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Iraq War Archive

War Wizard The Hutton Inquiry Transcripts (new window) Hutton Inquiry website

April 13 2004 ~ Robin Cook says there must be a change of strategy

See 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: NowTony Parsons, Daily Mirror' columnist What he said then: now: Johann Hari, Independent' columnist What he said then: now: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 officers

Telegraph 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 Iraq

Scotland 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 testimony

Entire 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: 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' released

The 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 envoy

A 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 plot

by 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 rage

Scotsman "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

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 Iraq

Robert 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 senator

Rupert 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 intelligence

Telegraph "...... 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 begins

    An 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 Iraqis

    New 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 secrets

    Guardian "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 intelligence

    Times "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 polls

    Today'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 business

    shore 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 scared

    Independent ".... 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 allegations

    Guardian 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 dossier

    Guardian comment