Monday, December 14, 2009
War Hawk Tony Blair; also see Sycophant
That's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Exit the Poodle" from May 13, 2007, when Tony Blair made his exit as British Prime Minister. For the first time since his exit, 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.
This morning "sycophancy" and "sycophant" are in the news cycle, all applied to Tony Blair. Duncan Gardham's "Tony Blair's 'sycophancy' led us into into war" (Telegraph of London) notes, "Britain went to war with Iraq because of Tony Blair’s 'sycophancy' towards the US, according Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, the former Director of Public Prosecutions. The former Prime Minister engaged in an 'alarming subterfuge' with George Bush, and then misled the British people into a war they did not want, Sir Ken said." Macdonald's column is entitled "Intoxicated by power, Blair tricked us into war" (Times of London) and this is the opening:
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' "Britain misled into Iraq war by Blair's 'sycophancy to U.S. and alarming subterfuge with Bush', says former DPP" (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." George Pitcher (Telegraph of London) offers this take on Blair's performance:
So why does Britton's otherwise excellent interview leave me, and I suspect not a few others, feeling profoundly uneasy about Blair's testimony?
Partly, I suspect, it's the stammery-stuttering, glottal-stopping delivery, trying to give the impression that Fern was witnessing a spontaneous revelation, rather than something carefully rehearsed. With a hat-tip to George Burns, Blair knows that sincerity is everything and, if he can fake that, then he's cracked
it. Partly it's disquiet that Blair
has again used a soft BBC opportunity to prepare his way for a tricky public performance, in this case telling the Chilcot Inquiry that he'd have found any old reason to invade Iraq: WMD, regime change, bad hair day, whatever.
But it came to me in church that the really troubling aspect of this Blair interview was that he was reinventing his past again, just as he did in the old days when he said that, as a boy, he watched Jackie Milburn play for Newcastle United, had stowed away on a flight to the West Indies and had been kidnapped by the Mysterons during the invasion of Iraq (I made one of those up; see if you can spot which one).
The Independent of London editorializes:
Even by the standards of the former prime minister's chutzpah, this I'd-have-deployed-a-different-argument approach is extraordinary. What is worse than requiring us to view very differently the presentation of the "extensive, detailed and authoritative" WMD evidence – surely the most cynical con trick of modern times – is Mr Blair's sly reference to Islam, in which he moves on to another justification, fixing the decision to go to war in the context of a wider battle over religion: "I happen to think that there is a major struggle going on all over the world, really, which is about Islam and what is happening within Islam."
This is as fine an example of Mr Blair's intellectual dishonesty as it is possible to find. As a statement, it is, of course, uncontroversial. Applying it to Iraq, though, is scandalous. There is an arguable case, and one which Blair now seems publicly to endorse, that Saddam simply had to go. In which case, why did he tell the Commons in February 2003 that it was not too late for him? "I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand." Sir John Chilcot might care to ask Mr Blair if that, like so many things he says, merely felt true at the time he said it.
And why did he speak, in the parliamentary debate on the eve of invasion three weeks later, of rogue regimes and terror groups? It was to invite the gullible to make the inference he wanted – that Saddam's regime was somehow implicated in 9/11.
Mr Blair's comments to Fern Britton in today's programme are designed to convey that same false idea. You might – might – argue that military action in both Afghanistan and Iraq is part of the same war, to stop WMD at some distant time falling into the hands of terrorists. But that overlooks Saddam's bitter hostility to Osama bin Laden, of which Blair must have been aware, and the creation of al-Qa'ida in Iraq since the invasion.
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." Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) notes of the Iraq Inquiry, "Many people who have written about the Iraq inquiry have complained about the soft nature of the questioning and today Ken Macdonald joined the chorus, describing the approach taken by Sir John Chilcot and his team as 'unchallenging'. But at Iraq inquiry HQ Chilcot and his team believe that these criticisms are unfair and that commentators do not appreciate that the questioning has been gentle up to now for a reason."
Meanwhile, Wang Guanqun (Xinhua) reports a Mandeli (Diayala Province) roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi police officer and left two more injured, a Miqdadiya (also Diayala) roadside bombing wounded two people, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two people and a second Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three.
Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Spirit of Barack" went up last night. Danny Schechter has been reporting from the Congo. I'm noting this from his "Congo Communique: Patrice, The Martyr, Ali The 'Killer' And Tales From Central Africa" (ZNet):
I came to the Congo in search of its future and instead found myself marching down memory lane. On Thursday we went to the Museum of Beaux Arts, really a school for teaching sculpture, a subject close to me because my late dad sculpted in stone and wood as a hobby.
But there, surrounding the ageing art deco building, were statues of Congo's history of agony-large almost socialist realist renderings of soldiers carrying the wounded, or falling on the battlefield.
Even an art school cannot ignore the history around it. The curator told me that it is only recently that art students have been allowed to do work of social commentary.
On Friday, we passed a public monument alongside a well-traveled highway. It was for someone who took decades to be resuscitated as a national hero, the country's first post-independence prime minister later assassinated with CIA help in 1961.
His name: Patrice Lumumba.
I'm noting that article. I think Danny's done strong work reporting on Congo; however, we are not, nor will we ever, endorsing the liar John Prendegast. Keith Harmon Snow has risked a great deal telling truth to power with regards to LIAR Prendegast and I will not spit on the battle Keith has fought or all that it has cost Keith by ever endorsing anything that Prendegast preaches, advocates or tries to stir up. Prendegast is and always will be a War Hawk. He's a well funded one and those getting in bed with him right now better not complain years from now when the stench follows them around.
Another thing to note. Sorry. Liang notes Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff's "Award Winning Flashpoints Radio Show Under Threat by KPFA Management" (Dissident Voice):
The Flashpoints radio program is being directly threatened with closure by station management. Budget cuts implemented by KPFA management; reduce staff time for Flashpoints by some 75 hours per week. Flashpoints, an award winning national radio program, originates at KPFA in Berkeley, California, and reaches some thirty cities in the US and serves an on-line audience worldwide.
Nora Barrows-Friedman wrote on December 9, “KPFA has effectively destroyed Flashpoints this week, beginning with the layoff of our technical producer position. Just hours ago, they called me into a meeting and casually informed me that my hours will be reduced by 50%. I cannot afford to keep this job if I’m on 20 hours a week.”
Ms. Barrows-Friedman is a long time investigative reporter specializing in Israel-Palestine issues and is one of the few reporters in the country who covers this sensitive issue in a straightforward manner. She taught herself Arabic and often reports from the ground in the Middle East. Along with Flashpoints producers Dennis Bernstein and Miguel Molina, Ms. Barrows-Friedman was the recent recipient of a lifetime achievement Media Freedom Award from Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored.
“Nora Barrows Friedman has seniority over at least a dozen more recent and less experienced staff people. She has done an outstanding job at Flashpoints, showing a special dedication and talent. She has top professional qualifications and standards, tested by time and performance,” stated long standing political commentator and author Dr. Michael Parenti.
KPFA's Flashpoints Radio is an hour long weekly news show. It is NEWS. It is not 'public affairs.' For example, Nora regularly goes to the occupied territories and reports from them. We've long ago noted that KPFA does a lousy job of utilizing Nora who should be brought on all programs. When we were hitting on that in 2006 (and I was hitting on it offline), she finally got invited onto one show only to have a male host whine all over KPFA to the 'inner circle' afterward that he didn't care for her views. KFPA doesn't have a great deal of shows that are truly news shows. Flashpoints reports from protests and from around the world. They do actual news. Robert Knight, most broadcasts, starts with headlines that are what Pacifica is supposed to do. They're not supposed to, pay attention Aileen, read AP. They're supposed to be providing an altnerative voice and alterantive perspective. Pacifica radio was not created so that AP could be amplified. Dennis has gone after stories no one else would touch. They've brought art into Friday's as a permanent feature, going to the Mission District and broadcasting from there. They also deserve credit for the best interview with Rita Moreno I've ever heard. And she's a wonderful interview subject but Dennis is one of the few who had a conversation with her (as opposed to ticking through a list of topics) and it was one of KPFA's best arts coverage moments of this decade. The entire crew never forgets Iraq or Afghanistan. You don't go three months -- the way you do on Democracy Now! -- with no acknowledgement that the US is involved in wars. Flashpoints is KPFA's strongest program.
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