Monday, November 30, 2009

Iraq Inquiry

Sir David Manning was security adviser to Tony Blair in the run up to the Iraq war. And it was no ordinary meeting he was party to. It took place just two months before the conflict began.
The secret memo he wrote up after it -- and later
revealed by Channel 4 News -- showed the US was already preparing for an invasion despite the ongoing diplomatic wranglings at the UN. It also showed George Bush was even considering painting an American reconnaisance plane in UN colours, flying it over Iraq and goading Saddam Hussain to fire.

That's from Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blog, they continue to live blog each day the Iraq Inquiry holds a public hearing. Today the committee hears from David Manning and addresses UK policy towards Iraq from 2001 to 2003, Edward Chaplin and Peter Ricketts offer testimony Tuesday on the same topic, Wednesday Kevin Tebbit and Michael Boyce testify on military planning, Anthony Pigott and David Wilson testify on Thursday about military planning and Friday Dominick Asquith is scheduled to address issues from 2004 to 2007. David Manning is getting attention due to his position and proximity to the decision making and also due to the fact that the Inquiry's profile raised significantly over the weekend as a result of the leaking of the Goldsmith memo explaining that the Iraq War would be illegal. Jim Pickard (Financial Times of London) recaps on the July 2002 memo:

Lord Goldsmith, former attorney-general, wrote to the then prime minister on July 29, six days after Mr Blair first told his cabinet about plans for regime change in Iraq.
He set out legal concerns over the legitimacy of an invasion of Iraq without a fresh resolution from the United Nations. He also warned that war might not be justified on the grounds of "regime change" alone.

As Bob Roberts (Daily Mirror) notes, "Lord Goldsmith's letter contradicts Mr Blair's repeated statements before, during and after the war on its legality." George Pitcher (Telegraph of London) offers his take on the developments and the impact they may have on the Inquiry:

Blair's line has always been that he was "guided" by the Attorney General. It turns out that this guidance was unequivocal and in writing from the outset, and was not what he wanted to hear. Blair had to dispatch a couple of his heavies, in the shape of Lord "Charlie" Falconer and Baroness Morgan, verbally to duff up Lord Goldsmith and bully him into toeing the line, so that Blair could honour his private pledge to follow George W Bush into the valley of death.
Chilcot won't hold Blair to account. It is not within the inquiry's terms of reference to apportion blame. To that extent, David Cameron is right to call this another "Establishment stitch-up". But there is a public mood that has been evident since the start of Chilcot to get at the truth of the Blair war machine, to expose his deceit and dissembling, even if we can't bring him to justice.
[. . .]
Lord Goldsmith's letter doesn't just expose the invalidity of the endorsement of the war that Number 10 practically beat out of him. It makes a mockery of the Blairs' long and consistent claims to righteousness. There was Cherie, in her role as Lady Macbeth, oh-so-tastefully exploiting the suicide of weapons inspector Dr David Kelly to promote her sickly book, when she revealed that she whispered in her man's ear at a photo opportunity in Beijing just after he had heard the news of Dr Kelly: "You're a good man. And God knows your motives were pure." Then there was Blair himself at his 2007 resignation, just before he went commercial: "Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right."

We'll be emphasizing the Iraq Inquiry in today's snapshot. That will be true throughout the week but it will especially be true today and we'll pick up Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq at some other point this week, just FYI. Meanwhile Aid to the Church In Need releases the following this morning:

ACN NEWS: Monday, 30th November 2009 -- IRAQ
Church and convent bombed
Lucky escape after two attacks in Mosul "terrified" the faithful
By John Pontifex
CHRISTIANS in Iraq were lucky to escape with their lives after bomb attacks on a Catholic church and a convent of Sisters. St Ephrem’s Chaldean Church, in the northern city of Mosul, was reduced to a blackened shell when attackers walked in and detonated high explosives.
The building, and the nearby presbytery which was also attacked, were both empty at the time of the attacks and nobody was hurt. Shortly after the explosions on Thursday morning, 26th November morning, a further bomb attack took place at St Theresa's Convent, a few minutes' drive away, also in the Al Jadeda district of New Mosul, in the west of the city.
At least five Sisters were in the building when the attack took place but they got out unharmed. They were not in the part of the convent damaged by the bomb which was thrown at the complex.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, one of the Sisters described the attack. The Sister, who asked not to be named, said: "We are in total shock. The sheer noise of the bomb and the damage it caused terrified us."
In a message to ACN, Archbishop-elect Amel Nona of Mosul wrote: "What has happened is a terrible thing. We do not know why or how this happened.
"We thank God that the parish priest [of St Ephrem's] was not in the building otherwise he could have died."
Senior Iraqi priest Father Bashar Warda, who has helped coordinate support after the attacks, said: "We are at a loss to explain why this should have happened."
He said the attack may have had political motives in the run-up to elections next year. Fr Warda went on to say that it had come as a great shock as St Ephrem’s parish priest Fr Youhanna Jajeka had an excellent reputation in the neighbourhood. He added: "Fr Youhanna is a quiet and honourable man. He is well known for his good relationship with all people in the area and for his service to those in need."
The convent, which received less damage than St Ephrem's Church, was Mother House for the Dominicans in the region. Many of the Sisters there had moved to safety to another Dominican convent in the nearby village of Qaraqosh.
The attacks come after a period of new hope for Christians in Mosul, where the situation had improved since last autumn's attacks which forced thousands of them to leave. Many soon returned, although life remained tense. Father Bashar said: "The Christian people in Mosul were really surprised by these attacks that have just taken place.
"Things were gradually becoming normalised and many felt that security had improved. What has happened now has put a stop to the optimism."
Support for the Christians in the Middle East is a priority for Aid to the Church in Need. In a message to the charity, Pope Benedict XVI lamented how the Church in the Middle East was "threatened in its very existence".
Editor's Notes: Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity -- helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named "An outstanding Apostle of Charity", the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative's launch in 1979, 46.5 million Aid to the Church in Need Child's Bibles have been distributed worldwide. While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity's press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material. For more information, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: or write to Aid to the Church in Need
PO Box 6245
Blacktown DC NSW 2148.

Bonnie reminds that Kat's "Kat's Korner: Joni Mitchell's unearthed treasure" and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Rolling In It" went up yesterday. And we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "OBAMA NEVER CONSIDERED DIPLOMACY IN AFGHANISTAN" (Global Research):

After initially injecting 21,000 troops into Afghanistan allegedly to stave off imminent defeat, President Obama Tuesday will tell war-weary Americans why he seeks 35,000 more. If he gets them, the U.S. force there will exceed 100,000.
Washington has been pressuring its NATO allies to pour in more fighters even though Europeans don't want any part of it. The New York Times reported Nov. 25th the U.S. is asking NATO for 10,000 more troops above the 45,000 already in place. That could bring total Allied forces to about 150,000. Toss in 70,000 private contractors and the total force soars to over 200,000. Yes, Afghanistan is shaping up as another Viet Nam.
Obama apparently never seriously considered ending the war diplomatically. Recall his blustering campaign rhetoric about defeating the Taliban; recall the public commitment last December of Defense Secretary Robert Gates to strengthen military bases in Afghanistan. Gates was the Bush official Obama continued in office.
Even as polls show a majority of Americans want U.S. forces out of Afghanistan and that Americans do not believe the war is worth fighting, President Obama---a former editor at the CIA front Business International Corporation in 1983-84---embraces a position in line with the long-held CIA view the U.S. must control the Middle East’s energy resources. It was the CIA that overthrew Iran in 1953 after Tehran nationalized its oil production, depriving British Petroleum of its lucrative swindle. Afghanistan is valued today for the oil and gas pipelines the U.S. wants built there, no matter what other reasons Obama gives.

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