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This Song by Refugees and Their Advocates Says It All: 'No More Lines'

Today is World Refugee Day, a good day to remember that there are many millions of refugees living in horrifying conditions in the world and in need of urgent action. Of course, for refugees, every day is refugee day.

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WATCH: New Episode of Doc Series 'This Is Borderless' on the Refugees of Greece

June 20 is World Refugee Day. But for the people in this video, and millions of others like them all over the world, that day is every day. Watch below:

The United Nations Backs Down

Well, mes amis, it may be time to reconsider your crash solidarity order for Louis Vuitton luggage and Camembert fromage. The stalwart French have taken the crumbs offered by Uncle Sam, liberally garnished them with their own words and eaten them in public. On Thursday morning they rolled over to support U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483 that to a large extent legalizes the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- previously denounced by most of the council as illegal. It is almost as if a jury returned a verdict of justified homicide for a lynch mob.

Ironically, one of the many absolutely cosmetic concessions the French wrung from the Americans was the change of the word "collaborating" to "working together," to describe the role of the United Nations Special Representative, who had also been upgraded from Special Coordinator. There may some deep psychology at play here. The French ambassador pointed out that the word "collaborate" has some pretty nasty connotations in French.

It does in English as well. And so does the deed of collaboration. Most members of the council decided that fighting for their principles would exact too high a price in blowback from the White House, and well -- how else to put it -- they then collaborated with the resolution. Only Syria absented itself -- and to be honest, one is never sure whether it is high principle or low intellect that decides Damascus' votes. The vote on the 15-member council: 14-0, without Damascus.

The resolution leaves "The Authority," as the occupying powers euphemistically call themselves, in full control of Iraq. Am I alone in being reminded of "The Organization" that used to rule the roost in Pol Pot's Cambodia?

The other cosmetic concession was that the Security Council would review the resolution in six months. But typically, the U.S. could veto any attempt to change it. The Russians were insisting that the U.N. weapons inspectors declare Iraq disarmed before sanctions were lifted. But they went along with a promise in the resolution to review the functions of UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The by-play over the inspectors is highly revealing about the motivations and the powers involved. The British would very much like to see the U.N. inspectors back in Iraq, since they realize that the refusal to admit them makes nonsense of their entire legal case for the war. And, in the increasingly unlikely case that anyone other than Judith Miller of The New York Times finds any weapons, no one will believe weapons are there unless the U.N. is involved.

On the other hand, the Americans are prepared to let in the IAEA immediately, because they are worried about what might have gone missing from the Iraqi nuclear plants and only the IAEA can tell them.

However, on a personal grudge level, the Pentagon has never forgiven former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix for being right about the prohibited weapons, or lack thereof, in Iraq, and so it seems that they will not consider allowing UNMOVIC back in until after Blix's retirement in June. The message is not only that the Pentagon is petty, but also that it is powerful: certainly powerful enough to override their British allies, not to mention powerful enough to ignore common sense.

In return for such minor concessions, the U.S. has secured pretty much all that it wanted. The resolution "welcomes" the willingness of other states to provide forces, thus giving a U.N. fig leaf for coalition members who want to ingratiate themselves further with the White House by sending troops, without themselves being "occupying powers."

The occupiers will finance their occupation with Iraqi oil money that will now go into the Iraqi Development Fund, under occupiers' control but monitored by an allegedly independent board. This board will "include" representatives from the U.N., the IMF, the World Bank and the Arab Fund for Development. It does not specify how many other representatives the "Authority" can appoint. The fund, and any subsequent Iraqi government, will still have to pay 5 percent of the oil revenues for reparations to Kuwaiti and other claimants from the last Gulf War.

The U.N. Special Collaborator, as some wags about the U.N. have taken to calling him, does have a little more power of initiative than before, if only the power to report back to the Security Council. But cynics cannot help but conclude that unless an extraordinary personality gets the job, then the real job description will be "U.N. Special Scapegoat," to carry the can when the Occupiers make a hash of reconstruction.

So is there any upside? Well, up to a point. The U.S. was forced to come back to the U.N. because it could not legally sell Iraq's oil without a Security Council resolution and because even alleged coalition countries wanted a U.N. resolution before they would join in the occupation. The U.S. had to admit that it was, in fact, an Occupying power.

But overall, once the threat to their debt repayments and contracts was lifted along with the sanctions, the other council members decided that, despite the powerful leverage the sanctions and oil sales would give them, they had no dog in this fight, so they declined to do serious battle.

And why am I picking upon the French? Because this week is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Polisario and the beginning of the Western Saharan struggle for the rights that the U.N. says the people are entitled to. Delayed a few days by the Iraq resolution, this week Kofi Annan will present the latest version of James Baker's plan for the region. Preliminary whispers suggest that it will be a warmed-over version of the old one, five years of alleged autonomy followed by a referendum in which all the Moroccan settlers will be entitled to vote.

The Moroccans are supposed to have objected because the plan includes some tougher monitoring of their behavior under autonomy. However, from previous experience, we can predict that the French, the United States, and the little poodle U.K. trotting behind them, will be as one in their determination to sell the Sahrawis down the river. Back to business as usual. They're only Arabs after.

Ian Williams writes on the United Nations for the Nation, Foreign Policy in Focus, and Salon.

War Coverage Rewrites History

The non-stop news cycle turns breaking events into history with an unprecedented rapidity. Soon we will be flooded with books, videocassettes and documentaries about Operation Iraqi Freedom through a media recycling operation already in high gear.

New media products offer one way of amortizing the investment in so much news coverage. But it is also a way of reinforcing the U.S. view that good has triumphed over evil, that the invasion was welcomed and worth it. Soon, the news industry will start handing out awards for best coverage by an embedded journalist under fire and, later, memorial plaques for those who died covering the war. Our heroism and valor cannot be forgotten.

What is needed, however, is not self-congratulation but real introspection and a critical reassessment. Were some media outlets acting more like publicists and promoters of the war than journalists with a duty to remain neutral, balanced and fair? Were the warriors given an expensively produced free media ride? There are many issues that remain unresolved, unexplored, un-investigated, unreported and underplayed in the U.S. press. And some involve the role of the "embedded" journalists who had a rare front-row seat to the war, but ended up giving us only part of the story.

The Pentagon seems pleased as punch at the positive spin it received despite the carping of the thin-skinned Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who has never read a critical comment he could agree with. "Gee," "Gosh" and "No" were his three favorite words when confronted with critical questions from reporters. C-SPAN spent a day following Pentagon media chief Tori Clark who did a good job of disguising any hint of self-congratulation. Her predecessor Kenneth Baker, praising her management of the war coverage in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, gushed, "You couldn't hire actors to do as good a job as the press has done" from the Pentagon's point of view.

Wars transform media coverage: Some outlets become winners, others losers. In the U.S., the Fox News Channel with its patriotic posturing, martial music and pro-war boosterism has used the conflict to build a right-wing base and polarize the media environment. Fox won the cable news ratings war, even as most critics complained that they degraded journalism in the process. The so-called "Fox effect" has moved its competitors, like CNN and MSNBC, to the right.

In global terms, Al Jazeera has emerged with new respect and a bigger audience. Here is Michael Wolff writing in the New York Magazine:

"The network is being transformed the way Gulf War I transformed CNN -- but then CNN's audience has never exceeded more than a few million, whereas Al Jazeera already speaks to a good 35 million people every day.

"'By the time this whole thing is over,' I said to the three correspondents, 'You'll be far and away the dominant media organization in the region -- one of the largest in the world! ... You could end up being Time Warner Al Jazeera.'

"The Al Jazeera man responded: 'No, al Jazeera Time Warner.'"

Clearly, they understand branding.

The real war may have ended but the media war grinds on and heats up. While most of the world had its eye on Baghdad, Rupert Murdoch had his on Direct TV satellite, which he has since added to his arsenal of media weaponry. In Washington, the FCC, under the leadership of Colin Powell's son Michael, announced plans to lift media rules that limit concentration of media in the hands of a few companies on June 2. Michael Powell has already cited the war coverage as the reason America needs media Goliaths. Only they, he claims, can afford to cover wars like the one in Iraq.

While this story has been barely covered in the American press, it is receiving extensive coverage in the British press. The Guardian's Annie Lawson reported that U.S. broadcasters' war stance was under scrutiny. Unfortunately, only non-profit groups, not the government are calling for such scrutiny. The Center for Digital Democracy, which promotes diversity in digital media, believes that news organizations in the U.S. have a serious conflict of interest when it comes to reporting on the policies of the Bush administration. "It is likely that decisions about how to cover the war on Iraq -- especially on television -- may be tempered by a concern to not alienate the White House," said Jeffrey Chester, the Center's executive director, in a recent article. "These media giants stand to make untold billions if the FCC safeguards are eliminated or weakened."

The controversy over embedding is only one aspect of an emerging deeper debate over what did and didn't really happen in the war. Every narrative tends to produce counter narratives, especially when new documents and other sources emerge. Revisionism is now part of the craft most historians pursue. Just as the first Gulf War was originally proclaimed to be a big win until it wasn't, so this war has also given rise to as many unanswered questions as it has left unexploded bombs littering the streets of Iraq's cities.

Here is a quick list of issues that still need to be looked at:

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War Dances and Media Complaints

Gore Vidal, the American essayist and novelist who lives in Rome was in the U.S. recently where he overdosed on homeland media coverage of the coming war. It made him indignant.

"The media [have] never been more disgusting ... Every lie out of Washington -- they're out there doing war dances."

War dances or not, there clearly is a pattern of coverage that is beginning to attract more dissection and complaint. Andrew Tyndall, who analyzes every U.S. TV newscast, has been keeping track of the tilt in the coverage. USA Today found his research newsworthy, reporting:

"Of 414 stories on the Iraqi question that aired on NBC, ABC and CBS from Sept. 14 to Feb. 7, Tyndall says that the vast majority originated from the White House, Pentagon and State Department. Only 34 stories originated from elsewhere in the country, he says.

"Similarly, a check of major newspapers around the country from September to February found only 268 stories devoted to peace initiatives or to opposition to the war, a small fraction of the total number. Most editors and reporters think the diplomatic story -- the great power narrative -- is more 'real,' New York University's [Jay] Rosen says. 'And people who move into the White House know how to dominate the news agenda.'"

But could they dominate the agenda without media complicity and the promotion of what most media pundits see as the "inevitable." Village Voice media critic Cynthia Cotts, who follows coverage closely, notes, "Last week, journalists were still using phrases like 'a possible war,' 'in the event of war,' 'if war breaks out,' and 'assuming there is a war.' Events were unfolding so quickly behind the scenes that results were impossible to predict. But by press time, the subtext that was previously embedded in every newspaper, Internet, and TV war story had become the main thesis: The U.S. is going to attack Iraq. Case closed."

The case seems to be closing against the quality of journalism we are seeing and reading as well. More than two dozen journalism school deans and professors, independent editors, journalists and authors, major media editors, publishers, producers and reporters have signed a letter to the major media indicting the tendency of many media organizations to become a megaphone for the Bush Administration. Their letter cites six specific complaints over the nature of the coverage:

1. "The Horserace Syndrome & Highlighting Tactics Over Political Analysis: Endlessly repeated news features with titles like 'Showdown with Saddam' present a grave matter as though it were a high-stakes sports contest," the letter says. It goes on to highlight major news stories the media has failed to cover adequately as they obsess over military tactics."

2. "Failing to Protest Government Control of Information: The government has frozen out the media and carefully controlled their access to information. Newspapers and TV news have underreported this freeze out, and failed to contest it aggressively."

3. "Failing to Maintain an Arms-Length Relationship with Government: State-controlled media comes in many garbs," warns the letter, noting the over-reliance of TV news in particular on government-approved retired military and intelligence consultants."

4. "Failing to Question the Official Story: The media should never confuse patriotism with obeisance and a rubber-stamp mentality."

5. "Failing to Present a Diversity of Viewpoints: There is a duty to seek out and quote the many experts who express skepticism about claims by the state, rather than simply to rely on the same pundits repeatedly," the letter states. It calls as well on editors, publishers and producers to see that their op-ed pages, letters-to-the-editor sections and talk shows are "open to a vigorous diversity of viewpoints."

6. Radio: "Years ago, radio actually acknowledged the concept of orderly debates with widely varying viewpoints," the letter states. "It should do so again."

Influential newspapers like the Washington Post seem to be leading the charge to war. Columnists Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman surveyed Post coverage, concluding: "We would say that the Post editorial pages have become an outpost of the Defense Department -- except that there is probably more dissent about the pending war in Iraq in the Pentagon than there is on the Post editorial pages."

"In February alone," they observe, "the Post editorialized nine times in favor of war, the last of those a full two columns of text, arguing against the considerable critical reader response the page had received for pounding the drums of war. Over the six-month period from September through February, the leading newspaper in the nation's capital has editorialized 26 times in favor of war. It has sometimes been critical of the Bush administration, it has sometimes commented on developments in the drive to war without offering an opinion on the case for war itself, but it has never offered a peep against military action in Iraq ...The op-ed page, which might offer some balance, has also been heavily slanted in favor of war."

Even as it appears the bulk of the coverage has joined the march towards war, the public still has not fully enlisted. This points to a growing gap between what the polls are showing about popular attitudes, and even support for anti-war views, and the mainstream media's enchantment with the spin of the Washington consensus. In an intensifying media war, alternative sources flood the internet as anti war articles from European media circulate in the American heartland.

This battle within the media, between new media and old, alternative and independent voices and mainstream pundits, is also heating up. A culture war is erupting as well as popular musicians, actors and even athletes take sides. It's 'Law and Order' versus 'West Wing' is how one commentator put it.

Stay tuned.

"News Dissector" Danny Schechter writes a daily weblog on media coverage on mediachannel.org. His latest book, "Mediawars" is out this month from Rowman and Littlefield.

The Inevitable War?

Predictably, warmongers (stand up and take a bow, William Safire!) saw clinching evidence of Iraqi guilt in Colin Powell's performance in the packed Security Council chamber. Sadly, some peace activists seem to have seen equally clinching evidence of Iraqi innocence in Ambassador Al-Douri's rebuttal.

Perhaps the greatest indication of wishful thinking were several reports from antiwar types claiming that Hans Blix had somehow given the lie to Powell by saying that there was no evidence of mobile biological weapons labs of the type that the Secretary of State later alleged, with pictures and diagrams, were on the roads of Iraq. In fact, he said that they had not found evidence of them, while making it plain that he did think the Iraqis were hiding facilities.

Powell would indeed have made a much more convincing case if he had produced some of his un-named informants. But although American editors do not like anonymous sources -- unless they are government sources in which case it's OK, no matter how insubstantial their testimony -- they will not quibble when the administration cites them.

Even so, it would be foolishly reckless to anchor any case against the war with an assertion of Iraqi innocence, and members of the Security Council did not fall into that trap. You have to know diplomacy to hear what was being said. Without attacking Powell or his presentation in any way, envoy after envoy urged "all" nations that have useful information to share it with the Inspectors right way. Which, being interpreted, means, "Why the hell have you been sitting on this stuff and not passing it on to Blix?"

Equally politely, they totally ignored the least convincing part of Powell's presentation, the diagramming of alleged links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, assuming that it was not meant for sophisticated types like foreign diplomats but rather was aimed at the gullible unwashed at home in the U.S. -- TV anchor people and columnists like Safire. They overlooked it in the genteel way one does by not drawing attention to a respected figure breaking wind in public.

In fact his presentation reminded me of the game that was popular a few years ago about tracing links in movies to Kevin Bacon. I have shaken hands with Tony Benn, Tony Blair, Fidel Castro and Bill Clinton (who hasn't, with Clinton, come to think of it?) and Tony Benn has shaken hands with Saddam Hussein, so Clinton supports Saddam Hussein and Blair is a deep cover Ba'athist. All Q.E.D.

There has been a tendency to overlook the purpose of Powell's speech. Most members of the Council do not need persuading that Saddam and his minions are up to all sorts of tricks. But they do need convincing that war is the appropriate response. And "appropriate" is as flexible in its meaning as Bill Clinton's "is."

Powell's message was that the U.S. has decided on war, come what may. It would like the UN to support it, but Washington is prepared to go ahead anyway, even if it risks ripping up the UN Charter and the whole Post-World War II body of international law. Instead of saying "copy" the other diplomats acknowledged the message obliquely by stressing the need for Council unity and for a UN framework for any action.

And then the supposed anti-war brigade in the Council prepared their way for accommodation with Washington by discretely drawing their own line in the sand: Speaker after speaker stressed the need for Iraqi cooperation on the U2 overflights and on private interviews with Iraqi scientists when Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei go to Baghdad this weekend. While Saddam Hussein may let the U2's fly, there is no way he is going to allow his scientists to talk.

Powell's presentation alleged that Saddam Hussein threatened death to any scientist who divulged information and that anyone of them who left the country for an interview would be treated as a spy. (Spies are not generally treated well in Iraq.) Indeed, if anything, Powell probably understated the case. One of the secrets of Ba'ath power is that families of suspects suffer as well.

If Iraq allows private interviews or flights outside the country, then the game is afoot, as Sherlock Homes used to say. If he doesn't, then he provides the perfect excuse for the waverers in the Security Council to give Bush and Powell what they would like, even as the White House disclaims the need for it, which is a resolution precipitating the serious consequences that all other resolutions have threatened.

Most of them would, in Lyndon Johnson's immortal phrase, rather have the U.S. inside the tent pissing on Iraq rather than outside, washing away the UN tent in the flood. On St. Valentine's day next week, Blix and ElBaradei return to the Council to report on their Baghdad trip, we should not be too surprised to see signs of kissing and making up with Bush from Old Europe. A Valentine card with a resolution.

Covering the Anti-War

While more than 100,000 soldiers in the Gulf are poised to march off to war, over 10 times that number seemed to be marching against it as protests erupted in more than 37 cities worldwide last weekend. A global anti-war movement is growing but the coverage of it in depth and dimension still lags.

When media outlets are given a choice of showcasing war makers or highlighting peace makers, the former always win hands down.

War, and the threat of war, sells newspapers. Peace does not. The "action" of War builds TV ratings. In contrast, the quieter work of diplomacy and negotiations is boring and not highly visual. War gives journalists a chance to show how brave they are in a macho sport where only the strong survive. Peace is far headier, an intellectual's vocation, a game for lawyers, softies and sissies.

So where does anti-war activism fit in the media equation? It usually doesn't. The militancy of most marchers today is ofen pictured as a dated throwback to the idealism of the 1960's. In our age, when history and ideology are said to be dead, antiwar slogans and mass mobilizations are portrayed as rituals, not resistance.

At the same time, they are becoming hard to ignore even if media outlets tend to play them down. In much of the US media, questions of war and peace have been the province of the punditocracy from the think tanks and war rooms where the issue focuses on how wars can be fought, rather than whether they should be fought at all. Hawks rule the TV studios even as doves line the streets.

When marchers in America first hit critical mass last November, the New York Times downplayed the size and significance of what was happening. Somehow a hundred thousand looked to their reporters as the a few thousand; National Public Radio followed the same script until a blizzard of emails flooded editors who took another look and admitted they had been wrong. The Times responded to similar criticisms by running another story some days later giving more weight to mushrooming cries against impending war.

As public opinion began to shift -- along with the president's approval ratings -- the story suddenly grew legs.

When another wave of marchers marked the Martin Luther King Birthday weekend with another mobilization on both coasts, with as many as 700,000 in the streets according to organizers, opinion makers paid even more attention. The New York Times later editorialized on behalf of the dissenters, while CSPAN devoted hours of coverage.

Behind the marches was the organizing power of the Internet, reaching hundreds of thousands quickly. As Wired Magazine confirmed, "the access to coalition-building tools via the Internet has revolutionized the anti-war movement." A masterfiul use of new media flooded the streets and spurred the old media into action.

There were still problems. US papers did not focus on the global scope of the movement, minimizing the protests in other countries. There were also perennial complaints of media outlets opting for far lower estimates that those claimed by organizers.

The Washington Post explained the problem this way : "The number is freighted with loads of political baggage and can fluctuate wildly -- tripling one minute, halving the next -- depending on who's talking. U.S. Capitol Police suggested yesterday's antiwar street march drew 30,000 to 50,000 people. Protest organizers said that the number was closer to 500,000. District police settled on "an awful lot of people." The truth might fall somewhere in between the guesses, or it might fall somewhere beyond the edges. That's because no one really knows how many people showed up.

"The methods used to determine head counts generally rest on rough comparisons to crowd estimates attributed to previous large-scale events. Those historical attributions, however, often resulted from ballpark guesses themselves. "I know everyone is skittish about saying a number," said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer. "But this was big. An impressive number."

Even the papers that do give space to op-ed columnists who challenge the pro war consensus of just a few months ago are still not giving as much space in news columns to activists.

"It's all a matter of how you frame things," writes editor Tom Englehardt. "My hometown paper, the New York Times, had a front-page photo, 'Antiwar Rally in Washington,' but the actual story was on page 12, headlined 'Thousands Converge in Capital to Protest Plans for War,' even though paragraph one made it clear that 'tens of thousands' were there. Perhaps it's understandable that the editors tucked the article on the largest peace march since the late 1960s (maybe larger) away inside, what with 'Gains on Heart Disease Leave More Survivors, and Questions' or 'Fearful Saudis Seek a Way to Budge Hussein' panting for front-page attention. Imagine, however, this front-page headline: 'Fearful Americans Seek a Way to Budge Bush.'"

The media will likely become the new battleground in the war for public opinion. Until now, the Administration has skillfully orchestrated the coverage, but that is starting to change. Activists who have been left out of the news are buying ads, funding TV commercials, and even lambasting some media outlets.

I saw a "FOX News Sucks; CSPAN is A-OK" placard at the Washington March denouncing Rupert Murdoch's right-leaning network. This signals that the media will no longer come under pressure only from government.

Today critical readers and viewers are pressing the press to let the other side be heard.

"News Dissector" Danny Schechter, author of "Media Wars: News at a Time of Terror," writes a daily weblog for Mediachannel. org.

Pakistan Boxed into a Corner

KARACHI, Pakistan -- With the Taliban's sudden withdrawal from key areas in Afghanistan to concentrate in the eastern provinces for a prolonged guerrilla war, and with the likelihood of an anti-Pakistan government running Afghanistan, Islamabad could be forced into lending covert support to the Taliban, whom it ditched two months ago in favor of the United States in its war on terrorism.

The quick retreats of the Taliban from Mazar-e-Sharif and the dramatic withdrawals from the capital Kabul and Jalalabad have exploded like a bombshell among Pakistani military decision makers at general headquarters in Rawalpindi and at the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

The developments are in stark contrast to what the Pakistani intelligence services had reported to President General Pervez Musharraf -- that the war would drag on much longer and that Pakistan would maintain a strong bargaining position with the U.S. and its allies over the composition of a new Afghan government.

All this has changed with the U.S.'s inability -- or reluctance -- to stop the Northern Alliance from taking over Kabul, where it is already reported that on Wednesday former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani will return to pronounce himself the head of the territories now under the control of the anti-Taliban opposition. Deposed by the Taliban in 1996, the ethnic Tajik Rabbani is the political leader of the Northern Alliance and is still recognized as Afghanistan's president by the United Nations and most countries.

Although the United Nations is trying its best to install a broad-based government in Afghanistan, Rabbani has already made a move to set up an interim administration. It is said that General Mohammad Fahim will act as minister of defense, Abdullah Abdullah as minister of foreign affairs and Yunus Qanooni as minister of the interior. Warlords such as Rashid Dostum and Ismail Khan are expected to be left in control of the areas they have captured, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat respectively.

This pretty much leaves Pakistan out in the cold as this power configuration is made up mainly of three different ethnic groups: Tajiks, who comprise some 25 percent of the population; Hazaras, about 19 percent; and Uzbeks, with about 6 percent. Pashtuns, with 40 percent of the population, dominate central and southern Afghanistan, the home base to the leadership of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the network of Osama bin Laden.

Rabbani has said that he would welcome former monarch Zahir Shah, but as a "private citizen." Yet Rabbani was the founding father of the Afghan resistance movement, which began in the days of Zahir Shah. Rabbani is well documented as saying that Zahir Shah would be hanged for war crimes if he ever returned to Afghanistan, and he has never softened this stance.

In this perspective, it appears that Afghanistan will continue with its centuries-old traditions under which there will be no participation in government on the basis of anything but "might is right" and that the only way in which Pakistan can have any sway in balancing unfriendly forces across its border is to lend support to the Taliban to help keep a guerrilla war going.

Sources say that on the news of the fall of Kabul an emergency meeting was convened in Rawalpindi, headed by General Yusuf, the vice chief of army staff -- Musharraf is currently on a visit to the U.S. At the meeting it was emphasized that a new strategic policy for Afghanistan is needed.

Well-placed sources suggest that in the new scheme of things the Pakistani tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, home of 10 million mostly Pashtun people, will play an important role: the Taliban will continue to fight their guerrilla war, with backup and supplies being ferried from Pakistan through the tribal areas to them.

Meanwhile, Asia Times Online has canvassed the views of some prominent Pakistanis across a wide spectrum of interests, and they all believe that Pakistan has lost ground in the region.

Former ambassador Hussain Haqqani said that Pakistan's single-track Afghan policy was now in tatters. He said Pakistan had not even contemplating what might happen should Kabul fall into the hands of a group other than the one it favored. Now all of the options that Pakistan would want to see happen, including the Zahir Shah (former king) one, are at the mercy of the Northern Alliance and its backers in Washington and London.

Now Pakistan, says Hussain Haqqani, will have to play a passive role as even though some of the former warlords will be blessed with Western intelligence and will have a role in the future setup of Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance will not be willing to accommodate them. This will lead to a situation in which the prospects of civil war cannot be ruled out.

The former director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, retired lieutenant-general Hamid Gul, said that the U.S. had deceived Pakistan and it had facilitated the Northern Alliance entry into Kabul despite Pakistan's strong opposition.

"Professor Rabbani has had very strong support from Russia and he will retain government at all costs. It should be kept in mind that Rabbani has always been against Zahir Shah, he will not allow him into any broad-based government. Neither will he allow the Taliban to be a part of any government. This situation will lead to anarchy and civil war in Afghanistan."

He termed the Taliban retreat from Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul as strategic moves, and called losing Jalalabad a "gambit." "Now pro-Indian and pro-Russian Northern Alliance forces will enter into the Pashtun stronghold of Jalalabad, which borders Pakistan. Pakistan will be forced to play a role in extending support to a group, and in the present circumstances the Taliban would be the only choice."

He said that Pakistan would again be made a scapegoat for U.S. designs, and it would be asked to send its ground troops into the country under the umbrella of U.N. forces. "This would be a peacemaking operation rather than peacekeeping operation because otherwise there would be complete civil war in Afghanistan," he said. Pakistan should refuse to send its troops into Afghanistan, he added.

He believed that the Taliban would make the eastern provinces their stronghold and continue to struggle against the U.S.-sponsored war against terrorism in the region.

Liaquat Baloch, the deputy leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), the premier fundamentalist party in Pakistan, said that the present situation was the result of Pakistan's misguided policies that had allowed a pro-Indian government to be installed on Pakistan's western borders [Kabul] at a time when Pakistan's armed forces were already engaged with its arch-rival on the eastern borders. He maintained that it was Pakistan's support for the U.S. position that had enabled anti-Taliban forces to capture Kabul. He added that the U..S exploited Musharraf for its own designs in the region, and had dragged Afghanistan into a prolonged civil war.

A former senator and leader of the Pakistan People's Party, Taj Haider, said that the possible victimization of the Taliban by Northern Alliance forces was the main cause for concern. "Though they [Taliban] consider me an infidel, [Taj Haider comes from a hardcore Marxist school of thought and hails from a Shia family] my heart is crying for them. What they have done may be wrong, but once they surrendered the world community should raise its voice for them for better treatment."

He maintained that Pakistan had closed all doors to Northern Alliance forces, and even when their former army leader, Ahmad Shah Masood, was assassinated in September, Pakistan did not offer its condolences.

This article was originally published by Asia Times Online and was made available through Globalvision News Network, a network of independent news organizations in 85 countries on seven continents.

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