Saturday, March 27, 2004

Iraq Update On the War and Search for WMD

BASIC (British American Security Information Council)

On January 26, BASIC released "Unravelling the Known Unknowns: Why no Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found in Iraq." The report detailed the extensive distortions and misrepresentations concerning Iraq’s unconventional weapons programs, which were the putative basis for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Though the major media no longer focuses on the issue with the attention it once did, information continues to be revealed about failures of the intelligence community and pressure by the political leadership in both the United States and United Kingdom.

Given the importance of this issue, which is critical to any consideration of arms control and non-proliferation efforts as well as any decision to use military force, BASIC is monitoring the media and open source information for relevant articles. Summaries and links to such articles are posted below as they are found.

To access BASIC's summary, which is updated regularly, see BASIC

Friday, March 26, 2004

U.S. Officials Fashion Legal Basis to Keep Force in Iraq

The New York Times
March 26, 2004

(Blog editor's note: See also the preceding item.)

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 25 — With fewer than 100 days to go before Iraq resumes its sovereignty, American officials say they believe they have found a legal basis for American troops to continue their military control over the security situation in Iraq.

After months of concern about the legal status of the 110,000 American troops who are expected to remain here after the occupation formally ends on June 30, the officials say they believe an existing United Nations resolution approving the presence of a multinational force in Iraq, approved by the Security Council in October, gives American commanders the authority needed to maintain control after sovereignty is handed back.

Showing his confidence that the approach was grounded in international law, L. Paul Bremer III, the chief of the occupation authority, issued an executive order this week specifying that the newly formed Iraqi armed forces be placed under the operational control of the American commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who has been named to lead American and allied forces after the transfer of political authority to the Iraqis.

To read the rest of the story, see The New York Times

Thursday, March 25, 2004

14 `enduring bases' set in Iraq
Long-term military presence planned

By Christine Spolar
Chicago Tribune
March 23, 2004

Blog editor's note: A number of students have asked about what happens to American troops once power is handed over to the Iraqis on June 30, 2004. This item gives part of the answer. Whether the Iraqis will find "enduring" bases to be "endearing," of course, remains to be seen.

BAGHDAD -- From the ashes of abandoned Iraqi army bases, U.S. military engineers are overseeing the building of an enhanced system of American bases designed to last for years.

Last year, as troops poured over the Kuwait border to invade Iraq, the U.S. military set up at least 120 forward operating bases. Then came hundreds of expeditionary and temporary bases that were to last between six months and a year for tactical operations while providing soldiers with such comforts as e-mail and Internet access.

Now U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 "enduring bases," long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years. The bases also would be key outposts for Bush administration policy advisers.

As the U.S. scales back its military presence in Saudi Arabia, Iraq provides an option for an administration eager to maintain a robust military presence in the Middle East and intent on a muscular approach to seeding democracy in the region. The number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq, between 105,000 and 110,000, is expected to remain unchanged through 2006, according to military planners.

"Is this a swap for the Saudi bases?" asked Army Brig. Gen. Robert Pollman, chief engineer for base construction in Iraq. "I don't know. ... When we talk about enduring bases here, we're talking about the present operation, not in terms of America's global strategic base. But this makes sense. It makes a lot of logical sense."

To read the rest of the story (you may have to register for free), see Chicago Tribune

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Ex - Adviser Blasts Bush's Terror Response

New York Times
March 21, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, ``looked skeptical'' when she was warned early in 2001 about the threat from al-Qaida and appeared to never have heard of the terrorist organization, according to Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator.

``Her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before,'' wrote Richard A. Clarke in a new book -- ``Against All Enemies'' -- that is scathingly critical of Bush's response to the 2001 terror attacks against New York and Washington. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Clarke's book before its Monday publication.

Clarke said Rice, who previously worked for Bush's father, appeared not to recognize post-Cold War security issues and effectively demoted him within the national security council. He said Rice has an unusually close relationship with Bush, which ``should have given her some maneuver room, some margin for shaping the agenda.''

Clarke, expected to testify Tuesday before a federal panel investigating the attacks, recounted his meeting with Rice as support for his contention that the Bush administration failed to recognize the risk of an attack by al-Qaida in the months leading to Sept. 11, 2001. Clarke retired in March 2003 after three decades in the U.S. government.

To read the rest of this story, see New York Times

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Aristide Back in Caribbean Heat
Before Arriving in Jamaica, Haitian Details 'Coup' by U.S.

By Peter Eisner
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Blog editor's note: Eisner is a veteran foreign news editor and correspondent who has written the first in-person interview with Aristide by an American journalist

KINGSTON, Jamaica, March 15 -- Jean-Bertrand Aristide stepped back into the white glare of a Caribbean afternoon Monday, wearing a broad smile and the same dark suit he had on two weeks ago when he was banished from the presidency of Haiti and deposited into exile half a world away.

"We're here. It's unbelievable, but true," Aristide said, leaning forward in his seat as a chartered Gulfstream jet taxied toward the end of a 17-hour flight from the Central African Republic, where he and his wife had been living in a government guesthouse since his ouster on Feb. 29.

Even before the plane touched down, Aristide's return was condemned by Haiti's interim government and its supporters in the Bush administration. Haiti's interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue, suspended diplomatic relations with Jamaica to protest the invitation to Aristide, who will be 115 miles from the Haitian coast during his temporary stay.

During an extended interview on the flight, Aristide was adamant that he remained Haiti's legitimate leader, but was coy about his plans. "Let us be wise enough to continue to listen to the voice of the Haitian people," he said. "They will always know I cannot forget their suffering."

To read the rest of the Aristide interview, see

A Year After Iraq War
Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher, Muslim Anger Persists

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
Survey Reports
Released: March 16, 2004

(Blog editor's note: These findings, of course, reflect opinion before the Madrid bombings of last week. In which direction such an act of terror will push world opinion is at best uncertain.)

Summary of Findings

A year after the war in Iraq, discontent with America and its policies has intensified rather than diminished. Opinion of the United States in France and Germany is at least as negative now as at the war’s conclusion, and British views are decidedly more critical. Perceptions of American unilateralism remain widespread in European and Muslim nations, and the war in Iraq has undermined America’s credibility abroad. Doubts about the motives behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism abound, and a growing percentage of Europeans want foreign policy and security arrangements independent from the United States. Across Europe, there is considerable support for the European Union to become as powerful as the United States.

To read the entire Pew report, see Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

'Rise of the Vulcans': From Saigon to Baghdad
The History of Bush's War Cabinet

Illustrated. 426 pp. New York: Viking. $25.95.
A Review by James Mann
New York Times Book Review
March 14, 2004

Among its legacies, the Vietnam War left a lingering sense of shame. The retreat of American power, captured in the chaotic helicopter flights from a rooftop in Saigon in April 1975, made the United States appear precisely what Richard Nixon once vowed it wouldn't become: a pitiful, helpless giant.

Starting with Ronald Reagan, Nixon's Republican successors capitalized on this shame by promising to restore American honor through military might. George H. W. Bush claimed, prematurely, to have ''kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all'' in the Persian Gulf war by repulsing Saddam Hussein's 1990 attack on Kuwait. George W. Bush's foreign policy embodies the wish to stamp out, with thundering battlefield triumphs, that unconsummated ending to the first gulf war and the devastation of 9/11 -- metaphorical repetitions of the Vietnam humiliation. And all the chatter about the military records of President Bush and Senator John Kerry continues at some level our long debate about how to put the war behind us.

It makes sense, then, that James Mann, a much respected Washington reporter who is now senior writer in residence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, should begin his excellent study of President Bush's foreign policy advisers with Vietnam. ''Rise of the Vulcans'' is an astute group biography of Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Armitage. But it's also a unique history of how the Vietnam-era realpolitik of Nixon and Henry Kissinger gave way to today's pseudo-Wilsonian campaign to make the Middle East safe for democracy -- the journey from Saigon to Baghdad. These officials (Rice excepted) began their careers during Vietnam: Powell and Armitage served, while the rest, as Cheney once said of himself, ''had other priorities'' and worked in government. All constructed lessons from Vietnam that informed their critiques, and later their practice, of American foreign policy.

To read the rest of this review, see New York Times Book Review

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Next Worst Thing
Is the federal government's expansion of biodefense research paving the way for the bioweapons of the future?

Michael Scherer
Mother Jones
March/April 2004 Issue

It has been called a modern-day Manhattan Project—a spending spree so vast and rapid that it might change the face of biological science. In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. government is funding a massive new biodefense research effort, redirecting up to $10 billion toward projects related to biological weapons such as anthrax. The Pentagon's budget for chemical and biological defense has doubled; high-security nuclear-weapons labs have begun conducting genetic research on dangerous pathogens; universities are receiving government funding to build high-tech labs equipped to handle deadly infectious organisms; and Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the home of America's secret bioweapons program, is about to break ground on two new high-tech biodefense centers.

Officials say the effort is designed to head off what a recent CIA report calls the "darker bioweapons future." Intelligence briefings are awash with speculation about other nations or terrorists developing genetically engineered pathogens "worse than any disease known to man." But a growing number of microbiologists, nonproliferation experts, and former government officials say there may be a dark side to the biodefense push: With poor oversight, government-funded scientists could actually be paving the way for the next generation of killer germs—and given the explosion of research, there is no way to keep track of what is being done. "We are playing games with fire," says Ken Alibek, a top scientist in the Soviet Union's bioweapons program until defecting to the United States. "It is kind of a Pandora's box. As soon as you open it, there is no way of putting it back in."

To read the rest of this article, see Mother Jones

The new Pentagon papers
A high-ranking military officer reveals how Defense Department extremists suppressed information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Karen Kwiatkowski
March 10, 2004  | 

In the spring of 2002, I was a cynical but willing staff officer, almost two years into my three-year tour at the office of the secretary of defense, undersecretary for policy, sub-Saharan Africa. In April, a call for volunteers went out for the Near East South Asia directorate (NESA). None materialized. By May, the call transmogrified into a posthaste demand for any staff officer, and I was "volunteered" to enter what would be a well-appointed den of iniquity.

The education I would receive there was like an M. Night Shyamalan movie -- intense, fascinating and frightening. While the people were very much alive, I saw a dead philosophy -- Cold War anti-communism and neo-imperialism -- walking the corridors of the Pentagon. It wore the clothing of counterterrorism and spoke the language of a holy war between good and evil. The evil was recognized by the leadership to be resident mainly in the Middle East and articulated by Islamic clerics and radicals. But there were other enemies within, anyone who dared voice any skepticism about their grand plans, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. Anthony Zinni.

To read the rest of this insider piece, see

Spy Unit Skirted CIA on Iraq

Pentagon group's role in shaping White House views about ties between Hussein and Al Qaeda was greater than known, Senate panel hears.

By Greg Miller
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

March 10, 2004

Blog editor's note: The implications of this story are that the CIA was cut out of the intelligence loop by the Department of Defense at the point when the Agency failed to hew to the line that Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda in the runup to last year's war with Iraq. Equally curious is Tenent's insistence that the Bush administration had not inflated the Iraqi threat as justification for the war after Tenent had just testified, for all intents and purposes, directly to the contrary. "Logic" and the national security state, it would appear, do not belong in the same sentence.

WASHINGTON — A special intelligence unit at the Pentagon privately briefed senior officials at the White House on alleged ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda without the knowledge of CIA Director George J. Tenet, according to new information presented at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

The disclosure suggests that the controversial Pentagon office played a greater role than previously understood in shaping the administration's views on Iraq's alleged ties to the terrorist network behind the Sept. 11 attacks, and bypassed usual channels to make a case that conflicted with the conclusions of CIA analysts.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Tenet said he was unaware until recently that the Pentagon unit had presented its findings to the offices of Vice President Dick Cheney and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice. It is not clear whether Cheney or Rice were present for the briefing, which was mentioned in a Defense Department letter released by the Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

For the rest of the story, see Los Angeles Times

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Mini-Nukes the New Defence - Or Threat?
The U.S. effort to design a new generation of low-power nuclear weapons, approved in the defence budget for 2004, is politically, technically and militarily unjustifiable, say critics.

By Cristina Hernández
Dist. by InterPressService

Blog editor's note: U.S. nuclear policy and intentions have pretty much been obscured on the media's radar screen by the continuing conflict in Iraq. This piece provides an update.

SAN FRANCISCO, United States, Jan 22 (IPS) - The so-called "mini-nukes" have a potency of less than five kilotons of explosive, a third of that contained in the bomb that the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945, during the Second World War.

"If warfighters believe that a nuclear weapon is 'small' enough to 'contain' collateral damage, they are more likely to fire them, which means an environmental and humanitarian disaster we haven't seen since World War II," expert Robert K. Musil told Tierramérica.

"That's why we can say that there really is no such thing as a mini-nuke," argues Musil, director of the non-governmental Physicians for Social Responsibility, winner of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for its campaigns against nuclear testing.

To read the rest of the article, see InterPressService

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

U.S. Avoided attacking suspected terrorist mastermind--
Abu Musab Zarqawi blamed for more than 700 killings in Iraq

By Jim Miklaszewski
NBC News
March  02, 2004

With Tuesday’s attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

For the rest of this story, see

State Department intelligence has been lone voice of reason

Miami Herald
March 2, 2004

blog editor's note: Ray McGovern chaired National Intelligence Estimates during his 27-year career at the CIA. He wrote this as an OpEd piece.

Roberts and his Republican colleagues decided to preclude the possibility that some recalcitrant senator might ask why INR (Bureau of Intelligence and Research) was able to get it right on Iraq when everyone else was wrong.

It was a quite a show at the Senate Intelligence Committee's worldwide threat-assessment briefing last week as the chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., outdid himself in the role of damage control officer.

For the first time since annual threat-assessment briefings by the heads of key intelligence agencies began a decade ago, the director of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research was disinvited.

Roberts and his Republican colleagues decided to preclude the possibility that some recalcitrant senator might ask why INR was able to get it right on Iraq when everyone else was wrong. Recall that the CIA and other intelligence agencies signed on to the worst National Intelligence Estimate in 40 years -- the one issued in October 2002 with the loaded title ''Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.'' (The only near rival in infamy is the NIE of September 1962, which said that the Soviet Union would not risk trying to put missiles in Cuba. The missiles were already en route.)

For the rest of this analysis, see Miami Herald

Monday, March 01, 2004

The Sky is Falling! Say Hollywood and, Yes, the Pentagon

The New York Times
February 29, 2004

Blog editor's note: An article on the Pentagon's climate change study (see earlier post from last week) finally surfaced in the New York Times yesterday, although in decidedly odd fashion. It was rolled in with discussion of a new science fiction film, which may in some eyes tend to minimize its import. This blog remains curious about why the Pentagon would commission a $100,000 study if it didn't take the threat seriously.

AFTER nearly two decades in which global warming seemed about as exciting as the national debt, the subject is getting noticed again - even by Hollywood and the Pentagon.

Since the late 1990's, there has been growing interest in one particularly catastrophic climatic event. It envisions an abrupt fall in global temperatures, caused by incremental warming from rising emissions of heat-trapping gases. What better fodder for movie makers or military strategists?

In the coming movie "The Day After Tomorrow," directed by Roland Emmerich, who last threatened Earth with alien warships in "Independence Day," "super storms" destroy Western Europe, and Manhattan is covered in a sheet of ice.

"An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security," on the other hand, was written recently by two consultants for Andrew W. Marshall, the Pentagon's legendary guru of long-term threat assessment.

To read the rest of the article, see New York Times

To read the Pentagon study iteself, see Environmental Media Services