Monday, November 02, 2009

The Iraq inquiry

In the small print of the Iraq inquiry's announcement that its public hearings will start on 24 November is the news that any pre-election revelations will be decidedly limited. First, the hearings will last as little as two months before taking a lengthy break for a possible general election in March. More seriously, but with little apparent complaint from the inquiry, the government has backtracked on Gordon Brown's promise of openness.
Sir John Chilcot revealed earlier this month that the inquiry's public hearings will halt during a general election campaign, presumably to avoid political sensitivities. The inquiry now says that hearings will run until 17 December, then from the week beginning 4 January until "early February". Does Chilcot know something we don't -- or is he just being very, very careful?
The inquiry has published three protocols for its hearings and the handling of information, and is keen to stress the expectation that evidence will be given in public. But it has left it to the Cabinet Office to publish the protocol that governs the passing of information from the government to the inquiry and the subsequent publication of such information.
On both fronts, the contrast between what Brown promised in June is stark. Astonishingly, the contradictions are apparent in the protocol itself. It quotes Brown's letter to Chilcot in June: "As privy counsellors, you will have unhindered access to government documents." That's a pretty uncompromising commitment to full disclosure. But the new protocol says that no information shall be withheld "with the exception of information HMG holds which is covered by an existing duty of confidentiality HMG has to a third party ..."

The above is from Chris Ames' "Sparing Tony Blair's blushes over Iraq" (Guardian). In England, they were lied into war as well and Tony Blair (and Gordon Brown) are very lucky that Bully Boy Bush was such a blustering attention seeker or they could be seen as the 'leader' of the illegal war (instead, Tony Blair is seen by the world as Bush's "poodle"). John Howard, then-prime minsiter of Australia, was also one of the sellers of the illegal war and, while still in power, he repeatedly stamped his feet in public feeling he was not getting his proper due. You can view that idiot (Howard) spinning for the BBC last week by clicking here.

Chris Ames also runs the Iraq Dossier website and from the hompage of the site:

How the dossier took Britain to war

The dossier was presented to the UK Parliament on 24 September 2002 by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, who falsely claimed that it represented the disclosure of JIC assessments. Although it has never been admitted, it was always intended to be the centrepiece of an "information campaign" to make the case for war - "to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein". As the British Ambassador to the US had told the Bush administration earlier that year, the UK "backed regime change but the plan had to be clever". The plan was to insist on the return of UN Inspectors to look for weapons of mass destruction (WMD): "A refusal to admit UN inspectors, or their admission and subsequent likely frustration, which resulted in an appropriate finding by the Security Council could provide the justification for military action."

The inspectors were readmitted and suffered some minor obstruction but failed to find any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or any evidence that they were being produced. In spite of this and even without "an appropriate finding by the Security Council", the US and UK governments insisted on invading Iraq to "disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction". It is inconceivable that Britain would have gone to war on the basis that Iraq "probably" had WMD.

The Fallout

But when evidence of WMD was still not found, questions began to be asked in the UK about the government's claims that its intelligence had "established beyond doubt" that Iraq possessed them. A BBC reporter quoted an anonymous government source as revealing that the dossier had been "sexed-up" by the government's spin doctors and in particular that an already notorious claim that Iraq could launch WMD "within 45 minutes" had been inserted by them, in spite of the doubts of the intelligence community.

Meanwhile Jia-Rui Chong (Los Angeles Times) reports on Iraq War veteran Peter Sinclair who returned "from war with a broken body, suffering from back injuries and painful memories. Doctors, nurses, psychologists and physical therapists treated him, but few were able to help." Jia-Rui Chong details Peter Sinclair's efforts to get help and treatment and concerns on the part of some that the VA was less concerned with treating him and more concerned with "masking his problems." From the article:

On the night of June 11, 2008, after relaxing with Tracy in his Jacuzzi with a glass of wine, Pete went to bed and never woke up. He was 40. Toxicology tests determined the cause of death to be "acute morphine intoxication," the manner of death accidental.
Jen was furious. She thought he was off morphine. She discovered that weeks before his death, he had slipped in the shower and wrenched his back again.
The pain became unmanageable. A VA doctor on June 9 had prescribed 30 milligrams of morphine to be taken three times a day, and if the pain wasn't relieved, the dosage could be increased to 60 milligrams. Pete was also given a prescription for 30 milligrams of codeine to be taken as needed.
Jen and Barbara wondered why Pete hadn't told them, but he was expert at hiding his pain.
Barbara remembered the lunch she had with her son on Mother's Day and the family dinner when he had brought Tracy. He'd seemed jovial, more like his old self.
Tracy played back the night he died. His heart had been racing when they went to sleep, and when she asked him about it he said he was fine.
After consulting a toxicologist and medical textbooks, Jen came to the conclusion that the VA had acted irresponsibly in prescribing the latest dosage of morphine. She believed that because Pete had been off the drug for at least a month, he would be especially sensitive to its effect and should have received a lower dosage. She also knew from medical records that Pete was frequently confused over how much medication he was supposed to take.
"You might as well have given him a gun," she said.

Violence in Iraq has been on the rise since February (and hadn't disappeared prior to that). Katie Baker (Newsweek) reports that PFC Energy is predicting/warning that new targets may be "international oil companies." Wherever the violence is aimed, people are wounded and killed. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported yesterday on the overworked Baghdad morgue:

The central Baghdad morgue was built in the 1930s by the British. After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, it was run, until relatively recently, by Shiite militias. During 2006 and 2007, the peak years of sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shiites, scores of bodies were delivered there daily. Many had been decapitated. Others were burned or tortured beyond recognition. The intensity of sectarian hatred at the time made it nearly impossible for Sunni families to visit the morgue. Thousands were buried in unmarked graves, and morgue officials could do little other than photograph corpses and try to keep track of burial places.
"In 2006, we received 100, 150 bodies each day," Qasim said as he made his way from the mortuary to the DNA lab.
The crush of cases at the time kept the morgue's refrigerators packed. Forensic experts were able to perform only perfunctory autopsies. Qasim developed an ulcer.
"We're dealing with people losing loved ones," he said. "You must not deal with these cases in an ordinary way."

Bonnie notes Kat's "Kat's Korner: Carly Simon's warm benediction" and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Photo-Op This!"

Carly Simon's Never Been Gone was released Tuesday.

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