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[casi] from today's papers: 21-07-02



A. Bush rallies US for strike on Iraq, Observer, 21 July
B. We're coming to get you, Saddam (but it may take a little while),
Independent on Sunday, 21 July
C. Tough standing shoulder to shoulder, Independent on Sunday, 21 July
D. Iraq? Let's not go there, Independent on Sunday, 21 July

Observer: letters@observer.co.uk
Independent on Sunday: sundayletters@independent.co.uk

[Letter writers: please remember to include your address and telephone
number. You have until Tuesday evening to get your letters in for the
Sundays.]

Rumours continue to build of an early war ...

**************************************************
A. Bush rallies US for strike on Iraq

Peter Beaumont and Paul Beaver
Sunday July 21, 2002
The Observer

President George Bush has told US troops to be ready for 'pre-emptive
military action' against Iraq, as security sources warned that a massive
assault against President Saddam Hussein could be likely at 'short notice'.
Whitehall sources confirmed that Tony Blair had decided Britain must back
any US assault and had ordered defence planners to begin the preparations
for a new war in the Gulf.

'President Bush has already made up his mind. This is going to happen. It is
a given,' said one Whitehall source. 'What we are waiting for is to be told
the details of how and when and where.'

Although Britain has not decided on its level of commitment, defence sources
say planners have been told to expect to send 20,000-30,000 British troops.

The sources added that British Challenger II main battle tanks and other key
armoured fighting vehicles were being pushed through a crash servicing and
refit programme. The Ministry of Defence has explained the crash repairs
programme by saying it is for a military exercise planned for Scotland.

However, expectation of a large British involvement in a US-led war to
topple Saddam Hussein has been raised by reports that Britain will issue an
emergency call-up of reservists in September and by reports of other
preparations, including a big increase in RAF training flights.

'The combat indicators are all there,' said one source. 'This is going to
happen. And perhaps sooner than we think.'

Whitehall sources claim, however, that the Prime Minister is hesitating in
declaring his full endorsement of Bush's plans until Washington puts in a
formal request for British troops.

Unlike Bush, Blair is understood to be concerned that Britain can make a
legal case for intervening in Iraq to remove Saddam, because of concern that
his support for the war could split the Cabinet and lose the support of the
Parliamentary Labour Party.

Blair ordered the preparation of a document that would lay out the
justification for attacking Iraq three months ago. Sources say the
document - expected to set out a 'legal framework' for a war - has been
completed.

The latest disclosures came as Bush used a visit to the troops that fought
al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan to renew his vow that the United States would
strike pre-emptively against countries developing weapons of mass
destruction, telling troops that 'America must act against these terrible
threats before they're fully formed'.

Surrounded by troops of the 10th Mountain Division, among the first sent to
Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, one of the soldiers yelled: 'Let's get Saddam!'

Bush's address came amid reports of efforts by Iraqi diplomats to court Arab
neighbours in countries that might be used for a US assault.

Iraq began to end a decade of diplomatic isolation in March at the Arab
summit. Since then - according to the Washington Post - it has signed up to
economic agreements with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and discussed
prisoner exchanges with Iran, putting pressure on Washington to act swiftly.

*****************************************
B. We're coming to get you, Saddam (but it may take a little while)

George Bush has given Iraq six months' notice that he plans to invade,
despite a lack of support from his allies. With a new doctrine that
stretches the definition of self-defence, the United States may be sowing
the seeds of worldwide anarchy, writes Rupert Cornwell

Independent on Sunday
21 July 2002

Has a war ever been so heavily signposted so long in advance, to the general
indifference of so many? To all outward appearances, the US is on a
glidepath to a military operation to get rid of Saddam Hussein at the end of
this year or in the early months of next. It will be a war which few of
America's allies want, of unpredictable consequences in a desperately
unstable region. Yet in the US at least, everyone seems to consider it the
most natural thing in the world.

The worries of others seem scarcely to impinge. Britain, which together with
the US has been conducting a quiet bombing war against Iraq for the past
four years, is probably the sole major ally America can count on  although
Tony Blair will face far more vocal opposition at home than anything
President Bush encounters.

US preparations for an attack continue in almost surreal disregard of what
is happening elsewhere in the Middle East. The connection between Arab fury
over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and Arab reluctance to back the
attack on one of their fellows is ignored; so too is the likelihood that an
unprovoked attack on a Muslim country will merely fuel the existing
resentment of America within parts of the Islamic world.

>From the tone of its pronouncements you would think Washington was patting
anxious allies on the head like parents taking a little child to the dentist
for the first time: "Don't worry, we know what's good for you; it won't
really hurt and when it's over you'll feel much better."

Any opposition voiced by governments in the Middle East is discounted,
although the private message is different, assure those now familiar, ever
anonymous "senior officials". Dick Cheney toured the region in March, and
Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, was in Turkey last week
trying to secure backing from a country whose air bases may be crucial for
an invasion.

Back home, the polls say, most Americans buy the President's line: that
unless this founder member of the "axis of evil" is halted in its tracks,
Iraq will continue to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and
either use them against the US or give them to terrorists who will do so.

There is no real public discussion  though finally the influential Senate
foreign relations committee has announced it will hold hearings before the
summer Congressional recess. Instead there are leaks. Almost every week
brings more of them. Some suggest a massive air and land assault involving
250,000 or more troops; others point to an "Afghan" campaign, relying on
aerial bombardment, special forces infiltration and help from Iraq's
internal opposition (for Northern Alliance read the Kurds and the southern
Shi-ites), or a combination of all the above.

According to one leak, the US intends to use Jordanian air bases in the
assault (even though this proved to be news to Jordan, which opposes a war
as strongly as any Arab country); then last week it was revealed that the
Pentagon was perfecting a new type of bomb for use on suspected weapons
plants, that would detonate not explosives but a thick coagulant or foam to
prevent deadly chemical and biological agents being released into the
atmosphere.

The overall message, though, is unmistakable: that planning for Gulf War II,
of which the administration was talking even before 11 September, is now at
an advanced stage. Mr Bush insists no final decision has been taken, but he
has been briefed extensively by Tommy Franks, head of Central Command, who
would be in charge of a new Iraq war.

The leaks bear every imprint of being deliberate sabre-rattling designed to
unnerve Saddam, or provoke him into a move against the Kurds, say, which the
US could use as a pretext.

But what if Saddam does not behave as the US intends? After all the tough
talk from the White House, the sabre will have to be unsheathed anyway, in
the interests of Mr Bush's credibility.

Iraq was the obvious target when the President went to West Point military
academy to proclaim his alarming new doctrine of "pre-emptive response". In
essence, America is now claiming the right to attack before it is attacked 
a concept extending far beyond the right of self-defence enshrined in
Article 51 of the United Nations charter, and amounting to carte blanche for
Washington to intervene as and when it chooses.

But if the US can do that, why cannot any other country with a score to
settle? A number of states used the American war on terror as an excuse to
act aggressively against old rivals last year. "Pre-emptive response" could
easily be a recipe for anarchy.

In any case, who is going to stop the US? This is a very different war from
Gulf War I a decade ago, when the elder Bush sent 500,000 troops to the
region to secure a return to the status quo, by liberating Kuwait and
putting Saddam "back in his box". The aim of Gulf War II would be far more
radical: "regime change"  even though Washington has no idea of the
succession.

The truth is that whatever the objections in the Middle East or beyond,
Washington seems not to care. Its military might, compared to both friend
and foe, is even greater than in 1991. "Smart" weapons are far smarter now.
A couple of US carrier groups carry more firepower than any country in the
region. Allies in Europe and elsewhere may complain, but ultimately they are
as mesmerised by US power as PGA golfers are by Tiger Woods.

Even the build-up may be quicker than expected. After Gulf War I, Washington
left up to 35,000 men and much hardware in the region to deter Saddam from
any more adventures. Anticipating a Saudi refusal to allow the use of its
bases for a new attack, the Pentagon has begun shifting theatre
command-and-control facilities to Qatar. Kuwait, already rescued once, can
hardly deny the US whatever it wants now.

And what if Saddam is overthrown? No one knows what sort of regime might
follow. The Iraqi opposition in exile is splintered and has little internal
credibility. A permanent American presence might be needed to prevent the
country from splitting  the very fear that kept Bush the father from going
all the way to Baghdad.

Under the son, the mood is very different. Since 11 September, the concept
of America as a "New Jerusalem" with its age-old sense of manifest destiny
has been merging with America as a militarily irresistible "New Rome". Put
more simply, America believes it is right, and is in no mood to let anyone
stop it. Saddam and those folks in Baghdad better watch out.

*******************************************************
C. Tough standing shoulder to shoulder
Blair faces eruptions on many fronts over his support for the President,
writes Jo Dillon

Independent on Sunday
21 July 2002

Tony Blair's resolve to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the United States
in the war against terror remains unshaken  only last week he laid out the
case for a pre-emptive military strike on Iraq once again. But as plans are
drawn up, evidence of Saddam's nuclear weapons capability awaits publication
and the US champs at the bit, the Prime Minister is cautious.

Behind his tough talk lie complex political and military realities that do
not seem to afflict George Bush. Mr Blair is not the President of the US, he
cannot simply give the word and watch the biggest fighting force in the
world go into battle.

First, the Prime Minister has to deal with British MPs anxious to be given a
say about any potential attack. A significant number of Labour backbenchers
including Tam Dalyell, the father of the House of Commons, and the anti-war
campaigner Alice Mahon are opposed to action in principle. So far they have
been denied a Commons vote on the issue.

Their response has been to warn of revolt at this autumn's Labour Party
conference, intense open criticism of the Government and a concerted
campaign backed by MPs from other parties, peace campaigners, trade
unionists and, significantly, representatives of Muslim communities. Street
protests unlike any seen in the US will certainly follow if Britain goes to
war again.

The dissidents point to fears that invading Iraq could fracture
multiculturalism in the UK and trigger civil unrest. They also warn that it
could provoke violence in and between other nations. Despite their
protestations, Mr Blair remains unmoved.

Downing Street insiders stress his determination to deal with Iraq's
capability to create "weapons of mass destruction" was absolute before 11
September. The events of that day merely demonstrated to the Prime Minister
the dangers of failing to act.

However, there are also questions over Britain's ability to take part in an
invasion. The UK's armed forces are hugely overstretched already, military
experts agree, with troops stationed in Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, the
Falkland Islands and elsewhere.

There is no question of the armed forces refusing to follow orders, but they
would be under "severe pressure" according to Major Charles Heyman, editor
of Jane's World Armies if they had to field the likely armed division of up
to 25,000 men supported by a further 15,000 logistic troops.

The cost of a campaign in Iraq would also be significant. Major Heyman
believes the Chancellor would have to set aside 1bn to fight an initial
campaign. The final cost could be "a lot more than that", he says.

Toppling the regime could be achieved in between three and six months, but
Major Heyman warns: "There will be serious opposition to this in the Muslim
world."

The longer a campaign goes on, however, the tougher Mr Blair's task of
taking the British public and his own party with him will be. Standing
shoulder to shoulder with his much more powerful friend across the Atlantic
could mean turning his back on some old allies back home, increasing the
Prime Minister's sense of isolation.

**************************************************************
D. Iraq? Let's not go there
By Joan Smith

Independent on Sunday
21 July 2002

MPs are off on their hols on Wednesday and by the time they return, we may
be at war with Iraq. Not that their absence will inconvenience the
Government in any way, for the Prime Minister has refused to commit himself
to a vote in the House of Commons before deploying British forces, a
position to be expected from someone with his aversion to robust
questioning. On the contrary, there is every sign that preparations for an
Anglo-American attack are at an advanced stage, with key reservists due to
be called up in September and British troops being pulled out of a whole
series of Nato exercises planned for the autumn.

This is an extraordinary situation, for I have not come across anyone who
can explain why there is this sudden urgency to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
To put it another way, I am still waiting for the killer fact, the
astounding piece of information which means that Saddam's regime is such a
threat to world peace that it can no longer be tolerated. Let me be clear: I
am in no doubt that he is a nasty piece of work or that the Iraqi people
would be immeasurably better off without him. The question I am asking, as
August approaches and normal political debate is suspended, is about timing.

The Ba'ath party came to power in Iraq in 1968 and celebrated with televised
hangings of its opponents, including Iraqi Jews and communists; Saddam, as
vice-chairman of the revolutionary command council, enjoyed a ringside seat.
Seldom has a regime taken less care to disguise its true nature, as an
American intelligence report conceded five years later, describing Iraq as a
classic one-party state dominated by the army and riddled with informers.
Saddam ousted his old boss, General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, in 1979 and has
been in sole charge ever since. He has tortured and murdered his people,
tried to build weapons of mass destruction (WMDs in the jargon) and invaded
neighbouring countries on two occasions.

Nothing new there, then. British ministers have also conceded, reluctantly
perhaps, that there is no convincing evidence linking him either to
al-Qa'ida or last September's terrorist attacks on the East Coast of the US.
As for that famous intelligence dossier, promised to us in the spring and
supposedly exposing Saddam's latest attempts to build biological weapons and
long-range missiles, it still seems to be languishing somewhere in the
Cabinet Office. So does this mean there has been an undeclared change of
policy by the British Government, which now intends to go around
overthrowing nasty regimes? Nice idea, but Iraq would presumably be No 1 on
a hit list that includes, just to name-check some of the worst offenders,
China, Burma and North Korea.

Whoa, let's not go there. What remains is the suspicion that the
preparations to attack Iraq are prompted not just by Blair's understandable
distaste for Saddam but his too-close relationship with the American
President. George W Bush has many reasons for wanting this particular Middle
Eastern adventure, from a desire to finish his dad's left-over business to a
pressing need to divert voters' attention from a series of gargantuan
financial scandals. It would be amazing, in the circumstances, if the
President wasn't planning to invade somewhere or other, but the problems of
failed states do not end with that other buzzword of the moment, "regime
change".

The Ba'ath party is a fascist organisation, whose founders in the 1940s were
admirers of Hitler and Mussolini; civil society barely exists in Iraq, which
has been terrorised by Saddam's Jihaz Haneen, an organisation modelled on
Hitler's SS, for 34 years. Post-war reconstruction would be an awesome and
expensive task, which is not an argument for refusing to attempt it. But it
is legitimate to ask, when the US government has demonstrated its brief
attention span in Afghanistan, who is going to carry it out? And here are
some other questions MPs should be asking themselves before they head for
the beach: do we want to live in a world where the US decides which regimes
are tolerable and which are not? Are we happy to see the US government once
again displaying its contempt for the international community and the United
Nations? I think we should be told before British troops risk their lives in
Iraq. Oh, and don't forget to pack your buckets and spades, everyone.

***********************************************










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