A bomb in Hilla, Iraq, kills more than 100 people. The message: don't work with Americans. With nearly 1,500 U.S. servicemen dead in a war that is being fought for reasons that are at best unclear, the U.S. military is also feeling the strain of dangerously declining enlistment. Worse, may be the corruption of American values and efforts to circumvent the law.
TARGETING THE IRAQIS WHO COOPERATE
In the deadliest incident since the end of the war, the bomber drove into people queuing outside a medical clinic in Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad...Dozens of bodies lay on the ground after the blast and passers-by helped pile body parts into blankets. Piles of shoes and tattered clothes were thrown into a corner. Many of those killed had been shopping at stalls across the road from the clinic. Pools of blood could be seen on the street, and scorch marks infused with blood covered the walls of a nearby building...Angry crowds gathered chanting "Allah Akbar" (God is great) and demanded to know the fate of their relatives..."I was lined up near the medical centre, waiting for my turn for the medical exam in order to apply for work in the police," Abdullah Salih, 22, said. "Suddenly I heard a very big explosion. I was thrown several metres away and I had burns in my legs and hands, then I was taken to the hospital." ( James Sturcke, The Guardian, February 28, 2005)
-The U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute on the Strategic Implications of Intercommunal Warfare in Iraq
"In the post-Saddam era, differences among Iraqi ethnic and religious groups will either emerge as a barrier to political cooperation and national unity, or they will instead be mitigated as part of the struggle to define a new and more inclusive system of government. Should Iraqi ethnic and sectarian differences become unmanageable, a violent struggle for political power may ensue..." (Dr. W. Andrew Terrill, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, February 2005)
General John Abizaid on Iraq and where Al Qaeda Stands now...
Abizaid intended his interview with Jim Lehrer on the News Hour to be part pep rally for the U.S. effort in Iraq, but he makes two significant admissions. The first is that the U.S. has no way of stopping terrorist attacks such as the bomb that hit Hilla. The second is that although Al Qaeda may well be under pressure, it takes hardly any resources to carry out lethal attacks. (General John Abizaid, The Jim Lehrer News Hour, March 1, 2005)
THE SOLDIER'S HEART
The U.S. casualties in Iraq now stand at nearly 1,500 dead and another 11,000 U.S. servicemen and women who have been wounded. That does not count the psychological damage and post traumatic stress that many will experience after returning home. Having taught them to kill, the Pentagon has not really explained how it will reintegrate them into normal life. PBS' Frontline looks at the problem, with background material on its website and the entire documentary in streaming video(after Friday). Frontline's A Company of Soldiers is also viewable online. (PBS Frontline, March 1, 2005)
LEBANON'S CABINET RESIGNS AS SYRIA FEELS THE PRESSURE
Outrage at the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, combined with U.S. pressure on Syria has given the Lebanese opposition enough support to finally call openly for Syrian occupation troops to leave Lebanon. After 10,000 protesters defied a government ban to demand a Syrian withdrawal, Lebanon's pro-Syrian cabinet, headed by prime minister, Omar Karami, resigned, leaving President Lahoud to face his angry populace alone. Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief for the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar and Augustus Richard Norton, professor of international relations at Boston University, discuss the ramifications on Jim Lehrer's News Hour, (February 28, 2005)
-Beirut Daily Star reports on two weeks of chaos...
-JIHADIST WEBISTES WERE AS MYSTIFIED BY HARIRI'S ASSASSINATION AS THE WESTERN PRESS
(Jamestown Foundation, Feb. 22, 2005)
-Patrick Seale-Syria was fragile before the Lebanon crisis; what comes next? (Dar al-Hayat, March 1, 2005)
-Syria feels the pressure--The Economist
JUAN COLE PROVIDES A CRASH COURSE ON LEBANESE HISTORY
Juan Cole points out that "on the broad plains of Syria, governments could encourage conversion to Islam, then to Shiism, then to Sunnism, and most of the population went along. In the mountains near the coast, the population stuck to its guns. Thus, the Maronite Christians resisted conversion to Islam, as did many Eastern Orthodox Christians. The success the Ismaili government of medieval Egypt had in converting Muslims to Shiite Islam was long-lived, though most of these Shiites went over to the rival "Twelver" branch of Shiism that is now practiced in Iraq and Iran. Likewise, Egyptian Ismailism spun off an esoteric sect, the Druze, who survive in the Shouf Mountains and elsewhere in Lebanon..." (Juan Cole, Informed Comment, March 1, 2005)
THE MOTE IN THE OTHER EYE
The U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights is predictably critical of abuses in Saudi Arabia and Syria. What is absent is any mention of recent U.S. abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo. More to the point, the report fails to deal with recent reports alleging that the CIA and the Pentagon have been engaging in "rendition," delivering U.S. prisoners to Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where they can be tortured without the administration having to admit responsibility (See Jane Mayer's report on Outsourcing Torture in the New Yorker). The Washington Post and the BBC remark on the omission. (Washington Post, February 28, 2005)
--BBC on the report
--Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Paula J. Dobrianski presents the report
--The Country Report on Human Rights Practices
--ACLU's index to official U.S. documents on torture and abuse
--Human Rights Watch on Alberto Gonzales' argument that nothing in the law legally prevents the CIA from torturing foreigners
--HRW on "rendition"-- outsourcing torture
FINDLAW'S JOANNE MARINER ON PRESIDENTIAL POWER VERSUS THE CONSTITUTION, SEPARATION OF POWERS AND PROTECTION OF THE AMERICAN CITZEN
Jose Padilla, an American citizen, may have wanted to cause serious physical damage to the United States. The public doesn't know, because the Bush administration imprisoned Mr. Padilla for nearly three years, without bothering to build a case that might stand up in court. Mr. Padilla wasn't quite "disappeared" in the style of Latin American dictatorships, but he was getting close. Joanne Mariner explores the recent court decision ordering the Bush administration to get its act together or to set Mr. Padilla free. (Joanne Mariner, Findlaw.com, March 3, 2005)
CIA GETTING NERVOUS ABOUT PROSECUTION
The Attorney General has made it clear that as far as he is concerned, whatever the president says goes, but Republicans may not be in power for ever. CIA career officers are increasingly concerned about who will be left holding the bag for the "abuses" at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the "renditions" to Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Douglas Jehl and David Johnston comment on the growing atmosphere of nervousness at the CIA The New York Times, (February 27, 2005)
-Bob Herbert: Don't fool yourself. Torture is torture.
-ACLU sues Rumsfeld over torture
ACLU and Human Rights First charge that the Secretary of Defense ordered and signed off on interrogation techniques that violate U.S. law. (March 2, 2005)
WHAT COMES AFTER THE GAZA PULLOUT?
Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza will represent the first time that Israel has evacuated settlements established in the occupied Palestinian territories. The unilateral nature of Sharon's initiative -- Israel is prepared to coordinate its implementation with the Palestinians, not to negotiate its parameters -- also signals a radical departure from the bilateral mode of Israeli-Palestinian interaction...Some see a shrewd and so far successful attempt to unburden Israel of the Gaza Strip in order to consolidate its hold over East Jerusalem and much of the West Bank with Washington's blessing. Others perceive a fundamental strategic transformation on the Prime Minister's part that ultimately may lead to a viable two-state solution. Most interpretations fall somewhere in between, and a not insignificant number are convinced that Sharon has launched a process whose endpoint even he does not know and, no less importantly, may not be able to control.
(International Crisis Group, March 1, 2005)
BARRACKS AND BROTHELS
An unintended consequence of peace keeping operations in the Balkans has been a sudden surge in human trafficking to satisfy the peacekeepers demands for prostitutes. The Center for Strategic and International Studies has just published a comprehensive survey of the problem. (CSIS, February 2005)
IN CENTRAL ASIA, COTTON GOES WITH REPRESSION
The cotton industry in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan contributes to political repression, economic stagnation, widespread poverty and environmental degradation. Without structural reform in the industry, it will be extremely difficult to improve economic development, tackle poverty and social deprivation, and promote political liberalization in the region. (ICG, February 28, 2005)
IRAN TRIED TO OBTAIN NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN THE 1980s.
International investigators have uncovered evidence of a secret meeting 18 years ago between Iranian officials and associates of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan that resulted in a written offer to supply Tehran with the makings of a nuclear weapons program (Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, February 27, 2005)
LASERS NEXT PROLIFERATION DANGER?
In November 2004, the environmental group Greenpeace accused the Australian government of condoning nuclear proliferation by supporting the work of a laser uranium enrichment company named Silex Systems Limited. "If any other country, be it Iran, Syria, or Iraq was involved in this research it would be taken as a sign of a covert weapons program," a Greenpeace spokesperson told reporters.
Nations have been developing laser isotope separation methods to enrich uranium for years, but most have yet to convert research into commercial success or have abandoned laser enrichment altogether. The recent accusations and the diffusion of laser enrichment technologies and know-how as part of peaceful nuclear programs nonetheless again raise the question: How much of a proliferation risk does laser isotope separation present? (Jack Boureston and Charles D. Ferguson, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February-March 2005)
Crisis in Journalism? Citizen Kane examined the excesses of a publisher who had lost his way.
LAURIE GARRETT'S FAREWELL TO NEWSDAY
Thomas Jefferson reminded us that "the basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
Brave words, but publishers with an eye on the bottom line, have always had trouble believing it. Pulitzer Prize-winner Laurie Garrett's decision to leave Newsday is symptomatic of a malaise that extends beyond that newspaper. Garrett explained her decision in a memo to Romanesko's media blog: "All across America," she writes, "news organizations have been devoured by massive corporations, and allegiance to stockholders, the drive for higher share prices, and push for larger dividend returns trumps everything that the grunts in the newsrooms consider their missions. Long gone are the days of fast-talking, whiskey-swilling Murray Kempton peers eloquently filling columns with daily dish on government scandals, mobsters and police corruption. The sort of in-your-face challenge that the Fourth Estate once posed for politicians has been replaced by mud-slinging, lies and, where it ought not be, timidity. When I started out in journalism the newsrooms were still full of old guys with blue collar backgrounds who got genuinely indignant when the Governor lied or somebody turned off the heat on a poor person's apartment in mid-January. They cussed and yelled their ways through the day, took an occasional sly snort from a bottle in the bottom drawer of their desk and bit into news stories like packs of wild dogs, never letting go until they'd found and told the truth. If they hadn't been reporters most of those guys would have been cops or firefighters. It was just that way.
Now the blue collar has been fully replaced by white ones in America's newsrooms, everybody has college degrees. The "His Girl Friday" romance of the newshound is gone. All too many journalists seem to mistake scandal mongering for tenacious investigation, and far too many aspire to make themselves the story. When I think back to the old fellows who were retiring when I first arrived at Newsday – guys (almost all of them were guys) who had cop brothers and fathers working union jobs – I suspect most of them would be disgusted by what passes today for journalism. Theirs was not a perfect world --- too white, too male, seen through a haze of cigarette smoke and Scotch – but it was an honest one rooted in mid-20th Century American working class values.
"Honesty and tenacity (and for that matter, the working class) seem to have taken backseats to the sort of "snappy news", sensationalism, scandal-for-the-sake of scandal crap that sells. This is not a uniquely Tribune or even newspaper industry problem: this is true from the Atlanta mixing rooms of CNN to Sulzberger's offices in Times Square. Profits: that's what it's all about now. But you just can't realize annual profit returns of more than 30 percent by methodically laying out the truth in a dignified, accessible manner. And it's damned tough to find that truth every day with a mere skeleton crew of reporters and editors..." The memo continues, and is worth reading (Laurie Garrett, a memo to Romanesko, February 28, 2005)(click here)
THE BBC DUMBS DOWN AS WELL?
The Spectator notes:It is 7 a.m. and across Britain sober citizens awake to switch on the BBC Radio Four news. They expect perhaps to hear about Iraqis killing Iraqis, about some hope in Palestine or Gordon Brown’s latest boasts on the economy. Instead, at the top of the bulletin they learn what the BBC judges the most important news of the day. With all solemnity it announces that the Duchess of York has voiced support for Prince Harry in the argument about a swastika at a fancy dress party. How low can the BBC sink in obeisance to the triviality of the popular press? No one should blame the Duchess, who needs all the headlines she can get. But the BBC is a public-sector body, at present arguing its portentous case for continuing the licence fee. That day it led with a story of supreme triviality simply because the press were running it hard...There is nothing new about the triviality of the tabloids. What is growing fast is the link between that triviality and power. That power is exercised over the BBC, over what used to be called the quality press and, most dangerously, over the politicians whose laws shape our lives. We are becoming a nation of strong journalists and weak politicians...In its triviality, the press supposes that we cannot absorb sustained argument. It prefers to deal in symbols. These are selected to stimulate one of the three qualities which the press particularly favours in its readers — brutality (including envy and blame), fear and sentimentality. These qualities seem to be particularly highly regarded in the Daily Mail...."
(Douglas Hurd, The Spectator, February 28, 2005)
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