Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Hans Blix says Tony Blair and Jack Straw have the facts wrong

Hans Blix headed the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from March 200 through June 2003. As such, when the UN Security Council voted to send inspectors into Iraq (Resolution 1441), he was in charge of the search. He speaks with BBC News' Jonathan Charles regarding Iraq and various claims floating around (link has video):

Jonathan Charles: So who's right on all of this? Jack Straw says you're applying gloss to your testimony. Tony Blair told the Inquiry his recollection of conversations with you is different from what you're now saying. You've just told us one thing. You can't both be right. Both sides can't be right here.

Hanx Blix: Well that's for history to decide. It's not for me. I'm fond of citing someone who said that 'I respect those who search for the truth and I'm a little worried about those that have the truth.' Tony Blair 'had the truth' already in August of 2002. We said there were unresolved issues. We didn't have the truth in 2003, that's true, but we were looking for it.

Jonathan Charles: But is Tony Blair -- and indeed Jack Straw, are they telling the truth then to the Inquiry when they recollect what happened?

Hans Blix: I'm puzzled about some of the things Jack Straw said -- said. Certainly about the cluster document. He also said in that [. . .] meeting of March 2002, he did not focus at all on what I had said about the increased Iraqi cooperation. He focused on that 'The Iraqis are not allowing you to interview people and they are stopping you from getting into sites.' That was not true.

Jonathan Charles: So Jack Straw was wrong.

Hans Blix: On this things they were wrong. He is wrong. Yes.

Jonathan Charles: He's not being direct with the Inquiry?

Hans Blix: I don't think that's correct what he said.

Jonathan Charles: And it's not just a mistake in recollection of events?

Hans Blix: Well that I don't know. I'm not accusing anyone of bad faith. Either him or Tony Blair.

The program is HARDtalk. Blix must mean March 2003 -- not 2002 -- because he wasn't doing Iraq inspections in March 2002. Yesterday the the Iraq Inquiry continued public hearings in London and Jack Straw appeared before the committee for the second time. Andrew Gimson (Telegraph of London) reports:

In Mr Straw's evidence on Monday to the Iraq inquiry, words meant whatever he chose them to mean, or often considerably less.
The former Foreign Secretary said "with great respect" when he was not being respectful, "I'm sorry" when he was not being sorry, and "I fully understand the point you're making" when his purpose was to confuse and confound whatever that point might be.

Chris Ames (Guardian) on Straw's testimony:

Straw, the man who backed the war but wants us to believe he was against it, tried to have it both ways at once, but eventually the weight of his contradictions caught up with him. Although most predictions were that Straw would be put under pressure over the legal issues, he was in most difficulty over the endgame: the failed attempt to get a second UN resolution to back the war -- sorry, to secure Iraqi disarmament.
The first major hint of what really happened was when Sir Lawrence Freedman asked Straw if Powell had ever told him that military action was planned for the middle of March 2003, even if Saddam complied with security council resolution 1441. Straw could not remember this but Freedman suggested that he check the records, which Straw agreed to do: "I think you are trying to tell me something." Nothing you didn't already know.
Sir Roderick Lyne then weighed in with questions about the failure to get the second resolution, telling Straw pretty clearly that Britain never had the nine security council votes it needed, so the idea that French president Jacques Chirac had scuppered the process did not stand up.
Was not loyal Bulgaria saying that it was becoming harder to justify what was increasingly being seen as an authorisation for war? Straw could only agree that noises coming from people like US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not help.

Bronwen Maddox (Times of London) participated in a live chat today on the subject of whether or not the Iraq War was illegal. Meanwhile the next big witness is current Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Philippe Naughton (Times of London) reports the Inquiry is raffling those tickets off -- as they did with Tony Blair. Yesterday Jack Straw was telling the Inquiry how 'grateful' and 'happy' the Iraqis were and more b.s. as he tried to justify War Crimes. Reality comes via Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) visit to Nineveh Province in northern Iraq:

Basic services remain meager, the economy feeble. The violence, though diminishing, is relentless, ravaging a crossroads of peoples and faiths in the plains where Arab Iraq meets the Kurdish mountains.
"This is the democracy the Americans brought," said Hussein Mahmoud Ahmed, a Shabak, a member of a small minority group that occupies the plains.
It is a sentiment increasingly heard across Iraq as the country prepares to elect a new Parliament on March 7. The vote -- only the country’s third since the American invasion in 2003 -- is considered crucial to forging a unified, functioning democratic state. Here in Nineveh Province, though, as elsewhere, it is highlighting Iraq's alarming fragmentation.

Maktoob Business reports that Jordan will have 10 voting centers for Iraqi refugees while Alsumaria reports Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq, is stating the US will make strong efforts to ensure displaced Iraqis are able to vote.

At the Washington Post, Dana Priest broke the story about the US government 'deciding' it can kill American citizens they suspect -- SUSPECT -- just because they want to. Usually, to sentence someone to an execution, you have to hold a trial. Francis A. Boyle is an international law expert and a noted professor. He weighs in:

This extrajudicial execution of human beings constitutes a grave
violation of international human rights law and, under certain
circumstances, can also constitute a war crime under the Four Geneva
Conventions of 1949. In addition, the extrajudicial execution of U.S.
citizens by the United States government also violates the Fifth
Amendment to the United States Constitution mandating that no person "be
deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
The U.S. Government has now established a "death list" for U.S. citizens
abroad akin to those established by Latin American dictatorships
during their so-called "dirty wars." The Bush Administration reduced the
United States of America to a Banana Republic waging a "dirty war"
around the world in gross violation of international law, human rights
law, and the laws of war. It is only a matter of time before the United
States government will establish a similar "death list" targeting U.S.
citizens living here at home. As someone who used to teach
Constitutional Law, President Obama knows better.

Sherwood Ross notes "President Obomber Accepts No Bull Peace Prize" (Grant Lawrence Bohdi Thunder):

Humor from Lawrence Velvel

In an exclusive interview, President B. Rack O’Bomber disclosed he did not heed the advice of Pentagon authorities to reject the NoBull Peace Prize on the ground it sometimes had been awarded to pro-peace figures, making the NoBull Committee a bunch of hypocrites.

Rather, O’Bomber said, he believes the NoBull Committee “have now seen the light of American exceptionalism, that they now recognize the truth of the American theory of making peace as we continuously did with Native Americans, with the Philippines Insurrectionists, with Germany and Japan, with Viet Nam, and so forth.”

And we'll close with this from Braeden's highlight, from Murray Polner's "Liberals Get a War President of Their Very Own" (Information Clearing House):

Suddenly and surprisingly, we have a Bush-like Obama Doctrine. To the applause of liberal hawks and formerly critical neocons, the president declared in his Nobel Peace Prize speech that the U.S. will continue to wage war—though naturally, only “just” war—anywhere and against anyone it chooses in a never-ending struggle against the forces of evil. His antiwar supporters can take seats on the sidelines. It’s all reminiscent of John F. Kennedy and the prescient George Ball, and afterward Ball and Lyndon Johnson. In the early ’60s, JFK—reluctantly, we are told by his admirers—decided to send 16,000 “trainers” to Vietnam to teach the South Vietnamese how to play soldier and to stop the Communists from sweeping over Southeast Asia. Vast quantities of money and assorted advisers were shipped without accountability to the corrupt gang of thugs running and ruining that country.
Ball, the one dissenter in Kennedy’s entourage, pleaded with JFK to recall France’s devastating defeat in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu and throughout Indochina. “Within five years we’ll have 300,000 men in the paddies and jungles and never find them again,” he warned the liberal icon in the White House. But JFK thought he knew better, caustically answering, “George, you’re crazier than hell. That just isn’t going to happen.” Ball would also press Lyndon Johnson to stand down in Vietnam before he destroyed his presidency, domestic agenda, and more importantly the lives of tens of thousands of American soldiers and their families, not to mention a few million Southeast Asians. But LBJ wasn’t going to be the first president to lose a war and be blasted by pugnacious home-front warriors. Failing to stop the North Vietnamese would sooner or later have us fighting them on Waikiki Beach, or so the Cold War line went. Ever since then, we have continued to hear about regional menaces that supposedly, if left unchecked, will threaten vital U.S. interests or even Americans at home. Ronald Reagan employed that rationale in defending the proxy war in Central America waged by U.S.-backed Contras. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton extended the tradition of intervention, sending troops to theaters of combat as far-flung as Panama, Kuwait, and the Balkans, while the second Bush launched invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. They have all been war presidents.
But Barack Obama was going to be different, or so my fellow antiwar liberals— and a few antiwar conservatives— hoped. He was to herald the end of that uncompromising and unilateral era of preventive war. The hundreds of thousands who joyously greeted the president- elect in Grant Park or the 1.5 million at his inauguration were ecstatic with anticipation. Left-wing pundits wrote excitedly about FDR’s One Hundred Days and projected great plans onto the new Man From Illinois. In countless articles, Republicans were declared brain dead, and the Bush- Cheney policies that got us into Iraq, Afghanistan, and the torture business were buried.
One year after those celebrations, it’s the neocons cheering, seeing in Obama’s policies a vindication of the late administration. Who would have dreamed that following Obama’s West Point speech announcing 30,000 more troops destined for Afghanistan, William Kristol would laud Obama in the pages of the Washington Post, writing, “the rationale for this surge is identical to Bush’s,” and praise the Democratic president for having “embraced the use of military force as a key instrument of national power”? War makes strange bedfellows. Michèle Flournoy, Obama’s under secretary of defense for policy, has been invited to speak about the president’s hopes for a new Afghanistan on a panel led by Frederick W. Kagan at the American Enterprise Institute, the heart of neoconservatism.


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