Monday, June 29, 2009

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair's latest problems

A secret report by Army bosses to be presented to the Iraq war inquiry blames Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for the botched occupation of the country.
The dossier -- prepared for ex-military chief General Sir Mike Jackson -- criticises then Chancellor Mr Brown for withholding funds to rebuild Basra for FIVE months after our troops went in. And the 100-page document attacks Mr Blair for "uncritically" accepting flawed US plans for the March 2003 invasion, which led to tens of thousands of deaths, including those of 179 British troops.
The report -- Stability Operations in Iraq -- will not be officially made public because the inquiry's head, Sir John Chilcot, ruled all documents will remain secret.

The above is from Rupert Hamer's "Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to blame over Iraq war, says Army report" (The Daily Mirror) from yesterday and it remains the big story in the UK news cycle today. Daniel Martin (Daily Mail) adds:

In a memo to the Iraq war inquiry, they say Mr Brown's refusal as Chancellor to release vital funds for the Army played into the hands of insurgents.
Its criticisms are the latest in a line of attacks from senior Army figures on Mr Brown, who was Chancellor when U.S. and British troops attacked Iraq in March 2003.
The report, written for former Army head Sir Mike Jackson, also attacks Mr Blair for 'uncritically' accepting flawed U.S. plans for the invasion when he was Prime Minister.
It reveals British forces were so overstretched they had to use mobile phones during battles because Army-issue radios did not work. The 100-page dossier, Stability Operations in Iraq, will not be made public - but its contents were leaked to a Sunday newspaper.

Nicholas Watt (Mail & Guardian) reminds that last week was when a debate in the House of Commons forced Gordon Brown and his cabinet to back off of the inquiry being held completely in private and notes that the chance "that Blair and Brown will be cross-examined on their roles in the Iraq war during the build-up to the general election that is expected to take place next year." The debate also forced Brown and his cabinet to back off the claim that the inquiry would not apportion blame.

The Scottish National Party issued the following release:

Commenting on an army report leaked to the Sunday Mirror which blames not only Tony Blair but Gordon Brown for the botched occupation of Iraq the SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, said it indicated unease at senior army levels about the inquiry being held in secret.
According to the secret report by senior Army officers whish was to be presented to the Iraq war inquiry it criticises the then Chancellor Gordon Brown for withholding funds to rebuild Basra for FIVE months after troops went in. The 100-page document also attacks Tony Blair for "uncritically" accepting the flawed US plans for the March 2003 invasion.
The report - Stability Operations in Iraq - is not meant not be officially made public because the inquiry's head, Sir John Chilcot, ruled all documents will remain secret.
Commenting Mr Robertson said:
"This leaked document would appear to be a damning critique of the two most senior members of the Labour government at the time - Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
"It also suggests that there may be great unease about Gordon Brown's decision to allow the inquiry to be held in secret when it wished.
"The whole point of this inquiry was to get to the truth about the Iraq war. People wanted an open and honest inquiry, not some establishment stitch-up.
"This leak would appear to support the fact that by every measurement the Iraq war has been the biggest foreign policy disaster in modern times, and those responsible for it have never answered the most fundamental questions about why we were led into this mess."

Representing the Conservative Party, David Brown misses the news cycle and instead focuses on public spending. The Socialist Party, Liberal Democrats and Respect have nothing new up. Respect's MP George Galloway did speak last week in the House of Commons Debate and World Press Network Net offers that and includes a link for audio:

Mr. George Galloway (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Respect): With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, 10 minutes of most Back Benchers is more than enough, but there are odd occasions when it is not enough. The speeches of the right hon. Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates) who has vast experience and of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) should have been extended. They were extremely important to this debate and this 10-minute rule should give you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the flexibility to allow a moment or two for important, decisive speeches in a debate. I have now given away 30 seconds of my time, but I thought that that was worth saying.

The Government just do not get it. That is evident again this evening from the languid complacency with which the Foreign Secretary spoke, which led the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright) to say that he felt that the Foreign Secretary’s heart was not in it. It is evident from the period of time when there was not a single Government Member on the Front Bench and from the body language of the two Ministers who now are on it when the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood was speaking. They were sneering and nudging, utterly oblivious to the fact that her speech will be listened to and read by millions tomorrow and given real weight, while what they have to say will be treated, if they are lucky, with derision.

The Prime Minister’s initial prospectus for this inquiry proved that the Government just do not get it. When, in 2005, I was elected as the first left-of-Labour Member of Parliament in England for 60 years, I was elected because of Iraq. The Labour party’s membership has halved because of Iraq. Millions of Labour voters have left them and new parties—some of the left and some of the right—are proliferating and strengthening, in substantial part because of Iraq. That has happened not directly, but indirectly because of the poison that the Iraq question has caused to pulse around the British body politic. The lack of credibility of the British political class has also been the result of Iraq.

The Government still do not get it. If they did, they would have used this opportunity for a grand catharsis, to turn the page and finally leave Blairism behind and call for the kind of inquiry that has been repeatedly demanded in the House this evening.

Jeremy Corbyn: Will the hon. Member also concede that it is not just British politics that has been changed and shaped by Iraq, as the issue has had an effect across Europe, all over the world in respect of the anti-war movement, but also particularly in the United States? For all his support for the war in Afghanistan, President Obama basically owes his position to his opposition to the Iraq war and his initial victories in the Democrat primaries because of that opposition. American politics has also been delineated by Iraq.

Mr. Galloway: Indeed. There has been a holding to account in the United States of America—there has been catharsis. Those responsible for the disaster have been cleansed away and there is the sense of a new beginning.

Of course, we do not have that option. Some of us recall only too vividly the iron-clad consensus between those on the two Front Benches in the run-up to the war. The then Leader of the Opposition differed from the Government only in that he wanted the war faster, and more brutal and overwhelming. We have no chance for that catharsis, because either Tweedledee or Tweedledum will rule the country when the general election comes. That is a disaster for us, and it makes the inquiry much more important than it might otherwise have been. That is why we ought to have a real inquiry.

I am a founder and the vice-president of the Stop the War coalition, which organised the demonstrations of millions that have been referred to this evening, so the House must forgive me if I am a little more rebarbative than some of the politesse we have heard today. I seek to speak for the millions who were on the streets of this country.

People have queued up to say they have nothing against the membership of the inquiry. Well, I do. The more the Foreign Secretary adumbrated their distinguished characteristics, the more I saw a parade of establishment flunkeys—Sir Humphrey This and Sir Humphrey That. Those who are not just grey blurs are in fact partisans. Freedman is one of the authors of the intellectual case for the war. He and his neo-con friends were the people who made the then Prime Minister’s bullets for the war. Gilbert hailed Bush and Blair—imagine, they are already two of the most discredited political figures in the world, and history has not even started on them yet—as akin to Roosevelt and Churchill. Yet both Freedman and Gilbert are among the very small group of people who will conduct the inquiry.

Why can we not have real politicians on the inquiry? Why cannot the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews)—forensic, learned, legal—be on the committee? Why cannot the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), with all his experience, skills and training, be on the inquiry? Why cannot the former Foreign Secretary Lord Hurd, with his vast knowledge of international affairs, be on the inquiry? Why should Parliament be represented by a woman I have never heard of? I have sat in this place for 23 years, and I doubt whether anybody here, other than those with the privilege of knowing the lady personally, could tell us anything that she has ever done. How can she represent Parliament in this great debate—this great inquiry? There are no military men, no men or women of legal eminence and no politicians except a non-political peeress of whom none of us has heard. This inquiry team has no credibility out there among the public.

Mr. Gordon Prentice rose—

Mr. Galloway: I cannot give way, because I shall lose the time—I have no extra time. I am sorry. The House must forgive me; I am one of those who is worth more than 10 minutes. I cannot give way—[HON. MEMBERS: “You can.”] In that case, I apologise. I give way.

Mr. Prentice: I think it is completely out of order for the hon. Gentleman to traduce Baroness Prashar from the other place. She was a distinguished civil service commissioner. Just because he has not heard of her does not mean that colleagues elsewhere have not.

Mr. Galloway: Quite so. A distinguished civil servant, just as Mr. or Lord Chilcot, Sir Chilcot or whatever he is called, is a distinguished former permanent secretary. That is the point. How very British. How very “Yes Minister”. How very Sir Humphrey. This has to be a real inquiry, of the kind the Americans would hold—with forensic experts on it who can root out the truth.

Some of the stuff we have heard this evening has been almost laughable. The Foreign Secretary said that he cannot put a percentage on which parts will be in public and which in private. Well, given how loth most people in the country are to believe anything the Government say, that ought to be a significant warning signal. They say that Chilcot can look at the scope for making people take oaths, but without oaths the whole thing is meaningless. Tony Blair is right that he answers questions on Iraq all the time. It is the truthfulness of the answers that is the problem, not the fact that he has the brass neck to answer. His problem is the punishment that he would have to face in this life if he answered questions untruthfully under oath. This is not worth the paper it is not written on unless there are legally enforceable powers to subpoena, to bring witnesses and documents, and to force people giving evidence to do so under oath.

The reality is that some of us smell a crime in this whole affair. That it was a blunder is now conventional wisdom, although one or two almost extinct volcanoes on the new Labour Benches are still prepared to chunter about how proud they are of an enterprise that killed a million people, that killed hundreds and maimed thousands of our own people, that radicalised and fanaticised hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world, and that caused fanaticism to come to our very own country and harm innocent people in London, including in my constituency. Although a few semi-extinct volcanoes are prepared to identify themselves with what they did, that this was a blunder is a conventional wisdom that is shared if not in this building, then among the vast majority of the population as a whole.

Some of us say, to reverse Talleyrand, that this was worse than a blunder; it was a crime. If the inquiry is to mean anything, it will need to be able not only to apportion blame but, if blame is apportioned, to signal what legal avenues should be pursued. I know that we do not like that sort of thing in this country—things are usually swept under the carpet and finessed—but this is new territory. Events such as the expenses scandal have left the country seeing our House with such odium, and this country’s political class so naked, that the old ways will not do. If the inquiry finds people guilty of misleading Parliament, the Queen, the armed forces and the public, they will have to be held accountable. There will have to be a trial, which will have to be held under oath, and that will lead to punishment if there are convictions at the end—nothing less will do.

We can faff about here in our parliamentary way, with fey exchanges between those on the two Front Benches, but that will not cut any mustard out there—[Interruption.] It will not cut any mustard with the people who were against the war in their overwhelming number in constituencies such as that of the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), who is speaking from a sedentary position. They will be looking to see whether she votes to continue the cover-up, or votes for the kind of candour that will be required to return credibility to the House and our political system. This does not cut any ice with the millions of people who used to vote Labour but can now hardly think of themselves doing so again, even when the alternative is the rancid hypocrisy of Conservative Front Benchers.

Polly notes David Carter's "'Stonewall gave me new gay role models'" (BBC News):

After World War II homosexual rights movements made progress in Western democracies. The homosexual rights movement began in an organized way in the United States after World War II during the Cold War when the Mattachine Society was founded.
While there was progress toward decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada and Europe, progress in the US was much slower. But in Europe, severe prejudice against homosexuality remained even in those societies where homosexual sex acts were not illegal.
It was the massive and sustained uprising against the police that erupted at the end of June 1969 when the New York City police raided a popular gay bar named the Stonewall that eventually changed the situation worldwide.
Because the riots broke out in the late 1960s after the successes of the US anti-Vietnam War movement and the black civil rights movement, the organizations that emerged immediately after Stonewall were cast in a New Left mould, which also meant a militant consciousness.
The most successful of these organizations, the Gay Activists Alliance, modelled its actions on guerrilla theatre and added camp humour to create "zaps", demonstrations that were highly creative, highly subversive, and designed to get media attention. The result was that gay people were seen over and over in the media acting from positions of power: challenging power and unafraid.
That changed the consciousness of gay people everywhere, including even someone like myself who was a high-school student who was trying very hard to deny his homosexuality.
Suddenly I had a new model: gay men as brave and creative and effective, not as sex perverts who were creeps and mentally ill. And this is why the movement at this historical juncture grew like mushrooms: this was just what gay men and lesbians, who had been so suppressed for so long needed. And because we had witnessed the revolt of all the other oppressed groups, we knew just what to do: all the other militant movements that had changed the consciousness of the masses in the 1960s -even when they had often failed to change particular government policies or pass specific laws - offered a template for ending discrimination and prejudiced thinking.

For more on the history of Stonewall and where things are today in the US, you can refer to the following Democracy Now! segments from Friday when Amy Goodman turned the focus of the show onto the struggle:

Stonewall Riots 40th Anniversary: A Look Back at the Uprising that Launched the Modern Gay Rights Movement
Trans Day of Action: "The Rebellion Is Not Over"
A Look at the Gay Rights Movement Beyond Marriage and the Military

(Today's focus, for any who are wondering, is the coup in Honduras and Latin America.)

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barry & Bully" went up last night. The e-mail for this site is