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This week's editor

“Phoebe

Phoebe Braithwaite is openDemocracy’s submissions editor.

Hard proof or soft evidence: the case of biological weapons

Of all weapons of mass destruction biological weapons are the hardest to detect. Only a miniscule amount of agent is required to have the same deadly large-scale effect as chemical or nuclear weapons. None the less, at this point in time UNMOVIC is looking for them in Iraq. The political and scientific framework of their mission is outlined here.

New country, old story

The ears of our South African columnist are buzzing with talk of ‘black elites’ and ‘black empowerment’. But to his clear eyes, racial and social inequalities still dominate the lives of the country’s black majority.

Iraq: no choice without cost

The choice between war and anti-war is not just a moral one. It involves political calculation in an imperfect world, requiring us to ask: which action will cause more deaths and protect more lives? Between past experience in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, and future hopes of an international law that could prevent brutal state oppression, a distinguished writer creatively explores her own ambivalence.

New versus Old Europe: the growing coalition against Saddam

President Bush’s address to the nation heralds the liberation of the Iraqi people from tyranny, says a scholar at Washington’s Heritage Foundation. By opposing it, France and Germany reveal both the moral bankruptcy of their own policy and their growing isolation within Europe.

Iran: the next target?

President Bush’s State of the Union speech rhetorically clears the path to war on Iraq. Regime change in Baghdad will enable US forces to establish strategic command in the region, and secure its abundant oil supplies. But the effects on Iran will be dramatic. Will this be the tipping point for Europe?

Europe prophecies: slouching from Versailles?

What exotic beast is being cloned in the engine-rooms of Europe? Between the Convention's ambition and US disdain, Polish impatience and Franco-German amity, after the Copenhagen summit and before Iraq, the continent is again a field of passionate contest. openDemocracy's Europe editor says it is time for Europeans to unlock not just minds, but imaginations.

With God on our Side: reading the State of the Union

Each year, the US president addresses all members of Congress, and the American people, with a speech designed to lift hearts and move minds. The imminence of war on Iraq made George W. Bush’s task this week especially urgent. For openDemocracy’s North Americas editor, the vital subtext of the President’s peroration was a messianic faith in the nation’s destiny. The trumpet has sounded; but will American citizens break the spell?

The State of the Union

The current US President’s father won the first Gulf war but lost the subsequent election because of a failing economy. On the brink of a second war in the region, a senior defence analyst with Washington’s Cato Institute situates George W. Bush’s military logic in the context of his domestic economic policy – and finds both deficient.

Voices from a new world

Solana Larsen talks to the foot soldiers at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre.

The Bushmen/San: real, pure, or just themselves?

In southern Africa, there is intense debate about how ‘real’ is the claim of Bushmen/San people in the southern Kalahari area to their land and even their identity. The challenge to them often questions their lack of ‘purity’. At its core, says Hugh Brody, is an assertion of power that seeks to entrap. In response, we need to observe what is actually happening in San lives today, where the creative and the impure are finding modern expression.

Iraq: a way out?

Is there a practical, realistic alternative to seemingly inevitable war with Iraq? The experienced policy analyst Scilla Elworthy builds on her recent visit to Baghdad to propose a peaceful solution that yet speaks to the realities of conflict.

Energy wars and the future of planet earth - part three

Climate change: the history of the 21st century starts with scientific understanding of what is really happening. In its light, what choices can and should we make?

Kissing the chaos

Where Dave Belden lives, the computer has put every home, school, neighbourhood in close encounter with fantasies of power, violence, and lust. Should we fortify our minds, or learn how to live freely amongst darkness?

Sorry, Hitchens, this time it should be 'no' to war

Christopher Hitchens’ passionate call to arms is flawed. His attack caricatures the current peace movement and fails to see that war in Iraq could make things worse.

Last chance to avoid war: a role for Blair?

This week’s decision to commit 30,000 British troops to the Gulf was taken in the midst of rising domestic anti-war sentiment and concern within the UK cabinet itself about the dangers of open conflict with Iraq. Even at this late stage, is there an alternative to war?

Happy Birthday, 'Axis of Evil'

Bush's geostrategy, Europe's clashing heads, and Bhutan's tobacco wars

The wrong war: a response to Philip Bobbitt

An argument for war must attend to the Bush administration’s true intentions. Philip Bobbitt does not provide it.

Loot: in search of the East India Company

Concerns about corporate power and responsibility are as old as the corporation itself. In this account of the East India Company, the world's first transnational corporation, Nick Robins argues that an unholy alliance between British government, military and commerce held India in slavery, reversed the flow of trade and cultural influence forever between the East and West and then sunk almost without trace under the weight of colonial guilt.

Shaving Grace

Holy, profane, or just a good old fashioned number one cut? Shaving, with its multiple readings and ramifications, still has the power to make some people’s hackles rise. A young writer takes us on a guided tour of the long, and of course, the short of it.

Shaving her hair

Specially commissioned for openDemocracy’s ‘Hair’ theme, a new poem by a young writer to watch.

The Current Global Crisis™

How can war, poverty and famine compete with Gaelic chill-out music? Pamperism is the secret weapon of world capitalism. Who better to prove it than the emperor of self-indulgence, the ringmaster himself?

Torture stories

The Iraqi Shia exiles in Iran carry the physical and mental scars of imprisonment, torture and fear. The stories are legion, the memories indelible. Our Tehran correspondent visits Qom, and listens.

Timeline of Iraq

The key events and dates that form an essential background to the current crisis.

Cyberspace, democracy and development

Can information and communication technologies (ICTs) help advance social justice and development goals worldwide? This will be a key theme of the coming World Summit on the Information Society. The director-general of UNESCO puts the case for the global importance of e-democracy.

The East offering its riches to Britannia

Nick Robins walks you round an extraordinary mural painted in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by Spiridione Roma.

3. Apocalypse is in the air

Globalisation, far from creating a unified world, also produces invigorated collective identities that lead to new forms of violence.

The third in the series on globalisation and American power.

Weapons of mass destruction: a practical guide

A world-renowned Brazilian author offers an original perspective on the Iraqi weapons crisis. Its solution may not lie in Baghdad, or even under the US president’s bed. Rather, take a Security Council mandate to George Bush’s psychoanalyst.

What is the point of Porto Alegre? Activists from two generations in dialogue

The World Social Forum in Brazil’s Porto Alegre brings together campaigners from around the world in debate over alternatives to globalisation. Here, two key activists – one Argentinian, one Franco-American - talk to Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy about the best way forward for a movement at a pivotal moment in its history.

The entrepreneurs of memory

Does the worldwide concern with public apology represent a turning of society’s face towards the past, one that closes the possibility of imagining a better future?

After the bomb

This story was written after a suicide bomb exploded in Mehan Yehuda Market, West Jerusalem, July 1997.