Friday, July 31, 2009

Allegations that al-Maliki's government was involved in kidnapping British citizens

News today out of England on the May 29, 2007 kidnappings. Background, 5 British citizens were kidnapped over two years ago in Iraq. Following the US military handing over two brothers said to have been responsible for the attack on a US base in Iraq in which 5 US service members were killed, the group the brothers belong to released two of the five British hostages: Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst. Both men were dead. Alan McMenemy and Alec Maclachlan are also now considered to be dead but the families continue to hope otherwise and at this point nothing is known. Peter Moore is hoped to be alive. He is the fifth hostage. There were supposed to be six kidnappings, not five. The sixth person eluded the kidnappers. He is among those talking to the press in today's news cycle. And now the big news out of England on the kidnappings. The Telegraph of London reports:

An unnamed senior Iraqi intelligence source told The Guardian the highly-organised kidnapping was "one only a government can do".
Mr Moore had been installing a computer system to track billions of pounds in foreign aid and oil revenue through the finance ministry.
The intelligence source told the paper: "Many people don't want a high level of corruption to be revealed.
"Remember this is the information technology centre, this is the place where all the money to do with Iraq and all Iraq's financial matters are housed."
Paul Wood, a former British Army officer who investigated the abduction for the four bodyguards' employers, GardaWorld, said it was "too perfect".
"It would make sense to think that there was someone on the inside telling the kidnappers when to come, what to expect and how to deal with any security issues they were going to face," he told the paper.

Meena Muhammed, Maggie O'Kane and Guy Grandjean (Guardian) add:

Unknown to the kidnappers, two intelligence officers were parked opposite the centre, outside an outpatients' clinic. Through an intermediary – a former high-level intelligence source – one of the officers described the operation to the Guardian:
"The cars started coming down the street and surrounding the ministry. The cars were marked 'ministry of the interior' – they are Toyota Land Cruisers, they belong to the ministry of the interior ... The operation was well planned and they were carrying Kalashnikovs. One group came out with two of the hostages. They put them in the first car. They weren't hooded or handcuffed. Then they brought the other three men out. Then they brought out the men's belongings, their briefcases and rucksacks. They put those things in a separate car.
"People started gathering around. It was near the al-Rafidain Bank on Palestine Street. The people were gathering around and the kidnappers were shouting: 'Go home now, this is nothing do with anyone. Do not look, this has nothing to do with you.'"

For those who would prefer audio, the Guardian offers Maggie O'Kane explaining the story here (and Seth MacFarlane creator of Family Guy and American Dad is also featured in the arts section of the audio).

Staying with England, Alsumaria notes, "Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be called to testify to a panel investigating Britain's involvement in the Iraq war." Wales News reports that the poodle is going to "be grilled on live TV by the official inquiry into the Iraq war, it was announced yesterday." This is the independent inquiry that Gordon Brown (current prime minister of England) promised long ago but is only now getting started and is no longer as limited as Brown announced it would be. Karla Adam (Washington Post) reminds, "When Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the inquiry last month, he initially said it would be held behind closed doors. The decision was reversed after objections from opposition politicians and families of British soldiers who died in Iraq. The war has claimed the lives of 179 British troops, and Brown has described the inquiry as a chance to pinpoint 'lessons learned'." Sir John Chilcot heads the inquiry and CNN quotes him stating, "You can work out for yourself who some of them will be, but apart from the former prime minister [Tony Blair] -- who it's obvious we must see -- I don't want to give a longer list today." Alex Barker (Financial Times of London) observes, "Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader, said public hearings were vital to ensure the inquiry was not seen as a 'whitewash'. 'It is essential that this inquiry has the teeth it needs to get the job done. The government must not be able to interfere to keep Blair and Brown out of the spotlight for the sake of political convenience in the run-up to an election'." Peter Riddell (Times of London) adds, "The Chilcot inquiry provides an opportunity for national catharsis over the Iraq war. Its main value is likely to lie less in any startling new disclosures about why the war was fought than in allowing those affected a chance to air their grievances. It will not end the anger and grief but it provides a chance to balance passion with a thorough narrative about what happened over the course of the eight years from 2001 until 2009, and not just in 2002-03." In terms of what to expect timeline wise, the Guardian offers a basic overview here. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) explains some of the anger over the timeline from the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats (Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both belong to the Labour Party):

However, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats said they were still unhappy with aspects of the inquiry. They blame Brown for the way he set it up but, after Chilcot's press conference, they also criticised some of the decisions Chilcot has taken about how it will proceed – showing that he has not yet established cross-party support. Chilcot said the inquiry was unlikely to produce an interim report before the general election – as the Liberal Democrats have been demanding – and said there was no chance of final conclusions being published before polling day.

In an editorial entitled "Truth on Iraq War," the Financial Times of London offers:

Plenty of leaked information suggests Mr Blair decided to back the Bush administration’s war policy long before the elaborate diplomatic dance that preceded the invasion, and that his government exaggerated the intelligence on Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. Critics of this inquiry will say the 2004 Butler report into the intelligence on WMD dealt with this. Yet testimony to Butler from Carne Ross, the UK’s Iraq point-man at the UN, that Iraq was not seen as a threat and there was no intelligence evidence it held significant chemical or biological weapons, was only to emerge after the inquiry ended.
There are many other questions. Did the then attorney-general, Lord Goldsmith, change his advice on the legality of the war? Did the US and UK start the war in mid-2002, with an air campaign to degrade Iraq’s paltry defences, at the height of the diplomatic process, while UN weapons inspectors were on the ground, deprived of the actionable intelligence Washington and London claimed to have? Why were British forces committed with so little preparation and resources? It really is time the truth was told.

On England, please note that Rebecca's covering Gordon Brown and Labour's problems this summer. As she's explained, a friend is doing polling for Labour and she's been brought in before (and will be again) to offer her take on the polling data. She's not being paid for that, she's doing it as a favor for an old friend. Because she's been looking at the data from time to time for months now, she's decided to make the summer at her site about Brown's drag on the Labour party. The following community sites have updated since last night:

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends