Friday, January 28, 2011

The Iraq Inquiry continues

Yesterday, Baghdad was slammed with bombings, the most violent of which appears to have targeted a funeral. AP notes that the death toll in that bombing has risen to 51 with one-hundred-and-twenty-three more people left injured. Liz Sly and Ali Qeis (Washington Post) report, "In scenes of chaos after the blast, enraged residents and mourners threw rocks at police to prevent them from reaching the site. When Iraqi army reinforcements arrived, a small group of gunmen hiding in a nearby building shot at them, prompting the soldiers to open fire over the heads of the crowd, according to an official with the army's Baghdad operations command, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media."

"It was a genuinely joint group," Gus O'Donnell is telling the Iraq Inquiry as I type. He was Cabinet Secretary in 2005 and with the Treasury prior to that. BBC News reports:

Sir Gus told the inquiry that the Blair government had fewer Cabinet meetings than his immediate predecessors and his successors as prime ministers because he took a "certain view" about what could be achieved through collective decisions.
Asked why this was the case, Sir Gus said he believed the prime minister had concerns about how watertight discussions in Cabinet would be.

O'Donnell is probably being accurate in that; however, he's currently wasted fifteen minutes of the Inquiry's time and they've allowed him to do so. Wasted? The "Iraq Inquiry." O'Donnell wants to talk Afghanistan and they've left him. Not only that, Chilcot is now raising Afghanistan himself. Did they forget it wasn't the "Afghanistan Inquiry" or are they that easily led around by the rings in their noses?

The Iraq Inquiry is taking place in London. It is the latest examination by the British into the Iraq War. The US has not provided even one solid investigation. Nor has Australia. Those three countries were the primary players/criminals in the illegal war. Chris Doran (On Line Opinion) argues for an inquiry to take place in Australia:

The Howard Government's decision to not only support but to participate in the invasion was not, as we all vividly remember, without significant opposition. Howard was warned repeatedly that a military invasion of Iraq was illegal and would contravene the United Nation's charter. Countless experts refuted alleged intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and ties to Al Queda; many warned that invading Iraq would only inflame anti-western radical Islamic sentiment. And Australians took to the streets in mass protests not seen since the previous national debacle of following the US blindly into a brutal and unjust war in Vietnam. We now know of course that there were no WMD's or ties to Al Queda; even more importantly, we know that Howard, Bush, and Blair knew at the time that there was no evidence. Put simply, they lied.
The British Chilcot Inquiry has largely focused on the legality of the invasion, and what then British Prime Minister Tony Blair knew, and when he knew it. This is somewhat of a moot point; the leaked Downing Street memo of July 2002 established that Blair knew then that the US had already decided to invade, and that the UN Security Council debate and attempt to secure a new resolution justifying force was all theatre. But it is not nor should it be a moot point for Australia.
As revealed in the 2006 Cole Inquiry into the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) kickback scandal, in early 2002 John Dauth, then Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, told AWB Chairman Trevor Flugge that US military action to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein was inevitable, and that Australia would support and participate in such action. Flugge then dutifully reported this to the AWB Board of Directors on February 27, 2002. And so AWB was given advance notice of the Howard Government’s intention to participate militarily a full year before the invasion took place and well before any sort of informed debate had begun. Issues of legality, justice, the rule of law, and innocent civilian lives clearly never entered into the decision making process, but Australia's wheat exports to Iraq did. That revelation alone should have prompted an Inquiry years ago.
An excellent starting question for John Howard testifying at an independent Inquiry would be why and how his Government had already decided a year in advance to participate in an invasion.

TV notes. Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Susan Davis (National Journal) and John Dickerson (CBS News). Gwen's latest column is " Date Night: Or Why the Best Part of the State of the Union Address Wasn’t the Speech." Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Sam Bennett, Cari Dominguez, Kristen Soltis and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. Online, it provides an extra segment, a discussion about Rick Santorum's remarks about Barack Obama. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, speaks to Steve Kroft about the U.S. attempt to indict him on criminal charges and the torrent of criticism aimed at him for publishing classified documents. (This is a double-length segment.)

In Search of the Jaguar
"60 Minutes" went in search of the most elusive of all of nature's big cats, the jaguar, and captured amazing footage of them in the Brazilian jungle. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video

Sunday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio notes. The Diane Rehm Show begins airing on most NPR stations (and begins streaming online live) at 10:00 am EST. The first hour, domestic hour, Diane's panelists include Chris Cillizza (Washington Post), Jeanne Cummings (Politico) and Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune). The second hour, international hour, her panelists include Michele Kelemen (NPR), David Sanger (New York Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Diane's broadcast are archived and can be streamed online at no charge.

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