Sunday, January 24, 2010

And the war drags on . . . .

Friday, January 29th, one time prime minister and all time poodle Tony Blair will appear before the Iraq Inquiry in London. A major protest is expected to take place outside as War Criminal Tony testifies. From Stop The War Coalition's "Protest on Tony Blair's Judgement Day: 29 January from 8am:"

Peoples Dossier
New Stop the War pamphlet

Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Broad
Sanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3EE

On Friday 29 January, Tony Blair will try to explain to the Iraq Inquiry the lies he used to take Britain into an illegal war.

Writers, musicians, relatives of the dead, Iraqi refugees, poets, human rights lawyers, comedians, actors, MPs and ordinary citizens will join a day of protest outside the Inquiry to demand that this should be Tony Blair's judgement day.

There will be naming the dead ceremonies for the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in Blair's war. Military families who lost loved ones in Iraq will read the names of the 179 British soldiers killed.

Join us from 8.0am onwards.

David Brown and Adam Fresco (Times of London) report, "The demonstration will be the biggest test for Scotland Yard since the G20 protest in April last year when protesters caused millions of pounds of damage in the City and member of the public died after a confrontation with officers from the Territorial Support Group. Scotland Yard is preparing to use the controversial 'kettling' tactic in which protesters are enclosed within police cordons for many hours." Caseell Bryan-Low (Wall St. Journal) adds that Blair's spokesperson, asked of the upcoming appearance, attempted to spin the conversation to another topic, "The spokesman said Mr. Blair remains focused on his charitable foundations, governance initiatives in Africa, advocacy for climate change and his work in the Middle East." Tony should be sweating it and, on the Wall St. Journal, repeatedly last week they covered the Iraq Inquiry. Another US outlet that began daily coverage (in their hourly headlines) was NPR. Meanwhile Al Jazeera notes, "Two former British government lawyers are expected to tell the public inquiry into the Iraq war that Britain's involvement in the 2003 invasion was illegal." The two are Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmshurst. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explains:

Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, Sir Michael Wood, chief legal adviser at the Foreign Office, and Elizabeth Wilmshurst, his deputy, all believed an invasion was illegal without a new UN resolution, the inquiry will hear. Goldsmith changed his mind after meeting Lady (Sally) Morgan and Lord Falconer, two of Blair's closest political advisers, on 13 March 2003, four days before he approved a parliamentary answer giving the green light to war.
Neither Morgan nor Falconer have been invited so far to testify at the inquiry. That means they are free to advise Blair on what he should say when he is questioned at the hearing on Friday. Chilcot has asked people who have been called to give evidence not to speak to other witnesses about it.
Blair will be questioned after the inquiry hears damning evidence about the case he made for war. Wood will tell the inquiry on Tuesday that he believed the war would have been unlawful without a second UN security council resolution.
Michael Wood, the senior legal advisor to the British foreign office at the time and his then-deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, are due to give evidence on Tuesday.

When War Criminal Tony Blair begins his testimony Friday, the families of the fallen present at the hearing may make their feelings known. Mark Townsend, Toby Helm and Paul Harris (Observer) report, "There has been talk among the relatives of protests at the moment Blair arrives, as the media relays pictures across the world. Some relatives have vowed to turn their backs on the former PM as he enters. Others have talked of painting their palms red to signify 'blood on the hands' of the 'guilty' man. There has been discussion of throwing shoes at him, imitating the Iraqi reporter who flung his footwear at the US president, George Bush, in 2008." No one knows what will happen, that's the disclaimer, but tonight I spoke to two friends who have been covering the Inquiry and their guess -- guess -- is that nothing will be thrown but the families might turn their backs. That's based on the behaviors of the family members thus far. What is far more likely than something being hurled at Tony Blair is the chair John Chilcot opening with another personal statement on this topic tomorrow.

Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) covers
the legality issues here. Iraq Inquiry Digest also notes the weekend's other big news in England: Dr. David Kelly's records are sealed for 70 years. David Kelly was the one who leaked to the BBC that the intel Tony Blair was flaunting in public to argue for the Iraq War had been "sexed up." Blair and company demanded a witch hunt -- even though they knew it was Kelly who leaked it. Shortly after Kelly was put through the dog and pony show he was found dead. For "state secret" reasoning, Kelly's medical records from the autopsy are locked away for 70 years -- a fact that the public was not informed of when the draconian decision was made (in addition, some witness statements that the public never heard have been locked away for thirty years). On Twitter, Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs the hearings. and is asking "What would you ask Blair on Fri 29th? Send 140 char Qs here or longer form Qs to - selection will be posted pre-29th"

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 4373. Tonight? 4374.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left three more people wounded, a Garma roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured and, dropping back to Saturday, a Shirqat sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi military officer.


Reuters notes 1 person shot dead Saturday in Kirkuk.


Xinhua reports 8 corpses were discovered in Falluja.

As noted in Friday's snapshot, the 'bomb detector' ADE651 has been banned for further exportation from England to Iraq and the company's director Jim McCormick is facing charges of fraud. While Iraq's government or 'government' decides how to respond (MPs want to ban it immediatly, Nouri favors an investigation that will take place as the device is still used), Martin Chulov (Guardian) adds these details:

The US military has been scathing, claiming the wands contained only a chip to detect theft from stores. The claim was based on a study released in June by US military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis, which was passed on to Iraqi officials.
"The examination resulted in a determination that there was no possible means by which the ADE651 could detect explosives and therefore was determined to be totally ineffective and fraudulent," Major Joe Scrocca, a US military spokesman in Baghdad, told the Associated Press.
The US military, and private contractors that guard Baghdad's international zone and airport road, use tried-and-tested sniffer dogs to keep explosives out.

US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq last week as the intended March elections faced further threats. Today on NPR's Weekend Edition, Liane Hansen spoke with Quil Lawrence (who is in Baghdad) about the purging/witch hunt of political candidates (511 so far with more coming according to the committee) and who was involved in the purging.

Liane Hansen: Ahmed Chalabi sounds -- it's a familiar name. Isn't he the man who was blamed with passing bad information to the Bush administration in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq?

Quil Lawrence: Exactly. Chalabi's on the Iraqi political scene for years. He's never been elected to a post in Iraq but he is such a shrewd political survivor that he's managed to pull of this move and again become one of the most powerful people for this moment in Iraqi politics. It doesn't look like he's done anything strictly illegal. Chalabi himself right now is conveniently out of the country.

[. . .]

Liane Hansen: Well did Vice President Biden actually weigh in on the controversy?

Quil Lawrence: He was walking kind of a fine line. He didn't want to come to Iraq appareing that he was here to save the day especially of how it might look if he didn't save the day. But Iraqi politicians had been saying for days before he arrived that he had been offering suggestions. Publicly Biden's team only said that they were concerned that this process wasn't transparent enough. And that is very clear on the streets of Iraq. No one really understands how this all happened. It leaked out at first it wasn't made public very forthrightly and no one's seen the evidence. At least one prominent name was allowed to withdraw, allowed to get his name off the list in agreement in return for taking his name out of the hat for the election. So people are very confused about this and it is giving that sort of perception of a taint to the process.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes Sian Ruddick's "Make Tony Blair's day at Iraq inquiry a nightmare" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

A storm of protest will welcome warmonger Tony Blair on Friday 29 January when he attends the Chilcot inquiry into the invasion of Iraq.

The inquiry has seen establishment figures reveal a number of uncomfortable truths for Blair about his role in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

Widespread anger remains at the huge loss of life for Iraqis and the soldiers that Blair and George Bush sent to do their bidding.

“I would like to say to Blair that people have lost their lives for the whim of one man,” said Lilly Walker, the mother of a serving British soldier who has done four tours in Iraq. “Nothing can justify that.”

Lilly feels betrayed by the government. She told Socialist Worker, “I feel insulted by Tony Blair – my son was only 17 when he joined the army.

“We were never given all the facts even though we entrusted his well-being to the government.”

The feeling among the public against the war has not been matched by the remit of the official inquiry.

While it has embarrassed Blair and his supporters, it has also said that it would not apportion blame for the war but only that lessons should be learnt from what happened.

“This is not enough,” said Lilly. “The inquiry should set a precedent and apportion blame. If it doesn’t do that then it’s all a waste of money.”

The Iraqi people have paid a terrible price for Blair’s decision to go to war.

In April 2003, Blair said, “I would say to people in Iraq, the numbers that have lost their lives in the war are only a small number compared with hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives under Saddam.”

But hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives in the carnage of the occupation that followed. Millions have seen their country reduced to division, crisis and rubble.

The legacy of the war are the horrors of torture and abuse in Abu Ghraib prison, the destruction of cities like Fallujah and a country where health, education, water and electricity supplies are still worse than they were before the invasion.

Insecurity still has a hold on Iraq. Only last week, the military “locked down” huge sections of the capital Baghdad amid fears that insurgents were planning another spate of car bomb attacks.

The last such attack claimed almost 200 lives in December.

The Stop the War Coalition is planning to make Friday of next week Blair’s “Judgement Day” for his war crimes.

It is calling on Stop the War groups and activists to mobilise for a huge protest to give Blair the reception he deserves.

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

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