Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blair was Tsarina Aleksandra to Bush's Rasputin

From yesterday's Pacifica Evening News (broadcast on KPFA and KPFK -- as well as other stations -- KPFA archives for 14 days, KPFK for 59):

John Hamilton: Prime Minister Tony Blair told then-president George W. Bush in 2002 that Britain would back military action if diplomatic efforts to disarm Iraq's Saddam Hussein failed. That's according to testimony today by Blair's former communications chief as he appeared before a public inquiry into the Iraq War in London. Alastair Campbell said there never was a precipitant rush to war despite the close ties between Blair and Bush; however, Campbell said that Blair wrote personally to Bush to offer his support for military action if Saddam did not accede to the United Nations demands on disarmament before the March 2003 invasion. Here he describes the content of secret letters from Blair to the former president pledging British support for an invasion as early as 2002.

Alastair Campbell: We share the analysis. We share the concern. We're absolutely with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is -- face up to his obligations and Iraq is disarmed. If that cannot be done diplomatically, it has to be done mila-militarily. Britain will be there. That will definitely be the tenor of his communications to the president.

John Hamilton: Campbell is a former journalist who was one of Blair's closest advisers from 1994 to 2003. He insisted today that Blair tried all along to disarm Saddam by diplomatic means. His testimony conflicted with widespread reports that a British intelligence dossier on Iraq's pre-war capabilities to produce Weapons of Mass Destruction was "sexed up" on Campbell's orders to make Saddam Hussein appear to be more of a threat to national security. Those reports were reinforced this week when the British Guardian newspaper reported that those who drafted the dossier were immediately asked to compare British claims against a 2002 speech to the United Nations by then-president George W. Bush. In that speech, the former president claimed Iraq would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within a year. The next day, the [British] dossier's timeline was halved to claimed Iraq could get the bomb within a year. Campbell today dismissed such reports.

Alastair Campbell: But at no point did anybody from the prime minister down say to anybody within intelligence services, 'Look, you've got to sort of tailor it to fit this argument.' I defend every single word of the dossier I defend every single part of the process.

John Hamilton: The five-person Iraq Inquiry also known as the Chilcot Inquiry was called by current Prime Minister Gordon Brown to examine the run up to the 2003 invasion. Critics point out that witness are not sworn to testify under oath. And others have criticized the panel's members for their lack of prosecutorial skills. This is former Financial Times journalist John Munch.

John Munch: The panelists don't have any [. . .] or any professional lawyers who are really intent on - on making the case against the government. In the states, you have far more tough questioning in federal investigations.

John Hamilton: Also today an official Dutch investigation into the Iraq War concluded that the Hague government supported the war without legal backing, it did not fully inform Parliament about its plans. The committee's scathing report -- whose release was broadcast live on state television -- said the US led invasion probably targeted regime change in Iraq but military intervention for this reason was not supported by international law and the Dutch government was aware of that case.

Though the Pacifica Evening News could note both the Iraq Inquiry and the Dutch findings, Amy Goodman had time for neither. I'm not joking when I say you need to pay attention to who is covering it and who is not. You also need to pay attention to who grandstanded over the Iraq War, who lined their pockets with money from it. People like Amy Goodman who make no time for it today. War profiteering is not limited to the defense industry. You also need to grasp that John Munch doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

No, they don't have attorneys. That's a valid point. (Although Gordon Brown would insist they aren't needed because they will determine no individual guilt.) But this nonsense about what the US has? The US would not do this as a federal investigation. Did we do the 9-11 inquiry as a federal investigation? No. The Warren Commission was a federal investigation? No.

Some people really need to be asked what the hell they're doing. Munch thinks the hearings will be a whitewash. They may be. They may end up that way. In the meantime, the Inquiry's public hearings are turning up interesting facts that add to the broader understanding of the illegal war. Munch sounds like he need to get some sunlight or vitamin D before next weighing in on what would happen in the US. Reality: The US has had no public inquiry into the Iraq War. Not with John Conyers when the Dems were out of power and not since Dems grabbed control of both houses in the 2006 mid-term elections.

Let's stay with the Iraq Inquiry's hearing yesterday. Catherine Mayer (Time magazine) adds:

Blair's star turn is expected to be so heavily subscribed that the inquiry has launched a public ballot for seats. A key question will be at what point the British government gave pledges to Washington about taking part in military action. The inquiry panel's questions to Campbell revealed for the first time the existence of private letters in 2002 from Blair to U.S. President George W. Bush. The "tenor" of these letters, said Campbell, was "We are going to be with you making sure that Saddam Hussein faces up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed. If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there."