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[casi] News, 11-18/10/02 (2)

News, 11-18/10/02 (2)


*  Radical Shias are a worry for Bush as well as Saddam
*  U.S. Changes Gulf War Pilot's Status
*  Toward a human disaster
*  How we'll fight
*  The war debate: Peter Bouckaert
*  War against Iraq will hurt global economy: Stiglitz
*  Why the odds on war in Iraq are just one in three
*  The Fifty-first State?


*  Airstrikes Focus on Key Iraq Air Base
*  U.S., British Jets Strike Iraq Air Defenses

WHITE MAN'S BURDEN,,3-443664,00.html

by Ian Cobain
The Times, 12th October

WEEPING, praying and invoking the names of their long-dead prophets, half a
million pilgrims teemed through the narrow streets of the Muslim holy city
of Karbala in southern Iraq yesterday.

As the crowds streamed towards the al-Hussein mosque, where they clamoured
to touch the shrine at the spot where Muhammad's grandson died in battle,
they were watched from street corners by young conscripts, chain-smoking and
nervously fingering the safety-catches of their AK47s.

The pilgrims, who travel each week from Iran and Lebanon, from as far south
as India and as far north as Azerbaijan, pay little heed to the countless
murals showing President Saddam Hussein's smiling face, or to the many
banners urging Iraqis to vote for him at next week's one-man election.

For Karbala is a Shia city, the al-Hussein mosque and the nearby al-Abbas
mosque are both Shia shrines, and this was the scene of the bloodiest
fighting during the Shia uprising that followed the Gulf War.

About 60 per cent of Iraqis are Shia, and they have been largely excluded
from power and denied the fruits of the country's lucrative oil-smuggling
trade, because Saddam and his ruling clique are Sunni Muslims, a grouping
that counts for 18 per cent of the population.

Saddam has ruthlessly repressed this volatile majority, murdering one cleric
after another and ordering his largely Sunni Republican Guard to crush any
hint of rebellion.

In 1980, shortly before declaring war on Iran, he hanged two of the
country's leading Shia figures. There were further bloody reprisals in 1996
after Shia gunmen crippled his elder son, Uday, when they opened fire on his
Porsche. Then, three years ago, the last Grand Ayatollah of Iraq, Mohammad
Sadiq al-Sadr, was murdered, together with his two sons.

Despite the years of oppression, the conscripts in Karbala had good reason
to be edgy yesterday: the Shias represent a constant threat to Saddam's
survival. Moreover, as the White House contemplates a regime change, there
is a growing realisation that the empowerment of the Shias could end in the
break-up of Iraq and that the turmoil could spill far beyond its borders.

Karbala may be a mud-coloured city, lying close to the mud-coloured waters
of the Euphrates, but it is a place steeped in blood. It was the massacre
here in AD680 of Imam Hussein and his followers that led to the great schism
between Sunnis and Shias.

Hussein was attacked as he and 70 supporters were trying to seize control of
the growing Islamic empire from the caliphs who had been appointed on the
death of his grandfather, Muhammad. He was shot through the mouth with an
arrow, then a troop of horsemen rode back and forth across his body and his
head was carried in triumph from the battlefield.

Centuries later there would be slaughter again. In March 1991 the residents
of Karbala joined those of Basra, 315 miles to the south, in the uprising
against Saddam. The Iraqi Army fled in terror, about 75 Baath Party
officials were hurled from their office windows to be hacked to death by the
mob below and it seemed for one heady moment as if the regime were about to

But no strong leader emerged and there was no support from the West. The
Republican Guard returned 11 days later to perpetrate the worst bloodbath
that Karbala has seen.

The guardsmen are said to have been merciless, ploughing through the bazaars
in T72 tanks emblazoned with the slogan "No Shias After Today" and fighting
from house to house until the last rebels sought sanctuary in the
magnificent 11th-century al-Hussein and al-Abbas mosques.

The copper-domed shrines are revered almost as much as Mecca by millions of
Shias across the East, yet Saddam's troops did not hesitate to train their
tank guns and heavy artillery on them. The surviving rebels are said to have
been hanged from lampposts or dragged to their deaths behind the T72s. Their
families were hunted down and shot.

The shrines have been rebuilt, but some of their grey marble walls remain
pock-marked by shrapnel, and fear still enshrouds the city, mingling with
the sand that drifts in from the Mesopotamian Desert.

Today there are fears of a fourth historic massacre at Karbala if renewed
American and British attacks on Iraqi forces ignite the city's religious
fervour, economic frustration and hatred of Sunni oppression.

Even on the outskirts of Baghdad, 20 minutes' drive from Saddam's opulent
Radwaniyah Palace, about a million impoverished Shias are crammed into a
sprawling, fly-blown slum known, ironically enough, as Saddam City. Rotting
garbage stands waist-high outside crumbling 1970s tenement blocks, where aid
agencies say that one in seven children die before their fifth birthday and
where a weekly income of £3 is considered a good wage.

The spectre of another Shia rebellion will not only alarm Saddam, it must
also disturb Washington, as it highlights the dangers behind talk of a
regime change.

President Bush held out hope of democracy in Iraq in his speech to the
United Nations last month, and Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, says
that he foresees the country being governed "in a democratic fashion".

But a democratic Iraq would be a predominantly Shia Iraq and one which may
choose to forge closer ties with its Persian co-religionists in Iran, the
second nation in President Bush's "axis of evil". Some in the West fear even
that a Shia Iraq may become an Islamic state.

Shia supremacy in Iraq could also stir the restless Shia majority in
Bahrain, who have also been excluded from power. It could encourage the
Kurds in the north, who are largely Sunni, to press for independence: a
scenario that Turkey and Syria, with their own large Kurdish populations,
are determined to avoid at any cost.

As the faithful clung to the al-Hussein shrine yesterday, worshipping their
prophets with an emotional abandon that was in sharp contrast to the strict
self-control of the Sunnis, rebellion must have been far from their minds.
But as they stepped into the sunlight and eyed Saddam's young soldiers, who
knows what they were thinking?

by Matt Kelley
Las Vegas Sun (from AP), 12th October

WASHINGTON: The U.S. Navy on Friday declared Gulf War pilot Michael Scott
Speicher was captured by Iraq, saying there's no evidence the officer is

Two senators suggested there is new, classified evidence indicating Speicher
is alive inside Iraq.

Speicher originally was declared dead after his F/A-18 was shot down the
opening night of the Gulf War in 1991. But the military changed his status
to missing in action a decade later, given the absence of evidence he was
killed in the crash.

Iraq claims Speicher was killed, but has not turned over any remains.

Navy Secretary Gordon England on Friday changed Speicher's official status
to missing/captured.

"I have no evidence to conclude that Captain Speicher is dead," England

"While the information available to me now does not prove definitively that
Captain Speicher is alive and in Iraqi custody, I am personally convinced
the Iraqis seized him sometime after his plane went down. Further, it is my
firm belief that the government of Iraq knows what happened to Captain

A spokeswoman for Joanne Harris, Speicher's wife, said the officer's family
was pleased with the change.

"We think it is about time. We asked for this change more than a year ago,"
said Cindy Laquidara, a Jacksonville attorney who speaks for Harris.

"When you leave somebody behind, the passage of time does not make a
difference," she said. "It should not be up to the serviceman to prove he is

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in a statement Friday he believes Speicher is
indeed alive. Roberts came to that conclusion last month after getting a
series of classified briefings on the case, said spokeswoman Sarah Ross.

"A lot of that is based on intelligence information and a general hunch,"
Ross said.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said an Iraqi defector told officials that 11
years ago he drove a wounded American pilot to a hospital.

"He was a credible witness," said Nelson, who said the man had given
information on other topics that was correct. He had also passed a polygraph
exam, Nelson said.

Roberts, Nelson and other members of congress had pressed the Pentagon to
declare Speicher a prisoner of war. England wrote that the captured
designation means that "if alive, he's a prisoner of war."

"This change in status adds credibility and urgency to efforts to secure
Capt. Scott Speicher's release," Roberts said. "It sends a symbolic message
to the Iraqis, to other adversaries and most important to the men and women
of the armed forces that we will accept nothing less than full disclosure of
circumstances surrounding the missing and captured."

Some in the Navy had worried that declaring Speicher captured would be seen
as a political move as part of President Bush's drive to win support for
possible military action against Saddam Hussein. England deliberately waited
to approve the change until after Congress had given Bush the authority he
sought to take military action in Iraq, according to a defense official who
spoke on condition of anonymity.

Though not mentioning Speicher by name, Bush has referred in several recent
speeches to a U.S. pilot still missing in Iraq.

There is no known physical evidence that Speicher was captured, but U.S.
intelligence agencies believe it is a possibility.

Last year, U.S. intelligence agencies said in a report to the Senate
Intelligence Committee that Speicher probably ejected from his plane and
survived the shootdown. "We assess Lt. Cmdr. Speicher was either captured
alive or his remains were recovered and brought to Baghdad," the report
said. In either case, the Iraqi government has concealed information about
his fate, it said.

In July, the State Department sent a diplomatic note through the
International Committee of the Red Cross asking whether the Iraqi government
can offer new details about Speicher.

In a July 8 letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld said he agreed with Powell's suggestion that a note be
delivered "to confirm Iraq's intention to provide new information."

In March, Iraq offered to meet with U.S. officials in Baghdad to discuss the

A U.S. excavation team visited the crash site in 1995, finding aircraft
debris but no human remains. U.S. officials have said the site was tampered
with because reconnaissance photos showed part of the plane removed, then
returned, before the excavation team arrived.

The team "determined that the cockpit area had been expertly excavated"
before the team's arrival, and "all significant cockpit debris was removed,"
England wrote.

by Kenneth H. Bacon
Boston Globe, 14th October

US PLANNING for a possible attack against Iraq continues to make front-page
news, but preparations for post-attack programs are getting much less
attention. This is a mistake; war in Iraq would create a humanitarian
disaster, including huge flows of refugees and a serious nutritional and
public health crisis in Iraq.

Surrounding countries estimate that as many as 1.5 million people will flee
Iraq, and hundreds of thousands could be displaced within the country. The
United Nations might need to feed seven to eight million people, about
one-third of the country's population, according to some estimates.

Unlike Afghanistan, where relief agencies have been working for years, there
is little infrastructure to deal with a humanitarian disaster in Iraq.
Stockpiling food, assembling supplies and medicine and building relief teams
will take time and money, mainly from the United States.

If Saddam Hussein were to use chemical or biological weapons to blunt an
attack, the humanitarian crisis would be far worse. Thousands of people
would be killed or incapacitated, but relief workers - the world's first
responders to complex emergencies - would find it difficult to provide aid.
Humanitarian workers are completely unprepared to work in the toxic
conditions they could encounter in Iraq.

Operating separately, officials from the UN, the US military and private
relief agencies have begun preliminary contingency planning to address
Iraq's post-conflict needs. The challenges are daunting.

First, nobody knows if or when the United States will attack. The current
speculation is that any attack would come in the cooler months of January or
February, which would increase the need for shelter, blankets, and clothing.

In addition, humanitarian planners don't know anything about the dimensions
or targets of a possible attack; would it be focused on Baghdad or include
other major cities, such as Basra and Mosul?

Second, nobody knows if the war would stay limited to Iraq or spread to
other countries, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Both UN and US
analysts have concluded that Iraq has retained a missile program that could
allow it to attack targets in other countries.

Third, all planners are worried about a basic lack of assistance
infrastructure in and around Iraq. For example, only a few international
non-government agencies work in Baghdad, compared with the hundreds working
in Afghanistan.

As a result, there is no network for distributing aid quickly. The UN has
less than 1,000 expatriate workers in Iraq, supported by a few thousand
Iraqis. Most of the international workers administer the UN's oil for food
program and would likely leave the country before hostilities start.

Combat would generate a large and immediate need for food, shelter and
medicine, both for refugees and those who survived the war within Iraq. But
very little relief material is stockpiled in the area. Iran estimates that
up to one million refugees could move toward its border, but there are
currently enough supplies in place for 40,000.

This problem can be solved with a combination of planning, time, and money.
Thousands of tons of food, blankets and medical equipment must be stockpiled
in the area as quickly as possible. Most of the refugees are expected to
flee toward Iran and Turkey, although both countries currently contend that
they won't accept new refugees. Nevertheless, supplies will have to be
warehoused in Turkey and Iran so that assistance can be close to refugees in
border areas.

These logistical problems are small compared to what relief agencies would
face if Saddam Hussein, desperate to repel attack, used chemical or
biological weapons. The immediate fatalities and casualties could be
extremely high, and the lingering toxic impact of chemical, and particularly
biological, agents could complicate rescue and relief efforts. Relief
agencies simply lack the experience, equipment and training to work in
poisoned environments.

In 1988 Iraqi forces killed thousands of Kurds with chemical weapons in the
northern Iraqi city of Halabja. Dr. Christine Gosden, a British scientist
who has studied the attack, concluded that "treating immediately the victims
of chemical attack is absolutely critical, not only for saving lives, but
for preventing long-term radiation-like medical and genetic problems," such
as cancer and birth defects.

But Saddam's forces used a cocktail of chemical toxins - mustard gas and the
nerve agents Sarin, Tabun, and VX - that made defense and treatment
particularly difficult.

No matter how complex the humanitarian challenges, they must be addressed
quickly and forthrightly. The humanitarian costs are a necessary part of the
calculus of war, and the United States must take the lead in confronting
them. Preparation to save the people of Iraq is at least as important as
planning to remove the president of Iraq.

(Kenneth H. Bacon, a former assistant secretary of defense, is the president
of Refugees International.)

by Bevin Alexander
New York Post, 14th October

Eliminating Saddam Hussein will cause far fewer casualties than many
commentators have suggested.

A war against Saddam's forces need not require large numbers of troops and
need not necessitate a bloody urban battle through the streets of Baghdad,
as some doomsayers have predicted. To win, U.S. forces don't have to attack
Baghdad at all. Nor need they attack the Iraqi army directly.

We can win a war against Iraq with comparative ease because the United
States is deploying a new generation of highly accurate and extremely
powerful weapons that are revolutionizing warfare. These weapons, used with
great success in Afghanistan, let American forces strike almost any target
with almost exact accuracy from a great distance.

The effect is to eliminate the traditional battlefields of World War II,
Korea and Vietnam, for enemy soldiers can no longer survive on them. Large
concentrations of troops and weapons are now targets for destruction, not
marks of power.

Dispersion and concealment will be soldiers' only hopes for enduring in
future conflicts. Any Iraqi combat unit that sits down in place long enough
to be picked up by U.S. aerial surveillance or satellites would become the
immediate target for a strike from American weapons miles away. Iraq lacks
such highly accurate weapons, and has no possibility of defending itself
against them.

There are two keys to victory against Iraq: U.S. air power and weapons that
can be guided with absolute certainty to any target within the country.

American air power is so superior that the Iraqi air force would never rise
to oppose it, in the certain knowledge that it would be knocked out of the
sky almost instantly. With no enemy air force to challenge them, U.S.
aircraft could destroy nearly all of Iraq's surface-to air missile sites
within a few hours.

This would leave the Americans with complete air supremacy. So we could send
up unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to patrol the skies. These (along with
satellites and other detection devices) could locate virtually any deployed
Iraqi military force or weapon.

Once located, the target could be struck by bombs, missiles or shells
delivered with near pinpoint accuracy by means of the satellite-directed
Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS can find and precisely locate even
single tanks, cannons, vehicles and small bodies of troops - which can then
be destroyed by projectiles dispatched by attack helicopters, bombers,
gunships, cannons, missile launchers, cruise missiles or individual soldiers
manning hand held weapons.

American non-nuclear weapons have become so powerful in the past decade that
practically any target that can be located can also be destroyed.

The Pentagon's weapon of choice in Afghanistan was the joint direct-attack
munition (JDAM), a $21,000 device attached to the tail of a simple gravity
bomb that enables it to be guided by GPS to fall within thirty feet of the
target. Only four of 4,000 JDAMs dropped in Afghanistan went off target.

At this point, instant communications, great mobility and high flexibility -
other keystones of the new American strategy - come into play. Under the
cover of air supremacy, U.S. ground forces could drop by air transport
anywhere they chose, and could thereafter be supplied by air.

No Iraqi forces could mass against such a move, nor could they oppose it in
any strength: They would be destroyed within hours once they revealed

A strong (not necessarily large) American force dropped into the heart of
Iraq would be invincible. The U.S. commander in effect could ask Saddam:
"What are you going to do about it?" If he let the force remain unopposed,
he'd lose control of his country. If he tried to attack it, his army would
be destroyed before he could even come to grips with it.

The strategy leaves the U.S. military a number of options for defeating

One choice might be to insert a force on the Tigris River north of Baghdad.
>From there, and from bases outside Iraq, attack helicopters, gunships and
bombers could interdict air, rail, and road traffic going into and out of
Baghdad. Such an operation would blockade Baghdad as effectively as if it
were an island in a sea surrounded by the U.S. fleet.

A move of this sort would disrupt Saddam's control of Iraq, but would avoid
a dangerous battle through the streets of Baghdad. If the Iraqi army came
out to fight, U.S. aircraft could destroy most Iraqi forces within minutes
after they emerged from cover. Any Iraqi elements that might reach the
perimeter would be small, and could be stopped by American defensive
weapons. U.S. casualties would be low.

If the Iraqi army, instead, elected not to fight and to remain in Baghdad,
it would be isolated, impotent and in danger of starvation. Meanwhile the
rest of the country would be liberated.

In all likelihood, the people of Baghdad would rise in revolt and oust
Saddam themselves. If he did manage to retain control of his army and
prevent an uprising, we could offer sanctuary to Iraqi deserters. The
remnant of Baghdad's garrison would become irrelevant, and have no choice
but to surrender.

In such a scenario, it would be necessary only to bomb actual military
targets. Nothing else would have to be destroyed. American forces would
avoid a major battle, and few civilians would be killed.

We saw in Afghanistan the tremendous effectiveness of American weapons
delivered at so called standoff distances (that is, at ranges far beyond the
capacity of the Taliban and al Qaeda to retaliate). This is the new face of
warfare in the 21st century. Saddam Hussein has no chance whatsoever of
defeating this new kind of army, and only the slimmest of chances of
inflicting more than superficial losses on it.

Bevin Alexander's latest book is "How Wars Are Won."

Interviewed by Chronicle staff writer Robert Collier
San Francisco Chronicle, 16th October

Peter Bouckaert is senior emergencies researcher for Human Rights Watch, a
non governmental agency that investigates human rights situations worldwide.
A Stanford University law graduate, Bouckaert has worked with Human Rights
Watch for the past five years in Afghanistan, Israel and the occupied
territories, Kosovo, Macedonia, Chechnya, Sierra Leone and elswewhere. He
returned last week from a three-week trip to Kurdish controlled areas of
northern Iraq. The Baghdad government did not give him a visa to enter areas
of the country under its control.

Although Congress has granted President Bush the power to wage war with
Iraq, many in the Bay Area continue to voice concern over what they perceive
as a lack of adequate public discussion on the subject. The Chronicle is
featuring voices from a variety of perspectives, seeking to highlight some
of the key questions and issues involved.

There is support in northern Iraq for an invasion. Most Kurds we talked to
on the street privately expressed support for the attempt to remove Hussein.
They think the Kurds can get a fair deal in post-Hussein Iraq. But one great
concern is that Saddam could use chemical or biological weapons against his
own people again. Everybody (in the United States) is talking about how easy
the last war in Afghanistan was, but we should remember Kosovo, where
(former President Slobodan) Milosevic was able to use his troops against his
own people, even during U.S. bombardment, for an extended period of time.
With the Bush administration making it clear that his is an explicit goal,
it's likely that Hussein will use everything in his arsenal, not only
against the Kurds, but against the Shia in the south, who also rose up
against him in 1991.

There's also very likely to be very fierce interethnic fighting in the event
of the fall of Hussein's government. In 1991, thousands of people associated
with Hussein were killed by Kurds in the uprising. This time, there quite
possibly could again be killings in Kirkuk (the major city of in the
Baghdad-controlled area of northern Iraq) of Arabs by vengeful Kurds
sweeping down from the north on a significant scale. The Kurds believe most
of the Arabs will flee as Hussein starts falling. I think that is quite

Two weeks ago, the two Kurdish groups agreed on a constitution and to create
Kirkuk as their capital. Because Kirkuk is a major center of oil production,
Turkey sees a Kurdish takeover as signaling the creation of a powerful,
independent Kurdistan. That is totally unacceptable to Turkey (which has
long opposed autonomy movements from its own Kurdish minority population).
In statements coming out of Ankara, the Turkish government has talked about
intervening with its troops, all the way to Kirkuk.

An al-Qaeda link in Iraq?

An extremist group, Ansar al-Islam, does indeed seem to be linked to al
Qaeda. Many of its people returned from Afghanistan after Sept. 11; many
certainly have been with the Taliban. In the area that Ansar controls, they
are trying to establish same type of regime as the Taliban. They are very
abusive, very intolerant; they whip or burn with acid people for not obeying
their edicts. But their fighters came (from Afghanistan) through Iran, and
they're in a Kurdish-controlled area where it would be very hard for Baghdad
to help them. They're above the city of Halabja, where Hussein used chemical
weapons against the Kurds. There's no sympathy for Hussein anywhere in the
area. It's much easier to make a link between Ansar al-Islam and Iran,
rather than with Iraq, as the Bush administration has tried to do.

Consequences of a U.S. war?

It's quite likely that there would be significant civilian casualties. There
would likely be urban fighting which, anybody who looks at Jenin (in the
West Bank) for example, can be very bloody. There's every indication that
Hussein would bring his best troops into the cities, use civilians as
shields, which would make it much bloodier than Afghanistan.

And the humanitarian situation could be very bad. There are very few aid
agencies operating in Iraq, which imposes very tight restrictions and tries
to interfere with their work. The three largest emergency aid organizations
in the world, Medecins Sans Frontiers, Care International and the
International Rescue Committee, which were established in Afghanistan well
before the war, do not operate in Iraq. So there's nowhere near the level of
preparedness as in other crises I've been involved with. Turkey, Syria,
Iran, Saudi Arabia, all of which have refused to open their borders to
refugees, could impede people fleeing U.S. aerial attacks or the Hussein
government - like in 1991, when tens of thousands of people got stuck on the
border with Turkey in the middle of winter and many starved.

Daily Star, Bangladesh, 16th October

AFP, Seoul: A recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics, Joseph
Stiglitz, warned yesterday that a US war against Iraq would have a "very
negative" impact on the global economy.

He also accused President George W. Bush of "mismanagement" of the US
economy and forcing a global downturn on the rest of the world.

Speaking at the World Knowledge Forum here, Stiglitz said many people hoping
for an economic boom from a war on Iraq would be disappointed.

They confuse what happened in World War II with what could happen today, he
said. World War II helped the world out of global deflation and had a
positive impact on the world economy, he said.

"This current war, if it occurs, is likely to have a high probability of
having a very negative impact," he told journalists.

He said the differences between World War II and a possible war against Iraq
was that World War II was a war of total mobilization with huge

But a war on Iraq was likely to involve fewer people and less expenditure in
terms of the global economic growth.

"The benefit in terms of the economics of that stimulus (from a US-Iraq war)
is likely to be more than offset by the adverse effect that uncertainty is
having on investment, consumption and the possible adverse effects on oil
prices," he said.

"This is a very different kind of situation from World War II. Therefore,
(there are) much more downside effects in terms of the global economy," he

He criticised the Bush administration for opting for tax cuts over stimulus
packages he and other economists advocated to counter the economic downturn
which started setting in when Bush took office two years earlier.

"Now I believe quite strongly that the Bush administration has mismanaged
economic policy for the past two years," said Stiglitz, a Columbia
University professor.

He said tax cuts benefited a few rich people while people who really needed
the money, including the unemployed, got very little.

Prospects for the US economy remain clouded, he said as state governments
face a budget crunch because of reduced revenues which is forcing them to
cut expenditure, depressing the US economy further, he said.

"He (Bush) could have done something about that but he chose not to. So in
my mind there has been a very serious lack of economic management directed
at problems that the US has faced," he said.

He noted that he and other economists had warned of an in-built tendency in
the US economy towards slowdown which would not recover quickly unless it
had stimulus.

"And yet they refused to put forward a serious stimulus package. Rather they
pushed down this tax cut that was not really acting as adequate stimulus,"
he said.,,482-449254,00.html

by Anatole Kaletsky
The Times, 17th October

How likely is a war in Iraq this winter? Absolutely inevitable, if you judge
by the tabloid headlines. Almost certain, if you listen to the pundits and
military analysts who dominate the media and advise multinational companies
on what is "really" happening in world capitals from Washington to Baghdad.
Roughly a 70 per cent probability, if you speak privately to British
politicians directly involved in the trans-atlantic negotiations. But all
these people have incentives to talk up the likelihood of war ‹
respectively, to sell papers, justify consulting fees and intimidate
President Saddam Hussein.

It seems to me that peace is considerably more likely than war in Iraq, at
least for the next 12 months. In fact, I would not put a probability above
one in three on a ground war in Iraq by late March, when the climate gets
too hot for fighting in the heavy gear required to thwart chemical warfare.

How can I venture an opinion against the near-unanimous array of experts who
are infinitely better informed? Because I have an inside track to the only
two people in the world whose views count: George W. Bush and Saddam. Where
do I get this exclusive information? Simple. I read each morning's Times.
That isn't a sales pitch; the same information is available from any other
serious paper, supplemented by the American press websites.

Consider the US position. The media headlines tell us that war is inevitable
and will begin imminently, maybe even before Christmas. This is nonsense.
How do I know? Because the only person who can start a war is President Bush
and he told the American people in a nationwide TV address last week, that
"war is neither inevitable nor imminent" because he still hopes to disarm
Iraq through the UN process.

Do the experts who claim that war is inevitable know Bush's mind better than
he does himself? It seems more reasonable to take what he says at face
value, especially when he keeps repeating it, as he did on Monday: "The use
of the military is my last choice, my last desire."

Or do those who predict imminent war believe Mr Bush is lying? If so, why?
His diplomatic incentives are to sound as tough as possible to intimidate
Saddam. Perhaps he is playing to his domestic audience? But if that is the
case, it confirms that domestic political pressure is growing for the
President to seek a peaceful solution, at least while the UN process appears
to be moving forward. Public opinion has shifted decisively against a
unilateral or peremptory attack on Iraq. In a recent CNN poll, the number of
voters who supported an attack without UN backing and without allies had
dwindled to 39 per cent.

The turning point for public opinion was, of course, Bush's UN speech on
September 12. This raised expectations of an international solution which
were bitterly opposed by the Pentagon hawks. They naturally try to scupper
the UN process by presenting American positions in the most belligerent
light. The media naturally give them maximum coverage, since "imminent" war
is more exciting than glacial diplomacy. But the UN genie is out of the
bottle. Bush would now pay a crippling political price if he abandoned the
UN process prematurely.

Still, the hawks remain confident of war. The UN process, they insist, will
soon become paralysed; either the Security Council will fail to act or
Saddam will refuse to comply. But is this plausible?

Consider the other key players: Saddam, France and Russia. Saddam's main
motivation is to hold on to power for as long as possible. Once the
alternative of war became clear, he quickly accepted an inspection regime
which he had been defying for years. He now shows every sign of making more
concessions, as soon as the UN demands them. He naturally wants to
procrastinate as long as possible, but he submits when the alternative is

The intentions of France and Russia are equally transparent. They want to
maximise the influence and prestige of the UN Security Council, since this
is a body where they enjoy global power out of all proportion to their
economic or political importance. They must therefore dilute US demands just
enough to give Saddam a chance of complying, without being so obstructive
that they empower the US unilateralists.

Now let me return to my spuriously precise probability guesstimate of
one-in-three for war. Mathematics tells us that the best way to calculate
the probability of a complex event such as war, is to consider how likely it
is not to happen. So let us consider the steps which will have to be taken
to avoid a war.

First, the Security Council must agree a resolution. Given the powerful
motivations to work through the UN process discussed above, there must
surely be a 90 per cent chance that a UN resolution will be passed by early
November, with France and Russia stretching out the negotiations to narrow
the opportunity for war. What are the chances that Saddam will accept it?
Again, about 90 per cent, since the terms of the resolution will be
sufficiently conciliatory to win the support of the French and Russians. The
inspectors will then take a month to set up in Iraq. So the probability of
avoiding war until early December is 90 per cent of 90 per cent ‹ 81 per

Once the inspections begin, Saddam will do his best to slow them down, but
he will try even harder to avoid any provocative breaches ‹ at least until
the summer. Let us give him a 90 per cent chance of avoiding any
provocations for three months. This takes us to early March. The probability
of avoiding war by then is 90 per cent of 81 per cent, ie 73 per cent.

Finally, let us say that Saddam becomes more defiant as the summer
approaches and Bush determines sometime in March that his bluff must be
called. There would be further delays for military preparations and so on.
By the time an attack is possible, the hot weather would be starting. Bush
would have to decide whether to attack immediately or wait until this time
next year.

Conventional wisdom maintains that delaying the war until late next year is
out of the question; next autumn is simply too close to the 2004
presidential election. But this view makes no sense. Far from making next
winter "too late" for a war in Iraq, electoral considerations suggest it
would be a much better time than December 2002.

Recall what happened to the first President Bush. He fought a spectacularly
successful war in Iraq in February 1991, yet lost the election in November
1992. In the months after that war, the elder Bush was so popular (despite a
recession) that no serious Democrat politician was even willing to run
against him, leaving the field wide open to an unknown former Arkansas
Governor. But after the war, gratitude to Bush faded quickly, as it always
does (remember Churchill, Truman and de Gaulle). Meanwhile resentment about
the sluggish economic recovery increased with a lag, as it always does.

The lesson for George W. is therefore exactly the opposite to what is
generally supposed. Far from rushing into a war to "clear the air" before
the 2004 election, he would be wiser to delay the fighting until the winter
of 2003-04. Suppose that Saddam were stupid enough to offer America a casus
belli by March. Bush's powerful political entourage would then reinforce the
advice from the military brass against a summer campaign. In these
circumstances, I would suggest a 90 per cent probability that war would be
delayed until the autumn.

The analysis above put a probability of 73 per cent of Saddam avoiding any
confrontation in the next six months. Even if he did offer Bush a casus
belli in March, there would by then be only a 10 per cent chance of this
triggering an attack before next autumn. If you accept these conjectures,
the total probability of avoiding war before next autumn becomes 90 per cent
of 73 per cent ‹ 66 per cent. Take this away from 100 per cent and you
arrive at my hunch for the probability of war breaking out in the next year:
34 per cent, or a one-in-three chance.

If this seems a dishonest, or even an irresponsibly frivolous, way to deal
with a tragic subject, I apologise. But nothing is more dishonest ‹ or more
irresponsible ‹ than to accept without question the inevitability of war.

by James Fallows
The Atlantic Monthly, November 2002


So far we've considered the downside‹which, to be fair, is most of what I
heard in my interviews. But there was also a distinctly positive theme, and
it came from some of the most dedicated members of the war party. Their
claim, again, was that forcing regime change would not just have a negative
virtue‹that of removing a threat. It would also create the possibility of
bringing to Iraq, and eventually the whole Arab world, something it has
never known before: stable democracy in an open-market system.

"This could be a golden opportunity to begin to change the face of the Arab
world," James Woolsey, a former CIA director who is one of the most visible
advocates of war, told me. "Just as what we did in Germany changed the face
of Central and Eastern Europe, here we have got a golden chance." In this
view, the fall of the Soviet empire really did mark what Francis Fukuyama
called "the end of history": the democratic-capitalist model showed its
superiority over other social systems. The model has many local variations;
it brings adjustment problems; and it encounters resistance, such as the
anti-globalization protests of the late 1990s. But it spreads‹through the
old Soviet territory, through Latin America and Asia, nearly everywhere
except through tragic Africa and the Islamic-Arab lands of the Middle East.
To think that Arab states don't want a democratic future is dehumanizing. To
think they're incapable of it is worse. What is required is a first Arab
democracy, and Iraq can be the place.

"If you only look forward, you can see how hard it would be to do," Woolsey
said. "Everybody can say, 'Oh, sure, you're going to democratize the Middle
East.'" Indeed, that was the reaction of most of the diplomats, spies, and
soldiers I spoke with‹"the ruminations of insane people," one British
official said.

Woolsey continued with his point: "But if you look at what we and our allies
have done with the three world wars of the twentieth century‹two hot, one
cold‹and what we've done in the interstices, we've already achieved this for
two thirds of the world. Eighty-five years ago, when we went into World War
I, there were eight or ten democracies at the time. Now it's around a
hundred and twenty‹some free, some partly free. An order of magnitude! The
compromises we made along the way, whether allying with Stalin or Franco or
Pinochet, we have gotten around to fixing, and their successor regimes are

"Around half of the states of sub-Saharan Africa are democratic. Half of the
twenty-plus non-Arab Muslim states. We have all of Europe except Belarus and
occasionally parts of the Balkans. If you look back at what has happened in
less than a century, then getting the Arab world plus Iran moving in the
same direction looks a lot less awesome. It's not Americanizing the world.
It's Athenizing it. And it is doable."

Richard Perle, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and others have
presented similar prospects. Thomas McInerney, a retired three-star general,
said at the Senate hearings this past summer, "Our longer-term objectives
will be to bring a democratic government to Iraq ... that will influence the
region significantly." At a Pentagon briefing a few days later Rumsfeld
asked rhetorically, "Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if Iraq were similar
to Afghanistan‹if a bad regime was thrown out, people were liberated, food
could come in, borders could be opened, repression could stop, prisons could
be opened? I mean, it would be fabulous."

The transforming vision is not, to put it mildly, the consensus among those
with long experience in the Middle East. "It is so divorced from any
historical context, just so far out of court, that it is laughable," Chris
Sanders told me. "There isn't a society in Iraq to turn into a democracy.
That doesn't mean you can't set up institutions and put stooges in them. But
it would make about as much sense as the South Vietnamese experiment did."
Others made similar points.

Woolsey and his allies might be criticized for lacking a tragic imagination
about where war might lead, but at least they recognize that it will lead
somewhere. If they are more optimistic in their conclusions than most of the
other people I spoke with, they do see that America's involvement in Iraq
would be intimate and would be long.

It has become a cliché in popular writing about the natural world that small
disturbances to complex systems can have unpredictably large effects. The
world of nations is perhaps not quite as intricate as the natural world, but
it certainly holds the potential for great surprise. Merely itemizing the
foreseeable effects of a war with Iraq suggests reverberations that would be
felt for decades. If we can judge from past wars, the effects we can't
imagine when the fighting begins will prove to be the ones that matter most.

NO FLY ZONES,2933,65724,00.html

Fox, 15th October

WASHINGTON ‹ A key target of U.S. and British bombing in Iraq in recent
weeks has been an air base south of Baghdad that would be central to Saddam
Hussein's defense against an American invasion.

Since mid-September, Tallil Air Base -- a key link in an Iraqi air defense
network that remains formidable despite damage from years of periodic U.S.
bombing -- has been struck seven times, more than any other target ocations
from Iraqi air defense guns and radars.

Although Tallil has been a frequent target lately, the bombing has not been
extensive enough to neutralize the target. Over the years, Iraq has shown a
remarkable ability to repair and replace damaged air defenses.

Besides Tallil, the other major air defense sites in southern Iraq that have
been hit recently are Al Kut, Al Amarah and the airport at Basra. On
Tuesday, the Central Command said allied aircraft bombed a command and
control communications facility near Al Kut, in response to unspecified
"hostile acts" by Iraq.

Tallil, about 160 miles southeast of the Iraqi capital, is an air defense
sector headquarters. It has surface-to-air missiles and the communications
facilities to link them to the rest of Iraq's air defense network. It also
has two substantial runways and can support dozens of fighters

In contrast to the recent flurry of allied attacks in the south -- 23 since
Aug. 27 -- there were none reported in northern Iraq in that period.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says the U.S. attacks are simply a
necessary response to Iraqi efforts to shoot down the U.S. and British
pilots who patrol the skies over northern and southern Iraq to enforce "no
fly" zones. Iraq has long asserted that the flight zones are a violation of
its sovereignty.

Rumsfeld did acknowledge last month that he ordered U.S. forces to take a
different approach. Instead of firing mostly at Iraqi air-defense guns and
radars, pilots are now targeting more of the communications centers, command
buildings and fiber-optic links that are easier to find and harder to

In at least a few cases, U.S. targets have appeared related to preparations
for war.

On Sept. 5, for example, allied pilots bombed a military airfield 240 miles
west of Baghdad. The target, as described by Central Command, was ordinary:
an air defense command and control facility. But the location was unusual: a
remote airfield known as H-3 that originally was built to support an oil
pumping station near the Jordanian border. In a break with its usual
practice, Central Command did not identify the location.

Stephen H. Baker, a retired Navy rear admiral who served aboard the USS
Theodore Roosevelt during the Gulf War, said the strike at H-3 was
unprecedented in the decade-long history of "no fly" zone patrols.

"The objective of the strike could have been to destroy air defenses to
allow easy access for special operations helicopters to fly into Iraq via
Jordan or Saudi Arabia as part of a critical primary mission to hunt down
Scud" missiles, Baker said recently. "Knocking out Iraqi radars at H-3 also
would allow allied aircraft mounting major raids on Iraq a clear route into
the country."

The spate of aerial attacks on the Tallil base began Sept. 15.

In its typically cryptic description of U.S. and British bombing, the
Central Command said precision-guided munitions struck an air defense
communications facility at Tallil that day. Nine days later, other
unspecified "air defense facilities" were bombed at Tallil and Al Amarah,
another repeated target.

Tallil was targeted by allied bombers during the 1991 Gulf War, in part
because it was considered a probable storage site for chemical weapons. It
reportedly served as a staging point for Iraq's airborne chemical attacks
against Iran in the 1980s. Post-Gulf War U.N. inspections found no evidence
of chemical weapons there.

Al Amarah has an air defense base and headquarters for the Iraqi Army's 4th
Corps. It is on the Tigris River, about 165 miles southeast of Baghdad.

On Sept. 27, allied planes again attacked Tallil, this time targeting what
Central Command described as a surface-to-air missile control radar and a
surface-to-air missile launcher. On the same mission, Al Amarah was hit
again; Central Command reported targeting an air defense operations center
there but gave no details.

The next attack on Tallil was Oct. 3. Central Command said the targets were
an air defense sector headquarters building and an integrated operations
center. Surface-to-air missile sites at Tallil were bombed on Oct. 10 and

Yahoo, 15th October

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. and British warplanes attacked an air defense
command center southeast of Baghdad on Tuesday in response to continuing
threats against the aircraft policing a "no-fly" zone in southern Iraq, the
U.S. military said.

The U.S. Central Command, which controls military operations in the Gulf
area, said in a statement from its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, that the
jets attacked the command and control center near Al Kut, about 100 miles
southeast of Baghdad at about 2:15 p.m. Iraq time.

All the warplanes left the area safely and damage to the target from guided
weapons was being assessed, the Pentagon (news - web sites) said.

The strike was the latest in an escalating series in recent months in
response to what Washington says are increased attempts to shoot down U.S.
and British aircraft enforcing no-fly zones set up in northern and southern
Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War (news - web sites).

Recent air strikes against Iraqi air defenses have increased sharply as
speculation has grown that President Bush (news - web sites) might order an
invasion to oust President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), whom
Washington accuses of developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon said last week after the most recent strike against an air
defense target, a missile site southeast of Baghdad, that Iraqi gunners had
increasingly fired on aircraft policing the zones since Saddam offered on
Sept. 16 to let U.N. weapons inspectors return to his country.

The zones, which Iraq does not recognize, are meant to protect a Kurdish
enclave in the north and Shi'ite Muslims in the south from possible attack
by Iraqi forces.

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