Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Elfyn Llwyd says Blair promised Bush at Crawford (July 2002) they'd go to war

[Correction to title: Crawford Ranch meet up was April 2002.]

Tony Blair "leaned on" the Attorney General to mislead the Cabinet by saying the Iraq invasion was legal, Clare Short told the Chilcot inquiry yesterday.

The former International Development Secretary made a damning attack on Labour's "unsafe" style of Government -- accusing it for "secrecy and deceit" and saying too much power now rests with the Prime Minister.
Ms Short told the Iraq Inquiry that Gordon Brown, the then Chancellor, was "very unhappy and marginalised" in the weeks before the invasion, fearing he would lose his job in a reshuffle after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

The above is from David Brown's "Blair lied in build-up to Iraq invasion, claims Clare Short" (Times of London). Yesterday, Clare Short testified to the Iraq Inquiry and covering the Inquiry in this community last night were Mike ("Tony Blair gets served"), Stan ("Grab bag") and Elaine ("Clare Short at the Inquiry"). Before we get back to Short's testimony, the Inquiry continues public hearings today and Kevin Tebbit, John Reid and Ann Clywd are the witnesses. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger gives this run down of the witnesses: "Sir Kevin Tebbit returns for a brief spin to round off evidence about his period as MoD Permanent Secretary 2001-05. Dr John Reid has served many different government briefs but attends today as Secretary of State for Defence 2005-06, effectively completing our MoD card-hand after Geoff Hoon, John Hutton & Des Browne. And Ann Clywd worked as the prime minister’s (or rather prime ministers’) special envoy to Iraq from 2003-09." Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs today's hearing at Twitter.

Simon Hooper and CNN note of Short's testimony, "Clare Short, who was Blair's international development secretary until she quit over the Iraq invasion, said Attorney General Peter Goldsmith withheld his own 'doubts and changes of opinion' in giving the go-ahead for war." Jason Beattie (Daily Mail) opens with:

Tony Blair "lied" to ministers and shouted down critics of the Iraq War, Clare Short dramatically claimed at the Iraq war inquiry yesterday.
The ex-International Development Secretary told how a "deceitful" Mr Blair silenced Cabinet colleagues who questioned his plans for the 2003 invasion. She said she was jeered by Mr Blair and his pro-war "mates" when she raised objections.

Michael Savage (Independent of London) adds:

"I'm not saying he was insincere," she said. "I think he was willing to be deceitful about it because he thought it was right."
Ms Short, who became the first MP to be given a round of applause after her evidence, told the Iraq Inquiry that Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney Generalral who gave the legal green light for military
action, misled the Cabinet in doing so. While Lord Goldsmith told the Cabinet on 17 March that the war would be legal, just 10 days earlier he had advised the Prime Minister that while a "reasonable case" could be made for the invasion's legality, he could not guarantee that a court would agree. "I think for the Attorney General to come and say there's unequivocal legal authority to go war was misleading," she said.

On the applause, Iraq Inquiry Blogger adds, "Conspiracy theorists will long debate why we got to hear applause at the end of her performance (Elizabeth Wilmshurst’s was faded out) but hearing it fair sent tingles down one's spine, just a little like the impromptu clapping after Charles Spencer’s Diana speech. Or maybe I've just spent too long within the QEII's austere walls. Probably." Rosa Prince (Irish Independent via Independent of London) also notes the applause. Philip Williams (AM which airs on Australia's ABC) notes Short delivered a "harsh assessment" and Mark Hennessy (Irish Times) notes she testified "that normal cabinet government had broken down under Mr Blair".

Meanwhile Middle East Online notes that Paulo Coelho (Brazilian author) has decreed Tony Blair a War Criminal. Elizabeth Schulte (US Socialist Worker) files what may be the periodical's first article on the Inquiry. She focuses on Tony Blair's testimony from last Friday (no mention of Short) and also quotes a sex offender (Pig Ritter) so keep that in mind if you don't want to give traffic to those too cowardly to call out a sex offender (a repeat sex offender). We'll note this section:

WHAT LAST week's hearings make clear is that the goal of the U.S. and Britain was to oust Saddam Hussein, and building a case for why the Iraqi regime might be a threat was only important insofar as it achieved that aim.
Top among the long list of Blair's lies was the "evidence" that the Iraqi government had access to "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD)--stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. In September 2002, the Blair government released a "dossier" that "established beyond doubt," in the words of a foreword written by Blair, that Saddam had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons.
The 173-page dossier, it turns out, was based on conjecture, rumors and an out-of-date doctoral thesis--even its typographical errors found their way into the dossier.
Yet in September 2002, Blair told the House of Commons that the dossier was proof positive "that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes."

Hopefully the US Socialist Worker plans that to be the start of some serious coverage. No fan of Laura Flanders but she is supposed to be covering it on her show and if I have time to watch any of the discs supplied, I'll try to note something from her show (now airing on WBAI on Monday mornings). Very few are covering it in the US. Kelly B. Vlahos (Antiwar) notes some of the silence:

Don't know much about any of this? Not surprising, because the American mainstream media has practically blacked-out the story on this side of the pond. It’s amazing, after seven years and a growing reservoir of evidence that the Bush administration deliberately manipulated intelligence and the emotions of the American public to invade Iraq -- for which it had no comprehensive plan to stabilize or reconstruct -- the corporate press is still doing its best impression of the debauched idiots in The Hangover:

Stu: "Why don’t we remember a G**damn thing from last night?"

Phil: "Obviously because we had a great f**king time."

When the press isn't treating us all like morning-after marshmallows who would prefer a cold-compress of Sarah Palin and updates of The View on the head to a clinical X-ray of how the Bush White House marched our nation into a trillion-dollar war of choice, it takes on a gratingly condescending tone. In fact, the media view jibes quite well with the standard Republican spin: that any criticism or inquiry into party-supported policies from 2001 to 2009 is "looking backward" or "rehashing the past," or worse, "we’ve been there, done that," when really, no, there hasn't been any "been there, done that," not anything compared to what's going on in London right now.

It's not just the MSM that's being silent. (And the Wall St. Journal, Time magazine and CNN have regularly been reporting to give credit. The Los Angeles Times has filed several articles as well and we'll note one from the New York Times in a second.) It's also Panhandle Media that's been silent. Exceptions have been KPFA's The Morning Show and the Pacifica Evening News (which covered Short's testimony and we'll try to note that in the snapshot today) and the KPFA Evening News (which airs on Saturdays and Sundays). Free Speech Radio News showed a brief interest and then went elsewhere and deserves no credit. There are a lot of people -- including Amy Goodman -- who can do a segment on a lot of things, on anything, except the Iraq Inquiry. And, see Friday's snapshot, reality the MSM doesn't know a damn thing about the Inquiry -- as demonstrated by the second hour of that day's Diane Rehm Show when Diane asked "the purpose of this Chilcot Inquiry" and not one of her three guests -- James Fallows (Atlantic Monthly), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy) -- could answer. (Though they all tried to stumble around and fill time.) Former British diplomat Hugh Cortazzi writes about the Inquiry at the Japan Times.

Great Britain's Socialist Worker has regularly covered the Inquiry and Pru notes this that went up last night:

Blair: No regrets and I’d bomb Iran

by Sian Ruddick

“The decision I took—and frankly would take again—was if there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him.

“That was my view then and that is my view now.”

Those are the chilling words of mass murderer Tony Blair, giving evidence at the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war on Friday last week.

He went on to say that the same logic would mean support for war on Iran. He named Iran 58 times in his testimony.

Blair refused to express any regret for the war. This was an insult to the military families sitting in the public gallery, and the unrepresented millions of Iraqis killed and injured in the war.


“This isn’t about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception,” Blair told the inquiry.

In fact, it was a lie when he said there were weapons of mass destruction. It was a conspiracy with George Bush to attack Iraq.

It was a deceit that Saddam Hussein could attack in 45 minutes and it was a deception that Iraqis would welcome the occupying forces as liberators.

So far the Iraq inquiry, chaired by Lord Chilcot, has gone over evidence in the public domain. It has cross-examined witnesses on the basis of written evidence and witness testimonies.

But the sessions with Blair will come to define the inquiry.

They were cosy chats among the establishment, not a serious examination of fact and contradiction.

Blair may still be recalled over a contradiction between his evidence and that of former attorney general Peter Goldsmith.

The biggest lies went completely unchallenged. Blair was allowed to get away with saying that it didn’t matter if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. “Potential” was enough for him.

Such justifications could be used to launch wars anywhere in the world.

Blair claimed that if Saddam Hussein had not been removed he would eventually have got the weapons.

Then, “with an oil price not $25 but $100 a barrel, he would have had the intent, he would have had the means, and we would have lost our nerve.”

“We face the same problem about Iran today,” Blair concluded.

On Monday of this week it emerged that the US had moved missile defence shields to countries neighbouring Iran—Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.

This is all part of ramping up tension against Iran and the US trying to reassert its power in the region.

The logic opens the door to more war and a spread of the “war on terror”.

Blair may no longer be in charge, but the wars he started continue to scar the Middle East.

Gordon Brown will soon give evidence to the inquiry. He will be put in a difficult position.

He will either have to say that he was sidelined by Blair, and so had little to do with the run-up to the war.

Or if he claims he was a leading figure, he will be admitting to having blood on his hands.

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Though the Inquiry should call Hans Blix to testify, they appear to be resistant to that. Now news emerges of another person they should call for testimony -- someone who's saying he will testify publicly or privately as the Inquiry determines. Tomos Livingstone (Wales News) reports:

A SENIOR Welsh MP said last night he knew “for certain” Tony Blair and George Bush struck a deal to invade Iraq at their notorious Crawford Ranch meeting in 2002 -- a year before war was declared.
Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary leader, said he had seen a confidential memo to that effect, although he would not divulge its exact contents.
Critics of the military action in Iraq have long suspected Mr Blair and President Bush came to an agreement at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas in April 2002, a claim Mr Blair denied in evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry last week.

As noted before, the New York Times has filed a report on the Inquiry before and we'll note
John F. Burns' New York Times report today (Burns filed the previous report for the paper):

Ms. Short, who quit as international development minister two months after the invasion in 2003, repeatedly accused Mr. Blair of "misleading" her and other cabinet ministers about the advice he was getting from government lawyers who questioned the legality of invading Iraq.
On that issue, and on her written warnings of a "humanitarian catastrophe" in the invasion's wake, she said that Mr. Blair had effectively circumvented cabinet debate. Instead, she said, he had relied on an inner circle of "his mates" in government, having "little chats" with outsiders like herself and plying what she called a "poodle-like" relationship with the United States.
She also accused Mr. Blair of deceit in his argument shortly before the invasion that France had said that it would veto a so-called "second resolution" in the United Nations Security Council approving military action against Iraq, and that it would not shift from that position under any circumstances. That allowed Mr. Blair to say he had exhausted the diplomatic possibilities for dealing with Mr. Hussein and cleared the way for fulfilling his pledge to fight at America's side.

World Socialist Web Site is among those who have regularly covered the Inquiry. Today James Cogan covers the escalating tensions over the banning of candidates before the intended March 7 election:

The campaign for the March 7 election in Iraq is unfolding under conditions of heightened sectarian tensions within the country’s already bitterly divided political establishment. Hundreds of candidates who were nominated by Sunni-based and secular-orientated parties have been barred from standing in an attempt to undermine opposition to the Shiite fundamentalist parties that have dominated all the parliaments formed under the US occupation.
The bans were imposed by the Justice and Accountability Board, formerly known as the de-Baathification Committee. It was established by the US occupation regime in 2003 to purge tens of thousands of members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from the Iraqi state and military.
Last month, the Board ruled that over 500 nominees for the coming election had past Baathist links or had promoted Baath “ideology” and were therefore ineligible to stand for parliament. A number of them had taken part and won seats in the December 2005 election, including the defence minister, Abdul Kader al-Obeidi, and Saleh al-Mutlaq, the head of the Sunni-based National Dialogue Front (NDF), which holds 11 seats in the current parliament.

Today's joke of the day? War Criminal Henry Kissinger at the Washington Post offering advice on the Iraq War. On withdrawal which makes it even funnier in a demented way (for those who don't get it, think of Kissy's Vietnam 'negotiations'). It's even funnier if you consider Paul Bremer's connection to Kissinger and that Bremer impelemented (he says at the White House direction) the de-Ba'athification policy that continues to set tensions ablaze in Iraq. Hey, if we all praise Henry, insist the advice is amazing and needs to be heard widely so he should hop on a plane and go through Europe giving speeches on it, would he do that? Oh, no, he can't. He has to be very careful when leaving the US because he doesn't want to be arrested for his War Crimes.

TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

Has the Democratic Party abandoned support of reproductive rights? Next on NOW.
To gain their historic control of Congress, Democrats fielded moderate candidates who didn't always follow the party line, especially when it came to abortion. Now that the Democratic Party has the legislative upper hand, are they willing to negotiate away reproductive rights for other political gains? On Friday, February 5 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes to Allentown, Pennsylvania to ask: Are abortion rights now in jeopardy at the very hands of the party that has historically protected them? Among those interviewed are pro-life Democratic U.S. Representative Bart Stupak and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
"If there was a bill on the floor to reverse Roe vs Wade, and says 'life begins at conception,' I would vote for it." Congressman Stupak tells NOW.
Jen Boulanger, director of the often-protested Allentown Women's Center, says, "I would expect more from the Democratic Party, to stick to their ideals, not just throw us to the curb."
Has the Democratic Party traded principles for power? Next on NOW.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Why is America In So Many Wars? Part 1" (Veterans Today):

America is "a nation that seeks war" and if it doesn’t change it could end up destroying itself, a law school dean warns.
Given all the wars the United States has waged, "It is preposterous but true that we do not see ourselves as a nation that seeks war," writes Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. "We see ourselves as a peace loving nation" and that message is constantly drummed into the public by government and media.
Since World War Two, an indisputably necessary conflict, Velvel points out the U.S. has fought the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, secret wars in Laos and Cambodia, the First Gulf War, Afghanistan, and the Second Gulf War in Iraq. It has also invaded, bombed or "quarantined" Panama, Grenada, Cuba, Haiti, Somalia, the Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia and Libya, and has "declared" a global war on terrorists.
"If the United States were a man instead of a country, we would say he must be schizophrenic, or at minimum deeply mentally disturbed, to believe he is peace loving in the face of a record like this," Velvel writes in "The Long Term View," a journal of informed opinion published by his law school.

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