(Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2003) A classified State Department report expresses deep skepticism that installing a new regime in Iraq will foster the spread of democracy in the Middle East, a claim President Bush has made in trying to build support for a war, according to intelligence officials familiar with the document.
The report exposes significant divisions within the Bush administration over the so-called democratic domino theory, one of the arguments that underpins the case for invading Iraq.
The report, which has been distributed to a small group of top government officials but not publicly disclosed, says that daunting economic and social problems are likely to undermine basic stability in the region for years, let alone prospects for democratic reform.
Even if some version of democracy took root -- an event the report casts as unlikely -- anti-American sentiment is so pervasive that elections in the short term could lead to the rise of Islamic-controlled governments hostile to the United States.
The obstacles to reform outlined in the report are daunting.
"Middle East societies are riven" by political, economic and social problems that are likely to undermine stability "regardless of the nature of any externally influenced or spontaneous, indigenous change," the report said, according to the source.
The report cites "high levels of corruption, serious infrastructure degradation, overpopulation" and other forces causing widespread disenfranchisement.
The report concludes that "political changes conducive to broader and enduring stability throughout the region will be difficult to achieve for a very long time."
(Emily Gersema, Associated Press, March 18, 2003) Food could be vulnerable to tampering by terrorists because processors don't have to share their security plans with federal regulators, congressional auditors said March 17. The report by the General Accounting Office was released as the Agriculture Department told farmers and the food industry to increase security because of a heightened terror alert.
Under current guidelines, food companies are asked to volunteer details about their security plans with the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration.
"Without the ability to require food processing facilities to provide information on their security measures, these federal agencies cannot fully assess industry's efforts to prevent or reduce the vulnerability of the nation's food supply to deliberate contamination," auditors said.
Both agencies should consider asking Congress to require that manufacturers share detailed security plans with them, said the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.
(Michael Tackett, Chicago Tribune, March 18, 2003) President Bush has marshaled the argument for war with Iraq many ways and many times, but it can still be reduced to a single word: Fear.
Fear -- economic, military or political -- has always served as a powerful motivator for war. And fear is at the foundation of Bush's case for a military invasion. His argument goes this way: The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 forever changed the way the United States views national security. Terrorists could deliver even more deadly attacks if they had weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein possesses such weapons and he supports the terrorists.
Therefore, Bush argues, Hussein must go -- either by his own will, which seems unlikely -- or by force, which now seems inevitable.
Monday night, in his third prime-time appearance from the White House this year to discuss Iraq, Bush was grim, firm and, to some, even fear-inspiring in his conviction.
(Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2003) Even though his convictions have led him to take controversial stands for years, actor Martin Sheen told a group of Roman Catholics on March 1 how uncomfortable he feels being one of the most visible figures in the movement against the potential war with Iraq.
Sheen said he has received an avalanche of hate mail and been accosted on the street, accused of being a traitor for such activities.
"Spirituality is not safe," Sheen said. "It leads you down uncharted waters. If it didn't cost you anything, you'd have to question its value."
He said his actions through the years have flowed from his lifelong Catholic faith as a "follower of the nonviolent Jesus" who regularly attends Mass and always keeps a rosary in his pocket. But the price he has paid, he said, is a rap sheet of 64 arrests over 17 years, along with widespread enmity.
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