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Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Moral Compass

'War on terror' loses clear direction
By Paul Reynolds
World affairs correspondent, BBC News website

Bush in Salt Lake City: war must be wonThe shadow of Iraq hangs over American policy on the "war on terror" and the world's view of it.

The problem is that many governments and peoples do not see Iraq as part of the answer to terror. They see it as part of the cause. They therefore want to distance themselves from American policy.

Washington has not been effective in solving another motivating factor for the jihadis - the Israel-Palestine conflict. Its portrayal of Israel as a victim in the war on terror sits uneasily with, say, the Europeans, who generally see the dispute as territorial not ideological and therefore amenable to a compromise.

Yet Western and other publics are left in fear, and rightly so. Al-Qaeda is no invention. Its impact - or that of its sympathisers - was seen not only in New York and Washington but in Bali, Madrid, London, Morocco, Istanbul and elsewhere.

However, in the five years since 9/11, a clear-cut and well-supported "war on terror" declared by President Bush has become confused and divisive.

Whereas French newspaper Le Monde declared the day after 9/11: "We are all Americans now", a placard at a demonstration in London recently read: "We are all Hezbollah now".

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Beirut's anger over lasting damage
By Chris Morris for BBC News, Beirut

Designer boutiques and dead bodies.The repercussions of the recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict are still keenly felt, even outside those areas most badly damaged in Israel's military offensive.

The small port of Dalieh is a tiny inlet, little more than a stone's throw from the posh sea-front apartment blocks of West Beirut. About 100 fishermen usually set out from here to ply their trade in the Mediterranean.

But Dalieh has died, it has been smothered.

Everything is covered in a thick slick of heavy fuel oil. The smell sticks in the throat, the oil sloshes against blackened boats and rocks, polluting everything it touches. It is filthy, it is toxic, and it is right in the heart of the city.

In the neighbourhood around the Place de l'Etoile, near the BBC office, just down the road from the 19th-Century Ottoman palace which houses the prime minister's offices, the clock tower where all the roads converge has been draped with expensively produced banners.

"Two Israeli soldiers abducted," reads one, "hundreds of Lebanese children killed. Is it right?".

Designer boutiques and dead bodies. It is an awkward juxtaposition, deliberately so.

Images of the brutal reality of violent conflict which rarely appear in the Western media. Graphic photographs of the recent war. Children's bodies. Bits of children's bodies.

Every conflict leaves it mark, and this one is no different.

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Pakistan rape victim's blog makes waves
By Dan Isaacs for BBC News, Islamabad

Mukhtar Mai has campaigned since being raped in 2002Mukhtar Mai was once an anonymous Pakistani villager - but that was before she was gang-raped, apparently on the orders of local elders in a neighbouring village.

From then onwards she has been determined to bring them to justice, and her fight made her an international figure.

Girls in Mukhtar Mai's village have her to thank for their education. She established the school and others with compensation money awarded to her by the courts in her rape trial.

Mukhtar Mai is exceptional because she defied the shame of the gang-rape four years ago by not only bringing her attackers to justice, but also by fighting for a change in traditional attitudes towards women.

Now Mukhtar Mai, who is in her mid-30s, is writing her own internet diary, or blog, about her life and her concerns, as a woman from a remote village in southern Punjab.

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'Islamist conspiracy' fear in Turkey
By Paul Henley
BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents

A General talks of Islamist groups infiltrating the armyTurkey has long been valued by the West as a secular Muslim ally but now one former military officer tells the BBC that secularism is under threat, and that the army won't stand for it.

He talks of secretive Islamic groups "infiltrating" the army's ranks.

"They see the army as the main obstacle to achieving their aim of an Islamic republic," he says.

The army is Turkey's most trusted institution but it is not so popular with the EU.

His fear is that if the EU continues to water down the military's power it will be easy to narrow the separation between state and mosque.

The European Union, he concludes, should take note.

Pictures courtesy of BBC News.

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