Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gordon Brown's U-turns

When Gordon Brown announced the inquiry last week, he insisted it would be held in private and that it would not attribute blame because the aim was to learn lessons for the future. Since then the Government has been forced into a string of concessions, and now admits that as much of the inquiry as possible will be heard in public.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday: "It is not an inquiry that has been set up to establish civil or criminal liability, it is not a judicial inquiry. Everything beyond that is within its remit, it can praise or blame whoever it likes, it is free to write its own report at every stage."
After a heated six-and-a-half hour debate called by the Tories, the Government survived a Labour back-bench rebellion last night but its majority of 62 was cut to 39. After a major backtrack on its original plans, only 19 Labour MPs rebelled against the Government in the vote.

The above is from Andrew Grice's "Iraq inquiry can play the blame game, says Miliband" (Independent of London). And to Brian Wheeler's live blogging of yesterday's House of Commons dust up, BBC News has added the video (in full) of Gordon Brown's thirty minute questioning by the House of Commons. Jason Beattie (The Daily Mirror) provides an overview of yesterday's developments: "The latest embarrassing climbdown came as Gordon Brown's Commons majority was slashed in half by a backbench revolt over the long-awaited probe. Labour MPs were rebelling over the terms of the inquiry and backed a Tory motion demanding a rethink. The Government's majority was cut to just 39 as the motion was rejected by only 299 to 260 votes." This is Gloucestershire notes, "Both of Gloucestershire's Labour MPs were among backbenchers to revolt over the arrangements for an Iraq inquiry, which saw the Government's majority slashed by nearly half. Parmjit Dhanda for Gloucester and Stroud's David Drew joined 17 of their Labour colleagues to back a Tory motion demanding a re-think and a vote for MPs on the inquiry's terms of reference."

Gerri Peev (The Scotsman) observes that David Miliban, Foreign Secretary, had to make concessions ahead of the vote to prevent a larger revolt from within Labour and reports on some of those who didn't go along with the concessions:

During the debate, Respect MP George Galloway said those who were to blame should be considered for criminal sanctions. "To some of us, it was worse than a blunder. It was a crime," he said.
"And this inquiry, if it is going to mean anything, will have to be able not only to apportion blame but to signal what legal avenues should be pursued."
Former international development secretary Clare Short said the government had been "lying" because of Tony Blair's "desperate" need to be close to the United States."

Wales News reminds, "A total of 179 UK service personnel were killed in the conflict, which went ahead despite doubts raised in 2003 over the legality of the military intervention." Stephen Glover's "How Brown has been humiliated by Mandy the manipulator" (Daily Mail) examines Peter Mandelson's behind the scenes role in protecting former prime minister Tony Blair:

The former Prime Minister reportedly lobbied Sir Gus O'Donnell, the head of the civil service, for a secret inquiry on the basis that a public one might turn into a show trial.
Alastair Campbell, who is a frequent visitor to No 10, and acts as a conduit between Mr Brown and his predecessor, may well have been involved.
The fact that Mr Blair -- and Campbell and Mandelson on his behalf -- should be so frightened of an independent public inquiry speaks volumes.
The ex-Prime Minister can hardly think that a former mandarin such as Sir John Chilcot would want to preside over something so crude as a show trial.
No, Mr Blair knows he has made decisions -- and, I would suggest, told untruths -- which will not at all redound to his advantage should they be made public.
He has much to hide. Nor would such revelations help his plan to become President of Europe.
When in office he repeatedly refused to call a proper public inquiry.
Those undertaken by Lord Hutton and Lord Butler were so narrowly drawn that they were unlikely to ensnare Mr Blair, though Lord Butler did make some scathing criticisms of his 'sofa government' style of leadership, as well as criticising flawed intelligence.
Now, despite Mr Mandelson's best efforts, the former Prime Minister will not be able to escape the sort of forensic questioning which will, I believe and hope, establish that he sometimes acted in bad faith, and did much of which he should be ashamed.

While a fight continues for the Iraq inquiry in England, the US rammed through the Status Of Forces Agreement Thanksgiving day and the small number of Iraqi MPs who bothered to show up for the vote barely passed the SOFA but did so, in the end, with the promise that the treaty could be put before the Iraqi people as a referendum in July. Mohammed a Salih's "Iraq puts US presence to a vote" (Asia Times) address the topic:

As Iraqis witness a spike in violence after a months-long relative lull, the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has decided to put its security agreement with the United States to a public referendum, although the move appears to be only heightening a sense of uncertainty over the fate of the country.
Last year, Iraqi and US negotiators included a provision in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for a referendum on the presence of US troops on Iraqi soil, to be held six months after the deal went into effect. Although the referendum was supposed to be conducted in July, recently Iraq's cabinet decided to hold it
along with national parliamentary elections in January 2010.
The government allocated about US$100 million for the polls last week, and cited financial and time constraints as reasons for the delay.

In the US, a funeral is scheduled for Saturday. Monday the Defense Department issued the following:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Staff Sgt. Edmond L. Lo, 23, of Salem, N.H., died June 13 in Samarra City, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device that his explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team was acting to neutralize detonated. He was assigned to the 797th Ordnance Company, 79th Ordnance Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas.
For further information the media may contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at (254) 287-9993; after hours (254) 291-2591.

Mark Hayward (New Hampshire Union Leader) reports Lo attended Salem High school and was a member of the 2004 graduating class, had five siblings, was on his second deployment in Iraq and quotes his mother Rosa Lo stating, "I told him to be careful and he said 'I know, I know. I didn't worry that much because he was smart. I thought he knew how to handle it." James A. Kimble (Eagle-Tribune) quotes Salem High School Superintendent stating, "He impress me as a young with quiet confidence. He was kind, he was incredibly respectful. He was what you would want your own son to be like."

Derrick Perkins (Salem Observer) reports on Bob Castricone's efforts to honor Edmond Lo with a plaque:

Castricone, treasurer for the Salem Veterans Association, is working with members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars to have a bronze plaque bearing Lo's name and service placed at the intersection of Geremonty Drive and Main Street. Castricone hopes to have the plaque in place by Veterans Day, Nov. 11, in time to let local veterans honor him with a small ceremony.
"We're going to dedicate Veterans Day this year in his memory," Castricone said. "Once we get that plaque we'll put on a little ceremony there. We'll have a little prayer, a firing squad and play taps."
[. . .]
Calling hours for Lo will be from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, June 26, at the Douglas & Johnson Funeral Home, 214 Main St., Salem. The funeral service is at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 27, at the Mary Queen of Peace Church in Salem, followed by burial in the Pine Grove Cemetery.

The following community sites updated last night:

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends