Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jack Straw prepares to testify, Will Straw calls father out

England's Daily Mirror quotes Will Straw stating, "My father's eventual support for Tony Blair over the war was the biggest mistake of his political life." David Cohen profiles Will Straw for London's Evening Standard:

The rebellious 17-year-old had been caught selling £10 of cannabis to a tabloid journalist in a sting aimed at undermining his father, Jack Straw, then the Home Secretary. But 12 years later, Will, influential founder of the fastest-rising political blog in the UK, now believes the shoe is on the other foot.
"Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have been a huge disappointment and let down the Labour Party," he believes. "I am especially deeply angry with Blair for being duplicitous about his reasons for taking us to war with Iraq, hiding behind WMDs when he was content to prosecute a war for regime change. And also,” he takes a sharp intake of breath, "for the unbelievably shoddy way he betrayed my father, demoting him from Foreign Secretary to Leader of the House, especially after my dad had been so loyal."
More worryingly, Will admits, Labour has little chance of winning the general election outright, especially with Brown at the helm. "My own prediction is that the best we can hope for is a hung Parliament with no clear winner, possibly prompting a second general election within a year and triggering a Labour leadership contest where somebody impressive such as Ed Miliband, if he stands, could prove a popular leader."

His father, Jack Straw, appears before the Iraq Inquiry today. The Inquiry, based in London and chaired by John Chilcot, is examining the pre- and post-war conditions, assertions and planning. Straw was the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2001 to 2006. (Channel 4 News provides an overview here and a day by day tracking.) Ruth Barnett (Sky News) explains:

Mr Straw, now Justice Secretary, is likely to be asked about a letter he wrote to Tony Blair suggesting there was not enough support within the Labour Party for military intervention.
The "secret and personal" note, sent a year before the House of Commons backed the invasion, has been obtained by the Sunday Times.
In the letter, Mr Straw wrote: "There is at present no majority inside the Parliamentary Labour Party for any military action against Iraq."
He also warned: "We have also to answer the big question - what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole in this than on anything."

BBC News adds that he's supposed to provide three hours of testimony and, of yesterday's hearing, they note:

Wednesday's inquiry session saw former intelligence chief Sir David Omand tell the inquiry the "45-minute claim" in the 2002 intelligence dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction had been "a bit of local colour" and was added because it was a rare example of detail that the intelligence services allowed to be included.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, I personally consider that "local colour" remark to be the biggest development from yesterday's testimonies. I'm glad the BBC also feels that was worth zooming in on. Chris Ames covers David Omand's appearance before the commission at Iraq Inquiry Digest. James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) zooms in on Omand stating that the 45 minute claim (Blair sold the illegal war in England on the false assertion that Iraq had WMD and could attack England with them within 45 minutes) was a "big mistake" and then, later, goes to "local colour." That's the opinion of everyone kind enough to be a sounding board for me on the Inquiry. (I'm not in England, I'm going by the transcripts and videos as well as lengthy conversations with friends in England who are journalists and attorneys.) But to explain why the "local colour" remark is the more important in my judgment call: Omand stated the claim was a big mistake. And? I believe we all know that. I believe we knew it before the Inquiry. The only thing novel there is that Omand admitted it. The claim was false and Tony Blair either knew or should have (based on evidence the Inquiry has heard) that the claim was false before the start of the Iraq War. So Omand's off-hand remark that it was included for "local colour" to me is very telling and I'm wondering how people define "local colour" because, to me, it's the way you make something appear realistic or more realistic. If you're writing, for example, a southern novel, you want to include a few details that one might encounter in a short story by Flannery O'Connor, toss in those "local color" details so that your story -- your fiction -- is more believable. "Local colour" is a literary term and I find the use of it by Omand and the way he used it to be very telling. (But I could be wrong and often am.)

For the Guardian, Andrew Sparrow will be live blogging Straw's testimony (he's already got an overview up but Straw's not begun to testify yet).

We'll note World Can't Wait's "No More War Crimes in our Names! Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!" in full:

War Criminals Watch is joining with the ACLU, Amnesty International, many other organizations, artists and musicians like Tom Morello and Trent Reznor to "flood Twitter" and Facebook this Thursday, January 21st with messages to #closegitmo. YOU can help, by spreading the word now, and tweeting messages on Thursday about Guantanamo, torture, habeas corpus rights, and more - using the hashtag #closegitmo. You can also "donate" your Facebook status for the day with this message. We want to dominate the social networking discussion on Thursday with the message that torture and the prison at Guantanamo still continue, but must be stopped.

That's today. Yesterday's snapshot noted Ruth Conniff had a column on the Coakley-Brown matchup. My apologies for not noting that the f-word appears in it with no censoring (though when it was said on Comedy Central by Jon Stewart -- whom Connif is quoting -- it was bleeped). My apologies for not giving a heads up. From Conniff's "Finger-Pointing in Massachusetts" (The Progressive):

"The real question Democrats have to ask themselves is: how come the greatest piece of social legislation since Medicare is something a progressive Democratic candidate for Ted Kennedy's seat has to speak so defensively about?" Avishai writes. "And we can look no further than Howard Dean, and MSNBC, and Arianna Huffington, and, yes, some columnists at the Times and bloggers here at TPM--you know, who have lambasted Obama again and again since last March over arguable need-to-haves like the "public option," as if nobody else was listening."
That's right: by daring to suggest that lobbyist-pleasing health care legislation is less than the dream of universal health care the Democrats promised during the last campaign season, we progressives have sunk the Democrats' chances of ever passing health care reform.
According to Avishai, we have betrayed Obama by being insufficiently enthusiastic about Joe Lieberman's health care bill: "Meanwhile the undecideds are thinking: 'Hell, if his own people think he's a sell-out and jerk, why should we support this?'

She then moves on to Jon Stewart's take of the race. To watch it, click here (clip at The Daily Show website) and the f-word was bleeped out on TV (I assume in the clip as well). But, no surprise, the charge that it was the fault of those actually working for real health care would be blamed by the centrist TPM. How very. Never forget that these slimey Simon Rosenberg types are the ones who led the retreat on abortion rights. We didn't end up where we are today by accident.

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