Monday, December 14, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a War Hawk re-enters stage center, faux 'peace' 'activist' Tom Hayden finds a new way to disgrace himself (and who would have thought that was possible),
On the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera), Jasim Azawi was joined by the Iraqi National Movement Saleh al-Mutlaq, the KRG's Mohammed Ihsan and Dr. Wamidh Nadhmi (Baghdad University) to discuss the issue of the Baghdad attacks which have led to a "Bloody Wednesday" in August, a "Bloody Sunday" in October and a "Bloody Tuesday" last week.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Saleh al-Mutlaq, we have grown very accustomed to the pretty package accusations by the prime minister [Nouri al-Maliki] whenver such bombings happen: 'It is a Ba'athist, it is al Qaeada and it is Iraq's foreign enemies.' Is he convincing? Are Iraqis buying these justifications for the lack of security?
Saleh al-Mutlaq: No. Not really. I don't think the Iraqis believe any of these accusations anymore. The problem is that we cannot reach the facts because there are already accusations for these groups and they are not looking for those who are really doing these crimes. And unless we will be fair and directing the blame and the accusation, we will not reach who is behind all of this damages that is happening to our society. So I would assume if the government was to stop these attacks and create stability in this country, I think they should be precise and direct in their accusations, not a ready accusation as you said. And every time, the package is there, they just direct it. In fact, they do it [launch the same accusations] immediately after it [bombings] happen, they make the accusation.
Jasim al-Azzawi: This time, Mohammad Ihsan, in addition to the perfuncry accusations alluded to by Saleh al-Mutlaq, the prime minister, unlike last times, he fired the head of Baghdad security, which is in essance and by division of labor is in charge of security of Baghdad. Is this move supposed to absorb the anger of Iraqis?
Mohammad Ihsan: I think that's not enough really. If we look at the Iraqi portrait for the last six months, three major attacks happened in Baghdad And every time we hear it and we see the government accusastion, the police. And you ask Middle Eastern people, you always accuse foreigner and accuse our enemy without doing a serious investigation. Who is behind it? How we can sort out? How we can strength and empower our security in the country? Firing one head of Iraq or Baghdad security is not enough. What we need in Iraq, we need to reshuffle Ministry of Interior, to reshuffle a lot of positions -- military, intelligent positions.
Jasim al-Azzawi: I remember after the Bloody Wednesday, back in August, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Finance Ministry happened, Jawad al-Bolani, the Interior Minister, said, "I am not responsible for the security of Baghdad, the prime minister is."
Mohammad Ihsan: Sure. Because we have mismangement of the security procedure in Baghdad and all over the country. Before we were blaming Americans because they were in charge now we are as Iraqis in charge. But let us investigate and see what we have done to stop such attacks because between time to time in the last six months we lost huge amount of Iraqis which is unfair and our main role now is just to protect Iraqi citizens and it appears and it shows to us that between time to time the terrorist group they are more selective and more empowered on what is going on in Baghdad mentally because they are selecting their target. And they are selecting accurate time. If you look at the timing of each of these explosions in Baghdad, it was clear to us that the level of penetration and manipulation of the Iraqi political scene is too high --
Jasim al-Azzawi: You used a very powerful word, Mohammad Ihsan -- that is the word "penetration" -- alluding to the fact that perhaps Iraqi security forces have somehow been penetrated by militias and other forces.
Mohammad Ihsan: Which is, which is true.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Dr. Wamidh Nadhmi, the prime minister for the first time has been questioned by Parliament. We don't know exactly what happened in that special session. Would he convince the parliamentarians and the lawmakers what he's been saying for over a year that "I am the security man. I achieved security for the Iraqis." Is this ringing hollow with him now?
Dr. Wamidh Nadhmi: Well I don't think so. In fact, he's not called upon to be questioned but is called upon to be host of the House of Parliament and, furthermore, according to what you say, he did not fire Mr. Abboud Qanbar, in fact, he promoted him to another job in the armed forces. And to say that we have to get rid of sectarianism is ridiculous to come from the prime minister because he, himself, is a grand sectarian person and his party --
Jasim al-Azzawi: That's a powerful charge, Wamidh Nadhmi, to call the prime minister sectarian himself. Go ahead. Explain more.
Dr. Wamidh Nadhmi: Well his whole party is a sectarian party and the Islamic movement was divided between two sectarian parties -- one the Islamic party who was a Sunni party, the other one is al Dawa Party [. . .] and they represent the Shias. Iraqi people look for a more liberal freedom, they look for a non-sectarian regime, more or less secular regime, who does not deny the role and importance of Islam.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Saleh al-Mutlaq, Dr. Khudair al-Murshidi, who is the spokesman for the Ba'ath Party in Syria, yesterday told Al Jazeera that we are not behind these attacks, we do not target Iraqi civilians, as a matter of fact, we target the American forces in Iraq. Is the charge, the ready charge that we talked about -- "Ba'athists is behind it" -- how long can one use this charge?
Saleh al-Mutlaq: Well it's becoming very obvious to some of the Iraqis that these charges are not precise and they are just using these accusations to absorb the anger of the people after these attacks. And I think, as I say, this government is trying to improve their reputation after they lost it. al-Maliki get his repuation through the security and while the security is deteriorating day by day he has nothing else to say. He's not doing anything with the economic side, the social side or what he was trying to convince the people with. Where is the security? Since the security is gone, al-Maliki has nothing to convince the people with the coming elections to elect him.
Iran's Press TV reports today on 13 'suspects' arrested in last Tuesday's bombings and notes that Jawad al-Bolani states they will be executed: "We have completed 80 percent of the investigation over the bombings against the ministries of finance and foreign affairs." Wow. 80%? Bang-up job the US did imparting 'justice' to Iraq. (And maybe had the US not 'imparted,' Iraq wouldn't even be using the death penalty?) The investigations are almost over. And the people will be put to death. The investigation? No trial? The United Nations today notes that the resumption of executions is 'justified' by al-Maliki's government for 'security conditions'. Salam Faraj (AFP) reports that his remarks on the executions were made to Parliament yesterday. The United Nations notes:
Finding flaws in the administration of justice and violations of due process in criminal trials, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had called on the Government earlier this year to declare a moratorium on all executions.
"It is of particular concern that many persons are convicted on the basis of confessions often gathered under duress or torture, while their right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt is often violated," the report said.
"Until these violations are addressed, the imposition of the death penalty by Iraqi courts will remain arbitrary and contrary to the international human rights standards."
The number of people receiving capital sentences has risen, with 324 death sentences having been handed down by the High Judicial Council in the first half of 2009.
December 4th Amnesty International (UK) issued an alert on the death penalty in Iraq:
17 women among those set to die with fears government is 'playing politics'
Iraq is preparing to execute hundreds of prisoners, including 17 women, warned Amnesty International today, as it issued an 'urgent action' appeal to try to prevent the deaths.
The 900-plus prisoners have exhausted all their appeals and their death sentences are said to have been ratified by the Presidential Council, meaning that they could be executed at any time. Amnesty supporters are contacting Iraqi embassies around the world, including that in London, in a bid to stop the executions.
The condemned prisoners have been convicted of offences such as murder and kidnapping, but many are likely to have been sentenced after unfair trials. The 17 women are thought to include a group known to have been held on death row at the 5th section (al-Shu'ba al-Khamissa) of Baghdad's al-Kadhimiya Prison.
Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:
'This is a staggering number of people facing execution and the fact that the government may be playing politics over these cases is truly frightening.
'Wholesale use of the death penalty was one of the worst aspects of Saddam Hussein's regime and the present government should stop aping his behaviour.
'Instead of sending nearly a thousand people to a grisly death by hanging, the Iraqi authorities should halt all executions and impose an immediate death penalty moratorium.'
Iraqi media reports suggest that the Iraqi government is currently trying to present itself as 'tough' on crime ahead of national elections scheduled for January. Iraqi opposition politicians have expressed concern that executions may be carried out to give the ruling party a political advantage ahead of the elections, and there have been calls for the government to temporarily suspend all executions.
Amnesty is warning that Iraq's use of capital punishment is already spiralling. At least 120 people are known to have been executed in Iraq this year, greatly up on the 34 executions recorded during 2008.
Iraq is now one of the world's heaviest users of the death penalty. After the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority suspended the death penalty following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, Iraq's subsequent reintroduction of capital punishment led to a rapid acceleration in death sentences and executions. Despite this, and contrary to some claims made by the Iraqi authorities, use of the death penalty has not seen a drop in crime levels in the country, with rises and falls in insurgency violence having no discernible relation to execution rates.
Amnesty International issued an alert on the announced forciable eviction of Camp Ashraf residents last Friday. The residents are Iranian dissidents who have lived in Iraq for decades now. Following the US invasion, the US made them surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28th the world saw what Nouri's 'promises' were actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Last week, his plans to 'relocate' them was announced. "Relocation programs." Under Nouri that's no surprise. From the thug that oversaw the ethnic cleansing of Iraq in 2006 and 2007, that's no surprise at all. Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN report that Nouri's spokespeopl have announced the forced relocation will take place tomorrow while Camp Ashraf's spokesperson Shahriar Kia states Nouri's claims that an agreement was reached with the residents is "unfounded and untrue. Any attempt to forcibly displace Ashraf residents will undoubtedly lead to a massacre and humanitarian catastrophe." Terence Bunch (UK Indymedia) reports on ongoing demonstrations in London in support of the refugees (numerous photos in the report). The National Council of Reistance of Iran notes, "The Association of Independent Iraqi Jurists, comprised of 12,000 jurists and lawyers, wrote a letter to the UN Secretary General envoy in Iraq, demanding urgent intervention to prevent the forcible relocation of Ashraf residents and avert a humanitarian catastrophe. In a letter to Ad Melkert, the Iraqi jurists wrote: It appears that the Iraqi government has no regard for international conventions and laws, and does not in any way respect humanitarian laws and human rights regulations. It does not even try to save face in front of other countries." Not only has Nouri broken his promise but apparently the US government has broken their own as well. Friday at the US State Dept press briefing (State Dept link has transcript and video), spokesperson Ian Kelly was asked about the forcible move and responded:
Well, I think what we would do, first and foremost, is to urge the Iraqi authorities to conduct any such relocation with the residents of Camp Ashraf, that it be done in a lawful and humane way. They've made clear to us, to the Government of the U.S., that they do plan to do this. And this is entiraly an Iraqi planned initiative. And as I said before, we'd expect this be carried out in a humane way. We have, all along, recognized Iraqi soveriegnty over the entire territory of Iraq, including the area where Camp Ashraf is located. And as I think we've said before, the Government of Iraq has assured us that they would not deport any of these citizens to any country where they would -- if you have a well-rounded fear of being treated inhumanely. So we -- I mean, we're engaging the Government of Iraq. Diplomatically, we respect Iraqi sovereignty. But of course, we're making it clear that we would expect these -- the residents of Camp Ashraf to be treated well and with respect.
What a pathetic excuse from the US government. It's gone from this summer where it was Camp Ashraf will remain, they're just putting in a police station to we're-okay-with-whatever-they-do. It's shameful and if the administration can't get it's act together over something this minor (the residents are not minor, I'm referring to how you address the situation -- you threaten to pull back some of those weapons contracts, for example), then the administration can't handle a damn thing. And to repeat, this isn't Hillary Clinton. Before she was ever nominated for Secretary of State, Iraq had been carved out by two incompetents whom Barack favored for their 'expertise' in foreign affairs. They screwed everything up. Joe Biden is now over Iraq trying to fix all their mistakes while also dealing with festering problems. My criticism of the inept administration on this point does not apply to either Clinton or Biden. If the administration cannot send a strong message when it comes to human rights, then the administration cannot send any strong messages at all and you better believe other countries, including 'enemy nations,' will quickly pick up on that.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 Baghdad roadside bombings left fifteen people injured (including one Iraqi soldier), a Baghdad sticky bombing wouned one person, a Baghdad private health clinic bombing which wounded 1 doctor, the doctor's wife and four patients and a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded one person. Wang Guanqun (Xinhua) reports a Mandeli (Diayala Province) roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi police officer and left two more injured and a Miqdadiya (also Diayala) roadside bombing wounded two people.
Late Friday/early Saturday, the US military announced: "Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq – A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died Dec. 11 from non-combat related injuries. The Soldier was discovered unresponsive in his living quarters by a non-commissioned officer in the unit. The NCO transported the Soldier to a nearby medical facility on their base, but he was later pronounced dead by attending physicians. The incident is currently under investigation. Task Force Marne extends our deepest condolences to the family during this time of loss. Release of the Soldier's identity is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin, and will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/." Iran's Press TV added, "'A Multi-National Division-North soldier died Dec. 11. He was found not breathing in his living quarters at Camp Speicher, Tikrit, Iraq,' read a US military statement issued on Saturday." The announcement brings to 4371 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
For the first time since his spring 2007 exit as British Prime Minister, Tony Blair has become big news and dominated the world news cycle over the weekend due to his BBC interview with Fern Britton. Sunday, KPFA's The KPFA Evening News reported on the issue.
Anthony Fest: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he would have sent British forces into the 2003 invasion into Iraq even knowing that Iraq did not possess Weapons of Mass Destruction. Blair's remarks came in a BBC interview pre-recorded for broadcast today. Blair was prime minister from 1997 to 2007 and was President George W. Bush's staunchest international ally in the Iraq invasion. In the buildup to the invasion, Bush and Blair claimed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical or biological weapons but after the invasion, no such weapons were found. Blair's response.
Tony Blair: We've got to accept that that that intelligence turned out to be wrong. On the other hand, I think it's then important not to go to the other extreme and say, 'Well this is someone who was basically not a danger and not a source of instability in the region. Because I believe that he was. And personally, I think, there would always have been a time when you had to deal with him.
Anthony Fest: Also in the BBC interview, Blair spoke of the more democratic government in Iraq today and said of Hussein "I can't really think that we'd be better with him and his two sons still in charge." The British government is conducting an investigation of the country's entry into the Iraq War. The probe is being led by retired civil servant John Chilcot and is known as the Chilcot Inquiry. Chilcot's committee began conducting interviews late last month and expects to hear from Blair early next year. But a British newspaper reported today that portions of Blair's testimony to the committee will be conducted in secret. The committee's mission is fact finding only. It does not have prosecutorial powers.
On the BBC, Blair declared it didn't matter, "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." Henry Chu (Los Angeles Times) observed, "It was a startling admission from the onetime British leader, who was President Bush's staunchest ally in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Blair's comments were immediately denounced by critics who accused him of using false pretenses to drag Britain into an unpopular war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of allied troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians." Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) pointed out, "Mr Blair's statement that he wanted rid of Saddam all along, and would simply have 'deploy[ed] different arguments' to do so in the absence of WMD, is his clearest admission to date that the famous weapons were indeed a pretext. His belief that a war on Iraq would have been necessary even without WMD is both significant -- and highly questionable." 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." 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."
Jeff Sparrow (Australia's ABC 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." That's Australia. Little Megan Tady of the laughable Free Press (slogan: "We WHORED for Barack because we thought we had a backdoor deal.") wants you to say no to "mega-media mergers" but, Megs, in your dualistic, yes/no world, we're left with what? The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times (Meggers wrote her bad article for the last one)? Well, goodness golly Meg, Tony Blair entered the news cycle on Saturday and yet not one of Panhandle Media's three big print outlets managed to say one damn word Saturday, Sunday or Monday. About the Iraq War. The war they grandstanded on for how many years? Get a real job, Meg, and then we'll take you seriously. Tony Blair reveals he would have launched the illegal war regardless and The Nation's offering . . . a synopsis of Oprah. Put a twit in charge and all you have left is Twitter. The Nation will inform and save the nation by offering . . . recaps of Oprah episodes. [Credit where it's due, The Huffington Post has repeatedly covered this topic in the last two days including this piece by Ben Cohen] In the real world, where Tony Blair's remarks are news, the former UK Direcotr of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald wrote a column for the Times of London in which he noted:
The degree of deceit involved in our decision to go to war on Iraq becomes steadily clearer. This was a foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions and playing footsie on Sunday morning television does nothing to repair the damage. It is now very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Tony Blair engaged in an alarming subterfuge with his partner George Bush and went on to mislead and cajole the British people into a deadly war they had made perfectly clear they didn't want, and on a basis that it's increasingly hard to believe even he found truly credible. Who is any longer naive enough to accept that the then Prime Minister's mind remained innocently open after his visit to Crawford, Texas?
Hindsight is a great temptress. But we needn't trouble her on the way to a confident conclusion that Mr Blair's fundamental flaw was his sycophancy towards power. Perhaps this seems odd in a man who drank so much of that mind-altering brew at home. But Washington turned his head and he couldn't resist the stage or the glamour that it gave him. In this sense he was weak and, as we can see, he remains so. Since those sorry days we have frequently heard him repeating the self-regarding mantra that "hand on heart, I only did what I thought was right". But this is a narcissist's defence and self-belief is no answer to misjudgment: it is certainly no answer to death. "Yo, Blair", perhaps, was his truest measure.
Andrew Sparrow offers "'Sycophant' Tony Blair used deceit to justify Iraq war, says former DPP" (Guardian), "Macdonald's comments about Blair's decision to go to war are more critical than anything that has been said so far by any of the senior civil servants who worked in Whitehall when Blair was prime minister. Macdonald was DPP from 2003 until 2008 and he now practises law from Matrix Chambers, where Blair's barrister wife, Cherie, is also based." Kate Loveys (Daily Mail) explains, "The Iraq Inquiry has already heard evidence that Mr Blair was told days before the invasion that Saddam Hussein might no longer have access to WMD. The issue of what the former prime minister knew about Iraq's WMD arsenal was expected to form a key part of the inquiry." Loveys goes on to note that Blair will give 'secret' testimony to the Iraq Inquiry "under the guise of 'national security' concerns." Alsumaria reports, "'Stop the War' British Organization considered Blair's admissions as war crimes. Attacking any country in aim to change its regime is an illegal aggression by virtue of the International Law, the NGO said in a statement."
In London, the Iraq Inquiry continued today. The committee, chaired by John Chilcot, heard testimony from Lt Gen Sir John Kiszely and Lt Gen Robin Brims in one segment and from Lt Gen Jonathon Riley and Gen Peter Wall in the second. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from the Inquiry's transcript and the link before has transcript and video options. We'll note this section:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You both [Kiszely and Brims] said that in the time you were there the generals on the ground were not allowed to use the word "counter-insurgency" to describe the situation, that there was a ban from [US] Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld, who didn't like this word. To what extent do you feel that backseat driving from Washington by Donald Rumsfeld was actually constraining and inhibiting the people in charge on the ground dealing with the problem?
Lt Gen John Kiszely: Well, certainly when I arrived, the word "insurgency" was discouraged because, as I said, he had been asked, "Is this an insurgency?" and he had made it absolutely plain that in his view it wasn't.
Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: But the generals thought it was? That was their appreciation?
Lt Gen John Kiszely: Gradually, I think people understood that it was but, to start with, we didn't use the word, just as we didn't use the word in Northern Ireland. We said we were involved in military aid to the civil power rather than counter-insurgency, and there is always a reluctance, obviously, politically, to admit that you are in an insurgency, but gradually this became the accepted parlance because people realised they were in an insurgency, but gradually this became the accepted parlance because people realised they were in an insurgency. Going to the wider point of your question about influence from Washington, I think one thing that I saw was a huge impetus from the top of the Pentagon to draw down force levels very quickly, and General Casey was, I think, arguing that they should not be drawn down as quickly as he was under some pressure to do so, and I think he was absolutely right. Why this was being done from Washington was, I think, largely because the American forces were under huge pressure; they couldn't keep up a large troop deployment for a long time. But I think it was also influenced by the projections of when the Iraqi security forces -- that's the army and the police -- would be ready to take over, and I think some optimistic predictions were made --
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You mean over-optimistic predictions?
Lt Gen John Kiszely: Most definitely overoptimisic, unrealistic, predictions were made earlier in 2004. There was considerable pressure from Capitol Hill to keep to these predictions, that the administration in Washington was being given a very hard time, that it didn't appear to be keeping up to the targets that it had set itself, and I think, therefore, a reluctance to adjust those targets and, as a result, adjust the level of draw-down, and I think this was throughout my time very much the pressure that was coming from Washington, and it was certainly not General Casey's intentions, as I understood it, to draw down a moment sooner than he thought it was wise.
In the other segment of the hearing, we'll note this section.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Admiral Boyce has told us that he warned the Americans against the assumptions. Were British officers uring the Americans to think about more serious scenarios in which those things didn't apply?
Gen Peter Wall: Well, there were a number of serious scenarios that were anticipated to do with our failure to seize the oil infrastructure before it was disrupted or destroyed, the sort of environmental consequences that might flow from that and other sorts of kind of wanton disruption. Those were thought through and there was a consequence management task force that was set up under the Americans in which we didn't play a particularly signifiant role and, of course, that also had a role to do with the possible downstream effects of some chemical releases which might have ensued from what we had anticipated could well happen. So those sorts of marco kind of events were being thought about. I think the general malaise that we inherited on arrival was not fully thought through.
Wall went on to tell the Inquiry that there were "key levers in Iraqi society" that they had to identify and court:
There were the Iraqi tribes with their sheiks, who had reasonably powerful influences because their power had been increased by Saddam in the closing years of his regime; there were the technical experts, particularly relevant to the oil industry, who were very well educated and had stuck around to run oil power, water and so on, and those are sort of -- those three issues of related in terms of the way the Basra infrastructure works. You know, the oil is needed to generate electricity, which is required to pump the water which gets the oil out of the ground. You break any one of those links, the system tends to fall down. [. . .] There were also, of course, the clerics as there are in any society, who had a very significant influence over the way that people were thinking, behaving and particularly the way they thought about us. So there was an opportunity there to increase our understanding and also to try and get them to explain our posture, and there was an emerging group of would-be politicians. In fact, there was something like 40 or 50 political parties that formed up very, very quickly in Basra in the expecation of some early elections, who tended to behave as if they had already been elected and had legitimate influence over what should be done.
That's all we have time for. Ruth and Elaine are grabbing a bad radio program tonight so be sure to check them out. I agree with the points they outlined over the phone and would gladly weigh in but there's just not the space in this snapshot. I will make room for one plug. The Hurt Locker is an amazing film directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Susan King (Los Angeles Times) reports: "Sunday was a big day for The Hurt Locker, the gripping wartime drama about a bomb diffusion unit in Iraq. Within hours, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the American Film Institute both named the independent production the year's best drama. L.A. critics bestowed the film's director, Kathryn Bigelow, with a best director prize as well." Reuters adds, "Separately on Sunday, "The Hurt Locker" was also named one of the year's 10 best movies by the American Film Institute, a Los Angeles-based group that promotes movie conservation and education." As disclosed before, I know and like Kathryn Bigelow and, fingers crossed, this is an Academy Award nominee. She's earned it. And Susan King (LA Times) notes this afternoon that the New York Critics Circle has picked The Hurt Locker as the year's best film and Kathyrn as best director.