Friday, January 29, 2010


It is already morning in Australia, well into the morning. I know that because community member Olive e-mailed a link to AM -- a program by Australia's ABC (link has audio and text):

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended his decision to take Britain to war in Iraq at an inquiry in London.He told the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq War that given the same set of circumstances, he'd do it all again.Our Europe correspondent Philip Williams was at the inquiry.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: This was not a contrite, embarrassed or even slightly chastened Tony Blair, but the confident slick lawyer politician that was not here to say sorry.He was here to defend to the end his decision to back George Bush all the way to Baghdad at a meeting with the US president in 2002.

Did you watch? I streamed some of it online and I just could not believe how rude Mr. Blair came off. He interrupted Committee Members, he was very aggressive with his gestures, and, when asked a question, he would usually not answer it but talk about something else.

Watching, I had to wonder, "How did he ever end up the leader of any country?"

And, excuse me, no Man-Tan. He showed up wearing a fake bronzer to try to look 'pretty.' I have not been so shocked since Amy Goodman interviewed Robert Redford with his 'blonde' locks. He's 73-years-old. Who does he think he is fooling?

His hair was a mess and made me think it was not his hair regardless of the color.

He was born in 1936. Why does he have the need to still be blonde?

He is a much better actor than Paul Newman was and, unlike Mr. Newman, he has made some very important films. But, to Mr. Newman's credit, he let his go gray. At 73, you would think Mr. Redford would as well. This is as ridiculous as Ronald Reagan and his dyed hair when he was in the White House.

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

Friday, January 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Tony Blair -- a liar -- offers testimony on Iraq, protesters turn out calling for Blair to be tried for War Crimes, a gaggle of idiots appear on The Diane Rehm Show, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "A United States Division-South Soldier died Jan. 28 of noncombat 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 [. . .] 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 to 4375 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. ICCC hasd't updated to 4375 this morning and still haven't now (it is AP's count). While you ponder that, wonder why a site called "Iraq Coalition Casualty Count" has never once included the Iraq Inquiry (ongoing with public hearings since November) in their linked to headlines. Seems like if Iraq's your focus and you're providing links, you should be providing links to the BBC, the Guardian, the Times of London, etc. And now to the Inquiry.

Today the one-time prime minister who may have forever tained the Labour Party, the full-time War Criminal who should be behind bars, the forever poodle who spents years sniffing Bush's ass Tony Blair provided testimony to the
Iraq Inquiry in London (here for transcript and video options). The various apologists for Blair are whining that the world is full of Blair Haters. First, the world was full of Nixon Haters. When you're a War Criminal, your reputation travels. But even more hilarious is when the idiots claim that Blair is unfairly being treated, unfairly being called a liar and more. Where there is stupidity, there is Alastair Campbell. The twit tweets on Twitter. He also blogs. And he wants the world to know they shouldn't call Tony Blair a "liar."

Tony Blair lies, that makes him a liar. We're not going to waste an entire snapshot fact checking that horrid liar. We'll note one example.
Channel 4's Iraq Inquiry Blogger noted in live blogging the hearing: "Blair: Looks at infant mortality stats - down from 130 per year in 2001-2002 to 40 by 2010. You'll always find some unhappy Iraqis". Blair didn't cite sources. For the 40 he could be using anything from the CIA figures to UNICEF -- however both and other say 43.5, not 40. It's also true that neither organization has published 2010 figures -- how could they, Tony? UNICEF is dealing with 2007 figures, the CIA with 2008 -- and they are estimates in both cases and wilder estimates than normal due to the fact that you're using extrapolation from a sample (not uncommon) in a country where you're not honestly sure as how to representative the cluster sample is (and where you are limited in where you can take a random sample). In 2002, according to the CIA World Factbook, the infant mortality rate was 57.61.

Three days of around the clock coaching and the liar can't resist lying. He wants to create a higher infant mortality rate before the illegal war to 'prove' that he was right. He was wrong and he has the blood of millions on his hand. He's a liar, Alastair, because he lies and he lies so badly he's caught lying. He's a liar.

We'll come back to Blair, let's set the scene first. While Blair testified, people protested. A Morning Edition (NPR)
report featured the chanting of the protesters. Featured? Past tense because what we heard on the air isn't what the audio provides. However the transcript of the piece is what aired (at least it currently is). Those who heard the segment this morning heard "Blair lied!" Philippe Naughton (Times of London) reports, "Several hundred demonstrators -- chanting 'Jail Tony' and 'Blair lied' -- gathered outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, although the former prime minister managed to slip in via a cordoned-off back entrance two hours before he was due to appear." CNN notes the protests took place "in the shadow of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament" and that Tony Blair had to arrive two hours early and use an alternative interest to arrive undected while 20-year-old Suad Mikar states, "I'm sure he can hear us. That's what matters, we don't need him to see us. He knows everyone's opinion about it." Sian Ruddick (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports, "The demonstration brought together school students, trade unionsits and activists in a show of anger against the war crimes Blair committed in Iraq. It began at 8am in central London. Protesters carried a coffin, symbolising the deaths of the over a million Iraqis in the war. Others wore Blair masks and covered their hands in fake blood. Police set up cordons to keep the demonstration away from the entrance of the Queen Elizabeth conference centre near the Houses of Parliament. This did not happen when any of the otehr witnesses came to give evidence."

Before we go further, I want to note some opening statements from John Chilcot today. He's the chair of the Inquiry and most reading the snapshots already know this but you'll see why we're going over it (again) before moving to the next section.

Chair John Chilcot: Today's hearing is, understandably, much anticipated, and in this circumstances, the Committee thinks it important to set out what this hearing will and will not cover. The UK's involvement in Iraq remains a divisive subject. It is one that provokes strong emotions, especially for those who have lost loved ones in Iraq, and some of them are here today. They and others are looking for answers as to why the UK committed to military action in Iraq and whether we did so on the best possible footing. Our questions aim to get to the heart of those issues. Now, the purpose of the Iraq Inquiry is to establish a reliable account of the UK's involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009 and to identify lessons for future governments facing similar circumstances. That is our remit. The Inquiry is not a trial. The Committee before you is independent and non-political. We come to our work with no preconceptions and we are committed to doing a thorough job based on the evidence. We aim to deliver our report around the end of this year. Now, this is the first time Mr Blair is appearing before us and we are currently holding our first round of public hearings. We shall be holding further hearings later in the year when we can return to subjects we wish to explore further. If necessary, we can speak to Mr Blair again. Today's session covers six years of events that were complex and controversial. It would be impossible to do them all justice in the time we have available today. The Committee has, therefore, made a decision to centre its questioning on a number of specific areas. If necessary, we shall come back to other issues at a later date. [. . .] I would like to begin the proceedings just by observing that the broad question by many people who have spoken and written to us so far is: why, really, did we invade Iraq, why Saddam, and why now in March 2003?

We should now all be on the same page regarding the Inquriy. And that makes us a million times more informed that the gaggle of idiots on today's second hour of
The Diane Rehm Show on NPR today. The idiots: James Fallows (Atlantic Monthly), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy). What do you do when you're asked about a subject you know nothing about? As anyone who's been to school knows, you bulls**t. "But what's the purpose of this Chilcot Inquiry about, Tom?" asks Diane. It's a basic question, one that should set up a lively segment. But that depends upon guests knowing their subjects.

Tom: Well . . . the-the-the-the British public is far more uh anti-war than-than the US public has been. And this has been something that has building -- been building for a long time in Great Britian and, you know, Tony Blair is-is really stained inthe-in the view of many -- much of the British population for having supported this war in a very -- at a very crucial time early on.

Tom has so much trouble speaking when he has no idea where he's headed. He's the student who didn't realize that he would be called upon. Completely unprepared and still playing with his early morning boner under the desk, he just wishes Diane would call on someone else and he stammers his way through until he thinks he has a concluding statement. What's the purpose, Diane asked him. Where in his reply (that's his entire reply) do you see an answer? You don't. She then asks Susan.

Susan: Well arguably this is also where foreign policy is at its most politicized even here in the US. I think if you look at the ongoing fights over national security -- look at --

No. Don't. Don't look at. How embarrassing. And I'm cutting her off before she embarrasses herself further.

The smartest thing anyone can ever say -- write this down, Suze -- is this phrase: "I don't know." Using that phrase when you don't know the answer will make you appear 10 times smarter than trying to bulls**t an 'answer' on a topic you know nothing about. Susan didn't know a damn thing and so decides, when asked about the Iraq Inquiry, to try to take it to another area. Hey, I did it all the time in Constitutional Law. If I was thrown a curve ball, I'd say, "Well it actually reminds me of another verdict . . ." And I'd b.s. my way through. But I was a college student. (And lucky.) Susan's supposed to be a journalist. If you're asked a question and you don't know the answer: Don't answer.

Wasn't that the whole point of the ridiculing of Sarah Palin for the Katie Couric interviews? Wasn't it that Sarah Palin gave responses that appeared to indicate she didn't know what she was talking about? Susan and Tom were brought on the show as 'informed' and 'experts.' They don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's embarrassing. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Next time, they should just say, "I am completely unprepared, I don't follow world events and I'm a stupid moron who can only give responses that I've been programmed to give." We're not forgetting James Fallows, don't worry. James kept saying In The Loop (a movie) and offered a Washington Post cartoon. He had nothing to share on the Inquiry because he didn't know a damn thing about an ongoing public inquiry into the Iraq War which began public hearings in November of last year. He's that out of touch, he's that stupid and he was brought on as an 'expert.'

James Fallows also insisted that Blair, unlike George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, has never waivered that the Iraq War was right. Excuse me? When the hell did Bully Boy Bush or Cheney waiver? They didn't. You don't know what you're talking about and you need to just apologize to all NPR listeners for that garbage. They'd expect it in a classroom but they're not supposed to have to listen to it on listener supported public radio.

"Let's move on," said Diane after only three minutes and normally I'd call her out on that; however, she rightly realized her guests didn't know a damn thing and had nothing to offer.

Now to Blair's testimony. He made like
Lois running for mayor of Quahog on Seth MacFarlane Family Guy by invoking 9-11 repeatedly. How bad was it? Tony Blair's first sentence reference 9-11 twice ("up to September 11, after September 11"). From 1997 through 2001 (or, as he put it, "through 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001") Saddam Hussein (former leader of Iraq) "wasn't the top priority for us" but "at the very first meeting" with Bush ("February 2001") he, Bush and Colin Powell chatted up the topic. That must have been a free wheeling topic because, later in the hearing, Blair would talk about his phone call or calls to Iran's president and his fears over Iran. So Iraq wasn't top priority but they what? Spun a globe and took turns dissing other countries?

Tony Blair's grand standing on 9-11, a terrorist attack on US soil, was offensive enough but let's make the point that if you're going to grand stand, know your damn facts. Do not, for instance, declare, "over 3,000 people had been killed on the streets of New York" when that is incorrect. The death toll is 2,973 (I'm not counting the hijackers -- apparently Tony grieves for the hijackers) and it was New York, it was the Pentagon (not in NYC) and it was the Shanksville field in Pennsylvania. You want to grandstand on 9-11, Tony? Try getting the facts right. What an idiot. Three days of round the clock coaching and this is what he's left with?

For those who might foolishly cut Tony slack, he kept repeating the false figure and the false locations: "The point about this act in New York was that, had they been able to kill even more people than those 3,000, they would have" -- it's offensive.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne raised the issue of Blair's interview last month with the BBC's Fern Britten where Blair stated that even if he had known there was no WMD, "I would still have thought it right to remove him [Hussein]." Blair tried to walk the remark back by begging off with "even with all my experience in dealing with interviews, it sill indicates that I have got something to learn about it." He then tried to lie that the interview was actually taped prior to the creation of the Inquiry. Lyne didn't let him get away with that so Blair insisted it was taped before the Inquiry started their November public hearings.

We'll note this exchange.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: Your Chief of Staff told us that at Crawford and subsequently you did not set any conditions for Britian's support for the US, but that your approach was to say, "We are with you in terms of what you are trying to do, but this is a sensible way to do it. We are offering you a partnership to try and get to a wide coalition." But other witnesses who were also involved in the decision-making process have told us that you set a number of clear conditions for our support. Which was it?
Tony Blair: It was the former. Look, this is an alliance that we have with the United States of America. It is not a contract. It is not, "We do this for you, you do this for us". It is an alliance and it is an alliance, I say to very openly, I believe in passionately.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman pressed him on WMD and 45 minutes (Blair had told the British people that Iraq had WMD that could be used to attack the UK within 45 minutes). Blair did allow that he might have needed to correct that after one paper headlined it (Freedman pointed out it was three newspapers) but that he answer over "5,000 oral questions" from September 2002 and May 2003 and no one ever asked him about that (Freedman points out that Jack Straw did so publicly in February 2003). Blair insisted that the 'error' was taking on "greater signifcance" after the fact. Freedman replied, "I think it has taken on that significance possibly because it is taken as an indication of how evidence that may be pointed was given even more point in the way that the dossier was written." Freedman also asked Blair about his January 2003 meeting with Bush and whether it was an effort to persuade Bush "that now it was necessary to get a second resolution" from the United Nations. Blair responds that is correct and that a second UN resolution (1441 only authorized inspectors to go into Iraq) would "make life a lot easier politcaly in every respect." The obvious question there was: "Politically? What about legally since every bit of advice you were receiving at that point -- including from Peter Goldsmith -- told you that if there was no second resolution a war would be illegal?" That didn't get asked.

Blair then declares that the US government didn't feel a second resolution was necessary but Bush's "view was that it wasn't necessary but he was prepared to work for one." In January 2003? No. Blair's lying. The US administration's position was that 1441 gave them the legal right to start a war. That was their position while 1441 was being negotiated in the fall of 2002 and when it was passed November 8th. The legal rationale the Bush administration was a joke but to argue it, they could not have a second resolution. They knew they didn't have the votes on the Security Council (both from feedback and, as has been reported, from wiretaps) and going back for a second resolution and being shot down destroys their legal argument that 1441 allows them to declare war. Blair's lying.

A key exchange, and one that the Inquiry will most likely build on when writing their report, took place between Lyne and Blair. Before that, let's not Lyne's summary of events.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Firstly, there wasn't a legal basis, as Lord Goldsmith repeated to us the day before yesterday, for regime change as an objective in itself. Secondly, lawers in the US administration favoured what was called the revival argument and that meant that the authorisation for the use of force during the first Gulf War, embodied in Resolution 687, was capable of being revived as it had been revived in 1993 and in 1998. However, the UK's lawyers did not consider that this argument was applicable without a fresh determination by the Security Council, and they felt that, not only because of the passage of time since resolutions 678 and 687, but also because, in 1993 and 11998, the Security Council had formed the view that there had been a sufficiently serious violation of the ceasefire conditions and also because the force that had been used then had been limited to ensuring Iraqi compliance with the ceasefire conditions. Even in 1998, the revival argument had been controversial and not very widely supported. So the British argument was that you needed a fresh determination of the Security Council. [. . .] So the UK and the USA went to the United Nations and obtained Security Council Resolution 1441, passed unanimously. However, in the words of Lord Goldsmith, that resolution wasn't crystal clear, and I think you, yourself, this morning referred to the fact that there were arguments. It didn't resolve the argument, I think was the way you put it. The ambiguous wording of that resolution immediately gave rise to different positions by different Security Council members on whether or not it of itself had provided authorisation without a further determination by the Security Council for the use of force. So up until early February of 2003, the Attorney General, again, as Lord Goldsmith told us in his evidence, was telling you that he remained of the view that Resolution 1441 did not authorise the use of force without a further determination by the Security Council that it was his position that a Council discussion -- the word "discussion" was used in the resolution -- would not be sufficient and that a further decision by the Council was required. [Blair agrees with the summary.] On 7 March, Lord Goldsmith submitted his formal advice to you, a document which is now in the public domain. In that he continued to argue that: "The safest legal course", would be a further resolution. But in contrast to his previous position and for reasons which he explained to us in his evidence, he now argued that, "a reasonable case" could be made, "that Resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation in 678 without a further resolution." But at the same time he coupled this with a warning that, "a reasonable case does not mean that if the matter ever came before a court, I would be confident that the court would agree with this view." So at that point, Lord Goldsmith had, to a degree, parted company with the legal advisers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who have also given evidence to us through Sir Michael Wood and Ms Elizabeth Wilmshurst. They were continuing to argue that the invasion could only be lawful if the Security Council determined that a further material breach had been committed by Iraq. I emphasize the word "further", of course, because 1441 established that Iraq was already in breach, but then the argument was about the so-called firebreak and whether you had to have a determination of a further material breach. Lord Goldsmith told us that, when it became clear that we were not likely to get a second resolution, a further resolution, he was asked to give what he described as a "yes or no decision", especially because clarity was required by the armed forces, CDS had put this to him, and by other public servants. He had received also an intervention from a senior Treasury lawyer. So having given you that advice on 7 March, by 13 March, he had crucially decided -- and this is from a minute recording, a discussion between himself and his senior adviser, David Brummell, who has also given evidence to us and which is also on the public record -- he had decided that: "On balance, the better view was that the conditions for the operation of the revival argument were met in this case; ie, that there was a lawful basis for the use of force without a further resolution going beyond Resolution 1441." Now, there is one further stage in the process and then I will get to the end. This view now taken by the Attorney General still required a determination that Iraq was "in further material breach of its obligations." The legal advisers in the FCO considered that only the UN Security Council could make that determination, but the Attorney took the view that individual member states could make this determination and he asked you to provide your assurance that you had so concluded; ie, you had concluded that Iraq was in further material breach, and on 15 March, which is, what, five days before the action began, you officially gave the unequivocal view that Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations. So it was on that basis that the Attorney was able to give the green light for military action to you, to the armed forces, to the Civil Service, to the Cabinet and to Parliament. But i tremained the case, as Sir Michael Wood made clear in his evidence, that while the Attorney General's constitutional authority was, of course accepted by the government's Civil Service advisers on international law, headed by Sir Michael Wood -- although Ms Wilmshurst herself decided to resign at this point from government service -- they accepted his authority but they did not endorse the position in law which he had taken, and it remains to this day Sir Michael's position -- he said this in his witness statement -- that: "The use of force against Iraq is March 2003 was contrary to international law."

Tony Blair agreed the above was a "fair" summary of events. In great detail and at lenght, Lyne will establish (with Blair agreeing) that the legal issues were set aside in Blair's Cabinet despite the fact that "until 12 February, you were not being told by the Attorney [General Goldsmith] or the Foreign Office legal advisers that you had the option of not getting a futher decision out of the Security Council."

The issue here is the second resolution and Blair's portrayal of he and his Cabinet wanting one (and they were advised it was necessary for it to be legal). So if he wanted one (this is me, not Lyne), (a) where was the work done on a second resolution and (b) shouldn't that have been the entire focus since the war would start shortly?

Now for the exchange. Lyne asked "wasn't Number 10 saying to the White House in January and February, even into March, that it was essential, from the British perspective, because of our reading of the law to have a second resolution?"

Tony Blair: It was politically, we were saying --

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Not merely preferable, but essential.

Tony Blair: No. Politically, we were saying it was going to be very hard for us. Indeed, it was going to be very hard for us.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Weren't we saying it was legally necessary for us, because that was his advice?

Tony Blair: What we said was, legally, it resolves that question obviously beyond any dispute. On the other hand, for the reasons that I have given, Peter [Goldsmith] in the end, decided that actually a case could be made out for doing this without another resolution, and as I say, did so, I think, for perfectly good reasons.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Well, it must have been of considerable relief to you, on 13 March, when he told you that he had come to the better view that the revival argument worked, because, at that point, he had given you, subject to you making the determination, the clear legal grounds that you needed.

In an earlier round of questioning, Lyne had observed, "You said a moment or two ago that you had agreed with President Bush, not only on the ends but also on the means, but the Americans actually had a different view of the means, in that they were already planning military action, and they had an explicit policy of seeking regime change. Did you, at Crafword, actually have a complete identity of view with President Bush on how to deal with Saddam?" What he appears to be building on -- and he's creating a case, if you're paying attention -- is that a lot of work was done planning for war. A lot of time spent with Bush. When did the UK ever say, "Without a second resolution, we can't go to war?" Never. (Blair confirmed that in response to lengthier versions of that question, as we've noted above.) Some members of the Cabinet and the public were under the belief that Blair wanted a second resolution. But there was no work done for one. So the point being, Blair was given legal advice repeatedly that, barring a second resolution, the Iraq War would be illegal and, month after month, he ignored that advice. There was no push on Blair's part for a second resolution, there was no (by his own admission) pre-condition of a second resolution before he pledged to support Bush in the war.

Blair made up his mind to go to war and did so before he's admitting and the proof is in the fact that he ignored legal advice. He blew it off. He had months (from November to March) to work on a second resolution. That wasn't a priority. He's detailed what he worked on and what he tasked. And there's nothing on those lists that have to do with second resolution. Blair wanted to go to war and pressured and pressured Goldsmith to finally sign off on it days before the Iraq War started. That's the reality coming out of the Inquiry.

Some of the families of the fallen were present for Blair's testimony -- either in the main room or in an adjoining room. The
Cambridge News reports the late Sgt. Bob O'Connor's sister Sarach Chapman noted Tony's "smug appearance." AFP quotes the late Gunner Lee Thornton's mother, Karen Thornton, stating, "It's a whitewash. 9/11 has got nothing to do with us." Paul Lewis and Vikram Dodd (Guardian) report the family found Blair highly disrespectful and notes, "One, Theresea Evans, asked the former prime minister to look her in the eye say sorry for the loss of her son. Evans, from Llandudno, North Wales -- whose 24-year-old son, Llywelyn, died in a Chinook helicopter crash in 2003 -- said: 'I would simply like Tony Blair to look me in the eye and say he was sorry. Instead, he is in there smirking'." The late Gordon Gentle's mother Rose Gentle tells the Press Association, "He had a smirk on his face which has made the families very angry. He has convinced himself that he was right, but it has emerged today that half the Cabinet were not given all the papers. It makes me so angry. [. . .] I will never forgive him and I believe he should stand trial. I will be angry with him for the rest of my life."

In his testimony, Tony Blair kept insisting that "Iraqis" were grateful, happy and their lives improved and that "talk to Iraqis" and you would see this to be the case. But Tony Blair's the one who needs to talk to Iraqis. Real ones, not the exile class that helped sell the war. (The exiles were the ones Blair met with the night of the largest global protest against the Iraq one month before it started.) Bllair never listened to the real Iraqis before, he's not listening now.
Sabah Jawad (Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation) offered his thoughts to Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

'Tony Blair should be tried for his crimes against Iraq -- and the legacy the war has left there.
A million Iraqis have died, leaving millions orphaned and widowed. The war and occupation have made as many as four million people into refugees.
The whole infrastructure of Iraq has been devastated by the occupation. Our heritage has been looted and destroyed, the environment has been poisoned and vital water sources have been lost.
Iraq used to be the breadbasket of the region -- now once fertile lands are in danger of being transformed into a desert. Children are growing up suffering from disease and deformities.
Sectarianism has been elevated to all state institutions and the country is dangerously fragmented. Corruption is rife -- government officials have been caught taking bribes of millions of dollars from foreign companies.
Iraq's precious oil resources have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. Meanwhile the profits of private security companies have soared.
Ordinary Iraqis who have suffered the most from the illegal war and occupation are left to cope with living under the threat of violence.
Unemployment now stands at 50 percent in a country where infrastructure has been shattered.
Yet despite everything the Iraqi people will continue with their determined struggle to reject the occupation and build a democratic, free Iraq.'

Are you listening, Tony Blair?
Oliver August (Times of London) reports on Iraqi reaction to Blair:Sunni Muslims are mostly hostile as they fared well under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni himself. Abu Ahmed, a retired government employee, said: "This war has brought us nothing but death and destruction and those like Tony Blair who took the decision to invade Iraq must be tried for their crimes." Many of the opinions voiced by Sunnis about Mr Blair are unprintable, often involving violence towards his family. Some Shias, too, are hostile towards the former British Prime Minister, even though their sect now holds power in Iraq. Majid Abu Yasin, the owner of a plumping supplies store, said: "It's not that the war wasn't legal. It was. The outcome is the problem. "Blair said he wanted to liberate Iraq, but now we have nothing but fear, not the freedom he talked about. People steal, kill, block the street or do whatever they want. That's not what we wanted."
Are you listening, Tony Blair? Today the
Liberal Democrats released the following:

"If Gordon Brown has nothing to hide then he should have no qualms making it crystal clear to Sir Gus that the Iraq Inquiry must have what it needs," said the Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary.
Commenting on the Iraq Inquiry, Edward Davey said: "Sir John Chilcot is absolutely right to demand detailed reasoning from the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell as to why he has rejected requests to make documents public. "There is clearly growing pressure on the Cabinet Secretary to justify his actions in withholding publication of documents."If Gordon Brown has nothing to hide then he should have no qualms making it crystal clear to Sir Gus that the Iraq Inquiry must have what it needs. "It is welcome news that Sir John may recall Tony Blair to the inquiry. The fact that Tony Blair cannot currently be questioned directly against these vital documents is totally unsatisfactory."

Con Coughlin (Telegraph of London) offers that the Inquiry must have Tony Blair's letters to George W. Bush to determine when Blair became "committeed to regime change" via war. The Telegraph of London notes Tony Blair's insisting that he didn't deceive the nation but if he was never serious about a second resolution, then he did just that. As Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) explains, "The central charge against Blair is simple: that the decision to go to war was the beginning, not the end, of the process; that an agreement was made early, and secretly, with President Bush, despite the lack of a legal basis, factual justification and military planning -- all three of which were later twisted to fit the decision already taken." And deception also would include what Philippe Naughton (Times of London) observes, "Tony Blair opened himself up to a charge of misleading Parliament today when he told the Iraq inquiry that by any objective analysis the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programme had not increased after 9/11." Of Blair's 9-11 claims, Gilligan points out:

First, of course, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and no links with al-Qaeda; Mr Blair was forced into a series of hypotheticals -- if Saddam had passed WMDs to terrorists, and so on? As one of the Chilcot panel, Sir Roderic Lyne, reminded him: "But it's these ifs, isn't it?"
Second, more importantly, it directly contradicts Mr Blair's key claim to Parliament before the war, where he insisted that the Iraq threat – the actual threat, not just the perception -- was "growing."
Asked by Sir Roderic: "Was the intelligence telling you it was growing?" Mr Blair referred to a Joint Intelligence Committee assessment saying not that the threat was growing, but that it was "continuing." His second piece of evidence of a "growing" threat was the alleged mobile biological weapons labs. But as the JIC assessment (quoted in full in Annex B of the Butler Report) says, this programme had been there since 1995.

Afua Hirsch (Guardian) observes that common phrases from Committee Members to Blair today included "just to clarify what you said" and "just to keep focus at the moment." The Financial Times of London live blogged the hearing here. Andrew Sparrow live blogged today's hearing for the Guardian. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogged at Twitter. Chris Ames fact checked at Iraq Inquiry Digest and here. Reuters is offering "highlights" by Michael Holden, Keith Ware and Sonya Hepinstall. Helene Mullholland and Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) offered a review of "the key points."

In Iraq today,
Reuters reports 2 Iraqi soldiers were injured in a Mosul shooting and four were injured in a Baghdad roadside bombing.

Yesterday's snapshot covered the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Kat covered it at her site and Wally covered it last night filling in for Rebecca.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, in addition to leaving lives andinstitutions in ruin, also exacerbated a much more common and lethalemergency in Haiti: Dying during childbirth. Challenges intransportation, education, and quality health care contribute to Haitihaving the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere, anational crisis even before the earthquake struck. While great strides are being made with global health issues likeHIV/AIDS, maternal mortality figures worldwide have seen virtually noimprovement in 20 years. Worldwide, over 500,000 women die each yearduring pregnancy. On Friday, January 29 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), a NOW team thathad been working in Haiti during the earthquake reports on this deadlybut correctable trend. They meet members of the Haitian HealthFoundation (HHF), which operates a network of health agents in more than100 villages, engaging in pre-natal visits, education, and emergencyambulance runs for pregnant women.

Staying with TV notes,
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Peter Baker (New York Times), Dan Balz (Washington Post), Gloria Borger (CNN) and John Harris (Politico). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes NOrton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Quiet ProfessionalsIn a rare chance to show America's elite Special Forces up close, "60 Minutes" spent over two months with a Green Beret unit as they trained a group of Afghan soldiers and then went into battle with them against the Taliban. Lara Logan reports. |
Watch Video
White HotU.S. Snowboarder Shaun White, who took home the gold at the last Winter Olympics, is still the guy to beat as he shows Bob Simon some of the tricks he'll use next month in Vancouver. | Watch Video
BeyonceSteve Kroft profiles the superstar singer on the road and backstage where she explains what makes her one of the world's most successful entertainers. |
Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

That awful speech

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Wheel of Misfortune" went up this morning.

Wheel of Misfortune

I love it. I loathed the State Of The Union address. I did enjoy this from Barry Grey's "Obama’s State of the Union Address: Cynicism, clich├ęs and a call for austerity" (WSWS):

Amidst the banalities and lies, the contradictions in the speech were glaring. The president who called Wednesday for “reforms” to rein in the bankers has stuffed his administration with Wall Street insiders.
The speech featured endless invocations of the “American people” from the representative of a political system that has excluded the people from any participation in the political life of the country or any say in the policies of the government.
For the most part, the petty measures to aid the “middle class” listed in the speech were put there to serve as sound-bites. Obama and everyone else in the chamber knew they had little chance of being enacted.
Obama made no attempt to explain why his previous proposals—above all, his plan to slash health benefits for millions of people in the guise of health care “reform”—had aroused mass opposition.
The speech was replete with pleas for bipartisanship. Even within the framework of bourgeois politics, Obama’s deference to the Republican right was extraordinary. Less than 15 months after the electorate decisively repudiated the party of George Bush and handed the Democrats the White House and large majorities in the House and Senate, Obama did not dare denounce the minority party for seeking to block every one of his initiatives.
The greatest lie of all was the pretense that Obama and the assembled congressmen and Washington dignitaries had any connection to the broad masses of the American people. Obama indulged repeatedly in the inevitable, sickening device of naming towns—Elkhart, Indiana; Allentown, Pennsylvania—that have been devastated by the policies of successive administrations, including his own, to show how deeply he identified with the common people.
All the time, seated behind him were Vice President Joseph Biden, his bejeweled watch flashing when the camera lights hit it, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, wearing one of her designer suits and her omnipresent string of pearls and sporting her perfectly coiffed hairdo.

I found the speech rude and not worthy of the office. I am not joking. C.I. was outlining some problems with it in the roundtable tonight (for the gina & krista round-robin) and how she and Ava were covering it for Third on Sunday. Gina said, "That's a good point but I didn't catch that." And I had caught something similar so I piped in.

I agree. That speech was so embarrassing for anyone who is a president. It was beneath the office.

Howard Zinn is dead. Apparently that is a loss. Today the country has focused on Chris Matthews' offensive remarks.

How about Howie the Coward Zinn?

Why does he hold Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. up as the comparison for Barack Obama? Dr. King was never a president.

I do not care for Mr. Obama. But I do not play, "He's not like M.L.K.! He's not like M.L.K.!"

And why would I?

The two have nothing in common -- not age, not background, not work, nothing.

Barack Obama is bi-racial and Dr. King was Black.

To Coward Zinn that meant he should always be judging President Obama by Dr. King. If that makes sense to you, you may be named Chris Matthews.

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a former US Staff Sgt admits to money laundering (for plastic surgery and other 'needed' items) while serving in Iraq, the US Senate continues to ignore a bill proposed to assist veterans exposed to toxic hazards, Iraq cracks down on the media again, and more.

Today the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing to vote on a nomination and proposed legislation. Starting with the nomination, November 9th, US President Barack Obama nominated Raul Perea-Henze to be the Assistant Secretary of Policy and Planning, Department of Veterans Affairs. Today the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee took a vote. Excepting Ranking Member Richard Burr, Lindsey Graham and Johnny Isakson, all voted in favor of Perea-Henze (Graham was not present during the vote, Burr asked that the record reflect Graham and his own votes opposing the nomination). ("All voted in favor? I would assume the entire committee. Most of whom did not show -- eight of the fifteen committee members were present during the vote -- for the hearing but if Graham's vote in opposition is recorded despite him not being present, I would assume those not present could also vote in favor of the nomination.)

Markup hearing? If you're thinking they addressed S. 1779, you are wrong. That bill addressed the need for a federal registry, similar to the one for Agent Orange exposure, for veterans exposed to contaminates while serving. It was
introduced by Senator Evan Bayh, has been held up by the Committee since October 21st. Bayh's bill is co-sponsored by Byron Dorgan (who has been also been a leader on this issue), Robert Byrd, Jeff Merkley, John Rockefeller, Ron Wyden and Richard Lugar. That bill's still buried.

If that surprises you, imagine being Senator Jay Rockefeller who had a statement on the bill all ready for delivery. In fact,
it's posted at the Committee's website:

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for this mark up, following up on the powerful and emotional hearing of October 8th last year with military personnel and family members exposed to toxic materials in their combat service, and even from their military housing.
At that hearing, my remarks and questions focused on Russell Powell, a medic with the West Virginia Guard. He and hundreds of other members of the Guard were exposed to toxic chemicals while on duty guarding the Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Facility in Basra, Iraq. For years, they were kept in the dark -- not told about their exposure. And today, they are still struggling to get the health care they need.
That is simply not acceptable. It must be fixed. And I believe today's mark represents the first important step forward.
I greatly appreciate that Chairman Akaka has incorporated a vital provision from Senator Bayh's legislation -- which I have cosponsored -- to guarantee these guardsmen the quality VA health care coverage they have earned.
That guarantee is an important element of the Homeless Veterans and Health Care Act and I strongly support it.
But at last fall's hearing, we also were moved by the heartbreaking testimony from military family members.
In particular: families describing serious water problems at Camp Lejeune and dangerous toxins in the air at Atsugi Naval Air base in Japan.
There is no doubt, we all agreed: Military personnel and family members dealing with the painful consequences of toxic exposure deserve the best health care possible.
Chairman Akaka's new legislation provides the right kind of care to families from Camp Lejeune and Atsugi Naval Air base.
But his bill goes beyond those two locations and their toxic exposure incidents. It creates a process between the VA and DoD to deal with thousands of potential exposures through a joint board. And, so future families don't have to wait for decades, the bill establishes a clear time frame for the board's decisions.
I firmly believe we must be absolutely clear about our shared responsibility. The VA's responsibility is our veterans and their care. DoD has a longstanding policy of caring for their military dependents.
DoD bears significant responsibility and has to take responsibility, today. The Pentagon has to acknowledge what happened and bear the financial costs. This matters.
The Akaka bill strikes the proper balance -- allowing the VA to provide coverage for veterans while DoD covers their families. The Chairman's legislation gets it right and I strongly support his efforts. This is our chance to do the right thing, honor our veterans' service and recognize their families' sacrifice, by ensuring they get the care they seek, they need, and they deserve.

It needed saying. Sadly, it went unsaid. There was no time for the needed bill.

What did they discuss? We'll note Richard Burr's remarks.

Ranking Member Richard Burr: As you know one of my top priorities in the Congress has been to end homelessness among our country's veterans. And the Committee Print S. 1237, the Homeless Veterans and Other Health Care Authorities Act of 2010, furthers that goal and I applaud all the members for their commitment to homelessness. I'm concerned however that the Committee's marking up legislation without having the official views of the Dept of Veterans Affairs on S. 1547, one of the key measures in the Committee Print before us today. We've heard the President talk about el-eliminating duplicate programs. We have had a legislative hearing on 1547 in October at which time where officials views from the administration were promised but, three months later, we still don't have those views. Without those views, the Committee doesn't have a full scope of key questions such as how the creation of a new program or the expansion of an existing ones will be coordinated with other homeless programs administered by the VA and other federal agencies? Or how this legislation fits with the [VA] Secretary's overall plan to end homelessness in five years? As well: What is the cost of the legislation and how long will it take the VA to be able to be appropriately staffed to carry out the bill's mandates? Now I'm not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that any administration's testimony should dictate how this Committee proceeds but it would be helpful to have information to make an informed judgment on what's best for veterans and addressing their specific needs. As for the second bill on the agenda, quite frankly I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed at the approach used to provide health care for veterans and family members exposed to contaminated well water at Camp Lejeune. Not only might this bill be subject to Rule 25 Point Of Order because of subject matter, it's arguably in another Committee's jurisdiction, it also fails to appreciate the deep distrust that family members and veterans have for the Dept of Defense and, specifically, it's handling of these matters once these wells were found to be contaminated and, in the years since, on the scientific inquiries that have been ongoing. Frankly, to those effected by the contamination at Camp Lejeune, requiring DoD to be a key decision maker and provider of health care is absurd. Now. I'm disappointed personally that the majority has decided to take the tack that they have to put a different bill in. Uh-uh. I don't think it's been the practice of the Committee in the past. And, uhm, I hope this is not an indication of how we proceed forward in this Committee. I understand the Chairman has the votes, I know what the outcome is. It won't change my passion for this debate. It will not change the degree of description of what I share with the members . It is the reason that and I other members have turned to this legislation and it is certainly indicative of why Democrats and Republicans in the House next week will introduce practically the same bill with VA responsibilities to provide health care to individuals and family members that have disease that could likely be tied to exposure to contaminants on a military installation. Now I would only ask the members of this Committee -- likely included that group are some of your constituents -- and though you haven't had to fight the Dept of Defense day in and day out on behalf of this group, I have and members before me have -- without any conclusion, without any finality, without any help. Today as we sit here getting ready for this markup, even though under US Code 42, statutorily the Secretary of the Navy is obligated to pay for the studies required to understand the health and mortality effects of this exposure, the Secretary of the Navy refuses to fund the CDC's arm at ASTDR that is obligated entity to go out and share with the country their scientific conclusion. Let me say that again: The Secretary of the Navy has refused to fund -- even though the law says he has to. So for me in good conscience to turn this over to the Dept of Defense to determine the scope of coverage for these individuals is insane. If the outcome of this vote is pre-determined, then so be it. I would hate for members to leave the markup today and believe that they will not revisit this issue. It will be revisited time and time and time again until the Congress recognizes that maybe the Dept of Defense, maybe the Secretary of the Navy can hide but the Congress can't hide from these people. These are people we represent. These are people that have asked us to come here and represent their interests, their health concerns, their future and I can't hide from them.

To be clear, his objection to the second bill is that DoD is being put in charge when DoD is seen as the person who put people at risk to begin with and is seen as refusing to admit to the contamination after the public discovered it. He is advocating for, among other things, the VA being over the issue the way that the House proposal will advocate (US House Rep Chet Edwards is introducing that measure). Burr proposed an amendment, 9 (Democrats plus Bernie Sanders -- Sanders was not present) voted to table the amendment, all five Republicans voted against tabling it. (Again, only 8 of the 15 Committee members were present.)

On the first bill, his objection is one that is being whispered by Democrats and will probably come out in public in the next months: The administration promises to get back to Congress but never does. Publicly, Ike Skelton and Carl Levin (chairs of the House and Armed Services Committee) have made statements in hearings regarding this issue but look for more serious statements to be made. (Congress -- those two committees in fact -- have still not been provided with the so-called 'withdrawal' plan from Iraq by the administration despite repeated promises.)

Burr is stating that he is unsure of whether the bill is workable or what is needed because the VA has not provided the feedback that was promised. He is stating that hearing from the VA wouldn't mean a yes or a no vote for him but it would mean that he and the Committee would have a stronger framework to judge the bill and the needs. That is what he is saying. But what Democrats are saying (Burr is a Republican) is that they're getting very tired of the administration promising testimonies and witnesses and reports that never arrive. A Republican brought it up for the first time in a hearing this year but if the White House doesn't start living up to their promises to Congress, Democrats who are complaining privately are going to go public and they will not do it as nicely as US House Rep Skelton and US Senator Levin did last year.

For Jon Tester and you can read
Kat tonight -- she'll cover his testy nature. Wally filling in for Rebecca tonight intends to note one aspect of Burr's remarks.

Today the
US Justice Dept announced that Theresa Russell (not the actress, this is a one-time US Army Staff Sgt) entered a guilty plea to money laundering while 'serving' in Iraq and that her ill gotten gain went on to fund her purchase of "a car, cosmetic surgery, and" more. From the Justice Dept news release:

WASHINGTON -- A former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army pleaded guilty today to a one-count criminal information charging her with money laundering arising from a scheme involving the fraudulent awarding and administration of U.S. government contracts in Iraq, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
Theresa Russell, 40, of Pleasanton, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in San Antonio. According to court documents, from January 2004 through October 2004, Russell was deployed to Logistical Support Area (LSA) Anaconda, a U.S. military installation near Balad, Iraq. As part of the plea, Russell admitted that from April 2004 to February 2005, she received more than $30,000 in cash from John Rivard, a former major in the U.S. Army Reserves. Russell admitted that she knew the money she received from Rivard was the proceeds of bribery.
In July 2007, Rivard pleaded guilty to bribery, among other offenses, in connection with his service as an Army contracting officer at LSA Anaconda. According to court documents, from April 2004 to August 2005, Rivard conspired with a government contractor to steer federally-funded contracts to the contractor's company in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit bribe payments.
According to court documents, Rivard instructed Russell to divide the payments she received from him into several smaller monetary bank deposits, which she admitted she did, in an effort to avoid the detection of law enforcement authorities. Russell admitted that she subsequently used the criminal proceeds to purchase, among other things, a car, cosmetic surgery, and household furnishings and goods.
The maximum penalty for the money laundering charge is 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release following the prison term. Sentencing is scheduled for May 21, 2010.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Daniel A. Petalas and Justin V. Shur of the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section, as well as Trial Attorney Ann C. Brickley. This case is being investigated by Army Criminal Investigation Command; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the FBI; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

While we're on the legal system, we'll drop back to last week. Danny Fitzsimons is a British citizen who stands accused of killing two 1 British citizen (Paul McGuigan) and 1 Australian citizen (Darren Hoare) while wounding one Iraqi (Arkhan Madhi) in an
August 9th Baghdad shooting.

"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by
Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.

Iraq War veteran Danny Fitzimons joined the British military at the age of 16 and was deployed on his first mission at the age of 18. Before he was 28-years-old, he'd been diagnosed with PTSD. Out of the military, he began working for the contractor AmrourGroup Inc in August 2009. The shootings took place August 9th. By August 10th,
Martin Chulov and Steven Morris (Guardian) were reporting that British embassy staff was not allowed to speak with Danny and that the Iraqi government or 'government' was announcing Danny had been in court (the day after the incident) and given a full confession. To be clear, the reporters were not vouching for the confession. Only an idiot -- or an American reporter -- would do that. Iraq has a long history (even just post-invasion) of forcing 'confessions'. August 11th, Amnesty International issued the following:

Responding to reports that a British employee of a security company working in Iraq may face a death sentence, Amnesty International UK Media Director Mike Blakemore said: 'It's right that private military and security company employees like Danny Fitzsimons are not placed above the law when they're working in places like Iraq and it's right that the Iraqi authorities are set to investigate this very serious incident. 'However, as with all capital cases, Amnesty would strenuously oppose the application of the death penalty if applied to Mr Fitzsimons in this case.'Iraq has a dreadful record of unfair capital trials and at least 34 people were hanged in the country last year alone. 'The important thing now is that if Danny Fitzsimons is put on trial he is allowed a fair trial process without resort to the cruelty of a death sentence.' Last year 34 criminals were hanged in Iraq. Private security guard Fitzsimons, employed by UK firm ArmorGroup, would be the first Westerner on trial since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reported last Thursday that Danny appeared in Iraqi court and "was sent for psychiatric evaluation minutes after the start of his trial". Oliver August (Times of London) adds, "Efforts to have Mr Fitzsimons tried in the UK have failed since Iraq and Britain do not have a prisoner transfer agreement. However, once he has been sentenced or is found to be mentally ill, London and Baghdad may discuss the possibility of bringing him back." Adam Schreck (Time magazine) reports, "The trial has been adjourned until Feb. 18, according to Fitzsimons' attorney, Tariq Harb." There is a petition on Facebook calling for Danny to be tried in the United Kingdom and not in England. Reprieve is raising funds for Danny's defense.

Yesterday's snapshot noted: "Vying for the title of Idiot of the Week, Hill has competition!, is Ali al-Lami who insists to Asharq Al-Awsat that he is not controlled by Iran. The fresh from prison al-Lami heads the extra-legal Accountability and Justice Commission. And certainly, if you were released from prison mere months ago, you too would be heading a government commission because that's what cronyism is all about, right, Ali? Don't call him Ahmed Chalabi's lover because they insist they are just friends. With no benefits. Or none they admit to. But Ali explains that he's cracked down on the media and they've figured out their place and 'calmed down' because he's threatened them with 'lawsuits'. He's a little bully." Lawsuits are just one path to censorship in Iraq -- a path Nouri al-Maliki's sashayed down repeatedly. Aseel Kami, Missy Ryan and Andrew Roche (Reuters) report today that Iraq's government or "government" is attempting to convince Syria, Lebanon and Egype to shut down various satellite channels originating from their countries. This will be presented as 'fair' but anyone in the world paying attention will say, "Hey, Iran's a neighbor. Iran's got stations 'inflaming' tensions as much as anyone else." But notice that Iran isn't a source of concern. Notice that and then start looking at the media reports and noticing how many fail to raise that issue.

Let's turn to some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured seven police officers and a Kirkuk mortar attack left four people injured.


Reuters reports 1 Sunni Imam shot dead outside a Baghdad mosque and that 1 police officer was wounded in a Baghdad shooting.

Monday, Baghdad was slammed with bombings and the death toll is at least 41 with over seventy wounded. Yesterday Ann noted Martin Chulov of the Guardian appearing on KPFA's The Morning Show and explaining:

After that there was a lot of shooting very near our location. Some colleagues of my staff wanted to run to their families who lived inside the Hamra compound. We had to restrain them. We were very near and it became clear that a car was trying to get through -- to get inside the hotel. So we ran and the car did get inside and it detonated. During the explosion, most of my colleagues emerged unscathed. There were some walking wounded at the Washington Post who had a house inside the area and also in the hotel itself. And sadly, one of our collegues from the Times of London a longtime local employee was killed.

Ann also notes, "Now to see photos of the destruction inside the al-Hamra Hotel,
click here for an Iraqi correspondent with McClatchy Newspapers." Yasser was killed and yesterday's snapshot noted Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's Morning Edition. link has text and transcript) remembering him and James Hider (Times of London) remembering him as well. The Times of London's Richard Beeston notes:

Yasser, the Times's driver killed on Monday in a bomb attack, was among the very best. He delivered daily accounts of the vicious sectarian street battles that erupted in Baghdad between 2005 and 2007. He knew better than anyone how the contest between Sunni gunmen and Shia militias was being played out because he and his family lived in one of the disputed areas.
Driving through the city he would point out which roads were safe and which were dangerous. His intelligence assessment was far more valuable than anything I ever heard at security briefings in the American or British embassies.

The Economist notes today that their correspondent was wounded in the al-Hamra Hotel bombing. The Economist also tackles the banning of political candidates in Iraq:

IN THE run-up to a general election due on March 7th, Iraq's authorities seem to be taking a page out of Iran's illiberal electoral rule book by barring candidates they dislike. One of the competing parties, the Iraqi National Congress, led by Ahmed Chalabi, a longtime Shia exile who helped persuade George Bush to invade Iraq in 2003, has persuaded the election's overseers to ban some 500 candidates deemed too close in the past to Saddam Hussein's Baath party. After the invasion the Americans put Mr Chalabi, then their closest Iraqi ally, in charge of "deBaathification", but he later fell out with them, so he turned for succour to Iran. Now, with a view to winning more votes for himself, he is using his long-dormant post to accuse his foes of having supported the deposed dictator. Though the list contains many Shias, Iraq's minority Sunnis, who ruled the roost under Mr Hussein, are outraged, seeing a plot to discriminate against them. The episode could badly tarnish the poll.
Many other Shia politicians have joined what looks like a witch hunt. Muhammad al-Haidari, a leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a powerful Shia group, says that Baathists are worse than Nazis; all past members should, he says, be banned from public life. In the holy city of Najaf, ISCI's heartland, a new rule decrees that former Baathists must be purged from government and chased out of town. Never mind that Iraq's post-invasion constitution bars only senior Baathists from public office and that millions of ordinary Iraqis joined the party only out of necessity, not conviction. Ostracising them threatens once again to split Iraq down the middle and disfranchise many Sunnis, who used to dominate the Baath party.

National Newspaper offers:

Maliki has not only failed to condemn the commission's decision to bar 511 candidates, he has embraced it, piously invoking the law -- and surely reckoning that standing up for the Baath party in the name of reconciliation is political suicide, especially in an election year. Yet not many months ago, Maliki was negotiating with the Sunni leader Saleh al Mutlaq, one of the current campaign's main targets, to form a joint coalition.
The crisis of today represents the consequences of yesterday's bad policies: both the Americans and the ruling parties have encouraged the selective use of de-Baathification -- whether to protect people with suspect records who were prepared to serve the new order, or those who proved useful in the campaign against insurgents. The US appears motivated primarily by the need to keep things relatively stable and solidly on track for a smooth troop withdrawal, regardless of what may come afterward. The Maliki government has used the threat of de-Baathification to bring people to its side and under its control, while getting rid of those who were unwilling to co-operate or whom it felt it could never trust.
The Baath party, which is today a thoroughly discredited shadow of its former self, would seem to pose little threat even to Iraq's fragile political stability. But a small group of self-interested figures have seized the opportunity to use de-Baathification to advance their own electoral prospects, precipitating a far greater crisis in the process: the de-Baathification genie has escaped and gone on a rampage.

Turning to England where it's surely not Waiting For Lefty so maybe it's Waiting for Godot?

What is known is that Tony Blair is set to appear before the
Iraq Inquiry in London -- the Inquiry did not hold a public hearing today. A major protest is expected to take place as War Criminal Tony attempts to wash the blood off his hands. From Stop The War Coalition's "Protest on Tony Blair's Judgement Day: 29 January from 8am:"

Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, BroadSanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3EEOn Friday 29 January, Tony Blair will try to explain to the Iraq Inquiry
the lies he used to take Britain into an illegal war.
Writers, musicians, relatives of the dead, Iraqi refugees, poets, human rights lawyers, comedians, actors, MPs and ordinary citizens will join
a day of protest outside the Inquiry to demand that this should be Tony Blair's judgement day.
There will be naming the dead ceremonies for the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in Blair's war. Military families who lost loved ones in Iraq will read the names of the 179 British soldiers killed.Join us from 8.0am onwards.
And protests are already ongoing.
Sian Ruddick (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports:

Three days of activity against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began with a 200-strong public meeting in central London tonight, Wednesday.
The meeting took place in on the eve of a meeting of Nato leaders to discuss sending more troops to kill and be killed in Afghanistan. This will be followed by Tony Blair's appearance before the Iraq inquiry on Friday.
Anti-war activists will protest at both of these events.
Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), described the Afghan conference as an "admission of failure" of the war and occupation of the country.
Andrew said that protesters will defy any police ban and demonstrate outside both the conference and the Iraq inquiry.
Kate Hudson, chair of CND, spoke from the platform. She said, "Whatever these goverments agree, they will be at odds with the populations of their countries. Some 82 percent of French people oppose their government's involvement in the war. Meanwhile 71 percent of British and German people want the troops home."
The meeting heard messages of solidarity from across Europe.
Tony Benn, president of the StWC, told the meeting, "The war in Afghanistan has cost billions. The latest plan is to bribe the Taliban to comply with the occupation -- which will make the situation ever more bitter."
Anger at the lies world leaders have told us ran through the meeting. Lindsey German, convenor of the StWC, said, "We need a complete holding to account to all those in charge when we went to war. If we don't have this, how can we be sure it won't happen again?"
Guardian journalist Seamus Milne also spoke from the platform. "These two events show history catching up with those who unleashed this pain and suffering.
"Gordon Brown tries to tell us this is a war for democracy and freedom. Well tell that to the families of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans killed in air strikes."
Respect MP George Galloway said, "The life and blood of soldiers and Afghans is too precious for this war to continue."
People left the meeting determined to build the protests tomorrow and Friday.
Protest at the Afghanistan Conference
Blockade the conference, 8.30am, Thursday 28 January, Lancaster House, Stable Yard, Saint James's Palace, London SW1A 1BH
Blair's judgement day at the Iraq inquiry
Protest from 8am Friday 29 January, Queen Elizabeth Conference centre, SW1P 3EE. Nearest tube Westminster.
Go to
» for more information

Will the War Criminal offer revelations to the Inquiry? Will the press covering the team brought in Tuesday to provide constant coaching since Tuesday? Will he wear sun glasses and a hat with veil for dramatic impact?
Ann Talbot (WSWS) observes, "But whether or not he faces awkward questions, he can do so without fear that he may be indicted for the war crimes of which he is so clearly guilty. The Chilcot inquiry was specifically set up in order to avoid the possibility of a war crimes trial. It has no remit to determine whether the war was legal or not. Its members have no legal training or experience and they sit without legal advice. Sir John Chilcot made it clear when the inquiry began that he did not see his task as one of determining guilt. Witnesses are not under oath and none of them are cross examined as they would be in a court of law. They have been allowed to give long, self-serving statements that have gone entirely unchallenged." Chris Ames' Iraq Inquiry Digest notes multiple developments today.

Lastly on Iraq, we'll note this from Dahr Jamail's "
When Scholars Join the Slaughter" (MidEast Dispatches):The two highest ethical principles of anthropology are protection of the interests of studied populations and their safety. All anthropological studies consequently are premised on the consent of the subject society. Clearly, the HTS anthropologists have thrown these ethical guidelines out the window. They are to anthropology what state stenographers like Judith Miller and John Burns are to journalism.Truthout consulted David Price, author of "Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War" and a contributor to the "Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual," a work of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, of which he is a member. According to Price, "HTS presents real ethical problems for anthropologists, because the demands of the military in situations of occupation put anthropologists in positions undermining their fundamental ethical loyalties to those they study. Moreover, it presents political problems that link anthropology to a disciplinary past where anthropologists were complicit in assisting in colonial conquests. Those selling HTS to the military have misrepresented what culture is and have downplayed the difficulties of using culture to bring about change, much less conquest. There is a certain dishonesty in pretending that anthropologists possess some sort of magic beans of culture, and that if only occupiers had better cultural knowledge, or made the right pay-offs, then occupied people would fall in line and stop resisting foreign invaders. Culture is being presented as if it were a variable in a linear equation, and if only HTS teams could collect the right data variables and present troops with the right information conquest could be entered in the equation. Life and culture doesn't work that way; occupied people know they are occupied, and while cultural knowledge can ease an occupation, historically it has almost never led to conquest - but even if it could, anthropology would irreparably damage itself if it became nothing more than a tool of occupations and conquest."

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, in addition to leaving lives andinstitutions in ruin, also exacerbated a much more common and lethalemergency in Haiti: Dying during childbirth. Challenges intransportation, education, and quality health care contribute to Haitihaving the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere, anational crisis even before the earthquake struck. While great strides are being made with global health issues likeHIV/AIDS, maternal mortality figures worldwide have seen virtually noimprovement in 20 years. Worldwide, over 500,000 women die each yearduring pregnancy. On Friday, January 29 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), a NOW team thathad been working in Haiti during the earthquake reports on this deadlybut correctable trend. They meet members of the Haitian HealthFoundation (HHF), which operates a network of health agents in more than100 villages, engaging in pre-natal visits, education, and emergencyambulance runs for pregnant women.

Those looking for commentary on the laughable State of the Union address (and the jokes is on all of us) can see Cedric's "
That's presidential?" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HE'S A FUNNY BOY?"; Betty's "Congress disgraces themselves," Stan's "No, it wasn't presidential" and Isaiah's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts 'Wheel of Misfortune'."

joni mitchell
amnesty international
kim sengupta
the independent of london
iraq inquiry digestchris amesthe socialist workerdahr jamail
nprmorning editionlourdes garcia-navarro
james hider
the times of london
now on pbs

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CBS, play fair

Please read Elaine's "Our airwaves ourselves" from last night. That was my first time learning of the advertisement. I am appalled.

I need to call Elaine to see what she is thinking tonight but I think I am just going to note this video from Women's Media Center calling for CBS to play fair.

This is not "censorship." CBS has repeatedly turned down political ads -- including ones against the Iraq War. Now, all of the sudden, they want to carry an anti-choice ad?

Play fair. If they cannot, the F.C.C. needs to review their broadcast licenses.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Ali al-Lami is not Ahmed Chalabi's lover (or that's the claim), the Iraq Inquiry hears from Peter Goldsmith who confesses to way more than he realizes, an Iraqi who died on Monday is remembered by those who knew him, and more.

Today the
Iraq Inquiry in London heard from the former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith who apparently had trouble with timelines (link goes to video and transcript options). Ruth Barnett and Andy Jack (Sky News) report, "There was no evidence of an 'imminent threat' from Iraq to justify a war in self defence, Lord Goldsmith has told an inquiry." That was early in the morning. The hearing got more interesting as it went along. Goldsmith would explain the US never wanted a second resolution and if Goldsmith knew that, Tony Blair did which means Blair most likely never wanted a second resolution despite remarks to the British public as well as the Parliament in the lead up to the Iraq War. In addition, Goldsmith revealed that when he finally decided to flip on his own advice (he'd stated the Iraq War was legal without a second UN resolution), he did so not based on the law but based on whose side he wanted to be on -- as if a war is a game of dodge ball.

Before we get to the sorry excuse for a lawyer and human being that Goldsmith is, let's note that the
Liberal Democrats issued a release today:Following Sir John Chilcot's admission today of 'frustration' over the Government's unwillingness to declassify certain information, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has called for key documents to be published before Tony Blair's hearing on Friday. The documents, which must be made public if the Blair hearing is to be effective, include correspondence between the then-Prime Minister and George W Bush which has already been discussed, but so far remains unseen. Commenting, Nick Clegg said: "Despite Gordon Brown's claim that he has 'nothing to hide' this has all the hallmarks of a cover up. Just as Liberal Democrats warned, the protocol on the release of documents is being used to gag the inquiry. "To restore trust in the inquiry the Government must immediately declassify certain key documents ahead of Tony Blair's hearing -- the memo from Sir David Manning to Tony Blair dated January 31, 2003 and the letter from Tony Blair to George W Bush sent July 2002. "Labour are leaving themselves open to charges of outright sabotage of Chilcot's work to save their own political skins. If Tony Blair gets through on the nod due to the withholding of key documents, the public will rightly dismiss this inquiry as a whitewash. "This will not go away. The Government must understand that the truth about this illegal war must and will emerge eventually, and that the time to come clean is now."

Now let's jump in to the hearing and if you're lost in the timeline, consider the confusion to be Goldsmith's fault. He will apparently identify an event, a trip, in February 2003 as having taken place in February 2002. Follow down the rabbit hole if you can.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: When did you actually give the Prime Minister your first advice?

Peter Goldsmith: Well, my advice remained preliminary until July -- I'm so sorry, until February. It remained preliminary until February, because I was still conducting my enquiries and researches. On, I think, 27 February, I met in Downing Street with, again, the Prime Minister's advisers and I told them then that, in the light of the further enquiries I had made, following my visit to the United States, following discussions with Jeremy Greenstock, following my investigation of the negotiating history, I was of the view that a reasonable case could be made -- I'm sorry, there was a reasonable case that a second resolution was not necessary, and that that was, on past precedent, sufficient to constitute a green light.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You have moved ahead to 27 February.

Peter Goldsmith: Yes.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: We were hearing yesterday in discussion with Ms Wilmshurst, about presentation of draft advice by you in the middle of January to the Prime Minister.

Peter Goldsmith: Yes.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Advice that she said that she had, I think, seen unofficially.

Peter Goldsmith: She wasn't involved. Ms. Wilmshurst wasn't --

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Let's not personalise it and her. I think she was speaking for the FCO legal advisers collectively then. The question I wished to ask you is: what did you present to the Prime Minister, and how and when, in January?

Peter Godlsmith: As I said, I presented a sort of draft provisional advice as a basis for understanding what the response was to some of my concers, particularly drawing attention to the need to understand what was meant by "for assessment" in operational paragraph 4.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Was this in sort of fleshed-out form?

Peter Goldsmith: Yes.

Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: Was it quite a lengthy document?

Peter Goldsmith: Because the whole point was there were a number of textual arguments that were being raised. You couldn't explain those in a ten-second conversation.

Goldsmith then explained he met with Tony Blair, then prime minister, to discuss a draft of his findings. The draft also made it to Jeremy Greenstock and others but Goldsmith only provided it to Tony Blair. January 23, 2003, he met with Greenstock to discuss the findings. Greenstock told him that a resolution from the United Nations' Security Council authorizing the Iraq War was unnecessary. The issue of the first resolution (the one allowing UN inspectors into Iraq) was raised.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: In one of the early drafts of that resolution, that the United Kingdom and the United States, I think, showed to the French on 25 September 2003 -- and I appreciate that you were not being consulted on the drafting process, so let me quote from that: "We were bidding to include the following words in the resolution, that the Security Council", I quote: ". . . decides that false statements or omissions in the declaration and failure by Iraq to comply shall constitute a further material breach, and that such breach authorises member states to use all necessary means to restore international peace and security in the area." Now, presumably, if we had succeeded in getting those words into the resolution, there would have been no need for a second decision at all?

Peter Goldsmith: Quite right.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: But we do not succeed in getting those words into the resolution. So in order to achieve a resolution, we had to give ground.

Peter Goldsmith: Well, the ground that was given particularly was to concede some second stage. The difficult question is whether the second stage was a Council discussion, where they would consider the discussion, or a Council discussion where they would decide what would happen next.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: We conceded that we had not been able to achieve a clear statement in this resolution that authorised member states to use all necessary means, ie to use force?

Goldsmith then goes off topic and Lyne tries to bring him back. Whenever Goldsmith goes off topic -- especially to avoid answering a question -- he ends up giving away much more than he realizes. He's not on topic but we'll jump in here anyway.

Peter Goldsmith: The United States, as everyone has said -- Sir Michael said it, I have said throughout, it is apparent on 7 March -- didn't believe they needed an United Nations Resolution at all. They believed they were able themselves to make the determination that Iraq was in material breach, and, therefore, they didn't need -- they didn't need 1441. Mr. Blair had -- and I said, I think to his credit -- had got President Bush to the UN table.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: I think, with respect, that's a separate point. We have gone past that point already.

Peter Goldsmith: With respect, may I make the point? Because it is important, and it is one of the things that came across very clearly in the meetings I had in February with the UN. Because the United States didn't need 1441 -- we did because we took the view that there had to be a determination of material breach. The United States didn't need it. They could have walked away from 1441 and said, "Well, we have been to the United Nations, they haven't given us the resolution we want, we can now take force." The only red line I was told by the State Department, legal adviser, the only red line that the negotiators had was that they must not concede a further decision of the Security Council because they took the view they could move in any event.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.

Peter Goldsmith: Therefore, if they had agreed to a decision which said the Security Council must decide, they would have then lost that freedom.

Do you find Peter Goldsmith to be believable? That's a person call and people will have to make it on their own. But the above exchange -- an exchange Goldsmith offered willingly (in an attempt to avoid Lyne's questions) is rather explosive and people seem to be missing that.

Think for a moment what the Iraq Inquiry has been told. You've got, yes, one group that declares that England had 1441 and didn't need another resolution for the war to be legal and then you have the legal experts who say of course England needed a resolution authorizing the war. But back that up. Forget for a moment whether it was needed or not. We are told, over and over, that Tony Blair thought he could get a second one or thought that a second one would be sought. But Goldsmith has just revealed the US government's position -- after 1441 -- was that NO other resolution from the Security Council would be sought.

Because of wasting time? No.

The US government's position, according to Goldsmith, was that if a second resolution was passed it might limit the US' actions. Goldsmith (leaving out Lyne's "yes"): "The only red line I was told by the State Department, legal adviser, the only red line that the negotiators had was that they must not concede a further decision of the Security Council because they took the view they could move in any event. [. . .] Therefore, if they [the US] had agreed to a decision which said the Security Council must decide, they would have then lost that freedom."

That's rather important. Not because of the US administration's legal 'strategy' (or 'legal' 'strategy') but because if that was the US position and it was conveyed to Goldsmith then we've heard a lot of liars in this Inquiry insist that Blair was trying for a second resolution. Tony Blair was attached to George W. Bush at the hip and Bush was saying that a second resolution could restrain US actions so the US didn't want a second resolution, you better believe Tony Blair wasn't attempting a second resolution.

If you find Goldsmith believable, then the above is explosive because it reveals that witnesses have lied to the Inquiry (some may have been misinformed -- it would go to how high up they were) and it means Tony Blair has lied to the British people because the US position would have been in place before 1441 passed. When they saw the language emerging for 1441, the US position would have been in place and it would be, according to Goldsmith, "Fine. That's our resolution. We won't go back for another because it might hem us in."

The Inquiry should ask Tony Blair Friday to explain his understanding of the US position on a second resolution and when he became aware that they felt a second resolution might hem them in? At what point did Blair decide to go along with no second resolution? He should then be asked if he was sincere in his talk (during the lead up) about a second resolution? It does not add up, it does not make sense. Clearly, by March, it was too late to talk of a second resolution for Blair (because the date was already set for the war and Blair knew it). So at what point was Blair stringing along the public (and possibly his Cabinet members)?

In January 2003, as Blair prepared to meet with Bush at the end of the month, Goldsmith testified he again informed Blair a second resolution was necessary for the war to be legal. In February 2003, Goldsmith states he changed his mind about that. Repeated attempts by Committee Member Usha Prashar to determine why that was were met with Goldsmith doing everything but answering her questions.

February 10, 2003, Goldsmith went to DC. Please note, he is asked and he says it is February 10, 2002 (page 108 of the transcript, lines 21 through 25). That does not appear to be correct. He was in DC February 10, 2003. He was at the White House on Feburary 11, 2003 according to the official records. If indeed he visited in 2002 -- as he seems to think he did, that would mean that the US government and the British government defrauded the UN as well as the citizens of the world. 1441 is passed November 8, 2002. For Goldsmith's timeline to be correct -- maybe it is -- they would have had to have planned in February 2002, nine months before seeking the resolution, how they would not go for a second one. Again, I can get a confirmation on the February 2003 visit. I can't find out anything on a February 2002 visit. If I'm wrong and he did visit in February 2002 and that what follows took place then, there are some additional issues of fraud to the ones US House Rep John Conyers once noted.

Goldsmith testified he spoke with Will Taft IV of the US State Dept., he states he spoke to the legal adviser for the National Security Council, to Condi Rice, to "Colin Powell's people," to "Judge Gonzalez" (that's Alberto Gonzalez) and with John Ashcroft who was then the US Attorney General.
Peter Goldsmith: On one point, they were absolutely speaking with one voice, which is they were very clear that what mattered to them, what mattered to President Bush is whether they would, as they put it, concede a veto -- I need to explain that -- and that the red line was that they shouldn't do that, and they were confident that they had not conceded a veto. The point about conceding a veto was that the reg light was, "We believe" -- they were saying "that we have a right to go without this resolution. We have been persuaded to come to the United Nations" -- plainly some in the administration disagreed with that, you know that very well, "but the one thing that musn't happen is that by going this route, we then find we lose the freedom of action we think we now have", and if the resolution had said there must be a further decision by the Seucrity Council, that's what it would have done, and the United States would have been tied into that. They were all very, very clear that was the most important point to them and that they hadn't conceded that, and they were very clear that the French understood that, that they said that they had told -- discussed this with other members of the Security Council as well and they all understood that was the position.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So they were very clear that the French had acknowledged, presumably in private, that there wasn't any need for a second decision?

Peter Godlsmith: Yes, in the discussions that they had had. They were very clear -- they were very clear that they had been adamant that this was key to them and that they had stuck to their guns and they had therefore conceded the discussion, the French acknowledged that, and discussion and no more.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: What evidence did they give you that the French had acknowledged this?

Peter Goldsmith: I wish they had presented me with more. That was one of the difficulties, and I make reference to this, that, at the end of the day, we were sort of dependent upon their view in relation to that. But I had seen -- certainly I had seen -- I looked very carefully at all the negotiating telegrams and I had seen that there were some acknowledgements of that, acknowledgments that the French understood the United States' position, at least, in telegrams that I had seen, and I was told of occasions when this had been clearly stated to the French.

To repeat, all the above describes what he would have encountered in February 2003 but he is saying it was February 2002.

In one of the more laughable moments, he explains he did not confirm the French government's position. He merely took the word of the Americans (and of people in his own government). Why? Because he insists he couldn't speak to the French government. It gets more crazy: He insists no British official could speak to the French. He couldn't place a call and no one could attempt to go through diplomatic channels.


He says because there were hard feelings between the US and France at that time and England was partners with the US and, golly, if the US saw Britian standing with France behind the gym, smoking a cigarette, the US might not invite Britain to the big party Friday. At "golly," I'm satirizing but it was his position and that's laughable. Even the Chair, John Chilcot, expressed surprise and asked of diplomatic channels which Goldsmith insisted couldn't be used.

Lyne asks Goldsmith what a court of law would say if he presented this? You have the official, public record of France's position. And if Goldsmith presented this hearsay of France's position (provided second hand by the US), what would a court say? A court would rule against it (it's hearsay) and Goldsmith knows that so he gets nervous (and gives away more than he realizes) and changes the topic. Asked what a court of law would say about that, he replies:

Well, can I answer this way, and I know I'm moving forward, but at that point that I took the view -- and I'll explain why -- that I had actually to come down on one side of the argument or other, I used a test which I quite frequently use when I'm having to advise on difficult matters, which is to say "Which side of the argument would you prefer to be on?" and I took the view I would prefer to be on the side of the argument that said a second resolution wasn't necessary.


That's not what a lawyer does. A lawyer does not say, "Do I want to be on A or B side?" An attorney looks at the law. The law is the law. You can interpret it, you can argue for grey areas, but the law is the law. You do not say, "___ is guilty or innocent. Which side do I want to be on?" You look at the evidence. You look at the facts. You go to precedents and you make a call. But Goldsmith has confessed to the Inquiry that when Tony Blair and Jack Straw didn't want a second resolution -- even though Goldsmith had been insisting the war would be illegal without a second resolution -- Goldsmith decided he'd rather be on Tony Blair's side. (He testified he decided that in March . . . and he testified he kind of decided that in January. We'll just say "March" and leave it at that.) It's not about sides, it's about the law.

Goldsmith is a joke and should be disbarred. He is saying he decided on a position -- not based on the law -- and then cherry picked through various things to back up the position. He should be disbarred and the UK should make him return his salary because that's not practicing the law.

Nico Hines live blogs the hearing for the Times of London. Andrew Sparrow live blogs the hearing for the Guardian. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs at Twitter. Chris Ames will blog and fact check at Iraq Inquiry Digest.

If you've ever wondered what it's like in the committee hearing room,
Andy Beckett (Guardian) provides a detailed picture, he also sketches out each committee member and we'll note one section of his report:

As soon as I sat down and took out my notebook, a woman in a neighbouring seat with an intense air introduced herself. "I am from one of the bereaved families," she said. "My sister was kidnapped and died in Iraq."
Margaret Hassan was a British aid worker murdered during the Baghdad insurgency in 2004. Her family saw video footage of her captivity and death. Hassan's sister, Deirdre Manchanda, was contemptuous about the inquiry: "Sir John Chilcot," she said, with heavy sarcasm, "I wish he was my grandfather. When he consulted the bereaved families [before the hearings], I said, 'This is a huge conference ­centre, get another room for when Tony Blair appears. Or can the --bereaved families have reserved seats that day?'"
Manchanda went on: "I wouldn't shake Tony Blair's hand. But like other people here from the bereaved families, I haven't thrown eggs. We have ­conducted ourselves in a dignified way. Chilcot wrote back very politely, but not one proposal I put was agreed to."

And for the reaction of another person who lost a loved one in Iraq, we'll note Peter Brierly (father of Shaun Brierley) from "
Tony Blair is guilty of mass murder" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

'We've been saying what has now come out of the Chilcot inquiry for the last six years. The decision to go to war was made years before it was announced, it was illegal, and it was to depose Saddam Hussein.
They denied it all this time, and now it's out.
But that isn't enough. The only acceptable outcome is for Tony Blair to face investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
When he gives evidence Blair will deny these things. Unless they put charges to Blair, the inquiry is in disrepute.
The Iraqi people should have a voice too, to come and give evidence. It wasn't just people who were killed -- a whole country was destroyed.
Every other day there seems to be a bombing or something similar in Baghdad.
The violence only exists because of the instability war has created.
We went and met with John Chilcot along with other military families before the inquiry started.
I met him individually and he said that if anything illegal came out in the inquiry he wouldn't hesitate to pass it on.
Well now it has come out of their own mouths that it was for regime change.
Since I refused to shake Blair's hand, he seems a bit different.
People used to say you'll never get what you want, but he's looking less cocky now, less confident.
We won't stop until we get him -- and until we get justice.'

There is more to "
Tony Blair is guilty of mass murder" but we don't have the room in today's snapshot, we'll note the other half tomorrow. Great Britain's Socialist Worker's coverage on this topic also includes:

Blair and Brown have blood on their hands » Afghanistan: Conference will not stabilise the 'good war' gone bad » Chilcot whitewash brings out the dirt » Attempt to ban protest outside Tony Blair's appearance at Iraq inquiry

Friday, one-time prime minister and forever poodle Tony Blair will appear before the
Iraq Inquiry. A major protest is expected to take place outside as War Criminal Tony testifies. From Stop The War Coalition's "Protest on Tony Blair's Judgement Day: 29 January from 8am:"
Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3EE On Friday 29 January, Tony Blair will try to explain to the Iraq Inquiry
the lies he used to take Britain into an illegal war.
Writers, musicians, relatives of the dead, Iraqi refugees, poets, human rights lawyers, comedians, actors, MPs and ordinary citizens will join
a day of protest outside the Inquiry to demand that this should be Tony Blair's judgement day.
There will be naming the dead ceremonies for the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in Blair's war. Military families who lost loved ones in Iraq will read the names of the 179 British soldiers killed.Join us from 8.0am onwards.

Yesterday's hearing remained in the news today due to Jack Straw. For recap, Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror) reports, "In dramatic evidence that suggested Mr Straw was pushing for invasion, Sir Michael revealed he sent the Foreign Secretary memos to say the "UK could not lawfully use force" and needed a second UN resolution. Sir Michael and his deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst also revealed all the department's legal experts regarded the invasion as unlawful." Richard Ford (Times of London) reports: "Jack Straw today defended his decision to ignore the legal advice of two senior Foreign Office lawyers in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The Justice Secretary rejected claims that he had ignored crucial advice over the legality of military action." BBC News reports Straw told them today that he was "reluctant" about the Iraq War "but in the event I made my decision and I stand by it." Then why the attempts at damange control?

Turning to some of today's reported violence in Iraq today.

Reuters notes 1 man shot dead in Zummar -- after which his vest exploded leaving three Iraqi police officers and 1 US soldier injured, a Mosul suicide bomber has taken his own life and left five people injured (four were police officers) and 2 people have been shot dead in Mosul in separate incidents. In addition Aseel Kami, Michael Christie and Ralph Boulton (Reuters) report a Baghdad assault on two buses containing Iranians making a pilgrimage to the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim with at least 2 people dead (an Iraqi bus driver and an Iranian woman).

Monday, Baghdad was slammed with bombings and the death toll has risen to at least 41 with over seventy wounded. Among the dead was Yasser, an Iraqi man who acted as a driver for various reporters. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's Morning Edition. link has text and transcript) remembers him:

He was fearless and saved my life many times. On one terrifying occassion, he swerved the car away from a knife-wielding attacker who wanted to steal the vehicle. In Iraq, the people you work with hold your life in their hands. Yasser took that role extremely seriously. He was loyal, devout, kind and curious. We became close. I met his family, ate at their home, traveled with him across the country on assignments. I often spent more time with him than with my own family. And over the many years I lived in Iraq, he was a steady presence in the almost unimaginable chaos.

James Hider (Times of London) remembers Yasser:

He joined the newspaper pretty much the same week I did, and toether we worked through the bloddiest periods of the war. Yasser -- whose surname I cannot put in print, even now, because of the danger to his brother, who also works as a Times driver -- was one of the thousands of Iraqis who have made the media coverage of the war possible: uncredited, unsung heroes of a war most people would rather forget.
He had survived some terrifying episodes, from being "ethnically cleansed" with his family by Sunni insurgents from their home in 2006, when they moved into our hotel but did not stop working, to blocking the road with his car as a vehicle full of armed kidnappers tried to abduct a Times reporter one evening near the Tigris river. He saved my life and the lives of colleagues at the risk of his own, only to step out of The Times office at exactly the wrong moment on Monday, the moment when a suicide car bomber fought his way into the compound and blew himself up.

Back to Lourdes Garcia-Navarro:The Iraq War is slowly fading from American newspapers and consiousness. Military men and politicians say it's better here now and indeed, these days there is less death. But people are still being killed. On Monday, I happened to know one of them. The legacy of the Iraq War is measured in these losses. The people who have died here cannot be forgotten. And I will not forget my friend, Yasser.

Moving over to the subject of oil, like Harold Ford Junior on the floor of Congress, getting in a female member of Congress' face and screaming, "Say it to Murtha!" a number of dumb asses have insisted they know something when they know nothing. We're referring to the stupid, the liars and the whores who want to insist that the US is shut out of Iraqi oil and therefor the Iraq War had nothing to do with oil. First off, as already noted, "multi-national." Multi-national companies (plus China's state oil) have won contracts -- multinationals with Americans serving on their boards. Second of all, the
World Tribune reports: "Iraq's Oil Ministry has signed a deal with Italy's Eni and the U.S. firm Occidental Petroleum to enhance the Zubair oil field, with an estimated reserve of 4.2 billion barrels." Third of all, Monica Hatcher (Houston Chronicle) reports, "Chad Deaton, CEO of Houston-based Baker Hughes, said in an earnings call Tuesday that his company has submitted a contract bid to a potential customer and could begin work on the ground by as early as the end of the first quarter. And Weatherford International chief Bernard Duroc-Danner said Weatherford expects to have eight rigs working in Iraq by the end of the first quarter and a ninth by July. The company is based in Switzerland but maintains a regional office in Houston. The heads of sector giants Schlumberger and Halliburton said in the past week that they also see business ramping up in the coming year." Surely the New York Times and all the other outlets that pimped the lie are now readying updates to their stories, right? (Don't hold your breath.)

Speaking of dumb, is there anyone worse than Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq as long as he has a lifecoach along for the ride?
Hill spoke to Lindsay Wise (Houston Chronicle) and those paying attention to his first response may grasp he didn't learn a damn thing since his confirmation hearing. (de-Ba'athification was confusing to him even then.) But it takes a special kind of stupid to produce this exchange.

Lindsay Wise: There were recent rumors of a military coup in Iraq. The U.K.'s ambassador to Iraq, John Jenkins, has been quoted saying a coup in Iraq is a real possibility in the future, that a democracy here is "not a done deal." What do you think?

Chris Hill: As I understand [it], the ambassador to her majesty's government explained that he was quoted out of context.

What? "Her majesty's government"? Chris Hill, who are you serving? That's (a). (b)? Jenkins said it. He said it in public. He was not misquoted. And if the US government is so pathetic (Chris Hill certainly is -- let's hope he's not representative) that they can't determine what someone said in public, then no wonder there is one "intelligence failure" after another. Where did Jenkins make that statement?

The Iraq Inquiry.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) did not misquote Jenkins. Alex Barker (Financial Times of London) did not misquote Jeninks and we didn't in the January 8th snapshot. Here's what Jenkins said:

If you look at the history of Iraq and the history of military coups in Iraq, you have to think that is always a possibility, a real possibility in the future, but I think where we are at the moment is -- it is much better than we thought it was going to be back in 2004/2005.

That's at the end of his remarks (refer to that day's snapshot for his remarks before it and the question before it). Jenkins was not misquoted nor, pay attention Chris Hill, was he asked of a military coup. Jenkins floated that all on his own. And because Chris Hill never stops finding new levels to stupidity,
we'll encourage him to click here for the video and transcript options for Jenkins testimony. You can lead a dunce to water, but you cannot make him think.

Or float. Vying for the title of Idiot of the Week, Hill has competition!, is
Ali al-Lami who insists to Asharq Al-Awsat that he is not controlled by Iran. The fresh from prison al-Lami heads the extra-legal Accountability and Justice Commission. And certainly, if you were released from prison mere months ago, you too would be heading a government commission because that's what cronyism is all about, right, Ali? Don't call him Ahmed Chalabi's lover because they insist they are just friends. With no benefits. Or none they admit to. But Ali explains that he's cracked down on the media and they've figured out their place and "calmed down" because he's threatened them with "lawsuits". He's a little bully. Let's hope he and Ahmed are lovers, they certainly deserve one another. (And, to look at them, it's obvious no one else would have them.)

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, in addition to leaving lives andinstitutions in ruin, also exacerbated a much more common and lethalemergency in Haiti: Dying during childbirth. Challenges intransportation, education, and quality health care contribute to Haitihaving the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere, anational crisis even before the earthquake struck. While great strides are being made with global health issues likeHIV/AIDS, maternal mortality figures worldwide have seen virtually noimprovement in 20 years. Worldwide, over 500,000 women die each yearduring pregnancy. On Friday, January 29 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), a NOW team thathad been working in Haiti during the earthquake reports on this deadlybut correctable trend. They meet members of the Haitian HealthFoundation (HHF), which operates a network of health agents in more than100 villages, engaging in pre-natal visits, education, and emergencyambulance runs for pregnant women.

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the guardian richard norton-taylor
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the times of londonrichard fordnico hines
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the daily mirrorjason beattie
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