Monthly Archives: April 2003

Wrestling With Arafat

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Showdown at the Palestinian Authority. Yassar Arafat has picked a fight, and this time it’s not with Ariel Sharon. He’s now in a standoff with his new Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas over who will serve in a new Palestinian cabinet.

By midnight tonight, the two are supposed to sort out their differences. But right now, things don’t look promising. Three days ago, Abbas stormed out of a meeting with Arafat, and the two haven’t spoken since. Caught in the middle are the Palestinian people.

As Israel continues to demolish the homes of suspected militants, and launch military incursions into the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians are hanging their hopes on a U.S.-backed plan to peace that calls for the resumption of negotiations.


Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah

Edward (Ned) Walker, president of the Middle East Institute

James Bennet, New York Times Middle East Correspondent.

Democracy, Theocracy, or Chaos

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Democracy in Iraq is proving to be something of a messy business. The hasty departure of Saddam Hussein and the military occupation by American forces has left Iraqis and many others wondering what comes next.

The Iraqi National Congress is the only organization that’s getting visible support from the U.S. And every day crowds gather around those offices, men looking for work and looking for news. But the man in charge of that group, Ahmed Chalabi, is not well known.

Many here are curious about his past and leery of his own political ambitions. As each day passes into rumor and confusion, new parties are popping up, each claiming to be the place for Iraqis to find the freedom that was promised. But they also highlight the age-old divisions that exist in this country.


Zaab Sethna, advisor to Ahmed Chalabi for the past 12 years

Amatzia Baram, visiting fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institute and professor of Middle East history at the University of Haifa, Israel

Laith Kubba, leader of the Iraqi National Group and a founder of the Iraqi National.

The Editor's View

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Just blocks from the White House and other halls of power, it may seem as if the Washington Post has the home field advantage. But when it comes to the Bush administration during wartime, even a home game can be tough. Officials in this war were notoriously tightfisted with information, except when it suited their purposes to get a story out.

In some cases the Post managed to squeeze out “exclusive” stories with “unnamed sources,” among them, an exaggerated account of Jessica Lynch’s fight with Iraqi forces before her capture. On other occasions the Post proved its independence: when for example, one of its reporters insisted that more civilians were killed in a shooting incident than the Pentagon had reported. The fight for the straight story in wartime.


Steven Coll, Managing Editor of the Washington Post

Eric Umansky writes the ‘Today’s Papers’ column for

Beyond Hope?

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Here’s a sentence to consider: “No place in the contemporary United States, with the possible exceptions of prisons and certain hospitals, stigmatizes people in as many debilitating ways as a distressed inner-city public housing project.” These are the words of MIT Professor Lawrence Vale. He’s spent more than two decades walking the dusty yards and dangerous hallways of public housing developments, and talking to the people who live and work there. His latest book, Reclaiming Public Housing, comes at a time when support for housing projects is at a crossroads — when government can’t decide whom public housing is for — and what it should look like.


Lawrence Vale, Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT and author of “Reclaiming Public Housing: A Half Century of Struggle in Three Public Neighborhoods”

Mourning in Iraq

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All across Iraq the scenes of searching for missing loved ones, scouring lists for the names of people who might have been executed, and waiting outside hospitals are being repeated. Relatives, too frightened to ever search for news of the disappeared are going from prison to prison, hospital to hospital in search of the brothers, sons and fathers, taken by the regime of Saddam Hussein.

There are further reports of mass graves only just now coming to light. This is the reconstruction that matters to them. Not bridges, not buildings. People. No one knows how many, perhaps 100’s of thousands. It is the first page in a human rights story that still has not been told.


Michael Ignatieff, Director at the Carr Center for Human Rights and Professor for Human Rights Practice at the J. F. K. School of Government at Harvard University.

Holy Days

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These are holy days…for Christians and Jews and many Muslims as well. It may not feel that way, in a world reeling from war and rumors of war. But this year, there is a convergence on the calendar of Passover, Holy Week and the period when Shia Muslims mourn for Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Mohammed. At the Seder table in Jewish homes all over the world this week, the youngest person there asked, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

It’s different in some ways because it’s the same, the same ritual enacted in the same way generation after generation. Jews recall their freedom from slavery under Pharoah, Christians relive the death and resurrection of Jesus, and Muslims recall the persecution of their leaders.


The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr., Senior Minister, The Riverside Church, New York City.

The Music Of A Nation

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It was two weeks ago when the first American tanks roared into this city. The rattle of their metal treads followed days of bombing, when the wail of sirens, the whistle and boom of missiles became the sounds of this city.

And once again in the long and violent history of Baghdad, the music was stilled. When people felt safe enough to venture outside they found, to their horror, that many of their cultural jewels, spared the ravages of American weapons, had been systematically looted and vandalized. In the schools of music, violins and pianos were left in splinters. Even the small pink desks of the kindergarten music class were broken. Coming up, a conversation with three of Iraq’s top classical musicians, and from the city of 1,001 nights, live music.


Hashim Sharaf Director of the Iraqi National Symphony/Director of the School of Music and Ballet

Majid Al Gazali, principal second violin of the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra

Munther Hafidh, Composer/Musicologist

Ibrahim Kadem former student at the Baghdad College of fine arts.

War from the Ground Perspective with Ann Scott Tyson

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Seven days ago Ann Scott Tyson of the Christian Science Monitor returned home from Baghdad. As an embedded reporter with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, she saw and heard what most of us did not. She spoke with senior officers, attended secret briefings, and listened to battles unfolding in real time.

But more importantly, she talked to the troops, to the men and women who actually fought the war; the officers, mechanics and foot soldiers from Kuwait to Bagdad. And then she sent her stories back home; stories about how it feels to be wedged inside a tank for four days in a row, vivid descriptions of the appeal of M&M’s in the desert, and of the soldiers who wrote ‘If-I-don’t-make-it’ letters to loved ones. Covering the war, from upclose.


Ann Scott Tyson, Special correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.