Friday, June 19, 2009

Gordon Brown's scandals continue

Gordon Brown's been the topic of the week. Fresh from nearly losing his prime minister post and on the heels of the spending scandals in Parliament, Brown promised a new age of transparency only to turn around Monday and offer the long promised inquiry into the Iraq War . . . as a back-door, hidden-from-public view song and dance. Today Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) offers "Iraq war inquiry: Five reasons why a full Gordon Brown U-turn looks inevitable" and we'll note the first reason:

1. The Commons wants a public inquiry
This hasn't had much publicity, but yesterday the (Labour-dominated) Commons public administration committee published a strong report criticising the format proposed by Brown. This was its key finding:
While we welcome the government's announcement that an inquiry into Iraq will be held, that it will have a broad scope, and that it will aim to learn lessons from the decision to go to war, the conflict and its aftermath, there is a strong risk that the inquiry as currently constituted will not be able to pursue what should be its fundamental purpose: to identify the truth and ensure that the executive can be held properly accountable for its decisions and conduct in relation to Iraq.
Tony Wright, the committee's chairman (and the man Brown has just asked to recommend ways of making the Commons operate more effectively), said this:
It is also crucial that the inquiry be conducted openly and in public, and that Parliament has a role in establishing it. Only an open, legitimate and credible process of this kind will satisfy a sceptical public that this inquiry is not a whitewash.

Brown's backing away somewhat. Duncan Gardham (Telegraph of London) covers Brown's spokesperson:

He said that it would be up to Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry chairman, to decide "how the precise format of the inquiry should be structured."
Mr Brown's spokesman stressed that the Government did not want to see a lengthy public inquiry like the Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings that "goes on for years involving countless lawyers."

After minimizing the news earlier this week (providing a whitewash of the whitewash), John F. Burns (New York Times) offers a more realistic take in today's paper:

The latest imbroglio was touched off by Mr. Brown’s move earlier this week to redeem a longstanding pledge by creating an investigative panel to look into British military involvement in Iraq, now that Britain's last major military units are set to withdraw by July 30. But his restrictive provisions for the inquiry prompted wide condemnation among those who pressed for the inquiry, including relatives of the 179 British service personnel members who died in Iraq.
The outcry has come, too, from all parties in the House of Commons, from newspaper editorials and from powerful establishment voices, including a retired military commander, Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, who oversaw Britain's operations in Iraq as army chief in 2003. He said Thursday that the inquiry "must be open wherever possible" to ensure lessons are learned for future military operations. A similar view was articulated by John Major, a former Conservative prime minister. "If the purpose of the inquiry is to settle doubts that people have had for so long, then it defies logic to hold it in private," Lord Major said.
A common view has been that Mr. Brown, facing an election within 12 months, set out to limit the inquiry's potential for damaging Labor, which trails the opposition Conservatives badly in public opinion polls.

As she's done for over three weeks now, Rebecca covered the Brown news last night.

Tuesday the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division–South Soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device near the city of Samawah June 16. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin. The name of the Soldier will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official Web site at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next-of-kin." Denny Boyles (Fresno Bee) reports the soldier was 25-year-old Joshua Soto and quotes his aunt Carol Maldonado stating, "Joshua's brother Shane is serving in the Air Force, and he called home after he was told his brother had died in Tallil." Boyles notes that Joshua Soto's survivors include a widow and "a 10-month old son" as well as "eight sets of aunts and uncles". Norma Yuriar (KMPH, link has text and video) quotes Joshua's friends Koneeshia and Brenda Brown stating that he was on his third tour of Iraq. Koneeshia Brown declares, "Josh was a funny guy, he was a big joker and loved to mess around and play jokes on people. He was into sports and an all around good friend."

Kevin Schwaller (Ozarks First -- link has text and video) notes that the 1138th Military Police Company of the Missoouri National Guard is preparing to deploy to Iraq, June 26th at Springfield-Branson National Airport, they have their send-off as they head to Texas for one month and then onto Iraq. AP notes that Illionis Air National Guard's 183rd Civil Engineering Squadron will send 30 members to "Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations".

Meanwhile Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports that there has been an increase ("nearly doubled") in the number of enlisted seeking treatment for dependency on or abuse of alcoholism. The headline is "Alcohol abuse by GIs soars since '03" but that's not what the study can determine. What the study can determine is there is an increase in the number seeking assistance. That most likely means an increase across the board in abuse; however, it could mean raised awareness on the issue. Do I think that's what it is? No. But it is possible. Especially when you soncider that Zoroya reports that there has been no increase in the number seeking help with other drug issues. In other words, illegal drugs haven't shown an increase. Alcohol is a legal drug (provided you meet the minimum drinking age requirement) and it may be, for whatever reason, that the enlisted are more comfortable asking for help addressing problems with it. The headline leaps to a conclusion that the data, as presented in the article, can't back up. Zoroya notes there were 142 recorded army suicides in 2008 and that there are already 82 confirmed so far this year.

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oh boy it never ends