Saturday, January 02, 2010

US goes it alone (officially) and more questions for Tony Blair

The British said cheerio back in July, around the same time the Romanians cleared out "Camp Dracula," their compound on a U.S. base in southern Iraq. Tonga and Kazakhstan left ages ago, and no one seems to remember if any Icelandic forces ever made it to Iraq.
It doesn't matter now, anyway, because as of Friday, former president George W. Bush's "coalition of the willing" formally ceased to exist, leaving only the U.S. military's 130,000 or so forces to shepherd their Iraqi counterparts through a volatile election season before a full American troop withdrawal that's expected by the end of 2011.
U.S. commanders officially disbanded the Multinational Force Iraq, or MNF-I, and introduce the USF-I, or U.S. Force Iraq, at a ceremony Friday in Baghdad. American soldiers and officers said the transition is largely a formality because they've been going it alone since the summer.
Iraqis also said the change barely registers. To them, there's never been a question that Americans were in charge for these tumultuous past six years.

The above is from Hannah Allem's "The 'coalition of the willing' in Iraq becomes an army of one" (McClatchy Newspapers) or as M-NF puts it:

MNF-I is now United States Forces – Iraq, and we have moved! CLICK HERE to visit our new Website! Print E-mail
Thursday, 31 December 2009

Please visit us at the new USF-Iraq Website:

Let's stay with England where John Major (UK Prime Minister before Tony Blair) was interviewed by the BBC's Today (link has text and audio). Excerpt:

John Major: I supported the Iraq War because I believed what the Prime Minister [Tony Blair] said. I had myself been prime minister in the first Gulf War and I knew that when I said something I was utterly certain that I knew it was correct and I said less than I know. I assumed the same thing had happened and on that basis I supported, reluctantly, the second Iraq War. It now seem listening to the Chilcot Inquiry, which is proving more fascinating by the day, that there were questions about whether there were Weapons of Mass Destruction. In which case, obvious points arise. Why was the matter not referred back to [UN weapons inspector] Hans Blix to take a longer look before we engaged in a war? Why did nobody go back to the United Nations seeking a proper resolution? Did the cabinet know that there were doubts about whether there were Weapons of Mass Destruction? The supisicoun arises that this was more about regime change than it was about Weapons of Mass Destruction. And there is a bit of history here which I-I'm not sure that many people have yet heard. When President Clinton was in office, America passed an act called the Iraq Liberation Act which committed the US to regime change long before President [George W.] Bush acutally came into power. We, of course, had no comparative law in this country. Some time, I think in the mid-90s, officials, not Presidnet Clinton, officials approached the UK to discuss ideas about regime change and my officials at that time replied that of course Saddam [Hussein] is a bad man and we need to get rid of him but that isn't the most important point. It has to be legal, it has to be viable and, crucially, what happens after you have removed him? After the 91 conflict many people were criticizi- critical of Geroge Bush and I for stopping. I think they now why we stopped [. . .] I think they now know why we stopped. Would have been illegal to go on and the moment that you go on, you have to run the country.

Major refused to address issues of illegality while the hearing was ongoing but did state that (what is perceived as Tony Blair's position, based on Blair's remarks to the BBC last month), "The idea that Saddam Hussein was a bad man and simply most go won't hold." The Iraq Inquiry resumes public hearings on Monday. Wales News notes that Tony Blair will be called to testify:

He will be the star witness when the inquiry turns to the politicians, having so far heard from a succession of diplomats, officials and military top brass.
The picture they have painted is one of concern within Whitehall at both the legality and the wider political legitimacy of military action to oust Saddam Hussein, combined with almost complete lack of planning for the aftermath.
Mr Blair will, no doubt, face questions about whether he could have used his leverage as America’s key ally to ensure that more was done to prevent Iraq spiralling into violence and chaos following the invasion.
But the main issue will be the central decision to go to war in the first place and whether he took the country into conflict on the basis of a "lie" regarding Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
In particular, he will be asked about what exactly was "signed in blood" -- in the words of Britain’s then Ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer -- when he met George Bush at the president’s Texas ranch in April 2002, 11 months before the invasion.

The Iraq Inquiry resumes their public hearings Monday and the three scheduled witness for that day are William Patey, Gen Nicholas Houghton, Vice Adm Charles Style and Simon McDonald. December 23rd, the Inquiry issued the following press release:

New witnesses named

23 December 2009

The Iraq Inquiry has released the names of witnesses for the public hearings in January and early February 2010. These witnesses include some of the most senior decision makers in the run up to the invasion of Iraq and the following years up to and including the military withdrawal in July 2009. The public hearings will break in February in the months leading up to the General Election. They will resume after the election.

Sir John Chilcot stated on 17 December that the Committee is “determined to remain firmly outside party politics” and that “the Inquiry should not be used as a political platform for political advantage.” For this reason, the Committee has decided to wait until after the election to hear from those Ministers who are currently serving in the roles about which the Committee wishes to question them. The Committee believes that only after the General Election can these Ministers give their evidence fully without the hearings being used as a platform for political advantage.

The Ministers to whom this applies are the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband, and the Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander. These Ministers will be invited to appear in public when the Iraq Inquiry public hearings resume.

The dates when witnesses will appear in January and February will be published on the Iraq Inquiry website one week in advance, normally on a Monday.

Witness names for January and early February 2010

Witnesses Relevant Role
Rt Hon. Margaret Beckett secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Rt Hon Hilary Benn Secretary of State for International Development
Rt Hon. Tony Blair Prime Minister
Rt Hon. Des Browne Secretary of State for Defence
David Brummell Legal Secretary to the Law Officers
Alastair Campbell Director of Communications and Strategy to the Prime Minister
Sir Suma Chakrabarti Permanent Secretary, DFID
Rt Hon. Ann Clwyd Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Iraq
Lord Goldsmith Attorney General
Rt Hon. Geoffrey Hoon Secretary of State for Defence
Rt Hon. John Hutton Secretary of State for Defence
Lord Jay Permanent Secretary, FCO
Sir Bill Jeffrey Permanent Secretary, MOD
Sir Nicholas Macpherson Permanent Secretary, HMT
Sir David Omand Permanent Secretary
Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator
Jonathan Powell Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
Rt Hon. Dr John Reid Secretary of State for Defence
Sir Peter Ricketts Permanent Secretary, FCO
Nemat Shafik Permanent Secretary, DFID
Rt Hon. Clare Short Secretary of State for International Development
Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup Chief of the Defence Staff
Rt Hon. Jack Straw Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Sir Kevin Tebbit Permanent Secretary, MOD
Lord Turnbull Cabinet Secretary
Lord Walker Chief of the Defence Staff
Elizabeth Wilmshurst Deputy Legal Adviser, FCO
Sir Michael Wood Legal Adviser, FCO

The Inquiry will also hear from further witnesses to establish the chronological narrative from 2001-2009. It was not possible for practical reasons to hear from these witnesses earlier:

Witnesses Relevant Role
Maj Gen Graham Binns General Officer Commanding Multi-National Division South East
Mark Lyall-Grant Director General Political, FCO
General Sir John McColl Senior British Military Representative in Iraq

For more information contact the Iraq Inquiry Press Office (020) 7276 0311

Meanwhile David Harrison (Telegraph of London) reports newly released David Moore (held hostage by the League of Righteous) for over two years will stay in a British safe house for "at least a week" to decompress. Hala Jabar (Times of London)adds:

Amid the euphoria over Moore’s sudden release, the kidnappers are hanging on to the body of Alan McMenemy, one of the four bodyguards taken with him.
They say they will not release the body until a senior leader of their hardline Islamic group, Qais al-Khazali, the Shi’ite cleric, is freed from Iraqi custody.
This is anticipated within the next few days. “Alan is being held back as an assurance that the deal is finally complete with the release of Sheikh Qais,” said a source close to the group.

In the US, Caro of MakeThemAccountable observes of the gas bags on the 'left':

The biggest irony, to me, of the used-to-love-Obama reformers is this:
They were the biggest complainers that after the reasons to attack Iraq were shown to be lies, those who said they were lies BEFORE the invasion were STILL banned from the “serious” media.
Similarly, they were the biggest complainers that after the financial meltdown, those who saw it coming are STILL banned from the “serious” media.
So how hypocritical is it that they STILL ban those of us who saw Obama early on for the fake that he is?

If she'd written that Friday (and I'd seen it), I would've included it in the year-in-review. She is of course, correct. And the banning she's speaking of, it is part of the sickness. They were wrong, they refuse to take accountability.

And they are the same group that regularly likes to trot out a list of people in the MSM who got it wrong on any issue and beoman that they those bad, bad MSMers can't ever admit that they were wrong. Their sickness prevents them from seeing how much like the MSM they are and how everyone paying attention know they haven't taken accountability themselves.

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