Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hans Blix testifies today before the Iraq Inquiry

Today in London, the Iraq Inquiry continues hearing testimony. As I type, they're hearing from Lt Gen Andrew Figgures and Gen Robert Fulton and the issue of helicopters is being explored -- much to the distress of Gen Fulton who is anxious ("Yes! Yes! Yes!" at one point) and defensive (claiming that more helicopters provided would have just meant more requests for them). It's been a comical exchange as he's attempted to repeatedly maintain that all that was needed was provided while his speech, his demeanor, everything indicated otherwise. When he's stalling, he likes to rock his entire body back and forth in his chair. When especially defensive, he likes to hug himself and rock (such as with "Should they have?" being asked by Fulton to stall). He's fortunate that a lot of the press is skipping his hearing in anticipation of the day's big witness: Hans Blix. The former UN weapons inspector will be testifying later today.

Blix dominates the advance press this morning. Al Jazeera notes, "The Swedish diplomat, who previously called the invasion a 'tragedy' and 'spectacular failure', is expected to speak about his tense relationships with former US and UK leaders in the run up to the war." BBC News goes with, "He is likely to be asked whether war could have been prevented if his inspectors had been given more time. He has subsequently accused the UK and US of "over-interpreting" intelligence on weapons to bolster the case for war."

In the US, news comes that more billions of dollars supposedly spent on the Iraq War are missing. Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) reports:

A US federal watchdog has criticised the US military for failing to account properly for billions of dollars it received to help rebuild Iraq.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says the US Department of Defence is unable to account properly for 96% of the money.
Out of just over $9bn (£5.8bn), $8.7bn is unaccounted for, the inspector says.
The US military said the funds were not necessarily missing, but that spending records might have been archived.

Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reminds
this is far from the first audit which has turned up poorly or mismanaged funds in Iraq and that "In a written response to a draft of the audit, the Pentagon vowed to act on the inspector general's three recommendations to strengthen accounting mechanisms and dispose of the Iraqi money not yet relinquished. " Left unstated is that the Pentagon has repeatedly made similar promises. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) offers this context: "The report comes as Iraqis are increasingly frustrated with their own government's inability to provide basic services, or to explain how tens of billions of dollars' worth of oil revenue has been spent since 2007. The alleged U.S. mismanagement of Iraqi money is certain to revive grievances against the U.S. for failing to make a big dent in the country's reconstruction needs despite massive expenditures."

CNN notes Adm Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has arrived in Baghdad. He is visiting the country to review the drawdown plans.

And we'll close with this from David Swanson (WarIsACrime.org):

Tuesday Vote Expected on War Escalation Funding

Here's where the hypocrisy hits the highway. On July 1st, 162 congress members voted to require a withdrawal plan and end date for the occupation of Afghanistan, and 100 voted to fund only withdrawal, no continuation of war, while 25 voted to simply stop dumping any money into this war.

Now all of them must vote yes or no, probably on Tuesday, on whether to fund a major escalation of the war in Afghanistan. You won't hear anyone mention it, but this $33 billion is to add 30,000 troops plus contractors to the war.

Can you want a withdrawal plan or to fund only withdrawal, and nonetheless vote to fund an escalation? The Queen told Alice: "Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Congress members have been known to do eight.

90,000 new documents exposing the criminality of the war won't change that (but see link to them below). What will change it is the threat of unelection.

The House will likely now vote on the Senate version of the war escalation supplemental. This will likely mean something quite unusual: a straightforward vote in which yes means yes more war, and no means no.

Whether we block the bill or not, we will now be able to identify clearly and unambiguously the war supporters and war opponents. They will need to be punished and rewarded while they're home for August and at the polls in November. If the majority of Democrats vote against the war funds, we will be able to point out that opposition from the President's own party. And the closer we come to defeating the bill the more we will have to build on as the peace movement joins with the labor and civil rights movements this fall.

Our message is simple:

Vote no on funding this escalation of war, regardless of whether it's a procedural vote, and regardless of any good measures attached to it. If you vote yes, plan on getting a different job in January.

FCNL has a toll-free number to call your representative: 1-888-493-5443, or use the standard number (202) 224-3121.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.