This week's editor

Rosemary Belcher-2.jpg

Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

America after 9/11: victims turning perpetrators

By launching a “war on terror” after 11 September 2001, America made a tragic mistake, says George Soros. The country must now learn a different lesson: fighting terror by creating more innocent victims perpetuates the cycle of violence, creates a permanent state of war, and corrodes the open society that wages it.

India's benign earthquake

The defeat of the ruling BJP by Sonia Gandhi’s Congress Party was followed by Sonia’s refusal to become prime minister. As Indians reel in amazement at their own democratic handiwork, Antara Dev Sen in Delhi makes sense of a political world turned upside down.

“If you trust me, allow me to make my decision.” With that Sonia Gandhi, prime minister designate of the world’s largest democracy, stepped down from the podium in the central hall of New Delhi’s parliament.

America must quit Iraq

America gave “the terrorists” their victory in Iraq by invading. It must now leave, on its own terms, says the Cato Institute’s Charles Peña, as he judges the occupation against one overriding concern: the security of Americans in their own homeland.

America's trial, Iraq's judgment

The response of neo-conservative analysts to the gruesome images of tortured Iraqis, no less than the abuse of power itself, reveals the scale of the crisis engulfing Washington’s Iraq project.


A Pakistani-American writer registers the shock of the Abu Ghraib torture photos as a wound to her identity as a United States citizen of immigrant origin.

America and Arabia after Saddam

The Iraq war is only one aspect of a “greater west Asian crisis” that carries the extreme danger of further, terrible violence. Fred Halliday joins knowledge, insight, empathy and anger to assess the current “winners” and “losers” and insist on the central importance of listening to the Iraqi people.

Abu Ghraib: I do not know where to look for hope

All I can do is scream through my keyboard.

Do the soldiers-torturers act with such abject cruelty out of racism? Racism is not enough to explain their behaviour, their abuse, the joy on their faces while they are attacking the prisoners in their flesh and their dignity.

Are they aware that the only justification left to their leaders was to save the poor Iraqi people from a regime that behaved incessantly like they do in the pictures that make me want to throw up? Have they studied Saddam’s methods of abuse and felt their efficiency, so they re-enacted them?

An Iraqi's impressions: interview with Yahia Said

What is happening in Iraq? After the Fallujah siege, as insurgency continues and the June deadline for transfer of sovereignty approaches, Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy interviews the civil society researcher Yahia Said over a line between London and Baghdad.

Iraq in a wider war

The images of American troops degrading Iraqi prisoners are shattering for the United States’s reputation amongst Arabs. But beyond Iraq – in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan – the routine casualties of the “war on terror” tell an equally grim story.

Civil liberties and the 'war on terror'

When citizens’ fundamental freedoms are made a casualty of sweeping political objectives, the damage is to democracy itself. The experienced British lawyer Geoffrey Bindman draws a lesson from those imprisoned without trial in Tony Blair’s backyard – Belmarsh prison.

Madrid through American eyes

In the election after the terrorist atrocity of 11 March, Spain’s people rallied against government lies and bad anti-terrorist policies. An American scholar in Madrid compares the American reaction to 9/11 and asks whether his compatriots can learn from the Spanish example.

An Iraqi intifada?

Hi-tech American weaponry is pounding Fallujah and Kufa, but the strategy behind it is tinged with desperation.

The widespread violence of the first two weeks of April in Iraq seemed for a short time to have abated. But in the past few days it has returned, with further major confrontations across the country, including in the southern city of Basra.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

The Middle East peace process is now meaningless. Ariel Sharon has the only game plan in town. Time to grasp this before contemplating solutions, says Lindsay Talmud.

Sharon's Gaza disengagement: roadmap to a Palestinian state?

Can Palestinians seize a victory from their defeat? They must now be given a fair chance to make a success of governing Gaza, so that it becomes the springboard to recover their destiny, argues Israel’s former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, as he seeks a way forward after the Bush-Sharon accord.

Afghanistan: no time to lose

There is a real opportunity for Afghans to build a better future for themselves, says a recent visitor to the country with a UNHCR mission. But only swift, careful action by Nato can help them seize it. Can Nato deliver?

Between Fallujah and Palestine

The tactics and weapons used in the siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah reveal the United States’s growing military cooperation with Israel.

The second trip to Fallujah and the courteous kidnappers

Jo Wilding returns to the besieged Iraqi city with aid supplies, is kidnapped by insurgents, and lives to tell the urgent, compelling story.

Sergeant Tratner of the First Armoured Division is irritated. “Git back or you’ll git killed,” are his opening words.

Lee says we’re press and he looks with disdain at the car. “In this piece of shit?”

Makes us less of a target for kidnappers, Lee tells him. Suddenly he decides he recognises Lee from the TV. Based in Germany, he watches the BBC. He sees Lee on TV all the time. “Cool. Hey, can I have your autograph?”

America and the Iraq war, or thinking 'inside out'

The seizure of United States foreign policy by neo-conservatives made possible the Iraq war. The result has been a disaster for the international community. After the Madrid bombs, Spanish citizens sounded the alert. Will Americans follow?

Understanding the insurgencies in Iraq

Will Iraqis unite in revolt against US forces? Beneath the boiling surface of Iraqi anger lies a more complex and fractious reality which points to a different outcome.

Give us hope, not bombs

An Iraqi Kurd who welcomed the US war in his country sees arrogance and force crushing chances for freedom. His view: American occupation policy is dangerously misjudged.

A strategy disintegrates

As civilian and military casualties mount, US strategy in Iraq and south-west Asia as a whole has entered a critical period, with potentially dire consequences. But there are no signs of rethinking emerging in Washington.

Enough revolution

A distinguished Arab commentator says US strategy in Iraq is unravelling. It is time to put aside simplistic caricatures, and think harder about the future of the Iraqi people.


An American life is worth a thousand Iraqi lives. Iraqi satirist and author Khalid Kishtainy does the accounts for the recent fighting in Fallujah.

Inside the Fire

A brave and harrowing report from inside the besieged city of Fallujah where ordinary people are trapped in the cross-fire.

11 April, Fallujah

Faith, not optimism: an interview with Sari Nusseibeh

Sari Nusseibeh is a Palestinian scholar and activist of independent mind who is committed to non-violence in both the methods and goals of struggle. He talks to Linda Benedikt about his Peoples’ Voice civic initiative with Ami Ayalon, and the prospects for a long-term settlement between Israel and Palestine.

The American military: all stressed out

United States force levels have declined and their active commitments increased since the cold war era. As the Pentagon redeploys troops around the world, the strains are beginning to show.

Where is Iraq going?

What lies behind the revolt of the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Shi’a followers? Does it signal the end of American rule in Iraq? Laura Sandys sees parallels and portents in an earlier period of colonial rule.

Iraq's past and future: remembering Sayyid Abdul Majid Khoei

In April 2003, the moderate Shi’a cleric Sayyid Abdul Majid Khoei returned to his Iraqi homeland after more than a decade in exile in Britain, and was murdered in the holy city of Najaf. Had he lived, Khoei might have played an important role in political developments in Iraq. Caspar Henderson attended a 2 April event commemorating his life, work and legacy.

Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army: America's nightmare?

Could the insurgency of the radical Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fuse with the Sunni rebellion to ignite Iraqi nationalism against the occupiers?

Beyond 'relative humanity' to a secular democratic state

The end of Zionism and its denial of the humanity of Palestinians will open the way to a single state that makes Israelis and Palestinians both moral and political equals, says the Palestinian writer Omar Barghouti.

A week of vengeance

A fury of violence in Iraq is targeting foreign civilian workers and Iraqi officials as well as United States forces. But incidents from Uzbekistan to Thailand reveal a spreading arc of dangerous conflict that suggests even worse to come.

What future for Palestine? An interview with Sari Nusseibeh

What are the prospects for the Palestinian national community in the wake of Israel’s killing of the Hamas leader, Sheikh Yassin, and Ariel Sharon’s declared plan to withdraw Israeli forces from Gaza? Linda Benedikt, for openDemocracy, talks to Sari Nusseibeh, president of Jerusalem al-Quds University and co-founder of the joint Palestinian-Israeli People’s Voice movement.

Atocha: a view from Washington

The shared horror and sympathy following the Madrid terrorist bombings reveal a transatlantic relationship alive but in need of unity against a common enemy, says John C. Hulsman of the Heritage Foundation.

Night falls in Gaza

The assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin has caused convulsive outrage among Gaza’s Palestinian people. From its epicentre, a young Irish human rights activist balances vivid reportage and cool reflection.

Madrid in the world's eyes

The terrorist atrocities in Madrid on 11 March, and the national election three days later, raise hard questions for Spaniards and Europeans, for Muslims and world citizens. What should they – we – do? openDemocracy invited 100 people from twelve countries to discuss the meaning and implications of these events. Caspar Henderson summarises a quietly passionate discussion.
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