Inter Press Network

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Russia's Foray into Preemptive Warfare a New Challenge to its Security Establishment

Drafted by Yevgeny Bendersky

Recent pledges by Russia's senior defense ministers that the country will launch preemptive strikes against terrorist bases worldwide comes at a time of intense scrutiny and anger in the aftermath of the bloody hostage-freeing operation in Beslan, North Ossetia. The security services, lacking proper cooperation and coordination on the ground, were not able to free all the hostages, and the resulting shoot-out with the attackers left many adults, children and security personnel dead. Russia's statements about striking terrorists in any part of the world portray a new type of warfare that presents the Russian security establishment with totally new and difficult challenges.

So far, the only country with a true capacity for preemptive strikes against terrorist bases worldwide is the United States. It operates a wide range of military bases in all parts of the world that are augmented by the presence of aircraft carrier groups in all major oceans and seas. This military infrastructure is backed by a high-tech system of "eyes and ears" on the ground, in the air and outer space -- from satellites and unmanned aircraft to various intelligence facilities capable of processing large quantities of imagery and communication from practically any part of the world. The United States expends major funds to maintain its ability to conduct preemptive style warfare, enshrined in its official 2002 National Security Strategy.

But even for such a well-funded and high-tech effort, the results are mixed. Washington's 1998 smart weapon strike at the suspected terrorist bases in Afghanistan and Sudan following the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania did not stop the militants from relocating their efforts to other countries, nor resulted in the actual destruction of the bases in question. One such base turned out to be a fertilizer/pharmaceutical factory, and its actual role in attacks on the U.S. was held in question.

Washington fared much better when it went after Taliban bases and strongholds in Afghanistan following the September 2001 attacks on U.S. soil, bringing the large network of its army, navy, air force and intelligence agencies to bear on the opponent's forces. Yet, even with the ousting of the Taliban, many of its fighters have reorganized and regrouped for a new round of warfare that is being experienced by U.S. forces today. Still, preemptive warfare will continue to figure prominently in successive U.S. administrations as one of the best ways to combat worldwide terrorism.

- Russia

Russia, on the other hand, lacks the extensive and expensive networks of bases and intelligence-deployment capabilities to actually be true to its word of going after bases "regardless of what region they are located in," according to Yury Baluevsky, Russia's chief of the general staff. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia's external military capabilities have been greatly curtailed, resulting in recalling its personnel and even closing some bases in many parts of the world. While Russian intelligence may be capable of intercepting and deciphering communication traffic between suspected militants and their bases, this effort has not been followed up by quick military action necessary to destroy the threat. The country did have limited success in preemptive strikes against the Chechen leadership in the first Chechen War of 1994-1996; indeed, Russia's missile strike killed the leader and inspiration of Chechen resistance, General Djohar Dudaev, after intercepting his cellular!
phone conversation. But such succe
sses have been few, as Russia is trying to adjust to the geopolitical reality of the new threat posed by the largely-international terrorist efforts.

At present, Russia has a growing network of bases in its near-abroad, in Central Asian and Caucasus countries on its southern borders. Its military presence in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia, as well as Georgia, allows it to launch potential strikes at a number of countries that may have terrorist bases on their territories. Such capability will augment Central Asia's fight against its own terrorist formations, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

But Russia has limited military reach beyond its southern rim, and military strikes against other states may invite unwelcome political stalemates. This took place recently with the Republic of Georgia's public stand against the Russian Federation on the question of Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, located to the south of Chechnya. The Russian government was convinced that Chechen rebels and terrorists who supported them were hiding out in the gorge, and repeatedly pressured Georgia to allow Russian forces to invade.

The Georgian government rejected such proposals, instead relying on its U.S.-trained troops to conduct a sweep of the area in question. The sweep revealed no threatening presence of guerrillas, and the Russian government accused Georgia of wasting time and allowing the suspected fighters to escape. At question in this scenario was the violation of Georgia's territorial integrity and the potential military conflict that might have resulted between the two countries.

Nor is Russia capable of containing the situation in Chechnya to the levels where military action alone should be enough to limit the rebel activity. The deadly attack on Ingushetian and Russian forces by the Chechen guerrillas this summer underscored Russian forces' inability to identify and interdict the potential threats before they materialize, a crucial factor in conducting preemptive operations. Recent attacks in Beslan once again drove home Russia's need for more capability amongst its various security forces to properly meet the new threats before they occur.

This weakness, according to Russian military experts, stems from the unpreparedness of Russian security forces to combat new threats. Russia's special forces are still using the modus operandi of the Cold War, when they were created for counter-terrorist operations. However, the terrorist threat itself has changed drastically since that time, and the new crop of hostage-takers do not ask for financial compensation, or the ability to escape unarmed to a neutral territory.

Throughout the Cold War, the U.S.S.R.'s special forces were trained to act after its government would undertake a major negotiation effort. At present, such conditions no longer apply. As the situation in Beslan showed, fast, coordinated, well-rehearsed action -- the opposite of what actually took place -- by the security forces was necessary to prevent the tragedy.

- Russo-Israeli Cooperation

Russia's new orientation towards worldwide preemptive action presents new opportunities for the country to gain valuable experience in this dangerous endeavor. To that end, Moscow has recently announced anti-terrorist cooperation with Israel. Israel's long history of fighting terrorism and the extensive experience of its security forces will be of crucial importance to the beleaguered Russian security establishment. Israel will benefit from even closer cooperation with Russia on one issue that touches a raw nerve in both countries. But even this logical step towards cooperation has the potential of having only limited success, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov carefully pointed out that any Middle Eastern counter-terrorism alliance would have to include Arab countries with which Russia has already coordinated on security issues, such as Saudi Arabia and Syria.

This presents a challenge to Russia's efforts to act preemptively against budding or mature terrorist threats. Syria, Russia's chief client state in the Middle East and a major purchaser of Russian military hardware, is itself accused by Israel and the United States of harboring and abetting terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel has never felt comfortable sharing any security information with Syria or Saudi Arabia. And while Russia's statements on cooperation are a nod to its traditional allies in the region, this geopolitical gamble might have the potential of limiting the open sharing of information amongst the countries in question, limiting the ability to act fast in case of a terrorist threat. Nor is it clear how Syria would respond to cooperating with Israel through Russian third parties on issues other than those discussed in the long Middle East Peace Process.

President Putin, in his address to the country following the Beslan tragedy, said that "weak are beaten by the strong," acknowledging that Russia's security situation have demonstrated dangerous weakness in the face of the Chechen terrorist threat. At the same time, as Russia is not capable of interdicting threats within its own borders, it is also not capable of projecting its preemptive military forces worldwide beyond its sphere of influence in the Central Asia and the Caucasus.

The capacity to engage terrorist threats "regardless of what region they are located in," pledged by General Baluevsky in a recent Russian-N.A.T.O. meeting, requires a major overhaul of Russia's domestic security apparatus, a task made even more difficult by the inability to properly reorient its domestic security forces towards winning the war in Chechnya. While Russia has conducted counter-terrorism training exercises with its Central Asian allies, demonstrating a multinational, high-tech, rapid-reaction effort, the difficult reality of preemptive targeting of terrorists worldwide necessitates an even greater cooperation than its carefully worded statements on working with Israel.

- Russo-American Cooperation

Since the United States is the only country in the world that has the potential to quickly mobilize its security forces for a preemptive strike, Russia may attempt to seek greater cooperation with Washington. The workings of this relationship are already in place. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has discussed anti-terrorist operations with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Since the U.S. has also been the target of a major terrorist attack, Ivanov stated: "it was easier to find grounds for an understanding with the U.S. than with some European states."

The United States alone maintains a major presence in all the world's hotspots, from actual military force deployment to anti-terrorist training in the Pan-Sahel states of Mali and Niger, in the failed state of Somalia, in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the towns of Iraq. If Russia is to be true to its word of "striking on bases without warning and with any means except nuclear weapons," it is very likely that it will come to target countries where the U.S. is already engaged in anti-terrorist operations. Such states may include Afghanistan, the North-West Frontier Region of Pakistan, Somalia or even the Philippines. Greater U.S.-Russian cooperation in any form -- from actual joint military strikes to training to sharing vital intelligence -- could benefit both states.

The U.S. will gain a valuable international player with its own extensive intelligence connections, and Russia might succeed in actually targeting potential threats to its territory with an American anti-terrorist infrastructure already in place. Yet, even this possible level of cooperation carries with it certain geopolitical concerns for America's new sphere of influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The United States has actively engaged itself in Georgia, in effect propping up a regime that was hostile to Moscow in many forms since 2001. The U.S. is also involved in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and is considering opening a military base in Azerbaijan.

Closer Russian cooperation with the U.S. security apparatus in the region may have the effect of strengthening Russia's decade-long drive for greater dominance in the above-mentioned states. Thus, while Washington is looking forward to greater anti-terrorist cooperation with Moscow, it will do so by keeping its geopolitical concerns on the forefront of any bilateral efforts.

Of greater uncertainty is Russia's cooperation with specific Arab states while at the same time trying to extensively cooperate with Israel. This would cast its relationship with certain Middle Eastern countries in a new light, for Russia's greatest advantage in its new chapter of anti-terrorist warfare lies in close cooperation between Moscow and Jerusalem. In addition, there is an indication that Arab states may react very negatively to Russia's efforts in preemptive warfare. This February, Qatar convicted two Russian security agents of the targeted car bomb killing of a former Chechen rebel leader. In contrast, it is doubtful that Israel would try to convict Russian agents if they targeted a militant in either Gaza or the West Bank who was proven to have connections to Chechen separatists and their supporters.

- Conclusion

Russia's statements of preemptive strikes in lieu of Beslan propel its anti-terrorist efforts on the world arena. Major questions and doubts surround Russia's actual capacity to conduct such operations, following its decade-long inability to defeat terrorist and guerrilla formations on its own territory. Yet, the new efforts on behalf of Moscow to safeguard its population against future threats -- wherever they originate -- will not be lone efforts and will open the door to greater cooperation between states that are most affected by terrorism. While Russia needs to undertake a painful reorganization of its security forces to meet new worldwide challenges, its active work with the U.S. or Israel might contribute to greater security for its territory and its citizens.

- The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an analysis-based publication that seeks to, as objectively as possible, provide insight into various conflicts, regions and points of interest around the globe. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of All comments should be directed to

-Posted on September 20, 2004

Boycott call strikes a responsive chord

"We are seeing a very new international dynamic that seeks to relate to the issue of the territories, in ways similar to South Africa"
Yossi Alpher,Israeli political analyst

By Laila El-Haddad in Gaza

Whether it is the UN General Assembly or the Non-Aligned Movement, resolutions condemning Israel are one thing, implementation is quite another. None the less, many believe international boycott is an idea whose time has come.

In July the International Court of Justice, in a landmark ruling, declared the West Bank separation barrier illegal and urged Israel to demolish the structure as well as pay compensation to Palestinians affected by its construction.

This decision of the UN's top court, although non-binding, cleared the decks for sanctions in the event of non-compliance by the Jewish state.

It was on the basis of this World Court ruling that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) voted last month for a partial boycott of Israel, asking the 115 member-nations to ban Israeli settlers from visiting their countries and to boycott companies that work on the separation barrier.

Not unnoticed

While the result of the NAM vote is awaited (India is said to have expressed its official disapproval of the document at the UN this week), the development did not go unnoticed in Tel Aviv.

It was enough to get Shraga Brosh, chairman of Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, talking about potential losses to the economy and damage to exports.

Three decades are not such a long time in world history. A 1971 World Court verdict against South Africa's occupation of Namibia eventually led to sanctions against that country and the fall of the apartheid regime. Many in Israel fear that a similar fate awaits them.

"This is the marker that grants legitimacy to economic and commercial sanctions, which could endanger our future and security," commented Haifa University professor Nitza Nahmias in the Maariv daily.

But other analysts beg to differ. "It's a long way from a declaratory action by the Non-Aligned Movement to serious enactments by western European or North American governments. I don't see sanctions on the horizon," Hebrew University political science professor Ira Sharkansky told

"I wouldn't count on the Non-Aligned Movement. With all the proclamations of NAM forums, plus $2 or $3, you can buy a cup of Starbucks."

New dynamic

Rather than a literal reading of the NAM resolution, Israeli analyst Yossi Alpher sees it and other boycott efforts like it as part of a "genuine new dynamic" developing in the international community with regard to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

"It's what I call the 'South Africanisation' of the conflict," Alpher said.

"We are seeing a very new international dynamic that seeks to relate to the issue of the territories, in ways similar to South Africa, and the international community is reacting to that."

He says here is a growing awareness in Israel of the need to respect the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, and sees this "awakening”"as the main motivation behind the disengagement movement, regardless of what people think about it.

"Certainly Sharon's disengagement plan represents his ability to predict this dynamic. We are liable to find ourselves branded like South Africa."

South African law professor John Dugard, who is currently serving as the special rapporteur for the United Nations on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, confirmed this trend.

In a report to the to the UN General Assembly early last month, Dugard said there is "an apartheid regime" in the territories "worse than the one that existed in South Africa".

Dugard was a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the end of the apartheid regime. In May, he called for an arms embargo against Israel similar to the one imposed on South Africa in 1977.

Boycott revisited

This is not the first time that a boycott has been attempted against Israel of course. The NAM decision brings to mind a decades-long Arab boycott of the state of Israel that was for the most part dormant and largely ineffective.

One of the consequences of the Arab-Israeli peace agreements, including the Oslo accords, was the unravelling of the boycott.

Following the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, 18 of the 22 members of the Arab League agreed to "reactivate" the half-century-old ban on trade with Israel, with little to show for it so far.

A list of 15 firms to be blacklisted was drawn up, but the list has remained unpublished.

League members Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania - which maintain diplomatic ties with Israel - and Somalia did not attend the meeting.

The NAM resolution reintroduces the possibility, yet again, of an Arab boycott in view of the fact that many Arab countries are NAM members.

But according to the Palestinian Trade Centre's Gaza director, Hanan Taha, the goal of any boycott effort this time around would be the European market rather than the Arab one.

"NAM is trying to pressure other countries, mainly western ones, to take a similar decision. The EU is a huge trade market for Israel. This is more of a political move than an economic one. It's a sort of lobbying effort," Taha said.

"[Settlements' products] don't go to Arab markets anyway.And even if they do, it's hard to tell because they are re-exported in American or European packaging," Taha said, highlighting one of the main obstacles faced by the boycott movement.

Growing trade

Jamal Juma, coordinator of the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, says Arabs should be the first to renew their diplomatic and economic boycott of Israel, but admits that this is unlikely to happen anytime soon - certainly not without a European lead.

"It's a tragedy and a disgrace. Arab states more than any others are called upon to boycott Israel, and instead they are increasing their trade ties with them," he said, noting that there are joint plans to expand oil pipelines between Israel and Jordan as well as a joint electricity grid along Highway 505.

When completed, the highway will stretch from Tel Aviv to the Jordan Valley, dividing the West Bank in half as it connects illegal Israeli colonies along the way.

Indeed, trade relations between Israel and Jordan have never been stronger. Israeli exports to the Hashemite kingdom increased by 50% last year, according to newly released Israeli economic data.

Juma believes that more pressure needs to be applied to force Israel to abide by international law, and that resolutions such as the one taken by NAM aren't nearly enough.

Global boycott

The Israeli Government is tightening its apartheid-like system like never before, with evidence on the ground to prove it, Juma says.

"There are metal doors at checkpoints and a matrix of administrative procedures to get through. Paths of travel are categorised into various permits and ways, and this is in addition to mass land confiscation that is going on," he said.

"It's not time for a boycott of settlement products alone. We need a boycott on a global level of Israel as an apartheid system, as a state not abiding by international law. That's how it should be dealt with," Juma told

"We have to ask ourselves: Who is behind settlements? Who is supporting it? Who is making it a reality in the West Bank? The Israeli Government. It must be a boycott of Israel and it must be made clear to them why."

Palestinian diplomatic sources say PLO representative to the UN Nasir al-Kidwa is planning to build on the international momentum generated by the ICJ ruling and the NAM vote by proposing a resolution of his own in the General Assembly this week.

The resolution will threaten Israel with sanctions if it continues to ignore the Hague-based court's ruling.

However, as far as tangible action is concerned, whether by way of NAM or the United Nations, Palestinians should not expected anything in the foreseeable future.

-Written on Friday 17 September 2004...


The Sabra and Shatila massacres - why do we ignore them?

By: Chris Tolworthy

September 16 commemorates the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre, the day almost a quarter of a century ago, when up to 3,500 civilians, mainly Palestinian refugees, died in Beirut, Lebanon refugee camps.

In 1982, Ariel Sharon was Defense Minister of Israel. An Israeli commission of inquiry found that he and other Israelis were responsible for the massacre. Now Ariel Sharon is Prime Minister of Israel.

Under the Universal Jurisdiction Law of Belgium, Ariel Sharon was charged in relation to the Sabra and Shatila massacre. The case failed when Belgium was forced to abandon its law through U.S. and other pressure. The law simply put Belgian law into agreement with the Geneva Conventions something expected from every state that is a signatory to the Conventions. The Geneva Conventions call for prosecution or extradition of anyone guilty of crimes against humanity. Among others, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have supported the concept of universal jurisdiction.

Others who had a role in the massacre remain in positions of power both in Israel and Lebanon.

Things haven’t changed much for the Palestinians. Inquiries into the massacre were not released. Most massacre perpetrators remain at large. Nothing has been done to compensate the victims.

The killing with impunity continues, especially for Palestinians. In the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip more than 3,100 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military and Israel settlers in the past four years. In the same period almost 1,000 Israeli civilians and members of the Israeli security forces have been killed by Palestinians.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon remain unable to own land and are barred from more than 70 types of work. The Palestinians of West Bank and Gaza remain locked in a land which is growing smaller by the day with illegal takeovers of land and the building of the wall by Israel.

All Palestinians who lost their homes in 1948 and through the years because of Israeli actions have been denied the right of return.

Some say the world changed on September 11, 2001 but on 16 September, 22 years after the Sabra and Shatila massacre, not much has changed for the Palestinians.


BADIL Resource Center aims to provide a resource pool of alternative, critical and progressive information on the question of Palestinian refugees in our quest to achieve a just and lasting soluton for exiled Palestinians based on their right of return.

PO Box 728, Bethlehem, Palestine; Email:; Website:; Telephone/Fax: 02-2747346 From outside of Palestine: 972-2-2747346

The Sabra and Shatila massacres - why do we ignore them?
by: Chris Tolworthy
March 2002

[The following is part of a series of articles from Chris Tolworthy reposted here with kind permission. The articles together ask many questions about the September 11 atrocity and its aftermath, as well as looking into it from numerous angles. The articles are split into a number of pages on this site (which you can follow using the links at the bottom of the linked page).]

The massacres at Sabra and Shatila provide an interesting comparison to the September 11th tragedy. Both killed around 2800 innocent people (although the exact count at Sabra and Shatila may be much higher). Both were probably guided by men with a history of terrorism. However, while Sepember 11th is remembered in the west, Sabra and Shatila are largely ignored.

In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and killed between 2000 and 3500 innocent civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The striking thing is that the west almost ignores it. Try a web search for "Sabra and Shatila" and look for western sources. For example, the Time Magazine web site just headlines the invasion as "Israel Strikes at The PLO" and barely mentions the massacre. Yet everyone agrees that it took place.

"In 1983, an Israeli state inquiry found Mr Sharon, then defense minister, indirectly responsible for the killing of hundreds of men, women and children at Sabra and Shatila camps during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon." ."(1)

On December 16, 1982 the United Nations General Assembly condemned the massacre and declared it to be an act of genocide. Sharon resigned as defense minister, but later became Israeli Prime Minister.

The massacre was recently investigated by the BBC and the conclusions were damning. The BBC team reported on their investigation, and included this interesting comment:

"In Beirut we confronted the man accused of leading the slaughter. There was in Lebanon a sense of surprise that we would wish to revisit such an event. As one former militia leader said, 'For God's sake if you prosecuted for war crimes here we'd all be in jail.'"(2)

A British parliamentary motion requested:

"That this House congratulates the BBC for Panorama's recent in-depth analysis of the massacres in Sabra and Shatilla during the war in Lebanon in 1982; notes that following the massacres an internal Israeli commission of inquiry forced the resignation of the then Israeli Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon; believes there is sufficient prima facie evidence to indicate that Ariel Sharon, now the Israeli Prime Minister, should be tried for war crimes; and calls upon the international community to ensure that he is duly charged at the earliest possible opportunity.' (3)

The motion added "that 400,000 people in Israel demonstrated their horror and disgust at such a crime against humanity"

How does this compare with the World Trade Center bombings - in numbers and in how it happened?

"The precise number of victims of the massacre may never be exactly determined. The International Committee of the Red Cross counted 1,500 at the time but by September 22 this count had risen to 2,400. On the following day 350 bodies were uncovered so that the total then ascertained had reached 2,750. Kapeliouk points out that to the number of bodies found after the massacre one should add three categories of victims:

(a) Those buried in mass graves whose number cannot be ascertained because the Lebanese authorities forbade their opening;
(b) Those who were buried under the ruins of houses; and
(c) Those who were taken alive to an unknown destination but never returned.
The bodies of some of them were found by the side of the roads leading to the south. Kapeliouk asserts that the number of victims may be 3,000 to 3,500, one-quarter of whom were Lebanese, while the remainder were Palestinians."(4)

At time of writing (late January 2002) these issues are finally coming before a court in Belgium.

Will Sharon and others be tried for war crimes? Possibly.

Will they be found guilty? Probably not.

Since the trial was announced, key witnesses have been tracked down and assassinated:

"A potential key witness in the Belgian war crimes case against the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was blown up outside his house in Beirut yesterday [January 25th], together with three bodyguards. Elie Hobeika, a Lebanese warlord involved in the massacre of more than 1,000 Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in 1982, died only a few days after saying he would give evidence in Belgium."(5)

"The secrets of the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian camp massacres in 1982 have gone to the grave with yet another former Phalangist militiaman, the third Lebanese to die mysteriously in little more than two months. Michael Nassar, who was a former associate of Elie Hobeika - the Phalangist leader murdered in a car bombing in Beirut in January - was shot dead in Brazil by a man firing a pistol equipped with a silencer. His young wife, Marie, was shot down beside him...

"The first former right-wing Christian to be struck down was one of Hobeika's old colleagues, Jean Ghanem, who drove his car into a tree on New Year's Day...

"A Belgian court has postponed a decision over whether to indict Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, for his role in the massacres - he was held 'personally responsible' by an Israeli commission of inquiry - while lawyers for the survivors produce more evidence. But the vital evidence that may lie in the memories of those involved with the killers, who were allied to Israel at the time, is disappearing almost by the week as the death list grows." (6)

For details of American support for Israel - currently approaching one hundred billion dollars - see the Washington Report at

Please note: HTML links were created between January-March 2002. Some of these links may have expired when you read this.

1. From The Irish Times,commenting on the upcoming Belgian trial.

2. Fergal Keane, "Sabra and Shatila: Dealing with facts"

3. House of Commons Wednesday 21 November 2001 Notices of Motions

4. Professor Dr. Ahmad Al-Tal, "The Massacre of Sabra and Chatila in 1982." Professor Al-Tal is not some ignorant fanatic. He is Dean of Zarka Private National Community College. In 1980 he received an Award of Distinction from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. He is the author of several books on higher education and Jordanian history.

5. "Sharon witness blown up in Beirut"" by Brian Whitaker and Ian Black. The Guardian, Friday January 25, 2002

6. "Third former militiaman with links to Sabra and Chatila is murdered" by Robert Fisk. The Independent, 11 March 2002

-The article was written in March 2002...


After Abu Ghraib

Huda Alazawi was one of the few women held in solitary in the notorious Iraqi prison. Following her release, she talks for the first time to Luke Harding about her ordeal ........

It began with a phone call. In November last year 39-year-old Huda Alazawi, a wealthy Baghdad businesswoman, received a demand from an Iraqi informant. He was working for the Americans in Adhamiya, a Sunni district of Baghdad well known for its hostility towards the US occupation. His demand was simple: Madame Huda, as her friends and family know her, had to give him $10,000. If she failed to pay up, he would write a report claiming that she and her family were working for the Iraqi resistance. He would pass it to the US military and they would arrest her.

"It was clearly blackmail," Alazawi says, speaking in the Baghdad office of her trading company. "We knew that if we gave in, there would be other demands." The informant was as good as his word. In November 2003, he wrote a report that prompted US soldiers to interrogate Alazawi's brother, Ali, and her older sister, Nahla, now 45. Wearing a balaclava, he also led several raids with US soldiers on the families' antique-filled Baghdad properties.

On December 23, the Americans arrested another of Alazawi's brothers, Ayad, 44. It was at this point that she decided to confront the Americans directly. She marched into the US base in Adhamiya, one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces. "A US captain told me to come back with my two other brothers. He said we could talk after that." On Christmas Eve she returned with her brothers, Ali and Mu'taz. "I waited for four hours. An American captain finally interrogated me. After 10 minutes he announced that I was under arrest." Like thousands of other Iraqis detained by the Americans since last year's invasion, Alazawi was about to experience the reality of the Bush administration's "war on terror".

"They handcuffed me and blindfolded me and put a piece of white cloth over my eyes. They bundled me into a Humvee and took me to a place inside the palace. I was dumped in a room with a single wooden chair. It was extremely cold. After five hours they brought my sister in. I couldn't see anything but I could recognise her from her crying."

Alazawi says that US guards left her sitting on the chair overnight, and that the next day they took her to a room known by detainees as "the torturing place". "The US officer told us: 'If you don't confess we will torture you. So you have to confess.' My hands were handcuffed. They took off my boots and stood me in the mud with my face against the wall. I could hear women and men shouting and weeping. I recognised one of the cries as my brother Mu'taz. I wanted to see what was going on so I tried to move the cloth from my eyes. When I did, I fainted."

Like most Iraqi women, Alazawi is reluctant to talk about what she saw but says that her brother Mu'taz was brutally sexually assaulted. Then it was her turn to be interrogated. "The informant and an American officer were both in the room. The informant started talking. He said, 'You are the lady who funds your brothers to attack the Americans.' I speak some English so I replied: 'He is a liar.' The American officer then hit me on both cheeks. I fell to the ground.

Alazawi says that American guards then made her stand with her face against the wall for 12 hours, from noon until midnight. Afterwards they returned her to her cell. "The cell had no ceiling. It was raining. At midnight they threw something at my sister's feet. It was my brother Ayad. He was bleeding from his legs, knees and forehead. I told my sister: 'Find out if he's still breathing.' She said: 'No. Nothing.' I started crying. The next day they took away his body."

The US military later issued a death certificate, seen by the Guardian, citing the cause of death as "cardiac arrest of unknown etiology". The American doctor who signed the certificate did not print his name, and his signature is illegible. The body was returned to the family four months later, on April 3, after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke. The family took photographs of the body, also seen by the Guardian, which revealed extensive bruising to the chest and arms, and a severe head wound above the left eye.

After Ayad's body had been taken away, Alazawi says that she and 18 other Iraqi detainees were put in a minibus inside the military compound. "The Americans told us: 'Nobody is going to sleep tonight.' They played scary music continuously with loud voices. As soon as someone fell asleep they started beating on the door. It was Christmas. They kept us there for three days. Many of the US soldiers were drunk."

Finally, after a US guard broke her shoulder as she left the lavatory, Alazawi and her surviving siblings were transferred - first to a police academy in Baghdad's interior ministry and then, on January 4 2004, to Abu Ghraib prison.

Alazawi, who has a 20-year-old daughter, Farah, and a four-year-old granddaughter, Safat, spent the next 156 days in solitary confinement. Along with five other Iraqi women, she was held in Abu Ghraib's infamous "hard site" - the prison block inside the compound where photographs of American guards sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners had been taken two months previously. The women were kept in the upstairs cellblock; male detainees regarded as "difficult" were held downstairs. The vast majority of inmates lived in a series of open tents surrounded by razor wire and US guard posts.

In her first weeks at Abu Ghraib, before the US military launched its internal investigation into prisoner abuse, torture was commonplace, she says. "The guards used wild dogs. I saw one of the guards allow his dog to bite a 14-year-old boy on the leg. The boy's name was Adil. Other guards frequently beat the men. I could see the blood running from their noses. They would also take them for compulsory cold showers even though it was January and February. From the very beginning, it was mental and psychological war."

Alazawi is reticent about the question of sexual abuse of Iraqi women but says that neither she nor any of the other women in Abu Ghraib at the time were sexually assaulted by US guards. In his subsequent report into the scandal, however, Major General Antonio Taquba found that at least one US military policemen had raped a female inmate inside Abu Ghraib; a letter smuggled out of the prison by a woman known only as "Noor", containing allegations of rape, was found to be entirely accurate. Other witnesses interviewed by the Guardian have said that US guards "repeatedly" raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was held in the block last year. They also said that guards made several of the women inmates parade naked in front of male prisoners.

Alazawi says that she was held in a two-metre-square cell, initially with no bed and a bucket for a toilet. For the first three weeks she was entirely "mute" after being told that talking was forbidden. The US guards gave her only one book, a Koran. She managed to steal a pen, and recorded incidents of abuse, with dates, in its margins. During her first few months in custody, the US soldiers were brutal, petty and tyrannous, she says.

"Because I could speak a bit of English I was given the job of emptying the rubbish. There was never enough food and one day I came across an old woman who had collapsed from hunger. The Americans were always eating lots of hot food. I found some in a packet in a bin and gave it to her. They caught me and threw me in a one-metre-square punishment cell. They then poured cold water on me for four hours." She wrote the date down in her Koran: February 24 2004.

For the first four months, apart from frequent interrogations, she was not allowed out of the block. Alazawi says she was repeatedly asked whether she was in the Resistance and whether she had fired rockets at US soldiers (she is 5ft 3in tall). "It became a running joke. The other women began to nickname me the Queen of the RPG [rocket-propelled grenade]. The American interrogators were entirely ignorant and knew nothing about Iraqi people. The vast majority of people there were innocent."

After the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April, Alazawi was allowed to exercise in the scrubby yard outside for 10 minutes a day. She got a bed. She was also assigned a new female guard, "Mrs Palmer", who helped the women with their English and in turn tried to learn Arabic. In May, Major General Geoffrey Miller, assigned to Abu Ghraib by Washington in the aftermath of the torture scandal, escorted a large group of journalists around the prison for the first time. The previous night, Alazawi says, US guards evacuated all the juveniles and male detainees from her cellblock, leaving only her and a handful of other women upstairs.

"Mrs Palmer told us that during the inspection we had to lie quietly on our beds. She said that if we behaved we would be allowed to spend more time out of our cells in the sun. The following day General Miller turned up with a huge number of journalists. I heard him telling them that some of the people kept in here were murderers. I shouted out: 'We are not the killers. You are the killers. This is our country. You have invaded it.' After that they didn't let me out of my cell for an entire month. A US officer came to me and said: 'Because of you we have all been punished'."

Alazawi says she was unimpressed by Miller. "It was obvious he liked having his photo taken," she says. Over the next few weeks, the US military began releasing hundreds of Abu Ghraib detainees as part of a damage limitation exercise. Alazawi and her sister were moved from their cells to a tent. Three generals also came to interview her and asked her to describe what had happened to Ayad, her brother. They did not, however, offer an apology. The other women were gradually released, including her sister. Finally, on July 19, a helicopter took Alazawi to Al Taji, a military base just north of Baghdad.

"After eight months in prison they suddenly treated me like a queen. It was weird," she says. "They offered me some Pepsi. I could take a shower. There was air conditioning. There were four female soldiers to look after me. The doctor came to see me four times in 24 hours. They made me sign a piece of paper promising not to leave the country. And then I was free."

A US military spokesman said that Alazawi was known to him, but disputed her claim to have been held in solitary for 157 days:"She and her sister, which [sic] were the last two females we detained at Abu Ghraib, were separated from the male detainees in keeping with the cultural sensitivities." He added, "The fact that abuses occurred isn't really news any more. We know they did and those who are accused are being prosecuted for it."

Now Alazawi is trying to piece her life back together. She is back at work in Baghdad, where she runs businesses importing foreign cars and electrical goods, surrounded by respectful staff who bring endless cups of sweet Iraqi coffee. Business appears to be flourishing. Friends of the family in Arab dish-dash - many of whom come from Iraq's Sunni elite - drop in and exchange gossip on her white leather sofas. But after her release, her millionaire husband announced that he was divorcing her.

"For a woman in an eastern society to spend months in US custody is very difficult," she says. Several of the other former women detainees in Abu Ghraib are believed to have disappeared; others have husbands who have also disowned them. Alazawi's surviving brothers, Ali - prisoner number 156215 - and Mu'taz - 156216 - are still inside Abu Ghraib. The US military continues to detain them and 2,400 other prisoners without charge or legal access, in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Alazawi says that she has hired lawyers to pursue the Iraqi informant who she blames for her brother's death.

All the other women detainees, meanwhile, have refused to talk about their ordeal; she is the first to give testimony. As Iraq lurches from disaster to disaster, from kidnapping to suicide bombing, from insurgency towards civil war, from death to death, what does she think of the Americans now? "I hate them," she says.

-Published on Monday September 20,2004 in The Guardian,UK...

Washington's secret nuclear war

By Shaheen Chughtai

Illegal weapons of mass destruction have not only been found in Iraq but have been used against Iraqis and have even killed US troops.

But Washington and its allies have tried to cover up this outrage because the chief culprit is the US itself, argue American and other experts trying to expose what they say is a war crime.

The WMD in question is depleted uranium (DU). A radioactive by-product of uranium enrichment, DU is used in ammunition such as tank shells and "bunker busting" missiles because its density makes it ideal for piercing armour.

Thousands of DU shells and bombs have been used in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and - both during the 1990-91 Gulf war and the ongoing conflict - in Iraq.

"They're using it now, they're using it in Falluja, Baghdad is chock-a-block with DU - it's all over the place," says Major Doug Rokke, director of the US army's DU project in 1994-95.

Scientists say even a tiny particle can have disastrous results once ingested, including various cancers and degenerative diseases, paralysis, birth deformities and death.

And as tiny DU particles are blown across the Middle East and beyond like a radioactive poison gas, the long-term implications for the world are deeply disturbing.

DU has a "half-life" of 4.5 billion years, meaning it takes that long for just half of its atoms to decay.

Sick soldiers

Only 467 US soldiers were officially wounded during the 1990-91 Gulf war.

But according to Terry Jemison at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), of the more than 592,560 discharged personnel who served there, at least 179,310 - one third - are receiving disability compensation and over 24,760 cases were pending by in September 2004.

This does not include personnel still active and receiving care from the military, or those who have died.

And among 168,528 veterans of the current conflict in Iraq who have left active duty, 16% (27,571) had already sought treatment from the VA by July 2004.

"That's astronomical," says Rokke, whose team studied how to provide medical care for victims, how to clean contaminated sites, and how to train those using DU weapons.

Rokke admits the exact cause for these casualties cannot be confirmed. But he insists the evidence pointing to DU is compelling.

"There were no chemical or biological weapons there, no big oil well fires," he says. "So what's left?"

Cradle to grave

Dr Jenan Ali, a senior Iraqi doctor at Basra hospital's College of Medicine, says her studies show a 100% rise in child leukaemia in the region in the decade after the first Gulf war, with a 242% increase in all types of malignancies.

The director of the Afghan DU and Recovery Fund, Dr Daud Miraki, says his field researchers found evidence of DU's effect on civilians in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan in 2003 although local conditions make rigorous statistical analysis difficult.

"Many children are born with no eyes, no limbs, or tumours protruding from their mouths and eyes," Miraki told Some newborns are barely recognisable as human, he says. Many do not survive.

Afghan and Iraqi children continue to play amid radioactive debris. But the US army will not even label contaminated equipment or sites because doing so would be an admission that DU is hazardous.

This "deceitful failure", says Rokke, contradicts the US army's own rules, such as regulation AR 700-48, which stipulates its responsibilities to isolate, label and decontaminate radioactive equipment and sites as well as to render prompt and effective medical care for all exposed individuals.

"This is a war crime," Rokke says. "The president is obliged to ensure the army complies with these regulations but they're deliberately violating the law. It's that simple."

No remedy

But these blatant violations are practically irrelevant because Rokke's Iraq mission found that DU cannot be cleaned up and there is no known medical remedy.

US President George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair used Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of illegal weapons to justify invading Iraq. But several prominent jurists hold Bush and Blair guilty of war crimes for waging DU warfare.

The vice-president of the Indian Lawyers Association, Niloufer Bhagwat, sat on an international panel of judges for the unofficial International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan.

Bhagwat and her fellow judges ruled that the US had used "weapons of extermination of present and future generations, genocidal in properties".

Friendly fire

And not just against defenceless Afghan civilians.

"Bush was guilty of knowingly using DU weaponry against his own troops," Bhagwat told, "because the president knew the effects of DU could not be controlled".

A prominent US international human-rights lawyer, Karen Parker, says there are four rules derived from humanitarian laws and conventions regarding weapons:

-weapons may only be used against legal enemy military targets and must not have an adverse effect elsewhere (the territorial rule)

-weapons can only be used for the duration of an armed conflict and must not be used or continue to act afterwards (the temporal rule)

-weapons may not be unduly inhumane (the "humaneness" rule). The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 speak of "unnecessary suffering" and "superfluous injury" in this regard

-weapons may not have an unduly negative effect on the natural environment (the "environmental" rule).

Illegal weapons

"DU weaponry fails all four tests," Parker told First, DU cannot be limited to legal military targets. Second, it cannot be "turned off" when the war is over but keeps killing.

Third, DU can kill through painful conditions such as cancers and organ damage and can also cause birth defects such as facial deformities and missing limbs.

Lastly, DU cannot be used without unduly damaging the natural environment.

"In my view, use of DU weaponry violates the grave breach provisions of the Geneva Conventions," says Parker. "And so its use constitutes a war crime, or crime against humanity."

Parker and others took the DU issue before the UN in 1995, and in 1996, the UN Human Rights Commission described DU munitions as weapons of mass destruction that should be banned.


Despite the evidence, Rokke says Pentagon and Energy Department officials have campaigned against him and others trying to expose the horrors of DU.

That charge is echoed by Leuren Moret, a geoscientist who has worked at the Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons research laboratories in California.

White House denials are part of a long-standing cover-up policy that has been exposed before, she says.

"For example, the US denied using DU bombs and missiles against Yugoslavia in 1999," she told "But scientists in Yugoslavia, Greece and Bulgaria measured elevated levels of gamma radiation in the first three days of grid and carpet bombing by the US."

Moret says: "A missile landed in Bulgaria that didn't explode and scientists identified a DU warhead. Then, Lord [George] Robertson, the head of NATO, admitted in public that DU had been used."

Even the US army expressed concern about the use of DU in July 1990, some six months before the outbreak of the first Gulf war. Those concerns were later echoed by Iraqi officials.


But brushing his own army's report aside - now said to be "outdated" - US President George Bush has dismissed such warnings as "propaganda".

"In recent years, the Iraqi regime made false claim that the depleted uranium rounds fired by coalition forces have caused cancers and birth defects in Iraq," says Bush on his White House website.

"But scientists working for the World Health Organisation, the UN Environmental Programme and the European Union could find no health effects linked to exposure to depleted uranium," he says.

Bush can point to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report in 2001 that said there was no significant risk of inhaling radioactive particles where DU weapons had been used.

It said the level of radiation associated with DU debris was not particularly hazardous, but it accepted that high exposure could pose a health risk.

Scientific studies

WHO also commissioned a scientific study shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq that warned of the dangers of US and British use of DU - but refused to publish its findings.

The study's main author, Dr Keith Baverstock, told that "the report was deliberately suppressed" because WHO was pressed by a more powerful, pro-nuclear UN body - the International Atomic Energy Agency. WHO has rejected his claims as "totally unfounded".

The study found DU particles were likely to be blown around and inhaled by Iraqi civilians for years to come. Once inside a human body, the radioactive particles can trigger the growth of malignant tumours.

Bush's claim that the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) gives DU pollution a clean bill of health is also disingenuous.

UNEP experts have yet to be allowed into Iraq, its spokesman in Geneva Michael Williams told, citing security concerns.

And a scientific body set up in 1997 by Green EU parliamentarians - the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) - found that DU posed serious health risks.

An eminent Canadian scientist involved with the ECRR, Dr Rosalie Bertell, says the deadliness of DU derived not just from its radioactivity but from the durability of particles formed in the 3000-6000C heat produced when a DU weapon is fired.

"The particles produced are like ceramic: not soluble in body fluid, non-biodegradable and highly toxic," she told "They tend to concentrate in the lymph nodes, which is the source of lymphomas and leukaemia."

Known killer

The US military and political establishment cannot plead ignorance. As early as October 1943, Manhattan Project scientists Arthur Compton, James Connant and Harold Urey sent a memo to their director, General Leslie Groves, saying DU could be used to create a "radioactive gas".

In 1961, two nuclear experts, Briton HE Huxley and American Geoffrey Zubay, informed the scientific community that DU targeted human DNA and "the Master Code, which controls the _expression of DNA", Moret says.

In September 2000, Dr Asaf Durakovic, professor of nuclear medicine at Washington's Georgetown University, told a Paris conference of prominent scientists that "tens of thousands" of US and UK troops were dying of DU.

Death sentence

"There has to be a moratorium on the manufacture, sales, use and storage of DU," geoscientist Moret says, warning that this will not happen unless more Americans realise what is happening.

The Middle East has been severely contaminated, warns Moret. "That region is radioactive forever," she says, but worse is yet to come.

Moret says the air carrying DU particles takes about a year to mix with the rest of the earth's atmosphere.

The radiation released by DU nuclear warfare is believed to be more than 10 times the amount dispersed by atmospheric testing.

As a result, DU particles have engulfed the world in a radioactive poison gas that promises illness and death for millions.

Rokke went to Iraq a fit and healthy soldier, but the major is now beset with a variety of illnesses and each day is a struggle.

He suffers from respiratory problems and cataracts while his teeth - weakened by DU radiation - are crumbling. At least 20 of the 100 primary personnel he worked with on the US army's DU project have died. Most of the rest are ill.

Meanwhile, WHO says cancer rates worldwide are set to rise by 50% by 2020, although it does not link this publicly to DU.

"They would never say that - they offered various strange explanations," says Moret. "But DU is the key factor. People will slowly die."

-Posted on Tuesday 14 September 2004 to Al Jazeera TV Network...


Krugman today,on Iraq

It's Ayad Allawi week. President Bush, starting with his address at the U.N. today, will try to present Mr. Allawi - a former Baathist who the BBC reports was chosen as prime minister because he was "equally mistrusted by everyone" - as the leader of a sovereign nation on the path to democracy. If the media play along, Mr. Bush may be able to keep the Iraq disaster under wraps for a few more weeks.

It may well work. In June, when the United States formally transferred sovereignty to Mr. Allawi's government, the media acted as if this empty gesture marked the end of the war. Even though American casualties continued to rise, stories about Iraq dropped off the evening news and the front pages. This gave the public the impression that things were improving and helped Mr. Bush recover in the polls.

Now Mr. Bush hopes that by pretending that Mr. Allawi is a real leader of a real government, he can conceal the fact that he has led America into a major strategic defeat.

That's a stark statement, but it's a view shared by almost all independent military and intelligence experts. Put it this way: it's hard to identify any major urban areas outside Kurdistan where the U.S. and its allies exercise effective control. Insurgents operate freely, even in the heart of Baghdad, while coalition forces, however many battles they win, rule only whatever ground they happen to stand on. And efforts to put an Iraqi face on the occupation are self-defeating: as the example of Mr. Allawi shows, any leader who is too closely associated with America becomes tainted in the eyes of the Iraqi public.

Mr. Bush's insistence that he is nonetheless "pleased with the progress" in Iraq - when his own National Intelligence Estimate echoes the grim views of independent experts - would be funny if the reality weren't so grim. Unfortunately, this is no joke: to the delight of Al Qaeda, America's overstretched armed forces are gradually getting chewed up in a losing struggle.

So what's the answer?

The Bush administration fostered the Iraq insurgency by botching the essential tasks of enlisting allies, rebuilding infrastructure, training and equipping local security forces, and preparing for elections. It's understandable, then, that John Kerry - whose speech yesterday was deadly accurate in its description of Mr. Bush's mistakes - proposes going back and doing the job right.

But I hope that Mr. Kerry won't allow himself to be trapped into trying to fulfill neocon fantasies. If there ever was a chance to turn Iraq into a pro-American beacon of democracy, that chance perished a long time ago.

Can the insurgency be crushed? It's widely believed that in November, a few days after the election, the Bush administration will launch an all-out offensive against insurgent-controlled areas. Such an offensive will, for all practical purposes, be an attempt to conquer Iraq all over again. But unlike Saddam's hapless commanders, the insurgents won't oblige us by taking up positions in the countryside, where they can be blasted by U.S. air power. And grinding urban warfare that leads to heavy American casualties and the death of large numbers of innocent civilians will simply enlarge the ranks of our enemies.

But if the chance to install a pro-American government has been lost, what's the alternative? Scaling back our aims. This means accepting the fact that an Iraqi leader, to have legitimacy, must be able to deliver an end to America's military presence. Unless we want this war to go on forever, we will have to abandon the 14 "enduring bases" the Bush administration has been building.

It also means accepting the likelihood that Iraq will not have a strong central government - and that local leaders will end up with a lot of autonomy. This doesn't have to mean creating havens for hostile forces: remember that for a year after Saddam's fall, moderate Shiite clerics effectively governed large areas of Iraq and kept them relatively peaceful. It was the continuing irritant of the U.S. occupation that empowered radicals like Moktada al-Sadr.

The point is that by winding down America's military presence, while promising aid to those who don't harbor anti-American terrorists and retaliation against those who do, the U.S. can probably leave behind an Iraq that isn't an American ally, but isn't a threat either. And that, at this point, is probably the best we can hope for.


What Is Bush Hiding ?

By E. J. Dionne Jr.

It is to be welcomed that President Bush wants to clear up questions about his National Guard service. He wants more details out there, and good for him. This story should be laid to rest, and the one person who can do it is named George W. Bush.

Up to now, Bush has been interested in a rather narrow aspect of the story. He wanted Dan Rather and CBS News to come clean about whether they used fake documents in reporting on the president's Guard service back in the 1970s.

"There are a lot of questions and they need to be answered," Bush told the Union Leader in Manchester, N.H., last week. "I think what needs to happen is people need to take a look at the documents, how they were created, and let the truth come out."

I couldn't agree more. And apparently CBS came to the same view. CBS messed up, and yesterday, Rather fessed up. He said the network could no longer stand behind the documents. There will be much hand-wringing about the media in the coming days, and properly so.

But what's good for Dan Rather, who is not running for president, ought to be good for George Bush, who is. "There are a lot of questions and they need to be answered." Surely that presidential sentiment applies as much to Bush's Guard service as to Rather's journalistic methods.

The New York Times put the relevant questions on the table yesterday in a lengthy review of Bush's life in 1972, "the year George W. Bush dropped off the radar screen," as the Times called it. The issues about Bush's National Guard service, the Times wrote, include "why he failed to take his pilot's physical and whether he fulfilled his commitment to the guard."

Oh, I can hear the groaning: "But why are we still talking about Vietnam?" A fair question that has several compelling answers.

First, except for John McCain, Republicans were conspicuously happy to have a front group spread untruths about John Kerry's Vietnam service in August and watch as the misleading claims were amplified by the supposedly liberal media. The Vietnam era was relevant as long as it could be used to raise character questions about Kerry. But as soon as the questioning turned to Bush's character, we were supposed to call the whole thing off. Why? Because the media were supposed to question Kerry's character but not Bush's.

And, please, none of this nonsense about how Kerry "opened the door" to the assault on his Vietnam years by highlighting his service at the Democratic National Convention. Nothing any candidate does should ever be seen as "opening the door" to lies about his past. Besides, Vietnam veterans with Republican ties were going after Kerry's war record long before the Democratic convention.

But, most important, there is only one reason the story about Bush's choices during the Vietnam years persists. It's because the president won't give detailed answers to the direct questions posed by the Times story and other responsible media organizations, including the Boston Globe. Their questions never depended on the discredited CBS documents.

Bush could end this story now so we could get to the real issues of 2004. It would require only that the president take an hour or so with reporters to make clear what he did and did not do in the Guard. He may have had good reasons for ducking that physical exam. Surely he can explain the gaps in his service and tell us honestly whether any pull was used to get him into the Guard.

But a guy who is supposed to be so frank and direct turns remarkably Clintonian where the National Guard issue is concerned. "I met my requirements and was honorably discharged" is Bush's stock answer, which does old Bill proud. And am I the only person exasperated by a double standard that treated everything Bill Clinton ever did in his life ("I didn't inhale") as fair game but now insists that we shouldn't sully ourselves with any inconvenient questions about Bush's past?

I'm as weary as you are that our politics veer away from what matters -- Iraq, terrorism, health care, jobs -- and get sidetracked into personal issues manufactured by political consultants and ideological zealots. But the Bush campaign has made clear it wants this election to focus on character and leadership. If character is the issue, the president's life, past and present, matters just as much as John Kerry's.

Dan Rather has answered his critics. Now it is Bush's turn.

-The article was published on Tuesday, September 21, 2004; Page A21 of the Washington Post...The author is available at


U.S. Said to Sell Smart Bombs to Israel

Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - The United States will sell Israel nearly 5,000 smart bombs in one of the largest weapons deals between the allies in years, Israeli military officials said Tuesday.

The deal will expand Israel's existing supply of the weapons, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Israel's announcement came after the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible military sale to Israel worth as much as $319 million.

The agency said in a June 1 press release that the sale ``will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.''

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday that funding for the sale will come from U.S. military aid to Israel.

Disclosure of the deal comes amid escalating Israeli worries over Iran's nuclear development program.

Israel and a number of Western countries fear that Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for generating electricity.

Defying a key demand set by 35 nations, Iran announced Tuesday that it has started converting raw uranium into the gas needed for enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons.

The Israeli military officials would not say whether the bombs might be intended for use against Iran. But they ruled out the possibility that they could be used against Palestinian targets.

Israel drew heavy criticism after a one-ton smart bomb meant for a senior Palestinian militant also killed 15 civilians in an attack in the Gaza Strip in July 2002.

The bombs Israel is acquiring include airborne versions, guidance units, training bombs and detonators. They are guided by an existing Israeli satellite used by the military.

As part of the deal, Israel will receive 500 one-ton bombs that can destroy two-yard concrete walls, 2,500 one-ton bombs, 1,000 half-ton bombs and 500 quarter-ton bombs, the military officials said.

-First published in the Guardian,UK on Wednesday September 22,2004 1:01 AM

Bush, Annan Speeches Show Divisions on Iraq

Addressing the U.N., the president again defends the invasion, and the secretary-general warns that those who invoke the law must abide by it.

By Maura Reynolds and Maggie Farley
Times Staff Writers

UNITED NATIONS — For the second time in two years, President Bush on Tuesday defended the invasion of Iraq before the U.N. General Assembly and appealed to other countries to join the United States in spreading "freedom" and "human dignity" in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in a pointed rebuke, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that countries that hoped to instill the rule of law must first abide by it themselves.

The two addresses at the opening session of the 59th annual meeting invoked values such as democracy and the rule of law, and both Bush and Annan only briefly mentioned the schism of the last two years over the invasion of Iraq. But the war was the clear context for both leaders' remarks, as it was last year, and the two sides seemed not to have moved closer in the interim.

When we say 'serious consequences' for the sake of peace, there must be serious consequences," Bush said, referring to language in a Security Council resolution warning Iraq to eliminate any weapons of mass destruction. "And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world."

Annan insisted that "every nation that proclaims the rule of law at home must respect it abroad." Although the secretary-general did not name the United States, to the scores of world leaders listening in the vaulted chamber, the target of his comments was obvious.

"Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it," he said, "and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it."

That comment was a reference to Bush's challenge to the U.N. in 2002 to enforce its numerous resolutions demanding that Iraq rid itself of illicit weapons. The U.S. eventually invaded without the explicit approval of the Security Council, and last week, Annan called the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq "illegal" — the most direct _expression yet of his opposition to the attack.

Annan delivered one direct strike at Washington on Tuesday. Listing a "few flagrant and topical examples" of shameless disregard for law, Annan mentioned "Iraqi prisoners disgracefully abused" along with atrocities in Sudan, beheadings in Iraq and the bloody school takeover in Beslan, Russia.

In the chamber, response to both speeches was polite but not enthusiastic. After three consecutive years in which Iraq has dominated the opening of the General Assembly, the response from many delegates was tepid.

Leaders such as interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who depend heavily on U.S. support, lauded Bush's remarks. Leaders of Germany and Spain sided more with Annan.

"Peace is a task that demands more determination, more heroism than war," said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who pulled his country's troops out of Iraq after winning election in March. "For that reason, my government decided not to have a military presence in Iraq."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said: "I think it's very important what Kofi Annan said about the rule of law in the 21st century, so I don't want to go more into the details because this would be very unpolite."

And French President Jacques Chirac, who after last year's General Assembly opening met with Bush and tried to paper over their differences about the Iraq invasion, skipped the event altogether.

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry said that Bush, in his speech, "barely talked about the realities at all in Iraq" and that he "missed an opportunity" to persuade world leaders to help rebuild and stabilize the country.

"You don't just stand up in front of folks in the midst of a sort of running-through-all-the-issues speech and pretend that that's the way you lead people to the table," Kerry said in Jacksonville, Fla., where he was campaigning. "You have to engage, I said, in a summit. That you ought to pull those people to the table and come out with a unified agreement as to what you're going to do…. The president has not engaged in that kind of diplomacy and summitry."

Although the threat from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction was the primary rationale for the U.S. war in Iraq in 2003, Bush on Tuesday presented his decision to invade and occupy the country as part of a campaign to promote democracy and human dignity around the world. And he urged other countries to join in.

"For decades, the circle of liberty and security and development has been expanding in our world," the president said. "Now we have the historic chance to widen the circle even further, to fight radicalism and terror with justice and dignity, to achieve a true peace, founded on human freedom."

Taking note of the Sept. 11 attacks as well as the March train bombings in Madrid and this month's school siege in Russia, Bush said terrorists believed that the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Bill of Rights, and every charter of liberty ever written, are lies, to be burned and destroyed and forgotten."

"The security of the world is found in the advancing rights of mankind," Bush said. "These rights are advancing across the world — and across the world, the enemies of human rights are responding with violence."

Bush cited the surge of violence in Iraq as evidence of progress, saying: "We can expect terrorist attacks to escalate as Afghanistan and Iraq approach national elections…. But these difficulties will not shake our conviction that the future of Afghanistan and Iraq is a future of liberty. The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat. It is to prevail."

Bush also presented U.S. policies as part of an international "compassion" agenda that includes fighting AIDS and human trafficking as well as seeking debt reduction for poor countries. He proposed establishing an international "democracy fund" to support such work as election monitoring, but he gave few specifics and did not say how much the U.S. would contribute to such a project.

Annan also used his remarks to respond to critics, including many in the Bush administration, who contend that the United Nations is too ponderous to be effective.

"Today, more than ever, the world needs an effective mechanism through which to seek common solutions to common problems. That is what this organization was created for," he said. "Let's not imagine that, if we fail to make good use of it, we will find any more effective instrument."

Bush's appeal for other countries to join the U.S. efforts in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan didn't result in any immediate public offers of troops or other assistance. But his most important business was conducted behind closed doors in a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, where he met with leaders from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Japan.

Bush had no planned meetings with European heads of state.

With the U.S. presidential election six weeks away, Bush's remarks Tuesday appeared to be aimed as much at the American public as at the international leaders gathered in New York.

A few hours after his speech to the General Assembly, Bush met with Allawi and said the U.S. would continue to support the Iraqi government.

"The American people are seeing horrible scenes on their TV screens," Bush said, apparently referring to footage of the American hostage who was beheaded Monday in Iraq. "And the prime minister will be able to say to them that in spite of the sacrifices they made, in spite of the fact that Iraqis are dying and U.S. troops are dying as well, that there is a will among the Iraqi people to succeed. And we'll stand with them."

Administration officials have sought to stress that Iraq is making progress toward democracy, even as violence continues throughout much of the country and car bombings, ambushes, assassinations and kidnappings remain a threat.

Well over 1,000 U.S. troops have died in the war, and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have voiced growing concern about Iraq.

A highly classified National Intelligence Estimate assembled by some of the government's most senior analysts this summer provided a pessimistic assessment about the future security and stability of Iraq. Contents of the report were recently made public.

On Tuesday, though, Bush said the CIA was "just guessing" when it said in the report that Iraq was in danger of slipping into civil war.

"The CIA laid out several scenarios. It said that life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better," the president said during a photo session with Allawi. "And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like."

At a raucous rally in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday night, Bush's Democratic opponent expressed incredulity at the president's statement that the CIA was "guessing" when it laid out scenarios for success in Iraq.

"Ladies and gentleman, does that make you feel safer?" Kerry asked an indoor stadium crowd estimated at 11,000.

"No!" the audience shouted.

"Does that give you confidence that this president knows what he's talking about?" the candidate asked.

"No!" the crowd responded.

"The CIA was just guessing?" Kerry continued. " … The CIA and the nation deserve a better assessment than that by the president of the United States of America."

*Times staff writer Matea Gold in Florida and Times wire services contributed to this report...