By some accounts, that may be changing, largely as a consequence of Sept. 11, 2001, and the US response to that unprecedented terrorist attack on its soil. . . . The issue is clouded by intrigue and political agendas, propaganda from all sides, Iran, Israel, the US and elsewhere. But there seems little doubt that US President George W. Bush’s “war against terrorism” is increasingly perceived in the Muslim world as a new Judeo-Christian crusade against Islam and its people. The conquest and occupation of Iraq has radicalized the Muslim world to an unprecedented degree. . . . It is difficult to verify these claims, but it is clear that Sunni and Shiite militants are increasingly finding common cause against the US and its principal Middle Eastern ally, Israel. While there are deep differences between the two Muslim sects, which have flared into violence, as in Pakistan today, the perceived threat to Islam from the US since Sept. 11, has eroded those differences. . . . “Recent history has demonstrated that there are few religious-ideological barriers in the world of international terrorism,” according to a recent paper by Israel’s Institute for Contemporary Affairs. “It would be a mistake to assume that Islamist international terror groups are driven primarily by the religious associations with radical Sunni or radical Shiite Islam. These groups have their own geopolitical interests in bridging this great Islamic divide ­ particularly their antipathy for the US and it’s allies.” . . . The Shiite hard-liners may well have made an alliance of convenience with the Sunnis of Al-Qaeda to combat US forces now installed, far too close for comfort, in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . It is ironic that the US invasion of Iraq may be the instrument that pushes Sunni and Shiite together. An emerging alliance of Shiites and Sunnis in postwar Iraq may be the path to stability and the answer to the Americans’ inept efforts to end the chaos they engendered when they deposed Saddam’s brutal regime. Despite the escalating guerrilla war against the Americans, so far, at least, there has been no manifestation of the bloodbath between the long-repressed Shiites, who comprise some 60 percent of Iraq’s 24 million population, and the minority Sunnis who dominated Saddam’s regime that many had feared would happen once the war ended. . . . Indeed, two key leaders of the rival sects, the firebrand Shiite preacher Muqtada al-Sadr and the charismatic Ahmed Kubeisi of the Sunnis, have come together to oppose the US occupation and both command considerable grassroots support from their coreligionists. Both have preached unity among Sunnis and Shiites and both have run afoul of the Americans, who view the alliance between the two clerics with considerable concern and dismay and have blocked both from sitting on the US-appointed 25-member Governing Council of Iraq. . . . Many Muslims are convinced that pro-Western Arab regimes, particularly the rulers of Saudi Arabia, have also done much to maintain the religious schism for political purposes, largely by financing militant Sunni factions in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere over the years. . . . “It is this unholy alliance of secular Arab nationalism of Saddam’s Iraq, the Wahhabi Islamic fundamentalism of Saudi Arabia and Western imperialism with its massive media resources that has created the present perception of a vast Shiite-Sunni divide,” according to Islamic analyst Sultan Shahin. . . . “The fact that the widely predicted Shiite backlash against the decades-long Sunni domination of Iraq has not materialized may mean that the imperialist project of divide and rule has not succeed in that country, at least so far,” he wrote recently. “Now it is for the Shiites and Sunnis in other parts of world to build on the Iraqi example and seek to bridge the gulf separating the two sects promote harmony and peace undeterred by the bigotry of extremists and the machinations of imperialist powers.”
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posted by Lorenzo 6:21 AM

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