Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Hate The War

The Iraq Inquiry is an ongoing investigation taking place in London and examining England's pre-war role as well as their role after the Iraq War started. John Chilcot is the chair. They began hearing public testimony November 24th and they concluded for the year today. They will resume public hearings next month and have posted the following schedule for their opening week.

Week 5: 5 - 8 January 2010

Date Witness Timing of session Subject
5 January 2010 Sir William Patey 10.00 – 11.30 Baghdad 2005 - 2006
General Sir Nicholas Houghton and Vice Admiral Charles Style 11.30 – 13.00 The view from Baghdad 2006 – 2006; the military perspective from London 2006 - 2007
Simon McDonald 14.00 – 15.30
Policy Decisions 2007 - 2009

6 January 2010

General Sir Peter Wall and Jon Day
10.00 – 12.00 Policy Decisions 2007 - 2009
Mark Lowcock 12.00 – 13.00 Policy Decisions 2007 - 2009
Christopher Prentice 14.00 – 16.00 Baghdad 2007 – 2009
7 January 2010

Major General Barney White-Spunner
10.00 – 11.30 Basra: Operation Charge of the Knights
Nigel Haywood and Keith Mackiggan 11.30 – 13.00 Basra: Developments after the Charge of the Knights

8 January 2010

Peter Watkins
10.00 – 11.30 Negotiating the UK military exit
John Jenkins and Frank Baker

That's probably all going to run together when I hit publish.

In the snapshots, we've covered some aspect of the Inquiry every day they've held a public hearing. Some. Not all. There are days when the transcripts are over 200 pages. If you've missed some of the hearings or want to explore them further, click here for the evidence by date and you can catch transcripts or streaming video.

A number of e-mails in the public account have questions about the hearing. I'm going to deal with one specific e-mail and the rest will be referred to generally.

Questions about the hearing? If you're asking about something someone said, fine. We can help with that, we can re-emphasize it. If you're asking about the hearing itself?

I'm not an insta-expert. I don't play one, I don't pretend to be one. I don't know all the characters appearing before the Inquiry. I read the transcripts but spend more time on the phone with friends in England attempting to figure out who did what and why.

There are some general themes that have emerged. They may or may not be factual. But they are narratives.

Which brings us to the specific e-mail from someone who is upset with me for "echoing" John F. Burns. I didn't. We noted Burns' article on Sunday. Burns was writing (for the New York Times) of how the witnesses seemed to paint a picture of a very weak England. He may have drawn a line between the type of witnesses. I'm not sure, I'd have to go back and re-read it (or get some sleep and then think about it). But we didn't 'echo' Burns here. We'd already put that into snapshots. That was probably the first week of the Inquiry but certainly the second week when we noted Condi Rice's paper -- her 2000 paper. They wouldn't stop bringing that stupid thing up. I hadn't read it in years so I re-read it and was shocked to discover that over 6,000 words and less than 90 are about Iraq. And yet all of these British officials kept referring to it as significant. Iraq wasn't even the thrust of that paper.

They were hiding behind Condi's skirts. That doesn't absolve Condi of her guilt with regards to the Iraq War. But her guilt is for her own actions. And the British officials appear to think they can act like they were 'following orders' -- as if the US was in charge of England. Now Tony Blair may have been so weak that this was what the officials felt. To know that, that issue would have to be raised with the witnesses. We didn't echo Burns. And Burns wasn't copying us. That's just a theme that develops if you're following it. (I think it's put more nicely in the British press than it was by Burns or as it was here.)

The other issue in the same e-mail is how I "worship" the British military. That's a misreading. In the public hearings, the military witnesses have been much more willing to talk about their actions and that's often included statements to the effect of 'We did this' and 'We didn't do that.' The military witnesses have owned their actions in the public hearings. The civilian officials have repeatedly pushed it off on others (on George Bush, Condi Rice, Paul Bremer, Donald Rusmfeld -- all these people who have no power in the British government).

I have not taken sides. I have not said, "This side is more truthful!" I've only noted that Group A and Group B offer public testimony and Group A is never responsible for anything that went wrong while Group B will often offer some example of a mistake they made.

All of the witnesses could be 100% truthful or all of the witnesses could be offering testimony 100% false. In most cases, I'm in no place to judge even after speaking to lawyers and journalists. So I don't attempt to judge that for most of the witnesses.

But Group A has been "I did not do it! I did not make a mistake!" And that's due to their own repeated statements. That's the narrative they have imposed upon themselves repeatedly.

There was testimony on Margaret Hassan who was murdered in Iraq. And we called out that and the witness because I found his statements offensive. That was Edward Chaplin and due to his role and alleged training, his words were even more offensive. He is not the 'star' in The Margaret Hassan Story and he has not 'suffered' on any level similar to what she went through or to what her family continues to go through. His statements were tactless and undiplomatic. They were brutal and shocking statements for someone who should have diplomatic training. That's something I'm comfortable doing, calling out nonsense like that, but I'm not vouching for the testimony of any of the witnesses.

And if that's what you're seeing, either I'm doing a really lousy job (wouldn't be the first time) or you're investing something into the snapshots that's coming from you and not from me.

The big general question asked by several was how long it would be in the snapshots? And I'll assume at least a few were asking because they were tired of it. I would've said, "The whole way." But some of Chilcot's statements today made me wonder exactly how long he continues to do public testimony? We'll cover it through January. If it continues with public hearings after that, we'll probably wait on friends calling and saying, "You have to include this!" That's what we did with the Baha Mousa Inquiry. If it's a few more weeks after January, that's one thing. But the way Chilcot was talking, I had to wonder when he thought this would end? And, honestly, he reminded me today of a US judge (for example, Judge Ito of 90s infamy) eager to make himself the story and court the media spotlight. In which case, who knows when the public hearings will end?

I also don't enjoy covering them because I feel off-balance. I don't know the people. I'm dependent upon friends (whom I thank and will thank here, THANK YOU) to go over this section and that section. I wanted to include the United Nations (the attack on it in Iraq and how the British thought it impacted the Iraq War) from today's hearing. But everyone I spoke with said, "Chilcot's the story." And a few were more than willing to loudly argue that point. (That's not an insult or a gripe. Loud, free flowing exchanges on what's the focus are more than fine.) And, looking at some of the headlines tonight, that is the story.

But I still wonder: Is that the story because it was the story or is that the story because the media made it the story? I don't know. And that's the off-balance feel I have. Maybe if I streamed every hearing, I'd feel differently? I don't have the time to. I can read a transcript easily and quickly. But I don't have X hours a day to stream those things.

We covered it because it's important. This is the Iraq War, one country's story on why they got in and what happened. We might be hearing nothing but lies. I have no idea. But if they are lies, they're out there in the public and can be debated.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday
, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4368. Tonight? 4371.

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