Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | US military police raid Iraqi detention centre to stop abuse of prisoners:

"American military police yesterday raided a building belonging to the Iraqi ministry of the interior where prisoners were allegedly being physically abused by Iraqi interrogators.

The raid appeared to be a violation of the country's new sovereignty, leading to angry scenes inside the ministry between Iraqi policemen and US soldiers.

The military police, who had been told of abuse, seized an area known as the Guesthouse just outside the ministry's main building. They disarmed the Iraqi policemen and at one stage threatened to set free prisoners whose handcuffs they removed, according to Iraqi officials.

The arrival of a second group of US military police and a more senior officer led to an argument between the two groups of military policemen over who had command authority for the raid.

Iraqi ministry of interior officials admitted that around 150 prisoners taken during a raid four days before in the Betawain district of Baghdad had been physically abused during their arrest and subsequent questioning.

The men were captured in the first big Iraqi-led anti-crime and anti-terrorism operation, which took place a few days before the transfer of power, with US military police in support and using US satellite images.

Senior Iraqi officers described those captured as "first class murderers, kidnappers and terrorists with links to al-Ansar" - a militant group in the former Kurdish no-fly zone - who had all admitted to "at least 20 crimes while being questioned". ...........

One of the prisoners bared his back after his initial arrest to reveal open welts allegedly caused by baton and rubber hoses.

A bodyguard for the head of criminal intelligence, Hussein Kamal, admitted that the beatings had taken place.

Nashwan Ali - who said his nickname was Big Man - said: "A US MP asked me this morning what police division I was in. I said I was in criminal intelligence.

"The American asked me why we had beaten the prisoners. I said we beat the prisoners because they are all bad people. But I told him we didn't strip them naked, photograph them or fuck them like you did."

The clear evidence of human rights abuses in the ministry building, which western advisers said they were not aware was being used for interrogations, raises serious questions over what authority the US and other multinational forces have to intervene if they suspect human rights abuses.

Although the new interim government of prime minister Ayad Allawi has warned that it may impose "drastic measures" - including invoking emergency powers to combat the worsening security situation in the country - advisers from the former coalition say they have been at pains to train Iraqi officers in human rights. This takes up one of their eight weeks' training.
Space Elevator: Momentum Building

Leading experts are meeting this week to take a longing look at the idea of a space elevator. The idea is a stretch, no doubt, with plenty of work to do before travelers have push-button, top floor access to space.

For one, what’s needed, advocates explain, is a super-tough ribbon that does an about face in thinking. It hangs from the ground and falls into the sky -- thanks to the Earth’s spin and centripetal force.

Anchored in space a ribbon 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) long would be made of carbon nanotubes. A "climber" would haul cargo, as well as passenger modules up and down the length of ribbon. Those are the basics. Of course, money is a key lubricant in this high-wire balancing act of technology.

At the third annual international conference on the space elevator being held in Washington, D.C., scientists and engineers are tackling hurdles that must be overcome for the concept to, quite literally, get off the ground.
US military lowers profile in Iraq | csmonitor.com
In wake of the June 28 handover, the military is moving convoys at night and scaling back its offensive operations.


MOSUL, IRAQ – With its 15-month occupation now history, the 138,000-strong US military force in Iraq is attempting to sharply lower its profile, scaling back offensive operations and narrowing target lists while encouraging Iraq's fledgling forces to take the lead.

Top US commanders have acted immediately to minimize the visibility of their forces. In a very public statement that Iraqis are now in charge, they have ordered US Army convoys as well as low-flying helicopters to move at night whenever possible. And symbolically, in a break with the occupation, the military "coalition" became "multinational forces" upon the June 28 transfer of power.

The thrust of US military activity will now be threefold, commanders say: to target terrorist networks, protect and consolidate US forces, and conduct joint operations with Iraqis aimed at weaning them completely from US support. By pulling back, they hope both to diffuse Iraqi insurgents fighting the occupation and force Iraqis to take their destiny into their own hands - a strategy also likely to save American lives.

"They now have the lead," says Col. Michael Rounds, commander of the largest US ground unit in northern Iraq, a Stryker brigade that is part of a 20,000-strong multinational task force. "In our last meeting [with provincial officials] we said 'OK, it's yours now.' "

To be sure, questions persist here and nationwide over whether the newly created Iraqi defense forces and police - still plagued by shortages of equipment and possessing only rudimentary training - are up to the task. "That's one area [where] we've fallen on our face," says Colonel Rounds, referring to lack of equipment.

Moreover the intensity of insurgent and terrorist attacks varies widely from region to region and will dictate the extent to which the US military can take a back seat.

At the same time, US commanders are cautiously watching how Iraqi authorities will handle their new security mandate. In Mosul, for example, American officers were taken aback upon hearing Monday that the provincial governor had ordered a 72-hour posthandover curfew, a further indication that some Iraqi officials favor controls resembling martial law.
Telegraph | News | Hurry up with extra troops, pleads Karzai:

"President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan urged Nato leaders yesterday to "please hurry" and bolster troop numbers in his country, saying elections planned for September were in peril.

"The Afghan people need that security today, not tomorrow. Come sooner than September and provide Afghan men and women with the chance to vote without fear," he said.

His appeal came a day after Nato agreed to boost its troop numbers from 6,500 to about 10,000 to improve security during the ballot, which has already been postponed once because of Taliban and al-Qa'eda violence.

But the offer of help was hedged. A large part of the increase is a standby force based outside Afghanistan.

The permanent increase is likely to be only a few hundred soldiers sent as "reconstruction teams" in provincial cities as the International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf) moves beyond Kabul.

An Afghan woman registers to vote in the country's first elections

Afghanistan has two foreign-dominated military forces. The peacekeepers of Isaf, a third of them German, are heavily outnumbered by an American-led combat force of 20,000, based mainly in the restive south and east.

Mr Karzai said the modest Nato gesture was a "welcome step". But in Kabul, officials were less diplomatic. The defence ministry spokesman, Gen Zahir Azimy, said: "This is not sufficient. We expect more"

Citing general improvements in security, Mr Karzai claimed that an upsurge in attacks against election organisers and civilians carrying registration cards was a sign of the extremists' "desperation". More than half the estimated eight million electorate had signed up and he hoped that two thirds of voters would register, he said.

But he faces severe problems. To the south and east, the Taliban are regrouping and killing anyone associated with central government.........

To the north and west, the warlords are digging in with the millions of dollars earned from the opium trade. Caught in the middle are the Afghans who have lost patience with their leader. They have even nicknamed the American-backed Mr Karzai 'Shah Shuja', a reference to the 19th century Afghan king who was installed by the British then deposed.

The security problems have worsened because the outside world has failed to fulfill promises to rebuild the country, said Barbara Stapleton, the director of the Agency Co-ordinating Body for Afghan Relief, a charity. 'Even if Nato sends its troops we have an insurgent Taliban threat, a narco-mafia threat, warlordism, and a highly militarised society. How this will be overturned by the current expansion is not clear,' she said."

You need to register to read the whole story. Don't you hate that? well, go to www.bugmenot.com and they'll give you a valid login for sites that require registration! Check it out!
Telegraph | News | Attack Iran, US chief ordered British: "Attack Iran, US chief ordered British


America's military commander in Iraq ordered British troops to prepare a full-scale ground offensive against Iranian forces that had crossed the border and grabbed disputed territory, a senior officer has disclosed.

An attack would almost certainly have provoked open conflict with Iran. But the British chose instead to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels.

Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez

'If we had attacked the Iranian positions, all hell would have broken loose,' a defence source said yesterday.

'We would have had the Iranians to our front and the Iraqi insurgents picking us off at the rear.'

The incident was disclosed by a senior British officer at a conference in London last week and is reported in today's edition of Defence Analysis. The identity of the officer is not given.

'Some Iranian border and observation posts were re-positioned over the border, broadly a kilometre into Iraq,' a Ministry of Defence spokesman said."

Monday, June 28, 2004

FT.com Home UK: "The British government has said repeatedly it stands by intelligence it gathered and used in its controversial September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes. It still claims that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.

But the US intelligence community, officials and politicians, are publicly sceptical, and the public differences between the two allies on the issue have obscured the evidence that lies behind the UK claim.

Until now, the only evidence of Iraq's alleged attempts to buy uranium from Niger had turned out to be a forgery. In October 2002, documents were handed to the US embassy in Rome that appeared to be correspondence between Niger and Iraqi officials.

When the US State Department later passed the documents to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, they were found to be fake. US officials have subsequently distanced themselves from the entire notion that Iraq was seeking buy uranium from Niger.

However, European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.

These intelligence officials now say the forged documents appear to have been part of a 'scam', and the actual intelligence showing discussion of uranium supply has been ignored.......

The FT has now learnt that three European intelligence services were aware of possible illicit trade in uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. Human intelligence gathered in Italy and Africa more than three years before the Iraq war had shown Niger officials referring to possible illicit uranium deals with at least five countries, including Iraq.

This intelligence provided clues about plans by Libya and Iran to develop their undeclared nuclear programmes. Niger officials were also discussing sales to North Korea and China of uranium ore or the "yellow cake" refined from it: the raw materials that can be progressively enriched to make nuclear bombs.

The raw intelligence on the negotiations included indications that Libya was investing in Niger's uranium industry to prop it up at a time when demand had fallen, and that sales to Iraq were just a part of the clandestine export plan. These secret exports would allow countries with undeclared nuclear programmes to build up uranium stockpiles.

One nuclear counter-proliferation expert told the FT: "If I am going to make a bomb, I am not going to use the uranium that I have declared. I am going to use what I acquire clandestinely, if I am going to keep the programme hidden."

This may have been the method being used by Libya before it agreed last December to abandon its secret nuclear programme. According to the IAEA, there are 2,600 tonnes of refined uranium ore - "yellow cake" - in Libya. However, less than 1,500 tonnes of it is accounted for in Niger records, even though Niger was Libya's main supplier.

Information gathered in 1999-2001 suggested that the uranium sold illicitly would be extracted from mines in Niger that had been abandoned as uneconomic by the two French-owned mining companies - Cominak and Somair, both of which are owned by the mining giant Cogema - operating in Niger.

"Mines can be abandoned by Cogema when they become unproductive. This doesn't mean that people near the mines can't keep on extracting," a senior European counter-proliferation official said.

He added that there was no evidence the companies were aware of the plans for illicit mining.

When the intelligence gathered in 1999-2001 was thrown into the diplomatic maelstrom that preceded the US-led invasion of Iraq, it took on new significance. Several services contributed to the picture.

The Italians, looking for corroboration but lacking the global reach of the CIA or the UK intelligence service MI6, passed information to the US in 2001 and to the UK in 2002.

The UK eavesdropping centre GCHQ had intercepted communications suggesting Iraq was seeking clandestine uranium supplies, as had the French intelligence service.

The Italian intelligence was not incorporated in detail into the assessments of the CIA, which seeks to use such information only when it is gathered from its own sources rather than as a result of liaison with foreign intelligence services. But five months after receiving it, the US sent former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to assess the credibility of separate US intelligence information that suggested Iraq had approached Niger.

Mr Wilson was critical of the Bush administration's use of secret intelligence, and has since charged that the White House sought to intimidate him by leaking the identity of his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent.

But Mr Wilson also stated in his account of the visit that Mohamed Sayeed al-Sahaf, Iraq's former information minister, was identified to him by a Niger official as having sought to discuss trade with Niger.

As Niger's other main export is goats, some intelligence officials have surmised uranium was what Mr Sahaf was referring to."

This is a bombshell! So Iraq really was trying to buy uranium between from Niger between 1999-2001! I wonder if all those people who called Bush a liar will now retract their statements?
OpinionJournal - Extra THE ROE EFFECT

The Empty Cradle Will Rock
How abortion is costing the Democrats voters--literally.


More than 40 million legal abortions have been performed and documented in the 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court declared abortion legal. The debate remains focused on the legality and morality of abortion. What's largely ignored is a factual analysis of the political consequences of 40 million abortions.......

These numbers will not change. They are based on individual choices made--aggregated nationally--as long as 30 years ago. Look inside these numbers at where the political impact is felt most. Do Democrats realize that millions of Missing Voters--due to the abortion policies they advocate--gave George W. Bush the margin of victory in 2000?

The number of abortions accumulate in size and political impact as the years roll along. Like an avalanche that picks up speed, mass, and power as it thunders down a mountain, the number of Missing Voters from abortion changes the landscape of politics. The absence of the missing voters may not be noticed, but that doesn't mean its political impact disappears. As seen during a famine, what no longer exists becomes as relevant as what does........

Liberal Democrats are having both more abortions--and more abortions as a percentage of their ideological and political group--than either of the other groupings.

As liberals and Democrats fervently seek new voters and supporters through events, fund-raisers, direct mail and every other form of communication available, they achieve results minuscule in comparison to the loss of voters they suffer from their own abortion policies. It is a grim irony lost on them, for which they will pay dearly in elections to come. This is actually pretty funny. Nihilists are doomed to irrelevancy.
ThisisLondon - 'Gaping hole' lets hackers into Windows


Computer users have been warned to avoid using Internet Explorer until a gaping hole in the browser's security is fixed by Microsoft.

The loophole, created by hackers, lets criminals take control of a PC.

The threat of infection is high because a code to exploit the attack has been placed on many popular websites.
The Australian: Shi'ites denounce al-Qa'ida terror [June 28, 2004]: "KEY Iraqi anti-US leaders have expressed unease at the mounting insurgency in the country and denounced as infidels al-Qa'ida's top leaders.

The country's leading Shi'ite, Ali al-Sistani condemned the wave of attacks orchestrated by Jordanian terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi that has claimed the lives of 100 Iraqis a day.

In Karbala, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Sistani on Friday denounced the terror attacks and slammed Al-Qa'ida's top leaders.

'Zarqawi, Zawahiri and bin Laden are filthy infidels who nurture malignance against Imam Ali and his sons,' he said.

The militia of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Sadr sought to prove it served the national interest as it laid down its weapons and backed the country's interim government in the run-up to Iraqi self-rule on Wednesday.






'There will not be a transfer of power to the Iraqi authorities,' Sheikh Aws al-Khafaji said at Friday prayers in the Baghdad Shi'ite slum of Sadr City.

'But so the Americans cannot say the Mehdi Army has prevented the transfer of power, we will follow the Marjaiya's (senior Shiite cleric's) orders and see what they (the Americans) truly do.'

On Sadr's behalf Sheikh Khafaji also denounced the beheading of American hostage Paul Johnson by Islamists in Saudi Arabia, saying the execution had cast a slur on Islam's reputation.

However, he also blamed the 'wrong policy' of US President George W. Bush for the execution, which brought condemnation from around the world after pictures of Johnson's corpse were posted on Islamist websites."
Headline news from Sky News - Witness the event IRAQ POWER HANDOVER 'TODAY': "



The handover of power in Iraq is being brought forward to today.

A formal announcement will be made later today, Tony Blair said.

The informal announcement was made by Iraq's foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari.

The handover of power to an interim Iraqi government was supposed to take place on June 30.

Mr Zebari said the deteriorating security situation in the country was one of the reasons why the date had been brought forward.

'We will challenge these elements in Iraq, the anti-democratic elements, by even bringing the handover of sovereignty before June 30 as a sign we are ready for it,' he said.


Iraqi leaders hope the handover will stem attacks


He added: 'We have made some very good progress in terms of the new security council (in Iraq) and the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people to take away the level of occupation we have suffered a great deal from.

'There are many Iraqis who are standing up to the challenge. We are here to seek more help and assistance, training and equipment.' "
Movie Goer Assaulted at Fahrenheit 9/11 Showing:

"-- The highly anticipated film, Fahrenheit 9/11, came with more than just controversy at one Las Vegas movie theatre. Moviegoer, Richard Streeter, was one of the many who made his way to a theatre to see what the hype was about. After viewing the film, he was greeted outside the theatre by members of the Las Vegas MoveOn.org.

The group was handing out leaflets on the importance of the film. Streeter voiced his view on the movie, 'I made the comment, apples and oranges -- Kerry, Bush -- one's no better than the other. You really ain't got much of a choice. This guy comes up to me and says, 'Oh yeah?' ' Streeter was then spat on by the same man.

He attempted to call police to report the incident when he was told not to, 'A guy standing next to him said why don't you drop it. I said, 'No, I'm calling the police. I'm exercising my right as a citizen, I've been assaulted.' '

But the horror kept on growing for Streeter as he walked to his car on the phone with police, 'This guy turns, and totally by surprise takes his hand and bam! It was a big guy. Shoved me onto the ground, I hit my head.' A police report has been filed.

The film is a portrayal of President Bush and his administration. Filmmaker Michael Moore admits Fahrenheit 9/11 is his personal attack on the President and intends to change voters' minds. The President's supporters say the movie is being used for propaganda."

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Wave of the Future: "You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.

Albert Camus"
NewsMax.com: Inside Cover Story Moore: Americans are 'The Dumbest People on the Planet':

"Americans currently flocking to see Michael Moore's movie 'Farenheit 9/11' might be surprised to learn how little respect the Democratic Party's leading propaganda-meister has for them.

''They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet,' Moore told Britain's Mirror newspaper recently, referring to his fellow citizens as a whole.

And that's not all Moore had to say about his brother Yanks across the pond. ''We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing.''

Turns out, when the Democratic Party's all-but-official filmmaker is speaking at home, he has nice things to say about at least some of his fellow citizens. But according to New York Times columnist David Brooks, when Moore travels abroad it's not just the Bush administration he trashes - but the American people en-masse.

Here's a few more bon mots from the Kerry campaign's leading celluloid supporter, as cited by Mr. Brooks on Saturday:

''That's why we're smiling all the time,'' Moore told a rapturous throng in Munich. ''You can see us coming down the street. You know, 'Hey! Hi! How's it going?' We've got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren't loaded down.''

To a crowd in Cambridge, Moore intoned: ''You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe.''

Here's Moore's reaction to the 9/11 attacks, offered while the rubble at Ground Zero was still smoldering: ''We, the United States of America, are culpable in committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants.''

As for the terrorists currently killing American soldiers in Iraq, Moore compares them to Revolutionary war heroes who fought off British oppression:

''The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' or 'The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win.''"
Why Is Religion Natural? (Skeptical Inquirer Mar 2003) Pascal Boyer
:

"Is religious belief a mere leap into irrationality as many skeptics assume? Psychology suggests that there may be more to belief than the suspension of reason.


Religious beliefs and practices are found in all human groups and go back to the very beginnings of human culture. What makes religion so 'natural'? A common temptation is to search for the origin of religion in general human urges, for instance in people's wish to escape misfortune or mortality or their desire to understand the universe. However, these accounts are often based on incorrect views about religion (see table 1) and the psychological urges are often merely postulated. Recent findings in psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience offer a more empirical approach, focused on the mental machinery activated in acquiring and representing religious concepts.[1]"
w w w . p r o s p e c t - m a g a z i n e . c o . u k --- Saddam the romancier: "
It may be time to assess Saddam's place in the genre of 'dic-lit'


In an isolated prison cell, an ageing, mustachioed gentleman sits writing at a small canteen table. Recent months have seen a stark change in his fortunes. Gone are the Gucci suits and French hair dye. Gone is the entourage of supporters. The writer has very little outside contact now, save the occasional visits from the Red Cross and his interrogators.


He has no idea if the novel he is working on, an epic allegorical tale of passion and revenge, will ever be published.

Provisionally entitled The Great Awakening, his fifth novel will emerge into a very different critical climate from that which greeted the others. In his home country his works were acclaimed bestsellers with sales into the millions. One was made into a 20-part television series. It had recently been announced that his books were to be studied as part of the national school curriculum. And then the regime changed.

For the last eight years, Saddam Hussein has been carving out an alternative career as a writer of romantic and fantasy fiction, full of thinly veiled political allegory, grandiose rhetoric and autobiography. He has published four novels in less than five years - prolific for someone whose day job was, presumably, fairly demanding.

Many statesmen and revolutionaries have been consummate writers of prose and poetry. Saddam, however, is part of a less honourable tradition - of despots who have turned their attentions to the arts. From Nero to Napoleon, Hitler to Mao, there is sufficient output to suggest that we acknowledge this as a genre in its own right: dictator literature.

As with any genre, the range of dic-lit talent runs from the literary to the populist. Fellow middle eastern autocrat and dic-lit star Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has built a solid literary reputation based on a collection of short story fiction entitled The Village, the Village, the Earth, the Earth and the Suicide of the Astronaut. Published in 1998, there followed an international edition, retitled Escape to Hell and Other Stories. This included a foreword from Pierre Salinger, one of JFK's press spokesmen, who says the writings provided insight into a unique mind. "

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Andrew C. McCarthy on New York Times & Iraq & al Qaeda on National Review Online
Times Games
The newspaper of record withholds Iraq/Qaeda connection evidence.

A week ago, the New York Times reported, in a screaming page-one headline, that the 9/11 Commission had found "No Qaeda-Iraq Tie." Today, in a remarkable story that positively oozes with consciousness of guilt, the Times confesses not only that there is documentary evidence of at least one tie but that the Times has had the document in question for several weeks. That is, the Times was well aware of this information at the very time of last week's reporting, during which, on June 17, it declaimed from its editorial perch that the lack of a connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and Osama bin Laden's terror network meant President Bush owed the nation an apology.

Today, the Times concedes that the Defense Intelligence Agency is in possession of a document showing that, in the mid-1990s, the Iraqi Intelligence Service reached out to what the newspaper euphemistically calls "Mr. bin Laden's organization" (more on that below) regarding the possibility of joint efforts against the Saudi regime, which was then hosting U.S. forces. To be clear, the document records that it was Iraq which initiated the contacts, and that bin Laden finally agreed to discuss cooperation only after having spurned previous overtures because he "had some reservations about being labeled an Iraqi operative[.]"

Why does it matter who was enticing whom? On June 17, when, despite having this document, it was trashing the whole notion of an Iraq/Qaeda connection, the Times asserted without qualification that: The 9/11 Commission had found that any collaboration proposals had come from bin Laden's side; all such proposals had been declined by Saddam; and this scenario undermined the Bush administration's rationale for deposing the Iraqi regime. (The Times on June 17: "As for Iraq, the commission's staff said its investigation showed that the government of Mr. Hussein had rebuffed or ignored requests from Qaeda leaders for help in the 1990's, a conclusion that directly contradicts a series of public statements President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made before and after last year's invasion of Iraq in justifying the war.")

Even now, the Times feebly endeavors to minimize the importance of the collaboration evidenced by the newly reported document. It says the information indicates "that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from Mr. bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered. There is no further indication of collaboration." (Emphasis added.) Nevertheless, the reader who has the patience to wade through several paragraphs of the Times disingenuously letting itself off the hook for refusing for weeks to report on this document will learn that what the newspaper really means when it says bin Laden's suggestions "went unanswered." In actuality, "the document contains no statement of response by the Iraqi leadership under Mr. Hussein to the request for joint operations[.]" Translation: Maybe there was a response and maybe there wasn't, but this document does not tell us one way or the other.

Why is this important? Because it is the continuation of a pattern — another instance of an effective but misleading tactic repeatedly used by the Times, the intelligence community, the 9/11 Commission staff, and all the Iraq/Qaeda connection naysayers. To wit: When they can't explain something, they never say they can't explain it; they say it didn't happen — even if saying so is against the weight of considerable counterevidence.

Best example? The 9/11 Commission staff, as gleefully reported by the Times last week, has concluded that there was not a meeting between top-hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi Intelligence Officer Ahmed al-Ani in Prague five months before the 9/11 attacks. There is an eyewitness (a watcher for Czech intelligence) who says he saw them together, and there is substantial corroboration (including an entry in al-Ani's appointment calendar that he was to meet with a "Hamburg student," a pair of highly suspicious trips that Atta undoubtedly made to Prague in 2000 right before coming to the United States, and the fact that no witness has been found who can say he saw Atta in the U.S. when the Czechs say he was in Prague). Did the 9/11 Commission staff actually interview the eyewitness? No. Did the staff or the Times discuss the corroboration that supports the occurrence of the Prague meeting? No. Did either of them grapple with what is to be inferred from Atta's trips to Prague in 2000? No — not a word about them. Just a flat conclusion that the meeting never happened.

Since it's Clinton week, maybe it's best to put it this way: For the Times and its allies, Iraq and al Qaeda are like the former president's trysts: If there ain't a blue cocktail dress, it never happened. If there isn't a photograph of Atta and al-Ani poring over diagrams of the World Trade Center, we just conclude that they never saw each other, and we see no reason to acknowledge that there's considerable evidence that they probably did.

This morning's report is more of the same. We know there were numerous contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda after the collaborative proposals discussed in the newly reported document. How does the Times know that Saddam never responded to bin Laden's overtures? It doesn't. Neither do I. Neither do you. That's why it's called an investigation. The idea is to keep digging until you know. To the contrary, the Times's idea is: bury it, pretend you don't even know the things you do know, grudgingly admit the bare minimum, and use the enormous weight of your own inertia to make the whole thing go away. Thus we get hilarious paragraphs, like this one in today's story:

Members of the Pentagon task force that reviewed the document said it described no formal alliance being reached between Mr. bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence. The Iraqi document itself states that "cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement."


(Emphasis added.)

That's a good one: a "formal alliance" between terrorists to terrorize. Did the Times expect a signing ceremony? What next? "The FBI's organized crime unit concluded today that there probably is no Mafia because the evidence does not describe any formal alliance between shadowy figures who, Vice President Dick Cheney claims, refer to themselves as 'Gambinos' and 'Bonannos'...."
Iraqis Back New Leaders, Poll Says (washingtonpost.com):

"A large majority of Iraqis say they have confidence in the new interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi that is set to assume political power on Wednesday, according to a poll commissioned by U.S. officials in Iraq.

The results are a significant victory for the United States and the United Nations. Together they negotiated with squabbling Iraqi factions in an attempt to cobble together a viable government that balanced disparate ethnic and religious groups.

* 68 percent of Iraqis have confidence in their new leaders
* 73 percent of Iraqis polled approved of Allawi to lead the new government, 84 percent approved of President Ghazi Yawar and almost two-thirds backed the new Cabinet.
* Four out of every five Iraqis expected that the new government will “make things better” for Iraq after the handover, with 10 percent expecting the situation to remain the same and 7 percent anticipating a decline.
* two-thirds of Iraqis believed the first democratic elections for a new national assembly — tentatively set for December or January — will be free and fair, the survey shows.
* Seventy percent of Iraqis polled supported the new army, and 82 percent supported the police
"
BBC NEWS | Technology | Web browser flaw prompts warning:

Microsoft has issued advice about the loophole
Users are being told to avoid using Internet Explorer until Microsoft patches a serious security hole in it.

The loophole is being exploited to open a backdoor on a PC that could let criminals take control of a machine.

The threat of infection is so high because the code created to exploit the loophole has somehow been placed on many popular websites.

Experts say the list of compromised sites involves banks, auction and price comparison firms and is growing fast.

Serious problem

The net watchdog, the US Computer Emergency Reponse Center (Cert), and the net security monitor, the Internet Storm Center, have both issued warnings about the combined threat of compromised websites and browser loophole.

Cert said: 'Users should be aware that any website, even those that may be trusted by the user, may be affected by this activity and thus contain potentially malicious code.'

In its round-up of the threat the Internet Storm Center bluntly stated that users should if possible 'use a browser other then MS Internet Explorer until the current vulnerabilities in MSIE are patched.'"

Use Mozilla!
DefenseLINK News: Iraqi Official to American Press: Report More Good

Iraq's deputy prime minister implored the American press to provide more balanced coverage of operations in Iraq.

Barham Salih, a prominent leader from Kurdish northern Iraq, made his plea June 19 to American reporters traveling in Iraq with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"I hope you from the American press will be able to tell people back home … that (through) this mission you are giving an entire nation an opportunity to be rid of their challenges," he said.

"These soldiers are helping renovate schools and so on, and very, very little of that is reported," Salih continued. "We have to be grateful to those young men and women who have come from afar, sacrificing their lives to defend our security and our freedom."

He said context is important, and many American papers don't put things in the proper context. For instance, he said, "Many of the op-ed writers before the war predicted that Kirkuk would become the scene of the most vicious civil war," he said, referring to the northern Iraqi city that has been the site of problems between Kurds and Arabs.

"There are tensions in Kirkuk," he said, "but no civil war."

New Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer explained his belief that 90 percent of what's happening in Iraq is good news, and 10 percent in bad. "The media is magnifying the 10 percent, ignoring the 90 percent," Yawer said.

He said the scandal surrounding detainee abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison is a perfect example. The issue is clearer to people like him who have lived in the United States and understand American values, he said.

"I know this is outrageous to the American public (and) to the American administration as much as it is outrageous to the Iraqis," Yawer said.

But, he added, regular Iraqis "have been breastfed hatred to the United States and Great Britain for 45 years."

Yawer said he and other Iraqi leaders are working to acquaint the Iraqi people "with the real values of the American Bill of Rights and other great things you have in your constitution."
The New York Times > International > Europe > Intelligence Reports: Putin Says U.S. Was Alerted to Possible Attacks by Iraq

MOSCOW, June 18 — President Vladimir V. Putin said Friday that Russia gave intelligence reports to the Bush administration suggesting that Saddam Hussein's government was preparing terrorist attacks in the United States or against American targets overseas.

But officials at the State Department expressed surprise, saying they knew of no such information from Russia, Reuters reported.

Mr. Putin said Russia's intelligence services received and passed along the information after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and before the American-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. He did not give details of the nature of the intelligence or the type of attacks reportedly being prepared.

Mr. Putin added, however, that Russia had no information that anyone in Iraq carried out the plans for attacks. And he emphasized that the intelligence did not change Russia's opposition to President Bush's decision to go to war, in part because of administration assertions of Iraq's support for terrorism. Mr. Putin said the criteria for resorting to military force were clearly defined and "were not observed" in the American-led war to overthrow Mr. Hussein.

He's probably lying, right? And besides, even if he did know that terrorists were planning to attack the U.S., it would have been wrong for us to pre-emptivly attack them. Better we should wait until they send suicide bombers, and then retaliate only against the now dead suicide bombers, and not the people who sent them, right?

Friday, June 25, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > The Intelligence: Iraqis, Seeking Foes of Saudis, Contacted bin Laden, File Says: "Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990's were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

American officials described the document as an internal report by the Iraqi intelligence service detailing efforts to seek cooperation with several Saudi opposition groups, including Mr. bin Laden's organization, before Al Qaeda had become a full-fledged terrorist organization. He was based in Sudan from 1992 to 1996, when that country forced him to leave and he took refuge in Afghanistan.

The document states that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from Mr. bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered. There is no further indication of collaboration.......

The document, which asserts that Mr. bin Laden "was approached by our side," states that Mr. bin Laden previously "had some reservations about being labeled an Iraqi operative," but was now willing to meet in Sudan, and that "presidential approval" was granted to the Iraqi security service to proceed.

At the meeting, Mr. bin Laden requested that sermons of an anti-Saudi cleric be rebroadcast in Iraq. That request, the document states, was approved by Baghdad.

Mr. bin Laden "also requested joint operations against foreign forces" based in Saudi Arabia, where the American presence has been a rallying cry for Islamic militants who oppose American troops in the land of the Muslim pilgrimage sites of Mecca and Medina.

But the document contains no statement of response by the Iraqi leadership under Mr. Hussein to the request for joint operations, and there is no indication of discussions about attacks on the United States or the use of unconventional weapons.

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The document is of interest to American officials as a detailed, if limited, snapshot of communications between Iraqi intelligence and Mr. bin Laden, but this view ends with Mr. bin Laden's departure from Sudan. At that point, Iraqi intelligence officers began "seeking other channels through which to handle the relationship, in light of his current location," the document states.

Members of the Pentagon task force that reviewed the document said it described no formal alliance being reached between Mr. bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence. The Iraqi document itself states that "cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement."

The heated public debate over links between Mr. bin Laden and the Hussein government fall basically into three categories: the extent of communications and contacts between the two, the level of actual cooperation, and any specific collaboration in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The document provides evidence of communications between Mr. bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence, similar to that described in the Sept. 11 staff report released last week.

"Bin Laden also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein's secular regime," the Sept. 11 commission report stated. "
Clinton first linked al Qaeda to Saddam - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - June 25, 2004:

"The Clinton administration talked about firm evidence linking Saddam Hussein's regime to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network years before President Bush made the same statements.......

In fact, during President Clinton's eight years in office, there were at least two official pronouncements of an alarming alliance between Baghdad and al Qaeda. One came from William S. Cohen, Mr. Clinton's defense secretary. He cited an al Qaeda-Baghdad link to justify the bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan.
Mr. Bush cited the linkage, in part, to justify invading Iraq and ousting Saddam. He said he could not take the risk of Iraq's weapons falling into bin Laden's hands.
The other pronouncement is contained in a Justice Department indictment on Nov. 4, 1998, charging bin Laden with murder in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
The indictment disclosed a close relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam's regime, which included specialists on chemical weapons and all types of bombs, including truck bombs, a favorite weapon of terrorists.
The 1998 indictment said: "Al Qaeda also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the government of Iraq."
Shortly after the embassy bombings, Mr. Clinton ordered air strikes on al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and on the Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan.
To justify the Sudanese plant as a target, Clinton aides said it was involved in the production of deadly VX nerve gas. Officials further determined that bin Laden owned a stake in the operation and that its manager had traveled to Baghdad to learn bomb-making techniques from Saddam's weapons scientists.
Mr. Cohen elaborated in March in testimony before the September 11 commission.
He testified that "bin Laden had been living [at the plant], that he had, in fact, money that he had put into this military industrial corporation, that the owner of the plant had traveled to Baghdad to meet with the father of the VX program."
He said that if the plant had been allowed to produce VX that was used to kill thousands of Americans, people would have asked him, " 'You had a manager that went to Baghdad; you had Osama bin Laden, who had funded, at least the corporation, and you had traces of [VX precursor] and you did what? And you did nothing?' Is that a responsible activity on the part of the secretary of defense?" "

Thursday, June 24, 2004

OpinionJournal - Extra: "Just Like Stalingrad
If Bush is another Hitler, what words are left to describe Hitler?



According to Sidney Blumenthal, a onetime adviser to president Bill Clinton who now writes a column for Britain's Guardian newspaper, President Bush today runs 'what is in effect a gulag,' stretching 'from prisons in Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantanamo to secret CIA prisons around the world.' Mr. Blumenthal says 'there has been nothing like this system since the fall of the Soviet Union.'

In another column, Mr. Blumenthal compares the April death toll for American soldiers in Iraq to the Eastern Front in the Second World War. Mr. Bush's 'splendid little war,' he writes, 'has entered a Stalingrad-like phase of urban siege and house-to-house combat.'

The factual bases for these claims are, first, that the U.S. holds some 10,000 'enemy combatants' prisoner; and second, that 122 U.S. soldiers were killed in action in April.

As I write, I have before me a copy of 'The Black Book of Communism,' which relates that on '1 January 1940 some 1,670,000 prisoners were being held in the 53 groups of corrective work camps and 425 collective work colonies. In addition, the prisons held 200,000 people awaiting trial or a transfer to camp. Finally, the NKVD komandatury were in charge of approximately 1.2 million 'specially displaced people.' '

As for Stalingrad, German deaths between Jan. 10 and Feb. 2, 1943, numbered 100,000, according to British historian John Keegan. And those were just the final agonizing days of a battle that had raged since the previous August.

Mr. Blumenthal is not alone. Al Gore last month accused Mr. Bush of creating 'more anger and righteous indignation against us as Americans than any leader of our country in the 228 years of our existence as a nation.' Every single column written by the New York Times' Paul Krugman is an anti-Bush screed; apparently, there isn't anything else worth writing about. A bumper sticker I saw the other day in Manhattan reads: 'If you aren't outraged, you're not paying attention.'

There are two explanations for all this. One is that Mr. Bush really is as bad as Sid, Al and Paul say: the dumbest, most feckless, most fanatical, most incompetent and most calamitous president the nation has ever known. A second is that Sid, Al and Paul are insane..........


There is the situation in Iraq, where the U.S. has lost about 800 soldiers in action over the course of more than a year, as well as several thousand Iraqis. The fact that events have not gone well over the past two months is somehow taken as proof that they've gone disastrously. Yet in the run-up to the war, the German Foreign Ministry was issuing predictions of about two million Iraqi deaths, making the actual Iraqi death a very small percentage of that anticipated total. As for the American rate, the U.S. lost more than 6,000 soldiers in Vietnam in 1966, the year U.S. troop strength there was comparable to what it is now in Iraq. That's about nine times as many fatalities as the U.S. has so far sustained in Iraq."
New York Post Online Edition: postopinion AFTER terrorists beheaded Korean hostage Kim Sun-il, The New York Times kept the photo showing the horror of his final moments off yesterday's front page.

Instead, the Times' front page bizarrely describes Kim as "sitting or kneeling quietly" as he waited to die — in reality the photo, back on Page A-11, shows Kim with his mouth open wide in terror, and the video shows him shaking with fear.

It's just the latest instance of how the press often hesitates to show the true savagery of America's enemies in the War on Terror, whether al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein's thugs, precisely because the images are so awful.

Last week, The Post revealed that reporters were ignoring a gruesome video of torture by Saddam's thugs while obsessing over prisoner mistreatment by a small group of U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib jail where the photos are less upsetting. Calls from readers prompted the American Enterprise Institute to post the Saddam torture video on its Web site (with warnings about the graphic content). Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes" did a report — in fact, last fall Fox exclusively revealed the existence of Saddam torture videos and aired sections.........


Last fall, when Fox broke the story of the Saddam torture videos, the Times ran all of five paragraphs back on Page A-14 with a small picture — versus, so far, 181 stories on Abu Ghraib, more than 40 on the front page.

Incidentally, that Santorum-Lieberman screening of the Saddam torture video drew a roomful of reporters but resulted in just a couple of actual news reports. Christian Broadcasting Network aired the video by fuzzing the most gruesome parts.

Actually, says former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who did a tour in Baghdad training Iraqi policemen, that video isn't even the tip of the iceberg. He has 30 or 50 DVDs that show the same kind of Saddam torture and much worse.

"I've had guys from the NYPD, veteran homicide cops, whose stomachs turn when they watch it. What went on at Abu Ghraib under Saddam was 1,000 times worse, but we don't see it. They write a paragraph about it," Kerik says.

He recalls visiting Abu Ghraib about a month after Baghdad fell in 2003, a month after the last tortures and executions — the stench of blood was still so awful, like a slaughterhouse, that even he had trouble walking through it.

"When Ted Kennedy says Abu Ghraib has reopened under 'U.S. management,' the guy hasn't got a clue. It just shows what kind of world of unreality he lives in. His whole agenda is political," Kerik adds.

And there are other Saddam horrors on tape. Former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke says there are thousands of tapes of rapes by Saddam's thugs, since one of his pet practices was to rape wives in front of their husbands. Sometimes the rapes were videoed from a few different angles.

In case a husband got out of line again, he'd be sent his wife's rape tape, she says. "Who's going to show that [on TV]?" Clarke asks.

In fact, Clarke recalls, she got angry complaints from three or four networks during the Iraq war when she tried to document Saddam's horrors by beginning a briefing with part of a BBC documentary on how Saddam used poison gas on his own people.
Local10.com - News - Air Force Testing Robot Vehicles To Protect Bases, Forward Units:

"The vehicles being tested cost from $200,000 to $500,000.

The most expensive is the Jeep-size, four-wheeled Mobile Detection and Response System. MDARS also has drawn interest from other services and is expected to go into production next year, said Walter Waltz, chief of robotic research for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Tyndall.

MDARS is equipped with radar, television cameras and infrared to detect people, vehicles and other objects. It carries a breadbox-sized, tracked mini-robot called Matilda that can be launched to search under vehicles, inside buildings and other relatively small places.

Scout is similar to MDARS but fashioned from an off-the-shelf, four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, giving it added versility because a human can ride it like a normal ATV when not being used as a robot. It also can carry a small tracked robot called Pacbot.

MDARS and Scout can be equipped with remotely fired weapons. An M-16 rifle and pepper sprayer are mounted on the Scout being tested here.

'We're taking the warfighter out of the direct line of attack,' said Capt. Adolfo Meana Jr., chief of the concepts division for the Force Protection Battlelab at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

'What we are hoping is the robots will actually detect the enemy first, will receive any of the initial hostile acts,' Meana said. 'If you shoot the robot we don't care. We know you're there, you're hostile, and we can keep our forces in reserve to move tactically against the enemy. The robots will save our troops' lives.'

The vehicles can be programmed to patrol specific areas on their own and then alert an operator by radio if they come across something suspicious. The machines then can be remotely operated from laptop computers to identify, detain or attack intruders.

A human always is in the loop because the military doesn't want to get into a 'Robocop scenario' that gives machines complete discretion, Waltz said.

The vehicles have loudspeakers and microphones for challenging and questioning suspected intruders. A Phraselator enables the operator to select from a variety of languages."
Chrenkoff: "Good news from Iraq, Part 4
Welcome to the fourth instalment of 'Good news from Iraq'. If you want to check out the previous parts, you can find the links on the top of the side-bar.

Overall, the news from Iraq hasn't been too bad lately, with the transition to sovereignty well under way and decrease in fighting. However, we still hear a lot more about terrorism, prisoner abuse saga, sabotage, unvafourable opinion polls, and then some more about terrorism. Read this commentary first, on how 'Media Bias Keeps 'Good' Iraq News From U.S. Public.' Then read on.

IRAQI SOCIETY: The preparations for the democratic transition are on the way:

'Iraqi officials organizing elections as the U.S.-led occupation hands over power have turned to Mexico, a country with its own history of cleaning up a bad electoral system. Authorities from Mexico and five other countries are sharing their experiences with nine members of the newly appointed Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq.'"
Army unit claims victory over sheik - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - June 23, 2004:

"The Army's powerful 1st Armored Division is proclaiming victory over Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr's marauding militia that just a month ago seemed on the verge of conquering southern Iraq.
The Germany-based division defeated the militia with a mix of American firepower and money paid to informants. Officers today say 'Operation Iron Saber' will go down in military history books as one of the most important battles in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
'I've got to think this was a watershed operation in terms of how to do things as part of a counterinsurgency,' said Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, a West Point graduate and one of two 1st Armored assistant division commanders, in an interview last week as he moved around southern Iraq. 'We happened to design a campaign that did very well against this militia.' "
Iraqi schools seen improving - The Washington Times: World - June 24, 2004:

"U.S. administrators have made great strides in rebuilding the Iraqi educational system, but still face hurdles, many of their own making, a senior coalition official said in Washington yesterday.
'There is a growing independence of the universities,' said John Agresto , the senior adviser for higher education and scientific research with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad.

'Despite the fears of religious and political coercion, I think you find incredible openness and dialogue,' Mr. Agresto added during a discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.
'I think higher education is absolutely going in the right direction,' he said.
Iraq now has 20 functioning universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges. These are mainly public and overall experienced a 50 percent increase in freshman enrollment last year.
Policy at the institutions is set by their own presidents, rather than the central government, Mr. Agresto said. 'This is absolutely a major change.'
He also noted that university students for the first time have access to the Internet.
However, he said the system had suffered 'incredible damage' and pointed out several areas demanding improvement. "
My Way - News Rebel Attacks in Five Iraq Cities Kill 75:

"BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Insurgents killed 75 people on Thursday in a wave of attacks across Iraq aimed at sabotaging the handover to Iraqi rule in six days' time.

Guerrillas struck in Baquba, Falluja, Ramadi, Mosul and Baghdad, wounding more than 250 people in an intensification of a bloody campaign by Iraqi rebels and foreign militants. Three U.S. soldiers were killed."
FrontPage magazine.com :: The Sacred Muslim Practice of Beheading by Andrew G. Bostom

According to Muhammad’s sacralized biography by Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad himself sanctioned the massacre of the Qurayza, a vanquished Jewish tribe. He appointed an "arbiter" who soon rendered this concise verdict: the men were to be put to death, the women and children sold into slavery, the spoils to be divided among the Muslims. Muhammad ratified this judgment stating that it was a decree of God pronounced from above the Seven Heavens. Thus some 600 to 900 men from the Qurayza were lead on Muhammad’s order to the Market of Medina. Trenches were dug and the men were beheaded, and their decapitated corpses buried in the trenches while Muhammad watched in attendance. Women and children were sold into slavery, a number of them being distributed as gifts among Muhammad’s companions, and Muhammad chose one of the Qurayza women (Rayhana) for himself. The Qurayza’s property and other possessions (including weapons) were also divided up as additional "booty" among the Muslims, to support further jihad campaigns.

The classical Muslim jurist al-Mawardi (a Shafi’ite jurist, d. 1058) from Baghdad was a seminal, prolific scholar who lived during the so-called Islamic "Golden Age" of the Abbasid-Baghdadian Caliphate. He wrote the following, based on widely accepted interpretations of the Qur'an and Sunna (i.e., the recorded words and deeds of Muhammad), regarding infidel prisoners of jihad campaigns:

“As for the captives, the amir [ruler] has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale and manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them. Allah, may he be exalted, says, 'When you encounter those [infidels] who deny [the Truth=Islam] then strike [their] necks' (Qur'an sura 47, verse 4)”....Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah." [The Laws of Islamic Governance, trans. by Dr. Asadullah Yate, (London), Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1996, p. 192. Emphasis added.]

Indeed such odious “rules” were iterated by all four classical schools of Islamic jurisprudence, across the vast Muslim empire.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Iraqi PM Threatened in Purported Zarqawi Tape

A man purporting to be Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has threatened to kill the new prime minister of Iraq.

A recording purportedly made by the apparent mastermind of bombings and beheadings of civilian contractors in Iraq vowed to assassinate Iyad Allawi and fight the Americans “until Islamic rule is back on Earth.”

An official with Allawi’s office dismissed the threat, saying it would not derail the June 30 transfer of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition to the interim Iraqi government.
OpinionJournal - Featured ArticleWHEN EMPIRES WANE
The End of Power
Without American hegemony the world would likely return to the dark ages.

We tend to assume that power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. In the history of world politics, it seems, someone is always bidding for hegemony. Today it is the United States; a century ago it was Britain. Before that, it was the French, the Spaniards and so on. The 19th-century German historian Leopold von Ranke, doyen of the study of statecraft, portrayed modern European history as an incessant struggle for mastery, in which a balance of power was possible only through recurrent conflict.

Power, in other words, is not a natural monopoly; the struggle for mastery is both perennial and universal. The "unipolarity" identified by commentators following the Soviet collapse cannot last much longer, for the simple reason that history hates a hyperpower. Sooner or later, challengers will arise, and back we must go to a multipolar, multipower world.

But what if this view is wrong? What if the world is heading for a period when there is no hegemon? What if, instead of a balance of power, there is an absence of power? Such a situation is not unknown in history. Though the chroniclers of the past have long been preoccupied with the achievements of great powers--whether civilizations, empires or nation states--they have not wholly overlooked eras when power has receded. Unfortunately, the world's experience with power vacuums is hardly encouraging. Anyone who dislikes U.S. hegemony should bear in mind that, instead of a multipolar world of competing great powers, a world with no hegemon at all may be the real alternative to it. This could turn out to mean a new Dark Age of waning empires and religious fanaticism; of endemic rapine in the world's no-go zones; of economic stagnation and a retreat by civilization into a few fortified enclaves.

Why might a power vacuum arise early in the 21st century? The reasons are not especially hard to imagine.

• The clay feet of the colossus. The U.S. suffers from at least three structural deficits that will limit the effectiveness and duration of its crypto-imperial role in the world. The first is the nation's growing dependence on foreign capital to finance excessive private and public consumption. It is difficult to recall any empire that has long endured after becoming so dependent on lending from abroad. The second deficit relates to manpower: The U.S. is a net importer of people and cannot therefore underpin its hegemonic aspirations with real colonization; at the same time, its relatively small volunteer army is already spread very thin as a result of recent military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Finally, the U.S. is afflicted by what is best called an attention deficit. Its republican institutions make it difficult to establish a consensus for long-term "nation-building" projects.

• "Old Europe" grows older. Those who dream that the European Union might become a counterweight to the U.S. should continue slumbering. Impressive though the EU's enlargement has been, the reality is that demography likely condemns it to decline in international influence. With fertility rates dropping and life expectancies rising, European societies may, within less than 50 years, display median ages in the upper 40s. Indeed, "Old Europe" will soon be truly old. By 2050, one in every three Italians, Spaniards and Greeks will be 65 or over, even allowing for immigration. Europeans therefore face an agonizing choice between "Americanizing" their economies, i.e., opening their borders to much more immigration, with the cultural changes that would entail, or transforming their union into a fortified retirement community.

• China's coming economic crisis. Optimistic observers of China insist that the economic miracle of the past decade will not fade--that growth will continue at such a pace that within three or four decades China's GDP will surpass that of the U.S. Yet it is far from clear that the normal rules that apply to emerging markets have been suspended for Beijing's benefit. First, a fundamental incompatibility exists between the free-market economy, based inevitably on private property and the rule of law, and the persistence of the Communist monopoly on power, which breeds rent-seeking and corruption, and impedes the creation of transparent institutions. As usual in "Asian tiger" economies, production is running far ahead of domestic consumption--thus making the economy heavily dependent on exports. No one knows the full extent of the problems in the Chinese domestic banking sector. Western banks that are buying up bad debts with a view to establishing themselves in China must remember that this strategy was tried a century ago, in the era of the Open Door policy, when American and European firms rushed into China only to see their investments vanish in the smoke of war and revolution. Then, as now, hopes for China's development ran euphorically high, especially in the U.S. But those hopes were disappointed, and could be disappointed again. A Chinese currency or banking crisis could have earth-shaking ramifications, especially when foreign investors realize the difficulty of repatriating assets held in China.

• The fragmentation of Islamic civilization. With birthrates in Muslim societies more than double the European average, Islamic countries are bound to put pressure on Europe and the U.S. in the years ahead. If, as is forecast, the population of Yemen will exceed that of Russia by 2050, there must be either dramatic improvements in the Middle East's economic performance or substantial emigration from the Arab world to senescent Europe. Yet the subtle colonization of Europe's cities by Muslims does not necessarily portend the advent of a new and menacing "Eurabia." In fact, the Muslim world is as divided as it has ever been. This division is not merely between Sunni and Shiite. It is also between those seeking a peaceful modus vivendi with the West (embodied in Turkey's desire to join the EU) and those drawn to the Islamic Bolshevism of the likes of Osama bin Laden. Opinion polls from Morocco to Pakistan suggest high levels of anti-American sentiment, but not unanimity. In Europe, only a minority expresses overt sympathy for terrorist organizations; most young Muslims in England clearly prefer assimilation to jihad. We are a long way from a bipolar clash of civilizations, much less the rise of a new caliphate that might pose a geopolitical threat to the U.S.

In short, each of the obvious 21st-century hegemons--the U.S., Europe, China--seems to contain within it the seeds of decline; while Islam remains a diffuse force in world politics, lacking the resources of a superpower.

Suppose, in a worst-case scenario, that U.S. neoconservativism meets its match in Iraq and that the Bush administration's project to democratize the Middle East at gunpoint ends in withdrawal: from empire to decolonization in 24 months. Suppose also that no rival power shows interest in filling the resulting vacuums--not only in Iraq but conceivably also Afghanistan, to say nothing of the Balkans and Haiti. What would an "apolar" future look like?
Al Qaeda Link To Iraq May Be Confusion Over Names (washingtonpost.com): "Al Qaeda Link To Iraq May Be Confusion Over Names


An allegation that a high-ranking al Qaeda member was an officer in Saddam Hussein's private militia may have resulted from confusion over Iraqi names, a senior administration official said yesterday.


Former Navy secretary John Lehman, a Republican member of the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said Sunday that documents found in Iraq 'indicate that there is at least one officer of Saddam's Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al Qaeda.' Although he said the identity 'still has to be confirmed,' Lehman introduced the information on NBC's 'Meet the Press' to counter a commission staff report that said there were contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda but no 'collaborative relationship.'

Yesterday, the senior administration official said Lehman had probably confused two people who have similar-sounding names.

One of them is Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi, identified as an al Qaeda 'fixer' in Malaysia. Officials say he served as an airport greeter for al Qaeda in January 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, at a gathering for members who were to be involved in the attacks on the USS Cole, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Iraqi military documents, found last year, listed a similar name, Lt. Col. Hikmat Shakir Ahmad, on a roster of Hussein's militia, Saddam's Fedayeen.

'By most reckoning that would be someone else' other than the airport greeter, said the administration official, who would speak only anonymously because of the matter's sensitivity. He added that the identification issue is still being studied but 'it doesn't look like a match to most analysts.'"
The New York Times > Magazine > The Way We Live Now: Against Happiness: "THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Against Happiness

Sad people are nice. Angry people are nasty. And, oddly enough, happy people tend to be nasty, too.

Such (allowing for a little journalistic caricature) were the findings reported in last month's issue of Psychological Science. Researchers found that angry people are more likely to make negative evaluations when judging members of other social groups. That, perhaps, will not come as a great surprise. But the same seems to be true of happy people, the researchers noted. The happier your mood, the more liable you are to make bigoted judgments -- like deciding that someone is guilty of a crime simply because he's a member of a minority group. Why? Nobody's sure. One interesting hypothesis, though, is that happy people have an ''everything is fine'' attitude that reduces the motivation for analytical thought. So they fall back on stereotypes -- including malicious ones.

The news that a little evil lurks inside happiness is disquieting. After all, we live in a nation whose founding document holds the pursuit of happiness to be a God-given right. True to that principle, the United States consistently ranks near the top in international surveys of happiness. In a 1994 survey of 41 countries, only the supposedly dour Swedes surpassed us in ''positive affect.'' (Elaborate scales have been invented to measure individual happiness, but researchers admit that difficulties remain; for example, a person is more likely to express satisfaction with his life on a sunny day than on a cloudy one.) Of course, happiness has always had its skeptics. Thinkers like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn have criticized it as a shallow and selfish goal. But the discovery that happiness is linked to prejudice suggests a different kind of case against it. Does happiness, whether desirable or not in itself, lead to undesirable consequences? In other words, could it be bad for you, and for society?

The burgeoning new science of happiness hasn't paid a lot of attention to this question. Its practitioners are more concerned with the causes of happiness than with its effects. Defining happiness as ''well-feeling'' -- being satisfied with life, having episodes of joy -- they have discovered some interesting things: a large part of happiness seems to be genetic; marriage fosters it, but having children doesn't; men become happier with age, women less happy; money does little to boost happiness; religious people are happier, possibly because of the social support they get from church; and so forth.

As to the consequences of being happy, they are widely presumed to be positive. Happiness is held to lengthen life, buffer stress and make people more productive on the job. Some of these notions appear to be justified. A Dutch study in the 1980's, for example, found that a happy 70-year-old man can expect to live 20 months longer than his less happy counterpart. But an earlier American study found that children who are cheerful and optimistic end up having shorter life spans (perhaps because they take more risky chances).

Some have worried that happy people tend to be apathetic and easily manipulated by political leaders -- contented cows, so to speak. In Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel, ''Brave New World,'' the working classes are kept in docile submission by a diet of drugs that render them universally happy. In the real world, however, there is little evidence that happiness creates complacent citizens; in fact, studies show that happy people are more likely than alienated people to get politically involved, not less.

There is one bit of the world that happy people do see in an irrationally rosy light: themselves. As the British psychologist Richard P. Bentall has observed, ''There is consistent evidence that happy people overestimate their control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject to their will), give unrealistically positive evaluations of their own achievements, believe that others share their unrealistic opinions about themselves and show a general lack of evenhandedness when comparing themselves to others.'' Indeed, Bentall has proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder."

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Atlantic | July/August 2004 | The Kids Are All Right | CarsonBooks
The Kids Are All Right
Teens aren't as warped as some of the books about them

In no other culture does secondary education evoke the enchantment and trauma that high school does for Americans. As the single collective experience that most of us in this diffuse society are likeliest to share, it's also our handiest analogy for virtually every social realm we encounter as adults, no matter how exalted. Showbiz? High school with money, People and Entertainment Weekly tell us. Politics? High school with power—and man, could Grover Norquist use a wedgie. For all I know, the people in today's military call it high school with guns—which, after Columbine, I realize may sound redundant.

The basic difference is that our fellow developed countries treat secondary school as the beginning of responsibility. If little Jean-Pierre's fate is to be a mechanic, the stench of cooked goose is mingling with the incipient reek of motor oil by the time he turns fifteen. But for American teens high school is the beginning of freedom—their first crack at making choices. The autonomy involved is restricted, though not as much as parents might wish, and its purposes are generally frivolous—from the outside, anyhow. But the project of self-definition thus gotten under way is neither.

Consciously or not, we take it so much for granted that high school is a social education, with the formal kind eating dust, that we have no idea how exotic a spectacle it presents to the rest of the planet. "I always thought all of the notions about cliques and crowds, and the preoccupation with fashions that I had seen in American movies was the invention of Hollywood," says a Turkish grad student quoted in Murray Milner Jr.'s Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids. "Then when I came to the U.S. for the first time as an exchange student my junior year in secondary school, I was stunned to see that many of the images actually existed." Perhaps predictably, a professor from Germany, hearing our author expatiate on "the importance of parties and proms," gets downright icy: "We don't have that kind of thing in our schools; we tend to business."
WorldTribune.com U.S. threatens to abandon Saudis and their oil

The United States has sent a tough message to Saudi Arabia that did not rule out abandoning the kingdom's oil sector.

U.S. officials said the Bush administration has warned that Americans would not stay in Saudi Arabia unless the kingdom takes significant steps to protect them. The officials said the warning came in wake of the Al Qaida beheading of Lockheed Martin engineer Paul Johnson on June 18.

Fewer than 30,000 Americans live in Saudi Arabia, with many of them working in the defense and oil sectors. More than 5,000 Americans were said to have left the kingdom over the last year and many more were said to planning to leave for the summer.
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"It could have an effect [on the Saudi oil industry]," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "Saudi authorities, as commendable as their overall effort is, have not yet been able to stop the terrorists to the point that everybody doesn't have to worry anymore."

U.S. officials said despite its assurances, the Saudi government has not carried out a comprehensive upgrade in efforts to protect U.S. nationals in the kingdom. They said many Saudi-owned companies have failed to take significant steps to protect their facilities and Americans from Al Qaida attacks.

On June 20, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Richard Lugar issued the most specific warning to Riyad. Lugar, a Republican close to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said that unless Saudi Arabia provides better protection to Americans "they're in deep trouble with regard to the oil business."

FBI and State Department counterterrorism experts have been in Saudi Arabia helping authorities track Al Qaida insurgents. The U.S. team was said to have been instrumental in the operation that tracked and killed Al Qaida chief Abdul Aziz Al Muqrin and three of his aides on June 18.
MSNBC - Grim Numbers

The poll results, which have not been released publicly but were obtained by NEWSWEEK, indicate that the April publication of photos depicting the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison accelerated a long-term decline in support for the U.S. occupation. Of the Iraqis surveyed, 71 percent said they had been surprised by the Abu Ghraib revelations. Most, however, said they now believe the abuses were widespread. Fifty-four percent agreed with the statement that “all Americans behave this way,” and 61 percent said they believed no one would be punished for the abuses. A CPA spokesman said Tuesday that he had not yet examined the numbers.

Taken from May 14 to May 23, the survey also shows a sharp rise in the popularity of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, with 81 percent saying they had either a better or much better or better opinion of him than they did three months earlier. Sadr’s Al Mahdi Army has been engaged in a bloody standoff with U.S. forces in the cities of Kufa and Najaf for more than two months. His popularity among leading Iraqi public figures is exceeded only by that of another Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who was “strongly supported” by 51 percent of Iraqis and “somewhat supported” by another 19 percent.

The news for the newly designated Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, was not as good. While the poll was taken just before he was named to head the new interim government, 61 percent said they either strongly oppose or somewhat oppose Allawi, a former exile once backed by the CIA. Only 23 percent said they somewhat support or strongly support him.

On the positive side, the poll showed that 63 percent of Iraqis believe that installing the interim Iraqi government will make things “better” for Iraq, with only 15 percent saying thing will be worse. The survey also indicated that most Iraqis display continuing confidence in the new Iraqi police and army.

The poll reflects an inexorable decline in support for the U.S. occupation since the fall of Baghdad over a year ago. In November 2003, 47 percent of those surveyed still expressed confidence in the CPA; those figures plummeted to 9 percent in April and 11 percent in May. In the latest survey, 81 percent of Iraqis also expressed “no confidence” in Coalition forces. Seventy-eight percent expressed the same grim opinion of the outgoing CPA, which is slated to dissolve when sovereignty is handed over to the interim government on June 30. The survey does show a marginal uptick in support for the CPA and Coalition forces since April, but that small increase falls within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed also expressed no confidence in the United Nations.

The survey underlines just how much Coalition forces, which have struggled unsuccessfully to crush an insurgency that has targeted increasing numbers of Iraqis, as well as power lines and other facilities, seem to have lost the faith of most Iraqis. In November 2003, just 11 percent of Iraqis said they would feel “more safe” if Coalition forces left immediately; that number rose to 28 percent in January. Today 55 percent of Iraqis say they would feel safer if Coalition forces departed right away, even though the Bush administration has indicated they would stay on at least until the Iraqi elections in 2005. A whopping 69 percent also want the CPA to play no role at all in the selection of an independent election commission.

The poll consisted of face-to-face interviews with 1,093 people selected randomly in six Iraqi cities and towns: Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Hillah, Diwaniyah and Baquba. It was conducted by the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies, a CPA-sponsored Iraqi survey group.

Monday, June 21, 2004

US Supreme Court: If police ask, you must give your name | csmonitor.comThe high court rules 5 to 4 that officers can arrest people who won't reveal their identity.

WASHINGTON – US citizens do not enjoy a constitutional right to refuse to reveal their identity when requested by police.

In what may become a major boost to US law enforcement and antiterrorism efforts, the US Supreme Court Monday upheld a Nevada law that makes it a criminal offense for anyone suspected of wrongdoing to refuse to identify himself to police.

Civil libertarians see the decision as a significant setback. And it remains unclear to what extent it may open the door to the issuing of national identification cards or widespread identity operations keyed to terrorist profiling at bus terminals, train stations, sports stadiums, and on city streets.

"It's a green light to explore the bounds of how much personal information can be demanded on pain of arrest," says Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute in Washington. "It also gives a green light to perhaps the Congress to move with a national law."
CNN.com - Al Qaeda militants say they were helped by Saudi forces

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Islamic militants who abducted and beheaded American engineer Paul Johnson say sympathetic Saudi security forces aided their kidnapping operation with police uniforms and vehicles -- an allegation a top Saudi official denied.

Saudi authorities continued their search Sunday night for the men behind the kidnapping, storming several buildings in the neighborhood where cell leader Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin was killed after Johnson's death.

It was not immediately clear whether anyone had been taken into custody as a result of the raid.

In a lengthy narrative about the kidnapping that was posted Sunday on the Islamist Web site Voice of Jihad, Johnson's kidnappers said they stopped his car at a fake checkpoint, transferred him to another car and took him to another location.

But Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign policy adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, told CNN the claim fell "in the realm of fiction."

"It's very easy to obtain police uniforms, military uniforms," he told CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. "You go to a surplus store, and you get all you want."

Can they make it any clearer that their aim is to destabilize and overthrow the Saudi regime? How long will the Saudi's wait until a real crackdown occurs?
My Way News Plane Soars Out of Earth's Atmosphere:


MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) - A rocket plane soared above Earth's atmosphere Monday in the first privately financed manned spaceflight, then glided back to Earth for an unpowered landing.

SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill was aiming to fly 62 miles above the Earth's surface. The exact altitude reached was not immediately confirmed by radar.

The ship touched down at Mojave Airport to applause and cheers at 8:15 a.m. PDT, about 90 minutes after it was carried aloft slung under the belly of the jet-powered White Knight.

The mission announcer said the mission had been successful.

'Beautiful sight, Mike,' mission control said to Melvill as the gliding spaceship slowly circled toward its landing.

Later, standing on the tarmac beside the ship, Melvill said seeing the Earth from outside the atmosphere was 'almost a religious experience.'

'You can see the curvature of the Earth,' he said. 'You got a hell of a view from 60, 62 miles.'

Melvill said he heard a loud bang during the flight and did not know what it was. But he pointed to a place at the rear of the spacecraft where a part of the structure covering the nozzle had buckled, suggesting it may have been the source of the noise.

White Knight took off at 6:45 a.m. carrying the rocket plane. After an hours' climb the pair reached about 46,000 feet and SpaceShipOne was released.

(AP) Aerospace engineer Burt Rutan talks with pilot Michael Melvill before he climbs aboard SpaceShipOne...
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A moment later Melvill flipped a switch to arm the rocket, and another switch to ignite it. After a brief firing, the rocket motor shut down and the craft coasted to the top of its trajectory.

Both craft were built by innovative aircraft designer Burt Rutan, and the project was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who would only describe the cost as being in excess of $20 million.

'Clearly, there is an enormous, pent-up hunger to fly in space and not just dream about it,' Rutan said Sunday. 'Now I know what it was like to be involved in America's amazing race to the moon in the '60s.'

SpaceShipOne is the leading contender for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million award to the first privately financed three-seat spacecraft to reach 62 miles and repeat the feat within two weeks.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Zelikow Report By WILLIAM SAFIRE: A RUNAWAY STAFF HIJACKS THE 9/11 COMMISSION...

WASHINGTON — "Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie" went the Times headline. "Al Qaeda-Hussein Link Is Dismissed" front-paged The Washington Post. The A.P. led with the thrilling words "Bluntly contradicting the Bush Administration, the commission. . . ." This understandably caused my editorial-page colleagues to draw the conclusion that "there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. . . ."

All wrong. The basis for the hoo-ha was not a judgment of the panel of commissioners appointed to investigate the 9/11 attacks. As reporters noted below the headlines, it was an interim report of the commission's runaway staff, headed by the ex-N.S.C. aide Philip Zelikow. After Vice President Dick Cheney's outraged objection, the staff's sweeping conclusion was soon disavowed by both commission chairman Tom Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton.

"Were there contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq?" Kean asked himself. "Yes . . . no question." Hamilton joined in: "The vice president is saying, I think, that there were connections . . . we don't disagree with that" — just "no credible evidence" of Iraqi cooperation in the 9/11 attack.

The Zelikow report was seized upon by John Kerry because it fuzzed up the distinction between evidence of decade-long dealings between agents of Saddam and bin Laden (which panel members know to be true) and evidence of Iraqi cooperation in the 9/11 attacks (which, as Hamilton said yesterday, modifying his earlier "no credible evidence" judgment, was "not proven one way or the other.")

But the staff had twisted the two strands together to cast doubt on both the Qaeda-Iraq ties and the specific attacks of 9/11: "There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship." Zelikow & Co. dismissed the reports, citing the denials of Qaeda agents and what they decided was "no credible evidence" of cooperation on 9/11.

That paragraph — extending doubt on 9/11 to all previous contacts — put the story on front pages. Here was a release on the official commission's letterhead not merely failing to find Saddam's hand in 9/11, which Bush does not claim. The news was in the apparent contradiction of what the president repeatedly asserted as a powerful reason for war: that Iraq had long been dangerously in cahoots with terrorists.

Cheney's ire was misdirected. Don't blame the media for jumping on the politically charged Zelikow report. Blame the commission's leaders for ducking responsibility for its interim findings. Kean and Hamilton have allowed themselves to be jerked around by a manipulative staff.

Yesterday, Governor Kean passed along this stunner about "no collaborative relationship" to ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "Members do not get involved in staff reports."
My Way News Iran Confiscates Three British Boats:

"TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran said Monday it had confiscated three British naval vessels and arrested eight armed crew members. The Royal Navy acknowledged it had lost contact with three small patrol boats on a routine mission in the waterway between Iraq and Iran.

British officials did not confirm the boats were captured or the crewmembers detained.

'I can confirm that three small Royal Navy patrol boats and eight crew have been out of communication since the early hours of this morning,' said a British military spokesman in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on condition of anonymity. 'It is not unusual for the Royal Navy to be patrolling the Shatt-al-Arab' waterway.

Iranian-British relations have been strained in recent days, since London helped draft a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors meeting last week in Vienna that rebuked Iran for past cover-ups involving its development of nuclear technology."
United Press International: 9/11 panel: New evidence on Iraq-Al-Qaida:

"The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks has received new information indicating that a senior officer in an elite unit of the security services of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein may have been a member of al-Qaida involved in the planning of the suicide hijackings, panel members said Sunday.

John F. Lehman, a Reagan-era GOP defense official told NBC's 'Meet the Press' that documents captured in Iraq 'indicate that there is at least one officer of Saddam's Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al Qaida.'

The Fedayeen were a special unit of volunteers given basic training in irregular warfare. The lieutenant colonel, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, has the same name as an Iraqi thought to have attended a planning meeting for the Sept. 11 attacks in January 2000, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The meeting was also attended by two of the hijackers, Khalid al Midhar and Nawaf al Hamzi and senior al-Qaida leaders.

Lehman said that commission staff members continued to work on the issue and experts cautioned that the connection might be nothing more than coincidence.

'Shakir is a pretty common name,' said terrorism analyst and author Peter Bergen, 'and even if the two names refer to the same person, there might be a number of other explanations. Perhaps al-Qaida had penetrated Saddam's security apparatus.'

Analysts say the Fedayeen was not an intelligence unit, but an irregular militia recruited from clans loyal to the regime in the capital, in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and in the surrounding Tigris valley area. Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank set up by the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, described them to United Press International last year as 'thugs and bumpkins.'

He said the Fedayeen were 'at the low end of the food chain in the security apparatus, doing street level work for the regime.'

Nevertheless, the revelation seems sure to stoke the controversy over the extent of links between al-Qaida and Saddam's regime, links that were cited by the Bush administration as a justification for the invasion of Iraq."