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Protesters in New York carry 1,000 flag-draped coffins to symbolize American soldiers who have died in Iraq
PROTESTS UNITED BY A SINGLE GOAL
Republican strategists may have hoped that rowdy demonstrations in New York would win support for President Bush in the conservative heartland. As it turned out, Sunday's demonstrations were not violent, but they were huge. The BBC's Kevin Anderson reports that the one unifying objective was to vote Bush out of office. Bush plans to stay in New York only the few hours it will take to accept the Republican nomination. (Kevin Anderson, BBC, August 29, 2004)
The FBI investigation now focusing on a Pentagon official, suspected of passing classified information to Israel, could have far reaching implications. According to the New York Times and the Washington Post, Larry Franklin is an expert on Iran in the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, who helped create the Office for Special Plans, which bypassed normal intelligence channels in order to make the case for war with Iraq. Feith is one of six authors of a 1996 policy paper, which sought to convince Israel to abandon the Oslo peace process and to use its superior force to knock the Palestinians into line. Feith was also a strong supporter of Ahmed Chalabi, who was later suspected of passing classified material to Iranian intelligence. According to Karen Kwiatkowski, a former lieutenant-colonel in Air Force intelligence, Feith was regularly visited by senior Israeli officers who bypassed normal Pentagon security procedures. The investigation is looking into reports that a policy paper recommending a U.S. strategy for Iran was given to Israel through a contact at AIPAC, Israel's principal lobby in Washington. The concern is that Israel, which is deeply concerned about Iran's nuclear program, might be using inside information to influence U.S. policy decisions before they have been finalized. Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen and Paul Glastris provide background in the Washington Monthly to what they suggest may have been a rogue operation gone wrong. (Washington Monthly, September 2004)
•Juan Cole provides additional insight with information about Niger, and the involvement of Italy's right-leaning intelligence organization. (August 30, 2004)
•Report in the New York Times The FBI in contact with Franklin. (August 30, 2004)
•Background in the Los Angeles Times "From what I have seen," says an official. "The guy is not a spy. He is an idiot."
•Knight Ridder's Warren P. Strobel reports that the probe goes further than Franklin, and is looking into the Chalabi connection as well...
•Policy paper co-authored by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and others for the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in 1996 advising Israel to drop Oslo Peace process.
•Karen Kwiatkowski's account of the Office of Special Plans and Douglas Feith's role in intelligence on Iraq...
•The Arab American Institute's James Zogby on Feith's connections
•Zogby's further questions on Feith's role as a lobbyist for Turkey
WITH ENOUGH SABRE RATTLING IN WASHINGTON, IRAN PONDERS A PREEMPTIVE STRIKE OF ITS OWN
Martin Sieff, writing in In The National Interest, notes that Bush administration hardliners have been sending so many warning signals to Iran lately, that the Iranians have started talking about a preemptive strike of their own. (Iran's modified Shahib-3 missiles are now capable of reaching Israel, as well as U.S. bases in the Gulf and Iraq). Martin Sieff, In The National Interest, August 29, 2004)
ASSESSING THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION AFTER 25 YEARS
Iran's unusual experiment in theocratic government has turned out to be far more durable than skeptics anticipated. Iran is far from being an open democracy, but it is not like other dictatorial regimes in the Middle East either. Last February a number leading scholars took stock during a round table discussion for GLORIA (Global Research in International Affairs) and the U.S. State Department. The scholars include Barry Rubin, Stephen Fairbanks, Suzanne Maloney, Soli Shahvar, Daniel Tsadik, Abbas William Samii, Menashe Amir and Tom King. The transcript is in the summer issue of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. (MERI, summer 2004)
INTELLIGENCE LESSONS FROM THE IRAQ CRISIS
Although the U.S. defeated Saddam easily in Iraq, the U.S. military is now finding itself facing a growing number of "no-go" zones in Iraq. U.S. troops can no longer safely enter Fallujah; they have been excluded from Najaf and they are unable to function safely in other cities as well. Losses will soon pass 1,000 U.S. troops killed in action, and several thousand wounded. The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Anthony Cordesman suggests that far from being a discrete event, Iraq may be ushering in a new era of continuing conflict similar to the seemingly endless struggle of the cold war. To win, U.S. policy planners will have to forego arrogance and an ethnocentric world view, and will have to rely more heavily on diplomacy and strategic alliances. That will mean upgrading and expanding America's human intelligence capabilities. (Anthony Cordesman, CSIS, August 2004)
AN INDIFFERENCE TO TERRORISM?
The Carnegie Endowment's Anatol Lieven notes that a rash of new books reveal a conceptual inability of the Bush administration to deal with stateless terrorism. The reason: the administration's strategists were so deeply influenced by their youthful experience in the cold war, that they are no longer capable of seeing defense strategy in any other terms. As a result, George W. Bush was able to concentrate on actually fighting terrorism for a total of only 72 days after the World Trade Center bombing. A month and a half later, he began preparing for war with Iraq, the cold war felt far more comfortable than dealing with a new, elusive and unpredictable enemy like Al Qaeda. (Anatol Lieven, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 2004)
WHY DID THE U.S. PRESS MISS THE STORY ON THE IRAQ WAR?
A panel discussion , hosted by the Columbia Journalism Review, asks why the press failed to ask harder hitting questions in the lead up to war with Iraq. The answer seems to be that if you depend on access to politicians for news and you like your job, it makes sense to tread cautiously. James Fallows, Michael Massing, Paul Krugman, Tunku Varadarajan, Brooke Gladstone and Nicholas Lemann analyze what happened. •The discussion is available in streaming audio only...
THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: STILL REDEFINING TORTURE
Noah Leavitt observes in FindLaw that John Ashcroft's Justice Department uses different definitions of torture, depending on whether the term refers to activities carried out by Americans against foreigners, or the threat of torture is being used by a refugee seeking political asylum in the U.S. Leavitt suggests that it may be time for Congress to deliver a clearer and more consistent definition of what torture really is. (Noah Leavitt, FindLaw, August 29, 2004)
PREEMPTING THE TRUTH ABOUT IRAQ
Three new books(Dilip Hiro's Secrets and Lies:Operation Iraqi Freedom and After; Paul Waldman's Fraud: the Bush Lies and What The Media Didn't Tell You; Williamson Murray and Major General Robert Scale's The Iraq War: a Military History)analyze why the administration felt that it needed to massage the facts in order to get the U.S. public to support the Iraq War. Scales and Williamson are clear about what went wrong. So "depressingly weak" is the "ability to interpret local languages, customs, and cultures," say the authors, that unless U.S. military technological superiority is soon coupled with intelligent thinking, "improved technologies will ensure only that political and military defeats will come later, and at greater cost."
Walter C. Uhler reviews the books in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 2004.
Protecting the GOP convention in politically hostile territory
FEEDING THE PARANOIA
New York's Village Voice
notes that the city's tabloid press has been making Republican delegates and police nervous with an endless stream of lurid stories about anarchists converging on the convention armed with nail-studded potatoes and live mice. (Sarah Ferguson, Village Voice, August 26, 2004)
AN EXPENSIVE BASH
The price tag for the Republican Convention will add up to a cool $166 million. The four-day orgy of congratulatory speeches and pep rallies won't change voters' opinions, but it will provide a chance for corporate sponsors to get their message across to key politicians. The Center for Public Integrity reports that both conventions have provided the setting for at least 50 evening parties, costing more than $100,000 each. The Center provides a chart of how much corporations paid to each candidate. (Center for Public Integrity, August 2004)
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY?
Garrison Kiellor observes that the Republican Party has developed a mean streak since the days of "I Like Ike." Keillor writes, "Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor. In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub...” (Garrison Keillor, In These Times, August 26, 2004)
DAVID BROOKS ON THE BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF THE G.O.P.
Brooks, a sympathetic voice, also sees an identity crisis. "The Republicans who gather in New York this week love George Bush," writes Brooks. "They admire the stalwart way he has fought the war on terror. They understand why, post-Sept. 11, he has governed the way he has. But they are a little shellshocked by the unexpected transformation that has come over their party, and they do not know how it is going to turn out...There used to be a spirit of solidarity binding all the embattled members of the conservative movement. But with conservatism ascendant, that spirit has eroded. Should Bush lose, it will be like a pack of wolves that suddenly turns on itself. The civil war over the future of the party will be ruthless and bloody. The foreign-policy realists will battle the democracy-promoting Reaganites. The immigrant-bashing nativists will battle the free marketeers. The tax-cutting growth wing will battle the fiscally prudent deficit hawks. The social conservatives will war with the social moderates, the biotech skeptics with the biotech enthusiasts, the K Street corporatists with the tariff-loving populists, the civil libertarians with the security-minded Ashcroftians. In short, the Republican Party is unstable..." (David Brooks, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, August 29, 2004)