Monday, July 12, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, in London more lies that sold the illegal war are revealed, in London we also learn how important the oil was the governments of the UK and US, Cindy Sheehan continues protesting in DC and also goes on trial, and more.
Starting with Iraq's political situation. Sunday, at a roundtable for Third, we were discussing Iraq:
Jim: First up, Iraq. What's the timeline, C.I.? How long without a government now and what's the 'standard.'
C.I.: Today makes it four months and four days and, the 'standard' would be the only previous Parliamentary election Iraq has had since the start of the illegal war, that's 2005, and Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister.
Jim: So we're three away from the same timeline. Anyone think they'll meet it?
C.I.: Just before anyone answers, the Parliament has held one meeting so far. Last week, Hoshyar Zebari announced to the press that they would hold their next meeting on July 13th and pick a presidency council -- the president and the two vice presidents. He's the Foreign Minister and, using the 13th, they could have shaved off one day from the 2005 record. They may not have a prime minister announcement on the 13th. But I wanted to put that out there before anyone guessed so they wouldn't feel like they'd been set up.
Stan: Well let's say that on the 13th they announce all of that, including the prime minister. I still wouldn't call that a success. You're telling me that the US continued the occupation, the death and dying, the money and lives wasted and all we did with five more years was shave one day off the record? That's appalling. The government in Iraq, the puppet government, is clearly dysfunctional.
Jim: Which really is the conclusion of UNAMI's "Human Rights Report," if you pay attention.
The 13th meeting will not be taking place. Barbara Surk (AP) reports that the acting Parliament speaker Fouad Massoum stated that the 14th meeting would not take place and was "warning that the next session could be delayed for days, if not weeks." AFP adds, "Iraqi politicians on Monday extended an inaugural parliamentary session by two weeks to give rival blocs more time to form a government, more than four months after an inconclusive poll." If you're thinking of the Iraqi Constitution, you may be thinking, "Wait, this can't happen." If so, you are correct. Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) remind, "Iraq's constitution calls for lawmakers to elect a speaker during the first session of parliament. Within 30 days of the first session, a president must be elected by a two-thirds majority. The president then has 15 days to task the leader of the largest bloc, as prime-minister designate, with forming a government." Press TV states that it "has deepened" Iraq's "political crisis over the new Iraqi government." UPI quotes Maasom stating, "Leaders of political blocs will meanwhile continue their meetings until they agree on what should happen during the session, two weeks from now."
So the political stalemate continues. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. If Iraq's the 'success' so many want the world to believe, then surely it will take less time this go round, right?
Before the news of the postponement, Conservative Euro MP and president of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Iraq Struan Stevenson (Scotsman) had said no more delays must be allowed:
Democracy is the only reason the beleaguered Iraqi people have endured all of this misery. If it is allowed to die with the breaching of the constitution, then civil war and a return to violence and mayhem seem the only possible outcome.
The international community must prevent this. If no president has been elected by then, this should automatically trigger the international community's invoking of Chapter 7 of the UN Security Council Resolution on Iraq - whereby the international community will have to assume responsibility to prevent a return to violence and civil war.
This is of crucial importance, as any vacuum created by a breach of the constitution will be readily filled by neighbouring Iran, already meddling extensively in Iraqi internal affairs and keen to extend its malign brand of fascist Islam across the whole Middle East.
Rebecca Santana (AP) looks at the news in terms of what it might mean for Nouri and decides it means further "backroom negotiations" and she notes that it once appeared to some that the State of Law and Iraqi National Alliance power-sharing coalition appeared to give Nouri an edge but the coalition has "been deadlocked over al-Maliki, as som INA members staunchly reject a new term." Tim Arango (New York Times) notes, "Iraq's political process also has regional consequences. Shortly after the election, many of Iraq's politicians visited Iran to discuss government formation -- Iran, like Iraq, is a majority-Shiite country in a region historically dominated by Sunni Muslims. Saudi Arabia, which supports Mr. Allawi's coalition, which became the standard-bearer for Sunnis in Iraq, publicly urged Iraq on Monday to 'speedily' form a new government, The Associated Press reported." On the topic of influence, today on Morning Edition (NPR), Mary Louise Kelly spoke with the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Iraq Ad Melkert. The interview largely focused on elections (and aired before today's news that Parliament's meeting was on hold) which is a shame because, talking about the security situation in Iraq, Melkert added, "[. . .] and I'm afraid also to influences from other countries in the region which makes Iraq a special case." She followed that up with a question "on the political side." It would have been interesting to know why he was bringing in influences from other countries into a discussion on Iraq's security. James Kitfield (National Journal) interviews Melkert as well and, at least in what's available so far, Melkert isn't discussing Iraq's neighbors.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured one person (and a Baghdad roadside bombing and a second sticky bombing -- neither of which wounded or killed anyone) and Tuz home bombing which killed no one but destroyed the home of Talib Muhammed.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person wounded in a Tikrit shooting as he was leaving a mosque.
The Iraq Inquiry continued in London today. To set the stage for the testimony, we should note one of the documents the Iraq Inquiry earlier declassified (June 30th). Tony Blair and others have maintained that the Iraq War was legal (when they know it was not). Immediately ahead of meeting with George Bush (in a meeting Blair would declare he was backing the US regardless), Andrew Golsmith sent [PDF format warning] this January 30, 2003 memo noting that the Iraq War would be illegal without a second United Nations resolution (no second resolution was sought rendering the Iraq War illegal). Tony Blair heavily marked up Goldsmith's memo to him including underlining the following re: UN Resolution 1441 (the first and only resolution before the start of the war): "[. . .] it does not authorise the use of military force without a further dtermination by the Security Council" and "I recognise that arguments can be made to support the view that paragraph 12 of the resolution merely requires a Council discussion rather than a further decision. But having considered the arguments on both sides, my view remains that a further decision is required." On the memo, Tony Blair has scribbled statements/complaints such as "I just don't understand this." A Blair underling has scribbled that Blair has "specifically said we did not need further advice this matter." They were warned and their concern was that they were being bothered with legal advice. Don't forget that.
The Inquiry heard testimony from Carne Ross (First Secretary, United Kingdom Mission to New York, 1998 to 2002) and Lt Gen James Dutton (General Officer Commanding Multi National Division South East, 2005, Deputy Chief of Joint Operations, 2007 to 2009) (link goes to transcript and video options). Committee Members Roderic Lyne and Usha Prashar were especially interested in going over the containment issue ahead of the Iraq War. Were sanctions 'working' (working in the context of containment)? In 2001, Syria began a pipeline that might argue of some erosion but containment was working.
Committee Member Usha Prashar: How widely was your view of the effectiveness of containment shared by the officials in the UK?
Carne Ross: I have checked this because I have noticed that some witnesses have characterised that period as being one of the collapse of containment or that sanctions were leaking all over the place, as one witness put it. That view is not corroborated in the policy documents and it was not part of our discussions inside HMG. In UKMIS, New York, at the mission in New York, we were very much involved in the internal policy discussions of HMG because UKMIS was really the front line of the policy and the resolutions were the kind of pillars of the policy, the legal pillars on which the policy rested. So we were consulted on internal policy deliberations to a very large extent.
Committee Member Usha Prashar continued her questioning and established that Ross conveyed this to London and that London was in agreement with the conclusion that containment was working.
Was the pipeline, a possible erosion, really a concern to the other players? Under questioning, Carne Ross said no. This was sometimes difficult for him to establish because he wasn't allowed to answer: "Let me finish, please. Let me finish, please. Please, let me finish, beucase you asked me a general question --" A great deal of what Ross assumed he would be testifying about -- based on the documents he was asked to review -- was not allowed in the hearing and was still declared classified.
But on the Syrian pipeline he was able to get in that the issue wasn't being raised by the top players (instead "by a Third Secretary on a Friday afternoon with a junior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs").
Carne Ross: If it is raised by the Prime Minister during his official visit to Damascus as his number 1 concern, then it might be taken seriously. The reason I mention that, of course, is because the Prime Minister [Tony Blair] did go to Damascus in October 2001 and, as far as I could see, did not raise it at all. We had the same problem with the Americans. One of the problems that -- one of the things that Damascus would say in their telegrams back to New York, saying "We can't raise the Syrian pipeline", they would say, "Well, why are we the only ones doing this? The Americans are not doing this". There is a record of a visit by a senior American official where he made [no] mention of the illegal pipeline, despite many American professions of concern in New York. This is exactly what I mean by a co-ordinated high-level approach. Countries get the message. If you don't raise messages consistently with them at a high level, they don't respond. But that's all we were asking for. This wasn't impossible, and I personally am convinced -- and it remains an untested proposition, of course, and I understand that it is an untested proposition -- that if a high-level approach had been made to all the neighbours, then we would have had more of an effect.
So they didn't care. Top-level officials on both sides (UK and US) refused to call on Damascus to stop the illegal pipeline. Knowing that Blair didn't want legal advice ahead of meeting with Bully Boy Bush, knowing that it wasn't asked for, it would appear that the pipeline was intentionally ignored at the top in efforts to paint containment as "not working."
In a very hard-hitting written statement, Ross has again made clear that he did not see any case for war, either on the basis of the supposed failure of the policy of containing Iraq or based on the threat from its alleged weapons of mass destruction. On the first point, he is very well-placed to challenge the claims of previous witnesses, having been responsible for negotiating the policy at the UN until the middle of 2002. On the latter, he was less well-placed, although he does say that he saw all the intelligence.
Ross said it was "inaccurate to claim, as some earlier witnesses have done, that containment was failing and that sanctions were collapsing". This claim was made from the first day of the inquiry, by witnesses such as Sir William Patey, who, Ross points out, said that sanctions were "leaking all over the place". In a footnote, Ross says that "this was not the official assessment at the time and is a judgment that is not borne out in the relevant policy documents".
In an example of what he called a process of "deliberate public exaggeration", Ross said the government in March 2002 sent the parliamentary Labour party a paper that included the claim that "if Iraq's weapons programmes remained unchecked, Iraq could develop a crude nuclear device in about five years".
He said the government's real assessment was more or less the opposite: that sanctions were effectively preventing Iraq from developing a nuclear capability.
Lt Gen James Dutton was the other witness today. We'll note this exchange between Dutton and Committee Member Lawrence Freedman about January 2003. And watch for when oil pops up.
Lt Gen James Dutton: It wasn't even 40 Commando specifically at the earliest stage, it was a commando unit and, of course, this was the time of Op Fresco, the fireman's strike, which had some effect as well on force levels and cables. 40 Commando came about actually because it was by far the best worked-up and exercised unit and, in fact, in the autumn they were out in 29 Palms in California exercising with the US Marine Corps on a regular exercise schedule. So it made sense for it to be them, but at the earliest stages, it was just a commano unit that could contribute to assisting the US effort to seize the oil infrastructure intact on the AL Faw peninsula. I'm sorry, I have forgotten the aim of your question now.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: You are answering it. It is how did it evolve into a full-scale --
Lt Gen James Dutton: I think it evolved because, you know, that looked fine, if that had been a simple, discrete operation with -- which was possible to be achieved with no outside influences or effects. I think the more we looked at it, the more we realised that, you know, the possibility of the Iraqi forces then trying to do something out of Basra or from further north, would have meant that perhaps the combat power ashore would have been insufficient at that stage. So we then started to look at a greater effect.
[. . .]
Lt Gen James Dutton: So it was a risky operation because it was potentially an opposed helicopter assault to seize the oil infrastructure. But the oil infrastructure was hugely important because of the environmental consequences of them blowing -- the economic consequences -- what is it, 92 per cent of the Iraqi economy or something then, maybe slightly less now, flowing through those pipes to the oil platforms at sea. So it was potentially a risky operation, but that riskw as mitigated by the fact that we were operating with the US Naval Special Warfare Group, which were clearly optimised for that sort of operation.
In the execution, a few things didn't go according to plan (including the crash of a helicopter) but they executed this according to the general. The point is that there was a plan to secure the oil industry. What was valued was decided ahead of the war. All the looting that went on immediately after the invasion -- then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered his "stuff happens" and "democracy is messy" excuses -- resulted from what the UK and the US decided was important, was of value and was worth protecting. The oil was their sole concern.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert then wanted to inquire "about the Jameat police station incident." The British destroyed the station in Basra on December 26, 2006. Why? That goes back to what happened before and, from the testimony, it appears that's what Gilbert was asking of. So, from Democracy Now! (September 20, 2005 -- when they cared about Iraq), here's a summary of the first Jameat issues that led the British military to attack it that month:
New questions about Iraq's sovereignty are being raised after British forces attacked an Iraqi jail on Monday because they believed two detained British commandos were inside. British troops opened fire on the jail in Basra and used six armored vehicles to smash down the jail's walls as helicopter gunships flew overhead. The provincial governor of Basra described the British assault as "barbaric, savage and irresponsible." The Associated Press reported 150 prisoners escaped during the siege. As the British raided the prison, Iraqis started attacking the British vehicles with firebombs and rockets. One of the British armored fighting vehicles was set ablaze. Photos showed a British soldier on fire climbing out of the hatch and jumping to the ground, as a crowd pelted him. An Iraqi official said that the British soldiers were arrested after they had fired at an Iraqi police officer. At the time the British soldiers were undercover and dressed as Iraqis. After the prison was breached in Basra, the two soldiers were found not to be in the jail but in a nearby house. The British Army attempted to downplay the incident claiming that the men were released after negotiations. The government said it feared for the lives of the British commandos after discovering they had been handed to "militia elements". The British attack on the Iraqi jail came one day after British forces arrested three members of the Shiite Mahdi Army.
And we'll note other contemporary reporting starting with Helen McCormack's "The day that Iraqi anger exploded in the face of the British occupiers" (The Independent):
The dramatic events began to unfold just before dawn yesterday, when two British nationals were detained by Iraqi authorities. It emerged later that they were British soldiers. Dressed in plain clothes - according to some they were wearing traditional Arab dress - the two men had been driving in an unmarked car when they arrived at a checkpoint in the city.
In the confrontation that followed, shots were fired, and two Iraqi policemen were shot, one of whom later died. The Iraqi authorities blamed the men, reported to be undercover commandos, and arrested them.
[. . .]
The British military action was condemned as "barbaric, savage and irresponsible" by Mohammed al-Waili, the governor of the province. "A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. This is an irresponsible act," the governor said.
And this is from Terri Judd and Colin Brown's "Under fire: British soldiers attacked in Basra: Army used tanks and helicopters to storm jail and free captured troops, say Iraqis" (Independent):
British troops were struggling to maintain control in Basra last night after the city exploded into bloody violence following the alleged killing of an Iraqi policeman by a British soldier.
Two British servicemen, dressed in civilian clothes, were held at Basra's main police station after the incident. Outside, rioting began as the city threatened to descend into anarchy.
And lastly, Sabrina Tavernise's "British Army Storms Basra Jail to Free 2 Soldiers From Arrest" (New York Times):
Two British soldiers working under cover were arrested Monday in the southern city of Basra and then freed as a British armored vehicle blasted through the wall of their jail after an angry crowd began rioting outside, an Interior Ministry official said.
The official said that the soldiers were undercover officers dressed as Iraqis and that Iraqi police officers had arrested them after the men fired at a traffic police officer.
A British military spokesman in Basra confirmed that "two U.K. military personnel" had been detained early on Monday "in a shooting incident" and that troops had used an armored fighting vehicle "to gain entry" to the police station to release them. He said that more than one vehicle had been in the area and that the police inside the station had refused to obey orders from the Interior Ministry to release the men.
The incident came a day after British forces in Basra arrested three members of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to the rebellious Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, on suspicion of terrorism.
With that history in mind, we'll go to the testimony today.
Lt Gen James Dutton: Second question first. Were we aware of problems associated with the police station? Yes. It was -- we knew of all the stories emanating from what may or may not happen to Iraqis who went into that police station. It was visited on a regular basis by the Basra brigade. But we were certainly aware of its reputation and we were aware of the reputation of some of the individuals who worked from there, I can't remember the name of the particular police captain now but who was a sort of -- almost a legendary figure who worked from there. Your first question: did it come as a surprise? Yes, because I mean it was an event that was triggered by individuals getting themsleves into a fire fight and then being taken to that police station. So this was not -- it is not as if the Jameat police station incident blew up -- sorry, evolved from a series of other events; it was a particular thing that caused it. So it was certainly a surprise.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: What was the reaction to the incident from London and what was your response to that?
Lt Gen James Dutton: I was on leave, and so I was actually listening to this on -- I was near Bordequx at the time and you could then, provided the hire car that you had had a decent enough -- and it did. So I was listening to it -- and then, of course, I was talking to PJHG on a telephone and then talking to my Chief of Staff who was out there in -- but essentially it had happened and finished before I could have any effect. What was -- what was the -- I think I didn't realise, until I got back there, what the effect had been. It had certainly -- it certainly caused a huge media shock because you recall the pictures of the [British] soldier on fire, you know, climbing out of this vehicle and so on, and that sort of thing. So it certainly caused a huge shock in that respect.
Where in the testimony do you feel Dutton is dealing with events. With the exception of mentioning the British soldier on fire, there's really no detail. FYI, the soldier's back was on fire and he was leaping from a tank which was ablaze on September 19th. The photo Dutton's most likely referring to was taken by Atef Hassan of Reuters.
Yesterday Christine Delargy (CBS News) reported the big news for Sunday: US Gen George Casey told an audience at the they-wish-they-were-movers-and-shakers Aspen Institute that the US could be in the Iraq and Afghanistan for one more "decade or so." Casey is the US Army's Chief of Staff. At All Voices, northsunm32 adds, "Casey's media advisor Rich Spiegel sought to properly spin the actual words of Casey to make it clear that he did not mean to imply that the U.S. may be in Afghanistan or Iraq for another decade. According to Spiegel he just meant that the battle with extremists would last for another ten years. When generals mean what they say it is often necessary to explain that they did not mean what they said." Meanwhile, Kathy Kattenburg (The Moderate Voice) asks, "Supplemental war spending bill? Say WHAT? Didn't Barack Obama pledge, during his campaign, to never use supplemental war spending bills to pay for ongoing wars? Didn't he promise to make all spending for Iraq and/or Afghanistan part of the regular military budget? And then, when he broke that promise soon after he took office, didn't he tell us that this was an exception -- a total anomaly, a special case -- which would never happen again?" Yes, he did. And, of course, before Congress broke for their current recess, the House passed Barack's latest war supplemental.
AP noted that Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan was set to appear in a DC Superior Court today for her peaceful actions March 20th. In an update this morning, they ntoed she appeared in court wearing "a white T-shirt printed with an image of a dove and the name of her group, Peace of the Action." Due to an article on Cindy and who's ignoring her actions in DC that Ava and I wrote, several e-mails asked "What about BuzzFlash?" I have nothing to do with that sewer and haven't for years. Their sexism was in full flight in 2008. But I did visit seconds ago and they've got nothing on Cindy but Ava and I see they continue to savage women. And, point of fact, Media Matters, tell FAT F**K Karl Frisch that he's too damn old to be making 'political hay' out of Lindsay Lohan's issues. That's disgraceful and it's CATTY AND IT'S BITCHY -- but what else would we expect from Karl Frisch.
Please remember that Cindy Sheehan wasn't universally embraced to begin with. A lot of Democrats lied about her throughout the first camping out in Crawford. They insisted she wasn't against the Iraq War (when she was) and that she wasn't calling for the end of it (when she was). Granted most of those liars left Blogspot but their archives do remain. In addition, remember that a number of men had a problem with Cindy and 'counseled' the 'little lady' on how she should conduct herself. This bled over into the masculine-identified women like Katha Pollitt as well. But Cindy's gender always meant that a large portion of the left was uncomfortable with her -- emphasis on "her" -- as a leader.
Those ignoring her and rushing to prop up a War Hawk will get the world they deserve (the rest of us will suffer in it). But don't think they're fooling anyone. Republican Mary Kate Cary (US News & World Reports) wonders where the peace action is and where Cindy is:
Well, it turns out she's writing a blog these days, and apparently she's still protesting but nobody cares. No press following her, no talk shows, no crowds at her appearances. Her latest post on July 9 includes a "Requiem for the Anti-War Movement," in which she writes: "Remember that old saying, 'What if they gave a war and nobody came?' Well, here in D.C. I am living the opposite: 'What if they gave an anti-war protest and nobody came?'" She's on to something. Despite the fact that President Obama has tripled our troop presence in Afghanistan and the Democratic Congress approved $33 billion more for what is now America's longest-running war, there's been an eerie silence from the left--no "die-ins," no beating drums, no anti-Obama protestors dressed in skeleton costumes. No one protesting the president's every appearance.
Maybe the antiwar left only protests when Republican presidents are in office. Maybe it's not about Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress, it was only about George Bush. Maybe for the antiwar left, it's not about pacifism or soldiers' lives or even what's in our national interest. Maybe it's just about Republicans.
And that's how they're seen -- BuzzFlash and all the other sewer rats who used to call out the Iraq and Afghanistan wars but now are a-okay with them. Though he's not calling out the war (in the following link), I want to note Eric Alterman's essay (The Nation) because it's more honesty than one usually finds in the magazine (Alterman was not a Kool-Aid Drinker -- whether he's your favorite or your least favorite, he maintained consistency throughout 2008 -- a miracle in and of itself). I wasn't aware of the essay until Martha told me about an e-mail highlighting an article that mentioned it. We're not highlighting that article. We don't highlight known liars. When you're citing Lance Selfa and how "the left can take over the Democratic Party" and then listing the left, you kind of have to list Socialists because Lance is an out and proud Socialist. (And there's nothing wrong with Socialism. Or with Communism. Both are part of the left. There's something very disgusting about Socialists and Communists who pose as Democrats or "independents.") So when Lance is writing -- and he often does -- about how the left can take over the Democratic Party, he is including Socialists -- even if an idiot wants to do a scrub job and erase Socialists from the picture. (Lance writes for US Socialist Worker and ISR where he, sadly, has to deal with mouth breather Sharon Smith).
We'll close with Peace Mom. Cindy is in DC for the trial and working with Peace of the Action and here's this week's DC schedule: