Friday, March 13, 2009

Where's the inquiry into the lies of illegal war?

Mandarins openly discussed removing caveats from the security assessment of the ability of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, to deploy weapons of mass destructions.
The emails circulated between senior figures in Tony Blair's government were released under the Freedom of Information Act after a ruling by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner.
They show that unnamed officials also protested that the dossier suggested that Saddam's biological warfare programme was far more advanced than they knew to be the case.
In one email, a civil servant warned about "iffy drafting" and compared hyperbolic claims about Iraq's nuclear capacity to "Frankenstein" science.

The above, noted by Polly, is from Rosa Prince's "Civil servants had serious concerns over Iraq 'dodgy dossier'" (Telegraph of London) and, at Free Speech Blog, journalist Chris Ames weighs in:

I first asked for these papers in June 2005, nearly four years ago. The Cabinet Office delayed for as long as it could before turning down the request, at which point I appealed to the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas. Last September, nearly three years on, Thomas ordered that the papers should be released, hinting along the way that they would provide 'evidence that the dossier was deliberately manipulated in order to present an exaggerated case for military action'.
The Cabinet Office then quietly appealed the case to the Information Tribunal. Given recent tribunal decisions, such as the cabinet minutes case, they can't have had much hope of achieving anything other than a further delay.
It's not clear that the Cabinet Office even intended to fight the case. At the beginning of last week, as it was due to submit skeleton arguments, it told the tribunal that it was withdrawing. This looks like a scandalous waste of time and public money.

This topic will be a part of a roundtable Polly's doing for Sunday's Polly's Brew. Polly still has two slots open and if you're interested in participating (it starts at 8:00 p.m. EST Saturday night, I'm not breaking that down internationally or in US time zones), she asks that you contact her and those two slots will be filled by the first to ask for them. Saturday roundtables are difficult because it's the weekend. (I'll be taking part as will Ava, Ty and Mike. Other than Polly, I have no idea who else will be.) And don't forget that there will be an Iraq roundtable at all community sites who normally post on Friday nights (plus here, it will be posted here as well). Still on the topic of the revelations in England, The Scottish National Party issued the following press release on the matter:

SNP Defence spokesperson and Westminster leader, Angus Robertson MP, has called on the UK government to immediately announce the starting date of an independent inquiry into the Iraq war after previously secret e-mails revealed a systematic and deliberate attempt to embellish the UK government's ‘dodgy’ dossier on weapons of mass destruction. The documents show that British intelligence officers were concerned that the dossier suggested Saddam Hussein's alleged WMD programme was more advanced than they actually believed was the case.
They complained of "iffy drafting" and mocked the claims made about Iraq's nuclear programme, suggesting it was the work of "Dr Frankenstein".
Commenting Mr Robertson said:
"The case for war in Iraq is now totally exposed as a lie. Gordon Brown, who supported the war, must immediately announce the starting date of an independent inquiry.
"The public feels it was lied to about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, and those responsible must not be allowed to hide from an inquiry.
"We must learn the lessons from the worst UK Foreign policy decision in living memory. Our brave troops have had to pay the price of a conflict forced by Tony Blair and paid for by Gordon Brown.
"Those responsible have never answered the most fundamental questions about why we were led into this war.
"The claim that the war was about weapons of mass destruction was a lie, a mere cover story unsupported by the facts, which has cost the lives of thousands of civilians and hundreds of our brave soldiers."

Bob Roberts (The Mirror) adds
, "The Lib Dems said: 'This confirms officials and advisers close to Tony Blair were deliberately tweaking the presentation of the intelligence to bolster the case for war on Iraq'." The Daily Mail also notes growing outcries over the deception:

Opposition parties said the emails meant a public inquiry into the Iraq conflict was now urgently required.
Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: 'These minutes shed interesting light on the process by which the caveats in the Joint Intelligence Committee's original assessment of Iraq's WMD programmes were stripped out of the dossier that was presented to Parliament and the British people.'
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: 'This confirms the widely held suspicions that leading officials and political advisers close to Tony Blair were deliberately tweaking the presentation of the intelligence to bolster the case for war on Iraq.'

The Metro reminds, "The dossier was made public in September 2002 by the then prime minister Tony Blair. Critics believe the move was designed to gain public support for invading Iraq the following year." The dossier is revealed to be rigged and filled with intentional distortions. England was lied into the illegal war and proof emerges constantly and publicly. So where is the inquiry? These revelations have become very common in England and they do get press coverage (unlike in the US), so where's the inquiry? Michael Settle (Scotland's The Herald) quotes SNP's Angus Robertson stating, "The case for war in Iraq is now totally exposed as a lie. Gordon Brown, who supported the war, must immediately announce the starting date of an independent inquiry." A real inquiry. BBC reminds:

The dossier became the cause of a huge row between the BBC and Tony Blair's government following the invasion of Iraq and the failure to find WMD.
The Today programme's Andrew Gilligan reported that an unnamed senior official involved in drawing it up had told him parts of it - specifically a claim that Saddam could launch WMD at 45 minutes' notice - had been inserted against the wishes of the intelligence services even though the government "probably knew" the claim was wrong.
This led on to the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, the WMD specialist who killed himself just over a week after being named by the Ministry of Defence as the source for the BBC's report.
Lord Hutton's inquiry ruled that Mr Gilligan's report had been wrong because Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett had had ownership of the dossier and had agreed to everything included in it.
Lord Hutton also said the 45-minute claim - which was withdrawn 10 months later - was based on a report received by the intelligence services that they believed at the time to be reliable.

We were noting the "Awakening" Councils yesterday. James Warden (Stars and Stripes) reports:

U.S. forces made their last payment to "Sons of Iraq" in Sudayra in Kirkuk province on March 2. Soldiers monitored Iraqi troops as they made payments to more than 1,000 members.
"Now that we’ve got the transfers nearly complete, we are turning our focus to the transition of SOI into jobs," said Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, the reconciliation chief for Multi-National Corps -- Iraq.
Members of the groups have been promised jobs in the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki mandated that 20 percent of them will join Iraqi security forces. So far, more than 3,000 have joined the Iraqi police.
Several hundred more have joined the Iraqi army and newly formed oil police to protect critical infrastructure. More than 15,000 additional applications are being processed through the police-hiring pipeline, Kulmayer said.
The other 80 percent will be offered jobs in the government’s various ministries. Zuhair al-Chalibi, of the Iraqi government’s Implementation and Follow-Up Committee for Reconciliation, is leading that process. Chalibi’s committee has reviewed most of the job-skills applications from Baghdad’s roughly 48,000 "Sons of Iraq," Kulmayer said.

It's a monthly payment. That March 2nd payment? It was for the month of March. The US hopes -- HOPES -- they do not have to make an April payment but let's wait until the April pay day rolls around before any declarations that they're off the payroll. This month, the "Awakenings" remain on the US payroll. And that's before we start splitting hairs over the policy of continuing to pay the ones al-Maliki's unable to find jobs for.

Meanwhile, from Iraq, Matthew Schofield (billed as Matt Schofield) writes a commentary for McClatchy's Kansas City Star entitled, "There’s no keeping out Iraq’s No. 1 infiltrator:"

This is Baghdad, a city of 5 to 6 million people, filled with wind blocks. The Tigris, as fabled a river as the planet holds, runs through the middle, and the water table supports palm trees in almost every vacant spot.
But even during the calm times, take a close look: The deep green of the palm leaves is muted by a dusty cover. The city is like a grandparent’s attic; run a finger along any surface and leave a line.
Especially at this time of year. About now, the sandstorms begin. They'll peak in May, June and July.
Already the white tiles of my balcony have to be washed clean of sand a couple of times a week. Buildings, cars, yards are all tinted sand.
The storms don't spring suddenly. There is usually warning. The wind will blow. In the office, Laith, an Iraqi co-worker, tells me to worry if the wind comes from the west.
"From the east, the north, the dust is not so bad," he explains. "But from the west ..."
The signs are everywhere. The frame of the balcony door is stained brown with the residue of packing tape, futile efforts to keep out the sand.

In the US, labor journalist David Bacon offers "WHY LABOR LAW DOESN'T WORK FOR WORKERS" (New American Media):

After months of a media war supporting and condemning it, the Employee Free Choice Act was finally introduced into Congress again this week. The bill has been debated before, but with a larger Democratic majority, its chances of passage are much greater today, and President Obama has said he'll sign it. Employers, therefore, are fighting it as never before.
Behind the verbal fireworks, workers on the ground say that current labor law has no teeth, and must be changed. In Lancaster, California, one of the country's hardest-fought organizing drives highlights the obstacles they face. A year ago, employees at Rite Aid's huge drug warehouse there voted to join a union. On March 21, 2008, the National Labor Relations Board certified that union, giving it the right to negotiate a first union contract. But Rite Aid, workers say, has just been waiting for the year to expire. Once it does, the company can stop the pretense of negotiating.
But an even more serious problem lies beyond. When the year is up, a group of pro-company workers will likely petition for a new election, where the company can try to undo last year's pro-union vote.
These are just the latest maneuvers in Rite Aid's war against the union. For the last three years its employees have overcome one obstacle after another in their effort to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Each obstacle has been placed in their path by this country's weak labor laws, a problem the Employee Free Choice Act was written to correct. That's why Rite Aid and other large employers are fighting the bill in Congress.
EFCA would go a long way toward solving the problems workers have at three crucial stages in union organizing efforts - anti-union firings at the beginning, getting their union recognized, and negotiating that first agreement. Says Angel Warner, one of Rite Aid's most vocal pro-union employees, "if we'd had EFCA, we'd have had our union and contract a long time ago."

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press).

Public broadcasting notes. NOW on PBS explores the economy in their latest broadcast which begins airing tonight on most PBS stations (check your local listings):

The world's economic superpowers are preparing to meet--will they devise a fix for the financial mess? Next time on NOW.
On March 13, financial ministers and central bankers of the world's economic superpowers will meet in London to lay the groundwork for next month's crucial meeting of their country's leaders, known as the G20. Will their work revolutionize the global economy and lift us out of this economic hole, or will politics get in the way?
David Brancaccio interviews Kenneth Rogoff, Harvard economics professor and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, about how high we should raise our hopes and what's at stake for America and the world.

Washington Week also begins airing tonight on most PBS stations (check local listings) and it's just Gwen and the fellas: Time's Michael Duffy, Slate's John Dickerson and NBC's Michael Viqueira. Good thing it's not Women's History Month, right? Oh, wait, it is. Well that's PBS counter-programming, you understand, because there are so many women dominating Friday night programming! There's . . . Jennifer Love Hewitt! And . . . There's Jennifer Love Hewitt! Hey, look, I love Love, she's one of the sweetest people in the industry, but I had no idea she was so powerful, that she required such extensive counter-programming. We salute you, Jennifer Love Hewitt, you make the PBS programmers tremble. Jennifer Love Hewitt's network home is CBS (The Ghost Whisperer, Friday nights, first hour of prime time) and Sunday, on CBS' 60 Minutes:

The Chairman
In a rare interview with a sitting Federal Reserve chairman – the first in 20 years – Ben Bernanke tells Scott Pelley what went wrong with America's financial system, how it caused the current economic crisis, what the Fed's doing to help fix it and when he expects the crippling recession to end. (This is a double-length segment.)
Alice Waters
She has been cooking and preaching the virtues of fresh food grown in an environmentally friendly way for decades. A world-class restaurant and eight cookbooks to her credit, she's become famous for her "slow food" approach – an antidote to fast food. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, March 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update:
Madoff's Guilty Plea
Bernard Madoff has pleaded guilty to 11 felony charges for defrauding investors of more than $60 billion in a giant Ponzi scheme. Financial analyst and fraud investigator Harry Markopolos told Steve Kroft that the Securities and Exchange Commission ignored his repeated warnings about the Madoff fund for over five years. | Watch Video

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