Jasper Johns - Flag - 1954-55

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"Bitter feuding among warlords turned eastern Afghanistan into a war zone this weekend, leaving as many as 25 people dead and furious residents accusing the interim regime of being weak, and the United States of being uncaring."
"Roughly 1,200 coalition soldiers reportedly raiding tribal areas in search of bin Laden, al Qaeda."
"The United States has begun to confirm sketchy reports and long-held suspicions that it is hunting down al-Qaeda terrorists inside Pakistani territory. The Bush administration is deferring a full disclosure in the matter mainly on account of a desperate plea from Pakistan that spilling the beans will hurt General Musharraf in the referendum he has set for next Tuesday to legitimise his rule."
"The Bush administration, in developing a potential approach for toppling President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, is concentrating its attention on a major air campaign and ground invasion, with initial estimates contemplating the use of 70,000 to 250,000 troops."
"Taliban-style executions may be gone, but Islamic law and rigid cultural traditions persist in Afghanistan. The country still relies on Islamic law dating to the 7th Century."
"'Rumsfeld, he's the American defense secretary. He's the one who dropped all the bombs,' said Zmari, 28, sliding flat loaves of bread into a clay oven in his mud-walled bakery. Zmari was aware of the enormous crater outside his bakery, made by an American bomb that he said destroyed three houses, collapsed part of his shop and killed two children in a neighbor's house. More than 10 people were wounded, he said."
"Al-Qaeda has dispersed and coalition soldiers are growing restless at the absence of an enemy"
"The United States had been considering a coup to overthrow the elected Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, since last June, a former US intelligence officer claimed yesterday."
"U.S. and Pakistani troops have launched their first joint operation inside Pakistan close to the Afghan border in apparent pursuit of a leading member of the Taliban, residents said Saturday."
"Lawlessness Threatens Northern City’s Renewal"
"In a pep talk today to U.S. troops in this Central Asian outpost, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld urged them to prepare for a long war against 'mass murderers' – and not only in Afghanistan."

"Covert U.S. military units have been conducting reconnaissance operations in Pakistan in recent weeks and participated in attacks on suspected al Qaeda hide-outs there, opening a new front in a shadowy war being waged by the United States along the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border, according to U.S. military officials."
"Factional fighting erupted Wednesday in southern Afghanistan after one local police commander arrested another and locked him in a shipping container for five days, the provincial intelligence chief said. Four people were killed and three were wounded."
"The United States has warmed in recent days to the idea of nation-building in Afghanistan but not to the point of providing peacekeeping troops."
"JUST outside Khost, a juddering five hours by car from Kabul on a broken, dusty track, villagers have built a makeshift shrine. Each day they gather there in their dozens to pray. The site is dedicated to 36 Pakistani al-Qa'eda guerrillas killed by an American air strike on a local mosque. The bombers came on a cold December night and reduced the building to rubble."
"IN THE aftermath of Venezuela’s failed coup, the United States faces further potential embarrassment after the discovery that several alleged coup leaders fled to Miami."
"In the past year, the United States channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to American and Venezuelan groups opposed to President Hugo Chávez, including the labor group whose protests led to the Venezuelan president's brief ouster this month."
"A few miles from the Bagram headquarters, the focal point of an American and British campaign that costs $1bn (£690m) a month, thousands of Afghans are living in appalling poverty, misled and abandoned, they say, by aid agencies, Western donors and their government."
"Afghan officials say they will apply Shariah law more fairly and humanely than the Taliban did. They say there have been no stonings or whippings since the Taliban collapsed. But those punishments will be used again someday, several Afghan officials predicted, for flagrant and repeat offenders."
"U.S. Response to Accidental Deaths in Afghanistan Stirs Anger; Canadian to Co-Chair Investigation"
"Osama bin Laden's failure to appear on video or audio tapes recorded since December may indicate the al Qaeda leader is dead, sick or on the run, but senior intelligence analysts yesterday suggested it also could be part of a strategy to make his reappearance more dramatic when timed to another terrorist attack."
"Osama Bin Laden has been hidden by sympathisers in the dusty slum city of Peshawar, a gigantic labyrinth of 3.5 million people, since early December, according to a major tribal leader."
"THE Commandant General of the Royal Marines, Maj Gen Robert Fry, has given warning that the conflict in Afghanistan will be extensively drawn out and never completely won militarily. The guerrilla tactics used by the al-Qa'eda forces in the Afghan mountains could be defeated only through effective nation-building, he said."
"American advisers have been granted permission to accompany Pakistani troops into tribal areas of Pakistan on raids of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda hideouts, senior Pakistani officials said this week."
"The United States is doubling the size of its Apache helicopter force at Bagram air base, to provide support for Royal Marines against Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters in the Afghan mountains."
"Leaders of the two main Kurdish parties that control northern Iraq met with U.S. officials last week to coordinate efforts to remove Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) from power, according to Iraqi dissidents and Arab press."
"Despite the growing US calls for a regime change in Iraq and a military strike possibly looming on the horizon, life in Iraq seems to be continuing as usual. No-one is stocking up on food and there is no visible out-of-the-ordinary military activity. For the past 12 years, Iraqis have learned to live with the threat of a major US strike."
"In recent weeks, hundreds of Afghans whose relatives were killed or whose homes were inadvertently destroyed by U.S. bombing have presented claims to the embassy, with no response."
"The failed coup in Venezuela was closely tied to senior officials in the US government, The Observer has established. They have long histories in the 'dirty wars' of the 1980s, and links to death squads working in Central America at that time."
"Iraq has been moving more anti-aircraft missiles into the no-fly zones in the north and south of the country, according to the United States."
"President George W. Bush's administration opposes a Senate plan to ban U.S. imports of Iraqi oil out of concern it could undermine a U.N. program to meet Iraq's humanitarian needs."

"HUNDREDS of British soldiers, possibly special forces, are taking part in a secret search-and-destroy mission high in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The mission, far riskier than Operation Ptarmigan announced by the Ministry of Defence last week, is aimed at wiping out al-Qa'eda and Taliban guerrillas."
"Omar Sheikh, who is being tried in Pakistan for the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, may have been an agent for both the ISI and Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda, according to an investigation by the Sunday Times."
"Despite near universal acclaim for a strong foreign policy performance in the first six months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush suddenly finds himself accused of indecisive leadership and of not having a coherent strategy to address a barrage of international crises."
"Private militias, the largest here led by Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, remain powerful threats to security in the north and to the country's interim government headed by Hamid Karzai."
"TWO BOMBS planted by Muslim terrorists exploded yesterday in the Philippines, as American troops poured into the southern island of Basilan, the remote stronghold of an al-Qaeda-linked group."
"Former president Burhanuddin Rabbani Sunday dismissed Afghanistan's upcoming Loya Jirga as a sham, claiming his supporters were being excluded from the assembly which will pick a transitional government."
"The former Afghan king, Zahir Shah, made his first public statement yesterday since returning to Afghanistan, and ignited a new row on the future government of the country."
"The questioning of al-Qaida prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has descended into farce, with inexperienced interrogators routinely outwitted by detainees, sources on the island said yesterday."
"The Mideast crisis has prompted varied steps against Israel and US. A regional roundup."
"President Bush strongly endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a 'man of peace' yesterday, crediting him with taking satisfactory steps to end Israel's three-week-old military assault despite Sharon's rejection of the president's demand for an immediate withdrawal from Palestinian cities."

See also: Postcards of Peace from the West Bank:

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"They are too weak to stand for long, gaunt young Afghan men scratching at the lesions on their arms, picking at the lice in their beards and coughing incessantly. For nearly five months, they have had little more than bread and rice to eat."
"The United States is sending 2,700 more troops to the Philippines for a joint military exercise aimed at helping the Southeast Asian country improve its defenses and its readiness for U.N. peacekeeping missions, the Philippine military said Thursday."
"U.S. law enforcement officials pressed Pakistan on Wednesday to strengthen counterterrorism operations in the country's interior and to upgrade border controls."
"Though George W. Bush criticized the Clinton administration in the 2000 presidential campaign for overextending the military, Mr. Rumsfeld is resisting calls to expand the forces, arguing that the cost is too high."
"As snowcaps begin to melt on the mountain peaks of Afghanistan, military strategists are preparing for renewed attacks by guerrilla fighters, who suffered heavy casualties in a massive assault last month but have historically returned with the spring poppies."
"Four Canadian soldiers were killed and eight wounded yesterday when they were mistakenly bombed by a patrolling US F-16 jet during night training near Kandahar, southern Afghanistan."
"But the disappointment of Anaconda simply rams home the most striking failure of the entire campaign: the two main targets, Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taleban leader, have not been captured or killed, nor are their whereabouts known. Bin Laden is now airbrushed out of the Administration’s account of the aims of the War on Terror. American claims to have destroyed al-Qaeda’s structure must be regarded with scepticism because so few of its senior commanders have been caught."
"Officially the latest allied military operation in Afghanistan simply continues the pursuit of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders hiding in the eastern mountain borderlands, but privately Pentagon officials say it is also aimed at deterring Pakistani sympathizers from crossing into Afghanistan and further agitating that country at a crucial moment."
"The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge."
"AS BRITISH Marines sweep through a valley in an undisclosed area of Afghanistan, renewed fighting in a mountainous area near the Pakistan border signals a new phase of war that threatens to tie down foreign troops for years."
"Afghan commanders in Khost say that al-Qa'eda fighters, who move at will across the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, have been scouting out a highly secretive American-built camp set in the former Royal gardens of the former Afghan king Zahir Shah, a few miles north of the town."
"Hundreds of Royal Marine commandos are searching for remnants of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in a high mountain valley in south-eastern Afghanistan, the largest British combat operation in the country so far and the first for the marines since the Falklands war 20 years ago."
"Malim Jan, who served for two years as a senior Taliban intelligence official, is working with US forces."
"Human intelligence sources in Venezuela and Washington told STRATFOR April 14 that the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. State Department may have been involved separately in the events that took place in Caracas between April 5 and April 13. If the information is correct, the reinstatement of President Hugo Chavez less than 48 hours after he was toppled by a civilian-military coup could have disastrous implications for the Bush administration's policy in Latin America."

The US involved in the failed Venezuelan coup? Does the earth revolve around the sun? Remember what Chavez said about bombing Afghanistan? That kind of dissent is not tolerated in this hemisphere.
"Some petitioners claim that American airstrikes killed their relatives. Others claim that their homes were destroyed by American bombs or missiles. Farmers complain that American soldiers have blocked access to their fields, ruining their spring planting season. People on the street glare and curse at passing American reporters."
"Attacks Raise Security Concerns on Eve of King's Return"
"U.S. forces are seeking to undertake another raid inside Pakistan, sources in Islamabad tell TIME, like the one that captured Osama bin Laden's lieutenant, Abu Zubaydah, two weeks ago."
"Amnesty International is today issuing a 62-page memorandum sent to the US government, listing its complaints over the treatment of detainees held in both Cuba and Afghanistan, and condemning the US approach to the issue."
"ASSAILANTS fired rockets at a fortified American base in south-eastern Afghanistan yesterday and attacked a joint US-Afghan patrol as violence mounted throughout the country. Two feuding warlords were digging in for further fighting 20 miles west of Kabul following two days of clashes involving tanks, mortars and rockets."
"A new round of fighting flared in Afghanistan yesterday when American-led forces were targeted in three separate attacks, shattering the lull that followed last month's battle at Shah-i-Kot."
"A wave of violence and political conflict in recent days has set Afghanistan on edge and threatens key steps on the fractured country's road to reconstruction, including the scheduled return next week of the exiled king and the promised delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid.

In a week that began with an assassination attempt against the defense minister, new reports of instability have emerged every day since. Just today, the United Nations reported the murder of an aid worker in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, while international peacekeepers turned up a large weapons cache near the capital. The Afghan government has also been confronted by factional fighting between local commanders near Iran and by revolts in the southern part of the country by poppy farmers upset over the eradication of their lucrative crop, which is used to make opium."
"Afghan officials on Wednesday announced arrests in a rocket attack on international peacekeepers and a bombing that targeted the country's defense minister. The arrests came as factional fighting persisted within Afghanistan, and a U.N. envoy said establishment of an Afghan army and police force is the only way to ensure long-term stability."
"A further group of British commandos arrived in Afghanistan early yesterday to bolster coalition forces preparing for renewed combat operations against al-Qaeda and Taleban formations."
"Though Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, they have very little to cheer about in the new Afghanistan. Human rights abuses against Pashtuns, which a new Human Rights Watch report claims are taking place on a massive scale, could well undermine the traditional, clan-based system of government that is due to replace the fragile, Tajik-dominated government currently in power in Kabul."
World not black and white after all.
"In a no-holds-barred speech in the midst of growing violence, Karzai said if donors did not come through with projects visible to his people, the war-battered nation would descend again into power struggles between feuding warlords."
"If the conflict in the West Bank and Israel broadens, perhaps even drawing Syria into battle with Israel, the spark will probably come from somewhere like Kfar Shouba, along Lebanon's tangled border with the Jewish state."
"The most recent post to al-Jarrah from the government agency was dated March 13. In December the FAA sent al-Jarrah another letter reminding him to get a routine medical check-up."
"American troops will keep a long-term presence in Afghanistan because they have accomplished only one of their three strategic objectives, US Army Secretary Thomas White said on Wednesday."
"Fighting in western Afghanistan threatened to stall attempts to return refugees from Iran on Tuesday as rival warlords struggled for control of lucrative border security posts."
"Terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden is 'safe and well' planning new terror attacks, a media report said."
"The Pentagon is preparing to increase its commitment to the global war on terror by readying new troops to deploy to Yemen and the Philippines in the next few weeks, military officials said today."
"Violent protests flared across Afghanistan yesterday as poppy farmers resisted government efforts to eradicate crops which could supply tonnes of heroin to the west."
"A United Nations repatriation programme of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees has ground to a halt because of violence on Afghanistan's borders with Iran and Pakistan."
"Tony Blair is preparing to try to quell mounting Labour backbench criticism over his support for possible military action against Iraq."
"Afghan officials say a US soldier has been killed in a grenade attack by suspected al-Qaeda members near the eastern Afghan city of Gardez."
"The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, was yesterday publicly rebuked by the Moroccan leader, King Mohammed VI, for his week-long delay in going to Israel."
"Lacking Money, Army and Police, Karzai Attempts to Unite Country."
"Mullah Mohammad Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader, is still alive and delivering anti-US tirades on the Internet, according to a Pakistani newspaper report."
"Terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden managed to escape hours before a joint team of FBI and Pakistan commandos raided an al-Qaeda hideout in Faisalabad in Punjab province on March 28, which resulted in the capture of his lieutenant Abu Zubaydah, a media report said Monday."
"A bomb tore through a crowd that lined the streets to welcome the country's defense minister to an eastern city, killing 4 people, wounding 18 and offering the latest evidence of a concerted effort to undermine the American-backed government."
"Ethnic Pashtuns in Afghanistan are being attacked in a wave of violence that could undermine the country's future, a human rights group has claimed."
"George McGovern asks if Bush and Cheney are leading us into another half-century of cold war, with terrorism replacing Communism as the new hobgoblin of our age."

Like, duh.
"The gathering of civilian victims from the American bombing campaign also drew Afghans from distant villages, including a father and 8-year-old daughter who alone survived in an extended family of 18 when their two houses were struck in November."

"Why did the Americans bomb us?"
"The Pentagon is seeking broad congressional authority to spend tens of millions of dollars on military assistance to unspecified foreign countries or "indigenous forces," authority that traditionally has rested with the State Department."

You can't make it up any better.
"The incident is likely to heighten tensions in the region. Abkhazia alleges Georgia is planning to attack it, using troops who are being trained by U.S. special forces to hunt militants linked to Osama bin Laden. Georgia denies any such plan and says it will use force only as a last resort to win back Abkhazia."
"Faced with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in the Middle East, the Bush administration postponed plans at the United Nations to launch a new campaign to expose what the US contends are Iraq's latest attempts to acquire prohibited chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, a media report said here."
"Arab anger and demonstrations across the Middle East do not represent an immediate threat to any of the moderate governments that have served as America's principal friends and allies in the region, Western diplomats and Arab officials say.

But an unrelenting siege by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and at the headquarters in Ramallah of Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, is radicalizing the politics of the region and creating a threat to peace and recognition of the Jewish state by a rising generation of Arabs, the officials say."
"The United States may send 300 more soldiers to the Philippines to help rebuild roads, seaports and an airstrip on a southern island where the local army is fighting Muslim rebels, a Philippine Army officer said Sunday."
"The rhetoric between Britain, the United States and Iraq increased sharply last night when Baghdad rejected a demand from Tony Blair to allow UN weapons inspectors to return to the country 'any time, any place' or risk military action."
"Two rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the headquarters of the multinational peacekeeping force in Kabul yesterday in another ominous sign that it had become a target for disgruntled Afghans."
"UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has given his strongest indication yet that he is ready to back military action against Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power."
"The US is ignoring evidence of links with Pakistan's secret service."
"Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces are offering $100,000 bounties for the capture of coalition soldiers in Afghanistan, a US military spokesman said Friday."
"...the United States isn't quite as ready to strike Iraq as its rhetoric suggests."
"Mideast Complicates Good-vs.-Evil Approach.

Bush ... is not the first to use the with-us-or-against-us formulation. Vladimir Lenin used a similar phrase in his revolutionary writings: 'He who is not with us is against us.'

'This is Leninism,' said Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser. 'In sheer common sense, if someone is not with you, does that mean he's automatically against you? I don't think it's a good principle. Unfortunately, most of life cannot be delineated in terms of black and white. It's in various shades of gray, and foreign policy has to be sensitive to that.'"
"Since the collapse of the Taliban regime last year a wave of looting, rape and ethnic killings has swept through Pashtun villages across northern Afghanistan, driving thousands of civilians from their homes."
"Perception that US should do more to restrain Israel alienates moderate regimes."
"FOR the first time since violence between Israel and the Palestinians erupted 18 months ago, the bloody conflict threatened last night to spill over into the Arab world."
"United States Army Special Operations soldiers based here say they have formed a close relationship in recent months with Ismail Khan, the powerful governor in western Afghanistan who American officials fear is being courted by Iranian hard-liners."
"President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today, trying to mend fences but also rejecting any future American military operations against Al Qaeda or Taliban forces who have fled to Pakistani tribal areas adjoining Afghanistan."
"Confronting the toughest diplomatic challenge of its 15 months in office, the Bush administration is struggling to forge an effective Middle East policy as mounting Israeli-Palestinian violence and the rush of events rapidly shift the ground beneath it."
If an ex-smuggler says it, it must be true.
"International peackeepers on Monday launched one of the biggest police operations of their stay in Kabul against suspected unpaid Northern Alliance soldiers preying on the people of the Afghan capital."
"Disgruntled northern alliance soldiers were blamed Monday for two recent shootings that targeted international peacekeepers, and a spokesman for the security force said troops would significantly increase their presence in a lawless part of the capital."
North Korea "extremely fucking pissed" at exclusion.
"President George Bush is under growing pressure to do something - almost anything - to defuse the intense hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians."
"Frustrated by what appear to be havens for Al Qaeda, American officials have begun hinting that they may reach across the frontier to carry out military strikes. Pakistani officials said that a senior American military commander asked Pakistan for permission to conduct joint operations in the country's tribal areas. Pakistani leaders, who have sent 12,000 troops to the border areas, have indicated that if any military action is needed, they will undertake it themselves."
"The US Operation Anaconda has squeezed many Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters out of Afghanistan, but some of those forces are simply joining a budding conflict nearby, in Iraq, local security officials warn."
"Afghanistan has supplied as much as three-fourths of the world's opium, from which the morphine and then heroin are produced, though production dropped last year after a ban by the Taliban, who then controlled most of the country. American officials have expressed concern that a large harvest this spring in Afghanistan will inundate world markets."
"The American troops sent here with fanfare last month to train the Philippine military in counterterrorism and to help rescue two American hostages will most likely stay longer than the originally announced six months, American and Philippine officials said this week."
"American officials have quietly abandoned their hopes to reduce Afghanistan's opium production substantially this year and are now bracing for a harvest large enough to inundate the world's heroin and opium markets with cheap drugs."
"The Pentagon cleared itself of blame yesterday for a series of incidents in which civilians were killed by US military operations in Afghanistan. A report, which also looked at cases of 'friendly fire', in which 10 US soldiers were killed, concluded that America was not at fault."
"The government has indefinitely delayed publishing a dossier revealing damning evidence against Saddam Hussein, just days before Tony Blair flies out to meet President George Bush at the weekend to discuss a possible military strike on Iraq."
"Local officials and villagers say that senior Al Qaeda and Taliban officials are meeting in the strategic village of Zerok – which divides eastern Afghanistan from southern Afghanistan – to put the final touches on their spring and summer guerrilla campaigns."