Whatever the immediate outcome this weekend, the crisis over the debt ceiling has laid bare the real political physiognomy of the government of Barack Obama. Far from defending the entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, established by Democratic presidents many decades ago, the Obama administration has deliberately placed these programs under the budget axe. Under cover of their mutual mudslinging, the White House and congressional Republicans are collaborating politically on a giant step toward the destruction of these basic components of the social safety net.
The congressional Republicans, and particularly their ultra-right Tea Party wing, posture as the bitterest opponents of “big government” and federal spending. But they control only the House of Representatives. From a constitutional standpoint, it would be impossible for a Republican-controlled House to dictate policy to the Democrats, who control both the US Senate and the White House.
The House Republicans are able to use the debt ceiling as a lever to force through cuts only because the Obama administration has embraced this stratagem as its own.
Until this year, congressional extension of the debt ceiling has been a routine housekeeping measure, carried out dozens of times over the past three decades alone. When a handful of Tea Party Republicans suggested in early January, in their first days in the House, that they would demand major spending cuts as the price of a debt ceiling increase, the Obama administration dismissed the suggestion. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner formally requested a “clean” debt ceiling bill—i.e., a bill with no other provisions but an increase in the debt ceiling.
This was in accord with longstanding precedent. No president, until Obama, has ever permitted the debt ceiling to be used by Congress, let alone only one house of Congress, as a device to extort policy changes on the threat of cutting off Treasury access to credit markets and forcing a default on US government payments. This would have been considered unacceptable political blackmail by either of the two bourgeois parties who share control over the US government.
Friday, July 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, tensions continue to rise between Iraq and Iran, is Iraq being run by an Iranian general?, protests take place in Baghdad, Tony Blair continues to think he has something to say, and more.
Starting with the Libyan War, yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday. Kevin Pina noted, "Today it was announced that the former Minister of the Interior of the Libyan government, Abdul Fatah Younis, who is now serving as the chief of staff of the rebels -- that's right, he had defected from the Libyan government to then become chief of staff of the so-called Transitional Council of the rebels in Libya hs been killed." On Tuesday's show Mahdi Nazemroaya had noted there were rumors Younis was near Tripoli and in the western mountains.
Kevin Pina: And we turn our attention once again to the ground in Libya where a NATO bombing campaign continues. There has also been a lot of talk that the dealine for Muammar Gaddafi to step down has passed there is even the introduction of the concept or trial balloon of landing ground troops in order to solve the 'crisis.' We also know that the United States has accelerated and sort of shown its hand as the force behind the rebels in Libya also known as the Transitional Council. Now joining us on the ground in Tripoli, Libya to talk about all of this more is our special correspondent Mahdi Nazemroaya Mahdi is also a research assistant at the Centre for Research on Globalization based in Montreal, Canada. Mahdi, welcome back to Flashpoints.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Thanks for having me, Kevin.
Kevin Pina: So lets talk about the first thing, let's talk about the fact that now we're hearing that the bombing campaign is continuing, we're hearing that there's a possibility that there might even be ground troops landing in Libya.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well if there are ground troops, like I said, they'd have to be fools. Everybody is armed, all the territories that are under the control and jurisdiciton of the Libyan government, people are armed there and they are more than willing to fight for their home land. So they will see this as a colonial invasion and it would only bring more blood. And it would be so far from a 'humanitarian intervention' and 'no fly zone.' The only way I could see them doing that is if they tried to say that the so-called Transitional Council which they've recognized as the legitimate government of Libya now -- I'd like to point out that this is an unelected and secretive and corrupt body. And the only way I could see them trying to invade is by saying they've gotten permission from the government in Benghazi [Transitional Council]. But I cannot see that happening. I can only see them going to certain strategic areas and I don't think the US wants to be seen in another war that's going to end like the quagmire in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Kevin Pina: And that's the voice of Mahdi Nazemroaya, our special correspondent, coming to us direct from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi, again, is also a research assistant at the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal, Canada. Mahdi, I also understand that there was a high level, former Gaddafi official, a member of the Libyan government that had actually defected over to the rebel side who now, it's being announced, has actually been killed.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes. I'm at the Swiss al Nasr which was formerly the Rixos al Nasr, so sometimes you'll catch me calling it the Rixos because the name change was very recent. This is where the foreign media center is and right now the international press is gathering for a press conference and there's been a lot of hustle and bustle here about the topic. Abdul Fatah Younis has been declared dead. The circumstances around it exactly aren't known. We'll know at the press conference. And CNN will be present, BBC, Sky News, as well as various international news services.
Kevin Pina: Well Mahdi, explain to us who this man was and why it's so important. And obviously this is a breaking news story, you're breaking news on Flashpoints that this man was confirmed dead.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well this man was the former Interior Ministry of the government in Triopoli. He's a longtime friend of Col Gaddafi as well and he's also a member of the group of young Arab officers who started the revolution with Col Gaddafi. So it was actually a big surprise when he defected and joined the Transitional Council in Benghazi. Now his death, as I mentioned, the circumstances around it aren't known. I've heard different things I'm going to have to confirm. I was told that the rebel forces, the so-called rebels, have claimed that they killed him themselves because he was about to defect --
Kevin Pina: Defect back?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes. He was going to do a second defection. Because a lot of the rebels are also tired of the fighting and I've heard that there might have even been negotiations for them to end the fighting and to come back. But anyways, I've also heard that he probably could have been killed by the government side. So this is not clear and it has to be confirmed.
Staying with that topic, Ivan Watson (CNN -- link has text and video) reports: on the death and this is included in the text report:
[Marina] Ottaway, the Carnegie Endowment scholar, said the killing raises questions about the rebel council.
"It's clear there are divisions" within the Transitional National Council, she said. "There are suspicions of some of the people who went from being close allies (of Gadhafi), as Younis was, to joining" the rebels.
The motives of those who switched sides have been questioned by people who weren't sure whether they had truly made the transition or were just pretending to have changed. There has been speculation, she said, that Younis might have been dealing somehow with Gadhafi.
"The main point perhaps is that the unity at the Transitional National Council is tenuous at best. This is a strange coalition at best," she said. "They are very aware of the fact that they are not an organization that represents the entire country."
Today Terry Gross flaunts her stupidity and her smutty by re-airing one of her stupidest interviews ever -- one of the reasons Fresh Air was pulled from several radio stations last year -- with a "dominatrix." No one needs that s**t on the public airwaves, do you understand? There's enough going on in the world that NPR doesn't need to work the blue room. Terry goes there repeatedly. And it was her laughing (and playing) her 'comedian' friend using the word fa**ot over and over on her sho last year that was the last straw for some stations. Please note, that "comedian" went public weeks ago saying Tracy Morgan's homophobic rant as funny and fine. Of course he did. He's a homophobe himself. Terry Gross awful show needs to be pulled. The woman's an idiot, ill-informed and plays to the lowest common denominator repeatedly. She's also a little War Hawk as anyone who followed her coverage should be aware (including the way Ehren Watada was covered -- and if Terry's so wise how come she and her guests were SO WRONG about what would happen to Ehren?). In 2010, as Ann, Ava and I documented at Third, only 18.546% of Terry's guests were women. Yet another reason her tired ass needs to be retired. But it was yesterday's show with CJ Chivers of the New York Times and Transitional Council that we're noting right now. Chivers is in bed with the so-called rebels. No, the paper didn't do that in Iraq. From the interview.
Mr. CHIVERS: I don't know exactly what the air power is up in the air. I've been trying to get it at that. And the governments that are involved, when they sign on for NATO, some of them seem to get sort of nondisclosure agreements with NATO. So I don't really know. I'd rather - they also almost bombed me one day...
GROSS: Oh, my G**. Really?
[. . .]
Mr. CHIVERS: Well, we later approached - I mean it was one of those situations. We came back and, you know, I was suffering from some headaches and having trouble hearing. And so we came back and I, you know, I called the paper and let them know very briefly what had happened - told them I was fine. And then we started to ask a few questions. Because, you know, it struck me as unusual that they would bomb something that was very blown up. They would bomb something that was, in this case, behind rebel lines.
Oh, you poor baby. How awful for you, the American, visiting someone else's country and free to leave anytime you want. to experience what so many Libyans are going through right now as a result of that war. [We censored Terry's use of a religious deity's name in vain because we don't allow that here out of respect for all religions and those people who are religious.] I'm also confused as to why we need a history of Libya from CJ Chivers. Meaning whatever did or did not happen years and years ago. Is that supposed to be "perspective"? If so the biggest perspective and the only one that matters right no is that Barack said this would be a few weeks and it has been months, that Libya is an established and recognized government, that the CIA has backed the so-called rebels and that this is part of the AFRICOM dream. Don't expect CJ Chivers to ever put that in perspective while working for the New York Times or to acknowledge that his little scare is the sort of thing Libyan children are living with every damn day in and near Tripoli and for no legal reason at all.
Staying with NPR. today on The Diane Rehm Show's second hour, guest host Susan Page (USA Today) and panelists, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Joby Warrick (Washington Post) and Jill Dougherty (CNN) discussed Iraq.
Susan Page: In Iraq, there's been another bomb blast targeting police this time in Tikrit. Do we see a pattern emerging, Jill? What's happening in Iraq?
Jill Dougherty: Well, Iraq, I guess you'd have to say the big thing is when do the Americans pull out? I mean, we know, according to the Status of Forces Agreement, that they're supposed to be out, the troops must leave Iraq by the end of this year, December 31st. But you do have some movement now among the Iraqis and certainly the U.S. would be open to that to keep the U.S. as trainers for a longer period. But, you know, with the mood about the war, it seems, you know, in both countries, it could be a problem to try to continue them. And so if, let's say, Afghanistan and Iraq, if the local military cannot take care of the security situation, then things can fall apart. It's a real dilemma.
Susan Page: And, in fact, these -- the bombing came just hours after the Iraqi prime minister was talking on the phone to Vice President Biden about the withdrawal of U.S. troops. What is the issue there? We need Iraqis to make some decisions, Nancy?
Nancy A. Youssef: Well, the real issue is that no Iraqi wants to come out publicly and say he asked for the occupation forces to stay on, however beneficial they may be to Iraqi security. And so al-Maliki came out and said the parliament must vote on this.
Susan Page: So that's a way for him to say I'm not asking, let's have the parliament?
Nancy A. Youssef: Yes, I mean, let's -- Really there's a game of chicken going on where the Iraqis are trying to see how close they can get to not asking and having the Americans still stay. And so we heard from Hoshyar Zebari this week who is the foreign minister. He said something quite interesting. He said, well, maybe we could work out a deal defense ministry to defense ministry. And so I went to the Pentagon and I said, would that be acceptable or do you have to have parliamentary support? And there's a debate going on right now about that and my sense is that no, they'd have to have the backing of the parliament. Because remember, the parliament is the one who approved the Status of Forces Agreement that allows us to stay until the end of 2011. And so what the Iraqis are looking for is the least they have to do to get the Americans to stay without having the onus of going to the public and saying, I asked for the forces to stay.
Susan Page: But do we want to be asked to stay? Or would we prefer to be able to go?
Joby Warrick: Yeah. It's there is a push within the administration to try to get some residual force there beyond the end of 2011 because of the regional concerns, because of Iran and all the things that it's doing in the region. We'd like to have a counter-balance to that. And -- but again, we have to be asked and now this, the whole negotiation process appears to be frozen. There's no movement in sight and if we are going to leave at the end of 2011, there's a lot of logistical things involved in that and we have to start moving now.
Nancy A. Youssef: You know, Jill talked about the cost of this and the financial pressures essentially to bring down war costs. The Congressional Research Service released a study earlier this year and they found that with fewer troops, it actually costs more per trooper in Iraq. In 2006 and 2007 at the height of the violence, it cost about $500,000 per trooper and that is the logistics, the equipment and getting that trooper there. We're now in 2010 and it was at $800,000 and so there is a cost factor in this. It is actually more expensive per soldier to keep them in Iraq even if there are fewer of them.
Susan Page: President Obama campaigned as a candidate on a promise to get the U.S. forces out of Iraq. So Jill, what if he fulfils that promise? We see troops coming out and the situation there really deteriorates. Does that mean we would go back in or do we just leave the Iraqis to themselves?
Jill Dougherty: I shudder to think what they would do. I'm not quite sure because, you know, you have legal issues governing the relationship between the two countries. You have the financial realities in the United States budget, which -- It's a perfect day to be talking about that. You have the American public, I think the last I looked, 30 percent support the war or the conflict. So it would be very, very hard to begin that over again.
Nancy A. Youssef: And also I think the question becomes what could the U.S. do to mitigate whatever emerges in that period because you're starting to see Iraqis sort of positioning themselves for the post-U.S. period and so the relevancy, the impact of the United States diminishes with every brigade that the United States pulls out. So if you keep 10,000, which is the number we hear tossed around at the Pentagon, what real impact could they have to stopping whatever the momentum ends up being in Iraq post 2011?
On the non-withdrawal, Brian Williams (The Militant) explains:
The Los Angeles Times reports that unnamed U.S. officials say the White House is prepared to keep as many as 10,000 U.S. troops around Baghdad and elsewhere in the country. That would be on top of the nearly 50,000 Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force personnel the Pentagon reports deploying "around Iraq" as of March 31 of this year.
The Pentagon is putting "multiple plans" in place to support U.S. troop operations in Iraq in 2012, Alan Estevez, the Pentagon's nominee to lead its logistics and materiel readiness office, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing July 19. As contracts expire on food services, fuel, and logistics support, he said, the Department of Defense can almost immediately turn "the volume on [them] back up."
The U.S. embassy, which opened on new grounds in January 2009, is by far the largest in the world -- about the size of 80 football fields and 10 times bigger than any other U.S. embassy.
Saturday was to be the meet-up of political blocs at Jalal Talabani's home to discuss a number of issues including whether or not to extend the presence of US troops. , Ahmad al-Rubaye (AFP) reports that meeting has been axed. (Jane Arraf noted yesterday that people were saying the meeting wouldn't take place.) al-Rubaye explains Ali Mussawi delivered the news that the meeting was off: "He said the talks were postponed because President Jalal Talabani, who was to lead them, had to visit the northern city of Arbil to attend condolence ceremonies for the mother of Massud Barzani, president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. She died on Wednesday." And as the White House pushes for an extension, there is silence. Dennis "DJ" Mikolay (Populist Approach) observes:
Apparently, despite the current president's tenacity for waging war, the once thriving anti-war left is uninterested in opposing him. Why? Were the peace-seeking activists of the past decade motivated more by a hatred of George W. Bush than they were a love of human life? Perhaps they believe that, unlike his predecessor's wars, the current president's are somehow morally justified?
Whatever the case, opposition to American interventionism seems to have gone the way of the Furby or the Pet Rock, meaning President Obama can wage as many wars as he likes with minimal criticism. That is a truly frightening realization. Who will the United States wage war with next? Iran and Syria seem likely contenders for that dubious honor.
One must wonder how much blood must be shed before the American public demands a revamping of the "War on Terror?" How many Americans have to die before voters turn their backs on both the neo-conservative Republican and Progressive Democratic war machines?
Given the neutralization of anti-war sentiment in the United States, coupled with the lack of viable Republican presidential contenders, the probability that the United States will remain engulfed in war until at least 2016 is becoming increasingly likely. The sad moral of this entire affair, however, is that by casting their ballots for a pro-war candidate the American public got exactly what they asked for. And they don't even seem to realize it.
Al Mada has an interesting story on a statement released by Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi. In the statement, Allawi's stating that the problems (Political Stalemate II) are not between Iraqiya and Nouri's State of Law but "our real problem" results from agreeing to a move that left them in a lesser position (Iraqiya won the March 2010 elections) and accepting tokens instead of real partnership. He notes the Erbil Agreement was not implemented. (He is correct. The Erbil Agreement ended Political Stalemate I -- the nine months after the March 2010 elections -- and when Nouri trashed the agreement, Political Stalemate II began.) Al Mada also reports that six deputies withdrew from Iraqiya yesterday for a number of reasons but chief among them the fact that they did not support Salman Jumaili as president of Iraqiya's bloc in Parliament. The paper also reveals that yesterday's efforts by State of Law to attack the Electoral Commission with a no-confidence vote found only 94 of the 245 MPs present voting in favor of the proposal.
Turning to Iraq and its neighbors, today AFP reports a 10-year-old boy was killed in Iraq by the shelling from Iranian forces. Haj Omran's mayor Maghdid Aref Ahmed explains, "Mohammed Antar Zerrar, who is 10 years old, was killed on Thursday evening at around 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) by Iranian shelling of the village of Battas." Iran's Fars News Agency reports, "Iran's Police Chief Brigadier General Esmayeel Ahmadi Moqaddam announced that the country's law enforcement forces have adopted tight security measures along Iran's Northeastern borders with Turkey and Iraq to confront insecurities and terrorist groups in border areas." In addition, Reuters notes a border clash between the Iranian military and PJAK resulted in the death of 1 shepherd.
Iran maintains that the military action is to defend itself from Kurdish rebels PJAK. Protests have taken place in Iraq over Iran's attacks. This week Foriegn Minister Zebari called out the attacks but it was a meaningless statement. Zebari doesn't run the country. Nouri al-Maliki has not condemned the attacks publicly. In addition to Nouri being prime minister and tight ith the Iranian government, there's the fact that Zebari is a Kurd and the Iranian government has shon no respect for them via the treatment of the Kurds in Iran and also their treatment of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani when he visited the country which Talabani's office found so dimissive and insulting that they publicly aired their complaint. Zebari and a host of others can decry the attacks but Nouri's the only person the Iranian government might listen to. Meanwhile Iraqis watch the attacks and remember their past with Iran (the Guardian provides a timeline here) and remember that whatever they think of the Camp Ashraf residents, Iraqis have not been calling for their forced expulsion, the government of Iran has. It feeds into further distrust of Nouri and his government. Ahmad Farhardpour (Kurdish Aspect) offers:
Iraqi Kurdistan border regions have come under intermittent ground and aerial assaults by neighboring powerful countries. These threats further escalated in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. At present, Islamic Republic of Iran has resumed such confrontational attacks once again, killing scores of innocent civilians. The international community is observing, but not reacting to it. Iranian perpetuation of crimes should not go unnoticed.
To pacify public rage, Kurdish leaders and representatives dismiss their part of answerability by maintaining that there are accords and protocols in effect that constitutionally hinder Kurdish Regional Government from taking unilateral actions to defuse any menace confronting Kurdistan, apparently leaving them with the only alternative to hinge on the leniency of the incumbents in federal government in Baghdad to rush to their aid. Whether it is Kurdish Regional Government's fragility or limitations, in either case, it does not resolve the setback.
If Kurdistan is part of a federalist, democratic and pluralistic Iraq as claimed by KRG officials, then so should the burden of security provision and preservation of its territorial integrity remain those of the federal government? Iraqi citizens would like to know what has been rendered so far by their so-called federal government as regards protecting them. If the federal government is unwilling or pathetic to guard them, then who is? Has not yet the Iraqi Army or Kurdish Regional Government Army been effectively trained and empowered adequately to cope with foreign threats after elongated 8 years? And if not, where and how have all the allocated funds been expended. How long more time and what other means do they require achieving their goals.
Meanwhile Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports on rumors that Iranian military officer Qassem Suleimani is calling the shots in Iraq adding, "In Baghdad, no other name invokes the same sort of reaction among the nation's power base -- discomfort, uncertainty and fear." True or not, while it's NO reason for the US military to stay in Iraq, just the talk of it adds to more discomfort for Nouri as Iraqis have yet another reason to distrust him. His biggest problem, which he fails to grasp, is that the Iraqi people do not feel he even attempts to serve their needs or interests. This appears to be illustrated by the fact that, all these years later, they still don't have basic services and they still don't have jobs. When you add in what Chulov is reporting, true or false doesn't matter, it feeds into the pre-existing image of the way Nouri 'runs' (ruins) Iraq.
It's why the protests take place each Firday. Today? Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweeted:
The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Our Correspondent in Tahrir Square: A journalist in Tahrir catches the officer responsible for the infiltrators and photographs him giving them orders which led to an attempt to kidnap the journalist that failed, but they broke his camera, dragged him some distance and tore up his clothes." And they report, "Our Correspondent in Tahrir Square:The Young Rebels in Tahrir help the jounalist to escape from the infiltrators and stop the attempted kidnapping."
Turning to Iraq and another neighbor, Al Sabaah reports that Iraq and Syria concluded their eight meeting yesterday and came up with a cooperation agreement between the two countries. A statement by Iraq's Minister of Trade, Khairul Hassan Babiker praises the agreement as good for both sides. Syria borders Iraq and, throughout the Iraq War, has been a place many Iraqis attempting to escape violence have gone to. Recently, Syria has had its own turmoil and many media outlets have wrongly reported that a major exodus from Syria back to Iraq was taking place. When these claims proved false, they switched to 'reports' that it was going to happen, about to happen, give it time. That's actually not reporting and you'd think, for example, that someone at NPR would hear that report and ask how the hell it made it on air? Today Tim Arango (New York Times) provided reality explaining that the few Iraqis that have returned from Syria do not outnumber the amount of Iraqis continuing -- even no -- to go to Syria. He speaks with Iraqis visiting Iraq and no returning to Syria who, even ith the current problems in Syria, portray a better life there than in Iraq such as barber Ali Mohammed who notes that, "You can relax there. You don't need to worry about electricity, the heat."
In news of violence, Reuters notes 1 Sahwa and 1 police officer were killed in Baquba by unknon assailants, a Baghdad car bombing injured three people, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured two police officers, 1 corpse as discovered in Kirkuk ("gunshot wounds") and, dropping back to Thursday night, a Mosul sticky bombing claimed 1 life and 1 person was shot dead in Mosul.
Turning to the British War Hawk Tony Blair who felt he had some 'authority' with which to address people, he was in New Zealand this week and the New Zealand Press Association reports that there was a citizen-led effort to arrest him but the "heavy police presence kept protesters out of Eden Park" allowing Tony Blair to continue to present himself as the victim of the Iraq War by responding to a question about doing anything differently with the comment that he wished that back then he'd had know that replacing Saddam Hussein would require a "long struggle."
Tony never regrets the loss of life, of course. TVNZ quotes him stating, "You can't govern by protest . . . you've got to do what you think is right." So lying was right? Attempting to scare the British people with the claim that Iraq could attack England in a matter of minutes was the right thing to do?
Earlier this week, Chris Greenwood (Daily Mail) reported that for Tony Blair's two days of appearaning before the Iraq Inquiry, British tax payers had to fork over five-hundred-thousand pounds to cover his security. That's a good thing. 3 News reports that his New Zealand appearance required the hiring of extra security as well. Tony Blair goes to events like the one in New Zealand because he's paid big money. If it requires big money to keep the protesters away, someone's got to pay that. It's not going to be Tony. He's too damn cheap. So if tax payers in New Zealand or the organizing body gets the bill, maybe Tony won't be invited back. And maybe at some point the War Hawk will be hemmed in and unable to travel freely? He belongs in prison for his War Crimes but if that's not possible, life can at least be made uncomfortable for him. And should be. He's now moved on to Brisbane where the Brisbane Times reports he declared there's a "confidence crisis" in the West. Why not? Didn't he lie to start an illegal war? Didn't the UN reward him for that lie by making him the Middle East Envoy when he belongs behind bars? A liar is probably the last one to lament a crisis of confidence. The paper notes, "Before he spoke, a small group of protesters gathered outside the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre to exercise their right to free speech. Activists waved placards and chanted slogans, accusing Mr Blair of genocide for supporting the Iraq war." Brian Jones (Iraq Inquiry Digest) notes:
From declassified documents released in May, it has become clear that, in early 2002, Tony Blair's overriding wish was to use Iraq as the next step in the application of the political philosophy of "liberal intervention" to which he had become wedded in his first term of office. This was made plain in a minute from Blair to Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, and Sir David Manning, his foreign policy adviser, in March 2002, shortly before Blair's visit to Crawford. The Crawford summit, for which Blair appears to have been thoroughly and accurately briefed, is thought by many to have been the meeting at which Blair pledged his determination to provide British military support for an invasion of Iraq.
In the minute to his closest confidants, the prime minister does not cite any need to tackle the "threat" of Saddam's putative WMD stockpiles or to support US action for wider political or security reasons. The former is not surprising because he had been repeatedly advised that intelligence on Iraq's WMD would not justify the military action he seemed to anticipate. He also appears to acknowledge that Iraq "hasn't any direct bearing on [UK] national interest".
In a speech in Chicago in April 1999, at a time when he believed he needed to persuade a reluctant President Clinton to take more direct military action in the Balkans, Blair had argued for a "political philosophy that does care about other nations". It advocated that, in a post cold war environment free of threats to national security, the west could afford to do this. For example, where appropriate they could pursue military action to achieve regime change in order to free oppressed people from unscrupulous dictators, eliminate regional dangers and restore stability.
Even in his March 2002 minute to his closest aides Blair feels the need to rehearse the case for "liberal intervention" in Iraq by reference to his successes in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone and appears to suggest it was right to be "gung-ho on Saddam". By defining things in this way he tacitly acknowledges that he did not consider as particularly serious, any current or possible future threat from Iraq and its WMD, or the consequence of an increased threat from terrorists such as al Qaida that might arise in the future or directly as a consequence of any such action. Indeed he said his greatest fear was about oil prices because: "Higher petrol prices really might put the public off."
None of this should surprise us since Blair has latterly made no secret of the fact that he was always much more than a compliant supporter of George Bush in pursuit of the policy on Iraq. It puts a little more flesh on the bones of the implication inherent in his admission to Fern Britton in 2009 that if he had known before the Iraq war that Saddam had no WMD he would have found another way to persuade people the invasion was appropriate.
All this is very strong, if not conclusive, evidence that the WMD "threat" was deliberately exaggerated as immediate (or current) to boost public, political and international support for military action because neither humanitarian considerations nor a potential future WMD threat from Iraq or terrorists would have been enough.