May 28, 2007

Fatah Al Islam Threatens all of Lebanon

by Michael J. Totten

Fatah Al Islam Military Commander Shihab Al-Qaddour threatened all of Lebanon in an interview with Al-Hayat.

During the interview, Al-Qaddour told Al-Hayat that the Fath Al-Islam organization "would respond against the Lebanese military if the attacks on it were to continue," and added that "[our response] will not be limited [solely] to the Palestinian refugee camps or to Beirut, but all fronts will be opened." Referring to the battles in Tripoli and the bombings in the neighborhoods of Beirut during the past week, he said: "This is only the beginning... We are ready to blow up Beirut and every other place in Lebanon."

Al-Qaddour stated that "in addition to the supporters of the organization, Fath Al-Islam has bases and sleeper cells in all the Palestinian refugee camps in the various regions of Lebanon, and they are on alert [to launch] a harsh response - they await only a sign from us." He said, "Fath Al-Islam's threat to open the fire of hell against Lebanon is a serious one. As long as we are under attack, we will [defend ourselves] by any and all means. The organization has the full capability to bring the battle to every place in Lebanon. We can easily do this..."

Meanwhile, can we please set aside Seymour Hersh’s story that alleges the United States and Lebanese governments supported these people? I realize, of course, that the both governments have suffered blowback from stupid alliances, but this one makes about as much sense as 9/11 being an inside job.

Here is Michael Young in Beirut’s Daily Star:

There are few pleasures these days as Lebanon descends into the kind of violence that Syria seems to manufacture so effortlessly. However, one of them is discovering how easy it was for a gaggle of pro-Syrian Lebanese operators to manipulate investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, before he wrote a much-discussed article recently implying that the Lebanese government was financing Islamist groups, including Fatah al-Islam.

In his article for The New Yorker, Hersh faithfully channeled what sources in Lebanon told him, lending legitimacy to statements he otherwise failed to prove. Most prominently, for being so specific, he wrote that "representatives of the Lebanese government" had supplied weapons and money to Fatah al-Islam. But Hersh's only evidence for this claim was a quote attributed to one Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 agent who is co-director of Conflicts Forum, an institution advocating dialogue with Islamist movements. Nor did Crooke have direct knowledge of what he was saying. In fact, he "was told" the weapons were offered to the group, "presumably to take on Hizbullah." The argument is now being picked up by media belonging to senior members of the Syrian regime to affirm that the Lebanese Army is fighting an Islamist group in the Nahr al-Bared camp that is effectively on the payroll of Saad Hariri.

Lately, we've had more ricochets from that story. Writing in The Independent on May 22, journalist Robert Fisk, who we might forget lives in Beirut, picked up on Hersh, citing him uncritically to again make the case that Hariri was financing Islamists. So we have Fisk quoting Hersh quoting Crooke quoting someone nameless in a throwaway comment making a serious charge. Yet not one of these somnolent luminaries has bothered to actually verify if the story is true, even as everything about the fighting in Nahr al-Bared virtually confirms it is not true.
Also see Michael’s earlier debunking in Reason magazine: Does the New Yorker actually edit Seymour Hersh?

David Kenner, guest-blogging at From Beirut to the Beltway, adds the following:

Hersh (who was a great journalist, though you are excused for not noticing) credits Syria with more rationality than the United States. When the confused CNN anchor asked why -- if neither country was ideologically aligned with Fatah al-Islam -- it makes sense for America to be funding the terrorists but not Syria, Hersh answered, "You're assuming logic by the United States government." And that is about as far as the opposition's ridiculous explanations for the recent violence extends: forget the regional situation, forget who benefits from chaos in Lebanon. Dick Cheney sure is sketchy, isn't he?
Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 28, 2007 12:51 AM
Comments

[sigh]

Please bear with me. I am getting a serious data overload on trying to get some handle on the goings on. The seemingly stupid questions below are borne out of ignorance and I am here to learn.

Let me try a starter to see if I'm getting some basics correct...

There is some kind of agreement (an Arab league Accord of some sorts, right??) that says the Lebanese army cannot go into the camp. Is that still in effect? And if so, that would explain the shelling only-right? Is this 'haven' following or setting precedent...which leads me to-when (if at all) should that whole BS be scrapped? Control, authority, sovereignty all be damned, huh?

Well, I do understand it's not that simple. I just don't get it.

Posted by: anuts at May 28, 2007 04:30 AM

From the daily star link it appears the Harriri camp did in fact pay some cash to people who later on went to join Fatah Al Islam.

Even if the intention was merely to resolve a dispute, what sort of group would pay money to islamists, especially in this day of age?

Posted by: tg at May 28, 2007 05:12 AM

Anuts,

The accord in question was imposed on Lebanon by Assad and Nasser in 1969 (and why I say imposed, I mean it: Syria impelemented a blocus on Lebanon while Nasser created unrest through his partisans). The Cairo agreement was one of the source of the Lebanese civil war. It has been canceled by the parliament in the 80's, but in practice, the security forces till abide by it. The Palestinians camps are made of tiny streets and everybody is armed,and if the army ever tries to go in, it is a sure recipe for a bloodbath.

Posted by: Vox at May 28, 2007 06:06 AM

Hersch, Fisk, et al are the kind of desk-journalist that are being paid extra money handsomely by peculiar parties........and don't evern know who their masters are, do you? To try to get a glimpse on what is really going on one has to read a lot of different sources and then draw your own conlcusions.....I am sorry, but my conclusion is that the Lebanese goose is cooked....pity, because Lebanese peace with Israel would change the paradigm and for the good.......

Posted by: diana at May 28, 2007 06:29 AM

Don't they just mean they are going to expose all of Lebanon to an inner directed, spiritual struggle to improve themselves - eat right, live right, be kind to strangers, that kind of thing?

I mean, let's not jump to conclusions here.

Posted by: Randall at May 28, 2007 07:52 AM

anuts,

it's because of this "BS" that is arab-israeli conflict cannot be solved.

what the arabs did is used the refugee camps as a festering weapon against israel. they thought that israel would be eliminated any time now. that did not happen and now the chicken are coming home to roost.

the problem has become unsolvable and no arab country -- let alone lebanon -- or the west is capable of digesting that kind of seething population and explosions are bound to happen, they happened in the past, including lebanon. they are fertile grounds for islamists.

that is why right of return is the core of the conflict, and why anti-zionism arose in the west: because everybody now realizes that the best solution to the problem is to dump all of them in israel and wash their hands.

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 08:25 AM

tg,

are you serious?

israel and the west (including the us) are still pumping zillions and EVEN ARMS into the PA and the camps927, most of which end up with hamas and other islamists and terrorists.

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 08:27 AM

Can you believe this guy? That's what Seymour Hersh said:

I got an email the other day, and I have not checked this out, from
somebody who was in the community, in the intelligence community and still
consults with the community, he says, “Why don’t we ask more about the American
arms that the fighters of Fatah al-Islam have, are brandishing?” I don’t know if
that’s true or not, but I did get that email. And so, that could be true. Both
Saudi money and American money, not directly, but indirectly, was fed into these
groups.

http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=13759

Posted by: Vox P at May 28, 2007 08:35 AM

Why should we ignore Hersh, Michael....? He argues that there are some in the US administrationa nd within the Lebanese govt side that thought Sunni Islamists could provide a useful sectarian counterwieght to Iranian/Hezbollah power in Lebanon.... why is that so ridiculous?

It might be shortsighted, and dangerous. But it doesn't mean some policy wonk in the Pentagon or in Riyadh or wherever didn't think it wsa a good idea...

You ought to read "The Quiet American" by Graham Greene...

Or check up on your own history man....

I mean imagine if I told you the US had at one time had an element within its foreign policy apparatus that was selling hi-tech weapons to the Ayatollahs in Iran in exchange for western hostages, and then using the profits from these illegal transactions to fund right wing Contra death squads in El Salvador....

Would you say that I was nuts? Would you say it made no sense?? This is the Middle East. Anything is possible.

Posted by: Microraptor at May 28, 2007 08:38 AM

Why shouldn't we believe Seymour Hersh? After all, the guy has received an email. That's good enough for me.

Posted by: Vox P at May 28, 2007 08:55 AM

Have to agree with microraptor -- not just any number of ten-trial-learners in DC, but their equivalents with fistfuls of dinars in Riyadh could still be so short-sighted. As fp says -- we're doing it right now in Gaza -- it isn't Abbas getting the arms, it's Dahlan -- a man who ordered the bombing of an Israeli school bus, and we know it! Besides, recall recently that one of the US visitors to Syria said (of the long-term picture) "We reminded them the Sunnis will win."

Not to excuse him, but what Hersh has done by way of verification sounds about like what the White House did pre-Iraq with Cheeseball or Oddball or whatever the heck his name was -- take the same information from the same completely unreliable source, channel it through two related skeptical agencies, decide that's confirmation and good enough to ignore everything else and go to war.

Posted by: Pam at May 28, 2007 09:14 AM

Lol...Seymore has been debunked..."sandmonkey" had a great post that left me in stitches commenting on a "conference" Mr. Hersch had in Egypt. Everyone should read it.

Now, after all that has gone in the last week I AM completely and utterly disgusted with the WHOLE affair. It appears that dithering pols and grandstanding gangsters set policy in lebanon...so much so that I am still wondering who kicked me in the head. I just read that the fugees and their leadership have proposed to our esteemed leadership (who it appears are considering the nonsense) a SOLUTION (HOOORAY by the way) of setting up a "security team" that will secure the camps and that a "decision" will be made on how to arrange for the "departure" of the dogs, "perhaps send them to Syria" WTF!! Will someone explain how putting a few more hundred armed radical elements into the camp is going to ensure security? I can guarantee it will become one big (MY GUN IS BIGGER THAN YOUR GUN) PARTY.

If ONE of these fuckers gets into airconditioned landrover to go on vacation to Syria...the leb army will effectively be made to look like janitors. SCREW THAT!! invade the camp and building by building exterminate the vermin. AND for gods sake stop giving airtime to people leaving the camps who are 1. blaming the leb army for the violence and 2. who only have time to regurgetate the garbage about how the US has given the leb army "gas" to use on these poor innocent people. The only GAS in lebanon right now is comming out of Nasrallah and the rest of the losers.

Regards

Posted by: shunkleash at May 28, 2007 09:49 AM

My secrect source told me that Hersh was full of shit. The amount of effort he puts into making shit up is dissapointing. Go read the article from 2001 where he exposed the neo-con plot to invade Pakistan and compare it with the neo-con plot to invade Iran.

Maybe I should become a "journalist" like Hersh:

Some people in the Pentagon are forming plans (ed-that's what the Pentagon does. It makes plans for everything) to attack Venezuala and toppel their beloved President Hugo Chavez. One high ranking government official, who must remain anon. for fear of neo-con reprisals, told me that Dick Cheney was heading the effort...

Posted by: mikek at May 28, 2007 09:50 AM

well, it's hard to tell what the facts are in hersh's case, but the problem is that the guy has an (old) reputation to maintain and to do that he must constantly come up with scoops, which is not easy.

as long he was writing about the us govt, he was in his elements. once he went for the ME, it's down the drain. because us journalists have no clue on the subject and they cannot distinguish between truth and takiyya or sheer manipulation.

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 10:01 AM

I'm sure we'll be reading soon, in 'respected' sources, that no guerillas were killed - it was men and mostly women and children. And - oh yeah -the men that were killed were civilians, and they were on their way to prayers!

Posted by: Kevin at May 28, 2007 10:29 AM

"the guy has an (old) reputation to maintain"

Wasn't he fired by the NYT for making things up? I love the way these people conduct themselves.

Journalist A has a conversation with his friends who he will eventually use as an anon. source who can't be questioned or checked by anyone other than the Distributer of Truth and then goes on to write an article that is clearly B.S.

If someone argues that the insane and/or stupid article is b.s. the journalist will respond with something like: "Prove it isn't true. I have sources".
If that doesn't work they will try to shift the arguement i.e.:"You can never trust the government" or "Dick Cheney" or "Racism". If that fails they will need to bring back the boogey man that they created in other articles i.e.: "Cabal of neo-cons." (Does anyone else remember when it turned out that the guy with a giant head who writes about the U.N. for The Nation was on the U.N. payroll. Instead of quiting or being fired he just told people it was a neo-con plot to destroy him. Then they, at least on C-Span cheered him on for boldly speaking truth to power, believed him because people who read The Nation are retarded.)

If all that fails and it is clear that the journalist is lying they claim that they are working for the "higher truth" (communism?) and that their story may be complete b.s., but it is actually true (the higher truth?).

Posted by: mikek at May 28, 2007 10:56 AM

"The Quiet American" by Graham Greene should not be cited as any kind of authority on American Intelligence screw-ups. There's plenty of other evidence around, but please don't refer to a novel by a Brit who was well-known to be the worst and most shallow kind of snobbish anti-American. Read non-fiction about Vietnam during the late 50s and early 60s and you'll hear again and again about both British and French writers hanging out with Greene at the bar of a particular hotel.

"The Quiet American" isn't a bad novel, but if you want history read Halberstam or Stuart Herrington or why not an actual Vietnamese like "In the Jaws of History" by Bui Diem.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at May 28, 2007 10:58 AM

Hmmm. I have to note the irony of the Lebanese gov't being hoisted by its own petard of pro-terrorist sensationalist journalism. It's what Israel has had to deal with for decades. No matter how cleanly the Lebanese Army excises the terrorist tumor, it'll be reported as another 'Jenin' or worse. Oh right, that was all bullshit. Ah well, who reads retractions?

Send these guys to SYRIA? I think we should send them, the Hamas leadership in Gaza -- Fatah, too, why not -- al Sadr and his guys, and whatever AQ honchos are free for an all-expense paid vacation in sunny Damascus, courtesy of the IAF.

Posted by: Pam at May 28, 2007 11:15 AM
Even if the intention was merely to resolve a dispute, what sort of group would pay money to islamists, especially in this day of age?

Of the parties involved, more people have funded, supported and assisted Islamist groups than have not.

Posted by: MattW at May 28, 2007 11:27 AM

i would go as far as to say that had it not been for the funding and support of the west and so-called "moderate" arab "allies" there would be no islamists.

how quick we forget that practically any "terrorist" out there is a creature of the west: obl, saddam hussein, hamas were all created, encouraged or supported at one time or another by the west. add to this all the blunders and incompetent policies that played into their hand and what you got is suicide.

a side that dumb does not deserve to live and it looks like if it continues down this path, it won't.

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 01:55 PM

I saw a movie on the tube the other night, "Lord of War," about gun runners. Much of it was based on real events.

There isn't an arms blockade in the world which can't be somehow circumvented. Greed and corruption enable an almost unimpeded flow of weapons to the killing zones of the world.

I found it profoundly sad. In fact I thought of this blog and others like it, where people from around the world meet in our abstract little spaces and try to find solutions for peace - often across battle lines that would divide us in the physical world.

But how on earth can we stand against the sheer mass of violence, violence on an industrial scale, supplied by the world's most sophisticated nations?

The five largest exporters of arms in the world are also the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: the US, UK, France, Russia and China. Yet some of the worst massacres in recent times were committed with machetes. Sewer pipes become rockets. People can still kill with rocks.

Can we stop ourselves from being violent without some kind of spiritual awakening or evolution?

Are we hard-wired to cause harm?

That seems incredible to me: people are animals, yes, but we are animals with great intelligence and above all, free will. We can make choices, can't we? Can't we make the choice not to shoot?

So can't we at least take some of the profit motive out of mass death? Eisenhower warned of the "military-industrial" complex decades ago. Yet it's difficult to see how people can be persuaded to stop selling a war machine worth millions and start selling hand-woven placemats: how can entire economies be retooled? Is it even possible?

Meanwhile there is a sea of weaponry out there, some purchased and transferred legally even if seems mad to do so, sent directly into the hands of groups or nations who've proven that they're willing to murder innocent people, again and again - and again and again, nobody takes them seriously when they reiterate their ideology. Perhaps it just doesn't register on State Department ears?

Or do the suits think they can ride the tiger? Look what happened in Afghanistan! How clever we were to entice the Soviets...to use a little nation like a pawn! And who's controlling those weapons now?

Add a little holiness, a little despair - you've got IED's rigged up with chlorine - dangerous, unaccountable militias armed to the teeth, all over the world, and little democracies fighting for their lives.

How do our good wishes, our hopes, stand up to that?

Posted by: Sophia at May 28, 2007 02:13 PM

sophia,

2 things about intelligence (1) it must be developed (2) it is a tool, which like any tool can be used for good and for bad.

I also suggest some understanding of collective and private choice, and rational choice in game theory. It should clarify a lot of phenomena for you that otherwise seem incomprehensible.

an understanding

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 02:42 PM

Guys, guys, guys, come on! It is clear to me that if we all work together, we can develope a coherent theory to blame the Jews. And then all will be right with the world.

Who's with me?

Posted by: Gliker at May 28, 2007 03:19 PM

Sophia,

The P5 sell the most weapons because they are (more or less) the most powerful countries in the world. Since power has a close relationship with military strength, they have well developed arms industries and the influence to sell lots of weapons. The 'point' that they are members of the United Nations Security Council is a joke, so long as you look at the United Nations as anything except a collection of the same shitty countries that existed before, but with an expensive bureaucracy.

How do our good wishes, our hopes, stand up to that?

In the real world? They either speak to one of the P5 about buying some weapons, or build their own. Then they use those weapons to destroy anybody who comes at them.

It is sad, I guess, that that is how the world works. Nonetheless, it is how it works.

Posted by: MattW at May 28, 2007 03:39 PM

1. Nasr'allah has stated in the past (among various other things), with a straight face and appropriate gravitas (befitting a man of his integrity and sense of mission), that Hizb'ullah will not disarm until the Sunnis in the Palestinian refugee camps disarm....since after all, who would defend the Shi'a from the armed Sunni (not to mention, from Israel!)?

(Which, as excuses go, doesn't sound too unreasonable...and of course, Nasr'allah is an utterly reasonable and honorable man.)

2. Syria/Iran is rearming Hizb'ullah.
3. Syria/Iran is ensuring that weapons get to the Sunni A-Q folks in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon. In fact, ensuring that the A-Q folks get into those Palestinian camps. (And Hexb'ullah's role in the evolution of this affair might be what, exactly?....In any event, Nasr'allah's responses to what's been happening might be of particular interest....)

....But back to the issue at hand, is this not the perfect setup? Sheer poetry, actually. Formidable staging! Simply marvelous choreography....Bravo Syria! Bravo Iran! For that matter, brava Ms. Pelosi for helping to enable it all!

And need one add that:
4. Syria wants to demonstrate that Lebanon will not be stable unless it accepts the "assistance" of its Syrian brothers---and natural protectors. (And for the unconvinced, a bomb here, an assassination there, along with a few well-placed veiled, or not-so-veiled, threats ought to help....straight from the intimidation handbook, folks!---"Intimidation for Dummies"?)
5. Moreover, Bashir Assad himself has promised that if the commission investigating the Hariri assassination goes ahead, then Lebanon and the Middle East "will burn." (Now why would a guy as decent as Assad, etc., etc., say something so, um, ungracious? No doubt, Hersh and Fisk have the answer to that....ah yes, Syria does have its own legitimate regional interests, etc., etc.)
6. Of course, were Israel to offer to give the Sheba'a farms back to Lebanon, Hezb'ullah and its Syrian sponsors would throw a tizzy-fit. (What!? And defuse that fantastic excuse to prolong the confrontation on the Israel-Lebanese border?) Hold on, I think this actually may have happened a week or two ago....

Sigh. It's all so patently obvious. Has been for a long time....

Oh screw it. Syria and Iran are anti-Israel and anti-American---all the right credentials---and therefore deserve the world's support, understanding and benefit of the doubt. (Besides, could Hersh and Fisk, those paragons of acute analysis, those valiant knights of shining verities, ever be wrong?)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at May 28, 2007 03:47 PM

"Journalist A has a conversation with his friends who he will eventually use as an anon. source who can't be questioned or checked by anyone other than the Distributer of Truth and then goes on to write an article that is clearly B.S."

Remember in "All the Presiden'ts Men", when Woodward and Bernstein got a tip from Deep Throat they had to get confirmation from two on-the-record sources before it could be printed. Since then, the concept of "journalistic ethics" has become as oxymoronic as "Arab peace plan". That's why we need people like Michael.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at May 28, 2007 04:06 PM

Barry,

Obvious, though not to the ignorant and stupid, which forms the west's majority.

As I reiterate: the west, including the us and to increasing degree israel, have themselves to blame. it's not that syria/iran are so smart, it's that our side is so dumb.

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 04:29 PM

palestinian free press:

http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=826412007

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 07:17 PM

sophia,

there are some who do object to the sale of arms.

http://ngo-monitor.org/editions/v2n09/v2n09-4.htm

see? and you despair of the human race.

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 07:22 PM

OXFAM?

OK, never mind:)

Posted by: Sophia at May 28, 2007 09:19 PM

yes. you know, that apolitical NGO who is only in it to help those in need. what better eviddence of human altruism could you ask for?

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 09:33 PM

Why anyone continues to put good faith intellectual and moral capital - not to mention actual capital - into the idea that there is some way to compromise with these groups is Ridiculous. The only way they will be dealt with is by summary slaughter: That's It. If Palestinian - if Ohioan - civilians have to die because they are being used as human shields or are in agreement with the relevant group is just too goddamn bad. There are two options: (1) you go in and kill the groups, at a tragic cost in civilian and Lebanese soldiers' lives, or (2) you delude yourself into believing that these groups will abide by the terms of some diplomatic/economic/security agreement, and the group survives to kill more officials and civilians, warp the political process which would in their absence be laudably republican, and offer other governments criminal opportunities to manipulate Lebanese domestic politics, their own domestic politics, and international politics.

There will be death either way. This is not a complicated choice, and if one cannot see which is the correct from the point of view of moral and political administration of a country they have no business opining on the matter.

Posted by: dan at June 4, 2007 01:37 PM

By the way, could someone remind me at least why anyone considers Hersh anything but a high-end tabloid journalist? According to him Iran should be a plain of craters covered in haze, courtesy of the USA, at this point, for example. Why is everyone so credulous of this person? Because he broke the My Lai massacre story? Um... yeah? Is this how journalism works? The vatic regard in which journalists are unreflectively held -especially by people who pride themselves on their lancet skepticism - baffles me. People are fucking stupid.

Posted by: dan at June 4, 2007 01:43 PM

Tod - May 28:

Most histories of the Vietnam war are being turned around now that more information is revealed from the other side. Halberstam turned into a mouthpiece for liberal ideas which makes you wonder about his earlier works.

Posted by: davod at June 9, 2007 09:26 AM

American arms are flowing to Hizballah and its friends through Syria, which no doubt takes a cut of the profits.

When an American soldier is killed or captured, Iraqi insurgents sometimes sell his weapons and equipment to local arms dealers, who smuggle the weapons back to Syria and thence to Lebanon.

The following video clip about Hizballah is long, but it is definitely worth viewing. Among other things, it documents on camera the fact that Lebanese Shia arms dealers have American weapons smuggled through Syria from Iraq.

http://blacksmithsoflebanon.blogspot.com/2007/06/video-hunting-for-hizballah.html

It also documents on camera the rearmament of Hizballah and Hizballah's ongoing bunker-building activities.

Posted by: Zvi at June 22, 2007 01:52 PM
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