Thursday, March 18, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, ballot counting continues, the US military announces another death, the Senate hears from Mr. Crazy, Gordon Brown's error hasn't yet washed away and more.
Starting in the US where Congress saw some honorable moments and a whole lot of crazy. On the former (honorable), Lt Jr Grade Jenny L. Kopfstein shared her experience serving in the military while gay:
It was difficult being on the ship and having to lie, or tell half-truths, to my shipmates. Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, answering the simplest questions can get you kicked out. If a shipmate asks what you did last weekend, you can't react like a normal human being and say, "Hey, I went to a great new restaurant with my partner. You should try it out." An answer like that would have gotten me kicked out of the Navy. But if you don't interact like that with your shipmates, they think you're weird, and it undermines working together as a team. So after being on the ship for a while, I wrote a letter to my commanding officer and told him I was a lesbian because I felt like I was being forced to lie. I did not want to get out of the Navy. I wanted to stay and serve honorably and to maintain my integrity by not lying about who I was. After I wrote the letter, I continued to do my job on the ship to the best of my ability. We went on a six-month deployment to the Middle East. I qualified as Officer of the Deck and was chosen to be the Officer of the Deck during General Quarters which is a great honor. During all this time, I am proud to say, I did not lie. I had come out in my letter officially and I came out slowly over time to my shipmates. I expected negative responses. I got none. Everyone I talked to was positive and the universal attitude was that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was dumb. I served openly for two years and four months. One thing that happened during that time was the Captain's choosing me to represent the ship in a shiphandling competition. I was the only officer chosen from the ship to compete. My orientation was known to my shipmates by this time. Nobody griped about the captain choosing someone being processed for discharge under Don't Ask, Don't Tell to represent my ship. Instead a couple of my fellow junior officers congratuled me and wished me luck in the competition. I competed by showing the Admiral my shipdriving skills and won the competition.
She was speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee which is chaired by Senator Carl Levin. The Ranking Member is Senator John McCain. Appearing before the Committee today as they explored Don't Ask, Don't Tell which veered from the moving (such as above) to the outright puzzling. Along with Kopfstein, Maj Michael D. Almy and Gen John Sheehan spoke. Kopfstein and Almy are 'former' because they were drummed out of the service for being gay. They aren't former at this site. They didn't chose to leave, their rank stands in the snapshot. Sheehan is retired. He is not gay but if someone wants to spread a rumor, go for it. You'll understand why I say that shortly.
The hearing moved along nicely during opening statements. It seemed respectful of all and fairly typical for a hearing. There were moving statements made of the losses suffered as a result of being forced out of your chosen profession due to your sexuality. Again, Carl Levin is the Chair and he opened his questions after the prepared remarks.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Mr. Almy, should somebody be forced to be silent about their sexual orientation in the military?
Maj Michael Almy: In my opinion, no, Senator. I think the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law is inherently in conflict with the service's core value as Adm Mullen reflected in his testimony before this hearing a month ago. The prinicpal core value of the Air Force is integrity first. And Don't Ask, Don't Tell says that gays and lesbians can serve in the military as long as they're not who they are, as long as they lie about who they are. And to me, personally, that was in direct violation of the core values of the Air Force.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: So while you were willing to keep your orientation private, you don't feel it is the right policy or the fair policy. Is that correct?
Maj Michael Almy: Correct, Senator.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Mike, would you like to return to the military if you could?
Maj Michael Almy: Absolutely. It's my greatest desire. It's my calling in life and I miss the military considerably.
And with that Levin had finished with Almy for the first round. He moved immediately to the retired general and this is where it all went crazy. I have a name "*" starred in the following. I'm guessing at the spelling and will explain why at the end of the exchange.
Commitee Chair Carl Levin: General, you've been the NATO Supreme Allied Commander and I assume that as NATO Commander that you discussed the issue with other military leaders of our allies. Is that correct?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Yes, sir, I have.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Did you -- did they tell you, those allies who allow open service of gay and lesbian men and women, did they tell you that they had cohesion and morale problems?
Gen John Sheehan: Yes sir they did. If you don't -- l beg the indulgence --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Sure.
Gen John J. Sheehan: Most of this Committee knows that current militaries are a product of years of development. They reflect societies that they are theoretically paid to protect. The Europen militaries today are a product of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nations like Belgium, Luxenberg, the Dutch, etc. firmly believed that there was no longer a need for combat capability in the militaries. As a result, they declared a peace dividend and made a concentrated effort to socialize their military. That included the unionization of the militaries. It included open homo - homosexuality demonstrated in a series of other activities. But with a focus on peace keeping missions because they did not believe the Germans were going to attack again or that the Soviets were coming back. That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war. The case in point I'm referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs. The battalion was under strength, poorly led and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to telephone poles, marched the Muslims off and executed them. That was the largest massacre in Europe since WWII.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: And did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?
Gen John J. Sheehan: It was a combination --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: But did they tell you that? That was my question.
Gen John J. Sheehan: Yes. They included that as part of the problem.
That there were gay soldiers among the Dutch --
Gen John J. Sheehan: The combination was the liberalization of the military. A net effect, basically social engineering.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: The -- You said that no special accomdiations should be made for any member of the military.
Gen John J. Sheehan: Sure.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Are members who are straight, who are heterosexual allowed in our military to say that they are straight and heterosexual? Are they allowed to say that? [Long pause as Levin waits for an answer before adding] Without being discharged?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Are they allowed to say --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Yeah.
Gen John J. Sheehan: -- sexuality.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Are they allowed to say "Hey, I'm straight. I'm heterosexual." Can you say that? Without being discharged.
Gen John J. Sheehan: There's no prohibition to my knowledge.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Is that a special accomidation to them?
Gen John J. Sheehan: [Long pause] I wouldn't consider it a special accomodiation.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Why would it be a special accomidation then to someone who's gay to say 'Hey, I'm gay.'? Why -- why do you call that special? You don't call it special for someone who's heterosexual or straight. Why do you believe that's a special accomodation to someone who's gay?
Gen John J. Sheehan: I think the issue, Senator, that . . . we're talking about . . . really has a lot to do with the individuals. It has to do with the very nature of combat. Combat is not about individuals, it's about units. We're talking about a group of people who declared openly sexual attraction to a particular segment of the population and insist and continue to live in intimate proximity with them. That allows them to --
Comittee Chair Carl Levin: You allow that for heterosexuals?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Yes.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: You don't have any problem with that?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Don't have any problem. But that --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: You don't have any problem with men and women serving together even though they say they're attracted to each other?
Gen John J. Sheehan: That's correct.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: That's not a special accomidation?
Gen John J. Sheehan: No.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Okay. But it is special to allow --
Gen John J. Sheehan: It' is because it identifies the group as a special group of people who by law make them ineligiable for further service.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: But the whole issue is whether it ought to be, whether they ought to be ineligable? Whether we ought to keep out of our service.
Gen John J. Sheehan: That's correct. the current debate, the current law clearly says --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: No I know what the law says, the question is should we change the law?
Gen John J. Sheehan: My recommendation is no.
Senator Carl Levin: No, I understand. And can you tell us which Dutch officers you talked to who told you that Srebenica was in part caused because there were gay soldiers in the Dutch army?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Uh, Chief of Staff of the Army who was fired by the Parliament because they couldn't find anybody else to blame.
Committe Chair Carl Levin: And who was that?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Hank van Brummen*.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Pardon?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Hank van Brummen.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Why is the burden to end the discriminatory policy based on people who would end the discriminatory policy? Why do the people who want to end the policy have to show that it would improve combat effectiveness? If we're satisified it would not harm combat effectiveness and for many who would be allowed to serve they would then be permitted to serve without discrimination and without harm. Why is that not good enough for you?
Gen John J. Sheehan: Because the force that we have today is probably the finest fighting force we have in the world.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: And maybe we could have an equally fine or even better force but if it's equally fine -- if you could be satisified that it's no harm to combat cohesion or effectiveness, would that be satisifactory to you?
Gen John J. Sheehan: No. I think it has to be demonstrated, Senator.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: That there be an actual improvement.
Gen John J. Sheehan: An actual improvement.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: No harm wouldn't be good enough for you?
Gen John J. Sheehan: No. The reason I say --
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Pardon?
Gen John J. Sheehan: The reason I say that, Senator, is we've gone through this once before in our lifetime. You were in the Senate at the time. It was called the Great Society. When it was deemed that we could bring into the military categories fours and fives and help the military out and make it part of a social experiment. Those categories fours and fives almost destroyed the military.
Commitee Chair Carl Levin: I don't know what that has to do with this issue.
Gen John J. Sheehan: Well it has to do with the issue of . . . being able to demonstrate that the . . . change in policy is going to improve things. We were told . . . that this was going to help out combat strength. Combat deployable strength. It didn't. It did just the opposite. It drove people out. So I think the burden has to be on demonstrating that something's going to become better, not hoping that it will become something better.
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Well I think the burden of people -- the burden to maintain a discriminatory policy is on the people who want to maintain the policy. Not on the people who want to end it.
"Hank van Brummen*"? I'm not Dutch. I had to call around until someone said they knew who the general meant: Ad van Baal. Full name: Paulus Adrianus Petrus Maria van Baal. He was the Chief of Staff when he resigned. He resigned in April of 2002. He resigned because of a United Nations' report which found leadership at the top to be responsible for (or contributing to -- I haven't read the report, I'm going by a Dutch diplomat here) the massacre. If that's correct (I have no reason to doubt it), then does General John Sheehan even know who he was speaking to? I asked whether or not there was anyway the names could be pronounced similarly and was told "no."
The above excerpt shows that Levin conducted himself honorably. Almy did as well but he's not really the focus in the snapshot. Kat will write about this at her site tonight, Wally will write about the hearing at Rebecca's site and Ava's writing about it at Trina's. In addition, Marcia's going to quiz me on a few things at her site tonight.
Turning to Iraq where the ballot counting continues. Katrina Kratovac and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports that 89% of the ballots have been counted as of today and paint a scene of "chaos" where votes are announced and then pulled back, where votes are no longer displayed for the reporters on screens but instead they're handing compact discs and hustled off elswhere. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports that the final (unofficial) tally has been postponed "yet again". AP is listing the 89% for the vote counted (Margaret Coker says 86%) but what the vote actually is appears to be changing regularly. For example, AINA reports that Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission has issued an announcement via Sardar Abdul Karim (who serves on the commission) "that IHEC will reconsider its decision to exclude votes from Iraqi expatriates." If the ballots allowed are being increased, the percentage of counted may be off. AFP says the 89% "includes 70 per cent of special voting, conducted three days before the election, for the security forces, hospital patients and staff, and prisoners." If accurate, the big remaining votes to be counted are among the refugee populations. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the security forces and the refugees were the two categories that were thought to then be uncounted. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes various thoughts and whispers on the potential outcomes. Stephen Sackur (BBC News' HARDtalk) interviews Ayad Allawi regarding the elections (a clip is available at link, interview airs later). Hannah Allam and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explore the terrain for Nouri al-Maliki:
Maliki has no outright majority, no mandate and precious little support from factions that would be the key to his survival. The campaign against him is so robust that members of his own State of Law coalition haven't ruled out dumping him as the prime minister nominee in order to lure partners that would give them a dominant voice in the next government, according to interviews with Maliki's allies, opponents and independent observers.
Even if Maliki pulls off a second term over the objections of rival parties, his opponents have said privately that they'd block his efforts in parliament and open up potentially embarrassing corruption inquiries, strategies that could lead to an even weaker and more violent Iraq just as U.S. forces prepare for a full withdrawal by the end of next year.
Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) notes in the unofficial count thus far, it "is still razor-thin" which Nouri having a slight edge however, "Analysts expect Mr. Allawi to benefit from expatriate votes, especially among the large numbers of Iraqis living in Jordan and Syria. Mr. Allawi made re-establishing ties with Arab allies such as Jordan and Syria a key part of his campaign."
And no one from State of Law went to Syria to get out the vote; however, Tariq al-Hashimi did visit Syria a few weeks ago in part to encourage the refugee community to vote. Tariq al-Hashimi is one of the current vice presidents of Iraq (they have two) and a member of Allawi's political party. Allawi is also thought to be hugely popular among the Iraqi refugee community in Jordan. Duraid al Baik (Gulf News) observes, "The advance of the Iraqiya bloc of Eyad Allawi against the State of Law bloc led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has surprised Iraqis and analysts." Though Allawi is expected to do well in the refugee community in countries neighboring Iraq, that won't be true of all the refugee communities or 'refugee' communities. We've already called out the nonsense of allowing Iraqis who left Iraq in the seventies, eighties and nineties, were granted asylum and became US citizens -- and vote in the US -- to vote in the Iraq elections. But that did happen. And in Michigan, that population is said to be firmly for Nouri's State of Law and it's said to be true in California as well. Is it true? I don't know. I'm going by members of those communities. And we're including it because it appears that there are a few votes outstanding from provinces and the rest is the refugee population. You need to factor in that with Iraqis who left long before the invasion, there appears to be (for some) a tie to Nouri. So if that's the big remainder on vote counting, State of Law will benefit from some refugee communities and it should not automatically be seen as "They won't support Nouri!" (Why might someone see it? They're labeled "refugees." Most of us, rightly, consider a refugee to be of a recent period of time. Going back three and four decades? Most of us don't consider that to be a "refugee." Current refugees would, if they supported Nouri, be more likely to move back to Iraq. They'd feel he'd made it 'safer' whereas actual refugees know better.)
One of the political parties in the Ahrar Party and they issued the following today:
Conditions to apply for a scholarship from Ahrar Party
According to the promise made by Ahrar Party to the Iraqi youth and graduates from Iraqi or foreign colleges, Ahrar Party agreed with the American General Motors Company to provide scholarships for Iraqi cadres for a period of six months outside of Iraq for study and training on the latest means and methods of management and leadership and granting a Master's degree. The graduate of this course will be qualified to do administrative and leadership work in jobs assigned to him at a very high standard. Acceptance will be in accordance with the following conditions:
The applicant should:
Note: Apply to the following email:
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau
Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.
On the topic of Iraqis, what do they think about their elections? Today on The Takeaway (PRI), Celeste Headlee spoke with Iraqis Lubna Naji and Waria Salihi about the elections.
Celeste Headlee: It's almost 7 years since the United States led invasion of Iraq began. And the country is now awaiting the results of its March 7th Parliamentary elections. We felt it was a good time to check in with Iraqis on the state of their country and how far it's come in the past seven years. We're joined again by Waria Salihi. He's with us from Kirkuk. He's president of the Salihi Group, the company involved in reconstruction in Iraq. And also Lubna Naji joins us from Baghdad this morning, a 24-year-old medical student from Baghdad Medical School. Good morning. Lubna, I'm wondering if you could kind of compare that day before -- the feeling in Iraq before the invasion and what it's like now?
Lubna Naji: Well look, you know, at the beginning of the invasion, you know, we had -- as young people, we had such great hopes for the future of our country. We thought that Iraq was going to be like a prosperous, peaceful nation -- powerful nation -- and that we are going to get rid from one of the most dicatators on the face of the earth, Saddam Hussein, as you know. But the trouble is that, you know, there has been lots and lots of disappointments over the way. But I can tell you that the news of the moment is much better than it used to be in 2006 and 2007. There is much hope. There is much faith in the future. But there is still a lot to be done and a lot of unsolved problems that seem to make such, you know -- so it's kind of difficult to compare if you ask me to compare the period under Saddam Hussein. But at least, you know, life used to be stable. You know things used to be predictable. But after the invasion, life has become, you know, bad as well but the problem is that there's the element of surprise and, you know, most of the time the surprises weren't good. We would hear that a loved one of yours had gotten killed or you know injured or receive threats or whatever. So the element of stability and predictability, that's the element we used to suffer from. But I can tell you that things are a little bit better than they used to be before. As I said there's still a lot that must be done. Yes.
Celeste Headlee: Okay. Waria Salihi, you actually -- things were bad enough in Iraq that you actually left the country and came to the United States and returned after the invasion. Is that correct?
Waria Salihi: Yes, that's correct.
Celeste Headlee: And you started a non-profit which does microfinance projects for business people in Iraq now.
Waria Salihi: Yeah. Actually for poor people who have no access to conventional funds or the banks.
Celeste Headlee: So with your clients that come in to get financing for their businesses, what kind of sense do you get from them? Do you -- o you get --as you heard from Lubna that there's less stability but a better country now?
Waria Salihi: Well, yes, to be fair. There is less stability but it's a better country and people like us, we believe that the country has a chance to become a good country down the road when at the time, prior to 2003, there was no such a feeling or chance for Iraq ever transformed to an open society, open market, open media and so on. So we have a chance but also, to be fair, in the last seven years a lot more progress should have been done which has not been done, in my view. The government could be much more transparent and more institutional rather than a lot of corruption and so on.
Celeste Headlee: So you were in the United States for awhile and you've had a chance to see elections as they work here and the elections as they worked in Iraq recently. Do you feel like there's a burgeoning, fair democracy in Iraq? Your own version there in your country?
Waria Salihi: I-I think this one was much better if you compare them and use them as a measurement to the last one. This one was much fairer than the past one, however, there's no way to compare the Iraqi elections which happened 2 weeks ago to the US elections because there's a lot of mismanagement, no system in place and, to some extent, there is corruption and playing with ballots and playing with people's votes. But I think if I personally compare to the last one, there's a bit of of progress and we are going toward hopefully an open, fair election.
Lubna Naji's remarks hint at something Abdu Rahman and Dahr Jamail (IPS) reported on earlier:
Under Saddam Hussein, women in government got a year's maternity leave; that is now cut to six months. Under the Personal Status Law in force since Jul. 14, 1958, when Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy, Iraqi women had most of the rights that Western women do.
Now they have Article 2 of the Constitution: "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation." Sub-head A says "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam." Under this Article the interpretation of women's rights is left to religious leaders – and many of them are under Iranian influence.
"The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women's rights," Yanar Mohammed who campaigns for women's rights in Iraq says. "Political Islamic groups have taken southern Iraq, are fully in power there, and are using the financial support of Iran to recruit troops and allies. The financial and political support from Iran is why the Iraqis in the south accept this, not because the Iraqi people want Islamic law."
With the new law has come the new lawlessness. Nora Hamaid, 30, a graduate from Baghdad University, has now given up the career she dreamt of. "I completed my studies before the invaders arrived because there was good security and I could freely go to university," Hamaid tells IPS. Now she says she cannot even move around freely, and worries for her children every day. "I mean every day, from when they depart to when they return from school, for fear of abductions."
From lawlessness to violence . . .
Reuters notes a Mosul bombing which injured two boys, two Baghdad roadside bombings left six people injured and a Mosul grenade attack left two people injured.
Reuters notes 1 truck driver shot dead in Mosul (his son was injured in the shooting), a Mosul home invasion left a 24-year-old woman dead and 1 man was shot dead in Baghdad.
Reuters notes 2 decapitated corpses were discovered in Shirqat (police officer and Iraqi solider).
In addition, Reuters notes, "A U.S. soldier was killed in combat operations in Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement." That would be at least the second US service member killed in combat this month. We don't draw that distinction the press does. If you're the family or loved one and lose someone in Iraq to a 'vehicle rollover' or whatever, it doesn't hurt less and doesn't make your loved one 'less dead.' But we're noting that because Gen David Petraeus was so highly inventive this week -- or maybe just selective -- when appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee and the next day before the House Armed Services Committee. In both instances, he raised the combat deaths statistics. Bragging about how there hasn't been one since blah, blah, blah. Reality, when he gave that testimony, it was already known by the military that Pfc Erin L. McLyman had died Saturday, March 13th during an attack on the US military base in Balad.
Meanwhile Tony Blair told Bully Boy Bush that Bush made he feel sensual? What? For recap for the next item we'll note this from yesterday's snapshot:
Still in England, Gordon Brown testified to the Iraq Inquiry March 5th. Miranda Richardson and Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video) report that while taking questions on Wednesday Gordon Brown's claim to the Inquiry that when he was Chancellor (under Tony Blair) defense spending rose each year ("in real terms") and confronted, with it today, Brown admitted he had mispoken. [PDF format warning] Sky News has posted the letter from Brown here. Richardson and Barnett point out, "The four-page document does not acknowledge that the Prime Minister made an error in the way he described defence spending." Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) gets the last word on Brown's letter, "It is typical Brown -- no admission of error, no apology, a lot of spin. It may be Brown's way of limiting the political damage, but to puff such a letter out with so much spin must have seriously alienated the Inquiry." Polly Curtis and Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explain, "The prime minister was forced to correct his official evidence to the Chilcot inquiry -- which he repeated just last week in the commons -- after Ministry of Defence figures revealed that once inflation was accounted for, the budget declined in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2007. The revelations are particularly damning because some of the real-term cuts spanned years when the armed forces were at war in Afghanistan and Iraq." James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) terms the incident "an embarrassing retreat". Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) observes, "The truth was extracted by Tony Baldry (Con, Banbury), who put his question in an unhysterical but assertive manner. Mr Baldry spoke along the lines of 'come on now, there's a good boy, say you're sorry, then we can all start afresh and nothing more will be said of the matter'. Mr Brown hated admitting it. Shades of a child drinking its spoonful of cod liver oil." Cathy Newman (Channel 4 News) quotes MP David Cameron offering his thanks to Brown, "In three years of asking the prime minister questions I don't think I've ever heard him make a correction or retraction." Nico Hines and Philippe Naughton (Times of London) note that Brown's correction still wasn't accurate since he claimed that it was only one or two years that his statements were incorrect: "In fact, it fell in three separate years, according to figures compiled by the House of Commons library -- four years if 1997/98 is included, although the financial year had already started when Labour came to power." Jon Craig (Sky News) wonders what other things Brown might "own up to between now and election day?"
Jason Groves (Daily Mail) reports, "Gordon Brown is under more pressure to return to the Chilcot inquiry today after he was forced into an humiliating admission that he had slashed defence spending while British troops were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan." Emma Alberici (Australia's ABC) observes, "The mistake is a blow to Mr Brown, coming just weeks before a general election is due to be held." Staying on the topic of the Iraq Inquiry, Andrew Sparrow was among the reporters covering the Inquiry for the Guardian and he notes today:
Andrew Rawnsley should have been put in charge of the Iraq inquiry. I've only just started his 800-page book, The End of the Party, but I've already picked up three key facts about Tony Blair's relationship with George Bush that haven't emerged from the Iraq inquiry hearings. Many of the figures interviewed by Rawnsley also gave evidence to Sir John Chilcot and his team. But Rawnsley seems to have asked the more searching questions.
Here are the revelations that struck me.
1. Blair told Bush: "Whatever you decide to do, I'm with you."
The inquiry has heard about the private letters that Blair sent to Bush in 2002. Alastair Campbell told Chilcot that the letters were "very frank" and that the central message was, in Campbell's words: "We share the analysis, we share the concern, we are going to be with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is faced up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed." But the letters have not been published and the precise contents remain a secret.
So basically, Tony Blair sang Tina Turner's "Whatever You Want (Me To Do)" (from Tina's Wildest Dreams album) to Bush?
Whatever you want me to do, I will do it for you
Whatever you want me to be, I will be what you need
Because it's love that I feel whenever you're really near
I'm feeling sensual
I can't rely on myelf, I'm wanting you and no one else
You've got me wrapped up
In the US, individuals, organizations and groups are gearing up for the demonstrations Saturday. DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco have scheduled demonstrations. Those are three national actions, there will be actions in many communities. Michelle Rindels (The Union) reports on the action in Nevada City on Saturday:
This year's event starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 20, with a rally in the parking lot at the intersection of Nevada and Broad streets and will feature music and speakers. Local musicians include The Shreds, Cool Hand Uke, Luke Wilson and Maggie McKaig, and Anytime Band.
Marchers will continue up the sidewalks of Broad Street and end with a reception at the Peace Center, 216-B Main St., next to the South Yuba River Citizens League building.
"It's not just for people to come out and express feelings about the war. It's about protesting the state of our economy," [Lorraine] Reich said. "We encourage everyone that has concerns about the economy to come out and demonstrate their democracy."