Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The U.S. Winked at Hussein's Evil

Robert Scheer Commentary
Los Angeles Times

December 30, 2003

Sometimes democracy works. Though the wheels of accountability often grind slowly, they also can grind fine, if lubricated by the hard work of free-thinking citizens. The latest example: the release of official documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, that detail how the U.S. government under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush nurtured and supported Saddam Hussein despite his repeated use of chemical weapons.

The work of the National Security Archive, a dogged organization fighting for government transparency, has cast light on the trove of documents that depict in damning detail how the United States, working with U.S. corporations including Bechtel, cynically and secretly allied itself with Hussein's dictatorship. The evidence undermines the unctuous moral superiority with which the current American president, media and public now judge Hussein, a monster the U.S. actively helped create.

To read the rest of this column, see Los Angeles Times

Administration struggles to find right approach to N. Korea talks

Knight Ridder Newspapers
Fri, Dec. 19, 2003

Blog editor's note: Students of the Bush Doctrine will find the following of particular interest

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - Vice President Dick Cheney intervened last week to insist on an uncompromising approach to nuclear talks with North Korea, effectively blocking a resumption of negotiations this year, according to a senior administration official.

Efforts are underway to get the diplomacy back on track. But the vice president's move illustrates the difficulty the Bush administration is having in agreeing on what incentives - if any - to offer the reclusive communist state to give up its nuclear weapons programs.

It also underscores the unusually powerful foreign policy role played by Cheney.

The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, quoted the vice president as saying in one pivotal meeting on North Korea: "I have been charged by the president with making sure that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with. We don't negotiate with evil; we defeat it."

to read the rest of this analysis by a veteran diplomatic correspondent, see Sun-Herald

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Libyan deal shows need for shift in U.S. diplomatic tactics, analysts say

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House portrayed Libya's promise to abandon weapons of mass destruction programs as affirmation of President Bush's hard-line strategy on arms proliferation and suggested the U.S.-led war in Iraq helped convince Moammar Gadhafi that he should act.

Some arms control experts, however, point to what is known about how and when the agreement came about and say that Libya's turnaround offers proof the United States should shift tactics in dealing with North Korea, Syria and other nations. A greater commitment is needed, they say, to the kind of patient but firm diplomacy that worked with Libya.

"The president is trying hard to portray this as a victory for his strategy," said Joseph Cirincione, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's nonproliferation project. "But when you look at this, it's almost the opposite of the Bush doctrine."

For the rest of this analysis, see USA Today

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Medical evacuations from Iraq near 11,000

By Mark Benjamin
United Press International
Published 12/19/2003

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The total number of wounded soldiers and medical evacuations from the war in Iraq is nearing 11,000, according to new Pentagon data provided in response to a request from United Press International.

The military has made 8,581 medical evacuations from Operation Iraqi Freedom for non-hostile causes in addition to the 2,273 wounded -- a total of 10,854, according to the new data. The Pentagon says that 457 troops have died.

The Pentagon's casualty update for Operation Iraqi Freedom listed on its Web site, however, does not reflect thousands of the evacuations.

For the rest of the UPI report, see UPI

Friday, December 19, 2003

Still no mass weapons, no ties to 9/11, no truth
By Derrick Z. Jackson, 12/17/2003
The Boston Globe

Blog editor's note: What follows is the concluding paragraph to a column that puts the current situation in Iraq about as bluntly as it can be put.

With no weapons, no ties, and no truth, the capture of Saddam was merely the most massive and irresponsible police raid in modern times. We broke in without a search warrant. Civilian deaths constituted justifiable homicide. America was again above the law. We have taught the next generation that many wrongs equal a right. In arrogance, we boasted, "We got him!" The shame is that we feel none for how we got him. The capture of this dictator, driven by the poison of lies, turned America itself into a dictator.

For the entire column, see Boston Globe

December 18, 2003

Remember 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'? For Bush, They Are a Nonissue

New York Times

[Blog editor's note: This is the first instance in American history that I can recall where the reason to go to war was changed after the fact

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 — In the debate over the necessity for the war in Iraq, few issues have been more contentious than whether Saddam Hussein possessed arsenals of banned weapons, as the Bush administration repeatedly said, or instead was pursuing weapons programs that might one day constitute a threat.

On Tuesday, with Mr. Hussein in American custody and polls showing support for the White House's Iraq policy rebounding, Mr. Bush suggested that he no longer saw much distinction between the possibilities.

"So what's the difference?" he responded at one point as he was pressed on the topic during an interview by Diane Sawyer of ABC News.

To critics of the war, there is a big difference. They say that the administration's statements that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons that it could use on the battlefield or turn over to terrorists added an urgency to the case for immediate military action that would have been lacking if Mr. Hussein were portrayed as just developing the banned weapons.

For the rest of the story, see New York Times

Thursday, December 18, 2003

9/11 Chair: Attack Was Preventable


NEW YORK, Dec. 17, 2003

For the first time, the chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston.

"This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right," said Thomas Kean.

"As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done," he said. "This was not something that had to happen."

Appointed by the Bush administration, Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame.

"There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed," Kean said.

For the rest of what may develop into one of the year's top stories (or at least ought to), see CBSNews.com

Senators were told Iraqi weapons could hit U.S.
Nelson said claim made during classified briefing

By John McCarthy

Dec 15, 2003

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday the Bush administration last year told him and other senators that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities.

Nelson, D-Tallahassee, said about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before last October's congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Nelson voted in favor of using military force.

For the rest of this story, see Florida Today

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Reflections on the Capture of Saddam

By Juan Cole

(Mr. Cole is Professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan. His website is http://www.juancole.com/)

[Blog editor's note: I reminded blog readers of Prof. Cole's website yesterday, but in addition, here is the beginning to his analysis of Saddam's capture, and a link to the remainder. It's a piece that raises troubling questions about the role of the U.S. in helping Saddam sustain his brutal dictatorship--before he made the fatal mistake of invading Kuwait in 1990]

Seeing a captive, disheveled Saddam on television released a cascade of memories for me. I remembered the innocent Jews brutally hanged in downtown Baghdad when the Baath came to power in 1968; the fencing with the Shah and the Kurds in the early 1970s; the vicious repression of the Shiites of East Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala in 1977-1980; the internal Baath putsch of 1979, when perhaps a third of the party's high officials were taken out and shot, so that Saddam could become president; the bloody invasion of Iran in 1980 and the destruction of a whole generation of Iraqi and Iranian young men in the 1980s (at least 500,000 dead, perhaps even more); the Anfal poison gas campaign against the Kurds in 1987-88; Halabja, a city of 70,000 where 5,000 died where they stood, their blood boiling with toxic gases, little children lying in heaps in the street; the rape of Kuwait in 1990-91; the genocide against the Shiites that began in spring of 1991 and continued intermittently thereafter; the destruction of the Marsh Arabs; the assassinations, the black marias, the Fedayee Saddam. Yes, the United States was not innocent in some of this. Perhaps they cooperated in bringing the Baath to power in the first place, as an anti-Communist force. They certainly allied with Saddam against Iran in the 1980s, and authorized the purchase of chemical and biological precursors. But the Baath was an indigenous Iraqi phenomenon, and local forces kept Saddam in place, despite dozens of attempts to overthrow him.

A nightmare has ended. He will be tried, and two nations' dirty laundry will be exposed, the only basis on which all can go forward towards a new Persian Gulf and a new relationship with the West.

For the rest of Cole's analysis, which reminds us of the dismaying role played by the U.S. during Saddam's rule, see History News Network

Blood feud ends in the spider hole:
The transformation of all-powerful president to cornered wild man is the stuff of parables and will echo forever

Jonathan Freedland

December 17, 2003
The Guardian

I know that we are all meant to have moved on, that we are supposed to focus now on high-minded matters of justice and international jurisprudence, but I'm not quite there yet: I am still stuck on the pictures.

The transformation of a man, last glimpsed in a suit or in military uniform, from president into Monty Python hermit is just too shocking to forget. When last we saw him, he was on a presidential platform, waving to the masses below, unsheathing a sword or firing a ceremonial rifle. Now we see him as a wild man, dirty and mangy as a stray dog. And we have to keep reminding ourselves: it is the same person.

For the rest of a remarkable piece of prose that puts international relations in a quite different context than the one suggested by text books, see Guardian Unlimited

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


The following is an excerpt from President Bush's December 15 press conference dealing with the capture of Saddam Hussein.

"One of the things I think you've seen about our foreign policy is that I'm reluctant to use military power. It's the last choice; it's not our first choice."

For a text of the rest of the news conference, see The Washington Post

[Blog editor's note: After first reviewing the course of American foreign policy since September 11, 2001, I recommend that those of you who haven't read George Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language," do so and those of you who have, read it again.]

Read All About It! From the Capture of Saddam to Prospects for Iraqi Stability--
Juan Cole's web page is a major resource

Blog editor's note: I've recommended this site before, but given the capture of Saddam Hussein I think a reminder is in order to check out the web page of Juan Cole, a professor of history at University of Michigan, whose analysis of current events in Iraq is among the best informed of which I'm aware.

To access Prof. Cole's web site, see Juan Cole

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The privatisation of war

· $30bn goes to private military
· Fears over 'hired guns' policy

Ian Traynor
Wednesday December 10, 2003
The Guardian

[Blog editor's note: Perhaps it is time to rename it the "Coalition of the Billing"]

Private corporations have penetrated western warfare so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the Pentagon, a Guardian investigation has established.

While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest contingent with around 9,900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by the 10,000 private military contractors now on the ground.

To read the rest of this analysis, see The Guardian

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

History in the Remaking:
Bush's comparison of Iraq with postwar Japan ignores the facts

By John W. Dower
Los Angeles Times
December 8, 2003

In a recent speech in London, President Bush declared that not only were we making "substantial progress" in Iraq but that "much of it has proceeded faster than similar efforts in Germany and Japan after World War II."

What are we to make of this murky use of history? The truth is that what is happening in Iraq presents a stunning and fundamental contrast to what took place in occupied Japan and Germany over half a century ago — and not a positive one.

To read the rest of this analysis by one of the U.S.' leading authorities on the reconstruction of Japan after W.W.II, see Los Angeles Times

Monday, December 01, 2003


Revisiting Cold War Coups and Finding Them Costly

November 30, 2003

SOON after the C.I.A. installed him as president of Guatemala in 1954, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas visited Washington. He was unusually forthright with Vice President Richard M. Nixon. "Tell me what you want me to do," he said, "and I will do it."

What the United States wanted in Guatemala — and in Iran, where the C.I.A. also deposed a government in the early 1950's — was pro-American stability. In the long run, though, neither Colonel Castillo Armas nor his Iranian counterpart, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, provided it. Instead, both led their countries away from democracy and toward repression and tragedy.

How did this happen? From the perspective of half a century, what is the legacy of these two coups?

For the rest of this account dealing with the legacy of the first major U.S.-sponsored coups of the Cold War, see The New York Times