Sunday, December 13, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

Stephen Jones (Epoch Times) reports, "Tony Blair's admission that Britain would have still taken part in the Iraq war -- even if it knew that Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction (WMD), has sparked calls that Blair stand trial for war crimes." The interview Blair gave to the BBC (link has text and video) ("I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat.") has him back in the news. BBC provides reactions from the UK Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, and the former deputy prime minister, John Prescott. Ainsworth doesn't want to 'guess' but there's no guessing needed. Support for the Iraq War in England fell to 26% if the WMD 'cover' was inaccurate. What Ainsworth and Prescott muddy up, Mike Brecher makes clear in a letter to the Guardian:

Boxed in by years of the insistent drip of truth on the dynamic behind his decision to invade Iraq, Tony Blair has finally conceded that he would have removed Saddam even if there had been no evidence of WMD. It seems, then, that we went to war because Blair is under the misapprehension that British general elections give the winner a mandate to make international law on the fly, and to be the world's policeman, judge, jury and jailer. Or perhaps he believes that if Robert Mugabe, say, had considered Britain to be a destabilising influence a few years back, he would have been fully entitled to remove Blair and his cabinet by force. So generous of Blair to "sympathise" with those unsophisticates who thought and think he made a mistake.

Mark Hennessy (Irish Times) quotes the then-UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix declaring of Blair's statement, "It gives a strong impression of a lack of sincerity. The war was sold on the weapons of mass destruction [claim], and now you feel, or hear that it was only a question of 'deployment of arguments', as he said. It sounds a bit like a fig leaf that was held up, and if the fig leaf had not been there, then they would have tried to put another fig leaf there." In response to Blair's statements, the Scottish National Party released the following:

The SNP have rounded on Labour over attempts to re-write history over Iraq, and stepped up calls for Gordon Brown to give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry and explain whether he would have still bankrolled the illegal war had he know there was no WMD in Iraq. The demands come as former Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted the weapons of mass destruction were not the point of the war -- contradicting repeated claims he made in parliament and in public as prime minister.
SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP also said the current and former prime ministers must give evidence in public -- after reports today (Sunday) that the Chilcot inquiry would hear Mr Blair's crucial testimony behind closed doors.
Mr Robertson said:"Tony Blair's comments are a shameful admission from a shameful man. He may now cut a rather pathetic figure, but the people who aided and abetted him in pursuing an illegal war are still in government, and tens perhaps hundreds of thousands of people are dead as a result of his duplicity. Alex Salmond and the SNP Westminster group played a leading role in seeking to impeach Tony Blair, and these latest remarks underline the rightness of that cause.
"Tony Blair was clearly set on war with or without weapons of mass destruction, and Gordon Brown bankrolled it -- now both men must give evidence in public. Tony Blair is on record time after time saying that the war was not about regime change, and now he is trying to change the entire basis for the war to cover up the fact that we were dragged into an illegal adventure on a false pretence.
"Gordon Brown must explain whether he would still have bankrolled the war had he known there were never any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As Chancellor, he wrote the cheques for the disastrous war in Iraq.
"And it would be unacceptable if evidence was not taken in public -- especially after Tony Blair's astonishing chatshow attempt to re-write history. Both men should appear side by side when they give evidence, so that we can get to the truth behind the biggest foreign policy disaster in modern times.
"This inquiry will be judged on the answers that it provides, and these fundamental questions must be addressed."

Note:1. Details of Tony Blair's admission can be found here:

2. Reports that Tony Blair will give evidence in private can be found here:

3. Quotes from Tony Blair saying the Iraq war was not about regime change:
Hansard - 24 Sept 2002 : Column 17: “Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction…

Interview with Radio Monte Carlo - 29 January 2003: “So far as our objective, it is disarmament, not regime change – that is our objective. Now I happen to believe the regime of Saddam is a very brutal and repressive regime, I think it does enormous damage to the Iraqi people... so I have got no doubt Saddam is very bad for Iraq, but on the other hand I have got no doubt either that the purpose of our challenge from the United Nations is disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, it is not regime change.”

PM statement on Iraq - 25 February 2003: “I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully.”

Hansard - 18 Mar 2003 : Column 772: "I have never put the justification for action as regime change. We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441 - that is our legal base."

Please note, in the release, the references contain wep pages after each one. I've made them linkable by the statement due to the fact that one web address was so lengthy, it would have thrown off the page (meaning the links on the left would not be visible until you scrolled down the page past all entries and then the permalinks -- 'blogroll' -- would start).

Blair's statements are clearly news in England and should be news outside of England but how's that playing out? In "We must confront Iraq's unanswered questions" (Australia's ABC), Jeff Sparrow observes, "As a result of choices made by George Bush and Tony Blair --and, yes, by John Howard -- hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - perhaps as many as a million -- are now dead. Millions of people have been become refugees; a generation across the Middle East has learned see representatives of the West as gun-toting occupiers. We will be dealing with the consequences for decades to come." And Sparrow just doesn't bury the horror in the past, he notes the present as well:

Now Bush never possessed Obama's gift of the gab. But, if you wind the clock back to 2002, you'll find W. making very similar 'war=peace' arguments. Even as the Iraq invasion plans were being assembled, he explained: 'I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace. We want there to be peace. We want people to live in peace all around the world.'
Maybe he should get a prize, too.
What's most disturbing about Obama's remarks is the generally favourable notices they received from liberals within the US and elsewhere. Why? Because, in the wake of Iraq, the moral bar on questions of war and peace has been set so very, very low. The President can put forward the most overt case for American exceptionalism -- and, because he doesn't explicitly defend preemptive invasions, he still sounds like a statesman.
That's why accountability matters so much. After the Second World War, the Nuremberg Trials established a more-or-less accepted framework for thinking about armed conflict for most of the twentieth century. Nuremberg defined a 'war of aggression' - a category into which an invasion to bring about regime change surely falls -- as the 'supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole'.

So Australia's paying attention. What about the 'left' in this country? The Nation magazine promises real time commentary at "The Notion" -- their bad, bad blog. Well they didn't post yesterday but they did two posts today. One on Bob Dylan's Christmas album! Yea! Hard hitting commentary we've come to . . . look elsewhere for and for reasons exactly like that. Tony Blair makes a statement that shocks the world and The Nation's posting about Bob Dylan doing a Christmas album.

Wait! You said two!

Indeed, I did. Lie Face Melissa Harris-Lacewell. For those late to the party, Lie Face began working for Barry O's campaign in 2007. She's Lie Face not because she was behind Barry O's astro-turf campaigns against various people (including Tavis Smiley). She's Lie Face because she went on Democracy Now! as an 'independent' commentator in January 2008 and 'forgot' to tell the audience she'd long been working to elect Barack. (Needless to say, the 'independent' completely ignored Hillary Clinton in her 'analysis,' apparently Hillary wasn't in New Hampshire and had no supporters in the state -- strange considering Hillary would go on to win New Hampshire.) Lie Face got away with it once -- when she should have been banned for life for that little stunt. So she took her tired act over to PBS where Charlie Rose was stupid enough to book non-journalist Melissa Harris-Lacewell for a journalism roundtable on the election. And, funny thing, no other candidate had an advocate at the table and, even funnier, Melissa 'forgot' to disclose that she was working for Barack's campaign.

But Lie Face, the day after Tony Blair's shocking admission, managed to put down the Ho-Hos and pull out the laptop . . . long enough . . . to blog . . . about herself . . . and Barack and Michelle. Blair makes an admission and Lie Face is blogging about a TV show. Well, no one thought she was a scholar. No one intelligent, anyway. And she can almost rise to the level of adequate when blogging about Oprah on TV. Let's not put it all on Lie Face. Lie Face is an intellectual midget and a joke, no question, but she didn't put herself to work at The Nation. No, that was Katrina vanden Heuvel who couldn't shut up about Iraq when she thought it could be used to win elections for Democrats. But Queen Bee Approximately has nothing to say about Tony Blair. When you're not only the editor but also the publisher, you get off your lazy ass and you blog when Tony Blair makes an admission like he did on Saturday. You get off your spoiled, lazy ass and you weigh in. Unless of course you're whole against-the-Iraq-War position was nothing but a pose. More and more, Katrina reveals her ugly side -- and, no, that's not just her profile.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4367. Tonight it remains 4371. Turning to some of the violence reported today . . .


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Green Zone was shelled today, a Mosul car bombing claimed 1 lfie and left nineteen people wounded (all were Iraqi military recruits) and a Falluja car bombing wounded Lt Col Saad Al Shamari, "two of his body guards and two other civilians and one child." Reuters drops back to yesterday to note a Tirkit roadside bombing which injured one person.


Reuters drops back to yesterday to note 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad.

We'll grab Gina Chon and Charles Levinson's article tomorrow. We'll also skip oil news since we covered it repeatedly last week. Instead, we'll focus on two articles. Both from "Times". First up, Philip Webster (Times of London) on the Iraq Inquiry (public testimony resumes tomorrow, by the way):

British soldiers were sent to their deaths in Iraq because of Tony Blair’s “sycophancy” towards Washington and the failure of the governing class to speak the truth, a former prosecutions chief says today.
The Chilcot Inquiry will be held in contempt if it does a "whitewash" by omitting to disclose details of a "foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions", Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, Director of Public Prosecutions until last year, says in an article for The Times.
In perhaps the most serious charges levelled by a former public servant against an ex-Prime Minister, Sir Ken says Mr Blair engaged in an "alarming subterfuge" with George Bush, and then misled and cajoled the British people into a war they did not want.

And we'll pair it with this opinion piece by John F. Burns (New York Times):

An insistent theme, in testimony from top generals, diplomats and intelligence officials, has been that as prime minister Mr. Blair, keen to build a close personal relationship with President George W. Bush and overriding his advisers' cautions, hastened Britain into a war that it could, and perhaps should, have avoided.
Witnesses have depicted Britain as little more than a frustrated sidekick to the American juggernaut, with only marginal traction in the planning and execution of the invasion of March 2003, or in the way that Mr. Bush, his top officials and American generals conducted the occupation that followed.
In effect, the witnesses have presented Britain as a disregarded voice of diplomatic and military prudence, unable to restrain zealous American officials caught up in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In England, despite the fact that they only have approximately 300 troops in the country (back in, after the agreement was reached), the press actually pays attention to Iraq which is not the case in the US. You've not heard a discussion of the Iraq Inquiry on The Diane Rehm Show, for example, not even in the "international hour" on Fridays. There has been no indication that an Inquiry is even taking place. Panhandle media (The Nation, Democracy Now!, The Progressive, et al) can't be bothered with it. Which is a shame because there is a lot of raw material.

How much is to be believed? Webster and Burns are writing about the impression coming out. I don't disagree with them. Check the snapshots, we've noted how witnesses have hid behind Condi Rice's skirt. Most infamously, the week when every other witness had to mention Condi's 'paper on overthrowing Saddam' -- which was a nearly 7,000 word paper of which approximately 86 words were about Iraq. That's not to excuse Condi of her own culpability in the illegal war. It is to note that it's amazing to hear one British government official after another blame Condi (the British military hasn't followed that example in their own testimony). As we've noted, unless my basic history is seriously screwed up, the Revolutionary War freed the colonies from England but did not place England under the power of the United States. So to hear all these excuses from another country is just shameful.

Are they really that weak? The people who made up Blair's circle? Maybe they are. Or maybe they know that the Bush administration is easy to finger-point at and think they'll get off easy by doing so? Even if they are as weak as they are self-presenting, it doesn't change the fact that they made the decision to start and join in on the illegal war and they are culpable for their actions. And the next time one of those witnesses frets about the 'pressure' they were under from the US, one of the committee members needs to ask, "Is England or is it not an independent nation?"

Also on the inquiry, six e-mails over the weekend about "lady" and "lord" and blah blah. Those titles aren't used her. I'm not British, I'm an American citizen and we don't do titles of nobility. Members of the committee are referred to by me as "Committee Member" (or "Chair" in John Chilcot's case). If a title comes in to place, it's because whomever we are quoting speaking has used that.

New content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: He's the world's War Hawk now
TV: When the guests call the shots
Those Wacky Ethics of Greg Mitchell
Every picture tells a story
NPR keeps selling the wars (Ava and C.I.)
Not So Fast Jeff Cohen (Ava and C.I.)
TV notes

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru highlights this from Great Britian's Socialist Worker:

This article should be read after: » Joe Glenton: Army won’t free traumatised man
‘War on terror’ brings tragedy as 100th British soldier dies
The 100th British soldier this year died in Afghanistan on Monday this week.
This bleak milestone comes barely a week after Gordon Brown announced that 500 extra British troops would be sent to Afghanistan.
The total number of British soldiers who have died in the conflict since 2001 is 237.
The fragile state of Iraq was also shown by the bombings in Baghdad on Tuesday that killed well over 100 people.
Military Families Against the War plans to hand in a Bring the Troops Home petition to Downing Street at 5pm on Monday 21 December.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Joe Glenton: Army won’t free traumatised man» Anti-war soldier Joe Glenton released on bail

For details go to »
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