War

May 30, 2004

On Nov. 22, 2003, the 16th paragraph of an Associated Press story filed from Baghdad reported that troops from the US Army's Fourth Infantry Division had arrested former Iraqi lieutenant general "Taha Hassan" "for alleged involvement in mortar attacks on police stations" in his hometown of Baquoba. One day later, Agence France-Presse noted the arrest of "Taha Hassan Abbas," as he was correctly identified, in a report that included additional dramatic details. A Fourth Infantry Division spokesman quoted by AFP provided the official account of the arrest: Abbas had "resisted when an assault force approached his house," and "engaged [in] fire," which was returned by US troops who "captured" Abbas and two others.

May 23, 2004

To comment upon the controversial film by Mel Gibson, "The Passion of the Christ," the author is pleased to present an interview with the personality upon whose life the film is based: Jesus Christ. Mr. Christ could not previously be reached for comment. His involvement in numerous humanitarian causes, particularly antiwar activities, makes Him difficult to contact.

We eventually set up a dialogue with Him via His personal assistant, the Holy Spirit, in a short but intense prayer session. We hope that readers will agree that the experience of faith is an individual and personal one, and therefore that the author's experience of Jesus Christ is no less valid or reverent than the vision presented by Mr. Gibson in his film.

May 23, 2004

It was a bad week for both Stephen Cambone and Ahmad Chalabi. Not only did Jason Vest advance the story of Cambone's culpability in Abu Ghraib which the Washington Post echoed in a Friday story by R. Jeffery Smith -- but on Friday Vest observed what no one else did: That the most damning reporting about the raids by US and Iraqi authorities on Chalabi's INC was in the low-circulation but highly-influential-on-the-Right New York Sun.

There was a story making the rounds in foreign-policy circles last fall about an exchange between two of Ahmad Chalabi's most prominent patrons and detractors -- a juicy bit that rang true, but seemed hopelessly, tantalizingly just beyond the journalistic grasp. Ubiquitous as it had become in the halls of Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon, the standard for publication lay in the ability to get verbatim confirmation of the conversational back and forth -- something no one seemed able to satisfactorily secure.

May 23, 2004

In dawn raids today, American troops surrounded Ahmed Chalabi's headquarters and home in Baghdad, put a gun to his head, arrested two of his aides, and seized documents. Only five months ago, Chalabi was a guest of honor sitting right behind Laura Bush at the State of the Union. What brought about this astonishing fall from grace of the man who helped provide the faked intelligence that justified last year's war?

The answer lies in Chalabi's reaction to his gradual loss of US support in recent months and the realization that he will be excluded from the post June 30 Iraqi "government" being crafted by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

May 16, 2004

Before we turn our attention to Tuesday's reactionary and indicative-of-utter-ignorance comments made on Capitol Hill by Senator James Inhofe, let's first revisit Sunday's Washington Post. Under the headline "Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy; U.S. May Be Winning Battles in Iraq But Losing the War, Some Officers Say," a number of career Army officers — including the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Coalition Provisional Authority's first director of planning — said that in strategic terms, the U.S. military has made a mess of things in Iraq, and perhaps fatally so.

May 9, 2004

April 20th, 2004

As the situation in Iraq grows ever more tenuous, the Bush administration continues to spin the ominous news with matter-of-fact optimism. According to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Iraqi uprisings in half a dozen cities, accompanied by the deaths of more than 100 soldiers in the month of April alone, is something to be viewed in the context of "good days and bad days," merely "a moment in Iraq's path towards a free and democratic system." More recently, the president himself asserted, "Our coalition is standing with responsible Iraqi leaders as they establish growing authority in their country."

But according to a closely held Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) memo written in early March, the reality isn't so rosy. Iraq's chances of seeing democracy succeed, according to the memo's author—a U.S. government official detailed to the CPA, who wrote this summation of observations he'd made in the field for a senior CPA director—have been severely imperiled by a year's worth of serious errors on the part of the Pentagon and the CPA, the U.S.-led multinational agency administering Iraq. Far from facilitating democracy and security, the memo's author fears, U.S. efforts have created an environment rife with corruption and sectarianism likely to result in civil war.

April 25, 2004

On December 10, two Strykers, the Army's newest armored personnel carrier, were patrolling near Balad, Iraq, when the embankment beneath them collapsed and the vehicles plunged into a rain-swollen river. Three soldiers died and another was severely injured. Three days later, another Stryker rolled over a roadside bomb south of Baghdad. The explosion left one soldier injured and the vehicle in flames.

It was an inglorious combat debut for the Army's first new personnel carrier in thirty years. But it confirmed the worst fears of some of the Stryker's critics that the vehicle is unsafe and its crews untrained for using it in combat conditions. One former Pentagon analyst described the 8-wheeled vehicle as "riding in a dune buggy armored in tinfoil."

April 18, 2004

Men like Richard Clarke do not, as a rule, write books. Mandarins of the national security establishment who long ago embedded themselves in the bureaucracy, the closest they ever come to anything like public authorship is via the pens of others. They frequently speak to journalists, sometimes on the record as adjuncts of the political master du jour; other times, only on background, perhaps in the service of what they see as sounder policy than the White House does. They consider their import to be their possession of more focused experience and better institutional memory than the strictly politicals they work for; yet by and large they are committed to working within the system, and even in anger rarely consider transgressing the informal boundary that lies just beyond the utterance of an undermining anonymous quote to a major daily newspaper.

April 11, 2004

On Feb. 5, 2003, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to convince the United Nations Security Council of the need for war against Iraq, in a quiet Baghdad neighborhood half a world away, Mahdi Obeidi watched Al-Jazeera intently as Powell's presentation unfolded.

Once tasked with designing and building a centrifuge to enrich uranium for use in Iraq's nuclear-weapons program, Obeidi had spent most of the past decade tracking budget numbers as the state Military Industrial Commission's director of projects — a position that put the scientist in the unique position of knowing the line-item details of every ongoing Iraqi weapons endeavor. Though the nuclear knowledge he had gained in '80s-era clandestine missions all over the world made him one of Saddam Hussein's most important scientists, this was a special status he could have done without: He and his family were under constant surveillance because of his refusal to join the Baath Party.

August 31, 2003

NUVO

For more than a year and a half now, over 600 people — some as young as 13 years old — have been held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The detainees have been denied access to lawyers, their families, or any advisement of charges that may be filed against them. President Bush says that any trials will be held by military tribunals, perhaps in secret. Officials are considering building an execution chamber right on the base.

If this Kafka-esque nightmare were happening to my next-door neighbor or my cousin, I would be outraged. I could see the fear in the family's eyes, hear them pour out their frustration and anger. But instead, Guantanamo is happening to people from half a world away, who speak different languages and have no connection to me. No way it could touch my life.

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