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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The New York Times > Week in Review > Sizing Up the New Toned-Down Bin Laden

The New York Times > Week in Review > Sizing Up the New Toned-Down Bin Laden

December 19, 2004
Sizing Up the New Toned-Down Bin Laden
By DON VAN NATTA Jr.

LONDON — What does Osama bin Laden want?

The vexing question emerged again last week with the release of an audiotape on which the Qaeda leader seems to be speaking. On it, he applauds the Dec. 6 attack against the United States Consulate in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, and urges the toppling of the Saudi royal family.

The tape indicated that Mr. bin Laden has apparently moved the fomenting of a revolution in his Saudi homeland toward the top of his lengthy and ambitious wish list, which also includes the reversal of American foreign policy in the Middle East, the retreat of the American military from the Arabian Peninsula and the creation of a Palestinian homeland.

Mr. bin Laden has advocated these sea changes before. What intelligence officials and terrorism experts find particularly remarkable in his recent pronouncements is a shift in style from the raw anger and dark imagery of the post-9/11 days. They say he has subtly tempered his message, tone and even persona, presenting himself almost as an ambassador, as if he sees himself as an elder statesman for a borderless Muslim nation.

Earlier this year, he offered a truce to European governments that withdraw their troops from Iraq. In a message released just before the presidential election in the United States, he gloated that the war in Iraq and the "war against terror" were primarily responsible for record American budget deficits. Instead of talking about exacting blood from his enemies, he offered a sober discussion of the bleeding of the American economy.

Perhaps most striking is Mr. bin Laden's expression of frustration. Like any politician on the stump, Mr. bin Laden craves the ability to deliver an unfiltered message to his audience. Speaking directly to Americans in the pre-election address, he complained that his rationale for waging a holy war against the United States was repeatedly mischaracterized by President Bush and consequently misunderstood by most Americans.

To change this, Mr. bin Laden is testing what he apparently believes are more mainstream themes, while trying to dislodge the entrenched American view of him as a terrorist hell-bent on destroying America and all it stands for. In the pre-election address, Mr. bin Laden said Mr. Bush was wrong to "claim that we hate freedom." He added: "If so, then let him explain to us why we don't strike, for example, Sweden."

That remark surprised some counterterrorism officials and terrorist experts, who said the Al Qaeda leader rarely injects sarcasm into his public pronouncements. They took it as a signal that he was trying to broaden his appeal, particularly to moderate Muslims and possibly even some Americans.

What they cannot say is whether the less strident approach means that he has changed his goals and is less of a danger or that he is just laying the groundwork to justify a new attack against the United States. But they are listening closely and debating an important question: Is Mr. bin Laden committed to destroying America, or has he become more pragmatic, trying to begin a rational foreign policy debate about its presence in the Middle East and even appealing to Americans' pocketbooks?

"Osama is not a man given to humor, but when he told this joke about Sweden, I think it showed his frustration that Americans are not listening to him," said Michael Scheuer, a former senior C.I.A. official who tracked Mr. bin Laden for years and is the author of "Imperial Hubris." "We are being told by the president and others that Al Qaeda attacked us because they despise who we are and what we think and how we live. But Osama's point is, it's not that at all. They don't like what we do. And until we come to understand that, we are not going to defeat the enemy."

The bin Laden messages are a historical rarity: a foreign leader speaking so directly and frequently to his enemy. Mr. bin Laden has spent 25 years honing his message, and began to address an American audience in the mid-1990's. Since Sept. 11, 2001, he has delivered 17 messages, while his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has made 12. That amounts to a message from a Qaeda leader every six weeks.

Intelligence officials are divided on what the two men are trying to accomplish. Some believe they are the leading advocates for what is increasingly being called Qaedism, an anti-Western gospel that they hope will inspire attacks all over the world. Others say the messages are intended to be jihad pep talks, or veiled triggers for new attacks.

Some believe these messages were used that way before the commuter-train bombings in Madrid in March and the bombings of British targets in Istanbul in 2003. Some messages have bluntly threatened new terror strikes; on April 15, Mr. bin Laden warned that an attack would strike any European country that failed to withdraw its troops from Iraq within 90 days. (No country complied, and no Qaeda-linked attacks have occurred in Europe since then.)

Mr. bin Laden's attempt to engage Americans is occurring while his message to drive the United States out of the Muslim world is resonating with those among the 1.2 billion Muslims who believe the Qaeda leader eloquently expresses their anger over the foreign policies of the United States and Israel. In recent years, he has emphasized the Palestinians' struggle. "His genius lies in identifying things that are easily visible and easily felt by most Muslims," Mr. Scheuer said. "He has found issues that are simple, and that Muslims see playing out on their televisions every day."

But Mr. bin Laden also wants Americans and Europeans to heed his messages and urge their leaders to change their Middle East policies. This has not happened and probably will not happen. "He is tuned out by most Americans and Europeans, and it's begun to really annoy him," said a senior counterterrorism official based in Europe.

In his pre-election address, Mr. bin Laden seemed irritated that interviews he gave to Western journalists in the 1990's went largely unheard by most Americans. He appeared to suggest that if American leaders had listened to his warnings that the United States must change its foreign policy in the Middle East or face the consequences, the Sept. 11 attacks could have been avoided.

Analysts say Mr. bin Laden's repeated refrain is that Al Qaeda's strikes are retribution for American and Israeli killings of Muslim women and children. "Reciprocity is a very important principle in the Islamic way of the world," Mr. Scheuer said. "They judge how far they can go by how far their enemy has gone."

What stood out in the pre-election message was Mr. bin Laden's bid to reinvent himself. He traded his battle fatigues, his AK-47 and a rough-terrain backdrop for a sensible sheik's garb, an anchor desk and a script without a single phrase portending a clash of civilizations. No longer was he reflecting on his own possible martyred death in the "eagle's belly" - the United States - as he did in 2002, nor did he threaten another spectacular attack against America.

Instead, he said the United States could avoid another attack if it stopped threatening the security of Muslims. He spoke at length about what he sees as the true motive for the Iraq war - to enrich American corporations with ties to the Bush administration. (He cited Halliburton.) And he spoke of bloodshed, but this time metaphorically, about the American economy.

He mocked the United States's budget and trade deficits, saying that Al Qaeda is committed "to continuing this policy in bleeding American to the point of bankruptcy." And he said that the 9/11 attacks, which cost Al Qaeda a total of $500,000, have cost the United States more than $500 billion, "according to the lowest estimate" by a research organization in London that he cited by name.

"It all shows that the real loser is - you," he told Americans, according to a transcript by Al Jazeera, the satellite network.

Peter Bergen, a CNN analyst who interviewed Mr. bin Laden in 1997, said, "The talk revealed bin Laden to be sort of a policy wonk, talking about supplemental emergency funding by Congress for the Afghan and Iraq wars, and how it was evidence that Al Qaeda's bleed-until-bankruptcy plan was working."

Jessica Stern, a Harvard professor who lectures on terrorism, said she was most surprised by Mr. bin Laden's detailed comments about the American economy. "It seemed as if he was trying to appeal to more moderate Muslims, who might have found his 1998 fatwa to kill all Americans morally repulsive," said Ms. Stern, the author of "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill." "His message on this tape is not nearly as offensive. He talks about Americans having a choice - it is up to us to decide whether we will support a foreign policy that he says is bad for our economy and bad for the Islamic world."

Mr. bin Laden first turned his attention to Saudi Arabia in the early 1980's. He began demanding that the United States withdraw its troops from the Arabian Peninsula, home to the holiest Muslim sites. The American military presence in Saudi Arabia officially ended in 2003, months after a Qaeda-linked terror group launched a series of attacks inside the kingdom.

Analysts say Mr. bin Laden believes that it will be much easier to overthrow Arab regimes if they are not supported by American power. And he wants to encourage the current upheaval in Saudi Arabia, though analysts say they are unsure why he has suddenly made it a priority. Saudi Arabia has killed or arrested hundreds of militants, but there are cells still capable of carrying out attacks there.

"He sees Saudi as one of the places where he might be successful," said Matthew Levitt, a former F.B.I. terrorism analyst. "And he realizes there is tremendous potential in terms of societal issues that breed radicalization."

Does Mr. bin Laden's more moderate style mean there is less risk of a terrorist strike on American soil? Intelligence analysts are unsure. More than one analyst discerned an ominous warning embedded in his milder pre-election address.

"In Islamic jurisprudence, the warning is important," Mr. Bergen said. "And if we don't respond, it's our problem and our fault. He's putting the ball back in our court. Maybe this is all rhetorical and they don't have the ability to launch another big attack. But he intended to tell us that if we choose to completely ignore him, which is a very viable option for us, then we are going to get hit again."

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Grim Realities in Iraq

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Grim Realities in Iraq: "December 22, 2004
December 22, 2004
EDITORIAL
Grim Realities in Iraq

This has been a devastating week in Iraq and it's still only Wednesday.

Yesterday, an explosion ripped through a dining tent at lunch hour on an American military base near Mosul, killing at least 24 people and injuring 57. The day before, President Bush finally acknowledged that many of the more than 100,000 Iraqi trainees Washington had been counting on to take over basic security tasks were far from being up to the job. And on Sunday, car-bomb attacks killed more than 60 people in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, while in Baghdad, unmasked assassins brazenly dragged three election officials out of their cars in full daylight and executed them on the spot.

This is not just pre-election mayhem. It is stark evidence that with a crucial election now less than six weeks away, America's effort to bring into being a new Iraqi government representing all major population groups and capable of defending itself and its citizens still has a very long way to go. Some 21 months after the American invasion, United States military forces remain essentially alone in battling what seems to be a growing insurgency, with no clear prospect of decisive success any time in the foreseeable future.

Washington has no significant international military partners besides Britain, and no Iraqi military support it can count on. The election that once looked as if it might produce a government with nationwide legitimacy increasingly threatens to intensify divisions between the groups that are expected to participate enthusiastically - the Shiites and Kurds - and an estranged and embattled Sunni community, which at this point appears likely to stand aloof.

There may still be time for Washington to try to salvage the election, but that would require paying much more serious attention to legitimate Sunni grievances and showing an openness to postponing the election for several months, if that had a reasonable chance of attracting broader Sunni participation. So far, Mr. Bush has strongly resisted such an approach. As weeks go by without discernible progress, hopes for a decent outcome get progressively harder to sustain.



Right now, the only progress seems to lie in the willingness of the re-elected President Bush to face some hard truths:

One certainly involves Iraqi security forces, which have always been presented as the key to American withdrawal. For more than a year, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials had been claiming that many tens of thousands of Iraqis were being trained to take over frontline security duties, allowing American forces first to pull back from major cities and then, at a later phase, come home. Last week, at a meeting with America's two top military commanders responsible for Iraq, Mr. Bush got a candid evaluation of the actual combat readiness of these Iraqi trainees, who now officially number about 114,000. Mr. Bush was admirably blunt about it at his news conference on Monday, noting that while a few good generals and some good foot soldiers had been trained, "the whole command structure necessary to have a viable military is not in place."

We are glad to hear Mr. Bush acknowledge this sobering reality, but we are still waiting for him to explain who will have to fill in for these noncombat-ready Iraqis and for how long. Given the lack of other countries willing to put up their hands as volunteers, the only answer seems to be more American troops, and not just through the spring, as currently planned. Since the first days of the occupation, American troops have been too light on the ground in Iraq, allowing the looting and sabotage that soon turned into insurgency to get a costly head start.

And facing the need for an expanded American military presence means more than a simple reshuffling of deployments. If more troops in Iraq are not going to translate into a dangerously exhausted and overstretched Army, Marine Corps and National Guard, these forces need to be expanded through stepped-up recruitment. That means bigger spending on the least politically attractive part of the military budget, basic personnel salaries, and less for costly new weapons systems.

Another harsh reality that needs to be confronted head-on is the prospect for the Iraqi elections. The Jan. 30 elections were supposed to usher in a legitimate national government and a broadly representative assembly to draw up a constitution acceptable to all elements of Iraq's fragmented population - secular and religious, Shiite and Sunni, Arab and Kurd. But things now appear headed toward a badly skewed result. Enthusiasm and participation seem high among Shiites and Kurds, who suffered greatly under Sunni minority rule and now thirst for self-government. But in predominantly Sunni areas, including Mosul, parts of Baghdad and most of central and western Iraq, there is a deep and growing alienation that threatens to depress electoral turnout and provides a large reservoir of support for the insurgency. Without an acceptable level of participation across Iraq, the elections will not be able to produce a legitimate government capable of standing on its own, mastering the insurgency and surviving without the indefinite presence of large numbers of American troops.

The timing of last month's military assault on Falluja rested, in part, on the argument that Iraq's Sunnis really wanted to participate in the election, but were being held back by intimidation from the insurgents. The causes of Sunni alienation from the current political process actually run far deeper, and affect large numbers of people who cannot be classified as Al Qaeda supporters, Islamic fundamentalists or sworn followers of Saddam Hussein. A broader feeling has begun to take root that Sunnis have no political, professional or personal future in the new Iraq being shaped by Washington and its Shiite and Kurdish allies.

This feeling grew out of such earlier American mistakes as the wholesale dismissal of the old, Sunni-led Iraqi national army and the blanket exclusion of even midlevel former Baathists from government jobs during the early months of the occupation. It has fed off the continuing failure to assure that authentic Sunni nationalist politicians had an adequate voice in the interim government and election preparations. A further level of resentment has been added by the physical destruction of homes, jobs and infrastructure produced by American counterinsurgency campaigns in densely populated Sunni towns like Falluja. A coalition of Sunni political leaders led by Adnan Pachachi, a respected moderate, has repeatedly called for postponing the January election for several months to encourage broader Sunni participation. His pleas need to be taken seriously, not brushed aside as they have been up till now by Baghdad and Washington.

Leaving Iraq's Sunnis in such a sullen, resentful mood would undermine the creation of a new and stable Iraq and poison its relations with the rest of the Arab world, where Sunnis strongly predominate. Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, somehow seems unable to recognize this. Instead of reinforcing him in his folly, the Bush administration should be actively encouraging him to think afresh. If postponing the election date can ensure more adequate Sunni participation, it is in everyone's interest to do so. much "

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

StraitsTimes.Asia > Taiwan's Chen resigns as party chairman

Story Print Friendly: "Dec 14, 2004
Taiwan's Chen resigns as party chairman
Dec 14, 2004
Taiwan's Chen resigns as party chairman

TAIPEI - Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian took the blame for a legislative election defeat and resigned as the leader of his party on Tuesday, a move that could help ease political feuding that has caused severe gridlock in parliament.

Mr Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its allies were stunned when an opposition alliance - which was disorganised and beset with squabbling - won last weekend's legislative election, taking 114 of the 225 seats.

Before his weekly party meeting, Mr Chen told reporters he was quitting his chairman post. 'Ah-bian will accept all of the criticism and blame for the election loss,' he said, referring to himself by his nickname.

He said that he hoped a new chairman would make Taiwan more 'unified, stable, prosperous and progressive'.

Mr Chen's resignation might signal that he'll try to go back to his original strategy of being a 'president for all the people' who focuses on building consensus rather than pushing a party line.

When he was elected in 2000, he promised that he would distance himself from his party and be a non-partisan president who represented all citizens. He also tried to create Taiwan's first coalition government.

But opposition parties refused to cooperate with him, saying that they could not work together with the government because it was their duty to check and balance Mr Chen's administration. During the past four years, the opposition has blocked most of his major initiatives.

Mr Sun Ta-chuan, political science professor of National Dong Hwa University, said Mr Chen alienated moderate voters mainly because he 'jumped to the front line and sharpened the confrontation with the opposition'.

Mr Sun wrote in an opinion piece in the China Times newspaper on Tuesday: 'The low voter turnout indicated people were disgusted with the overheated political scene.' -- AP -- AP"

Sunday, December 12, 2004

NYTimes.com > Opinion > EDITORIAL A Blow to NASA's Hubble Rescue

December 12th, 2004
The space agency's plan to rescue its most important scientific instrument, the Hubble Space Telescope, with a robotic servicing mission looks increasingly like a bad bet. A panel of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences concluded last week that there was only a remote chance a robotic mission could be mounted quickly enough to succeed and some danger that it might damage the instrument. Instead, the panel said that NASA should send astronauts up on a shuttle flight to service and rescue this incredibly valuable telescope before its gyroscopes and batteries begin to fail a few years from now.
The academy's unusually blunt assessment and a similar judgment by the Aerospace Corporation provide the strongest evidence yet that NASA ought to reconsider its previous opposition to a shuttle rescue flight. The paramount goal ought to be preserving the Hubble by any means necessary, even if that requires diverting the shuttle from other tasks and slowing the president's grandiose plans to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars in future years. If the space agency balks, Congress will need to insist that NASA make the Hubble its highest near-term priority and use the shuttle if necessary.
There is no longer any doubt that the Hubble is worth saving. Although NASA officials have sometimes denigrated the Hubble as a waning asset whose best years are behind it, the academy panel concluded that Hubble's future discoveries would be every bit as spectacular as its past successes. That is a remarkable statement to make about any mature scientific instrument.
Hubble has observed the universe as it existed 12 billion years ago, helped establish the size and age of the universe and discovered massive black holes at the center of many galaxies, among a host of findings that have reshaped our understanding of cosmology.
If its batteries and gyroscopes are replaced and two new instruments placed aboard by a servicing mission, the rejuvenated Hubble is expected to help find 1,000 new planets in the Milky Way galaxy; trace the formation of the first stars and black holes; and elucidate the nature of the mysterious dark energy that permeates the universe, among myriad possibilities. Hubble's endless productivity is the fruit of periodic servicing missions that not only replace depleted batteries and gyroscopes but also upgrade the observational instruments to take advantage of technological advances.
Hubble has already been serviced four times by shuttle astronauts, and a fifth flight was scheduled when the loss of the shuttle Columbia last year forced NASA to ground the three remaining shuttles for safety modifications. All future flights will be dedicated to finishing the half-built space station now orbiting uselessly overhead. Sean O'Keefe, the NASA administrator, has scrubbed the Hubble mission as too risky to undertake.
That excuse has now been exposed as a sham. The academy panel judged a shuttle flight to the Hubble only marginally more risky than a flight to the space station (and therefore far less risky than the combined 25 to 30 shuttle flights needed to complete the station). The tremendous scientific benefits to be gained from the Hubble are well worth the very small differential risk of a servicing flight, in the panel's judgment. Many astronauts clearly agree and are eager to fly to the Hubble. It is probably the most important contribution they could make to the advance of knowledge.
The academy favored an astronaut mission over robotics because the astronauts are far more likely to succeed. They have done the job well in the past and have the ability to cope with unexpected problems that might frustrate a robot. NASA has never carried out such a complex robotic repair and, based on its past history, is unlikely to pull this one off before Hubble conks out.
As of now NASA is pursuing a robotics program that it still deems highly promising and doing nothing to pursue an astronaut mission. The real reason the agency prefers robotics is that the same technologies might prove useful in the president's long-range plan to explore the Moon and Mars, whereas diverting a shuttle to the Hubble would disrupt NASA's planned high-speed dash to complete the station and retire the costly shuttles to free up money for the president's exploration program.
The agency faces two important design reviews for its robotics program next year. Unless those show astonishing progress, NASA should get cracking on an astronaut flight to the Hubble. The great danger is that NASA will convince itself and Congress that robotics will work, and then down the line confess failure and let a spectacularly successful telescope die from neglect.




Saturday, November 20, 2004

The New York Times > International > Middle East > In Falluja, Young Marines Saw the Savagery of an Urban War

The New York Times > International > Middle East > In Falluja, Young Marines Saw the Savagery of an Urban War: "ALLUJA, Iraq, Nov. 18 - ALLUJA, Iraq, Nov. 18 - Eight days after the Americans entered the city on foot, a pair of marines wound their way up the darkened innards of a minaret, shot through with holes by an American tank.

As the marines inched upward, a burst of gunfire rang down, fired by an insurgent hiding in the top of the tower. The bullets hit the first marine in the face, his blood spattering the marine behind him. The marine in the rear tumbled backward down the stairwell, while Lance Cpl. William Miller, age 22, lay in silence halfway up, mortally wounded.

"Miller!" the marines called from below. "Miller!"

With that, the marines' near mystical commandment against leaving a comrade behind seized the group. One after another, the young marines dashed into the minaret, into darkness and into gunfire, and wound their way up the stairs.

After four attempts, Corporal Miller's lifeless body emerged from the tower, his comrades choking and covered with dust. With more insurgents closing in, the marines ran through volleys of machine-gun fire back to their base.

"I was trying to be careful, but I was trying to get him out, you know what I'm saying?" Lance Cpl. Michael Gogin, 19, said afterward.

So went eight days of combat for this Iraqi city, the most sustained period of street-to-street fighting that Americans have encountered since the Vietnam War. The proximity gave the fighting a hellish intensity, with soldiers often close enough to look their enemies in the eyes.

For a correspondent who has covered a half dozen armed conflicts, including the war in Iraq since its start in March 2003, the fighting seen while traveling with a frontline unit in Falluja was a qualitatively different experience, a leap into a different kind of battle.

From the first rockets vaulting out of the city as the marines moved in, the noise and feel of the battle seemed altogether extraordinary; at other times, hardly real at all. The intimacy of combat, this plunge into urban warfare, was new to this generation of American soldiers, but it is a kind of fighting they will probably see again: a grinding struggle to root out guerrillas entrenched in a city, on streets marked in a language few American soldiers could comprehend.

The price for the Americans so far: 51 dead and 425 wounded, a number that may yet increase but that already exceeds the toll from any battle in the Iraq war.

Marines in Harm's Way

The 150 marines with whom I traveled, Bravo Company of the First Battalion, Eighth Marines, had it as tough as any unit in the fight. They moved through the city almost entirely on foot, into the heart of the resistance, rarely protected by tanks or troop carriers, working their way through Falluja's narrow streets with 75-pound packs on their backs.

In eight days of fighting, Bravo Company took 36 casualties, including 6 dead, meaning that the unit's men had about a one-in-four chance of being wounded or killed in little more than a week.

The sounds, sights and feel of the battle were as old as war itself, and as new as the Pentagon's latest weapons systems. The eerie pop from the cannon of the AC-130 gunship, prowling above the city at night, firing at guerrillas who were often only steps away from Americans on the ground. The weird buzz of the Dragon Eye pilotless airplane, hovering over the battlefield as its video cameras beamed real-time images back to the base.

The glow of the insurgents' flares, throwing daylight over a landscape to help them spot their targets: us.

The nervous shove of a marine scrambling for space along a brick wall as tracer rounds ricocheted above.

The silence between the ping of the shell leaving its mortar tube and the explosion when it strikes.

The screams of the marines when one of their comrades, Cpl. Jake Knospler, lost part of his jaw to a hand grenade.

"No, no, no!" the marines shouted as they dragged Corporal Knospler from the darkened house where the bomb went off. It was 2 a.m., the sky dark without a moon. "No, no, no!"

Nothing in the combat I saw even remotely resembled the scenes regularly flashed across movie screens; even so, they often seemed no more real.



New York Times >Editorial > Groundhog Day

Stop us if you've heard this one before. The Bush administration creates a false sense of urgency about a nuclear menace from a Middle Eastern country. Hard-liners talk about that country's connections to terrorists. They portray European diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions as a feckless attempt to appease a rogue nation whose word can never be trusted anyway. Secretary of State Colin Powell makes ominous-sounding warnings about new intelligence, which turns out to be dubious.
That is how President Bush rushed the country into an unnecessary conflict with Iraq in his first term, and we have been seeing alarming signs of that approach all week on Iran.
Let's be cleareyed about this: Iran has an active nuclear program, has not tried terribly hard to hide it and has been dishonest in its dealings with the West. But nothing we have seen suggests some new, urgent development in Iran that would impel American officials to start talking about "the military option." In fact, the most recent developments have been encouraging. Last week, under the threat of a looming U.N. deadline, Tehran said it would freeze all uranium and plutonium processing and invite back international inspectors.
It was a welcome step, resulting from efforts by Britain, France and Germany, and signaled that even the hard-liners in Tehran are susceptible to economic appeals. If the negotiations over Iran's nuclear programs go well, Europe promises to resume talks on a preferential trade agreement. If they don't, it will be time for international economic sanctions. After meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush went out of his way to praise and endorse the Europeans' efforts.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Powell suddenly offered scary sounding talk about new intelligence that supposedly showed that Iran was not only working on enriching uranium, a big step toward making a bomb, but was also working on ways to attach such a weapon to a missile. His alarmist tone was a bit puzzling, since everyone has already agreed that Iran has nuclear ambitions, and it's hard to imagine a country wanting to own a nuclear bomb without exploring ways to use it. The world has also known for years that Iran was testing guided missiles.
Puzzlement turned to alarm yesterday when The Washington Post reported that Mr. Powell's comments were based on unverified information that had been brought to the United States by a previously unknown source whose reliability and authenticity had not yet been vetted. That certainly did bring back old memories - of Mr. Powell assuring the world that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons, based on fanciful intelligence reports about aluminum tubes.
Steven Weisman of The Times reported that administration hawks were also talking about fresh intelligence on Iran's support for Hezbollah, which the world has known about for decades, and Iran's support for insurgents in Iraq, another old story. The hawks seem to be already starting to throw cold water on the prospects for a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear problem while trying to open the door to contemplating a military option. An administration official told The Times that Mr. Powell was trying to avoid meeting with the Iranian foreign minister at a conference both men are to attend in Egypt next week.
Small wonder, then, that the Europeans started to accuse Washington of trying to undermine diplomacy with Iran, just as the Bush administration thwarted their efforts to resume the U.N. inspections of Iraq - inspections that we now know had been highly effective.
Iran has long been a target of the hawks in the administration, who are undoubtedly feeling their oats after the election. But we hope that President Bush has learned enough from the Iraq adventure to understand the dangers of using flawed intelligence to create a false sense of urgency about a national security threat.
Obviously, a nuclear-armed Iran run by its current brand of extremists, who have twisted religion to support terrorism, would be a cause for real concern. But there is no military solution here. Iran's scattered and secretive nuclear program cannot be bombed out of existence. And even if the United States had not stretched its military to the limit in Iraq, invading Iran, a country of nearly 70 million people, would be a catastrophic mistake.
The Bush administration has said that stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons is at the top of its foreign policy agenda. That's where it belongs. But it's a goal that can be pursued only through truly multilateral diplomacy, in which the United States works with its European allies, rather than trying to undermine them, and the Europeans are prepared to stand behind Washington with a credible threat of economic sanctions when they are justified. It is not an excuse for war or even for pretending that war is a rational option.




Thursday, November 18, 2004

Taipei Times - archives > "World should unite behind Taiwan"

Taipei Times - archives:
By Christopher Lingle
World should unite behind Taiwan

By Christopher Lingle

Thursday, Nov 18, 2004,Page 8
`Taiwan has never been an inalienable part of China. The island of Formosa was originally inhabited by Aboriginal peoples that were not of Han Chinese descent.'

Beijing has successfully brow-beaten many countries into accepting it dubious claims of sovereignty of the territory and people of Taiwan. In an ill-advised attempt to placate Beijing, US Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that Taiwan is not a sovereign state and that the US supports Taiwan's eventual unification with China.

His remarks exceeded the Shanghai communique of 1972, wherein Beijing's position that "there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China" was acknowledged. They also went beyond former US president Bill Clinton's statements that changes in the future status of Taiwan should be taken with the consent of the Taiwanese people.

The Clinton administration kowtowed to China's autocrats by issuing a de facto acceptance of the policy known as "Four Noes." In relations with Taiwan, China insists that other countries accept the following: no independence for Taiwan, no "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan," and no to participation by Taiwan in international forums in which statehood is a prerequisite.

During negotiations with former US president George Bush in 1992, China convinced the US to agree to conditions under which Taiwan should be allowed into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and by implication into the WTO. The condition was that Taiwan would have to wait until China had gained admission.

Bowing to China's authoritarian rulers involves considerable disadvantages to democratic Taiwan. This delay imposed on the nation's membership is unjustified because its economy and legal structure satisfy the preconditions for entry. A more erroneous submission to Beijing's will was that Taiwan would only be admitted as a "customs territory" instead of as a sovereign country.

There are several problems with Powell's recent remarks on Taiwan's status in the international community. First, they contradict US claims of promoting democracy and human rights around the world. Second, a Chinese takeover of the nation would give them control over the Taiwan Strait and the East and South China seas, which could impede the freedom travel in this area of the Pacific.

In any case, Beijing's claims that Taiwan is or has been an integral part of China and its insistence on "one China" have very little historical or factual support. In the first instance, the Chinese Communist Party has never exercised control over Taiwan.

The reality is that Taiwan and China are two countries on opposite sides of the Taiwan Strait. After all, Taiwan has its own territory, citizens, government and diplomatic relations -- which all conform to the criteria defining a sovereign state under the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648.

It turns out that Taiwan has never been an inalienable part of China. The island of Formosa was originally inhabited by Aboriginal peoples that were not of Han Chinese descent. Before the Qing dynasty's brief legal claim on Taiwan in 1895 when it ceded Taiwan to Japan, the Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish were in command.

Since 1949, Taiwan and China have been ruled separately after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) fled to the island. Then, the Republic of China (ROC) under the KMT government of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) imposed 45 years of martial law. This marked the beginning of a second period of colonization that ended when Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) died in 1988.

After former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) increased the pace of democratization, the stage was set for 2000 when a democratic transfer of power brought President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) into office. Now, changes have been proposed to Taiwan's Constitution that would improve the document formulated in Nanking in 1947 by the KMT. At that time, it secured a one-party dictatorship. Revisions are needed to support the vibrant, multiparty democracy that now operates in Taiwan.

Beijing's repeated rejection of Taiwanese sovereignty ignores reality and is on the wrong side of history, which points to a momentum towards greater freedom and democracy. The fact is that Taiwan is a sovereign nation and is not part of China's territory.

Threats of aggression reinforce the development of a distinctive Taiwanese identity that has gained strength while trade and investment across the Taiwan Strait have exploded. Public-opinion surveys indicate that a Taiwanese identity has grown over the past decade with over 40 percent of inhabitants viewing themselves as Taiwanese. Meanwhile, a slightly larger percentage sees their identity as both Taiwanese and Chinese.

Why should democratic nation yield to the unelected autocrats in Beijing? Despite its checkered past, the Taiwan is both a democratic and a free country. At least this is the opinion of the Freedom House, a New York-based nonprofit organization that rates countries on a scale of one to seven, with one representing freest and seven least free. It categorizes 192 countries and 18 related and disputed territories as "free," "partly free" or "not free"

In its annual report, Freedom in the World for 2004, Taiwan received a score of two for both political rights and civil liberties and was identified as being free -- as were 88 other countries. This most recent rating puts Taiwan in the same category as South Korea.

Among Asian countries, only Japan received a higher ranking. Singapore is rated "partly free" with scores of five and four for political rights and civil liberties, while China is classified as "not free" with scores of seven and six.

The Chen administration has taken steps to restrain corruption, especially in the area of vote-buying and trying to break links between politicians and organized crime. In its annual corruption perceptions survey for this year, the Berlin-based Transparency International, Taiwan was tied for 35th place out of 102 countries. Among Asian countries, only Singapore and Japan ranked higher.

Chen has also extended several goodwill gestures to Beijing. However, each has been rebuffed by intemperate language from various Chinese authorities. Bei-jing's continued animosity toward Taiwan and its allies is one of the principal sources of regional instability.

It might seem improbable for an autocratic regime to soften its approach. But the free world should unite behind Taiwan's citizens so they can remain free and control their own destinies.


Christopher Lingle is visiting professor of economics at Universidad Francisco Marroque in Guatemala and global strategist for eConoLytics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Boondocks 11-16-4 Aaron McGruder Posted by Hello

The New York Times > Opinion > The Cabinet Shuffle: Good Soldier Powell

The New York Times > Opinion > The Cabinet Shuffle: Good Soldier Powell: "THE CABINET SHUFFLE
Good Soldier Powell
THE CABINET SHUFFLE
Good Soldier Powell

As Secretary of State Colin Powell resigned yesterday, reportedly to be succeeded by the national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, it was hard to avoid the feeling that this imposing figure - who once personified the dignity, integrity and promise of government service and was the first African-American considered to have a shot at the White House - will be remembered for one picture and three sentences.

On Feb. 5, 2003, in an appearance before the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Powell, the retired four-star general and former national security adviser, held up a vial of white powder as a symbol of what he claimed - falsely, as it turned out - were Iraq's huge stockpiles of anthrax. He offered a scathing indictment of Saddam Hussein. "My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources,'' he said. "These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."

As an increasingly angry world soon learned, Mr. Powell in fact offered half-truths, poorly analyzed intelligence and outright fantasies, from a nuclear weapons program in Baghdad that didn't exist to wildly exaggerated estimates of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and its ties to Al Qaeda.

But at the time, Mr. Powell's performance convinced many Americans skeptical about the war that the Iraqi government was a clear and present danger to the rest of the world. His enormous stature and his image as a moderating force within the administration - valued especially by America's European allies - were squandered in defending a unilateral decision he did not agree with to launch a war in which he did not really seem to believe.

From the start of his tenure as secretary of state, there was a question about which Colin Powell had moved into Foggy Bottom. Was it the decisive, charismatic general who coined a military doctrine that called for waging war only after the establishment of a political consensus behind achievable goals and then the commitment of overwhelming force to reach those ends? Or was it the faithful soldier who prized loyalty above all else?

Mr. Powell began with promise, forcing the long-neglected issues of Africa to the forefront of the administration's agenda. Even after 9/11, when those issues naturally took the back seat, the über-Powell was forever being rumored to be on the cusp of emerging and asserting himself over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and even Vice President Dick Cheney.

But it's now clear that Mr. Powell long ago chose loyalty over leadership and was not a major figure in the biggest foreign policy decisions of the Bush administration. Most accounts of the rush to war in Iraq show that Mr. Powell was deeply troubled about the planning for the war, its timing and the intense opposition of most of Washington's European allies. But he was unwilling or unable to exert much influence over the president in that critical time, and it's not clear whether Mr. Bush even consulted him before making his decision to go to war.

There were moments in his tenure when Mr. Powell could have resigned over principle. But he soldiered on, leaving when it was safe and convenient for his boss. Yesterday, he told the world that he'd long ago given up any ambition of sticking around for a second term. In the end, his legacy may simply be that the administration that bungled the handling of a war because the president failed to heed the Powell Doctrine was the one in which Mr. Powell himself served.

The New York Times > Opinion > The Cabinet Shuffle: Good Soldier Powell

The New York Times > Opinion > The Cabinet Shuffle: Good Soldier Powell: "November 16, 2004

As Secretary of State Colin Powell resigned yesterday, reportedly to be succeeded by the national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, it was hard to avoid the feeling that this imposing figure - who once personified the dignity, integrity and promise of government service and was the first African-American considered to have a shot at the White House - will be remembered for one picture and three sentences.

On Feb. 5, 2003, in an appearance before the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Powell, the retired four-star general and former national security adviser, held up a vial of white powder as a symbol of what he claimed - falsely, as it turned out - were Iraq's huge stockpiles of anthrax. He offered a scathing indictment of Saddam Hussein. "My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources,'' he said. "These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."

As an increasingly angry world soon learned, Mr. Powell in fact offered half-truths, poorly analyzed intelligence and outright fantasies, from a nuclear weapons program in Baghdad that didn't exist to wildly exaggerated estimates of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and its ties to Al Qaeda.

But at the time, Mr. Powell's performance convinced many Americans skeptical about the war that the Iraqi government was a clear and present danger to the rest of the world. His enormous stature and his image as a moderating force within the administration - valued especially by America's European allies - were squandered in defending a unilateral decision he did not agree with to launch a war in which he did not really seem to believe.

From the start of his tenure as secretary of state, there was a question about which Colin Powell had moved into Foggy Bottom. Was it the decisive, charismatic general who coined a military doctrine that called for waging war only after the establishment of a political consensus behind achievable goals and then the commitment of overwhelming force to reach those ends? Or was it the faithful soldier who prized loyalty above all else?

Mr. Powell began with promise, forcing the long-neglected issues of Africa to the forefront of the administration's agenda. Even after 9/11, when those issues naturally took the back seat, the über-Powell was forever being rumored to be on the cusp of emerging and asserting himself over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and even Vice President Dick Cheney.

But it's now clear that Mr. Powell long ago chose loyalty over leadership and was not a major figure in the biggest foreign policy decisions of the Bush administration. Most accounts of the rush to war in Iraq show that Mr. Powell was deeply troubled about the planning for the war, its timing and the intense opposition of most of Washington's European allies. But he was unwilling or unable to exert much influence over the president in that critical time, and it's not clear whether Mr. Bush even consulted him before making his decision to go to war.

There were moments in his tenure when Mr. Powell could have resigned over principle. But he soldiered on, leaving when it was safe and convenient for his boss. Yesterday, he told the world that he'd long ago given up any ambition of sticking around for a second term. In the end, his legacy may simply be that the administration that bungled the handling of a war because the president failed to heed the Powell Doctrine was the one in which Mr. Powell himself served.


Monday, November 15, 2004

New York Times > Editorial > Why the Democrats Need to Stop Thinking About Elephants

November 15, 2004
EDITORIAL OBSERVER
By ADAM COHEN

f George Lakoff had his way, the Kerry campaign would have run a commercial attacking the "baby tax." Dr. Lakoff, a Berkeley linguistics professor and Kerry campaign adviser, wanted to divide the interest on the national debt by the number of Americans born each year. The result, $85,000 per newborn, say, would have been handed to a baby in the form of a bill, and the baby would have started to cry. That, Dr. Lakoff says, "frames" the issue "in a way people can understand."

"Framing" is a hot topic among political junkies and in the blogo-sphere right now, thanks to Dr. Lakoff. In "Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate," his surprise best seller, Dr. Lakoff argues that Republicans have been winning elections because they have been better than Democrats at framing issues - from taxes, to abortion, to national security - in ways that resonate with core American values.

Dr. Lakoff has been stepping out of the classroom lately to lecture everyone from the Senate Democratic caucus to "living wage" advocates on how to use linguistics to craft a more effective message. "Framing" alone won't give the Democrats the White House, or the Senate and House. But Dr. Lakoff's theories offer the Democrats a road map for going forward.

The title "Don't Think of an Elephant!" comes from a classic experiment Dr. Lakoff conducts in Cognitive Science 101. He tells his students not to think of an elephant, and he has yet to find one who has managed it. Thinking about elephants is the frame, and negating it simply reinforces it. This was the problem, he says, with President Richard Nixon's famous declaration, "I am not a crook."

Trying not to think of elephants, Dr. Lakoff suggests, sums up the Democrats' plight. Since Republicans have framed the key issues, Democrats cannot avoid being on the losing side. Take taxes. Republicans have succeeded in framing the issue as "tax relief," a metaphor that presents an affliction, and that predetermines who are the heroes - tax opponents - and villains. Taxes are, of course, necessary even for programs Republicans back, like the military, and simple economics dictates that we cannot keep cutting taxes and maintaining spending forever. But the Democrats are hard-pressed to make these points once the frame is "tax relief."

It is not by accident that "tax relief" presents taxes in moral terms, as a calamity in search of a cure. Values, Dr. Lakoff argues, are the key to framing campaign issues. Democrats have an unfortunate tendency, he says, to see campaigns as product launches, believing that if they roll out a candidate with the best features, or positions on issues, voters will support him. Republicans understand that people vote their identity, not their self-interest - that they seek out candidates whose values appear to match their own.

After the election, pundits made much of the influence of a few "moral" issues, like gay marriage and abortion, on the outcome. But Dr. Lakoff argues that values play an important role in almost every campaign issue. The Republicans' success has been driven in large part, he argues, by their ability to frame less morally charged subjects in terms of core values. He is impressed by a line from President Bush's last State of the Union address: that we do not need a "permission slip" to defend America. It reframed multilateralism, once a widely accepted foreign policy principle, as weakness and national infantilization.

As Dr. Lakoff sees it, Democrats need to start framing issues in terms of their own values, which, he insists, are no less popular with the American people than the Republicans' values. This project will, however, take more than spin and sloganeering. On many subjects, he argues, the Democrats suffer from what he calls "hypocognition" - more simply, a lack of ideas. Republicans have been working for the past 40 years, since the defeat of Barry Goldwater, in well-financed think tanks, on developing conservative ideas that voters will rally around. The Democrats, he says, need to start catching up.

One frame Dr. Lakoff likes, which he believes could become a progressive wedge issue, is "poison-free communities." The Republicans' war on government regulation has left industry increasingly free to spew toxins into the air and water, despite the harm it is doing to the public. Keeping people healthy is a core progressive value, but it is one that many swing voters and Republicans share. Few people want their children poisoned by mercury in the name of a theory about the appropriate size of government.

Framing can also deflect the other side's charges. Dr. Lakoff argues that the Democrats should fight the Republican campaign for "tort reform" by recasting it. Rather than debate over frivolous lawsuits, he says, they should talk about protecting people from law-breaking corporations and negligent doctors. When Republicans talk about greedy trial lawyers, he says, Democrats should talk about - and he really needs a better phrase here- "public protection attorneys."

For all of his good insights, Dr. Lakoff can get a little too caught up in his own frame. His intense focus on language leaves too little room for other attributes of a successful campaign, like a charismatic candidate or a strong field operation. Just as professional campaign managers have given too little thought to his frames and hypocognition, he has a tendency to undervalue what they do. The least compelling part of his book is a commercial he suggests Democrats use on taxes. His script begins, "Taxation is paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America." That quickly reframes the issue to: "Where did I put the remote?"

Sunday, November 14, 2004

San Francisco Cronicle > Chinese American writer found dead in South Bay

Charles Burress, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Iris Chang, the prominent Chinese American author and journalist who fueled an international protest movement against Japan with her incendiary best-selling book, "The Rape of Nanking," was found dead from an apparent self- inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said Wednesday.
Chang, 36, of San Jose was found in her car by a commuter about 9 a.m. Tuesday on a rural road south of Los Gatos, according to the Santa Clara County sheriff's office.
"I'm just shocked," said retired San Francisco Superior Court Judge Lillian Sing, who was helping Chang with a documentary on aging U.S. military veterans who had suffered as POWs in Japanese captivity during World War II. "She was a real woman warrior trying to fight injustice."
Stunned friends and colleagues sought to understand what might have led to the suicide of an energetic and passionate young woman who channeled her outrage over Japanese war atrocities into a busy career of writing and lecturing. Chang also wrote a history of China's missile program and chronicled the Chinese experience in America.
Ignatius Ding, an activist who worked with Chang for several years in seeking to have Japan acknowledge and apology for atrocities it committed during World War II, said Chang's current project videotaping the former U.S. prisoners of war had been emotionally taxing for her.
"She was doing research recently in Kentucky and ran into some problem," he said. "She got really upset, and she flew home." Chang lived in San Jose with her husband, Brett Douglas.
Ding, who heads the Cupertino-based Global Alliance for Preserving the History of World War II in Asia, said he did not know what kind of problem Chang might have encountered or whether it was a factor in her death.
He noted that she "took things to heart" and usually became emotionally involved in the tragic stories she wrote about.
Chang's white 1999 Oldsmobile sedan was found on an isolated private road west of Highway 17 near the Cats Restaurant. She apparently had died from a single shot from a handgun.
"There was evidence that was recovered that corroborated and was consistent with a suicide,'' said sheriff's spokesman Terrance Helm, who wouldn't disclose the nature of the evidence or if there was a suicide note. An autopsy is scheduled for today.
Her husband had filed a missing person's report with police at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, saying he rose early to find his wife missing and that she had been despondent, said San Jose police Sgt. Steve Dixon. Her husband told police he had last seen Chang at 2 a.m.
"She was passionate and articulate," said Ling-Chi Wang, a faculty member in Asian American studies at UC Berkeley. "It's shocking to lose such a young and talented person."
"It's a tragic loss," said Chronicle book editor Oscar Villalon. "She was one of the most visible Chinese American authors, who wrote a landmark book that brought to the attention, at least among her American audience, what was nonexistent as an issue."
Author of three books and many articles and columns, Chang's most famous work was her controversial 1997 book, "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II," which described one of the war's worst atrocities.
Japanese army troops massacred many Chinese in Nanjing (then called Nanking) in late 1937 and early 1938, and Chang not only believed that the horrible event was in danger of being forgotten but also accused Japanese society of collective denial about it.
Translated into many languages, her book galvanized a redress movement in the United States. It was lauded in the U.S. media, drew criticism from several U.S. scholars on Japan and was vilified by right-wing publications in Japan.
The book also propelled Chang into an international spotlight. The year after it appeared, the Organization of Chinese American Women named her National Woman of the Year.
She received honorary degrees and lectured widely at universities, bookstores and conferences. She delivered the commencement address at Cal State Hayward in June.
"She has been a real role model for young Chinese Americans," Ding said, adding that Chang inspired many to consider being authors and journalists.
"She was also well-respected in China," he said.
Wang said she was an important interpreter of the Chinese American experience to the general public, adding that in her book on Nanjing, "she has done more than anybody to call attention to the outrage that took place."
Helen Zia, Bay Area author of "Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People," said Chang "wanted to bring voices to the fore, the stories shunted aside and ignored in history. This is a huge loss."
Andrew Horvat, Tokyo representative of the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation, said that "there will always be controversy over the accuracy and balance of her writings" but that she "did raise a level of consciousness that wasn't there before. ... In that sense, I think her contribution was very positive."
Chang's most recent book, "The Chinese in America," was named one of the best books of the year by The Chronicle. Her first book, "Thread of the Silkworm," told the story of the Chinese scientist who guided the development of China's Silkworm missile.
Born in Princeton, N.J., Chang grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., where her parents are professors at the University of Illinois. Her grandparents' escape from Nanjing fed her early interest in what happened there.
She received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois and worked briefly as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Associated Press before entering a master's program at Johns Hopkins University in 1990.
She appeared on the cover of Reader's Digest as well as on many TV programs, including "Nightline" and "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," and she wrote for numerous publications, including the New York Times and Newsweek.
Chronicle staff writers Alan Gathright and Vanessa Hua contributed to this story.E-mail Charles Burress at cburress@sfchronicle.com


The New York Times > The Arafat Voids

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
The day after Yasir Arafat died, USA Today carried a big, bold headline that caught my eye. It said: "Arafat Dies, Leaves Void."
All I could think of when reading that headline was its double meaning. Yasir Arafat left a void of leadership, with no formal successor. But he also left a void of achievement. And it is that second void that really matters, considering that he led the Palestinian movement for some 40 years.
You will pardon me if I don't join in the insipid chorus about how Arafat's great achievement was the way he represented the "aspirations" for statehood of the Palestinian people and, through terrorism and resistance, put the Palestinian cause on the world map.
Excuse me, but Yasir Arafat put the Palestinian cause on the world map in 1974, when he was invited to address the U.N. General Assembly. What did he do with all that attention after that? Very little. There is a message in his life and his legacy for every world leader: If all you do is express the aspirations, but never produce the reality, then history will judge you very harshly. And any honest history of Yasir Arafat will judge him on his voids, not his visions.
Will we now see the emergence of a Palestinian leadership - a broad coalition from Hamas to Fatah - ready to take the collective decision to really reconcile with the Jews that Arafat was not ready to make on his own?
Will Arab leaders, like Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who put forth a peace plan, be ready to really help the Palestinians make the tough decisions by giving them Arab cover? Or will we simply have another generation of expressive politics by Arab leaders, who love the Palestinian cause but not the Palestinian people?
Ariel Sharon seems to have already started to learn some of the lessons of Arafat's life. Mr. Sharon was asked recently what made him change his mind, and risk his own life and political career, to undertake a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza after so many years opposing such a move. His answer: There were things he could see "from here" that he couldn't see "from there."
In other words, sitting in the chair of the prime minister, he could suddenly see the long-term interests of the Israeli people in a different way.
"Sharon has started to give up his popularity among his own constituency, because he realizes that the welfare of the Israeli people, as a whole, requires decisions that are unpopular but unavoidable," said the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi. But Sharon cannot stop just with Gaza. He's got a lot more popularity to give up with his old constituency if we're going to see a deal on the West Bank.
Finally, what about President Bush? When it comes to the Arab-Israel question, he's had a little bit of Arafat disease himself. He's given some of the best speeches of any president on the Arab-Israel issue and delivered the most pathetic diplomacy I have ever seen.
This divide reflects the paralyzing split in his administration between those who understand that America will never win the war of ideas in the Middle East without working seriously on the most emotional issue in Arab political life - the Palestine question - and those, like the vice president and secretary of defense, who think the whole issue is overrated. The first group are right, the second are wrong. The president needs to choose.
If only President Bush called in Colin Powell and said: "Colin, neither of us have much to show by way of diplomacy for the last four years. I want you to get on an airplane and go out to the Middle East. I want you to sit down with Israelis and Palestinians and forge a framework for a secure Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and progress toward a secure peace in the West Bank, and I don't want you to come back home until you've got that. Only this time I will stand with you.
"As long as you're out there, I will not let Rummy or Cheney fire any more arrows into your back. So get going. It's time for you to stop sulking over at Foggy Bottom and time for me to make a psychological breakthrough with the Arab world that can also help us succeed in Iraq - by making it easier for Arabs and Muslims to stand with us. I don't want to see you back here until you've put our words into deeds."
Yasir Arafat preferred to die, beloved by all his people, in a Paris military hospital - rather than sacrifice his popularity and maybe his life so that the majority of his people could live and die at home. Will Ariel Sharon, George Bush and the Arab and Palestinian leaders now follow his model and play to the crowds, or play to history?




Saturday, November 13, 2004

Yahoo! News - A fifth of Taiwanese want independence from China soon: survey

Yahoo! News - A fifth of Taiwanese want independence from China soon: survey: "A fifth of Taiwanese want independence from China soon: survey
A fifth of Taiwanese want independence from China soon: survey

Sat Nov 13, 2:00 AM ET Asia - AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - The number of Taiwanese who want rapid independence from China has reached a record high 21 percent, despite Beijing's repeated threats to crush any such moves, according to a new survey.

A similar survey in March 2000, right after independence-leaning Chen Shui-bian was elected president, showed only eight percent wanted independence swiftly.

The latest opinion poll published Saturday by the United Daily News surveyed 942 people on Friday against the backdrop of the education ministry's controversial announcement last week that it planned to split the history of the island from that of China in new school textbooks.

The survey also found that 10 percent of Taiwanese wanted "slow independence," while 36 percent preferred to maintain the status quo.

Taiwan has governed itself since it split from China in 1949, but has not formally declared independence. China still claims sovereignty over the island an1d has threatened to invade should it move towards full independence.

Only six percent of those polled favor "rapid reunification" with the mainland, a three percent decline from four years ago.

A separate opinion poll conducted by the TVBS news network in September indicated that for the first time more people here felt they were "Taiwanese" (45 percent) rather than "Taiwanese

Taipei Times - archives

Taipei Times - archives: "`Going west' threatening Taiwan's sovereignty
By Huang Tien-lin ?$???

Saturday, Nov 13, 2004,Page 8
During his interview with Phoenix TV in Beijing on Oct. 25, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation. We do not support an independence movement in Taiwan." He also said that Taiwan and China "should look for ways of improving dialogue across the Strait and move forward toward a peaceful unification." His abrupt remarks stunned political observers in Taiwan.

Looking back at the matter, what we cannot understand is: First, was it a slip of the tongue? If it was, what was Powell's understanding of Taiwan's situation that led to the mistake? Was the ideal of unification deeply embedded in his subconscious? Second, if his statement was a result of pressure from Beijing, why has this pressure grown to such an extent that it has made Powell deny Taiwan's sovereignty and future self-determination?

No matter how we interpret these points, Powell's words have already hurt the Taiwanese people, and given us an important warning sign. The public should consider why more and more foreign friends and governments are leaning toward China, insisting that Taiwan is not an independent sovereign state and that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will eventually unite.

I believe that Powell's comments were a natural response to what he has seen and heard. Since he took office four years ago, he must have taken note of the booming cross-strait economic exchanges and the massive number of the Taiwanese businesspeople operating in China.

Taiwanese businesspeople outnumber their US counterparts in China, and 3.8 million and Taiwanese visit China every year, which also exceeds the number of US visitors. "China fever" remains, despite the more than 600 missiles China is aiming at Taiwan. Although ideas such as "one county on each side [of the Strait]" and Taiwan's UN membership bid are occasionally discussed, they are not taken seriously, because the Taiwanese people are unable to cut the umbilical cord between themselves and China.

The fact is that the frequent cross-strait exchanges have overshadowed Taiwan's insistence on its sovereignty, because it often sacrifices its sovereignty for the sake of business interests. Day after day, these facts have delivered a message to our foreign friends: "The two sides will unify, and they are moving in this direction."

In his interview with CNN, Powell clearly expressed foreigners' view on cross-strait relations by saying that "We want to see both sides not take unilateral action that would prejudice an eventual outcome, a reunification that all parties are seeking." His words "that all parties are seeking" prove that, in his mind, the two sides are making efforts toward unification.

In January 2001, William Kirby, the director of the Harvard University Asia Center, told Newsweek magazine that Taiwan is falling inexorably into the grip of Chinese economic power. He also said that there is little Taiwan can do to escape from that grip. Almost four years have passed since Kirby made these comments. China's capacity for controlling Taiwan is still growing, while Taipei is leaning toward Beijing economically. What else can we expect the US to say under such circumstances?

"Going west" has made China stronger and weakened Taiwan's economy, hampering the government's policy of "going south." Because of this trend, China's economic power will very soon be sufficient to influence US policies, while Taiwan sinks deeper and deeper. This reflects the old Chinese saying, "Human beings die in pursuit of wealth, and birds die in pursuit of food."


Huang Tien-lin is a national policy adviser to the president.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: The Man Who Refused to Say Yes

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: The Man Who Refused to Say Yes: "November 6, 2004
EDITORIAL
The Man Who Refused to Say Yes

It's tempting to wonder what sort of tributes world leaders would be preparing for the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat if during the negotiations that grew out of the Camp David meeting in 2000, he had somehow found the courage to say yes to Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton. Would we be documenting the life of the father of a nation, the man who, through a singular act of statesmanship, signed off on a final agreement that established an independent Palestinian state on almost all the land occupied by Israel in 1967? It is not often in history that someone's legacy can come down to one single defining moment, to one single critical choice. But such is the story of Mr. Arafat's life, and it is almost unbearably disappointing that four years ago, faced with the admittedly difficult choice of saying yes to Israel, Mr. Arafat said no.

Mr. Arafat embodied the Palestinian national movement, from the campaigns of terror through exile and the promising rise, and dismal demise, of the peace process. His unique stature made him the only Palestinian who could have signed the Oslo accords, with the recognition of the Jewish state they entailed, and for this he was awarded a shared Nobel Peace Prize.

He has had as many faces as his movement: to the Palestinians, Mr. Arafat will always be Abu Amar, the leader who stares down from every wall in his checkered keffiyeh and military tunic; to Israelis and to many Americans, a terrorist, pure and simple; to the Europeans, a national leader; to ordinary Arabs, the hero of a national liberation struggle; to most Arab leaders, a nagging, unavoidable problem. Still, he became the only leader unequivocally recognized by all Palestinians, in the West Bank, in Gaza and in the diaspora.

Mr. Arafat was also the only Palestinian who could have prepared his people to accept the glass as half full at Camp David, but there, he failed. He may have accurately gauged the grass-roots reaction to an agreement that would have offered the Palestinians far less than they had been taught to expect. But it was Mr. Arafat more than anyone else who was responsible for their distorted vision of reality. The hardest and most important responsibility of a leader is to prepare his or her followers for the pragmatic direction in which they must move; the worst failing is to abandon reality for oratory.

As with so many other revolutionary leaders, Mr. Arafat mastered only one style of leadership: when he entered Gaza as the head of the Palestinian National Authority, he added only the pomp and ceremony of bagpipes and honor guards to his authoritarian, secretive, patronage-ridden rule. He worked at night; he controlled the purse, down to the cents; he wore only his military tunic. Worse, he made no serious attempt to build a competent government below him or to prepare his people for the required compromises of a peace deal or the responsibilities of statehood. To him, disagreement was disloyalty, and aides who gained too independent a posture were abruptly pushed into the background.

As president, Mr. Arafat ruled without fully trusting anyone. When he was once asked why he had eight security forces, he looked surprised and answered, "Why, Hosni Mubarak has 12." From the same conspiratorial impulse, Mr. Arafat never chose a designated deputy or a political heir.

That is what makes this moment so difficult and fateful for the Palestinians. Their organizations, from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, have been either under Mr. Arafat or against Mr. Arafat. Now they must face existence without him.

If they hope to achieve the hopeful future that Mr. Arafat failed to give them, that means agreeing on a leader or a team acceptable to the West Bank and Gaza, as well as to Palestinians in exile. It also means firmly resisting the inevitable efforts by Hamas to expand its influence. Such potential leaders are available, especially in the Palestinian Legislative Council, whose members were democratically elected and have shown considerable political courage over the past decade.

For the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, it must have been a moment of some satisfaction when his lifelong Palestinian nemesis departed for what many suspected would be a final flight to seek medical treatment in Paris. But for so long now, Mr. Sharon has dodged responsibility for creating a climate for potential peace by saying that there was no Palestinian negotiating partner so long as Mr. Arafat was in charge. Mr. Sharon may be running out of excuses.

Debates will rage forever about who lost Camp David, and it is certainly true that had Mr. Arafat made a different choice, he might have shared the fate of Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin, leaders who paid for their courage with their lives. But it is also possible to imagine that had Mr. Arafat made a different choice, he would not have lived these last years in a darkened rubble of an old British military compound, and he would have been lauded with all the pomp and ceremony of the father of a nation.


The New York Times > International > Middle East > Arafat Forced His People's Plight Into the World Spotlight

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Arafat Forced His People's Plight Into the World Spotlight: "

Arafat Forced His People's Plight Into the World Spotlight
By JUDITH MILLER

Yasir Arafat, who died on Thursday in Paris at age 75, was the wily, enigmatic father and leader of Palestinian nationalism for almost 40 years and symbolized his people’s longing for a distinct political identity and independent state.

Mr. Arafat "died at the military hospital Percy, Klamart on November 11, 2004 at 3:30" on Thursday morning, Christian Estripeau, the chief doctor at the hospital, told reporters, according to the Reuters news agency.

No other individual so embodied the Palestinians’ plight: their dispersal, their statelessness, their hunger for a return to a homeland lost to Israel. Once hailed in major capitals as a romantic hero and world-class statesman, his luster and reputation faded in recent years. A brilliant navigator of political currents in opposition, once in power he proved himself more tactician than strategist, and a leader who rejected crucial opportunities to achieve his declared goal.

At the end of his life, he governed Palestinians from an almost three-year confinement by Israel to his Ramallah headquarters. While many Palestinians continued to revere him, others came to see him as undemocratic and his administration as corrupt, as they faced growing poverty, lawlessness and despair over prospects for statehood.

A co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1994 for his agreement to work toward peaceful coexistence with Israel, Mr. Arafat began his long political career with high-profile acts of terrorism against Israel.

At the beginning, in the 1960’s, he pioneered what became known as “television terrorism” air piracy and other forms of mayhem staged for maximum propaganda value. Among the more startling deeds he ordered was the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. In 1986, a group linked to Mr. Arafat but apparently acting independently seized the Achille Lauro cruise ship, shot Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old American Jew, and pushed him overboard in his wheelchair.

In 2000, after rejecting a land-for-peace deal from Israel that he considered insufficient, Mr. Arafat presided over the Palestinians as they waged a mix of guerrilla warfare and terror against Israeli troops and civilians that has lasted more than four years.

Indeed, shifting between peace talks and acts of violence was the defining feature of his political life. This was evident in his appeal for a Palestinian state at the United Nations General Assembly in 1974, when he wore a holster while waving an olive branch. After his pledge of peace with Israel in 1993, Palestinians sent by groups associated with him carried out suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He officially condemned such violence but called for “martyrs by the millions” to rise for the Palestinian cause.

Mr. Arafat assumed many poses. But the image that endures and the one he clearly relished was that of the Arab fighter, the grizzled, scruffy-bearded guerrilla in olive-green military fatigues and his trademark checkered head scarf, carefully folded in the elongated diamond shape of what was once Palestine. He seemed to thrive when under siege. Surrounded in the spring of 2002 by Israeli tanks in two rooms of his compound in Ramallah, he cried out, “Oh God, grant me a martyr’s death.”

Through the 1980’s, he repeatedly rejected recognition of Israel., He insisted on armed struggle and terror campaigns, opting for diplomacy only after his embrace of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq during the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and the earlier collapse of the Soviet Union left his movement politically disgraced and financially bankrupt, with neither power nor leverage.

In September 1993, he achieved world acclaim by signing a limited peace treaty with Israel, a declaration of principles that provided for mutual recognition and outlined a transition to Palestinian autonomy in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, territories that Israel had controlled since its decisive victory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The culmination of secret negotiations in Oslo, Norway, the agreement was blessed by President Bill Clinton and sealed with a stunning handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Mr. Arafat on the White House lawn.

But in 2000, he walked away from a proffered settlement based on the Oslo accords proposed by Prime Minister Ehud Barak the most forthcoming compromises Israel had ever suggested.

The Israeli offer appeared to meet most of his earlier demands but he held out for more. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Barak charged that Mr. Arafat failed to respond with proposals of his own, effectively torpedoing the American-brokered talks. The Palestinians spread the blame for the talks’ failure on all three parties.

After the talks collapsed, Ariel Sharon, then in opposition in Israel, visited the Jerusalem plaza outside Al Aksa Mosque in September 2000. Palestinians erupted in violent protest, beginning what came to be called the “second intifada.” That campaign has killed more than 900 Israelis and almost 3,000 Palestinians, and plunged the fragile Palestinian Authority into armed conflict. Mr. Arafat died without achieving any of the essential goals he had espoused at various stages of his career: the destruction of Israel, the peace with the Jewish state he espoused after 1988, or the creation of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Moreover, the political concessions that produced the 1993 Oslo accords for which he, Mr. Rabin and Shimon Peres of Israel shared the Nobel Peace Prize deepened both the admiration and hatred of him. Few Arabs or Israelis were neutral about Mr. Arafat or his Oslo deal with Israel.

He leaves an ambiguous legacy. He succeeded in creating not only a coherent national movement, led by the Palestine Liberation Organization, but also the very consciousness that made it possible. A past master of public relations, he made the world aware of Palestine as a distinct entity. And he helped persuade Palestinians, who now number five million to six million, to think of themselves as a people with a right to sovereignty.

“He put the Palestinian cause on the map and mobilized behind his leadership the broadest cross-section imaginable of Palestinians,” said Khalil E. Jahshan, an Arab-American political activist who knew him well for more than a decade. John Wallach, the journalist who with his wife, Janet, had written a sympathetic biography of the Palestinian leader (“Arafat: In the Eyes of the Beholder,” Lyle Stuart, 1990), said two years ago that Mr. Arafat would be remembered as “the man who brought the Palestinian state into existence.”

His detractors, however, grew more numerous over time. Mr. Arafat, those critics contended, betrayed the Palestinian and Arab cause to maintain his own power. They called him a traitor for having accepted what Hisham Sharabi, the Palestinian scholar and former supporter, called an “Arab Bantustan,” an entity that was neither politically coherent nor economically viable. Critics noted that while President Arafat toured the globe being welcomed by world leaders, Israel doubled the size of its settlements on what was envisioned as soil for a future Palestinian state.

Other detractors argued that he had waited too long to accept political reality. His reluctance to recognize Israel’s existence and renounce the violence that claimed hundreds of Israeli and other lives prolonged the pain of the Palestinians and left a new generation stateless, ill treated under Israeli occupation and by most Arab governments. Palestinians in many Arab countries, including Syria and Lebanon, were restricted to camps and denied citizenship, while their host governments spoke in the heartfelt tones of the Palestinian cause.

Both admirers and enemies agreed that like King Hussein of Jordan, his longtime rival and eventual partner in peace with Israel, Mr. Arafat was a survivor. Having experienced perhaps 40 attempts on his life by Israelis and Arabs, he was strengthened as a revolutionary leader by single-mindedness in pursuit of his dream and uncanny energy. Yet after Oslo, his enemies said he continued living mainly because Israel permitted him to do so.

Until 1991, when he wed Suha Tawil, his Palestinian secretary, and had a daughter, Zahwa, he was married only to his cause. He slept and ate little, took no vacations and neither drank nor smoked.

He was also all things to all people terrorist, statesman, dreamer, pragmatist, his people’s warrior, his people’s peacemaker. Even admirers described him as a chameleon. Virtually all the biographies written about him express bewilderment about his actions and character, about what an Israeli author, Danny Rubinstein, in his book “The Mystery of Arafat,” called “this strange phenomenon.” Many Palestinians compared him to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founder and first leader, seeing Mr. Arafat as an Arab pioneer who struggled to lead his people back to their promised land.

Many Israelis, by contrast, regarded him as an archterrorist, an opportunist who endorsed peace merely as a tactic to destroy Israel “a beast on two legs,” as the Israeli leader Menachem Begin once called him.

After the Oslo accords, Mr. Arafat became as controversial among Arabs, especially Palestinians: revered by many as the father of their country, reviled by others as an autocrat, a divisive and sometimes indecisive buffoon, a traitor. Even many Arab supporters of his 1993 agreements with Israel eventually came to loathe him for what they saw as his political duplicity, his administration’s endemic corruption and his dictatorial tendencies.

An exasperating and mercurial man, Mr. Arafat, with his ever-present silver-plated .357 Magnum, was one of the most recognizable of world figures. He was known by many names: Abu Ammar, his nom de guerre; the “chairman,” after he became leader of the P.L.O. in 1969; and the “old man,” the name he once said he preferred because in Arabic it conjures an image of a beloved uncle. At the end of his life, he referred to himself as “general,” often speaking of himself in the third person. while Palestinians called him “Rais” or president, since he was elected overwhelmingly to the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority in 1996. Over the years, “old man” became apt. His once-taut stomach gave way with age to paunch despite his frequent walks and the treadmill behind his office. What remained of his hair, almost always hidden by his trademark head scarf, turned gray. The face, with its three-day stubble, became visibly lined, his eyes weary.

The Young Guerrilla

The mystery surrounding Mr. Arafat starts early, as accounts of his origins vary. The man who became “Mr. Palestine” was probably not born there. He has claimed to have been born on Aug. 4, 1929, in Jerusalem, or alternatively in Gaza. What seems certain is that this son of a lower-middle-class merchant spent much of his childhood being shuttled among relatives in Cairo, Gaza and Jerusalem after his mother, who came from a prominent Jerusalem family, died when he was 4.

In 1949, he began studying engineering at Cairo University, where he was prominent in Palestinian student affairs. When Israel, Britain and France invaded Egypt in 1956, Mr. Arafat, as an Egyptian military reservist, is said to have taken a course in which he learned how to use mines and explosives, skills that proved useful. That same year, he also began wearing his trademark kaffiyeh, which impressed both Arabs and Westerners when he first traveled to Europe in a Palestinian student delegation.

After graduating, he worked as an engineer in Egypt and moved first to Saudi Arabia, then to Kuwait in 1957, where he plunged into clandestine Palestinian nationalist activities.

In October 1959, he and four other Palestinians founded Al Fatah, “the Conquest,” which later became the core of the Palestine Liberation Organization. From the beginning, Mr. Arafat was intent on building a revolutionary organization with three hallmarks: unity, independence and relevance. He knew that all three were essential to prevent the Arab nations, torn by bitter rivalries, from exploiting the Palestinian cause for their own purposes. He spent brief stints in prison in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

In May 1964, Egypt created the P.L.O. under Arab League auspices, but only as a front for the Arab nations. Ahmed Shukairy, the Egyptian bureaucrat who headed the P.L.O. and had never held a gun, deeply resented Mr. Arafat and Al Fatah, denouncing them as “enemies” of the liberation movement.

The 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which brought humiliating defeat to the Arabs’ conventional armies, gave Mr. Arafat’s group a chance to become heroes to Arabs desperately in need of some. But it still took Mr. Arafat two years to wrest control of the P.L.O. from the lower-key Palestinians to whom the Arab states had entrusted it.

His genius for attracting media attention became evident in the spring of 1968, when he made his first appearance on the cover of Time magazine. That March, the Israeli Army attacked Karameh, the Jordanian town east of the Jordan River where Al Fatah had set up headquarters. Mr. Arafat insisted that his commandos not retreat. After the Israelis withdrew, he staged a victory celebration around several destroyed Israeli tanks that was attended by representatives from many Arab countries and, of course, the news media.

Calling Karameh “the first victory of the Arabs against the state of Israel,” Mr. Arafat, with his kaffiyeh and Kalashnikov, became an instant sensation and a leading spokesman for the Palestinian cause. Money and volunteers poured in. Guerrilla training camps sprang up in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and Al Fatah became paramount among Palestinian guerrilla groups. At the same time, wrote Abu Iyad, then a top aide to Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian National Council, the P.L.O.’s parliamentary body, adopted Al Fatah’s goal: “Creating a democratic society in Palestine where Muslims, Christians and Jews would live together in complete equality.”

Though such a state would have meant the destruction of Israel, Mr. Arafat and other Palestinians kept openly advocating it until the early 1980’s.

The Evicted Guest

The guerrillas’ power grew steadily in Jordan, to which 380,000 Palestinians had fled after Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, joining others who had arrived in 1948 when Israel was founded. By 1970, thousands of guerrillas were there, many of them adherents of Al Fatah.

Spurred on by Palestinian radicals, Mr. Arafat committed what was to be the first of several blunders: He countenanced an attempt to wrest power from King Hussein, whose grandfather, a religious and tribal leader from Saudi Arabia, had been placed in charge of the country when Britain recognized its independence in 1923.

Palestinian guerrillas began interfering with highway traffic, controlling Palestinian refugee camps, clashing with the Jordanian Army and systematically defying the Jordanian government.

In September 1970 afterward known to Palestinians as Black September King Hussein sent troops and armor into Amman, his capital, to suppress the P.L.O. After days of shelling refugee camps where some 60,000 Palestinians lived, the army drove the would-be usurpers out of Jordan into Lebanon.

Conservative estimates put Palestinian losses at 2,000. Mr. Arafat, who made his way unharmed to Cairo, later claimed that Jordan’s army had killed 25,000. By the following summer, the Jordanian army had nullified the P.L.O. as a military power in the country. Sapped and shaken, the guerrilla movement drifted into Lebanon.

In Lebanon’s atmosphere of banking secrecy, duty-free trade and political freedom, Al Fatah expanded its political and military institutions as never before. Working among some 400,000 Palestinians in the country, the P.L.O. built its own police force, clinics and hospitals, a research center and a network of business interests that made it a “virtual state within a state.”

Moreover, it set about developing a formidable military arsenal. By 1974, the P.L.O. became, in effect, the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and that November, Mr. Arafat became the first Palestinian leader to plead his people’s cause before the General Assembly.

Mr. Arafat and his P.L.O. seemed at their peak, but as he had done in Jordan, he soon overplayed his hand. In 1975, tensions between Palestinians and Lebanese helped spark the Lebanese civil war. Despite some antagonism, he maintained his headquarters in Beirut for several years, and during this period armed Palestinians based in southern Lebanon continually harassed northern Israel.

Sensing an opportunity to rid itself of Mr. Arafat and his movement, Israel invaded Lebanon and laid siege to Beirut in 1982. General Sharon, who later complained that he should have killed Mr. Arafat in Lebanon when he had the chance, dealt the Palestinians heavy blows before an agreement sponsored by Washington led to the withdrawal of thousands of P.L.O. guerrillas in August 1982. The guerrillas scattered to eight Arab cities, with their leaders fleeing to Tunis, the new Palestinian headquarters.

Mr. Arafat ventured back to Lebanon in 1983. But rebel Palestinian guerrillas backed by Syria challenged and besieged him and his commandos in northern Lebanon, shelling their positions. After a six-week siege in December, the anti-Arafat Palestinians finally drove him out.

Thus Mr. Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization lost a base of military operations near Israel, as well as a sense of unity. And in moving to Tunis, a political backwater, he also jeopardized his organization’s relevance in any peace negotiations.

The Pragmatic Survivor

Mr. Arafat, ever the survivor, still managed to stage a limited revival. Traveling incessantly in Arab countries, he gradually refilled his organization’s depleted coffers and commanded world attention, especially when he escaped death in 1985 in an Israeli attack on his compound.

But weakened and increasingly on the margins of Arab politics, he and the P.L.O. leaders gradually became convinced that political survival demanded a shift in both propaganda and tactical courses.

The man who had vowed in 1969 to ignite “armed revolution in all parts of our Palestinian territory” in order “to make of it a war of liberation” against Israel, realized that while he had exhorted and overseen many armed actions against Israel, the terrorism had never amounted to a war of liberation. He and his advisers became increasingly convinced that Israel could not be vanquished by force.

Moreover, the cold war was ending; the Soviet Union, a major patron, was broke and uninterested in his cause. The only Arab nation that had succeeded in reclaiming land lost to Israel was Egypt, whose president, Anwar el-Sadat, had been denounced by Mr. Arafat as an American “stooge.” Increasingly, however, the United States seemed the only power that could press Israel to make political concessions.

The outbreak of the intifada, the Palestinian uprising that erupted without the P.L.O.’s approval or encouragement in the Israeli-occupied territories in late 1987, also pushed Mr. Arafat toward greater pragmatism, if not moderation. The home-grown leaders of the intifada were pressing for political progress: his leadership of his movement and the P.L.O.’s relevance were further jeopardized. In November 1988, after considerable American prodding, the P.L.O. accepted the United Nations resolution that called for recognition of Israel and a renunciation of terrorism.

Yet this achievement was soon eclipsed by yet another miscalculation: Mr. Arafat’s support for President Hussein in the Persian Gulf war enraged his remaining wealthy Arab patrons. The Persian Gulf states and other backers cut off at least $100 million in annual support, and the P.L.O. became even more isolated.

But Mr. Arafat did not see it that way, and later claimed that he had not sided with the Iraqi dictator. In an interview in Tunis soon after the gulf war, he insisted that the P.L.O. was at its “peak” and that he was “more popular than ever before” with the “Arab masses, the Muslim nation, the third world.”

But with his coffers bare and Palestinians increasingly calling for his ouster, he had little choice but to grab the lifeline of peace talks that Israel had thrown him. Though Prime Minister Rabin was initially reluctant to engage the P.L.O. in secret peace talks, his fear of the growing power of Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamic movement that had taken hold under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, was stronger than his disdain for Mr. Arafat and his bedraggled guerrillas.

Mr. Arafat endorsed the Arab-Israeli peace talks that began in Madrid in October 1991, with Palestinians (but not the P.L.O.) taking part. The Arab participants sought a settlement under which Israel would yield land it occupied.

Concurrently, in early 1992, secret contacts between representatives of the P.L.O. and Israel got under way in Tel Aviv. The talks continued, at Oslo and other sites, and by early September 1993, the essence of the proposed pact was generally known: mutual recognition and the creation of self-rule areas in Gaza and Jericho, with that autonomy envisioned as the beginning of a larger transfer of authority to the Palestinians in the occupied lands.

The Oslo peace accords of 1993 were the first ever between Israeli officials and the P.L.O., and many Palestinians and Israelis argue that with the organization and even his own Fatah so divided about the accords, only Mr. Arafat could have secured their approval.

But many diplomats and scholars say he could have secured a better deal for the Palestinians much earlier had he not placed priority on his organization’s survival and unity rather than on establishing autonomy and a state on any sliver of his people’s original land that he could secure.

Robert Satloff, the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Mr. Arafat had followed earlier Palestinian leaders in usually being a step too late in seizing opportunities to secure something tangible for its people. Beginning in 1948, long before Mr. Arafat, he noted, the Palestinians, then led by Haj Amin al-Husseini, had rejected the United Nations partition plan that would have created a Palestinian state.

In 1978, Mr. Arafat joined most Arab nations in rejecting Mr. Sadat’s peace with Israel under the Camp David accords. But unlike the others, Jordan and the P.L.O. had something to gain by taking part. The accords provided for an end to Israeli occupation of vast sections of the West Bank and Gaza and for “autonomy” for the Palestinians there, the possibility of eventually establishing the kind of national autonomy the P.L.O. had been seeking since 1974.

William B. Quandt, a scholar and former American official who was intimately involved in Israeli-Arab diplomacy for years, said even the Camp David accords would probably have provided a better deal than the one Mr. Arafat ultimately accepted in 1993. “In 1975 there were only 10,000 Israelis on the West Bank,” he said. Today, there are 225,000 in the West Bank and 200,000 more Jews in East Jerusalem.

Mr. Arafat, Mr. Quandt said, “was a masterful tactician, but what often seemed missing was a larger strategic design.”

Some of Mr. Arafat’s most euphoric and frustrating moments occurred after the 1993 Oslo accords. Among the highlights was his triumphal return to Gaza in July 1994. Welcomed by tens of thousands of cheering Palestinians and a city bedecked with the red, green, black and white colors of the Palestinian flag, he established the first Palestinian government.

The assassination of Mr. Rabin by a Jewish hard-liner in November 1995 was a personal and political blow to Mr. Arafat, according to several associates, including Edward G. Abington, the American consul general in Jerusalem until mid-1997. Mr. Abington said Mr. Arafat “broke down and sobbed over the phone” after learning that Mr. Rabin had been assassinated. “He kept saying: ‘I’ve lost my friend, my partner in peace. This is terrible. This is a tragedy,’ ” Mr. Abington recalled.

But in January 1996, the Palestinian leader presided over one of the freest elections ever held among Arabs. Some 85 percent of the Palestinian electorate chose from a bewildering array of 700 candidates for an 88-member Palestinian Council.

With 88 percent of the vote for him as president, Mr. Arafat became the undisputed leader of his people no longer (or so it seemed) dismissible by Israelis as a terrorist who derived his authority from the gun, or by Islamic nationalists who had assailed him as the hand-picked collaborator of Israel and the United States.

“This is a new era,” he said after the 1996 elections. “This is the foundation of our Palestinian state.”

The Criticized Symbol

Such optimism proved short-lived. The Palestinian Authority was soon locked in increasingly bitter struggles with Hamas, which insisted on the continuing need to stage terrorist attacks not only against Israeli soldiers and settlers in their midst, but also on civilians inside Israel.

Opposition to Mr. Arafat and his Oslo accords also increased among secular Palestinians. Some of the most rabid critics, many from universities and other comfortable perches in the West, accused him of having betrayed the Palestinian cause.

Palestinians grew ever more critical of his autocratic style and what they called his inept stewardship, the brutal, arrogant methods of his 14 security services, his crackdown on dissenters and the corruption among the “outsiders” who had accompanied him from Tunis.

In Israel, opposition was also building to what Mr. Arafat had once called the “peace of the brave.” After Mr. Rabin’s assassination, a series of lethal suicide attacks by Hamas helped elect the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu in May 1996.

Palestinian hopes for economic development were also repeatedly dashed, partly by punitive Israeli actions that denied Palestinians jobs in Israel and work at home. In 1996, the border with Gaza was sealed by Israel for three days out of every 10. By 1997, three years after Mr. Arafat’s triumphal return to Gaza, the Palestinian economy was stagnant and per-capita annual income in Gaza had declined by $100, to $1,050. Refugee camps remained mired in squalor.

Mr. Arafat’s penchant for trying once more to satisfy all constituencies, further undermined confidence in his leadership. Successive Palestinian crackdowns on Hamas and other militants invariably gave way to deals, pledges of forgiveness and rounds of kisses.

Still, Mr. Arafat presided over an autonomous Palestinian sector that was, relative to most Arab states, tolerant and politically free-wheeling. And his popularity prevailed relative to challengers.

Ever the careful balancer, of course, he insisted on making decisions alone and in private. Indeed, he found himself increasingly isolated in his final years, with almost all his former close aides having been killed over the years by Israeli or Arab assassins.

Plagued by a neurological illness that doctors said stemmed from a near fatal airplane crash in the Libyan desert in 1992, Mr. Arafat slowed down. No longer able to work his legendary 18-hour days, he was forced to delegate some power, if not real authority, as he grew ever more frail. His trembling lower lip and shaking hands increased Palestinian concerns about the future. He had not appointed or groomed an obvious successor.

Some Americans and Israelis involved in the Oslo peace negotiations continued to view him as the only Palestinian leader willing and able to make the compromises needed to end the bitter conflict. They disagreed with the growing number of Israelis who suspected that he secretly sought Israel’s destruction while negotiating for peace.

This upbeat assessment, however, was challenged in Israeli and American eyes by the collapse of the Oslo talks at Camp David in July 2000 and a last ditch round of negotiations that continued despite growing violence until January 2001. The talks with Mr. Barak’s Labor government failed despite the personal intervention of President Clinton, who offered Mr. Arafat an 11th- hour peace package to secure a final settlement before the end of his own term in office and Mr. Barak faced elections in February 2001.

The package would have given the Palestinians all of Gaza and more than 94 percent of the West Bank, much closer to Mr. Arafat’s goal of securing the return of all the territories lost in 1967 than he had ever come before. The Israelis also agreed to give Palestinians full sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and air rights over Israel. But Mr. Arafat, who had already blessed the uprising and was facing growing Palestinian criticism of his stewardship, still insisted, among other things, on the right of return of refugees. Henry Siegman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, called Mr. Arafat’s rejection of the American-brokered peace package a “disastrous mistake.’’ But, he added, “based on my 14 years of dealings with Arafat, I reject the notion that he was bent on Israel’s destruction.” Rather, he said, Mr. Arafat’s decision reflected his political weakness, a result partly of Israel’s acceleration of settlement expansion and Mr. Barak’s lack of interest in peace with the Palestinians until his own government began collapsing.

But Dennis B. Ross, who spent 12 years trying to negotiate an Arab-Israeli peace settlement in Republican and Democratic administrations, ultimately concluded that while Mr. Arafat might have been prepared to die with Israel in existence, he was not prepared to have history regard him as the man who betrayed the vision of a single Palestinian state.

“In the end, he was not prepared to give up Palestinian claims and declare that the conflict is over,” Mr. Ross said in an interview.

Even worse, Mr. Ross wrote in his exhaustive book documenting the collapse of the American-brokered peace effort, “he continued to promote hostility toward Israel,’’ adding: “Thousands of Palestinian children went to summer camps where they were taught how to kidnap Israelis. Suicide bombers were called martyrs, even when Arafat would crack down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”

To avoid potential opposition, he remained a “decision-avoider, not a decision-maker,” Mr. Ross wrote, “all tactics and no strategy.”

In the February. 2001 elections, Mr. Barak lost to Mr. Sharon, the candidate of the conservative Likud Party and a figure hated by Palestinians for his invasion of Lebanon, his settlements policy and his September 2000 visit to the Jerusalem plaza outside Al Aksa Mosque, an act intended to demonstrate Israeli sovereignty over what Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims the Noble Sanctuary. After Mr. Sharon’s election, the newly elected Bush administration refused to help broker a serious peace effort similar to that of Oslo or the Madrid conference staged by the first President Bush. As a result, Palestinians argue, Mr. Arafat and others who ostensibly favored a diplomatic option lacked the political leverage they required.

Mr. Arafat’s critics, by contrast, maintain that it was he who set off the violent Palestinian protests in September 2000, using the weapons and terrorist infrastructure he had secretly built alongside Israel while he negotiated for peace. “By omission and commission,” wrote Fouad Ajami, the historian at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Mr. Arafat had nourished the Palestinian “cult of terror.” He was waging a “brutal war” aimed at “Israel’s soul,” Mr. Ajami said.

After almost 60 suicide bombings in 17 months, Mr. Sharon surrounded Mr. Arafat’s compound in Ramallah in late March 2001 and later confined him there, leaving the Palestinian leader to rail against Jewish “extremists” as his cellphone battery died and his entourage ran short of food.

Pressure by Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies prompted the Bush administration to re-engage in an American-sponsored peace effort in the summer of 2001, but the effort fell victim to the 9/11 attacks . Although Mr. Bush had been tentatively scheduled to meet Mr. Arafat on the periphery of the United Nations General Assembly in the fall of 2001, the session was canceled after the strikes. Mr. Bush never met with Mr. Arafat.

The White House’s hostility to the Palestinian leader hardened over time as American intelligence officials informed the White House that he was lying about his support for violence against Israelis. Officials said Mr. Bush came increasingly to equate Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians with militant Islamic attacks on Americans.

Mr. Ross, the longtime negotiator, said a low point came in January 2002, when Israelis interdicted the Karine A, a ship carrying Iranian arms for use against Israelis, in the Red Sea. In a letter to Mr. Bush, Mr. Arafat disavowed any connection to the ship, though it turned out that the shipment had been arranged by an Arafat aide and the pilot was a Palestinian navy officer. Mr. Bush angrily dismissed the letter, insisting that Mr. Arafat must have known about the weapons. Though Mr. Arafat ultimately acknowledged responsibility for the arms, the diplomatic damage was done.

Increasingly, the United States looked on with indifference as Prime Minister Sharon took unilateral steps to protect Israelis that infuriated the Palestinians, including building walls to cut Israel off from suicide bombers and ordinary Palestinians, dividing up the West Bank into supposedly temporary zones of security and more permanent zones of settlement.

Israel claimed that final borders with a future Palestine would still be negotiated. But as of October 2004, the United Nations concluded that the barriers and enclosures had separated off 11.5 percent of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem. Efforts by the Bush administration to force Mr. Arafat to share power with other Palestinian leaders also failed.

The International Crisis Group, an independent Brussels-based group that studies global issues, partly blamed the Palestinian leadership. “Recent power struggles, armed clashes, and demonstrations do not pit Palestinians against Israelis so much as Palestinians against each other,’’ the report stated. “The chaos is a product not solely of Israel’s policies, but of Palestinian ones as well.’’ The political system, the report found, “is close to the breaking point, paralyzed and unable to make basic decisions.’’

Under Mr. Arafat, such local actors as mayors, kinship networks, and armed militias compete for authority in the vacuum. The result, the report said, was growing chaos throughout the West Bank.

Nor did Mr. Arafat deliver prosperity. According to United Nations figures, 50 percent of the 2.2 million Palestinians on the West Bank live below the poverty line, compared with 22 percent in 2001; the figure is now 68 percent in teeming Gaza, with its 1.3 million people.

Despite deteriorating political and economic conditions, many Palestinians blamed Israel and not their leader for their plight. For many until the end, Mr. Arafat remained the symbol of Palestinian aspiration to a state, the only man who could have sold the painful compromises for peace to his people had he chosen to do so.




asir Arafat, who died on Thursday in Paris at age 75, was the wily, enigmatic father and leader of Palestinian nationalism for almost 40 years and symbolized his people?s longing for a distinct political identity and independent state.
Mr. Arafat 'died at the military hospital Percy, Klamart on November 11, 2004 at 3:30' on Thursday morning, Christian Estripeau, the chief doctor at the hospital, told reporters, according to the Reuters news agency.
No other individual so embodied the Palestinians? plight: their dispersal, their statelessness, their hunger for a return to a homeland lost to Israel. Once hailed in major capitals as a romantic hero and world-class statesman, his luster and reputation faded in recent years. A brilliant navigator of political currents in opposition, once in power he proved himself more tactic