Meditation Focus #99

Re-Igniting The Will for Peace in the Middle East


What follows is the 99th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, November 16, 2003.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus:
a) Renewed Calls for Peace in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
b) The deepening Quagmire in Iraq
c) Protests in London for Bush's Visit


The French translation of this text is at

... the Spanish translation is at

... the Portuguese translation is at

... the Danish translation is at

... the German translation is at

... the Polish translation is at

... the Serb translation is at

... while the English version is still archived at

Russian and Czech translations will also be available soon through this same URL above.


As turmoil and violence ebb and flow in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict along with the various attacks and retaliations from each side, leaving most people with a sense that it will never reach a peaceful conclusion, some glimmers of hope are nevertheless shining through as recent initiatives by a topmost Israeli general and several former high-level intelligence officers in Israel are calling for a reversal of overall strategy and an acknowledgement of the extremely harsh conditions imposed upon the whole Palestinian people, a situation whose terrible human consequences have been highlighted by a recent UN report condemning violations by Israel of the Right to food of all Palestinian people. In addition, a two-year peace initiative by prominent citizens from both Israel and Palestine has recently proposed detailed steps to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Likewise, as violence erupts almost daily in Iraq as a result of its occupation by mostly British/American forces, leading to mounting casualties reminiscent of similar situations in the past, a faster transfer of power to a provisional Iraqi government has been decided by US authorities.

All those signs point to the incontrovertible necessity for Peace to prevail in the Middle East just as it must eventually prevail in the hearts and minds of all humans and between all national entities as the sole means to definitely curtail all forms of violence against other human beings, thus allowing for a redirection of our resources and ingenuity towards ensuring the well being of all and the preservation and restoration of natural ecosystems vital to the survival of countless species and to a sustainable future for all Life on Earth.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following one, to contribute in igniting and sustaining in the hearts, minds and souls of all concerned people in the Middle East and around the world the will to create the conditions for Peace to prevail. Constantly re-dedicating ourselves to actively support and encourage the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means, so that one day soon Peace may indeed prevail on Earth, we can see the Spirit of Peace now growing like a bonfire of joy wherever Light Servers radiate Peace, Love and Harmony, communicating to all souls a message of optimism and perseverance and fulfilling their Mission of Goodness, Kindness and Compassion, for the Highest Good of All.

This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at

The French version will be archived at


i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage 7:00 AM -- Los Angeles 8:00 AM -- Denver 9:00 AM -- San Salvador, Mexico City, Houston & Chicago 10:00 AM -- New York, Toronto & Montreal 11:00 AM -- Halifax, Santo Domingo, La Paz & Caracas 12:00 PM -- Montevideo, Asuncion * & Santiago * 1:00 PM -- Rio de Janeiro * 2:00 PM -- London, Dublin, Lisbon, Reykjavik & Casablanca 4:00 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, Geneva, Rome, Berlin, Paris & Madrid 5:00 PM -- Ankara, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Athens, Helsinki & Istanbul 6:00 PM -- Baghdad, Moscow & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Tehran 7:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 AM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington * +5:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.

* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.

You may also check at to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.


This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.



Ex-Shin Bet heads warn of 'catastrophe' without peace deal

By Haaretz Service and Agencies

In unusually brazen criticism of the government's handling of the conflict with the Palestinians, four former heads of the Shin Bet security service warned Friday of a "catastrophe" if a peace deal is not reached with the Palestinians.

"We are heading downhill towards near-catastrophe. If nothing happens and we go on living by the sword, we will continue to wallow in the mud and destroy ourselves," ex-security chief Yaakov Perry told the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth, reflecting a consensus among his three colleagues - Ami Ayalon, Avraham Shalom and Carmi Gillon.

Asked to comment on the interview, a senior government source described the former security chiefs' approach as naive.

"The situation is not as weak as they describe," he said. "We have made major achievements in our fight against terrorism... [but must try] every place where it is possible... to relieve pressure on the Palestinians, we will do it."

But Perry told Israel Radio on Friday that the only way forward was for Israel to take unilateral steps, such as withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. Doing so, he said, could help draw the Palestinians to peace talks, minimize terror and help Israel improve economically. It would also raise Israel's status in the eyes of the world, he said.

"We need to take the situation into our own hands and leave Gaza with all the difficulty that that entails, and to dismantle illegal settlements," said Perry, who headed the agency for seven years, including during the 1987-1993 intifada. If Israel fails to take such steps, he said, it will remain under a constant threat of terror.

Ayalon, a left-leaning former general who directed the Shin Bet from 1996 to 2000, urged the government to act unilaterally and pull troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip, a position which Peri told the newspaper he also supported.

"We are taking sure, steady steps to a place where the state of Israel will no longer be a democracy and a home for the Jewish people," Ayalon told the newspaper.

Ayalon is the author of the "People's Voice" unofficial peace plan together with Sari Nusseibeh, a leading Palestinian intellectual and president of Al-Quds University.

Shalom, who served as Shin Bet head from 1980 to 1986 and is the veteran of the group, called the government's policies "contrary to the desire for peace."

"We must once and for all admit there is another side, that it has feelings, that it is suffering and that we are behaving disgracefully... this entire behavior is the result of the occupation," Shalom told the newspaper.

The four said that Israel needs to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip even if it entails an inevitable clash with the settlers.

"There will always be some groups... for whom the Land of Israel nestles in the hills of Nablus and inside Hebron and we will have to clash with them," Perry said.

However, Ayalon said he expects that only 10 percent of the more than 220,000 settlers would resist an evacuation of settlements. "We have to be capable of facing such a number," he said.

Carmi Gillon, whose term as Shin Bet chief was cut short in 1996 when he resigned after agency bodyguards failed to prevent the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist, described the government as short-sighted. Gillon was recently elected head of the Mevaseret Zion council.

"It is dealing solely with the question of how to prevent the next terrorist attack," Gillon said, referring to Palestinian suicide bombings. "It [ignores] the question of how we get out of the mess we find ourselves in today."

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat praised the former Shin Bet leaders on Friday. "It reflects the realistic policy required from the Israeli side," he said.

Former President Ezer Weizman called the ex-security service chiefs the "four musketeers" and accused them of bringing a catastrophe of their own upon Israel.

"This really makes me furious," Weizman told Channel One. "We have a country that is in a very delicate situation."

Two weeks ago, the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon also criticized government policy, saying the roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were fuelling Palestinian resentment and leading to an increase in support for Hamas and other militant groups.

Ya'alon also accused the government of contributing to the failure of the Abbas government, claiming that Israel did not take enough steps to bolster Abbas, who ultimately resigned after a failed power struggle with Yasser Arafat.



Blame Israel, says Red Cross as it ends food aid for West Bank

By Justin Huggler in Jerusalem

16 November 2003

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is ending its emergency food programme in the West Bank, saying the economic collapse there is the direct result of Israeli military closures and that Israel must live up to its responsibility as the occupying power for the economic needs of the Palestinians.

The move comes as the Israeli media reported that François Bellon, the Red Cross representative, told senior Israeli generalsthat the Palestinian Authority was on the verge of an "explosion" that could lead to "the worst ever humanitarian crisis" in the occupied territories. Israel is concerned that other international organisations may follow the Red Cross, which would leave Israel to face the cost of providing the services they currently provide - a cost that some estimates put as high as $1.1bn (£650m) a year.

The Palestinian economy has collapsed under the weight of military closures of Palestinian cities, making it impossible for Palestinians to move their produce or travel to jobs in other cities or in Israel. Last year and early this year, curfews imposed for all but a few hours a week by the Israeli army made it impossible for Palestinians to work at all.

The Israeli government says the tight closure is needed to prevent Palestinian militants crossing into Israel to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks, but it has been accused of inflicting collective punishment on the Palestinians.

Moshe Ya'alon, the Israeli army's chief of staff, recently spoke out against the closure, saying it was increasing Palestinian resentment of Israel. As a result of economic collapse, a fifth of Palestinian children are malnourished, according to a report last year by an American government aid agency. International aid organisations have stepped in to provide assistance.

In the wake of the invasion and reoccupation of West Bank cities last April, the Red Cross launched an emergency food and essentials programme for Palestinians. The organisation has spent $46m over the past year and a half providing food and such necessities as cooking oil and matches to around 300,000 of the most needy Palestinians in the West Bank. But now the ICRC says that must stop, and that Israel must live up to its responsibility as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention to meet the economic needs of the civilian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Vincent Bernard, an ICRC spokesman, said: "This was humanitarian relief designed to assist in a humanitarian emergency, not to address the longer-term problems caused by curfews, closures and the collapse of the economy that has occurred. It is not our responsibility to take care of the economic needs of the Palestinians. We have repeatedly said it is the responsibility of the occupying power."

Mr Bernard denied Israeli press reports that the food programme had been cancelled for budgetary reasons. "As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility to minimise the humanitarian consequences of its actions," he said. "You cannot go on for ever with the curfews and closures which are destroying the Palestinian economy. They have to find a different way to guarantee their security. If they lifted these security measures, the Palestinian economy, though damaged, would start again."

Mr Bernard refused to comment on a report in Ha'aretz newspaper that Mr Bellon had told senior Israeli generals at a recent meeting that the Palestinians were on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. But it is an assessment with which senior officers in the Israeli army are believed to agree. For the time being, the UN's World Food Organisation has stepped into the breach, setting up an alternative food programme until next summer.



Little time left for Mideast peace

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

November 14, 2003

THERE IS -- or at least there ought to be -- a certain desperation to renewed peace efforts in the Middle East.

Palestinians, having tossed away so many chances for a nation and government of their own, may finally be coming to understand that the number of additional chances they might get is both finite and increasingly small. They should now realize that the campaign of terror launched in recent years by Hamas, Hezbollah and other groups has accomplished little except to harden the resolve of their Israeli opponents and dramatically weaken their own negotiating position.

Israelis should be coming to a realization of their own -- sobered by the limitations of their military power; the moral, psychological and economic strain of occupation; and an increasing stark international isolation. In a recent poll of European Union citizens, an astounding 59 percent named Israel as the nation posing the greatest threat to world peace.

Again, that is a poll of Europeans, not of Saudis or Egyptians. It is one thing to dismiss that belief as absurd, which it clearly is. But even absurd beliefs can have consequences.

The situation has gotten so dismal that a couple of weeks ago, even Israel's army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, invited journalists into his office to listen as he sharply criticized Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's approach to occupation, claiming its harshness only increases the likelihood of Palestinian violence. In Israeli government, as in our own, such candid public criticism of civilian policy by military officials is all but unprecedented.

"There is no hope, no expectations for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, nor in Bethlehem and Jericho," Yaalon told the media. "In our tactical decisions, we are operating contrary to our strategic interests."

(It is troubling to note that under the Bush administration, no U.S. official could have dared to be so publicly honest and blunt in assessing Israeli policy.)

There are, however, signs of hope as well. A new Palestinian prime minister has been appointed and is pressing to reopen negotiations. And after more than two years of secret talks, a group of Israelis and Palestinians -- all private citizens -- have reached a model peace agreement between the two peoples very similar to that negotiated in the last days of the Clinton administration but rejected by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. That decision by Arafat was perhaps the single most cowardly and destructive act of leadership in living memory, and undoing its consequences will take years, if not generations.

Neither Arafat nor the Israeli government has embraced the so-called Geneva Accord; in fact, Sharon's government has been harshly critical of the entire effort. But if we are ever to have something approaching peace in that region, the terms of a final agreement will almost certainly follow the outline laid out in this unofficial effort, with Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence matched by Israel's withdrawal from most of the occupied territories.

Unfortunately, the time in which such a deal is still possible is growing shorter. If it is allowed to pass altogether, the future of that region may be even darker than its present.


See also:

Palestinian Truce Broker to Return as Hopes Grow (Nov 15)
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Egypt's intelligence chief, the main broker of a truce by Palestinian militants that collapsed in August, will return to the West Bank next week, President Yasser Arafat said Saturday. News of Omar Suleiman's renewed role comes as hopes grow for a meeting between Israelis and Palestinians on a U.S.-backed "road map" -- for which a new truce is widely seen as crucial.(...) Three years into an uprising, Palestinians said they had little cause for joy on Saturday's holiday to mark the day on which Arafat declared independence from exile. The economy in Palestinian-ruled areas has crumbled under the pressure of closures that the Israelis say are designed to stop militant attacks that have left hundreds dead in Israel. Now, Palestinians fear their plight will worsen further with the construction of a barrier that cuts deep into land occupied by Israel during the 1967 war and which Israel says it needs to stop suicide bombers. Palestinians say it is a new "Berlin Wall" which grabs territory they want to be part of a future independent state. They also fear the expansion of Jewish settlements. "In a few years, there won't be land left to materialize the declaration of independence," Shawkat Harb, a 32-year-old taxi driver, said. "The unremitting expansion of settlements on our land won't leave any land for us."

Palestinian leader to meet Sharon for talks (Nov 14)
The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is expected to meet his Palestinian counterpart, Ahmed Qureia, probably within 10 days, the first talks on moving the peace process forward in two months. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, said yesterday the meeting would follow Mr Sharon's return from a trip to Italy next week. Mr Qureia was finally confirmed as Prime Minister by the Palestinian parliament on Wednesday, resolving, at least for the time being, months of power struggles with the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat. Mr Qureia has announced an ambitious programme that includes a ceasefire and an international peace conference. He said: "We want a meeting that produces results ... to alleviate the suffering of our people and open a horizon so we can have a real peace." Mr Shalom said he had prepared a "positive agenda" ... "meant to ease on the Palestinians and the Israelis". Five months ago, Mr Sharon and Mr Qureia's predecessor, Abu Mazen, stood side by side at the Aqaba summit and pledged to implement the US-backed road-map peace plan. But little has been achieved since, and the US, with its mind on Iraq, appears disengaged from the peace process again. Abu Mazen, formally known as Mahmoud Abbas, persuaded the militant factions to sign up to a ceasefire that held for six weeks over the summer. That unravelled in yet another cycle of killings which began when Israel, accusing him of not doing enough to dismantle militant groups, resumed its policy of assassinating militant leaders. Mr Qureia wants Israel to sign up to a ceasefire, though it is far from clear whether Mr Sharon would do so.

160,000 sign up to petition urging Israeli-Palestinian compromise
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov 2 (AFP) - Organisers of a mass petition which calls on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make compromises to bring an end to their conflict said Sunday that they had gathered more than 160,000 signatures. Some 100,000 Israelis and more than 60,000 Palestinians had put their names to the "People's Voice" project initiated by leading Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh and Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel's Shin Beth domestic intelligence agency. CLIP

UN: Geneva Accord consistent to Road Map to Peace (Nov 6)
Geneva Accord on Middle East consistent with Road Map to peace - Annan
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the "Geneva Accord" drafted by prominent Israelis and Palestinians and giving detailed steps to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Such private initiatives, while not a substitute for official diplomatic negotiations between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, deserve praise and encouragement as courageous attempts to break the stalemate on both sides and to generate the popular support needed for peace in the Middle East," said a statement issued by a spokesman for Mr. Annan. The Accord was consistent and compatible with the Road Map to peace drawn up and supported by the diplomatic Quartet - the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation, it added. "It is now of paramount importance that the parties start implementing the Road Map provisions without delay," the statement said. The Geneva Accord, which urges cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians on many levels, was spearheaded by Yossi Beilin, an architect of the Oslo accords, on the Israeli side and former minister Yasser Abed Rabbo for the Palestinians.

Israeli Security Chiefs Blast Treatment of Palestinians (Nov 14)
Four former heads of Israel's Shin Bet security service launched an unprecedented joint attack on government policy toward the Palestinians in an interview on Friday in which they called for withdrawal from occupied land. (...) "We are heading towards a situation in which Israel will not be a democracy and home to the Jewish people," Ayalon said, referring to birth-rate figures showing Palestinians will eventually outnumber Israeli Jews if Israel continues to hold on to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

20 in Turkey Killed by 2 Truck Bombs Outside Synagogues
ISTANBUL, Nov. 15 — Two truck bombs exploded Saturday morning outside a pair of synagogues crowded with families celebrating bar mitzvahs, killing at least 20 people and injuring more than 300. The truck bombs exploded nearly simultaneously, destroying parts of the temples and killing many of the worshipers inside. Both of the synagogues, Beth Israel and Neve Shalom, the city's largest, were jammed with family members and friends at the time of the explosions.

F-16I fighter jet to be sent soon to Israel unveiled in Texas (Nov 15)
FORT WORTH, Texas - The first in a fleet of the most advanced F-16 fighter jets will soon be sent to Israel, Lockheed Martin officials announced Friday. Israeli officials said they were pleased with the completion of the first F-16I Soufa, which means "storm" in Hebrew, a more sophisticated version of the F-16. It has more space for weapons and a removable fuel tanks to hold extra fuel. Its radar has five times the processing speed and 10 times more memory than previous F-16s, and it has a more advanced navigation system, officials said. "Today we are unveiling the world's most sophisticated fighter jet and are placing it in the experienced hands of our pilots," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Friday in a ceremony at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant. "We are doing so in hope and prayer that all the advanced features of this wondrous aircraft will never face the test of battle." CLIP

Palestinian Militants May Honor Cease-Fire
(AP) - Amid efforts to revive peace talks, Islamic militant groups have shown a willingness to respect a Palestinian cease-fire with Israel, a Palestinian official said Saturday. Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said militant factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, were open to the idea of a cease-fire as long as it came with Israeli assurances that it would halt military operations in the West Bank and Gaza.

UN Committee: Human Rights Abuses in Palestinian Territories Worst Since Occupation Began
A UN committee monitoring human rights abuses of Palestinians has concluded after 35 years of investigations that the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank was the worst ever last year.

Palestinian society faces the possibility of "physical, social and psychological destruction"
The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe, largely as the result of extremely harsh security measures imposed by the occupying Israeli forces since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000. The Special Rapporteur on the right to food carried out a mission to the OPT from 3 to 12 July 2003, in accordance with his mandate and in response to widespread concern about an emerging humanitarian crisis. Numerous recent United Nations reports have highlighted this growing crisis, including reports from the World Bank, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and from Catherine Bertini, Personal Humanitarian Envoy of the Secretary-General, whose mission to the OPT in August 2002 was aimed at securing specific commitments from Israel to facilitate humanitarian access to the Palestinians, particularly for food and water. The Special Rapporteur expresses his deep compassion and sympathy for both Israelis and Palestinians, who are living through a horrifying tragedy, but he cannot ignore the terrible situation of malnutrition that is being created in the OPT today. According to a study funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “the Palestinian Territories, and especially the Gaza Strip, face a distinct humanitarian emergency in regard to ... malnutrition”. The report of the Personal Humanitarian Envoy of the Secretary-General also points to a humanitarian crisis. Over 22 per cent of children under 5 are now suffering from malnutrition and 15.6 per cent from acute anaemia, many of whom will suffer permanent negative effects on their physical and mental development as a result. More than half of Palestinian households are now eating only once per day. The World Bank states that food consumption has fallen by more than 25 per cent per capita. Food shortages, particularly of proteins, have been widely reported. The World Bank has also pointed to economic crisis in the OPT. The formerly vibrant economy has almost collapsed and the numbers of the extreme poor have tripled since September 2000. Around 60 per cent of Palestinians now living in acute poverty (75 per cent in Gaza and 50 per cent in the West Bank). Even when food is available, many Palestinians cannot afford to buy it, given the rapid rise in unemployment. Over 50 per cent of Palestinians are now completely dependent on food aid, and yet humanitarian access is frequently restricted. CLIP

Full coverage on the Middle East conflict


U.S. to End Iraq Administration by June (Nov 15)
(AP) - American administrators will hand over sovereignty to a new transitional government by June, the Iraqi Governing Council said Saturday, announcing an accelerated U.S. plan for ending the occupation of Iraq. The plan would mean the end of the U.S.-led coalition administration in Iraq, but not the end of the American troop presence. The new Iraqi government would negotiate an accord on the status of U.S. forces in the country. The announcement came on a day when the 400th U.S. soldier died in Iraq since major combat started here March 20, and two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters crashed in the north. (...) Faced with escalating violence in Iraq, the Bush administration wants to speed up the handover of power to Iraqis — dropping its earlier insistence that the Iraqis first draw up a new constitution and hold general elections, a process likely to last at least another year. The Iraqis had been insisting on a faster transfer. (...) Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill said the U.S.-led coalition may have underestimated the determination of fighters loyal to deposed leader Saddam Hussein, media reports said Saturday. "With the benefit of hindsight, and of course in a country awash with arms, it now seems much more logical ... that they would attempt to fight back," the Australian Associated Press quoted him as saying. Hill said the coalition had also "underestimated the complexity of Iraqi society" including the role of tribes, ethnic and religious differences "and how complex it would be to put together out of that a government that might be referred to as democratic."

Bush is seeking a quick escape,2763,1085809,00.html
A hasty political transition could thwart chances of a democratic government

US shifts to rapid transfer of power (Nov 14),2763,1084877,00.html

Iraq Policy in Crisis (November 13)
The abrupt recall of America's top administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer III, for two days of urgent White House consultations signals a new level of alarm among American policy makers. Anxieties in Washington surely deepened yesterday after the bombing of an Italian military police compound killed at least 17 Italians and 9 Iraqis. Administration officials, from President Bush on down, have been pressing Mr. Bremer to speed the transfer of sovereignty to appointed Iraqi officials and to compress, radically, the one- to two-year timetable he drew up for holding elections. There is some merit in these suggestions. We have long called for a quicker transfer of real power to Iraqis, as have most of America's allies. What is troubling, however, is the notion of short-circuiting the time necessary to draw up a workable constitution and conduct fair elections in a country as torn and troubled as Iraq. Such thinking suggests that the Bush administration is in such a rush to bring American troops home that it has lost interest in laying the foundations for a stable democracy. The White House recently began shifting its case for the Iraq war from the embarrassing unconventional weapons issue to the lofty vision of creating an exemplary democracy in Iraq. Mr. Bush would look breathtakingly cynical if he seemed to be rushing the preparation for real elections with an eye toward improving his own re-election chances. A much better way to manage the process would be to transfer political authority to a newly created United Nations administration. Constitutional development and election supervision are areas where the U.N. has built-in legitimacy and experience.

The hidden cost of Bush's war (Nov 14)
Concern about fatalities among Western forces in Iraq tends to overlook another ghastly statistic: the spectacularly mounting toll of the severely wounded. Andrew Buncombe reports on America's invisible army of maimed and crippled servicemen

City fights back to become model of order and justice (Nov 15),2763,1085588,00.html
The battle for peace is still not won, but there is more hope than violence here.

U.S. Casualties from Iraq War Top 9,000
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- The number of U.S. casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom -- troops killed, wounded or evacuated due to injury or illness -- has passed 9,000, according to new Pentagon data. In addition to the 397 service members who have died and the 1,967 wounded, 6,861 troops were medically evacuated for non-combat conditions between March 19 and Oct. 30, the Army Surgeon General's office said. That brings total casualties among all services to more than 9,200, and represents an increase of nearly 3,000 non-combat medical evacuations reported since the first week of October. The Army offered no immediate explanation for the increase.

U.S. Stays Blind to Iraqi Casualties (Nov 14)
(...) Medact, the British affiliate of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, this week published a report that estimates the number of Iraqi civilian deaths during the invasion to range from 5,708 to 7,356. The report estimates that the number of civilian deaths after May 1, when Bush declared an end to major combat operations, ranges from 2,049 to 2,209. Another study released last month by the Project on Defense Alternatives, based in Cambridge, estimated that the number of Iraqi civilian deaths in the first month of the war to be between 3,200 and 4,300. In June, the Associated Press estimated the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the invasion to be 3,250. The AP report said, "hundreds, possibly thousands of victims in the largest cities and most intense battles aren't reflected in the total."

Senator Byrd: US Syria Bill Could Lead to an Invasion (Nov 12)
WASHINGTON : The US Congress overwhelmingly approved tough new sanctions on Syria for its alleged ties to militant extremists and purported efforts to obtain nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The measure received final approval from the Senate in a vote of 89 to 4. "This bill ... adds to the tools available to the president to move Syria toward a more responsible course," said Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, on the Senate floor. The legislation, the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act, also calls on Damascus to end its occupation of Lebanon. The House approved the measure last month by a vote of 398 to four.

Hold On to Your Humanity - An Open Letter to GIs in Iraq (Nov 14)

Gunships ram home might of US firepower (Nov 15),2763,1085602,00.html
(...) "The bombing just made people afraid and it didn't achieve much. They want to make people afraid, both the resistance and civilians, and to show they are here and they are strong. It felt like the first day of the war again." Mortars had fired back at the Americans' hilltop position during the operation, he added. Lt Col Krivo defended the use of heavy weaponry. "It is not unusual for coalition commanders on the ground to call for overwhelming firepower," he said.

Special report: Iraq,2759,423009,00.html



Hardcore protesters plot to halt traffic (Nov 15)

The centrepiece of next week's Stop the War march to coincide with George Bush's state visit will be the symbolic toppling of a six metre high statue of the 43rd president. But long before the papier-mache figure is pulled from one of the plinths in Trafalgar Square a group of direct action protesters will hope to have put their own indelible mark on the visit.

(...) Most of the actions are likely to involve attempting to block roads in an effort to gridlock the centre of the capital. There has even been rumours that protesters have been making their own "Road Closed" signs in an attempt to add to the chaos.

Another popular tactic is for groups to perform symbolic "die-ins" which involve groups of protesters lying down in the middle of the road. The protests are also likely to involve large amounts of red dye sprinkled around central London to symbolise the blood spilt in Iraq.

Resist Bush has set up workshops for those who want to be involved in direct action. Protesters are taught how to work in small groups to take on particular targets. But much of the emphasis has been on making sure those who plan to get involved understand their legal rights and the possible consequences of being arrested.

"There are worse things in the world than being nicked, but it is really important that people like teachers, who could face serious disciplinary action, understand what they might be letting themselves in for," one of the activists said. "But compared to the suffering of the people of Iraq it is a small price to pay."

· More than 100,000 people will take to the streets next week for three days of protests, according to Stop the War

· Protests kick off on Tuesday night with a Burning Planet march organised by Campaign Against Climate Change, but the first big flashpoint is likely on Wednesday with mass protest and civil disobedience at a Resist Bush "tea party" planned outside Buckingham Palace

· Between 60,000 and 100,000 are expected to join the Stop the War Coalition demonstration and rally on Thursday afternoon. There could be trouble if it is not allowed to march past parliament and up Whitehall


See also:

Special report: The Anti-War Movement,12809,879311,00.html

Dissent on the home front: families of US soldiers in Iraq lead anti-war protests,12809,1070682,00.html
(...) Almost half of the 130,000 US troops on the ground are drawn from these sources - weekend warriors now serving overseas tours of duty that were recently extended to 12 or 15 months. The Pentagon is planning to send another 30,000 reservists to Iraq next year. On the home front, families may be less than understanding of having their lives interrupted. Not knowing how long their relatives will stay in Iraq has fuelled resentment and deepened anxieties about losing jobs, falling behind on mortgage payments, and family separation. (...) None of the people the Guardian contacted said their family member would re-enlist. Some have taken a decision to get out - even those who have devoted their lives to the reserves. CLIP


Guide to anti-war websites,12809,884056,00.html

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