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Iraq page archive May - September 2004

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Tony Blair "....Regime change was not the cause for it, the cause for it was that... (pause) What I did was take the view after September 11th that we had to take a totally new approach and what that meant is that in respect of regimes developing WMD instead of taking a reactive approach we had to take an active approach and that therefore the place to start was Iraq because there was a string of UN resolutions, a long history of UN inspections not working and so we went back to the UN, got a fresh resolution which said he had to comply fully with the UN inspection regime. Now in the end he didn't so that was the legal basis for the war. Um..." Transcript: John Humphrys and Tony Blair. Sept 29 2004

Sunday Herald Spy chiefs warn PM: don't blame us for war (Jan 25 2004)

Informed Comment DAILY on the situation in Iraq by Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan. ~ The Butler Report website ~ download the full 9/11 Commission report or substantial summary

September 30 2004 ~"... Bombs exploded near a U.S. convoy in western Baghdad on Thursday, killing 35 children and seven adults,

a hospital official said. Hours earlier, a suicide car bomb killed a U.S. soldier and two Iraqis on the capital's outskirts. The day of violence left a total of 46 people dead and 208 wounded.." AP

September 29 2004 ~ "Our Iraq policy should be step-by-step disengagement, and we should start now. ... "

Simon Miles' Comment in the Guardian ".....Our ambassadors are, for the most part, wise and honourable men and women. When it becomes clear that the government's policy is not serving the country's interests, they are in an impossible position. An ambassador cannot always duck a question, and he couldn't have said that US policy in Iraq is right. It isn't.
Important and newsworthy though all these topics are, we should not let them distract us from the bigger picture, which Colin Powell has rightly described as "getting worse". The political settlement that brought fragile peace to Falluja has collapsed, and the Americans are again using heavy weapons, including air-to-ground missiles, inside the town, building up yet more hatred and problems for the future. Elsewhere, the daily killing of Iraqis and Americans goes on. .." Read in full

Sept 28 ~ ".. elections in Iraq are impossible"

"The Jordanian monarch has said that elections in Iraq are impossible because of the current chaos and that “in the immediate” future he sees no chances of improvement." Scotsman and "King Abdullah II, who was paying a brief visit to France, told the daily Le Figaro that, in his view, it is the extremists who would gain the upper hand in the current conditions in Iraq..." Associated Press

Sept 27 2004 ~ Ignorance or lying?

Reuters "Many of President George W. Bush's assertions about progress in Iraq -- from police training and reconstruction to preparations for January elections -- are in dispute, according to internal Pentagon documents, lawmakers and key congressional aides on Sunday."
(Juan Cole's Informed Comment tells us that although President Bush said that UN electoral advisers are in Iraq, there are in fact only a handful there. Voter registration hasn't been conducted. Almost no preparations have been made. Bush spoke of 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers & police but only 22,700 Iraqi troops and police have received even minimal training, and only a few thousand are fully trained.)
Reuters " A senior administration official defined "fully trained" as having gone through "initial basic operations training."
Juan Cole says "The article is worth reading in full, and by the time you get to the end it is clear that Bush was either lying or ignorant, neither of these being a good posture for a president."

Sept 27 2004 ~ The worse the situation in Iraq, the bigger the lies that Tony Blair tells us.

Robert Fisk "Iraq, remember, was going to be the role model. It would be the catalyst, 'crucible' even, of the new Middle East .... We are now in the greatest crisis since the last greatest crisis. That’s how we run the Iraq war - or the Second Iraq War as Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara would now have us believe. ......
.... what happened to all those videos which members of Congress were allowed to watch in secret and which we - the public - were not permitted to see? Why have we suddenly forgotten about Abu Ghraib? Seymour Hersh, the journalist who broke the Abu Ghraib story - and one of the only journalists in America who is doing his job - has spoken publicly about what else happened in that terrible jail.
I’m indebted to a reader for the following extract from a recent Hersh lecture: "Some of the worst things that happened that you don’t know about. OK? Videos. There are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib... The women were passing messages out saying please come and kill me because of what’s happened. And basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children, in cases that have been recorded, the boys were sodomised, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking..."

Sept 27 ~ Just as we must no longer talk about weapons of mass destruction.....

For as the details slowly emerge of the desperate efforts of Bush and Blair to find these non-existent nasties, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. US mobile site survey teams managed, at one point, to smash into a former Iraqi secret police headquarters in Baghdad, only to find a padlocked inner door. Here, they believed, they would find the horrors that Bush and Blair were praying for. And what did they find behind the second door? A vast emporium of brand new vacuum cleaners. At Baath party headquarters, another team - led by a Major Kenneth Deal - believed they had discovered secret documents which would reveal Saddam’s weapons’ programme. The papers turned out to be an Arabic translation of A J P Taylor’s The Struggle for Mastery in Europe. Perhaps Bush and Blair should read it.

Sept 27 ~ Second Iraq War indeed. How much more of this tomfoolery are we, the public, expected to stomach?

We are fighting in "the crucible of global terrorism", according to Lord Blair of Kut. What are we to make of this nonsense? Of course, he didn’t tell us we were going to have a Second Iraq War when he helped to start the First Iraq War, did he? And he didn’t tell the Iraqis that, did he? No, we had come to "liberate" them. So let’s just remember the crisis before the crisis before the crisis. Let’s go back to last November when our Prime Minister was addressing the Lord Mayor’s banquet. The Iraq war, he informed us then - and presumably he was still referring to the First Iraq War - was "the battle of seminal importance for the early 21st century".
Well, he can say that again. But just listen to what else Lord Blair of Kut informed us about the war. "It will define relations between the Muslim world and the West. It will influence profoundly the development of Arab states and the Middle East. It will have far-reaching implications for the future of American and Western diplomacy."
And he can say that again, can’t he? For it is difficult to think of anything more profoundly dangerous for us, for the West, for the Middle East, for Christians and Muslims since the Second World War - the real second war, that is - than Blair’s war in Iraq. And Iraq, remember, was going to be the model for the whole Middle East. Every Arab state would want to be like Iraq. Iraq would be the catalyst - perhaps even the "crucible" - of the new Middle East. Spare me the hollow laughter. ..." Read in full

Sept 27 2004 Robert Fisk " ... many of the letters I’ve received from readers come from men and women who fought in the Second World War, who argue ferociously that Blair and Bush should never be allowed to compare this quagmire with the real struggle against evil which they waged more than half a century ago.

Not for many years has there been such a gap - in America as well as Britain - between the people and the government they elected. Blair’s most recent remarks are speeches made - to quote that Owen poem - "to children ardent for some desperate glory". Ken Bigley’s blindfolded face is our latest greatest crisis. But let’s not forget what went before.

Sept 26 ~ there still remains a sense of unreality in public life about the enormity of what Britain has helped to create in Iraq

Guardian ".....In recent weeks British forces have been under regular assault, caught up in bloody firefights and forced back to barracks by the increase in attacks in Basra, Amara and elsewhere. Evidence has been piling up of the killing and maltreatment of Iraqis in and out of custody by British troops, whose local reputation for brutality is a far cry from the benign paternalism often hailed in the British media. And now a British engineer working at a US military base faces the horrific fate meted out to his two fellow American kidnap victims...
the events of the past few days should have triggered a political crisis in Britain.
The conclusion of the Iraq Survey Group that there were no weapons of mass destruction at the time of the invasion, the leaked Whitehall documents confirming that Blair was warned in advance of the likelihood of post-war chaos and, crucially, the declaration by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, that the war launched by a British prime minister was illegal should be a lethal combination. ............
............. That these events have not yet led to a decisive crisis of Blair's leadership is above all a function of the fact that Britain was the only one of the original invading coalition to have a centre-left government - and which has therefore been supported over the fundamentals of the war ever since by the main opposition party. But the underlying damage to both the Labour party and the government by their continuing association with such a catastrophic adventure is likely to have fatal political consequences in its impact on public trust and support. ..." Read in full

Sept 24 2004 ~ Arab commentators are unimpressed by Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's speech to the US Congress on Thursday, with one saying it was difficult not to "throw up".

BBC "....The only thing Allawi's government has achieved for the Iraqis is to destroy their country and provide cover for US forces to slaughter more than 20,000 Iraqis. " is the commentary from London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi
Commentary in Jordan's Al-Dustur: "If Bush wins another term, and considering his war justifications and his own hidden agenda, he will continue the occupation of Iraq, keep US military bases there and make the next Iraqi government follow US policies aimed at redrawing the Middle East map and imposing a system of Islamic democracy on its states."

Sept 24 ~ "Dr Germ" Why has she not been let go?

She has not been charged with any crime, and even if she were, could she not be freed on bail? Is it that the US authorities don't want her talking to the press about the biological specimens she received from American companies in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein was Washington's friend? Are they worried she might produce the receipts she has said she holds? .." Guardian

Sept 24 ~ Iraq "The country may become a no-go area for news.." Guardian

Foreign journalists who used to rent houses in Baghdad have had to retreat to better-guarded hotels. Many media organisations have reduced their teams to one reporter, and even they rarely risk leaving Baghdad. Their Iraqi interpreters and drivers are under threat. The country may become a no-go area for news. In the mayhem of kidnappings, suicide bombs, and US air attacks, the continuing detention of a dozen Iraqi scientists may seem trivial. Thousands of other Iraqis have been arrested on suspicion of being part of the anti-American insurgency. Most are eventually let go, some after beating and torture. Only a few have been taken to court and convicted. But the holding of Iraqi scientists, whom the Americans call high-value detainees, is significant because they, more than any other group, seem to be hostages. Taken initially into custody because it was thought they could shed light on those elusive weapons of mass destruction, it is clear they had little new to say. There were no WMD, as they always insisted. ....
.... Small wonder that Iraqis feel humiliated and impotent. They are trapped between different sets of foreigners. On one side they face the barbarity of outside Islamists, who use Iraq as the latest and most convenient terrain for jihad against America. On the other, they see the stubbornness of Bush and the arrogance of Blair, who refuse to admit that their adventure was wrong, has become a disaster, and needs to be ended.

Sept 24 ~ "George Bush's vision of the liberation of Iraq has melted before harsh facts.

But reality cannot be allowed to obscure the image. The liberation is "succeeding", he insists, and only pessimists cannot see it. .." writes Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian
"....In Iraq, US commanders have plans for this week and the next, but there is "no overarching strategy", I was told by a reliable source who has just returned after assessing the facts on the ground for US intelligence services. The New York Times reports that an offensive is in the works to capture the insurgent stronghold of Falluja - after the election. In the meantime, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other terrorists linked to al-Qaida operate from there at will, as they have for more than a year. ."

Sept 22 ~ Simon Jenkins says, " Britain should get out of Iraq - fast.

It's that simple..."
"... Tony Blair has declared that Britain is now fighting a “new war” in Iraq. He did so on the anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, an inauspicious precursor. Arnhem was a notorious “bridge too far”, a politico-military decision that led to defeat and the needless loss of British lives. But at Arnhem Britain knew what it was about. When Mr Blair calls on all “sensible and decent people” to support him in this new Iraq conflict we can only ask, to what end? When I was in Baghdad last winter I could travel freely anywhere albeit in conditions of extreme insecurity. That is now out of the question. No soldier, journalist, aid worker, United Nations official, contractor, even middle-class Iraqi thought to be worth a ransom dares to move. Iraq may enjoy some liberties but they are near worthless in a state of anarchy. .." Read in full

Sept 22 ~ "what was obnoxious to the American people about Saddam Hussein was not that he was a dictator.

Those are a dime a dozen and not usually worth $200 billion and thousands of lives. It is that he was supposedly dangerous to the US because, as Bush alleged, he was trying to develop an atomic bomb. But whatever nuclear program he had was so primitive as not to be worth mentioning, and there is no evidence that Saddam posed any threat at all to the United States' homeland, or would have in his lifetime. I have a sinking feeling that the American public may like Bush's cynical misuse of Wilsonian idealism precisely because it covers the embarrassment of their having gone to war, killed perhaps 25,000 people, and made a perfect mess of the Persian Gulf region, all out of a kind of paranoia fed by dirty tricks and bad intelligence. And, maybe they have to vote for Bush to cover the embarrassment of having elected him in the first place. How deep a hole are they going to dig themselves in order to get out of the bright sunlight of so much embarrassment?" Juan Cole yesterday

Sept 22 ~ "The Foreign Office, as disclosed in the Hutton and Butler inquiries and again in internal papers leaked at the weekend to the Daily Telegraph, initially opposed war in Iraq.

They argued that war would be much worse than the status quo, which at the time was a policy of containment, keeping Saddam Hussein weak through a combination of international sanctions and the retention of no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq. ..." Guardian

Sept 21 ~ The Case of the Dead Clerics Outside Two Mosques

Juan Cole "Two important figures in the Sunni fundamentalist Association of Muslim Scholars [Board of Muslim Clerics] were assassinated on Sunday and Monday....The ASM, headed by Sheikh Hareth al-Dhari, has in some instances been linked to militants, but usually has maintained enough independence of them to act as a broker between them and the Baghdad government. The AMS has announced that it will boycott the elections scheduled for January. It has emerged as the most respected and influential of the Sunni Muslim religious parties in Iraq, and seems to be the Sunnis' answer to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani...since the simultaneous siege of Fallujah and Najaf in spring of 2004 by the US, the Sunni fundamentalists or Salafis and the Sadrist Shiites had appeared to make up. They sent each other food aid, and the Sunnis put up posters of Muqtada al-Sadr in Fallujah .... So it would be strange if the Sadrists, who are still under pressure from the US, should suddenly decide to pick a fight with the Sunnis....the Baathists and the Sunni fundamentalists seem to have forged at least a tacit alliance in places like Fallujah and Ramadi, so it is a little odd that they should take out after Sunni leaders at this juncture..
The other possibility is Monotheism and Holy War, the terrorist organization based in Jordan and Germany that begin as a rival to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The letter attributed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last January by the CIA spoke of attempting to provoke Sunni-Shiite warfare as a way to ensure that American-dominated Iraq was destabilized.
I dislike the US official tendency to blame most violence in Iraq on Zarqawi and other outsiders. I think 99% of it is Iraqi in character. But killing Shaikh al-Zaidi right in front of a Shiite mosque, or dumping his body there, does seem to be a deliberate provocation of the sort Tawhid earlier spoke of.
A conspiracy theory might cast suspicion on the Allawi government, which would potentially benefit from driving a wedge between AMS and the Sadrists. But I don't think Sunni-Shiite riots would help the stability of Iraq, and can't imagine Allawi is so foolish as to risk provoking them."

Sept 21 2004 ~ "I am angry, not because I was deceived over Iraq, but because we were right."

Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, at the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth: "Our reputation and respect have been diluted and dissipated, and all because of Iraq. ....Before the war, it was claimed that to attack Iraq was necessary because it was a threat. Now we are told the war was justified because Saddam was a tyrant. A justification of doubtful legality has been replaced by one of no legality whatsoever." Mr Campbell said the British people looked "in vain" for contrition from the government. Mr Campbell added: "I am angry, not because I was deceived over Iraq, but because we were right." The Herald Britain's ambassador to Italy, Sir Ivor Roberts, said yesterday that Mr Bush was the best recruiting officer for Al Qaeda "If anyone is ready to celebrate the eventual re-election of Bush it is Al Qaeda."
An overwhelming majority of voters want Tony Blair to start preparing British troops to pull out from Iraq, according to a new opinion poll See also Analysis from the Herald"An exercise in rebranding".

Sept 20 2004 ~ So now we are told it is a "new conflict"...

As Juan Cole says, "At the end of this misadventure, it seems more and more likely that a US soldier will report to his general, "We had to destroy the country to save it, sir!"
No government minister would talk to the Today Programme this morning. Nicholas Soames, on the Today Programme, said the post conflict planning was chaotic and we are picking up the bills from all that. We are managing chaos. Odd that the government have a news balckaout about what has been happening in Basra in the past month - the situation has gone from benign to one of very considerable danger the last three weeks.
Even Mr Soames conceded that the UK might have to send more troops.

Sept 20 2004 ~ Al-Qaeda does not care who wins the (US) elections

Juan Cole says..."The remark of Speaker of the House Denis Hastert that al-Qaeda would like to manipulate the US election with a terrorist bombing and would be happier with Kerry as president is simply wrong. The Democrats are correct that such comments are a form of fear-mongering aimed at stampeding the American public into voting for Bush out of terror. Indeed, if the US public votes for any candidate because of concern for Bin Laden, then Bin Laden has been handed precisely the victory that Hastert professed to abhor. But Hastert is just wrong. Al-Qaeda does not care who wins the elections. If the US withdraws from Iraq (which could happen willy-nilly under Bush as easily as under Kerry), that would be seen as a victory by al-Qaeda. If the US remains in Iraq for years, bleeding at the hands of an ongoing guerrilla insurgency, then that is also a victory for al-Qaeda from their point of view. They therefore just don't care which candidate wins..."

Sept 18 2004 ~ colonialism is just another word for grand larceny.

Professor Juan Cole today, commenting on Sharon's repudiation of the "Road Map" "Most Americans would be appalled if the United States suddenly chased all the Iraqis out of Baghdad and brought in Americans to permanently take over their apartments and other property, instead. But that is an exact analogy for how the Israelis are behaving."

Sept 18 2004 ~ Iraq had no WMD: the final verdict

Julian Borger in Washington Saturday September 18, 2004 The Guardian
"The comprehensive 15-month search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has concluded that the only chemical or biological agents that Saddam Hussein's regime was working on before last year's invasion were small quantities of poisons, most likely for use in assassinations. ..." Read in full

Sept 18 ~ "Tony Blair was warned a year before invading Iraq that a stable post-war government would be impossible

without keeping large numbers of troops there for "many years", secret government papers reveal. The documents, seen by The Telegraph, show more clearly than ever the grave reservations expressed by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, over the consequences of a second Gulf war and how prescient his Foreign Office officials were in predicting the ensuing chaos.
They told the Prime Minister that there was a risk of the Iraqi system "reverting to type" after a war, with a future government acquiring the very weapons of mass destruction that an attack would be designed to remove...The documents further show that the Prime Minister was advised that he would have to "wrong foot" Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, and that British officials believed that President George W Bush merely wanted to complete his father's "unfinished business" in a "grudge match" against Saddam...
More than 900 allied troops have been killed in Iraq since the end of the war, 33 of them British. More than 10,000 civilians are believed to have been killed " Read in full

Sept 16 ~ US justification contradicted by film of rocket attack

Independent "... the US sought yesterday to defend the two helicopter pilots who fired seven rockets into a crowd in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 13 people and wounding 41, saying they had come under "well-aimed ground fire". This is different from the first statement by the US military claiming that they opened fire with rockets to prevent a Bradley fighting vehicle which had been hit by a bomb from being looted of arms and ammunition. The US account of the incident in which Mazen al-Tomeizi, a Palestinian television producer working for al-Arabiya satellite channel was killed, was contradicted by the film taken by his cameraman at the moment the rocket struck. There is no sound of firing from the crowd in the moments before the helicopters attacked. The US military's accounts of incidents in which it claims to have targeted insurgents but only civilians have died are frequently discredited by Arab television pictures of the incident, which US officers apparently do not watch before issuing statements...."

Sept 13 ~ Bloody Sunday:110 Dead in Iraq, 200 Wounded

"... a burning Bradley fighting vehicle sitting there in the street, and a crowd gathers, many of them boys, to jeer and dance. Some of the young men haul out a banner of the Tawhid and Jihad terrorist group and hang it from a barrel sticking out of the vehicle. Alarmed that the Bradley would now be looted for weapons and ammunition (and, some reports say, "sensitive equipment"), US troops now call in helicopter gunships. They arrive, but claim they took small arms fire from the area around the burning Bradley.
Now the tragedy unfolds. The helicopters fire repeatedly on the crowd gathered around the Bradley, killing 13 persons and wounding 61. Although some of the killed or wounded may have been guerrillas, it seems obvious that others were just curious little boys from the neighborhood....It would also be interesting to know what exactly was in that burning Bradley that was so important it was worth 13 lives and scores of wounded." Juan Cole's website

Sept 11 2004 ~ "So, three years after the international crimes against humanity in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania we were bombing Fallujah.

Come again? Hands up those who knew the name of Fallujah on 11 September 2001. Or Samarra. Or Ramadi. Or Anbar province. Or Amarah. Or Tel Afar, the latest target in our "war on terror'' although most of us would find it hard to locate on a map (look at northern Iraq, find Mosul and go one inch to the left). Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive...we expected to be loved, welcomed, greeted, fêted, embraced by these people. First, we bombarded Stone Age Afghanistan and proclaimed it "liberated", then we invaded Iraq to "liberate" Iraqis too. Wouldn’t the Shia love us? Didn’t we get rid of Saddam Hussein? Well, history tells a different story. We dumped the Sunni Muslim King Feisal on the Shia Muslims in the 1920s. Then we encouraged them to rise against Saddam in 1991, and left them to die in Saddam’s torture chambers. And now, we reassemble Saddam’s old rascals, their torturers, and put them back in power to "fight terror’’, and we lay siege to Muqtada Sadr in Najaf. ...." Robert Fisk today in the Independent

Sept 11 2004 ~ "September 11 did not change the world.

Indeed, for months afterwards, no one was allowed even to question the motives of the mass murderers. To point out that they were all Arabs and Muslims was fair enough. But any attempt to connect these facts to the region they came from – the Middle East – was treated as a form of subversion; because, of course, to look too closely at the Middle East would raise disturbing questions about the region, about our Western policies in those tragic lands, and about America's relationship with Israel. Yet now, at last, President Bush's increasingly manic administration has spotted the connection – and is drawing all the wrong conclusions.......
......if you talk to a Palestinian in Lebanon about the September massacre, he will assume you are referring to the slaughter, at the hands of Israel's militia allies, of 1,700 Palestinians in Beirut in September of 1982. Just as Chileans, when hearing the phrase "September 11" – as that fine Jewish writer Ariel Dorfman pointed out – will think of 11 September 1973, when an American-supported coup d'état led to the overthrow of the Allende government and the deaths of thousands of Chileans. Talk to Syrians about a massacre and they will think first of all – though they will not say the words – of the killing of up to 20,000 Syrians in the Islamist uprising at Hama. Talk about massacres to the Kurds and they will tell you about Halabja; to the Iranians and they will tell you about Khorramshahr; to the Algerians and they will think of Bentalha and a whole series of other village atrocities that have cost the lives of 150,000 Algerians. ...... " Robert Fisk's article in 2002

Sept 10 ~ Cheney - "he is promising us more wars, folks. And he almost certainly has Iran foremost on his mind"

Juan Cole yesterday "Dick Cheney's statement that if Americans elected John Kerry they would suffer another terrorist attack like 9/11 has provoked outrage among Democrats. But what is interesting to me is the policy implications. Cheney seems to be saying that the reason there won't be another attack if he is re-elected is because he will keep fighting "pre-emptive" wars. So, he is promising us more wars, folks. And he almost certainly has Iran foremost on his mind."

Sept 6 2004 ~ " the period since March 19 should properly be seen as an ongoing war"

Juan Cole's comment on the fact that around 1100 US troops were wounded in Iraq in August, the highest one-month total so far. "..The injuries came because the US was actively fighting "in four cities" according to a US military spokesman (Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra, and Najaf). Actually it was much more than that. There was also fighting in August in Sadr City and some southern cities. This finding underscores the point I made on Saturday, which is that the period since March 19 should properly be seen as an ongoing war."

Sept 5 2004 ~ after all the brouhaha about Iraq as a shining beacon of democracy and liberty, its actual policy in al-Jazeerah's case is worse than most Middle Eastern dictatorship

The caretaker Allawi government extended its ban on al-Jazeerah on Saturday. Juan Cole's comment " Al-Jazeerah itself reported that the government charged it with instigating attacks on its officials. Al-Jazeerah reports on Iraq quite extensively, and often manages to get better video and interviews than most Western news programs, so the closing of the Baghdad office appears not to be a serious obstacle. They do telephone interviews, e.g. So the only one hurt by this "ban" is the caretaker government, which looks heavy-handed and as though it is trying to stop criticism of itself. Al-Jazeerah does give a platform to Iraqi dissidents, but they also do ask tough questions of, e.g. Sadr's representatives. Anyway, there are no grounds under the interim constitution (which guarantees freedom of speech) for the government to close the offices of a news organization. It is not an auspicious start for the new Iraq, and these kinds of measures, once taken, become foundational. So after all the brouhaha about Iraq as a shining beacon of democracy and liberty, its actual policy in al-Jazeerah's case is worse than most Middle Eastern dictatorship."

Sept 4 2004 ~The Fallujah medical authorities keep insisting that such strikes are killing children and women.

Juan Cole "The US maintains it had a good view of terrorists killing someone, then going into their safe house, which the US then bombed. The Fallujah medical authorities keep insisting that such strikes are killing children and women. On Friday Fallujans charged that a US tank fired into the city, which the US military denies.
The Poles are turning over responsibility for Karbala, in preparation for their planned January departure from Iraq. Bush was boasting at the convention about all the foreign allies he had (he seemed to me to make Denmark an applause line; I like Denmark but it is no longer a Great Power.) But what he did not mention is all the countries that have withdrawn or are planning withdrawals in the next few months.
Tension was high again on Friday in Najaf, with US troops surrounding the city. Apparently there are fears of a Mahdi Army resurgence already. A small demonstration was held against Muqtada al-Sadr by Najafis..."

Sept 3 2004 ~David Hare's work will move anyone who opposed the whole misadventure.

Robin Cook's verdict on David Hare's new play Stuff Happens ".....He has centred his drama very much on the process by which the Bush administration settled on the invasion of Iraq. There is a strategic truth in this focus, as it was a war made in Washington. It has the merit that it brings back the reality that Tony Blair took Britain into the war primarily to preserve his status as the closest ally of whoever is in the White House. The exchanges between Blair and his advisers on weapons of mass destruction are accurately portrayed as discussions about how to present the case for war rather than a debate on whether there was a case for war. ..."
Scott Ritter "...While cringing at the damning self-indictments of Bush's inner circle - Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney - transpiring on stage, I couldn't help but wonder what Tony Blair did to have his role in the lead-up to the war with Iraq portrayed in such a sympathetic, albeit weak-kneed, manner. Hare's play places the blame for the Iraq war squarely on the shoulders of the arrogant Americans, while covering up Blair's own complicity and deviousness in the matter. ...."

Sept 3 2004 ~ "Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shiite politician in Iraq, objected to US air strikes at Fallujah"

From Juan Cole's update for today "....It is astonishing that Chalabi's militia is still operating in Iraq. It was flown to Iraq by the Pentagon soon after Saddam fell, but has been ordered to disband. Chalabi himself has been indicted for counterfeiting and fraud. But he attended the national assembly meeting on Wednesday and is ordering his militia around the country, which in turn is engaging in firefights.
In other news, guerrillas bombed a northern pipeline again, cutting off oil exports in the north. Some twenty were killed in US warplane attacks on Fallujah. Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shiite politician in Iraq, objected to US air strikes at Fallujah."

Sept 3 2004 ~ " if you think about him as a CEO, and look at how well he has run things, you can see the idiocy of this argument."

Juan Cole " Bush gave a long speech Thursday night, which sounded like a laundry list of promises more than anything else. He pointed to few genuine accomplishments during the past four years, and seemed stuck in fall, 2001.
If you think about George W. Bush as CEO of America, Inc., it becomes clearer why his poll numbers have been so low (low to mid forties) in the run up to the election. No president with those kinds of poll numbers in the spring before the election has ever won.
Bush's basic characteristic is not steadfastness, as the convention attempted to argue, but rashness. He is a gambler who goes for the big bang. He loses his temper easily, and makes hasty and uninformed decisions about important matters. No corporation would keep on a CEO that took risks the way Bush has, if the gambles so often resulted in huge losses. ........ given this kind of record, do you vote this CEO back in? It is often said that a lot of Americans want to stick with Bush to "see Iraq through." But if you think about him as a CEO, and look at how well he has run things, you can see the idiocy of this argument..."

Sept 3 2004 ~ Qaradawi Calls for Attacks on Americans in Iraq

Juan Cole writes " Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and old time Muslim Brotherhood cleric resident in Qatar, has called for Muslims to "fight" Americans in Iraq, whether troops or civilians, because they are occupiers. says, ..... al-Qaradawi's call for American civilians in Iraq to be attacked, it is absolutely despicable. It is also contrary to classical Islamic law, as the Abdul Mu'ti al-Bayyumi of the al-Azhar Seminary noted only a few days ago.
I heard al-Bayyumi on al-Jazeerah speaking eloquently about the Islamic duty to avoid harming civilians. He said the same thing to al-Sharaq al-Awsat: "Civilians who do not fight and do not take part in the fighting may not be killed or kidnapped. They must be treated well. If he does participate in the fighting against Muslims, in any way, it is permitted to treat him as a combatant." .
... Al-Qaradawi came out of the old Muslim Brotherhood before it turned toward parliamentary politics, and still worships the false idol of terror."

Sept 2 2004 ~ Chatham House, formerly the Royal Institute for International Affairs, has issued a highly pessimistic report (in pdf format) on Iraq.

says Juan Cole " At best, it argues, the US and the UK will just muddle through in Iraq, but will fail to attain goals like installing a democracy, and stability will remain elusive. At worst, the authors of the report imagine Iraq falling apart as Yugoslavia did. They warn that the lesson of Yugoslavia is that old neighbors who lived peacefully together for decades can learn to hate each other violently virtually overnight.
I don't personally find the break-up scenario very likely. Iraqis are generally very committed to their nation, and none of the neighbors would stand for a split. It could happen, but I find it only a remote possibility."

Aug 30 ~"..the espionage case ( ie the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal in the Pentagon) could tie to an ongoing Justice Department criminal investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame"

Juan Cole quotes Ken Henderson

Aug 30 ~ "efforts at the Pentagon to paint Franklin as a low-level desk grunt..."

Juan Cole comments: " It appears to be the case that someone in the Pentagon got wind that Larry Franklin had been flipped, and was terrified that the investigation might go on up the ladder at the Pentagon, in AIPAC, and with the Israelis. So they leaked news of the investigation to make sure that everybody clammed up and shredded everything.
The NYT piece today reflects continued efforts at the Pentagon to paint Franklin as a low-level desk grunt with little access to Paul Wolfowitz. This last is just a lie...."
Significant too is this comment by Juan Cole:He adds: "Again, I underline that the American Jewish community does not support most AIPAC positions (a majority are much closer to Americans for Peace Now), and that this issue has to do with a small fanatical leadership of a specific lobbying organization, nothing more." He links to a diagram on's website showing graphically the strands of the Pentagon spy story.
(See also warmwell page on Karl Rove and on the Niger fiasco)

Aug 30 ~ Sadr calls for ceasefire

Reuters "Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered his militia to end attacks on U.S. and Iraqi government forces and will soon unveil plans to pursue his goals through politics rather than conflict, aides say...."The Mehdi Army is now turning to peaceful struggle. We will have to see in the future -- that could change. But now it is peaceful," Sadr aide Sheikh Mahmoud al-Sudani told Reuters on Monday. "Moqtada will declare his participation in Iraq's political process. He will not participate directly in elections but he will appoint and back someone from his side or elsewhere."

Aug 28 ~ "Sadr left the mosque with amnesty for any crimes he might have committed

an invitation to join in national politics, and freedom for his militiamen, many of whom remained heavily armed. Left in a weaker position were interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the U.S.-led military forces that back him. Allawi got no guarantee that Sadr would desist from armed activities outside Najaf and neighboring Kufa, leaving open the distinct possibility that he would remobilize his forces and remain, at the least, a thorn in the government's side." See LA Times

Aug 27 ~ " I am weeping for Iraq and for my brother. I have no idea if either of them will survive..."

Independent "...Haider Mehdi, 24, from Kut, said: "We did not like seeing Muqtada al-Sadr lay claim to leading the Shia people. So it was right that our real leader should come here. My brother ... was beside me when we reached Medina Street close to the old city. Suddenly we heard shots and realised it was the police firing at us. Abbas was hit four times in the back. He is in the operating theatre now. Today I am weeping for Iraq and for my brother. I have no idea if either of them will survive."

Aug 27 ~ "Sistani ....has recognized the need to align himself with the wave of outrage that has swept Iraq during the three weeks of the siege..."

From The lesson of Najaf is that Sadr's radical populism has a large following by Tony Karon "...Sadr has championed the poor, who have been disillusioned by the traditional clergy and the Shiite establishment. And they see little to love in the deal taking shape under Allawi and the Americans. Which means that this rebellion is likely to continue long after the Mosque is cleared. And the fact that Sistani sees fit to go to Najaf not in a U.S. helicopter or government motorcade, but at the head of a procession of Iraqi Shiites willing to march into a war zone, suggests that he's recognized the need to align himself with the wave of outrage that has swept Iraq during the three weeks of the siege.
The fact that Sistani has scrupulously avoided publicly condemning Moqtada or endorsing government action against him is telling. .."

Aug 27 ~" Thousands of supporters of Iraq's most revered cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who brokered the peace deal, have converged on the mosque.

it was not immediately clear if Sadr was instructing his Mehdi Army militia to leave the mosque for good in accordance with a peace deal agreed overnight to end his three-week rebellion. Thousands of supporters of Iraq's most revered cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who brokered the peace deal, have converged on the mosque. Thousands have gone into the shrine while others remain outside. Under the peace deal, Sadr's militia is expected to leave the shrine by 10 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Friday. U.S. forces are also to leave the southern city, with security being turned over to Iraqi police. " Reuters

Aug 27 ~"....Iraqis in Kufa who went to a mosque to pray before walking to Najaf came under mortar fire

which killed dozens and wounded a large number. The Sadrists blamed the US military, which denied having mortar emplacements anywhere near the shrine. The US military suggested that the Mahdi Army has engaged in wild, undisciplined mortar fire. (This is true, but unless a clear target is identified near the mosque that they might have actually been aiming at, it seems a little unlikely that they would hit their own mosque with hundreds of worshippers inside.) The main source of violence in Kufa in the past 24 hours has been Iraqi police or national guards, who have fired on unarmed demonstrators..." Juan Cole

Aug 26 ~"...With all sides - the Americans, the Iraqi government and al-Sadr - giving at least nominal support to al-Sistani's efforts

it was not known who fired the mortars that struck the mosque in Kufa or whether it was an attempt to sabotage the peace effort. Iraqi police have shot at peaceful marchers several times in the past few days.
The 75-year-old ayatollah is seeking to bring his enormous popularity to bear to end the fighting, which has killed scores of civilians and nearly paralyzed the city since it began Aug. 5.
In the last 24 hours, 55 people were killed and 376 injured during clashes in Najaf, Sa'ad al-Amili of the Health Ministry said Thursday. At least 40 people have been killed in Kufa over the same period, including the victims in the mosque...." Associated Press

Aug 25 2004 ~ Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has rushed back from London to "save Najaf" "Sadr supporters barricaded in the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf greeted Sistani's call with joy..... The situation is getting worse day by day and only God's intervention can save us. And I think this march is a gift from God," Mohammed al-Batat said. A senior Shiite official said Sistani wanted all foreign troops and weapons out of the city and for Sadr's Mehdi Army to leave the shrine and the city.
Ali al-Safi, the cleric's Basra representative said Sistani had returned to Najaf despite medical advice to rest longer in London. "I could not stay there when I saw what was happening in Iraq," he quoted the cleric as saying during his evening sermon, where thousands gathered.
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who has vowed to flush Sadr's militia out of Najaf unless they surrender, also welcomed the cleric home.
Juan Cole says: "...Muslim political and religious figures continued to denounce the US actions in Najaf on Tuesday, as a form of desecration of a holy place. The speaker of Iran's parliament said the actions were spreading hatred for the US in the region. Pakistani satellite tv said that the Pakistani senate had passed a resolution demanding that all foreign troops leave the holy city of Najaf. The Pakistani senate is a generally conservative body, dominated by landlords and by supporters of the pro-American "president," Pervez Musharraf"

Aug 24 2004 ~A new report says senior military officials may be responsible for some of the prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.

"...Tuesday's report, issued by a commission appointed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, implicitly faulted Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The report did not suggest that Rumsfeld ordered any of the abuses or did anything to encourage them. But it indicated that his policies created some confusion at lower levels of the military. "The abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline," the report said. "There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels." The commission was particularly critical of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq at the time of the abuses, which occurred mainly between October and December 2003...."

Aug 24 2004 ~ "Given that the Bush administration has turned Iraq into a failed state and a country in flames..

.. the condition of which is far worse than the US public is allowed to know, it is quite outrageous that Bush should be trumpeting Iraq as an achievement. That he is doing so in connection with the Olympics is just tacky and probably illegal..." Juan Cole commenting on a Bush press conference, reported by the Washington Post

Aug 24 ~ the American soldier exclaimed: "Oh my Jesus Christ, it's a young boy."

He stood for a moment examining the body and then jumped from the minibus and ran some 20 yards before vomiting on to the ground. Nobody laughed at him. It wasn't a young boy, as he acknowledged a few minutes later, but a man of between 35 or 40. "I guess I hadn't seen a dead body like that so close long, we asked another Staff Sergeant, Brandon George, did he think the battle had to run? "That's what we all keep asking." Asked how long his unit, here to support the US Marines, had been in Najaf, another soldier replied: "About three weeks. Three weeks too long." On this at least, these soldiers from Texas and elsewhere across the US, aching to get home, or at least to Baghdad, from this cemetery which seems to encapsulate all the torments of Iraq, would agree with the extended family of the three Salmans, innocent victims of a continuing war. "I do not know who is controlling Iraq," said Mr Latif. "We call on Allah to provide security and stability." From For the grief-stricken of Iraq, burying the dead is a dangerous business in the Independent

Aug 21 ~ Confusion continues..

Reuters "Fighters loyal to rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were firmly in control of Najaf's Imam Ali mosque on Saturday, giving the lie to government claims that police had taken control of the shrine. ...Hundreds of young men inside the shrine chanted slogans vilifying Allawi, who has called on them to lay down their weapons and leave the golden-domed shrine. "We are winning, we will win over Iyad Allawi and the traitors collaborating with the Americans," they chanted. Radio Free Europe "A top al-Sadr aide, Sheikh Ahmed al-Sheibani, said final details of the handover of the site to representatives of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani were still being worked out today. But al-Sheibani also told reporters that al-Sadr's militia will continue to "defend the shrine and Najaf" after it hands over the keys to the mosque.

Aug 20 2004 ~"I really don't believe any news anymore," he said. "We have heard it all before from both sides. We are not living like humans."

Reuters reports on the confusion reigning this evening. Some reports suggest that the interim government is in control and that Muqtada has escaped arrest. His militiamen deny police have seized the city's sacred Imam Ali Mosque from their control. Reuters: "Mohammed Jassim, a father of eight, shook his head as he stood on a Najaf street corner, gunfire crackling overhead and tank shells rocking the ground. "I really don't believe any news anymore," he said. "We have heard it all before from both sides. We are not living like humans.".."

Aug 19 ~ Najaf. "few expect this siege to end well or easily."

Juan Cole explains today what Muqtada al Sadr says he wants. Professor Cole tells us considerably more than the newspapers. Extract: "Interim Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan threatened to teach Muqtada a lesson he would never forget, and promised decisive action against him, if he did not leave the shrine within hours. (-al-Zaman ). (Shaalan has adopted the body language and rhetoric of the old Baath regime, which makes the skin of a lot of Iraqis crawl. To be fair, Muqtada also acts in a thuggish way that alarms many Iraqis who have had enough of thugs.)

Aug 19 ~ "The caretaker Allawi government will likely ignore the National Council and do as it pleases."

Comment today by Juan Cole on the setbacks and wrangling in Iraq. The National Council process is derailed and Basra delegates have withdrawn

Aug 18 ~ Iraq's defence minister has given Shi'ite militiamen in the holy city of Najaf hours to surrender

warning that troops are preparing for a major assault to "teach them a lesson they will never forget" Reuters

Aug 18 ~ " Since Khan had been turned, he was perhaps the most valuable asset inside al-Qaeda Pakistani intelligence ever had"

Juan Cole on the outing of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. "....The Pakistani government arrested a 25-year-old computer expert in Lahore on July 13. The arrest was never given to the Pakistani press by the Pakistani government, and no notice appeared in any Pakistani or other newspaper. This absence can only be deliberate, since the Pakistanis could easily have held a press conference to trumpet their new captive. This decision to keep the arrest quiet appears to have been made because Khan had been "flipped," i.e., had become a double agent and continued to have email contact with al-Qaeda members in London, e.g., but now with the Pakistani military intelligence listening in.... Pakistan continues to insist that the leak came from the American side, and they also should be in a position to know"

Aug 18 ~ "the Bush administration does time such announcements for political purposes"

Juan Cole..."had Ridge not made his announcement, the press would have had no occasion to go searching for the source of his information... al-Qaeda members on hearing the details Ridge revealed to the American public would know that a real insider had been busted, and would inevitably become so cautious that the Khan sting operation might well have been fatally compromised...The Bush administration at the very least bears indirect responsibility for the outing of Khan..."
"...The appearance of Khan's name in the New York Times on August 2 caused the British to have to swoop down on the London al-Qaeda cell to which he was speaking. As it was, 5 of them heard about Khan's arrest and immediately fled. The British got 13, but it was early in their investigation and they had to let 5 go or charge them with minor offences (immigration irregularities e.g.). On Tuesday, the British charged 8 of them....I do not know if the Bush administration made the announcement to take the spotlight off the Kerry campaign right after the Democratic National Convention, but Paul Krugman and others have persuasively argued that the Bush administration does time such announcements for political purposes."

Aug 17 ~ Blair faces Labour conference walkout over invitation to Iraqi Prime Minister

Independent ".... Activists from Labour Against the War have circulated a protest e-mail calling for Mr Blair to be lobbied by Labour members to withdraw the invitation. Party officials said no official invitation had been issued, but they confirmed that Mr Blair wants Mr Allawi to attend the conference.
The e-mail said: "Iyad Allawi is well known for his former connections to the CIA and MI6. He was a member of Saddam's Baath party." It repeated claims, which Mr Allawi has strongly denied, that he executed six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station. Mr Seddon also protested at the treatment of British journalists in the Iraqi city of Najaf, including Donald Macintyre of The Independent, who reported yesterday that he was warned by local police that he would be shot if he stayed to report the continuing violence.....Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the former UK envoy to Iraq, said on BBC radio that Mr Blair had 18 months to show that Iraq was a success. He said: "If Iraq in 2006 looks very little better than under Saddam, then the whole thing was a waste of lives, money and effort."

Aug 17 2004 ~ Thousands of civilians have marched to Najaf to surround the shrine of Ali as human shields.

Reuters quotes one of them, Fadil Hamed, 30, as saying, "I will lie on the ground in front of the tanks, or I will kill the Americans to defend Sadr and Najaf."

Aug 17 ~" If the Bush/Cheney team gets back in, there will be further wars and massive disturbances to world peace and security, starting with Iran."

Juan Cole today "... Cheney and Bush are diplomatically tone deaf, projecting nothing but arrogance and being all too willing to humiliate traditional allies. They have no sensitivity. And it is for that reason that they have the U.S. stuck in Iraq with only one really significant military ally, the U.K. (the Italians only have 3,000 troops there, and most countries just a few hundred, which makes their presence a token one). They have perhaps permanently alienated all the countries that might have lent the U.S. a hand.
And that pattern of arrogant, unilateral war-mongering worries me more than Cheney being a coward.
If the Bush/Cheney team gets back in, there will be further wars and massive disturbances to world peace and security, starting with Iran. Maybe the whole doctrine of pre-emptive war is a form of inferiority complex, impelling Cheney to be a strident war-monger to try to vindicate his uninvolved youth. If he was a coward, he may be endangering us all (and especially our teenagers) in a desperate ploy to regain his own manhood..."

Aug 16 ~ "...he seems even to believe that Allawi gave such an undertaking and would abide by it!"

Essential reading on the Iraq situation is Juan Cole. He reports today on the "night and day" different versions of the current conference reported by the US reporters John Burns of the New York Times and Rajiv Candrasekaran of the Washington Post. He says,

Aug 16 ~ "Likewise, CNN appears to have been the victim of a second-hand psy-ops campaign

insofar as it is referring to the guerrillas as "anti-Iraqi forces." The idea of characterizing them not as anti-American or anti-regime but "anti-Iraq" was, according to journalist Nir Rosen, come up with by a PR company contracting in Iraq. Nir says that they were told that no Iraqis would fall for it. So apparently it has now been retailed to major American news programs, on the theory that the American public is congenitally stupid. The American public has no idea how bad it is in Iraq because it gets lots of contradictory reports and has no way of wading through or evaluating them. On the evidence of Sunday, I'd advise them to keep their eyes on what John Burns says. He is a veteran war correspondent with his eyes open. If he thinks things in Iraq are bad, they likely are..." Juan Cole

Aug 15 ~ Thousands of Shiites are streaming toward Najaf in hopes of forming a human shield around Muqtada al-Sadr

Juan Cole says " Many have already gathered at the gates to the old city in Najaf and around the shrine of Imam Ali. In the meantime, the Allawi government says it intends to send an Iraqi military force into the shrine of Ali after Muqtada al-Sadr and his militiamen, according to al-Sharq al-Awsat. Allawi should be careful. A colleague of mine was reminded of a similarity between the current situation and the Indian government raid on the Sikh Golden Temple in 1984. That invasion of holy space arguably led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi and prolonged civil instability in the Punjab..."
Professor Cole is not blind to the inconsistencies in al-Sadr's demands and says that "the other side of the story is that Muqtada's militiamen are narrow-minded, thug-like puritans who impose their power on civilians by coercion"

Aug 15 ~ ".The American desecration of sacred Najaf and its cemetery makes the blood boil among Shiites throughout the world. There is likely to be a violent reaction..."

Juan Cole writes in the Washngton Post today about both the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr.

Aug 15 2004 ~ he adds, “Are you Sadrists? If not, I’ll kill you.” It’s difficult to tell whether he is joking or not.

The Sunday Herald's eye witness report "through the strongholds of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army from Baghdad to Najaf"

Aug 15 ~" Iraq: Massacre fears as Najaf peace talks collapse"

"Sunni city bombed
(ie Sumarra - see below) Athens: Blair signs ‘sham’ truce. Thousands flock to support al-Sadr" James Cusick, Westminster Editor of the Sunday Herald, writes "Thousands were reported to be flocking to Najaf to support al-Sadr, who now expects Iraq’s interim prime minister Ayad Allawi to order an attack on the holy mosque in which the rebel leader is claiming sanctuary. An al-Sadr aide blamed the failure of the peace talks on Allawi. He claimed agreement had been reached on all points, but that the interim prime minister had ordered an end to negotiation and told his officials to return to Baghdad. Those around al-Sadr, who is believed to have been slightly wounded in attacks near the Imam Ali shrine, predicted Najaf could now become the site of “a massacre”. Read in full

Aug 14 2004 ~ The truce in Najaf has collapsed.

Juan Cole writes, " "....even the council of tribal chieftains in the Middle Euphrates, a previously pro-American group, has issued a statement condemning the "barbaric massacres perpetrated by the United States in Najaf," according to al-Jazeerah's crawl. .... Although its Baghdad bureau is closed, al-Jazeerah still gets lots of video from Iraq .... Muqtada declared that "Najaf has triumphed over imperialism and imperial hubris" one is laughing, and in fact there are pro-Muqtada demonstrations all over Iraq, including in the hard line Sunni areas (!), and insurgencies. Indeed, there have been big demonstrations in Iran, Bahrain and Pakistan as well as in Iraq.
......Muqtada said that calling Iyad Allawi (he didn't mention him by name) a "Shiite" was like calling Saddam Hussein a "Muslim." ...

Aug 14 ~ "The US military looks more like the Israeli every day"

Reporting on the bombing of Samarra, "which has been in rebellion for many months and hasn't seemed to be under government control for a long time" Juan Cole comments :

Aug 14 ~"... they replaced Saddam with a government worse than him"

Juan Cole "In a press conference on Friday, Muqtada al-Sadr called on the caretaker government of Iyad Allawi to resign: "I advise the dictatorial, agent government to resign ... the whole Iraqi people demands the resignation of the government ... they replaced Saddam (Hussein) with a government worse than him."Muqtada seemed to accept the current de facto truce in Najaf, but warned that his militia would fight to the death rather than leave Najaf...A spokesman conveyed Sadr's sentiments: "I will not leave this holy city . . . We will remain here defending the holy shrines till victory or martyrdom."
The report also notes, "Sadr urged supporters in other cities in central and southern Iraq to continue their uprising, saying the truce was restricted to Najaf."
Juan Cole remarks drily, "Obviously, Allawi and the Americans have Muqtada right where he wants them."
Meanwhile, there were large demonstrations in Iraq and throughout the Middle East on Friday protesting the US assault on Najaf.

Aug 14 ~Kofi Annan is "deeply saddened" by the violence

"...Asking all parties in Iraq to show restraint, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has offered the world body's help to end the current fighting in that country, particularly in the holy city of Najaf. In a statement, he reaffirmed that the force should be used as a last resort, pointing out that the United Nations stood for the peaceful settlement of disputes. ..... Annan was "deeply saddened" by the violence and "especially concerned" about reports on the condition of Moqtada Al-Sadr, a Shiite Muslim cleric leading his militia in the fight against US and Iraqi interim Government forces in Najaf, who was wounded, his spokesman said. "The Secretary-General believes that all of us want to see Iraq become a civil society, based on the rule of law. .." See Hindustan Times

Aug 13 ~ If the UK journalist is freed unharmed it will be - apparently - because of the intervention of Muqtada al-Sadr

See Reuters report this afternoon.
Juan Cole comments on the young cleric today ".....Although Muqtada and his men are now under siege, Waco-style, it is not for sure that the Marines can capture or kill him. I suspect Najaf is crisscrossed by underground tunnels, which is how Muqtada and others used to evade Saddam's secret police.
If he is trapped in the shrine, and the siege goes on very long, that in itself could inflame Shiite passions against the US. ....
My guess is that if Muqtada is killed, and maybe also if he is captured and imprisoned, that will tip the Sadr movement into conducting a long-term low-intensity guerrilla war, similar to what Sunni radicals and Arab nationalists have done in the Sunni heartland for the past 16 months. The south had been much quieter than the Sunni Arab areas, but I suspect that calm can no longer be taken for granted. The question is what happens to the Iraqi government if it faces two major guerrilla insurgencies going on at the same time...."

Aug 12 ~ UN mission in Iraq extended for a year

The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on Thursday extending the UN mission in Iraq for a year. How significant a role the UN can play remains to be seen. See Reuters report

Aug 11 ~ an executioner's charter.

Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian ".....Liberal hearts will have sunk at last week's announcement that Iraq is to restore the death penalty. But, OK, they understand. Iraq is not Sweden; the Middle East is a tough neighbourhood. Everyone else, and Iraq's American sponsor, has capital punishment for murderers so why would Baghdad be any different? Except Iraq will execute not only those convicted of murder but anyone found guilty of either distributing drugs or the handily catch-all crime of "endangering national security". That sounds like an executioner's charter. Any unwelcome political activity could be branded a danger to national security, with the irritant duly put to death. .." Read in full

Aug 10 ~the White House had asked them to announce the arrest or killing of any "high-value [al-Qaeda] target" any time between July 26 and 28, the first three days of the Democratic Convention.

New York Senator Charles Schumer is pressing the White House to explain why it leaked Khan's name to the press. "The outing of Khan, probably the most important asset the U.S. has ever had inside al-Qaeda, is a huge disaster and a setback to attempts to finish off the top leadership of al-Qaeda." See Juan Cole's Informed Comment website " way to shift the blame here from Tom Ridge or one of his aides, who told the press the information came from KhanYou don't tell a big group of journalists something you don't want to see in the newspapers the next day.... " Quoting Jim Lobe "Similarly, the administration announced the arrest in Pakistan of a senior al-Qaeda operative, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, wanted for organizing the 1998 suicide bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, on the third day of the Democratic convention, and three weeks after the The New Republic weekly quoted Pakistani intelligence officials as saying the White House had asked them to announce the arrest or killing of any "high-value [al-Qaeda] target" any time between July 26 and 28, the first three days of the Democratic Convention. At the time, former CIA officer Robert Baer said the announcement made "no sense." "To keep these guys off-balance, a lot of this stuff should be kept in secret. You get no benefit from announcing an arrest like this."

Aug 10 ~ Fresh fighting has broke out in Najaf

Reuters "U.S. warplanes were flying overhead while smoke was rising from near the city's ancient cemetery, a haven for fighters from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army who have been battling American marines for six straight days. Clashes also erupted in an impoverished Shi'ite Baghdad suburb as militiamen ignored a curfew order from Iraq's interim government, witnesses said. .... The radical Shi'ite uprising has virtually shut down several cities in Iraq and given Prime Minister Iyad Allawi his sternest test since taking over from U.S.-led occupiers on June 28. ...... Allawi has ordered Sadr's men to leave Najaf but the young firebrand cleric responded with defiance on Monday, saying he would keep resisting and never leave his hometown. .....
In the southern city of Basra, a British military spokeswoman said the streets were calm after clashes on Monday that killed one British soldier and wounded four others. .............. A roadside bomb apparently aimed at a U.S. military convoy exploded near hotels used by foreigners in Baghdad early on Tuesday, but Iraqi police said there were no casualties. ..... In Kirkuk, the deputy governor of the northern city escaped an assassination attempt late on Monday when attackers opened fire as he left his house. Police said he was unhurt.

Aug 10 ~ "..warrants against former Pentagon darling Ahmad Chalabi and his nephew Salem Chalabi

the U.S.-appointed lawyer supervising Saddam Hussein's trial. Both men dismissed the charges on Monday as politically motivated and said they would fight to clear their names. They are out of the country at the moment.
Another burden for Allawi has been a spate of kidnappings aimed at pressuring foreign forces and firms to leave Iraq. While around 20 foreigners remain in the hands of kidnappers in Iraq, a Syrian, two Jordanians and two Lebanese have been released, their families said on Monday." Reuters

Aug 8 ~ Al Jazeera office closed in Baghdad

"Deadly clashes rumbled on between US troops and Shiite Muslim fighters in Baghdad and the holy city of Najaf, as Iraq's caretaker government closed Al-Jazeera's office in the capital for a month after accusing it of fomenting violence. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said the decision to close the pan-Arabic satellite channel came after an independent committee monitored Al-Jazeera "to see what kind of violence they are advocating, inciting hatred and problems and racial tensions." ChannelNewsAsia

Aug 8 ~ ".. hundreds of Najaf families streamed out of the city on Saturday, terrified of the heavy warfare

being fought all around them. The US has aerially bombed Najaf cemetery and US tanks have targeted hotels in the city in an effort to get at the Mahdi army militiamen, of whom the US claims to have killed 300. This number has been challenged by the Sadrists, and local hospitals put the dead at closer to 76.... In New York, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Annan was "extremely concerned" about fighting in Iraq the past several days, particularly in the holy city of Najaf. "The United Nations is ready to extend its facilitating role to the current crisis, if this would be helpful," said the spokesman. Annan, the spokesman said in a statement, "believes that, in such a situation, force should be a last resort. He calls for every effort to be made, even at this late hour, to work out a ceasefire and peaceful solution." ." AFP

Aug 6 ~ I think this must be a typographical error for "30"

From Juan Cole's site: "Al-Obeidi says the Americans allege that they have killed 300 militants in Najaf. I think this must be a typographical error for "30"..."
This figure has been reported widely. It illustrates how news reports from Iraq are compiled from other sources rather than, as in the past, written by a newspaper's own war correspondent on the spot.
The illness of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has been flown to London for medical treatment for a heart condition, means he cannot intervene in the current fighting.

Aug 5 ~ military intelligence officers implicated in abuse at Abu Ghraib

US Army officers testifying at the hearing of Lynndie England have implicated military intelligence officers in acts of purported abuse. ChannelNews Asia"...Captain Brent Fitch told the hearing by telephone from Charlottesville, Virginia, he had seen a photograph that pictured three military intelligence (MI) officers abusing a detainee....He also testified that MI officers sometimes wore "sanitised" uniforms in the jail. The army says this was so detainees could not identify their interrogators.
Captain Carolyn Wood, who supervised MI interrogators at the prison between August and December of 2003, testified by telephone she had also seen a photograph of intelligence officers abusing detainees. "That was in May of this year," she answered when asked when she had seen the picture. "I signed a sworn statement."..."

Aug 4 ~ "Let me try to help Mr. Bush with this problem.."

"A sound bite from President Bush on Monday strikes me as emblematic of the country's current crisis" writes Juan Cole "He (Bush) said, Let me try to help Mr. Bush with this problem. The number of persons in the Muslim world who wanted to inflict direct damage on the US homeland in 2000 was tiny. Even within al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri's theory of "hitting the distant enemy before the near" (i.e. striking the US rather than Egypt or Saudi Arabia) was controversial.
The Muslim world was largely sympathetic to the US after the 9/11 attacks. Iranians held candlelight vigils, and governments and newspapers condemned terrorism. Bush's unprovoked attack on Iraq, however, turned people against the US. The brutal, selfish, exploitative occupation, the vicious siege of Fallujah, the tank battles in front of the shrine of Ali, a vicar of the Prophet, Abu Ghuraib, and other public relations disasters have done their work. .." See Juan Cole's website

Aug 4 ~ The Guardian and the Independent on the years old "intelligence" that became yesterday a "clear and present danger"

"Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security Secretary, admitted yesterday that the decision to warn the financial institutions was based on information that was at least three years old..."

Aug 3 ~ Musaad Aruchi's arrest took place on June 12.

"He had with him street maps of New York City without the front cover, and addresses of some other important buildings," the official said. "There were some data CDs also recovered from him."
The Washington Post reports the "Valuable Leads" following the arrest of a "senior al Qaeda operative", Musaad Aruchi, and his subsequent interrogation.......All key al Qaeda suspects arrested in Pakistan have been handed over to U.S. authorities for broader investigation."
Juan Cole comments: "Musaad Aruchi is the one who gave up Muhammad Na'im Nur Khan of Lahore, a computer expert who appears to have been doing email for the hidden al-Qaeda leadership. Police also found Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani, a key player in the East Africa embassy bombings.
It just struck me that the people who made these arrests and gave the information over to the United States are Pakistani Muslims. Pakistan gets plenty of blame when it fails, but how often do Americans give full credit to their Muslim allies in struggle against terror (i.e. against radical fundamentalism)?"
As for the terror reports today, the New York Times says: "The information, which detailed meticulous scouting of banking institutions in New York, Newark and Washington in preparation for a possible truck or car bomb attack, left significant gaps. The information did not clearly indicate when or how the plot was to unfold, nor did it describe the identities of people involved."

August 2 2004 ~ just as, before the war, our governments warned us of threats that did not exist, now they hide from us the threats that do exist.

Robert Fisk yesterday "..What, indeed, are we to make of a war which is turned into a fantasy by those who started it? As foreign workers pour out of Iraq for fear of their lives, US Secretary of State Colin Powell tells a press conference that hostage-taking is having an "effect" on reconstruction. Effect! Oil pipeline explosions are now as regular as power cuts. In parts of Baghdad now, they have only four hours of electricity a day; the streets swarm with foreign mercenaries, guns poking from windows, shouting abusively at Iraqis who don’t clear the way for them. This is the "safer" Iraq which Mr Blair was boasting of the other day. What world does the British Government exist in?" Read in full

July 30 ~ 'A battleground for al-Qa'ida': MPs deliver damning verdict on Iraq war and aftermath

See reports about the Foreign Affairs Committee's findings from the BBC and the Independent. "Iraq risks becoming a "failed state" which could destabilise the Middle East, a powerful committee of MPs warned yesterday as they delivered a damning verdict on the war on international terrorism...Their scathing 70,000-word report warned there were insufficient troops to provide security on the ground in Iraq, and said Britain's credibility in the country was being damaged by the failure to restore basic services to the Iraqi people.
...The report pointed to failures in communication in the Foreign Office over the infamous claim that Saddam could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, and the fact that Red Cross allegations of prisoner abuse by British troops were withheld from ministers and senior officials. It said Foreign Office officials in Iraq attended a meeting with the International Committee of the Red Cross in February to be presented with the interim findings of their inquiry into detainee mistreatment. But ministers received copies only on 10 May, after reports about the findings emerged in the press. ". (Independent) "

July 30 ~ Juan Cole explains how Kerry's plan for Iraq could work if the UN were brought in

(Kerry said - to howls of approval: We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.")
Juan Cole comments: The first problem with involving the international community is that the US effort in Iraq lacks international legitimacy. Moreover, the Bush administration has insisted that the troops of its coalition partners (some of whom, like the Poles, are being paid by the US to be in Iraq) remain under over-all United States military command.
However he concludes his comment with this: and the posting is very worth reading in full

July 28 ~ He is simply lying

Juan Cole today: " The question is whether the quagmire in Iraq makes the US look weak. The answer is yes. Therefore, by Cheney's own reasoning, it is a mistake that opens us to further attacks.
Reuters reports, "Cheney said Americans were safer and he stood by prewar characterizations of Iraq as a threat despite the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and new warnings by Cheney and other administration officials that another major terrorist attack may be coming."
Iraq was not a threat to the United States. Period. Let me repeat the statistics as of the late 1990s:
US population: 295 million
Iraq population: 24 million

US per capita annual income: $37,600
Iraq per capita annual income: $700

US nuclear warheads: 10,455
Iraq nuclear warheads: 0

US tons of lethal chemical weapons (1997): 31,496
Iraq tons of lethal chemical weapons (1997): 0

While a small terrorist organization could hit the US because it has no return address, a major state could not hope to avoid retribution and therefore would be deterred. Cheney knows that Baathist Iraq posed no threat to the US. He is simply lying....."

July 28 ~ Baghdad is a city that reeks with the stench of the dead

Robert Fisk in "portfolio" article in the Independent "The smell of the dead pours into the street through the air-conditioning ducts. Hot, sweet, overwhelming. Inside the Baghdad morgue, there are so many corpses that the fridges are overflowing. The dead are on the floor. Dozens of them. Outside, in the 46C (114F) heat, Qadum Ganawi tells me how his brother Hassan was murdered..."

July 26 ~ Ministers have stripped Army commanders in Iraq of their power to veto criminal investigation of their troops after a string of cases alleging mistreatment of Iraqis.

This story in the Independent yesterday is best read in full. The first legal challenge to the conduct of British forces in Iraq will be heard in the High Court this week.

July 25 ~ Correcting the Record on Sept. 11, in Great Detail

New York Times ".... the commission pressured the White House to declassify and make public a special intelligence briefing that had been presented to the president at his Texas ranch on Aug. 6, 2001, a month before the attacks.
..... In testimony this April to the Sept. 11 commission, before it was made public, Ms. Rice insisted that the report was "historical."
"It did not, in fact, warn of attacks inside the United States," she testified. "It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information.''
But there were gasps in the audience in the hearing room when she disclosed the name of the two-page briefing paper: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack in U.S." ..... It noted that a caller to the United States Embassy in the United Arab Emirates that May had warned that "a group of bin Laden supporters was in the U.S.," planning attacks with explosives. The commission's final report revealed that two C.I.A. analysts involved in preparing the brief had wanted to make clear to Mr. Bush that, far from being only a historical threat, the threat that Al Qaeda would strike on American soil was "both current and serious." Read in full

July 25 ~ "This is what Iraq has become," Mr. Ali explained. "Goods to be sold."

New York Times today "The war in Iraq has been especially disillusioning for young Iraqi artists, many of whom believed the American promises of freedom. As the old order fell, they sat in their cracked-window studios and at paint-splattered easels and dreamed of an Iraqi renaissance.
They dream still.
..... The amount of violence has stunned these artists. It has robbed them of business, killed classmates and made it difficult to work and live.
..... among many mature artists who say that all the recent death and destruction have turned them inward, seeking to make sense of a world that does not make sense.
"Of all the troubles we've been through, this period has been the hardest," Mr. Hayat said. "In our own country, we now feel like strangers."....
.....In mid-April, the Ministry of Culture tried to put on a big show to celebrate the first anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein. The problem was, not many artists felt like celebrating. "We don't consider this moment the end of Saddam," said Juma Shumran, manager of Baghdad's Hewar Gallery. "We consider it the beginning of the occupation."....."

July 23 ~ " It has been estimated that there is now one private contractor for every 10 soldiers in Iraq."

See Profits of war in the Guardian
"Halliburton has become a byword for the cosy links between the White House and Texan big business. But how did the company run in the 90s by Dick Cheney secure a deal that guaranteed it millions in profit every time the US military saw action? ...... ....Cheney was in charge of Halliburton when it was circumventing strict UN sanctions, helping to rebuild Iraq and enriching Saddam Hussein. ....
In September 2003, Cheney insisted: "Since I've left Halliburton to become George Bush's vice-president, I've severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interests. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't now for over three years." The Congressional Research Service (CRS), a non-partisan agency that investigates political issues at the request of elected officials, says otherwise. Cheney has been receiving a deferred salary from Halliburton in the years since he left the company. In 2001, he received $205,298. In 2002, he drew $162,392. He is scheduled to receive similar payments through 2005, and has an insurance policy in place to protect the payments in the event that Halliburton should fold." (Read in full)

July 23 ~ "Bush and his administration came into office obsessed with Iraq. Cheney was looking at maps of Iraq oil fields...

....and muttering about opportunities for US companies there, already in January or February of 2001. Wolfowitz contradicted counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke when the latter spoke of the al-Qaeda threat, insisting that the preeminent threat of terrorism against the US came from Iraq, and indicating he accepted Laurie Mylroie's crackpot conspiracy theory that Saddam was behind the 1993 World Trade Towers bombing. If you believe crackpot theories instead of focusing on the reality--that was an al-Qaeda operation mainly carried out by al-Gamaa al-Islamiyyah, an Egyptian terrorist component allied with Bin Laden-- then you will concentrate on the wrong threat.
Even after the attacks on September 11, Bush was obsessing about Iraq. Wolfowitz lied to him and said that there was a 10 to 50% chance that Iraq was behind them. (On what evidence? The hijackers were obviously al-Qaeda, and no operational links between al-Qaeda and Iraq had ever been found)." Juan Cole on the findings of the September 11 Panel (More)

July 23 ~ The Pakistan Connection

As Michael Meacher writes in the Guardian today "There is evidence of foreign intelligence backing for the 9/11 hijackers. Why is the US government so keen to cover it up?"
Juan Cole comments: "..Clinton had worked out a deal with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in summer of 1999 that would have allowed the US to send a Special Ops team in after Bin Laden in Qandahar, based from Pakistan. I presume you need the Pakistan base for rescue operations in case anything went wrong. You also need Pakistani air space. The plan was all set and could have succeeded. But in fall of 1999, Gen. Pervez Musharraf made a coup against Nawaz Sharif. The Pakistani army was rife with elements protective of the Taliban, and the new military government reneged on the deal. Musharraf told Clinton he couldn't use Pakistani soil or air space to send the team in against Bin Laden. Look at a map and you try to figure out how, in fall of 1999, you could possibly pull off such an operation without Pakistani facilities. Of course, you could just go in by main force. But for those of you tempted in that direction, please look up Carter's Tabas operation. It should be easily googled"

July 23 ~ The American arrested for running a private interrogation centre in Afghanistan says "Rumsfeld knew all about the torture"

July 20 ~ the awarding of three contracts to Halliburton without a competitive bidding process was"a source of concern"

Guardian (Henry Waxman) "also asks why the White House has "failed to comply with numerous IAMb requests [for information about] payments of approximately $1.5bn inDFI funds to Halliburton" - the Texas-based oil services company formerly headed by the vice-president, Dick Cheney. Mr Waxman is not alone in asking questions. In April this year, the chairman of the IAMB, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, wrote to Mr Bremer saying the awarding of three contracts to Halliburton without a competitive bidding process was"a source of concern". His letter appears to have had little effect. The IAMB is now reviewing the CPA's overall conduct and must decide whether a full investigation is necessary. ...Halliburton was the largest single recipient of Iraqi oil funds during the occupation, according to the Army Corps of Engineers' figures released last month. And among US politicians, according to the Center for Public Integrity, Mr Bush has been the largest single recipient of US oil and gas industry campaign contributions since 1998 - his total stands at $1,724,579.

July 20 ~ "Attacks on US troops are running at dozens a day, frequently accompanied by looting, burning and stoning.

" Iraq is not improving, it's a disaster. The only sensible objective now is orderly disengagement, and soon" .. It is generally believed in Baghdad that around 1,000 Iraqis leave the country every day for Jordan and Syria because the security situation is intolerable. ..." Oliver Miles in the Guardian

July 20 ~ now they must endure the anarchy we call freedom.

Robert Fisk in the Independent "Yes, it is a shameful reflection on our invasion of Iraq - let us solemnly remember 'weapons of mass destruction' - but it is, above all, a tragedy for the Iraqis. They endured the repulsive Saddam. They endured our shameful UN sanctions. They endured our invasion. And now they must endure the anarchy we call freedom....
....That the 'muqawama' - the resistance - controls so many hundreds of square miles around Baghdad should be no great surprise. The new American-appointed Iraqi government has neither the police nor the soldiers to retake the land. They announce martial laws and telephone tapping and bans on demonstrations and a new intelligence service - but have neither the manpower nor the ability to turn these institutions into anything more than propaganda dreams for foreign journalists and a population that does desperately crave security.." Read in full

July 19 ~"... the report's concerns also lead back to the US company that has become inextricably linked with the occupation: Halliburton.

Given that the US vice president Dick Cheney was previously chief executive of Halliburton, the potential conflict of interest over its business dealings in Iraq were always going to be a focus of concern. Yet when the monitoring board's auditors asked for details of contracts involving Halliburton being paid for out of the oil funds, the Pentagon repeatedly refused. At issue are three contracts, worth a total of $1.4bn, awarded in noncompetitive tenders - meaning Halliburton was the sole bidder. The monitoring board rightly concluded that further investigation is required.
While the Butler report was couched in the language of the mandarin, the auditor's report was written in the language of accounting. But it is no less damning for that." Guardian leader

July 19 ~ "Britain has paid compensation to Iraqis over more than 120 incidents involving death, injury or property damage

in the British-occupied south of the country, the government said on Monday. In a written answer to the House of Commons, Defence Minister Adam Ingram said the compensation cases included one death in detention, six deaths in road accidents and 11 people with injuries sustained during arrest. ... Ingram did not give details of the financial settlements." IOL

July 19 ~ Al-Hawzah, the newspaper of the radical young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, will be allowed to publish again.

(Juan Cole) "The decision was taken by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi after the newspaper's staff approached his government. The Americans had closed the newspaper in March, as a prelude to their failed attempt to arrest Muqtada and crush his movement. (They did kill some 1500 of his fighters and pushed them back out of control of some key cities, but Muqtada's cadres are still numerous and his movement continues to thrive)."
"...14 died and 7 were wounded in an American airstrike on an Al-Tawhid facility in Fallujah that was supporting a trench line for radical Sunni fighters. Al-Tawhid has vowed to assassinate Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and has put a bounty on his head, and Allawi pointedly announced that he had authorized the airstrike. Local Fallujans maintained that those killed were civilians working in support of the Fallujah Brigade, the force that supplies security to the city. Meanwhile, Allawi left for Amman, Jordan, for his first consultations as PM outside Iraq with foreign leaders friendly to his regime. ."

July 18 ~ British army sanctioned the hooding of Iraqi prisoners

"The routine hooding of Iraqi prisoners was sanctioned by British army commanders despite repeated warnings that the practice broke human rights laws, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. Ministers have also admitted for the first time that hooding was banned only because its use played a direct part in the death of the hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, who was allegedly killed by British soldiers last September..."

July 17 ~Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses

Paul McGeough, Chief Sydney Morning Herald Correspondent, in Baghdad reports "Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings. They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs. They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death". The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.
But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence. ..."
Juan Cole comments: "Allawi was once a Baathist hit man in London who fell out with Saddam and then directed terrorist operations against Baghdad. Some reports suggest that one of his operations once resulted in the bombing of a schoolbus in which school children died."

July 17 ~ "...we were being told our son had been assassinated, probably by the CIA."

Scotsman "...He had not been in Baghdad long but he was asking questions, rocking the boat, maybe making himself unpopular. As a journalist he was not ‘on message’. We think he knew something that could have destabilised, or certainly embarrassed, the coalition and that’s why he was killed." ...... "Political assassinations involve cover-ups," says Mrs Wild. "We do not have the resources to find out exactly what went on, but we have certainly found out more than we were told." ....the anger at the official handling of Richard’s death will never completely abate. The Wilds were shocked to hear that the Foreign Office admitted initial reports about Richard’s death had been "misleading" but were delivered in good faith.
The Foreign Office also claimed to have given the family new information when it came to light. "That is a complete falsehood," says Mr Wild. "They have never been proactive in this and all the new information we have received has come to us from other sources."
Mrs Wild takes a letter from the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, from a pile of papers. "Look at this," she says. "He waffles on about the coalition military authorities being severely limited in their ability to investigate crimes and then says: ‘I can assure you that the nature of Richard’s work had no impact on whether or not there was an investigation’. Is he being deliberately obtuse? The whole point is that it was the nature of Richard’s death that might have influenced whether there was an investigation."... " Read in full

July 16 ~ The War on Learning - which began when the American army entered Baghdad.

While Sun readers may believe what Mr Blair and Mr Murdoch tell them about the world being a safer place, Robert Fisk reports on a wave of assassinations of Iraqi academics, over a dozen of whom have been assassinated in recent months. Read in full

July 16 ~ Allawi to create a new secret police

A headless body believed to be that of a Bulgarian hostage was found on Thursday. Interim Prime Minister Allawi announced that he was going to create a new secret police, raising alarums among some Iraqis who had suffered at the hands of Saddam's secret police and who had been hoping that the new Iraq would only have ordinary police.

July 16 ~ 32 Iraqis died in violence on Thursday.

Juan Cole "Guerrillas assassinated the chief of security for the Iraqi foreign ministry as he and colleagues traveled north from Baghdad toward Kirkuk. Two other officials were injured, as their car was sprayed by machine gun fire from a grey Opel about 110 km. north of the capital....
....Thousands of Iraqis demonstrated Thursday in Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala and Basra, demanding the execution of Saddam Hussein and protesting the return of former Baathists to administrative positions in the Allawi government and the Iraqi army. They also condemned the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. They chanted slogans against the United States and Zionism and "terrorism." ....

July 16 ~ Young male prisoners were filmed being sodomised by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison

near Baghdad, according to the journalist who first revealed the abuses there. Seymour Hersh, who reported on the torture of the prisoners in New Yorker magazine in May, told an audience in San Francisco that "it's worse". But he added that he would reveal the extent of the abuses: "I'm not done reporting on all this," he told a meeting of the American Civil Liberties Union. He said: "The boys were sodomised with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war." He accused the US administration, and all but accused President George Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney of complicity in covering up what he called "war crimes"..." Independent

July 16 ~ SIS withdrew the two reports in July 2003. The Hutton inquiry began taking evidence in August 2003.

Independent ".... Three out of five key sources for the most sensational claims in the Government's September 2002 dossier on Iraqi weapons proved to be so untrustworthy that MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service) officially withdrew their contributions. According to paragraph 405 of the Butler report, "in July 2003 ... SIS withdrew the two reports [about ongoing production of chemical weapons] because the sourcing chain had by then been discredited". The Hutton inquiry began taking evidence in August 2003
The withdrawals fatally undermine the case for war and would undoubtedly have had a significant bearing on the Hutton report. But they were not revealed to Lord Hutton by any of the government witnesses, who included Mr Blair, Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Scarlett, and Sir Richard Dearlove, the outgoing head of MI6. All stood by the claims in the dossier, although it is not clear how many were aware that the intelligence had been withdrawn..."

July 15 ~ "...He concluded, as must any sensible person, that Downing Street cooked the books before the invasion. "

Simon Jenkins on the Butler Report (Times) "...It offers a corrective to Lord Hutton, who last spring committed the unpardonable sin of implausibility. Lord Butler was asked whether the Prime Minister was a liar or a fool in presenting the case for invading Iraq. He gave the right answer, a fool with mitigating circumstances.
He concluded, as must any sensible person, that Downing Street cooked the books before the invasion. It distorted intelligence, over-egged the pudding and pulled a fast one with “45 minutes”. But its intentions were not deliberately mendacious, more faults of inexperience and eagerness.
Lord Butler clearly took the view that we knew already that this war was declared on a false prospectus and tens of thousands died as a result. We have already choked on Mr Blair’s excuse that Saddam Hussein killed lots of people too, and choked on his claim that Iraq is “a safer place” as a result. Like the Franks report on the Falklands, Lord Butler seems happy for the evidence to speak for itself. He lets history pass final judgment. His job was to find out the facts and apply, if not whitewash, at least a light coat of grey. If everyone was to blame, then so was no one. ..." Read in full

July 14 ~"...the report also criticised the government's controversial dossier on Iraqi weapons, published in the run up to war in September 2002, saying that it went to the "outer limits"

of the available intelligence.
It said that Tony Blair's statement in the Commons may have "reinforced the impression" that there was "fuller and firmer" intelligence behind the assessments in the dossier than was actually the case.
The inquiry acknowledged that its report would lead to calls for the resignation of John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee who drew up the dossier and who has since been appointed the chief of MI6.
It said that it hoped he would stay on. "We have a high regard for his abilities and his record," it said. .."
(warmwell comment: Does this not mean, in effect, that Lord Butler exonerates John Scarlett for the information that was teased out and spun by Downing Street. Remember Hutton on Sept 23)

July 14 ~ "I recently heard politicians as various as John Reid, Peter Hain and Tessa Jowell assert that weapons “will be found”.

I wondered what spell holds power over those anointed. When even George Bush began to hedge his bets before Christmas, Mr Blair seemed in a trance. He was still “absolutely convinced” that weapons were there. His craven apparat chorused its assent. Thus did 22 bishops vote Galileo guilty and keep the Earth at the centre of the Universe" Simon Jenkins Feb 4 2004

July 13 ~"It is the very existence of the dossier and the process that led to its publication that exposes the biggest untruth of the whole Iraq saga:

the pretence that the decision to go to war was evidence led. .." David Clark was a special adviser at the Foreign Office from 1997 to 2001 . Here is his comment in today's Guardian "To put the blame for war on the intelligence services would be a travesty"
"....The government's supporters argue that all Downing Street did was insist that the case against Iraq should be as strong as the JIC was willing to make it. But this misses a rather significant point. Had Blair been genuine in his belief that Iraq posed a serious threat, all he needed to do was publish a declassified version of the intelligence reports on which his conclusions were based. There would have been no need for anything "new" and "revelatory". What had convinced the prime minister ought to have been sufficient to convince the rest of us."

July 13 ~ the Butler committee has sent separate letters requesting information from Mr Blix, the chief UN arms inspector, and Mr ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Independent ".... Lord Butler of Brockwell's decision to extend his inquiries to Mr Blix and Mr ElBaradei, and their staff, is seen as ominous for Downing Street. Both the men have in the past disputed British claims about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction.
The Niger claim is especially problematic for the Government, as well as MI6, which has continued to back its alleged veracity despite it being widely dismissed by, among others, the US government.
.......Mr Blix .... said recently about the claim, in Mr Blair's dossier, that Iraq can deploy chemical and biological weapons in 45 minutes: "The intention was to dramatise it, just as the vendors of some merchandise are trying to exaggerate the importance of what they have. But from politicians and our leaders in the Western world, I think we can expect more than that. A bit more sincerity. ..."

July 12 ~ " intelligence assessments, which might have worked against the build-up to war, were sidelined."

Since January, we have publicised on this page the article from the Sunday Herald Spy chiefs warn PM: don't blame us for war (Jan 25 2004) which appeared on the eve of the Hutton Report. On the eve of the Butler Report it is as relevant as ever.
"Intelligence work had become politicised under Labour , and spies were taking orders from politicians. They provided worst-case scenarios which were used by politicians to make factual claims. ..." Read again and see today "MI6 distances itself from 45-minute weapons claim" in the Guardian. (The same warmwell page carries the article by Robin Cook in which he expresses "mystification" that Tony Blair said "... he had never understood that the intelligence agencies did not believe Saddam had long-range weapons of mass destruction" when he himself had received clarity on this very point from John Scarlett.)

July 12 ~ What created real urgency in Washington to start the invasion may have been the dawning realisation that Hans Blix was about to remove their pretext for war.

Robin Cook in the Guardian "... I had been briefed that Saddam's weapons were only battlefield ones and I could not conceive that the prime minister had been given a different version. My briefing took place in February at my residence at Carlton Gardens, where I was visited by John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. We spoke for almost an hour and - as always - I found him professional, dispassionate and frank in his replies. When I put to him my conclusion that Saddam had no long-range weapons of mass destruction but may have battlefield chemical weapons, he readily agreed. .... Saddam had taken apart the shells and dispersed them -with the result that it would be difficult to deploy them under attack. Not only did Saddam have no weapons of mass destruction in the real meaning of that phrase, neither did he have usable battlefield weapons.
I put these points to the prime minister a couple of weeks later. The exchange is recorded in my diary on March 5 2003..... "

July 11 ~ "even the CIA was critical of British intelligence. The agency was particularly disparaging of claims from British intelligence that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger

in Africa, cutting a passage from a keynote speech by George Bush in October 2002 which was to read: “The regime has been caught attempting to purchase up to 500 tonnes of uranium oxide from Africa .” One CIA official wrote a memo to the National Security Council (NSC) saying: “We told Congress that the Brits exaggerated this issue.” The line was dropped from the speech, but what remained points significantly to the way British and American politicians were intent on sexing up what intelligence they could. .." Sunday Herald
See also warmwell's page on the Niger scandal "...Germany's Der Spiegel accused the United States and the U.K. as the forgery perpetrators in a March 17 Web story titled, "Grounds for War Urgently Required: Forgeries and Half-Truths Intended To Heighten Fears of Saddam's Weapons Arsenal".... "

July 11 ~ Fury over Pentagon cell that briefed White House on Iraq's 'imaginary' al-Qaeda links

SundayTelegraph "....Mr Feith's cell undermined the credibility of CIA judgments on Iraq's alleged al-Qa'eda links within the highest levels of the Bush administration. The cell appears to have been set up by Mr Feith as an adjunct to the Office of Special Plans, a Pentagon intelligence-gathering operation established in the wake of 9/11 with the authority of Paul Wolfowitz. Its focus quickly became the al-Qa'eda-Saddam link. On occasion, without informing the then head of the CIA, George Tenet, the group gave counter-briefings in the White House. Sen Jay Rockefeller, the most senior Democrat on the committee, said that Mr Feith's cell may even have undertaken "unlawful" intelligence-gathering initiatives. ..."
Juan Cole comments: " What is remarkable is that the Democrats in the Senate apparently are beginning to get their footing and are actively gunning for Feith. He has strong support from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the main think tank of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), both of which have moved increasingly close to Israel's far-right Likud Party, and it will be interesting to see if the senators prove willing to buck this influential lobby. If so, and if it is done successfully, such a move could damage the myth of AIPAC's invincibility and open up American politics to a wider range of views on Mideast policy."

July 11 ~ " ...a big petroleum income combined with an influx of foreign aid could create hyper-inflation.

Getting the Iraqi economy right will be no easy task. Just having a lot of money sloshing around is not the same as development. Ask the Shah of Iran. .." Juan Cole

July 7 ~ "The tragedy is that people will go on believing Mylroie's weirdness

and she will keep getting invited on t.v. and to speak to Congress, and AEI will not suffer a loss of credibility because of this fiasco. If an assistant professor in a university wrote such nonsense, the person would never get tenure and would end up unemployed.
I guess if you have the backing of enough incredibly rich people, you can get away with almost anything." Juan Cole on the Bergen article below.

July 7 ~ Did one woman's obsession take America to war?

Peter Bergen in Guardian yesterday: " ... why were Bush and his aides so keen to swallow Laurie Mylroie's theories on Saddam and terrorism?...
Clarke writes: "I could hardly believe it, but Wolfowitz was spouting the Laurie Mylroie theory that Iraq was behind the 1993 truck bomb at the World Trade Centre, a theory that had been investigated for years and found to be totally untrue."
Mylroie's influence can also be seen in the Bush cabinet's reaction to the September 11 attacks. According to Bob Woodward's recent book, Plan of Attack, Wolfowitz told the cabinet immediately after the attacks that there was a 10 to 50% chance that Saddam was implicated. Around the same time, Bush told his aides: "I believe that Iraq was involved, but I'm not going to strike them now."
The most comprehensive criminal investigation in history - pursuing 500,000 leads and interviewing 175,000 people - has turned up no evidence of Iraqi involvement.
How is it that key members of the Bush administration believed otherwise? ...." Read in full Juan Cole comments:

July 7 ~" Although Allawi insisted that the law would not detract from civil liberties

it is hard to see how it could fail to curb freedom of association (curfews are like that), and the threat of censorship now looms." Juan Cole
......I also would add something to the argument about petroleum resources driving the Bush-Cheney imperial project.
Petroleum is fungible and cannot be "controlled." The question is who gets the profits from refining and distribution, and to what purpose the profits are put. The major new field in recent years is Tengiz in Kazakhstan, but the US hasn't menaced Astana. Likewise, only the Neocon lunatic fringe has spoken about attacking Saudi Arabia. I think the calculation is more complex. The targets are countries
  1. whose regimes are actively hostile to the United States;
  2. which practice a form of socialism that limits US corporations' ability to invest and extract profits from the country;
  3. which have valuable resources such as petroleum that can generate foreign exchange and buy powerful weapons, including WMD, and
  4. which menace or limit close US military allies in their region. Such states cannot be incorporated easily into US global hegemony.
Iraq and Iran fit the profile perfectly... so does North Korea. Libya is more ambiguous, especially given Qaddafi's change of policies in the late 1990s and into 2004. But Lebanon and Somalia were on the 7-nation hit list drawn up by the neocons, so in their case factor 4 was reinterpreted and given primacy, so that the goal must be establishing control over a key strategic waterway (Somalia & the Red Sea) and aiding and abetting Likud expansionism (versus Lebanon)."

July 6 ~ British forces face frequent mortar bomb attacks in 'quiet' Basra

Independent "...Hussain Abid, 35, whose two-year-old son was seriously injured in Sunday's attack, called yesterday for the Army to relocate. .........Since the recent transfer of power to the interim Iraqi government the Army has been trying to reduce its visible presence in Iraq's second largest city. Unlike the American forces farther north, British troops still receive a warm welcome from the majority of local people. Cars toot and drivers wave. Children rush up in the street - apparently undaunted by the sight of weaponry - to offer goods for sale or to talk.
Captain Richard Sernberg, of the Cheshire Regiment, said: "The situation is very different from the way it was in Northern Ireland or the Balkans. There is nowhere where we feel direct hostility towards us. In one of the poorer areas stones get thrown at the vehicles but it is just kids." More than 8,000 British troops now stationed in Iraq have worked hard to organise the rebuilding of police and ambulance stations, raise money for football strips and tournaments or retrain police and national guard recruits.
But, for some locals, the goodwill generated is negated by the continuing threat from their presence. "If the British Army wants to help Iraqi civilians they should move far from the city. It is dangerous for them to be here," Mr Abid said. ..."

July 5 ~ Hoon: "I am withholding further information under exemption 1 (Defence, Security and International Relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information."

Hansard for July 1 2004
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 23 June 2004, Official Report, column 1446W on Iraq, what the origin was of the foreign technology and technical assistance critical to the progress of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. [181399]
Mr. Hoon: I have already confirmed that Iraq was holding discussions with North Korea, and Her Majesty's Government 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction mentions an Indian chemical engineering company.
I am withholding further information under exemption 1 (Defence, Security and International Relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. "

July 5 ~ "The security disaster in Iraq, which was created by the ineptitude and overweening ambition of the United States, is extremely worrying to other countries in the region.

Fallujah and other Iraqi centers of radical Islamism and radical Arab nationalism could easily spill over into Jordan and Palestine. In short, you could have a Fallujah axis that stretched from Iraq's Sunni heartland to Zarqa, Irbid and Maan in Jordan, and thence to the West Bank and Gaza..." Juan Cole

July 5 ~ the Bush administration's "war on terror" was legal "nonsense" - conferring no more powers on the US to detain prisoners than "the war against obesity"

Independent "...Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the former deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office, said that the basis for going to war should always be based on "facts" rather than an "assertion" about an "imminent threat". Ms Wilmshurst said "it could be alleged that the use of force in Iraq was aggression" while "the kinds of abusive treatment of Iraqi prisoners that have been alleged could amount to war crimes".
.......she was worried about the lack of legal protection for Iraqis if they were harmed by allied troops or civilian contractors, including private security guards. She said it was "worrying" that the occupying powers had given immunity to US and British civilians which was "very, very wide" and "not what you would expect". They would be protected from prosecution even if they seriously injured Iraqi women and children.... .... "This rather extraordinary war against terror, which is a phrase that all lawyers hate ... is not really a 'war', a conflict against terror, any more than the war against obesity means that you can detain people," she said. ...." Read in full

July 5 ~ Downing Street is braced for a fresh storm of controversy over Iraq

as the (Butler) report raises serious questions about its dossier which included the infamous claim that Saddam could deploy the weapons within 45 minutes. Sir Jeremy (Greenstock) yesterday piled on the pressure for the Prime Minister when he said the "compelling" evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction was wrong. ..." Scotsman

July 4 ~ Pentagon Tried to Censor Saddam's Hearing

Robert Fisk, reported by "A team of US military officers acted as censors over all coverage of the hearings of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen on Thursday, destroying videotape of Saddam in chains and deleting the entire recorded legal submissions of 11 senior members of his former regime. ....... an American admiral in civilian clothes told camera crews that the judge had demanded that there should be no sound recording of the initial hearing. He ordered crews to unplug their sound wires. Several of the six crews present pretended to obey the instruction. "We learnt later," one of them said, "that the judge didn't order us to turn off our sound. The Americans lied--it was they who wanted no sound. The judge wanted sound and pictures." ........... The Americans decided what the world could and could not see of this trial--and it was meant to be an Iraqi trial. There was a British official in the courtroom whom we were not allowed to take pictures of. The other men were US troops who had been ordered to wear ordinary clothes so that they were 'civilians' in the court."
...... Television stations throughout the world were astonished yesterday when the first tapes of Saddam's trial arrived without sound and have still not been informed that the Americans censored the material.
...... Judge Juhi said not long ago that "I have no secrets--a judge must not be ashamed of the decisions he takes." The Americans apparently think differently. " Read in full

July 4 ~" the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush sold military goods to Iraq, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological agents

worked to stop the flow of weapons to Iran, and undertook discreet diplomatic initiatives, such as the two Rumsfeld trips to Baghdad, to improve relations with Saddam Hussein." (Washington Post) See Juan Cole on "Rumsfeld, Bechtel and Iraq" and also his comments on the situation this weekend."... It is also not clear that Saddam's trial would actually cast Bush in a positive light. Saddam can after all accurately report that Donald Rumsfeld came to him in 1984 with a letter from George Schultz saying that the US did not really mean it when it criticized Iraq for using chemical weapons against Iranian troops. (The documents have been published by the National Security Archive). Other damaging information may also come out in a trial. ..."

July 3 ~ nobody in Yusufiyah dares to go to the Americans or to the Iraqi government to report what is going on there.

Juan Cole "... the Sunni mujahidin [radical Islamist fighters] are attacking Shiites with the intention to drive them out of those areas adjacent to the "Sunni triangle" . . . A. is a very reasonable quiet man, even after his eldest son was killed some three weeks ago. He said also, that in areas where you have a Sunni majority (e.g. Abu Ghraib area) Shiites are already leaving. And: Mujahidin are killing people with every possible pretext, for example persons who were in American custody and were released after some days are killed as "collaborators". With the consequence that nobody in Yusufiyah dares to go to the Americans or to the Iraqi government to report what is going on there. A. thinks that the mujahidin want to make a kind of "Sunni belt" around Bagdad.

July 3 ~ as Paul Bremer flew out, John Negroponte entered. " Paul Bremer flew out, John Negroponte entered. The new US ambassador takes charge of what is intended to be the largest embassy in any country in the world. Almost 1,000 Americans supported by 700 Iraqis will staff the new Baghdad mission; over $480 million is allocated to construct and protect it and numerous other American diplomatic sites across Iraq.
These missions are being established in Mosul, Kirkuk, Hilla and Basra; there will be five further regional diplomatic teams, in addition to 200 advisers working with Iraqi ministries. All this is highly indicative of the continuing and intensive US involvement in the country. It suggests, to put it in rather less than diplomatic language, that Iraq’s “interim government” is the outward face of a client regime. .."

July 3 ~ Washington has consistently underestimated the insurgency in Iraq - the Fallujah Protection Army is now working closely with anti–coalition mujahideen insurgents "...A single period of twenty–four hours on 28–29 June is emblematic: three United States marines were killed by a roadside bomb; two Iraqis were killed in a separate attack on a US military convoy near Baquba; a US soldier, Keith Maupin, was reported murdered after being taken hostage; and a British soldier was killed in southern Iraq, while Britain’s foreign office named the security consultant killed the previous week.
There were further attacks against Iraqi targets, including a raid on a police station in Mahmudiya that killed a police officer and a civilian. A roadside bomb in Kirkuk was intended to assassinate Major Ahmed al–Hamawandi, the head of police in Azadi district. He escaped with injuries but one of his bodyguards was killed.
Washington continues to portray all this as little more than routine violence, while US sources emphasise the “end of occupation” and the beginning of a new era. The truth of these claims will soon become clear; early indications are mostly negative, whatever the short–term “spin”.
Indeed, it has become clear in recent weeks that Washington has consistently underestimated the insurgency in Iraq...
....current situation in Fallujah reveals that the Fallujah Protection Army (FPA), established with US agreement when the marines failed to establish control of the city, is now working closely with anti–coalition mujahideen insurgents. ..... ..Thus, a major population centre is now effectively under insurgent control, and it seems that insurgents themselves are progressively embracing more fundamentalist religious attitudes in a country with strong secular traditions.
The second notable aspect of the insurgency is the increase in hostage–taking... ."

July 2 ~ "This is a childish play, written by children for children. We have real needs and they want us to go and watch a play."

Robert Fisk "... Even yesterday, the BBC was telling viewers that Saddam's appearance in court was "exactly what Iraqis have been waiting for". Alas, Iraqis have been waiting for electricity and safety and freedom from crime and elections far more than the trial of the miserable old murderer who will be paraded before us. As an Iraqi woman financial consultant - no friend of the Baath party - put it to me yesterday: "This is a childish play, written by children for children. We have real needs and they want us to go and watch a play." Read in full

June 30 ~ Those of us who put quotation marks around "liberation" in 2003 should now put quotation marks around "sovereignty". Doing this has become part of the reporting of the Middle East.

Robert Fisk The Handover: Restoration of Iraqi sovereignty - or Alice in Wonderland? "....martial law, the sine qua non of every Arab dictatorship--this time to be imposed on an Arab state, heaven spare us, by a Western army led by an avowedly Christian government. Who was the last man to impose martial law on Iraqis? Wasn't it Saddam Hussein?....
..The new Iraqi Prime Minister will soon introduce martial law --journalists who think they can escape criticism should reflect again--and thus we can all wait for a request for more American troops "at the formal request of the provincial government". Wait, then, for the first expulsion of journalists. Democratic elections will be held in Iraq, "it is hoped", within five months.
Well, we shall see."

June 30 ~ On Monday the Magnificent Two, George W.Bush and Tony Blair, stole out of town at dead of night, leaving bandits roaming the streets and citizens cowering in their homes.

They had promised to stay “until the job is done”. It is not done, but they are going. .." Simon Jenkins in the Times

June 29 ~ US hands sovereignty back to Iraq without any fanfare

FT " The much-heralded transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people was stripped of all fanfare and carried out yesterday ahead of schedule and out of sight behind the high walls of the US compound in central Baghdad.
In an attempt to forestall the threat of terrorist violence, the US formally handed over authority two days earlier than planned, during a sparsely attended, five-minute ceremony in a nondescript room in the office of Iyad Allawi, Iraq's new interim prime minister. The event was announced after it took place. ...
...a British soldier, the 60th to die in Iraq since the invasion was launched, was killed yesterday by a roadside bomb in the southern city of Basra.
Mr Bush, who faces a tough re-election battle this year amid growing discontent over US involvement in Iraq, later called the formal handover in Baghdad "a day of great hope for Iraqis and a day that terrorist enemies hoped never to see".
....Asked if the US supported martial law, or other similar policies expected to be enacted by Mr Allawi, Mr Bush was vague. He characterised the Iraqi prime minister as a man who recognised human rights. But Mr Bush also indicated that the new leader would have to use a firm hand to combat terrorists.
Tony Blair, Mr Bush's closest coalition ally, also gave his backing to Mr Allawi. He said: "Undoubtedly the new Iraqi government will want to take tough security measures. They have to. But it's not going to be about taking away people's freedoms, it's going to be about allowing those freedoms to happen."
The president said the decision to accelerate the handover had been taken by Mr Allawi, who argued it would give him a stronger hand to deal with insurgency. "

June 29 ~ Condaleeza Rice "...her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration."

Juan Cole today "Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration. (Or words to that effect). Ifill seems to me to have given away the whole Bush show. That's what this whole thing is about. It is Public Relations and manipulation of journalists. Let's see if they fall for it.
Allawi is not popular and was not elected by anyone in Iraq. The Kurds were sullen today. There were no public celebrations in Baghdad. When people in the Arab world are really happy, there is celebratory fire. They are willing to give Allawi a chance, but that is different from wholehearted support. What has changed? The big change is that Allawi now controls the Iraqi government's $20 billion a year in income. About $10 bn. of that is oil revenues, and those may be hurt this year by extensive sabotage. To tell you the truth, I can't imagine where the other $10 bn. comes from. The government can't collect much in taxes. Some of it may be foreign aid, but not much of that has come in. The problem is that the Iraqi government probably needs $30 billion to run the government properly, and with only 2/3s of that or less, the government will be weak and somewhat ineffective...."

June 29 ~ "The handover of "full sovereignty" was secretly brought forward

so that the ex-CIA intelligence officer who is now "Prime Minister" of Iraq could avoid another bloody offensive by America's enemies. What is supposed to be the most important date in Iraq's modern history was changed ­ like a birthday party ­ because it might rain on Wednesday..." Robert Fisk in the Independent

June 28 ~ "The way in which the Iraq war was a manipulated get-up job was also graphically and well portrayed.

Likewise the cynical use of the "war on terror" to erode Americans' basic civil liberties is appropriately presented in canny and strident tones." Juan Cole's even-handed review of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11

June 28 ~ " the Butler inquiry is now delving into highly damaging allegations of a "spinning operation" by Number 10 to regional newspapers on the day the report on the 45-minute claim was published."

The Butler inquiry was expected to produce another cover-up, limiting its investigation into the flawed intelligence which led Mr Blair to claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But The Independent has learnt that the Butler inquiry is now delving into highly damaging allegations of a "spinning operation" by Number 10 to regional newspapers on the day the report on the 45-minute claim was published. The former cabinet secretary has written to the editors of provincial newspapers asking whether Downing Street officials were responsible for briefing about Saddam's ability to use weapons of mass destruction against British targets, such as Cyprus, in 45 minutes.

June 28 ~ "vast sums have been lost due to incompetence, theft and corruption.

Huge contracts were given out to Western - overwhelmingly American - companies, some charging almost 10 times the price of local ones. Iraqi companies began to receive contracts only two months ago, and then only for projects of less than $500,000...." Independent

June 23 ~ "...contemporary Iraq is not like China, Vietnam and Laos. It is like Iran in the 1970s. "

writes professor Juan Cole this morning "An urban insurgency/ revolution can in fact win, and win quite decisively, as the urban crowds won out over the shah. The shah tried everything to put down the urban crowds. He had them spied on. He had them shot at. Nothing worked. The urban crowds just got bigger and bigger.
The guerrillas in Iraq are hoping to provoke big, frequent demonstrations by the urban crowd. If elections are not held in January, or if they are widely felt to be unfair or stage-managed-- and if US troops overstay their welcome, we could well see the big crowds start coming out. The big threat for the US is if dissatisfaction with the situation and with the US presence becomes generalized in both the Shiite and the Sunni communities. If Grand Ayatollah Sistani and Sunni cleric Hareth al-Dhari both call for the crowds to come out, you could have hundreds of thousands in the streets.
Big, frequent urban demonstrations, in Mosul, Baghdad, Najaf, Basra, etc., would be a trump card. The US and the UK would just have to leave. ..."

June 23 "..released documents show that in December 2002, Mr Rumsfeld approved harsh interrogation techniques for Taleban and al-Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo

only to rescind many of those weeks later and approve less aggressive techniques in April 2003, reportedly after military lawyers claimed they went too far.
The methods he originally approved included forcing a prisoner to stand for up to four hours, light deprivation, isolation from others for up to 30 days and interrogations lasting as long as 20 hours.
He also approved the forced shaving of facial hair, stripping prisoners naked and the use of dogs to induce fear - tactics of particular interest as they were later used in Abu Ghraib. ..
....In releasing the documents the White House has been accused of trying to paper over the cracks rather than actually address the problem of prisoner abuse. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont accused the Bush administration of releasing a "self-serving selection" of documents.
"The stonewalling in the prison abuse scandal has been building to a crisis point," he said. " BBC

June 22 ~ Iraq War not Worth it: 52% of Americans

A new Washington Post/ABC poll shows that a majority of Americans now feels that the Iraq War was not worth it. It cost too many US lives, according to 70% of them, and 51% thought that it had not made Americans any safer. Not only has President Bush's approval rating on the war on terror fallen to 50%, but the public now prefers Kerry to handle terrorism, 48% to 47% (Bush has lost 20% on this issue since March). Three-fourths of Americans say the war has damaged America's image in the world.

June 21 ~ firm evidence of terror.

Jon Snow's Channel 4 update. " A reign of terror inside Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The first three Americans to go on trial charged with brutalising abusing and worse in regard to Iraqi prisoners. Their defence will be that it was orders from on high, for which the Washington Post seems to have provided two key memos from within the US administration. At the same time four American soldiers killed, on camera.."
See also the Washington Post page which has the relevant links to a 2002 Department of Justice memo (pdf) which suggested torture of terrorist detainees abroad "may be justified " and a March 2003 Pentagon memo revealing how Bush administration lawyers rationalized that "compliance with international treaties and U.S. laws prohibiting torture could be overlooked because of legal technicalities and national security needs."

June 21 ~ "an improbable and wholly cynical alliance

"...The American attempt to destroy Chalabi politically, and to destroy Muqtada al-Sadr physically, has so far failed miserably. Allawi is clearly eager to do business with both, and to pull them into his orbit. Both are now poised to gain seats in the proto-parliament, the national advisory council, and they have made an improbable and wholly cynical alliance with one another, according to an informed Iraqi observer. The two of them could well show up in the government to be formed in January, 2005. .." Juan Cole

June 21 ~ "The Shiite International has turned anti-US, and we will see trouble out of it."

Juan Cole "Thousands of Indian Shiites came out into the streets of New Delhi Sunday to protest harsh US policies in Iraq and to demand that the United Nations take the leading role in putting the country back on its feet. They were supported by Hindu friends. The Indian Shiites were angered at the US because of its desecration of the holy shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala. Indian Shiites have in recent decades been moderate and politically timid, but this issue has clearly galvanized them. Among the many stupid actions undertaken by Mssrs. Bremer and Sanchez (i.e. by Mr. Bush), having US troops fire tank shells and call in air strikes in the vicinity of the shrines of Ali and Husayn has to be right up there at the top.
The Shiite International has turned anti-US, and we will see trouble out of it."

June 21 ~ "The nexus of disinformation about the Saddam government and about terrorist activity in Iraq may lie in tales fed to Mossad by the Kurds, who in turn passed it to Washington. "

At the end of Juan Cole's roundup of the now daily bombing and destruction in Iraq - news that has virtually disappeared from Western papers - we read,

June 19 ~ Interview with Juan Cole in Asia Times ".... the plan was born out of enormous ignorance of the Middle East.

Remember, people with training in economics and political science very frequently stay away from knowing details. They have a set of principles, they think they are physicists, so the people planning this out, most of them knew no Arabic or anything really about the history and culture and society of the Arab world. ..."

June 19 ~ The big lie - Axis of Deceit by Andrew Wilkie

Extract in the Sydney Morning Herald "....The assessment of the British Government seemed particularly weak, not least because of the way in which serious gaps had been backfilled with reams of allegations that I knew couldn't possibly be supported by hard intelligence. By early 2003, as part of my work at the Office of National Assessments (ONA), I was spending considerable time trawling through the vast intelligence database on Iraq so as to be ready to help cover the war once it started. What jumped out at me was that the war had little to do with weapons of mass destruction and almost nothing to do with al-Qaeda. We were on the cusp of waging an unjustified war on the basis of a preposterous lie. ...... Tony Blair and John Howard understood this clearly because their intelligence agencies were telling them so - I know this was the case in Australia and I'm certain the situation was identical in the UK...." read in full

June 19 ~ Imperial Hubris

Guardian "A senior US intelligence official is about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the west is losing the war against al-Qaida and that an "avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked" war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands. Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, due out next month, dismisses two of the most frequent boasts of the Bush administration: that Bin Laden and al-Qaida are "on the run" and that the Iraq invasion has made America safer. ...
...unprecedented in being the work of a serving official with nearly 20 years experience in counter-terrorism who is still part of the intelligence establishment.
The fact that he has been allowed to publish, albeit anonymously and without naming which agency he works for, may reflect the increasing frustration of senior intelligence officials at the course the administration has taken.
Peter Bergen, the author of two books on Bin Laden and al-Qaida, said: "His views represent an amped-up version of what is emerging as a consensus among intelligence counter-terrorist professionals." " Read in full

June 18 ~ "... a classic case of none being so blind as those who will not see."

The Guardian Leader today : (Extract) " "We stand by what was said publicly," said the White House spokesman, thus endorsing the stream of loose and contradictory claims made by the president and vice-president as they have thrashed around to justify the Iraq war. A year ago George Bush, in his prematurely triumphal aircraft-carrier speech, asserted that "we've removed an ally [Iraq] of al-Qaida". Last September Dick Cheney called Iraq "the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on September 11".
Downing Street yesterday made its usual effort to avoid contradicting Mr Bush, claiming that Saddam had created "a permissive environment for terrorism". We must still hope that a British prime minister, unlike a US president, will one day admit that his reason for going to war - the mythical weapons of mass destruction - was wrong." Read in full

June 18 ~ On Thursday both President Bush and Vice President Cheney stuck with their assertions of a close tie between Saddam Hussein and Usamah Bin Laden. ".. Cheney even had the nerve to attack the New York Times for daring to report the findings of the 9/11 commission that there was no operational involvement of Iraq in September 11 (something that even Bush had earlier admitted when pushed).
Cheney as much as admitted that he gets his news on these things from the National Review, a rightwing magazine that is not known for having real experts on the Arab world, the sort who know Arabic and have lived there, on the staff.
Bush took cover in the 1994 Sudan meetings between al-Qaeda and Iraqi secret police, which went nowhere. ..."
Professor Cole comments also on Interior Minister Fallah Hasan al-Naqib's plan to consider the use of "Martial Law" to fight the wave of bombings.

June 18 ~ Defiant Bush and Blair insist Saddam had al-Qa'ida links

Independent "..."The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qa'ida is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qa'ida," Mr Bush said. "This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qa'ida. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida."
A few hours earlier, Tony Blair insisted that Saddam had created "a permissive environment" for terrorists and al-Qa'ida operatives in Iraq...."

June 17 ~ We were Neo-conned

Read again this article from the Independent on Sunday from over seven months ago. ".. Mr Walpole's NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) on Iraq threw together all the elements that have now been discredited - Niger, the aluminium tubes, and so on. It also gave the misleading impression that intelligence analysts were in broad agreement about the Iraqi threat, relegating most of the doubts and misgivings to footnotes and appendices.
By the time parts of the NIE were made public, even those few qualifications were excised. When President Bush's speechwriters got to work - starting with the address to Congress on 7 October that led to a resolution authorising the use of force against Iraq - the language became even stronger.
Mr Tenet fact-checked the 7 October speech, and seems to have played a major role in every subsequent policy address, including Colin Powell's powerful presentation to the United Nations Security Council on 5 February. Of that pivotal speech, Mr McGovern says in the film: "It was a masterful performance, but none of it was true." Read article in full

June 17 ~ Al-Qaeda link with Iraq over attacks ruled out

FT "A US congressional panel said yesterday that Iraq had no history of collaborating with the al-Qaeda terrorist network - undermining one of the main arguments used by the Bush administration to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. ....
"There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship," the report said. "Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al-Qaeda and Iraq." ....
One of the key allegations linking the two was intelligence that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the September 11 hijackers, had met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague five months before the attacks. The commission said that after reviewing the evidence collected by US and Czech authorities, "we do not believe that such a meeting occurred". Instead, Atta appears to have been in Florida at the time the alleged meeting took place.
The commission's final report, due to be released next month, is widely expected to be critical of law enforcement agencies' efforts to detect the September 11 plot and the authorities' response to the attacks. The commission also said al-Qaeda remained determined to carry out assaults on the US, using chemical, biological or radiological weapons to inflict mass casualties.
President George W. Bush's administration has consistently maintained that Mr Hussein's regime co-operated with al-Qaeda, in order to help justify the invasion of Iraq. .............
Opinion polls in the year before the Iraq war showed that more than 50 per cent of Americans believed that Mr Hussein was behind the September 11 attacks. .."

June 17 ~ "... no apparent cooperation between bin Laden and Hussein."

Extract from Washington Post "....At yesterday's hearing, commissioner Fred F. Fielding questioned the staff's finding of no apparent cooperation between bin Laden and Hussein. He pointed to a sentence in the first sealed indictment in 2001 of the al Qaeda members accused of the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; that sentence said al Qaeda reached an understanding with Iraq that they would not work against each other and would cooperate on acquiring arms.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, now a U.S. attorney in Illinois, who oversaw the African bombing case, told the commission that reference was dropped in a superceding indictment because investigators could not confirm al Qaeda's relationship with Iraq as they had done with its ties to Iran, Sudan and Hezbollah. The original material came from an al Qaeda defector who told prosecutors that what he had heard was secondhand..." (See also the transcript below)

June 17 ~ Extracts from the Commission transcript

Washington Post "..... I think what would be useful for the United States would be -- is to work with governments in the Arab part of the world and Muslim governments to find ways for those segments of the population to find alternative means of channeling their sentiments, through constructive, nonviolent activities. What those might be I don't know. But I think that's the type of approach we need to pursue. By doing that we would reduce, I think, the pool of potential recruits for future terrorists..." Special adviser to CIA "Dr K"....
" I think the sad answer is that I think we all recognize there's no silver bullet..."Patrick Fitzgerald, US Attorney for northern district of Illinois (read in full)

June 16 ~ No Link Between Al-Qaida and Saddam - 9/11 Commission

The Scotsman "The commission investigating the September 11 attacks reported today that Osama bin Laden met a top Iraqi official in 1994 but that it found no credible evidence of a link between Iraq and al-Qaida in attacks against the US ....The panel’s findings appear to contradict Vice President Dick Cheney’s assertion on Monday that Saddam had ”long-established ties” with al-Qaida...
....In making the case for war in Iraq, officials in President George Bush’s administration frequently cited what they said were Saddam’s decade-long contacts with al-Qaida operatives.
They stopped short of claiming that Iraq was directly involved in the September 11 attacks but critics say Bush officials left that impression with the American public.
The commission’s report was released at the beginning of the panel’s final two-day hearing on the development of the September 11 plot and the emergency response by the Federal Aviation Administration and US air defences..."

June 16 ~ MoD may release photos of abused Iraqis

Independent The shocking photographs of abuse of Iraqi prisoners that led to charges against British troops could become public during their court martial. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering releasing the images, which are said to show Iraqi inmates being forced to perform sexual acts on each other and a naked prisoner, bound and gagged, suspended in a net from a forklift truck. The photographs, allegedly taken as "trophy" pictures, form the basis for prosecution allegations against the soldiers. ....... Lord Goldsmith confirmed on Monday that 75 investigations had been launched into allegations of mistreatment by British forces, including 36 involving deaths of Iraqis. The MoD said yesterday there were no outstanding allegations still to be investigated.
Alan Simpson, the Labour secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on War and the Law, said "huge questions" remained about why the cases had taken so long to investigate. "The speed with which the Government was able to investigate the mocked-up photo- graphs falsely sold to the Daily Mirror begs the question of why there have been such extensive delays on investigating allegations of abuse, brutality and humiliation in Iraq," he said. ..."

June 16 ~ "sovereignty" won't mean much on June 30.

says Juan Cole today, reporting in particular on the Sabotage of the Kirkuk-Turkey pipeline in the north, which can carry 800,000 barrels a day. Sabotage has already taken nearly a million barrels a day of Iraqi petroleum off the market in May and June. "It would take about $30 billion a year in income for the Iraqi state to run the country properly and repair everything that needs to be repaired, as well as servicing its debts and paying reparations. In the past year, Iraq has only been able to generate about $10 billion from petroleum, and I doubt the government is able to collect much in taxes. It is not enough to keep things going. If sabotage goes on being this effective, Iraq looks likely to get only half that in oil income in the coming year..." (See The FT reports,

June 16 ~ "We just feel very strongly that the country needs new leadership."

" The 26 former officials - calling themselves Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change - say ...
"We agreed that we had just lost confidence in the ability of the Bush administration to advocate for American interests or to provide the kind of leadership that we think is essential," said William Harrop, who served as the first President Bush's ambassador to Israel, and previously in four African countries. "The group does not endorse Kerry, although it more or less goes without saying in the statement." He said some of those involved in the project felt uncomfortable making an explicitly political statement. But he added: "We just feel very strongly that the country needs new leadership." Independent Among the group are 20 ambassadors appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, other former state department officials and long-serving military leaders.

June 15 2004 ~"...this time the critics are especially well-respected.

BBC "A group of senior former US government officials will release a statement later this week condemning President George W Bush's foreign policy. The group call themselves Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change. They say Mr Bush's policies have made the US more isolated and less safe, and damaged its standing in the world. ..."

June 15 ~ Iraq war illegal, says FO adviser who quit

Vikram Dodd in The Guardian "Britain's war on Iraq violated international law, a former senior government legal adviser has said. The view of Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who quit on the eve of the conflict as the Foreign Office's deputy legal adviser, will alarm the government, which is desperate to soothe lingering unease about the war. ..... "There was tremendous and passionate debate about the legality of this. Most international lawyers I met were of the view that the conflict was unlawful under international law.
"The issue is whether the security council authorised the use of force in Iraq. There is no question that there was no basis for the use of force in self-defence...."
.......Her comments raise further questions on the legal row behind the scenes at the highest levels of Whitehall.
Britain's military chiefs were reported to have asked for undertakings from the government that the war was legal before they were prepared to order troops to join the American-led invasion of Iraq. Ms Wilmshurst is set to appear as a witness for 14 Greenpeace activists who have been charged with aggravated trespass after chaining themselves to army tanks at the Marchwood military port near Southampton in the run-up to war........
Lord Goldsmith has refused to publish his advice, but he is understood to have argued that the series of UN resolutions provided a legal basis for the military action...." Read in full

June 15 ~ Legal issues surrounding 1441

Posted by David Traynier on medialens "...... member states individually have no right whatsoever to judge whether a Resolution has been complied with. The UN Charter -the highest international law and the highest law of the US- makes this clear. One could make a case that the evidence did not show full compliance but it is up to the Security Council, by vote, to decide. ......
Resolution 1441 laid out a series of requirements upon Iraq but it never specified any which, if not met, would automatically mean that Iraq had failed to take its ‘final opportunity’. ......
..........One might say then that the context of certain breaches makes them more serious -but who is to judge the context? Answer -the SC, not the US/UK. One might be correct to point to issues of further material breach but they are not -in themselves- the same as saying that Iraq missed its ‘final opportunity’. ...... the SC was never allowed the opportunity to assess Iraq’s compliance with 1441 because the US and UK made it clear that they would attack Iraq regardless ....
..... US/UK were also guilty of cynicism, double-dealing and arrogance but this is only to be expected of states possessing overwhelming military force. So, at the same time Negroponte reassured the UN that 1441 did not authorize the US to attack wantonly, officials in the US were able to say ‘The president has all the authority he needs, should he decide to strike Iraq, thanks to the congressional resolution.’ (Quoted in the London Guardian, November 8th 2002). This betrays the genuine US Government attitude: that it is not bound the UN Charter and the authority of the Security Council and reserves to itself the right to violate international law .....
Goldsmith’s view is, to say the least, unconvincing (indeed, it provoked the resignation of his deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst). It is also widely believed that he conveniently changed his mind: having originally agreed with the Foreign Office view that a second Resolution was necessary, as this proved elusive, he changed his mind in order to reassure a nervous military. According to the Independent on Sunday, ‘the Attorney General's staff produced a paper dealing with the issues raised by the military chiefs, but its careful discussion of points for and against fell short of the legal authorisation the chiefs of staff wanted. ..." Read in full

June 15 ~ "The International Red Cross has finally blown the whistle on the continued holding of Saddam Hussein without trial."

(Jon Snow's evening update yesterday) " He is in that rare position in Iraq of being held fully classsified as a Prisoner of War. The organisation is also asking what has happened to the three thousand plus prisoners they used to visit in Abu Ghraib prison? Another car bomb in the capital Baghdad this time killing two British electricians."

Jun 13 ~ "....A series of leaked memos from within the administration contain legal opinions that - to put it bluntly - justify torture.

According to the memos from lawyers at the departments of justice and defence, the president is able to order the torture of prisoners, and that anyone carrying out the president's orders is immune from prosecution ..." Guardian Leader Saturday

June 13 ~ Blair to send 3,000 extra troops to Iraq

Independent "Tony Blair is preparing to defy voters' protests...... General Sir Michael Walker, initially recommended sending an extra enhanced battalion of just 1,000 with the option of sending headquarters staff at a later date. However, commanders on the ground, including General Andrew Stewart, the British commander of coalition forces in southern Iraq, have asked for a further 2,000 reinforcements as an insurance against further violence after the hand over of power on 30 June.
........ the bill for operations in Iraq is running at between £200m and £250m a month
.....The hints of cuts, perhaps the biggest since the end of the cold war, combined with the need to send more troops to Iraq is causing resentment across the armed forces. "We feel the bond of trust between Government and the forces is being severely stretched," said one officer."

June 12 ~ There is now a total mismatch between Iraq Abroad and Iraq Real.

writes Simon Jenkins in the Times The coalition bids goodbye and good riddance to Iraq "... Were the coalition serious about promoting democracy among the Iraqis, the last thing it would do at present is withdraw from Iraq’s towns and cities. The mission to pacify both Sunni and Shia regions is not only incomplete, it is farther from completion than ever. Nothing is normal. Highways linking Baghdad, Basra and Mosul are unsafe even in armoured vehicles. Deaths and bombings occur daily. There is no proactive police force, and no sign of one. Local order is in the hands of vigilantes.
What has changed in the past two months is that coalition forces have recognised the inevitable. The “loss” of Fallujah in April was critical. Even the so-called Fallujah Brigade of former Saddamists, to whom the US Marines ceded power, has itself capitulated to local warlords. This pattern is spreading. In Shia territory, Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr’s cells are cutting deals with other Islamist groups, most recently in Najaf where Spanish troops were useless and their US replacements murderous. The Italians round Nasariya refuse to move from camp, unable to see why they should die to keep Silvio Berlusconi in Washington’s good books. .." Read in full

June 4 ~ George Tenet, the CIA chief, departs in the wake of intelligence failings that led to war in Iraq. Of course, no politicians have quit...

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington Independent "The Scapegoat? George Tenet, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, resigned yesterday, the Bush administration's de facto scapegoat for the fiasco of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and the heavy loss of US credibility that followed.
The timing of his departure, described as being "for personal reasons", stunned Washington. Mr Tenet, 51, is known to have wanted to step down before the presidential inauguration in January.
But his going - amid continuing violence in Iraq and new official warnings about possible terrorist attacks - represents the first big shake-up in President George Bush's once-vaunted national security team...".

May/June ~ see the Independent's " A-Z of the Iraq war

-and its aftermath, focusing on misrepresentation, manipulation, and mistakes."

May 28 ~ The Sydney Morning Herald examines the Nick Berg case

"Conspiracy theories about how the kidnapped American died in Iraq are flying around the world. Richard Neville explores the explanations. Read in full

May 28 ~ "... The collusion of the respectable media in the epic crime in Iraq is rarely discussed."

(New Statesman ") .... honourable exceptions. David Rose, who wrote major investigative articles for the Observer that linked Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda and to the anthrax attacks in America - claims long discredited - wrote in the Evening Standard that he looked "back with shame and disbelief" at his support for the invasion.
In the United States, a number of journalists have written regretfully about the supine way the freest press in the world allowed the Bush regime to get away with its lies.
Charles Lewis, a former CBS star reporter and now director of the Centre for Public Integrity, told me that had the media "fulfilled their unique constitutional role and challenged the administration's lies, such as those tying Iraq to al-Qaeda, there is a very, very good chance we would not have gone to war".
With the exception of the Mirror, the Independent and intermittently the Guardian, the same can be said of the British media...." John Pilger in the New Statesman. Read in full

May 28 ~"...millions of Americans still believe it. In Iraq, soldiers talk about killing and mistreating Iraqis "as payback for 9/11".

It was all fake, as the profoundly cynical Powell has since hinted. Bush himself has since joked about the lack of evidence of weapons; Paul Wolfowitz has revealed that the WDM "story" was "agreed" as one that the public would swallow; Donald Rumsfeld has admitted there was no link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Thanks to their propaganda, played unchallenged through most of the media, millions of Americans still believe it. In Iraq, soldiers talk about killing and mistreating Iraqis "as payback for 9/11". Another Fake

May 28 ~ "if the decision was taken after 10 June..."

Kim Sengupta in today's Independent on the "temporary measure" of sending only 40 troops to Iraq and the clues that hundreds or thousands more could follow - but only when the publiccan no longer use their vote to signal concern.
".... Military chiefs have given the Cabinet a set of three options, ranging from the deployment of 800 up to 3,000 troops. Large-scale deployment will be unpopular with both public and Labour Party, and the commanders are reconciled that a decision is unlikely until after the European and local elections on 10 June."

May 28 ~"United States forces agreed yesterday to withdraw from the Shia holy city of Najaf

and end fighting with the militia of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. In a climbdown by the Americans, who had vowed to kill or capture Sadr, it now appears he will be allowed to remain free. His Army of Mehdi militia will also withdraw under the deal...." Independent

May 27 ~ Blair tried to block US inquiry into WMD

Guardian Blair's Wars, serialised in today's Guardian, reveals that "Downing Street attempted to block the White House from holding a bipartisan inquiry into the failure to uncover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because Tony Blair was in "denial" about the issue.." Read in full

May 27 ~ Mr Blair undoubtedly has a domestic political motive for being seen to take his own line the somewhat throwaway line at the end of the Guardian Leader on the differences between US and UK on Iraqi sovereignty.

May 27 ~ the end of a one-dimensional, unilateralist, evangelical belief in American military power as the key to world politics.

Also in the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash writes that "Iraq has turned into a disastrous defeat for America and Britain. All the current debate is essentially about damage limitation. ...
....Lust for oil played some part, of course, as did neoconservative plans for a democratic revolution in the Middle East. But what seems to have been decisive was the president's gut instinct to respond to such an attack by going and "kicking butt". Whose butt exactly was, in a sense, secondary. Saddam happened to be the most obvious, persistent and provoking target. As one self-styled soccer mom told me, this attitude is what her kind in America loved about Bush. America had been hit; he was hitting back. This guy was in charge. He was kicking butt.
But no longer. Instead, it's Bush's own butt that's being kicked. The boots that marched out to war so confidently are now empty boots spread out on the lawn of Capitol Hill, some 800 pairs of them, deployed by anti-war protesters to symbolise the American dead in Iraq. The soccer moms don't like that. Bush's approval rating has sunk to 41%.....The question now, for us Europeans, is how can we best help Vulcan off the stage. ...." Read in full

May 27 ~ US forces step up offensive in Najaf as 50 militia killed

Independent "The Valley of Peace cemetery in Najaf is where all Iraqi Shia aspire to be buried, near the country's holiest shrine. .....US forces said they killed almost 50 militiamen loyal to the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr tanks and helicopter gunships pounded the city's vast cemetery.
American forces captured a brother-in-law and aide of Sadr in Najaf, and there was also fighting inside Baghdad, with US forces claiming they killed nearly 20 militiamen in the Shia slums of the Sadr City district....There has been outcry across the Shia world at the fighting inside the holy city. But US forces appear to be stepping up their offensive. ..."

May 27 ~ Amnesty Report: US and Britain "failing to live up to their responsibilities under international humanitarian law as occupying powers

, including their duty to restore and maintain public order and safety, and to provide food, medical care and relief assistance". Independent
".....While President Bush and Tony Blair proclaimed that they had liberated the people of Iraq from Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, "little action was taken to address past human rights violations, including mass disappearances, or to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes", Amnesty says.
Three years after the 11 September attacks, Amnesty paints a picture of governments around the world using "security" as an excuse to authorise killings and torture, introduce repressive legislation and exploit people's fears and prejudices. .....
Britain was singled out for criticism for keeping 14 foreign nationals in jail indefinitely under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act. "Among other reasons, the UK has justified these measures on the grounds that its rules of evidence are too stringent to allow successful prosecutions," the report says. It also points out that although 572 people were arrested on suspicion of "terrorist- related" offences, just one in five have faced charges...." Read in full

May 26 ~ A transfer of sovereignty will mean little to ordinary Iraqis if they continue to see heavy-handed foreign troops all over their streets...

Guardian Leader "Back to the UN" - "....The UN has to address three crucial issues.
One is the quality of the sovereignty transferred. Will it be genuine or cosmetic?
The second is the procedure for giving Iraqis responsibility for their own security so foreign forces can withdraw.
The third is a system for ensuring that Iraqis themselves approve of what the international community is doing....... Until there is greater clarity, there should be no rush ...
Artificial deadlines, such as Mr Bush's desire to come to Europe for the D-Day anniversary next week with a deal under his belt, should not be imposed. The resolution declines to specify whether Iraqis will have a veto over the actions of foreign troops.......
....The heart of the matter remains the presence of foreign troops, and how long they stay. A transfer of sovereignty will mean little to ordinary Iraqis if they continue to see heavy-handed foreign troops all over their streets.... The draft UN resolution fails to address this problem. In one breath the US and UK governments say foreign troops will stay no longer than needed. In another, they ask the UN to endorse a full year's mandate for the foreign forces with an option of further renewal. France is right to object. Unless a relatively early date is announced for a troop pull-out, there is no incentive to rebuild Iraq's forces quickly. Nor is there any pressure to produce a clear and phased plan for Iraqi forces to take over from US units. .......a clearly expressed determination for the troops to leave makes psychological and political sense.

May 26 ~ Iraq occupation has boosted Al Qaida numbers

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies has published a survey which has been reported in various ways in the press. The Guardian says, "The occupation of Iraq has provided a "potent global recruitment pretext" for al-Qaida and probably increased worldwide terrorism, a leading thinktank said yesterday."
The Independent says, "..IISS report, published yesterday, says that the Iraq invasion"galvanised" al-Qa'ida while weakening the campaign against terrorism. At the same time it has split the Western alliance, leaving the US and Britain isolated. The report amounts to a sustained condemnation of US and British tactics, especially during the post-war period. Beginning with the decision of Paul Bremer, the US head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), to dissolve the Iraqi army - leaving a security vacuum - it criticises the occupation tactics of American troops who stayed in large fortified bases and only emerged in heavily armed patrols. The report adds that later swoops, which led to mass arrests, and aggressive house searches "perversely inspired insurgent violence". But the report does not spare British commanders. ..."(Read in full)
The largely pro-war Telegraph prefers to lead with the paragraph: "Al-Qa'eda has more than 18,000 terrorists waiting for the order to attack targets in Europe and America, preferably with weapons of mass destruction, a leading think-tank said today."

May 26 ~ "A century of careful medical and psychiatric studies tell us that the juxtaposition of absolute weakness and absolute power provokes violence.

The bound and hooded Iraqi prisoners lying naked on the floor of Abu Ghraib prison invited attack. So shocking is such a statement that few of us have wanted even to consider it. To deal with its implications requires us to reexamine our very concept of our humanity...An obvious first step is to work toward a world which recognizes that the basic political right is that of self-determination. Unless or until this is at least approached, we can expect others to fight for it with every means at their disposal and that those who oppose them will similarly use the means at their disposal: guerrilla warfare/terrorism will be met with various forms of suppression including torture. Only when it is no longer “needed” will torture be put aside. ." Thoughts on Torture a guest Editorial by William R. Polk on the Juan Cole website.

May 25 ~ Two out of three voters say no to more UK troops

Guardian "The British public is overwhelmingly opposed to the government sending up to 3,000 extra troops to Iraq, according to the results of this month's Guardian/ICM poll. The survey shows that 66% oppose the idea, including 60% of Labour voters, a finding that will increase the pressure on Tony Blair to scale down the figures or shelve the announcement on extra troops, which is expected to be made in the next few weeks. Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence have insisted that no decision has yet been made on sending reinforcements, despite recent indications from the prime minister's aides that more would be dispatched...
...On top of opposition to sending more troops, the Guardian/ICM poll also shows that 84% of voters believe that Mr Blair should insist that if any more troops are sent, they must serve under British commanders in British-controlled sectors of Iraq. .." "

May 25 ~draft Security Council resolution

"... the United States and Britain offered yesterday to give a new Iraqi government an effective veto over the presence of American troops in the country and a voice in how the U.S. military conducts operations against insurgents. In a draft Security Council resolution, the two allies also said the United Nations could decide a year from now - or even sooner - whether foreign forces should remain in the country. And, bowing to pressure from other countries, they assigned the United Nations a "leading role" in helping Iraqis create new government, more humble attitude reflects increasing alarm in Washington over continued instability and bloodshed in Iraq, which polls show has weakened support for the United States overseas and harmed Bush's re-election prospects at home. ..." Baltimore Sun

May 25 ~ Karpinski suspended

Seattle Times "The Army general who was in charge of the U.S. prison guards accused of abusing Iraqis has been suspended from command of the 800th Military Police Brigade, officials said yesterday. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski and other officers in her brigade were faulted by Army investigators for paying too little attention to operations at Abu Ghraib prison and not acting strongly enough to discipline soldiers for violating standard procedures. "

May 25 ~ "Blair has not been robust or insistent, even in his private representations."

Sir Malcolm Rifkind in the Independent "....It is not too late. If the Prime Minister wants to redeem some of his reputation the next few weeks will be crucial. The Americans have lost so much support throughout the world that they could not afford to lose the British as well. Blair, therefore has the maximum leverage if he is willing to use it.
He should insist that continuing British support will require three commitments from Washington. First, it is more important that the Iraqis to whom sovereignty is transferred at the end of June are acceptable to the Iraqi people than that they are friends of the Americans. ....
Second, for as long as a foreign army is needed in the country it must have the legitimacy that can best be conferred by a new United Nations resolution. But that will not be possible without French, Russian and other support in the Security Council. President Bush needs allies but they will only be available if he is willing to share power. The British Government should make that clear.
The third requirement is that responsibility for nation building must be removed from the Pentagon and Donald Rumsfeld. The Pentagon's experience and skill are in winning wars, not winning the peace. That is for statesmen and diplomats. The responsibility, under the President, should be transferred to Colin Powell and the State Department.
If Tony Blair made these the conditions for continuing British support there is every likelihood he would succeed. If whispering them into the President's ear doesn't work, he should shout them from the rooftops. In current circumstances, that would be real leadership." Read in full

May 25 ~ Pseudo-Churchillian rhetoric rather than substance from Mr Bush

His speeches yesterday at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania included the following:

May 25 ~ " he offered no exit strategy and Americans hoping to hear when their troops could come home would have been disappointed..

report in the Toronto Star "U.S. President George W. Bush went before an increasingly skeptical nation last night in a bid to convince Americans he has a plan for the future of Iraq, even as the occupation appears to have gone badly off course.
Bush, in an address to a handpicked audience at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., laid out a five-point plan which he said would get the U.S. from a June 30 handover, to an interim Iraqi government, to the election of a national assembly by the end of January next year. He warned Americans of more violence and said more U.S. troops might have to be dispatched to try to bring order from increasing chaos, but he offered no exit strategy and Americans hoping to hear when their troops could come home would have been disappointed..."

May 25 ~ "....the civilian and military administrators of Iraq have grown contemptuous of Iraq and Iraqis and have convinced themselves of their hosts’ essential incompetence. Blaming the victim has always proved an effective strategy in justifying colonialism..."

Extract from the essay by Keith Watenpaugh, Assistant Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern History at Le Moyne College... He is the third generation of his family to have lived and worked in the Middle East. He speaks and reads Arabic and Modern Turkish. Dr. Watenpaugh has written extensively on Arab intellectual history, the formation of the Baath and urban and communal violence.

"..... the civilian contractor John Agresto, appointed last year as senior advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education ( in Iraq) Senior advisors play a paternalistic role in the CPA akin to colonial administrators of the inter-war French and British Mandates and exert a tremendous amount of power over Iraqi institutions and agencies through the control of budgets, security and as gatekeepers ......Agresto has no training in Middle Eastern society or culture and no experience in the region. .......Agresto was one of the leading right-wing figures in the “culture wars” of the 1980s.
.... his appointment signaled that the CPA was intent on peopling its bureaucracy with politically loyal agents, rather than those most objectively qualified to assist Iraq. The clearly political nature of Agresto’s position sent a chilling signal to those academic institutions interested in working in Iraq that their efforts - regardless of how disinterested, or how much they believe that they could change the system from within - would be part and parcel of the administration’s current policy objectives and cronyism....
... the core values of open exchange, freedom of inquiry, women’s participation in higher education and faculty self-management may all be dismissed as “American” values and moreover as anti-Muslim despite our assertion of their inherent universality..."

May 25 ~Will the vilification of the Baathists have the reverse effect of promoting exemplars of the former regime to the status of national heroes?

From "Opening the Doors: Intellectual Life and Academic Conditions in Post-War Baghdad" (pdf file opens in new window)
".... De-Baathification, as used by the CPA is a monolithic term and influenced by the Cold War ethos and Eurocentrism which dominates the thinking of its analysts; it fails to grasp the fact that Baathism in its Takriti-mode relied far less upon bureaucratic mechanisms of domination and reified ideologies and more on tribal ties, filial networks and ethnic perquisites.
It needs to be deconstructed both as an American policy and as a long-term Iraqi goal. How can a massive, diverse elite with entrenched ties and large, multi-tiered networks of patronage be replaced with something more “civilian” and less “Stalinist?”
How can a new social and political elite be reconstructed through outside pressure in the space of a few months? Will the vilification of the Baathists have the reverse effect of promoting exemplars of the former regime to the status of national heroes?

May 24 ~ ..."They promoted it and pushed [the war]... even to the point of creating their own intelligence to match their needs. Then they should bear the responsibility"

Yesterday in America retired Marine General Zinni gave an interview on 60 Minutes Comment and links to Disinfopedia articles The promotion headline for the show reads "'They've Screwed Up'." Zinni accuses "top Pentagon officials of 'dereliction of duty'" and says that "staying the course in Iraq isn't a reasonable option."   Zinni states that "'The course is headed over Niagara Falls [and he thinks that] it's time to change course a little bit or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course'."
According to CBS News, Zinni says that the "current situation in Iraq was destined to happen ... because planning for the war and its aftermath has been flawed all along."
"'There has been poor strategic thinking in this...poor operational planning and execution on the ground,' says Zinni, who served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000.
"Zinni blames the poor planning on the civilian policymakers in the administration, known as neo-conservatives, who saw the invasion as a way to stabilize the region and support Israel. He believes these people, who include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense, have hijacked U.S. foreign policy."
"'They promoted it and pushed [the war]... even to the point of creating their own intelligence to match their needs. Then they should bear the responsibility,' Zinni tells Kroft."
"Zinni explains to Kroft, 'I think there was dereliction in insufficient forces being put on the ground and [in not] fully understanding the military dimensions of the plan.'"

May 24 ~ Wedding video clouds US denials

A home movie-style video appears to back victims' claims that US forces in Iraq bombed a wedding party. BBC "....The film released by a US news agency combines a wedding home movie with video of the aftermath of the attack, which the US says targeted militants. Some victims and survivors appear to be present in the wedding video. ..."
Reuters ".....the scene switched to a destroyed building, demolished tents and dead bodies of Iraqis apparently killed in the raid. At least three bodies were seen, including that of an organist wearing the same tan shirt he appeared in while playing at the party and another body wrapped in a pink quilt. U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt on Saturday denied the raid had been a wedding party and said there was strong evidence of illegal activity at a house in the remote desert area where U.S. forces killed about 40 Iraqis....."

May 24 ~ "We gave no information about weapons of mass destruction," Chalabi said.

Washington Post today "Chalabi Denies Charges He Spied for Iran " ".... Chalabi and the INC routed Iraqi defectors to U.S. intelligence agencies, where their reports about Hussein's weapons programs often turned out to be false or unconfirmable. He said yesterday that the INC presented three defectors to U.S. agencies but never vouched for their credibility. "We gave no information about weapons of mass destruction," Chalabi said. "It was up to them to analyze this. And the responsibility for reporting to the president after analyzing the information is not mine, neither is it the INC's." Chalabi has spoken increasingly firmly on the need for Iraq to be run by Iraqis, not by the U.S.-led occupation. Yesterday he predicted that an interim government being negotiated by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and U.S. diplomats L. Paul Bremer and Robert D. Blackwill will fail. ..."
"The sixth mistake, and maybe the biggest one, was propping up and trusting the exiles, the infamous "Gucci Guerillas" from London. We bought into their intelligence reports. ...." General Zinni

May 23 ~ "...Some Americans may feel it is unfair of Shiites to blame only the US for the fighting, when it is Muqtada's militia that is firing from the shrines.

But life is unfair. People always mind what foreigners do to the symbols of their native identity more than they mind what their own radicals do.
Al-Qaeda's declaration of war on the US was a ploy to turn Sunni Muslims, especially hard liners like Wahhabis and Salafis, against America and recruit them as foot soldiers. In 2002 and 2003, the Pentagon replied in part by seeking Shiite allies. These included the Hazaras, who were part of the Northern Alliance that defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan. They also included the Iraqi Shiites, which the Department of Defense wooed as allies against Saddam and the Baathists. In his unwise decision to try to get Muqtada al-Sadr dead or alive and to send GIs into Shiite holy places with heavy firepower, Bush is in the process of turning the Shiite world decisively against the US and perhaps creating new centers of anti-American paramilitary action..."
Compare the calm understanding of the above with the style of the FCO's "confidential memo" about Iraq from today's Sunday Times. While the memo shows deep misgivings about America’s "heavy-handed" tactics and the "need to keep this a UN and Iraqi-led process", it continues to assert that "by October we need to be well underway, with election preparations, with Iraqis exercising control over their own government and over much of security, with supplemental money being turned into jobs and early results on the ground, particularly in Sunni areas, and the insurgents undercut by progress on all of those fronts." More worryingly, is that the "MOD are considering options for the reinforcement of Southern Iraq". The memo was sent to senior ministers and top officials last week as a "progress report" on the occupation

May 21 ~ UN condemnation

Israeli security forces are continuing to shell and bulldoze in Rafah, Gaza . This is in spite of a rare UN condemnation of Israel which the US did NOT veto. "....more than 200 civilian properties have been destroyed or damaged, leaving thousands homeless and destitute. The extensive destruction of property, a form of collective punishment, is in flagrant violation of international human rights and humanitarian law....."
The UN condemns the deaths of 40 wedding party guests in Iraq "there can be no licence to commit carnage."

May 21 ~ I don't see how Iraqi Shiites are going to forgive us for this. Ever.

Juan Cole quotes the Associated Press report. He comments, "Even if the shrines were not damaged, you can't imagine how much Shiites don't want to hear phrases like "American tanks and AC-130 gunships pounded insurgent positions near two shrines in the center of the holy city of Karbala early Friday . . . " I cringed when I saw it. I don't see how Iraqi Shiites are going to forgive us for this. Ever."

May 20 ~ The US military disputes reports that say its forces killed dozens at a wedding party in western Iraq.

Juan Cole quotes the New York Times and comments: "The US military claims that they were hitting arms smugglers coming across the border from Syria, and have good evidence in the form of captured materials that that is what they did hit. Local people told reporters that the US had hit a wedding party. My suspicion is that the US military mistook the wedding party, which included celebratory fire, for combatants. They did this once before, in Afghanistan. And I wish the US military spokesmen could be more gracious about such errors. ..." Juan Cole

May 19 ~ a sickened silence descended...There was simply nothing to say.

Newsweek's article on The Roots of Torture "... There were 1,800 slides and several videos, and the show went on for three hours. The nightmarish images showed American soldiers at Abu Ghraib Prison forcing Iraqis to masturbate. American soldiers sexually assaulting Iraqis with chemical light sticks. American soldiers laughing over dead Iraqis whose bodies had been abused and mutilated. ...
NEWSWEEK has learned that U.S. soldiers and CIA operatives could be accused of war crimes. Among the possible charges: homicide involving deaths during interrogations. "The photos clearly demonstrate to me the level of prisoner abuse and mistreatment went far beyond what I expected, and certainly involved more than six or seven MPs," said GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former military prosecutor. He added: "It seems to have been planned..
By the time Gitmo's techniques were exported to Abu Ghraib, the CIA was already fully involved. On a daily basis at Abu Ghraib, says Paul Wayne Bergrin, a lawyer for MP defendant Sgt. Javal Davis, the CIA and other intel officials "would interrogate, interview prisoners exhaustively, use the approved measures of food and sleep deprivation, solitary confinement with no light coming into cell 24 hours a day. Consequently, they set a poor example for young soldiers but it went even further than that."
Today there is no telling where the scandal will bottom out. But it is growing harder for top Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld himself, to absolve themselves of all responsibility. ." Read in full

May 19 ~ "Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants out of Iraq with honor, according to Italian sources.

He is down in the polls and keenly aware of what happened to rightwing Spanish PM Aznar. The Italian public is increasingly against an Italian presence in Iraq, and opposition politicians are calling loudly for withdrawal..." Juan Cole

May 19 ~ Bush abandons Chalabi

The Bush administration has signalled an end to its relationship with Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress and the Pentagon's former favourite for leadership of the country. (Telegraph)

May 19 ~ The uncounted dead. Jack Straw says "Terrorists and Insurgents.....( or tragically they have been caught in the crossfire)" and more troops to be sent as "part of exit strategy"

Independent "Straw admits that allies' failure to keep accurate record of civilian deaths is 'odd' ...Mr Straw added: "It is worth pointing out that almost all of those who have lost their lives have been terrorists or insurgents seeking to disrupt the work of the coalition to build a representative, democratic Iraq or tragically they have been caught in the crossfire."
........Last night the Conservative leader Michael Howard disclosed he will back Labour rebels in demanding a vote in the Commons before more troops are deployed in flashpoint areas such as Fallujah.
The combined votes of the Tories, Labour rebels and Liberal Democrat MPs would threaten the Government with a disastrous defeat on Iraq. ....Downing Street said yesterday the deployment of more troops, which is expected to be announced next week, will be presented as part of the new exit strategy being negotiated between President George W Bush and Mr Blair. .."

May 19 ~ Total confusion now surrounds command and control of British troops in Iraq after “sovereignty transfer” in July

Simon Jenkins: "Listening to Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, on Monday I wondered how long before he too joins bin Laden’s list. He was on another planet. He burbled about victory, democracy and “finishing the job” in Iraq. We all know that behind his back every military planner has one obsession, how to get out of Iraq fast. Mr Blair, now perpetually abroad to escape his critics, declared in Turkey this week that “we will not cut and run from Iraq”. He said the same to the Afghans before cutting and running.
Total confusion now surrounds command and control of British troops in Iraq after “sovereignty transfer” in July..." Read in full

May 19 ~ Bin Laden has exceeded even his wildest dreams

Simon Jenkins in the Times today "......The mountain hideout of Osama bin Laden must be Exhibit A in any history of the early 21st century. Its victims now range far wider than the twin towers and the Pentagon. They embrace the hated Saddam Hussein and his Baathist infidels, the Government of Spain, the Geneva Convention, the authority of the United Nations and the Editor of the Daily Mirror. They embrace habeas corpus in Britain and America, a British Cabinet minister and the Chairman of the BBC.
The wall also celebrates the demise of the Middle East “road map” and the restoration of the Afghan warlords and the opium trade, easing the return of the Taleban. It celebrates the disarray of European diplomacy and a diplomatic war between France and America. It celebrates the American team not daring to wave its flag at the forthcoming Olympics. All this was beyond fantasy two years ago. Bin Laden can now confidently anticipate anti-Western fanatics taking power in Iraq and the corrupt House of Saud losing its valued American sponsors. ..."
Not only has the Government of Spain fallen, those of Japan, Italy and Poland have been rocked. But even bin Laden could not have hoped to turn the bonny smile on Tony Blair’s face into an ashen mask and have his Cabinet scheming to get rid of him. He could not have imagined Donald Rumsfeld swinging in the congressional wind on charges of torture, and George Bush facing plummeting opinion polls. ....." Read in full

May 19 ~ Senior British officers are angry and despondent

at what they see as a US doctrine in Iraq of "kill, kill and kill again", and are determined that their troops should not be under direct American command....The British protest over Iraqi prisoners is said to have taken place at a staff meeting attended by American Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was subsequently suspended for failure to prevent abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib by troops under her command, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq, and a military legal team. The British officer said: "The best solution is to find a way to release these people instead of building more and more detention facilities. Why don't we just do the decent thing?" Brig Gen Karpinski recalled that the British "effrontery" was received with incredulity by American commanders. "They looked at him like, 'who asked you?'"
The report states: "The difference in style - Do the decent thing...who asked you?- is stark. So much so, Newsweek has learnt, as to become a serious obstacle to military cooperation."
The report of discord between the US and British commanders comes at an especially critical time, with continuing turmoil in Iraq and the Government about to announce the large scale deployment of extra troops.
Senior British officers have been resisting pressure from Downing Street both on the deployment and also on placing troops outside the British controlled zone at flashpoints like Najaf...." Independent

May 18 ~ No one thinks the incident will delay the "transfer of sovereignty,"

since all that is envisioned is the appointment of 4 high officials by the CPA and the United Nations, and since relatively little sovereignty is actually going to be transfered (something Chalabi has also been grumbling about. See the WSJ article on the way the US is establishing "commissions" that will retain control over key sectors of Iraq.
Ghazi al-Yawer, a tribal leader from the Sunni heartland, was selected to succeed Saleem. IGC member Salama al-Khufaji suggested that the bombing had been intended to foment sectarian violence..." Juan Cole

May 18 ~ Ezzedin Salim

Jon Snow "The head of Iraq's Governing Council assassinated by a car bomb as he tried to enter the fortified Green Zone compound. Having queued there myself, I can tell you it feels like the most dangerous place on earth. I waited there once in October for an hour and ten minutes, you look at every passing vehicle and imagine which is bent on killing you. It's an absolute outrage. The US forces manning these posts are callous as to whether the people trying to get in and out, even their own staff, live or die. This was a man they could ill afford to let die. Second member of the Governing Council to die and a poor symbol for the future hand-over in a few weeks time. " Channel 4
Juan Cole says, "...he seems to have given up his earlier enthusiasm for Khomeinism by the time he got on the Interim Governing Council. He is the third IGC member to be assassinated, after Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim and Aqilah al-Hashimi, all three of them Shiites.

May 17 ~ The QLR's satisfaction may be short-lived: proving that the Mirror pictures are fakes has not removed the possibility of disgrace for the regiment over genuine, and far more serious, crimes.

Independent "..... ... eight young Iraqis arrested at a Basra hotel last September had been kicked and beaten so severely that one of them, Baha Mousa, had died.
The story was backed up not only by the testimony of Kifah Taha, himself beaten so badly that he suffered kidney failure, but by official documents, including a letter of condolence from the commander of British forces in Basra and an offer of £4,500 compensation.
And the unit in question? The Queen's Lancashire Regiment, which yesterday was reported to be "quietly satisfied" at having seen off Piers Morgan, sacked after the Daily Mirror admitted photographs it had published of QLR soldiers apparently mistreating Iraqis were fake........
... "If the Government had moved sooner [on the original allegations], the collateral damage it has suffered from the far wider and much worse allegations against US forces would have been minimised." .

May 17 ~ "We are not about to cut and run...."

In an urgent attempt to show that there is an “exit strategy”, America, Britain and other coalition countries will help Iraq to create an army, police force, civil defence corps, intelligence services and border police force. ....The move comes amid increasing speculation that the Prime Minister might leave office before the next election and comes after demands from politicians in both countries for an “exit strategy”. ..
.....The first indication of the new approach came on Friday when Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, Mr Straw and other coalition ministers said that forces would leave if the Iraqi interim government asked them to on July 1. an associated move, The Times understands, the expected deployment of extra British troops will not be announced this week. ......A senior official told The Times that an important “gear change” was taking place. “We are not about to cut and run. But the aim is to have a strategy which enables the Iraqis to take control as quickly as possible and allows us to leave as soon as possible.”

May 17 ~ Allies accused of breaking Geneva Conventions on civilian losses

Independent "One year and 16 days after President George Bush declared the end to major hostilities in Iraq, the toll of American and British casualties continues to rise. Since the start of the invasion, 566 members of the American military and 211 US civilians have died. The British figures are 59 and 8.
But at the same time thousands of others - men, women, the elderly and the very young - have been killed or maimed with far less fanfare. No one knows how many. They are Iraqi civilians, and the Americans and the British do not bother to keep count of the people they have "liberated" and then killed.
This is not usual in modern warfare. In most past conflicts, attempts were made to keep a tally of civilian losses. Legal experts say that, particularly in the case of Iraq, it is the duty of occupying powers to do so under the Geneva Conventions....The Pentagon says it is not helpful to keep a "body count". Yet, there is no hesitation in giving numbers of Iraqi fighters, described as "Saddam loyalists" and "al-Qa'ida elements" who have supposedly been eliminated by the Allies.... "

May 17 ~ "Most Europeans have never been in doubt that Iraq is an oil war.

As the latest ludicrous excuse for the war lies in ruins - that it is a selfless American crusade to civilise the Middle East - perhaps we can finally start to think about the real issues and what our "leaders" are doing about them in our name.
The mainstream media has hardly touched the looming oil supply crisis, but if you look hard enough, the mastermind of the war, Bush's Vice-President Dick Cheney did in 1999, as chairman of giant oil services company Halliburton, now ensconced in Iraq. Cheney warned that by 2010 the world would need another 50 million barrels a day, way above our known reserves.
"The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said. .." Oils ain't just oils, they're to die for by Margo Kingston See also Peak Oil news

May 16 ~ " did Blair, Straw, Hoon and Ingram fail to get the reports?

A Whitehall source said: “It is entirely possible that ministers did not see these reports – but only if they had specifically asked not to see them. Not everything goes to ministers – especially if they wanted the bad news kept well away from them.” Sunday Herald

May 16 ~ Athough Miller had no experience of dealing with prisoners, he proved to be a quick learner

and quickly put Camp X-Ray on a strict military footing. Soon he was able to report to the Pentagon that two-thirds of the 600 inmates were providing him with “actionable intelligence”. Amongst the approaches he introduced were “softening-up” techniques including sleep deprivation, extended isolation, simulated drowning and forcing detainees to stand or crouch in “stress positions”.
The methods, since outlawed by the US army, attracted criticism from the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch which claimed they were “tantamount to torture” but Miller argued he was operating within guidelines agreed by the Pentagon, the US Justice Department and the CIA..... .....brought him to Rumsfeld’s attention. During his time at the Pentagon, the defence secretary acquired the reputation of being a hands-on operator, involving himself fully in the appointment of the army’s general officers. In Miller, he saw a man after his own heart. ..." Sunday Herald

May 16 ~ the Pentagon encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation

New Yorker article The Gray Zone by Seymour M Hersh "...the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.
Rumsfeld, during appearances last week before Congress to testify about Abu Ghraib, was precluded by law from explicitly mentioning highly secret matters in an unclassified session. But he conveyed the message that he was telling the public all that he knew about the story. He said, “Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding.” The senior C.I.A. official, asked about Rumsfeld’s testimony and that of Stephen Cambone, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence, said, “Some people think you can bullshit anyone.”...
...Roth told me. “We’re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.”

May 15 ~ "Secrecy and wishful thinking, the Pentagon official said, are defining characteristics of Rumsfeld’s Pentagon

and shaped its response to the reports from Abu Ghraib. “They always want to delay the release of bad news—in the hope that something good will break,” he said...
... Soon after 9/11, as the war on terror got under way, Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly made public his disdain for the Geneva conventions. Complaints about America’s treatment of prisoners, Rumsfeld said in early 2002, amounted to “isolated pockets of international hyperventilation....”
CHAIN OF COMMAND by Seymour M Hersh "How the Department of Defense mishandled the disaster at Abu Ghraib."

May 14 ~ the defense secretary simply urged the soldiers to ignore the politics back home....and said he has stopped reading newspapers

New York Times editorial today "...There are things Mr. Bush can do quickly to demonstrate the American commitment to the decent treatment of Iraqi prisoners without jeopardizing the fairness of the coming trials of the soldiers charged with inexcusable actions at Abu Ghraib. The first is to drop the Camp Redemption foolishness, remove the prisoners from Abu Ghraib and raze the entire compound, a symbol of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror that has become a symbol of American brutality. Beyond that, the president should take these steps: ..." Read in full

May 14 ~ Nicholas Berg's death

New York Times "manipulative attempt to establish a moral equivalence between the gruesome execution of Mr. Berg and the torture of Iraqi prisoners is now being mimicked by some hard-core supporters of the American war in Iraq. They are cynically trying to use the images of Mr. Berg to wipe away the images of Abu Ghraib, turning the abhorrence for the murderers into an excuse for demonizing Arabs and Muslims, or for sanctioning their torture.
Mr. Berg's parents have legitimate questions for the United States government about how he came to be in Iraqi police custody immediately before his kidnapping, what happened to him there and what knowledge American officials had about his situation. The occupation authority needs to stop passing off those questions to the Iraqi police force, which does not exist other than as an agent of American power. The Berg family deserves answers so they can grieve for their son's death in peace."

May 14 ~" ..It was only after a military guard literally pushed some of the photographs under the doors of military investigators in January that the army launched an investigation..."

The "...By the time the army acted, the Red Cross, along with every major human rights organisation in America, had repeatedly written to Bush and every member of his senior national security team about the abuse of detainees. Letters were sent to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rumsfeld and CIA Director George Tenet, demanding investigations into allegations of serious human rights abuses of detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq. " Read in full

May 14 ~ Battle rages among ancient Najaf tombs

Guardian"....The American incursion was the deepest yet into Najaf, and U.S. soldiers also appeared to have cut off the main road between Najaf and nearby Kufa, where al-Sadr routinely delivers a Friday sermon.
Al-Sadr, who faces an arrest warrant in the murder of a moderate rival cleric in April 2003, delivered a sermon at Friday prayers in Kufa, another holy city that lies six miles to the northeast of Najaf.
Al-Sadr described President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair as "the heads of tyranny.''
He said the two leaders had paid attention to what he described as the "fabricated'' case of Nicholas Berg..."

May 14 ~ " I think most, if not all, Americans can figure out who's telling the truth and who's lying." David Berg, Nicholas' brother

".....Nicholas Berg's family on Thursday gave The Associated Press copies of e-mails from Beth A. Payne, the U.S. consular officer in Iraq. "I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up approximately one week ago. We will try to obtain additional information regarding his detention and a contact person you can communicate with directly," Payne wrote to Berg's father, Michael, on April 1. ..
....The government says the e-mail from Payne was false. State Department spokeswoman Kelly Shannon said Payne's information came from the Coalition Provisional Authority. The authority did not tell Payne until April 7 that Berg had been held by Iraqi police and not the U.S. military, she said....
...U.S. officials say Berg was detained by Iraqi police March 24 and was never in the custody of American forces....."
... I think the people of the United States of America need to know what the fate of their sons and daughters might be in the hands of the Bush administration." " Read in full

May 14 ~ Nicholas Berg case: "another strange matter to this situation that troubles me."

Sam Hamod in Al-Jazeerah yesterday "......Why was Mr. Berg picked up by coalition forces and imprisoned, so much so that his family sued Donald Rumsfeld for his release and information on him.
The military says it released him, but suddenly then, he disappeared because when people went to see him at the hotel he was allegedly registered at, he wasn't there and no one there knew of him.
Very strange point number two is, why was Mr. Berg in an American issued orange jump suit--the kind Americans put prisoners in, when he was photographed and killed? The Iraqis or other Arabs would have had him in Arab clothing so as not to draw suspicion to him of his being a prisoner--not an orange jump suit.
Also, the way the men were standing, and their size, as a person experienced in the middle east, most Arabs don't stand that way and most Iraqis are not that tall--the men stand more like Westerners of some sort, or even Israelis, but not like Arabs or Iraqis. .." Read in full ( Prof. Sam Hamod is the former Director of The Islamic Center of Washington, DC; editor of 3rd World News (DC); he was born and raised in Gary, Indiana.)

May 14 ~ "Here is another question about what ministers knew:

were they aware that in April 2003, the US Defence Department approved interrogation techniques for use at the Guantanamo Bay prison - where a number of British citizens were held - that allow detainees to be subjected to psychological techniques meant to open them up, disorient or put them under stress? That this involves reversing the normal sleep patterns of detainees and exposing them to heat, cold and "sensory assault," including loud music and bright lights. Some prisoners could be made to stand for four hours at a time. Questioning a prisoner without clothes is allowed if he is alone in his cell. There is not much distance between these "rules" and what the ghastly photographs from Abu Ghraib prison display. .." Independent on May 10

May 14 ~ at least one war supporter is abandoning the cause altogether.

A Washington Post column yesterday The Pro-War Press Breaks With Bush ".......Toronto Star columnist John Derringer writes that he thought "like so many millions of others did, that the American forces would be in and out of there before you could say Grenada."
"I truly believed that Saddam would be toppled and a new government set up within a year, with minimal American casualties."
Now, he says the war "is no longer about freedom or terror. It's about one man's political agenda, and dead American soldiers are obviously not about to get in his way. I thought it was about more than that. I was wrong."

May 13 ~ The mysterious last weeks of Nicholas Berg

Conflicting accounts retrace his travels and detention in Iraq Associated Press "....Mystery surrounded not only Nicholas Berg's disappearance but also why he had been held by Iraqi police for about two weeks and questioned by FBI agents three times. Berg's family disputed U.S. officials' claims that Berg was never in U.S. custody. . .......... Senor referred questions about the reason for Berg's detention to the Iraqi police. In Mosul, however, police told the AP they had no knowledge of the Berg case. Police official Safwan Talal said the only American arrested there in recent months was a woman who was released soon afterward.
Since Iraq remains under U.S. military occupation, it seems unlikely Iraqi police would have held any American for such a length of time without at least the tacit approval of U.S. authorities. ....three FBI visits suggest American authorities were concerned about more than Berg's well-being...... "They thought he was a spy," said Hugo Infante, a Chilean who works for the United Press International news service ..."(Read in full)

May 13 ~ The Muslim World condemns the killing of Nick Berg

Juan Cole quotes many respected Muslim authorities who have expressed deep revulsion at the beheading Nicholas Berg, 26, an American Jew who was decapitated on video by alleged Al-Qaida terrorists. But the quotations are not easily to be found in Western media. As Professor Cole comments:

May 13 ~ "the Americans are most unwise to engage in major combat in Karbala so close to Husain's tomb.

They make themselves look like Yazid. If they, or whoever is reading this, don't know who Yazid is, then they have no business being in Iraq, much less in Karbala." Juan Cole's "Informed Comment"

May 13 ~ Mr Blair’s defence was not enough for Mr Howard, who savaged his handling of the "appalling" mistreatment of detainees.

"He said: "A devastating Red Cross report is presented to the government in February, the armed forces minister says he has never seen it, the Defence Secretary says he wouldn’t have expected to see it, the Foreign Secretary says he should have seen it, but didn’t, and the Prime Minister says he knew nothing about it.
How can the people of this country have confidence in the Prime Minister and his government?" demanded the Conservative leader. ..."
Mr Blair replied that the Red Cross "....have written to us over the past few weeks to say that they believe the conditions of internment now in these facilities run by the British are, and I quote, ‘fairly good’, and that they were generally satisfied to see that most of the recommendations submitted during previous visits were taken into consideration."

May 13 ~ "Fresh photos showing American soldiers brutalizing Iraqi prisoners

with snarling dogs or forced sex left members of Congress angry and disgusted, but apparently with few new clues about how widespread the abuse was..." Guardian

May 13 ~ US-led coalition had "practically lost control" of Iraq, putting everyone there in danger.

says the Russian Duma. The BBC reports that "Russia opposed the invasion of Iraq and has no troops there. However, it negotiated reconstruction contracts worth a reported $1bn and has several hundred civilian contractors there. ...the Duma called on Russian businesses in Iraq "to consider without delay and in a responsible fashion the issue of whether your specialists should remain" in Iraq. Personnel should be compulsorily evacuated if warranted by circumstances..."

May 12 ~ Vultures beginning to circle over Blair

Jon Snow's Channel 4 news update "... The reactions in the US of the beheading of the American hostage are furious. But they do not prevent Tony Blair coming under increasing pressure here. In the Commons today things got very heated.
I must say that I have been contacted by several very senior New Labour loyal of the loyal who tell me that they no longer feel they can support him on Iraq and that he may eventually have to go. It's not feeling good for him. ..." See also

May 12/13 ~ "even Hoon has not called soldier C a hoax."

Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian "....What emerges is a catalogue of abuse over a long and sustained period. The revelations fill up every category, starting with torture and humiliation. Hoon has now admitted - in that cold, evasive, legalistic style which alone, aside from all his other faults, should disqualify him from such a sensitive post - that British soldiers did force hoods on to the heads of Iraqi captives, in direct violation of British law. (It was banned in 1971 after abuses in Ulster, but that lesson of benign occupation seems to have been unlearned in Iraq.)
Hooding has now stopped, Mr Hoon assures us. We do not know if British guards still feel free to poke their fingers into the eyeballs of their Iraqi charges over and over again, until the victim is "screaming in pain". Nor do we know if they still beat the detainees so hard, their faces look like "haggises" when the ordeal is over. For that is the testimony of soldier C of the Queen's Lancashire regiment, who came forward to the Mirror last week. Having asked for no money, and received none, from the paper, soldier C has given the Royal Military Police full details of four incidents he witnessed, including the names and ranks of the culprits. He says he is prepared to testify at a court martial. That makes his evidence harder to brush aside; even Hoon has not called soldier C a hoax. .."

May 12/13 ~ Israel Connection to Abu Ghraib Scandal?

Wayne Madsen in ".....James Woolsey served as a Titan director. Woolsey is an architect of America's Iraq policy and the chief proponent of and lobbyist for Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. An adviser to the neo-conservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs, Project for the New American Century, Center for Security Policy, Freedom House, and Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, Woolsey is close to Stephen Cambone, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, a key person in the chain of command who would have not only known about the torture tactics used by U.S. and Israeli interrogators in Iraq but who would have also approved them. Cambone was associated with the Project for the New American Century and is viewed as a member of Rumsfeld's neo-conservative "cabal" within the Pentagon...."

May 12 ~ "... Rightly or wrongly, much of Washington’s hard-line policy in the Middle East is seen as benefiting Israel to the detriment of the Arab world.

And that belief is building resentment in a region where Washington is trying hard to win hearts and minds. .." The Cato Institute's paper "The Syria Accountability Act Taking the Wrong Road to Damascus" by Claude Salhani Read in full

May 12 ~ "Some of the charges lobbed at Syria sound eerily similar to those leveled against Iraq before the war"

Today we hear that the US is imposing economic sanctions on Damascus. George Bush has "accused Syria of continuing to occupy Lebanon and pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missiles." Syria has denied wrongdoing and says sanctions will only harm US interests. The sanctions were authorised under the Syria Accountability Act, which was rushed through Congress last year.
See also "Taking the wrong road to Damascus" from the Cato Institute "A replay of the invasion of Iraq, and the overthrow of yet another government in the region, would spell disaster for the United States. Some of the charges lobbed at Syria sound eerily similar to those leveled against Iraq before the war...."

May 12 ~ "...Other US Government Agency’s (OGA) interrogators actively requested that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses..."

The 52 page Taguba report marked "Secret/not for Foreign dissemination", can nevertheless be easily found on the internet. (Read in full) The CIA, for which "other government agencies" is apparently a euphemism, appears to be implicated :

May 11 ~" an airline captain reassuring passengers that their flight is only suffering from short-term turbulence when in fact they can see smoke pouring from one of the engines

the defence secretary appeared unable to recognise that the crisis in Iraq has gone beyond the point when it can be solved with claim forms. His statement opened with a bleak description of the violence that is overwhelming the country. But it did nothing to address the essential task now facing the government, that of resetting the moral compass directing coalition actions in the country. It left even Labour MPs who endorse the occupation, such as Anne Clwyd, the prime minister's personal envoy to Iraq, critical. They will not have been encouraged in their support by Mr Blair's astonishing admission yesterday that he had not found the time to read the ICRC report that his defence minister dismissed so easily before MPs.
The prime minister's problem is that he is being damaged by association with people he appears powerless to control. Those people are being directed from Washington, not London. The mentality that led to the grim images from Abu Ghraib prison is the same mentality that led to the assault on Falluja and has left coalition claims to be concerned only with the reconstruction of Iraq in tatters...." Guardian Leader

May 11 ~ "...A High Court judge ruled that 13 families who allege their relatives were killed by British forces in Iraq have "an arguable case'' against the government,

and he ordered an urgent hearing to begin in June or July.
Justice Lawrence Collins agreed on Tuesday to add the 13th case, brought by the family of Baha Mousa, 28, a hotel receptionist who died after allegedly being beaten by British troops in Basra in September. His death was among those highlighted in the Red Cross report in February. ..." Guardian

May 11 ~ "Senators seem to be positively shell-shocked by the continuous buck-passing and the "not me gov" attitude

Channel 4 " that's going on in the aftermath of the exposure not only of the photographs of abuse but the threatened import of another such thousand images.
General Taguba who wrote a pretty clear-cut report (Key excerpts from the Taguba report on warmwell ) mirroring the Red Cross Report into abuse of prisoners which was never read by Rumsfeld or anyone else in authority in America, has been testifying but he seems a much reduced force from the man he was when he wrote the document because today he's effectively saying that everybody did everything of their own volition and there were no orders from above to "soften up" interrogation victims. More at:

May 11 ~ Abuses backlash

Scotsman "... troops in Iraq last week suffered more attacks than at any time since the end of the war as anger at allegations of abuse of prisoners brought an upsurge in violence."

May 11 ~ Nelson Mandela has lashed out at the United States and Britain for the invasion of Iraq and abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

Guardian "We watch as two of the leading democracies, two leading nations of the free world, get involved in a war that the United Nations did not sanction," Mandela told a special session of Parliament in Cape Town. "We look on with horror as reports surface of terrible abuses against the dignity of human beings held captive by invading forces in their own country, said Mandela..."

May 11 ~ We must use the courts to get answers about Iraq

said Michael Mansfield in yesterday's Guardian. "... The Red Cross completed its work in 2003. It appears that when it presented its report to the coalition forces, respective governments must have been made aware of these outrages. Who within the British government knew about this? What action was taken? If they claim they did not know, how was this possible? Let's skip another Hutton-style inquiry and get some answers in court. The ICC statute expressly provides for the situation uncovered by the Red Cross. Such activities are categorised as "crimes against humanity" under article 7. ..." Read in full

May 11 ~ Containing the fall-out

Part of Jon Snow's Channel 4 newsletter last night "The British are working overtime to contain any nasty fall-out from the abuse of prisoners in Iraq. Ministers are pleading ignorance of the Red Cross document fed into the Coalition command in February which mentions some UK abuses in amongst the more prevalent US abuses. But the Prime Minister, when I pressed him in Downing Street, did not want to discuss the systematic abuse of human rights by the 'Coalition' worldwide.
The detention without trial, without access to lawyers in sub-human conditions, from Bagram airbase in Afghanistan to Diego Garcia (a British possession with US forces present upon which there are thought to be detainees, but no one will discuss them.) Qatar in the Gulf, Guantanamo on Cuba. There was certainly something eerie about seeing the UK Prime Minister lecturing his Chinese opposite number on human rights, in Downing Street, this morning.
....... Defence Secretary Hoon has just done a reassuring appearance in the Commons in which he effectively says: 'Everything is under control, we've looked into everything'... we shall be talking, we think, to Mr Hoon at seven..."

May 10 ~ "...The first Iraqi victims of alleged mistreatement began appearing last April.

Some claimed that they were civilians snatched off the streets......
........Another four men from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment are to be charged over the death of Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist who choked to death while being interrogated last September. One of his friends arrested in the same raid was beaten so severely that he was left with renal failure. This is the same Regiment alleged to have been behind the torture photos published in the Daily Mirror a week ago. ." ...
Commanders were told that Red Cross officials were alarmed at finding the methods of prisoner abuse were the same in a number of British-run detention centres, suggesting that the mistreatment was not the action of rogue soldiers but a systematic practice. The Red Cross acknowledged, though, that British misbehaviour was far less serious than that of US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison ...." The Times today.

May 10 ~ humiliating sexual abuse at the jail was consistent with procedures taught to British and American special forces.

Observer "....fresh pressure on British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to clarify when he first heard of allegations of mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners amid claims from the Red Cross that British officials were alerted in November.
The MoD told The Observer that Hoon was not informed of the American investigation into Abu Ghraib and was first alerted to the scandal by media reports.
Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said: 'These new revelations show that it is now imperative that Geoff Hoon or the Foreign Secretary himself come to the House of Commons on Monday to fully explain when he was first informed of the abuses in Abu Ghraib.' ...
...The Red Cross disclosed to The Observer that its president, Jakob Kellenberger, had personally warned three of George W. Bush's most senior officials - National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz - of widespread abuse tantamount to torture.
Whitehall sources expressed concern last night that the US was transporting prisoners from Afghanistan to Abu Ghraib for interrogation to avoid being overseen by the Red Cross. .... "

May 10 ~ This Miller is an evil man ...

link about Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller who went to Iraq to review detention and interrogation procedures.
Guardian "....Miller concluded that military police who were guarding the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq should be more actively engaged in "setting the conditions'' for successful "exploitation'' of detainees, according to an Army report that documented the prisoner abuses..." Read in full

May 10 ~ " interesting to watch people who lauded President George W. Bush's leadership in the war on terror come to the belated realization that Bush has given Osama bin Laden exactly what he wanted"

" .the fallout from the war has spooked the markets ......the disastrous occupation is only part of the reason oil is getting more expensive; the other, which will last even if America somehow finds a way out of the quagmire, is the intensifying competition for a limited world oil supply. Thanks to the mess in Iraq - including a continuing campaign of sabotage against oil pipelines - oil exports have yet to recover to their prewar level, let alone supply the millions of extra barrels each day the optimists imagined. And the fallout from the war has spooked the markets, which now fear terrorist attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia, and are starting to worry about radicalization throughout the Middle East. (It has been interesting to watch people who lauded President George W. Bush's leadership in the war on terror come to the belated realization that Bush has given Osama bin Laden exactly what he wanted.) ....
.... competition from Chinese manufacturing and Indian call centers. But a different kind of competition - the scramble for oil and other resources - poses a much bigger threat . ....... We can neither drill nor conquer our way out of the problem. Whatever we do, oil prices are going up. What we have to do is adapt." The oil crunch is not going to go away

May 9 ~ "The British government was warned by Red Cross officials in February that coalition troops were abusing and even killing Iraqi captives"

Scotsman "it emerged last night. Downing Street has been dragged into the deepening crisis after admitting ministers were shown a copy of the Red Cross report detailing abuses so that action could be taken.
....demands that Tony Blair explain what he and senior government colleagues knew and what steps they took to stop the abuse of captives.
Last night, there was further severe embarrassment for the British military after it emerged a second regiment was apparently involved in the mistreatment of prisoners and that soldiers could face prosecution for sexual assault. ..." Read in full

May 9 ~ The photograph in the Sunday Herald today "How Much did they Know?"

Bush himself is insistent that the “first time I saw or heard about pictures,” was on TV.
The extent of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s knowledge is equally hazy. The MoD insists that the US report into the abuses in January was not officially sent to it but confirms he was aware of the contents. A spokesman told the Sunday Herald “it would have been logical” that the MoD would have seen the previous reports by Amnesty and the Red Cross. It’s not clear when Blair was made aware of the impending crisis, although he certainly did not refer to it publicly until the first, awful pictures from Abu Ghraib prison were in the public realm...."
Sunday Herald

May 9 ~ Rumsfeld said that the Guantanamo Bay detainees had “no rights” under the Geneva Convention.

Sunday Herlad "...The failure to respond to the repeated warnings from Amnesty and the Red Cross was one reason for Rumsfeld’s appearance before the congressional committees. First he failed to act on the intelligence before the photographs damaged the US position. Secondly – and this failing goes to the heart of the matter – he did not act quickly and decisively to end the practices and to punish the guards involved. There is another factor which might have encouraged soldiers and guards to believe that they were immune from prosecution if they abused prisoners: in January 2002, Rumsfeld said that the Guantanamo Bay detainees had “no rights” under the Geneva Convention..."

May 9 ~ The damage will endure for a generation

Sunday Herald. ".... Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at Washington’s highly-respected Brookings Institution think-tank, turned his guns on a politician whom he had previously admired: “We now have the United States appearing indifferent to the well-being of Muslims, and providing the world ample unforgettable visual imagery to document it. The damage will, as an administration official put it this week, endure a generation.”

May 9 ~" As the President said, one good reason for going to war was to close Saddam’s torture chambers.

".....In that far-off anonymous prison compound what did die perhaps was something more damaging for the US coalition – the myth of their moral superiority in waging the war against Iraq. The sickening photographs were on public display night and day throughout last week in New York’s busy Times Square and they sent an appalling message to the American people. A week ago, while launching his bid for a second term in office, Bush told supporters at a rally in Michigan that things could only get better in Iraq without Saddam Hussein: “The world is better off because he sits in a prison cell. Because we acted, torture rooms are closed.” ...
If there are worse revelations to come – and there is every indication that there are – upright Americans might have to admit that they have simply been reopened, courtesy of the US army and the previously untouchable defence secretary." Sunday Herald

May 8 ~ " Iraqis gave short shrift to an apology offered by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

when he faced a grilling in Congress on Friday over the prison abuse scandal...The tense hearings, broadcast live in the Arab world, carried major implications for Rumsfeld's career but also for Americans' support for Bush as he faces re-election in November.
A new Gallup Poll showed support for Bush's handling of the Iraq war at just 42 percent, down 19 points from January.
Political and tribal leaders in western Iraq urged Paul Bremer, the U.S. governor, to release all detainees as a gesture of good faith in the wake of the abuses.
"We need a measure that is as big as the affair that has happened -- it needs to reflect the size of the problem," Mamouon Sami Rasheed, vice chairman of the provincial council, told Bremer during a meeting at U.S. headquarters in Baghdad. .
..British troops faced fresh accusations that they also abused prisoners, with one former detainee quoted in a newspaper saying he was beaten viciously by laughing soldiers. Another newspaper said a fourth soldier attached to a regiment already under a cloud had came forward with charges of ill-treatment.." Reuters

May 8 ~ "the real scandal lies in how top U.S. officials responded to reports of the abuses. .... the whole sordid mess was quietly being swept out of sight."

Canada National Post ".....Until the CBS television program 60 Minutes II sparked international outrage by displaying one of the uglier secrets of the Iraq war and its aftermath, the whole sordid mess was quietly being swept out of sight....
.....the Red Cross report says. "We were dealing here with a broad pattern, not individual acts. There was a pattern and a system [to the abuse]," .... In July, 2003, just three months into the occupation of Iraq, Amnesty International said it had received "a number of reports of torture or ill-treatment by Coalition Forces."
It documented cases of Iraqis who had died mysteriously in detention or while being interrogated. It also reported some prisoners were being subjected to "prolonged sleep deprivation, prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure to loud music, prolonged hooding and exposure to bright lights."
"Such treatment would amount to 'torture or inhuman treatment' prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention," the report concluded. "We raised these concerns with U.S. officials, but have not got an indication that serious action was taken to change the treatment...." Read in full

May 7 ~ Donald Rumsfeld in the dock.

Channel 4 news update "Not for long, one suspects, but at last he faces cross examination in front of Senators over his handling of the War on Iraq and matters of abuse and torture in particular. The Neo-Cons under scrutiny, facing their moment in the glare of public inspection. We shall be there in full force tonight at seven. One year on from Bush's self declared end of the war , we have this. It now seems the Red Cross had been warning America for months, the British knew about the abuse too. ..."...
"....what shall we do with the Red Cross, who reported the prisoner abuses in Iraq?"> "....They knew months ago, they told the Americans months ago andthe Americans did nothing. The Red Cross did nothing. Surely it's time for the Red Cross to warn the world that nations will be given six weeks to put matters right, thereafter any obligation for confidentiality should end and the Red Cross should broadcast its concerns..." Read in full

May 7 ~ An Amnesty International researcher in Baghdad told The AP last year that a U.S. military investigator in Baghdad said loud music and sleep deprivation were acceptable interrogation techniques.

(Associated Press) " A U.S. army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that American interrogators routinely used strobe lights.
...Sometimes we fell asleep despite the loud music. The soldier would put a bullhorn next to my ear and scream,'' said Abbas, a Baghdad lawyer arrested with five family members by U.S. troops who stormed his home in March....
Former prisoner Bashar al-Baldawi, 33, said his interrogators kept him awake for five or six days at a time. He said he was hooded for 11 days. "One day I fell asleep because I was so tired and an American soldier opened my mouth and put Tabasco sauce in it,'' al-Baldawi said. Some, like the Abu Ghraib prisoners seen in the photos, were forced to strip naked - especially humiliating for Muslims. Suhaib al-Baz, 24, a cameraman for the Arab satellite TV network Al-Jazeera, was one. Al-Baz said he was stripped, beaten, spat upon and deprived of sleep during his 74-day army imprisonment.
Al-Baz said soldiers took "torture shots'' with their personal cameras. In one case, Al-Baz said he saw a soldier's computer screen emblazoned with a backdrop picture of a hooded, handcuffed prisoner being attacked by a dog. .."
More and more graphic and upsetting accounts are emerging;

May 7 ~ Our lives in their hands....

Donald Rumsfeld is described in today's Guardian as "a control freak who has little patience with the niceties of military protocol ....his mental processes are devoted entirely to calculating how he can successfully inflict violence on those he hates ... He is a product of the no-nonsense, can-do, plainspoken Midwest, preferring to do it his way, on his own terms."
....... He has survived criticism over the deaths of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the treatment prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, but his alleged failure to act over the abuse allegations in Abu Ghraib has led to an unprecedented clamour for his resignation, in both the US press and congress...."

May 7 ~ Iraqi worshippers have been told that anyone who captures a female British soldier can keep her as a slave.

Associated Press tonight "...Al-Bahadli, al-Sadr's chief representative in southern Iraq, was speaking at al-Hawi mosque in central Basra. This is the first time that any anti-occupation activist of note offers financial reward for the killing or capturing of coalition troops. It is likely to be viewed by occupation authorities with concern at a time of rising anti-occupation sentiment and continuing fighting between al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia and US forces in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Al-Bahadli kept an assault rifle next to him as he spoke to an estimated 3,000 worshippers, occasionally lifting it as he screamed "jihad," and "Allahu Akbar," or "God is greatest."

May 6 ~ John Scarlett - in the real world. Promotion to head of MI6

Richard Norton-Taylor wrote in September "..The 45-minute claim was inserted at the last minute on the word, we now know, of an MI6 informant - whether a defector or not remains unclear - talking to a senior Iraqi armed forces officer. MI6 allowed Scarlett to include that "intelligence" despite opposition in an intelligence community concerned - as much now as it was before the war - about how its work was being abused. This is the most damaging episode for MI6 since the Falklands. But then it was about complacency. Now its integrity is in question. As long as Scarlett remains in his post, that damage will not be repaired. ..."
In the same Hutton-filled month Henry Porter wrote, " the analysts in Room 243 of the Cabinet Office and the committee under John Scarlett's chairmanship do look a bit like courtiers, trying to conform to the current mood in Number 10.
A novelist might suggest that Scarlett was playing the long game, perhaps nurturing an ambition to succeed Sir Richard Dearlove as 'C' at MI6, a post he has already been passed over for once. Can we seriously suggest that the JIC's chairman would go so far as to manipulate the evidence in a matter of war and peace to suit his plans? That is certainly the stuff of thrillers, but it seems highly unlikely in the real world..."

May 6 ~ dumbest policy on the face of the Earth

Powell aides go public on rift with Bush Guardian. "....Mr Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, remarks on his boss's anguish at the damage to his credibility following his speech to the United Nations last year making the case for war and insisting there were weapons of mass destruction. "It's a source of great distress for the secretary," he said. Meanwhile his mentor from the National War College, Harlan Ullman, describes the US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, as a "jerk". ...
the internecine battles within the administration are becoming increasingly bitter and open, particularly those between the departments of defence and the state. "None of Powell's friends had made any pretence of speculating about or guessing at his feelings," wrote the journalist, Wil Hylton. "They spoke for him openly and on the record."
Mr Wilkerson even makes jibes at the war record of Mr Bush's inner circle, comparing their desire for military conflict with their reluctance to serve as young men: "I make no bones about it. I have some reservations about people who have never been in the face of battle, so to speak, who are making cavalier decisions about sending men and women out to die...." He then goes on to name former neo-conservative adviser, Richard Perle. He said: "Thank God [he] tendered his resignation and no longer will be even a semi-official person in this administration."

May 6 ~ The US-led coalition in Afghanistan has distributed leaflets calling on people to provide information on al-Qaida and the Taliban or face losing humanitarian aid.

See Guardian
"...The move has outraged aid organisations who said their work is independent of the military and it was despicable to pretend otherwise.
Medécins Sans Frontières, the international medical charity which passed the leaflets to the Guardian, said the threat endangered aid workers. Fourteen aid workers were killed in Afghanistan last year and 11 so far this year.
The Taliban claimed responsibility yesterday for the murder of two British security staff and their Afghan translator from the London-based crisis management company Global Risk Strategies, which is employed by the UN to help prepare for national elections scheduled for September..."

May 6 ~ Democrats: Bush's latest $25 billion request for Iraq is misleadingly low " abrupt reversal for a White House that until recently had insisted it would not seek more money until next year........ With this year's federal deficit expected to exceed last year's record of $374 billion, Democrats said the $25 billion request was an attempt to hide the war's real costs before the fall elections.
''The track record of the Bush White House in accounting for funds for Iraq is a record of confusion, obfuscation, bumbling, denial, and deception,'' said Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee and a frequent critic of the administration's Iraq policies. ...Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry said it was too early to tell whether he would support the proposal..." ...

May 6 ~ Mr. Rumsfeld's Responsibility

Washington Post Editorial . "...(Donald Rumsfeld's).. Pentagon ruled that the United States would no longer be bound by the Geneva Conventions; that Army regulations on the interrogation of prisoners would not be observed; and that many detainees would be held incommunicado and without any independent mechanism of review. Abuses will take place in any prison system. But Mr. Rumsfeld's decisions helped create a lawless regime in which prisoners in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been humiliated, beaten, tortured and murdered -- and in which, until recently, no one has been held accountable. ..The Taguba report and others by human rights groups reveal that the detention system Mr. Rumsfeld oversees has become so grossly distorted that military police have abused or tortured prisoners under the direction of civilian contractors and intelligence officers outside the military chain of command -- not in "exceptional" cases, as Mr. Rumsfeld said Tuesday, but systematically. "

May 6 ~" What I did get right was how quickly America distances itself from such actions by the rapid deployment of euphemism.

Henry Porter in the Guardian "...I knew about "stress and duress" techniques and "extreme renditions", but not until the Taguba report had I heard the phrases "inappropriate confinement conditions" and "set favourable conditions for subsequent interviews". At Abu Ghraib, orders went out to military police "to facilitate interrogation by setting conditions". This meant a thorough beating. The use of the word stress is interesting, because it appears in the testimony of a witness named Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick II, who said of one prisoner: "They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away. They put him in a body bag and packed him in ice for approximately 24 hours." The word stress once meant mental, emotional or physical strain. There was no sense that finality or termination would result from "stressing out". Now we know differently. ...
President Bush's response to the revelations was: "That's not the way we do things in America." Technically, that's true, because the actions were carried out abroad. One suspects his feeble attempt at exculpation will not be much challenged because the country is still suffering from a festering post-9/11 victimhood, which means its response cannot be faulted. In these circumstances the American imperium, the Empire State, thinks itself beyond reproach.

May 6 ~ I am writing this in Britain, a full member of the coalition, jointly in command and jointly accountable.

Simon Jenkins in yesterday's Times ".. We should ask Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon what they knew of these abuses and what they did to stop them." Read in full

May 6 ~ Disney blocks Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911

In his own words: ".... For nearly a year, this struggle has been a lesson in just how difficult it is in this country to create a piece of art that might upset those in charge (well, OK, sorry -- it WILL upset them...big time. Did I mention it's a comedy?). All I can say is, thank God for Harvey Weinstein and Miramax who have stood by me during the entire production of this movie.
There is much more to tell, but right now I am in the lab working on the print to take to the Cannes Film Festival next week (we have been chosen as one of the 18 films in competition). I will tell you this: Some people may be afraid of this movie because of what it will show. But there's nothing they can do about it now because it's done, it's awesome, and if I have anything to say about it, you'll see it this summer -- because, after all, it is a free country.
Michael Moore"
See also Telegraph

May 5 ~" All the right people have pronounced themselves, sickened, outraged, speechless."

Washington Post A wretched new picture of America - "... But listen more closely. "And it's really a shame that just a handful can besmirch maybe the reputations of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines. . . . " said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday.
Reputation, image, perception. The problem, it seems, isn't so much the abuse of the prisoners, because we will get to the bottom of that and, of course, we're not really like that. The problem is our reputation. Our soldiers' reputations. Our national self-image. These photos, we insist, are not us.
But these photos are us. ....Nations are made up of individuals. Great national crimes begin with the acts of misguided individuals; and no matter how many people are held directly accountable for these crimes, we are, collectively, responsible for what these individuals have done. We live in a democracy. Every errant smart bomb, every dead civilian, every sodomized prisoner, is ours. And more....... Open up to the hard facts of human nature, the lessons of the past, the warning signs of future abuses.
These photos show us what we may become, as occupation continues, anger and resentment grows and costs spiral...."

May 5 ~ West's double standards

Letters in today's Guardian "...If the media had made even a fraction of the fuss over Blair's dodgy dossier as they are making over the pictures of British soldiers mistreating Iraqi hostages, then we wouldn't be in Iraq today (Torture is the real issue, May 4). If the pictures showed Arab troops humiliating British prisoners, there would be howls of indignation and no one would be rushing to make excuses about their authenticity. In any case, the behaviour of our US "allies" was plain. Muslims in this country are now the targets of police raids which are given wide coverage. Yet no apology is given by the media establishment, which continues to portray them as terrorists, when the same people are later released without charge. ..." More

May 5 ~ Key excerpts from the Taguba report

See "Between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated byseveral members of the military police guard force (372nd Military Police Company, 320thMilitary Police Battalion, 800th MP Brigade), in Tier (section) 1-A of the Abu Ghraib Prison (BCCF). ..." Read in full

May 4 ~ Fallujah and Abu Ghuraib: No Comparison

Juan Cole comment " ...... The United States is a government, not a mob. ....... The four dead American commandos at Fallujah, who were not uniformed military, have already occasioned a brutal siege of the city and over 600 Iraqi deaths, some proportion of them civilian. Shall they now also excuse the torture of dozens of Iraqis at Abu Ghuraib? And this, months after the fact? Is this Iraq enterprise an occasion for endless serial revenge, or an attempt to share democratic values with a beleaguered population all too used to torture and oppression? In the sordid calculus of race, how many Iraqi lives and psyches exactly are worth four American ones?
The issue of hypocrisy is also important here. The rabble of Fallujah never pledged that they were committing violence in order to end torture and establish democracy. George W. Bush boasted repeatedly that "there are no more torture chambers" in Iraq. I am not only outraged that the US military committed these crimes, but I am extremely alarmed that the images coming out of Abu Ghuraib have damaged US credibility in Iraq beyond repair. Anyone tempted to make light of this issue or dismiss it with feeble and inappropriatecomparisons would be making a serious error of judgment." posted by Juan Cole at 5/4/2004 07:14:38 AM

May 4 ~ "Around 50 former US diplomats have lined up to attack President George W Bush's Middle East policy.

In an open letter, they accuse the White House of costing America credibility, prestige and friends.
The letter expresses the signatories' support for 52 retired British diplomats who also sent a letter to Tony Blair last week. "We former diplomats applaud our 52 British colleagues who recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair criticising his Middle East policy and calling on Britain to exert more influence over the United States," the US letter begins. ..." (ITN News)

May 4 ~ ""These squaddies have been put under a lot of pressure," a senior Mirror executive told me, "and we believe they're telling the absolute truth."

Roy Greenslade in the Guardian "... As far as the Mirror is concerned, the pictures are a genuine portrayal of a torture episode in Iraq. ...... The military top brass and the prime minister acted swiftly in the wake of the revelations, adopting a tone which suggested that they accepted the truth of what the Mirror was saying. Had allegations of torture reached the Ministry of Defence's ears beforehand?
.......another thought. Who is responsible for heaping ordure over the Mirror story? It is surely in the interests of the government and the army to smear the paper in order to deflect attention from the matter of torture in Iraq, a war which must rank among Britons as the most unpopular ever to have been fought in their name.
On the other hand, if Morgan has got it wrong, if the pictures are discovered to be fake, then he may well be forced to resign. His credibility, and that of his paper, would be undermined for ever. ..... It would be the bloodiest error any newspaper has ever made. I cannot conceive, even with his track record, that Piers Morgan didn't take all that into account."

May 4 ~ 90 per cent of the estimated 750 civilians killed in Fallujah were non-combatants.

according to reports. An expert of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights today wrote to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) strongly recommending that it establish an independent inquiry into the health situation of the civilian population of Fallujah following allegations that coalition forces might have violated international humanitarian and human rights law. See report
In his letter, the Special Rapporteur lists a number of allegations that have been made against the Coalition Forces:
  • the use of indiscriminate force, resulting in civilian deaths and casualties;
  • blocking civilians from entering Falluja's main hospital;
  • preventing medical staff from either working at the hospital or redeploying medical supplies to an improvised health facility;
  • occupying the hospital;
  • firing upon ambulances.

    May 3 ~ “Do you really believe the Army relieved a general officer because of six soldiers? Not a chance."

    article from the New Yorker by Seymour M Hersh American soldiers brutalized Iraqis. How far up does the responsibility go?

    May 3 ~ - "the fall-out continues..."

    Guardian Leader "....The latest reports are that Britain is to contribute a further 4,000 troops to Iraq, in part to compensate for the withdrawn Spanish forces. The events of the last two weeks - the fighting in Falluja, the siege of Najaf, the allegations of brutality - means the government will have to think very carefully. The coalition has already found its first justification for invasion - finding weapons of mass destruction - to be hollow. Its second justification - humanitarian moral necessity - is rapidly going the same way.

    May 3 ~ British soldiers swapped "hundreds" of abuse photographs

    BBC report "... two soldiers who gave these images to the paper say they represent only the tip of the iceberg. In Monday's Mirror the soldiers, who wish to remain anonymous, claim many pictures were destroyed in September when the troops' luggage was searched as they left Iraq. ...The Mirror's editor Piers Morgan earlier said the alleged abuse had been "common knowledge among disgusted British servicemen in Basra for months".
    ...BBC defence correspondent Paul Adams said sources close to The Queen's Lancashire Regiment were suspicious about the authenticity of the photographs questioning whether the rifle, hats and truck pictured matched those issued to men in Iraq. The images have already been seen in the Middle East And they asked why there appeared to be no sign of sweat, dirt or injuries on the body of the alleged victim. ..."

    May 3 ~ U.S. Official: Abuse Allegations Are 'a Big Deal' Washington Post

    The public relations damage is profound and permanent," said Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan. "The release of these pictures may be the point at which the United States lost Iraq."

    May 3 ~ "Foreign Fighter" Myth Exposed

    "By blaming foreigners, U.S. authorities hope to quash the idea that Iraqis are rising up against military occupation and frame the conflict as part of the wider war on terror. However, foreigners play a tiny role in Iraq's insurgency, many military experts say. ..Those who have spent time inside Fallujah have described a city consumed with the fight - fathers and sons fighting for the local mujahedeen and wives and daughters cooking and caring for the wounded. ''The whole city supports this jihad,'' said Houssam Ali Ahmed, 53, a Fallujah resident who fled to Baghdad when his neighborhood was caught in the fighting. ''The people of Fallujah are fighting to defend their homes. We are Muslim mujahedeen fighting a holy war.'' ." Associated Press
    Juan Cole comments," important latent function of the falsehoods about foreign fighters. These are intended to lay the groundwork for US wars against, and occupations of, Syria and Iran. Note that if there are foreign fighters in Iraq at all, many of them have come in from Jordan. And yet, Jordan is never threatened with being invaded, because it is already seen as cooperative ...."

    May 3 ~ "Our first task as Iraqis is to work for the unity of the people of Iraq, and then to work to put an end to the occupation through all legitimate means."

    "A national congress will be held on 8 May to bring together a large number of Iraqi personalities opposed to the occupation, including Islamists, Arab nationalists and independents," he told a news conference in Cairo. "Our first task as Iraqis is to work for the unity of the people of Iraq, and then to work to put an end to the occupation through all legitimate means." (AFP 1200 gmt 2 May 04) See

    May 3 ~ Officials said they had no information on the incident as did a spokeswoman for the US military headquarters in Baghdad. ..."

    New Zealand Herald Two Iraqis were killed and an aide to rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was arrested in a raid by troops of US-led occupation forces in the Iraqi city of Hilla...Hilla residents said the soldiers stormed a meeting of religious students and tribal representatives in the city, about 100km south of Baghdad, on Saturday, and opened fire. Television footage of the site of the raid early on Sunday showed pools of blood and human remains, as well as bullet holes pockmarking interior walls of the building where the meeting was held.
    An aide to Sadr -- whose followers rose up last month against US troops in Baghdad and allied forces in southern Iraq after the arrest of one of his lieutenants -- said the raid was part of a US campaign against the cleric, who has denounced the occupation of Iraq. "It is in a pattern of humiliation of the men of religion," Sadr's aide Sheikh Qays al-Khazali told Reuters Television in the Shi'ite shrine city of Najaf. "The occupation forces continue to violate human rights and the rights of the Iraqi people." US military officials say they will capture or kill Sadr, who has been in Najaf and the nearby city of Kufa since the start of the uprising. US troops surround Najaf, which is sacred to Shi'ite Muslims who make up some 60 per cent of Iraq's population and where the presence of troops would incite fury.

    May 3 ~ Saudi Arabia ~ "politically and economically distancing itself from at least the present American government.."

    ".... the House of Saud, which has cultivated a special relationship with successive U.S. administrations since the days of FDR, seems to have effectively decided that politically and economically distancing itself from at least the present American government provides a much better means of ensuring its long-term survival.
    All of this implies an increasingly precarious backdrop for U.S. financial assets and the dollar, the rallies in which do not fully reflect today's deteriorating geopolitical and economic variables. Consumers have reached debt saturation with short-term rates at 1 percent. What happens as rates rise and the oil price explodes? A further price spike in energy could well exacerbate a growing inflationary psychology now predominant in the credit markets, which in turn could undermine the Fed's recent efforts to "talk down" yields on long-term interest rates.
    An oil shock potentially endangering U.S. national security and economic interests is the last thing a debt-saturated America, embarking on expensive overseas ventures, needs right now. Yet that appears to be where we are headed today, the consequences of which are not yet fully reflected in the markets. .." Saudi Power Play

    May 2 ~ "Can we please stop calling it a quagmire?

    The United States isn't mired in a bog in Iraq, or a marsh; it is free-falling off a cliff. The only question now is: who will follow the Bush clan off this precipice, and who will refuse to jump?
    More and more are, thankfully, choosing the second option. The last month of US aggression in Iraq has inspired what can only be described as a mutiny: waves of soldiers, workers and politicians under the command of the US occupation authority suddenly refusing to follow orders and abandoning their posts..
    ...There is a way that the UN can redeem itself in Iraq: it could choose to join the mutiny, further isolating the United States. This would help to force Washington to hand over real power - ultimately to Iraqis, but first to a multilateral coalition that did not participate in the invasion and occupation and would have the credibility to oversee direct elections. This could work, but only through a process that fiercely protects Iraq's sovereignty..." ReadNaomi Klein's solution.

    May 2 ~ More on the Woodward revelations

    “Plan of Attack,” the first detailed, behind-the-scenes account of how and why the president decided to wage war in Iraq. "... there was a lot happening that only key Bush people knew about..." Read in full the CBS article about the book and its interviews

    May 1 ~ Syria next

    The White House reminds Syria it intends to impose sanctions over what it calls its support for terrorism. BBC

    May 1 ~ And now British soldiers too...

    "Armed Force Minister Adam Ingram has said if pictures of British soldiers torturing an Iraqi prisoner are genuine then they are "appalling". .." See Guardian See also Independent "The Ministry of Defence was last night forced to announce an investigation after photographs showing British soldiers beating and urinating on an Iraqi prisoner were published.
    The pictures, coming the day after US troops were revealed to have maltreated Iraqi detainees, show British soldiers beating the man with their rifle butts. He was reportedly arrested for theft.
    Their victim is said to have been left bleeding and vomiting, with a broken jaw and smashed teeth, after an eight-hour ordeal. During it, he was apparently threatened with summary execution.
    Speaking on condition of anonymity, serving soldiers told the Daily Mirror that the unnamed captive, against whom no charges were brought, was dumped from the back of a moving vehicle at the end of his torture. It is not known whether he survived..." read in full

    May 1 ~ Now British army is in the dock as Allies outrage world opinion

    Independent "...The US and British Governments said the American pictures represented the isolated actions of a handful of renegade GIs. But, hours later, the allegations of a more widespread problem were given dramatic support....
    Maybe, as their lawyers claim, the six military policemen who are facing criminal charges were poorly trained and acting on the orders of superiors. These latter include intelligence officers and private-sector "investigators" hired by the Pentagon, who had told the low-ranking soldiers to soften up the prisoners ­ and then congratulated them for the "fantastic job" they were doing.
    Maybe the soldiers had not been properly trained, and were badly supervised. Such niceties may mitigate their punishment by a court martial. But they will surely be lost on Arab public opinion. So too will the expression of "deep disgust" by President George Bush yesterday, and his insistence that the servicemen responsible "do not reflect the true nature of the American people ... or the nature of the men and women we send overseas". For all too many people in the Arab people, one suspects, they do." Read in full

    May 1 ~ "The awful shots of US military personnel enjoying sordid japes at the humiliating expense of Iraqi prisoners

    have detonated shock waves across the world. It seems the Geneva Convention and a basic understanding of Muslim sensibilities eluded those in charge of the prison. The very same institution in which Saddam did his torturing. I've been there and will never forget the echoing clank of the metal doors that gave way beneath the hangmen's noose where so many died. That this place should be further defiled in this way has provoked anger in Iraq and beyond. As yet America is not much stirred by it. The story is on an inside page of the New York Times, and only the Baltimore Sun seems to have given it the prominence it desrves. Looks like US commanders have not yet awoken to the reality that many of their forces now regard Iraqis as 'the enemy' -not a good condition for occupying forces." Jon Snow.
    See also Detroit Free Press

    April 30 ~ Graphic photographs showing the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners in a US-run prison outside Baghdad

    emerged yesterday from a military inquiry which has left six soldiers facing a possible court martial and a general under investigation. Guardian

    April 29 ~ Doubts grow over US action in Iraq

    Guardian " A new poll makes grim reading for the US president, George Bush, on the day he faces what many expect to be a gruelling session before the commission investigating the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The latest New York Times-CBS News survey shows that criticism of Mr Bush's handling of terrorism during the commission hearings has taken its toll. His rating in this area stands at 60%, down from 64% last month and 68% in December. Public doubts are also growing about both the US commitment to Iraq and the president 's handling of the situation, almost a year after he declared an end to major combat. ..."

    April 28 ~ The word "unprecedented" is overused and has been much in evidence in the last 24 hours. In this case, though, its use is wholly justified.

    Guardian leader .... Economists are forever promoting their views in public. Diplomats - even retired ones - are not. Discretion is implanted in their DNA from an early age. In extreme circumstances, they may send an internal note or, rarer still, ask for a private meeting. They do not do open letters to prime ministers. And they certainly do not do open letters using words like "dismay", "naive", "illegal" and "doomed" - and publish them in the press. That is a breach of the code. It signals the fact that this is an exceptional event that cannot be brushed aside or easily forgotten...
    the main thing to say about the letter is that the diplomats are overwhelmingly right. The three large points that they make are, first, that the US government has unilaterally committed itself to a one-sided policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict; second, that the US is now paying the price for having no effective post-invasion plan for Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein; and, third, that Britain has not exerted its influence to redress these dangerous policies. ...." Read in full

    April 28 ~" in Fallujah, Marines continued offensive operations and shelling intended to route out and eliminate resistance to what military officials call "pacification" attempts ..."

    New Standard News Doublespeak has accompanied war for thousands of years. English professor William Lutz has found examples as early as Julius Caesar, who described his brutal and bloody conquest of Gaul as "pacification." "The military is acutely aware that the reason for its existence is to wage war, and war means killing people and the deaths of American soldiers as well," he states. "Because the reality of war and its consequences are so harsh, the military almost instinctively turns to doublespeak when discussing war."

    April 28 ~ the violence summarised

    in the Channel 4 update "the violence in and over Falluja in Iraq continues. The Americans having used a bomber to drop ordinance, tanks to fire the stuff are now back to spraying the North Western and North Eastern quadrants of the city. Proportionate response? Who knows? Although we have a correspondent on the outskirts, neither he nor we can really tell. Let's be candid. I saw 'Fog of War' about Robert McNamara and Vietnam last night. Knowing Falluja was raging as I did so, provided an added piquancy...."
    See Washington Post's Fog of War page

    April 27 ~ "This is a most remarkable intervention in the debate about the Middle East from a group of people who are almost certainly the most expert in Britain on the issue,"

    Scotsman quoting Menzies Campbell
    and read the diplomats' letter in full and Crispin Tickell's article from the Independent 'I have never seen such despair among diplomats'

    April 27 ~ U.S. aircraft hammers Fallujah after dark; fighting near Najaf kills scores News Multiple explosions shook Fallujah after dark Tuesday, and large plumes of smoke billowed into the sky as fighting erupted for the second straight night. An American AC-130 gunship hammered targets in the city. Blasts and gunfire went on steadily for more than half an hour in sustained fighting.... The fighting erupted as a two-day extension to a cease-fire ended. Earlier in the day, U.S. aircraft dropped leaflets .... ''Surrender, you are surrounded,'' the leaflets said. ''If you are a terrorist, beware, because your last day was yesterday. In order to spare your life end your actions and surrender to coalition forces now. We are coming to arrest you.'' .....An American soldier was killed Tuesday in Baghdad, raising the U.S. death toll for April to 115 the same number lost during the entire invasion of Iraq last year. ...... John Negroponte, nominated to be ambassador to Baghdad, said at his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Iraqis will have ''a lot more sovereignty than they have right now'' after the June 30 handover, but the United States will still have a key role in providing and overseeing security, and the caretaker government won't be able to make laws. ...
    . ..
    . The death brought to 115 the number of U.S. troops killed in combat in the past 27 days the same number of Americans killed during the two-month invasion of Iraq..... .

    April 26 ~ unprecedented letter signed by 52 former ambassadors, high commissioners and governors,

    Blair was urged to sway US policy in the region as "a matter of the highest urgency". The diplomats, among them former ambassadors to Iraq and Israel, told Blair they had said the letter, sent to Blair on Monday. IndiaTimes
    "....Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said that the co-authors probably knew more about the Middle East situation than anyone else in Britain.
    "The Prime Minister would be well advised to take account of their criticisms," said Sir Menzies. "When the House of Commons was persuaded to endorse military action against Iraq, it was among other things on the footing that the "road map" would be implemented..." Times

    April 26 ~ "...the remorsely downward spiral continues in Iraq"

    Channel 4's always succinct summing up evening newsletter "... new pictorial evidence of the grim suffering of hostages. Italians this the same time, Britain's Ministry of Defence is talking to the Americans about how to make good the Spanish departure and guess what? The US is desperate to get the UK to take over the unbelievably tense and delicate crisis that is the holy city of Najaf...."

    April 26 ~ US troops threaten to cross Shia 'red line' to enter Najaf

    Independent ....Shia leaders have warned there will be an explosion of anger among the 15 to 16 million Iraqi Shia if US soldiers enter Najaf, where Imam Ali, the founder of their faith, is buried in a golden-domed shrine. "We're going to drive this guy [Sadr] into the dirt," said Brigadier General Mark Hertling, the deputy commander of the 1st Armoured Division. "Either he tells his militia to put down their arms, form a political party and fight with ideas not guns, or he's going to find a lot of them killed... would be difficult for the US troops with their massive firepower to pursue Sadr and his Army of Mehdi militiamen without damaging the shrine or the vast cemetery which is an ideal hiding-place for guerrillas...
    ...(in Baghdad yesterday) ... four Iraqi children were killed ...shot dead by US troops firing at random, witnesses claimed.
    "I saw a child lying on the street with a bullet hole in his neck and another in his side," a driver said. "He had his schoolbag on his back. About 15 minutes later his relatives came and took him away."
    The children had just left their school nearby to look at a blazing Humvee. ...

    April 26 ~ "In London and Washington it may look like a virtue to show flexibility over the Baathists. But here they will simply think you are being defeated."

    Mr Zebari, a veteran Kurdish leader, said many of the US mistakes were attributable to "its lack of good intelligence".
    He believes the US security policy collapsed this month when half of the US-trained police, paramilitary and army mutinied or refused to fight. "The only Iraqi army battalion which stood and fought was made up of men from the political parties because they politically committed to the new order." The ferocity and success of the guerrillas is partly attributable to covert assistance from Iraq's neighbours, Mr Zebari added. Independent "

    April 25 ~"... latest spate of violence in the worst month for US-led forces since Saddam Hussein's fall."

    Independent on Sunday "...The al-Basra terminal, six miles off-shore, is one of only two facilities capable of handling Iraqi crude for export. No damage was reported, but the terminal ­ in the form of a large oil platform ­ was immediately shut down by the authorities. Two of the terrorist boats exploded alongside ships tied up at the terminal, according to a spokesman for the British military, which controls Basra nearby. ..."

    April 24 ~ One year on, the UK casualty lists get longer every day

    The true scale of British casualties in Iraq is revealed today after the Ministry of Defence confirmed that more than 2,200 injured British military personnel have been flown home from the Gulf since the start of the campaign...Since February last year a total of 2,228 injured British personnel have been flown home for treatment, a figure equivalent to three battalions.....the death toll currently standing at 59.
    But despite the mounting casualties, British forces are under pressure from US commanders to take on tough new roles.
    ... the BBC confirmed that it had withdrawn all but two of its staff from Iraq and banned any more trips to the country until further notice. Scotsman

    April 24 ~ "...They said they came to give peace and human rights but now we're figuring out that that's not true.

    They don't understand Iraq so they make problems that lead to conflict. They said they would rebuild but they're destroying. Clean water and electricity would be enough."
    The story is the same wherever you go. The women feel depressed, the children are distressed, people are trying to get back into Falluja and finding the roads closed; those still inside Falluja are trying to get out and finding the same obstacle. .." Jo Wilding's latest despatch

    April 23 ~ "We need to stop hiding the deaths of our young. We need to be open about their deaths,"

    said Jane Bright of California, whose 24-year-old son, Evan Ashcraft, was killed in combat in July...In a related incident, a cargo worker was fired on Wednesday by a military contractor after her photograph of flag-draped coffins bearing the remains of US soldiers was published on the front page of Sunday editions of The Seattle Times. ...."The Star
    The Pentagon ordered an information crackdown on the website - where there were dozens of photographs of American war dead arriving at the country's largest military mortuary. The website cannot now be accessed.

    April 23 ~ Brigadier Nick Carter says troop reinforcements would only "get in the way'' in Iraq

    FT ".... Mr Straw told the BBC's Today programme: "If there is a need for more troops to be sent, then I'm quite sure that my colleague Geoff Hoon, defence secretary will arrange for that to happen." ..... Brigadier Nick Carter, the commander of British troops in Basra, on Wednesday denied that troop reinforcements were needed. They would only "get in the way'' as the aim now was for Iraqis to take the lead....."

    April 23 ~ "...Mr Blair emerges as a pathetic figure, offering almost sycophantic support to Mr Bush at each turn..."

    Simon Jenkins in the Times. It is an article that should be read in full. "The fabrication of Iraqi weapons intelligence is related again and again in Hans Blix's Disarming Iraq, in John Prados's Hoodwinked: the Documents that Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War and in The Politics of Truth by Joseph Wilson (of Niger uranium fame).

    These tales are jolted up a notch by Vanity Fair in what amounts to a 22,000-word "book within a magazine" on the shambolic countdown to war. Mr Blair emerges as a pathetic figure, offering almost sycophantic support to Mr Bush at each turn, only pleading for "the UN route" to appease his party dissenters. His claim, in the autumn of 2002, that there was "nothing decided" on Iraq cannot survive transcripts showing that he knew by July that "it's a done deal". His job was to cobble together enough hair-raising intelligence to get the Europeans in line. In this he failed, to Pentagon derision.

    April 23 ~ Iraqi generals who fought for Saddam Hussein are being reinstated

    to strengthen the new US-trained Iraqi army half of whose soldiers mutinied or went home during fighting earlier this month. Independent

    April 22 ~ "...The Iraq war was conceived by the president and his war cabinet in an apparent effort to evade constitutional checks and balances.

    In Iran-contra, the national security council, CIA and Pentagon were stealthily exploited from within; in Iraq, they were abused from the top. When the Iran-contra scandal was revealed, the Reagan administration was placed into receivership by the old Republican establishment. Neoconservatives and adventurers, criminal or not, were purged, from Elliott Abrams to Richard Perle. Now they are at the centre of power. ..."
    "...Powell believed the government had been seized by a "Gestapo office" of neoconservatives directed by Cheney. "It was a separate little government that was out there," writes Woodward of Powell's view. The only precedent is Iran-contra. Powell was appalled by the mangling of intelligence as Cheney and the neocons made their case to an eager Bush and manipulated public opinion. But Powell had put on his uniform for his commander-in-chief. In the White House, his capitulation was greeted with a combination of glee and scorn. ...Powell played the good soldier, not taking his qualms and knowledge to the Congress or the American people. .... he chose to settle scores by speaking to Woodward.." from What Colin Powell saw but didn't say by Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian

    April 22 ~ A sense of bewilderment on the streets of Basra - there have been attacks here before, but nothing on this scale.

    Channel 4 news "....These were four simultaneous suicide bomb attacks - thought to be car bombs. The targets were three police stations in the city and a police training academy in Zubair, 16 miles away. Four British soldiers were wounded in that attack - two of them seriously. At the hospital - the injured flowed in and bodies lined the corridors. The city's mayor said a hundred people had been wounded. Witness counted many more. And as the death toll continued to climb the mayor confirmed that most of the dead were civilians. British troops took position on top of the hospital - they'd earlier faced protestors when arriving to help. ..."

    April 22 ~ UN investigator will probe rights, war on terror

    GENEVA, April 21 (Reuters) - The U.N.'s top human rights body moved on Wednesday to increase scrutiny of how the so-called "war on terror" is being waged worldwide by appointing a special investigator to monitor governments' actions. The move comes in the wake of increased concern by United Nations and human rights groups that some countries have used post-September 11 crackdowns to stifle opposition groups. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights also said any "response to terrorism" must "conform to international treaties on human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law".
    ......countries, including many in Europe, have boosted police powers.
    Washington has come in for strong criticism over its holding of al-Qaeda suspects for long periods without trial and access to lawyers at its Guantanamo naval base in Cuba. ..... "We think that this is an important and much needed first step in monitoring the consequences of counter terrorism measures on human rights," said Loubna Freih, spokeswoman for the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

    April 21 ~ Americans warned of looming 'civil war'

    Independent "...a confidential memo written by a US official working for the American-led body.
    ....."The CPA handles an issue like a six-year-old playing soccer," says the memo, written last month by the US official for his boss, a senior CPA director. "Someone kicks the ball and 100 people chase after it hoping to be noticed without a care as to what happens on the field."
    Last week in a press conference Mr Bush portrayed a different vision of what was happening in Iraq. Mr Bush admitted that the past month - the worst for US casualties - had been a "tough, tough, tough series of weeks". But he added: "We're doing the right thing."
    Such a view is not shared by the unnamed author of the March memo...... America's problems in Iraq have been exacerbated by the decision of several countries to withdraw their troops from the country. On Monday, Honduras followed Spain by announcing it would pull its troops out. Yesterday, it was reported by the Irish Times that Poland, which contributes around 2,400 troops to an international peacekeeping contingent, will withdraw its forces at the end of the year." Read in full

    April 20 ~ "there are some of us who think that Mr. Zapatero is right.."

    Hansard ( "He perhaps knows that hope pays no dues to reason" Read again Simon Jenkins (April 14th) on the language now used by the "Invasion apologists" )

    April 20 ~ "...While the American media talks of the great restraint and "pinpoint precision" of the American attack, over 700 people, at least half of them civilians, have been killed in Fallujah."

    ( ) "And, according to the (Iraqi) Ministry of Health, in the last two weeks, at least 290 were killed in other cities, over 30 of them children. Many of those who died because of the hospital closures will never be added in to the final tally of the "liberation."
    By any reasonable standard, these hospital closings (and, of course, the shooting at ambulances) are war crimes. However afraid the Plus Ultra garrison may have been of attack from the rooftops, they didn't have to close the hospital; they could simply have screened entrants. In the case of Fallujah, it's clear that one of the reasons the mujahideen were willing to talk about ceasefire was to get the hospital open again; in effect, the United States was holding civilians (indirectly) hostage for military ends.
    After an earlier article about attacks on ambulances, many people wrote to ask why U.S. forces would do this -- it conflicted with the image they wanted to have of the U.S. military. Were they just trying to massacre civilians? And, if so, why?
    In fact, it's fairly simple: the United States has its military goals and simply does not care how many Iraqi civilians have to be killed in order to maximize the military efficiency of their operations. A senior British army commander recently criticized the Americans for viewing the Iraqis as Untermenschen -- a lower order of human being. He also said the average soldier views all Iraqis as enemies or potential enemies. That is precisely the case. I have heard the same thing from dozens of people here -- "They don't care what happens to Iraqis." ......... The resistance in Fallujah will be beaten down, with the commission of more war crimes; if the United States invades Najaf, it will be able to win militarily there as well. But from now on, no military victory will make Iraqis stop resisting." See Report from Baghdad for an alternative view to the mainstream press

    April 20 ~ "During the months leading up to the conflict in Iraq, President Bush repeatedly told Americans that war was his last option.

    But, according to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's new book," ( i.e. "Plan of Attack,") " war seemed to have been Bush's first option.
    In "Plan of Attack," Woodward paints a picture of a president determined to strike at Saddam Hussein less than two months after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan. Despite hollow overtures to work through the United Nations, according to Woodward's account, Bush had already made up his mind to attack Iraq shortly after New Year's of 2003, well before Secretary of State Colin Powell's eleventh-hour presentation to the United Nations.
    Woodward writes that Bush even collared Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a November 2001 dinner party, demanding to know what kind of war plan Rumsfeld had for Iraq. But the president kept his designs on attacking that country quiet lest the public think him too eager for war.
    What's more, Bush kept his own secretary of state in the dark, informing the Saudi ambassador before Powell. That the president didn't make his head diplomat privy to war plans indicates how little importance Bush placed on finding a diplomatic solution to Iraq before launching an invasion.
    .... The president didn't hash out with advisers whether an invasion of Iraq would detract from the war on terror, or whether the humanitarian benefits of overthrowing Saddam Hussein would exceed the potential calamities of a religiously and ethnically fractured Iraq sustained for years to come by American troops and taxpayers.
    Bush's eagerness for war has led to a series of blunders. His administration erred in connecting al-Qaida to Saddam Hussein and on the presence of weapons of mass destruction, the occupation's cost and duration, the number of troops needed, the ability of Iraqi oil to self-finance reconstruction and the warmth with which Iraqis would welcome Americans.
    The jury is still out on whether Iraq can become a functioning democracy. Given the Bush administration's record so far, there is little reason for confidence." article in the Virginian Pilot

    April 19 ~ "Follow me, said the president. And, tragically, we did."

    New York Times "With his misbegotten war in Iraq, his failure to throw everything we had at Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and his fantasy of using military might as a magic wand to "change the world," President Bush has ushered the American people into a bloody and mind-bending theater of the absurd.
    Each act is more heartbreaking than the last. Pfc. Keith Maupin, who was kidnapped near Baghdad on April 9, showed up on a videotape broadcast by Al Jazeera last Friday. He was in the custody of masked gunmen and, understandably, frightened.
    "My name is Keith Matthew Maupin," he said, looking nervously into the camera. "I am a soldier from the First Division. I am married with a 10-month-old son."
    Private Maupin is 20 years old and should never have been sent into the flaming horror of Iraq. Now we don't know how to get him out.
    ............. .Less than two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to Bob Woodward's account in his new book, "Plan of Attack," President Bush ordered Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to have plans drawn up for a war against Iraq. Mr. Bush insisted that this be done with the greatest of secrecy. The president did not even fully inform his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, or his secretary of state, Colin Powell, about his directive to Mr. Rumsfeld.....President Bush may truly believe, as he suggested at his press conference last week, that he is carrying out a mission that has been sanctioned by the divine. But he has in fact made the world less safe with his catastrophic decision to wage war in Iraq. At least 700 G.I.'s and thousands of innocent Iraqis, including many women and children, are dead. Untold numbers have been maimed and there is no end to the carnage in sight.
    Meanwhile, instead of destroying the terrorists, our real enemies, we've energized them. ." Read in full

    April 19 ~ "Spain announced last night it was expediting the withdrawal of troops from Iraq

    jolting its coalition partners after another weekend of heavy losses and setbacks." Guardian Hours after his government was sworn in, the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodrdguez Zapatero, ordered an abrupt recall of Spain's 1,300 troops, saying they would leave Iraq "in the shortest possible time". He said he was no longer prepared to wait until his previous deadline of June 30 because there was no sign of the UN ......
    In Madrid last night Spanish government officials said the withdrawal plan could proceed apace. They said defence staff had already drawn up plans .....
    An intense round of secret shuttle diplomacy by the new foreign minister and a senior official, José Bono, over the past few weeks saw 12 heads of state and heads of government consulted about whether a UN handover at the end of June was possible.
    The officials insisted that, with Spanish troops on UN peace-keeping missions in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Kosovo and with 100 Spanish soldiers having died during such missions over the past 10 years, Spain could not be accused ofrunning away from dangerous situations.
    Mr Zapatero reminded the media that one of his campaign pledges had been to bring the soldiers home from Iraq unless the United Nations took political and military control of the situation there. "With the information we have, and which we have gathered over the past few weeks," he said, "it is not foreseeable that the United Nations would adopt a resolution that satisfies Spain's terms."

    April 19 ~ "At some point, you're going to have to think more carefully about the consequences of these actions."

    IndoLink".....The New York Times, quoted a senior administration official as saying that the Bush administration was surprised and dismayed over the killing and had in no way given approval of any plan to take his (Dr Rantissi's) life in the Bush-Sharon meeting.
    The newspaper said that other officials in the Bush administration were concerned that "Arabs would get the impression that because of the Sharon-Bush meeting, the United States approved of these sorts of attacks on Palestinian leaders."....You kill the leader of Hamas, and then you kill the leader of Hamas," another senior official told the NYT, expressing some exasperation at Israel's killing of two Hamas leaders within a month. "At some point, You kill the leader of Hamas, and then you kill the leader of Hamas," another senior official told the NYT, expressing some exasperation at Israel's killing of two Hamas leaders within a month. "At some point, you're going to have to think more carefully about the consequences of these actions." ....."

    April 19 ~ Mourners vow to revenge killing

    Scotsman "Anguished mourners threw purple flowers at the corpse of the assassinated Hamas leader, Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi, yesterday during a mass funeral while Palestinian moderates said prospects for a negotiated solution in the Middle East have also been buried for the foreseeable future.
    .... to the many tens of thousands of Gazans who turned out to mourn him yesterday, including hundreds of masked Hamas fighters with Kalashnikovs, Dr Rantissi was a symbol of resistance to occupation.
    A founding father of the movement and firebrand spokesman, he was named Hamas leader in Gaza last month after Israel assassinated its spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. "They succeeded in killing Rantissi, but we have hundreds of Rantissis," a man wearing the green headband of Hamas yelled into a megaphone. "All the Palestinians are Rantissi." ....... Dr Rantissi, a paediatrician, had known his days were numbered, especially since a failed Israeli assassination attempt in June. "We are all waiting for the last day of our lives," he said recently. "Nothing will be changed if death is by Apache or by cardiac arrest. I prefer Apache." ..."

    April 18 ~ Smiles in the Rose Garden, but all hell continues in Iraq

    Blair and Bush put on a brave face as power in Iraq ebbs away Independent on Sunday "....Colin Powell, the dovish Secretary of State, whose doubts about the wisdom of the war continue to surface, was selected to participate in the discussions.
    Mr Powell is quoted as having warned the President two months before the invasion of Iraq of the likely problems ahead.
    "You're sure?" Mr Powell is said to have asked Mr Bush when he told him of the decision to invade in January 2003. "You break it, you own it," he said, underlining the extent to which Mr Bush was about to make himself responsible for another country's destiny.
    Mr Powell's presence in the Oval Office on Friday was one more sign of how far the President has been forced to accept the folly of his failure to listen to that advice...." Read in full

    April 18 ~ Violence in Iraq will get even worse, says Blair

    Telegraph "Tony Blair will tell MPs tomorrow that Britain should be prepared for worse violence in Iraq in the coming weeks. The Prime Minister believes that British and American troops must brace themselves for "acts of desperation" ...Brig Nick Carter, admitted that he would be powerless to prevent the overthrow of Coalition forces if the Shia majority in Basra rose up in rebellion.....
    "A crowd of 150,000 people at the gates of this barracks would be the end of this, as far as I'm concerned," Brig Carter said. "There would be absolutely nothing I could do about that.".....
    British officers in Basra are also worried about the stand-off at the twin holy cities of Najaf and Kufa.... "If the Americans go into Najaf, there will be 300 Fallujahs," said one officer.
    ....There are 13,000 British soldiers in Iraq, and the MoD had earlier said that their number would be reduced first to 9,000 and then to 1,000 in 2005...."....During an interview in Basra last week Brig Carter acknowledged that the Coalition's presence in southern Iraq was entirely dependent on the goodwill of the local Shia Muslim leader, Sayid Ali al-Safi al-Musawi. He represents Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's leading Shia cleric. "The moment that Sayid Ali says, 'We don't want the Coalition here', we might as well go home," Brig Carter said. Earlier this month, British troops battled to restore order in Basra as 1,000 Shia gunmen loyal to al-Sadr stormed the Governor's office to protest at the arrest of one of al-Sadr's senior aides and the closure of his newspaper. At the time, Brig Carter described the situation as "extremely volatile".
    The United States announced yesterday that 20,000 American soldiers serving in Iraq who had been scheduled to return home in the next few weeks would remain stationed in the country for at least another three months.

    April 18 ~ "I said I'm with you, and I mean it."

    "...It was revealed yesterday that President George W. Bush gave Mr Blair the option of withholding British troops from combat before the war because of the domestic opposition the Prime Minister faced over the Iraq invasion. According to a book about the war, Plan of Attack, by the veteran Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, Mr Blair is said to have replied: "I said I'm with you, and I mean it."

    April 18 ~ Blair refused offer of get-out clause on Iraq

    Guardian yesterday "..... In the book, Plan of Attack, Mr Woodward writes that Mr Bush offered Mr Blair the option of keeping British troops out of the war because he was so concerned that the government might fall. Mr Blair rejected the offer. The book, to be serialised in the Washington Post today, also says that Mr Bush asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for the invasion of Iraq as early as November 2001, keeping it a secret from the CIA and his national security staff. The disclosures are provocative. Mr Blair will be asked to justify a decision to go to war when he had a chance to keep British troops out of harm's way with no political sanction.
    For Mr Bush, who has suffered a steady erosion in his approval ratings, it becomes even more urgent to turn the page on Iraq before it begins to hurt him in the elections in November. An opinion poll released yesterday by the National Annenberg Election Survey found that 56% of Americans now believe the president has no clear plan for resolving the situation in Iraq. .......
    Mr Blair can expect to face his questioners on his return today. ......ns. In addition, Mr Blair will be asked to reconcile Britain's official posture in early 2003 - that it would allow the UN weapons inspectors to perform their mission in Iraq - with the picture that emerges from Mr Woodward's book of a US leader set on war. ..."

    April 17 ~"... Iraqi history is already being written."

    Robert Fisk in the Independent yesterday By endorsing Ariel Sharon's plan George Bush has legitimised terrorism "What better recruiting sergeant could Bin Laden have than the President of the United States? "What does this mean? That George Bush cares more about his re-election than he does about the Middle East? Or that George Bush is more frightened of the Israeli lobby ( than he is of his own electorate. Fear not, it is the latter. His language, his narrative, his discourse on history, has been such a lie these past three weeks
    ... In revenge for the brutal killing of four American mercenaries - for that is what they were - US Marines carried out a massacre of hundreds of women and children and guerillas in the Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah. The US military says that the vast majority of the dead were militants.
    Untrue, say the doctors.
    But the hundreds of dead, many of whom were indeed civilians, were a shameful reflection on the rabble of American soldiery who conducted these undisciplined attacks on Fallujah. Many Baghdadi Sunnis say that in the "New Iraq" - the Iraqi version, not the Paul Bremer version - Fallujah should be given the status of a new Iraqi capital. ..." Read in full

    April 17 ~ UN interim plan leaves clerics and politicians on sidelines

    The Times Lakhdar Brahimi's plan for a "caretaker government" in Iraq, welcomed by President Bush and Tony Blair at the White House summit yesterday, deliberately marginalises the country's rival politicians in favour of competent professionals.
    The UN envoy, a former Algerian Foreign Minister and self-declared secularist, is trying to lead Iraq away from the ethnic and sectarian politics that now dominate the country, partly as a legacy of the exiled opposition to Saddam Hussein.
    UN sources say that the plan does, however, allow for an ethnic split of the presidency and two vice-presidents, with a representative of the Shia majority taking the senior position and a Kurd and Arab Sunni the two subordinate posts. But the presidency itself will be largely ceremonial and the powers of the Cabinet will be circumscribed until elections can be held. The prime minister and 20 to 30 Cabinet ministers who actually run the interim government will be technocrats chosen for their "honesty, integrity and competence". As soon as sovereignty is restored on July 1, the existing 25-member Iraqi Governing Council will be shut down, leaving the former exiles, including Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, who now serve on the hand-picked body, to fend for themselves. .." Read in full

    April 17 ~ "...This has been the week in which Iraq has come crashing into American living rooms like no other time in the past year"

    Times "... The troops would not be coming home next month. Because of the spiral of violence that claimed the life of Private Witmer and scores of others, the soldiers would remain in Iraq for another three months. Many members of the unit had already started to send possessions home: DVD players, extra supplies they would not get around to using in their remaining weeks.
    Several officers were actually boarding a plane to Kuwait to plan the unit's demobilisation when they were hauled back. Stories of thwarted returns are now legion after Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defence, officially announced that 20,000 troops would be staying "in theatre". Members of the 94th Military Police Unit were clearing Customs with buses waiting outside when they were called back.
    Corporal Robert Harter had made it all the way home to California to prepare the way for the return of the rest of the 1st Armoured Division. He had time to take his nine-year-old son swimming before taking his barely unpacked bags back to Iraq.
    Some soldiers have been unable to break the news to their families themselves, knowing the hurt it will cause, and have telephoned neighbours to ask them to act as intermediaries. .." Read in full

    April 17 ~ American officials in talks with Fallujah insurgents

    Telegraph " ..... The talks were the first direct contact between the two sides since fighting began two weeks ago when US forces went into the town to find the killers of four American contractors. More than 600 Iraqis and a number of marines have died in subsequent clashes. The resumption of talks came a day after American commanders said more military action might be necessary.
    Further south, the extremist Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said he would not disband his army of the Mahdi, which has been attacking coalition forces. "Some Muslims are asking me to disband the army," Sadr said at Friday prayers in Kufa, near the Shia shrine city of Najaf where he is based. The comment appeared to be a disdainful reference to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose supporters have been attempting to mediate an end to the militia attacks. "It will not be disbanded on any conditions because I did not create it on my own but with the co-operation of the Iraqi people," the young cleric said. .." April 17 ~

    April 16 ~ "Well done, Rick Mercier"

    "...In Fallujah, US marines, described as "tremendously precise" by their psychopathic spokesman, slaughtered up to 600 people, according to hospital directors. They did it with aircraft and heavy weapons deployed in urban areas, as revenge for the killing of four American mercenaries. Many of the dead of Fallujah were women and children and the elderly. Only the Arab television networks, notably al-Jazeera, have shown the true scale of this crime, while the Anglo-American media continue to channel and amplify the lies of the White House and Downing Street.
    "Writing exclusively for the Observer before a make-or-break summit with President George Bush this week," sang Britain's former premier liberal newspaper on 11 April, "[Tony Blair] gave full backing to American tactics in Iraq... saying that the government would not flinch from its 'historic struggle' despite the efforts of 'insurgents and terrorists'."
    ......A few weeks ago, Rick Mercier, a young columnist for the Free-Lance Star, a small paper in Virginia, did what no other journalist has done this past year. He apologized to his readers for the travesty of the reporting of events leading to the attack on Iraq. "Sorry we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage," he wrote. "Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us. Sorry we fell for Colin Powell's performance at the United Nations... Maybe we'll do a better job next war."
    Well done, Rick Mercier. ....
    ...It is said that British officers in Iraq now describe the "tactics" of their American comrades as "appalling." No, the very nature of a colonial occupation is appalling, as the families of 13 Iraqis killed by British soldiers, who are taking the British government to court, will agree. If the British military brass understand an inkling of their own colonial past, not least the bloody British retreat from Iraq 83 years ago, they will whisper in the ear of the little Wellington-cum-Palmerston in 10 Downing Street: "Get out now, before we are thrown out." John Pilger in the New Statesman (from

    April 16 ~ Michael Moore is in no mood to mince his words

    "...can we stop the Orwellian language and start using the proper names for things? Those are not "contractors" in Iraq. They are not there to fix a roof or to pour concrete in a driveway. They are MERCENARIES and SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE. They are there for the money, and the money is very good if you live long enough to spend it.
    Halliburton is not a "company" doing business in Iraq. It is a WAR PROFITEER, bilking millions from the pockets of average Americans. In past wars they would have been arrested -- or worse.
    The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush? You closed down a friggin' weekly newspaper, you great giver of freedom and democracy! Then all hell broke loose. The paper only had 10,000 readers! Why are you smirking?
    One year after we wiped the face of the Saddam statue with our American flag before yanking him down, it is now too dangerous for a single media person to go to that square in Baghdad and file a report on the wonderful one-year anniversary celebration. Of course, there is no celebration, and those brave blow-dried "embeds" can't even leave the safety of the fort in downtown Baghdad. They never actually SEE what is taking place across Iraq (most of the pictures we see on TV are shot by Arab media and some Europeans). When you watch a report "from Iraq" what you are getting is the press release handed out by the U.S. occupation force and repeated to you as "news." ..." Read in full

    April 16 ~ As for the truth of how far the US government was aware of terror warnings before September 11th 2001...

    the article Deep Dark Truthful Mirror on by Maureen Farrell (April 15 ) is astonishing in its breadth and its references. She quotes, among many others, the American Nobel Prize laureate for Economics George A. Akerlof who said in Der Spiegel July29 2003
    "I think this is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. It has engaged in extraordinarily irresponsible policies not only in foreign policy and economics but also in social and environmental policy. This is not normal government policy. Now is the time for (American) people to engage in civil disobedience. I think it's time to protest - as much as possible." Read in full

    April 16 ~ Robin Cook says, "Telling Bush he has got it wrong is what Blair must do"

    The Independent today: "....It does not help that George Bush keeps reminding us that he has got the Almighty on his side. This cramps his scope for tactical flexibility, and his statement on Iraq this week exuded the certitude of revealed religion.
    Half the problem is that a year after "liberating" Iraq, President Bush will keep discussing the continuing US presence in the terms of "waging a war", "staying on the offensive" and "defeating enemies". There is no prospect of his leading a successful reconstruction of Iraq so long as he regards large parts of its population as enemies...." Read in full

    April 16 ~ "Najaf is a holy place," said Sheikh Qais al-Khazali. "If they attack it, God knows the results..."

    The Times reports that "there was no sign yesterday of the supposed "exclusion zone" declared by US officers 20km outside the city. It was also clear that Hojatoleslam al-Sadr's much-vaunted withdrawal from Najaf's police stations and government buildings, supposedly negotiated with the US-led coalition earlier this week, is a sham.
    Outside Najaf's glittering shrine to Imam Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, Hojatoleslam al-Sadr's supporters patrolled the dusty streets in pick-up trucks, brandishing Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades with not an Iraqi policeman in sight. ..." As the headline says, "Holy city becomes trap for US troops" Read in full

    April 16 ~ "Meddling in other people's countries seldom works."

    Simon Jenkins in the Times today looks at today's South Africa. ".... Were we now contemplating the South Africa of the 1980s, I have an awful sense that our responses would be different. Tony Blair and George Bush would be threatening military action "to enforce majority rule". They would be targeting missiles at Pretoria. They would chant apartheid's atrocities and blast its cities. Mr Blair would preach and thousands would die.
    It would have been the wrong thing to do. Meddling in other people's countries seldom works." Read in full

    April 16 ~ Jack Straw is looking uncomfortable

    Jon Snow has a knack of making many points very succinctly indeed. Part of last night's Chanel 4 news update email: "We should have been talking about the explosive issue of the EU Constitution and issue that may well have shafted the poor old Poles, who were holding out for better things from it. A referendum question was buried, however, by the Middle East and Iraq. When it came to the Bush embrace of Sharon's plan, Straw was distinctly ill at ease exhibiting none of the verbal welcome that Mr Blair had accorded it yesterday. He accepted it was unilateral and that the Quartet - Britain, the UN, Russia and America herself had not been consulted. He hid behind old wording about 'final status' and read the answer from a script. Rocky times...."
    The Telegraph says much the same:
    "Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, appeared to distance the British Government last night from President George W Bush's endorsement of Israel's Middle East peace plan.
    He denied suggestions that Mr Bush's action would complicate the coalition's task in Iraq, but made clear Mr Bush had not been speaking for the "quartet" of international mediators - America, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
    "He has to make his own judgments. We make our own," Mr Straw told a news conference.." Read in full

    April 15 ~ Arthur Schlesinger: This is Bush's Vietnam - the wrong war, at the wrong time, in the wrong place

    The Independent publishes today comment by Arthus Schlesinger, a former Special Assistant to President Kennedy, 1961-4, and author of 'The Bitter Heritage: Vietnam and American democracy, 1941-1966'
    "There was no popular clamour for war. If we had not gone to war, few Americans would even have noticed..
    ...Why was President Bush, as both Richard Clarke and the former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill have testified, so obsessed with Iraq? I do not think it is for petty reasons. Mr Bush very likely buys into the neo-conservative fantasy that the victory of democracy in Iraq will democratise the entire Islamic world and establish his own place in history. "A free Iraq," as President Bush said yesterday, "will stand as an example to reformers across the Middle East."
    Other reasons - oil, Israel, the search for military bases in place of Saudi Arabia, liberation of Iraq from a monstrous tyrant - are secondary compared to the historic mission for which the Almighty has chosen him. .....The war on Iraq was a matter of presidential choice, not of national necessity. The rekindled memory of Vietnam calls to mind a highly decorated young naval lieutenant returning from Vietnam named John Forbes Kerry, who put a poignant question to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 22 April 1971: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?'' Read in full

    April 15 ~ Dr Rosemary Hollis Head of the Middle East programme, Royal Institute of International Affairs suggests...

    (Guardian)... what Mr Blair should say to Mr Bush tomorrow Read what others would advise

    April 15 ~ Fallujah after the siege - and a stark message from the killers of the Italian hostage

    Al Jazeera publishes 11 photographs showing the impact of the violence on ordinary people's lives in the city. The last shows an Iraqi mother pulling back her children as US Marines raid buildings in Falluja. The pictures can be accessed from the Aljazeera page that reports the death of the Italian hostage. The tapesent to the paper was described as "too bloody" and Aljazeera said it will not air it "in order not to upset viewers sensitivities".
    In a statement accompanying the tape, the abductors of the four Italians wrote:
    "When your president says pulling the troops out of Iraq is non-negotiable then this means he does not care for the safety of his citizens as much as he is concerned with satisfying his masters in the White House. We have killed one of the four hostages we have in order to teach a lesson for those who are involved. We know they are guards working for the American occupation in our country. We ask you one more time to revolt once again in the face of your leaders and reject this unjust war on us so that we can protect your citizens. We are waiting for that from you or else we will kill them one by one."

    April 14 ~ It's a crime and it's a disgrace to us all.

    Jo Wilding's dispatch from Falujah and Baghdad. It will be hard to read without desperate sorrow at the madness of what is happening in Iraq. "..... And the satellite news says the cease-fire is holding and George Bush says to the troops on Easter Sunday that, "I know what we're doing in Iraq is right." Shooting unarmed men in the back outside their family home is right. Shooting grandmothers with white flags is right? Shooting at women and children who are fleeing their homes is right? Firing at ambulances is right?
    Well George, I know too now. I know what it looks like when you brutalise people so much that they've nothing left to lose. I know what it looks like when an operation is being done without anaesthetic because the hospitals are destroyed or under sniper fire and the city's under siege and aid isn't getting in properly. I know what it sounds like too. I know what it looks like when tracer bullets are passing your head, even though you're in an ambulance. I know what it looks like when a man's chest is no longer inside him and what it smells like and I know what it looks like when his wife and children pour out of his house.
    It's a crime and it's a disgrace to us all."

    April 14 ~ Mr Blair still seems like a man frozen in the Pentagon's headlights.

    Simon Jenkins in the Times " In his briefing last night George Bush, like Mr Blair on Sunday, uttered many Churchillian phrases. But both men failed to give any coherent account of the Iraq strategy over the next three months to "handover". Mr Blair still seems like a man frozen in the Pentagon's headlights. Groping for something on which to pin his rhetoric, his latest recourse is to neo-McCarthyism. He who is not with him is now against him....
    ...The Prime Minister's euphoric predictions, repeated on Sunday, are proving false. Iraqi civilians and British soldiers are dying, with no noticeable gain to Britain's domestic security or overseas interests. Mr Blair's conviction that he could bring democracy to Iraq and peace to the region was as ill-founded as his belief in Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. He may take refuge in attacking his critics. But history will expect him to answer the charge which he lays at their door, that it was his involvement that helped to break up Iraq, undermined Middle East stability and had terrorists cheering across the world. His collusion in Mr Bush's obsession with Iraq will remain a puzzle of modern history. ..."

    April 14 ~ Support for Bush 'has harmed UK's reputation'

    Independent "Tony Blair was urged yesterday to put some distance between Britain and the Bush administration and not to make his alliance with the US President the cornerstone of British foreign policy. ...... Mr Blair suffered a further rebuff as an influential think tank said that British and US foreign policy was preventing Britain from halting human rights abuses around the world.
    In a report out today, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warned that the war in Iraq and the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay limited Britain's ability to influence states with poor human rights records.
    The report by David Mepham, who was special adviser to Clare Short, the former Secretary of State for International Development, said Britain was more likely to ignore human rights abuses by powerful allies than smaller nations. He said: "Keeping close to the US has muted UK Government criticism of US policy in Guantanamo Bay. UK support for the policies of President Bush has also damaged relations with some EU partners, many Arab and Islamic countries, and with parts of the developing world. This will potentially make it harder for the UK to gain support for human rights initiatives." ....."

    April 14 ~ "How do coalition forces police Iraq, neutralising those who wish to kill and maim, without acting as the best recruiters the extremists could possibly wish for?"

    asked the Newsnight update last night.
    "How do you jail or kill more terrorists than you help create?
    It is a measure of how badly things have gone wrong that the great Shia religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is little known outside Iraq, while the name of the extremist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is on newspaper front pages from Tokyo to Topeka.
    What has gone wrong? How far are we witnessing a military and security failure and how far a massive political miscalculation? And how quickly can it be put right?"

    April 13 ~ Being able to show the American public that the British Prime Minister is still standing 'shoulder to shoulder'

    in Iraq may be some reassurance to President Bush's increasingly dubious electorate, half of whom, according to opinion polls, now think America should pull out its troops." Andrew Rawnsley in last Sunday's Observer
    Blair's fear of a Bushwhacking ".... there was anger among the Democrats that the Prime Minister did not even congratulate John Kerry on winning the party nomination. Even that ritual courtesy was too much for the normally polite Mr Blair for fear of offending George Bush. .......According to one member of the Cabinet in whom the Prime Minister confides about these things, the prospect of a Bush defeat 'makes Tony very disturbed'. Oh, where is a Third Way when Tony Blair really needs one? The Prime Minister would be best suited if John Kerry could somehow win the American presidency without George Bush losing it.."

    ARCHIVE begins( War in Iraq and aftermath from March 2004)

    "We shall help Iraq move towards democracy. And put the money from Iraqi oil in a UN trust fund so that it benefits Iraq and no-one else."
    (Tony Blair in his television address to the nation on Thursday 20 March 2003)
    "That's all very well" writes an American Emailer, "and he should be held to it, but isn't the point of this war that the US wants to control the sale of the oil so that a substantial amount will reliably go to the US? The cost in money is less important to them than having a stable supply of oil."

    Going the rounds of the Inboxes....Gulf Wars Episode 11 - Clone of the Attack....see poster Weapons Error This page did the rounds of the inboxes two months ago...(Do not adjust your set...) - Also this War Quiz... extract: "This test consists of one (1) multiple-choice question ..."

    The Hutton Inquiry Transcripts (new window) ~ Hutton Report - index

    External links open in new windows

    ARCHIVE begins( War in Iraq and aftermath from March 2004) "It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of the failure to find WMD and the resultant deep belief that parliament and the public were misled on the supreme issue of peace and war." Sir Malcolm Rifkind

    "Whatever small and unusable residue of WMD the Iraqi forces might have possessed, it really did happen that they never came near trying to use them. Rather, the world's greatest possessor and user of such weapons really was able to focus on the puny, putative Iraqi threat from them, and transform them into a justification for an invasion in which it did not itself hesitate to use a recognised and horrific WMD - 'depleted' uranium. " John Theobald "Media and the Making of History"