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Iraq War Archive
April 13 2004 ~ Robin Cook says there must be a change of strategySee PakTribune.com "He needs to give President Bush a blunt message that there has got to be a change of strategy. This week's meeting is a test of just how much influence Blair has got over Bush in return for his loyalty." Cook sharply criticised Washington's policy in Iraq, saying the United States was guilty of "ham-fisted overkill" and could not impose democracy in the war-shattered country through the use of force.
April 13 ~ War Lords to Their Critics: "Just Shut Up""Thanks to the subservience of many members of the press, the US administration has had an easy time." says Robert Fisk in Saturday's Independent "...there was a lot of clucking of tongues when a few of us decided to take a close look at US proconsul Paul Bremer's press laws last year. A whole team of "Coalition Provisional Authority" lawyers was set up to see how they could legalise the closure and censorship of Iraqi newspapers that "incited violence". And whenever we raised questions about it, the CPA spokesman - and its current attendant lord, Dan Senor, used the same phrase last week - would announce that "we will not tolerate incitement to violence".
So when Bremer's own closure last week of Muqtada Sadr's silly little weekly - circulation about a quarter that of the Kent Messenger - incited the very violence he supposedly wanted to avoid, what did the American High Commissioner announce? "This will not be tolerated." One of the paper's major sins was to have condemned Paul Bremer for taking Iraq down "Saddam's path", an article which Bremer condemned in painstaking detail in his signed letter - in execrable Arabic - to the editor of the miscreant paper.
Now I'm all against incitement to violence. Just like I'm against incitement to war by the use of fraudulent claims of weapons of mass destruction and secret links to al-Qa'ida. Just like I'm against the use of Saddam's army against Iraqi cities and the use of America's army against Iraqi cities. For let's remember that some of Muqtada Sadr's dangerous militiamen fought Saddam in the 1991 insurgency - the one we supported and then betrayed. Saddam, of course, knew how to deal with resistance. "We will not tolerate...," he told his commanders. And we all know what that meant. .." Read in full
April 13 ~ "A war founded on illusions, lies and right-wing ideology was bound to founder in blood and fire."Robert Fisk in the Independent on April 9th "Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. He was in contact with al-Qa'ida, he was involved with the crimes against humanity of 11 September. The people of Iraq would greet us with flowers and music. There would be a democracy.
Even the pulling-down of Saddam's statue was a fraud. An American military vehicle tugged the wretched thing down while a crowd of only a few hundred Iraqis watched. Where were the tens of thousands who should have pulled it down themselves, who should have been celebrating their "liberation"?
On the night of 9 April last year, the BBC even managed to find a "commentator" to heap abuse on me and The Independent for using quotation marks around the word "liberation". ..
...And so the bloodbath spreads ever further across Iraq. Kut and Najaf are now outside the control of the occupying powers. And with each new collapse, we are told of new hope. Yesterday, Sanchez was still talking about his "total confidence" in his troops who were "clear in their purpose", how they were making "progress" in Fallujah and how - these are his actual words "a new dawn is approaching". Which is exactly what US commanders were saying exactly a year ago today - when US troops drove into the Iraqi capital and when Washington boasted of victory against the Beast of Baghdad. "Read in full
April 13 ~ The pro-war commentators: What do they say now?Stephen Glover, Daily Mail' columnist What he said then:
"The fall of Baghdad, and the ousting of Saddam Hussein, mark a spectacular victory for American and British forces. This may be a turning point of history. Tony Blair ... deserves particular praise since he took Britain to war in defiance of what was probably a majority of his backbenchers." Daily Mail, 11 April 2003Now
"I was extremely sceptical about the war for the six months before the invasion. Because of the involvement of British troops, I gave it a slightly grudging acceptance. I would like to see an end to British involvement but I can't see how we can honourably get out now. We have got to make the best of a bad job."Tony Parsons, Daily Mirror' columnist What he said then:
"Being against this war when British soldiers are fighting and dying seems cheap, grubby and inappropriate. The self-congratulatory banners of the peace marchers ... seem pitifully inadequate ... amid the realities of combat." 24 March 2003now:
"The whole sorry mess looks like a bloody disaster. Leaders like Bush and Blair make me sick: never heard a shot fired in anger in their lives, wouldn't dream of packing off their own children to fight and die, yet trigger-happy gunslingers when it comes to somebody else's son. History will record Blair is a liar."Johann Hari, Independent' columnist What he said then:
"Those who still deny all this evidence will know soon enough, once the war is over, what the Iraqi people thought all along. When it emerges ... that they wanted this war, will the anti-war movement recant? Will they apologise for appropriating the voice of the Iraqi people and using it for their own ends?" 26 March 2003now:
"Before the war I rejected all the WMD arguments. I said that they were rubbish. They were. But I also said that the best evidence we had was that the majority of Iraqis could see no other way to overthrow Saddam and therefore wanted war to proceed."More
April 13 ~"... Ironically, the world knows almost less about Saddam since his capture by US special forces in northern Iraq than they did when he was still on the run."Robert Fisk on April 8 in the Independent"....But Saddam himself remains equally ignorant of his immediate future. Although a War Crimes Tribunal was set up in Baghdad within six weeks of his capture - with 15 judges, 45 Iraqi lawyers and a team of American assistants to advise them - Iraqi legal sources say the US government is increasingly reluctant to open trial proceedings against the ex-dictator before the American elections in November. They say that an almost equal reluctance is being displayed over Tariq Aziz, Saddam's former deputy prime minister, who is being held prisoner by the US at Baghdad airport. Both men, the sources point out, have an intimate knowledge of Washington's constant support for the Baathist regime in the 1980s and would undoubtedly try to avoid responsibility for their war crimes by making speeches in court that would provide details of the close relationship between the regime and US administrations. ..." Read in full
April 12 ~ Memo"... Bin Laden wanted to hijack a US aircraft .... suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York. ...The CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the United Arab Emirates in May saying that a group of Bin Laden supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives. " The full text of the now declassified 'al-Qaeda memo' is published by the BBC
But according to Condoleeza Rice in her testimony: "There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States."
April 11 ~ US tactics condemned by British officersTelegraph Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate. One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of "unease and frustration" among the British high command.
The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans".
"..... Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful. The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."
..... the officer said the British Government was aware of its commanders' "concerns and fears". The officer explained that, under British military rules of war, British troops would never be given clearance to carry out attacks similar to those being conducted by the US military, in which helicopter gunships have been used to fire on targets in urban areas.
British rules of engagement only allow troops to open fire when attacked, using the minimum force necessary and only at identified targets.
The American approach was markedly different: "When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area. They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later. They are very concerned about taking casualties and have even trained their guns on British troops, which has led to some confrontations between soldiers..."
April 11 ~ Army at breaking point in IraqScotland on Sunday "..the proposal to reinforce the UK force in Iraq with an extra 700 soldiers was condemned by government critics last night as taking British forces up to - and even beyond - breaking point. Despite the warnings, military planners are desperately attempting to scrape together another 700 troops to back up the existing British force of 11,000 in and around Basra. The back-up force will travel to the country when power is handed back to the Iraqi people in three months' time. The move was sanctioned after British commanders in Basra warned that they would need more help if the security situation elsewhere in Iraq continued to deteriorate. ....British politicians and military commanders have complained about "overstretch" in a 200,000-strong armed force which already has more than 50,000 military personnel stationed abroad. Army chief General Sir Michael Walker last month warned that British forces were currently recuperating from the battle to topple Saddam, and would not be able to mount a similar operation for at least four years. The standard two-year break between operational duties had been reduced to 10 months.
Tory defence spokesman Gerald Howarth said the reinforcements might seem "prudent", but added: "Our guys are already massively overstretched in Iraq and around the world, and they are desperately short on training.
"If we send another battalion, and more after that if this is ramped up further, how are we going to fill the gaps that are opening up elsewhere? We don't have enough numbers as it is, and the people we do have are not getting the time to get the proper training to do the job."
April 11 ~ Rice testimonyEntire transcript of Condoleeza Rice's prepared statement and questions and answers
From the Memory Hole site " CIA Director Warned Congress About 9/11 Attacks "It's certainly one of the most disturbing and important indications that the government knew the attacks of September 11, 2001, were coming. On that morning, National Public Radio (NPR) was presenting live coverage of the attacks on its show Morning Edition. Host Bob Edwards went to a reporter in the field—David Welna, NPR's Congressional correspondent—who was in the Capitol building as it was being evacuated. Here is the crucial portion of Welna's report:
"I spoke with Congressman Ike Skelton—a Democrat from Missouri and a member of the Armed Services Committee—who said that just recently the Director of the CIA warned that there could be an attack—an imminent attack—on the United States of this nature. So this is not entirely unexpected."This can be heard as a sound clip (takes a moment to load but brings to life very chillingly the fact the Director of the CIA did indeed warn of an attack just before 9/11) Condolezza Rice, in her testimony, says "There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States."
April 11 ~ Bush's 'al-Qaeda memo' releasedThe White House releases a memo, which critics say contradicts earlier statements about the al-Qaeda threat. BBC
Reuters "President George W. Bush says that an August 6, 2001, intelligence document he received that told of possible al Qaeda preparations for hijackings was not a warning that the September 11 attacks were about to take place. A day after the White House made public the August 6 presidential memo under pressure from the commission investigating the 2001 attacks, Bush tried to play down its importance. .....
The document said the FBI had detected "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."
April 11 ~ Lord Hurd calls for Baghdad envoyA British politician should go to Iraq to ensure the UK is involved in decisions, says the former Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd...He said there was little evidence UK politicians had much influence over the tactics used by coalition forces. He also called for the UN to be given a larger role finding Iraqis with "real roots" in Iraq to govern the country. BBC
April 9 ~ "...Suddenly we are told that the security services have foiled a fiendish plotby international terrorists to detonate a dangerous chemical weapon based on this compound in London. In some way the signals intelligence collectors at GCHQ in Cheltenham, their US counterparts at the National Security Agency (NSA), MI5 and the police are all involved. There were telephone intercepts within this country and to Pakistan. A link with al-Qa'ida is implied, but not explicit. The term "dirty bomb" is used.
However, as the story unfolds, expert chemists and toxicologists tell us that this unusual chemical is not "controlled." It can be bought on the internet in glass containers. Although it is hazardous there are other chemicals in industrial, medical and academic use that are both more readily available and potentially more dangerous. It seems just as likely that osmium tetroxide would be added to conventional explosives to promote a bigger bang.
It is not clear whether the targets mentioned - the London Underground, Gatwick or Heathrow airports and perhaps a shopping centre within the M25 - were discussed by the terrorists or are the speculation of the security officials involved. It then transpires that this exotic sounding material had not actually been obtained by the putative terrorists, nor is there any indication that arrests have been made. How then has the "terror gas attack" been foiled?..." Read in full. The writer is Brian Jones whose evidence to the Hutton Inquiry caused a stir.
April 9 ~ 'Bin Laden determined to attack the United States'The commission investigating the 9/11 attacks has asked the White House to declassify a memo sent to President Bush a month before the strikes. The memo, titled 'Bin Laden determined to attack the United States', was revealed in testimony by US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. She said the memo was an historical document, not an imminent warning. ....Ms Rice was pressed repeatedly and aggressively by several commission members on whether or not there had been real warnings which had reached the president and upon which he had not acted. Specifically, she was pressed by Democrat Richard Ben-Veniste about the memo sent to the president on 6 August 2001 whose title was secret until now. ......BBC
April 8 ~ Bush calls crisis talks as Iraq battles rageScotsman "George Bush...held urgent talks with ..Tony Blair, and his military and civilian leaders in charge of Iraq yesterday, as coalition troops fought bloody street battles with Iraqi insurgents in the heaviest fighting in the country since the fall of Baghdad a year ago... Key points
- President holds urgent talks with Blair and military commanders after battles
- 40 people estimated dead after air strike on Mosque where 12 marines died
- Casualties total at least 230 Iraqis and 30 coalition troops after four days
- Shia spiritual leader condemns coalition approach to militant uprisings
April 8 ~ " PHR and Amnesty International representatives urged.... that an investigation be carried out of what appeared to have been a major human rights disaster and war crime.....But nothing happened""The Tipton Three, recently released from Guantanamo, and telling their story to the British media, disclosed that they had first been captured in Afghanistan by the Taliban, then swept into the prisons of the Northern Alliance. In late November 2001 the three had been herded into two truck containers, which were then driven from the crowded jail at Sheberghan to a final destination in the Dasht-e Leili desert, where the prisoners were dumped, most of them dead from suffocation; the three survived, barely, because a little air had come in through bullet holes. .....
.....Jamie Doran concluded that somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 men were killed in this container truck operation and its aftermath. He also provided compelling witness evidence that U.S. army, Special Forces, and CIA personnel were on the scene, participated in the abuse of the prisoners, did not interfere in any way with the operation, and at various points seemed in overall command. One witness claimed that U.S. personnel urged quick burial at Dasht-e Leili so that bodies would not be seen by satellite. .... this was reported in the British media... the New York Times failed to mention this feature of the disclosures... how smoothly the system works, with power determining which massacres are worthy of attention and indignation, and that power causing everybody else to fall in line....the mainstream media, as always, recognizing the unworthiness of the victims of U.S.-sponsored violence and looking elsewhere; and the cruise missile left doing the same." Read in full the article Dasht-E Leili from Zmag.org.
April 7 ~ Iraq goes from bad to worse.Channel 4 evening comment "Polish troops have managed to kill the wanted cleric Moqtada Al Sadr's number two, but many other Iraqis and coalition troups have died into the bargain. 10 US marines in one awful incident."
April 7 ~"now that defeat beckons, is there something useful Mr Blair might say?"Simon Jenkins in the Times "..I believe so. American tactics in Baghdad over the past two weeks have beggared belief. They have deeply dismayed British commanders in the South. The firebrand cleric, Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, is a classic pain-in-the-neck fanatic. With none of the charisma or skill of his martyred father, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad al-Sadr, he could only offer nuisance to the Shia power base of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Common sense would have pleaded with the Americans in no circumstances to give him an ounce of added credibility. Leave him festering in Najaf and the slums of Sadr City, Baghdad.
What have the Americans done? They shut down al-Sadr's newspaper. They try to arrest him for murder and send tanks and helicopter gunships to hose down his Baghdad neighbourhood in a torrent of death. They set him on a plinth and offered him martyrdom. ..." Read in full
April 7 ~ The British took three years to turn both the Sunnis and the Shias into their enemies in 1920. The Americans are achieving it in just under a year." Not content with surrounding the largest Sunni city west of Baghdad with tanks, armoured personnel carriers and heavy machine guns, US forces used Apache helicopters to attack the Shia Muslim slums of Shoula yesterday, sent dozens of their main battle tanks into the hovels of Sadr City and then slapped an arrest warrant on the Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr - who must dearly have wanted the United States to do just that. ...in the sewage-damp streets yesterday, they were handing out letters, allegedly written by the Sunni townspeople of Fallujah, newly surrounded by 1,200 marines. "We support you, our brothers, in your struggle," the letters said. If they are authentic, it should be enough to make the US proconsul, Paul Bremer, wonder if he can ever extricate Washington from Iraq. The British took three years to turn both the Sunnis and the Shias into their enemies in 1920. The Americans are achieving it in just under a year. ....
...A prolonged series of Israeli-style house raids are now apparently planned for the people of Fallujah to seek out the gunmen who first attacked the four Americans. The corpses were stripped, mutilated and hanged. The helicopter attacks in Shoula - by ghastly coincidence the very same Shoula suburb in which civilians were slaughtered by an American aircraft during last year's invasion - looked like a copy of every Israeli raid on the West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, Iraqis are well aware that the US military asked for - and received - Israel's "rules of engagement" from Ariel Sharon's government. ...
...And all this because Mr Bremer decided to ban Sadr's trashy 10,000-circulation weekly newspaper for "inciting violence." Robert Fisk in Baghdad. Read in full
April 7 ~ " When bombs killed 200 in Madrid last month, Shia clerics visited the Spanish troops in Najaf to express their condolences. That is unlikely to happen again."Robert Fisk on the gun battles in the holy city of Najaf "....A newspaper that was ignored by millions of Iraqis, but whose sarcastic criticism of Mr Bremer is said to have personally annoyed the American proconsul, may henceforth be known as the paper which started a Shia insurrection.
Mr Sadr may be gambling that the other Shia militias will fall into step with his own armed men. If this happens, and the insurgency spreads to other Shia cities, then the entire occupation of Iraq could become untenable.
The Americans can scarcely contain the Sunni Muslim revolt to the north; they cannot fight another community, this one representing 60 per cent of Iraqis, even if British troops, who control the largely Shia city of Basra, become involved.
The Spanish base in Najaf is located on the campus of Kufa university, a broad expanse of land close to the Euphrates river and defended by troops from San Salvador. The Spanish - their force numbers 1,300 men and women but only a few hundred are in Najaf - are due to leave on 30 June but were never part of the occupying power. Many of the soldiers in Najaf are involved in irrigation and agricultural projects. When bombs killed 200 in Madrid last month, Shia clerics visited the Spanish troops in Najaf to express their condolences. That is unlikely to happen again. ..." Read in full
April 6 ~ President George W Bush was thrown on the defensive yesterday by signs that a September 11 inquiry will find that the attacks were "probably preventable".Telegraph "The head of the September 11 commission, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, Thomas Kean, and his Democratic deputy, Lee Hamilton, signalled that their final report this summer would conclude that the attacks could have been prevented, if not for a series of intelligence and law enforcement blunders....They also appeared to endorse the accusation by a former White House counter-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, that the fledgling Bush administration failed to understand the importance of al-Qa'eda, in part because of a partisan disdain for Clinton-era national security priorities. Asked on NBC television if the incoming Bush team was sceptical about some of the threat assessments about al-Qa'eda in the months before the attacks, Mr Kean replied: "I think that's probably fair, and probably right." ......"
April 6 ~ "Influential Shia leaders in the Middle East have criticised the US for the continued instability in Iraq.However, they stopped well short of endorsing the young radical Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose forces clashed with coalition troops for the second day yesterday. "The direct responsibility for this insecurity lies with the occupiers who should immediately leave Iraq and return sovereignty to the Iraqi nation," said Hamid Reza Asefi, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, in his weekly press briefing. Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who is Lebanon's most influential Shia cleric, has denounced the "horrible massacres" committed by US forces and called on Iraqis to exercise restraint in any response." Financial Times
April 6 ~ "a pragmatic rather than a principled stand [which] is what national foreign policy is all about"John Pilger in the New Statesman this month on the way Australia has become Bush's Sheriff. The article first recalls the genocide in East Timor "whose brutal occupation was largely unknown to the outside world....proportionally, it was an act of genocide greater than the Jewish Holocaust. The governments of the United States, Britain and Australia were not only forewarned, but supported and equipped the invaders. Henry Kissinger personally gave General Suharto the go-ahead....
.... Richard Woolcott, the Australian ambassador in Jakarta in 1975, who, like the British and American ambassadors, had been tipped off about the invasion, recommended that Canberra adopt "a pragmatic rather than a principled stand [which] is what national foreign policy is all about".
and then looks at today's Australia under Howard "....Sheriff Howard and his perilously gormless deputy, Alexander Downer, the foreign minister, are on a "mission". It is to take charge of the "failed states" that make up what Washington calls an "arc of instability" in the Pacific region. .... . In keeping with the duties and ethics of a Bush-appointed sheriff, Howard has refused to recognise the jurisdiction of both the International Court of Justice and the Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Instead, Australia today occupies the East Timorese seabed and is poised to rob the tiny nation of roughly $30bn over the next three decades. With the Australian senate's recent approval of a new treaty, Howard's and Downer's tactic is to pressure the East Timorese on the seabed issue by constantly threatening to pull out of negotiations, thus denying a stricken people money they urgently need for reconstruction. In this way, East Timor is proclaimed a "failed state" and becomes dependent on and controlled by Canberra.
....Of the token hangers-on who make up the Anglo-American "coalition of the willing", Spain, Honduras, Poland and the Netherlands are about to recall their troops. Only Australia remains true to the uber-sheriff in Washington. This begs the question: when will decent Australians again make their voices heard?" Read in full
April 5 ~ Iraq - a defining moment?From Jon Snow's Channel 4 news update: "A defining moment in Iraq and a worrying one for Americans and British alike. The Shi'ites show every sign of having had enough of US forces and the erstwhile moderate mullahs are openly calling for them to go. Few of us who have been to Iraq since the war are unaware of the brutish profile that US troops offer in their intersection with Iraqi civilians. Paranoid and resentful of being in Iraq at all, their number one ambition is to stay alive.
They have no language skills, few translators and no evident talent for interpersonal relations...... the Democratic senator Joe Biden, and the Republican Richard Lugar call for the handover date from US coalition control to interim Iraqi control (June 30th) to be postponed."
April 5 ~ Three more families - good, decent, Iraqi people, educated and believing in the same freedom and democracy that we Westerners believe in - now rage at the American occupation of IraqRobert Fisk in the Independent ".... shortly after the incident, American troops had come to the police station and had smashed the back window of the Volvo so that no traces remained of the bullet holes. Horrifically, the brains of Ali al-Amairi still lay on the back seat. But I climbed into the vehicle and counted nine rounds through the vehicle - through the back seats and the front window.
A few days later, the Americans came up with a new version of the killing
........I have only one brother and the Americans took him from us. From where can I get another brother?" she wept. Ali al-Amairi was married with no children. His reporter colleague had been married only four months. His wife was pregnant. The Volvo driver Abdul-Ghani leaves a widow and a son and three daughters. All gave me tea and assurances of their love of peace and love. And all hate the occupation and the American soldiers.
No, I don't think this excuses the barbarities in Fallujah. But I do understand that insatiable anger that these Iraqi relatives feel. The Americans, after all, killed three Western journalists on 9 April last year, and a cameraman outside the Abu Ghoreib prison a few months later and then an ABC cameraman in Fallujah last week. And the two Alis last month. "We regret the accidental shooting of the Arabia employees," the US military said this week. And that's that.
What more can I say? Maybe, as I wrote after other innocent deaths in Bosnia 12 years ago, I should end each of my reports with the words: Watch Out! " Read in full
April 5 ~ Handover of power may be delayed, says senatorRupert Cornwell in Washington in the Independent " The debate in America over the transfer of power in Iraq went public yesterday as senior Republican and Democratic senators suggested the 30 June deadline for the handover would have to be dropped, given the risk of Iraq sliding into civil war.
....Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the powerful Senate foreign relations committee, said.... "I'm haunted by the 30 June problem. We have to have security. We have to give sovereignty to someone, but to whom? This is an extremely serious problem."
The doubts aired by Mr Lugar are telling, coming from one of the most thoughtful and sober foreign-policy specialists on Capitol Hill, and a so far loyal supporter of President George Bush's policy on Iraq.
They capture the uncertainties over the handover swirling within the administration, that have now been cast into even sharper relief by the horrific murder of four American private security contractors in Fallujah last week, and yesterday's violence in Najaf.
...... But the June deadline was mainly dictated by the domestic political calendar, so Mr Bush could go into the November election claiming sovereignty was passing smoothly to a civilian authority in Baghdad.
Instead, political necessities in the US are at loggerheads with the realities on the ground in Iraq, where the dire security situation even forced a planned trade fair to be cancelled last week. "....
.... Madeleine Albright, who was secretary of state for President Bill Clinton, declared. "But retaliation provokes counter-retaliation that only makes matters worse." There should be some consideration about extending the [30 June] date, she argued, before noting that "sometimes a deadline ends up being a bullet [in] the head of the people who made the deadline". (read in full)
April 5 ~ Powell casts doubt on his WMD intelligenceTelegraph "...... Doug Henderson, a former Labour defence minister, said the Government must make a statement to Parliament. "If the American secretary of state has misled the people of the United States, it also appears that we have been misled in this country by the same faulty intelligence," he said.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said Mr Powell's admission was further evidence that the intelligence case for the war was unravelling. "The cat is out of the bag," he said.
Mike O'Brien, the Foreign Office minister, insisted that it was a matter for the inquiry headed by the former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler, which is looking at the use of intelligence on Iraq's weapons. Mr Powell blamed the CIA for assuring him that the claim was based on "solid" information, provided by four separate sources. ....... Mr Powell refused to rule out the possibility that the CIA knew its intelligence was less than perfect. He said he hoped that a commission created to investigate pre-war intelligence would find out whether the CIA had been correct to be confident. The mobile laboratories have now become a potent symbol of a bitter fight within the Bush administration over the failure to find WMD a year after the conflict. ....... Last month George Tenet, the CIA chief, contradicted a statement made by Vice-President Dick Cheney in January that the trailers were conclusive proof of WMD."
April 4 ~ Bush and Blair made secret pact for Iraq war
Decision came nine days after 9/11 Ex-ambassador reveals discussion
The Observer " President George Bush first asked Tony Blair to support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power at a private White House dinner nine days after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001.
According to Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, who was at the dinner when Blair became the first foreign leader to visit America after 11 September, Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from the war on terror's initial goal - dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Bush, claims Meyer, replied by saying: 'I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.' Regime change was already US policy.
It was clear, Meyer says, 'that when we did come back to Iraq it wouldn't be to discuss smarter sanctions'. Elsewhere in his interview, Meyer says Blair always believed it was unlikely that Saddam would be removed from power or give up his weapons of mass destruction without a war.
Faced with this prospect of a further war, he adds, Blair 'said nothing to demur'.
Details of this extraordinary conversation will be published this week in a 25,000-word article on the path to war with Iraq in the May issue of the American magazine Vanity Fair. It provides new corroboration of the claims made last month in a book by Bush's former counter-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, that Bush was 'obsessed' with Iraq as his principal target after 9/11.
But the implications for Blair may be still more explosive. .." Read in full
April 3 ~ Peace begins, someone has said, when the hungry are fed. It is equally true that the hungry will be fed when peace beginsAn extract from the book The Unconquerable World by Jonathan Schell, mentioned warmly by Simon Jenkins below, can be seen on The Nation website: "Violence, Hannah Arendt said, destroys power. The United States is moving quickly down this path. Does the American leadership today imagine that the people of the world, having overthrown the great territorial empires of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are ready to bend the knee to an American overlord in the twenty-first? Do they imagine that allies are willing to become subordinates? Have they forgotten that people hate to be dominated by force?
..Nonviolence is the means by which the many can reclaim their rights and advance their interests. Peace begins, someone has said, when the hungry are fed. It is equally true that the hungry will be fed when peace begins. Equality and nonviolence--peace and justice--are inextricably linked, and neither can flourish in the absence of the other. Peace, social justice and defense of the environment are a triad to pit against the imperial triad of war, economic exploitation and environmental exploitation. ....Does power still flow from the barrel of a gun or a B-2 bomber? Can the world in the twenty-first century really be ruled from 35,000 feet? Can cruise missiles build nations? Modern peoples have the will to resist and the means to do so. Force can confer a temporary advantage, but politics is destiny."
April 3 ~ "I'm disappointed, not because I hate the Americans," Khamis tells me, "but because I like them. And when you love someone and they hurt you, it hurts even more."Guardian "...... .Baghdad is blanketed with inept psy-ops organs like Baghdad Now, filled with fawning articles about how Americans are teaching Iraqis about press freedom.
Unfortunately, the Iraqi people recently saw another version of press freedom when Bremer ordered US troops to shut down a newspaper run by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr.....
"All the trouble in Iraq is because of Bremer," Khamis told me, flanked by a line-up of 30 Pepsi and 7-Up bottles. "He didn't listen to Iraqis. He doesn't know anything about Iraq. He destroyed the country and tried to rebuild it again, and now we are in chaos." .....Iraqi police officers are paid less than half what he pays his assembly line workers, "which is not enough to survive"., The normally soft-spoken Khamis becomes enraged when talking about the man in charge of "rebuilding" Iraq. "Paul Bremer has caused more damage than the war, because the bombs can damage a building but if you damage people there is no hope." ... it is the profound sense of disappointment and betrayal expressed by a pro-US businessman running a Pepsi plant that attests to the depths of the US-created disaster here. "I'm disappointed, not because I hate the Americans," Khamis tells me, "but because I like them. And when you love someone and they hurt you, it hurts even more."
...... latest measures paint a telling picture of what a "free Iraq" will look like: the United States will maintain its military and corporate presence through 14 enduring military bases and the largest US embassy in the world. It will hold on to authority over Iraq's armed forces, its security and economic policy and the design of its core infrastructure - but the Iraqis can deal with their decrepit hospitals all by themselves, complete with their chronic drug shortages and lack of the most basic sanitation capacity. .."
April 3 ~".... One day historians will pore over these strange months."Simon Jenkins says "We need a pacifism that is ruthlessly practical" "....The Taleban and the warlords are now returning to Afghanistan. America and Britain are being driven from the streets of Iraq by revenge violence which they cannot contain. If Downing Street is to be believed, the threat to Europe from militant Islam is now greater than ever since the 11th century, with Mr Blair as El Cid.
One day historians will pore over these strange months. Records will be revealed and leaders interviewed. I believe they will show that it was not al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack that caused such deep conflict between the West and the Islamic world. The attack merely relit a fuse which had failed on the same spot in 1993. The explosion resulted from the response of American and British leaders. They took electoral comfort in a reckless violence. They laid the trail of gunpowder which ignited wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and which now has an alarming number of young Muslims applauding the killers of Baghdad and Fallujah.
Two provocative rejoinders appeared this week. One is The Unconquerable World by Jonathan Schell, a restatement of historical non-violence. To him it was not war that brought about the French Revolution or created the world's two largest democracies, America and India. It was the logic and the negotiation of events. It was not a Bush/Blair "pre-emptive war" that achieved the overthrow of communism. It was patient confrontation. The bloodless transformation of Eastern Europe vindicated that policy. .." Read in full
April 3 ~ Rather than show any sympathy, Mr Robinson said his superiors tracked him down and sent him back to Iraq.Independent Is America sending battle-weary, clinically stressed soldiers back into the heat of Iraq? "... Despite the growing scientific understanding of PTSD, case histories collected by Mr Robinson and others suggest combat stress victims are being sent back with growing frequency, and in some cases being subjected to humiliation, abuse and intimidation.
Late last year, an army translator called Georg-Andreas Pogany who had a violent reaction to the sight of a mutilated corpse was briefly charged with cowardice, a military crime punishable by death, and paraded across the national media as a disgrace to his country. Both the cowardice charge, and a lesser one of dereliction of duty, have since been dropped, apparently for lack of evidence.
Mr Robinson said he knew of an injured soldier evacuated from Iraq who became so exasperated at the lack of medical care offered by the military that he decided to pay for his own private treatment. That led to a charge of being absent without leave, as a result of which the soldier had a psychological breakdown and tried to kill himself. Rather than show any sympathy, Mr Robinson said his superiors tracked him down and sent him back to Iraq."
April 2 ~ 'I saw papers that show US knew al-Qa'ida would attack cities with aeroplanes'Whistleblower the White House wants to silence speaks to The Independent By Andrew Buncombe in Washington 02 April 2004 A former translator for the FBI with top-secret security clearance says she has provided information to the panel investigating the 11 September attacks which proves senior officials knew of al-Qa'ida's plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened. She said the claim by the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that there was no such information was "an outrageous lie". Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".
It is impossible at this stage to verify Mrs Edmonds' claims. However, some senior US senators testified to her credibility in 2002 when she went public with separate allegations relating to alleged incompetence and corruption within the FBI's translation department." Read in full
March 31 ~ "A grim day for the occupiers."Channel 4's news update " Extraordinary -- and mostly untransmittable - images from across Iraq today -- American soldiers, civilians and western contractors -- all blown up in different places including the virtually ungovernable Fallujah. Bodies set on fire and mutilated in the streets, crowds string up their corpses from bridges. Shades of Somalia and look what Uncle Sam ended up doing there. A grim day for the occupiers. "
March 31 ~"... nobody knows anything and we are all in the dark."Matthew Parris reports from Basra ".....the fact is that as the occupying power we have done a deal with local Shia leaders, and retreated behind the sandbags....
.....I thought of all the Iraqis who had asked me: "Where are they keeping Saddam?" - as though, being a Westerner, I must know; just as we think that Iraqis, being Iraqis, know what is going on the street. But nobody knows anything and we are all in the dark.
I thought of that lovely Iraqi family in the railway compartment. Everywhere there are good people with simple hopes: for jobs, health and security. I thought of the little boy in Basra market, handing me back my dropped fifty bucks with such a fierce sense of honour. And I thought of the British troops in that tawdry palace by the Shatt al-Arab river; their girlie mags; their ping-pong table; and their unspoken question: "What the f*** are we doing here?" Read in full
March 30 ~ Shutting down a Baghdad newspaper, even one disseminating untruths, hardly makes the case for American-style freedoms to IraqisNew York Times "...In a scene distressingly evocative of neighboring Middle Eastern autocracies, Mr. Bremer sent American soldiers to shut down and padlock a popular Baghdad newspaper on Sunday. The stated reason was that by printing false anti-American rumors, the Shiite weekly, Al Hawza, stirred up hatred, undermined stability and indirectly incited violence.
One of the dispatches that led to the closing of Al Hawza was a February report claiming that an American missile, not a terrorist car bomb, had caused an explosion that killed more than 50 Iraqi police recruits..... Newspapers like Al Hawza do not create the hostility Americans face in Iraq — they reflect it. Shutting them down, however satisfying it may feel to the Bush administration, is not a promising way to dissolve that hostility. The occupation authorities have plenty of means, including their own television station, to get out a more favorable message.
It is hard to believe that the thousands of outraged Baghdadis who watched American forces chain and lock the doors of the newspaper offices will now refuse to believe hateful rumors circulated by preachers, leaflets and word of mouth. Nor is this demonstration of military censorship likely to help convince skeptical Iraqis that the main reason for America's continued occupation of their country is to help transform it into a regional showcase of American-style freedoms..."
March 30 ~ "George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power... it responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: with a campaign of character assassination."New York Times " And the administration's reaction to Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies" provides more evidence of something rotten in the state of our government.
The truth is that among experts, what Mr. Clarke says about Mr. Bush's terrorism policy isn't controversial. The facts that terrorism was placed on the back burner before 9/11 and that Mr. Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence are confirmed by many sources — including "Bush at War," by Bob Woodward.
And new evidence keeps emerging for Mr. Clarke's main charge, that the Iraq obsession undermined the pursuit of Al Qaeda. From yesterday's USA Today: "In 2002, troops from the Fifth Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq. Their replacements were troops with expertise in Spanish cultures." That's why the administration responded to Mr. Clarke the way it responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: with a campaign of character assassination..."
March 30 ~ War on terror means more state secretsGuardian "New curbs on release of information to the public are being planned by the government next year as part of Tony Blair's commitment to fighting the "war on terror". Confidential draft guidelines drawn up by the Cabinet Office propose a substantial widening of the definition of national security, and a further weakening of the commitment to "open government" by ministers.
The guidelines would increase use of vetoes by ministers and encourage departments across Whitehall to prepare certificates in advance to block requests from public and press under the new Freedom of Information Act which becomes law next January.
They go against recommendations from the government-commissioned review into government communications carried out by Bob Phillis, chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, which proposed scrapping ministerial vetoes and deciding instead on the basis of whether the release of information would cause substantial harm to people or institutions. The changes are similar to the clampdown by George Bush on facts released under the US freedom of information act after September 11..."
(The Times Jan 20 2004 "The Phillis report criticises the Government for greatly watering down its original proposals, contained in the Freedom of Information White Paper, and rendering the final Bill ineffectual. "There is a danger that the changes introduced between the White Paper and the Act have the potential to rob freedom of information of most of its benefits and, worse, accentuate some of the problems of trust and credibility that are at the root of the crisis of public confidence." )
March 29/30 ~ "...As the reality of the false prospectus for war has unravelled, you might think Blair would seek to make amends.Sunday Herald ".. Not a chance, it would seem. Only last week Blair demonstrated to the world that, when it came to toeing the US foreign policy line, he would yield to nobody. Barely a day after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw openly condemned Israel's action in assassinating militant Palestinian leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Britain abstained in a United Nations Security Council resolution aimed at damning Israel after the US vetoed the vote.
And, while we are in the Middle East, whatever happened to Blair's resolute promise to seek peace in the region through the "road map"?
All of which raises a number of questions over Blair and his policies. How does turning a blind eye to Israel's "extrajudicial killings", or state terrorism, square with a British foreign policy aimed at demonstrating fairness in its dealings with all the Middle East players? Or does the UK's UN abstention smack more of Blair being George W Bush's unquestioning foreign secretary than the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?
The continuing humiliation of the Palestinian people by Israel and the United States is the subject of Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka's Reith Lectures, to be broadcast next month on BBC Radio 4..." Read in full
March 29 ~Iraqi defector behind America's WMD claims exposed as 'out-and-out fabricator'Independent ".... David Kay, the postwar weapons inspector whose declaration in January that Iraq had no WMD initiated a series of hammer-blows to the credibility of the Bush administration and the British government, described Mr Powell's use of Curveball's information before the UN as "disingenuous".
He told the LA Times: "If Powell had said to the Security Council: 'It's one source, we never actually talked to him, and we don't know his name', I think people would have laughed us out of court."
Mr Powell told the world on 5 February last year the administration had "firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails" capable of producing enough anthrax or botulinum toxin to kill "thousands upon thousands of people". He showed "highly detailed and extremely accurate" diagrams of how the trucks were configured. Revealingly, he could only produce artist renditions, not actual blueprints or photographs.
Since the Powell speech, Curveball's reliability has been destroyed.....In addition to the mobile labs, Mr Powell showed slides of what he said were chemical munitions facilities surrounded by "decontamination vehicles". The "chemical munitions" works were later identified by Mr Ritter and others as a site well-known to UN inspectors. The vehicles were later shown to have been fire engines.
Mr Powell also showed surveillance footage of an Iraq plane dropping simulated anthrax in what he said was a military exercise. It later emerged the plane was destroyed in 1991. "
March 29 ~ 'Flawed circle' of intelligenceTimes "British, American and Israeli intelligence agencies passed information around in circles before the Iraq war, reinforcing each others' exaggerated analyses of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction capability, an Israeli parliamentary investigation concluded yesterday.
In a scathing indictment of its own intelligence services, including Mossad, it said that there was a general failure of intelligence based on mutually reinforcing evaluations based on 3speculation4 without any hard data. .."
March 29 ~ The commission inquiring into the 9/11 terror attacks is again to seek public testimony from Condoleezza Rice.BBC "...the White House the call for Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly is further bad political news.
She is refusing to make a sworn public statement to the commission. The White House points out that she has talked to commission members in private but they say the constitution bars her from testifying publicly because she is a privileged presidential advisor.
But the commission chairman observed pointedly over the weekend that in a tragedy of this magnitude those kinds of legal arguments are probably overridden. "
The Washington Times reveals that "a poll by the Pew Research Center indicates nine out of 10 respondents have heard about former White House counter-terror aide Richard Clarke's criticisms"
March 28 ~ Bush's rating has taken a dive in key opinion pollsToday's Observer "...the key to the week was Clarke. ... Bush's security advisor Condoleezza Rice suffered particularly badly as Clarke claimed she had stymied his efforts to raise the importance of fighting terrorism. Rice, who has refused to testify in public before the 11 September commission, was forced into asking to appear before it in private to rebut Clarke's charges.
The effect was to attack the Bush campaign at the heart of its re-election strategy: fighting the War on Terror. Democrats want to fight the election on the economy and jobs but Clarke delivered massive blows to the Republican's main platform of national security forcing Bush's team unexpectedly on the defensive. Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, now tops bestseller lists across America. More than 500,000 copies have been printed - a huge amount for a political non-fiction work.
.....many top Republicans privately said they would soon seek to move the campaign on to different issues as they admitted to the damage done by Clarke. 'It will blow over. We'll move on to something else,' said Charles Black, a Republican senior advisor. ...
.. worse is to come. In a few months former diplomat Joseph Wilson, will publish his book, an account of the build-up to the war in Iraq, called The Politics of Truth. Wilson last summer accused the White House of ignoring evidence in its efforts to show Iraq had WMD. The White House responded by leaking the identity of Wilson's wife, an undercover CIA operative. That scandal led to a criminal investigation of White House staff, which is still ongoing..." Read in full
March 28 ~ "Much of the money being earned by British companies is coming from the British taxpayer"Robert Fisk in the Independent on Sunday "....Thousands of former soldiers and police officers from Britain, the US, Australia and South Africa are earning wages as high as £600 a day to protect Western officials, oil company executives and construction firm bosses in Iraq. The SAS is said to be suffering an unprecedented loss of personnel as its highly trained soldiers are lured by lucrative private security work. .....Much of the money being earned by British companies is coming from the British taxpayer. The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the Foreign Office and Department for International Development have spent nearly £25m on hiring private bodyguards, armed escorts and security advisers to protect their civil servants. That figure is set to increase sharply in July when sovereignty is handed over to an Iraqi administration. The largest contract is with Control Risks, which has earned £23.5m. It employs about 120 staff to protect about 150 British officials and contractors." See also "aid charities are disturbed by the sums being spent on security, since DFID has diverted £278m from its mainstream aid budget for Iraqi reconstruction. Dominic Nutt, of Christian Aid, said: "This sticks in the craw. It's right that DFID protects its staff, but this is robbing Peter to pay Paul."
March 27 ~ "...Libya produces high-quality, low-sulphur crude oil at very low cost..."Michael Meacher in the Guardian writes today about "oil geopolitics - a "pact with the devil", as Richard Holbrooke, America's former chief Balkans peace negotiator put it...
"Libya produces high-quality, low-sulphur crude oil at very low cost (as low as $1 per barrel in some fields), and holds 3% of world oil reserves. It also has vast proven natural gas reserves of 46 trillion cubic feet, but actual gas reserves are largely unexplored and estimated to total up to 70 trillion cubic feet.
The problem of access to Libyan hydrocarbons was Gadafy's record of running a state terrorist machine - responsible for arming the IRA, the shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. Britain had even, according to the former MI5 agent David Shayler, paid £100,000 to an al-Qaida cell in Libya to assassinate Gadafy in 1996, and then granted asylum to a member of the cell named Anas al-Liby, who lived in Manchester until 2000.
Moreover, just two months before Gadafy's pact with the west was announced on December 19 last year, Libya was caught trying to import nuclear technology from Malaysia. If it had been Saddam Hussein, no doubt the deal would have been scotched on the grounds of his unreliability and bad faith. But it is remarkable how sometimes terrorists suddenly turn into "statesmanlike and courageous" friends (to use Jack Straw's phrase). .."
There are also (some witty) letters from the Guardian and Independent on the subject of Blair's new relationship with the "courageous" Gaddafi. As one writer, Dave Lane, laconically puts it, "... So Blair meets Gadafy under canvas - does this mean a new use for detente?"
March 27 ~ "Clarke suggests, the focus on unseating Hussein was driven by the desire to settle unfinished Gulf War businessshore up Western access to Middle East oil, make it easier to withdraw U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, promote democracy in Arab states and improve "Israel's strategic position" in the region. As a consequence, Clarke says, the Bush administration didn't invest heavily enough in homeland security, in the effort to stabilize a post-Taliban Afghanistan or in helping other governments deal with fundamentalist Islamic terror. It is no small matter that Clarke, the nation's counterterrorism chief, declares that Saddam Hussein's regime posed no threat to the United States and that the Bush administration, by invading Iraq, cost America many friends around the world and "delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable." ......
Colbert I. King in the Washington Post
March 27 ~ Backroom boy who had the President running scaredIndependent ".... it was Mr Clarke's own appearance that provided arguably the most gripping testimony at a public hearing since the Iran-Contra affair in 1987 briefly threatened the Presidential prospects of George Bush senior. ..... A poll found that 42 per cent of the population was very aware of the furore set off by Mr Clarke, and that only 10 per cent knew nothing about it.
No wonder the Bush administration was scared stiff, summoning reporters to the White House for on-the-record trashings of Mr Clarke and generally doing all in its power to smear his motives. .... One way and another, even by the brutal standards of this White House, the wrecking operation has been unprecedented.
But the stakes could not be higher. Mr Clarke's central charge - that before 9/11 the administration was so obsessed by Iraq that it took its eye off the al-Qa'ida threat - trumps the most powerful single card in Bush's campaign for re-election.
..... there is the small matter of Condoleezza Rice, the President's national security adviser and the person most directly implicated in Mr Clarke's memoirs. So far the White House has turned down repeated requests by the 9/11 commission that Ms Rice testify in public, citing the separation of powers in the constitution whereby a Presidential adviser who is not subject to Congressional approval does not give evidence to bodies set up by the legislative branch - which has not stopped Ms Rice from summoning reporters to her office for on-the-record rebuttals of Mr Clarke's charges.
Meanwhile the White House has offered the commission another opportunity to meet privately with her. But why not in public, like Messrs Tenet, Rumsfeld and Powell? Now, rightly or wrongly, that dread Washington murmur - 'cover-up' - is starting to do the rounds. ....." Read in full
March 27 ~ "...Some of Ms Rice's rebuttals have been at odds with the comments of others in the administration.Mostly, though, she has struck at Mr Clarke, which may have been useful to the White House cause of undermining his credibility but added to the Democrats' complaint that this administration shows an unhealthy willingness to kill the messenger. The sense of a rattled White House extends to the top. Mr Bush has swung into campaign mode, making another stop yesterday at a battleground state - yesterday morning it was New Mexico, which Mr Bush lost by a tantalising 366 votes in 2000. Thomas Mann at the Brookings Institution says: "To start playing micro-politics in swing states seven months out from the election shows a lack of self-confidence." After Mr Clarke, 2004 is bound to be different. Beyond the week of vicious attacks and vehement denunciations in Washington this week, Mr Clarke's enduring contribution to this election year is that both sides are now eager to make Mr Bush's national security credentials a key battleground." Financial Times
March 26/7 ~ The Bush administration fears voters will believe Richard Clarke's allegationsGuardian Comment " .... The swiftness and ferocity of the Bush White House's attack on Richard Clarke tells you two things: his story may be largely true, and the Bush administration is terrified that the American people will believe it.
..... The White House did not let a single news cycle go by before questioning that the alleged encounter between the president and Clarke had ever taken place, assigning dark motives to a man who has served four presidents, three of them Republicans. But you don't have to be Bob Woodward to check Clarke's story out. There were other witnesses to this meeting, one of whom spoke to me.
"The conversation absolutely took place. I was there, but you can't name me," the witness said. "I was one of several people present. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that the president had Iraq on his mind, first and foremost." ......
...Bush's mantra to the international community during his inexorable march to war in 2002-2003 - you are either with us or against us - applies, with equal force, to all who serve him. His inner circle has used fear and intimidation to keep the White House airtight. But the cracks are opening up, and those pesky facts keep resurfacing like unsightly flotsam, evidence that supports Richard Clarke's revelations. .......". Read in full
March 26 ~ White House 'exaggerated extent of WMD breakthrough'Independent ".... an unusual press briefing last week at the United States government's nuclear research laboratory at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Amid much fanfare, reporters were shown evidence of what officials said were 4,000 uranium centrifuges, handed over by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's government as part of its deal with Britain and the United States to give up its nuclear arms programme.
But David Albright, the head of the Washington-based arms control group the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), has said "that was not true". ISIS has established that the 4,000 figure refers merely to casings of the centrifuges which are needed to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level - not to centrifuges fitted with the precision-tooled rotors that are their most important component.
"We doubt they had more than two which had rotors," said Mr Albright. This in turn means that Libya was "several years" away from making a bomb, rather than very close to possessing one, as the Bush team has implied. "Make no mistake, the Libyan programme was very serious and we're very glad it's stopped," he added. "The problem from our point of view is that the White House, which basically organised the briefing, is so focused on claiming credit that it's willing to exaggerate." The real concern, said Mr Albright, a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, is the origin of the highly sophisticated rotors. ..... ....
The issue is equally embarrassing for Tony Blair, who trumpeted his Government's role in Libya's agreement to abandon its WMD programme. Washington even agreed for Mr Blair to announce the deal live on TV before Mr Bush - a clear signal this was a British-led initiative. ...." Read in full
March 25 ~ Bush's brand new enemy is the truth"Clarke's claims have shaken the White House to its foundations" writes Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian ".... The controversy raging around Clarke's book and his testimony before the 9/11 commission that Bush ignored warnings about terrorism that might have prevented the attacks revolves around his singularly unimpeachable credibility. In response, Bush has launched an offensive against him, impugning his personal motives, saying he is a disappointed job-hunter, publicity-mad, a political partisan, ignorant, irrelevant - and a liar.
Clarke's reputation in the Clinton White House was that he could be brusque and passionate, but also calm and single-minded. He was a complete professional, who was a master of the bureaucracy. He didn't suffer fools gladly, stood up to superiors and didn't care who he alienated. His flaw was his indispensable virtue: he was direct and candid in telling the unvarnished truth.
...... Bush protests now: "And had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September 11, we would have acted." But he had plenty of information...." Read in full
March 25 ~ Another dodgy dossierGuardian comment
"Iraqis happier without Saddam" trumpeted headlines, in response to the claim that 57% think life is better now than it was before the war. The poll of 2,737 Iraqis was carried out in February by Oxford Research International (ORI), which describes it as "a national survey" and "representative".... But how representative of Iraqi views is it?.... Polling in any post-war setting is difficult, and there are additional problems in Iraq. The UN says there is "a dearth of demographic information about Iraq's population over the past several decades"..... Iain Murray, a statistician based in Washington, says that for a poll to be representative, "matching the sample to the country's demography is absolutely key. Otherwise, you simply cannot be sure that you are not weighting the sample unconsciously towards or away from any section of society."
So how did ORI weight its sample for class and religion, to achieve results that, according to the BBC, "reflected Iraq's distribution of population, balance between men and women, and religious and ethnic mix"? It didn't....
... ORI's poll does not cover all aspects of postwar Iraq. It asks whether Iraqis have had an encounter with coalition forces, and when they think they should leave, but it does not ask about their day-to-day experience or political view of the occupation. Sahm says "there was no room for that", and some media groups that commissioned the poll "did not want a question about the occupation".
Many of the media reports about "happy Iraqis" focused on question two, which asked: "Compared to a year ago, I mean before the war in spring 2003, [how] are things overall in your life?": 21.9% said "much better now"; 34.6% said "somewhat better"; 23.3% said "about the same"; 12.7% said "somewhat worse"; and 5.9% said "much worse". This is where the headline figure of 57% comes from - those who reportedly think Iraq is a better place. Read in full
March 25 ~ "Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you."Guardian "Testifying under oath at a public inquiry, Richard Clarke, formerly President Bush's top aide on counter-terrorism strategy, told relatives of September 11 victims: "Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you." He accused the Bush administration of not treating the al-Qaida threat seriously and described how a top-level meeting on the issue was postponed in summer 2001, despite intelligence warnings of a major attack, because senior officials had no time in their calendars and then went on holiday....
the impact of the CIA director's (George Tenet) testimony was partially undermined by a report delivered yesterday morning by the commission's staff. The report found that when the CIA picked up increasing numbers of signals that a major attack was imminent, some agency officials, including Mr Tenet's deputy, were impatient with the administration's response. "....the deputy CIA director, John] McLaughlin told us he felt a great tension, especially in June and July 2001, between the new administration's need to understand these issues and his sense that this was a matter of great urgency." The report continued: "Two veteran counter-terrorism officials who were deeply involved in Bin Laden issues were so worried about an impending disaster that one of them told us that they considered resigning and going public with their concerns."
March 24 ~ The killing of Sheikh Yassin "....something went wrong with the narrative of the news story ..."The Chilling Implications Of This State Killing by Robert Fisk, reveals "obfuscation from the world's media" about the fact that the "head of the snake" was let loose by Israel itself, courtesy of the Israeli Prime Minister - a chapter in the narrative of history which was conveniently forgotten yesterday."
"It doesn't take an awful lot of courage to murder a paraplegic in a wheelchair.... Sheikh Yassin was set free by no less than that law-and-order right- wing Likudist Benjamin Netanyahu when he was Prime Minister of Israel. .....if the elderly cleric really was worthy of state murder, why did Mr Netanyahu let him go in the first place? It was not a question that anyone wanted to ask yesterday.Read in full
But there was something infinitely more dangerous in all this. Yet another Arab - another leader, however vengeful and ruthless - had been assassinated. The Americans want to kill Osama Bin Laden. They want to kill Mullah Omar. They killed Saddam's two sons. The Israelis repeatedly threaten to murder Yasser Arafat. It's getting to be a habit.
No one has begun to work out the implications of all this. For years, there has been an unwritten rule in the cruel war of government-versus- guerrilla. You can kill the men on the street, the bomb makers and gunmen. But the leadership on both sides - government ministers, spiritual leaders - were allowed to survive.
Now all is changed utterly. ...."
March 24 ~ "Europe must define its own war on terror"The latest report from the Pew Research Center in Washington carried out shortly before the Madrid atrocity. The Pew report is entitled "A Year After Iraq War Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher, Muslim Anger Persists." (read report)
The Daily Star in Kuwait and Beirut discusses the report
"....broad opposition to the war a year ago persists, and has not been mitigated by its outcome. In the UK, support for the war has plummeted from over 60 percent to just 43 percent. Only in the US does a majority still support the war, but even there support has eroded steadily.Read in full. (Ali Abunimah, Chicago-based Palestinian-Jordanian analyst, media critic, and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, wrote this commentary for The Daily Star from London)
The dramatic result of Spain's general election suggests that the Madrid attack is only likely to harden this consensus, rather than scare people into joining the Bush/Blair camp that insists terrorism is entirely unrelated to anything that happens on earth, and is driven solely by a mysterious and unexplainable evil.....
....Europeans recognize much more than Americans that the growing gulf between the West, and the Arab and Muslim worlds is fuelled by unresolved conflicts from Palestine to Kashmir to Afghanistan, and blowback from decades of disastrous Western support for tyrannical regimes. Islamic fanatics and American neoconservatives share a nihilistic worldview in which their respective "civilizations" are at war. If Europe does not force a change in direction, this view could become a self-fulfilling prophecy....."
March 23/24 ~ Interview: Richard ClarkeThe Guardian's Julian Borger in Washington talks to former White House insider Richard Clarke about US's vulnerability to al-Qaida before the September 11 attack.
"....If you look at the so-called Vulcans group [Bush's pre-election foreign policy advisors] talked about publicly in seminars in Washington. They clearly wanted to go after Iraq and they clearly wanted to do this reshaping of the middle east and they used the tragedy of 9/11 as an excuse to test their theories.Read the transcript in full
JB: Do you think President Bush was already on board when he came to office?
RC: I think he was. He got his international education from the Vulcans group the previous year. They were people like Richard Perle, Jim Woolsey, Paul Wolfowitz. They were all espousing this stuff. So he probably had been persuaded. He certainly wasn't hearing any contrary view during this education process. ..
.... it turns out that buried in the FBI and CIA, there was information about two of these al-Qaida terrorists who turned out to be hijackers [Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi]. We didn't know that. The leadership of the FBI didn't know that, but if the leadership had to report on a daily basis to the White House, he would have shaken the trees and he would have found out those two guys were there. We would have put their pictures on the front page of every newspaper and we probably would have caught them. Now would that have stopped 9/11? I don't know. It would have stopped those two guys, and knowing the FBI the way they can take a thread and pull on it, they would probably have found others. ..."
March 23/24 ~ "... a wholesale rubbishing of Mr Clarke"The Guardian also says "....The Washington Post carries the official case for the defence - an article by the US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in which she insists that rather than do nothing, 'through the spring and summer of 2001, the national security team developed a strategy to eliminate al-Qaida'. 'This became the first major foreign-policy strategy document of the Bush administration,' she adds.
The unofficial case for the defence has been a wholesale rubbishing of Mr Clarke. The New York Times pretty much covers this, describing how the Republicans have claimed he is a 'disgruntled, politically motivated job seeker' and 'best buddy' to Mr Kerry's foreign policy adviser, Rand Beers....
... Josh Marshall, on Talking Points Memo, is amusing about the media onslaught, describing it as like a 'motley medieval army - little clear organisation or discipline, just everyone running on to the field at once and hacking away as best they can'. He also points out that the contradictory nature of the attacks, with some in the administration claiming that it did everything Clarke wanted, and others insisting he does not know what he is talking about because he was out of the loop..." Read in full
March 23/24 ~ "...When you look at it, Beers' and Clarke's stories sound quite similar."Josh Marshall, on Talking Points Memo "And the pattern suggests two possible theories.
The first is that President Bush has the odd misfortune of repeatedly hiring Democratic party stooges for key counter-terrorism assignments who stab him in the back as soon as they leave his employ.
The second is that anyone the president hires in a key counter-terrorism role who is not either a hidebound ideologue or a Bush loyalist gets so disgusted with the mismanagement and/or dishonesty that they eventually quit and then devote themselves to driving the president from office."
Which sounds more likely?"
March 23 2004 ~ 14 soldiers hurt as hundreds riot in BasraScotsman
- Second attack on UK forces in 5 days leaves 14 soldiers wounded, 3 seriously, at civil disturbance in Basra
- Troops sheltered behind riot shields and fired tear gas as they came under rock, grenade and petrol-bomb attack
- Attack is not thought to be the work of 'terrorists'
Key quote: "The people of Basra were demonstrating about local conditions, such as jobs and the electricity supply. This is a daily occurrence and British troops normally police these without any problems." MOD Spokesman.
Fourteen British soldiers were injured yesterday in the southern Iraqi city of Basra when they came under attack from demonstrators throwing petrol bombs, rocks and a grenade.
At least three of the soldiers suffered serious injuries when the grenade exploded, although the Ministry of Defence said they were not life-threatening. Other soldiers suffered burns as the petrol ignited and splashed on to their helmets, uniforms and skin.
The demonstration, two miles north of the British military headquarters in one of Saddam’s old palaces, had started peacefully but protesters became agitated and British troops sheltering behind full-length riot shields fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Some demonstrators appeared to be angry about Israel’s killing of the Hamas leader, Ahmed Yassin, and according to witnesses they were chanting: "We are all sons of Yassin." ...."
March 23 ~ White House rebuffs terror expert's savaging of Bush over IraqIndependent By Rupert Cornwell in Washington "A nervous White House is pulling out all the stops to squelch the impact of the memoirs of the former top counter-terrorism aide Richard Clarke, which constitute perhaps the most damaging insider's critique yet published of President George Bush's handling of the war on terror and his decision to invade Iraq.
........ When Mr Clarke gave Ms Rice a first briefing on al-Qa'ida in January 2001, he writes, "her facial expression gave me the impression she had never heard the term before". That observation pales beside Mr Clarke's criticism of the decision to go to war with Iraq, which he suggests was taken very early in the life of the Bush administration, and which has made the war on terrorism harder.
"Nothing America could have done would have provided al-Qa'ida and its new generation of cloned groups with a better recruitment device than our unprovoked invasion of an oil-rich Arab country," he writes.
The aim of the White House, which wants to turn the November election into a referendum on Mr Bush's handling thus far of the war on terror, is to discredit Mr Clarke by portraying him as an embittered closet Democrat. But his 30 years of service in government, during which he held senior anti-terrorism posts under three Republican presidents, as well as under Bill Clinton, could make that a hard sell for Mr Bush's aides. ......" Read in full
March 23 ~ "we need a new UN charter"concludes George Monbiot, after a thoughtful and balanced look at the issue of intervention. ".. not just to save the oppressed from the likes of Saddam Hussein, but also to save both humanitarianism and world peace from the likes of George Bush. We need a charter that permits armed intervention for humanitarian purposes, but only when a series of rigorous tests have been met, and only when an overwhelming majority of all the world's states have approved it. We need a charter that forbids nations with an obvious interest in the outcome from participating.
Only then will international law be able to distinguish an act of aggression from an act of compassion. Only then can humanitarianism be divorced from imperialism. Read in full
March 22 ~ "When told al-Qaeda's bases were in Afghanistan, not Iraq, Clarke said Rumsfeld responded that there were no good bombing targets in Afghanistan, but there were plenty of such targets in Iraq.Clarke said he thought at first that Rumsfeld was joking, but quickly realised that he was serious." ITN news "....Clarke, who headed a cybersecurity board before resigning, is set to testify this week before the independent commission investigating the 2001 hijacked airplane attacks in New York and on the Pentagon that killed almost 3,000 people.
The White House rebutted Clarke's charge that before the September 11 attacks the administration was focused on Iraq rather than on al-Qaeda and that immediately after the attacks it searched for a way to blame Saddam Hussein. Clarke said Bush took him aside the day after the terror attacks and ordered him to "see if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way." Clarke said he responded that al-Qaeda was responsible and that Iraq was not linked to the attacks. However, he agreed to look into Bush's request and again found no cooperation between Saddam and al-Qaeda.
Deputy national security adviser Steve Hadley disputed Clarke's characterisation of the president's request.
"The point, I think, is that of course the president was trying to find out who caused 9/11. ... And he couldn't rule out the possibility that it might have been Iraq, and he asked for the intelligence that we had on a possible link between Iraq and 9/11," Hadley said.
Clarke also said the day after the September 11 attacks, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested bombing Iraq, despite the lack of any evidence of Baghdad's involvement. When told al-Qaeda's bases were in Afghanistan, not Iraq, Clarke said Rumsfeld responded that there were no good bombing targets in Afghanistan, but there were plenty of such targets in Iraq. Clarke said he thought at first that Rumsfeld was joking, but quickly realised that he was serious. "
March 22 ~ "Mr Carter's criticisms coincided with damaging claims yesterday from former White House anti-terrorism co-ordinator. Richard Clarkewho said that President Bush ignored the threat from al-Qai'da before 11 September but in the immediate aftermath sought to hold Iraq responsible, in defiance of senior intelligence advisers who told him that Saddam had nothing to do with the conspiracy.
With an eye to November's presidential elections, Mr Bush sought on Friday to use the anniversary of the Iraq invasion to say that differences between the US and opponents of the war belonged "to the past". Speaking at the White House, he told about 80 foreign ambassadors: "There is no neutral ground in the fight between civilisation and terror. There can be no separate peace with the terrorist enemy."...." Independent
We hear on the Today Programme that the White House staff were rattled enough to have responded late on a Sunday evening. They refute everything. "They have no recollection...there is no record of such converstaions taking place...."
March 22 ~ "the White House is going to have to answer these charges..""Mr Clarke made his allegations in an interview last night on a CBS current affairs programme, 60 Minutes and in greater detail in a book, Against All Enemies, published today. He is also expected to deliver a blistering critique of the administration's performance tomorrow to a bipartisan commission investigating US preparedness for the 2001 attacks. Mr Clarke's book is the latest in a trickle of unflattering accounts of the Bush White House to emerge from people leaving the administration. It confirms the impression provided by a former treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, of an ideological clique fixated on Iraq. ...
....A senior Republican senator, Chuck Hagel, yesterday described Mr Clarke as "a serious professional", adding that "the White House is going to have to answer these charges....." Guardian - Read in full
March 22 ~ Jimmy Carter savages Blair and Bush: 'Their war was based on lies'Independent ".... He said: "There was no reason for us to become involved in Iraq recently. That was a war based on lies and misinterpretations from London and from Washington, claiming falsely that Saddam Hussein was responsible for [the] 9/11 attacks, claiming falsely that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And I think that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair probably knew that many of the allegations were based on uncertain intelligence ... a decision was made to go to war [then people said] 'Let's find a reason to do so'." Before the war Mr Carter made clear his opposition to a unilateral attack and said the US did not have the authority to create a "Pax Americana". During his Nobel prize acceptance speech in December 2002 he warned of the danger of "uncontrollable violence" if countries sought to resolve problems without United Nations input. ......... "I think the basic reason was made not in London but in Washington. I think that Bush Jnr was inclined to finish a war that his father had precipitated against Iraq. I think it was that commitment of Bush that prevailed over, I think, the better judgement of Tony Blair and Tony Blair became an enthusiastic supporter of the Bush policy".
March 22 ~ "United States regrets the political fall-out generated by the invasion of Iraq and some members of the administration believe the war should have been delayed to give diplomacy another chancea senior American diplomat has revealed.
Howard Perlow, minister for political affairs and the US’s number three at its embassy in London, said a year after the war, it was clear it had placed a strain on relations within NATO and with other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
In an interview with The Scotsman, Mr Perlow said the US had no doubt it had done the right thing in taking military action to unseat Saddam Hussein, but conceded it might have been better to have given diplomacy more time. .... He admitted there were reasons to question the decision to attack without waiting for a UN consensus. "You obviated it, you removed it, you removed the possibility and that has led to this year of great political confrontation," he said. Asked whether the US had any regrets about the way it had prosecuted the war and whether, with hindsight, it would have gone about it differently, Mr Perlow said: "I think probably it is fair to say there were voices within the administration that would have perhaps delayed just a little bit longer in order to have tried to form a security council consensus on military action."...." Read in full
March 22 ~ "And soon we will have "democracy" in Iraq" Robert Fisk on the "new Iraq" - in Saturday's Independent".....If you are in Iraq, in Baghdad, driving its dangerous roads, the evidence of collapse and failure is everywhere. The few unarmed NGOs are marooned in the cities, unable to travel on the highways, which have become the domain of assassins and bandits. Now even the road south of Kerbala is the haunt of armed gangs. When I drive these highways, I now wear a keffiyeh and thobe on my head. My driver wears western trousers and shirt but I am in Arab clothes to avoid being attacked. Other westerners are doing the same thing. What does that tell us about Iraq a year after its "liberation"?"......
....David Kay's astonishing interview in yesterday's Le Figaro - "we must recognise our mistakes in order to restore our credibility" - is being widely broadcast in Baghdad. "I don't think there was any serious chance of proving the existence of weapons of mass destruction," he said. "Because the best evidence suggests they did not exist."
Still, the occupying power, the "Coalition Provisional Authority", refuses to keep statistics on the dozens of innocent Iraqis dying each week under their mandate, in massive car bombs and in roadside killings. The US military searches of Iraqi Sunni villages, the Israeli-style battering down of doors and houses, the constant American killing of innocents is embittering a new generation of Iraqis. And soon we will have "democracy" in Iraq" Read in full
March 21 ~ Blair's credibility 'destroyed'Sunday Telegraph "The war on Iraq was "armed globalisation" to take the country's oil reserves, former cabinet minister Tony Benn has said. Mr Benn said the world was "obviously not a safer place" after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, adding that Tony Blair's credibility had been "destroyed".
But at the same time London and Washington were trying to whip up fears of terrorism to "get control and take away civil liberties", he said. Mr Benn is the new president of the Stop the War Coalition. ..... "....when people lose confidence in what they are told, that is a greater threat to democracy than the occasional terrorist attack." Claiming that there is a "crisis of confidence" in Britain's leadership, he said: "Never in my lifetime have we had a situation where the gap between the people and Parliament was so great.
March 21 ~ One year on: Blair told it’s time to quitSunday Herald ".... Tony Blair remained publicly silent as tens of thousands took to the streets in London and Glasgow while the former Labour foreign secretary, Lord Owen, used the occasion to call on Blair to stand down, saying his “shelf-life” was almost over and he should not repeat the mistake of Margaret Thatcher by staying too long. ...
... The Liberal Democrat’s foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell, said yesterday that a year on from the military action, the case for war had still not been proven, no weapons had been found, and there was no evidence the world was any safer from terrorism.
Large scale demonstrations were held throughout most European capitals, in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as well as Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Japan, India, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, and South Africa.
In most cities Bush and Blair were the focus of the marches. Burned effigies of Bush and Blair were a common theme throughout the world.
...... Although Bush has previously acknowledged there was no link between the former Iraq dictator and al-Qaeda, his speech yesterday indicates his re-election team intend to ignore this in the run in to November’s election. Today on GMTV (Robin) Cook says the war in Iraq did not help combat terrorism. He attacks the US president’s version of what the last 12 months had meant. “George Bush said it [Iraq] is now the central front in the battle against terrorism. There were no international terrorists in Iraq till we went in there.” .... he called on the government “to be honest with the electorate”.
March 21 ~ Iraq war chest 'will be empty by July'Independent on Sunday "A war chest of £3.8bn for military operations in Iraq is set to run out within three months, official figures released last week indicate. Defence economists estimate that keeping British troops in the country is costing taxpayers up to £125m a month.. However, figures released at the same time as the Budget show the special contingency reserve for Iraq has just £300m left to pay for operations in the coming financial year. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, insisted last week that Britain could afford its "ongoing and additional commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the fight against terrorism". He set aside another £1bn to pay for Britain's part in the "war on terror" in the coming financial year, rising to £2bn in coming years. Experts predict that the Ministry of Defence is likely to need the extra cash as soon as this July if the current rate of spending in Iraq continues. The MoD says it is too soon to say how much the operation in Iraq is costing. Mark Stoker, an economist at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, says that reliable estimates suggest that the cost could top £1.5bn for this year alone. ...... Tensions between the Treasury and the MoD have been rising in recent months as Whitehall departments gear up for the coming three-year spending review. Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, angered Mr Brown by appealing over his head to Tony Blair against proposed cuts. A row over accounting procedures could see the Chancellor claw back as much as £9bn from the budget, some analysts predict."
March 20 ~ "A year of argument, killing, renewal, rebuilding, accusations, lies, hope and hopelessness"Channel 4 email update "As the anti-war demonstrators marched again today the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone (and of course Labour's candidate at the next Mayoral election) declared "everything we have learnt since the war has told us that it was totally unjustified." It's hard to believe that a year has passed since we woke up to see the bombing and the dramatic images of troops on the move that had begun the night before. A year of argument, killing, renewal, rebuilding, accusations, lies, hope and hopelessness depending on who you were and where you lived. But it was the two climbers who managed to scale Big Ben to launch their protest that caused the biggest stir today. MPs called for inquiries into how they managed to breach security so comprehensively. The police pointed out that they didn't actually get into Parliament, and as they knew who the protesters were, there didn't seem much point trying to bring them down (presumably by shooting them)..."
March 20 ~ On the day of another national demonstration in Londonthree important articles. See below.
People who make the effort to turn out to march today will not all be the young and disaffected (although many may well be). There will be deeply worried people of all ages and classes and beliefs - including those on the right of the UK political spectrum - who feel, as Robert Fisk put it on Wednesday - that failure to make a stand means we are childishly giving up responsibility:"....societies require what Coleridge called the "willing suspension of disbelief". We must trust. We must agree. We must accept. We must go along with what our leaders want, we must - an unhappy phrase from the Hitler period - "help to give the wheel a shove".
As Matthew Parris asks today (see below)
"...Why are conservative parties across Europe failing to register the way an immature US-led foreign and defence doctrine is scaring their own natural supporters? There is no reason why America’s new kick-ass approach should worry only the Left. There are sound impulses of both reason and patriotism for resisting it, and opinion polls suggest that these are felt as much by voters on the Right as on the Left. ... The electorate is more complicated than its news media. It knows what Mao meant when he said that terrorists are “fish that must swim in a friendly sea ” and is able to ask itself whether, on balance, this US President has made the seas friendlier or more hostile to Islamist extremists. Voters do not agree with Mr Blair that it is as simple as deciding whose side we are on. .."
March 20 ~ " ....Tony Blair and George Bush are now shackled to al-Qaeda in a macabre waltz...""Appeasement worries me.." writes Matthew Parris in the Times "The appeasement I mean is not the cheap accusation with which our Prime Minister insults the Spanish electorate. I mean the appeasement of Washington. It is not too late for the British Tories, nor for the Right more widely across the Western world, to start distancing themselves from a doctrine that in Spain has just cost the most successful conservative party in Europe a general election. ..............
...... Why does the simplistic philosophy which underpins President Bush’s, Prime Minister Sharon’s and Tony Blair’s War on Terror go unchallenged by Tories whose sense of history should teach us that things are never that simple? ....
What has happened to good old Tory scepticism? Resistance to adolescent schemes for the perfecting of nations or of international relations is a time-honoured Conservative habit which resonates with millions of Conservative voters. Why ever should a Tory, with all he should know about the limits of government, think you can build a democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia or anywhere else?
.... What has happened to the Right’s respect for national sovereignty — others’ as well as our own?
.... What has happened to conservative doubts about the reliability of allies? ....
What has happened to the Tory insistence on putting the national interest first? At the end of all discussion of the ethical dimension of foreign policy, the question “does this benefit us?” should distinguish a conservative in politics. When Tories hear British ministers accuse France of acting “selfishly” our reaction should be to ask whether this is necessarily a bad thing in government.
......real as their personal distress at the Madrid bombings will have been, Tony Blair and George Bush are now shackled to al-Qaeda in a macabre waltz in which the political survival of each depends on the continuing vigour of the other. I do not say that this is what Blair means to do; but such is the dance. It is a waltz the European Centre-Right should sit out." Read in full
March 20 ~ "Today's demonstration is a reminder that what was a war of unprovoked aggression a year ago has not been changed by victory."Richard Overy, professor of modern history at King's College London, in today's Guardian
History will damn them
We must not accept our leaders' illegal occupation of a sovereign state
"........Today's demonstration is a reminder that what was a war of unprovoked aggression a year ago has not been changed by victory. I have had many arguments, too, about the vexed question of oil. The view that oil is some kind of Marxist red herring is widespread. But in this case there can be no other conclusion. Oil installations and oil lines were captured and guarded first; the oil ministry was protected while priceless art treasures were being ransacked. The second largest oil reserves are now safe once again for the wider world market and the global oil companies. Popular ignorance about the nature of oil politics has played into coalition hands, just as popular indifference to the use of major US companies in rebuilding what the US armed forces knocked down has deflected debate from issues that should shock international opinion. ...
.....Terrorists do not blow people up just because they are nihilistic thugs. Terrorism is born of fear, resentment and powerlessness in the face of the massive power and cultural expansion of the west; it is about real issues for those who perpetrate its acts of violence. Palestinians die because they want to free Palestine. Understanding those issues on their own terms and adjusting our politics in order to do so does not mean that we endorse violence.
Last year Blair told the British people: "Let history be my judge." The history of the past year has been damning, but there is an opportunity for the people to judge as well. The same message that the Spanish people sent to José Aznar can also be sent to Bush and Blair. It will not solve the world's problems, but it might make the world a safer place." Read in full
March 20 ~ "...an agenda for a vast imperial project to restructure the Middle East, all further reinforced by the happy coincidence of great oil resources up for grabs"John Pilger in the New Statesman "..... In its current human rights report, the Foreign Office criticises Israel for its "worrying disregard for human rights" and "the impact that the continuing Israeli occupation and the associated military occupations have had on the lives of ordinary Palestinians".
Yet the Blair government has secretly authorised the sale of vast quantities of arms and terror equipment to Israel. These include leg-irons, electric shock belts and chemical and biological agents. No matter that Israel has defied more United Nations resolutions than any other state since the founding of the world body.
...The former CIA analysts Kathleen and Bill Christison have described how "two strains of Jewish and Christian fundamentalism have dovetailed into an agenda for a vast imperial project to restructure the Middle East, all further reinforced by the happy coincidence of great oil resources up for grabs and a president and vice-president heavily invested in oil"...." Read in full
March 18 2004~ Iraq: a year of war"The invasion of Iraq would, we were told, rid the world of mortal danger. One year on, the only people who feel safer are those who prefer not to think for themselves " Robert Fisk Independent yesterday "... I also suspect that one of the principal reasons why so many tens of thousands of Britons - and Europeans - marched against the war was not only because they believed the war was unjust and based on lies, but because they sensed that they were being talked down to, treated as children, treated with disrespect by Blair and his supporters. ... And I rather think that this is what Blair now believes he is - a "guide" who leads his people because of his own moral clarity. ....Our feelings, our views, our beliefs, our long-held convictions and our arguments didn't count. Because he knew best. If we could only see the intelligence material on Iraq that passed across his desk, Blair told the House of Commons, we would not be questioning him about the war. Of course, now that we know exactly what was passing across Blair's desk, we know we were right to be suspicious.
....We used to ask: why don't the Iraqis get rid of Saddam? And we forgot how few Germans dared risk the ferocity of Hitler's revenge.
But we also have to face a fact: that Arab societies seem to be uniquely capable of absorbing these dictatorships, ... .......
dictatorship does not just bestow brutality and fear upon a society. It takes from the necks of grown people the yoke of blame, the burden of responsibility.
.............. they look back to an age when they had no responsibility, when they could cast aside their cares and their powers of enquiry, when certainties were cast in iron, when love was unquestioning, however corrupt.
Yet this is what I suspect we now share:.....
This is the legacy of the Iraq war, which is now a year old and shows no sign of ending. We are all children now. " Read this important article in full
March 17 ~ "... critics pointed out that while police interviewed 500 people, took 300 witness statements and seized more than 700 documents in their investigation, fewer than 70 statements were given to Lord Hutton.http://www.femail.co.uk/pages/standard/article.html?in_article_id=209921&in_page_id=2 "The decision not to resume the inquest .. came under fire last night, with experts warning that crucial questions about the death of the weapons inspector will be left unanswered. Dr Michael Powers, himself a coroner, said: 'I am concerned that the due process has not been followed. There evidently are contradictory views that were never put to the experts who gave evidence before Lord Hutton. In consequence, the rigours that are normally undertaken at a coroner's inquest simply were not fulfilled."
.. Coroner Dr Powers said he was also concerned there were still holes left in the investigation. He said: "The real issue is whether there has been sufficience of inquiry and I don't think there has been. The inquest is the best way of getting to the root cause of death. Lord Hutton did not take the opportunity fully to explore all the issues. Perhaps he didn't even see it as part of his remit."
March 17 ~ "Now is the time for furious common sense" says Simon JenkinsThe Times "What I cannot understand is what public interest is served by ministers fuelling the hysteria. Why get Sir John Stevens of the Metropolitan Police to say yesterday that a British bomb is “inevitable”, unless he merely wants to say, “I told you so”, afterwards?...
... hysteria makes good politics. I cannot see what added value comes from the European summit on Friday that has not been achieved in countless meetings since 9/11. Indeed if there are measures that cannot be taken without such a meeting it is shocking. The trouble is that merely bidding Europe’s security services to go about their vital business with all the resources they need is boring. When bombs explode hyperbole is at a premium, as is its comrade-in-arms, kneejerk response. Ruthless calm and furious common sense seem contradictions in terms.
....It stands to reason that the Iraq venture was always going to aggravate not relieve the so-called War on Terror. Western governments which drop thousands of bombs on foreign cities can hardly be surprised if some of their citizens seek revenge. It stands to reason that 8,500 dead Iraqi civilians (at the latest count) would be a recruiting poster for any passing dissident eager to kill an American. One of the more odious arguments I heard in Baghdad last November was that it would be convenient to have all global terrorism concentrated in that one place. So much for a more stable Iraq. And tell it to the Spaniards. ..." Read in full
March 17 ~ Iraq, one year onRobert Fisk in the Independent on March 15 ".........Things are improving in Iraq, Bremer told us. Haidar and Mohamed and I exchanged glances, eyes crinkling beneath our scarves. Then our car was filled with hollow laughter......
The illusions with which the Americans and British went to war seem more awesome now than they did at the time. ...
.... the occupation authorities decline to keep statistics on the number of Iraqis who have died since the "liberation" - or during the invasion, for that matter - and prefer to talk about the "handover of sovereignty" from one American-appointed group of Iraqis to another, and to the constitution which is only temporary and may well fall apart before real elections are held - if they are held - next year. If we could have foreseen all this - if we could have been patient and waited for the UN arms inspectors to finish their job rather than go to war and plead for patience later, when our own inspectors couldn't find those oh so terrible weapons - would we have gone so blithely to war a year ago? For that war has not ended. ......." Read in full
March 16 ~ Zapatero's win puts PM in dock over question of trustIndependent ".... The difficulties of building bridges with Madrid are not Mr Blair's biggest headache, however. As the surprise result of the Spanish election sank in yesterday, his advisers realised that a crucial line had probably been crossed with huge implications for Mr Blair and other world leaders. If, as is claimed, al-Qa'ida was responsible for Thursday's terrorist attacks, then the rules of the war on terrorism have changed dramatically.
Mr Blair has already pencilled in a general election for May next year. After Madrid, the prospect that Islamic terrorists could target Britain during that period is a real one. "It's chilling," one Blair aide said.
The result in Spain creates a series of problems for Mr Blair. Even if Britain manages to keep al-Qa'ida at bay, the defeat of Mr Aznar's party delivers a chilling political message to Labour in Britain. By supporting the Iraq war and blaming Eta for last week's outrage, Mr Aznar lost the trust of the Spanish people. Mr Blair already has a trust problem over Iraq, caused largely by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in that country. The fear in Labour circles is that the terrible events in Madrid will compound it. The parallels are not exact. In Spain, nine out of 10 people opposed the war. In Britain, opinion was more evenly divided. But the similarities cannot be discounted. In his speech two weeks ago re-arguing the case for war from first principles, Mr Blair urged his critics not to question his integrity but accepted they could question his judgement. The unspoken worry in Downing Street is that people will now question both. ...."
March 16 ~ MPs lambast Government over Iraq warIndependent
( Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor) "British troops invading Iraq had such poor protective equipment they would have faced serious casualties if Saddam Hussein had possessed chemical or biological weapons, a report will say today. The Commons Defence Select Committee study found logistical blunders resulted in servicemen and women lacking "critical items" such as ammunition, body armour and protective clothing. .......the failure by Britain and the US to guard weapons sites in the months after the conflict "cost Iraqi civilian lives" and gave rebel forces easy access to weaponry.
More money should be found to fund the clearance of unexploded ordnance and more support, such as local experts and interpreters, should be given to peace-keeping troops, they add. The report also criticises Whitehall for failing to get "plugged in" to US planning until a late stage before the war. The result of more than 18 months' work, Lessons of Iraq repeatedly praises the armed forces for their combat operations and peace-keeping roles in the country in the past year. But it makes uncomfortable reading for ministers and the MoD on everything from delays in compensation for reservists to a shortage of non-NHS medical staff. The well-documented equipment blunders, caused mainly by failures to track logistics once they arrived in the Gulf, form a main plank of the report's findings. Gas masks failed to fit properly and many were past their use-by date of 1998 and troops were given just one suit each instead of the four per person ideally required by the MoD. The MPs report also described as "alarming" the fact that crucial antidote injection pens, designed to combat chemical and biological agents, had to be moved around the war zone to meet troops' needs. "
March 16 ~ Voices on IraqThe Guardian says: "In February 2003 we interviewed a selection of people with links to Iraq -anti-war protesters, Middle East experts, Iraqi refugees and politicians - to find out their views on the coming war. In May 2003 we talked to them again about the aftermath of the conflict. Now, a year on from the attacks on Iraq, we interviewed them for a third time to find out their hopes and fears for a post-Saddam Iraq. We will be publishing a selection of interviews every day this week in the run-up to the anniversary of the start of the conflict on Saturday, including Noam Chomsky, George Galloway, former weapons inspector Tim Trevan and former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Hans von Sponeck." Go to the relevant page of the Guardian
March 16 ~ George Gallowaynow independent MP for Glasgow Kelvin in yesterday's Guardian "...... It's abundantly clear now that there was no al-Qaida in Iraq before the war. It's equally clear that there are now many al-Qaida operatives and groups whose suicide bombings have taken such a toll. The destabilising effects on neighbouring countries, principally Saudi Arabia, is another cost. We go on to the damage done to Britain's relations with its partners in the EU, the damage done in the UN. Our name is mud around the world, our citizens endangered, our interests threatened. All of these are on the debit side, and I'm in no doubt whatsoever that it was on balance a very foolish, very dangerous thing to do.
This notion that sovereignty is being given back to Iraq in June is a hoax. First, this so-called governing council is the not the government of Iraq: it was imposed by the tanks and guns of a foreign invading army which illegally invaded Iraq. Nothing legal can come from something illegal. So the people drawing up the constitution have absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever. Second, they don't plan to give sovereignty back to Iraqis in June, they plan to give some sovereignty back to some hand-picked Iraqis in June, and the Americans will still run the country. The American companies will still be looting Iraq's wealth; the contracts will still be given overwhelmingly to American corporate interests. ..."
March 16 ~ Kelly Inquest to be reopened?Tom Mangold on the Today Programme (Tuesday) appeared almost to be 'protesting too much'. This letter (extract) from the Observer was from Dr C Stephen Frost, a specialist in diagnostic radiology
Reopen the inquest into Kelly's death
"....... Last Tuesday, Channel 4 News showed a special report about the debate which has arisen following our letters to the Guardian. Even our opponents, Professors Milroy and Forrest, a forensic pathologist and a forensic toxicologist, respectively, agreed that a full inquest should be re-convened, so that these reservations which many people have could be explored in the proper manner.
Crucially, Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist who gave evidence to the Hutton inquiry, and on whose evidence the suicide verdict was overwhelmingly based, was also shown on the report to have telephoned Channel 4 that day to say that he too thought that a full inquest should be reconvened.
Unlike Hutton, the coroner would hear evidence under oath, have the power to subpoena witnesses and have them rigorously cross-examined. The coroner, again unlike Hutton, would also have the power to call a jury."
See also BBC report "Kelly coroner to judge on inquest"
March 15 ~ "The guilty ones are Aznar, Bush and Blair"was a slogan much in evidence in Spain in the past few days. After eight years in power, the Popular Party has been ousted by the opposition Socialist Party led by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who won partly on a promise to pull Spanish soldiers out of Iraq. It was the first time a government that backed the Iraq war has been voted out of office. Is the sudden, unexpected election success of the socialist party in Spain sending shock waves to the UK and US governments? Jack Straw did his best on the Today programme (Listen to the interview) to downplay the reasons for the Spanish electorate's clear message but the uncertainty and hesitation in his voice was evident. The idea that military action in Afghanistan and Iraq has made Islamic terrorism worse was refuted by Mr Straw - but the Spanish people appear to have a different view. John Humphrys reminded Mr Straw, to his evident embarrassment, that Mr Blair had said, "There were unquestionably links between Iraq and Al Qaeda". Governments are likely to be rejected by their population when they are perceived to be telling lies, to be exploiting tragedy, and whose integrity, however earnestly their leaders proclaim their personal honesty, is widely questioned. You can only fool the people for so long, perhaps. 76 per cent of the Spanish electorate voted - a sharp increase from the 60 per cent who voted in 2000.
March 14 ~ "What the polling shows is a collapse of trust, not just over Iraq but on everything"The Guardian comment yesterday After Iraq, only evidence-based policies can restore public trust in Blair "...... Was military action in the national interest? Would it be likely to lead to more terrorist attacks on the west? What would be the impact on the Middle East as a whole? Were there really weapons of mass destruction and, if so, what was their capability? Was the benefit of getting rid of Saddam worth the cost in terms of troops, money and ruptured relations with other allies? For the euro, the bar was set high by Brown. It had to be shown that the case for joining the euro was clear and unambiguous. The case was not made and there will be no referendum until it is.
Judging by Labour's private polls, the public does not think the same robust test was applied to Iraq. What the polling shows is a collapse of trust, not just over Iraq but on everything - from public services to immigration. A growing number of voters no longer believe a word Blair says about anything. ..."
March 14 ~ "Jose Maria Aznar, the prime minister, had stuck to claims of Eta involvement, hoping that it would earn him voter support."Sunday Telegraph "Mr Aznar feared that if it emerged that al-Qa'eda was responsible, he would be blamed for provoking the atrocity because of his support for Britain and America during last year's war in Iraq. The invasion was very unpopular with the Spanish public, with thousands demonstrating against it. Last night, riot police confronted 5,000 demonstrators outside the headquarters of the ruling Popular Party in Madrid, demanding that the government clarify who was behind the attacks. "Who did it?" they chanted. "Before we vote, we want the truth."..."
March 14 ~ Thousands protest outside Labour conferenceTelegraph (Saturday) "Thousands of anti-war protesters have been demonstrating outside the Labour Party Conference in Manchester. . A peaceful march through the centre of the city brought traffic to a standstill as Tony Blair addressed delegates at the conference. Protesters at the Stop the War Coalition demonstration also toppled a large statue of Mr Blair in an attempt to mirror the last days of the Iraqi regime. Surrounded by dozens of police officers, the protesters held up placards, some with pictures of US President George Bush under the banner "World's No 1 Terrorist"..."
(Did any reader hear mention of this on any television channel?)
March 13 ~ Drinking water poisoned in Northern IraqWashington Times "....An estimated 400 Iraqis from the minority Muslim Yazid sect were poisoned in northern Iraq, apparently from drinking water which was contaminated deliberately.
Daily Taakhi, the newspaper of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said dozens of inhabitants in the town of Khanki, in the province of Dahouk, 550 kilometers (315 miles) north of Baghdad, were taken to hospital for severe poisoning and many died Wednesday from dehydration...."
March 13 ~ "...If, in consequence, suicide cannot be strictly proved, there should be no reluctance to enter an open verdict."Channel 4 News (on Tuesday 9 March) revealed that the pathologist who examined Dr Kelly's body, Dr Nicholas Hunt, has now said that he would feel more comfortable if Dr Kelly's inquest was re-opened. Various doctors and the legal expert, Dr Michael J. Powers, QC, were interviewed. Dr Powers wrote yesterday to the Times
Sir, The Coroner for Oxfordshire is to hear representations from interested parties on March 16 as to whether or not there is an “exceptional reason” for resuming the inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly. The evidence called before Lord Hutton’s inquiry focused only to a minor extent on the medical cause of Dr Kelly’s death. That evidence was neither given on oath nor challenged in cross-examination. No expert evidence of any opposing view was called or presented. ..........
..... The coroner should resume the inquest to hear the divergent expert evidence which has come to light. If, in consequence, suicide cannot be strictly proved, there should be no reluctance to enter an open verdict." Read in full
March 13 ~ The Pentagon has asked the Justice Department to investigate the Halliburton oil services group's activities in post-war IraqIndependent "......The latest shortcomings to be revealed include Halliburton's failure to tell contract managers that the company had halted two subcontracts for feeding troops, which affected $1bn worth of work. Nor did it inform managers it had awarded $142m of subcontracts for work it later said would cost $209m.
Other controversies over Halliburton's work in Iraq include an alleged kickback scheme that led the company to fire two workers and reimburse the Pentagon $6.3m. Halliburton is also accused of overcharging for food services, for which it re-imbursed the Pentagon $30m.
A separate government audit alleges Halliburton's subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root overcharged the Pentagon by $61m for petrol for the civilian market in Iraq in 2003. The company says the prices were correct."
March 12 2004 ~ "The brutal truth is that the war on Iraq converted a country that had no link with international terrorism into a country which is rife with international terrorists.This was of course precisely the outcome which our intelligence agencies predicted when they warned that the al-Qa'ida "threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq".
Independent " In a speech to St Anthony's College, Oxford,(9th March ) Mr Cook challenged many of the claims made by Mr Blair in his keynote address last week on the war in Iraq.
Mr Cook seized on the Prime Minister's remark that the war was justified because 11 September was a "revelation" that allowed him to "see the threat plainly" from terrorists prepared to combined with rogue states who had developed weapons of mass destruction.
"There are three big problems with this justification for attacking Iraq," Mr Cook said.
First, there is not a shred of evidence that Saddam had anything to do with 11 September.
Secondly, everyone sent to Iraq to hunt for weapons of mass destruction cannot find any.
And third, there were no international terrorists in Iraq before the war, but there certainly are now."
Mr Cook added that the occupation of Iraq was proving "a massive own goal" for the fight against international terrorism...."
March 9 ~ Iraqis agree on new constitutionBBC "....The document signed by all 25 members of the Council, sets out the framework for how Iraq will be governed after the US-led coalition ends the occupation on 30 June and before a new government is chosen by national elections, supposedly by early 2005. Iraqi Kurds celebrated the event - and Iran and Saudi Arabia welcomed the signing. .....
....But in his first comments, Ayatollah Sistani insisted that only an elected body should sign off further legislation in Iraq. "Any law prepared for the transitional period will not have legitimacy until it is approved by the elected national assembly," the ayatollah said in a statement. The ayatollah wields enormous influence over Iraq's Shias, who make up 60% of the country's population...." http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/middle_east/3541875.stm
March 8 ~ Many questions still to be answered about Alastair Campbell's lack of proper security vettingThere is no doubt from the evidence to the Hutton Inquiry that Alastair Campbell played an instrumental role in getting the wording of the September dossier altered. If Mr Campbell had been subject to developed vetting, (as Dr Kelly had) why should Mr Blair not have said so, rather than dodge the question? On Sept 2 2003 we reported the Telegraph column "London Spy" that quotes Sir John Keegan, The Daily Telegraph's Defence Editor: ".......It is certainly rumoured that Campbell was never properly vetted. If so, he was seeing intelligence that he was not cleared to see, including the proceedings of the JIC, which is about as high level as you can possibly get."
On the 15th of September, Peter Ainsworth asked the Prime Minister http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/cm030915/text/30915w17.htm#30915w17.html_wqn1 "... whether Mr. Alastair Campbell was the subject of the developed vetting procedure. 
The Prime Minister:" Information relating to personnel records, including those relating to recruitment, promotion and security vetting, are not disclosed under part 2, exemption 8 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information."
Another question dodged.
March 8 ~ This testimony suggests that Campbell conspired with Hoon to frame Kelly."solely concerned with presentational matters"? Back in August last year, the website DEBKAfile reported "Campbell gave an assured and smooth performance in the witness box and seemed to answer all the questions regarding the charges that he had played a dominant role in the whole affair and, in particular, that he had played a part in inserting the ’45- minutes’ into the dossier on Iraq’s WMD. His role, he said, was solely concerned with presentational matters.
This impression was spoiled the next day, Wednesday August 20, by Godrick Smith, one of the PM’s official spokesmen, claimed that Campbell, in a telephone conversation with defence secretary Geoff Hoon, advised leaking Dr. Kelly’s name to one newspaper. This was at a time when the MoD was still not sure whether Dr. Kelly was the source of Andrew Gilligan’s report on the BBC. This testimony suggests that Campbell conspired with Hoon to frame Kelly. "
March 8 ~ Hans Blix: Bush and Blair behaved as if they were on a 'witch hunt' over Iraqi weaponsThe Monday Interview: Retired Chief UN Weapons Inspector Independent
"..... "Listen to this," he says. "This is Blair speaking, 'I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt'." Mr Blix is mocking Mr Blair's uncritical view of intelligence, which prevented the Prime Minister backing down even when the UN inspectors returned from Iraq unable to report that they had the "smoking gun" which would demonstrate "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein had rebuilt his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Today he is angry at the lack of attention paid by the British and American governments to the inspectors' findings in the rush to topple Saddam. "Why the hell didn't they pay more attention to us?" he asks.....
....... Mr Blix's doubts set in when the inspectors were allowed back into Iraq at the end of that month, exactly four years after they were pulled out, as the US/UK bombing campaign of Operation Desert Fox started. They inspected suspicious sites, acting on tip-offs from the intelligence agencies, but they found no credible evidence of WMD. " I said, 'If this is the best, what is the rest?'" In fact, he adds: "Considering how misleading much of the intelligence given us eventually proved to be, perhaps it was a blessing we did not get more."
..... What Mr Blix still cannot understand is why his doubts and those of his professional teams of trained inspectors failed to make an impression on Mr Blair and President George Bush, who continued to mislead the public with categorical assertions about the existence of WMD with the fervency of religious crusaders. ....
Mr Blix's doubts increased further after the war, when Saddam's chief weapons expert, Amer al-Saadi, was taken away in a US Jeep, still insisting on the official Iraq line that all the WMD had been destroyed after the first Gulf War in 1991. "It was only then that I said to myself, 'There is nothing there'." .....
....... In the light of the bugging revelations, he is clearly smarting. "Although it's nice they were listening to us, why weren't they paying attention to what we said? They might have learnt something." Read in full
March 8 ~ "Blair's war rhetoric still fails to convince .." Letters in the Independent - excerptshttp://argument.independent.co.uk/letters/story.jsp?story=498979 Some excerpts:
Read in full
- "I have read Tony Blair's speech carefully, but I cannot follow his logic."
- "Tony Blair's speech in Sedgefield seems to propose that if you don't agree with a law you should flout it."
- "So, our present Prime Minister operated outside international law, with profound sincerity and conviction. That just makes him a profoundly sincere international outlaw with convictions."
- "Blair's war rhetoric still fails to convince .."
March 8 ~" The rhetoric is cribbed from the post-9/11 scripts of the most hawkish elements of Bush's inner circle."Letters in the Guardian today also suggest that people are indeed beginning to "probe the words "terror" and "good and evil"..."
"....Perhaps it would be safer for all of us for Tony Blair to return to his first inspirational philosopher, John Macmurray, whose experiences in the first world war trenches led him to the revelation that such apocalypse should be avoided at all costs. He later adopted non-violence and became a Quaker."Read in full
March 7 ~ " disclosure adds weight to a suggestion that Tony Blair pressed Goldsmith to change the legal advice at the last minute....Observer "Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, who led Britain's forces to war in Iraq last year, has dramatically broken his silence about the legal crisis...will fuel pressure on Blair to release full details of how Goldsmith came to his decision. . ....was concerned that, without the legal cover from Goldsmith, military personnel could be prosecuted for war crimes. Boyce hinted that if Goldsmith had not provided him with this, he might have resigned, which would have precipitated a major political and military crisis, with 60,000 British troops stationed in Kuwait prepared for war. .."
March 7 ~ Rifkind attacks PM over Iraq warIndependent on Sunday "Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the last Conservative foreign secretary, has accused Tony Blair of taking Britain into the Iraq war "on a false prospectus". Sir Malcolm has also urged that no government should ever again publish intelligence material in order to build up a case for war. He has added his name to the list of those demanding that the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, should publish the advice he gave at the time on whether the war was legal. ....
Sir Malcolm calls for a wide-ranging inquiry modelled on the Franks inquiry, which looked into the causes of the Falklands conflict. "What the Government cannot do is refuse both publication and a full inquiry."
Sir Nicholas Lyell QC, an attorney general in John Major's government, said there were a number of precedents for publishing law officers' opinions: he had done so on the legality of the Maastricht Treaty, for instance. "I do think that the Government is going to find it very hard to resist the pressure on this," he said."
March 7 ~"... legal sledgehammer to crack a criminal peanut"Sunday Times "The legal team for 14 Greenpeace members is targeting Lord Boyce, the chief of the defence staff at the time of the war...... also considering calling Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the former deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office
.... Greenpeace had been attempting to subpoena Goldsmith but has shifted its attention to Wilmshurst and Boyce now they are outside Whitehall.
...the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has engaged Professor Christopher Greenwood QC, one of Britain’s most prestigious lawyers, to assist in the prosecutions. Greenwood’s advice is widely acknowledged to have formed the basis of Goldsmith’s opinion on the legality of the war. ... ..... Greenwood’s involvement was described by a Greenpeace spokesman last night as akin to using a “legal sledgehammer to crack a criminal peanut”. ..."
March 7 ~"..The public realised then that Hutton, supposedly investigating the suicide of Dr Kelly, had somehow managed to bypass altogether the chief suspectCampbell. Yet the evidence was in the spin doctor's diary - that Campbell had been determined at all costs to expose Kelly - 'to get the source out', as he put it.
And what did Hutton know about Campbell's 'previous'? Was he aware that for years he had been waging a sometimes vicious, almost paranoid war against individual journalists who had crossed his path or rubbed him up the wrong way - humiliating them in front of colleagues or sending them four-letter emails.
And how was it that the Times's Tom Baldwin, known to be close to Campbell, had been able to identify Dr Kelly as the BBC source, short of actually naming him - thus making his public exposure more likely? If he wanted to explain Dr Kelly's depression and eventual suicide, these questions were obviously crucial, but Hutton did not explain them away - he ignored them altogether. " Richard Ingrams in today's Observer
March 7 ~ Shia boycott of signing widens Iraqi divisionsObserver
Ethnic majority objects to Kurdish power of veto
President George Bush hailed a new interim constitution for Iraq yesterday despite the fact that the scheduled signing of the document on Friday was cancelled when five key Shia members of Iraq's Governing Council refused to sign it. ..... it was becoming clear yesterday how deep the divisions were. .... in reality it represents one of the most fraught issues facing a future Iraqi state.
At its heart is the agreement early last week by all members of the council to a framework for deciding a full-blown constitution. Under the interim arrangements, all members of the Governing Council agreed to a system that would give a veto if any two-thirds of voters in any three provinces in a referendum rejected it. The arrangement was strongly supported by the Kurds. The five Shias who boycotted the signing ceremony, backed by the Shias' most powerful clergyman, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, argue, however, that this gives an unfair advantage to the Kurds - who on average number barely more than 400,000 in each of its three provinces, while the total population of Iraq is 25 million. The Shias want a constitution to be ratified by a simple majority, which would favour their ethnic majority in the country. The issue reveals widening divisions within Iraq's different ethnic groups in the run-up to the handover of sovereignty by the US on 30 June. ......
.... Sistani's powerful role and the willingness of the US-led administration to bow to his demands, despite his not being on the Governing Council or holding any political office, has become a sore point for Kurdish negotiators. ..."
March 6 ~ US had "never spoken directly to its principal “firsthand” source for the controversial claim that Iraq possessed a fleet of mobile biological weapons laboratoriesTimes " A row erupted yesterday over US intelligence on Iraq when it emerged that the United States had never spoken directly to its principal “firsthand” source for the controversial claim that Iraq possessed a fleet of mobile biological weapons laboratories. The Washington Post reported yesterday that the source was handled by a foreign intelligence service that is now refusing to make him available for questioning by US agents. ..,the source is related to a senior official in the Iraqi National Congress......Mr Kay has since said he believes that the lorries were used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons. ."
(An emailer comments: "And Mr Blair wants to use intelligence for pre-emptive strikes..")
March 6 ~ Air Force One records subpoenaed in CIA identity leak probeAssociated Press "...The subpoenas were issued to the White House on Jan. 22.... Some critics have speculated that officials in the Bush administration had told reporters the name of the CIA officer, Valerie Plame, to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, and his criticism of the administration's Iraq policy.
Two of the subpoenas are focused on July White House events, contacts and records around the time of a July 14 column by syndicated columnist Robert Novak that said senior administration officials told him Plame was a CIA officer.
A third subpoena is a repeat of a Justice Department document request to the White House that sought records about staff contacts with Novak and two Newsday reporters. The subpoena added records for contacts with journalists from The Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, MSNBC, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press...." White House/Joseph Wilson/Valerie Plame Affair
March 6 2004 ~ Iraqi pact collapses as Shias pull outFrom Richard Beeston in Baghdad in the Times
"HOPES for a smooth transfer of power in Iraq were plunged into doubt last night after sectarian divisions scuppered the signing ceremony for the country’s postwar constitution.
Five Shia Muslim members of the Iraqi Governing Council refused to sign the document at a planned ceremony in Baghdad. After hours of intensive talks, including mediation from senior US and British officials, negotiations broke up without a result. Efforts to reach an agreement will resume on Monday. .."
March 6 ~ Blair lacked critical thinking, says BlixRichard Norton-Taylor and David Leigh The Guardian Hans Blix, the UN's former chief weapons inspector, last night delivered a robust critique of Tony Blair's defence of the invasion of Iraq, questioning the prime minister's judgment, especially his response to claims made by the intelligence agencies. Asked about Mr Blair's admission yesterday that intelligence was not "hard fact", Mr Blix told the Guardian that was precisely how it was presented to the UN in the run-up to war. Britain and the US "were selling it as such", he said. ....
Mr Blair yesterday played down his reliance on pre-war intelligence, describing himself as a man haunted by the risk that terrorists and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) might come together one day, but who recognised the limits of intelligence material. .....
Mr Blair yesterday said he was not prepared, before he decided to go to war, to take a "risk" with Saddam. It is unlikely that the US congress or the British parliament would have accepted that as a reason to invade Iraq, Mr Blix said." Read in full
March 5 ~ "We are Iraq's problem, not the solution" Excerpts from the 3 Independent letters (Thursday)"That the leader of one of the most powerful nations on earth should view the world in such simplistic, comic book and, dare I say it, biblical terms, is staggering."
"You can build a throne of bayonets, but you can't sit on it. "
"..naïve and arrogant neo-conservative blockheads. " Read letters
March 5 2004 ~Democracy in Iraq: the dodgiest deception of allSimon Jenkins in the Times "Three public deceptions preceded Britain’s invasion of Iraq. As yet only two have come to light. One was that Saddam Hussein presented an urgent and substantive threat to Britain. That was untrue. The second was that an attack on him accorded with international law. That was untrue. The third deception still lurks in the dark, shrouded in spin and fog. Yet it is massive in its presumption. It holds that the West can, by force of arms, bring stability, democracy and freedom wherever it chooses to set foot, even in Saddam’s Iraq. On Monday Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile from Haiti to the Central African Republic. His fate should be a warning to all members of Washington’s handpicked Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad. .." Read in full
March 5 ~ "...The true position is that the constitutional convention can be and has been varied to suit the political convenience of the governmentIn the present case, the Government published a bare summary of the Attorney’s final advice to justify going to war against Iraq. It chose to put a part of his advice into the public domain (in Mr Goulding’s terms, a “waiver of privilege”), but has consistently refused to disclose the full reasons. I am not aware that any previous government has used the law officers’ legal advice in this way. What makes the case for disclosure so compelling is the subject-matter of the advice (the use of war powers), the context (seeking to persuade Parliament of the case for war), and the fact that senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office legal advisers doubted the legality of invading Iraq without a clear United Nations resolution. ..." Letter from Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC, one of several very worthy of study in today's Times
March 5 2004 ~ Tony Blair's week ... has ended with a robust defence not only of everything he's ever done with regard to Iraq, but of the principle of pre-emptive action to prevent future danger for UK National security.writes Jon Snow in Channel 4's email update "Trouble is he still thinks there are weapons of mass destruction lying undiscovered in Iraq, and he does not delay with the current reality that pre-emptive action is all but internationally illegal." Inbox comment
The Guardian has Tony Blair's "We had to take a stand..." speech in full
March 5 ~ Blix: Iraq war was illegalBlair's defence is bogus, says the former UN weapons inspector Independent "The former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has declared that the war in Iraq was illegal, dealing another devastating blow to Tony Blair. Mr Blix, speaking to The Independent, said the Attorney General's legal advice to the Government on the eve of war, giving cover for military action by the US and Britain, had no lawful justification. He said it would have required a second United Nations resolution explicitly authorising the use of force for the invasion of Iraq last March to have been legal.
His intervention goes to the heart of the current controversy over Lord Goldsmith's advice, and comes as the Prime Minister begins his fightback with a speech on Iraq today. An unrepentant Mr Blair will refuse to apologise for the war in Iraq .." Read in full
March 5 ~Blix questions Iraq war legality(Reuters) - Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has said he does not believe the Iraq war was legal because Baghdad had broken United Nations resolutions. "I don`t buy the argument the war was legalised by the Iraqi violation of earlier resolutions," Blix told the Independent
March 4 ~ Top BBC resignations astonished Hutton"Law lord believes his report's findings on David Kelly's death were misinterpreted by media and is dismayed at accusations of whitewash" David Hencke and Michael White in the Guardian " ...eports of Lord Hutton's dismay about accusations that he produced a "whitewash" and the depth of the crisis at the BBC are beginning to circulate in Westminster and Whitehall, MPs and officials confirmed yesterday.
Within three days of the report Gavyn Davies had resigned as BBC chairman, closely followed by Greg Dyke as director general after a botched attempt to save him. Andrew Gilligan, the Today reporter whose report led to a running battle with No 10, also quit. Lord Hutton was privately astonished.
MPs on the Commons public administration committee are planning to question Lord Hutton about his reaction to his findings when he appears before them in May. ...MPs will question him in detail about his reaction to the report - and how he feels about seeing his public image transformed from being an unimpeachable, impartial judge during his inquiry to the author of a report widely seen as having let Tony Blair off the hook by giving the government the benefit of the doubt. ......
... the report makes clear that the governors "were right to take the view that it was their duty to protect the independence of the BBC against attacks by the government and Mr Campbell's complaints were being expressed in exceptionally strong terms, which raised very considerably the temperature of the dispute between the government and the BBC".
.......there is concern that ministers and Whitehall will not learn all the lessons from Hutton - a view that is understood to have been forcibly put to Lord Hutton by Dr Kelly's family." Read in full
March 3 ~ A Convenient CarnageAll This Talk of Civil War, Now This Robert Fisk in the Independent
"Odd, isn't it? There never has been a civil war in Iraq. I have never heard a single word of animosity between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. Al-Qa'ida has never uttered a threat against Shias - even though al-Qa'ida is a Sunni-only organisation. Yet for weeks, the American occupation authorities have been warning us about civil war, have even produced a letter said to have been written by an al-Qa'ida operative, advocating a Sunni-Shia conflict. Normally sane journalists have enthusiastically taken up this theme. Civil war.
Somehow I don't believe it. No, I don't believe the Americans were behind yesterday's carnage despite the screams of accusation by the Iraqi survivors yesterday. But I do worry about the Iraqi exile groups who think that their own actions might produce what the Americans want: a fear of civil war so intense that Iraqis will go along with any plan the United States produces for Mesopotamia.
I think of the French OAS in Algeria in 1962, setting off bombs among France's Muslim Algerian community. I recall the desperate efforts of the French authorities to set Algerian Muslim against Algerian Muslim which led to half a million dead souls.
And I'm afraid I also think of Ireland and the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974, which, as the years go by, appear to have an ever closer link, via Protestant "loyalist" paramilitaries, to elements of British military security...."
..... It's not that I believe al-Qa'ida incapable of such a bloodbath. But I ask myself why the Americans are rubbing this Sunni-Shia thing so hard. ..... We are entering a dark and sinister period of Iraqi history. But an occupation authority which should regard civil war as the last prospect it ever wants to contemplate, keeps shouting "civil war" in our ears and I worry about that. Especially when the bombs make it real. " Read in full
March 3 2004 ~ Iraq to mourn Shia massacre deadBBC
"Iraq has begun three days of mourning for the 182 people believed killed in bomb attacks in Baghdad and Karbala. The near-simultaneous blasts came at the climax of a Shia holy festival. It was Iraq's bloodiest day since the war. Officials said that at least 112 people died in the holy city of Karbala and about 70 were killed in Baghdad.
Iraqi leaders have called for national unity. They and the US have blamed the carnage on a man accused of links to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. But the top Shia Muslim cleric, Ayatollah al-Sistani, criticised the US for failing to secure the country's borders from foreign attackers.
.... The influential ayatollah, whose calls for full and immediate elections have caused problems for the US administration of Iraq, also urged his compatriots to unite against forces that would destabilise the country.
The White House has said the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis will go ahead at the end of June, as planned, despite the latest series of bomb attacks. But spokesman Scott McClellan said the US would remain in Iraq "as long as it takes to finish the job".
...... US officials say a letter from Mr Zarqawi urging attacks on Shia Muslims was intercepted last month.
A Shia member of the Council, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, went further, blaming the attacks outright on Mr Zarqawi, but saying all sections of Iraqi society were determined to move forward. "The civil war and sectarian strife that Zarqawi wants to inflict on the people of Iraq will not succeed," he said.
..... The blasts sparked panic among the crowds who were able to observe Ashura - commemorating the death of Imam Hussein in 680 - freely for the first time in decades. ..."
March 3 2004 ~ Questions Over Iraq Intel Continue to Plague BlairArms Control org. British Prime Minister Tony Blair faces growing criticism over his decision to go to war in Iraq, despite being cleared by Lord Brian Hutton ...
.... Rather than producing a political clean slate for Blair, however, the Hutton Report has provoked a backlash by political opponents and much of the British public. ... .
Following former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay’s admission that intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was wrong, Blair tasked ex-Cabinet Secretary Lord Robin Butler to lead a committee examining the quality of prewar intelligence. However, political opponents immediately criticized the structure and independence of the inquiry. Charles Kennedy, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat party, refused to participate, arguing that the inquiry’s focus is too narrow. Others say that Butler, who has directly served five prime ministers, is too much of an insider. As stated by The Guardian newspaper, “He consistently showed deference to those in power.”
Blair’s troubles were compounded by his statement before a raucous session of Parliament Feb. 4, when he stated he did not know that the “45 minutes” claim referred only to battlefield munitions. Robin Cook, the former House of Commons leader who resigned in protest over the war, expressed skepticism over Blair’s statement, saying that he himself had been aware of the distinction at the time and he doubted Blair had not been informed. ..."
March 3 ~ Admit WMD mistake, survey chief tells Bush " the wide-ranging US investigation was much more likely to get to the truth than the Butler inquiry in Britain."The Guardian "David Kay, the man who led the CIA's postwar effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has called on the Bush administration to "come clean with the American people" and admit it was wrong about the existence of the weapons. In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Kay said the administration's reluctance to make that admission was delaying essential reforms of US intelligence agencies, and further undermining its credibility at home and abroad. He welcomed the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate prewar intelligence on Iraq, and said the wide-ranging US investigation was much more likely to get to the truth than the Butler inquiry in Britain. That, he noted, had "so many limitations it's going to be almost impossible" to come to meaningful conclusions.
Mr Kay, 63, a former nuclear weapons inspector, provoked uproar at the end of January when he told the Senate that "we were almost all wrong" about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD). .....
His call for a frank admission is an embarrassment for the White House at the start of an election year. ..."
March 3 ~ Lawyers submit war crimes petitionGuardian A group of anti-war lawyers today tried to indict Tony Blair and the foreign and defence secretaries for war crimes over the invasion of Iraq. The group Legal Action Against War have submitted a petition to the international criminal court in the Hague today, asking them to investigate alleged offences by Mr Blair, Jack Straw, Geoff Hoon, and the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith. The group said "a principal charge" was "intentionally launching an attack knowing that it will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians". The legal team said the reasons given for the war - from weapons of mass destruction to the violation of UN resolutions and regime change - were not justified under the UN charter. Michael Mansfield QC, who is leading the campaign, said "The consensus of international legal opinion suggests the basis for the war was illegal." Mr Mansfield said the war would only have been legal with UN backing. Even then the coalition could not have used more force than was necessary. That meant it was illegal to use cluster bombs, he said. Mr Mansfield insisted he was not prejudging the allegations, but it was vital for the ICC to investigate them. ..." Read in full
March 3 ~ Clare ShortAn article by Linda S. Heard, specialist writer on Middle East affairs email@example.com
".... ... When the UN was all but excluded from postwar Iraq, the lady took up the cudgel in a one-woman crusade against her former boss. Hours after her resignation last May she announced Blair should prepare for “an elegant succession”. She was later to accuse Blair of secretly plotting with Bush to wage an inevitable war while pretending to his Cabinet colleagues that conflict would be a last resort. Her most stinging salvo was her description of the PM as “messianic, right-wing and shallow”. Although she cuts a lonely figure — and according to Blair’s former spinmeister Alastair Campbell a “bitter” one — due to her former impeccable reputation, she’s a credible thorn in Blair’s side. And so when she recently announced on radio that the British government had been bugging the office of Kofi Annan — not a would-be terrorist or criminal but a person charged with the interests of all UN member countries — she was generally believed. Indeed, it didn’t take long for former UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Richard Butler to back up her claims...
...Downing Street, fearful of turning Short into a martyr, quickly distanced itself from Turnbull’s implied threat. ...
...Labour Peer Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws shortly launches her book entitled “Just Law”, which reveals that in the lead-up to war, Britain was told by the US to “get yourself some different lawyers”..
Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the FO’s former deputy legal advisor, who eventually resigned her post in protest...
If the war was illegal -- at least from a British stance where “regime change” cannot be a cassus belli (cause for war) -- and if it took Short, Gun and Baroness Kennedy to highlight its illegality, then so be it."
March 2 ~ Michael Howard, says the way Lord Butler has chosen to interpret his inquiry’s terms of reference are "unacceptably restrictive". So they are.."Scotsman Comment ".. even if Mr Howard has been somewhat late in recognising this. Lord Butler has made it clear he will concentrate "principally on structures, systems and processes rather than on the actions of individuals". Quite how he proposes to distinguish between "structures" and "individuals" without turning somersaults in the air or tying himself in intellectual knots remains to be seen. If you are asked, as is Lord Butler’s brief, to "examine any discrepancies between the intelligence gathered, evaluated and used by the government" and what has been discovered since, surely that implies assessing who did the gathering, evaluating and final use-making? Besides, to attempt to separate out the formal reporting structures and their efficiency from the corrosive political atmosphere in the months before the Iraq war is ludicrous.. .
...Mr Blair is defending the narrow interpretation of Lord Butler’s brief on the grounds that any judgment on whether or not military action was justified in Iraq is one for politicians and Parliament. That is true, but it still remains a pertinent question for the inquiry to ask if Parliament was misled in forming its judgment, either by design or incompetence. ."
March 2 ~ Lawyers submit war crimes petitionMatthew Tempest and agencies Guardian "... Legal Action Against War (background) will submit a petition to the court in the Hague today, asking the court to investigate alleged offences by Tony Blair; the foreign secretary, Jack Straw; the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon; and the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith. The group said "a principal charge" was "intentionally launching an attack knowing that it will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians". At a news conference at the Palace of Westminster, lawyers including Michael Mansfield QC will present legal argument and an evidence bundle, and journalists will be invited to question experts on conflict laws about the "genocidal blockade and inhuman attacks on Iraq". .."
March 2 ~ "Extreme measures" George Monbiothttp://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1159775,00.html "The only way to bring down Blair and change the political context is to take direct action ...
So now what happens? Our prime minister is up to his neck in it. His attorney general appears to have changed his advice about the legality of the war a few days before it began. Blair refuses to release either version, apparently for fear that he will be exposed as a liar and a war criminal. His government seems to have been complicit in the illegal bugging of friendly foreign powers and the United Nations. It went to war on the grounds of a threat which was both imaginary and known to be imaginary. Now the opposition has withdrawn from his fake inquiry. Seldom has a prime minister been so exposed and remained in office. Surely Blair will fall?
Not by himself, he won't. ..... we reckon without the clots who run the country. ...
We also know that our MPs are weak and frightened, that the civil service remains in the grip of the upper middle classes and that the press is run by multimillionaires, whose single purpose is to make this a better world for multimillionaires. Yet somehow we continue to trust that all these twisted instruments will deliver us from evil, that the sound chaps in the system will ultimately do the decent thing.
.... If Blair goes, it should be our victory, not that of the little grey men. The people must be seen to have done it. Why? Because this is about more than punishing the prime minister for what was almost certainly a war crime. It is about making sure it never happens again. ....To become a civilised, moderate, responsible nation, in other words, we must first become a nation of extremists. Read in full
March 2 ~At least 145 killed in Iraq blasts"At least 145 people have been killed, including a US soldier, after a series of explosions in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Karbala. Explosions targeting Baghdad's holiest Shi'ite Muslim mosque killed at least 75 people, hospital officials said. They said 75 bodies had already been brought in to the morgue at the hospital in the Khadimiya district and more bodies were believed to be on the way. In Karbala, at least 70 people were killed in a number of blasts as Shi'ite pilgrims thronged the city for a religious ceremony, the local police chief said. And, a US soldier was killed and another seriously wounded when insurgents threw a bomb at their vehicle, a US military spokesman said. The spokesman said the bomb destroyed the Humvee vehicle in which the soldiers from the 1st Armored Division were driving in Baghdad. The death takes to 379 the number of US soldiers killed in action since the start of the US-led war in Iraq. Meanwhile, at least five people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded after a procession of Shi'ite Muslim mourners came under attack in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, officials said. " ITN news
March 2 ~ Lawyers submit war crimes petitionThis is London "Lawyers are due to explain why they are asking the International Criminal Court to investigate allegations of war crimes by top British politicians in invading Iraq. The group Legal Action Against War will submit a petition to the court in The Hague asking it to investigate alleged offences by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. The group said "a principal charge" was "intentionally launching an attack knowing that it will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians". At a news conference at the Palace of Westminster, lawyers including Michael Mansfield QC will present legal argument and an evidence bundle, and journalists will be invited to question experts on the laws about war on the "genocidal blockade and inhuman attacks on Iraq".
March 2 ~ WMD committee vows to press onLord Butler's team vow to carry out their inquiry into intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, despite only having Labour support. BBC
March 2 ~ "Tony Blair's attempts to draw a line under the Iraq war suffered another setback yesterdayIndependent " when the Conservative Party withdrew its support from the inquiry into the intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons. .... The decision is a blow to Mr Blair, who hoped the Opposition's backing for the Butler inquiry would help him to defuse the controversy over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. The move undermines the inquiry's credibility and leaves the Tories free to criticise its report in July. Ministers are worried that it will be dismissed as a "whitewash" and critics of the war are already expected to demand a more detailed investigation.
But there was also embarrassment for Mr Howard when Michael Mates, a senior Tory MP, decided last night to remain on the Butler committee. He said: "I appreciate that Michael Howard has made his decision on behalf of the official Opposition, but I believe my duty is to continue to serve the review as best I can in the important tasks we have been given."
.... Mr Straw said: "Mr Howard called for an independent inquiry into intelligence. He got it - the Butler Inquiry. He welcomed its establishment, helped to write its terms of reference and agreed his party's representative on the inquiry, Conservative MP Michael Mates. Mr Howard agreed that the military action in Iraq was right, but lacks the backbone now to stand up for what he believed."
...Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman, said the Butler inquiry may leave as many questions unanswered as it managed to answer. The Butler committee expressed its regret at Mr Howard's decision..... Mr Blair's official spokesman denied the inquiry would be fatally damaged. "The credibility of the inquiry depends on its independent nature and that will continue," he said. "This is an independent inquiry with three independent members of long standing and very good reputations in their fields."
.... The US inquiry will not report until after the presidential election in November and the timing could prove difficult for Mr Blair, who is expected to call a general election in May or June next year. "
March 2 ~ MoD 'insult' to troopsEvening Standard 27 February "Families of British troops in Iraq will have to pay to send them "comfort" parcels, ... The announcement was slipped out by the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, who admitted ending the free service would be "unpopular". The move was instantly condemned as heartless pennypinching by relatives of loved ones keeping the peace in conditions of acute danger. Tory shadow defence secretary Nicholas Soames declared: "This carries meanness too far."..."
March 1 ~"Tories strip away Butler's fig leaf"Jon Snow's Channel 4 update "Hmmm... just as it looked as if the Government was going to get clean away on the issue of the legality of the war in Iraq, the Tories have cracked in removing their support from the Butler Inquiry into the gathering and use of intelligence in the build-up to the war. So now the fig leaf of investigation has been removed, the Butler number is fast reducing into a Government-only operation and is unlikely to do the trick the Prime Minister wants of it. I'm about to cycle off to talk to the Tory leader Michael Howard - this one is cooking...."
March 1 ~ The Conservative Party has pulled out of the Butler inquiryinto intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Tory leader Michael Howard says the way Lord Butler had chosen to interpret the inquiry's terms of reference were "unacceptably restrictive" It was announced earlier this month that Lord Butler's inquiry would meet in secret and focus only on "systems and processes" rather than on the actions of individuals. However, according to the BBC, Michael Howard has objected to this and pulled out saying that the actions of individuals should also be examined. See (e.g.) http://www.4ni.co.uk/nationalnews.asp?id=26374
March 1 ~ "Now normally with a suicide, Alex, you appreciate that we don’t like people knowing in advance.""Lord Hutton didn’t challenge the suicide verdict, there was no cross-examination of witnesses before the Hutton Inquiry as to the cause of death. It was assumed that it was suicide and the BBC were essentially blamed for poor reporting, the government were let off the hook. The Hutton Report, I’m sorry to say, is widely seen as a whitewash and it’s been rubbished. A very senior British Intelligence officer recently retired, a Lieutenant Colonel, Crispin Black, who was on the Defence Intelligence Staff until 2002, has basically described the report as a `laughing stock’ and I respectfully agree..." The transcript of the radio interview with Michael Shrimpton, the barrister, about the Hutton report and the death of Dr David Kelly. (March 2. This transcript now carries a disclaimer)
March 1 ~ Richard Perle resigns, still supporting ChalabiRichard Perle resigned from the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board last week. Last year he resigned his chairmanship of the policy board amidst allegations he used his access to Pentagon leadership to market his consulting services. Richard Perle's resignation letter Extract: "We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated. I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the President at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign. This is particularly true now since I have just published a book that calls for far reaching reform of government departments responsible for combating terrorism.."
The close alliance of Perle and Chalabi is described in this November 2002 article "Tinker, Banker, NeoCon, Spy". Richard Perle said in an interview (Feb 18 2004) with the Christian Science Monitor "The CIA has been engaged in a character assassination of Ahmad Chalabi for years now, and it is a disgrace...." but the Telegraph Feb 19 implied that Chalabi himslef does not deny misleading the US administration with false intelligence and is unrepentant, quoting him as saying: ".... What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat."
The Telegraph article concludes "....US State Department officials admitted that much of the first-hand testimony they had received was "shaky". "What the INC told us formed one part of the intelligence picture," a senior official in Baghdad said. "But what Chalabi told us we accepted in good faith. Now there is going to be a lot of question marks over his motives."
On whether Perle has been questioned by the FBI in its investigation into the leaking of the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame, we read in the CSM "I have not been questioned about it, and I wish whoever is putting this out would cease and desist and [reporters] not be such willing consumers of that kind of information." See also on warmwell the edited transcript of Daniel Ellsberg talk with Dick Gordon on NPR's "The Connection," about the White House/Joseph Wilson/Valerie Plame Affair
March 1 ~ "...your reports now indicate that spying on UN officials has become routine, and many governments attempt it."" If that is so, and assuming the accuracy of Clare Short's allegation, why does Tony Blair not admit it - laugh it off, even? He and other heads of government could then consider how far international diplomacy is handicapped when it has to be conducted furtively on pavements or in noisy cafeterias rather than in normal offices. Or could it be that he is ashamed to own up to bugging the UN? After all, it is supposed to be illegal." A letter from Michael Laird, one of an interesting group in the Independent today Shock and shame over UN bugging .
March 1 ~ "Political advisers from Number 10 had pummelled JIC officials to redraft to create more alarm.".says John Chapman, former assistant secretary in the civil service 1963-96, in today's Guardian " ...The prime minister's foreword to the so-called "dodgy dossier" emphasised that it was from the joint intelligence committee - chaired by the cabinet office and made up of heads of intelligence agencies and senior officials from key departments. With such a pedigree, the implication was, its views must be sound. Civil servants are above politics.
Evidence to the Hutton inquiry suggested the opposite. Questionable intelligence was used, with distortions like the 45-minute claim, against the views of intelligence staff. Political advisers from Number 10 had pummelled JIC officials to redraft to create more alarm. A former JIC chairman, Sir Rodric Braithwaite, has accused the JIC of losing its objectivity. It appears impossible to square the WMD report with the integrity promoted by the civil service code. The issue has become murkier with the possibility that the attorney general's advice was also based on suspect intelligence, which may have led to the ending of last week's Katherine Gun trial. .."
March 1 ~ Iraq legal row rumbles on for BlairReuters "LONDON (Reuters) - Two newspapers have reported that the country's top lawyer was pressured to change his advice to Prime Minister Tony Blair on the legality of war in Iraq to say that an invasion would be legally justified.
A spokesman for Blair's office refused to explicitly deny or confirm the reports and insisted the government would not publish the legal advice. .....
...... The Observer cited senior sources involved in providing legal advice as saying Goldsmith was "sitting on the fence" but redrafted his advice to allay fears of military chiefs who had wanted assurances the war was legal before committing troops.
The Independent on Sunday said military chiefs of staff argued for a clearer legal basis on which to go to war and Goldsmith complied days before the invasion.
A spokesman for Blair's Downing Street office declined to answer questions on whether the advice was changed, saying the government did not discuss internal legal matters.
..... Clare Short... also said on Saturday that Goldsmith's advice may have been offered under duress. "There is no doubt that the way in which a truncated opinion authorising war appeared at the very last minute was very odd," she wrote in The Independent newspaper. "It is hard not to suspect that he had doubts and was leant upon."
March 1 ~ Flawed judgement, double standardsCharles Kennedy in the Independent "... Last week's mistake was so avoidable. The Prime Minister was faced with a simple choice. His government had been accused of a pretty spectacular crime - bugging the UN Secretary-General. One single sentence could have put a stop to days of speculation. He could have said whether or not it was true.
Some people would say that bugging the UN is just one of those things. With a cynical shrug, they remark that this is what happens in the real world. Indeed Kofi Annan's own director of communications, Edward Mortimer, said: "We do realise that these things happen." But he went on to say that when the British government was asked if Clare Short's allegations were true, the answer given was much the same as that given by the Prime Minister at his press conference. "There was a telephone call which seemed apologetic in tone," said Mr Mortimer, "but I think did not really amount to an admission of substance."
Just pause and consider that for a moment. The UN is an organisation which we, as a nation, were instrumental in founding. It is dedicated to world peace. Annan is not a security threat to the United Kingdom. He's not a terrorist or some dodgy dictator. I've met him and I admire him. He's a man who inspires trust.
..... I have no idea whether Clare Short was right or not. I am certainly perturbed by the statements by former UN weapons inspectors who also claim they were spied on and which seem to back her up. Either way, I am sure we should be told the truth. .." Read in full
March 1 ~ Short defies Blair in fresh attackThe Scotsman Key points
- Clare Short issues challenge to Tony Blair to strip her of privy councillor status
- Renews claims concerning bugging of Kofi Annan
- Ms Short still to be re-selected for Birmingham seat
".....Her broadside was backed up by Baroness Kennedy, a leading Scottish QC, who claimed an independent pro-war lawyer was drafted in to help make Mr Blair’s case for war because almost no-one in Whitehall was prepared to do it. This fuelled reports that Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, changed his advice on the legality of war under political pressure.
Ms Short...produced a letter sent by Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary, reminding her of the conduct expected from a former international development secretary. It accused her of "purporting to breach confidences given you by virtue of ministerial office" and of violating the oath she took as a privy councillor.
She defiantly renewed her claim that British intelligence bugged Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General, in the run-up to war with Iraq. "It was a regular process of spying on his office’s phone calls and papers," she said.
Ms Short said she does not feel bound by the Official Secrets Act because Mr Blair declassified intelligence to make the case for war. This, she said, suggests she is entitled to do the same.
March 1 ~ the Iraqi Governing Council is reported to have reached agreement on the draft of a temporary national constitution.Indolink "After days of wrangling, with the Council split over issues such as Islamic law, the status of Kurdish areas and women's rights, the Iraqi Governing Council is reported to have reached agreement on the draft of a temporary national constitution.
The draft charter will recognise Islam as one source of legislation rather than the only source, and give autonomy to the Kurdish minority for now. Two days ago the Council missed an US deadline for reaching a draft. The interim constitution is intended to govern Iraq until an elected assembly can draft a permanent charter. The long discussions over an interim constitution were the latest difficulty to be encountered as the US prepares to hand over the running of Iraq in just over four months. On Sunday Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK's top envoy in Iraq, said "we are virtually there, but the last moments of a negotiation always throw up some surprises". "I think everybody realises they are creating history in setting the first steps towards the transitional period that will bring a new Iraq." Sir Jeremy said he remained hopeful that full national elections would be held at the end of the year or in early 2005. The US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, must approve the final document. He has suggested that he will veto any text enshrining Islam as the main basis of Iraqi law. ICG members and coalition officials say the interim constitution may end up offering general guidelines, but leave the details on the biggest and thorniest issues for the writers of a permanent charter. That is meant to be drafted by an elected assembly which should suit the majority Shia community. The draft document will not now be signed until Wednesday after the end of the Shia religious holiday of Ashura. "
March 1 ~"women may lose freedoms they enjoyed even under Saddam Hussein's regime.."Independent Kurdish demands trigger fears of civil war in Iraq "The United States-appointed Governing Council in Iraq remained deadlocked yesterday over the role of Islam in Iraq and Kurdish demands for federalism, after failing to meet a deadline for agreeing an interim constitution ...
The main sticking point is the role of Islam, amid concerns that many on the council want to institute sharia law. Iraqi women's groups are warning that women may lose freedoms they enjoyed even under Saddam Hussein's regime..
..no agreement on Kurdish demands to protect their autonomy in the north of Iraq, and no agreement on a mechanism for sharing power between the three main sectors of Iraqi society: the Shia Arab majority, the Sunni Arabs, and the Kurds. The protracted wrangling over these issues will only increase fears of a civil war..
March 1 ~ Fog of war envelopes BlairScotsman "...The British military is coming under intense scrutiny over allegations of torture and mistreatment of civilian prisoners in Basra, with Amnesty International demanding an independent inquiry. Yesterday, it emerged the MoD now faces direct legal action over the deaths of 13 Iraqi citizens. ...
...The MoD is believed to have already paid compensation totalling £15,000 to families in the Basra area since last May and has officially refused to accept liability for any of the deaths. However, in some cases compensation letters have been accompanied by handwritten, apologetic letters from the British military. In one, a senior officer expresses regret and offers a donation to the family in question, while in another, a commander says his men were deliberately misled by an anonymous civilian.
UK-based lawyers acting for the relatives of the victims said they were demanding improved compensation and an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the Iraqis...."
March 1 ~ The Australian bipartisan committee raised the possibility that "they overstated their case"The Australian government has been cleared of lying about the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. BBC "A parliamentary inquiry said the government's presentation of the case for war was more moderate and measured than in Britain and the United States. The committee recommended holding a second inquiry into the performance of Australia's intelligence agencies in the run-up to the war. Prime Minister John Howard agreed to launch an independent investigation."
Feb 29 ~ Clare Short on Andrew Turnball, Secretary of the Cabinet and head of the Home Civil Service(Mr Turnbull ordered her not to re-open the row over her UN bugging claims.)
"He allowed us to rush to war in Iraq without defence and overseas policy meeting, looking at all the military options and the diplomatic options and political options. (He) allowed the Joint Intelligence Committee to meet with Alastair Campbell chairing it. He has allowed our decision making system to crumble."
Feb 29 ~ U.K.'s Major Urges Blair to Publish Legal Opinion on Iraq WarBloomberg "Former British Prime Minister John Major called on Tony Blair to publish the U.K. attorney general's opinion on the war in Iraq, saying speculation about the government's justification for the Anglo-U.S.-led military action is "damaging.'' "I myself cannot see the justification for not publishing what the legal opinion was,'' Major said in an interview on the British Broadcasting Corp.'s "Breakfast with Frost'' show. Current speculation "is poisoning the whole political atmosphere. It needs to be let out of the system,'' he said.
..... There is speculation as to whether the attorney general was "leant on'' to support Blair's case for war and his assertion that the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a threat to international security.
...... Robin Cook, a former U.K. foreign secretary and critic of the war in Iraq, suggested in a separate interview on the Frost show that Lord Goldsmith could give a lecture to experts, setting out why he believed war was legal. Cook asked the questions: "What was the evidence given to the attorney general? And would he now give the same opinion, now that he knows that those weapons of mass destruction didn't exist?'' There's an "obligation'' on the part of the attorney general and the government to satisfy the public, Cook told Frost in the interview.
............ Also interviewed on the show, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, a senior British official in Iraq, said negotiations for an interim constitution in Iraq were "very close to the end.'' "I hope within the next 24 hours we will see a result out of this; we are virtually there,'' Greenstock said. "But the last moments of negotiations always throw up surprises. It's important to get it right.'' Agreement on a constitution is a condition for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis by the U.S.- led coalition's deadline of June 30. The 30 June date is "one of the firm fix points'' of the negotiations, and national elections will follow at the end of the year or early in 2005, Greenstock said. Greenstock wouldn't comment on whether Annan's office was bugged. "Our mission never did anything that was illegal or illegitimate,'' he said.
Feb 29 ~ "It was interesting that out of probably only two lawyers who would have argued for the legality of going to war, one of those was the person to whom the Attorney General turned."ITN news Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said the "vast majority" of lawyers thought the conflict without a second UN resolution would be unlawful. In a TV interview, she said: "The vast majority of lawyers were of one view. "It was interesting that out of probably only two lawyers who would have argued for the legality of going to war, one of those was the person to whom the Attorney General turned."
She added: "I think the lesson from this is that actually law matters. "Before you make those commitments to your friend or ally you have to talk about law because it is not some side issue. It is the way we have tried to civilise the world and we must not forget that."
Feb 29 ~ Peter Carter: America and Britain had no right to act as vigilantes on behalf of the UN The Legal ViewPeter Carter QC is chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales
Independent on Sunday ".....We have not been told what facts formed the basis of Lord Goldsmith's brief, nor whether he had the time or opportunity to subject them to a lawyer's critical scrutiny, nor whether he was asked for both sides of the argument.
The justification - and the only justification - relied upon was the persistent breach of UN Security Council resolutions on disarmament, the famous WMD. The argument went like this. Use of force in the first Gulf War was expressly authorised by Security Council Resolution 678. This resolution referred to states using "all necessary means" (a euphemism for armed force) to liberate Kuwait from Iraq's invasion. At the end of that conflict, Security Council Resolution 687 set out the terms of a ceasefire and imposed various conditions on Iraq, including its agreement to destroy its WMD and be subject to inspection for verification. By indicating its acceptance of those conditions, Iraq brought the hostilities to an end and the ceasefire into effect.
.... Resolution 1441, adopted on 8 November 2002.... gave Iraq what it termed a "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" and threatened "serious consequences" should it fail to do so.
As a justification for war, the US and the UK argued that Iraq was in breach of Resolution 1441, and that meant that the ceasefire set out in Resolution 687 was revoked and the use of force authorised in Resolution 678 was reinstated. That argument is wrong. ..." Read in full
Feb 29 ~ No Mr Blair, Iraq will not just go awaySunday Herald "....the Prime Minister has found himself caught yet again in the Iraq maze, making himself look even more foolish than usual by pretending to ignore the reality that he remains caught and imprisoned by a political debate he simply cannot escape from.
The imprisonment began as we waited for the first weapons of mass destruction to turn up after the formal end to the conflict. We are still waiting, but we no longer expect anything because anyone who knows anything about post-war Iraq (and indeed pre-war Iraq) has said no WMD will be found, and that includes the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group. Blair, however, still lives in hope and said as much in his monthly press conference last week when he said we must wait for the final report of the ISG.
..... .... The majority opinion in Britain was against going to war, yet Blair said: “Trust me on Iraq”. It was par excellence Blair’s war, Blair’s decision to back George W Bush, Blair’s decision to make the casus belli Saddam’s WMD and his 45-minute threat to British interests and troops. And it remains Blair’s mistake.... ." Read in full
Feb 29 ~ I had no choice, says GCHQ whistleblowerObserver ".... Speaking in her first major interview since the collapse of the trial, Katharine Gun told The Observer she now believes that President Bush and Blair always intended to go to war. The 29-year-old Mandarin-language expert, speaking at a secret location, said the email she leaked last February showed that Britain and the United States were prepared to go to any lengths, including bribery and blackmail, to get the United Nations Security Council to authorise war with Iraq at the beginning of last year. .." Read in full
Feb 29 ~ We must have the truth on Iraq warhttp://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/comment/0,12956,1158820,00.html Secrecy is poisoning the body politic Leader Observer
".... A trial, though personally harrowing, would have flushed out more crucial detail about the circumstances surrounding the Iraq war. In order to press home the 'necessity' case, Ms Gun's lawyers would have forced the Government to release Lord Goldsmith's advice to the Prime Minister about the legality of the Iraq war in the absence of a second, supportive UN Resolution.
We now know, following a statement last week from Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the former deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office who resigned on the eve of war, that the legal team believed that the war was illegal. Her statement adds weight to the growing evidence that the Government may have been advised that it was launching an illegal war and that the Attorney General was reluctant to continue with the prosecution of Ms Gun because a trial would have revealed evidence of this advice.
.... many who supported war were reassured that it was within the envelope of legality, even in the absence of a second UN Resolution. It is vital to the health of political life in this country that the air is now cleared over this question. ..." Read in full
Feb 29 ~" US told UK Attorney General to alter legal advice on Iraq war... devastating claim "Sunday Herald The attorney general initially told Tony Blair that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal without a new resolution from the United Nations and only overturned his advice when Washington ordered Downing Street to find legal advice which would justify the war. The devastating claim will be made by eminent QC and Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy in a television interview .this morning in an interview on GMTV......arguably the most damaging. Her position as a member of the highest echelons of the legal community will add credence to her claims that the British government could find only two senior lawyers in the UK prepared to back the case for the invasion.
Baroness Kennedy points out that Lord Goldsmith was a commercial lawyer with no experience of international law and initially relied heavily on the advice of lawyers within the Foreign Office in the months before the war. It is widely believed that advice overwhelmingly warned against invading without a UN resolution. ...... ... .... the new developments signal that the legal case for the allied invasion of Iraq without a specific UN instruction authorising them to do so has become the most dangerous threat to the Prime Minister and is unlikely to go away. .." Read in full
Feb 29 ~ Army chiefs feared Iraq war illegal just days before startObserver
- Attorney-General forced to rewrite legal advice
- Specialist unit dedicated to spying on UN revealed
" explosive new details about military doubts over the legality of the invasion are detailed in unpublished legal documents in the case of Katharine Gun, the intelligence officer dramatically freed last week after Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, dropped charges against her of breaking the Official Secrets Act. The disclosure came as it also emerged that Goldsmith was forced hastily to redraft his legal advice to Tony Blair to give an 'unequivocal' assurance to the armed forces that the conflict would not be illegal. Refusing to commit troops already stationed in Kuwait, senior military leaders were adamant that war could not begin until they were satisfied that neither they nor their men could be tried. ..." Read in full
Feb 29 ~ "...Her resignation shocked many in Whitehall at the time but it received little attention as the war got under way.Now head of the International Law Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, she has decided reveal why she resigned. "I left my job because I did not agree that the use of force against Iraq was lawful, and in all the circumstances I did not want to continue as a legal adviser..." Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the former deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office, revealed in a statement that she had quit her post on the eve of the conflict because she disagreed with the Attorney General's advice." Independent
Feb 28 ~ 'Britain and US shared transcripts after bugging Blix's mobile phone'Independent ".... Hans Blix and Richard Butler were said to have been subjected to routine bugging while they led teams searching for Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction. ...."here it is between people who co-operate and it is an unpleasant feeling".
Richard Butler Former UN chief weapons inspector
He said he was "well aware" that he was being bugged at the UN. "How did I know? Because those who did it would come to me and show me the recordings that they had made on others to help me do my job disarming Iraq." He asked: "What if Kofi Annan had been bringing people together last February in a genuine attempt to prevent the invasion of Iraq, and the people bugging him did not want that to happen, what do you think they would do with that information?"
Boutros Boutros-Ghali Former UN secretary general
He said he was warned that he was likely to be bugged as soon as he started the job. "From the first day I entered my office, they said: 'Beware; your office is bugged, your residence is bugged, and it is a tradition that the member states who have the technical capacity to bug will do it without any hesitation.' That would involve members of the Security Council. The perception is that you must know in advance that your office, your residence, your car, your phone is bugged."
Feb 28 ~"Blacked-out passages in the defence document in the Gun case refer to the Foreign Office's legal advice, which conflicted with that of Lord Goldsmith.Guardian
But it also refers to Lord Goldsmith's own advice casting doubt on his later conclusion - reached just before the outbreak of war - that a second UN resolution was unnecessary. These passages were not blacked out in the document passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Lord Goldsmith is under increasing pressure to reveal in full his advice on the legality of the war and explain why he apparently changed his view as a military conflict became more and more likely.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, has asked the solicitor general, Harriet Harman, to disclose how many occasions Lord Goldsmith gave ministers legal advice on the war.
If she declines he is expected to take the case to the independent parliamentary ombudsman..." Read in full
Feb 28 ~ Clare Short: Was Attorney General leant on to sanction war?In her own words, the former cabinet minister questions the legality of conflict Independent .... I was asked to comment by the Today programme. I made two points. The first was that if it was illegitimate to contemplate bugging the offices of fellow members of the Security Council, then our security services should stop distributing transcripts of Kofi Annan's private telephone calls. My second comment was that the claims of Ms Gun's lawyers should be considered alongside the claim that one of the reasons for the exaggeration of the threat from WMD in Iraq was to manufacture legal authority for war.
The response of the establishment has been extraordinary. They are faced with two allegations: one that the Attorney General's legal advice authorising war in Iraq was manipulated in dubious ways, the other that Britain is intruding on the privacy of Mr Annan's phone calls.
.... I'm afraid that there is no question that such transcripts were regularly circulated.
It is likely that the Prime Minister was unaware of this. He's not a man for detail but he is in a position to stop the practice. But the suggestion that there is any threat to our national security or intelligence services from the exposure of the fact that such transcripts are circulated is laughable.
The suggestion, however, that the Attorney General's opinion may have been manipulated is very serious. There is no doubt that the way in which a truncated opinion authorising war appeared at the very last minute was very odd.....I cannot help but conclude that the way in which the Attorney General's opinion was produced and handled was very strange. It is hard not to suspect that he had doubts and was leant upon.
......... I do not support my party right or wrong. I want to preserve my party as an instrument of justice. I also think we should stop invading the privacy of the secretary general of the United Nations."
Feb 28 ~ Channel 4 VIEWER POLL"Thanks to everyone who took part in our Viewer Poll. We asked: Was Clare Short to right to say what she said?
Yes, you agreed with her: 70%
No, you disagreed with her: 30%
We received well over 12,000 votes via email, phone and text messages. Thanks to everyone who participated! "
Feb 28 ~ Geoff Hoon " I became aware that this intelligence referred to battlefield weapons soon after the publication of the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/cm040223/text/40223w01.htm#40223w01.html_sbhd1
23 Feb 2004 : Column 2W
Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he was informed that the 45-minute assertion related to battlefield mortar shells or small calibre weaponry. 
Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date he was informed that the 45-minute claim related to battlefield weapons. 
Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date he first became aware to which Iraqi weapons the 45-minute claim in the Iraq's weapons of mass destruction dossier applied. 
Mr. Hoon: I first became aware of 'the 45-minute claim' when I read drafts of the Government's dossier and the Joint Intelligence Committee's assessment dated 9 September 2002. The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in their report of 9 September 2003 (cm 5972) published, at paragraph 50, the relevant passage from the assessment. This stated:
"Intelligence also indicates that chemical and biological munitions could be with military units and ready for firing within 20 to 45 minutes."The ISC also commented (para 57):
"The JIG did not know precisely which munitions could be deployed from where to where and the context of the intelligence was not included in the JIG Assessment". I became aware that this intelligence referred to battlefield weapons soon after the publication of the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Feb 27 ~ "Tony Blair was tonight under mounting pressure to reveal if Clare Short’s United Nations bugging claims were true after fresh revelations of spying."Scotsman "The phones of former UN chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Richard Butler were tapped while they were on missions abroad, it was claimed.
Labour backbenchers joined Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy in demanding the Prime Minister comes clean on the row..." Read in full
Feb 27 ~From Jon Snow's email round-up of the day's news:"Mexican outrage over UN bugging allegations:
The Mexicans are hopping mad. Our man in New York, Jonathan Rugman, is having his ear bent even as I write. The Mexican Ambassador to the UN has hauled him in to tell him of his country's outrage over the revelations from the Gun case.
Katharine Gun's prosecution under the Official Secrets act was driven by her leaking an email that had crossed her desk at the GCHQ spy centre. The email was from the US security agency asking for assistance in penetrating the doings and goings on of the six swing states whose votes would matter when it came to a second UN resolution sanctioning war on Iraq. In the six was Mexico, the implication is that we were spying on Mexico at the UN.
If you missed Clare Short last night talking to me about the 'journey of her conscience' -- you can see the whole interview in full on our broadband site: http://www.channel4.com/news/2004/02/week_4/26_short.html Tonight, we reveal whether our viewers backed her for speaking out or whether they want to see her go the way of Lord Haw Haw.
Unravelling legal advice over the war:
We are continuing to pursue the Attorney General's legal advice on going to war with Iraq. Why was he saying that action would be illegal throughout 2002 before suddenly changing his tune in January 2003? .."
Feb 26 ~ U.N. to Britain: If spying on us, stop itWashington Times" Responding to reports of Britain spying on the United Nations, a U.N. spokesman said if true, it should stop because it undermines diplomatic exchanges.
Allegations of bugging U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's offices were made earlier in the day by Clare Short, a former minister in British Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet, during an interview with the BBC.
Annan spokesman Fred Eckhard said the organization had seen "media reports alleging that the secretary-general's phone conversations were tapped by British intelligence. We would be disappointed if this were true. .... The spokesman cited to reporters international conventions protecting the United Nations from spying and said, "We are throwing down a red flag saying if this is true please stop it."
Feb 26 ~ A central member of the official inquiry into the Iraq war is a consultant to one of the world's leading chemical and biological warfare decontamination companies that has military contracts in Iraq.Independent "Lord Inge, the former head of the defence staff, who sits on the Butler inquiry set up by Tony Blair, is employed by OWR AG, a German-based firm which specialises in cleaning up deadly biological and chemical warfare agents. The disclosure has raised fresh questions about the Butler inquiry, which has already come under fire and is being boycotted by the Liberal Democrats..."
Feb 26 ~ Spy case casts fresh doubt on war legalityRichard Norton-Taylor and Ewen MacAskill The Guardian
"Dramatic new evidence pointing to serious doubts in the government about the legality of the war in Iraq was passed to government lawyers shortly before they abandoned the prosecution of the GCHQ whistleblower Katharine Gun. The prosecution offered no evidence yesterday against Ms Gun, a former GCHQ employee, despite her admitting that she leaked information about an American spying operation at the UN in the run-up to the war. .." Read in full
Feb 26 ~ Whitehall officials insisted it was for legal and technical reasons.....Times "Court case collapse raises fears on US relations and Secrets Act....
THE Government Moved last night to shore up relations with American intelligence agencies........Experts said that the decision seriously compromised the Official Secrets Act. .... The document, leaked to a newspaper in March last year, revealed a request to GCHQ to spy on six United Nations Security Council members whose votes were needed to back taking military action. The memo, from a leading official at the US National Security Agency (NSA), outlined a plan to eavesdrop on communications to and from UN offices in New York and the homes of the ambassadors of Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, Guinea and Pakistan
....... The prosecution refused to reveal the reasoning behind the decision in court yesterday
........ When David Shayler, the former MI5 officer, was charged under the Official Secrets Act for leaking information to a newspaper of alleged improper activities by the Security Service, he claimed justification under the Human Rights Act. However, at his Old Bailey trial, this defence was rejected.
Mrs Gun’s lawyers claimed that the case was dropped to prevent the disclosure of the Attorney-General’s advice for the Government on the legality of the Iraq war..... But Whitehall officials insisted it was for legal and technical reasons.....
Feb 26 ~ ".....Why have they waited until today? Why has she been put through eight months of hell?"Ms Gun has recently attracted the support of Hollywood actors including Sean Penn. He told the Observer at the Bafta awards: "It was a decision of conscience in a world where nobody celebrates that. She will go down in history as a hero of the human spirit. I urge the whole world to angle their eyes in the direction of that courtroom." Guardian
Feb 26 ~ Blair Faces Questions over Collapsed Whistleblower CaseScotsman "Tony Blair was expected to be quizzed about the collapse of the case against former intelligence officer-turned whistleblower Katharine Gun at his monthly prime ministerial press conference today....the case against her was dramatically dropped yesterday with prosecutors refusing, despite concerted pressure, to say why. Her lawyers speculated it was because they had demanded the Government disclosed advice it received from Attorney General Lord Goldsmith QC on the legality of going to war in Iraq – ministers have repeatedly refused to make the advice public. Disclosing it to Mrs Gun’s legal team could have led to the Government facing fresh public scrutiny of the case for war but withholding it would have allowed Mrs Gun to argue she could not receive a fair trial...."
Mrs Gub said she had only joined GCHQ because it would give her a chance to use her language skills and had become a whistleblower to try to stop an “illegal war“. She urged others working in the intelligence services to leak information if their consciences told them to.
Feb 25 ~ Katharine Gun demands explanationGuardian "... After the prosecution offered no evidence, the judge, the Recorder of London Michael Hyam, recorded a formal verdict of not guilty.
Then Ben Emmerson QC, representing Ms Gun, demanded an explanation from the prosecution of why, after such a length of time, they had now decided to drop the charge. Mr Ellison refused to say. A full trial could have generated unwelcome publicity for the government and GCHQ, where she had worked until she was sacked in June last year. She was charged in November on an unconditional bail. For her defence she had planned to seek the disclosure of the full advice from the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, on the legality of the war against Iraq, which could have been potentially damaging and embarrassing for the government. ..."
Feb 25 ~ Katharine Gun cleared. It is confirmed.BBC "A GCHQ translator sacked for revealing a secret e-mail is cleared of an offence under the Official Secrets Act. Katharine Gun, 29, from Cheltenham, claimed the e-mail was from US spies asking British officers to tap phones of nations voting on war against Iraq. She walked free on Wednesday when the prosecution offered no evidence. Mrs Gun had denied committing an offence under the Official Secrets Act, arguing she was acting to prevent the "illegal war" in Iraq. "
Feb 25 ~ "Iraqi leaders broadly welcomed a United Nations call yesterday for elections by the end of the yearbut poor security and doubts about the UN’s commitment undermined hopes of creating a democracy within ten months. .." The Times
Feb 24 ~ "The British people have a right to know now what the prime minister was told, and when, and what was kept from him, and why."Richard Norton Taylor in the Guardian 18 Feb "What we were not told was that by December 2002 the JIC was convinced Iraq's ability to use chemical and biological [CB] weapons "might be constrained" by the presence of UN inspectors. We were not told in March last year, immediately before the invasion of Iraq, that the JIC had reported Iraq's chemical weapons "remained disassembled", that intelligence on Iraqi CB weapons was "inconsistent" and that intelligence on the deployment of weapons was "sparse". All this was revealed in the government's response to the intelligence and security committee.
Parliament cannot allow this subterfuge to continue. The British people have a right to know now what the prime minister was told, and when, and what was kept from him, and why. The government is deluding itself if it imagines a scandal of this magnitude can be made to disappear." Read in full
Feb 24 ~ "Our media has suddenly capitulated"Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent. She says Stand Up for the Truth on Iraq, before it's Too Late"...Maybe it is the terrible power Mandelson can still exert over the scribes of this nation, but this forceful resistance seemed to peter out soon after he warned that we had been misbehaving for too long, and that this would kill the "New Labour Project" and bring in the Tories. The media had been unnerved already, of course, by the cold-blooded assault on the BBC by Alastair Campbell. The Government has thrown new balls to draw our attention. And most hacks and leading lights (I salute the tenacity of the exceptions) have allowed themselves to be distracted. They blather about immigration controls (always a favoured diversion for troubled politicians and reactionary journalists) about the wobbling flesh of our obese population; drink; drugs; school examinations; oh and dangerous pancakes.
But the past cannot be allowed to fade into oblivion; it marks the future.
...... Blair has announced that he wants to boss us around for more years. The man with no reverse gear, ignored the millions of good people of Britain who went on those anti-war demonstrations. What will we do when he takes us into the next destructive venture? We are living in an increasingly controlled state with fewer and fewer safeguards for justice and liberty..."
Feb 22 ~ "The Attorney General's reported decision to drop the Official Secrets Act prosecution against Katharine Gunformer GCHQ transcriber, is a tremendous victory for her, should it be confirmed in court next week. She acted gallantly and honourably ..." Observer
Feb 22 ~ Seven veterans of Iraq war 'have committed suicide'Sunday Telegraph
".... David Kidney, a Labour MP whose parliamentary question prompted the disclosure of the deaths, said that it was time for those like him, who were against the war, to show their gratitude to those who had fought. "They did their job in an excellent way and we must show them that our argument was not with them," he said.(The comment by the consultant psychiatrist at The Priory Ticehurst House hospital in East Sussex quoted in this story, Dr Walter Busuttil, who said, "If the country doesn't support the war, soldiers are likely to feel aggrieved. They will feel even more angry at a society that doesn't appreciate their sacrifice." is deeply worrying. It is important that David Kidney has said that opposition to the war in no way means a lack of appreciation and sympathy for the soldiers.)
Shaun Rusling, chairman of the National Gulf War Veteran and Families Association, said: "Seven suicides is seven too many. It proves again that psychological care in the services is second-rate."
Feb 22 ~ Snub to ayatollah as Bremer puts Iraq poll on holdSunday Telegraph "Paul Bremer, America's administrator in Iraq, has ruled out holding full elections for at least a year, snubbing the country's most powerful religious leader who has called for direct polls as soon as possible, writes Inigo Gilmore. Mr Bremer's announcement, made in an interview with an Arabic television channel, came as speculation grew that he may be sidelined in the run-up to the proposed transfer of power in Iraq in June after apparent concerns over his performance.
Members of Iraq's governing council say they have heard about changes to senior members of the American team in Iraq which may dilute Mr Bremer's influence, as the deadline for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to hand over sovereignty on June 30 approaches.
.............. "It is not clear that Bremer will be sidelined, but with Blackwill coming and going it may just mean that. If I were Mr Bush, I would be thoroughly reassessing the policy of the last 10 months to see what has gone wrong." A local diplomat said that Mr Bremer's performance was under scrutiny....
.... Yesterday, Mr Bremer blamed "technical reasons" for delaying elections for up to 15 months, a verdict reached by members of a United Nations commission sent to Iraq. He said the country lacked a democratic and legislative framework. Mr Bremer has been a controversial figure in Iraq. His quick decision to disband the Iraqi army generated a public backlash and left the American-led coalition without any local men to tap for either a security or a reconstruction force."
Feb 21 ~ Gunning for GCHQGuardian letter.
"I would welcome the dropping of the case against Katharine Gun on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act (Case set to be dropped against GCHQ mole, February 20). Will the attorney general now ask police to investigate Gun's claims that GCHQ and the US national security agency bugged UN missions in New York?
Feb 16 2004 ~ Bremer pins hopes on UN as exit strategy from IraqIndependent "As the violence continued in Iraq yesterday, the head of the American occupation administration admitted the US was waiting for the United Nations to find a way out of the impasse on handing over power to Iraqis. ..... US hopes of getting at least partly out of the quagmire that Iraq has become and handing power to an Iraqi interim administration by President Bush's deadline of 30 June are looking more troubled than ever after Saturday's attack in Fallujah, in which insurgents stormed an Iraqi police station, killing at least 21, and an Iraqi army garrison.
The US administration is desperate to get its troops out of harm's way before Mr Bush faces re-election in November.
American plans to hand over political power to an interim Iraqi government also look to be in as much trouble. Mr Bremer said yesterday in interviews on ABC's This Week and CNN's Late Editions that the US may be about to ditch its plan to choose an interim Iraqi government with regional caucuses. Diplomats have already said the plan is dead in the water after it was rejected by the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shia majority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Ayatollah Sistani is demanding direct elections, which the US claims there is not time to organise by June. .....
..... American uncertainty over who is behind the attacks surfaced yesterday ..."
Feb 16 ~ Bush forced to rethink handover plan in IraqTimes "The Bush Administration conceded yesterday that its latest blueprint for transferring sovereignty to Iraq is unworkable and prepared the ground for another substantial revision of its plans to hand over power. Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Baghdad, said that Washington was “open to alternatives” after both Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shia majority, and a United Nations fact-finding team challenged its present proposals.
Mr Bremer said.... “It may be different from the caucus plan. It may be a modified caucus plan,” he told ABC television. “It may be some form of partial elections. It may be some mechanism of a national conference. There are literally dozens of ideas around. We’ve said all along we are open to alternatives.” .....
Muwaffaq al-Rubbaie, a member of the Governing Council who attended the meeting between UN officials and the Ayatollah last week, said that the cleric had accepted the notion of a transfer of power on June 30 to an interim government, if a date was set for direct elections. The White House is said to be coming around to the idea of earlier direct elections, but is standing firm on June 30 as the date for transferring power. Any delay in that transfer could damage Mr Bush at home, just months before the US presidential elections. .."
Feb 16 ~ Tutu tells Blair: Apologise for 'immoral' warIndependent "....The intervention of the Nobel peace prize winner in the controversy over Iraq follows a series of deadly terrorist attacks in the country over the past week, including an armed raid on a police station on Saturday in which 22 people died. Delivering the Longford Lecture, sponsored by The Independent, the emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town will argue that the turmoil after the war proved it is an illusion to believe that "force and brutality" leads to greater security. "How wonderful if politicians could bring themselves to admit they are only fallible human creatures and not God and thus by definition can make mistakes. Unfortunately, they seem to think that such an admission is a sign of weakness. Weak and insecure people hardly ever say 'sorry'...... The archbishop will link Mr Bush's support, when he was Governor of Texas, for capital punishment with a new philosophy behind the invasion of Iraq. .... "An immoral war was thus waged and the world is a great deal less safe place than before. There are many more who resent the powerful who can throw their weight about so callously and with so much impunity."
..... Now 72, the archbishop is spending several weeks in Britain in his role as visiting professor in post-conflict studies at King's College, London. He will also take a swipe in his speech at the steady increase in the British prison population in recent years, arguing that harsher sentencing does not "stem the tide of recidivism". He will warn that sending first-time offenders to prison increases the prospect of them becoming repeat offenders, making harsh sentences "quite costly".
Feb 16 ~ A Misreading of the LawConor Gearty "At first sight, the Hutton Report seemed to provide further evidence of Tony Blair's intuitive political genius. It was extraordinary to have reaped from the appointment of Lord Hutton a set of findings which transformed a crisis that threatened to be overwhelming into a vindication of every aspect of the government's conduct, and of the prime minister's moral probity in particular. But when the full implications of the report sank in, as the opinion-makers and others who had already commented on it got round to reading it, the true extent of its partisanship sank in too. .." Read in full (This is the paper on which the Sunday Herald article (below) was based.)
Feb 15 ~ Lord Hutton was ‘out of his depth’By James Cusick, Westminster Editor Sunday Herald "Cherie Blair’s partner in her legal practice, Matrix, says Lord Hutton was “out of his depth” and did not “represent the law as it is or as it ought to be” in the controversial inquiry into the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly. Conor Gearty, who is professor of human rights law at the London School of Economics and specialises in terrorism, civil liberties and human rights, also says the reason Alastair Campbell did not simply launch a libel action against both the BBC and the Mail on Sunday – which claimed he had been at the centre of “sexing up” the government’s dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – was because “no such suit would have succeeded”. Gearty’s devastating legal criticism of Hutton, his verdict and the way he chose to determine his remit will be deeply embarrassing for the Blairs. It is likely to further inhibit Tony Blair’s attempts to claim the Hutton report has given him a clean bill of health.
Writing in the London Review of Books, Gearty brands the Hutton report a “misreading of the law” and says the government may come to “regret the inexorable recitation of official good behaviour”, as happened over the now discredited Widgery Report into the Bloody Sunday killings in 1972. ......"
Feb 15 ~ Katharine Gun : a patriotic young woman acting out of principle to reveal an illegal operation rather than as someone who betrayed her country's secretsThe Observer British spy op wrecked peace move
"A joint British and American spying operation at the United Nations scuppered a last-ditch initiative to avert the invasion of Iraq, The Observer can reveal. Senior UN diplomats from Mexico and Chile provided new evidence last week that their missions were spied on.... The former Mexican ambassador to the UN, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, told The Observer that US officials intervened last March, just days before the war against Saddam was launched, to halt secret negotiations for a compromise resolution to give weapons inspectors more time to complete their work. .......
The revelations follow claims by Chile's former ambassador to the UN, Juan Valdes, that he found hard evidence of bugging at his mission in New York last March. The new claims emerged as The Observer has discovered that Government officials seriously considered dropping the prosecution against Katharine Gun (see warmwell Jan 18th), the translator at the GCHQ surveillance centre who first disclosed details of the espionage operation last March.
According to Whitehall sources, officials feared the prosecution would leave the Government and the intelligence services open to embarrassing disclosures. They were known to be concerned that the 29-year-old Chinese language specialist would be seen as a patriotic young woman acting out of principle to reveal an illegal operation rather than as someone who betrayed her country's secrets. They are also known to be worried that any trial would force the disclosure of Government legal advice on intervention in Iraq, described by one source as 'at best ambiguous'. ......
Aguilar Zinser:... 'The meeting was in the evening and they call us in the morning before the meeting of the Security Council and they say, 'We appreciate you trying to find ideas, but this is not a good idea." I say, "Thanks, that's good to know." We were looking for a compromise and they [the US] say, "Do not attempt it."......'
Feb 14 ~ The Butler Inquiry will be held in private" to avoid giving the public a partial view of the evidence" is given as the reason. See BBC report The Liberal Democrats say their refusal to take part in the inquiry has been vindicated by the latest news.
Feb 14 ~ " no chance of producing answers to vital questions about the run-up to war."Independent Inquiry will not judge Blair's role in Iraq war "... The Butler inquiry, which will start taking evidence in April, has faced criticism for its narrow remit, which includes looking at the discrepancies between the intelligence "gathered, evaluated and used" by the Government and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Sir Menzies said the decision was "predictable" ..."
Feb 14 ~ UN compromise with Shias will force US rethinkThe Tmes "The United Nations appeared to have agreed a compromise with Iraq’s Shia leadership yesterday over its demands for direct elections with a plan to hold polls soon after a handover of power this summer. The compromise is likely to force yet another substantial revision of Washington’s blueprint for restoring Iraqi sovereignty and withdrawing its troops. ..."
Feb 14 ~ UN rejects June Iraq elections as 'unfeasible'Telegraph "...At a press conference in Baghdad yesterday, Mr Brahimi said Iraq's leaders understood the importance of elections but he did not say when they might be held. "The Iraqi street must know that elections are a very complicated process and cannot be achieved unless there are good preparations so that everyone accepts the results," he said. He said he would submit his recommendations to the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, in about a week to determine how the UN could help to organise the elections. ..."
Feb 14 ~ Blix said those who drafted the dossier acted like salesmen trying to "increase and exaggerate the importance" of their wares.... Telegraph Feb 9thTelegraph "....Mr Blix dashed the Government's hopes that it could draw a line under the row over the September 2002 dossier, which claimed Saddam could deploy deadly weapons at 45 minutes' notice. He said those who drafted the dossier acted like salesmen trying to "increase and exaggerate the importance" of their wares...."
Feb 13 ~"Arab states are largely squalid, corrupt, brutal dictatorships. No surprise there. We created most of these dictators"Robert Fisk in the Independent
" For democracy, read fantasy. Iraq is getting so nasty for our great leaders these days that anything - and anyone - is going to be thrown to the dogs to save them. The BBC, the CIA, British intelligence - any journalist that dares to point out the lies that led us to war - get pelted with more lies. The moment we suggest that Iraq never was fertile soil for Western democracy, we get accused of being racists. Do we think the Arabs are incapable of producing democracy, we are asked? Do we think they are subhuman?
This kind of tosh comes from the same family of abuse as that which labels all and every criticism of Israel anti-Semitic. If we even remind the world that the cabal of neo-conservative, pro-Israeli proselytisers - Messers Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Kristol, et al - helped to propel President Bush and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld into this war with grotesquely inaccurate prophecies of a new Middle East of democratic, pro-Israeli Arab states, we are told that we are racist even to mention their names. So let's just remember what the neo-cons were advocating back in the golden autumn of 2002 when Tony was squaring up with George to destroy the Hitler of Baghdad...."
Feb 7 - 13 ~ Roundup of missed newsA few important articles
Feb 7 ~"To have a commission appointed exclusively by President Bushinvestigate his administration's intelligence failures in Iraq does not inspire confidence in its independence"
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi
BBC News "The commission is to submit its report by 31 March 2005 - well after the presidential election. The BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington says that by that time, the Republicans hope that Mr Bush will be safely re-elected and largely immune to any criticism the commission might offer. ..."
Feb 7 ~ Bush case for war riddled with falsehoodsFreelance Star "Regarding your Feb. 2 editorial, "Bush gets an o'Kay,'" the entire world knew that at least some of President Bush's accusations against Iraq were false:
Bush's Secretary of State Colin Powell's humiliating performance at the U.N. regarding yellow-cake uranium from Niger; the alleged meeting between Mohamed Atta and Iraqi agents in Prague, when Bush's own CIA knew that Atta was in the United States at the time; the aluminum tubes, to build nukes, which scientists around the world, including Bush's own experts at Oak Ridge, publicly ridiculed as unsuitable for centrifuge purposes.
All occurred well before the invasion.
You write "egregious is the unsupported, repeated charge that he committed this high crime [lied to take us to war]." What is egregious is your claim that the charge is unsupported. The facts are that we all, including the president, knew long before the war that much of what we were being told was false.
One might conclude that a prudent act by a president with average mental capacity would be to find out why, unless he already knew why. The facts support one of only two possible conclusions: Either George W. Bush lied, or he has even less intelligence (IQ in this context) than that for which even his most strident Democrat critics give him credit.
Feb 7 ~ Our spies are amiable duffers: it's the Establishment wayMatthew Parris in the Times ".....a large untruth will have been floated upon a pontoon of small exaggerations: questioned by few because it was comfortable for a prime minister to believe, expedient for a bullying press secretary to demand and convenient for those who served him to deliver. .....My clear impression that MI6 was scraping closer to the bottom of the barrel than was ideal is reinforced by the experience of a friend a little younger than me, who, after leaving Oxbridge but making disappointing progress in his chosen field, was surprised to be contacted out of the blue by a don he knew from undergraduate days. Had he thought about joining MI6? He agreed to a chat and learnt that this was an exciting career opportunity and he would learn the use of a gun. Might they send him the application forms? The forms never came. After a few months, he asked the don what had happened. Inquiries were made. British Intelligence had sent the application to the wrong address. My friend decided to pursue this career no further. ..." Read in full
Feb 7 ~ Unlike Mr Blair, Churchill had been a soldierIndependent "".... The exasperation of Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for Environment, with stories about the details of the so-called 45-minutes claim finally spilled over when she made the comparison between Mr Blair and his predecessor of 60 years earlier.
The final straw appeared to be Michael Howard's call for Mr Blair's resignation on the grounds that he had not known MI6's assessment that Saddam's chemical weapons were for the battlefield and not cities hundreds of miles away. Ms Beckett, who fairly represented many of her colleagues' anger at the Tories' move, said that it was "nit-picking of the highest order". "Do you suppose Winston Churchill went round asking precisely the kind of munition they had in the Second World War and would that have been a valuable use of his time?" the Environment Secretary asked. Unfortunately for Ms Beckett, there were plenty of people ready to step forward to declare that, yes, of course Churchill would have done precisely that.
Even more unfortunately, the former prime minister's grandson just happened to be Nicholas Soames, the shadow Secretary of State for Defence.
"Margaret Beckett has the impertinence to invoke the name of Winston Churchill in the same breath as Tony Blair, saying that Churchill would never have considered it his responsibility to have been informed of details of munitions and weaponry. She could not be more wrong. This is ignorance of the first order.
"My grandfather was obsessed with military detail and would have regarded it as his solemn duty as Prime Minister to have ensured that the reasons for going to war were detailed, valid, legal and honourable, and above all accurate," Mr Soames said.
"Blair and the No 10 machine were so obsessed with spin and hype that they were ignorant of, and disinterested in, the hard military realities. The difference between these weapons matters very much indeed in any careful and detailed military assessment."...."
Feb 7 ~ "Perhaps for subconscious presentational reasons, the Secretary of State was right not to brief the Prime Minister and to allow the dossier to contain insignificant detail."Telegraph Date: 7 February 2004
Sir - The Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, told the Commons Defence Committee that the 45-minute question "was not a significant issue on which to brief the Prime Minister". In other words, it was not an issue on which to take the country to war. He was right. Unfortunately, Mr Hoon had not taken the trouble to find out or was not briefed - or if he was briefed, did not share the information - on al Hussein missiles either.
The September dossier stated: "We judge that Iraq has... illegally retained up to 20 al Hussein missiles, with a range of 650km, capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads." The al Hussein was the only operational strategic weapon which Iraq possessed. The other, longer range weapons had not been fully tested. The al Hussein threat was restricted to high explosive; its chemical/biological capability had never been used.
This weapon was inaccurate and prone to fall up to two kilometres off its target, if it did not break up in flight. It was cannibalised from the Scud B and struggled to reach its maximum range of 650km, for example Cyprus, with a 500kg high-explosive warhead. However, the al Hussein was judged to be the single strategic threat to our national interest and the dossier admitted "up to 20 missiles" only. Some weapon. Some threat.
Perhaps for subconscious presentational reasons, the Secretary of State was right not to brief the Prime Minister and to allow the dossier to contain insignificant detail.
From: Colonel Brian Aldridge, Former Defence Attache to the Iraq Embassy, London, SW1"
Feb 6 ~ senior Conservatives believed that Britain was threatened by a nuclear attack on the basis of secret Whitehall briefings.Hoon dismisses 45-minute claim as insignificant "..... The Guardian, meanwhile, has learned that senior Conservatives believed that Britain was threatened by a nuclear attack by Saddam, on the basis of secret Whitehall briefings. Oliver Letwin, the then shadow home secretary, told a surprised constituent that Iraqi nuclear missiles might be "directed towards the UK". He added: "London may be a target". The constituent, who does not want to be named, describes the claims as "extraordinary". Documents disclosed to the Hutton inquiry include an email from Jonathan Powell, the prime minister's chief of staff, to Alastair Campbell, his communications chief, asking: "Alastair, what will be the headline in the [London Evening] Standard on the day of publication [of the weapons dossier]?"
The large headline spelled out: "45 minutes from attack". Many headlines assumed that military bases in Cyprus could be hit within 45 minutes.
Number 10 yesterday insisted it had not briefed the newspapers, even though it is clear from internal Downing Street emails released to the Hutton inquiry that No 10 was highly exercised about ensuring the right headlines.....Mr Hoon told the defence committee that he did not feel compelled to try to correct newspaper headlines which claimed "45 minutes from attack" and "45 minutes from doom". He said when the 45-minute claim was originally made, he was on a government trip to Warsaw and Ukraine and did not see the press cuttings. ..."
Feb 6 ~ His plea of ignorance doesn't stack upAnalysis from the Scotsman " It is far more likely that Mr Hoon, and No 10, were quite happy that the media had jumped to the conclusion that Saddam’s weapons could be fired by missiles. It hardened the case for war, without any mendacity from government.
It would take a complete absence of political acumen not to realise that ministers could, in one phone call, make clear that Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons would not reach his neighbours.
It takes a complete absence of political acumen to think that this is not an important fact. While this may be true of Mr Hoon, it is emphatically not true of Mr Blair.
Which leaves open the final question: why should the Prime Minister lie about something like this? Why should he pretend to be ignorant of such a crucial fact? Had he been spinning so much that he had forgotten where the truth really lay?
In the House of Commons, this is the mystery beginning to be spoken about. Mr Blair’s enemies believe he can be ruthless and mendacious - but not lazy or ignorant. His plea of ignorance just doesn’t stack up. ..." Read in full
Feb 6 ~ What we were told, what we know now and the unresolved issuesIndependent Michael Howard, the Tory leader,called yesterday for Tony Blair to resign after the Prime Minister admitted that he did not know the Government's claim that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes referred simply to battlefield munitions. As Mr Howard labelled Mr Blair's failure to ask key questions about the intelligence "a gross dereliction of duty", Downing Street revealed that Mr Blair did not know the truth until the summer, after the military conflict. Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, said he knew, and said the reason he had not told the Prime Minister was that there was no point of controversy about it.
....... The Government's dossier, published in September 2002, cited the 45-minute claim no fewer than four times. It was deemed so important to Tony Blair's case that it was highlighted in his own foreword, in the executive summary and twice in the body of the text. The wording varied slightly, but the strongest formulation was in the body of the text: "The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so."
Mr Blair's own use of the phrase came almost immediately after claims about the threat posed by Saddam's ballistic missile programme. He made it clear it was the basis for his belief that Iraq was a "serious and current threat".
Mr Blair followed up with a speech to Parliament on the same day in which he again underlined the 45-minute claim. The dossier concludes, he said, "that Saddam ... has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons which could be activated within 45 minutes".
That afternoon, the Evening Standard's headline shouted "45 MINUTES FROM ATTACK", with a photo of ballistic missiles that could be used to attack long-range targets. The next day, The Sun had the headline "45 MINUTES FROM DOOM". The story began: "British servicemen and tourists in Cyprus could be annihilated by germ warfare missiles launched by Iraq, it was revealed yesterday. They could thud into the Mediterranean island within 45 MINUTES".
WHAT WE KNOW NOW (Read in full) ........
Most crucial, why does Mr Blair insist that the 45-minute point was not important? Dr Jones has made the point that the claim is one of the few in the dossier that declares that WMD existed. The only other clear claim that WMD existed was the equally controversial intelligence that Saddam continued to produced chemical weapons.
Feb 6 ~ Howard accuses Blair of 'gross dereliction of duty'Independent "Michael Howard, the Tory leader, called on him to resign for going to war without asking crucial questions about Iraq's weapons. .... Downing Street said yesterday that Mr Blair did not find out until last summer - when the war was over. ....... Mr Blair's embarrassment was compounded when it emerged that Mr Cook, who was Leader of the Commons at the time, and the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, both knew that the intelligence related only to short-range weapons. Mr Cook told the Commons yesterday that Mr Blair should make a public statement to clarify the position. He said: "I knew Iraq had only battlefield weapons because I asked the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee [John Scarlett] ... Is it not hard to credit that at no point between the September dossier and the March debate he did not explain to the Prime Minister the crucial distinction between battlefield weapons and medium-range weapons?" It was "equally difficult to believe that the Prime Minister's security adviser, Sir David Manning, never thought to ask".
In his diaries, Mr Cook recalled a conversation with the Prime Minister two weeks before the war which suggests Mr Blair knew the 45-minute warning did relate to battlefield chemical weapons. According to Mr Cook, Mr Blair cast doubt on whether Saddam could deploy WMD so quickly, saying that "all the effort he has to put into concealment makes it difficult for him to assemble them quickly for use". No 10 rejected Mr Cook's version of events, insisting last night that the conversation related to the need to protect British troops against the threat that WMD might be used against them. Mr Blair's aides dismissed the latest controversy as a storm in a teacup................
Charles Kennedy....: "The Prime Minister's claims that he did not know what kind of weapons of mass destruction were supposed to be present in Iraq is almost incredible. .......
Tam Dalyell.....: "I fear the awful truth is that Blair did jolly well know on March 18 [when MPs approved the war] that any WMD were battlefield weapons - and suppressed this information from the House of Commons before the crucial vote. Had it not been suppressed, more Labour MPs would have joined us in voting against the war and maybe enough to stop military action."
......... Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, dismissed Mr Howard's attack as "nit-picking of the highest order". She told BBC Radio 4: "To use it to say 'Oh the Prime Minister should resign' - do you suppose Winston Churchill went round asking precisely the kind of munition they had in the Second World War and would that have been a valuable use of his time?"
Feb 6 ~ Iraq intended to reconstitute a nuclear programme at some point.....Times "The CIA never claimed that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to America in the run-up to the Iraq war, George Tenet, its Director, said yesterday.
The agency has been widely blamed for feeding President Bush wrong intelligence about Iraq’s weapons programmes. But Mr Tenet’s fierce defence of the role played by US Intelligence immediately threw the spotlight back on the White House. ..." Read in full
Feb 5 ~ "Although Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, and Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary, were aware at the time that the claim did not refer to long-range weapons, the Prime Minister did not."Times " Mr Hoon also admitted to the inquiry that he had known that it probably referred to battlefield weapons but had done nothing to correct the media reporting. "
Guardian "... Mr Blair made clear that at the start of the war he had had no knowledge of the fact that the government's infamous claim that Iraq could mobilise its banned weapons within 45 minutes of an order referred only to battlefield, as opposed to long-range, arms. Yesterday's claim surprised MPs on both sides of the house and drew incredulous responses from opponents of the war. .."
BBC " Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is set to face tough questions from MPs and grieving relatives about the Iraq war...he will be grilled by Commons Defence Select Committee MPs about "lessons to be learned", primarily on issues such as equipment. However, they are also likely to ask why Tony Blair, on the eve of war, did not know the infamous "45-minute" claim referred only to battlefield weapons, while Mr Hoon did. "
Feb 5 ~ Top secret evidence was "too secret" for Dr Jones to see..."ABC Australia's AM programme this morning (transcript) "..the debate on Lord Hutton's findings, soon turned into a rebuttal of claims in the Independent newspaper today from former senior defence analyst, Dr Brian Jones" w ho accused the Government of translating probabilities into certainties in the dossier, and accused intelligence chiefs of ignoring the complaints of experienced experts in chemical and biological weapons, a failure Tony Blair acknowledges, but exonerates."
FRAN KELLY: Brian Jones was Head of the Defence Intelligence staff in the lead up to the war. He told the Hutton Inquiry last year that the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had been over-egged, which is really just another way of saying it was sexed up. Now he's gone further, revealing how his formal complaints over the claim that Saddam Hussein could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes were dismissed, his bosses assuring him there was last minute top secret intelligence to prove the claim, too secret for him to see. ..."
Feb 5 ~ Brian Jones was "one of the foremost authorities in his field in this country" said Air Marshal Sir John Walker, who was chief of defence intelligence and deputy chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) He has fully backed Dr Jones' protest about the Iraq dossier and said he is "astounded" the views of so eminent an expert and his colleagues were ignored...."I am astounded that, instead of sounding alarm bells, their reservations appear to have been put aside. There have been attempts to dismiss Brian as something of a senior NCO. But, in reality, he was one of the foremost authorities in his field in this country." See Independent
Feb 5 ~ Confirmation that Mr Jones's objection had been suppressed will inflame suspicions that the JIC has become politicised.Independent Intelligence bodies distance themselves from 45-minute claim "...Certainly Mr Scarlett is known to be closely connected to Number 10 even described by Alastair Campbell as one of his "mates". But there is also resentment over MI6's influential relationship with JIC. This was a problem that the committee under Lord Franks addressed after the intelligence failure over the Falklands campaign.
Lord Franks concluded that the JIC should not be chaired by a career civil servant or intelligence officer, but should be allowed to act as free from direct political interference as possible. The recommendation was at first followed but later ditched when once again JIC was headed by a serving intelligence officer. There are similar antagonisms within the American intelligence community...
.. Senior intelligence officers have vowed not to become embroiled in a similar exercise that risks crossing the line between intelligence gathering and politics. Brian Jones's intervention is bound to further suspicions that all is not well with our security services.."
Feb 5 ~ Blair admits ignorance on WMDTelegraph "...Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, told the Hutton inquiry he knew that the 45 minute claim referred only to chemical shells, but did not think he had a duty to correct the public misconception. John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, told Lord Hutton the 45 minute claim referred not to warheads or missiles but to battlefield mortar shells or small calibre weapons."
Feb 5 ~ Blair admits dossier confusion"The Government did nothing to correct the impression given by the September 2002 dossier that the claim referred to longer range weapons, including ballistic missiles, which could deliver chemical or biological warheads. Questioned during the Commons debate on the Hutton report, the Prime Minister said he had not known what sort of weapons were being referred to at the time of the crucial vote ..." Times "The shadow of the Hutton report was still hanging over the Government, the BBC and Parliament last night, seven days after it was published. .."
Feb 5 ~ "Every time it tries to drive a stake into it, the story just jumps up again"Independent on the oimpact of Dr Jones article in yesterday's paper " ..... Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman, said: "The Government hopes that this story will lie down. Every time it tries to drive a stake into it, the story just jumps up again."
...Labour's Tam Dalyell challenged Mr Blair about the report when the Prime Minister addressed the Parliamentary Labour Party yesterday. (Mr Blair) told MPs that he did not know that it related to only short-range battlefield weapons until the crucial Commons debate last March which authorised the Iraq war - only a day before it began. His official spokesman insisted later that it made no difference, saying: "Battlefield weapons which are modified to carry WMD are WMD."
Feb 5 ~ "It shows that we could have mounted a strong and convincing fightback."The Independent quoting a BBC source on the leaked 135 page document of lawyers' advice.
"BBC governors spurned their lawyers' advice that Lord Hutton's report was legally flawed and instead offered the fulsome apology that Downing Street demanded, it emerged last night.
.... Government documents released later to the inquiry, which began last August, showed Mr Campbell sought 15 changes to the draft of the dossier.
The lawyers insist the decision to run Mr Gilligan's report was justified under the "freedom of expression" provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and previous legal rulings that the media does not need to prove allegations before publishing them..."
Feb 4 ~"How was it that the finest intelligence brains in the west failed to stop him?"Channel 4's "Snowmail" tonight. Jon Snow writes "Unbelievable scenes in Islamabad tonight. Abdul Qadir Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, has been in to see the country's President, General Musharraf, to make a clean breast of his sins of proliferation. Does anybody think the good General did not know what the great scientist had been doing? .........
How was it that the finest intelligence brains in the west failed to stop him? Were they perhaps too pre-occupied with stockpiles of mythical Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? Ian Williams is in Pakistan, Lindsey Hilsum is here: both are working on this devastating and sordid tale.
DEBATING HUTTON This as Mr Blair inaugurates a debate in the House of Commons on the Hutton Inquiry. A grim debate in which the PM and MPs rehearse predictable positions, with an unpredictable interruption from protestors in the Commons Gallery. A rare suspension of the Commons ensued whilst the demonstrators were carted off. ..."
Feb 4 ~ If Parliament funks this duty, what a pathetic and wretched institution it has become.Simon Jenkins in the Times "...... If Mr Blair went to war on a falsity, Parliament must inquire and Parliament must judge.
This accountability is crucial now that governments assert the right of pre-emptive coercion. Mr Blair claims to go to war on the “intelligence of a threat” rather than on an actual one. The Home Secretary wishes to incarcerate citizens on a supposition of guilt rather than by open trial. These are major amendments to the normal practices of democracy. If they are really to form the basis of aspects of domestic and foreign policy, they require substantive changes in constitutional practices. They demand that we put extraordinary trust in the undisclosed judgments of leaders. They are a blatant departure from what most people understand as democratic accountability.
The antics of Downing Street before and after the Iraq invasion blew apart that trust. Whether “knowingly” or not, the public was told a monumental lie. Politicians constantly complain that the media usurp their proper role. Let them now do their job. Only Parliament has the final right to demand apology and redress. It can do so on the evidence already before it. There is no need for further inquiry. If Parliament funks this duty, what a pathetic and wretched institution it has become." Read in full
Feb 4 ~ "In my view, the expert intelligence analysts of the DIS were overruled in the preparation of the dossier back in September 2002, resulting in a presentation that was misleading about Iraq's capabilities."Dr Brian Jones quoted in the Independent "He calls on the Prime Minister to publish the intelligence behind the Government's claims that Iraq was actively producing chemical weapons and could launch an attack within 45 minutes of an order to do so. He is "extremely doubtful" that anyone with chemical and biological weapons expertise had seen the raw intelligence reports and that they would prove just how right he and his colleagues were to be concerned about the claims. .." Read in full
Feb 4 ~" The Liberal Democrats' decision is a setback for Mr Blairin his attempts to end the damaging row over the existence of WMD in Iraq. It will give the party the freedom to criticise the inquiry and its conclusions because it has played no part.....Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, suggested that Mr Blair had been bounced into offering an inquiry after repeatedly refusing Liberal Democrat calls for one, because President Bush announced an investigation on Monday. "The Government has performed a welcome volte-face on the principle of an inquiry for which we must give President Bush full credit," he said." Independent
Feb 4 ~ In words which echo concerns raised last week about the Hutton report, Mr Callaghan said of Lord Franks:"For 338 paragraphs he painted a splendid picture, delineated the light and the shade, and the glowing colours in it, and when Franks got to paragraph 339 he got fed up with the canvas he was painting, and chucked a bucket of whitewash over it." Independent
Feb 4 ~ "....The Prime Minister said he had no regrets over the conflict.Telegraph " The inquiry, to be led by Lord Butler of Brockwell, a former Cabinet Secretary, could not reopen the argument over whether the war was right or wrong - that had been a decision for the Government and Parliament.
Mr Powell was asked by the Washington Post newspaper if he would have backed war a year ago had he been told there were no stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons in Iraq.
"I don't know, I don't know. Because it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world," Mr Powell replied...."
Feb 3 ~ Snowmail The team is essentially an expanded version of the safe old Commons Intelligence Committee -"Bowing to the inevitable? It has happened... Tony Blair who, only last week, was telling us to wait for the Iraq Survey Group report has finally accepted that there is indeed a rather big question mark over the intelligence that took Britain into a pre-emptive war against Iraq unendorsed by the United Nations.
He has decided he cannot wait for the Iraq Survey Group and that there will have to be an inquiry. He has asked dependable Robin Butler, the civil servant running Downing Street under Thatcher/Major and Blair himself, now member of the House of Lords and master of University College Oxford, to chair an inquiry.
The team is essentially an expanded version of the safe old Commons Intelligence Committee including its chair Ann Taylor, Colonel Michael Mates and several other dependable intelligence-related Knights and Lords. Ann Taylor's Intelligence Committee is, like this inquiry, appointed by Blair, accountable to him and reporting to him. Their report into the very issue of WMD and intelligence was, shall we say, er... safe and very mildly critical of government.
Crucially, it concluded that the claim that Iraq had been trying to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger was TRUE... we shall be talking to Ambassador Joe Wilson from the US, who investigated the claim and found it to be fraudulent. Former head of Defence Intelligence Sir John Walker says the remit of this inquiry is too narrow and that the reasons why Britain went to war need to be explored together with whether it was LEGAL. Interesting times..." (Read Joe Wilson in the New York Times here)
Feb 3 ~ Inquiry's narrow terms"To the dismay of many MPs, Lord Butler's committee will not investigate the wider political reasons for the war in Iraq but confine its inquiry to intelligence and its use by the government.
The Prime Minister has refused to broaden that remit, saying it would be wrong to 'subcontract' what were essentially political judgements to an outside committee. But for the first time Tony Blair has acknowledged what had, until now, been unsayable for him or any government minister - that stockpiles of weapons would unlikely to be found in Iraq." Elinor Goodman at Channel 4
"At nine o'clock this morning, when the Prime Minister arrived at the Liaison Committee, he had still failed to get the Liberal Democrats to serve on the inquiry. The argument, which had been raging for 24 hours, was over whether the committee should look beyond the reliability of the intelligence and question the judgements made by politicians. Thats precisely what the Liberal Democrats did want it to look at ...
The Prime Minister has drawn the terms of reference as narrowly as he could. But politically he still has to justify to the electorate why he went to war The Prime Minister...denied that David Kay's conclusion that there were no stockpiles of WMD undermined the legal case for war."
Feb 3 ~ Liberal Democrats will not support the inquiryIraq WMD inquiry details unveiled "... the committee will meet in private, but its findings will be published by the end of July, without revealing any sensitive intelligence material.
...Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell said his party could not accept the inquiry's remit and urged ministers to think again.
"Should not the prime minister and others in the special circumstances of this case be willing to submit to scrutiny of their competence and their judgement in the discharge of their responsibilities?" .."BBC news
Feb 3 ~ WMD Inquiry Spies must tell how they got Iraq so wrongBy Philip Webster Political Editor of the Times
"...Lord Butler of Brockwell, who served three prime ministers as Cabinet Secretary, has been called in after Mr Blair bowed to pressure and followed President Bush in rushing forward an investigation into the failure to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. ... Mr Kennedy’s demand that the inquiry should cover the political decisions that led up to war is understood to have been resisted by Mr Blair. .... Mr Blair will give some details at the liaison committee and there will then be a Commons statement by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary.An emailer comments "Shame that the government don't have to tell how they got it so wrong and how narrow are the terms of reference this time?" (See also Times report about Lord Butler "..his patrician manner never endeared him to new Labour."
... MPs were waiting to discover how much of the British inquiry will be in public. ... The whole exercise was rushed and it was clear last night that the Government had been taken by surprise by the speed with which Mr Bush had caved in to demands for an inquiry.
..... The Foreign Affairs Committee added to the pressure on Mr Blair in its report on the war against terrorism, saying: “The continued failure of the coalition to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has damaged the credibility of the US and the United Kingdom in their conduct of the war against terrorism.” ..."
Feb 3 ~" Unless all three levels of intelligence handling - gathering, evaluation and dissemination - are investigated, there is every chance the truth will be buried"the Scotsman comments "Naturally, given that this is to be a searching look at the intelligence services, any inquiry will have to deal with highly classified material, which may have to remain secret. But that obvious fact cannot be used as an excuse to hide the truth. Therefore the composition of the inquiry team needs to reflect a balance of political opinion in order to engender public trust. Appointing a single judge - Lord Hutton has moved on to retirement, thankfully - may not suffice. ...the inquiry must go beyond that to an investigation of how the WMD intelligence data was then evaluated - information gathering and information evaluation are traditionally two quite separate functions inside the intelligence community. Was the problem at the primary source level or was it an evaluation failure, or a bit of both?
It is important to investigate the process whereby intelligence estimates were communicated to government, Parliament and the public. Was this process flawed, manipulated or corrupted by political interference? Unless all three levels of intelligence handling - gathering, evaluation and dissemination - are investigated, there is every chance the truth will be buried."
Feb 3 ~"Joe Wilson is standing exactly where I stood thirty years ago, in the cross-hairs of an Oval Office determined to punish him for having told the truth about White House lies"said Daniel Ellsberg in an interview in 2003. Joe Wilson was interviewed on the Today programme this morning, explaining again how the White House had been told that no uranium had been obtained from Niger - yet that the information was ignored. See also "What I didn't find in Africa" an article by Joe Wilson in the New York Times in July 2003 "... Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." Read in full
Wilson's wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, was "outed" by administration officials in retribution for Wilson's criticism.
Feb 2/3 ~ Operation Mass Appeal "Stories .. were sourced to western intelligence and all of them were garbage."The Sunday Times on "Operation Mass Appeal", a campaign to plant stories in the media about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
"....Scott Ritter, who led 14 inspection missions in Iraq, said that MI6 had recruited him in 1997 to help with the propaganda effort. He described meetings where the senior officer and at least two other MI6 staff had discussed ways to manipulate intelligence material.
"The aim was to convince the public that Iraq was a far greater threat than it actually was," Ritter said ... there was evidence that MI6 continued to use similar propaganda tactics up to the invasion of Iraq earlier this year. "Stories ran in the media about secret underground facilities in Iraq and ongoing programmes (to produce weapons of mass destruction)," said Ritter. "They were sourced to western intelligence and all of them were garbage."....Sunday Times December 28 2003
Feb 2/3 ~ The "... established and reliable source equating a senior Iraqi military officer who was certainly in a position to know this information" had never seen inside the cratesThe Hutton report chapter 6 quotes the answers given by Sir Richard Dearlove about the 45 minute claim ("Can I just say, you use the word "claim"; I think I would prefer to refer to it as a piece of well sourced intelligence.")
As we now know, this "well-sourced intelligence", the "senior Iraqi military officer who was certainly in a position to know this information", had in fact never seen inside the purported chemical weapons crates upon which his 45-minute claim was based. According to the Guardian on January 27 2004 "..an arsenal of unspecified secret weapons would be used for battlefield defence against US invaders. .... The colonel says his unit later took delivery of an unspecified number of crates which appeared to contain short-range weapons, such as rocket-propelled grenades. They were supposedly to be fired from civilian jeeps as a last-ditch defence by Saddam loyalists wearing gas masks. "
Feb 2/3 ~ The pre-emptive strike of a week last Sunday. Now forgotten?Sunday Herald exclusive Sunday Herald exclusive by Neil Mackay, Investigations Editor "British intelligence chiefs launched a pre-emptive strike against Tony Blair last night, ahead of the publication of the Hutton report, and blamed the government for pressurising them into cherry-picking intelligence to justify the war on Iraq. ......... The views of senior members of the intelligence community were passed to the Sunday Herald. They include those from:
The Defence Intelligence Staff, which helped supply intelligence for Blair's disputed September 2002 WMD dossier. The Joint Intelligence Organisation, which includes John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) - the body which liaises between the intelligence services and the government and which was supposed to have sole control of the drafting of the dossier - and the JIC's support staff.
MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, the main agency responsible for gathering the intelligence which went into the dossier....
The key points it wants on the record are:
- Many had been openly sceptical about the presence of WMD in Iraq for years.
- The intelligence community was under pressure to provide the government with what it wanted, namely that Iraq possessed WMD and was a danger.
- Intelligence was "cherry-picked", with damning intelligence against Iraq being selectively chosen, while intelligence assessments, which might have worked against the build-up to war, were sidelined.
- 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.
They accept that intelligence was used for political ends, but believe it is not their job to help politicians justify their actions, as that distorts the nature of intelligence work...." Read in full
Feb 2 ~ "They claimed that there was a threat from terrorism,"said Robin Cook in September 2003 "There was a real threat from terrorism, but it has got worse since the war. What we know now is that the Government was warned that it would get worse. We now need No 10 to come clean on why it was that we ended up going to war on intelligence that ended up being so wrong on weapons of mass destruction and, now, why it was that we ended up going to war against the advice - which turned out to be right - that terrorism would get worse." (83 people were killed in Iraq yesterday, sunday Feb 1st 2004. It was the bloodiest day of violence so far.) The advice - from the JIC that war would increase the terrorist threat - had not been discussed in full Cabinet.
Feb 2 ~" it remains my judgment, and I suppose time will tell whether it is true or not " said Mr Blair when choosing to ignore the JIC warning...We have seen no reminders in the media of the important warning from the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) - which Mr Blair did not disclose before the war - that the threat from al-Qaeda would be heightened by action to depose Saddam. As the Times reported on September 12th 2003 " The top-secret assessment, International Terrorism: War with Iraq, stated that there was no intelligence that Iraq had provided chemical and biological materials to al-Qaeda, but judged that in the event of an imminent regime collapse, "there would be a risk of transfer of such material", to al-Qaeda or another terrorist group. .......he asked whether it was possible to leave the threat of Iraq’s weapons one day being linked to worldwide terrorism untouched. He said: "This is where you have just got to make your judgment about this, and it remains my judgment, and I suppose time will tell whether it is true or not." (see also http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=442552)
Feb 2 ~ Government in a pickle over Weapons of Mass Destruction.The irrepressible Jon Snow's "Snowmail" " .... 'We've got to wait until the report from the Iraq Survey Group,' they say. Funny they never said that when Hans Blix was out there. Can t declare war until Hans Blix has reported with his UN team'. Oh no Hans was just told the war was going to start so he had to skidaddle. Funny too that Blair resisted the idea of the UN resuming their inspections. Most people though the US team would have a better chance of coming up with WMD. But not even they have. So what's he going to do now? Especially now Bush has broken ranks and today announced an independent bi-partisan inquiry. We are on the case. More at: http://www.channel4.com/news/2004/02/week_1/02_wmd.html
Terror laws to tighten?
Home Secretary David Blunkett says he wants to intensify terror laws to turn a verdict from 'beyond reasonable doubt' to the 'balance of probabilities.' Draconian stuff. We shall be talking to Nicholas Blake QC one of two lawyers charged by the Government with representing terror suspects and to the minister Beverley Hughes..."
Reading this, an emailer writes
, "Jon Snow and Channel 4 are a breath of fresh air and sanity - Jon Snow on This Week last Thursday - interviewed by Andrew Neil, said it was ludicrous that both Gareth Davies and Greg Dyke should have been forced to resign.
Thank goodness we have some media which is truly independent - and is prepared to articulate those questions which we desperately want answered. Most importantly it is done with such wit and understanding that it totally exposes the macinations of this distruted Government. Without them, what little is left of our so called democracy would be far, far poorer."
Feb 2 ~ Blair set to announce Iraq WMD inquiryFT"... If the prime minister retreats from his previous insistence that weapons of mass destruction would be found his volte-face would be certain to invite attacks from opposition parties and within the Labour party. An inquiry in the US could cause discomfort to the prime minister if it found prewar intelligence was inaccurate."
(But as Robin Cook asked on BBC's PM - why must this be an announcement from Mr Blair? Are there not parliamentary colleagues with whom to consult?)
Feb 2 ~ Mr Blair and America. The process was "only just beginning" in 1998" It's Time to Repay America - wrote Tony Blair in the New York Times on Friday November 13th 1998. Three days later, Walter Shapiro dryly commented
"...there is only one way that a political leader can signal that he actually picked out his own nouns and adverbs--by writing extremely badly...Blair cleverly studded his prose with brief sentences of ghastly banality that exude authenticity. Who but a busy PM could publish prose that contains such deadening lines as "It's not just a question of money" and "This process is only beginning"?--Walter Shapiro http://slate.msn.com/id/1000239/ See also Greg Palast's article in the Ecologist in 2000 which sheds great light on the relationship between Mr Blair and the US. (Greg Palast was the recipient of the David Thomas Award for Writings on Secrecy and Democracy )
....In sharp contrast, consider Dan Quayle's perfectly polished op-ed in Monday's Times .....That's why Blair is prime minister, while Quayle remains a former accidental vice president with grandiose dreams ...
Feb 2 ~ Blair faces calls for WMD probeReuters " ... . Michael Howard said a move, expected this week, by U.S. President George W. Bush to set up an independent commission on intelligence had left Blair with little choice. .... Howard plans to present a motion in parliament this week urging an inquiry while Blair faces a grilling by a powerful parliamentary committee on Tuesday where questions about Iraq's banned weapons -- the primary reason he gave for war -- are sure to top the agenda.
Calls for an inquiry into intelligence on Iraq -- backed by the majority of the public -- will frustrate Blair's attempts to draw a line under what has been the most torrid period of his six-and-a-half-year tenure. ... Before the war, Blair said Saddam's arsenal was "active, detailed and growing" and that Iraq posed a present threat..."
Feb 2 ~" This is a hunt about fundamental flaws in the way we collect, and have collected over a considerable period of time, our intelligence. That's more important than nailing an individual.."David Kay in the transcript of an interview with Fox News "... I worry about the easy resort to, "Who's responsible? Let's nail a scalp up on the wall and identify a person. I think this is not a witch hunt. This is a hunt about fundamental flaws in the way we collect, and have collected over a considerable period of time, our intelligence. That's more important than nailing an individual."
Wallace: "....Did the president and his top officials hype the intelligence that they were told? I have read the parts of the National Intelligence Estimate that were declassified in October of 2002....
The State Department said it could not find a compelling case that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons. And yet, we were never told that by the administration.
KAY: Well, I think that's true. There are caveats that clearly dropped out, dissenting opinions that clearly dropped out, as you moved higher up and people read the headline summaries. I think this is something that needs to be investigated and looked at, at whether the process itself of collecting and analyzing intelligence gets to decisionmakers, the full variety of opinion that analysts have about an event..."
Feb 2 ~ Blair faces fresh calls for WMD inquiryITV news "Tony Blair is facing mounting pressure to follow President Bush and launch an investigation in to intelligence on Iraq's weapons....Tory leader Michael Howard is tabling a Commons motion demanding an inquiry into the intelligence which led Britain into the war.
The Liberal Democrats said the Government must now grant the inquiry. Foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said: "Washington is now dictating the British political agenda. The Government's satisfaction at the Hutton Report may well be shortlived...."
Feb 2 ~ 83 killed in bloodiest day of violence in IraqIndoLink "At least 83 people were killed and scores wounded on Sunday in different incidents in Iraq. At least 56 people have been killed as two suicide bombers attacked offices of the main Kurdish parties in north Iraq.
US General Mark Kimmitt also said more than 200 people were injured by the blasts on Sunday morning in Irbil. In virtually simultaneous attacks, the bombers hit offices packed with guests for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. ....Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari - a Kurd - blamed the Muslim militant group Ansar al-Islam for the attacks."
Feb 2 ~ World Press on the Hutton Report- Mr Blair's government "tried to temper an earlier triumphal tone"Letter from London : Rottweiler Vs underdog - Irfan Husain Daily Times, Pakistan - 12 hours ago Had the Hutton report been published in Pakistan, it would not have caused the anger and incredulity it has in Britain: our higher judiciary has been too ...
M'Lord Hutton blesses Blair's attack on BBC's investigation of Iraq war claims " the future for fake and farcical war propaganda is quite bright indeed. .." Jamaica Observer
ONE-SIDED verdict is not the final word Mathaba.Net ..Lord Hutton makes the almost naive point that he cannot be absolutely sure that the members of the JIC were not "psychologically" in awe of Tony Blair....
EX-BBC chief accuses British government of intimidation ABC Online "A bitter row between the British government and the BBC exploded back into life on Sunday as the BBC's outgoing head accused the government of trying regularly to "intimidate" the state-funded broadcaster. Throughout the Iraq war, Prime Minister Tony Blair's then-information chief Alastair Campbell would fire off repeated written "rants" complaining about the BBC's news coverage, former director general Greg Dyke said. .."
DYKE accuses Campbell of bullying RTE news "In a letter to Tony Blair published in the Sunday Times, Mr Dyke said it was unfair of the Prime Minister to question the BBC's journalistic output which did not favour his view."
The New York Times publishes a round-up of recent articles and comment. "....Mr. Blair's government, stung by opinion polls in which a majority of respondents said that Lord Hutton's report was a "whitewash" and that they respected the BBC more than they respected the government, tried to temper an earlier triumphal tone by sending out officials to praise the BBC."
Feb 1 ~ Civil servant's U-turn clears Blair (The Mail on Sunday)"Tony Blair was cleared of ordering the naming of Government scientist Dr David Kelly after a senior civil servant changed his evidence to the Hutton Inquiry.
Sir Kevin Tebbit, the top official at the MOD, originally told the hearing that the PM personally chaired the key meeting when it was decided Dr Kelly's name could be confirmed to journalists in a so-called 'Q&A briefing'.
In an extraordinary U-turn, however, he later wrote to Lord Hutton through the Government's solicitors asking to 'amend and correct' what he had told the High Court.
The letter, written days after his apparently crucial testimony, says:'Sir Kevin is concerned his evidence was inaccurately reported..and is anxious to correct the record. It is not, and never has been his evidence that the final version of the Q&A was approved by No 10 or seen by No 10 before he approved it.'
The letter adds: 'Sir Kevin's evidence was not that a decision was taken in No 10 to issue the final version of the Q&A material. The decision was taken to issue the Press Statement.'
This statement revealed that an unnamed MOD official had come forward to admit meeting BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan before his broadcast, casting doubt on dossier claims about Iraq's weapons capabilities. After receiving these submissions, Lord Hutton concluded that the Government and Mr Blair had done nothing wrong in naming the scientist and that there was no 'coveart strataegy' to leak his name. "
Feb 1 ~" for you to question the whole of the BBC’s journalistic output across a wide range of radio, television and online services because you are concerned about particular stories which don’t favour your view is unfair."Greg Dyke's reply to Tony Blair (published by the Sunday Times) following a letter from the Prime Minister complaining about the BBC's coverage of the Iraq situation. The letter was sent at the height of the Iraq conflict. (Mr Dyke claimed last night that the letter was sent to Lord Hutton’s inquiry, but was not allowed as evidence.)
Feb 1 ~ "Air Marshall Sir John Walker, the former chief of defence intelligence, said it was clear that claims about Saddam's WMD capabilities were "wrong",and he also scorned the idea that intelligence chiefs were not influenced by Number 10. .." The Sunday Herald's article by Neil Mackay on The heart of the matter ... did iraq have WMD? "There's plenty of evidence that Saddam had ditched WMD, but little to show how the Blair government came to a contrary conclusion..."
Feb 1 ~ The Question remains: Where are the WMD?The Scotsman "...The logic is brutal: with the discovery of WMD now extremely unlikely, if the government did not wilfully twist the facts then it must have been the intelligence that was wrong. Everything points to an intelligence failure on a massive global scale."
Feb 1 ~ Blair fears being hung out to dry by Bush over WMDIndependent on Sunday "White House confirms possibility of independent inquiry into war. PM isolated over wait-and-see policy as weapons hunt flounders" "...One leading ally of the Prime Minister said: "There have been signs of a divergent strategy in Washington. This is a real problem for Blair."
Having enlisted Britain's spies in making the case for war in the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's WMD, the Prime Minister is less able than Mr Bush to distance himself. The White House, unlike No 10, never staked its entire case for war on Iraq's alleged possession of WMD, and may seek to deflect blame on to the CIA and other intelligence agencies, including MI6..."
Feb 1 ~ "UK response to any inquiry being ordered in the United States cannot be ruled out"Herald Blair prepares to call inquiry into Iraq war ... if Bush lets him "....Last night the former foreign secretary, Robin Cook, said that Washington would not want to see Blair concede now to pressure for a WMD inquiry and thereby "jack-up the pressure on the White House to follow", Cook added that if the White House announced its own inquiry terms first "then Britain would indeed find it difficult to resist launching a parallel inquiry."
However despite Blair and his former communications chief, Alastair Campbell remaining almost totally alone in their belief that WMD might still be uncovered, Cook told the Sunday Herald that another lengthy inquiry was "not needed". He added: "We already have ample evidence. And to be frank about this we don't need another six months to look at facts we already know."
Despite Hutton's clean bill of health for Blair the government is facing mounting pressure to launch an inquiry into the reasons for going to war."
Vital reading today is the Herald's own views on why there must now be an inquiry - "He should commit himself to bringing out the truth - not in the form of a warped and twisted Nixonian promise, but a genuine investigation." The Herald also expresses deep disquiet about the future of the BBC (see Democracy page)
Feb 1 ~" while the dossier was not a lie it also was not true."Observer "...what baffles and angers many members of the public is the fact that Ministers were celebrating last week the success of a campaign to protect the integrity of a pre-war dossier that, it increasingly appears clear, was based on a deeply flawed premise. For all the lawyerly language, the September dossier that Gilligan said, wrongly, was 'sexed up' by Alastair Campbell, what we can now say is that while the dossier was not a lie it also was not true...
...As we report today, it is a conclusion that many senior intelligence officials had reached within a few weeks of the end of the war that Saddam Hussein had no WMD, a conclusion Dr David Kelly, like many others in his field, was moving towards. Seen outside the narrow remit of Lord Hutton's inquiries, then, it is not just the BBC that should be involved in a period of self-examination. The Government, too, has urgent questions to answer, which it shows no inclination yet to do. "
Feb 1 ~ Howard demands that 'isolated' Blair calls inquiry into intelligence on WMDSunday Telegraph "...The Telegraph learned last night that most members of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, which interviewed Dr David Kelly, will support a fresh inquiry by the committee into intelligence failures on Iraq. ..."
Jan 31-Feb 1 ~ "... I knew the concern about the statement,"said Dr Kelly, " it was a statement that was made, it just got out of all proportion.""You know someone. They were desperate for information. They were pushing hard for information which could be released - that was one that popped up, and it was seized on and it was unfortunate that it was.."
Dr David Kelly was referring in his telephone conversation with Susan Watts to the 45 minute claim. That this claim came second-hand from a single source who was a senior Iraqi army officer was never denied. The Guardian article on Tuesday Iraqi who gave MI6 45-minute claim says it was untrue makes it clear that " the Iraqi officer who claims to have been the original source of the intelligence had in fact never seen inside the purported chemical weapons crates upon which his 45-minute claim was based."
"... the Washington representative of Iyad Allawi, who headed the Iraqi National Accord in exile, said it was raw intelligence from a single source, part of a large amount of information passed on by the INA to MI6. He told the Guardian: "We were passing it on in good faith. It was for the intelligence services to verify it."
Jan 31 ~ Triumph of a paranoid court over the mediaSimon Jenkins in the Times " "....Lord Hutton seemed utterly unmoved by the overwhelming evidence presented to him that the essence of the Gilligan story was correct, that some in the intelligence community were indeed worried at the use of their material as propaganda. Despite a blizzard of e-mails, faxes and minutes aimed at strengthening the dossier, its approval by John Scarlett of the Joint Intelligence Committee evaporated all charges of "sexing up" intelligence. .... nobody claimed that Mr Blair has lied about weapons of mass destruction. The dossier was rather a catalogue of what lawyers call suppressio veri, suggestio falsi. Conditionals were changed to statements of fact. The suggestion that Saddam might use his weapons only if attacked was censored. Mr Blair thumped home the implausible and since discredited 45-minute "threat" over and again. Lord Hutton seems to have regarded Alastair Campbell as he might the scholarly compiler of the King James Bible. He was not. He was plainly frantic to transform a dossier which, as a colleague said, offers "nothing to demonstrate any threat, let alone an imminent threat". As for Lord Hutton's suggestion that Mr Campbell's pressure on the JIC was merely "subconscious", that is ludicrous. Mr Campbell's pressure is never subconscious. .....Perhaps Lord Hutton simply could not bring himself to believe that Her Majesty's servants could ever talk of "getting the source out" or going to "f***" Gilligan". Likewise Queen Victoria refused to believe in lesbianism. " Read in full
Jan 31 ~ "as background fades, five images will stay vivid in the public imagination. They may or may not be fair, history's filter is not always fair: but note them. "Matthew Parris in the Times yesterday. (Today's news reports are below)
The first image is of a foreign war gone badly wrong.
The second image is of a dead man in an Oxfordshire wood: a victim, a man with an aura of innocence about him.
The third is of an anxious and careworn Prime Minister and beside him an obvious bully called Alastair Campbell.
The fourth is of a nervous chap in glasses called Lord Ryder, the chairmanship of the BBC's governors recently thrust upon him, offering an unqualified apology to the Prime Minister, promising that from now on the corporation would stick to reporting, and expressing the hope that this might end the matter.
And the fifth is of a former director-general of the BBC, a folksy-looking fellow with an unposh accent, standing defiant on a freezing winter's day outside the offices of the corporation from which he had just been sacked, mobbed by loyal staff who had come out to support him, some of them close to tears, and - with a catch in his throat - trying to comfort them through a simple handheld megaphone.
What "narrative" do those five images suggest to you? I ask because the communications machine serving the party now in power is rather keen on that word "narrative". Government, they say, must have a narrative. Sketch out a plot and leave people to fill in between the dots. Give the public a story.
Well, what story will millions of people fill in between those five dots? Within minutes of Lord Hutton's resuming his seat on Wednesday, its title was as clear to taxi drivers as it was to newspaper editors: a nine-letter headline easily contain able within even a tabloid format: W-H-I-T-E-W-A-S-H. ..." read in full
Jan 31 ~ " It seems the BBC has every reason to cry foul."Independent "Lord Hutton's final conclusions into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly were one-sided and were not supported by all the evidence given to his inquiry, lawyers said yesterday.
There was also disquiet among the legal profession that a senior and respected judge had been used as a political tool to settle what had begun as a dispute between the BBC and the Government. Some of the most serious criticism was made by Alan Levy QC, who chaired the influential 1991 "Pindown" inquiry into the abuse of children in local authority homes.
He said: "I was surprised by his conclusions because I do think it was rather one-sided. I expected it to be critical of Whitehall and the Government because of the evidence submitted...."
Jan 31 ~ How did the intelligence agencies get their information so wrong on Iraq?Times From Roland Watson in Washington
"As pressure mounts for an inquiry, our correspondent sifts through the flawed surveillance that sent the US-led coalition into war.. " (Read in full)
"......In its efforts to escape blame, the White House achieved stunning levels of chutzpah. Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, denied that the Administration had ever identified Saddam as an "imminent" threat. Mr Bush moved yesterday to portray himself as the injured party. "I want the American people to know that I, too, want to know the facts," he said. "I want to be able to compare what the Iraq Survey Group has found with what we thought prior to going into Iraq."
In Britain Lord Hutton, in his report on the death of David Kelly, likewise cleared Mr Blair of tampering with intelligence to improve the case for war, thereby suggesting that the intelligence was at fault. ........
Dr Kay's conclusions raise critical questions about the credibility of intelligence services around the world, but particularly in the US. And they challenge the coherence and realism of Mr Bush's signature doctrine of pre-emption, which relies on intelligence. The answers to both could affect the President's re-election chances.
Last year's squabble about who was to blame for the false claims in Mr Bush's State of the Union speech that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger have left a sour taste. The CIA is also smarting over the claims that White House officials leaked the name of an agency spy to get back at her husband for criticising the war.
To make the CIA squirm under a public spotlight, and risk it leaking against Mr Bush in the run-up to November's presidential election, would be a huge risk. But there are also dangers for Mr Bush from inaction. A failure to order an investigation could be exploited by Democrats in the election campaign.
It was Mr Bush who described the threat from Saddam as "urgent", Mr Cheney who called it "mortal" and Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, who said it was "immediate". ..." Read in full
Jan 31 ~ Gilligan quits, Dyke hits out and Hutton backlash growsIndependent Reporter exits claiming a 'grave injustice'. Former BBC chief lambasts Campbell. Opinion polls say report was whitewash By Andrew Grice and Kim Sengupta "Andrew Gilligan...bowed to the inevitable and resigned from the BBC yesterday. ...... Mr Gilligan said last night: "I again apologise for it. My departure is at my own initiative. But the BBC collectively has been the victim of a grave injustice." His decision to quit came as Mr Blair faced a growing backlash over Lord Hutton's inquiry. There were fears inside the Government that it was in danger of losing the propaganda battle over the report. Mr Dyke challenged Lord Hutton's findings and accused Alastair Campbell, No 10's former communications director, of being "ungracious" in his comments about the Government's victory over the BBC.
Government unease was also fuelled yesterday on another front - the case for war. President George Bush was forced to say that he wanted to know the facts behind the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq.....
The Government's hopes of "moving on" were scuppered when Mr Dyke showed that he had no intention of going quietly. He said that Lord Hutton was "quite clearly wrong" in some parts of his report, which was read with "disbelief" at the BBC. "We were quite shocked it was so black and white," he said. Questioning Lord Hutton's conclusion that the Ministry of Defence had properly cared for David Kelly, he said: "If that's showing a duty of care I'm glad I don't work there." He said there were "remarkable contradictions" between evidence given by Mr Campbell to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee and the Hutton inquiry...."
Jan 31 ~ Ryder led faction of BBC governors who ousted DykeIndependent "..... several governors argued passionately that he should stay. Sir Robert Smith, the BBC governor for Scotland, Professor Fabian Mounds, an academic from Northern Ireland, and Dermot Gleeson, a businessman, are understood to have lobbied for Mr Dyke. A second group, said to include Baroness Hogg, the former economics editor of The Independent and head of John Major's policy unit, were initially in favour of delaying. But Lord Ryder, a former Conservative whip, is said to have led the faction which maintained that Mr Dyke's position was untenable.
In last summer's initial discussions on the Gilligan report, Lord Ryder queried the tone and style of the Today programme but was persuaded by Mr Dyke and Mr Davies to back a fight-back against the Government. Perhaps, some speculated yesterday, they had felt misled and needed to make a stand.
.... Yet even a few who voted in favour were said to feel events had moved too fast. There should have been more "reflection" and gauging of the public mood. Too late......... BBC insiders were insisting enough was enough. Two good men had gone. There must be no more. And then, last night, Andrew Gilligan announced his resignation. "
Jan 31 ~ MPs to challenge Blair over Iraq intelligenceThe Times "TONY BLAIR will be directly challenged by MPs next week to say whether he still stands by the intelligence that persuaded him to go to war with Iraq. ....MPs to challenge Blair over Iraq intelligence By Philip Webster and Michael Evans Tony Blair will be directly challenged by MPs next week to say whether he still stands by the intelligence that persuaded him to go to war with Iraq. As Downing Street held the line against mounting calls for an independent inquiry into the accuracy of information about Iraq's weapons, it emerged that Commons select committee chairmen will take an early opportunity on Tuesday to question Mr Blair....... The calls for an inquiry were backed by the former chairman of the ISC, Lord King of Bridgwater. "There is a fair comment to make about the Iraq Survey Group but that can't be used as a permanent delaying tactic. That has to come to a conclusion," he said.
Jan 31 ~ Bit by bit, how case for war has unravelled, leaving Blair dangerously exposedIndependent By Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor "Tony Blair's stated reason for Britain going to war against Iraq - the threat from its weapons of mass destruction - was deemed by Lord Hutton to be outside his remit. Yet the judge's inquiry unearthed a wealth of evidence on the subject, with e-mails and previously classified documents revealing the intelligence behind the infamous dossier. Moreover, virtually every expert in the field has now concluded that Saddam did not have any major stockpiles of weapons and had not developed his programmes significantly since the 1990-91 Gulf war. Here, The Independent examines just how the claims about WMD have been pulled apart since Britain and the US first raised the spectre of an imminent threat of attack. ..." Read in full
Jan 31 ~ Little comfort for Blair as polls view report as a 'whitewash'By John Curtice Independent "Tony Blair must have hoped the Hutton report would help persuade the public to trust him once more. He looks set to be disappointed. According to two polls, one undertaken by NOP, the other by YouGov, around half believe Lord Hutton's report a "whitewash" while only between a third and two-fifths take the opposite view. True, much of this is sour grapes from Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters, but even among Labour supporters, one-fifth think the report a whitewash....."
Jan 31 ~ Inquiry calls over WMD intelligence fiascoIndependent "Tony Blair and the Bush administration were facing growing demands yesterday for independent inquiries into the intelligence debacle over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. ..... Downing Street brushed aside calls for an independent inquiry into the approach to the war in Iraq. But the clamour for answers mounted yesterday when the Conservatives joined anti-war MPs in demanding an investigation. Mr Blair is likely to face renewed questioning from MPs when he faces members of the Commons Liaison Committee on Tuesday, while the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee was said to be planning to examine the intelligence used in the run-up to war. In a blistering criticism of the CIA, Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, described events as "a runaway train". The result was "a world-class intelligence failure". The case for an outside independent investigation is strengthened by the likelihood of deadlock on the Senate and House intelligence panels which are due to finalise draft reports on the WMD fiasco. Mr Roberts left little doubt that his report would be highly critical. Even so the Democratic minorities on the two committees are likely to issue dissenting reports, claiming the White House deliberately exaggerated claims about Saddam's weapons. ."
Jan 30 ~ Come Conspire with us!says Jon Snow gleefully in tonight's Channel 4 "Snowmail" and adds, "will you mention "Snowmail" if you are quoting from it (as some have in recent days) - we want to speed the electronic revolution!
Now that the jugular bloodletting at the BBC has been staunched, we are looking harder at the Hutton report itself...there's a rather intriguing little legal oversight that has some implication for the working journalist. Mark Easton is on the case and we shall be talking live to Lord Falconer who set the terms of reference of the inquiry and brought Lord Hutton into our lives.
We are trying to do an inventory of the countries that still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction - it is a short list.
........ I'm afraid I'm Huttoned out or, as one kind snowmail respondent suggested..the Sun has got its Hutton..."
Jan 30 ~ Reuters ~ BBC seeks new bosses as "lapdog" warnings swirl"LONDON (Reuters) - The search has begun for two new BBC leaders amid fears its journalists will be muzzled in the fallout from the biggest crisis in its history.
Former Director General Greg Dyke, who resigned on Thursday after the public broadcaster was damned in the Hutton report into the death of weapons expert David Kelly, said all media should take careful note. "I think every journalistic organisation, every newspaper, every broadcaster in this country should be concerned," Dyke said on Friday. "Someone inside of government, inside of the civil service who has very real concerns -- as Dr Kelly had -- could not be broadcast unless you could demonstrate that their concerns were true," he told the BBC Today programme...."
Jan 30 ~ India - Majority feels Hutton report a whitewash: PollRediff India "Majority of the people in Britain feel the Hutton report, which exonerated the Tony Blair government in connection with the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly was a 'whitewash', an opinion poll indicated on Friday.
According to the YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph, the public expressed doubts about the report's one-sided verdict...Only 34 per cent thought his report represented a thorough and impartial attempt to discover the truth about Dr Kelly's death. The poll also showed the BBC is still trusted more than the government. YouGov found that 67 per cent trust BBC news journalists to tell the truth compared with 31 per cent who trust the government. "
Jan 30 ~ Australia The Age - Winner Blair loses public confidenceThe Age "Tony Blair has won his bitter eight-month feud with the BBC over the war in Iraq, but opinion polls yesterday showed the once-unassailable British leader losing public esteem. .."
Jan 30 ~ New Zealand Herald Editorial: Narrow focus let Blair off the hookNZ Herald " There can be no better advertisement for Teflon than the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and there can be no better example of the supremacy of the British Establishment than the Hutton report. .... it seems extraordinary that the Hutton report does not question why the intelligence reports could have been so fundamentally wrong.
It would be expecting too much to suggest that the BBC be let off with a milder reprimand because the substance of Gilligan's report - that there were insufficient grounds to support an invasion of Iraq - was proved right even if the "sexed up" allegations were wrong. The BBC's crime was that it had challenged the Establishment .." Read in full
Jan 30 ~ Belfast Telegraph - "...with our Government now cleared on all counts of hyping up, overstating, exaggerating, misrepresenting or any manner of sneaky, leaky behaviour including (let's be honest) bare-faced lying...Belfast Telegraph "...I expect to see it making some sort of a comeback.
The problem is that too many people, after this week's events, have finally had a bellyful of hype, spin and sexing-up.
What most of us now would want to see in public life is a bit of sexing down for a change. A bit of plain speaking and honest appraisal of events.
Watching Blair, Campbell and, to some lesser extent, Hoon do their vindicated martyr stuff over the last couple of days, does not exactly encourage confidence that this will henceforth be the case. ..." Read in full
Jan 30 ~ Hindustan Times ~"Hutton report is one-sided, say poll results"Hindustan Times The Hutton report that castigated BBC for "defective" editorial control and led to the resignations of its Chairman and the Director General has been dubbed as a "whitewash" by over 56 per cent of voters in a poll published in the Telegraph. Many felt it was a one-sided verdict.
Polls conducted by several other dailies have also been quite unflattering to Tony Blair. The Express headlined its coverage of the report "Saint Tony" which by no means was meant reverentially. Daily Mail said that nearly half voters believed that Blair lied when he denied authorising the leaking of Dr David Kelly's name to the Press..."
Jan 30 ~ BBC staff raise funds for petitionGuardian "BBC news chiefs still dismayed by the shock departure of Greg Dyke are today trying to raise thousands of pounds from staff to pay for adverts in tomorrow's newspapers in which they will vow to continue to make programmes that "cause trouble". ...In a move that underlines BBC journalists' determination not to be cowed by the Hutton report, they are putting together a staff "petition for BBC independence". The initiative is being driven by Peter Horrocks who, as the BBC's head of currrent affairs, is one of the most senior journalists in the organisation. He has emailed all staff in news and current affairs to ask for a £5 donation towards the campaign before 2pm today in order to bankroll the adverts, which will cost up to £17,000 each..."
Jan 30 ~ Did Hutton get it right? asks Channel 4http://www.channel4.com/news/2004/01/week_4/29_dyke.html
"To vote YES, call 09011 25 25 51
To vote NO, call 09011 25 25 52
Calls cost 25p, mobile calls vary. Lines are open now until 7pm, Jan 30th 2004 and the results will be announced in that evening's show.
Or send us your opinions by text, by sending the word VIEW plus your message to 83188. E.g. "VIEW my opinion is..."
Texts cost 25p plus your usual network rate. Or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you think...."
Jan 30 ~ And another petition - this time to be handed in to 10 Downing Street on the anniversary of the war, the 19th MarchThe Our World Our Say petition is perhaps the final opportunity to demand the truth about the decision to go to war. Despite the Hutton Inquiry, the Prime Minister has been able to avoid answering the bigger questions. Only a full judicial inquiry will suffice. OWOS was founded in January 2003 in response to widespread public disillusionment with the government's drive to war. http://www.owos.info/latest_news/news.php ".... Not all western countries will feel comfortable about hearing their longstanding collaboration with Saddam and his killing machine described from the dock of a televised international war crimes tribunal. However, people everywhere deserve to know the full extent of the political and economic ties maintained by their governments with Saddam's Iraq, particularly as those same governments retrospectively condemn Saddam's record on human rights and democracy. We join with Human Rights Watch and others in calling for Saddam's trial to take place under the auspices of an internationally led tribunal. We remain unconvinced by the dubious justifications for going to war against Iraq given to the British people by Tony Blair..."
Jan 30 ~ US admits Iraq intelligence flawsThe White House concedes for the first time that pre-war intelligence on Iraq might have been wrong. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/middle_east/3443627.stm
Jan 30 ~ Evidence not included in the Hutton InquiryScotsman "...... An e-mail of 5 September, 2002 showed Alastair Campbell ordered a "substantial rewrite" of the WMD dossier after a meeting with Mr Blair.
Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's chief of staff, later wrote of the dossier: "The document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat, from Saddam."
Tom Kelly, one of the Prime Minister's spokesmen, wrote in an e-mail: "This is now a game of chicken with the Beeb - the only way they will shift is if they see the screw tightening."
In a memo to Alastair Campbell, John Scarlett said that changes had been made to the text (of the dossier) "as you proposed": "We have strengthened the language on current concerns and plans, including the executive summary."
An e-mail from Philip Basset, one of Mr Campbell's advisers: "Very long way to go, I think. Think we're in a lot of trouble with this (the dossier) as it stands now."
Alastair Campbell floated the idea to Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, that Dr Kelly's name be leaked to a friendly newspaper - he was later persuaded this was not a good idea.
Sir Kevin Tebbit said: "I was told the Prime Minister was following this very closely indeed ... the intelligence was that he wanted something done about the individual (Dr Kelly) coming forward."
An e-mail showed Downing Street made a desperate final plea for stronger evidence for the dossier: "No 10 wants the document to be as strong as possible within the boundaries of the available intelligence. this is therefore a last (!) call for any items of intelligence that the agencies think can and should be used." ....." Read in full
Jan 30 ~ "Duller, greyer figures are in control"Jon Snow's email to Channel 4 viewers "More blood is coursing from the open veins of the BBC. Greg Dyke the corporation's Director General has resigned. The government has secured two scalps the like of which no Government has ever achieved before in the eternal tussle between Ministers and the State broadcaster.
Duller, greyer figures are in control, the work force is in despair. Dyke was a businessman, a TV genius, and cleaned up and re-motivated the BBC after the strange regime of John Birt. Tonight is that it. Is the war over?
Tony Blair seems to be trying to draw a line under it, conscious perhaps that this could all rebound badly upon him..Elinor Goodman and Gary Gibbon are on the case. More at: http://www.channel4.com/news/2004/01/week_4/29_dyke.html
Your e-mails on the Hutton report are rapidly filling up our in-box. We've had a nearly a thousand so far, and there aren't many compliments for m'learned friend. As one correspondent put it, 'this is the best advert for not bringing back hanging'. Chip in with your thoughts too if you want. We'll put some on the show tonight, and give you a chance to vote on whether Lord Hutton got it right or wrong. Here's what Greg Dyke had to say to his staff: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3441845.stm
"This is the hardest e-mail I've ever written.
In a few minutes I'll be announcing to the outside world that I'm leaving after four years as director general. I don't want to go and I'll miss everyone here hugely.
However, the management of the BBC was heavily criticised in the Hutton Report and as the director general I am responsible for the management so it's right I take responsibility for what happened.
I accept that the BBC made errors of judgement and I've sadly come to the conclusion that it will be hard to draw a line under this whole affair while I am still here. We need closure. We need closure to protect the future of the BBC, not for you or me but for the benefit of everyone out there. It might sound pompous but I believe the BBC really matters.
Throughout this affair my sole aim as director general of the BBC has been to defend our editorial independence and to act in the public interest.
In four years we've achieved a lot between us.
I believe we've changed the place fundamentally and I hope that those changes will last beyond me.
The BBC has always been a great organisation but I hope that, over the last four years, I've helped to make it a more human place where everyone who works here feels appreciated. If that's anywhere near true I leave contented, if sad.
Thank you all for the help and support you've given me. This might sound a bit schmaltzy but I really will miss you all. I've enjoyed the last four years more than any other time in my working life. I attach the statement which will be released soon.
Jan 30 ~ Lord Rees Mogg "I don't have any confidence in Hutton.reported on Radio 4 " His evidence simply doesn't support his conclusions. It is a bad piece of work"
Jan 29 ~ ITV: Whitewash claims over Hutton report4.53PM, 29 Jan 2004 ITV.com "After the Hutton report cleared the Government of blame for the death of David Kelly, many commentators and politicians have been crying whitewash. Former editor of the Today programme Rod Liddle, who hired journalist Andrew Gilligan, criticised Lord Hutton's conclusions. He said the inquiry should have been handled by "someone a little more sentient, a little more observant, a little less inclined to accept without question the protestation of innocence of the ruling political elite.
"A plumber, for example. Or maybe the members of Atomic Kitten."
"I think there is a growing sense of outrage among BBC journalists, but also more importantly wider in the country, about this absurd report from Lord Hutton," Mr Liddle said. ..... In an NOP poll for London's Evening Standard newspaper, 56 per cent said it was unfair the BBC had received most of the blame. Meanwhile, 49 per cent branded Hutton's report a"whitewash". Also 70 per cent of those surveyed want an independent inquiry into the reason Britain attacked Iraq. Mr Blair refuses to hold one.
Some BBC staff staged a protest walkout over the departures of Director General Greg Dyke and chairman Gavyn Davies. ..."
Jan 29 ~ "a great disservice to the British people"Max Hastings in the Daily Mail "... Hutton's report does a great disservice to the British people. It fails to set its story in the context of the BBC's huge virtues and the Government's sore vices. We're faced with the wretched spectacle of the BBC chairman resigning while Alistair Campbell crows from the summit of his dunghill."
Jan 29 ~" "Is it clearly possible to reconcile Lord Hutton's bald conclusions on the production of the September 2002 dossier with the balance of evidence that was presented to him during his own inquiry?" Gavyn DaviesIndependent "After he ruled that the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was beyond his terms of reference, the Tories and Liberal Democrats renewed their demands for an independent inquiry into the build-up to war. ..
... Accepting "ultimate responsibility", Mr Davies said: "I have been brought up to believe that you cannot choose your own referee, and that the referee's decision is final."
But he went on to challenge key elements of Lord Hutton's findings, asking: "Is it clearly possible to reconcile Lord Hutton's bald conclusions on the production of the September 2002 dossier with the balance of evidence that was presented to him during his own inquiry?" He also asked: "Are his conclusions on restricting the use of unverifiable sources in British journalism based on sound law and, if applied, would they constitute a threat to the freedom of the press in this country?" Read in full
Jan 29 ~ "....something else that was lacking.We had grown used, in the course of the inquiry, to Lord Hutton's laser-like interventions, whenever a witness was confused, contradictory, or less than honest. There was little of that on show yesterday. True, he was critical of the BBC, but he failed to turn his acerbic eye on the goings-on in Downing Street - the blizzard of e-mails which marked its anti-BBC campaign, the four-letter words of Mr Campbell's diary, the absence of note-taking at Downing Street meetings, the ethics of disclosing the name of a distinguished scientist, the way in which intelligence was subverted to the requirements of political expediency, the extraordinary interference in the JIC's procedures by Mr Campbell and by Jonathan Powell.
All these we had expected to hear condemned by Lord Hutton. But in the end he stood aloof from that, and from anything that might have exceeded his brief. Instead, he remained true to the character which has always informed his career in Northern Ireland, where he has presided over a mine-strewn judicial system for more than 30 years.
He never put a foot wrong there. He was not about to start now." Magnus Linklater in the Times
Jan 29 ~ " In the light of what we now know, the Today broadcast of 6.07am was justified reporting."Boris Johnson in the Telegraph ".... The data were unreliable, the spooks were unhappy, notably about the 45-minute claim, and Campbell "sexed it up" to the point of invention. He changed the mood of the sentence, as grammarians might put it, from the conditional to the indicative, and his intention was to make the threat sound more scary....Whatever Hutton says, Mr Blair has behaved with great slipperiness, not so much for his role in identifying Dr Kelly, but in then denying his role. WMD has been Blair's ERM. He asked everyone to believe in what turned out to be a fraud. He has lost the trust of the people, and of his backbenchers. As for Andrew Gilligan, he had an important, accurate and exclusive story, and should be reinstated forthwith to his job on Today."
Jan 29 ~ some going as far as calling it a "whitewash"The Scotsman Lord Hutton " plunged the BBC into chaos by exonerating the government and criticising the BBC in general, and Today reporter Andrew Gilligan in particular, for a catalogue of failings. Even Labour MPs were taken aback by the tone of the report - some going as far as calling it a "whitewash"...."
Jan 29 ~ there may well be an argument for bringing back impeachment.Guardian ".. In the case of Iraq, though, there may well be an argument for bringing back impeachment. As things stand, we have the inquiry by a single law lord, Lord Hutton, into the death of Dr Kelly. As many people have pointed out, there needs to be afurther inquiry into possible wrongdoing over the way the war was sold to the British people and to members of parliament, and into the uses and misuses of intelligence.
The matter of an inquiry into whether the truth was told over Iraq, and whether any falsehoods were deliberate, is too serious a matter for MPs to delegate to a law lord, however competent. Nor can the matter be given to a normal select committee, which has insufficient power to handle the issue. MPs and political journalists assume that there is no other constitutional tool available to bring ministers and officials to account. ..."
Jan 28 ~ "...the nation will in due course deliver its verdict"It was interesting to listen to the exchanges in Parliament today, if not particularly edifying. Mr Blair evidently hoped for a public apology from Michael Howard for the way the Conservative Party leader had insisted on asking whether Mr Blair stood by the statement on the Hong Kong aeroplane "As I said just a moment or two ago, emphatically not. I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly." He hoped in vain.
Mr Howard said he accepted the Hutton Report (some apparent gasps) but went on to deplore the absence of proper records and minutes brought to light by the inquiry. He said that Dr Kelly's record of public service was in stark contrast to the conduct of a "cabal" of ministers including Mr Blair.
Few would disagree with one sentence:"No-one in the government can look back on this episode with pride - the nation will in due course deliver its verdict."
Mr Howard has called for a new inquiry into the reasons for the Iraq war.
Jan 28 ~ What Lord Hutton saidThe conclusions of the Hutton Report. See Guardian's summary See Hutton website for the full report
Jan 28 ~ Leaked Hutton Report 'clears' BlairScotsman "The findings of Lord Hutton's report into the death of Dr David Kelly were last night leaked to the Sun newspaper in an astonishing lapse of confidentiality which left Downing Street reeling."
Jan 28 ~ Bush backs away from first claims on WMDThe Times " President Bush has backed away from his previous certainty that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in the wake of expert conclusions that Iraq had no large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.The President is now seeking a comparison of the intelligence available before the war and that now being produced by the Iraq Survey Group. As Democrat candidates accused Mr Bush of misleading the nation, officials in the Bush Administration abandoned their mantra that weapons would be unearthed to prove his case for war. The catalyst was David Kay.......caution crept into the remarks of Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, for the first time. .... Yesterday Mr Bush, in his first comments on Dr Kay's findings, did not rule out that unconventional weapons might be found in Iraq, but neither did he repeat his earlier certainty that weapons would be found....... By contrast, in March he told the nation: 'Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.' ..."
Jan 28 ~ a Baghdad doctor, said..."I saw people die from malnutrition and I really, really wish they had found something wrong that would have justified those 13 years - just so that I could lie to myself that all the people I saw suffering and gasping died for something. But I am afraid they will never find such things."... "It was good to get rid of Saddam Hussein because he was a tyrant, but they should have told us the real reason why they came here," Saleh Mehdi, a journalist, said. "I know and they know there were no WMDs here, especially after 1991, so when they came here and said they are going to uncover and destroy them it was a big lie. We are not an ill-educated people. They should not laugh and make fools of us." ....Qaddum Jabbar, 52, a school supervisor, complained. "Our economy is still bad, there is much unemployment and there is no law. To get rid of Saddan Hussein - it was not worth it." Times
Jan 28 ~ Charles Kennedy: Mr Blair misled us - and now he is looking sillyIndependent "I have avoided accusations of 'lying' but it is surely as bad that he drove us to an unnecessary war I met too many brave and dignified widows last October.......
... Lord Hutton was asked to examine the narrow circumstances of David Kelly's death. I hope the Kelly family will find some comfort in his words. The distinguished judge may censure and blame certain people for the way they treated Dr Kelly. But it's highly unlikely he will deal with the most important question of all. He won't tell us why Mr Blair took us to war on a false premise - saying there were weapons of mass destruction ready to be launched in 45 minutes, when none have been found. ....
... Why did he accept and pass on to the nation only the intelligence which supported his case, while suppressing other key pieces of advice, such as the assessment that a war could create great instability in Iraq, distracting from the wider war on terrorism?
Whether knowingly or not, Tony Blair misled us; his judgement was seriously flawed. ..... Tony Blair took us to war on a false prospectus and we cannot, as a nation, let that pass unquestioned. ..... Lord Hutton's report should be the opening curtain and not the last word. But there is a danger that won't happen. ..... He's said time and again that history will be his judge, and yet he looks set to deny history the opportunity of getting the whole truth."
Jan 27/28 ~ The Newsnight email "joke"in advance of the publication of the Hutton Report. click here
Jan 27/28 ~ The actual document will then be formally published at 1.30pmITN News tonight says "... Lord Hutton will deliver a "substantial summary" of the report at 12.30pm tomorrow. The actual document will then be formally published at 1.30pm, ensuring that it is his statement which will set the tone for the ensuing media coverage. The Speaker, Michael Martin, will interrupt Commons business at around 2pm so that Mr Blair can make a statement in the House on the report. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, will make a statement in the Lords. The widow of Dr David Kelly's also got a copy along with other key players in the inquiry. The Lords will debate the Hutton report next Wednesday. "
Jan 27/28 ~ specialists, including a trauma consultant and an anaesthetist, believed Dr Kelly could not have died from cutting his wrist and taking an overdose of painkillers as set out in the inquiry.a new development - also reported by ITN - is that " doubt among medical experts is growing over whether David Kelly killed himself. The experts have questioned whether the weapons expert committed suicide after they detailed flaws in the pathologist's explanation for his death. In a letter to The Guardian, they said the cause of death as presented to the Hutton Inquiry was "improbable" although they said they were not accusing anyone of murder. The specialists, including a trauma consultant and an anaesthetist, believed Dr Kelly could not have died from cutting his wrist and taking an overdose of painkillers as set out in the inquiry." ITN .
Jan 27 ~ Clare Short told Kevin Marsh that no intelligence had been produced that conclusively showed Iraq was an imminent threat.See Guardian "At the lunch meeting on May 28 she was also critical of the role of Alastair Campbell, the former Downing Street communications chief, in editorialising the security dossier. While Ms Short later went public with some of these views, it is likely her meeting with Marsh helped convince him that Gilligan's report, based on a meeting with weapons expert David Kelly, was correct. "Kevin Marsh's written evidence to Hutton deals with our meeting and I am happy to stand by that," Ms Short told the Times. It emerged during the inquiry that Downing Street officials had asked for the document to be clarified and redrafted to reinforce the point that there was an imminent threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But Gilligan admitted he was mistaken to report in his original 6.07am broadcast that No 10 had inserted the claim that weapons could be ready in 45 minutes knowing it to be wrong..."
Jan 27 ~ "The Bush administration cannot justify the war in Iraq as a humanitarian intervention, and neither can Tony Blair"Kenneth Roth, executive director of the human rights organisation Human Rights Watch said this at the launch of the organisation's 407-page report in London: "The Bush administration cannot justify the war in Iraq as a humanitarian intervention, and neither can Tony Blair. Such interventions should be reserved for stopping an imminent or ongoing slaughter. They shouldn't be used belatedly to address atrocities that were ignored in the past." See article in the Guardian
Jan 27 ~ "Dr. Kay said the fundamental errors in prewar intelligence assessments were so gravethat he would recommend that the Central Intelligence Agency and other organizations overhaul their intelligence collection and analytical efforts. Dr. Kay said analysts had come to him, "almost in tears, saying they felt so badly that we weren't finding what they had thought we were going to find - I have had analysts apologizing for reaching the conclusions that they did." ...." New York Times - Ex-Inspector Says C.I.A. Missed Disarray in Iraqi Arms Program
Jan 26 ~"... the DIS wanted numerous changes to the dossier drawn up by JIC, and had to deal with direct questions from Downing Street"Independent "At least nine people - six associated with Tony Blair's government and three from the BBC - could be in the firing line when Lord Hutton delivers his much-anticipated report into the death of David Kelly on Wednesday.
....... Mr Blair insisted yesterday he still believes that evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the justification given for going to war, will be discovered........
Those who put forward late evidence to Lord Hutton include Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence; Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's former director of communications; John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, tasked with drawing up last September's Iraq weapons dossier; Richard Hatfield, the director of personnel at the Ministry of Defence......
...... The Independent has also discovered that senior officials of the Defence Intelligence Staff told the Government before the war that they had "absolutely no idea" how many chemical or biological weapons Saddam possessed. A memo, written to the Cabinet Office's Joint Intelligence Assessment staff was sent to Lord Hutton after he had finished taking evidence and has not been posted on the inquiry website. A leaked copy of the memo shows the DIS wanted numerous changes to the dossier drawn up by JIC, and had to deal with direct questions from Downing Street. ..." Read in full
Jan 26 ~ We told you we had no WMD, says munitions chiefTimes "For Tony Blair, it was the worst of news at the worst of times. Even as his Government piled up the sandbags in preparation for the Hutton report, a bombshell landed from an unexpected direction. David Kay, the outgoing chief of the unit assigned to find the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) cited by Mr Blair as the justification for war, abruptly and very publicly confirmed what many outside the Government had suspected all along. ......
...a regime once deeply involved in the production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons brought to its knees by United Nations inspections, bombing and sanctions and unable to resume on any meaningful scale after 1991. ...
..... the scientists' claims that Iraq gave up its stockpiles were given a boost by the departing Mr Kay, who said that while "it really wasn't dormant because there were a few little things going on . . . it had not resumed in anything meaningful". .....
"We have answered all these questions from the start of 1991," one senior weapons engineer said. "They have nothing new, their knowledge is much less than the UN inspection teams. The UN had a better system, better information, better approach and were more expert and accurate." ...............
...Others were blunter still, charging the team with political motives. "All they did was send an intermediary to ask me to make a public declaration admitting that Iraq produced prohibited materials," a senior chemical engineer in the missile programme said. "They offered me money to do it. They just wanted an admission, not the truth." ......"
Jan 25 ~ Spy chiefs warn PM: don't blame us for warSunday Herald exclusive by Neil Mackay, Investigations Editor
"British intelligence chiefs launched a pre-emptive strike against Tony Blair last night, ahead of the publication of the Hutton report, and blamed the government for pressurising them into cherry-picking intelligence to justify the war on Iraq.
The UK's leading spies believe the political fallout from the publication on Wednesday of the Hutton Inquiry's report will result in an attempt by the Prime Minister and his senior Cabinet colleagues to blame the intelligence services for the shoddy information which was used by the government to convince the British people and parliament that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were a threat to the UK.
The views of senior members of the intelligence community were passed to the Sunday Herald. They include those from:
- The Defence Intelligence Staff, which helped supply intelligence for Blair's disputed September 2002 WMD dossier.
- The Joint Intelligence Organisation, which includes John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) - the body which liaises between the intelligence services and the government and which was supposed to have sole control of the drafting of the dossier - and the JIC's support staff.
- MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, the main agency responsible for gathering the intelligence which went into the dossier. The intelligence community is speaking out now in order to pre-empt any attack. It is warning the government that it will not be blamed for the failure to prove the case for war, the death of Dr David Kelly and the lack of WMD in Iraq.
The key points it wants on the record are:
They accept that intelligence was used for political ends, but believe it is not their job to help politicians justify their actions, as that distorts the nature of intelligence work...."
- Many had been openly sceptical about the presence of WMD in Iraq for years.
- The intelligence community was under pressure to provide the government with what it wanted, namely that Iraq possessed WMD and was a danger.
- Intelligence was "cherry-picked", with damning intelligence against Iraq being selectively chosen, while intelligence assessments, which might have worked against the build-up to war, were sidelined.
- 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.
Jan 25 ~".. What Kay has concluded after nine futile months seems to tally with the overall gist of Andrew Gilligan's broadcast"" on BBC Radio 4's Today programme when he reported that the government had "sexed up" the case for war. So the key question now is: was Blair given unreliable and over-egged information by the intelligence services, or rather did he have the intelligence services "sex-up" or selectively cherry-pick information to suit his case for war?
In answer to this question, the Sunday Herald has heard from dozens of senior members of the intelligence community who passed their views on to us through a highly-respected go-between involved with British intelligence. Sunday Herald - read in full The headline is " Iraq's WMD: The big lie?"
Meanwhile Number 10 is anxious to declare its confidence that Mr Blair will not be censured by Hutton. See Hutton will 'clear Blair of lies' in the Sunday Times, and Blair to escape "personal criticism" in Hutton in Scotland on Sunday. The Independent on Sunday "Blair's Moment of Truth" repeats Robin Cook's suavely worded appeal to Mr Blair to come clean and quotes UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan who, "called Mr Kay "an experienced inspector" who had worked with the UN before. "I think ... what he says should be taken seriously," said Mr Annan.
Yesterday, however, both the White House and Downing Street refused to give ground. A spokesman for Downing Street said: "There is still more work to be done, and we should await the conclusion of that work."....."
As an emailer comments drily, "But why did Hans Blix not get more time last year?"
Jan 24 ~ "I am delighted with Michael Moore . . . man of conscience and courage."Washington Post last Sunday "Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark said Saturday he "has heard" charges that President Bush was a "deserter" from his duties in the Vietnam War-era Air National Guard but said, "I am not going to go into the issues of what George W. Bush did or didn't do in the past."
The term "deserter" was used by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore in introducing Clark to an enthusiastic rally of more than 1,000 people in this Concord suburb Saturday afternoon.
After noting that Clark had been a champion debater at West Point, Moore told a laughing crowd, "I know what you're thinking. I want to see that debate" between Clark and Bush -- "the general versus the deserter."
In a news conference after the event, Clark was asked if he had heard those words and if he agreed. "Well," he said. "I've heard those charges. I don't know if they are true or not. He was never prosecuted for it." But Clark said, "I am delighted with Michael Moore . . . man of conscience and courage...."
Jan 24 ~ " Iraqi sovereignty will be established by appointees appointing appointees to select appointees to select appointees."Naomi Klein in the Guardian today "Of course the White House fears free elections in Iraq"
".....The White House insists its aversion to elections is purely practical; there just isn't time to pull them off before the June 30 deadline. So why have the deadline? The favourite explanation is that Bush needs a "braggable" on the campaign trail: when his Democratic rival raises the spectre of Vietnam, Bush will reply that the occupation is over, we're on our way out.
Except that the US has no intention of actually getting out of Iraq: it wants its troops to remain, and it wants Bechtel, MCI and Halliburton to stay behind and run the water system, the phones and the oilfields. It was with this goal in mind that, on September 19, Bremer pushed through a package of economic reforms that the Economist described as a "capitalist dream".
But the dream, though still alive, is now in peril. A growing number of legal experts are challenging the legitimacy of Bremer's reforms, ..."
Jan 24 ~ What Hutton won't tell youDispatches - Channel 4 Described by an emailer " last minute change to Channel 4, with Dispatches ("What Hutton won't tell you"). Excellent, clear, authoritative reporting with Bush and Blair exposed. .."
Jan 24 ~ The Hutton Inquiry - a summaryCounsel for the inquiry outlined 15 areas to be examined in detail. Here, The Independent reviews those issues, together with possible verdicts http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=484161 "....Although he had no formal powers of summons, no one dared turn down a request from Lord Hutton and a string high-profile figures were among the 75 witnesses who gave evidence. The Prime Minister, Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, and Alastair Campbell, then director of communications at Downing Street were subjected to cross-examination. John Scarlett, the former spy in charge of the dossier, emerged from the shadows and Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6 known as "C", spoke over the phone. Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's chief of staff, also made a rare public appearance.
Yet some of the most important testimony came from a man few had previously heard of in Whitehall, let alone the wider world. Brian Jones, the retired head of the MoD's intelligence wing in charge of WMD, gave electrifying evidence that showed that he and colleagues had serious concerns over the dossier used by Mr Blair to prove the case against Saddam..." (Read in full)
Jan 24 ~" I don't think they existed," says Kay - but Downing Street declares, "our position is unchanged."WASHINGTON (Reuters) -"David Kay, who stepped down as leader of the U.S. hunt for weapons of mass destruction, says he does not believe there are any large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. "I don't think they existed," Kay told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last (1991) Gulf War and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the '90s," he said. .."
See also the Independent, the Telegraph - and Robin Cook in the Times.
Sept 23 ~ John Scarlett - was he being economical with the truth?John Scarlett insisted he had command and control of the dossier. He will be cross examined today at the Hutton Inquiry on why it was that he agreed to give emphasis to parts of the dossier that would be of political expediency to the government. He is a former high-ranking MI6 official and one of the government's most senior intelligence advisors. He worked for MI6 for 30 years and ended up as one of its five directors.
Sept 23 ~ Campbell's diary entries undermine Geoff Hoon's evidence"The private diaries of Alastair Campbell revealed yesterday how the he and Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, were desperate to expose Dr David Kelly in its conflict with the BBC, and to try to shore up the crumbling credibility of the Iraq arms dossier. The bitterness of the confrontation was highlighted in one entry in which Mr Campbell spoke of how identifying Dr Kelly as the BBC source would "fuck" Andrew Gilligan, the journalist who made the claim that the dossier was "sexed up" by Downing Street...." Independent
"Geoff Hoon and other witnesses have repeatedly insisted that the Ministry of Defence's question-and-answer material was not part of a strategy to put Dr Kelly's name into the public domain. But the inquiry was shown an entry in Mr Campbell's diaries on 9 July, which stated his view that "the biggest thing needed was the source out". When asked if this meant identifying Dr Kelly, he replied: "That was my view." Mr Campbell also revealed he had been "aware" of the MoD's tactic of confirming the scientist's name to journalists through the Q&A approach. Either Pam Teare, the ministry's director of news, or Kate Wilson, her chief press officer, had told Mr Campbell of the plan at a daily No 10 meeting of press chiefs. "I was aware that that was the policy they had agreed," Mr Campbell said. Independent
Sept 23 ~ "...yesterday Jeremy Gompertz, the QC representing Dr Kelly's family, built a powerful case for a conspiracyto bring the weapons expert's name into the public domain when he cross- examined Mr Hoon.
Firstly, there was the statement issued by the Ministry of Defence that an anonymous official had come forward to say he had met the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. Mr Hoon admitted this was bound to excite the media into finding out the official's identity, as indeed it did.
Second, the MoD produced a "question and answer" briefing for its press officers, under which they would confirm Dr Kelly's name if it was put to them by a journalist.
Third, there were the additional clues to Dr Kelly's identity offered by Tom Kelly, the Prime Minister's official spokesman, who will be asked about his briefings when he is recalled to the inquiry today.
Denying a conspiracy, Mr Hoon said there was "not the slightest shred of evidence for that assertion".
But Mr Gompertz won the argument that it seemed more conspiracy than cock-up. Lord Hutton leant forward and, in one of his rare but telling interventions, repeated the "conspiracy" question.
Perhaps we should not read too much into Lord Hutton's words. But I would not be surprised if the senior law lord does not focus very hard on this point when he produces his inquiry report in November...." Independent
Say no to privatisationGuardian "America's plan to privatise the Iraqi economy is a mistake that needs to be corrected before it is implemented. The huge sell-off programme, tax breaks and virtual elimination of tariffs on imports is designed to attract foreign investment..."
Sept 22 ~ "Hutton hasn't asked Blair to explain why he went to war.The issues of the deaths of up to 10,000 people in Iraq has not arisen. The inquiry's virtue is that it will reinforce the public view that the government are a pack of liars, they are a pack of warmongers and they deserve only cynicism and they deserve direct action. I have never known in a reasonably long career in journalism for the public to be so aware, for their political consciousness to be so high."
"... In early 2001, visiting Cairo, Colin Powell said, "Saddam Hussein has not developed any capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project even conventional power against his neighbours. So in effect our policies have strengthened the security of the region."
Condoleezza Rice said something very similar at the time.
If you look through all the archive footage, as I've had the dubious pleasure of doing, it confirms that as far as their public position is concerned the Bush gang were in no doubt that Saddam Hussein was no threat. That's true of course. The UN inspectors and everyone else confirmed it. He was no threat and there was no issue of weapons of mass destruction..."
John Pilger - whose documentary can be seen tonight at 10.45pm, ITV.
Sept 22 ~ Hoon back in the witness box:Channel 4 news update email. " The Hutton inquiry into the death of Britain's top expert on Iraq's weapons is under way again. The Defence Secretary, Mr Hoon, is back in the witness box. A more confident performance but an admission that he left a crucial detail out of his original testimony. He did indeed discuss the public naming of David Kelly when he had said earlier that he had not. Beginning to look to some as if the hapless Hoon was driven largely by Alastair Campbell, the communications chief in 10 Downing street.
Campbell himself is in the dock as I write, and another robust fist he is making. Nevertheless --perish the thought I should be Gilliganised for this -- the questioning is leading to the distinct impression that Alastair Campbell may indeed have 'sexed up' the dossier that preceded the case for war on Iraq. Worse, neither he nor Hoon made any effort to rebut press reports that suggested Saddam's missiles could hit Cyprus. No dossier, no agent, no one, ever suggested such a thing...."
Sept 22 ~"You know that the Americans made many promises before they came here.They promised freedom and security and democracy. We were dreaming of these promises. Now we are just dreaming of blowing ourselves up among the Americans."
Robert Fisk's article in yesterday's Independent makes wholly distressing reading - and puts in perspective all the distractions of the Hutton Inquiry and the shrugging off of responsibility by its participants.
Sept 22 ~ Geoff Hoon and Alastair Campbell are to face tough cross-examination at the start of the final week of the Hutton inquiry.Reuters at midday: "Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon says his department had made no errors in its handling of a scientist who killed himself after being thrust into the limelight as the source of a report alleging the government had hyped the threat from Iraq. In combative mood at an inquiry into the suicide of David Kelly, Hoon was adamant that the Ministry of Defence had protected the anonymity of the Iraq weapons expert and denied a suggestion that the government had agreed a strategy to leak Kelly`s name. ..."
Sept 22 ~" Iraq was in effect put up for sale yesterdaywhen the American-appointed administration announced that industry, health services and water are to be auctioned off to foreign investors " Independent and The Guardian See also: Bush will ask for help to govern Iraq in UN address "One year after he told the United Nations he was prepared to go it alone in Iraq if necessary, President George Bush will return to the UN General Assembly tomorrow to appeal for international help to meet the mounting human and financial cost of maintaining a post-war occupation force"
"Mr Bush's cap-in-hand gesture seems unlikely to be accompanied by much humility, however, as the prevailing rhetoric in the United States continues to blast the French for obstructionism and suggests that there is nothing wrong with international co-operation being conducted entirely on American terms...."
Sept 21 ~ John Pilger's documentary, Breaking The Silence: Truth And Lies In The War On Terror, will be shown on ITV1 on Monday at 10.45pm."Their declarations of concern were cruel illusions that prepared the way for the conquest of both Afghanistan and Iraq. As the illegal Anglo-American occupation of Iraq now unravels, the forgotten disaster in Afghanistan, the first "victory" in the "war on terror", is perhaps an even more shocking testament to power. " Read John Pilger in yesterday's Guardian
Sept 21 ~ Fear as human shield faces jailFaith Fippinger, a 62 year old retired teacher of the blind was one of the two hundred or so volunteers from more than 25 countries who chose to live in Baghdad during the US bombing. Read Kelley Benham's article "A soft target" "...America has changed since she learned the Girl Scout salute. She thinks the government is wrong to spend money on weapons instead of schools and health care. She thinks the war was built on hollow propaganda. And she thinks it doesn't make her a traitor to feel that way."
Now the BBC has taken up her story:
"It was a requirement to send information as to why I was in Iraq," she says. "It also said the penalties for being there could be as high as a million dollars and up to 12 years in jail."For travelling to Iraq Faith Fippinger will now probably lose her house, her pension and go to jail.
...... In a statement to the BBC it ( the US Treasury Department ) said that to express one's freedom of speech is a right but breaking the law of the United States is not a privilege. It says it fully intends to proceed with her prosecution. "
Sept 21 ~ The army is planning to end the use of depleted uranium tank rounds, the most controversial weapon in its armoury.- "within six years"... Sunday Telegraph"The phasing out of depleted uranium rounds, which are used because of their armour piercing qualities, will please critics of the munition, including veterans of both the 1991 Gulf war and the Kosovo campaign. They have long argued that the shells can be directly linked to leukaemia, kidney damage and lung cancer and is also one of the causes of Gulf war syndrome.
...The Government continues to insist that the munition is safe......It is estimated that up to 2,000 tonnes of depleted uranium may have been used during the recent war in Iraq. "
Sept 21 ~ "We said Saddam Hussein was a master of denial and deception. Then when we couldn't find anything, we said that proved it, instead of questioning our own assumptions."said a senior weapons inspector, quoted in today's Toronto Star.
Many stories today are concerned with the virtual abandoning of the search for "WMD" and the vexed question of Niger. The CIA admitted in July that Bush's claim in his January State of the Union speech that Iraq had sought to import uranium from Niger was based on forged documents. It seems that intelligence officials in the US now fear "key portions of the pre-war intelligence may have been flawed."
As for Hans Blix...he says dismissively: "In the beginning, they talked about weapons concretely, and later on they talked about weapons programmes. Maybe they'll find some documents of interest."
Britain continues to imply that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from Niger even though UN weapons inspectors have flatly contradicted claims by Tony Blair that they were given information from "a number of sources" about Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Africa for nuclear weapons.
Sept 21 ~ Tony Blair's efforts to seek agreement with France and Germany over Iraq suffered an embarrassing setback yesterdaywhen French President Jacques Chirac bluntly insisted that power should be handed back to Iraqis in a 'few months'. Observer
Sept 21 ~ "A culture of secrecy has descended upon the Anglo-American occupation authorities in Iraq. They will give no tally of the Iraqi civilian lives lost each day."Read Robert Fisk in the Independent on Sunday today. "....Six days ago, American soldiers killed eight US-trained Iraqi policemen and a Jordanian hospital guard 14 miles away in Fallujah, claiming at first that they had "no information" on the shootings, and then apologizing - but without providing the slightest explanation for the killings. Several Iraqis in Khaldiya suggested that yesterday's ambush may have been a revenge attack for the slaughter of the policemen.
True or false, that is what the guerrillas may well claim. Do they, many Iraqis wonder, follow the political trials of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair? Was the devastating attack timed to coincide with Mr Bush's increasing embarrassment over the false claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction? Unlikely. But yesterday when the former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix condemned the "culture of spin, the culture of hyping" - in reference to the Anglo-American exaggeration of Saddam Hussein's threat to the world - some of his words may have found their mark in Iraq. "In the Middle Ages," Mr Blix said, "when people were convinced there were witches, they certainly found them."
Now Mr Bush is convinced he is fighting a vast international "terrorist" network and that its agents are closing in for a final battle in Iraq. And the Iraqi mujahedin are ready to turn the American President's fantasies into reality.
I couldn't help noticing the graffiti on a wall in Fallujah. It was written in Arabic, in a careful, precise hand, by someone who had taken his time to produce a real threat.
"He who gives the slightest help to the Americans," the graffiti read, "is a traitor and a collaborator." ...."
Sept 19 ~ " the problem is not really a compromise between Blair himself, and Schroeder and Chirac, it seems to me, but rather how to find a compromise with Washington,"Radio Free Europe " Blair was always in favor of the biggest role for the United Nations and the Security Council, and from this point of view he was European. He wanted very much bigger involvement of Europe even at the moment when the United States was hostile to a bigger presence....Blair, as U.S. President George W. Bush's main ally in the war on Iraq, will of course not adopt a position openly at variance with Washington. The continuing closeness between the two coalition partners is underlined by remarks in Baghdad this week by Britain's special representative for Iraq, Jeremy Greenstock, who pledged British support to the top U.S. official there, L. Paul Bremer.
... The German Foreign Ministry, which is hosting the talks in Berlin, says that despite the differences, Germany hopes an acceptable UN Security Council resolution can be ready when world leaders convene on 22 September for the opening of the UN General Assembly. Although the media focus of tomorrow's Berlin summit is Iraq, the trio is also expected to discuss EU issues, including the coming conference to finalize an EU constitution."
Sept 19 ~ "It was like seeing a man try to open an oyster with a butter knife"Simon Hoggart on the Hutton Inquiry (Guardian) "There was a splendid face-off at the Hutton inquiry yesterday. Richard Hatfield, the personnel director at the Ministry of Defence (or anti-personnel director, as Dr David Kelly's family no doubt think of him) became the first witness to fight back against one of the majestic briefs who are now doing the cross-examinations. He faced Jeremy Gompertz, the QC who is appearing for the Kelly family. I don't think I have seen two people simultaneously patronise each other, so successfully too.
Mr Hatfield spoke to Mr Gompertz as if he were a clever but hopelessly inattentive schoolboy. Mr Gompertz spoke to Mr Hatfield as if he were a junior clerk who had split an important infinitive. .."
Sept 18 ~ Hatfield says Dr Kelly should have been suspended''With hindsight I think I should have...initiated formal disciplinary proceedings,'' Hatfield said. ''I think I would probably have been forced to suspend Dr Kelly.'' ''The public identification followed from his own act of talking to (BBC reporter) Mr Gilligan,'' he said. ''I do not think we needed explicit consent to give his name out.''
Sept 18 ~ Bush conceded for the first time yesterday that the United States had no evidence indicating Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the Sept. 11 terror attacks.New York Times"....As Mr. Bush has described the Iraq conflict as part of the war on terror, he has drawn a loose connection, saying that after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States could no longer tolerate the kind of threat Mr. Hussein posed or risk that Mr. Hussein's weapons could reach the hands of terrorists."
Sept 18 ~ Hans Blix has attacked the "spin and hype" behind U.S. and British allegations of banned Iraqi weaponsReuters "...Blix, who said this week he believed Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction 10 years ago, told BBC radio that Washington and London "over-interpreted" intelligence about Baghdad's weapons programmes.
Comparing them to medieval witch-hunters, he said on Thursday the two countries convinced themselves on the basis of evidence which was later discredited, including forged documents about alleged attempts to buy uranium for nuclear weapons. (See warmwell page on Niger)
...... "What in a way stands accused is the culture of spin, the culture of hyping...Advertisers will advertise a refrigerator in terms that we don't quite believe in, but we expect governments to be more serious and have more credibility," he said. ......... "The patience that they require for themselves now was not anything that they wanted to give to us," said Blix, whose inspectors were forced to pull out of Iraq in March after just three and a half months' work.
..... Blix's comments have been echoed by his successor Demetrius Perricos, who told Reuters it was becoming "more and more difficult to believe stocks (of WMD) were there" in Iraq. "
Sept 18 ~ The Baghdad Blogger at the Hutton InquiryGuardian "So your government's marketing campaign turned out to be a fraud; I would have thought the "west" would be very sceptical of marketing campaigns in general, and government-funded ones especially, but that doesn't seem to be the case. What I really don't understand is the fixation on the 45 minutes. I mean, what does it matter whether it was 45 or a 100? The real question is whether Saddam had WMDs or not. Because that, in the end, was the main selling-point of the war. ...I also went to the House of Commons a couple of days ago to watch the debate on the role of the UN in Iraq, and I can tell you: that being an Iraqi and seeing that and the bit of the Hutton Inquiry yesterday, is quite strange. It is like listening to your parents discuss how they should bring you up; it is your life, but you are not making the decisions."
Sept 18 ~ Mr Gilligan stood by the thrust of his report and stressed that he had been proved right subsequently by much of the evidence since heard at the Hutton inquiry.Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor of the Independent "Andrew Gilligan admitted yesterday making mistakes in his original broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on 29 May. But Mr Gilligan stood by the thrust of his report and stressed that he had been proved right subsequently by much of the evidence since heard at the Hutton inquiry. Here, The Independent judges Mr Gilligan's original claims against what we now know about the drafting of the Government's Iraq dossier in September last year, which was said to have been "sexed up".......
....the guts of the Gilligan claim, has been vindicated by the inquiry evidence. The inquiry heard this week that a memo was written on behalf of the DIS by Dr Brian Jones, head of its WMD section, objecting to the claim as it appeared in the dossier. Dr Jones and his chemical expert wrote further formal complaints. The DIS did feel the claim was unreliable because it came from a single source. But we have also heard that those intelligence officials were worried because the claim came second-hand, not from an Iraqi military officer. It also failed to make clear the intelligence related only to battlefield weapons and not missiles that could threaten the West. Even Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, agreed this week that the claim received "undue prominence" in the dossier and should have included original raw intelligence...... "
Sept 18 ~ Blix: Saddam destroyed his weapons of mass destruction a decade agoDavid Usborne in New York and Nigel Morris in the Independent "....Mr Blix, speaking from his home in Sweden, said that he thought it unlikely that non-UN experts deployed by the coalition forces to search for weapons of mass destruction would find anything beyond "some documents of interest". He added: "The more time that has passed, the more I think it's unlikely that anything will be found." His comments were made as Tony Blair defended his decision to join US-led military action in Iraq and denied ignoring intelligence warnings that the war would increase the risk of terrorism in Britain...."
Sept 17 ~ "Gilligan admitted his original allegation that the Government knew its claims were "probably wrong" might give the impression that the Government knew its claims were probably wrong.So he corrected his later broadcasts to the idea of the claims being "questionable". He also apologised for e-mailing a Lib Dem MP on the Foreign Affairs Committee and identifying Dr David Kelly as the source of Susan Watt's reports on Newsnight even though he didn't even know that to be true. But he insists - contrary to evidence given yesterday - that he did give due warning to the Ministry of Defence about the story. Richard Sambrook admitted there were several lessons to be learnt - including not doing such complicated and controversial stories as live reports, but scripting them instead. ..." Channel 4's news update email.
Sept 17 ~ Was Alastair Campbell ever properly vetted? If not "...he was seeing intelligence that he was not cleared to see, including the proceedings of the JIC, which is about as high level as you can possibly get.."On Sept 2 we reported the Telegraph column "London Spy" that quotes Sir John Keegan, The Daily Telegraph's Defence Editor: ".......It is certainly rumoured that Campbell was never properly vetted. If so, he was seeing intelligence that he was not cleared to see, including the proceedings of the JIC, which is about as high level as you can possibly get."
On the 15th of September, Peter Ainsworth asked the Prime Minister a Parliamentary Question http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/cm030915/text/30915w17.htm#30915w17.html_wqn1
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Prime Minister whether Mr. Alastair Campbell was the subject of the developed vetting procedure. Earlier, in an answer to a PQ by Dr Julian Lewis, Geoff Hoon said:
The Prime Minister: Information relating to personnel records, including those relating to recruitment, promotion and security vetting, are not disclosed under part 2, exemption 8 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
"The levels of security clearance that Ministry of Defence officials need in order to be granted access to classified material are those which apply across Government. They are set out in HM Government's statement of vetting policy, as announced to the House on 15 December 1994, Official Report, columns 764–66W. "This statement, referred to by Mr Hoon, says, "Individuals employed on government work who have long term, frequent and uncontrolled access to TOP SECRET information or assets, will be submitted to the level of vetting clearance known as Developed Vetting (DV)."
If Mr Campbell had been subject to developed vetting, why should Mr Blair not have said so, rather than dodge the question as he did?
Sept 17 ~ Wesley Clark seeks Democratic nominationOliver Burkeman in The Guardian "Wesley Clark, the general who led Nato's bombing campaign in Kosovo, shook up the race for the White House yesterday when it was revealed that he would seek the Democratic party's nomination. ....
"All the other candidates want him as vice-president," said John Hlinko of DraftWesleyClark.com, one of two high-profile websites which have raised $1.3m (£800,000) in campaign pledges. "We say cut out the middleman and make him president."
...... Gen Clark, who now works as a private consultant, has attacked the Bush administration for its idea "that the continuing war against terrorism is best waged outside the structures of international institutions ... our success will depend on the willing cooperation and active participation of our allies". That could become a central campaigning message, aimed at quelling voters' fears of American overcommitment - unless, of course, Mr Bush succeeds in his current attempt to draw other countries into the Iraq operation. ..."
Sept 16 ~ the gloves are offReuters (external link) "Judge Lord Hutton's investigation into why government scientist David Kelly took his own life has up to now been precise but courteous in its questioning of witnesses. But now the gloves are off as lawyers for the government, BBC and Kelly family are let off the leash to cross-examine key figures who have been recalled to the inquiry. Tuesday's sharp interrogation of Martin Howard, deputy chief of defence intelligence, will serve as a warning to embattled Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Prime Minister Tony Blair's communications chief Alastair Campbell, who will appear again next Monday. ....Glenmore Trenear-Harvey, an intelligence expert who watched the proceedings, told Sky Television: "Howard was a most discomfited little bunny." ....."
Sept 16 ~ "General Wesley Clark is going to run for President after all. A decent, clever military man with a compassionate side.He may be electable here in Europe - he doesn't sound the right man there, but who knows, if the wheels come off the warrior President's wagon for his failures in war then a man who achieved peace in Kosovo and stood against the war in Iraq might just make some headway.." Channel 4's news update email.
General Wesley Clark certainly has the endorsement of Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine etc) who, somewhat aghast at himself for his support of a general, writes, "The other night, when you were on Bill Maher's show, he began by reading to you a quote from Howard Dean where he (Dean) tried to run away from the word "liberal." Maher said to you, so, General, do you want to run away from that word? Without missing a beat, you said "No!" and you reminded everyone that America was founded as a "liberal democracy." The audience went wild with applause." Read Michael Moore's open letter.
Sept 16 ~ Stage two: the 15 issues that Hutton must now considerPaul Waugh in the Independent "James Dingemans QC, counsel for the Hutton inquiry, said yesterday that stage one of the hearings - set up to examine the circumstances leading to the death of David Kelly - had not fully revealed why certain events happened. In that case, Lord Hutton might consider in stage two some or all of 15 issues. The Independent provides answers to each in the light of what has been established so far...."
"Were the Prime Minister and Mr Campbell and other officials in No 10 responsible for intelligence being set out in the dossier which was incorrect or misleading, or to which improper emphasis was given?Read in full
The Intelligence and Security Committee has already made clear that the dossier failed to include caveats for its claims about 45 minutes and production of chemical and biological agents. Mr Campbell will argue that he was making presentational points and correcting inconsistencies. Much of the intelligence does now look to have been incorrect or misleading.
What was said by Dr Kelly to the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan on 22 May?
Dr Kelly said that he didn't recognise himself as the main source for Mr Gilligan's broadcast. Dr Kelly admitted to MPs that he may have used the word "sexier". A tape from Susan Watts, another BBC reporter, shows that Dr Kelly believed No 10 was involved."
Sept 16 ~ Lawyers ready for their turnGuardian page of witnesses , when they will appear and by whom to be examined - from today until closing statements by counsel on Thursday 25th September.
"Witnesses being recalled are shown in bold, along with the teams of lawyers who will be cross-examining them. Tuesday, 16 September
- DC Coe, Thames Valley police
- Nicholas Hunt, forensic pathologist
- Martin Howard, deputy chief of defence intelligence, MoD. Examined by own counsel and cross-examined by counsel for the Kelly family, the BBC, and the Hutton inquiry
- Dr Shuttleworth,Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory
- Kate Wilson, MoD "
Sept 15 ~"Hutton has set out 15 key questions he wants to resolveand issued a cast list of people who he wants to be cross-examined. Headed by Alastair Campbell and the unfortunate Geoff Hoon, currently Britain's Defence Secretary. Whether Dearlove and his ilk like it or not, Hutton is blowing vast quantities of unwarranted secrecy from the secret services and their doings." (Channel 4 news update email)
We note with interest that Lord Hutton is to recall John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who was responsible for the September 2002 dossier. Reuters notes, "The inquiry has already seen that Campbell and other Blair aides bombarded Scarlett with suggestions to harden up the language in the dossier. Defence intelligence officials voiced serious doubts about its content.... "
Sept 15 ~ ...panic at the heart of government last night, as senior aides sought to kill off damaging claims that the Foreign Secretary had developed cold feet on the eve of battle.The Scotsman "A source close to Mr Straw said his caution to Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, was delivered as a contingency plan and had not been an attempt to undermine Mr Blair’s authority or his stark determination to deal with Saddam Hussein by force. The latest crisis concerning Iraq hit the Prime Minister on the eve of the Hutton Inquiry’s resumption in London today, amid speculation that the Foreign Secretary will now also be called to give evidence...."
Sept 15 ~ Did we thus go to war knowing that the chemical and biological weapons capabilities had been rendered useless?An e-mailer has alerted us to the recent interview with Professor Hennessy, Atlee Professor of Contemporary History at Queen Mary College, University of London, relating to Iraq's capabilities regarding WMD.
Prof. Hennessy stated that, during the whole Iraq crisis, fundamental questions relating to the pre-war operations of Special Forces in Iraq have not been asked e.g. what missiles (al Husseini), if any, did they find, was there any evidence of biological/chemical warheads, were these missiles destroyed/incapacitated?
This leaves open some vitally important questions:
- was Iraq effectively rid of any chemical and biological threat prior to the war?
- If this was the case, who in Government knew of this, and would Dr Kelly have been aware of this, either through his work for government, or through the Iraqi contacts he is known to have had?
- Did this knowledge contribute to his great unease?
- Did we thus go to war knowing that the chemical and biological weapons capabilities had been rendered useless?
Sept 15 ~ "the whole process of reason, other reason, yet other reason, humanitarian, morality, regime change, terrorism, finally imminent WMD attack... was merely covering fire."John Pilger ".... On 17 September 2001, six days after the attacks in America, Bush signed a document, marked Top Secret, in which he directed the Pentagon to begin planning "military options" for an invasion of Iraq. In July last year, Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, told another Bush official: "That decision has been made. Don't waste your breath" (Washington Post, 12 January 2003; New Yorker, 31 March 2003). On 2 July last, Air Marshal Sir John Walker, the former chief of defence intelligence and deputy chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, wrote a confidential memo to MPs to alert them that the "commitment to war" was made a year ago. "Thereafter," he wrote, "the whole process of reason, other reason, yet other reason, humanitarian, morality, regime change, terrorism, finally imminent WMD attack... was merely covering fire."
The unfettered disclosure of this would present an uncontrollable crisis to the clique that runs Britain: the secret service, the civil service, Downing Street, the favoured City and the courted media. Few spooks and mandarins have much time for the strange, Messianic Blair, but they will strive to protect him in order to protect themselves and to ensure that their version of Lord Curzon's "great game" (ie, imperialism), continues unopposed...."
Sept 15 ~ According to a recent study, up to 10,000 civilians were killed.".....Quite low at 10,000. And multiply that many times when the figure includes the killing of mostly teenage conscripts who, as a Marine colonel said, "sure as hell didn't know what hit them". Keep multiplying when the wounded are added: such as 1,000 children maimed, according to Unicef, by the delayed blast of cluster bomblets. What does it take for journalists with a public voice and responsibility to acknowledge the truth of such a crime? Are those who stand in front of cameras in Downing Street and on the White House lawn, incessantly obfuscating the obvious (a technique they call objectivity), that conditioned? The resistance to the illegal Anglo-American occupation of Iraq is now propagated as part of Bush's "war on terror". The deaths of Americans, Britons and UN people are news; Iraqis flit across the screen: otherwise, they do not exist...." In his latest New Statesman column, John Pilger describes viewing videotape of the attack on Iraq that was not shown in the West and is horrific evidence of a great crime. : Pilger :11 Sep 2003
Sept 14 ~ Mr Kampfner's book also alleges that Mr Blair had agreed to go to war as early as April 2002, when he had a summit with Mr Bush in Texas.Sunday Telegraph "And it claims that Mr Blair himself had doubts about the intelligence over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which formed the basis of his justification for war." (See below. John Kamfner's book "Blair's Wars" is published tomorrow click link )
Sept 14 ~ Tony Blair was last night facing a deepening crisis following the disclosure of the contents of the letter sent to him by the Foreign Secretary.Scotland on Sunday ".. Straw is said to have written a confidential "personal minute" to Blair saying the UK should offer the Americans "political and moral support" in their campaign against Saddam Hussein, but not military backing.
Straw is said to have argued that the United Nations' refusal to back the invasion would make it damaging for Britain to take part. The Foreign Secretary reportedly urged Blair to tell President George Bush that British troops would help clear up the mess and keep the peace once the war was over, but would play no part in Saddam's overthrow. But the shocked Prime Minister rejected Straw's plea point-blank, telling him there was no going back and making him promise to keep quiet, according to the book by political journalist John Kampfner, entitled Blair's War. ........If true, the allegations in Kampfner's book would suggest that doubts about the wisdom of committing troops to action in Iraq reached to the very innermost circles around Blair. Straw is one of Blair's most loyal Cabinet allies and was one of the staunchest supporters of the war in public, regularly appearing before the cameras to argue that it was right. ..." (about Kampfner's book "Blair's Wars" click link )
Sept 14 ~ "Britain and America have decided to delay indefinitely the publication of a full report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction after inspectors found no evidence that any such weapons exist."Sunday Times (external link) ".. It had been expected that a progress report would be published tomorrow but MPs on Westminster's security and intelligence committee have been told that even this has been delayed and no new date set. .... David Kay, the survey group's leader, to George Tenet, head of the CIA, had been delayed and may not necessarily even be published. ..... But last week British officials said they believed Kay had been "kite-flying" and that no hard evidence had been uncovered. The hunt for weapons is seen in London and Washington as a vital step in convincing an increasingly sceptical public that the war was justified...."
Sept 12 ~ Hutton inquiry summons Greg Dyke - other witnesses to be announced on MondayLONDON (Reuters) " - The inquiry into the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly has said it is summoning BBC Director General Greg Dyke and Ministry of Defence officials for cross-examination on Monday.
Judge Lord Hutton will also quiz Air Marshal Joe French, Richard Scott of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, and former deputy chief of Defence Intelligence Tony Cragg. It did not list other witnesses who will be summoned later in the week, but said details would be announced on Monday. Cragg and French are both likely to be asked about how concerns among some intelligence analysts over Prime Minister Tony Blair's dossier on Iraqi weapons were dealt with by their superiors.
Sept 12 ~ Blair's war: PM ignored intelligence advice on IraqPaul Waugh and Kim Sengupta in the Independent
"Another of Tony Blair's main justifications for war on Iraq was blown apart yesterday by the disclosure that intelligence chiefs had warned that deposing Saddam Hussein would increase the risk of terror attacks on Britain.
The Prime Minister told Parliament and the public earlier this year that the West had to act against Baghdad to prevent chemical and biological weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists.
But exactly two years after al-Qa'ida's 11 September attack, a committee of MPs revealed that the Mr Blair had been told that the threat from Osama bin Laden "would be heightened by military action against Iraq". The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), chaired by the Labour MP Ann Taylor, also criticised the Government's dossier on the Iraqi threat, concluding that key claims should have been omitted or heavily qualified...."
Sept 11 ~ The intelligence was not 'sexed up' the MPs say, and they then proceed to detail how almost every part of it was either by 'tightening' or omission, 'sexed up'Channel 4 news update on the ISC report:
"The top Committee of the House of Commons, the ultra secret Intelligence and Security Committee, has published its report on the intelligence assessment of Iraq before we went to war. It's a dog's breakfast by comparison with what Lord Hutton's judicial inquiry has come up with. Indeed the Hutton website is a far more illuminating read than this self-serving establishment effort. The intelligence was not 'sexed up' the MPs say, and they then proceed to detail how almost every part of it was either by 'tightening' or omission, 'sexed up'. It has the grace to include reference to intelligence warnings that suggested that the terrorist threat would be greatly enhanced by attacking Iraq because of the risk of WMD falling into terrorist hands. It is woolly on whether there really was strong evidence suggesting Niger was trying to supply uranium to Baghdad - merely saying what they saw suggested there were grounds for thinking so...."
Sept 11 ~ There is a dark cabal around BlairRichard Norton-Taylor, the Guardian's security affairs editor: "..........What has already emerged - but been largely ignored - from the Hutton inquiry is the existence of a dark, almost Jacobean, cabal at the core of the Blair administration.
It is a group of powerful, unelected people few would have heard of were it not for the evidence given to Hutton:.... .... Scarlett let the cat out of the bag over perhaps the most contentious claim - the assertion, made most emphatically in Blair's foreword, that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so. That claim, Scarlett conceded, referred to short-range, battlefield weapons systems, not missiles. Thus they posed no threat to western interests, including British bases in Cyprus, as the government had strongly implied.
...... 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. " Read in full
Sept 11 ~ Spy chiefs warned war would raise terror threatReuters: "Spy chiefs warned Prime Minister Tony Blair just weeks before the invasion of Iraq that war would increase the risk of militants acquiring weapons of mass destruction, an intelligence committee report says. It said the government's Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) judged in February there was no intelligence that Iraq had provided chemical or biological weapons material to the militant al Qaeda network. But it added that "any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents finding their way in to the hands of terrorists," parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee said. It said the JIC believed that al Qaeda and associated groups represented "by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq". ...."
Sept 7-13 ~ Blair has leapt to Hoon's defence in the Commons, praising the splendid war he won over IraqPressure on Geoff Hoon to resign is growing we hear ....but what about Al Kennedy's view?
Reuters " London's Evening Standard said on Wednesday parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) will accuse Hoon of falsely denying that intelligence analysts expressed unease over the pre-war dossier on Iraqi banned weapons. Political observers have already singled out Hoon as the most senior of the likely victims ..." However, comment in the Guardian today by Al Kennedy takes a more robust view: "....our central problem - the one involving Mr Blair and all that blood. Obviously, we shouldn't take the phrase "blood on his hands" terribly literally, because that wouldn't be fair - Blair's only our prime minister, sitting at the centre of a complex and sophisticated network of advisers and in possession of global influence and serious investment capital. You wouldn't want to go holding him responsible for things....." Read the article and rejoice that someone is saying this.
On the same lines is Channel 4's update from Jon Snow, "....the Commons Committee that vets intelligence matters has reportedly found the same Mr Hoon guilty of "misleading" and "unhelpful" responses to their questioning. The report is a leak ahead of publication tomorrow. Mr Blair's spinmeister Alastair Campbell is apparently cleared by the Committee. There is a whiff of a suspicion that those anxious to see him cleared leaked the report and dumped on poor old Hoon into the bargain. Anyway, Blair has leapt to Hoon's defence in the Commons, praising the splendid war he won over Iraq."
Sept 7-13 ~ a majority of Americans had no problem accepting two fallacious contentions put forward by the Bush administration: that Iraq had a hand in 11 September, and that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with al-Qa'idaarticle by Andrew Gumbel in Tuesday's Independent ".... Many lefty anti-war protesters saw this as evidence of a sinister manipulation by the White House, a glaring instance of the Big Lie theory of propaganda: that if governments - aided and abetted by a pliant, uncritical media - say something often enough and loud enough, people will believe it.
But I heard an even more pessimistic explanation from Hussein Ibish of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Americans, he said, have been so ground down by decades of negative imagery from films and television depicting Middle Easterners as religious extremists and terrorists that they are simply unable to make distinctions. In their eyes, Saddam Hussein is Osama bin Laden. All Palestinians are suicide bombers. The demonization was the same when the Vietnamese were tarred as "gooks" a generation ago; in America, there is nothing difficult about peddling stereotypical distortions of the enemy of the moment. ..... the purpose of education is betrayed because children are simply denied access to reality. And the students don't buy it; they are simply bored to tears. ...."
Sept 7 - 13 ~ "....Sept. 11, 2003, will arrive with no credible evidence for the alleged link between Saddam and his bitter enemy Osama bin Laden"There's Good Reason to Fear US (external link) Noam Chomsky, Toronto Star, September 8, 2003
".... From early September, 2002, the Bush administration issued grim warnings about the danger that Saddam Hussein posed to the United States, with broad hints that Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda and involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. The propaganda assault helped enable the administration to gain some support from a frightened population for the planned invasion of a country known to be virtually defenseless-- and a valuable prize, at the heart of the world's major energy system.
Last May, after the putative end of the war in Iraq, President Bush landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared that he had won a "victory in the war on terror (by having) removed an ally of Al Qaeda.-- But Sept. 11, 2003, will arrive with no credible evidence for the alleged link between Saddam and his bitter enemy Osama bin Laden. And the only known link between the victory and terror is that the invasion of Iraq seems to have increased Al Qaeda recruitment and the threat of terror. ..."
Sept 7 -13 ~ Letters to the Guardian about Michael Meacher's commentsSee http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/comment/0,12956,1037514,00.html ".... I was walking through the sea of candles and tributes that had transformed Union Square into an oasis of calm and human dignity. I remember reading a neatly penned card: "We know your agenda, Bush. Don't think you can hide behind this". As events unfolded over subsequent months, I keenly followed the news and was intrigued to learn about the existence and activities of the neo-conservatives in Washington.
No one with an open mind should be outraged or surprised by Michael Meacher's comments. I am amazed that more have not considered these ideas as a feasible and logical explanation for "the global war on terrorism" and the coincident air of paranoia and insecurity that hangs over the US and UK at present.
Dr Tobias Zundel
And an important letter on Tuesday: "...The tragedy of the twin towers will be rightly recalled on Thursday. I doubt if the media will mention September 11 1906, when Mahatma Gandhi initiated non-violent, passive resistance as a means of social reform. The sufferings of the US were followed by calls for revenge and a hatred which contributed to the many deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. The message of Gandhi was about forgiveness, self-sacrifice and peace. 1906 has more to teach us than 2001.
Easterhouse, Glasgow "
Sept 7-13 ~ The fate of the UN resolution, "depends partly on the Europeans, but also on the neo-conservatives in America..""..occupying important posts in the Pentagon and the White House, says Georges LeGuelte, head of research at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris. "So long as they defend the idea that the US is all-powerful and can impose its will by all means, including military, so long as they are not ready to give up the idea that Iraq is their terrain, we will get nowhere," he argues..." Christian Science Monitor
Sept 7- 13 ~ Day by day, the noose tightens round No 10The Observer article by Henry Porter : "Henry Porter, bestselling author of espionage novels, examines the role of intelligence chief John Scarlett and shows how the Hutton inquiry is uncovering a dangerous mix of spies and secrets....
...as each day goes by without serious evidence of WMD being found in Iraq, the authorship of the dossier, its contributors, editors and promoters come into focus. Did the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), the body that makes intelligence assessments for the Government, own the document, or was it ultimately the product of the policy-makers and staff at Number 10?"
Sept 7 - 13 ~ "We have, perhaps, a chance to mend fences and garner more support from the United Nations if the administration can swallow its pride.."says Senator Byrd ".. and come up with a new resolution that cedes a meaningful role in the reconstruction of Iraq to the international community. Perhaps we also have a chance to attract serious monetary contributions from the international community, but I doubt that we will begin to approach the level of support that we received from other nations during the first Gulf War. Nevertheless, we must keep trying, and returning to the United Nations is an important, if long overdue, first step. The American taxpayer should not have to shoulder the entire burden of restoring order and rebuilding Iraq..."
Sept 7 - 13 ~ "it's worth noting who is in charge of reconstructing Iraq's agriculture industry.."" It's not USAID, and it's not the Department of Defense, or the US Treasury, or any of the other usual suspects. It is, in fact, the USDA. The USDA's strategic plan for FY 2002-2007 lists as its top strategic goal the expansion of international markets for American agricultural producers....
...goal of opening and "democratizing" Iraq's agricultural market takes on a more sinister aspect, what with the potential for the entire sector in the country to get undermined entirely by foreign competition. The choice of Dan Amstutz as the head of Iraq's agricultural rebuilding efforts simply underscores the fairly transparent agenda of the USDA.
An article based on a Reuters report quotes Kevin Watkins, Oxfam's policy director, describing Amstutz as "singularly ill-equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country," and that "Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission..." " interesting article at Iraq Democracy Watch
Sept 7-13 ~ Thanks to Hutton we now know that John Scarlett never believed this claim applied to real weapons of mass destruction, but to battlefield shells and "small-calibre weaponry''.wrote Robin Cook last week. "That was not the impression created by the dossier, which was crafted by people who knew only too well that Parliament would not vote for war because Saddam had small-calibre weapons ready for use in 45 minutes.
Even ministers have given up pretending that they now expect to find actual weapons. Instead they have spent the past two months lowering expectations by encouraging the public to settle for evidence of programmes of weapons of mass destruction as proof that the dossier was right all along. Yet Hutton has now blocked even this bolthole.
Of all the embarrassing evidence released by the Hutton inquiry, I found most damning the discovery that until a week before publication the title of the dossier was Iraq's Programmes of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The decision to drop "Programmes'' from the title was deliberately calculated to encourage the belief that Iraq already had weapons and the threat therefore was urgent. Ministers cannot now ask Parliament to accept a justification for war based on evidence of programmes, when they themselves have been caught out rejecting that as the basis on which they asked Parliament to vote for war...."
Sept 7 ~ "beneath the smiling demeanor, a ruthlessness that is accompanied by a lack of respect for proper procedure, and a willingness to be "economical with the actuality..." Clare ShortCNN today quotes the YouGov poll, taken the day after the adjournment of Lord Hutton's inquiry, which were the first to show that more voters are now against Blair than for him. Under the headline Poll: Blair should quit over Kelly, CNN looks at the mounting pressure, the inconsistencies in evidence and Clare Short's latest comments.
".......Last week at his monthly news conference, Blair avoided questions about Kelly and Iraqi WMDs. Two intelligence officers told Hutton inquiry the previous day that they were unhappy with the strength of language in a now-infamous government dossier on Iraq's weapons, which included a claim that WMDs could be deployed in 45 minutes. (Full story) Evidence has also exposed apparent inconsistencies in statements from top officials and ministers. ..."
"Short, a maverick with a track record of speaking her mind, accused Blair and his communications director Alastair Campbell, who quit a week ago, of effectively mounting a coup in the party, imposing their own policies by bludgeoning their opponents and lying. ....... "beneath the smiling demeanor, a ruthlessness that is accompanied by a lack of respect for proper procedure, and a willingness to be "economical with the actuality," she wrote. "The cabinet has not functioned as a decision-making body since 1997."
Sept 7 ~ Britain and US will back down over WMDsAndy McSmith, Raymond Whitaker and Geoffrey Lean in today's Independent on Sunday
"Britain and the US have combined to come up with entirely new explanations of why they went to war in Iraq as inspectors on the ground prepare to report that there are no weapons of mass destruction there.
The "current and serious" threat of Iraq's WMD was the reason Tony Blair gave for going to war, but last week the Prime Minister delivered a justification which did not mention the weapons at all. On the same day John Bolton, US Under-Secretary of State for arms control, said that whether Saddam Hussein's regime actually possessed WMD "isn't really the issue".
The 1,400-strong Iraq Survey Group, sent out in May to begin an intensive hunt for the elusive weapons, is expected to report this week that it has found no WMD hardware, nor even any sign of active programmes. The inspectors, headed by David Kay, a close associate of President George Bush, are likely to say the only evidence it has found is that the Iraqi government had retained a group of scientists who had the expertise to restart the weapons programme at any time...."
Sept 7 ~ This call for help is about re-election, not IraqAnne Applebaum, a member of the editorial board of The Washington Post, in today's Sunday Telegraph(external link):
"....Wolfowitz did not need to "sex up" his projections of the war's costs to make them sound more reasonable. He genuinely believed that the war would end quickly, causing little pain to the American taxpayer. So did many others, including, apparently, the President. If Tony Blair relied excessively on the "weapons of mass destruction" argument to justify Britain's participation in the invasion, the White House relied excessively on those who believed that "it will be over in three weeks and cost nothing".
They were wrong. Just last week, the Administration informed members of Congress to expect, next year, a bill for $60 to $70 billion for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, a number many times higher than any given in the past....
so many of them worked for the current President's father - that a Democratic presidential candidate might well make mincemeat out of a national leader who gets bogged down in foreign wars, and neglects the home front. So when President Bush asks the United Nations to help it secure more troops and more funding for Iraq, do not be misled: he is not yet admitting that it was a mistake to invade Iraq. Instead, he is admitting that he fears losing power in 2004."
Sept 7 ~ "Let the fireworks now begin, as they say."The Sunday Herald
"The measured tones of Hutton and the inquiry's senior counsel, James Dingemans QC, may now make way for harsher, more abrasive questioning. In the words of one senior counsel who has been observing the inquiry: "Let the fireworks now begin, as they say."Two articles in the independent Sunday Herald newspaper. The Hutton Inquiry has proved the government's case for war was exaggerated. What will it take to get Tony Blair to finally tell the truth? and
Lord Hutton may want to hear from Scarlett again if Jones's version chimes at all with his recall of events . If there were worries, why were they not passed on, perhaps to Campbell and even to the PM? And what of the hint in a memo that it was Downing Street, not the JIC, which actually "owned" the dossier?"
"...It is virtually unthinkable that Blair was not informed of dissent that now looks to have been widespread. Campbell told the inquiry that he did not harden up the dossier and "had no input, output, influence upon them (the joint intelligence committee) whatsoever at any stage". But if Campbell was close to those involved in the dossier, was he aware of the dissent inside sections of Whitehall involved in putting the dossier together, and did this reach the ear of the PM? "... Jones's account effectively undermines Scarlett's version . "..Jones said the dossier was "over-egged" and many who had offered input into it had been ignored or sidelined...."
The Awkward Questions (about the chances of recall o the Hutton Inquiryfor Geoff Hoon, Alastair Campbell, Andrew Gilligan and John Scarlett and the questions that need to be asked now)
Sept 7 ~ Even in Bush's Bible belt, the Iraq doubts are risingJohn Humphrys in today's Sunday Times. "..... Every conversation I had about Iraq or terrorism was instigated by me. Only once was Blair's name volunteered and then it was with a puzzled question. This being a respectable newspaper I shall not go into details, except to say that the words Bush, arse and lick appeared in the same sentence. This would not have surprised me in the cities of the East Coast or California. New York liberals have never liked Bush or his war on terror. But I was in the Deep South, as deep as you can get: southern Alabama. The county where I spent most of my time is the heart of the Bible belt...."
Sept 6 ~ Kelly family wants Hutton to recall Blair over role in naming scientistIndependent. "The family of Dr David Kelly wants the PM to be recalled for cross-examination at the next phase of Lord Hutton's inquiry.
In a request likely to be granted, the Kellys plan to ask for TB to be questioned agin over his role in the "naming strategy" for the the weapons scientist..........
...On an official flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong on 22 July, the PM "categorically" denied he had "uauthorised the leaking of the name of Dr Kelly". But at the inquiry, Mr Blair was forcd to admit his central role in the process tht led to Dr Kelly's name being confirmed to the media. He held four meetings over two days in his Downing Street study at which the "naming strategy" was agreed. The PM might also be asked about his previous denial of reports that intelligence staff were worried abou the "45-minute" claim. He told the Commons in June: "The allegation that the 45-minute claim provoked disquiet among the intelligence community is...completely and totally untrue."..."
Sept 6 ~ This war on terrorism is bogusMichael Meacher speaks out in today's Guardian.
"....there was such slow reaction on September 11 itself. ....... Was this inaction simply the result of key people disregarding, or being ignorant of, the evidence? Or could US air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11? If so, why, and on whose authority? The former US federal crimes prosecutor, John Loftus, has said: "The information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defence of incompetence."
Nor is the US response after 9/11 any better. No serious attempt has ever been made to catch Bin Laden....... None of this assembled evidence, all of which comes from sources already in the public domain, is compatible with the idea of a real, determined war on terrorism. ....The catalogue of evidence does, however, fall into place when set against the PNAC blueprint. From this it seems that the so-called "war on terrorism" is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives. Indeed Tony Blair himself hinted at this when he said to the Commons liaison committee: "To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11" (Times, July 17 2002). Similarly Rumsfeld was so determined to obtain a rationale for an attack on Iraq that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to 9/11; the CIA repeatedly came back empty-handed (Time Magazine, May 13 2002). In fact, 9/11 offered an extremely convenient pretext to put the PNAC plan into action...." (See extract from Time magazine)
Sept 6 ~ Don't Say We Were Not Warned About This ChaosBy Robert Fisk "How arrogant was the path to war. As President Bush now desperately tries to cajole the old UN donkey to rescue him from Iraq - he who warned us that the UN was in danger of turning into a League of Nations "talking shop" if it declined him legitimacy for his invasion - we are supposed to believe that no one in Washington could have guessed the future. Messrs Bush and Blair fantasised their way to war with all those mythical weapons of mass destruction and "imminent threats" from Iraq - whether of the 45-minute variety or not - and of the post-war "liberation", "democracy" and map-changing they were going to bestow upon the region. But the record shows just how many warnings the Bush administration received from sane and decent men in the days before we plunged into this terrible adventure...." http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4614.htm
Sept 5 ~ Hoon looks set to be recalled to Hutton Inquiry:Another fascinating (if slightly irritatingly worded) Channel 4 news update last night:
"Just as everyone began to fall asleep at the Hutton Inquiry this morning, up pops Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon's special advisor . Suddenly, there he is, telling m'lud that yes, Geoff Hoon was at the meeting where the leaking of Dr David Kelly's name to the media was discussed. Er - that wasn't exactly what Mr Hoon said when he spoke to Lord Hutton last week. Looks like the Defence Secretary could be up for a recall when the inquiry gets going again later in the month.
Blair bounces Hutton questions:
Tony Blair gave his monthly press conference. Why? He didn't say anything, wasn't really asked anything, come to that. Problem was he kicked off by saying he wouldn't discuss Hutton until Hutton discusses Hutton. Well, there's only so much interest to be had from re-hashing the is-this-the-end-of-spin merry-go -round. That's enough hyphens.
View from Iraq:
To Iraq. The good Dr Gailan Ramiz has just spoken to me from Baghdad. Yes, he says, Blair's right in that most Iraqis are overjoyed to see Saddam gone. But he talks of a revolution beginning to happen across his country. The occupiers can, should, must hand real power to real charismatic Iraqi leaders and fast, to stop that revolution leading who knows where - fascinating stuff from an astute observer...."
Sept 5 ~"Lord Hutton has done more in six weeks to advance the cause of freedom of information than this Labour government has done in six years."Robin Cook in the Independent yesterday. " In the process he has demolished the case which the Government made for war. Some commentators have deplored the restriction of Hutton's remit to the death of Dr Kelly, but I welcome the consequence that the rest of us are free to draw our own conclusions from the other evidence he has unearthed. Number 10 cannot tell Parliament next week to sit quietly and wait on the findings of the inquiry when we all know that it has ordered Lord Hutton not to come to any findings on the case for war. But the Hutton inquiry has given Parliament plenty of leads to pursue. Why did the Prime Minister try to persuade MPs that Saddam was "a current and serious threat'' when we now know that Tony Blair could not convince his own chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, that Saddam was an imminent threat. Even Alastair Campbell, Tony's alter ego, appears to have had his doubts. In his diary, the month the dossier is published, he asks, "Why was this such an important issue to the British government now? Why Iraq? Why only Iraq?"...."
Sept 4 ~ Mr Blair is expected to be questioned about yesterday's revelationthat intelligence analysts expressed resentment at "political interference" in their work by "spin merchants" (see extracts from yesterday's Hutton Inquiry, below) "....Mr Blair may also be asked about reports which have said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told him to send more troops to Iraq or risk "strategic failure" of the coalition's efforts to keep the peace. Mr Straw is said to have spelt out to the Prime Minister his concerns about the "deteriorating" situation in Iraq. The warning was revealed in notes drawn up for a meeting between the two men which were leaked to a broadsheet. In the notes marked "confidential", Mr Straw suggested sending an extra 5,000 UK troops to Iraq to increase security amid the growing threat from terrorist bombings and attacks on coalition troops, reports have said. Mr Straw urged "visible improvements" by the beginning of the Muslim festival of Ramadan on October 27. The Foreign Secretary said that Iraqis' expectations for reconstruction are not being met. "Electricity generation still around 25% below war levels, and transmission undermined by looting and sabotage," Mr Straw reportedly said. Mr Straw's warning follows ongoing attacks on British and US interests in the post-war country as well as the the devastating car bombing of the UN's headquarters in Baghdad and Najaf mosque attack which killed scores of people last week...." (ITV news)
Sept 4 ~ Q. You make the comment about the involvement of the spin merchants of this administration. Who were you referring to?From the transcript
"Mr A", the chemical warfare expert at yesterday afternoon's evidence at the Hutton Inquiry, gave this reply : " Well, it is really a general comment from the working level within the DIS about perceived interference and really that --
Q. Sorry to interrupt. What was the perception?
A. The perception was that the dossier had been round the houses several times in order to try to find a form of words which would strengthen certain political objectives...
Sept 4 ~ Dr Brian Francis Gill Jones: "...I think "weapons of mass destruction" has become a convenient catch-all which, in my opinion, can at times confuse discussion of the subject..Q. And what was your CW expert's particular concern?
A. Well, at its simplest he was concerned that some of the statements that were in the dossier did not accurately represent his assessment of the intelligence available to him....
Q... concerns had not been accepted?
A. Some had, but there were significant ones that had not been accepted.
Q. And how did your CW expert feel about that?
A. He was very concerned....they were really about a tendency in certain areas, from his point of view, to shall we say over-egg certain assessments in relation particularly to the production of CW agents and weapons since 1998.
.....Were you aware of any concerns about the 45 minutes?
A. Yes, I had some concerns about the 45 minute point myself; yes.
Sept 3 ~ "..The neocons wanted to marginalize the wimpy U.N. by barreling past it into Iraq. Now the Bush administration is crawling back to the U.N., but other nations are suspicious of U.S. security and politics in Iraq. "Opinion column in the New York Times by Maureen Dowd: " When your aim is remaking the Middle East, you don't want to get stuck making it up as you go along. Even officials with a combined century of international experience can behave with jejeunosity -- if they start believing their own spin. The group that started out presuming it could shape the world is now getting shoved by the world. Our unseen tormentors are the ones who seem canny and organized, not us. As they move from killing individual U.S. soldiers and Iraqis to sabotaging power plants, burning oil pipelines, blowing up mosques, demolishing the U.N. headquarters and now hitting the Baghdad police headquarters, our enemies seem better prepared and more committed to creating chaos in Iraq -- and Afghanistan -- than we are to creating order. They've also proved more adept at putting together an effective coalition than the Bush team: a terrifying blend of terrorists from other countries, Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam fighters, radical Shiites and Saddam remnants, all pouring into Iraq and united by their hatred of America. If we review the Bush war council's motives for conquering Iraq, the scorecard looks grim......" Read in full
Sept 3 ~ "Government accused of 'over-egging' dossier" reports Channel 4 NewsChannel 4 news email update (written in the style it seems to favour at present): "A huge day at Hutton -- forget all the BBC stuff -- today we got to the people who really matter - the MOD scientific/intelligence people. And boy -- are they unhappy at the Government exaggerating the "case" for invading Iraq. Extraordinary stuff. Accusing the Government of 'over egging' the dossier; shutting out the boffins who knew the reality of the 'threat and not the spin; slagging off Alastair Campbell in emails -- directly accusing Tony Blair of having no real evidence of any threat although he talked about the deployment of WMD in 45 minutes.
Indeed they say there was no evidence of Iraq even having - definitely - chemical or biological weapons. Even if they did have them -- it's not really accurate to describe them as weapons of mass destruction.
All in all, devastating witness evidence against the Government's spinning of the case for war. Curiously, all this just on the day when the great overhaul of the No 10 publicity department is announced in detail. Dave Hill will not be allowed to order around senior civil servants like Alistair Campbell did. Will it make politicians tell the truth? Let's wait..."
Sept 3 ~ "Army chiefs were forced to issue a humiliating apology after SAS soldiers beat 11 innocent Iraqi civilians in a bungled raid."Mirror co.uk "The troopers - who waded in with stun grenades, kicking and hitting with boots and rifle butts - wrongly thought they were netting suspects involved in the execution in June of six Royal Military policemen. They could be thrown out of the army...."
Sept 3 ~ Anger, fear and grief as Shi ite cleric buriedHUNDREDS of thousands of mourners converged on the Iraqi holy city of Najaf yesterday for the funeral of a popular Shiite cleric and to hear his brother issue an angry demand that the United States armed forces leave the country. The Scotsman
Sept 2 ~ How Tony Blair climbed the foothills of the big lieThe Hutton inquiry is a brilliant distraction from the real issues of war says Hugo Young in today's Guardian "...in reality, Hutton is little more than a brilliant, beguiling distraction from the questions on which the future of this government ought to rest.
"....I can think of several issues that damage Blair's reputation as badly as, or worse than, the little matter of who advanced the claim that Saddam Hussein could launch a weapon of mass destruction in 45 minutes. Every inch of coverage of Hutton serves the purpose of obscuring them.
....We are told to be patient. It's said evidence of WMD will be discovered, though I notice that the timescale now inches forward into years, not months. But the more time passes, the more incredible looks the official assertion that the threat to Britain from Iraq was "imminent". We must take care not to let amnesia, a useful supporter of big lies, enter the frame.
Second, we must not allow the rationale for war to change. How would this have sounded last March?
"We think Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, though we're far from proving it. We don't think he has links with al-Qaida, or had anything to do with 9/11. But we are determined to get rid of him. We need regime change. We will risk British lives to that end, and then play our part alongside our faithful friend George Bush in rebuilding Iraq into a democracy. It may be an expensive business, but it is our national duty."That statement represents roughly the true assessment most politicians and intelligence people were making before war began. If Blair had put it in those terms to parliament and the country, does anyone think he would have secured national assent for what he wanted to do? ...."
Sept 2 ~ Brutal Diplomacy "The wealthiest 5% of the world's people now earn 114 times as much as the poorest 5%..."George Monbiot in today's Guardian "The Worst of Times"
In the first of a three-part series on trade, George Monbiot argues that the rich world's brutal diplomacy is worsening the plight of poor nations "The 500 richest people on earth now own $1.54 trillion - more than the entire gross domestic product of Africa, or the combined annual incomes of the poorest half of humanity.
....on farm subsidies. In 1994, the rich countries agreed that they would phase them out, if the poor countries promised to open their markets to western corporations. The poor nations kept their promise, the rich countries broke theirs. The new round of talks is supposed to lead to the "phasing out [of] all forms of export subsidies", and a negotiating text to this effect was meant to have been produced by March 31. Again, the promise has been broken, and again the poor have been told that only if they grant the rich world's corporations even greater access to their economies, farm subsidies will come to an end. But the powerful nations, while refusing to address the demands of the poor, press their own claims with brutal diplomacy. ..
...But eventually, as in France, there must be a revolution. It is likely to happen only when there is a globalised crisis of survival: a worldwide shortage of grain, for example (like the deficit which followed the bad harvest of 1788) or - and this is currently more likely and more imminent - a shortage of fossil fuel...."
Sept 2 ~ Union leaders have agreed a motion condemning the Iraq war.Independent "Unions are expected overwhelmingly to endorse the resolution at the TUC conference next week, which is likely to be a dress rehearsal for Labour's conference a fortnight later. The union statement also expresses opposition to any future attempt by America to "target independent states such as Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba for regime change"...
....this year, party activists are expected to agree a composite anti-war statement that is likely to attract a massive majority of Labour delegates.
The TUC's general council opened up another front against the Prime Minister yesterday, reaffirming its opposition to increasing private-sector involvement in the delivery of public services. A statement passed by the general council attacked the Government's commitment to private finance initiatives, public-private partnerships and foundation hospitals.... "
Sept 2 ~" It was the most personal and emotive testimony heard so far, and, for Downing Street, devastating."Independent ".. At the time of Dr Kelly's death, Tony Blair is said to have acknowledged privately that if the scientist's family blamed his Government over what happened, his position would be called into question. That damning accusation was made six weeks later. Mrs Kelly told the inquiry that when her husband had come forward to tell his superiors at the MoD that he had met the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, he was assured that his identification would not be made public. Extraordinarily, while the honours section in Downing Street was considering whether Dr Kelly should be offered a knighthood, Mr Blair's official spokesman was claiming that the MoD rated his contribution as no more than that of a "middle-ranking technical expert". Mrs Kelly said: "He was deeply, deeply hurt. He was being treated like a fly, that's the phrase he used."....
Sept 2 ~ "David Kelly's widow raised serious questions yesterday about the truthfulness of crucial evidence given to the Hutton inquiry by the prime minister's closest advisers.."".. over the Whitehall strategy which led to his exposure in the media. In devastating testimony to the inquiry, Janice Kelly said her husband had felt "totally let down and betrayed" when he learned that a press statement had been issued which quickly brought about his unmasking. Mrs Kelly said her husband had been given assurances by his bosses that a press statement would not be released. Dr Kelly did not know until after the event, she said.
Her evidence contradicts testimony to the inquiry by Tony Blair and his top officials.
Asked by Lord Hutton from whom Dr Kelly had received the assurances, she replied: "From his line manager, from all their seniors and from the people he had been interviewed by." The inquiry has heard that the decision to issue a press statement - describing an unnamed individual who had volunteered the fact he had met the BBC reporter, Andrew Gilligan - was taken at a meeting in Mr Blair's study on the morning of July 8. Among those present were the prime minister, Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's communications chief, Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, and John Scarlett, chairman of the joint intelligence committee. ..." Guardian
Sept 2 ~ "If we are ever going to try something like this again," he wrote with great prescience, "we must be absolutely sure that (the) people and army want what we want."Another Fine Mess
It began as a quiet plot to protect UK and US interests in Iran. Fifty years on, the fall-out of Operation Boot can still be felt through the Middle East. Robert Fisk, who knew the British classical scholar who helped mastermind it, reflects on a saga of unintended consequences and unlearnt lessons. More ambitious ideological projects, vast armies - and bigger egos - are involved in regime change today. Maybe that's why they fail so quickly and, in the case of Iraq, so bloodily. The coup against Mossadeq was the first such operation carried out by the Americans in the Cold War - and the last by the British. At least we never claimed that Mossadeq had weapons of mass destruction. But the final word must go to Kermit Roosevelt. "If we are ever going to try something like this again," he wrote with great prescience, "we must be absolutely sure that (the) people and army want what we want."
Sept 1 ~ Mrs Janice Kelly has told the Hutton inquiry that her late husband had felt totally let down and betrayed.When asked for more detail by Lord Hutton, she added: "I believed he meant the Ministry of Defence because they were the ones who had effectively let his name be known in the public domain." She said Dr Kelly had received assurances from his line manager and senior ministry officials that his name would not be made public. When it was made public and he knew he was to be made to appear before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee - and that this would even be televised- "I'd never known him to be as unhappy as he was then"
Aug 31 ~ Protesters hold Iraq war 'inquiry'BBC news ".....High profile anti-war campaigners such as Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn MP and John Pilger said Tony Blair's government had "manipulated opinion" to gain support for the attack on Iraq. ..... Hans von Sponeck.... resigned, after 36 years of UN service, in protest at alleged British and American violations of Security Council resolutions that made it impossible to properly distribute humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people. He called on the international community to come to the aid of the Iraqis, but to refuse to support the "US-UK occupation". ..."
Aug 31 ~"... we are realizing that the 9/11 treason and murder probably will remain unsolved for all time, just like the Kennedy assassination."John Kaminski "When we discovered that the highest officials in the United States not only knew 9/11 was going to happen (and that is a certainty with thousands of footnotes), but profited mightily from that knowledge, this revelation could have offered a tremendous window into the political behavior of the American nation. ......A legitimate probe of 9/11 - not like the sham that was just perpetrated that didn't address any of the really major questions -would have shed light on the corporate powers that control the media and the White House, and maybe - just maybe - would have taken that large step to show the deluded American populace that we are neither a democracy nor a republic, that we are a corporate-controlled police state whose leaders are savaging their own citizens simply to make more money for themselves and the rich friends who put them in office in the first place. ...."
Aug 31 ~ "a civil war in Iraq that will consume the entire nation if its new rulers do not abandon their neo-conservative fantasies"Robert Fisk in the Independent "......what is happening, in the Sunni heartland around Baghdad and now in the burgeoning Shia nation to the south, is not just the back-draft of an invasion or even a growing guerrilla war against occupation. It is the start of a civil war in Iraq that will consume the entire nation if its new rulers do not abandon their neo-conservative fantasies and implore the world to share the future of the country with them."
Aug 31 ~ "the first shot in an Iraqi civil war that Middle East experts warned would ensue if Saddam were removed without careful planning."http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4574.htm "The bombing of one of Islam's holiest shrines not only killed an important Shi'a leader, it also signals the first shot in an Iraqi civil war that Middle East experts warned would ensue if Saddam were removed without careful planning. The assassination of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim in Najaf on August 28 is the opening volley in the coming Iraqi Civil War. The United States will reap the whirlwind. One of the most consistent and ominous prewar warnings to the Bush administration by Middle East experts was that removal of Saddam Hussein without the most careful political and social engineering would result in the breaking apart of Iraq into warring factions that would battle each other for decades. The hawks in the White House would not listen. They were so wedded to the fantasy scenario that the removal of Saddam in an act of "creative destruction" would result in the automatic emergence of democracy. They brushed aside all warnings...."
Aug 30 ~ Heseltine calls for judicial inquiry into the reasons for warThe Guardian reports today: "... Lord Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister, yesterday led a group of Tory and Labour politicians in calling for a full-scale judicial inquiry into why Britain went to war against Iraq. In a rare intervention after Tony Blair's appearance before the Hutton inquiry, Lord Heseltine said the narrow focus of the Hutton inquiry showed the need for a full judicial inquiry into the "flimsy" evidence used as a basis for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. ..."
Aug 30 ~".. Campbell was there from the very beginning, an ally and co-conspiratorin those long-ago days when Blair was a young shadow energy secretary in a hurry. Once officially installed, he gave advice on everything: from when to smile on TV, to what to say and how to say it. Campbell was not just a co-founder of New Labour; he was a co-creator of Tony Blair. "
Read Jonathan Freedland on Blair all alone at the end of an era
"They complemented each other perfectly. Campbell gave Blair, nicknamed "Emily" at school and "Bambi" in opposition, some macho cover. Campbell is not just the tabloid bruiser of modern myth. He is one of those men whose bullying charisma makes other men crave his approval. You would see it whenever he was surrounded by a pack of hacks, which was often. He had locker room magnetism, which he deployed to great effect. Blair has none of it. ....."
See also the Scotsman "...A tall man, Campbell's 6ft 2in frame would appear even bigger as he towered over former colleagues to scream obscenities at them and threaten to leave them out in the cold politically. His temper was legendary. Michael White, the Guardian's mischievous political editor, had his glasses broken by a punch from Campbell who objected to Mr White's continual joking about Robert Maxwell, Mr Campbell's former boss. But his job was not just to bully journalists. He gradually took over more and more of the presentational side of the Blair government, controlling every release from his 8:15am meetings with the heads of Whitehall press departments. ..."
Aug 30 ~" He had more power, I would guess, than anybody else in Downing Street.But it's a vacuum that has to be filled, and I hope that it is going to be filled in a way that the government gets out of this spiral of distrust it's in." Martin Bell. See today's Guardian on the departure of Alasdair Campbell. "...the Tory MP Ann Widdecombe called for a "new honesty" in politics. "I hope there will be a new breed of political adviser. In fact, I'd like a new breed of politician. I'd like Tony Blair to follow him. This government has turned spin into an art form, and a very unpleasant and dark art it has proved to be."
Sir Bernard Ingham, Lady Thatcher's Downing Street press secretary, told the ITV News Channel: "Blair is responsible ultimately for the loss of trust, because he allowed the methods Campbell employed to operate.
"I think we have seen it from the beginning, this absolute obsession with the media. We have seen it repeatedly, the way in which these methods have been employed - it is the ultimate in cynicism."
The former Labour MP Tony Benn said Mr Campbell's role was really that of a deputy prime minister and that this was unacceptable. ..."
Aug 30 ~ "What is emerging is a pattern of protecting Blair...."John Pilger last week. The Scott inquiry produced a mountainous report and opaque conclusions. No politician was prosecuted; a few reputations were ruffled. The English establishment is expert at this. Tim Laxton, an auditor who examined the books of two British arms companies, believes that if there had been a full and open inquiry, "hundreds" would have faced criminal prosecution. "They would include," he said, "top political figures, very senior civil servants throughout Whitehall: the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry... the top echelon of government."
The Hutton inquiry into the circumstances of Dr David Kelly's death has its memorable moments, too. The warning of Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, not to "claim that we have evidence that [Saddam] is a threat", points directly to Blair's lying. However, that was exceptional. What is emerging is a pattern of protecting Blair, who is being subtly spun as a restraining influence, a peacemaker, even a guardian of Dr Kelly. ..David Kelly's tragedy deserved public investigation; but so does the epic, unneccessary. tragedy of the thousands of Iraqis whose lives Blair helped to end or scar. ."
Aug 29 ~ "He must be the only person in Britain who thinks that the September dossier wasn't sexed up."From the icWales website "...TORY leader Iain Duncan Smith last night accused Prime Minister Tony Blair and Downing Street of presiding over "underhand" and "shameful" treatment of weapons expert David Kelly - both before and after his apparent suicide. Mr Duncan Smith, commenting after Mr Blair gave his evidence to the Hutton Inquiry, said, "The Prime Minister knew about, and was satisfied with, the underhand treatment of Dr Kelly and the systematic attempt to destroy his reputation both before and after his death. "This is the most shameful act of this sorry saga....
.....Nothing was done by the book - it broke all the rules and it was done to protect the reputation of Downing Street and the Prime Minister." Tory MP Richard Ottaway, a member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said after Mr Blair's evidence, "He must be the only person in Britain who thinks that the September dossier wasn't sexed up."
Aug 29 ~ The essential message: I was responsible for everything and guilty of nothing.Channel 4's News update last night: "... The PM told Lord Hutton he was ultimately responsible for the strategy of confirming David Kelly's name to any journalist who asked, but didn't seem to recall being very involved in many of the decisions along the way. His argument ran that because David Kelly's name would have come out anyway they had to have a way of avoiding the finger of blame pointing at innocent parties within defence and intelligence communities. They had no idea David Kelly was anything but a robust individual well capable of dealing with the media.
On the dossier Blair said he was well aware that Alastair Campbell had discussions with the Joint Intelligence Committee Chairman John Scarlett about the presentational wording, but that the intelligence itself came from the JIC and was owned by John Scarlett. He said he had to be able to say "hand on heart" that the dossier came from the JIC and not Downing Street.
If the BBC's allegations had been true, he said, he would have had to have resigned. He even telephoned the BBC Chairman to suggest a compromise whereby the BBC said they defended their right to report the story but accepted it was wrong. The BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies rejected the suggestion saying Newsnight's Susan Watts had largely corroborated the Today programme's Andrew Gilligan - but the PM hadn't watched Newsnight so gave up on the attempt to settle the dispute.
So not much in terms of revelations - but a clear statement that if Lord Hutton finds fault with the government then the buck stops with the PM...."
Aug 28 ~ Tony Blair said today that he took responsibility for weapons expert David Kelly being namedBut, as the Independent said yesterday, "....on a flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong, Mr Blair uttered the words he may live to regret to a scrum of journalists.
Asked whether he had authorised the leaking of Dr Kelly's name, he replied: "Emphatically not. I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly."
The long trail of e-mails, memos and letters emerging at the inquiry now suggest otherwise. One telling note by Sir David Omand, the Government's Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator, is headed: "Meetings in the Prime Minister's study, 7 and 8 July 2003." These took the fateful decisions that Dr Kelly would appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee and to issue a statement that an official had come forward to say he had met the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. Downing Street's strategy of saying that the Ministry of Defence was the "lead department" has been undermined by the weight of evidence submitted to the inquiry. It suffered further damage yesterday, when Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, proved reluctant to take on the role of fall guy and sacrificial lamb. He added to the trail of clues leading back to Number 10. "
Aug 28 ~ "Mr Hoon... failed to follow the script.."says today's Scotsman "..after days of speculation that he had acquiesced to demands from Downing Street that he deliver himself up as a "sacrificial lamb". Instead of falling on his sword, he turned it on Downing Street as he fought for his political life. Mr Hoon made it clear he does not intend to carry the can for the row over BBC claims the government had exaggerated the threat from Iraq and the subsequent chain of events that led to Dr Kelly's apparently committing suicide. His game plan will leave Mr Blair with the prospect of facing awkward questions when he gives evidence today, undoing much of the rescue plan so carefully put together by Sir John Scarlett, the chairman of the joint intelligence committee, earlier in the week..."
Aug 28 ~ "Unless you can justify the war with Iraq I say that you should take responsibility for your wrongful and ill-judged decision and stand down "On the day that our Prime Minister told the Hutton Inquiry that if the BBC report accusing his government of "sexing up" intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons capability had been true, he would have resigned, we read of yet another Kelly. This time it is the youngest British serviceman to die in the war with Iraq, Andrew Kelly, who was 18. He was serving with the Third Battalion Parachute Regiment near Basra when he died in a shooting accident. The article on the Cornwall BBC page tells us that his father is still waiting for a reply from Mr Blair in answer to the letter he wrote him on July 20th: - "Surely, to declare war on another nation should only be a last resort when all efforts to avoid war have been exhausted. This was clearly not the case with you. Your decision to go to war, unnecessarily so, put my son in the firing line unnecessarily. Therefore I hold you personally responsible for my son's death, as well as the deaths of the other servicemen killed as a result of your decision to go to war with Iraq. Unless you can justify the war with Iraq I say that you should take responsibility for your wrongful and ill-judged decision and stand down from your position as prime minister of our great country to enable a person with integrity and our country's interests at heart to lead with sincerity and dignity. . .."
Aug 28 ~ " Lord Hutton will also want to know about Blair's role in Kelly's "outing."...."Christian Science Monitor "....."He will be asked how much pressure to reveal Kelly came from his office or from the prime minister himself," says Iain McLean, professor in politics at Oxford University. "A more important question would be, 'Who hardened up the dossier, when, and why?' The inquiry has found out a surprising amount about that." Indeed, although not strictly tasked with examining whether the dossier was hyped up, the three-week-old hearings have teased out some fascinating snippets. A snowstorm of e-mails from intelligence officers and Blair's aides betray an effort to get hard and fast WMD intelligence for inclusion in the fall dossier. A picture is emerging of government officials appealing to the intelligence community for any scraps that could be pulled together to make the dossier more convincing. "The prime minister's office has been doing what prime minister's offices always do, and that is spin," says Professor McLean. "Mr. Blair may be able to make a clean breast of 'outing' Dr. Kelly by saying it was important for national security, and that he didn't know he would go on to kill himself," but it will be harder for him to wiggle free from the charges that his aides "hardened up the dossier," he says...."
Aug 27 ~ "one day, when the costs of occupation become unsustainable, it (the US) will be forced to retreat in a manner and at a time not of its choosing..""..Iraq may swallow George Bush and his imperial project, just as the Afghan morass digested the Soviet empire. It is time his opponents stopped seeking to rescue him from his self-destruction. " Read George Monbiot on Beware the bluewash "The UN must not let itself be used as a dustbin for failed American adventures "
Aug 27 ~ "Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has, basically, been explaining how far out of the loop he was when it came to naming Dr David Kelly."(Channel 4 news update) " Not quite 'oh it was all something Downing Street cooked up,' but not far off. Grim testimony this afternoon though about the toll it was all taking on Dr Kelly's wife and himself - he told a close colleague who was shepherding him through the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, that it was the most pressurised experience of his life - worse than his PHD interview, hitherto his most stressful period. Link to Hutton Inquiry Home Page. Main points of Mr Hoon's evidence on Sky News website
Aug 26 ~"... over the weekend, as 900 new documents were posted on the Hutton inquiry website, fresh pieces of the jigsaw puzzle suggested that not only Mr Campbell but also Mr Blair requested substantive changes to the now infamous dossier."A central issue for Mr Blair is why he insisted on stating that Saddam Hussein posed a "current and serious threat" just weeks after Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, said the dossier should not be used to allege that there was an "imminent threat". Critics will also claim that the sheer volume and noise of e-mail traffic within No 10 in the run-up to the publication of the dossier shows that Mr Campbell and his army of Downing Street officials overstepped the mark from "presentation" to interference...." Independent
Aug 26 ~ "John Scarlett, who will appear before the inquiry today, insisted that changes be madeto the Prime Minister's foreword to the dossier to make clear that the JIC was not responsible for everything that was in it. The move, which appears to have come in response to requests from other members of the JIC, casts further doubt on the testimony of Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of communications. Mr Campbell told both the inquiry and the Commons foreign affairs select committee that the dossier was entirely the work of the JIC...." Telegraph today
Aug 26 ~ "To continue to talk of an "underlying improvement" in the situation is to whistle in a very murky dark..."" ... We and many others urged the British government to cash in its credit with the Bush administration and press hard for a greatly enhanced UN role in Iraq. If ever secretary-general Kofi Annan needed unequivocal support, it is now. Instead, our foreign secretary, Jack Straw, still appears determined not to ruffle a single buttoned-down collar in Washington. To continue to talk of an "underlying improvement" in the situation is to whistle in a very murky dark. As the Washington Post argued editorially on Sunday: "It seems at least equally plausible that time is working against the coalition." The paper deplored the failure of secretary of state Colin Powell to share responsibility in Iraq with the UN. As a report issued yesterday by the International Crisis Group spells out, that is the only way forward with a chance." Guardian Leader
Aug 26 ~ "When [Mr Blair] wrote the foreword suggesting the threat was current and serious, was he aware of Jonathan Powell's reservations the information did not justify the conclusion? "Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday Mr Blair and Mr Hoon had serious questions to answer.... "How much did they know about the strategy to put Dr Kelly's name before the public?"
Aug 25 ~ "With each passing day of the Hutton inquiry, the case for war, already questionable, has looked flimsier.Mr Blair's standing as a leader to trust could hardly be lower. On Thursday he will face perhaps his biggest challenge: to convince an increasingly sceptical public that there was no cover-up to protect a woefully exaggerated case for war." Herald Editorial, Glasgow, August 25
Aug 25 ~ 400 Iraqi women kidnapped raped or sold in Iraq since fall of Saddam HusseinArabic Daily News "Yanar Muhammad.. explained that professional gangs are selling, raping or kidnapping women in order to get financial ransom. She stressed that women in the streets are exposed to insulting sexual harassment and threats of kidnapping "and that a state of real fear exists among women...many of them avoid getting out of their houses." The women's organization accused the American forces of turning a blind eye to what is taking place and stressed that, uselessly, it talked to the transitional governing council and the American administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer and asked for enhancing security and imposing penalty of sexual harassment."
Aug 25 ~ "..there's nothing new in smearing the dead, is there?"Thank God for Robert Fisk. Read this important article.
"....Rachel Corrie who stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer that was about to demolish a Palestinian home and who was killed - wearing a clearly marked jacket and shouting through a loudspeaker - when the Israeli driver crushed her beneath his bulldozer and then drove backwards over her body again. All this was filmed. As a Jewish writer, Naomi Klein, bravely pointed out in The Guardian, "Unlike Lynch, Corrie did not go to Gaza to engage in combat; she went to try to thwart it." Yet not a single American government official has praised Rachel Corrie's courage or condemned her killing by the Israeli driver. President Bush has been gutlessly silent. For their part, the Israeli government tried to smear the activist group to which Rachel Corrie belonged by claiming that two Britons later involved in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv had attended a memorial service to her - as if the organisers could have known of the wicked deed the two men had not yet committed.
But there's nothing new in smearing the dead, is there? Back in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, I remember well how the British Army's press office at Lisburn in Co Antrim would respond to the mysterious death of British ex-soldiers or Englishmen who were inconveniently killed by British soldiers. The dead were always described as - and here, reader, draw in your breath - "Walter Mitty characters". I used to get sick of reading this smear in Belfast Telegraph headlines. Anonymous army officers would pass it along to the press. The guy was a Walter Mitty, a fantasist whose claims could not be believed. This was said of at least three dead men in Northern Ireland.
And I have a suspicion, of course, that this is where Tony Blair's adviser Tom Kelly first heard of Walter Mitty and the ease with which authority could libel the dead. ..."
Aug 25 ~ Scarlett urged coaching for the weapons expert ahead of his appearance before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.The Observer today reported that the chief of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, who supervised the dossier - he is described as its "owner'' - asked Mr Blair to change his foreword, apparently in a bid to tone it down. The newspaper said the foreword was originally drafted by Mr Campbell but it was known what the changes were. "Scarlett, who is also giving evidence to Hutton this week, will be questioned about it,'' it said.
Utv's website tells us ; "Dr David Kelly's widow officially protested to Tony Blair about spin doctors smearing him, secret documents reveal."
Aug 25 ~".. those nations that do not choose to take Washington's whip are going to need to coordinate their positions and keep in touch..."wrote Matthew Parris in the Times last April, " The balance of power needs rebalancing. For want of a better term, I shall call the grouping of which Russia, Germany and France now form a putative core, the Rest of the World. " The whole article can be read again here. "...Finding himself halfway across a swaying transatlantic bridge, our Prime Minister scuttled in panic to the American side - an act which we are now being urged to see as brave. But it happened more through miscalculation than valour. Tony Blair thought the bridge could be repaired and that he might be the bridgemaker. Now he is marooned on the other side and will have to take his chances there. Fellow Conservatives who, super-sensitive to the most trivial European encroachment on British sovereignty, used to bawl themselves hoarse in defence of the fat content of the British sausage, have over the past month witnessed the most spectacular ceding of our independence in foreign and military policy since Suez - and all without a peep..."
Aug 24 ~ " A Baha'i would take his or her own life only if he or she had been overwhelmed by pressure of some kind."The Scotsman article The leader of Dr Kelly's religion, Barney Leith, explains its attraction ".....Baha'is do not condemn those who commit suicide. We believe God to be merciful to those who have suffered great stress in life. A Baha'i would take his or her own life only if he or she had been overwhelmed by pressure of some kind. Baha'is pray for the progress of the souls of those who die, whatever the mode of their death. The fundamental message is summarised in a letter which Abdu'l-Baha sent to Mrs Jayne Whyte - then his host in Edinburgh in 1913 and now regarded as the first Scottish Baha'i. "... the world of man should become the world of God - and unity, fellowship and love be won for the whole human race." .... I don't know enough about Dr Kelly to say how he came to identify himself as a Baha'i - which he did in the United States in 1999. ...."
Aug 24 ~ Campbell did redraft Iraq dossier, says the Sunday HeraldSunday Herald today: "Hutton releases 6000 pages of documents which show Blair's spin chief actively involved in rewriting case for war....In a speed-read of the documents published yesterday, the Sunday Herald has also found:
- Downing Street was sent into panic over what Dr David Kelly might tell the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) when he appeared before MPs to answer questions about his con versations with BBC reporters.
- Kelly was "briefed" and "prepared" by government officials and told not to give the FAC his views on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme.
- A summary of Kelly's evidence, given in private to the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee, showed that Kelly believed there was only a "30% probability" that the Iraqis had usable weapons.
Kelly said the claim in the Prime Minister's September dossier that Saddam could deploy WMD in just 45 minutes was "unwise" and was included for "impact". The documents also reveal Campbell urged Tony Blair to be "more combative" in dealing with criticism of the plans for war.
In a lengthy briefing note from Campbell to Blair telling the Prime Minister how to handle critics, Campbell accuses the BBC of trying to "contaminate" Blair's success as a war leader. ..."
Aug 24 ~ We opened our doors to the British because they got rid of Saddam, but now they have killed my boy, and for what?"The Washington Post today on "what, with minor exceptions, has been an incident-free coexistence with British forces."
The British soldiers listened politely. The post commander murmured repeatedly how sorry he was, quietly asking that the marchers move to one side of the road so military traffic could pass. After a few moments, a British political adviser appeared, opened the gate, and invited the distraught Iraqis inside the base for tea. "An interesting article which compares the low key experienced approach of the UK soldiers with the "considerable mistrust and tension have plagued U.S. military relations with Iraqis" explained away by reference to "more hostile communities in the north, including some Sunni Muslim areas that supported Hussein and have been the targets of U.S. raids, as well as some impoverished Shiite districts whose religious leaders have been agitating against foreign occupation." But the killing of the distraught man's nephew, Azhar Fawzi, 25, happened when a wedding procession through the Basra streets was punctuated by traditional celebratory gunfire and the British, not understanding that the gunfire was a traditional celebration, opened fire.
Three British soldiers were killed yesterday "Extremists from outside"? Read John Pilger below.
Aug 24 ~ 'extremists from outside'?Writing in the Daily Mirror, John Pilger identifies the root cause of the bloody bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad, which Washington and London have blamed this on 'extremists from outside'. "..Who can forget the BBC's exultant Chief Political Correspondent Andrew Marr, at the moment of "coalition" triumph. Tony Blair, he declared, "said that they would take Baghdad without a blood bath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both those points he has been conclusively proved right."
If you replace "right" with "wrong", you have the truth. To the BBC's man in Downing Street, up to 40,000 deaths apparently does not constitute a "blood bath"...."
Aug 24 ~ More than two-thirds of Britain's voters believe that they were deceivedMore than two-thirds of Britain's voters believe, from what they have heard so far in the inquiry into the death of weapons expert David Kelly, that they were deceived by the government about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Sunday Telegraph ".... Documents released last night by the inquiry reveal that Dr Kelly faced arrest earlier this year. One series of e-mails show Ministry of Defence officials discussing a request from the Metropolitan Police to interview Dr Kelly about a leaked document to Andrew Gilligan, a BBC defence correspondent, in March about the lack of known al-Qaeda links to Iraq. MoD officials ask for a "damage assessment/impact statement if Kelly was to be arrested". The police investigation was separate to the MoD's later inquiry into the source of Gilligan's report about the intelligence being exaggerated. The new documents increased the pressure on Mr Blair and Mr Hoon as it emerged that another senior civil servant - in addition to Sir Kevin Tebbit, the permanent secretary at the MoD - expressed reservations about forcing Dr Kelly to give evidence to two Commons committees. Sir Michael Jay, the Foreign Office permanent secretary, agreed with his opposite number at the MoD that the request was "pushing it"...."
Aug 20 ~" it was a shattering assault on the UN as an institution. But in reality, yesterday's attack was against the United States.""...The reaction to yesterday's tragedy could have been written in advance. The Americans will tell us that this proves how "desperate" Saddam's "dead-enders" have become - as if the attackers are more likely to give up as they become more successful in destroying US rule in Iraq. The truth - however many of Saddam's old regime hands are involved - is that the Iraqi resistance organisation now involves hundreds, if not thousands, of Sunni Muslims, many of them with no loyalty to the old regime. Increasingly, the Shias are becoming involved in anti-American actions. Future reaction is equally predictable. Unable to blame their daily cup of bitterness upon Saddam's former retinue, the Americans will have to conjure up foreign intervention. Saudi "terrorists", al-Qa'ida "terrorists", pro-Syrian "terrorists", pro-Iranian "terrorists" - any mysterious "terrorists" will do if their supposed existence covers up the painful reality: that our occupation has spawned a real home-grown Iraqi guerrilla army capable of humbling the greatest power on Earth..." An important article by Robert Fisk in the Independent that is worth reading in full.
Aug 20 ~"the top civil servant at the MoD Kevin Tebbit knew perfectly well that Kelly's views on the forty-five minute claim could be damaging for the Government."Channel 4's daily update says (Wednesday 20 Aug): "It now seems clear that as Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and some of the other most important people in the country should perhaps of been concentrating on how to rebuild and bring stability to post-war Iraq, they were actually concentrating on getting Dr David Kelly to help them win their battle with the BBC.
Evidence today paints a picture of Downing Street coming to a view that Kelly was Andrew Gilligan's source but that Gilligan had embellished his story. So they thought Kelly being named and giving evidence to MP's would win their battle for them.
However, it also emerges that the top civil servant at the MoD Kevin Tebbit knew perfectly well that Kelly's views on the forty-five minute claim could be damaging for the Government. Put that together with the revelation last week that Kelly was briefed the day before he gave evidence and told not to give his personal view on the dossier and it is starting to look as though he was in a pretty impossible position.
And the accusation that he effectively misled the Foreign Affairs Committee starts to seem pretty unfair. "
Aug 20 ~Successive versions of the dossier released last week showed that the 45-minute claim was indeed a late addition.Daily News (South Africa) "...Yesterday an email from Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, to senior colleagues in the Prime Minister's office showed that Powell considered the arguments for war still too weak. Damning the dossier with faint praise, Powell - an experienced ex-diplomat - said in its current form it would convince only "those who are prepared to be convinced". .... Yesterday's emails showed that it was none other than Campbell who informed Powell that the dossier was being rewritten, and none other than Campbell to whom Powell sent his withering assessment. This may have been simply because Campbell was acting in his capacity as Communications Director.
The late Kelly, according to those reporters who spoke to him, veered between identifying Campbell as personally involved or responsible by virtue of his position. The distinction hardly matters. Kelly's accusations - and the BBC's reporting of them - are vindicated..."
Aug 19 ~"The document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam ....An e-mail fromJonathan Powell to Mr John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, dated September 17, acknowledged that there was no evidence in the dossier of any "imminent threat" from Iraq. "The dossier is good and convincing for those who are prepared to be convinced," he noted. "The document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam .... We will need to to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat." Lord Hutton also heard how Mr Blair himself chaired crisis talks after it emerged that Dr Kelly could be the source of the BBC reports. See The e-mails, the rewritten dossier and how No 10 made its case for war (Independent)
Aug 17 ~ The 'washing of hands' by Number 10 will leave serious questions for MoD staff.Observer "...Hutton constantly pressed witnesses who appeared before him last week as to why they thought it necessary to name Kelly. If he makes any criticism of the policy, it will be the MoD who will be expected to carry the can. Pam Tear, the MoD Director of Communications, will give evidence tomorrow as to why she agreed to confirm the Government scientist's name if it was put to her by journalists. ...Campbell will also categorically deny that he deliberately inserted the intelligence claim that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so. Hutton will focus on two key meetings, both believed to have taken place on 9 September, two weeks before publication of the dossier. One was of the Joint Intelligence Committee, chaired by John Scarlett. It was this committee that first agreed that the 45-minute assessment was credible. On the same day Campbell chaired a meeting of the Iraqi Communications Group, which had a close role in drawing up the dossier. It was only after the two meetings that the 45-minute claim appeared in a subsequent draft of the dossier. .."
Aug 17 ~ "Lord Hutton's forensic approach to the inquiry into Dr David Kelly's death is cutting through the political spin to reveal far more than the Government ever intended."Independent on Sunday "The inquiry's remit - carefully circumscribed by the Government - was to focus purely and simply on those events which led up to Dr Kelly's death. After only a week of hearing evidence, many questions about his death remain to be answered...." "Last night, David Davis, the shadow Deputy Prime Minister, said: "There's something seriously wrong when even the most senior civil servants have to twist their actions to fit with government spin. If this is correct, it is a stark demonstration [of] the demise of the British system of government."....A briefing for MoD press officers also appears on the website. It shows that journalists were misled in one key area. The "Q & A" states that the scientist was not a member of the Iraq Survey Group, but repeated testimony this week showed that he was.
Aug 16 ~ 45-minute claim on Iraq was hearsayGuardian "...The revelation that the 45 minute claim is second hand is contained in an internal Foreign Office document released by the Hutton inquiry. It had been thought the basis for the claim came from an Iraqi officer high in Saddam Hussein's command structure. In fact it came through an informant, who passed it on to MI6. ...The irony is that the government launched a furious attack on the BBC for broadcasting allegations that the dossier was "sexed up" based on a single, anonymous, uncorroborated source. That source was Dr Kelly. Mr Campbell told the foreign affairs select committee: "I find it incredible ... that people can report based on one single anonymous uncorroborated source." In fact, the foundation for the government's claim was even shakier, according to the document: a single anonymous uncorroborated source quoting another single anonymous uncorroborated source. ..."
Aug 14~Mr Blair may yet meet his WatergateScotsman Lord Hutton is "....breaking all the traditions of the political whitewash. They are moving at breakneck speed, ploughing through witnesses to leave a harvest of hard evidence. " "In the space of three days, we know more about the doubts behind the Iraq dossier than the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee was able to establish in three months. The Hutton inquiry is so far surpassing all expectation. ..
...The pace and quality of Lord Hutton's inquiry so far suggests it may reach a quick conclusion - and produce a devastating piece of contemporary history. Lord Hutton is collecting a candid snapshot of British politics in 2003. The first surprise hit of his inquiry is the website. Perhaps because TV cameras are banned, the internet transcripts of the day's proceedings are proving a surprise Festival-time smash for lovers of good courtroom drama. ...
.....Already, a plausible answer to Lord Hutton's main question is emerging. Intelligence agents were relaxed about providing the raw data (little wonder: they handed over nothing that a 12-year-old with access to the internet could have found). But they were furious to see the rather tawdry finished product presented as intelligence work. Dr Kelly knew about this discontent, and informed his journalist contacts. " ."
Aug 6 ~ "The Government has abandoned its intention to attack the credibility of David Kelly after the furore...... caused by The Independent's revelation that Tom Kelly, Tony Blair's official spokesman, denigrated him as a "Walter Mitty". As Downing Street apologised to Dr Kelly's family, Whitehall sources acknowledged its plans were in disarray. A source said: "This policy of demeaning a dead man was never going to work. In a way, Downing Street should be thankful that this has been lanced, and personalised with Tom Kelly. The alternative of this strategy being carried into Hutton would have been pretty disastrous." Independent
Aug 6 ~ "So, it's perfectly possible that, from time to time, the Nobel-prize nominee Dr Kelly was a Walter Mitty character;but then, so, hopefully, is his namesake who tried to undermine the scientist's reputation with such a cheap shot. Unless, that is, he is content to spend his time smearing the name of a dead man on behalf of the Government." Independent
Aug 6 ~ "Tony Blair was under intense pressure last night to clear out the culture of spinrife through the government by sacking the Downing Street official at the centre of an attempt to smear Dr David Kelly." Scotsman "...Professor Alastair Hay, a close friend of Dr Kelly, said that the remarks were "heartless in the extreme" and "deeply shaming". Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: "It is time to abandon the whole culture of spin and off-the-record briefings. "We need a new atmosphere of openness and transparency if the political system is to regain public trust." Mr Prescotts unprecedented public apology followed a day of chaos at Downing Street, which at first tried to distance itself from the slur by originally claiming nobody in No 10 could have said such a thing.
...Mr Kellys actions are a huge embarrassment for Mr Blair ahead of the Hutton inquiry, which resumes next week and will raise further questions about the extent of the politicisation of the civil service under New Labour. Although Mr Blair and Alastair Campbell, his director of communications, were on holiday when Mr Kelly spoke to the journalist, it is still not clear whether the attempt to smear the weapons expert was authorised by No 10. ...."
Aug 5 ~ Tuesday, 8pm, R4: Pipeline PoliticsHow badly does America need oil, and did the demand influence the decision to go to war in Iraq?
Aug 1-4 ~".. the question is whether the US and Britain can prove their claims that he still had them in sufficient quantities to pose an imminent threat to the world."Independent on Sunday : Blair and Bush join forces to spin away weapons issue "....Officials say that WMD information is being collected and collated to create a "big impact". Both Downing Street and the White House are said to have learnt tough lessons from the experience of February's "dodgy dossier" on Iraq and the false claims about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa."
Aug 1-4 ~ America has warned the Niger government to keep out of the row over claims that Saddam Hussein sought to buy uranium for his nuclear weapons programmeSunday Telegraph: ...."Let's say Mr Cohen put a friendly arm around the president to say sorry about the forged documents, but then squeezed his shoulder hard enough to convey the message, 'Let's hear no more about this affair from your government'. Basically he was telling Niger to shut up."
The dramatic American intervention reflects growing concern about the continuing row over claims that America and Britain distorted evidence to justify the war against Iraq.
It follows The Telegraph's exclusive interview with Hama Hamadou, Niger's prime minister, last week. Mr Hamadou said that the Niger government had never had discussions with Iraq about uranium and called on Tony Blair to produce the "evidence" he claims to have to confirm that Iraq sought uranium from Niger in the 1990s.
American officials denied that there had been any attempt to "gag" the Niger government. The Niamey official, however, said that there was "a clear attempt to stop any more embarrassing stories coming out of Niger".
He said that Washington's warning was likely to be heeded. "Mr Cohen did not spell it out but everybody in Niger knows what the consequences of upsetting America or Britain would be. ..."
Aug 1 -4 ~ Hutton orders Blair to testify.Tony Blair faces the humiliation of having to cut short his summer holiday and endure a public cross-examination by BBC lawyers at the inquiry into the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly. The Scotsman
Aug 1-4 ~ "The Prime Minister, Alastair Campbell, BBC journalists and Dr David Kelly's widow-- all we now know will testify to Lord Hutton's inquiry -- which got underway on friday. Lord Hutton promises to hear evidence "as to how and why this came about" -- this being the apparent suicide, which still hasn't been officially confirmed by the police. Is this really the right way to be conducting this inquiry? You can read what Lord Hutton revealed about the pathologist's report and Dr Kelly's letter to his line manager about Andrew Gilligan here: http://www.channel4.com/news/2003/08/week_1/01_hutton.html "
Aug 1 ~ Foreign Affairs Select Committee says military action in Iraq may have increased the threat posed by international terrorism.The Scotsman today:" Tony Blair came under renewed criticism over the Iraq war yesterday when an influential group of MPs claimed the military action may have increased the threat posed by international terrorism. In a hard-hitting report which questioned the whole rationale behind the invasion of Iraq, the foreign affairs select committee concluded the overthrowing of Saddam Hussein had not reduced the risk posed by al-Qaeda and may even have enhanced its appeal to disaffected Muslims. ..."
Aug 1 ~ "...more Americans watch the BBC in America than watch BBC1 in Britain;and what Murdoch and the other ascendant TV conglomerates have long wanted is the BBC "checked, broken up, even privatised . . . All this money and power will likely become the target for Blair government regulators and the merry men of Ofcom, who want to contain public enterprises.... As if on cue, Tessa Jowell, the British Culture Secretary, questioned the renewal of the BBC's charter.
......... a comprehensive study by Media Tenor, the non-partisan institute that he founded, which analysed the war coverage of some of the world's leading broadcasters and found that the BBC allowed less dissent than all of them, including the US networks. A study by Cardiff University found much the same. More often than not, the BBC amplified the inventions of the lie machine in Washington, such as Iraq's non-existent attack on Kuwait with scuds. And there was Andrew Marr's memorable victory speech outside 10 Downing Street: "[Tony Blair] said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both those points he has been proved conclusively right." Almost every word of that was misleading or nonsense. Studies now put the death toll at as many as 10,000 civilians and 20,000 Iraqi troops. If this does not constitute a "bloodbath", what was the massacre of 3,000 people at the twin towers?
In contrast, I was moved and almost relieved by the description of the heroic Dr David Kelly by his family. "David's professional life," they wrote, "was characterised by his integrity, honour and dedication to finding the truth, often in the most difficult circumstances. It is hard to comprehend the enormity of this tragedy." There is little doubt that a majority of the British people understand that David Kelly was the antithesis of those who have shown themselves to be the agents of a dangerous, rampant foreign power. Stopping this menace is now more urgent than ever, for Iraqis and us." John Pilger in the New Statesman
July 31 ~ the CIA's objections went far beyond the well-aired dispute over whether Iraq was seeking uranium from the west African state of Niger.Guardian article "Do not use 45-minute claim, CIA told No 10" The Foreign Office, which was responding to a series of questions from the Commons foreign affairs committee, also spells out the key role played personally by John Scarlett, chairman of Whitehall's joint intelligence committee (JIC), in drawing up the dossier. ...Evidence shows that Mr Campbell asked Mr Scarlett whether the passage about the uranium claim in the draft dossier could be hardened up. Mr Campbell fiercely denies suggestions that he "sexed up" the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence services. The FO goes out of its way to emphasise the role played by Mr Scarlett. Mr Campbell described Mr Scarlett in evidence to the committee as a friend who he saw regularly. The government prevented Mr Scarlett from appearing before the MPs' committee. Mr Scarlett has let it be known that he had what he described as a "debate" with Mr Campbell about the contents of the September dossier. He denies having a "bust up". ..."
July 31 ~ Baghdad Al-Jazeera bureau chief has written a scathing reply to Paul WolfowitzRobert Fisk in Baghdad "...complaining that in the past month his offices and staff in Iraq "have been subject to strafing by gunfire, death threats, confiscation of news material, and multiple detentions and arrests, all carried out by US soldiers"....... the US administration appears ready to close down Al-Jazeera's operations in Iraq - along with Al-Arabiya channel - for alleged "incitement to violence". The US proconsul in Iraq, Paul Bremer, said he would shut newspapers or television stations guilty of "incitement to violence" - without explaining what this phrase means. Mr Wolfowitz, a right-wing ideologue, is one of the cabal that pushed the US into war on the grounds that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that destroying the regime would open the way to a new, democratic Middle East. He used the Murdoch-owned Fox channel to make his allegations against Al-Jazeera, many of which are palpably false. For example, he accused Al-Jazeera of "slanting the news incredibly ... the minute they get something that they can use to spread hatred and violence in Iraq, they're broadcasting it around."
July 31 ~ The verboten truth is that the unprovoked attack on Iraq and the looting of its resources is America's 73rd colonial intervention.".... As for the great human catastrophe in Iraq, the bereft hospitals, the children dying from thirst and gastroenteritis at a rate greater than before the invasion, with almost 8 per cent of infants suffering extreme malnutrition, says Unicef; as for a crisis in agriculture which, says the Food and Agriculture Organisation, is on the verge of collapse: these do not exist. Like the American-driven, medieval-type siege that destroyed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives over 12 years, there is no knowledge of this in America: therefore it did not happen. The Iraqis are, at best, unpeople; at worst, tainted, to be hunted. "For every GI killed," said a letter given prominence in the New York Daily News late last month, "20 Iraqis must be executed." In the past week, Task Force 20, an "elite" American unit charged with hunting evildoers, murdered at least five people as they drove down a street in Baghdad, and that was typical.
The august New York Times and Washington Post are not, of course, as crude as the News and Murdoch. However, on 23 July, both papers gave front-page prominence to the government's carefully manipulated "homecoming" of 20-year-old Private Jessica Lynch, who was injured in a traffic accident during the invasion and captured. She was cared for by Iraqi doctors, who probably saved her life and who risked their own lives in trying to return her to American forces. The official version, that she bravely fought off Iraqi attackers, is a pack of lies, like her "rescue" (from an almost deserted hospital), which was filmed with night-vision cameras by a Hollywood director. All this is known in Washington, and much of it has been reported. ..." John Pilger in the New Statesman
July 29 ~ "those who question George Bush's foreign policy are no longer merely critics; they are blasphemers, or "anti-Americans".George Monbiot America is a religion in today's Guardian "....Those foreign states which seek to change this policy are wasting their time: you can negotiate with politicians; you cannot negotiate with priests. The US has a divine mission, as Bush suggested in January: "to defend ... the hopes of all mankind", and woe betide those who hope for something other than the American way of life.
The dangers of national divinity scarcely require explanation. Japan went to war in the 1930s convinced, like George Bush, that it possessed a heaven-sent mission to "liberate" Asia and extend the realm of its divine imperium. It would, the fascist theoretician Kita Ikki predicted: "light the darkness of the entire world". Those who seek to drag heaven down to earth are destined only to engineer a hell. "
July 29 ~ "Hutton has difficult questions to ask, not least because of the increasing evidence that Kelly himself had not been telling the whole truth about his role in the events leading up to his suicide."See article "... The BBC is adamant that Kelly is on tape talking about the role of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of communications. .... When Downing Street suggested it may have found Gilligan's source, it described him as a middle-ranking civil servant. Kelly was said to have only been involved in writing historical accounts of UN weapons inspections for the government dossier on the threat from Iraq; and Tony Blair's official spokesman claimed Kelly was merely "a technical expert on machinery and equipment. Blair's spokesman added: "He was not someone who had access to the intelligence which had been included in the dossier. The MoD also denied that Kelly was "one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up the dossier. None of these claims stands up to scrutiny. Kelly, in fact, had access to vital intelligence on Iraq and its WMD programmes. He also had access to all the drafts of last September's controversial dossier and was closely involved in compiling the information contained in the document by using the most up-to-date intelligence available to MI6. Kelly was a senior adviser to an MoD taskforce chaired by the ministry's policy director Simon Webb - one of the MoD's most senior officials. The job of this taskforce was to sift through every piece of intelligence relating to Saddam and WMD. ....Kelly, in other words, was MI6's brain when it came to Saddams WMD.
It must remain a matter of conjecture why such a man killed himself after a grilling by the foreign affairs committee. One BBC insider suggested: "Kelly was in grave difficulties. You can only have sympathy for him. He wanted to keep faith with people like Andrew Gilligan, but he was also facing serious threats from his employers, including the withdrawal of his security clearance. If they had done that to him, it would have ended his career. The spooks were all over the MoD looking for who the BBC source was, and he was under serious pressure and in a terrible bind. Kelly was caught between two stools. The MoD was telling him to come out to the FAC and screw Gilligan into the ground, but he didnt want to do that. He was being loyal to the reporters he'd spoken to. ..."
July 28 ~ Top lawyers from Greece are travelling to the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Monday to file a lawsuit against senior UK officials.link to BBC "The UK Government insists the invasion was legal They will accuse the prime minister and other senior members of the government and military of breaching international law by attacking Iraq. The Athens Bar Association (ABA) believes it has strong evidence and is seeking the indictment of Mr Blair. "
It will be most interesting to see what the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, will have to say now. Perhaps we might even see his evidence for ruling that the war was legal.
July 28 ~ " I look at the insanity of the Congress voting for war, for the Patriot Act, and fighting quite literally like unruly children last week, and I think, this is not my country.I stand in line to be searched in airports, museums, and concerts, and I think, this is not America. I listen to George Bush lie about everything from intelligence on Iraq, to the deficit and what it will do to my child and my grandchildren, and to empty promises about Medicare, Medicaid, and education. Surely this cannot be my President. I listen to the airwaves filled with hate-filled, duplicitous, and slandering right-wing talk show hosts and wonder at the ignorance of the American people. Am I in the wrong country? I read the decisions of the federal appeals court as it rips up the Constitution, article by article (save for the provisions relating to an omnipotent Executive branch), and shreds the Bill of Rights, amendment by amendment, and I marvel at how the judiciary could have vanished in a mere two years...." link to CounterPunch article
July 28 ~ Galloway Memoirs StolenSky News link "A first draft of memoirs by anti-war MP George Galloway have been stolen from his Portuguese cottage. Mr Galloway arrived at his Iberian retreat on Friday evening to discover his computer, desk and chair all missing. The Glasgow Kelvin MP, who was suspended from Labour after an outspoken interview on an Arab TV station at the end of March in which he denounced war in Iraq, said the burglary appeared to be no "ordinary crime"...But the raiders, he said, were "doomed to disappointment", since there was nothing "remotely of interest" apart from his first draft.... He said the thieves had worn gloves and would have needed a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach the remote farmhouse. ."
July 28 ~ Sack Gilligan and it's peace - government offer deal to BBC......."Greg has told everyone this is about the very heart of the BBC and the heat from the government is fierce. And he will go if any compromise is forced on him."James Cusick, Westminster Editor of the Sunday Herald writes
"....... Dyke's hardline stance, understood to have the full backing of BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, comes after the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, stated last week that the outcome of the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly could influence the government's review of the BBC's charter, due to begin in September.
The Sunday Herald has also learned that Number 10 told the corporation that if it sacked Andrew Gilligan .... it would cease its attacks. The BBC refused.
The Sunday Herald has also been told that a deal to call off the war between Number 10 and the BBC was agreed earlier this month during David Frost's annual summer party in Chelsea, attended by both BBC bosses and government ministers. Both sides are said to have agreed "enough was enough".
The Prime Minister is said to have been told of the pact, but a BBC source claimed that when Downing Street's director of communications, Alastair Campbell, heard of the peace deal he personally scrapped it.
.....Caroline Thomson, the BBC's director of policy and legal issues, who is also in charge of charter renewal, warned that changing the director- general of the BBC, who is appointed by the governors, has nothing to do with the government.
"If it did become something to do with the government that would be atrocious. It would signal the end of the BBC. It would effectively mean revoking the Royal Charter," she said. "Then it would be war if they [the government] tried to get rid of the director-general."
July 28 ~ Has everyone forgotten that Alastair Milne was forced to resign by Mrs Thatcher's behind-the-scenes fury as long ago as 1986?See too the BBC Charter ..and its chilling paragraph 8.3
" If and whenever in the opinion of the Secretary of State an emergency shall have arisen in which it is expedient in the public interest that Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall have control over the broadcasting or transmission of any matter whatsoever by means of the stations or any of them, it shall be lawful for the Secretary of State to direct and cause the stations or any of them or any part thereof to be taken possession of in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty and to prevent the Corporation from using them, and also to cause the stations or any of them or any part thereof to be used for Her Majesty's service, or to take such other steps as he may think fit to secure control over the stations or any of them, and in that event any person authorised by the Secretary of State may enter upon the stations or any of them and the offices and works of the Corporation or any of them and take possession thereof and use the same as aforesaid."
July 28 ~ Campbell's war against the BBC, may be over the very soul and future of the public service broadcaster.Sunday Herald "The Blame Game"
"... According to the former head of the BBC World Service, John Tusa, the size of the hole the government now finds itself in can be equated with the "vehemence of their onslaught on the BBC". Tusa believes the war against the BBC is a "displacement activity, a diversion from finding weapons of mass destruction". But, diversion or not, the weaponry at the disposal of the government - everything from threats over the BBC's charter renewal, the licence fee, and plans to replace senior executives and governors - means real damage can be inflicted. And those inside the BBC at the very highest levels realise the current blame game is being played for very high stakes. The war, Campbell's war against the BBC, may be over the very soul and future of the public service broadcaster.
July 28 ~" I think they actually believe that if they can muzzle the BBC they can muzzle all dissent, all suspicion."Sunday Herald Why Will This Man Not Stop?
It seems the government is determined to cover up its lies at any cost -- even if that means destroying the BBC in the process, writes Ian Bell
"..... Questions breed questions. At the beginning of this affair I was content to believe that Blair, Campbell, Hoon and the rest were delighted to pick a fight with the BBC simply to take our minds off the bigger story. It seemed to me, and to many other people, that they were very much happier talking about standards in the media than about the way a war was engineered. I no longer think so.
There is more than a whiff of paranoia about the government. Its frenzy over the BBC has the smell of panic. It is as though ministers are trying to support a house of cards. I believe they are deeply worried, from Blair down, that the truth about the war will begin to seep out. I think they actually believe that if they can muzzle the BBC they can muzzle all dissent, all suspicion.
Consider: the government is in a hole and should, by normal practice, stop digging forthwith, yet for some reason it can't. Its standing has been badly damaged, as the polls prove, yet it has turned a fight with the BBC into a demented battle over public trust, a battle it will surely lose. Ask yourself: why? " Full article
July 28 ~" It has become clear that Dr Kelly was not quite the narrowly focused specialist, with little connection to the world of spying, that he seemedwhen he gave evidence to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) during its investigation of the decision to go to war in Iraq. He himself sought to create that impression before the committee, and his reasons for doing so may be significant.
It was public knowledge that Dr Kelly had a distinguished career as a leading UN weapons inspector in Iraq and had been nominated to lead the British contingent in the Iraq Survey Group, formed to take the UN inspectors' place. But we now know that not only was he probably the Government's most knowledgeable adviser on the history of Iraq's weapons programmes, but he also had a high security clearance, sat in on MI6 interrogations of Iraqi defectors and was a member of a high-level committee reviewing all the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. His value was such that he had been appointed a "special deputy chief scientific officer", a rarely used civil service grade that allowed him to move in senior circles without having administrative responsibilities.
When it came to the contents of the dossier, in short, David Kelly was certainly in a position to know what he was talking about. And it emerged that he had talked, not only to Mr Gilligan, not only to two other BBC journalists whose names were put to him by the FAC (one of whom, it turned out, had recorded the interview), but to several more reporters. The picture is of a man who had suppressed his doubts last September, only to feel growing disquiet in the aftermath of war as it became clear how wrong the Government's claims on Iraqi WMD had been..." Independent on Sunday Bit by bit, the real Dr Kelly emerges from the shadows
July 28 ~ Had he reneged on a deal?"The tape of his interview with the Newsnight journalist Susan Watts is now under lock and key, pending its submission to Lord Hutton's judicial inquiry, but the words read by an actor on the programme are a virtual transcript. "It is beginning to look as if the Government's committed a monumental blunder," Dr Kelly says of the most controversial claims in the September dossier - that Iraq had links to al-Qa'ida, and that it could deploy WMD within 45 minutes of the order being given. Of the latter, he says: "It was a statement that was made, and it just got out of all proportion. They were desperate for information ... that could be released. That was one that popped up and was seized on, and it's unfortunate that it was.
"That's why there is the argument between the intelligence services and the Cabinet Office/No 10 - because they picked up on it, and once they've picked up on it, you can't pull it back from them." He goes on to say that in the week before the dossier was put out, many people were expressing unease about questions of accuracy and emphasis. At no point, however, was Mr Campbell named by Newsnight, as he was by Mr Gilligan in The Mail on Sunday, precipitating the row which resulted in Dr Kelly's death.
..........Tom Mangold, a family friend, wrote: "David never liked the MoD, he used to complain bitterly about them." ....... On Friday the ministry denied that it had threatened Dr Kelly's pension, or told him action could be taken under the Official Secrets Act. The Independent on Sunday asked whether his security clearance had been discussed, but the MoD refused to comment.
When ......Dr Kelly said he did not think he could have been the source, and the MPs swung on to his side. Had he reneged on a deal? It is impossible to say, but it is becoming increasingly clear that he was less than truthful with the committee - denying, for example, that he had met Gavin Hewitt, the third BBC journalist, which he had done. ......
"It wasn't as if the MoD were saying, 'You're our man, we're supporting you to the hilt'," said Professor Hay. "He was being fed to everyone as being the person probably responsible for the Government's difficulty ... If he felt he had been less than truthful before the committee ... [and] had been caught dissembling and not being absolutely truthful, I would have thought this would create huge conflicts for him."
But did this lead David Kelly to kill himself? That is a question for Lord Hutton and the coroner, but it goes to the heart of the Government's case for going to war. How far the law lord will want to travel down that path remains to be seen." Independent on Sunday
July 28 ~ Noose tightens on BlairYesterday's Scotland on Sunday "... A spokesman for the inquiry said it was vital that any relevant Downing Street records be passed to Lord Hutton in order to establish the role of ministers and officials in the events that led up to Kelly's suicide shortly after his identity was leaked.
The Downing Street meetings would have been attended by Blair's communications director Alastair Campbell, chief of staff Jonathan Powell and political adviser Sally Morgan. Insiders also claim Kelly may have been alluded to in e-mails and telephone calls which are routinely logged.
Yesterday Lord Hutton met Kelly's grieving family privately to discuss how his forthcoming inquiry into the death would proceed. There were reports last night that Kelly's wife Jan may have kept a record of the days running up to his suicide that could tell the full story of his treatment by the government. Hutton's intervention was backed by one of Kelly's closest friends, Professor Alastair Hay, who believes Blair was intimately involved in the affair. He said the handover of such materials was essential and a spokesman for the Hutton inquiry said Hutton would expect nothing less. ..."
July 28 ~ "the zeal with which the Prime Minister and his aides seized on every piece of intelligence, however insubstantial, ultimately did their cause - which was noble - a disservice.The campaign to persuade the public of the case for war became conflated with the long-running saga of "spin". As we have noted in this column before, the trouble with the allegation against Mr Campbell was not that it was true - it was not - but that it rang true.
Nobody, we can suspect, grasped all of this more fully than Dr Kelly himself before his death. What precisely drove him to a lonely end may or may not become clearer in the course of Lord Hutton's inquiry. But it is easy to imagine a man of great eminence in his field, annoyed at what he saw as a distortion of the subject he knew most about, taking matters into his own hands with the media (perhaps wishing he had done so more "honourably" at the time the dossier was published).
Perhaps his intention was to set the record straight, and - to those who knew him in the curious demi-monde he inhabited - clear his own name of what he perceived to be a violation of the truth. Perhaps, too, the pride that led him to do that - the pride of a distinguished public servant - had as its flipside a sense of shame which led him to self-destruction. ..." Sunday Telegraph Opinion
July 28 ~ Pilger on the lying of governments - and Mr BlairPilger.com
"..The conscious nature of Tony Blair's lies and distortions over Iraq is now clear. Collectors will have their favourites. Mine is his statement in parliament on 29 January that "we do know of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq". As the intelligence agencies have repeatedly confirmed, there were no links, and Blair would have known this. Looking back, this lie sought to justify his statement, in October 2001, that there would be "a wider war" against Iraq only if there was "absolute evidence" of its complicity in 11 September. Of course, there was no evidence, and Blair must have known that, too.
On 12 March, he told parliament that France "is saying, whatever the circumstances, it will veto a resolution" to invade Iraq. Two days earlier, President Jacques Chirac had said the very opposite: that if Iraq failed to co-operate with the UN inspectors, "it will be for the Security Council and it alone to decide the right thing [and] war would become inevitable". It was this deception that disillusioned even Clare Short.
Blair's festival of lies has shocked some people: those who still believe that their elected representatives tell the truth. Perhaps they are prepared to tolerate some "fudge", but not deliberate lies, especially those, such as Blair's, that lead to the criminal killing of thousands of people."
July 27 ~".. something far more important was happening. Mr Blair was on a delicate mission to rearm Japan"The Scotsman "...His goal: to persuade the world's second-richest nation to break from its post-war pacifism and take its place as a signed-up member of the war against terrorism. In Japan, this issue has touched every sensitive nerve in the country. Two atomic bombs and the bitter memory of its imperial past has left it with a "never again" attitude deeply ingrained in all generations. As a matter of pride, the economic giant has remained a military pigmy: a policy known as the Yoshida Doctrine. Instead of joining the arms race, it diverted its money to stoking its post-war economic "miracle" and rose from its agrarian knees. Japan is the only country in the world to have formally renounced war. Its constitution is founded on pacifism and it has repeatedly refused America's requests to reinstate its army. But world events are now sucking the Japanese back into the martial orbit, reluctantly and agonisingly. It is at this juncture that Mr Blair entered, to give Tokyo direction. ..." Tony Blair's aim: to give Japan back its military teeth Link to the Scotsman article
July 26 ~ Soldiers who want to go home are needed to work for Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton Corp."...Soldiers say most of their work involves civilian contractor Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton Corp. The company has contracts to haul fuel, and 319th members are riding along as armed escorts. "The main reason we're still here is to support Brown and Root," said Sgt. 1st Class David Uthe, 45, of Augusta." Reserves wanting to leave Mideast Augusta Chronicle.
July 24 ~".. Those who bash Gilligan, in the mistaken belief that he is merely the emanation of the anti-war BBC, are doing the Government's work for them.Alastair Campbell and his poodles on The Times want to give the impression to the public that this is all a war between various puffed-up members of the media/political class, their monstrous egos clashing like thunderheads. That wholly obscures the truth. What really happened was that Andrew Gilligan, and two other journalists, found that the leading expert in Iraq's WMD programmes was alarmed at the spin being put on intelligence data. The Government's response was ruthlessly to publish his name, in the hope that he would knock the story down. That enterprise failed, in tragic circumstances. ..." Boris Johnson in the Telegraph
July 23 ~ BBC says it has a tape of Dr Kelly criticising Number 10"..... Susan Watts, the science editor of Newsnight, recorded her conversations with Dr Kelly, parts of which were later broadcast anonymously as a "source", using the voice of an actor. The report, which was broadcast on 2 June, suggested Downing Street had been "desperate" to find information to justify its stance on a war against Iraq. Referring to the claim Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, the source said: "It was a statement that was made and it just got out of all proportion, They were desperate for information, they were pushing hard for information which could be released. That was one that popped up and it was seized on and it's unfortunate that it was. "That's why there's an argument between intelligence services and the Cabinet Office and Number 10, because they picked up on it and ... you can't pull it back." Independent
July 23 ~ "Tony Blair vehemently denies any involvement in the decision by the Ministry of Defence to name Dr David Kellyas the source of the BBC's claim that the threat from Iraq was exaggerated. So if his communications man Alastair Campbell did it, Blair claims he didn't know. In any case he has also said that the Ministry of defence was the 'lead agency' in the affair.
Effectively then, he has potentially thrown his Secretary of Defence Geoff Hoon to the wolves. An intriguing way to spend the period of 'reflection' that Mr Blair urged us all to observe; his is spent crying 'not me gov!' So already, even before the Judicial inquiry has sat for one minute, the house cleaning has begun. " Jon Snow's Channel 4 news update last night andsee also Today's Telegraph
July 23 ~ Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, have apparently been killedin a fierce gun battle after they were cornered in a house in the northern city of Mosul. Scotsman
July 22/23 ~ There were no rules for the American jailers.Robert Fisk in the Independent on THE UGLY TRUTH OF AMERICA'S CAMP CROPPER, A STORY TO SHAME US ALL It's about America's shameful prison camps in Iraq. It's about the beating of prisoners during interrogation.
"Sources" may be a dubious word in journalism right now, but the sources for the beatings in Iraq are impeccable. This story is also about the gunning down of three prisoners in Baghdad, two of them "while trying to escape". But most of all, it's about Qais Mohamed al-Salman. Qais al-Salman is just the sort of guy the US ambassador Paul Bremer and his dead-end assistants need now. He hated Saddam, fled Iraq in 1976, then returned after the "liberation" with a briefcase literally full of plans to help in the restoration of his country's infrastructure and water purification system.
He's an engineer who has worked in Africa, Asia and Europe. He is a Danish citizen. He speaks good English. He even likes America. Or did until 6 June this year. ... (Read Robert Fisk's article)
July 22/23 ~ One problem faced by the BBC is the government's effort to undermine its case before the Hutton inquiry.Guardian "....While Tony Blair has been keeping a dignified silence on his tour of the Far East, others at home have been doing his dirty work.
As part of the concerted attempt to exploit what Downing Street believes to be growing nervousness within the BBC over its handling of the Iraq dossier crisis, Mr Mandelson appeared on the Today programme yesterday and accused the BBC's governors of making a "crass error" by backing the corporation's managers. .....branded Gilligan "rather shifty" and a "loose cannon" on Today, the programme which carried the initial allegations.
The irony of Mr Mandelson's intervention in support of Downing Street's director of communications, Alastair Campbell - whom he still blames for his own second departure from the cabinet - was not lost on Clare Short. The former international development secretary said on the same programme: "Dr Kelly, and we don't know what the pressures that were mounted on him, has recently died and then we're getting someone like Peter Mandelson, who can only be briefed by No 10... widening the assault on the BBC.
....Insiders believe the corporation must be sure these were Dr Kelly's exact words, to justify its robust defence. One source close to the director general Greg Dyke said: "There is total unity among the top people that we are doing the right thing."...." (full article)
July 22 ~ Questions for HuttonGuardian Letter "As Lord Hutton ponders the remit of his inquiry into the circumstances of Dr Kelly's death (Judge to outline scope of inquiry, July 21), he might consider this written reply by Mr Blair to a question by one of his fiercest Labour critics, Glenda Jackson MP. She asked him which government official and which minister took the decision to insert the assertion that weapons of mass destruction could be deployed in 45 minutes in the foreword, the executive summary and the draft of his Commons speech of September 24 2002, on the September 2002 dossier.
Mr Blair replied: "The dossier, including the executive summary, was drafted by the chairman of the joint intelligence committee and his staff, and they were responsible for including the 45 minutes intelligence. The foreword was prepared by my staff in Downing Street in the normal way. It was signed off by me, but members of the JIC had the opportunity to comment on it. My speech to the House of Commons was written in the normal way and reflected what was in the September 2002 dossier which was being debated in the House on September 24 2002." (Hansard, July 11)
Lord Hutton needs to know which specific staff in Downing Street were involved; and to ask Mr Blair when he gives the evidence he has now promised to give, who proposed giving the prominence to the 45 minute claim, and why he agreed with it when he signed off the dossier. This goes to the very heart of who told whom to do what in respect of that fateful dossier.
Dr David Lowry Stoneleigh, Surrey
July 22 ~"No 10 overruled defence chiefs in leaking Kelly's name to PressDowning Street overruled senior Ministry of Defence officials who wanted to protect the identity of David Kelly and prevent him appearing before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, according to Whitehall sources. Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, is expected to be questioned by the judicial inquiry into Dr Kelly's death over whether he sided with Downing Street on the unmasking of the government scientist. Dr Kelly is understood to have been given guarantees from the MoD that his identity would remain secret. The revelation calls into question Downing Street's assertion that the MoD took the lead in dealing with Dr Kelly after he admitted he had met Andrew Gilligan, the BBC journalist who claimed No 10 had "sexed up" a dossier on Iraqi weapons. " Independent
July 21/22 ~ "the heat has now been turned upon the BBC". Why has it?Guardian article by Rod Liddle "Pummelled and buffeted by New Labour pundits, compliant backbenchers and select committee chairmen, the director-general will have felt it a concession which could now be granted without further damage being done to poor David Kelly. But that may not be correct. For a start, it leaves Andrew Gilligan in public disagreement with a man who is now dead and cannot, therefore, defend himself. And paradoxically, for that very reason, it is an argument which Gilligan and the BBC will find difficult to win. But in every other respect, the corporation has got it right throughout this appalling imbroglio. It stood by its journalism and its journalists - not out of arrogance, as some have alleged, but because it knew that what they had reported was accurate and important..."
July 21/22 ~".... the War of the Jacksons: in one corner, Robert Jackson, Dr Kelly's Tory MP, who calls down imprecations on the BBC; and in the other, Glenda Jackson, who, being a Labour MP, naturally wants the prime minister to go.Jackie Ashley's article in the Guardian "....There is nothing wrong with resignations, in general. But there is when they avoid the need for harder questions being confronted, as should happen now. Who is this aggressive, attack-dog media and political culture supposed to be helping? Not the politicians, who can no longer rely on reasonable electoral turnouts; not the BBC, which should now be worried about government vengeance; not the press, judging by newspaper sales. Normal people hate what has happened to the nasty, nutty Westminster world. And here's something else to reflect on: while Dr Kelly's death is tragic, several thousand Iraqi civilians have been killed by the war on Iraq which, we were told, was to disarm Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons, and the "imminent threat" they were said to pose, remain as elusive as ever. "
July 21 ~ " I am aware, of course, that people are going to have to take elements of this on the good faith of our intelligence services."We should not be distracted from Mr Blair's statement on Iraq in the House of Commons Tuesday 24 September 2002, nor will we forget that he knew then what we all know now...that the 45 minute detail was uncorroborated, thought unwise and yet emphasised deliberately by Number 10
".... The dossier is based on the work of the British Joint Intelligence Committee. For over 60 years, beginning just prior to WWII, the JIC has provided intelligence assessments to British Prime Ministers. Normally its work is secret. Unusually, because it is important we explain our concerns over Saddam to the British people, we have decided to disclose these assessments. I am aware, of course, that people are going to have to take elements of this on the good faith of our intelligence services. But this is what they are telling me the British Prime Minister and my senior colleagues. The intelligence picture they paint is one accumulated over the past four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative.Andrew Gilligan's Today report said "a senior official" had told him the claim that Saddam Hussein's "military planning allows for some of the weapons of mass destruction to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them" had been "included in the dossier against our wishes because it wasn't reliable". (BBC)
It concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population; and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.
June 21 ~ "as the weeks pass, it seems undeniable that the Bush administration grievously miscalculated the human and financial costs of the American occupation."New York Times "That failure, which is starting to register with Americans of all political persuasions and promises to become an election issue, cannot be easily dismissed with glib assurances of better days to come or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's favorite refrain that the war ended just weeks ago. This exercise in American power is going to be a lot longer and bloodier than President Bush ever said...."
June 21 ~ "We are lawyers and legal workers opposed to the war in Iraq because we believe it was unlawful.We call for the publication of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith's advice in its entirety, which was used by the Government to justify going to war.
No inquiry into the government's interpretation of intelligence will be seen as credible without the publication of this advice, as the advice must have been based in part on the intelligence asessment at that time.
Michael Mansfield QC and 75 other barrister, solicitors and legal workers. London SW1"
From a letter in Independent yesterday.
See also the letter in the Guardian before the war.
July 21 ~John Humphrys was scathing about Robert Jackson's charge that the BBC should take responsibility for Dr Kelly's death"That seems to me to be nonsense," he said. "After all, it wasn't we who named Dr Kelly; it wasn't we who called him before an inquiry, a committee; it wasn't we who thrust him into the spotlight. To suggest that somehow it's all our fault is bizarre."
Asked about the mood at the BBC, Mr Humphrys replied: "Obviously, a man is dead and people have responded as you would expect. They [the BBC] feel very strongly that, whatever happens now, Dr Kelly's family has to come first. It's moved beyond the day-to-day political nonsense." Independent
On Monday's Today Programme, http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/ Boris Johnson said "I'd like to know why Alastair Campbell had such a fantastically dominant role ....I'd like to know why Dr Kelly was assured that his name would remain confidential and told that he would not have to appear before the Committee.. The Committee's behaviour was odd. ....Gilligan's story has been validated....it would not have been brought before the public without Andrew Gilligan."
July 21 ~ Dr Kelly's evidence to FASC on July 15Transcript of Dr Kelly's evidence Although there are several references to the 45 mins issue - Dr Kelly is never specifically asked for his professional opinion on the matter.
Q118 Richard Ottaway: Given that Mr Gilligan's source of the story has proved to be correct, do you think it is fair to say that you could not have been the source? It is not just a question of your opinion, but you could not have been the source."I cannot recall" and "I cannot remember" and "I find it very difficult to think back" are phrases that can give an impression without categorically confirming or denying.
Dr Kelly: It is very difficult for me to be that strong. I do realise that in the conversation that I had there was reinforcement of some of the ideas he has put forward......
Q170 Mr Hamilton: .....can you tell me absolutely whether you named or otherwise identified Alastair Campbell or did you say anything which Mr Gilligan might reasonably have interpreted as identifying Mr Alastair Campbell as wanting to change the dossier or "sex it up" in any way or make undue reference to the 45 minute claim?
Dr Kelly: I cannot recall that. I find it very difficult to think back to a conversation I had six weeks ago. I cannot recall but that does not mean to say, of course, that such a statement was not made but I really cannot recall it. It does not sound like the sort of thing I would say.
July 21 2003 ~ David was treated in the most despicable way by the GovernmentIndependent "The BBC's admission may give Mr Blair a much-needed breathing space before the inquiry, to be led by Lord Hutton, a senior law lord, reports in six to eight weeks. But the investigation will also have some searching questions for the Government - notably whether Downing Street tipped off the press about Dr Kelly's identity, thereby setting in train the events that led to his death. Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's director of communications, is expected to leave his post after the inquiry reports. Friends say he has lost his appetite for the job because of the tragedy but is determined to clear his name before he quits. Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, confirmed Dr Kelly was the principal source for Mr Gilligan's report. "The BBC believes we accurately interpreted and reported the factual information obtained by us during interviews with Dr Kelly." He added: "We continue to believe we were right to place Dr Kelly's views in the public domain. However, the BBC is profoundly sorry that his involvement as our source has ended so tragically.".....Dr Kelly's brother-in-law, Derek Vawdrey, accused the BBC of using a dead man to defend itself. He said: "It's all very well for the BBC to come out with this now, when David cannot answer back. So much for protecting sources. "David was treated in the most despicable way by the Government, he was treated in a bullying way by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and it is my opinion that is what directly led to his suicide."
July 21 ~ "The BBC have said that Dr David Kelly was the source of Andrew Gilligan's reportthat the government had "sexed up" the dossier on weapons of mass destruction last September. He was then, it follows from that, the alleged source of Gilligan's claim in the Mail on Sunday (and later repeated on other BBC outlets) that it was Alastair Campbell who had inserted the claim that Iraq could deploy WMD within 45 minutes. The BBC changed their line on refusing to name their source after permission from Dr Kelly's family.
So we are left with a dilemma. Do we believe Dr Kelly's or Andrew Gilligan's account of their conversation?...David Kelly's friend - the investigative reporter Tom Mangold - has told us that Dr Kelly used to laugh about the 45 minute claim privately. So it is likely he (Dr Kelly) didn't believe it. ..... "
From Channel 4's newsletter. Read more
From C4 News itself it appears that Andrew Gilligan had also had confirmation of the 'sexing up' from a souce at No 10 - 60% of the source was Dr Kelly - the other 40% from other sources - including the No 10 connection.
July 21 ~ ".. the point is, surely, is the weapons of mass destruction issue has all along been a matter of life and death.More civilians died in allied bombing and the liberation of Baghdad than were killed in New York on September 11, 2001. Many British servicemen have died and American soldiers are being killed almost every day in what is now turning into a vicious guerrilla war. And of course, perhaps tens of thousands of poorly-equipped Iraqi conscripts died as they were crushed by the greatest military machine in the history of human conflict.
Dr David Kelly is by no means the first casualty of this war, and he will certainly not be the last. But his death was the moment when the Westminster village, at war with itself, suddenly woke up and realised the extent to which it has been obsessed only with itself and its petty vanities and squabbles. It is now seeing the war for what it is: a deadly game where innocent people die. ..." The Sunday Herald has four articles each of which is worth reading.
July 20 ~ the Ministry of Defence admitted that it had privately given Dr Kelly's name to three newspapers on July 9.This contradicted earlier claims by Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, that there had been no such breach of confidentiality. Telegraph".... In an interview with The Sunday Times on July 9, the day before his name appeared in several papers, Dr Kelly said that he had been assured by the MoD that "the whole thing would be confidential". But he had just received a phone call warning him that his identity would be in the following day's papers. He added: "I feel as though I have been through the wringer." Last night, Pam Teare, the MoD's director of news, admitted that far from protecting Dr Kelly's identity, she had confirmed his name to reporters who rang her on July 9. "As we have said all along we didn't release the name but we made it clear to media callers and to Dr Kelly that if someone put the right name to us we would be obliged to confirm it - end of story."
July 20 ~" a man who knew much about nuclear and chemical weapons, but too little about the brutal, self-serving warfare of modern British politics"Quentin Letts adds: "Say a prayer, if you go to church today, for a man who knew much about nuclear and chemical weapons, but too little about the brutal, self-serving warfare of modern British politics. Say a prayer for David Kelly because he was a frightened man, but a brave one. The rest can go hang themselves."
July 20 ~ "He had dealt with the duplicity of the Iraq government...what did he see within his own government that made him.. take a knife to his own wrist?An emailer echoes the thoughts of many of us, " I don't often weep over the death of someone I do not know , but today on hearing that David Kelly had been driven to suicide I wept. Reading his obituary you hear of a dedicated scientist with a sense of humour and great integrity. He had dealt with the duplicity of the Iraq government during his time as weapons inspector without problems, and was looking forward to returning to Baghdad. What did he see within his own government that made him decide that "This was really not the kind of world he wanted to live in.", and take a knife to his own wrist?
I am greatly saddened. We can only hope that the whole dirty business of "sexed-up" dossiers, and other New Labour lies, are at last exposed by the death of this good man."
July 19/20 ~ Andrew Mackinlay has apologised to Dr Kelly's familyBut Geoff Hoon, on Radio 4's PM programmeon Saturday afternoon, maintains that offering his own resignation would be inappropriate.
July 19/20 ~ Police have confirmed that Dr David Kelly, the Ministry of Defence adviser at the heart of a vitriolic battle over the Government's Iraq dossier, died after slashing his wrists.Telegraph "Dr David Kelly's body was found with a knife and painkillers Acting Supt Dave Purnell said Dr Kelly, whose body was formally identified this morning, bled to death from a cut to his left wrist. A knife and a packet of Co-Proxymol painkilling tablets were found where Dr Kelly's body was discovered yesterday morning at Harrowdown Hill, around five miles from his home in the village of Southmoor. Mr Purnell said that detectives do not believe that anyone else was involved with Dr Kelly's death..."
"Although Downing Street urged people not to rush to judgment, attention was increasingly turning to Mr Campbell's role in the affair. The inquiry is certain to centre on how he and Mr Hoon thrust Dr Kelly, a civil servant, into the spotlight...Friends said he was angry and deeply unhappy about the way he was questioned by the MPs. Dr Kelly said he was not the source and the committee concluded that he probably was not. The MPs criticised the Ministry of Defence for using him as a "fall guy". Richard Ottaway, a Conservative member of the committee, said that spin doctors had used Dr Kelly as a distraction from the row over weapons of mass destruction. He said that political machinations could have resulted in Dr Kelly's death. "
July 19/20 ~This attempt at moral blackmail will not do."....The prime minister, in his address to Congress, declared that history would forgive him and President Bush, even if WMD were never found in Iraq, because of the undoubted bestiality of Saddam Hussein and his regime. We are challenged to admit that without the war Saddam would still be in power, able to terrorise both his own people and his neighbours.
This attempt at moral blackmail will not do. The issue is not whether the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. Of course it is. It would also be a better place without Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro and a host of other tyrants and despots, but there is no intention of the British government to support wars in order to get rid of them.
Nor did Tony Blair call for an invasion of Iraq during the first five years of his prime ministership, when Saddam was as evil as he was last year. During that period the prime minister supported the strict enforcement of sanctions and the no-fly zone that had been the policy of the Clinton administration in Washington and the Major government in London.
What changed was George Bush's arrival in the White House and 9/11. Thereafter Blair recognised that in order to retain the confidence of the new president, and to ensure British influence in Washington, he would have to support regime change in Iraq and the new doctrine of pre-emptive wars...." Malcolm Rifkind in the Guardian
July 19/20 ~ "The tone was not aggressive at all." Donald Anderson, Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman (Labour )"....Another member said: "We did what we had to do..."......
Eric Illsley, another member, was implicitly critical of aggressive questioning of Dr Kelly by Andrew Mackinlay...." Guardian Chastened MPs prepare for fallout
July 18 ~ MoD "mole" missing - body found: Channel Four News email"Did he take his own life? Was he killed, did he die of a heart attack? Dr David Kelly was a government scientist who specialised in chemical and biological weapons and who had served as a UN weapons inspector. He went missing from his Oxfordshire home yesterday at 3pm. At 9.20am this morning a body fitting his description was found in woodland that he was wont to walk to from his home. By any test for his wife and two daughters an utterly tragic turn of events.
But this is a death with ramifications whose limits it is almost impossible at this stage to divine. For he was the crucial witness in this week's House of Commons Select Committee investigation in to the causes of war with Iraq. He was identified by the MoD, for whom he worked, as the man who told a BBC correspondent that Tony Blair's communications chief Alastair Campbell had 'sexed up' the September dossier of intelligence against Iraq. The ferocious battle between Number 10 and the BBC located Dr Kelly in the very epicentre of the 'who said what to whom' saga. It's a measure of how much pressure the government was already under to call a full judicial inquiry, that just such an inquiry has now been triggered by Dr Kelly's presumed death, when official identification is made on Saturday. " More details on this story here: http://www.channel4.com/news/2003/07/week_3/18_kelly.html
July 18 ~ Military proceedings against two Britons held in Guantanamo Bay has been suspendedpending talks between legal authorities on both sides of the Atlantic, Downing Street has confirmed. Attorney General Lord Goldsmith will begin negotiations with American authorities over the fate of Feroz Abbasi, 23, from London, and Moazzam Begg, 35, from Birmingham. (Channel Four News)
July 18 ~The Associated Press on the disappearance of Dr Kelly and the finding of a body this morning"Dr David Kelly left his home at around 3 p.m. (1400 GMT) Thursday after telling his wife he was going for a walk, officers said, and family called police when he failed to return by 11:45 p.m. (2245 GMT) that night. The body was found at 9:20 a.m. (0820 GMT) Friday, police said.
Officers said Kelly's family had described the disappearance and failure to make contact with anyone as "out of character.''
Kelly appeared before a Parliamentary committee earlier this week to face questions over the BBC report, which said government aides gave undue prominence, in an intelligence dossier published last September, to a claim that Iraq could launch chemical or biological weapons on 45 minutes' notice." http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2003/7/18/latest/13084Policesea&sec=latest
Richard Ottoway, an opposition Conservative politician told Sky television. "At the end we concluded he had been given rather bad treatment by the government. So let us hope nothing sinister has happened here. But it does bring into question exactly what the government thought it was doing by putting him up as a witness on its behalf".
July 18 ~ "We witnessed today the baring of teeth, and an unpleasant personal attack on an individual who dared to publicise material that was not favourable to government."Anne Lambourn who, like many of us, has followed the Campbell/BBC row most carefully and with grave concern, has written an open letter to the Chairman of the foreign affairs select committee (FASC) Donald Anderson, Labour MP for Swansea. Extract:
"...I consider that the treatment of Mr Gilligan was unacceptable, and has served to bring this House of Commons Select Committee into disrepute. ....The public condemnation of Mr Gilligan by you in your capacity as chairman of the FASC gave the impression that you were announcing a decision arrived at by the whole committee. The fact that this was not the case (as later exposed by Mr Maples and others), and that only one Opposition MP was present, may leave you open to the criticism of misleading the public. I certainly believed from your public statement that the proceedings involved the full Committee, until I learned otherwise.(Read letter in full) ARCHIVE ( War in Iraq and aftermath from June 2003)
I understand that Mr Gilligan was subjected to a barrage of questions about his past reporting, which was unrelated to the Iraq question. The Committee members present were apparently extraordinarily well briefed on these matters. It is common knowledge that Mr Campbell has been extremely irritated by past reporting by Mr Gilligan, and even if there is no link between Mr Campbell and this most recent development, I am afraid there is now the perception that there is a link....
..Over the past few years, there has been an unwelcome and disturbing pattern emerging of whispering/smear campaigns against prominent individuals who have upset people in high places. That is the perception that many members of the public now have, and this perception, coupled with the very considerable distrust of the government by increasing numbers of the electorate, ought to be worrying Parliamentarians. I would argue that the electorate is not apathetic, but rather is full of distrust, and does not like what it sees... "
"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.""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."
(Tony Blair in his television address to the nation on Thursday 20 March 2003)
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 ..."