Monday, June 22, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Gordon Brown can't cover for himself let alone Tony Blair, Jane Arraff reports US forces may not be pulling out of Mosul, Cindy Sheehan speaks out against both parts of the War Machine, the tag sale on Iraqi oil gets a push from the New York Times, and more.
Starting with England where Prime Minister Gordon Brown's been the topic of the week all last 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 last Monday and offer the long promised inquiry into the Iraq War . . . as a back-door, hidden-from-public view song and dance. The Irish Independent observes, "Brown's reputation has been hit by his disastrous handling of the planned inquiry into the invasion of Iraq." Today John Chilcot -- appointed by Brown to lead the Iraq inquiry -- makes a statement. BBC reports that Chilcot has sent Brown a letter which includes this statement: "More broadly, I believe it will be essential to hold as much of the proceedings of the inquiry as possible in public, consistent with the need to protect national security and to ensure and enable complete candour in the oral and written evidence from witnesses." Haroon Siddique (Guardian) adds, "One reason why Brown is thought to have agreed to a private inquiry may have been pressure from the former prime minister, Tony Blair. The Observer reported that Blair pressed Brown to hold an inquiry behind closed doors because he feared he would be subjected to a 'show trial' if it were open to the public." This morning on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, Marr spoke with Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg:
Nick Clegg: If his [Gordon Brown's] inquiry is to have any legitimacy it must first be held in public with only some exceptions made for evidence heard in secret.
Andrew Marr: Do you think Tony Blair should be giving evidence in public?
Nick Clegg: And second I'll be saying if the inquiry is to have any legitimacy, the prime architect of the decision to go to war in Iraq, along side George Bush, should give his evidence in public under oath. I think anything less will make people feel this is just a grand cover up for, after all, what was the biggest foreign policy mistake this country has made since has made since Suez.
Andrew Marr: And what about Cabinet documents and documents that have been private before like, for instance, the one you mentioned from The Observer which suggest that there was a discussion [between Bush and Blair] about sending a plane over Iraq to see if they'd shoot it down as an excuse for starting the war?
Nick Clegg: I think all of that should be made possible with, of course, some exceptions where you, for instance, endanger the lives of intelligence officers -- if you reveal through a public session where they're working how they're getting their intelligence. Just like the 9-11 inquiry in the United States. Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, some of these key players, they gave evidence in public and we should do exactly the same thing with only very small exceptions for evidence held in secret. I think, look, diplomats think it should be held in public, military figures do, the public clearly do, the families of the soldiers -- the brave service men and service women who've lost their lives, most political opinion thinks we should hold this in public. The only two people who don't are Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair because they want to cover up their tracks. We shouldn't have this inquiry determined by precisely the people who risk being most embarrassed by it.
Nick Clegg was asked of Jamie Doward, Gaby Hinsliff and Mark Townsend (The Observer) report on a January 31, 2003 memo ("almost two months before the invasion") which is a "record of a meeting between President Bush and Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq, outlining their intention to go to war without a second United Nations resolution". Let's drop back to June of 2005 when Michael Smith (Times of London) reported:
A SHARP increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war "to put pressure on the regime" was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice.
The advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began "spikes of activity" designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war.
The Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurise the regime was "not consistent with" UN law, despite American claims that it was.
The decision to provoke the Iraqis emerged in leaked minutes of a meeting between Tony Blair and his most senior advisers -- the so-called Downing Street memo published by The Sunday Times shortly before the general election.
The two War Hawks were admitting that WMD might not be found and that they needed other ways to force the war with Iraq. Blair doesn't want to testify in private and has argued against it. Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror) adds, "Tony Blair sparked fury yesterday over claims that he tried to 'muzzle' the Iraq War inquiry. The former PM is reported to have told Gordon Brown the probe would have become a 'show trial' unless it was kept behind closed doors." Jane Merrick and James Hanning (Independent of London) surmise, "A public appearance by Mr Blair before the Chilcot inquiry would also damage his ambitions of becoming EU president, a role that needs the support of European countries that opposed the war." The New Statesman explains, "Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, is said to have communicated Blair's anxieties to Brown. Yesterday the Northern Ireland Secretary, Shaun Woodward, confirmed that Blair had discussed the inquiry with O'Donnell." The reaction to former Prime Minister and always Bush Poodle Tony Blair attempting to circumvent the process resulted in a backlash even among Labour (Blair and Brown's party). William Hague (Daily Mail) argues, "He is the last person who should be setting the rules for an inquiry that will largely be concerned with decisions and events during his time in office." Nigel Morris (Independent of London) reports, "The Labour rebels' anger was intensified by the disclosure yesterday that Tony Blair, likely to be the key witness, had consulted with the Cabinet Secretary on the form of the inquiry. They want him to give evidence under oath."
This anger may be apparent in the increasingly public role of Education Secretary Ed Balls. Balls backed a public inquiry last week when he was caught by surprise with the question during a live interview. James Chapman (Daily Mail) notes, "Ed Balls today signalled that the Government would perform a U-turn and hold the Iraq War inquiry in public. The Education Secretary said it would be a 'good thing' to hold some of the hearing in public after Gordon Brown faced fury from Labour backbenchers over his initial decision to keep them private." Blair's not helped by news of an upcoming interview to run in Esquire. Rachel Cooke (Daily Mail) quotes Blair saying, "I've no regrets about that decision" to start an illegal war with lies "because it was difficult to get rid of Saddam, but leaving him would also have been difficult, and when I look at the region now, I think it would be a lot more complicated [were he still there]". And would over a million Iraqis have died? Would 173 British service members have died? Would 4315 US service members have died? Tony Blair sent what members of his own family into Iraq?
In the BBC interview, Nick Clegg mentioned Alastair Campbell. James Chapman (Daily Mail) observes, "Like ghosts at the feast, the sulphurous spirits of Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell loom large over Gordon Brown's latest political disaster. . . . Mr Campbell, who helped draw up the infamous Iraq War dossiers as Mr Blair's chief spin doctor, remains a major player behind the scenes and a conduit between the two men. He too speaks regularly to Mr Brown by phone and makes frequent visits to Downing Street." Bruce Anderson (Independent) advocates even further opening of the inquiry, "Crucial decisions were taken in the closest partnership with the Americans. Condi Rice, then the National Security Adviser, was in daily contact with David Manning, her nearest equivalent in No.10. It would be impossible to understand the UK role without the US dimension. That requires long interviews with President Bush, Secretaries Powell, Rice and Rumsfeld, plus a score of lesser names. The Chilcot report will not be complete unless it contains a chapter entitled: 'Mr Blair becomes a neo-conservative'." Lucien Rajakarunanayake (Sri Lanka's Daily News) also argues for expanding the scope:
The facts of the UK's involvement in the invasion of Iraq, it would show there is every reason to call for a fully independent and international probe into why the UK went to Iraq, what it did there and what it has left the Iraqi people with.
The reasons are compelling. They went to a foreign land. They went there uninvited by its people. They went under false pretexts, having lied to their own legislature, the House of Commons, that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of acquiring WMD.
They spun and twisted intelligence reports to mislead their own legislature, and even worse, together with those in Washington who misled both Houses of Congress about Iraq and WMD, also misled the UN Security Council on the same matter.
They fooled the UN into endorsing the invasion of Iraq, which was in fact an illegal and criminal act. The entire invasion was a war crime of the highest order. All the bloodshed there was a humanitarian catastrophe - bloodbaths aplenty that no one in the UN warned about. But what do we have instead.
Gordon Brown, David Miliband and the other pathetic caricatures of true Labour politicians, eating off the hands of a so-called Tamil Diaspora that promises them vote banks and plenty of undeclared stuffed brown paper envelopes, have announced a probe into the UK's participation in the war against Iraq, to be held in private.
An international atrocity of such magnitude is to be probed in private, without even the media present to report what happens, at least to the British people, if not the world. Such is the level of transparency practised by those who demand the very extremes of public disclosure from us.
This Wednesday, the Stop the War Coalition is rallying Wednesday. "Protest at parliament against holding Iraq enquiry in private" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports the demonstration will be "outside parliament at 2pm this Wednesday, demanding 'No Whitewash, No Cover Up', in the Iraq enquiry."
In Iraq Saturday a bombing in Kirkuk resulted in mass deaths. Khalid al-Ansary, Mustafa Mahmoud, Waleed Ibrahim, Muhanad Mohammed, Michael Christie, Daniel Wallis and Matthew Jones (Retuers) reported on the truck bombing dubbed "the deadliest in more than a year" and Hussain Nashaat declares, "I was sitting in my house when suddenly a powerful blast shook the ground under me. I found myself covered in blood and ran outside in a daze. My lovely neighbourhood was just rubble." Ali Al Winadawi and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) added, "Witnesses said the explosion leveled more than 80 clay brick homes and partially destroyed the mosque. Rescuers dug through mounds of rubble looking for the wounded and pulling out the dead. Medical officials said at least 70 people had been killed and another 182 wounded in the bombing." The Telegraph of London noted that shortly before the Kirkuk bombing, Nouri al-Maliki was raving about the "great victory" (US troops leaving some Iraqi cities). Nada Bakri (Washington Post) quoted eye witness Qanbar Abdullah Sajjad stating, "All I could see was a fireball flying into the air followed by a thick cloud of dust and smoke. Bodies, covered with mud, were laying on the ground. People were bleeding and shouting for help." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) added, "Hours after the blast, authorities were still digging through rubble searching for possible survivors and more bodies." Sunday Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported the death toll has now risen to 80 with two-hundred-and-eleven people injured. (Reuters goes with 73.) Yaseen Taha and Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) explain, "Most of the casualties were Shia Turkoman, a large minority in Kirkuk Province where most people are Kurds. The prospect of control from Baghdad following the withdrawal of U.S. forces is deeply dismaying to many in Kirkuk who regard it as part of Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region in the north of the country. Moreover, Kirkuk, a city of 848,000, sits atop some of Iraq's richest oil fields." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) adds, "The force of the blast gouged a crater in the ground and badly damaged dozens of homes, burying victims in the rubble, people and officials at the scene said, expressing fear that the death toll would rise even more." It is the worst attack in Iraq this year (based on the death toll) and outlets are having to drop back to 2008 (specifically February 2008) to find an attack with a larger death toll.
Meanwhile, in Iraq today, violence continues. Alice Fordham (Times of London) reports, "A spate of deadly attacks killed more than 25 people in Iraq today and left more than 60 wounded, in a worrying escalation of violence as the exit of American troops from the country's cities draws nearer."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded three people, a second Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives and left twelve wounded, a third Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives and left thirty wounded, a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 5 lives and left twenty wounded, a Baghdad 'suicide car' bombing in which 7 people (plus the driver) died and thirteen were injured and a Baquba bombing which claimed 3 lives ("security members working for the ministry of oil"). Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Sahwa member (two more were wounded as they attempted to chase down two suspects who were shooting) and a Khanaqin roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Mosul home invasion in which 1 woman was shot dead and an assault on a Mosul checkpoint in which 2 police officers were shot dead.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.
Saturday the US military announced: "CAMP STRYKER, BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Corps -- Iraq Soldier died as the result of a non-combat related incident June 19. 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 Web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/. 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 4315 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
Meanwhile "Do journalist learn English grammar?" is the question that Timothy Williams and Suadad al-Salhy's "Laws Lag in Iraq, as Patience Wears Thin" begs. The article runs in this morning New York Times and we'll let al-Salhy off the hook (although Arabic also includes basic grammar rules). We won't let Williams, the editors or the US State Dept (which wanted this piece of garbage 'report') off the hook. It's not a report. It's propaganda meant to force passage of the theft of Iraqi oil laws. The first sentence of the article tells readers that "popular support" is under strain in Iraq -- for the Parliament -- due to corruption. That's based on what? On the observations of the reporters? If so, they're not equipped to make that judgment nor does it belong in a report (it can go into a column or editorial on the op-ed pages). They insist "widespread confusion" reigns. Based on what?
"Based on what?" should be the cry of readers as they work through the article.
Who's making these claims? Chris Hill and the State Dept are doing a huge push thinking they have a limited window to get the theft of Iraqi oil passed. This is pressure from outside of Iraq.
You're clued in that the complaints are not Iraqi based when paragraph six finally includes a "who" to hang some of the charges on: Haider Ala Hamoudi? Who is he? A professor . . . at the University of Pittsburgh.
The trade offered from the US State Dept to Nouri al-Maliki is, "Push hard on the oil law and we'll push on changing the power structure." This article is a byproduct of the arrangement.
Why does Nouri need the power structure changed? Because despite the press portraying him as popular (and a 'winner' in the January 2009 elections in which he wasn't a contest and in which NO political party could truly claim a majority of votes), he's not. He does appear to be more popular overall in Iraq than he is in the area that he represents.
Nouri's always protected Nouri and that's why he's entered into yet another bargain with the US and why he's hoping they can help him ram through a presidential system to replace a parliamentary system. (Jalal Talabani is the president of Iraq currently. Nouri wants the sort of government the US has with himself in the position equivalent to the US presidency. What he really wants is to be the New Saddam and he's well on his way to achieving that 'honor'.)
The typists type, "The country's economy is dependent almost entirely upon oil revenue, but because there is no single law regulating the industry, there is widespread confusion about investment, production and lines of authority. . . . Without rules governing the extraction of its huge oil reserves, it has been difficult for Iraq to attract foreign investment to its petroleum industry, which accounts for 95 percent of foreign exchange earnings." They really hope the readers haven't been paying attention. There's been no problem at all with business lining up for Iraqi oil. You're not supposed to know that or know that they had an auction on oil field leases last week. (Winners will be announced June 29th and 30th.) This morning Esther Nakkazi (The East African) reports that that Genel Energy International and Heritage Oil plan to merge into Heritage Oil Plc and form "an Anglo-Turkish company that would operate in Uganda and Iraq's autonomous oil-rich region of Kurdistan". Yesterday Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) observed:
It is only now, six years after the American invasion, that the battle for the control of Iraqi oil production is moving to the centre of politics in Baghdad. On 29 and 30 June, the Iraqi government will award contracts under which international oil companies will take a central role in producing crude oil from Iraq's six super-giant oilfields over the next 20 to 25 years. By coincidence, 30 June is also the date on which the last American troops will be leaving Iraqi cities. On the very day that Iraq regains greater physical authority over its territory, it is ceding a measure of control over the oilfields on which the future of the country entirely depends.
The contracts have been heavily criticised inside Iraq as a sell-out to the big oil companies, which are desperate to get back into Iraq – oil was nationalised here in 1972, and Iraq and Iran are the only two places in the world where immense quantities of oil might still be discovered. Several of those criticising the contracts work in the Iraqi oil industry. "The service contracts will put the Iraqi economy in chains and shackle its independence for the next 20 years," said Fayad al-Nema, head of the state-owned South Oil Company, which produces 80 per cent of Iraq's crude. "They squander Iraq's reserves."
Rule of thumb for foreign countries (and Boston newspapers), when the New York Times is 'concerned' about your economy, be alarmed. And for those who were still doubting reality (and the Times' efforts to distort it) this morning, Robin Pagnamenta (Times of London) reports in tomorrow's paper on the reality about the Iraqi oil contracts and bids:
Hussain al-Shahristani, who is due to announce winners for the first round of deals next week, will defend his decision to allow international oil companies, including BP and Shell, to compete openly for the contracts, which could be worth billions of dollars in the long term.
His appearance at a parliamentary committee hearing in Baghdad this morning comes after concern from some politicians that the contracts are not in Iraq's best interests and will expose the country to exploitation by Western oil companies. "The Oil Minister must convince us why the Government should have spent $8 billion [£4.9 billion] to develop oilfields, but then offers them to foreign firms like pieces of cake," Jabir Khalifa Jabir, secretary of the parliament's oil and gas committee, said.
"Today" in the excerpt is Tuesday (when the story runs). Poor little Times of New York -- not only smacked down by the Times of London but also NYT used to do state propaganda so much better. Must be the economy.
Turning to the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement which doesn't mean what many appeared to think it meant. Khalid al-Ansary, Mustafa Mahmoud, Waleed Ibrahim, Muhanad Mohammed, Michael Christie, Daniel Wallis and Matthew Jones (Retuers) noted on Saturday "Almost all U.S. soldiers will leave urban centres by June 30 under a bilateral security pact signed last year and the entire force that invaded the country in 2003 must be gone by 2012." Got to love that "almost." The Status Of Forces Agreement did not allow for "almost" -- outside of horse shoes, it's difficult to think of anything where "almost" counts. Aamer Madhani (USA Today) reports today that Lt Col Shawn "Reed and his soldiers won't be going too far away -- the security agreement reached last winter with the Iraqi government stipulates only that U.S. combat troops leave cities, towns and villages by the June 30 deadline." Meanwhile Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports US forces in Mosul may not be withdrawing from Mosul and cites Col Gary Volesky explaining, "We're waiting for a final decision, and we're prepared to execute whatever they tell us to execute." The link also contains audio from Arraf: "As the deadline for US troops to be out of Iraqi cities approaches the main thing it's fostered is confusion. The security agreement signed by Iraq and the United States last year is quite clear: All US combat troops will withdraw from cities and other populated areas no later than June 30th. But since the agreement also seeks the temporary help of the US in combatting terrorism there's quite a bit of leeway."
In the US, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan observes how strangely silent so many are as the war machine grinds on and notes how she was kicked to the curb and lied about when she refused to support the more 'populist' war party by cheering it on blindly:
I think that I have unfortunately been vindicated by almost every single action that the Democratic Party has taken since 2006 when impeachment was taken "off the table," but "blank-check" war funding was served up to the Military Industrial Complex on a bloody platter dripping with the flesh and blood of real human beings.
Our politicians have no integrity partly because the organizations in the movements that have the largest emailing lists have no integrity. Wars that were wrong under Bush become acceptable under Obama and the stain of torture fades into the woodwork or is hidden from sight like a demented relation because a Senator has an affair. As I understand it, MoveOn.org was founded to oppose the impeachment of Bill Clinton for the same thing Ensign did. . . now the gatekeepers of the War Party are going to crucify Ensign to distract their subscribers from real issues?
MoveOn.org sent this out in April 2008 in a fundraising email to its 5 million person list: No matter what happens in Iraq, the Bush Administration and John McCain always have the same answer: 6 more months. They're at it again this week, asking for six more months. But six months won't change anything -- except the body count and the price tag.
They were not talking about the Democratic war funding this week. Apparently it's fine to fund wars if we have a Democratic Despotism, but dangerous for our troops if we have a Republican Regime.
And Jeremy Scahill (Rebel Reports) explored the Despotism noting Barack Obama's expanding (and undeclared) war in Pakistan which began with drone attacks January 23, 2009 and has continued and escalated since. Jeremy notes an interview Barack gave with Dawn where he claimed US troops would not be sent into Pakistan . . . despite the fact that they already are in Pakistan and he observes:
First, the only difference between using these attack drones and using actual US soldiers on the ground is that the soldiers are living beings. These drones sanitize war and reduce the US death toll while still unleashing military hell disproportionately on civilians. The bottom line is that the use of drones inside the borders of Pakistan amounts to the same violation of sovereignty that would result from sending US soldiers inside the country.
And finally from Third's "Summer reads," we'll note: "Tuesday MASTER OF WAR: Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War by Suzanne Simons is published. You can read an excerpt from the hardcover book here. The book is based upon Simons' interviews with Prince and various Blackwater employees, research Simons did in Afghanistan and the Middle East, government contacts, employees' families and much more."
the andrew marr show
the socialist worker
the los angeles times
ali al winadawi
the washington post
cnn jane arraf