Thursday, July 22, 2010

Iraq Inquiry

Eliza Manningham-Buller, director-general of MI5 from October 2002 until April 2007, certainly had her moment this week. Testifying at the Chilcot inquiry, she offered blunt and withering criticism of the Blair government's decision to go to war in Iraq. During the run-up to the invasion, it turns out, this highly experienced expert on counter-terrorism held views not at all different to those held by the rank amateurs of the British public.
Manningham-Buller believed, for example, that another war against a Muslim country, and one not implicated in the September 2001 attacks on the US, would assist in radicalising young British Muslims, persuading them even to become involved in mounting terrorist attacks in their home country. Some had, after all, made the extraordinary decision to go off to fight in Afghanistan already.
Why was she unable to get this trenchant view across to government? Manningham-Buller, after all, was not a rank amateur. She was the person responsible for foiling the activities of those planning attacks in Britain, activities she believed would multiply in the event of a war.

The above is from Deborah Orr's "Manningham-Buller was right about the Iraq war" (Guardian) about the testimony Eliza Manningham-Buller, former MI5 Director General (2002 - 2007) gave to the Iraq Inquiry (see Tuesday's snapshot). It was very important testimony. The Daily Mail today notes, "The more you consider Eliza Manningham-Buller's evidence to the Iraq War inquiry, the more devastating it is." And most Americans didn't hear about it. If they hear about it today, they may be reading an AP story. Everyone would do well to read Jeff Sparrow's commentary (Australia's ABC):

Now in 2010, you might file that in the drawer labeled 'the bleeding obvious'.
But, of course, in 2003, Manningham-Buller's testimony would have read like an entry in a left-wing blog. You'll remember that, back then, the media narrative was all terror, all the time, with the cable anchors and the newspapers pundits fulminating about the role Iraq played in an Axis of Oogabooga that schemed to sarin gas us all in our beds.
And that was also the line of Western governments.
Addressing parliament on February 4, John Howard explained that "Iraq's[…]possession of chemical and biological weapons and its pursuit of a nuclear capability poses a real and unacceptable threat to the stability and security of our world."
Not much about 'fragmentary intelligence' there.

And Sparrow may be one of the first commentators to pick up on the remark Manningham-Buller made about Donald Rumsfeld.

In London yesterday, the Iraq Inquiry heard from Stephen White (Director of Law and Order and Senior Policy Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003 - 2004), Colin Smith (Senior Police Adviser, Basra, 2005 - 2006), Lt Gen Anthony Palmer (Deputy Chief of Defence Staff - Personnel - 2002 - 2005), Lt Gen Alistair Irwin (Adjutant General, 2003 - 2005), Carolyn Miller (Director Europe, Middle East and Americas, Department for International Debelopment 2001 - 2004) (link goes to video and transcript option).

Last week, we were calling out Dimiter Kenarov's idiotic article for Esquire where he was glorifying DynCorps. So we'll note that they got a shout-out in the hearing.

Colin Smith: I don't think they were initially. I think the IPLOs, who worked the Dyncorps were really working as part of CPATT and they saw their role as looking at 22 very much logistics. They didn't see them themselves coming under British military command. They didn't see themselves coming under my command. So they attended weekly meetings with the Provost Marshall in the APOD, MND South East headquarters, but they really were operating -- I brought them in -- when I looked at the development strategy, I brought them on board and their views were taken. I tried to bring them in to be more inclusive but it was difficult because they just awe [saw] themselves as part of CPATT, which was a US-led organisation. They didn't see themselves as part of the team. I made them welcome and I think by the time I left, I would like to say again the work Dave Haverley(?) and his team did -- that we brought them all on board. The Armourgroup when I arrived, were very much on a contract, set to do certain things -- mentoring, monitoring, advising and I was slightly surprised to find they weren't actually under my control. So I couldn't task them.

Contractors were mentioned in James Jeffrey's hearing this week on his nomination to be the US Ambassador to Iraq (click here for Tuesday's snapshot, Wednesday's snapshot, Kat's coverage, Ava's coverage and Wally's coverage). It's worth noting that there are few problems that could spring up in the coming months with contractors that could be seen as surprising at this late date. A point to remember should mercenaries shoot up Iraqi civilians again and the State Dept try to spin a Condi Rice golden oldie: "No one could have guessed."

We'll note this from Lt Gen Anthony Palmer's testimony:

Committee Member MARTIN GILBERT: I would like to ask about a specific MoD announcement which we have taken evidence on. That was the announcement in March 2003, made on 20 March, that unmarried partners of service personnel killed in operations might be eligible for the equivalent of a widow's pension so long as certain eligibility criteria were met. Can you tell us the background to this rather important change of policy?

LT. GEN. ANTHONY PALMER: Gosh! Well, clearly it has to be seen in the general context of government policy on partners more widely. My own personal view was that we ought to be responding to partnerships in exactly the same way as we should be responding to marriages, and that, of course, eventually became the law. So we were looking for a response which took that into account, and to me, quite clearly, if somebody had been living as a partner, provided it could be proved, and I seem to recall one of the difficulties was to define exactly what a partner was and, as I recollect, it was if there was a joint mortgage on a house or whatever. So, as you can imagine, in the armed forces there are partnerships and partnerships, and some are enduring and really take the place of a marriage and others less so. So this, again, I think is an example of where we had to tread very carefully. Another issue I think was that there was a bit of reluctance within some parts of the armed forces on the partnership issue. It wasn't generally accepted that it was going to be necessarily a good thing to have people who were married and people who were partners, and we are going back eight years now, so obviously the situation has changed since, living on the same married quarter, etc. So there were issues like that. That's why I say that coordination, consultation with the principal personnel officers and, of course, with ministers on this issue, and sometimes other government departments, was extremely important to produce an enduring policy.

Committee Member MARTIN GILBERT: Given the actual timing of it, to what extent was it driven by the imminence of the invasion, and to what extent was it a longer element that just happened to come into place on that day?

LT. GEN. ANTHONY PALMER: Well, quite clearly, there were going to be issues that were going to affect people in partnerships, that were going to need to have exactly the same treatment as people in marriage, for instance, in the event of a fatality or whatever. As I said, I was very keen to make sure that these people were treated with the same degree of compassion and sensitivity, because, to me, a partnership, provided it meets the criteria, is every bit as much a commitment as a marriage, that they should be treated exactly the same and that is eventually what happened.

LT. GEN. SIR ALISTAIR IRWIN: I have a little titbit to add to that, if that's helpful. I am pretty sure I am right in remembering that the issue of partners' entitlements emerged after the death in action of Bombadier Tinnion in Sierra Leone, during the course of a helicopter assault in the rescuing of some hostages. Bombadier Tinnion's partner -- I think they had a baby. I think they had been planning to get married, but they had not got round to it. The rules at the time clearly were going to be disadvantageous to her, because there was no entitlement to anything of the things she would have had, had she been a wife. There was then -- that, I think, was in 1999, something like that, towards the end of 1999. So from then until -- I don't remember when, but certainly halfway through my time as Adjutant General, this was an issue that was debated, and, you know, as
Anthony says, there were a lot of different opinions. Certainly at the beginning of the argument, as Adjutant General, I am afraid I took an old-fashioned view that, you know, commitment means marriage and, if you love somebody enough, you should marry and then -- but clearly this is an out-of-date idea now.

Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) covers Carolyn Miller's testimony here. And that covers the three testimonies worth noting.

The following community sites updated last night:

Turning to the US Congress, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee issued the following:

Unfortunately for the millions of hard-working Americans who depend on small businesses, Senate Republicans are once again saying “no” to job creation in the private sector. While the economy is recovering from the worst economic crisis in almost 100 years, sustainable recovery will only be achieved when coupled with long-lasting job creation. Senate Democrats have already taken a number of key steps as part of our year-long, multi-bill jobs agenda. However, more than 15 million Americans are out-of-work and the national unemployment rate is just below 10 percent – clearly immediate action is required.

That is why Senate Democrats have brought forward job-creating legislation aimed at the backbone of the American economy: small businesses. Over the past 15 years, small businesses have created approximately 12 million, or two-thirds of America ’s new jobs. Small businesses historically have borne the brunt of employment losses during recessions, and the current recession is no exception. Over the past two years, small firms have accounted for between 64 and 80 percent of net job losses.

The fully paid-for bill would support small businesses through tax credits, enhancements to Small Business Administration lending, counseling and contracting programs, and the development of new community bank lending facilities. One of these programs is the Small Business Lending Fund (the Fund), which would provide the Treasury Department with the ability to purchase preferred stock and other debt instruments from eligible financial institutions.

Highlights of the Fund include:

· Targeted Incentives to Lenders that Extend New Credit. Eligible institutions include insured depositories, bank and savings and loan holding companies, and certain community development loan funds. Participating institutions would pay a five percent dividend rate on the preferred stock, but this rate could be reduced to as low as one percent if a bank demonstrated a 10 percent increase in small business lending relative to a baseline set using the four quarters prior to enactment. The dividend rate would be increased to seven percent after two years, if the bank did not increase its small` business lending.

· Limited to Small Lenders. Ninety percent of the eligible institutions have less than $1 billion in total assets. These smaller community banks could apply to receive investments of up to five percent of their risk-weighted assets. Eligible institutions between $1 billion and $10 billion in total assets could receive investments of up to three percent of risk-weighted assets.

· Provide Needed Capital to Community and Smaller Banks. The program will provide an estimated $30 billion in capital to small banks, which will leverage up to 10 times that amount in new lending, while saving taxpayers an estimated $1.1 billion.

Unable to attack the Small Business Lending Fund on its merits, some Republicans have claimed it is another TARP initiative. Not surprisingly, these criticisms are unfounded and untrue. The Fund is a new program completely separate from TARP, designed specifically to support lending from small banks. The financing mechanisms for the Fund would be authorized through new legislation and would have no connection to TARP or contain any TARP-like restrictions. Instead, the Fund would face strict oversight by the Treasury Inspector General and new taxpayer protections, including a required “small business lending plan” and reports on how funds have been used under the program.

Republican opposition is a striking blow to the sector responsible for two-thirds of the jobs created over the past 15 years. Rather than making false claims about this job-creating legislation, Senate Republicans should support the critical role that small businesses continue to have in our nation’s economic recovery.

DPC Fact Sheet | Whose Side Are They On: Senate Republicans Say 'No' to Small Business Job Creation

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