Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

The Semiotics of War  5.12.04

"What are we to make of the escalating war of images in the Middle East? Heinous crimes have been committed, public outrage expressed, official apologies proffered, congressional hearings convened and court martials are now in progress. But something has gone missing in this mass-mediated picture of pictures..." Read | Discuss

Analysis  5.12.04

From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib: America's Image
Emily Paddon, Research Assistant, InfoTechWarPeace
What was the framework through which we understood ourselves and the events of September 11, 2001 and why do the horrific images of Abu Ghraib so profoundly challenge this framework? 5.12.04 Read | Discuss
Simulated Conflict, Dissimulated Solution
Masha Kirasirova, Research Assistant, InfoTechWarPeace
Does information warfare reflect a weakening of cultural ties to geographical territory, and can it yield victory in the war of ideas? 5.12.04 Read | Discuss
The Al Jazeera Effect: Many Screens, Many Voices
John Phillip Santos, Writer, Journalist and TV Producer
“What’s ‘Al-Jazz’ saying?” CNN anchor Aaron Brown breezily queried one of his correspondents recently, regarding Al Jazeera’s reporting of the Nick Berg execution video. The Qatar-based Arabic satellite news channel may be vilified and blacked out in Iraq by the Bush administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority, but it has earned its own tag of endearment in America’s media argot. 5.14.03 Read | Discuss
Clippings  2.1.05
So-called U.S. hostage appears to be toy
CNN News
An Islamist website used the image of a military action figure ("Special Ops Cody," manufactured by Dragon Models USA in late 2003) handcuffed and held at gun point to try to negotiate the release of Iraqi prisoners. 2.1.05 Read | Discuss
Bloggers Doubt Berg Execution Video
Lawrence Smallman @ al Jazeera
"Revolting millions around the world, the video footage of an American citizen's execution has also raised numerous questions concerning its authenticity... There are plenty of questions raised concerning the video too. The body is completely motionless even as the knife is brought to bear – not so much as an instinctive wriggle. In a possible explanation, one discussion room member suggested that Berg was killed and then beheaded later." 5.14.04 Read | Discuss
Chopping Heads
Amir Taheri @ New York Post
"The cutting of heads (in Arabic, qata al-raas) has been the favorite form of Islamist execution for more than 14 centuries. In the famous battles of early Islam, with the Prophet personally in command of the army of believers, the heads of enemy generals and soldiers were often cut off and put on sticks to be shown around villages and towns as a warning to potential adversaries." 5.14.04 Read | Discuss
The ultimate reality show
Jimmy Breslin @ Newsday
We are at the end of an old way of telling the public the news of the day. The pictures of torturing at the prison in Baghdad, where so many have digital cameras, showed that the newspapers and television are no longer the gatekeepers of what the public can see or be shielded from. 5.13.04 Read | Discuss
Soldiers speak out on abuse
Dave Moniz and Dennis Cauchon @ USA Today
"WASHINGTON — Lawyers for two of the soldiers at the center of the Iraq prison-abuse scandal said Wednesday that military intelligence personnel ordered the photographs taken of the soldiers with bound and naked prisoners." 5.13.04 Read | Discuss
Lawmakers Are Stunned By New Images of Abuse
Charles Babington @ Washington Post
"Scores of lawmakers yesterday viewed unreleased photos and videos of Iraqi detainees being sexually humiliated and physically threatened. The images, which included Iraqi corpses, U.S. troops having sex with each other, and previously undisclosed videos of at least one inmate ramming his head into a wall, convinced some legislators that the number of Americans who violated military protocol is larger than previously thought." 5.13.04 Read | Discuss
Leaking Self-Doubt
Brendan O'Neill @ Spiked
"President George W Bush did a special turn on Arab TV to denounce the torture depicted in the photos as 'un-American' and 'unacceptable'...The Glasgow Sunday Herald says they are 'the photos that lost the war'. The photos have become tools of protest in the Middle East. In Baghdad protesters held makeshift placards with the Abu Ghraib pictures attached, under the heading 'This is what America does'." 5.13.04 Read | Discuss
Iraq Videotape Shows the Decapitation of an American
Dexter Filkins @New York Times
“An Islamist Web site posted a videotape on Tuesday showing the decapitation of an American in Iraq, in what the killers called revenge for the American mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison” 5.12.04 Read | Discuss
A Time for Truth
Pat Buchanan @Anti War
"The neoconservative hour is over. All the blather about "empire," our "unipolar moment," "Pax Americana" and "benevolent global hegemony" will be quietly put on a shelf and forgotten as infantile prattle." 5.12.04 Read | Discuss
General Says Superiors Overruled Her on Prison
Jeffrey Smith and Josh White @Washington Post
"Former prisons chief in Iraq told investigators she resisted decisions to hand control to military intelligence." 5.11.04 Read | Discuss
Just Trust Us
Paul Krugman @ New York Times
"Krugman points out the fallacy of the Bush administration party line - 'Just Trust Us.'" 5.11.04 Read | Discuss
Privatised wars need new laws
Stephen Evans @ _blank"> BBC
One academic study says the ratio of private contractors to US military personnel in the Gulf now is roughly one to ten, ten times the ratio during the 1991 war. In Abu Ghraib prison - where contractors are reported to have run interrogations - that means unclear lines of legal responsibility. 5.10.04 Read | Discuss
Annals of National Security
Seymour M. Hersh @New Yorker
"How the Department of Defense mishandled the disaster at Abu Ghraib." 5.9.04 Read | Discuss
If only there had been no pictures
Margaret Wente @Globe and Mail
“It was the images that turned the torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib into the tipping point for the Bush administration. And it was a digital camera that turned a 21-year-old named Lynndie England into the anti-Jessica Lynch.” 5.9.04 Read | Discuss
World of Hurt
Maureen Dowd @ New York Times
"...the hawks who wanted to employ American might to scatter American values like flower petals all across the world are reduced to keeping them from being trampled by Americans. As Rummy would say, not a pretty picture." 5.9.04 Read | Discuss
Hamas Expected to Boost Online Activities
Lauren Gelfond @ _blank"> Jerusalem Post
Breaking news on boasts "Hamas reservoir of leaders enormous." Phantom terror groups on the run from surveillance, capture or assassination-attempts are more and more finding a cheap and safe launch pad for their ideology and operations on the Web, according to a new study by US Institute of peace in Washington, DC. 5.1.04 Read | Discuss
U.S. Protests Broadcasts by Arab Channels
Christopher Marquis@ _blank"> New York Times
"The Bush administration, frustrated by what it calls "inflammatory" reports by Arabic television channels, has in recent days protested to foreign government officials, confronted Arab news executives and put together a list of supposed abuses." 4.29.04 Read | Discuss
Blog: Net censorship stepped up
Hossein Derakhshan @ _blank"> Hossein Derakhshan's English weblog on Iran, technology and pop culture
"If there is still any reporter in Iran, covering the elections, please do a story about Internet censorship in Iran. It has apparently stepped up these days because of the elections. Internet will soon be the only medium that reformists have access to and being silent about the crackdown on it, must be seen in this respect." 2.26.04 Read | Discuss
Blogging boom in Iran defies control, New medium is a way to escape stifling theocratic control
@ _blank"> Toronto Star
"Initially created to defy the country's tight control on media, these web journals have turned into a cyber-sanctuary - part salon, part therapist's couch - for the vast pool of educated, young and computer-savvy Iranians. As Friday's parliamentary elections approach, however, there's a distinct tone of worry that conservatives expected to regain control of Parliament would step up pressure to censor the Internet." 2.19.04 Read | Discuss
Two Iran Papers Shut for Reporting Khamenei Letter
@ _blank"> Iran Expert
"TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's hardline judiciary closed down two leading newspapers on Wednesday for publishing a letter in which reformist lawmakers accused Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of heading a system that abused people's rights." 2.18.04 Read | Discuss
Arab TV: War of Information
MOSAIC @ _blank"> Link TV
Mosaic Special Report examines how different broadcasters in the Middle East, including US funded Alhurra, are reporting on the same stories. How do the underlying values, politics, and patriotism of each media channel impact what you see on the screen? What role does journalistic integrity and professionalism play? How do the governments in each region affect the way news is reported? 1.1.04 Read | Discuss
Intifada Spurs Palestine Internet Boom
Laila El-Haddad @ _blank"> Al Jazeera
"The internet, with its ability to transcend borders, distance and government censorship, has become the preferred medium of information exchange for local Palestinians and foreign activists alike." 12.11.03 Read | Discuss
Arab Regimes Exploited 9/11 To Erode Liberties
@ _blank"> Islam Online
"AMMAN, October 21 ( & News Agencies) - Arab regimes have taken advantage of the U.S.-led "war on terrorism" to adopt extreme security measures eroding civil and political liberties, a groundbreaking U.N. report said Monday, October 20." 10.21.03 Read | Discuss
The View From the Middle East, Two Years After 9/11
MOSAIC @ _blank"> Link TV
This Mosaic Special Report looks at the prevailing views and perceptions of America held by those in the Middle East and examines how those views are shaped and how have they changed in the two years since 9/11. The program also considers the impact that U.S. actions in the war on terror have had on Middle East views. 10.1.03 Read | Discuss
Akbar Ahmed: Islam Under Siege
Akbar Ahmed @ _blank"> The Globalist
"Some people around the world view the age of terrorism as the age of Islam. This does not mean that Islam has benefited from terror acts. On the contrary, many Muslims feel that their religion is under pressure like never before." 7.20.03 Read | Discuss
Rules, What Rules? Ask Saudi Internet Cafe Owners
Arab News Team @ Arab News
"JEDDAH/RIYADH/DAMMAM, 7 July 2003 — The announcement on Saturday that Internet cafes have been asked to adhere strictly to the laws regarding monitoring of those who use the Net met with puzzlement from the owners and managers of cafes across the Kingdom." 7.1.03 Read | Discuss
Filtering of Websites
@ _blank"> Women in Iran
"Last month Iranian newspapers dedicated a good part of their columns reporting on the issue of filtering of websites on the Internet. Filtering, which can be equated with Internet censorship (web), means to prohibit the free flow of information. It is a software mechanism that aims to decrease (or stop) accessibility of the blocked website. A complete list of the Judiciary's regulations is as follows..." 5.30.03 Read | Discuss
The use of the Internet for political action by non-state dissident actors in the Middle East
W. Sean McLaughlin @ First Monday
"Examines how non-state dissident actors in the Middle East use the Internet for political action in the face of state-imposed constraints on Internet access. Non-state dissident actors have revisionist goals and the Internet offers certain advantages for accomplishing these political objectives." 5.1.03 Read | Discuss
Dot Com for Dictators
Shanthi Kalathil @ Foreign Policy
“Tales of cyberdissents fighting government censors feed the conventional wisdom about the internet’s role as a powerful tool against tyranny. But if democracy advocates want to spur meaningful change, they must also recognize the Net’s ability to change authoritarian regimes from within.” 4.1.03 Read | Discuss
The Orphans of Modernity and the Clash of Civilizations
Khaled Abou El Fadl @ _blank"> Scholar of the House
El Fadl argues that September 11 is not a symptom of a clash of civilizations and that assumptions about relative civilization superiority, treat civilizational paradigms and conflicts like beauty competitions and that such treatment is fraught with methodological errors which make it a particularly unhelpful way of understanding the current conflict. 3.1.02 Read | Discuss
Commentary on the 9-11 Tragedies, Terrorism, Puritanism, Islam and Islamic Law
Khaled Abou El Fadl @ _blank"> Scholar of the House
Videos of El Fadl discussing terrorism, puritanism, Islam and Islamic law and the historical dynamics leading to 9-11, unequivocally denouncing the terrorist acts. 1.2.02 Read | Discuss
Terrorism and Racism: The Aftermath of Durban
Anne Bayefsky @ Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
"Discusses the use of the UN-sponsored World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, as a forum for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, Arab anti-Semitism and racism following 911, its impact on the Middle East conflict, and the Fall 2001 UN General Assembly terrorism debate." 12.1.01 Read | Discuss
Defeating Terror: Confront Supply and Demand
Shibley Telhami @ Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development
"Broader regional anger provides the demand side of the terrorism phenomenon. Although any effective war on terrorism requires confronting the supply side—the evil perpetrators who carry out attacks on innocent civilians—it cannot be fully effective unless it also addresses the demand side of the equation by reducing despair and anger and by providing an alternative to violence that gives rise to hope..." 11.1.01 Read | Discuss
The Digital Revolt: Resistance & Agency on the Net
Will Taggart @ New Media and Information Technologies in the Middle East
“Various transnational groups of hackers and "defacers" split along nationalistic, religious, and ethnic lines have joined the conflict in reaction to competing media accounts of the most recent uprising in the West Bank and Gaza, alternately known as the second or Al-Aqsa Intifada...” 6.1.01 Read | Discuss
Islam: Images, Politics, Paradox
Khaled Abou El Fadl @ _blank"> Scholar of the House
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, commentators argued that the Islamic concept of jihad or the notion of the dar al-harb (the abode of war) is to blame for the contemporary violence. These arguments are anachronistic and Orientalist. One must come to terms with the fact that supremacist puritanism in contemporary Islam is dismissive of all moral norms or ethical values, and is primarily concerned with power and its symbols. 1.1.01 Read | Discuss
The Internet in the Middle East and North Africa: Free Expression and Censorship
@ Human Rights Watch
"The report surveys Internet policies of governments in the Middle East region as they affect the right to freedom of expression. It identifies policies, laws, and practices that violate or endanger this right." 1.1.99 Read | Discuss
Up-Date: The Internet In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
@ Mosaic Group
“The chapter up-dates the initial assessment of the development of the Internet in Saudi Arabia presented in the first of the Global Diffusion of the Internet Project reports. Companies were reserving domain names and IP address space, getting ready to move their Web sites into the Kingdom from their current off-shore locations..." 1.1.99 Read | Discuss
National Security and Democracy on the Internet in Israel
Dr. Michael Dahan @ Cultural Attitudes Towards Technology and Communication Conference
"A parliamentary committee meeting devoted to “Freedom of Expression and the Internet”, began with a short demonstration in which Internet sites describing the Order of Battle of the Israeli Airforce, Nuclear weapons, as well as some pornography were reviewed. This incident serves to underscore the inherent conflict of values in Israeli society -- national security versus the ideal of liberal democracy." 8.1.98 Read | Discuss
The Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism
Arab League@ _blank"> Arab League
"Convention adopted by the Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior and the Council of Arab Ministers of Justice at the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States Cairo, April 1998. Signed by 22 states including the Palestinian Authority." 4.22.98 Read | Discuss
The Global Diffusion of the Internet Project: An Initial Inductive Study
@ Mosaic Group
"This report proposes a framework for analysis of the diffusion and absorption of the Internet worldwide with an emphasis on the Middle East, assessing both the extent and quality of Internet use and the supporting infrastructure." 3.1.98 Read | Discuss
The Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism, a serious threat to human rights
@ _blank"> Amnesty International
"Amnesty International calls for the Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism, to be amended to conform to international human rights and humanitarian law. Claiming that the definition of 'terrorism' in the Convention is so broad that it lends itself to wide interpretation and abuse, Amnesty offers recommendations for its revision." Read | Discuss

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, commentators posed the question of whether Islam somehow encourages violence and terrorism. Others argued that the Islamic concept of jihad or the notion of the dar al-harb (the abode of war) is to blame for the contemporary violence. These arguments are anachronistic and Orientalist. One must come to terms with the fact that supremacist puritanism in contemporary Islam is dismissive of all moral norms or ethical values, and is primarily concerned with power and its symbols. Read | Discuss

Artifacts  5.21.04

Abu Ghraib Prisoner Abuse Video
@ The Washington Post
The edited video excerpt is from a collection of short digital video files obtained by The Washington Post. The videos appear to show U.S. soldiers abusing detainees last fall in Abu Ghraib prison. 5.21.04 Read | Discuss
Sworn Statements by Abu Ghraib Detainees
@ The Washington Post
5.21.04 Read | Discuss
New Abuse Photos Emerge from Abu Graib
@ The Washington Post
5.21.04 Read | Discuss
The Nicholas Berg Video
@Islah TV
5.11.04 Read | Discuss
Abu Ghraib Slide Show
The New Yorker
5.7.04 Read | Discuss
Taguba Report
@ Global Security
The report was prepared by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba on alleged abuse of prisoners by members of the 800th Military Police Brigade at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad. 5.7.04 5.7.04 Read | Discuss
Dirty Kuffar Video
@ Ratatak
2.16.04 Read | Discuss
9 11 Digital Lies A Survey of Online Apologists for Global Terrorism
Dr. Harold Brackman @ Simon Wiesenthal Center
"The study presents an overview of the post 9/11 on-line propaganda and distortions being circulated by the enemies of the U.S., her allies — and most especially, the state of Israel." 1.1.01 Read | Discuss