The world press on the war

The Israel paper Haaretz reports that thousands of Arab volunteers are pouring across the Syrian border into northern Iraq to fight.

Published March 31, 2003 7:42PM (EST)

Israel, Ze'ev Schiff and Nathan Guttman in Haaretz

Despite American warnings, in the last few days Damascus has expedited the passage of volunteers wishing to join the Iraqis in their war against the Americans. Thousands of volunteers, most of them Syrians, are thronging to the Mosul and Kirkuk regions in north Iraq...

A few days ago, American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Damascus of transferring weapons to Iraq, but did not mention the volunteers. On Monday the United States warned Syria and Iran again not to cooperate with terrorism and with Saddam Hussein's regime.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said at the AIPAC convention on Sunday that Syria will have to make a critical choice: "Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course. Either way, Syria bears the responsibility for its choices, and for the consequences..."

In the past, America has taken a lenient view of the Syrian aid to Iraq...

Washington kept its criticism down because the CIA estimated it was better to receive intelligence from Syria on al-Qaida activities. Apparently this information helped the Americans in the past to crack al-Qaida cells in Germany and Spain. After the war started, the Pentagon became more critical toward Damascus and the displeasure was reflected in Rumsfeld's accusations against Syria. However, it is not clear how the Americans will act and whether they will try to intercept the movement of volunteers from Syria to Iraq.

While criticizing Syria, the United States is continuing to pressure Iran on two levels. It is demanding Iran stop letting the "Bader brigades" into Iraq and to stop Iran's nuclear project. Powell said, "It is now time for the entire international community to step up and insist that Iran end its support for terrorists, including groups violently opposed to Israel and to the Middle East peace process."

United Kingdom, Audrey Gillan in the Guardian

They will never forget the sound of the guns. A cross between a moan and a roar, a fierce rattling of heavy rounds of 30mm canon fire from two A10 Thunderbolts flying low overhead. Aircraft that shouldn't have been in the British-controlled area, "cowboying" at just 500ft and looking for something to have a crack at.

Last Friday morning, two American pilots turned their guns on a convoy of five British vehicles from the Household Cavalry, killing one man just three days shy of his 26th birthday, injuring four others and wiping out two armoured reconnaissance vehicles from the squadron's Two Troop. Two Iraqi civilians, waving a large white flag, were also killed.

Coloured smoke signs were sent up to indicate that they were friendly troops but it didn't stop the attack. The planes came back a second time, seriously injuring those who had managed to scramble out of their vehicles with only superficial wounds. The gunner, Corporal Matty Hull, however, was the victim of a direct hit into his gun turret.

The men in the Scimitars were screaming over the radio, "Stop the friendly fire, we are being engaged by friendly fire" and "pop smoke, pop smoke." The forward air controller, who liaises with coalition air forces to bring in fire missions, was shouting "check fire, check fire". Frantic calls were made to 16 Air Assault Brigade headquarters to find out what was going on. But no one seemed to know.

The A10s were about to take a third swing when they were told by the American air patroller working with the Household cavalry to stop firing.

Instead of providing air cover while helicopters came in to evacuate the casualties, they baled out.

The attack took place within the Household Cavalry's battlefield control line which means that everything in the air should be controlled by them and their embedded American air controller. The A10s were well out of their area and the matter is now being investigated amidst calls from some of the British troops that the pilots be prosecuted for manslaughter.

So far in this conflict, Britain has suffered more casualties from friendly fire, five, than from assaults by the Iraqis.

United Kingdom, Patrick Barkham in the Times

Three wounded British soldiers described yesterday how they survived a terrifying attack by an American anti-tank aircraft that killed one of their troop and destroyed two armoured vehicles.

One of the survivors criticised the American pilot for showing "no regard for human life" and accused him of being a cowboy who had gone out on a jolly.

Another survivor said that he had stumbled out of the burning wreckage of his light tank and waved frantically to the pilot of the low-flying A10 to try to halt his "friendly fire" as he returned to attack again...

Lieutenant Alex MacEwen, 25, Lance Corporal of Horse Steven Gerrard, 33, and Trooper Chris Finney, 18, were flown home last night with shrapnel wounds and burns. Before leaving the Argus they spoke of their bewilderment and anger that, despite flying very low over their heads, the A10 pilot apparently failed to recognise the coalition identification markings on their British-made tanks. Another vehicle in the five-strong convoy patrolling the marshes near the meeting of the Euphrates and Shatt al-Arab rivers bore a large Union Jack.

"All this kit has been provided by the Americans. They've said if you put this kit on you won't get shot," LCoH Gerrard said from his hospital bed on the Argus. "We can identify a friendly vehicle from 1,500 metres, yet you've got an A10 with advanced technology and he can't use a thermal sight to identify whether a tank is a friend or foe. It's ridiculous.

"Combat is what I've been trained for. I can command my vehicle. I can keep it from being attacked. What I have not been trained to do is look over my shoulder to see whether an American is shooting at me..."

LCoH Gerrard criticised the A10 for shooting when there were civilians so close to the tanks. He said: "There was a boy of about 12 years old. He was no more than 20 metres away when the Yank opened up. There were all these civilians around. He had absolutely no regard for human life. I believe he was a cowboy.

"There were four or five that I noticed earlier and this one had broken off and was on his own when he attacked us. He'd just gone out on a jolly." ...

France, François de Bernard in Libération

The reality that we are trying to keep at a distance is that the United States has become a theocracy and a pathocracy. It has become a theocracy because nearly all the important decisions of President George W. Bush's administration are taken "in the name of God" -- an angry and vengeful God, not a God of love and compassion -- and because this system is not encountering any serious opposition on the part of the legislative and legal institutions, not to mention the media...

For two years now -- and increasingly since September 11, 2001, there has been a great deal of focus in the discourse on the subject of "good and evil" and the strategy derived from it with respect to the "axis of evil." This has generally been based on the return, in full force, of the primitive moralizing that runs through a large part of the political and intellectual history of the United States. But in fact, it is something of an entirely different nature. It is the brutal transformation of an oligarchic republic tinged with democracy into a republic that is essentially theocratic.

If we realize this, then it is possible to understand that everything becomes possible from the point of view of Bush's administration, from the rejection of the Kyoto treaty to the perpetuation of the death penalty, from the attempt to marginalize the U.N. to the approaching exit from the World Trade Organization, from the war in Afghanistan to the war in Iraq.

But the United States has also become a pathocracy, that is, a regime that is neurotic in essence, the leaders of which are, quite simply, psychopaths. I offer the hypothesis that the American president is personally suffering from a paranoid psychosis and that the quartet he has formed with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld constitutes a government that is both theocratic and pathocratic...

In order to judge whether this is indeed the case, it is enough to read the full texts of the speeches that are published on the White House Internet site ( and the statements by the quartet on the State Department site. A study of the videotapes of the president's appearances is also recommended. These sources set forth a worldview that is intrinsically paranoid, imbued with visions of the most regressive Crusades, drenched in a frightening symbolism that sees any external opposition as evidence of crime and in which every decision and every action bear the seal of a vengeful divinity.

Singapore, Tang Shi Ping in the Straits Times

We are witnessing a profound tragedy unfolding: Just when most of us thought our world had evolved into something more civilised, the leading superpower is no longer interested in abiding by the rules it made but insists that the world obey a "new" set of rules which move us back to a future where might is right.

This development is a challenge to the very foundations of our international system, unseen since the rise of Napoleon and Hitler.

Under these circumstances, France, Germany, Russia and China, as the four countries that can apply any kind of credible restraint to the U.S., must build upon their common stand against the non-U.N. sanctioned, U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. They must form an axis of restraint to counter the axis comprising the U.S., Britain and Australia.

This "axis of restraint" must call for a U.N. debate and vote on the legitimacy of the invasion. It may also want to call for a revision of the U.N. Charter to define the right to self-defence more rigorously.

The axis must also insist that once Mr. Saddam has gone, the transition government in Iraq must be under U.N., not U.S., jurisdiction. It must insist that the U.S. and its allies, being most directly responsible for the destruction, must bear the largest part of the cost of rebuilding Iraq.

Rebuilding contracts must be open to international bids, not awarded automatically to American companies.

Lastly, the U.S. must be warned against expanding its war against the "axis of evil" to Iran and North Korea.

Indeed, to pre-empt a U.S. strike against Iran, the "axis of restraint" must be prepared to offer Iran political, economic and military assistance, so that a hyperpower no longer playing by the rules may not control both sides of the Persian Gulf and Hormuz Strait.

The struggle between the "axis of restraint" and the U.S.-led axis is not a struggle between good and evil, but rather a struggle between the civilised and the uncivilised.

When the younger Bush is replaced by a president who understands that the responsibility of enormous power is to act, not just in America's interest, but in the interest of the world community, the "axis of restraint" should then take a more cooperative approach and work with the U.S. to shape a better world.

The purpose of restraining the U.S. is not to isolate it, but to bring it back in line with the international norms it long cherished.

Jordan, editorial in the Jordan Times

One of the pillars of this badly planned U.S.-British campaign against Iraq is obviously the militarisation of humanitarian aid.

War planners must attach great importance to the fact that aid be delivered by U.S. and British soldiers, if they are willing to openly come to loggerheads with all international relief organisations on this issue.

Well, like most other "plans" of this so-called "coalition" waging war against Iraq, the Pentagon's attempts to militarise humanitarian operations are not going to work.

The first point to be made is that Iraq is a country being invaded.

Both words "country" and "invaded" are to be stressed here.

The state of Iraq hinges on a well-organised, though too centralised, capillary network of local authorities. Since 1996, the Iraqi government has put in place an efficient system strong of 45,000 distribution points, from the largest towns to the tiniest villages, to deliver aid purchased under the oil-for-food programme. No foreign army will ever equal that.

That Iraqis might be more inclined to tolerate the presence of U.S.-British forces on their land once these forces provide them with food, water and medicine, is another illusion. Iraqis know well that, if it weren't for those very U.S.-British forces, they wouldn't be in need and wouldn't find themselves in want of food, water and medicine, in the first place...

As if military hardware were not having enough of a devastating effect on innocent Iraqi civilians, the U.S. is now resorting to a more sophisticated -- and, if possible, more lethal -- weapon: Blackmailing people into accepting food from the hands of invading soldiers, or starving to death.

Japan, editorial in the Japan Times

For all the loose talk of "shock and awe," few peoples have ever faced invasion by a more painfully well-intentioned force than the one fielded by the United States, Britain and Australia. The hitch is that, despite those good intentions, the assurances of the ends justifying the means, and the eloquent sincerity of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, you are just not satisfied that the case for this war and its risks was ever persuasively made. That is what keeps you awake at night; that is really what makes the blanket coverage such an ordeal.

It's even the same with reading, or it can be...

Somehow, every book you pick up seems to presuppose an elemental conflict between good and evil -- the very terms in which U.S. President George W. Bush has long cast this strange conflict.

Why is that a problem? Because while there is no doubting the evil of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, it is his foes, Japan's democratic allies, who are doing what evil people do: starting a war, invading another country without provocation, even -- unthinkably -- "reserving the right to exercise the nuclear option." It's the effort to square this intractably round hole that has proved, over the past few months, so exhausting. And it is why this war just will not seem to go away, no matter where one turns.

May it be over soon.

United Kingdom, Al-Jazeera senior editor Faisal Bodi in the Guardian

On March 23, the night the channel screened the first footage of captured U.S. PoWs, al-Jazeera was the most searched item on the internet portal, Lycos, registering three times as many hits as the next item.

I do not mean to brag -- people are turning to us simply because the western media coverage has been so poor. For although Doha is just a 15-minute drive from central command, the view of events from here could not be more different. Of all the major global networks, al-Jazeera has been alone in proceeding from the premise that this war should be viewed as an illegal enterprise. It has broadcast the horror of the bombing campaign, the blown-out brains, the blood-spattered pavements, the screaming infants and the corpses. Its team of on-the-ground, unembedded correspondents has provided a corrective to the official line that the campaign is, barring occasional resistance, going to plan.

Last Tuesday, while western channels were celebrating a Basra "uprising" which none of them could have witnessed since they don't have reporters in the city, our correspondent in the Sheraton there returned a rather flat verdict of "uneventful" -- a view confirmed shortly afterwards by a spokesman for the opposition Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. By reporting propaganda as fact, the mainstream media had simply mirrored the Blair/Bush fantasy that the people who have been starved by U.N. sanctions and deformed by depleted uranium since 1991 will greet them as saviours...

Throughout the past week, armed peoples in the west and south have been attacking the exposed rearguard of coalition positions, while all the time -- despite debilitating sandstorms - western TV audiences have seen little except their steady advance towards Baghdad. This is not truthful reporting...

Amid the battle for hearts and minds in the most information-controlled war in history, one measure of the importance of those American PoW pictures and the images of the dead British soldiers is surely the sustained "shock and awe" hacking campaign directed at since the start of the war. As I write, the al-Jazeera website has been down for three days and few here doubt that the provenance of the attack is the Pentagon. Meanwhile, our hosting company, the U.S.-based DataPipe, has terminated our contract after lobbying by other clients whose websites have been brought down by the hacking.

So far this war has progressed according to a near worst-case scenario. Iraqis have not turned against their tormentor. The southern Shia regard the invasion force as the greater Satan. Opposition in surrounding countries is shaking their regimes. I fear there remains much work to be done.

Iraq, Kanan Makiya's War Diary in the New Republic

Do not believe any commentator who says that a rising surge of "nationalism" is preventing Iraqis from greeting U.S. and British troops in the streets with open arms. What is preventing them from rising up and taking over the streets of their cities is confusion about American intentions and fear of the murderous brown-shirt thugs known as the Fedayeen Saddam, who are leading the small-arms-fire attacks on American and British soldiers. The coalition forces have an urgent need to send clear and unmistakable signals to the people of Iraq that unlike in 1991, there is no turning back from the destruction of Saddam Hussein. And in order to do this effectively they must turn to the Iraqi opposition, which has so far been marginalized.

The United States needs to understand that Iraqis do not get CNN. They have not heard constant iterations of how Saddam's demise is imminent. More importantly, they have not seen it demonstrated. American forces so far have been content to position themselves outside southern Iraqi cities; they have only just began to disrupt Iraqi TV, which is Saddam's principal tool of maintaining psychological control over Iraq; and, above all, they have not allowed Iraqis to go in and organize the population, a task which we are very eager to carry out...

Iraqi state TV must be put out of commission, and permanently ... Saddam rules through his face, through his ubiquitous presence in day-to-day life. That is what his millions of larger-than-life wall posters are all about. Every day that image is aired reinforces an aura of invincibility ...

But eliminating his image is not enough. The coalition needs the Iraqi opposition -- Iraqis who can sneak into the cities and help organize other Iraqis, men from the same families and social networks that hold these places together, who know how to communicate with their entrapped brethren, who can tell them why this time Saddam is finished, and who are able to root out his cronies when they try to melt away into the civilian population. One cannot liberate a people -- much less facilitate the emergence of a democracy -- without empowering the people being liberated ... It is a million times easier for an Iraqi soldier to join his fellow Iraqis in rebellion than it is to surrender his arms in humiliation to a foreigner. To date, however ... the administration still adamantly refuses to let the Iraqi opposition activate our networks to make the fighting easier for the coalition in the cities, towns, and villages. Why?

Malaysia, Sira Habibu in the Star

It is more frightening to watch images of the U.S.-led coalition forces invasion on television than to live in Baghdad, according to one of three Malaysian students who had refused to leave the Iraqi capital.

Mohamad Abdullah Osman, who is pursuing his masters in Hadith at Saddam University in Baghdad, said images of the heavily "bombarded" city shown over television did not reflect the actual situation there.

"In my neighbourhood, I still see children playing football and women going to the market as usual.

"We do not hear loud explosions every day. But clips of images by the foreign media showed as if Baghdad is heavily bombarded," he said when contacted by telephone in Baghdad yesterday.

Besides Mohamad, the two others are Rozainy Ghazali of Terengganu and Mohamad Manan Bajuri of Selangor.

Mohamad, who is staying in a rented house together with Manan, claimed the foreign media failed to report the numerous missiles successfully intercepted by the Iraqis.

"My friends and I made it a point to check out the neighbouring areas the coalition claimed to have bombed. Often, we see those places still intact," he said.

"But the explosion two days ago in a neighbourhood about 1km from where I am staying was real. Six civilians were killed, including a family of four...

Mohamad described the massive sandstorm sweeping through Baghdad and southern Iraq as a sign of divine intervention, "because in my eight years in Baghdad, I have never seen a sandstorm of this proportion before."

He also said he declined to leave not because he was stubborn but that he wanted to complete his course by January...

Mohamad said the university authorities had informed him that classes for masters students would resume on Saturday, adding that the university was closed for about a week following the war alert.

Lebanon, Raghida Dergham in Al-Hayat

Regardless of how the war on Iraq will end, it is a turning point for the Middle East as well as for the American administration, whose president, George W. Bush has been implicated with a handful of conservatives in invading Iraq and occupying it. The Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, has implicated his country and its neighbors in a number of adventures, and now he has implicated himself in the last battles of his regime.

While Arab regimes are busy containing the rage among their populations, or manage them or even outbid such feelings, they are aware of the seriousness of what the American administration has implicated them in through the invasion of Iraq, and the consequences such feelings may have on them. Such consequences may be the result of the rage of their own peoples, or due to visions that have been devised by the forces of extremism in Washington. Any criticism to such vision in America is being described as anti-Semitism, because most of the planners of the war on Iraq are Jews.

Over the past week, an important event took place in the American media when the TV press dared to speak of studies that had been prepared and plans devised in order to realize the dream of the handful of extremists. The Wall Street Journal wrote on its front page the biography of that group and how it managed to hijack the heart and mind of President Bush. The New York Times dared even to question the "dual loyalty" of American Jews to America and Israel, and to work for the benefit of the Jewish state at the expense of American interests...

President George Bush deserves no pity for having fallen victim to the thoughts and tactics of such group of "Machiavellians." He implicated himself to an extent that he may lose his bid for a second term in office, as he is a president who took America to an unnecessary war that has suspicious aims known only to the extremist group of dual loyalty. Bush believes that he is serving America by his vengeful demeanor, but America remains divided, which is evident from the continuation of the protests against the war...

But other Arab countries have different ways to stop the war on Iraq...

The problem is that some Arab countries are competing with one another to appease the U.S. administration which has employed the strategy of preemption with military strikes or creating confusion in order to shake the status quo, including the ousting of regimes, with the aim of ensuring America's greatness, and to secure the region surrounding Israel against all potentials, as well as to subdue the Arabs and keep them frustrated. And as long as there remain in the Arab region those who are willing to compete in seeking America's good will, no one in America will take the Arabs or their governments seriously.

By Compiled by Laura McClure

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