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[casi] News titles, 17-24/9/03

News titles, 17-24/9/03

Listening to Kofi Annan's speech at the recent meeting of the United Nations
General Assembly, one would think that since 1945, a state of peace had
prevailed throughout the world thanks to the general acceptance of a
principle of 'multilateralism' by which no-one went to war without first
seeking the blessing of the United Nations Security Council.

This happy principle has now been rudely challenged, we are told, by the
emergence of a new principle, the right of a single nation or group of
nations (George Bush amusingly gives the impression that he is thinking of
any nation or group of nations) to react pre-emptively to threats which may
turn out to be purely imaginary.

This new and dangerous principle is itself a response to new and dangerous
forces in the world, 'terrorists', who might get their hands on something
called a 'weapon of mass destruction', a possibility that was previously
unthought of though, if I'm not mistaken, it is the theme of just about
every James Bond film that has ever been made.

In reality, however, the period following the Second World War has been one
of the bloodiest in the history of the world. And can anyone think offhand
of a single occasion when a conflict was prevented or peacefully resolved
through the intervention of the UN Security Council? There have been times
when the UN has intervened usefully at the invitation of two belligerents
who were mutually exhausted by their conflict, but that is about the height
of it.

Otherwise, the Security Council system could almost be said to have
encouraged war since most nations had a protector among the permanent powers
and could therefore act with impunity, sure of its protector's veto. This
changed in 1989 when Russia ceased to offer its clients protection, but far
from ushering in a new age of peace and security, this only incited the
United States and Britain to greater heights of belligerence.

For the first time, thinking they could now control the UN Security Council,
they pretended to observe the legal niceties. It worked very well in 1991
but has not been working so well for them since. So we can assume they will
abandon it again - as indeed they did in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. I
read Kofi Annan's speech not as a call to reign in the excesses of the
aggressor powers but rather as a statement that if international law is to
be relevant, it will have to loosen up in some way to accommodate those
excesses. Is that unduly cynical?

I repeat what I said many times in the period before the Iraq war. The
disproportion between the physical force of the United States and the rest
of the world is too great to allow of the incorporation of the United States
into a system of international law. Logically, power ought to follow
physical force and the United States ought to rule the world. Believing
political power to be 'Babylon' and therefore intrinsically evil (or, more
correctly, to be inseparable from evil) I might be prepared to put up with
that, but as Imperialist powers go, the Americans seem to be very bad at it.
Their own anti-Imperialist, pro-freedom ideology, encourages them to try to
operate through proxies, to control from a distance. When they do intervene
directly, they go in, smash everything up then pull out again, leaving
others to clear up the mess, usually bloodily. Then, if they don't like what
the others are doing, they move in again.

If, however, we want to replace a system of domination by brute force with a
system of law, then the United States has, somehow, to be separated from the
United Nations, since the United States cannot be constrained by law. The
world has to be divided sharply between those who accept the principle of
law (probably the great majority of countries who constitute the UN General
Assembly and the association of non-aligned countries) and those who
recognise only military power (the US and those who would wish to be
associated with her).

Normally such a clean division would be impossible since the US political
establishment believes the UN is useful to its purposes. It will not
willingly abandon it and there is, under the Charter, no mechanism for
expelling it. But a window of opportunity was opened through the ascension
of the 'neo-conservatives'. Given their strong ideologically driven
antipathy to the UN it should not have been impossible to induce the
neo-conservatives to leave, voluntarily, in a fit of pique.

Unfortunately, it looks as though George Bush's days at the White House are
numbered, and the window of opportunity is closing rapidly. It will be
closed for good if the Democrats get back into power. The best moment - the
run up to the war - has passed by. And it really seems quite clear that
Schroeder, Putin and Chirac do not have what it takes. As for the Chinese,
they may have something different up their sleeves. If Asia Times is to be
believed, a large amount of the United States' national debt is in their
hands. If the Margaret Thatcher good housekeeping theory of economics is
correct, should it not be possible for them to call in the debt all at once,
thereby bringing about the sudden collapse of the American economy?

In the meantime, Jacques Chirac is offering the US a quick and easy exit, a
rapid handover to the Iraqi Governing Council. Chirac explicitly bases this
on the policy pursued in Afghanistan with the Iraqi Governing Council
playing the role of Hamid Karzai. It is, he says, a way of assuring the
Iraqis that they remain a sovereign people.

But the Afghans are hardly a sovereign people. They have a ruler imposed on
them who controls very little, requires the protection of a foreign army,
and the rest of the country is in chaos. The Afghans had some possibility of
building a unified state in the 1970s and 1980s through the ruthless
determination of the Communists, but that was aborted by the Americans in
alliance with the free spirits of the mountains. Then they had another
chance with the ruthless determination of the Taliban, but that was again
aborted by the Americans and the free spirits of the mountains.

BUILDING A UNIFIED STATE IS DIFFICULT. If Saddam Hussein was what he was it
was not - or not uniquely - because of any intrinsic evil but because of
certain objective problems that have not gone away just because Mr Hussein
himself has had to go into hiding. The experience of the world tells us that
you cannot smash a country into its elements and then expect it to be reborn
as a pluralistic democracy in the image of America or Britain. All those
problems that made the US attempts to put together an Iraqi government in
exile look so ridiculous - those are the same problems that gave birth to
Saddam Hussein and could easily give birth to him again.

How, for example, will the rash of criminality and the plethora of
resistance groups, all of them probably with mutually contradictory long
term aims, be brought to an end without instituting, at least temporarily, a
reign of terror - which is what Chalabi, Barzani and Ayad Alawi all seem to
have in mind?

Which brings me to Milan Rai's new book, Regime Unchanged, the continuation
of War Plan Iraq and of the ARROW leaflets which played such an
indispensable role in the anti-war movement.

War Plan Iraq provided the movement with what its equivalents had so often
lacked in the past, a coherent strategy and a tough political argument.
Which I - as a permanently dissatisfied and self indulgent utopian
ultra-leftist - was unhappy with, because it presupposed support for the
weapons inspectors and therefore implicitly for the process by which the
inspections had been imposed and the Iraqi government constrained to
co-operate with them - sanctions in the case of UNSCOM and the military
buildup in the case of UNMOVIC. There was also the possibility, remote as it
might seem at the present time, that the inspectors would discover something
untoward, in which case the anti-war argument would have become very
difficult (it paid off handsomely, but it was a gamble nonetheless).

However, the position I would have favoured - supporting the right of the
Iraqi government to possess the means of defending itself, and explaining
the actions of that government in terms other than the transcendental
theological categories of Good and Evil - would probably not have worked
politically. It certainly would not have got the Lib Dems on board.

Regime Unchanged is similarly canny, politically speaking. It does not try
to explain or justify the actions of the Iraqi government. It takes it as
read that the Ba'ath Party was 'Nazi', therefore evil. The gist of the
message, then, is that far from wanting to overthrow the Nazi regime in
Iraq, the Americans and British are anxious to restore it. And a parallel is
drawn with the period after the 1939-45 war when, in France, Greece and
Italy, elements of the resistance were put aside and elements of the
collaboration brought back.

The conventional caricatural view of the Iraqi government, then, is not
challenged but is turned against its perpetrators. They are accused of
having supported Saddam in the first place and also of wanting to perpetuate
his system. And it is certainly the case that throughout the nineties the
preferred option was the palace revolution which would replace President
Hussein with someone close to him and, necessarily, implicated in his
policies of repression.

There is, however, an implication here that had it really been a war to
replace bad guys with good guys (whoever they might be) it might have been
justified, like the war against Hitler. Mil draws out the occasions in
France and Germany where some of the bad guys were allowed back in again,
but for most of Eastern Europe - which was the area under dispute when the
war began - the end result was to replace Hitler with Stalin, one bad guy
with another bad guy.

All this is fine for day to day politics. It is clearly difficult if not
impossible to get up in public and defend Saddam Hussein, or to develop any
sort of mass movement on that basis. Yet eventually we have to come to terms
with what the necessities are that produce bad guys in politics and how
those necessities can be changed. And first and foremost we have to
understand that the business of creating a stable and unified state is
difficult. It took us and the French a thousand years of bloody civil war.
It wasn't that easy in the United States of America (slavery, civil war,
second class citizenship for the black population). And for this reason I am
reluctant to criticise the conquerors in Iraq for wanting to maintain some
elements of continuity with the previous regime. It seems to suggest that
under the good and evil rhetoric there are still some little remnants of
common sense left. I would be more inclined to criticise them for not doing
it successfully or not doing it enough.

Politics, I have said, is inseparable from evil (this is one of the things
the 'fruit of the knowledge of good and evil' in Genesis is all about). The
policy adopted towards Iraq from at least 1990, if not 1920, onwards - like
the policy adopted towards Germany from, oh about 1912 onwards - was a
policy calculated to maximise the pressures towards evil. The art is to
develop a politics that will minimise those pressures. By creating an
anti-war movement in Britain sufficiently large to be visible from the
Muslim world, the Stop the War Coalition made a huge contribution in that
direction. Regime Unchanged is the continuation of that work and as such it
is churlish to criticise it. There are, however, other things that need to
be done as well.

News, 17-24/9/03 (1)


*  Chalabi is right, indefatigable and also self-serving [Robert Rabil,
longtime advocate of war, argues that the Bremer/Chalabi policy of
deba'athification has been a disaster]
*  Proposed Iraqi plan puts Americans on sidelines [Group led by M.Barzani
want to take on responsibility for security. Elsewhere we learn that the
group includes Talabani, a representative of SCIRI, and Alawi of the INA]
*  Iraqi Minister Assembling Security Force [A 'special force that would be
"a cross between the military and the police" and would be "deployed to
areas of hot confrontation.", under the control of Ayad Alawi: 'Alawi said
the force would be drawn primarily from two groups: former members of the
military and police, and members of the security and intelligence wings of
five political organizations: the Iraqi National Accord, the Iraqi National
Congress, the Shiite Muslim Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
Iraq and two large Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.']
*  Senior Iraqi official gunned down [Aquila al-Hashimi. The article reports
her as having been killed though she actually died of her wounds a week
*  SCIRI officials confirm Badr Corps remain active
*  Constitutional-Drafting Committee to be elected [sez Fu'ad Ma'sum, the
head of the preparatory committee of the Iraqi constitutional congress and
member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan after a meeting with Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who had previously put out a fatwa insisting on
*  Chalabi seeks to take seat at UN [with the aid of 'the remaining Saddam
Hussein envoys, who are still formally accredited at the UN ...']
*  Aljazeera barred from covering Iraqi council [Despite initial talk of
temporarily closing their office in Baghdad, Al Jazeera has not been banned
from working or broadcasting in Iraq. The refusal to allow them to cover the
activities of the Governing Council could be more disadvantageous to the
Council than to Al Jazeera. Unless of course the Council has something to
hide ...]
*  Chalabi seeks more control of finances, security


*  U.S.-appointed delegates pick interim council in Tikrit
*  British forces fire Al-Basrah police chief
*  'As Long as It Takes' Iraqis are on the road to democratic
self-government [by Colin Powell]


*  World Bank, IMF gear up for assisting Iraq reconstruction
*  OPEC approves Iraqi attendance at upcoming meeting
*  Iraq industries - except oil - up for sale to highest bidder [sez Kamel
al-Keylani, Iraq's interim finance minister at the annual meeting of the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Dubai. Even the Daily
Telegraph begins its account by saying 'Iraq was put up for auction
yesterday ...'. See also the comments in 'Cole's Corner'. A subsequent
report which appeared after this mailing was closed suggests that the IGC as
a whole is unhappy with Kamel al-Keylani's statement]
*  Iraq oil assets 'up for sale' ['There is no final decision on the shape
of the oil industry after reform. He said it would be a matter for the oil
ministry and the Governing Council to decide.' We were told a couple of
weeks ago (3-10/9/03) by Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, supposedly head of the Iraqi
oil industry, that no decision would be made on the privatisation of oil
until there was a democratically elected Iraqi government ...]


*  Major Iraqi attack on US convoy [Khaldiya, Thursday 18th September, and
death of teenager at wedding party in Fallujah]
*  Iraqi oil pipeline on fire [Thursday, 18th September]
*  Purported new audiotape of deposed Iraqi leader surfaces
*  US soldier kills rare tiger at Baghdad zoo
*  Tiger and Zoo I Know! [Felicity Arbuthnot says what needs to be said
about the killing of the Bengal tiger in Baghdad zoo, which may not be the
worst atrocity of recent months but seems somehow to achieve the heights of
a symbol for them all]
*  Security stepped up in Al-Sulaymaniyah
*  U.S. to pay compensation for killing Iraqi policemen [in the Fallujah
incident. The article also tells us that the US forces had only just arrived
in from Afghanistan, and that they fired on the poicemen 'as they headed
home after giving up the chase']
*  Iraq UN blast kills 2 [Monday 22nd September, and some other incidents]
*  US wipes out family in missile attack

*  Attackers United By Piety in Plot To Strike Troops
by Anthony Shadid
Washington Post, 21st September
[Impressively written, but long, account of Sunni Islamist fighters in

and, in News, 17-24/9/03 (2)


*  Pan-Arabism, dead in Baghdad's streets [A depressing article for those
like myself who think Iraq's neighbours might have a useful role to play. It
argues that few Iraqis want to have anything more to do with them]
*  Congress sees 'terror' road leading from Damascus [Democrat Eliot Engel
pushes the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. ie
despite the pretense of a quarrel between Democrats and Republicans, the
American project tranquilly pursues its way]
*  Fate of hundreds of Iraq war refugees remains unknown [Problem of -
largely Iranian - refugees in Jordan]     
*  Turkish opposition slams US loan linked to Iraq


*  Nearly half of Iraqis remain poor, malnourished, UN says
*  UN awards $315 million in Gulf War claims {is it believeable that this
idiocy is continuing?]
*  Transcript of interview with President Jacques Chirac [Extract from very
long interview in New York Times. Though the whole thing deserves to be read
for the flavour of it. Which is ambiguous. He is painfully, indeed rather
patronisingly kind to the Americans. There is no sense that they have just
committed a crime of monumental dimensions against the generally accepted
system of international law. He offers magnanimously to help them out of a
pit that they have dug for themselves. He proposes Afghanistan as a model
more or less saying that power should be given to any old Iraqi (in this
case the 'Governing Council', in the case of Afghanistan, Hamid Kharzai),
simply to show the Iraqi people that they are sovereign]
*  UN loses patience with the American way [Guardian summary of
contributions from Messrs Bush, Annan and Chirac]
*  Court throws out lawsuit against US Iraq commander [Belgian Court of
Appeal says there are no longer grounds for the war crimes suit against
General Tommy Franks since the law on 'universal' jurisdiction was amended
by the Belgian parliament]     

*  The end of American economic supremacy?
by Hussain Khan
Asia Times, 19th September
[Interesting article on the unedifying consequences of the anti-American
attacks in September 2001, and the huge military spending and tax cuts]


*  Bush clarifies position on Saddam's terror links [No proof of a link to
the attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, though President Bush
has no doubt of a link between the Iraqi government and Al Qaida. I note
that the Iraqi Prospect Organisations weekly news analysis agrees with my
note of last week that this is a device to secure Iraqi funds against
compensation claims from relatives of people killed in the WTC]
*  Blix criticises UK's Iraq dossier [talking to the BBC's Today programme:
'"We know that the advertisers will advertise a refrigerator in terms they
do not quite believe in but you expect governments to be more serious and
have more credibility," he said.']
*  Kennedy Says Case for Iraq War Was Fraud [Sen Edward Kennedy says their
attention has been distracted from Al Qaida. Meaning they should have gone
haring round the Muslim world looking for needles in haystacks?]
*  No Evidence of Smallpox Found in Iraq [The Darwah foot-and-mouth disease
center is tuled to be, and to have been for a long timer, definitively
defunct: 'U.S. satellite images had spotted trucks pulling up in the past
year ‹ an indication of renewed activity, the team was told. But
investigations on the ground revealed the trucks belonged to black
marketeers stealing scrap metal and other parts around the site.' Meanwhile,
Iraq has been suffering badly from foot and mouth disease ...]
*  White House is ambushed by criticism from America's military community
*  U.S. offering immunity to Iraqi scientists [who provide information about
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. But we are told that actual
existing WMDS were "never the issue [sic! - PB] ... It's the ability to
produce it once [Hussein] was free of constraints" ie Saddam's failure to
have all his pre-1991 scientists verifiably liquidated]
*  "The Crazies Are Back": Bush Sr.'s CIA Briefer Discusses How Wolfowitz &
Allies Falsely Led the U.S. To War [Brief extract from long interview with
former CIA analysts Ray McGovern and David MacMichael identifying David Kay
as a former CIA man]

and, in News, 17-24/9/03 (3)


*  The homecoming [Iraq Prospect Organisation visit to Iraq. Extracts from a
long article, emphasising the theme of welcome for the invasion and blaming
President Hussein for the problems.
*  The Return of an Expatriate [Ammar Alshahbander of the Iraq Foundation
finds that the Ba'ath system of government is much more deeply entrenched
and therefore more difficult to purge than he had imagined]
*  Iraqi Turkoman Front elects new leader
*  Iraq: will the Mandeans survive post-war Iraq? [This article, published
in July and recently sent to the list by Andreas, tells us that 'more than
80 Mandaeans have been murdered in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad. In the
days immediately following the fall of Baghdad, Islamists murdered some 30
Mandaeans in Baghdad alone.']
*  70th Assyrian Convention Addresses the Iraqi-Assyrian Question [Problems
of protecting Christians in Iraq leading to a proposal for 'double
federalism': '"Seventy years ago," he stated "the AANF (Assyrian American
National Federation) was founded by Assyrian Americans specifically in
response to the massacre of Assyrians in Simele, northern Iraq by the newly
formed Iraqi Army. The massacre of thousands of Assyrian women, children,
and elderly was the first military campaign of the newly formed Iraqi
State.' Long before Saddam Hussein, it may be noted.]


*  Juan Cole ‹ Informed Comment [Indication that the proposal to try to put
Iraq's industrial infrastructure into foreign hands was prompted by Ahmad
Chalabi's INC ‹ 6,000 US Troops have come home Sick or Wounded ‹ URL for
interview with Ambassador Joe Wilson, who investigated the uranium from
Niger story ‹ Israeli Investment in Iraq Prohibited 'since Iraq had not
recognized it and had no plans to' ‹ Shi'ites in the South fail to
co-operate in the work of rebuilding Iraq ‹ US Opens Iraq's Economy, but to
What? (Cole and a correspondent dispute the legality of the announcement on
the sale of Iraq's assets) ‹ Three Way Summit in Berlin Ends "in disaster"
(Cole argues that Iraq's 1925 constitution is perfectly adequate to present
needs and could be evoked immediately, allowing immediate elections)]


*  Baghdad Burning [I like the Riverbend blog so much I find it difficult to
make choices out of it. She's easily replaced Pepe Escobar in my affections.
Here we have her account of the sale of Iraq's assets, which includes some
idea of how the new Iraqi industrial order looks to people who had
experience of the old one ‹ an account of Akila Al-Hashimi, described as
'one of the decent members on the council' (any coincidence that she was the
only member of the former government?) ‹ and an account of a US raid in her
neighbourhood. If River is, as some might think, a propagandist for the old
regime one wonders why the old regime wasn't capable of putting out stuff of
this quality when they were in power]

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