Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tony Blair testifies tomorrow

Tomorrow, one-time prime minister, full-time War Criminal and forever poodle, Tony Blair will drag his sorry ass before the Iraq Inquiry in London. A major protest is expected to take place as War Criminal Tony attempts to wash the blood off his hands. 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.

The Times of London has a page where people are posting the questions they would ask Tony Blair and we'll note this from Jim Hendry:

You have repeatedly suggested in your defence of the pre-emptive strike against Iraq, that the world is a better place without the tyrant Saddam Hussein who killed many of his own people.
Why therefore did you offer him the "get out of jail" card if he surrendered the WMDs you kidded yourself he had?
Also, if regime change is considered by you, now, to have been a justifiable cause for ridding the world of this undisputed monster, why did you not put forward that argument then and why on earth did you not opt for the far cheaper option of illegal assassination rather than an equally illegal, full scale war which has claimed the lives of many innocent men, women and children as well as our own service personnel.

Yesterday the Inquiry heard from Peter Goldsmith who was Attorney General before the start of the war (and remained that through 2007). Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror) reports:

Lord Goldsmith told the Chilcot inquiry he had originally warned Mr Blair military action against Saddam Hussein's regime would be illegal without United Nations' authority.
But the then Attorney General dramatically reversed his view after he flew to Washington for secret talks two months before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

There was a lot yesterday and a few e-mailers ask why Beattie gets highlighted and Michael Savage doesn't? Beattie usually knows what took place. Savage? Again, a lot happened yesterday and it may be difficult for Savage to summarize it all but there's no excuse for his article at the Independent. To use just one example, Savage:

He said it would have been impossible to ask the French directly what they thought the resolution had meant. "You cannot have the British Attorney General being seen to go to the French and ask them 'What do you think?' The message that would have given to Saddam Hussein about the degree of your commitment would have been huge," he said.

Was that his reply? No. His answer was that he couldn't speak to the French which then prompted Chair John Chilcot and Committee Member Roderic Lyne to both ask about diplomatic channels and he denied that they could be used either. Not only could he not call the French or meet with them but no one in the British government -- including the British Ambassador to France -- could speak to the French.

Savage cuts too many corners and that's why we rarely highlight him. Beattie may write for a tabloid but he gets the facts correct. Savage offers a child's picture book version of the hearings.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Goldsmith identified that meeting taking place in 2002 (unless someone can prove that, it took place in 2003) and, at the end of his article, Beattie provides a helpful timeline that sticks to reality and ignores the calendar Goldsmith appears to think was correct.

At The New Statesman, Samira Shackle offers a take on Goldsmith's testimony:

Rather predictably, the hearing wasn't as explosive as many media commentators had hoped. Goldsmith dismissed the belief that he had changed his opinion under intense government pressure as "complete and utter nonsense". He did, however, admit that Tony Blair had not found it "entirely welcome" when Goldsmith advised that the government must seek a UN resolution. Of Blair's advanced discussions with Bush, he said: "That did put me in something of a difficult position."
The crucial moment was in late February 2003, when Goldsmith went from warning that a second UN resolution must be obtained to saying that actually, it was fine to go ahead.

It's an opinion piece. I disagree. That may be due to the fact that I'm in the US but it may also be due to the fact that two very shocking moments are not being captured in the bulk of the reporting (the US was never going for a second resolution -- we'll cover this in detail tonight in "I Hate The War" unless some other topic comes up -- and we already covered it in yesterday's snapshot -- and his actual reason for changing his mind which is not, NO IT IS NOT, the February meeting -- and these who repeat that it is seem like they're intentionally attempting to mislead the public). Of Goldsmith's testimony, Christopher Hope (Telegraph of London) rightly observes, "Of course, his measured performance is in no way related to the £2,000-worth of helpful advice he received from a Treasury barrister in the days before his evidence session." Iain Martin (Wall St. Journal) continues to cover the Iraq Inquiry -- the only one at a paper that does so regularly -- and he reflects on the following:

Michael White asked: Is it fair to blame Bush and Blair for the continued violence in Iraq? John said the answer is clearly no.
But is it? Isn’t the answer yes, or at least maybe? It strikes me as perfectly fair to say that the two leaders who invaded Iraq share at least a significant chunk of the blame for the security situation now.
I was no anti-war dove. But the terrible mistakes made in the weeks and months immediately after the war were Bush and to a lesser extent Blair’s mistakes. Incompetence at that time laid the ground for what followed. It triggered the sequence of events which ended up giving Iraq security problems now.
In 2003 the president had no coherent plan for the aftermath, leaving it to subordinates who thought there wasn't much of a need for one. Tony Blair knew this, but as Sir Christopher Meyer points out he fatally chose not spend any of his hard-earned political capital in the Oval office. Blair should have pointed out a few realities and demanded forcefully -- Thatcher-style -- that the aftermath get far greater attention. Their joint failure had violent consequences which continue to play out almost seven years later.

For realities about yesterday's hearing, see this by Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) and this. The Inquiry holds no public hearing tomorrow, possibly to rest up before Tony Blair's big appearance. Andrew Sparrow discusses (audio link) the Inquiry in the Guardian Daily podcast. Meanwhile Jonathan Steele (Guardian) never forgets the full range of the illegal war:

The initial blood-letting came from the invaders, and for the first two years of the occupation they were responsible for the bulk of the killing. Those of us who covered that period will not forget it as easily as the inquiry team has done. In the days after Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled, I remember watching desperate fathers dig up recent makeshift graves in the grounds of Baghdad's main children's hospital for the bodies of loved ones killed by US troops at checkpoints. These were not casualties of the wartime bombing, but of nervous soldiers after the regime had already fallen. Three weeks later I was in Fallujah after US troops, billeted in a local school, had killed more than a dozen unarmed demonstrators.
Away from Baghdad over the next few months US troops were firing on villages suspected of sheltering men who were attacking US convoys. In April 2004 they subjected Fallujah to a ferocious three-week bombardment. Civilian casualties continued to mount, and by the second anniversary of the invasion the independent assessment group, the Iraq Body Count, calculated that the occupiers had killed 2,654 civilians, more than four times the number of victims of car bombs and suicide attacks. The US was detaining tens of thousands of Iraqi men, usually stripping them in front of their families in nighttime raids, thereby further fuelling Iraqi anger and hatred.
Even if the invasion had been legal, with unambiguous UN authorisation, Iraqis would have had the right to resist a foreign occupation. Yet the notion of resistance has not been acknowledged by the inquiry. It is as though the inquisitors (not the best word for these elaborately polite and long-winded questioners) accept the same parameters as the men they are interviewing. Saddam was hated by most of his subjects. Therefore an invasion would be welcomed.
The idea that vast numbers of Iraqis would hate to see foreign troops in their country is apparently too radical for this inquiry. So too is the fact that the Iraq war was the climax of a decade of liberal interventionism that blithely assumed outsiders know better what other nations want.

Lastly, we'll note this from Great Britian's Socialist Worker:

Anti-war rally on eve of London protests

by Sian Ruddick

Three days of activity against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began with a 200-strong public meeting in central London tonight, Wednesday.

The meeting took place in on the eve of a meeting of Nato leaders to discuss sending more troops to kill and be killed in Afghanistan. This will be followed by Tony Blair’s appearance before the Iraq inquiry on Friday.

Anti-war activists will protest at both of these events.

Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), described the Afghan conference as an "admission of failure" of the war and occupation of the country.

Andrew said that protesters will defy any police ban and demonstrate outside both the conference and the Iraq inquiry.

Kate Hudson, chair of CND, spoke from the platform. She said, "Whatever these goverments agree, they will be at odds with the populations of their countries. Some 82 percent of French people oppose their government's involvement in the war. Meanwhile 71 percent of British and German people want the troops home."

The meeting heard messages of solidarity from across Europe.

Tony Benn, president of the StWC, told the meeting, "The war in Afghanistan has cost billions. The latest plan is to bribe the Taliban to comply with the occupation – which will make the situation ever more bitter."

Anger at the lies world leaders have told us ran through the meeting. Lindsey German, convenor of the StWC, said, "We need a complete holding to account to all those in charge when we went to war. If we don’t have this, how can we be sure it won’t happen again?"

Guardian journalist Seamus Milne also spoke from the platform. "These two events show history catching up with those who unleashed this pain and suffering.

"Gordon Brown tries to tell us this is a war for democracy and freedom. Well tell that to the families of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans killed in air strikes."

Respect MP George Galloway said, "The life and blood of soldiers and Afghans is too precious for this war to continue."

People left the meeting determined to build the protests tomorrow and Friday.

Protest at the Afghanistan Conference

Blockade the conference, 8.30am, Thursday 28 January, Lancaster House, Stable Yard, Saint James’s Palace, London SW1A 1BH

Blair's judgement day at the Iraq inquiry

Protest from 8am Friday 29 January, Queen Elizabeth Conference centre, SW1P 3EE. Nearest tube Westminster.

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

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