Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Ambassador rejects Tony Blair's spin

"It's no use to ask them now, 'What's the war for?" says Jinan Maki, a 67-year-old grandmother, economist and exile of the last 10 years, as she finishes lunch.
"Tony Blair's a very bad man. He destroyed the country. He should rebuild the country."
She is not alone in her view here that the inquiry is pointless and diverts money and minds from the real issue - rebuilding a country damaged by war, in-fighting and a coalition with no post-invasion plan.
But the Iraqi Association's youth worker Hashim Ali offers a more optimistic view.
For him, the so-called big days of the inquiry - with a former prime minister giving evidence - are an "impressive indicator" of functioning democracy.
"It was very good for the Iraqis and Iraqi British to see the head of the government called to account for his decision," he says.

The above is from Claire Heald's "What do UK Iraqis make of the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry?" (BBC News). So those are two opinions, one con, one pro. If you were going to interview refugees, England's probably not where you would go. Both because there have been so few accepted since the start of the illegal war and also because they live under the threat of constant deportation. Syria, Lebanon and Jordan house far more Iraqi refugees and would probably provide a better cross-section to survey. Yesterday, the Iraq Inquiry resumed public hearings and the hearings are continuing today. Yesterday's witnesses included former British Ambassador to France John Holmes. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports:

Tony Blair repeatedly blamed Jacques Chirac, the then French president, for the failure to get a second security council resolution -- something most senior government lawyers, including at first the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, agreed was needed if the invasion was to be lawful.
The claim was repeated in evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, notably by Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the invasion. Straw pointed to a television interview Chirac gave on 10 March 2003, less than two weeks before the invasion.
Straw claimed Chirac had made it clear France would not back a fresh UN resolution "whatever the circumstances". Straw added: "I don't think there was any ambiguity." Asked what his view was of Chirac's intervention, Sir John Holmes, British ambassador to France at the time, replied: "The words are clearly ambiguous."

Holmes and his refuting of previous claims and testimony is the big story for the British media from yesterday's public testimony; however, Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes, "Today’s papers have quite limited coverage of yesterday’s resumption of public hearings, which is no doubt an indicator that media interest has waned since the election." Chris' report on yesterday's hearing includes this:

On the issue of why attorney general Lord Goldsmith could not, as he claimed, have asked the French directly about the history of negotiating UN resolution 1441, Holmes said: “I don’t see why he couldn’t have done.” This direct answer exposes Goldsmith more clearly than ever to the charge that his trip to Washington in early 2003 was not an objective fact finding mission but a one-sided process of having his arm twisted in a particular direction.
Holmes made very clear what has always been obvious, that the French were unwilling to sign up to a second UN resolution in early 2003 because it was clear that the US was going to go to war imminently come what may and that they and Britain were simply looking for legal cover. He made clear that if Britain had been able to offer a different timetable, the French could well have supported a new resolution, albeit one that did not authorise war without a further assessment of Iraq’s compliance.

The other news of yesterday's hearing includes a written statement the Inquiry was given. The Telegraph of London reports, "Paul Kernaghan, Association of Chief Police Officers lead on international affairs from 2000 to 2008, revealed today that he prohibited British police seconded to train their Iraqi counterparts from using the Land Rovers." Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video) reports on yesterday's other witness offering oral testimony before the Inquiry, "Douglas Brand, former deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, criticised the lack of support he received, including the Foreign Office's failure to give him bodyguards for his first three weeks in Iraq. He also highlighted a missed opportunity to model Iraqi intelligence on British lines because the UK would not send out an experienced Special Branch manager."

Today the Inquiry is hearing from three witnesses: Cathy Adams, Ian MacLeod and Jay
Andrew Sparrow is live blogging the Inquiry for the Guardian. Press TV looks to future hearings and notes, "Former UN inspector Hans Blix has been named as the most interesting contributor-to-be as a British probe into the Iraq war resumed its public hearings after a 4-months hiatus for general elections."

Zahraa Alkhalisi, Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) report that the State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance are stating they have decided on a candidate for prime minister . . . they just aren't sharing with anyone who they've selected.

There's no secret about the ongoing violence. Reuters reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two people injured, a Baghdad armed clash in which 2 police officers were killed and a third wounded, a Mosul car bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and injured another, a Mosul roadside bombing which injured a prisoner being transported by the police and 1 corpse (female, "signs of torture") discovered in Kirkuk.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues addressing a number of issues, check out the DPC's video page, and we'll note a video on Elana Kagan's nomination to the Court. This is Senator Patrick Leahy.

Wally and Kat cover yesterday's hearing in today's gina & krista round-robin -- in special publishing mode (it will also publish tomorrow and Friday). Today's hearing will be covered by Kat and Betty in tomorrow's gina & krista round-robin. At her site, Betty's covered the hearings by listening to them on the radio (see "Those were hearings?" and "The dull hearing"). She's in DC for this coverage.

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