Monday, November 30, 2009

Harry Reid, no leadership

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Joni Mitchell's unearthed treasure" went up Sunday and may be my favorite of all her reviews this year. Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Rolling In It" also went up yesterday.

Rolling In It

As the United States suffers their worst economic crisis in approximately 70 years, I really do expect to see some evidence of cost-cutting measures in the White House's household budget. I have not seen any indication that such measures are being implemented and no one should be surprised when comparisons between the Obamas and Marie Antoinette are made.

I do not care for Harry Reid. As a general rule, I do not believe Democratic leadership should include anti-choice advocates. Harry Reid is a foe to reproductive rights. He is also grossly inept and maybe our first clue should have been the fact that he is unable to get along with his local paper?

John Bresnahan's "Harry Reid's hometown feud" (Politico) reports:

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid struggles to pass a health care bill in Washington and his polling numbers in Nevada continue to tank, there’s another aggravation he can’t seem to escape — the Las Vegas Review-Journal and its publisher, Sherman Frederick.
Frederick has called Reid a “political corpse,” said a visit by President Barack Obama to Nevada earlier this year “was only to try to stop Nevadans from bouncing their unpopular senior Sen. Harry Reid in 2010” and suggested that “Reid’s power so far has done more for Reid personally than it has for Nevadans as a whole.” A recent Frederick blog post openly mocked Reid’s reelection theme: “Isn’t the slogan ‘Harry Reid — independent like Nevada’ libelous as hell?”

Someone who has one, never-ending war with their own local paper clearly lacks leadership skills. Leadership would have been ending the feud long, long ago.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Monday, November 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, over the weekend a 2002 memo to Tony Blair is leaked -- a memo explaining that the Iraq War would be illegal,a War Criminal (Steven D. Green) plots another way to escape punishment for his War Crimes, November's US military death toll in Iraq is a five month high, and more.

Starting with employment opportunities: "Desperately seeking dirty whores willing to lie and look the other way while Iraqis are slaughtered. If you have no ethics and no real training, we'll send you to Iraq where you can be a reporter! Call 1-800-Reuters." The news agency continues to falter in Iraq without Tim Cocks to lead their coverage. Which is how you get them reporting no deaths -- NONE -- since Thursday. Today Michael Christie and Mark Trevelyan fetch coffee and take stenography for the Iraqi government as they announce the Interior Ministry's official death toll numbers of 88 dead in Iraq. They try to dress up with civilians, but what's a civilian? If a police officer and his or her family is slaughtered at their homes -- which did happen this month -- are they civilians? It's not even an issue of killed in the line of fire and it's such a stupid division to begin with. Are resistance fighters civilians? Again, it's a stupid division but then it's stupid for anyone to run with a count from the Interior Ministry which can't even release a total of the number of Iraqis imprisoned (including imprisioned in the Interior Ministry's secret prisons).

Excluding foreign forces and foreign contractors, how many people died in Iraq during the month of November thus far?
November 1st through 7th saw at least 51 reported dead and 97 reported injured ("Sunday saw 25 Iraqis reported deaths and 97 injured. Monday saw 4 reported dead and 3 reported wounded. Tuesday saw 3 reported dead and 10 reported injured. Wednesday saw 7 reported dead and 25 reported wounded. Thursday saw 5 person reported dead and 15 reported injured. Friday saw 4 people reported dead and six people reported injured. Saturday saw 3 reported dead and 3 reported injured."). November 8th through 14th saw at least 29 reported dead and at least 44 reported wounded ("Sunday were reported 8 dead and 6 were reported wounded, Monday it was 2 dead and 15 wounded, Tuesday it was 4 dead and 2 wounded, Wednesday found 3 dead and 5 wounded, Thursday it was 6 dead and 10 wounded, Friday there were reported 3 dead and on Saturday the number killed was 3 and the number injured was 6. [Saturday's number may be 4 -- we are going with 3, use links and you'll see why.]"). November 15th through 22nd saw at least 44 reported dead and at least 93 reported injured ("Last Sunday 1 person was reported dead in Iraq and 8 were reported injured, Monday's numbers were 28 dead and 36 wounded, Tuesday's were 4 dead and 14 wounded, Wednesday's numbers were 2 dead and 5 wounded, Thursday's numbers were 4 dead and 6 wounded, Friday's numbers were 2 dead and 10 wounded and Saturday's numbers were 3 dead and 14 wounded."). November 23 through November 28th saw 34 reported dead and 120 reported wounded ("Sunday 11 Iraqis were reported dead and 22 wounded, Monday the numbers were 2 dead and 18 wounded, Tuesday the death total was 3 and the number wounded was 16, Wednesday the death toll was 13 and the injured numbered 38, Thursday were 5 dead and 43 wounded"). Yesterday the press reported 3 dead and 5 injured. That's a total of at least 161 reported dead and at least 359 reported injured. There's very little follow up reporting out of Iraq so those in the injured column who didn't recover, who died? There's no way of knowing.

The laughable
ICCC count is 105 (civilians and non-civilians) killed in Iraq in November (thus far). Is it a count or is it a dabble? According to their 'count,' no one died in Iraq on November 19th, n one died in Iraq November 9th, 10th or 11th. So if you want to be crazy, idiotic or just a liar, feel free to cite the laughable count of ICCC. We don't cite Iraqi Body Count because it is an undercount and it has always given an undercount. Undercounts help sell the illegal war. We note ICCC's death toll for US service members since the start of the Iraq War -- the only thing they do worth citing. That number is 4367. Sunday the US military announced: "BASRA -- A Multi-National Division -- South Soldier died Nov. 29 of non-combat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The month is not yet over and the military often announces monthly deaths a few days into the next month but currently the monthly death toll is 11 making the month of November the deadliest month for US service members in Iraq since June.

Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) offers a lenthy state-of-Iraq piece today which includes this:

After Iraqi army troops and [Kurdish] peshmerga forces nearly came to blows last spring, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of American forces in Iraq, proposed joint patrols by the two armies, under U.S. supervision. The patrols have yet to begin.
Sheikh Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa, the minister of the peshmerga, told McClatchy that the Kurdish regional government has accepted Odierno's plan, but with reservations. However, he ruled out pulling back from the tense front-line region around Mosul.
"We will not withdraw one step, under any pressure, or any threat, or any request," Sheikh Jaafar said in an interview in Irbil, the Kurdish regional government's capital. "Solve the problems, we will withdraw the troops."

There are many sections from Strobel's report worthy of noting; however, we're noting that section because some outlets have falsely reported that those joint-patrols have already started.

Staying in the real world, if you were a kiddie rapist and the murderer of four people and were damn lucky enough to have been sentenced only to life in prison, you might want to consider that a 'win.' But Steven D. Green was never known for smarts and his cheap lawyers were never known for their ethics. Steven D. Green was convicted last
May 7th of the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. The War Crimes took place in Iraq where Green was serving with the US military. Green was the ringleader and part of the plan was to blame the War Crimes on 'insurgents.' By the time the War Crimes were discovered, Green had already been discharged. The War Criminal was sentenced to life in prison only after the civilian jury appeared split on whether or not to sentence him to the death penalty. No reporter has covered this story as much as AP's Brett Barrouquere. Today Barrouquere reports that Green's attorneys filed an appeal today claiming that the 2000 Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act was not appropriate or legal and should be overturned (a claim the defense made in federal court already and a claim that was rejected). His attorneys are claiming that Green would have received more leniancy in military courts and want the conviction tossed out and for Green to be re-tried before a military court -- in other words, his attorneys are attempting to garner the death penalty for Green.

Green and his attorneys seem unaware of the reasons why some of the others involved received lighter sentences than Green did (Green is sentenced to life without parole). The reasons include that all four family members killed were shot dead by Steven D. Green. The reasons include that Green was the ringleader who plotted the entire attack. The reasons include that Green showed no remorse while others begged for the mercy of the court, going so far as to cry in court. Green showed no remorse. It should also be noted that Green and his two-bit attorneys did a lousy job in court. After Green was found guilty, the attorneys attempted to spin it and say that was their strategy. Hey, put that on a business card: "Defense attorneys who will work overtime so that you're found guilty." They claimed that they intended that and were saving their fight for the sentencing. That's an outright lie. They tried many tactics before the first day of the trial and the judge repeatedly shot them down. Pouting and not all that smart to begin with, they went through the motions in court and never regained their balance. So when you put your client in the courtroom and you never challenge the accusastions against him, when you never dispute them, when you never argue he's not guilty, don't be surprised when he gets convicted. Don't be surprised at all.

Green showed no remorse and that's public information now. It's unlikely that a judge will toss out the civilian court's conviction but it could happen. If it does, Green's not likely to face a jury nervous about sentencing him to death. Green is a War Criminal. A military jury (or just a judge if he skips a military jury) will see him as a disgrace to the uniform and someone who brought shame to the US military. They will know that he offered no remorse. Oops.

Let's stop a moment. In May, after being convicted and with the sentence hearing concluding and Abeer's family in the courtroom, Green read a statement (this is the prepared statement e-mailed to the public account of TCI, it varied a bit as Green stumbled through his public reading):

What I am about to say is completely my own. No one told me what to say. No one wrote this for me. Not my lawyers, not the government, not anybody.My feelings of remorse are directed solely towards the victims, and towards the family of the victims, who I do not deny are victims themselves.I am truly sorry for what I did in Iraq and I am sorry for the pain my actions, and the actions of my co-defendants, have caused you and your family. I imagine it is a pain that I cannot fully comprehend or appreciate. I helped to destroy a family and end the lives of four of my fellow human beings, and I wish that I could take it back, but I cannot. And, as inadequate as this apology is, it is all I can give you.I know you wish I was dead, and I do not hold that against you. If I was in your place, I am convinced beyond any doubt that I would feel the same way. And, if I thought it would change anything, or if it would bring these people back to life, I would do everything I could to make them execute me. I also know that you think I am evil, and I understand that as well, and even though I do not think that you want to hear this, I have to tell you that despite the evil that I have done, I am not an evil person. Before I was in the Army, I never thought I would kill anyone, and even after I was in the Army, but before I went to Iraq, I never thought I would intentionally kill a civilian. When I was in Iraq, something happened to me that I can only explain by saying that I lost my mind. At some point while I was in Iraq, I stopped seeing Iraqis as good and bad, as men, women, and children. I started seeing them all as one, and evil, and less than human. When that happened, any natural, learned, or religious morality, that normally would have stopped this, was gone. But I see now that I was wrong, and that Iraqis are human beings, and that despite differences of race, religion, culture, and language, they are still human. And that at their core, they have the same feelings, emotions, and needs as Americans. It was wrong to kill Iraqis, just like it was wrong to kill Americans, just like it is wrong to kill anyone, and I am very sorry. Most of all I am sorry for the deceased, but aside from them, I am the most sorry for the boys whose family are gone. I know what we did left a hole in their lives, and scars on their minds, and that there is no making up for that. I only hope for them that they can somehow, and I don't know how, move forward, and have a good future despite the nightmare in their past that I helped create. They have my apologies and my prayers, as meaningless as they must seem. The Government is not going to execute me, as I am sure you wish they would, but there is really no chance that I will step foot outside of prison for as long as I live. I know that if I live one more year or fifty more years that they will be years that Fahkriya, Kassem, Abeer, and Hadeel won't have not matter where I am. And even though I did not learn their names until long after their deaths, they are never far from my mind. But in the end, whether in one year or fifty, I will die, and when I die I will be in God's hands. In the Kingdom of God where there will be justice, and whatever I deserve, I will get. On the day of judgment, God will repay everyone according to his works, and affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil. I know that I have done evil, and I fear that the wrath of the Lord will come upon me on that day. But, I hope that you and your family at least can find some comfort in God's justice. I see now that war is intrinsically evil, because killing is intrinsically evil. And, I am sorry I ever had anything to do with either. And, I cannot say this enough times, whether or not you can ever forgive me, and I don't see how you could, I am and will always be sorry for what I did.

Oh, what a sweet little War Criminal. Abeer's family didn't buy his little act.
Renee Murphy reported on the events in the court room for WHAS11:

Renee Murphy: I mean, they came face to face with the killer. Once again, the only thing different about this time was that they were able to speak with him and they had an exchange of dialogue and the family is here from Iraq and they got to ask Steven Green all the questions they wanted answered. They looked each other in the eye. Green appeared calm and casual in court. The victims' family, though, outraged, emotional and distraught. Now cameras were not allowed in the courtroom so we can't show video of today's hearing but here's an account of what happened. [Video begins] This is a cousin of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl raped and killed by Steven Green. He and other family members in this SUV were able to confront Green in federal court this morning. Their words were stinging and came from sheer grief. Former Fort Campbell soldier Steven Green was convicted of killing an Iraqi mother, father and their young daughter. He then raped their 14-year-old daughter, shot her in the head and set her body on fire. Today the victim's family was able to give an impact statement at the federal court house the young sons of the victims asked Green why he killed their father. an aunt told the court that "wounds are still eating at our heart" and probably the most compelling statements were from the girls' grandmother who sobbed from the stand and demanded an explanation from Green. Green apologized to the family saying that he did evil things but he is not an evil person. He says that he was drunk the night of the crimes in 2006 and he was following the orders of his commanding officers. In his statement, Green said if it would bring these people back to life I would do everything I could to make them execute me. His statement goes on to say, "Before I went to Iraq, I never thought I would intentionally kill a civilian. When I was in Iraq, something happened to me that I can only explain by saying I lost my mind. I stopped seeing Iraqis as good and bad, as men, women and children. I started seeing them all as one, and evil, and less than human." Green didn't act alone. His codefendants were court-martialed and received lesser sentences. Green will be formally sentenced to life in prison in September. [End of videotape.] The answers that Green gave were not good enough for some of the family members. at one point today, the grandmother of the young girls who were killed left the podium and started walking towards Green as he sat at the defendant's table shouting "Why!" She was forcibly then escorted to the back of the court room by US Marshalls. She then fell to the ground and buried her face in her hands and began to cry again. The family pleaded with the court for the death sentence for Green. but
you can see Green's entire statement to the court on our website and coming up tonight at six o'clock, we're going to hear from Green's attorneys.

His performance wasn't at all convincing and he dropped it when he popped back into court in September. From the
September 4th snapshot:

May 7th Steven D. Green (pictured above) was convicted for his crimes in March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents and the murder of her five-year-old sister while Green was serving in Iraq. Green was found to have killed all four, to have participated in the gang-rape of Abeer and to have been the ringleader of the conspiracy to commit the crimes and the conspiracy to cover them up. May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. Today, Green stood before US District Judge Thomas B. Russell for sentencing. Kim Landers (Australia's ABC) quotes Judge Russell telling Green his actions were "horrifying and inexcusable." Not noted in any of the links in this snapshot (it comes from a friend present in the court), Steven Dale Green has dropped his efforts to appear waif-ish in a coltish Julia Roberts circa the 1990s manner. Green showed up a good twenty pounds heavier than he appeared when on trial, back when the defense emphasized his 'lanky' image by dressing him in oversized clothes. Having been found guilty last spring, there was apparently no concern that he appear frail anymore.

AGI reports, "Green was recognised as the leader of a group of five soldiers who committed the massacre on September 12 2006 at the Mahmudiyah check point in the south of Baghdad. The story inspired the 2007 masterpiece by Brian De Palma 'Redacted'." BBC adds, "Judge Thomas Russell confirmed Green would serve five consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole." Deborah Yetter (Courier-Journal) explains, "Friday's federal court hearing was devoted mostly to discussion of technical issues related to Green's sentencing report, although it did not change Green's sentence. He was convicted in May of raping and murdering Abeer al-Janabi, 14, and murdering her parents, Kassem and Fakhriya, and her sister, Hadeel, 6, at their home outside Baghdad."

Green was tried in civilian court because he had already been discharged before the War Crimes were discovered. Following the gang-rape and murders, US soldiers attempted to set fire to Abeer's body to destroy the evidence and attempted to blame the crimes on "insurgents." In real time, when the bodies were discovered, the New York Times was among the outlets that ran with "insurgents." Green didn't decide he wanted to be in the military on his own. It was only after his most recent arrest -- after a long string of juvenile arrests -- while sitting in jail and fearing what sentence he would face, that Green decided the US Army was just the place he wanted to be. Had he been imprisoned instead or had the US military followed rules and guidelines, Green wouldn't have gotten in on a waiver. Somehow his history was supposed to translate into "He's the victim!!!!" As if he (and the others) didn't know rape was a crime, as if he (and the others) didn't know that murder was considered wrong. Green attempted to climb up on the cross again today.
AP's Brett Barrouguere quotes the 'victim' Green insisting at today's hearing, "You can act like I'm a sociopath. You can act like I'm a sex offender or whatever. If I had not joined the Army, if I had not gone to Iraq, I would not have got caught up in anything." Climb down the cross, drama queen. Your entire life was about leading up to a moment like that. You are a sociopath. You stalked a 14-year-old Iraqi girl while you were stationed at a checkpoint in her neighborhood. You made her uncomfortable and nervous, you stroked her face. She ran to her parents who made arrangements for her to go live with others just to get her away from you, the man the army put there to protect her and the rest of the neighborhood. You are one sick f**k and you deserve what you got. Green play drama queen and insist "you can act like I'm a sex offender" -- he took part in and organized a gang-rape of a 14-year-old girl. That's a sex offender. In fact, "sex offender" is a mild term for what Green is.

His September statements, where he pushed off guilt, rendered his carefully worded May statement a lie. That's public record. Even if the verdict is overturned and he's taken to military court, all that happened is public record and out there. And Green better understand that sympathy for those who cried, showed remorse and established that they were led around by a ringleader (Green) will not be there for him. He got very lucky that a civilian court didn't sentence him to death. A military court will not give him as much benefit of the doubt. They will not buy into his the cheap theatrics of his cheap attorneys. They will not fret that Green was 'forced' into these War Crimes by the military because they will grasp that Green's War Crimes are not common, are not universal and they will most likely decide that a strong, strong example needs to be made of Green. He seems to think that after he's murdered four people and raped a young girl that he deserves to roam the streets in two to five years. He's never accepted the horrifica nature of his crimes, he's never accepted the lives he destroyed and he's never taken accountability for the shame he brought to the US military. Most kiddie rapists who murdered their victim and her family would see life in prison as getting off easy but Green's never taken accountability for his crimes. Now Abeer's family may have to face yet another trial. But that doesn't concern Steve-o, he just knows he's itching to get out of prison. After all, there are lots of young girls in the United States. Who knows who he might be able to rape next? Repeating: No remorse, no guilt. He's never shown either.

Turning to London where the Iraq Inquiry chaired by John Chilcot continued today hearing evidence from David Manning. Over the weekend,
Chris Ames (Guardian) demolished the claims by Jeremy Greenstock to the comittee on Friday that the Iraq was legal. Ames explained Greenstock had submitted a written statement to the committee which explained that if England stated that a resoultion for the Iraq War from the United Nations was necessary, that "would have been to reject the basis under which military action was taken in December 1998." As Ames pointed out, "It was a very careful, self-justifying performance from a former ambassador with an admitted propensity to cover his and his country's diplomatic tracks."

By Sunday, the big news was a 2002 memo leaked to the press over the weekend informing Tony Blair that the Iraq War, as Blair planned to carry it out, would be illegal.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explains, "Invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein would be a serious breach of international law and the UN charter.Lord Goldsmith, then attorney general, issued the warning in an uncompromising letter in July 2002, eight months before the invasion. It was becoming clear in government circles that Blair had had secret meetings with George Bush at which the US president was pressing Britain hard to join him in a war to change the regime in Baghdad." John Bingham and Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London) add, "The existence of the letter, disclosed in a Sunday newspaper, emerged after a week in which the inquiry heard that Tony Blair and George Bush, the former US President, 'signed in blood' a deal to invade Iraq as early as April 2002. [. . .] Tony Blair is due to appear before the inquiry next year when the Goldsmith letter is expected to form a centrepiece of the questioning." Jim Pickard (Financial Times of London) recaps on the July 2002 memo: "Lord Goldsmith, former attorney-general, wrote to the then prime minister on July 29, six days after Mr Blair first told his cabinet about plans for regime change in Iraq." As Bob Roberts (Daily Mirror) notes, "Lord Goldsmith's letter contradicts Mr Blair's repeated statements before, during and after the war on its legality." George Pitcher (Telegraph of London) offers his take on the developments and the impact they may have on the Inquiry: "Lord Goldsmith's letter doesn't just expose the invalidity of the endorsement of the war that Number 10 practically beat out of him. It makes a mockery of the Blairs' long and consistent claims to righteousness. There was Cherie, in her role as Lady Macbeth, oh-so-tastefully exploiting the suicide of weapons inspector Dr David Kelly to promote her sickly book, when she revealed that she whispered in her man's ear at a photo opportunity in Beijing just after he had heard the news of Dr Kelly: 'You're a good man. And God knows your motives were pure.' Then there was Blair himself at his 2007 resignation, just before he went commercial: 'Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right'."
Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger continues to live blog the hearings and noted of today's witness, David Manning, "The secret memo he wrote up after it -- and later revealed by Channel 4 News -- showed the US was already preparing for an invasion despite the ongoing diplomatic wranglings at the UN. It also showed George Bush was even considering painting an American reconnaisance plane in UN colours, flying it over Iraq and goading Saddam Hussain to fire." Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) also continued live blogging and he explains Mannin's memos:
The first was written in March 2002 and the full text is available on the
Downing Street memo website. Manning wrote it after a dinner with Condoleezza Rice, George Bush's national security adviser at the time, and it shows that Blair was declaring his support for regime even before he met Bush at Crawford in April. This is the key quote:
I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. And you would not budge either in your insistence that, if we pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result.
Manning also wrote a memo,
described as the "Manning memo" on Wikipedia, describing the outcome of a meeting that took place between Blair and Bush in the White House on 31 January 2003. The memo shows that Bush was, by then, determined to invade regardless of what happened at the UN and that the two leaders discussed the idea of getting Iraq to shoot down an American spy plane painted in UN colours to create a pretext for war. Philippe Sands, the British law professor who revealed the existence of the memo, said it raised "some fundamental questions of legality, both in terms of domestic law and international law".

Of today's hearing,
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) notes, "Tony Blair made it clear to George Bush at a meeting in Texas 11 months before the Iraq invasion that he would be prepared to join the US in toppling Saddam Hussein, the inquiry into the war was told today." That's the April 2002, Crawford Ranch meet up between Bully Boy Bush and Tony Blair. From Manning's testimony (PDF format warning, click here) today:

The first evening, the President and the Prime Minister dined on their own, and when we had a more formal meeting on Saturday morning, which I think was the 6th, it was in the President's study at the ranch. There were, as I recall -- and I may be wrong about this -- three a side. I think it was the President, his Chief of Staff, Andy Card, and Dr [Condi] Rice and on our side, as I recall, it was the Prime Minister, his Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell, and myself. We convened about half past nine, after breakfast, and began with the President giving a brief account of the discussion that he and the Prime Minister had had on their own the previous evening over dinner. He said that they had discussed Iraq over dinner. He told us that there was no war plan for Iraq, but he had set up a small cell in Central Command in Florida and he had asked Central Command to do some planning and to think through the various options. When they had done that, he would examine these options. The Prime Minister added that he had been saying to the President it was important to go back to the United Nations and to present going back to the United Nations as an opportunity for Saddam to cooperate.

Committee member Usha Prashar asked, "Against that background, when did you conclude that there was a significant likelihood of large-scale military action by the USA?"
Manning replied, "Not until much later." As
David Brown (Times of London) explains, Manning said there were two "packages" the UK was offering. The first would use UK forces "already in the region" and the second would require deploying additional British troops. Apparently, there were no takers or possibly the packages were a limited time offer because in September Blair proposed a third "package" wherein an entire military division would be sent in. Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) provides this context, "Last week Sir Christopher Meyer, former ambassador to Washington, suggested Mr Blair and Mr Bush might have 'signed in blood' an agreement to topple Saddam during that meeting at the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas but Sir David insisted there was 'no war plan' at that stage." Today Manning told the inquiry:

If I go back to what I reported to you as the outcome, as we learned about it on Saturday morning, of his discussions, it seemed to me quite clear that, on the one hand, the Prime Minister was very clearly urging the President to go back to the -- to adopt the UN route and a coalition strategy, but was absolutely prepared to say that, at the same time, he was willing to contemplate regime change if this didn't work. In a way, I look back at Crawford -- and I think this may have come up in an earlier question -- as a moment when he was saying, 'Yes, there is a route through this that is a peaceful and international one, and it is through the UN, but, if it doesn't work, we will be ready to undertake regime change'. This, I think, is the balance he wanted to strike between warning Saddam Hussein that he could disarm peacefully, but, if he didn't, he would be disarmed. I do think that came out of Crawford, yes.

. . . I said to him that I didn't know where American thinking had reached at this point, but if there was going to be some kind of choice for regime

Jonathan Steele (Guardian) observes of today's hearing:

It is easy to second-guess
the Iraq inquiry and, as one watches it unfold live on the internet, to think of all the questions its distinguished members fail to ask. It is also easy to be upset by their manifest unwillingness to use a more forensic style. But today's session of the Chilcot inquiry with Sir David Manning, Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser in the run-up to the war, was truly disappointing.
Manning was more involved than any other British participant, apart from the prime minister. Not only did he spend time with George Bush. He was also at Blair's side at almost every key meeting in the US and London, while also being in charge of the Cabinet Office's overseas and defence secretariat, which was supposed to commission any prewar analysis British officials did.
Yet he was given the safest and most deferential of rides. Two issues cried out for deeper scrutiny. One was the so-called UN route to tightening the pressure on Saddam Hussein and the consequences of the UN route's failure. Manning laid out the case -- which Blair will no doubt repeat when he faces the inquiry next year -- that throughout 2002 and early 2003, the PM pressed hard for Bush to take the international coalition approach through the United Nations, while also emphasising that if it failed, the UK would be at Bush's side in going for war.

Blair and his policies were the topic of today's hearings. These are the same policies Gordon Brown supported in real time and has continued as Prime Minister.
Toby Helm and Rajeev Syal (Guardian) report, "Gordon Brown is facing demands to change the rules of the Iraq inquiry this weekend amid fears that the most explosive documents explaining why Britain went to war will not be made public." James Denselow (Guardian) puts the whole wars of this decade into perspective, "Both the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts highlighted how our foreign policy is driven by decision makers who hide their real intentions behind a bulletproof cloak of ethics and values. The reality was that both wars were interest-driven and largely about maintaining relations with the Americans in a post-9/11 world. The chimera of weapons of mass destruction was designed to 'play the UN system' to secure legitimacy. When this failed, the back-up plan was always the 'Saddam is evil' argument that justified our presence as designed to help the Iraqi people."

iraqmcclatchy newspaperswarren p. strobel
steven d. green
brett barrouquere
the guardianchris ames
channel fourthe financial times of londonjim pickardthe daily mirrorbob roberts
andrew sparrow
the times of londondavid brown
the telegraph of londonjohn binghamjon swainejames denselow
richard norton-taylortoby helmrajeev syal

Friday, November 27, 2009


This is the beginning of Martin Gill's "Thankful for Being a Family One Day at a Time" (ACLU Blog of Rights):

Thanksgiving will always be an extra special day in our family. Just before Thanksgiving last year, a Florida family court judge declared Florida’s gay adoption ban unconstitutional and allowed me to adopt two foster kids that my partner and I have been raising for almost five years now. Even though the state quickly appealed the decision, it didn't dampen our spirits that Thanksgiving one bit. Having the judge say what I already knew in my heart — that we were the best parents for these two boys — gave us hope that justice would ultimately prevail.

While I still have that hope, my confidence was shaken during the oral arguments before the Third District Court of Appeal in August. During the final exchange between one of the Judges and the lawyer for the state, the state made it clear that if the court allows the ban to stand, it would begin making efforts to find new homes for my sons.

Since the state urged us to take the boys into our care in 2004, this was the first time the state made it clear that it would take our kids away from the only real home they’ve ever had.

When people think, "Oh, it's not even an issue to be gay today," they are really not aware of what so many gays and lesbians face.

Yes, things are better than they were; however, things are still a long way from equal.

And that's why it is all the more appalling that Barack Obama was wrongly presented as a friend of the LGBT community and then, when reality was too much to be denied, people still refused to call him out.

As long as those of us on the left treat LGBT rights as something that can wait and is not worthy of being pushed to the foreground, we are as bad as those on the right wing who work to deny LGBT rights.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Friday, November 27, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death, the Iraq inquiry continues in England and covers many topics including Bush's teleprompter mishap, no solution yet for the Iraq's national elections (but possibilities), and more.

Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died, Nov. 27, of non-combat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4366.

Meanwhile, I wasn't aware Thanksgiving was an Iraqi holiday but apparently it is. That would explain all the outlets off today and unable to report especially on any violence. The US military hypes, "Two cultures come together at a table. The hosts, strangers in an exotic land, welcome native guests with a rich history stretching back thousands of years.
This scene, reminiscent of the historic celebration at Plymouth, took place here on Forward Operating Base Falcon, Nov. 26, as dozens of Iraqi tribal, civil and military leaders and their families were guests of the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team for Thanksgiving dinner." Reminscent of the historic celebration at Plymouth? Did they really just say that? And then they want to act shocked when accused of attempting to colonize Iraq. Also suprisingly unhelpful is US Maj Marty Reigher who declares, "Iraqi culture is built on trust and a man's word." It's disgusting how the US military continues to do their part and then some to make life more difficult for Iraqi women. Not only was an American officer stupid enough to say it, someone was stupid enough to include it in a write up.

But at least the one writing up the hype worked today. More than you can say for those who should be reporting on violence. (No, there's no chance in hell that there was no violence in Iraq today.) Yesterday AFP reported that a Mosul "church and a convent were struck by bombings" -- the Church of St. Ephrem and St. Theresa Convent of Dominican Nuns -- and quoted Father Yousif Thomas Mirkis stating, "These attacks are aimed at forcing Christians to leave the contry."

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left ten people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a second Baghdad sticky bombing left one person injured, a third Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left three people injured, 2 Babil market bombings which claimed 2 lives and left twenty-eight people injured.

Turning to the issue of Iraq's 'intended' January elections and Iraq as Groundhog Day. It's apparently November 8th or a few days prior all over again. Anthony Shadid and Nada Bakri (Washington Post) reported Thursday that a proposal has emerged which may or may not have backing in the Parliament and which may or may not pit Sunni against Kurd and, "Even with the agreement, which must now be approved by the Iraqi electoral commission, election officials said it would be almost impossible to hold the election in January as originally planned. Mid- to late February was more likely, since a major Shiite Muslim holiday will not end until Feb. 10." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explains, "A compromise, however, did not appear likely to be reached before next week, as Iraqis began to celebrate the Islamic holiday Id al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, which lasts until Tuesday. One of Iraq's two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi, released several statements suggesting that he was open to a compromise. At the same time, he threatened to veto a new election law, as he did last week, raising the specter of a political and constitutional crisis." Shadid and Barki reported this afternoon that while Tariq al-Hashimi has called the proposal "good news" he has also stated, "It's still early to talk about ratifying the law, because we are awaiting the electoral commission's interpretation of the agreement." In addition, the reporters explain the Kurds have yet to indicate where they stand on the proposal. Liz Sly and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report that even though the country's "constitution stipulates that the poll must be held by January," it does not appear to be likely that January elections will be held "so a delay will require some constitutional tinkering, which could set a dangerous precedent." AFP quotes Speaker Iyad al-Samarrai stating, "The (election) commission announced it would be held on January 16th, this is not possible anymore because there is no law. I believe that the election will be held in March."

In England, the Iraq Inquiry continues. Those needing audio can't turn to Pacifica Radio because, despite all those "Thanksgiving is abomination!" 'reports' they inflict on listeners, the holiday rolls around and everyone needs off for Thursday and Friday so programs such as Free Speech Radio News and Democracy Now! offer canned 'news' programming. Not unlike KPFA's infamous New Year's Eve Special on December 31, 2006 that was, in fact, not live despite being presented on air as live. For audio on the hearing, the Guardian's podcast this week features Anne Perkins and Polly Toynbee discussing the inquiry. Thursday the inquiry heard from Christopher Meyer on the topic of Transatlantic Relationship and Jeremy Greenstock offered testimony today on the topic of Developments in the United Nations [links go to video and transcript options for the testimony of each witness]. Chris Ames (Guardian) observes of Meyer's testimony:

At the Iraq inquiry this morning, Sir Christopher Meyer has let so many cats out of the bag that it is hard to keep up with them all. He has confirmed that by the time Tony Blair met George Bush at Crawford, Texas in April 2002, Blair had already agreed to regime change. Meyer and others had told the US administration about this change of heart in March 2002. The "UN route" was a way to justify the war but the inspectors were never given the chance to do their job.
Or did we know all that already? Ever since the war, there has been a massive gulf between what various leaked documents have shown and the official version. Previous inquiries have failed to close that gap. Now Meyer, who was the UK ambassador to Washington at the time, has done exactly that.
The government's version of events was always that it was taking action to deal with the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Leaked documents, most notably the
Downing Street documents, show that the policy was to go along with the US desire for regime change and use weapons of mass destruction as a pretext. This version of events was confirmed by what Meyer said this morning. I don't think it could be more explosive.

We'll pick up where Meyer is discussing the 2002 meet-up between Bush and Blair.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: That brings me to my last question before I hand over to Sir Roderic Lyne, and it brings me to Crawford in April 2002. What I would like to ask you is this: to what extent did American and British policy towards Iraq merge in April 2002 along the lines that you suggested during that weekend at the Crawford ranch, in particular Bush's commitment at that time, as he put it, to put Saddam on the spot by following the UN inspectors' route and also by constructing and international coalition, which was the Prime Minister's strong input? How do you feel about the convergance of policy at that time?

Christopher Meyer: It took a while for policy to converge -- sorry, if we are talking about Americans, the President accepting, for realpolitik reasons, it would be better to go through the United Nations than not, which was a repudiation of where his Vice-President stood. It took a while to get there, probably until August of that year. I said in my briefing telegram to Tony Blair, before Crawford, a copy of which, again, I couldn't get hold of in the archive -- and by that time there had been a couple of months, maybe more, maybe three months, in which contingency discussion of, "If it came to war in Iraq, how would you do it?" It was all very -- it was all vey embryonic. Of course, while regime change was the formal policy of the United States of America, it didn't necessarily mean an armed invasion, at that time, of Iraq and it may sound like a difference without a distinction or a distinction without a difference, but it wasn't, not at that time, and so I said -- I think as I remember I said to Tony Blair, "There are three things you really need to focus on when you get to Crawford. One is how to garner international support for a policy of regime change, if that is what it turns out to be. If it involves removing Saddam Hussein, how do you do it and when do you do it?" And the last thing I said, which became a kind of theme of virtually all the reporting I sent back to London in that year was, "Above all" -- I think I used the phrase "above all" -- "get them to focus on the aftermath, because, if it comes to war and Saddam Hussein is removed, and then . . .?" The other thing at that time, Sir Martin, which people tend to forget is actually what was blazing hot at the time and a far more immediate problem -- and it wasn't Iraq, it was the Middle East, because the Intifada had blown up, hideous things were going on in the West Bank, the Israeli army were in the West Bank and we had prevailed on the Americans, as one example of British influence working that year, to put out a really tough statement before Tony Blair arrived in Crawford telling the Israelis in summary that they needed to withdraw from the West Bank towns and withdraw soon. Now, let me be quite frank about this. Crawford was a meeting at the President's ranch. I took no part in any of the discussions, and there was a large chunk of that time when no adviser was there, I think -- I don't know whether David Manning has been before you yet, but when he coomes before you, he will tell you, I think, that he went there with Jonathan Powell for a discussion of Arab/Israel and the Intifada. I think it was at that meeting that there was a kind of joint decision between Bush and Blair that Colin Powell should go to the region and get it sorted. I believe that, after that, the two men were alone in the ranch until dinner on Saturday night were all the advisers, including myself, turned up. So I'm not entirely clear to this day -- I know what the Cabinet Office says were the results of the meeting, but, to this day, I'm not entirely clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood, at the Crawford ranch. There are clues in the speech which Tony Blair gave the next day at College Station, which is one of his best foreign policy speeches, a very fine piece of work.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: How do you assess the balance in that speech between, as it were, potential pre-emption and the UN rule in Iraq?

Christopher Meyer: There were lots of interesting things in those speeches. It sort of repays a kind of criminological analysis. To the best of my knowledge, but I may be wrong, this was the first time that Tony Blair has said in public "regime change". I mean, he didn't only deal with Iraq, he mentioned other issues as well. But he -- I think what he was trying to do was draw the lessons of 9/11 and apply them to the situation in Iraq, which led, I think, not inadvertently, but deliberately, to a conflation of the threat by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. It also drew in spirit on the 1999 Chicago speech on humanitarian intervention.

In one of the more interesting bits of the testimony, he recounted when the Bully of England met the Bully of the US with George W. Bush saying, "Hello, Tony. May I cally ou Tony? Welcome to Camp David," and Tony Blair responding, "Hello, George. May I call you George? Great to be here. What are we going to talk about?" Oh, there's nothing more heart warming than two dithering idiots bonding. He went on to declare that "I remember Condoleeza Rice saying to me, 'The President has just got back and he said the only human being he felt he could talk to was Tony, the rest of them were like creatures from outer space'. or some such phrase."

Moving on to today, John Chilcot is the Chair of the inquiry and he explained this morning, "The objective of this session is to help us build a picture of developments at the United Natins on policy towards Iraq in 2001 to the beginning of the military action in March 2003." Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) reports of Greenstock's testimony:

Sir Jeremy told the inquiry panel: "I regarded our invasion of Iraq as legal but of questionable legitimacy, in that it didn't have the democratically observable backing of the great majority of member states or even, perhaps, of a majority of people inside the UK.
"So there was a failure to establish legitimacy, although I think we successfully established legality in the Security Council for our actions in March 2003 in that we were never challenged in the Secuity Council or in the International Court of Justice for these actions."
Sir Jeremy regarded it as essential for the UN to pass a resolution in 2002 establishing the case for war, and threatened to resign if no resolution was passed.

Alex Barker (Financial Times of London) adds, "Addressing the issue of whether weapons inspectors should have been given more time, Sir Jeremy told the inquiry: 'It seemed to me that the option of invading Iraq in, say, October 2003 deserved much greater consideration. But the momentum for earlier action in the United States was much too strong for us to counter'." Though some may cheer that statement, they shouldn't. In the construct of the response, he argues for war, just wanting it to wait until "say, October 2003." No where does he allow that the inspectors being allowed to complete their jobs could argue that there was no case for war. James Meikle (Guardian) reports, "Earlier, Greenstock told the inquiry that he had threatened to resign if the UN security council failed to pass a resolution on Iraq in the lead-up to the invasion." In other words, empty threats are part of the weakingly's make up. And to be clear, Greenstock claims that he was satisfied by the November 2002 resolution (1441) which really just allowed the weapons inspectors back into Iraq. It did not authorize a war. Greenstock failed to make clear why something as serious as starting a war didn't require a resolution or why he himself didn't feel that was grounds for resigning -- and, no, he can't (as he tries to do) push that off on Bush. Bully Boy Bush is a War Criminal, no question. He had no authority over Greenstock and none over Tony Blair. Greenstock needs to take some accountability for his own actions and stop trying to hide behind Bush.

We'll drop in on the issue of 1441 for an interesting factoid.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: But was it your view throughout the negotiations of 1441 on whether or not a second resolution would be needed?

Jeremy Greenstock: There are two different sorts of second resolution and this my explain why President Bush used the plural when he was ad libbing, when his teleprompter gave him the penultimate American text and not the text he had agreed to, by a mistake of his staff. He ad libbed the words, "And we shall come to the UN for the necessary resolutions" from his memory. It wasn't that the telepromprter broke down, he saw that it was the wrong text on the teleprompter, as I understood the story. There was, as part of the lead-up to the negotiation of 1441, the idea that there should be a pair of resolutions, not a single one in 1441 that should have the inspectors' conditions in one part and in the second resolution the consequences for Iraq on what would happen if they didn't comply with the the first one. There was the possibility of passing those resolutions either together and simultaneously or sequentially in time. As it happened, in 1441 we built those two elements into a single text and it was successfully negotiated and passed unanimously on 8 November as a single text.

Andrew Grice (Independent of London) adds, "He said the 'whole saga', in terms of UK policy, was driven by the belief that Iraq had WMD and any talk from the United States of other motivations for war, such as regime change, were 'unhelpful'. UK policy was solely focused on disarming Iraq, he insisted. The failure to secure another UN resolution had been damaging in terms of public perceptions of the reasons for going to war." Really? That's what Greenstock's going to go with? That England "was driven by the belief that Iraq had WMD"? In the US, Bush used many lies to push for war on Iraq and the most infamous one might be that 'Saddam Hussein attempted to aquire yellow cake uranium from Africa'. In England, Blair was fond of the fanciful boast that Iraq had the capability to attack England with WMD within 45 minutes. David Brown and Francis Elliott (Times of London) highlighted this important aspect of Wednesday's testimony, "Intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have access to weapons of mass destruction was received by the Government ten days before Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, the inquiry into the war was told yesterday." Meanwhile Channel 4 continues to offer their live blog by Iraq Inquiry Blogger whose observations today included:

A final thought: while Meyer's book (you just may have picked up yesterday that he'd written a book) became a best-seller, Greenstock's The Costs of War never even made it to the bookshops.
It was blocked by the FCO and Number 10, apparently because he'd quoted confidential diplomatic exchanges.

Thursday the Liberal Democrat Party issued a press release noting their leaders questioning of the current prime minister of England, Gordon Brown, on the issue of the Iraq Inquiry:

Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats yesterday challenged the Prime Minister on the government's ' culture of secrecy' with regards to the Iraq Inquiry.

The full text of nick's questions:

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I would obviously like to add my own expressions of sympathy and condolence to the family and friends of Sergeant Robert Loughran-Dickson of the Royal Military Police, who tragically died serving in Afghanistan last week. I also add my tribute to PC Bill Barker, who lost his life in the line of duty dealing with the terrible floods in Cumbria. Our hearts go out to his wife and four children. At such times we all remember that it is the brave men and women of our emergency services who keep us safe when it really counts. We thank them for it.

It is vital that the Iraq inquiry, which started its work this week, is able to reveal the full truth about the decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Will the Prime Minister therefore confirm that when Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues come to publish their final report, they will able to publish all information available to them, with the sole exception of information essential to national security?

The Prime Minister: I have set out a remit and brought it to the House of Commons. Sir John Chilcot has been given the freedom to conduct his inquiry as he wants. He has chosen to invite people to give evidence, and he will choose how to bring his final report to the public. That is a matter for the inquiry.

Mr. Clegg: As I think the Prime Minister must know, the matter is not just for the inquiry, because his Government have just issued a protocol-I have it here-to members of the inquiry, governing the publication of material in the final report. If he reads it, he will see that it includes nine separate reasons why information can be suppressed, most of which have nothing to do with national security. Outrageously, it gives Whitehall Departments individual rights of veto over the information in the final report. Why did the Prime Minister not tell us about that before? How on earth will we, and the whole country, hear the full truth of the decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq if the inquiry is suffocated on day one by his Government's shameful culture of secrecy?

The Prime Minister: That is not what Sir John Chilcot has said. The issues affecting the inquiry that would cause people to be careful are national security and international relations. As I understand it, those are the issues referred to in the protocol. I believe that Sir John Chilcot and his team are happy with how they are being asked to conduct the inquiry.

Wednesday Cedric's "Little girls love to play dress-up" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HE REALLY IS BUSH'S TWIN!" emphasized that Barack plans to use West Point as a studio set to show boat on with his Afghanistan War announcement while other community sites explored the topic of Black Friday: Betty's "Yes," Mike's "To shop or not and the Iraq Inquiry," Rebecca's "the sport of the shop," Stan's "No to Black Friday," Elaine's "Comfort zone," Ruth's "Pre-shopping questions," Marcia's "To shop or not?," Trina's "Shopping kit and more ," Ann's "No to shopping (except for kids)" and Kat's "No on the shopping proposition." And yesterday Mike offered "Thanksgiving."

anthony shadid
the washington post
nada bakri
the new york times
steven lee myers
the los angeles times
liz sly
raheem salman
anne perkins
polly toynbee
the guardian
the times of london
david brown

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pre-shopping questions

Friday is Black Friday. That is when stores offer the kind of discounts they claim they cannot offer during the other times of the year. Which means what? They overcharge us every other day of the year?

Some stores are offering Friday and Saturday sales.

There is a joke that Jews (I am Jewish) do not ever pay retail. We always, the joke goes, get things wholesale.

That is true of some of us. But it is also true that there are other discounts these days. I mean store discount, I mean store discount for employees. So if you have someone in your family who works at a store, before you think about partaking in Black Friday, see if someone in the family or friend circle works at, for example, Old Navy. (I have the TV on right now and an Old Navy ad is on. Their doors open at three a.m.)

You can ask tomorrow around the table to see if anyone has store discount.

If not, you may want to pursue those sales on Friday.

I do not do the after Thanksgiving shopping spree myself. I will take my grandchildren if any of them want to go shopping but, like the joke, I am one of the people who rarely plays retail. I do not haggle over the prices but I usually know someone who can get me the retail price or knows someone who can. I notice that is not the case with my grandkids unless they are using the store discounts of friends.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snaphsot:"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry continues in England, the Liberal Democrats call out Gordon Brown's attempts to short-circuit the inquiry, another inquiry waits in the wings -- one into British forces possible abuse and murder of Iraqis, and more.

Today in London, the Iraq Inquiry continued its public hearings.
Janet Stobart (Los Angeles Times) explains, "The six-member panel is looking into the decision of former Prime Minister Tony Blair's government to join the U.S.-led war that brought down the Iraqi dictator in 2003. It will interview policymakers, secret service chiefs, military commanders and relatives of soldiers who died in the war. Blair is scheduled to appear in January. " The day's focus was WMDs. John Chilcot heads the Inquiry.

Chair John Chilcot: Good morning. Our objective today is to look at the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This will take us from the time of the first Gulf War and the inspections that followed it right up to the final report of the Iraq Survey Group, the organisation with responsibility for providing an account of Saddam's weapons' programmes after the Iraq conflict. Several reports have already been published on issues relating to weapons of mass destruction. We do not propose in this session to go in detail into areas which have already been examined closely before by other investigations, but what we do hope to do is to elict communities' concern about Saddam's weapons, the development of the government's policy on this issue, the threat that the government believed that Iraq's weapons posed, and what was found after the conflict. I would like to recall that the Inquiry has access to literally thousands of government papers, including the most highly classified for the period we are considering and we are developing a picture of the policy debates and the decision-making process.

Unless attributed to a news outlet, all quotes from today's hearings are from the [PDF format warning]
rush transcript provided by the Inquiry (which they note may change) or from the videos of the hearing provided by the Inquiry. Emma Alberici (Australia's ABC and link has text and audio) summarizes, "The Chilcot inquiry has now heard two days of evidence from the most senior Foreign Office officials who received and analysed intelligence on Iraq for two years before the war and in the year after the invasion. It has emerged that Britain's Foreign Office also told former prime minister Tony Blair that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction had been dismantled, 10 days before Britain invaded Iraq." Tim Dowse and William Ehrman were today's witnesses. Channel 4's Iraqi Inquiry Blogger observes, "One thing I'll remember about today's hearing was watching two career diplomats relive the moments that must surely be the absolute nadir of their professional lives. I'm talking about the weeks and months following the Iraq War when the weapons their department had so confidently assessed would be found failed to turn up." And it is apparently difficult for some liars to ever get honest. From today's hearing:

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: So in terms of your concerns over this period, you mentioned Iran, you mentioned North Korea, you mentioned Libya, you mentioned Pakistan, at least through AQ Khan, and you mentioned Iraq, but in terms of rank ordering again, where would Iraq come on that list, in terms of the most threatening in proliferation terms?

Tim Dowse: It wasn't top of the list. I think in terms of -- my concerns on coming into the job in 2001, I would say, we would have put Libya and Iran ahead of Iraq.

William Ehrman: I would like to add to that. In terms of nuclear and missiles, I think Iran, North Korea and Libya were probably of greater concern than Iraq. In terms of chemical and biological, particularly through the spring and summer of 2002, we were getting intelligence, much of which was subsequently withdrawan as invalid, but at the time it was seen as valid, that gave us cause for concern, but I think there is one other thing that you need to recall about Iraq, which was different in a sense from some of the other countries. First of all, they were in breach of a great many Security Council Resolutions. Secondly, as Tim Dowse has mentioned, Iraq had used chemical weapons bother internally against its own people and externally against Iran. Thirdly, it had started a war against Iran and it had invaded Kuwait and it had also fired missiles to Iran, Kuwait, Israel and Saudi Arabia. So in that sense in terms of use and in terms of -- ignoring a great many Security Council Resolutions, Iraq was unique.

Was Iraq the big threat in 2001 or 2002? No. Dowse says other countries ranked ahead of it. Ehrman can't have that and it's time for him to lie and confuse the issue. He does that by bringing a number of areas which, pay attention, were offered as reasons . . . for . . . the . . . FIRST GULF WAR. It is equivalent to the US and England declaring World War II based on the 1914 assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

Ehrman also appears to have been snoozing (or hoping everyone else was) only minutes prior when Dowse had addressed the issue of missiles and noted that they "are not weapons of mass destruction in themselves". Now let's go to do Dowse addressing what they saw as real concerns prior to the start of the Iraq War (March, 2003).

Tim Dowse: Could I maybe illustrate that with regard to some of the countries concerned? Take Libya as one example. Between 1998 and 2003, the assessments that were being carried out painted a picture of steady progress on Libya's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. It had been identified by 2003 as a prime customer of AQ Khan network. We were also concerned about activity in the chemical weapons field and about work at research sites on dual-use potential to support biological weapons-related work. With Iran, Iran had used ballistic missiles in the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s. It had aquired Scud B missiles from Syira and from North Korea and after -- it also produced Scud C sllightly longer-range missiles. After the war, North Korea sold to Iran production technology for Scud B and Scud C and in the mid-1990s, it brought a few examples of North Korean No-Dong 1 missiles. These were long-range and, from that, it devloped its own missile, the Shahab 3, of 1300 kilometres. Iran's nuclear fuel activities had developed steadily over more than two decades by 2001 to 2003. It had announced, or the IAEA had reported, a large Iranian conversion facility at Isfahan; a large facility for gas centrifuge fuel enrichment; it had indigenous facilities to manufacture centrifuge components; it had obtained P2 centrifuges; it had got technical drawings, whose origin the IAEA had concluded was AQ Khan. So we were considerably worried about the development in Iran. As for North Korea --

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: I think you have made your point that there are a vareity of different stages and the example you have given us from Iran is quite interesting perhaps as a comparative with what was thought to be the case with Iraq. Can we move on to Iraq itself? You have mentioned all the things before that Iraq was known to have done, but these were all prior to 1991 in terms of attacking its neighbours and actually using these weapons. So, since 1991, do you believe that it had been effectively contained?

Tim Dowse: I would say we regarded the effect of the -- certainly with WMD, the weapons inspectors, UNSCOM's activities, the IAEA's activities through the 1990s, until 1998, as effectively disarming Iraq. There were quite a large number of unaswered questions, things that we were unsure about.

While Dowse appeared to be making some effort towards answering questions, William Ehrman could not stop spinning. There was no evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda but Ehrman could not let go of that lie and repeated it throughout his testimony. One example, "But there was also the fact that he was supporting terrorist groups, Palestinian terrorist groups, and although we never found any evidence linking him closely to AQ Khan and we did not -- sorry, to Al-Qaeda, and we did not belive that he was behing, in any way, the 9/11 bombings, he had given support to Palestinian terrorist groups and also to a group called the MEK, which was a terrorist group directed against Iran." There is no linke, NON, to al Qaeda but Ehrman repeatedly worked it in and then would walk it back as though it was an accident. He seemed to feel he was Mr. Subliminal and the Inquiry should have told him to stop making the linkage. As for the MEK, the Inquiry should have asked Ehrman which country he thought he was working for in the lead up to the Iraq War? Did England classify the MEK as a terrorist organization in 2002? Then why is Ehrman blathering on about them?

While Ehrman repeatedly (and falsely) attempted to link Iraq to al Qaeda (and then rush back a qualifier), there was no link.
CBC's report makes that clear and notes that Dowse testified there was no link and that, "After 9/11 we concluded that Iraq actually stepped further back. They did not want to be associated with al-Qaeda. They weren't natural allies."

For perspective, in the US, George W. Bush started the illegal war and he's a Republican (Democratic Barack Obama continues it). In Australia, then-Prime Minister John Howard started the Iraq War and he is a member of his country's Liberal Party. He was replaced by Kevin Rudd of the Labor Party who has ended Australia's miltiary presence in Iraq with "
the last 12 Australian soldiers" still in Iraq departing at the end of July. Of the three major countries pushing for the illegal war, only England has seen the original pimp replaced with a member of the same party. Tony Blair was replaced as prime minister by Gordon Brown and both men are members of the Labour Party. Not only are Blair and Brown members of the same party and also of the New Labour segment of the party, they have a relationship which goes back decades and Blair's ascendancy to the top of his party took place with the promise that Brown would be his successor. Brown supported Blair on every major policy decision including the Iraq War. Bully Boy Bush lied about 'programs' and 'yellow cake' and pretty much everything including, most likely, his own choking (allegedly on a pretzel). In England, the lie was that Iraq had the capabilities to launch a WMD attack on England in less than one hour. Rob Welham (Xinhua) observes, "The intelligence about Iraq's military capability, set out in the so-called "dodgy dossier", proved to be wrong, and the decision to go to war became one of the most controversial foreign policy decisions in living memory." Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) addresses that false claim in his report:

Asked about suggestions that the Blair government's 45-minute deployment claim had referred to weapons of mass destruction usable by Iraq to strike another nation, Dowse said: "I don't think we ever said that it was for use in a ballistic missile in that way." The inquiry panel member Sir Lawrence Freedman pointed out: "But you didn't say it wasn't."

Liberal Democrat Party MP and chief of staff Edward Davey issued the following statement today: "It is becoming ever more clear that the case for war was nothing more than sophistry and deception. The threat that Saddam could deploy WMD within 45 minutes was fundamental to the Government's arugment that Iraq presented an imminent danger. Yet this new evidence shows that the intelligence was, if anything, pointing towards Iraq becoming less of a threat. A leader of courage and conviction would have used such evidence to halt the drumbeat for war, but Blair just turned a blind eye to intelligence that contradicted his case. This evidence proves what has long been suspected, that intelligence was cherry-picked or dismissed to support the case the Government wanted to make. It is becoming ever more clear that the case for war was nothing more than sophistry and deception flying in the face of the latest and best intelligence." David Brown (Times of London) emphasizes, "Intelligence information that Saddam Hussein had dismantled his weapons of mass destruction programme was received by the Foreign Office days before Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, an inquiry into the war heard today." Ben Macintyre (Times of London) revisits MP Robin Cook's decision to leave Blair's cabinet in 2003 and his calling out the rush to illegal war:

With delicate ferocity, he presented the case against war: "Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction ... Neither the international community nor the British people is persuaded there is an urgent and compelling reason for this action in Iraq."
He warned that a dangerous sense of Muslim injustice was building, that Britain was being dragged into conflict by a far more powerful ally, and that the deep misgivings of voters were being ignored: "The prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain."
Above all, Cook insisted that Britain must not be taken to war without a vote in Parliament. "From the start of this present crisis, I have insisted on the right of this place to vote on whether Britain should go to war," he said in his resignation statement. Two days later, the government motion supporting the use of British forces in Iraq passed by 412 to 149.
To listen to politicians speak today, one might imagine that the consensus in 2003 was opposed to war, and Blair and his inner circle the sole drum-beaters. Parliament backed the war. The majority of MPs voted for it. The Cabinet supported it and remained in their jobs with the exception of Cook and, eventually, Clare Short. The media were broadly supportive of military action.

Tony Blair continued to make the claim that Iraq could launch an attack on England in less than an hour. A false claim.
Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) reports on that aspect and notes Ehrman testifying, ""On March 10 we got a report saying that the chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and that Saddam hadn't yet ordered their re-assembly and he might lack warheads capable of effective dispersal of agents." Mark Stone (Sky News) offers this observation of today's hearing:

One thing bugged me though. The Inquiry committee appeared not to follow up some points with obvious questions. An example. One of the panel, Sir Roderic Lyle, referring to a statement Blair made in 2003, asked the following pertinent question:
"Would you regard the Prime Minister's statement in December 2003 that 'the Iraq Study Group [tasked with finding WMD after the invasion] has already found massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories' as corresponding to advice you were giving to ministers?"
The response from Tim Dowse was, somewhat sheepishly: "I did not advise him to use those words."
But then... nothing from the panel! They did not ask whether the advisors told the PM to back off from words which appeared clearly to be out of kilter with the advice they were giving him.
None of what was said today will make Mr Blair feel very comfortable as he prepares for his appearance. We have to wait until January for that though.

Channel 4's Iraqi Inquiry Blogger notes these reactions:

Simon Carr in the Independent wasted no time; "The Chilcot Inquiry looks set to be boring, miasmic and faintly dishonest.
"This is a panel that the toadiest of Blair toadies would have chosen. Why Brown agreed to it is a mystery."
The Daily Mail was scarcely more optimistic for the Inquiry's prospects,
John Kampfner writing that as the Inquiry began "one conclusion could be drawn before a single person had said a single word: Tony Blair will get away with it. Again."

On only the second day of the public hearing,
Nico Hines and David Brown (Times of London) reported the accusations that England's current prime minister, Gordon Brown, was attempting to derail the inquiry, "When the Prime Minister announced the inquiry, he claimed that national security would be the only legitimate barrier to full disclosure in Sir John Chilcot's report into the Iraq war. A set of protocols published on the Cabinet Office website, however, indicates that a tranche of additional restrictions have been imposed. The guidelines issued to Sir John and his team set out nine extra restrictions, including commercial and economic interests, that would allow a government agency or department to remove a section from the report." BBC News (link has text and video) reports the Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg has stated, "This protocol includes nine seperate reasons why information can be suppressed" and acts as "rights of veto" to keep, at best, embarrassing moments from the public: "How on earth are we, and is the whole country, going to hear about the full truth of the decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq if the inquiry is being suffocated on day one by his government's shameful culture of secrecy?" Sian Ruddick (Great Britian's Socialist Worker) declares, "Only by declaring Tony Blair guilty of war crimes will it help to bring justice for those millions of Iraqis who have paid with their lives for a bloody, pointless war."

In other Iraq news out of England,
BBC reports that former-Justice Thayne Forbes has been appointed to head the investigation into the inquiry into whether British forces killed 20 Iraqis and abused nine others in 2004 and the BBC's Caroline Hawley explains, "
An internal army document says a Red Cross doctor believed that facial injuries to the Iraqis suggested 'that when the injuries were received the person had either been held down or defenceless.' It is because the MoD failed to produce these documents when required by the High Court that the government has had to agree to this inquiry."
CNN adds, "The release of a photo published in British media and obtained by CNN about the incident shows an armed soldier standing near four people face down on the ground with their hands bound behind their backs and their faces covered. Attorneys for the men say they were beaten and evidence shows a breach of the Geneva Conventions prohibiting humiliating and degrading treatment of prisoners. But, the defence ministry disputes that." Simon Basketter (Great Britian's Socialist Worker) reports, "Evidence of torture includes close-range bullet wounds, the removal of eyes and stab wounds. The death certificates described how the Iraqis died: 'Several gunshot wounds to body -- severance of sexual organs.' 'Gunshot to head.' 'Gunshot in face, pulling out of the eye, breaking the jaw, gunshot to the chest'."

Today in Iraq,
Michael Christie and Mark Trevelyan (Reuters) report an assault in Tarmiya in which 6 family members were murdered by males "wearing [Iraqi] army uniforms . . . The women had their throats cut while the men were shot in the head". Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds that three females had thie throats slit -- two adults and one "13-year-old girl" and that "It is not known in either case whether the attackers were soldiers or were masquerading as Iraqi service members." Lin Zhi (Xinhua) adds, "The attacker left alive a woman and her child, who were relatives of the victims visiting the family when the attack occurred, the source said." Marc Santora (New York Times) observes this is the second such attack in recent days and notes, "One theory about the motivation for the attacks is that militants are posing as members of the Army in order to foment distrust among Sunnis, turning them against government troops and thereby making it easier to establish safe havens. However, the government has provided no evidence to this effect and the theory is based on little more than speculation voiced by local security officials, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity."

In other reported violence . . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded one person, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four people, a Nineveh Province roadside bombing which injured two Iraqi soldiers and one person, a Baquba roadside bombing which left three police officers injured, a Kirkuk sticky bombing which injured one police officer and a Karbala roadsdie bombing and motorcylce bombing -- one after the other -- which claimed the lives of 13 people and left twenty-six more injured.

Turning to the US, like Bush, Barack loves land mines. Cedric's "
Princess Di died for his sins" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HE'S A MORON!" covered that last night. In addition, other community sites did theme posts on TV shows you can't stand last night, Betty's "Somerby and the awful 7th Heaven," Mike's "Mammograms, V," Rebecca's "hawaii oh-no," Stan's "The awful Democracy Now!," "TV show you loathe" (Law & Order franchise), Ruth's "Perfect Strangers," Marcia's "The Office," Trina's "Worst TV show" (Andy Griffith Show), Ann's "Download Carly's new album for just $5.00" (The Jamie Foxx Show) and Kat's "24 -- ugh."

iraqsky newschannel fourthe telegraph of londongordon raynerruth barnettthe times of londondavid brownnico hinesbbc newsthe guardianrichard norton-taylor
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
the los angeles times
jomana karadsheh
the new york timesmarc santora
the socialist worker