Friday, January 29, 2010

Cooked Goose in the Kitchen

1 lying War Criminal
several sticks of butter
rope to tie the wings and legs of War Criminal

Secure War Criminals appendages with rope. Place in your largest pan and rub with butter before placing pan into a 450 degree oven. Bake for at least 2 hours, basting regularly.

Serves 1 population destroyed by the War Criminal but will not bring about justice because there will never be enough justice to replace the lives lost from an illegal war.

Yes, we're talking about Tony Blair. This is from Rosa Prince and James Kirkup's "Iraq inquiry: Tony Blair had no regrets over toppling Saddam Hussein" (Telegraph of London):

During six tense hours in front of the inquiry into the war, the former prime minister also used his testimony repeatedly to urge world leaders to take military action against Iran, which he described as more dangerous than Iraq had been under Saddam.
His confident delivery was interrupted only once by the audience, which included the relatives of British troops killed in Iraq, when he was asked to reflect on the fate of those who had died during the conflict.

And this is from Today's Zaman:

Blair’s appearance has been hugely anticipated. Protesters chanting “Tony Blair, war criminal” gathered outside the building opposite parliament where the inquiry was taking place.

Relatives of some of the 179 British soldiers killed in Iraq joined about 100 anti-war demonstrators chanting and waving placards. Names of those killed were also read out.

Blair, who looked nervous at times as the hearing began, arrived early and entered by a back door amid heavy security and large numbers of police on standby. “The real question Tony Blair needs to answer in the end will be at The Hague and before a war crimes tribunal,” said Andrew Murray, chairman of Stop the War Coalition. “He is an accomplished actor but I think most people have long since seen through the script.”

Chris Havergal (Cambridge News) speaks with some of those protesting:

Sara Payne, co-chairman of CamPeace, said she had been “appalled” to hear Mr Blair say he would do the same again.

She said: “Possibly up to a million people have died in this illegal war, there have been hundreds of thousands of refugees, and our soldiers are still being killed.

“Nowhere do we hear any flicker of conscience, sympathy, or even understanding of what war means.”

Sara Bennett, convenor of the Cambridge Stop the War Coalition, said she believed the inquiry did not go far enough.

She said: “Sir John Chilcot said himself that Tony Blair wasn’t on trial – but we believe that’s exactly what should happen.

“We want to see the people that took us into this war held to account for their decisions.”

Another Chris, Chris Marsden, (WSWS) has a poweful piece about the War Criminal's testimony:

Even while formally denying that the war against Iraq was in pursuit of regime change, and that he had agreed to such a war when meeting with President Bush at his Crawford ranch in the spring of 2002, he repeatedly gave tacit support to the US policy of pre-emptive war. The option of removing Saddam had "always been there", he said. After 9/11, the view was that "we can't go on like this." Asked whether the removal of regimes had become a "valid objective" of government policy by 1999, he said it had not. But he added that President Bill Clinton had come out in favour of regime change as early as 1998. Britain too wanted to deal with the threat from WMDs and if this required regime change, then "so be it."

Blair’s only attempt to avoid explicitly sanctioning regime change as a policy was to insist that the issue was WMDs and that Iraq it was in defiance of UN Resolution 1441, which he continues to claim gave authority for war to be declared. There were many regimes that he would "like to see the back of," but there has to be a basis of a security threat to the UK, he said. Not once did he identify any such threat to the UK, without which there was no basis for war. Instead there was the claim against all evidence that Saddam "definitely had” WMDs, or alternatively that he had “believed” it was “beyond doubt” that Iraq had WMDs as he had stated in his notorious foreword to the 2002 intelligence dossier.

When it was pointed out that it was proved that Iraq possessed no WMDs and that UN weapons inspectors under Hans Blix had not been allowed to complete their work, Blair again fell back on the question of a “potential”: The Iraq Survey Group, he said, found that Saddam had the means and "know how" to restart a weapons programme and this alone justified war. Sometimes it is important not to ask the "March 2003 question" but the "2010 question," he said.

Blair portrays the “2010 question” as being whether the world is “better off without Saddam.” It is far more than that. His argument amounts to a rationale for the major powers, and the US and Britain in particular, launching wars of aggression with the aim of regime-change whenever and wherever they see fit. This was, he said, of continued importance. There are "very similar issues" with Iran as with Iraq under Saddam Hussein, he proclaimed, and Britain was in a "far better placed" to deal with this threat now.

Regarding the issue of UN authorisation and the requirement for a second UN resolution, he baldly insisted that Resolution 1441—passed in 2002—gave war legitimacy. But he was forced to acknowledge that the US was always ready to act unilaterally. He too eventually gave up on a second UN resolution because it was “very clear" that France and Russia would not agree to such a resolution, which had "disintegrated” the possibility of securing a majority on the Security Council. This was an admission that Britain had also acted unilaterally because it could not get what it wanted from the UN, which is in contravention of the UN Charter.

With all of the above, I still think C.I. did the most amazing job in today's snapshot. Second place goes to C.I. in my living room tonight explaining today's hearing to the Iraq study group. Setting C.I. to the side, I am so happy for the internet.

The US media largely ignored the Iraq Inquiry, even today. And those rushing to provide some (minor) coverage in the US generally screwed it up. Thanks to the internet, I can go to hundreds of UK sites and get some coverage of it.

This has really been treated to a media blackout in the US.

It's one of those things that we're not supposed to talk about -- like the bad economy or how bad Barack's speeches are. Here's the opening to Liz Peek's "Obama's SOTUS: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (wowOwow):

President Obama ventured to Capitol Hill on Wednesday night hoping to reverse his administration’s slide toward irrelevance. After suffering a bruising repudiation of his health-care plan by the Kennedy-tutored voters of Massachusetts, the president desperately needed to regain the country’s confidence. Remarkably, in the aftermath of Scott Brown’s improbable election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, the president’s team had centered on this as the explanation for that shocking upset: Obama has not spoken clearly enough to the American people. Seriously, I am hard-pressed to find anyone – with the possible exception of Jay Leno – more overexposed in the country’s living room than the president. Possibly, just possibly, it is the legislation that is at fault, Mr. President, not your telling of it.

And that will be it for me tonight. It has been a long, long day. This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

Friday, January 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Tony Blair -- a liar -- offers testimony on Iraq, protesters turn out calling for Blair to be tried for War Crimes, a gaggle of idiots appear on The Diane Rehm Show, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "A United States Division-South Soldier died Jan. 28 of noncombat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website [. . .] The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings to 4375 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. ICCC hasd't updated to 4375 this morning and still haven't now (it is AP's count). While you ponder that, wonder why a site called "Iraq Coalition Casualty Count" has never once included the Iraq Inquiry (ongoing with public hearings since November) in their linked to headlines. Seems like if Iraq's your focus and you're providing links, you should be providing links to the BBC, the Guardian, the Times of London, etc. And now to the Inquiry.

Today the one-time prime minister who may have forever tained the Labour Party, the full-time War Criminal who should be behind bars, the forever poodle who spents years sniffing Bush's ass Tony Blair provided testimony to the
Iraq Inquiry in London (here for transcript and video options). The various apologists for Blair are whining that the world is full of Blair Haters. First, the world was full of Nixon Haters. When you're a War Criminal, your reputation travels. But even more hilarious is when the idiots claim that Blair is unfairly being treated, unfairly being called a liar and more. Where there is stupidity, there is Alastair Campbell. The twit tweets on Twitter. He also blogs. And he wants the world to know they shouldn't call Tony Blair a "liar."

Tony Blair lies, that makes him a liar. We're not going to waste an entire snapshot fact checking that horrid liar. We'll note one example.
Channel 4's Iraq Inquiry Blogger noted in live blogging the hearing: "Blair: Looks at infant mortality stats - down from 130 per year in 2001-2002 to 40 by 2010. You'll always find some unhappy Iraqis". Blair didn't cite sources. For the 40 he could be using anything from the CIA figures to UNICEF -- however both and other say 43.5, not 40. It's also true that neither organization has published 2010 figures -- how could they, Tony? UNICEF is dealing with 2007 figures, the CIA with 2008 -- and they are estimates in both cases and wilder estimates than normal due to the fact that you're using extrapolation from a sample (not uncommon) in a country where you're not honestly sure as how to representative the cluster sample is (and where you are limited in where you can take a random sample). In 2002, according to the CIA World Factbook, the infant mortality rate was 57.61.

Three days of around the clock coaching and the liar can't resist lying. He wants to create a higher infant mortality rate before the illegal war to 'prove' that he was right. He was wrong and he has the blood of millions on his hand. He's a liar, Alastair, because he lies and he lies so badly he's caught lying. He's a liar.

We'll come back to Blair, let's set the scene first. While Blair testified, people protested. A Morning Edition (NPR)
report featured the chanting of the protesters. Featured? Past tense because what we heard on the air isn't what the audio provides. However the transcript of the piece is what aired (at least it currently is). Those who heard the segment this morning heard "Blair lied!" Philippe Naughton (Times of London) reports, "Several hundred demonstrators -- chanting 'Jail Tony' and 'Blair lied' -- gathered outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, although the former prime minister managed to slip in via a cordoned-off back entrance two hours before he was due to appear." CNN notes the protests took place "in the shadow of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament" and that Tony Blair had to arrive two hours early and use an alternative interest to arrive undected while 20-year-old Suad Mikar states, "I'm sure he can hear us. That's what matters, we don't need him to see us. He knows everyone's opinion about it." Sian Ruddick (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports, "The demonstration brought together school students, trade unionsits and activists in a show of anger against the war crimes Blair committed in Iraq. It began at 8am in central London. Protesters carried a coffin, symbolising the deaths of the over a million Iraqis in the war. Others wore Blair masks and covered their hands in fake blood. Police set up cordons to keep the demonstration away from the entrance of the Queen Elizabeth conference centre near the Houses of Parliament. This did not happen when any of the otehr witnesses came to give evidence."

Before we go further, I want to note some opening statements from John Chilcot today. He's the chair of the Inquiry and most reading the snapshots already know this but you'll see why we're going over it (again) before moving to the next section.

Chair John Chilcot: Today's hearing is, understandably, much anticipated, and in this circumstances, the Committee thinks it important to set out what this hearing will and will not cover. The UK's involvement in Iraq remains a divisive subject. It is one that provokes strong emotions, especially for those who have lost loved ones in Iraq, and some of them are here today. They and others are looking for answers as to why the UK committed to military action in Iraq and whether we did so on the best possible footing. Our questions aim to get to the heart of those issues. Now, the purpose of the Iraq Inquiry is to establish a reliable account of the UK's involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009 and to identify lessons for future governments facing similar circumstances. That is our remit. The Inquiry is not a trial. The Committee before you is independent and non-political. We come to our work with no preconceptions and we are committed to doing a thorough job based on the evidence. We aim to deliver our report around the end of this year. Now, this is the first time Mr Blair is appearing before us and we are currently holding our first round of public hearings. We shall be holding further hearings later in the year when we can return to subjects we wish to explore further. If necessary, we can speak to Mr Blair again. Today's session covers six years of events that were complex and controversial. It would be impossible to do them all justice in the time we have available today. The Committee has, therefore, made a decision to centre its questioning on a number of specific areas. If necessary, we shall come back to other issues at a later date. [. . .] I would like to begin the proceedings just by observing that the broad question by many people who have spoken and written to us so far is: why, really, did we invade Iraq, why Saddam, and why now in March 2003?

We should now all be on the same page regarding the Inquriy. And that makes us a million times more informed that the gaggle of idiots on today's second hour of
The Diane Rehm Show on NPR today. The idiots: James Fallows (Atlantic Monthly), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy). What do you do when you're asked about a subject you know nothing about? As anyone who's been to school knows, you bulls**t. "But what's the purpose of this Chilcot Inquiry about, Tom?" asks Diane. It's a basic question, one that should set up a lively segment. But that depends upon guests knowing their subjects.

Tom: Well . . . the-the-the-the British public is far more uh anti-war than-than the US public has been. And this has been something that has building -- been building for a long time in Great Britian and, you know, Tony Blair is-is really stained inthe-in the view of many -- much of the British population for having supported this war in a very -- at a very crucial time early on.

Tom has so much trouble speaking when he has no idea where he's headed. He's the student who didn't realize that he would be called upon. Completely unprepared and still playing with his early morning boner under the desk, he just wishes Diane would call on someone else and he stammers his way through until he thinks he has a concluding statement. What's the purpose, Diane asked him. Where in his reply (that's his entire reply) do you see an answer? You don't. She then asks Susan.

Susan: Well arguably this is also where foreign policy is at its most politicized even here in the US. I think if you look at the ongoing fights over national security -- look at --

No. Don't. Don't look at. How embarrassing. And I'm cutting her off before she embarrasses herself further.

The smartest thing anyone can ever say -- write this down, Suze -- is this phrase: "I don't know." Using that phrase when you don't know the answer will make you appear 10 times smarter than trying to bulls**t an 'answer' on a topic you know nothing about. Susan didn't know a damn thing and so decides, when asked about the Iraq Inquiry, to try to take it to another area. Hey, I did it all the time in Constitutional Law. If I was thrown a curve ball, I'd say, "Well it actually reminds me of another verdict . . ." And I'd b.s. my way through. But I was a college student. (And lucky.) Susan's supposed to be a journalist. If you're asked a question and you don't know the answer: Don't answer.

Wasn't that the whole point of the ridiculing of Sarah Palin for the Katie Couric interviews? Wasn't it that Sarah Palin gave responses that appeared to indicate she didn't know what she was talking about? Susan and Tom were brought on the show as 'informed' and 'experts.' They don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's embarrassing. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Next time, they should just say, "I am completely unprepared, I don't follow world events and I'm a stupid moron who can only give responses that I've been programmed to give." We're not forgetting James Fallows, don't worry. James kept saying In The Loop (a movie) and offered a Washington Post cartoon. He had nothing to share on the Inquiry because he didn't know a damn thing about an ongoing public inquiry into the Iraq War which began public hearings in November of last year. He's that out of touch, he's that stupid and he was brought on as an 'expert.'

James Fallows also insisted that Blair, unlike George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, has never waivered that the Iraq War was right. Excuse me? When the hell did Bully Boy Bush or Cheney waiver? They didn't. You don't know what you're talking about and you need to just apologize to all NPR listeners for that garbage. They'd expect it in a classroom but they're not supposed to have to listen to it on listener supported public radio.

"Let's move on," said Diane after only three minutes and normally I'd call her out on that; however, she rightly realized her guests didn't know a damn thing and had nothing to offer.

Now to Blair's testimony. He made like
Lois running for mayor of Quahog on Seth MacFarlane Family Guy by invoking 9-11 repeatedly. How bad was it? Tony Blair's first sentence reference 9-11 twice ("up to September 11, after September 11"). From 1997 through 2001 (or, as he put it, "through 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001") Saddam Hussein (former leader of Iraq) "wasn't the top priority for us" but "at the very first meeting" with Bush ("February 2001") he, Bush and Colin Powell chatted up the topic. That must have been a free wheeling topic because, later in the hearing, Blair would talk about his phone call or calls to Iran's president and his fears over Iran. So Iraq wasn't top priority but they what? Spun a globe and took turns dissing other countries?

Tony Blair's grand standing on 9-11, a terrorist attack on US soil, was offensive enough but let's make the point that if you're going to grand stand, know your damn facts. Do not, for instance, declare, "over 3,000 people had been killed on the streets of New York" when that is incorrect. The death toll is 2,973 (I'm not counting the hijackers -- apparently Tony grieves for the hijackers) and it was New York, it was the Pentagon (not in NYC) and it was the Shanksville field in Pennsylvania. You want to grandstand on 9-11, Tony? Try getting the facts right. What an idiot. Three days of round the clock coaching and this is what he's left with?

For those who might foolishly cut Tony slack, he kept repeating the false figure and the false locations: "The point about this act in New York was that, had they been able to kill even more people than those 3,000, they would have" -- it's offensive.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne raised the issue of Blair's interview last month with the BBC's Fern Britten where Blair stated that even if he had known there was no WMD, "I would still have thought it right to remove him [Hussein]." Blair tried to walk the remark back by begging off with "even with all my experience in dealing with interviews, it sill indicates that I have got something to learn about it." He then tried to lie that the interview was actually taped prior to the creation of the Inquiry. Lyne didn't let him get away with that so Blair insisted it was taped before the Inquiry started their November public hearings.

We'll note this exchange.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: Your Chief of Staff told us that at Crawford and subsequently you did not set any conditions for Britian's support for the US, but that your approach was to say, "We are with you in terms of what you are trying to do, but this is a sensible way to do it. We are offering you a partnership to try and get to a wide coalition." But other witnesses who were also involved in the decision-making process have told us that you set a number of clear conditions for our support. Which was it?
Tony Blair: It was the former. Look, this is an alliance that we have with the United States of America. It is not a contract. It is not, "We do this for you, you do this for us". It is an alliance and it is an alliance, I say to very openly, I believe in passionately.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman pressed him on WMD and 45 minutes (Blair had told the British people that Iraq had WMD that could be used to attack the UK within 45 minutes). Blair did allow that he might have needed to correct that after one paper headlined it (Freedman pointed out it was three newspapers) but that he answer over "5,000 oral questions" from September 2002 and May 2003 and no one ever asked him about that (Freedman points out that Jack Straw did so publicly in February 2003). Blair insisted that the 'error' was taking on "greater signifcance" after the fact. Freedman replied, "I think it has taken on that significance possibly because it is taken as an indication of how evidence that may be pointed was given even more point in the way that the dossier was written." Freedman also asked Blair about his January 2003 meeting with Bush and whether it was an effort to persuade Bush "that now it was necessary to get a second resolution" from the United Nations. Blair responds that is correct and that a second UN resolution (1441 only authorized inspectors to go into Iraq) would "make life a lot easier politcaly in every respect." The obvious question there was: "Politically? What about legally since every bit of advice you were receiving at that point -- including from Peter Goldsmith -- told you that if there was no second resolution a war would be illegal?" That didn't get asked.

Blair then declares that the US government didn't feel a second resolution was necessary but Bush's "view was that it wasn't necessary but he was prepared to work for one." In January 2003? No. Blair's lying. The US administration's position was that 1441 gave them the legal right to start a war. That was their position while 1441 was being negotiated in the fall of 2002 and when it was passed November 8th. The legal rationale the Bush administration was a joke but to argue it, they could not have a second resolution. They knew they didn't have the votes on the Security Council (both from feedback and, as has been reported, from wiretaps) and going back for a second resolution and being shot down destroys their legal argument that 1441 allows them to declare war. Blair's lying.

A key exchange, and one that the Inquiry will most likely build on when writing their report, took place between Lyne and Blair. Before that, let's not Lyne's summary of events.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Firstly, there wasn't a legal basis, as Lord Goldsmith repeated to us the day before yesterday, for regime change as an objective in itself. Secondly, lawers in the US administration favoured what was called the revival argument and that meant that the authorisation for the use of force during the first Gulf War, embodied in Resolution 687, was capable of being revived as it had been revived in 1993 and in 1998. However, the UK's lawyers did not consider that this argument was applicable without a fresh determination by the Security Council, and they felt that, not only because of the passage of time since resolutions 678 and 687, but also because, in 1993 and 11998, the Security Council had formed the view that there had been a sufficiently serious violation of the ceasefire conditions and also because the force that had been used then had been limited to ensuring Iraqi compliance with the ceasefire conditions. Even in 1998, the revival argument had been controversial and not very widely supported. So the British argument was that you needed a fresh determination of the Security Council. [. . .] So the UK and the USA went to the United Nations and obtained Security Council Resolution 1441, passed unanimously. However, in the words of Lord Goldsmith, that resolution wasn't crystal clear, and I think you, yourself, this morning referred to the fact that there were arguments. It didn't resolve the argument, I think was the way you put it. The ambiguous wording of that resolution immediately gave rise to different positions by different Security Council members on whether or not it of itself had provided authorisation without a further determination by the Security Council for the use of force. So up until early February of 2003, the Attorney General, again, as Lord Goldsmith told us in his evidence, was telling you that he remained of the view that Resolution 1441 did not authorise the use of force without a further determination by the Security Council that it was his position that a Council discussion -- the word "discussion" was used in the resolution -- would not be sufficient and that a further decision by the Council was required. [Blair agrees with the summary.] On 7 March, Lord Goldsmith submitted his formal advice to you, a document which is now in the public domain. In that he continued to argue that: "The safest legal course", would be a further resolution. But in contrast to his previous position and for reasons which he explained to us in his evidence, he now argued that, "a reasonable case" could be made, "that Resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation in 678 without a further resolution." But at the same time he coupled this with a warning that, "a reasonable case does not mean that if the matter ever came before a court, I would be confident that the court would agree with this view." So at that point, Lord Goldsmith had, to a degree, parted company with the legal advisers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who have also given evidence to us through Sir Michael Wood and Ms Elizabeth Wilmshurst. They were continuing to argue that the invasion could only be lawful if the Security Council determined that a further material breach had been committed by Iraq. I emphasize the word "further", of course, because 1441 established that Iraq was already in breach, but then the argument was about the so-called firebreak and whether you had to have a determination of a further material breach. Lord Goldsmith told us that, when it became clear that we were not likely to get a second resolution, a further resolution, he was asked to give what he described as a "yes or no decision", especially because clarity was required by the armed forces, CDS had put this to him, and by other public servants. He had received also an intervention from a senior Treasury lawyer. So having given you that advice on 7 March, by 13 March, he had crucially decided -- and this is from a minute recording, a discussion between himself and his senior adviser, David Brummell, who has also given evidence to us and which is also on the public record -- he had decided that: "On balance, the better view was that the conditions for the operation of the revival argument were met in this case; ie, that there was a lawful basis for the use of force without a further resolution going beyond Resolution 1441." Now, there is one further stage in the process and then I will get to the end. This view now taken by the Attorney General still required a determination that Iraq was "in further material breach of its obligations." The legal advisers in the FCO considered that only the UN Security Council could make that determination, but the Attorney took the view that individual member states could make this determination and he asked you to provide your assurance that you had so concluded; ie, you had concluded that Iraq was in further material breach, and on 15 March, which is, what, five days before the action began, you officially gave the unequivocal view that Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations. So it was on that basis that the Attorney was able to give the green light for military action to you, to the armed forces, to the Civil Service, to the Cabinet and to Parliament. But i tremained the case, as Sir Michael Wood made clear in his evidence, that while the Attorney General's constitutional authority was, of course accepted by the government's Civil Service advisers on international law, headed by Sir Michael Wood -- although Ms Wilmshurst herself decided to resign at this point from government service -- they accepted his authority but they did not endorse the position in law which he had taken, and it remains to this day Sir Michael's position -- he said this in his witness statement -- that: "The use of force against Iraq is March 2003 was contrary to international law."

Tony Blair agreed the above was a "fair" summary of events. In great detail and at lenght, Lyne will establish (with Blair agreeing) that the legal issues were set aside in Blair's Cabinet despite the fact that "until 12 February, you were not being told by the Attorney [General Goldsmith] or the Foreign Office legal advisers that you had the option of not getting a futher decision out of the Security Council."

The issue here is the second resolution and Blair's portrayal of he and his Cabinet wanting one (and they were advised it was necessary for it to be legal). So if he wanted one (this is me, not Lyne), (a) where was the work done on a second resolution and (b) shouldn't that have been the entire focus since the war would start shortly?

Now for the exchange. Lyne asked "wasn't Number 10 saying to the White House in January and February, even into March, that it was essential, from the British perspective, because of our reading of the law to have a second resolution?"

Tony Blair: It was politically, we were saying --

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Not merely preferable, but essential.

Tony Blair: No. Politically, we were saying it was going to be very hard for us. Indeed, it was going to be very hard for us.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Weren't we saying it was legally necessary for us, because that was his advice?

Tony Blair: What we said was, legally, it resolves that question obviously beyond any dispute. On the other hand, for the reasons that I have given, Peter [Goldsmith] in the end, decided that actually a case could be made out for doing this without another resolution, and as I say, did so, I think, for perfectly good reasons.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Well, it must have been of considerable relief to you, on 13 March, when he told you that he had come to the better view that the revival argument worked, because, at that point, he had given you, subject to you making the determination, the clear legal grounds that you needed.

In an earlier round of questioning, Lyne had observed, "You said a moment or two ago that you had agreed with President Bush, not only on the ends but also on the means, but the Americans actually had a different view of the means, in that they were already planning military action, and they had an explicit policy of seeking regime change. Did you, at Crafword, actually have a complete identity of view with President Bush on how to deal with Saddam?" What he appears to be building on -- and he's creating a case, if you're paying attention -- is that a lot of work was done planning for war. A lot of time spent with Bush. When did the UK ever say, "Without a second resolution, we can't go to war?" Never. (Blair confirmed that in response to lengthier versions of that question, as we've noted above.) Some members of the Cabinet and the public were under the belief that Blair wanted a second resolution. But there was no work done for one. So the point being, Blair was given legal advice repeatedly that, barring a second resolution, the Iraq War would be illegal and, month after month, he ignored that advice. There was no push on Blair's part for a second resolution, there was no (by his own admission) pre-condition of a second resolution before he pledged to support Bush in the war.

Blair made up his mind to go to war and did so before he's admitting and the proof is in the fact that he ignored legal advice. He blew it off. He had months (from November to March) to work on a second resolution. That wasn't a priority. He's detailed what he worked on and what he tasked. And there's nothing on those lists that have to do with second resolution. Blair wanted to go to war and pressured and pressured Goldsmith to finally sign off on it days before the Iraq War started. That's the reality coming out of the Inquiry.

Some of the families of the fallen were present for Blair's testimony -- either in the main room or in an adjoining room. The
Cambridge News reports the late Sgt. Bob O'Connor's sister Sarach Chapman noted Tony's "smug appearance." AFP quotes the late Gunner Lee Thornton's mother, Karen Thornton, stating, "It's a whitewash. 9/11 has got nothing to do with us." Paul Lewis and Vikram Dodd (Guardian) report the family found Blair highly disrespectful and notes, "One, Theresea Evans, asked the former prime minister to look her in the eye say sorry for the loss of her son. Evans, from Llandudno, North Wales -- whose 24-year-old son, Llywelyn, died in a Chinook helicopter crash in 2003 -- said: 'I would simply like Tony Blair to look me in the eye and say he was sorry. Instead, he is in there smirking'." The late Gordon Gentle's mother Rose Gentle tells the Press Association, "He had a smirk on his face which has made the families very angry. He has convinced himself that he was right, but it has emerged today that half the Cabinet were not given all the papers. It makes me so angry. [. . .] I will never forgive him and I believe he should stand trial. I will be angry with him for the rest of my life."

In his testimony, Tony Blair kept insisting that "Iraqis" were grateful, happy and their lives improved and that "talk to Iraqis" and you would see this to be the case. But Tony Blair's the one who needs to talk to Iraqis. Real ones, not the exile class that helped sell the war. (The exiles were the ones Blair met with the night of the largest global protest against the Iraq one month before it started.) Bllair never listened to the real Iraqis before, he's not listening now.
Sabah Jawad (Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation) offered his thoughts to Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

'Tony Blair should be tried for his crimes against Iraq -- and the legacy the war has left there.
A million Iraqis have died, leaving millions orphaned and widowed. The war and occupation have made as many as four million people into refugees.
The whole infrastructure of Iraq has been devastated by the occupation. Our heritage has been looted and destroyed, the environment has been poisoned and vital water sources have been lost.
Iraq used to be the breadbasket of the region -- now once fertile lands are in danger of being transformed into a desert. Children are growing up suffering from disease and deformities.
Sectarianism has been elevated to all state institutions and the country is dangerously fragmented. Corruption is rife -- government officials have been caught taking bribes of millions of dollars from foreign companies.
Iraq's precious oil resources have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. Meanwhile the profits of private security companies have soared.
Ordinary Iraqis who have suffered the most from the illegal war and occupation are left to cope with living under the threat of violence.
Unemployment now stands at 50 percent in a country where infrastructure has been shattered.
Yet despite everything the Iraqi people will continue with their determined struggle to reject the occupation and build a democratic, free Iraq.'

Are you listening, Tony Blair?
Oliver August (Times of London) reports on Iraqi reaction to Blair:Sunni Muslims are mostly hostile as they fared well under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni himself. Abu Ahmed, a retired government employee, said: "This war has brought us nothing but death and destruction and those like Tony Blair who took the decision to invade Iraq must be tried for their crimes." Many of the opinions voiced by Sunnis about Mr Blair are unprintable, often involving violence towards his family. Some Shias, too, are hostile towards the former British Prime Minister, even though their sect now holds power in Iraq. Majid Abu Yasin, the owner of a plumping supplies store, said: "It's not that the war wasn't legal. It was. The outcome is the problem. "Blair said he wanted to liberate Iraq, but now we have nothing but fear, not the freedom he talked about. People steal, kill, block the street or do whatever they want. That's not what we wanted."
Are you listening, Tony Blair? Today the
Liberal Democrats released the following:

"If Gordon Brown has nothing to hide then he should have no qualms making it crystal clear to Sir Gus that the Iraq Inquiry must have what it needs," said the Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary.
Commenting on the Iraq Inquiry, Edward Davey said: "Sir John Chilcot is absolutely right to demand detailed reasoning from the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell as to why he has rejected requests to make documents public. "There is clearly growing pressure on the Cabinet Secretary to justify his actions in withholding publication of documents."If Gordon Brown has nothing to hide then he should have no qualms making it crystal clear to Sir Gus that the Iraq Inquiry must have what it needs. "It is welcome news that Sir John may recall Tony Blair to the inquiry. The fact that Tony Blair cannot currently be questioned directly against these vital documents is totally unsatisfactory."

Con Coughlin (Telegraph of London) offers that the Inquiry must have Tony Blair's letters to George W. Bush to determine when Blair became "committeed to regime change" via war. The Telegraph of London notes Tony Blair's insisting that he didn't deceive the nation but if he was never serious about a second resolution, then he did just that. As Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) explains, "The central charge against Blair is simple: that the decision to go to war was the beginning, not the end, of the process; that an agreement was made early, and secretly, with President Bush, despite the lack of a legal basis, factual justification and military planning -- all three of which were later twisted to fit the decision already taken." And deception also would include what Philippe Naughton (Times of London) observes, "Tony Blair opened himself up to a charge of misleading Parliament today when he told the Iraq inquiry that by any objective analysis the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programme had not increased after 9/11." Of Blair's 9-11 claims, Gilligan points out:

First, of course, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and no links with al-Qaeda; Mr Blair was forced into a series of hypotheticals -- if Saddam had passed WMDs to terrorists, and so on? As one of the Chilcot panel, Sir Roderic Lyne, reminded him: "But it's these ifs, isn't it?"
Second, more importantly, it directly contradicts Mr Blair's key claim to Parliament before the war, where he insisted that the Iraq threat – the actual threat, not just the perception -- was "growing."
Asked by Sir Roderic: "Was the intelligence telling you it was growing?" Mr Blair referred to a Joint Intelligence Committee assessment saying not that the threat was growing, but that it was "continuing." His second piece of evidence of a "growing" threat was the alleged mobile biological weapons labs. But as the JIC assessment (quoted in full in Annex B of the Butler Report) says, this programme had been there since 1995.

Afua Hirsch (Guardian) observes that common phrases from Committee Members to Blair today included "just to clarify what you said" and "just to keep focus at the moment." The Financial Times of London live blogged the hearing here. Andrew Sparrow live blogged today's hearing for the Guardian. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogged at Twitter. Chris Ames fact checked at Iraq Inquiry Digest and here. Reuters is offering "highlights" by Michael Holden, Keith Ware and Sonya Hepinstall. Helene Mullholland and Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) offered a review of "the key points."

In Iraq today,
Reuters reports 2 Iraqi soldiers were injured in a Mosul shooting and four were injured in a Baghdad roadside bombing.

Yesterday's snapshot covered the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Kat covered it at her site and Wally covered it last night filling in for Rebecca.

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

Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, in addition to leaving lives andinstitutions in ruin, also exacerbated a much more common and lethalemergency in Haiti: Dying during childbirth. Challenges intransportation, education, and quality health care contribute to Haitihaving the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere, anational crisis even before the earthquake struck. While great strides are being made with global health issues likeHIV/AIDS, maternal mortality figures worldwide have seen virtually noimprovement in 20 years. Worldwide, over 500,000 women die each yearduring pregnancy. On Friday, January 29 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), a NOW team thathad been working in Haiti during the earthquake reports on this deadlybut correctable trend. They meet members of the Haitian HealthFoundation (HHF), which operates a network of health agents in more than100 villages, engaging in pre-natal visits, education, and emergencyambulance runs for pregnant women.

Staying with TV notes,
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Peter Baker (New York Times), Dan Balz (Washington Post), Gloria Borger (CNN) and John Harris (Politico). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes NOrton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Quiet ProfessionalsIn a rare chance to show America's elite Special Forces up close, "60 Minutes" spent over two months with a Green Beret unit as they trained a group of Afghan soldiers and then went into battle with them against the Taliban. Lara Logan reports. |
Watch Video
White HotU.S. Snowboarder Shaun White, who took home the gold at the last Winter Olympics, is still the guy to beat as he shows Bob Simon some of the tricks he'll use next month in Vancouver. | Watch Video
BeyonceSteve Kroft profiles the superstar singer on the road and backstage where she explains what makes her one of the world's most successful entertainers. |
Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tony Blair takes the stand tomorrow

Wheel of Misfortune

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Wheel of Misfortune" from this morning. Perfect.

Now I want to be sure you know what's taking place tomorrow. C.I. covers it and does a great job but I want to be sure that I wrote about it before it happened.

In the US, we had George Bully Boy Bush lying us into illegal war. In England, they had Tony Blair. He lied that Iraq had WMD and could attack England with them in 45 minutes. He told that lie despite the fact that at least five days before the start of the Iraq War he'd been informed that the claim (which he presented to the public as fact) was incorrect. An Iraq Inquiry is taking place in England. One of Tony's henchman has stated that 'missile' should have been used instead of WMD.

The inquiry heard this week that the legal advice was the Iraq War was illegal without a second resolution from the UN (there was no second resolution).

Tomorrow, Friday, the Inquiry hears from Tony Blair.

This is big news and this is the opening of Patrick Wintour's "Tony Blair faces judgment day on Iraq" (Guardian):

Tony Blair is more of a 6am man than a 3am one, says an aide in response to claims that he has been burning the midnight oil in preparation for his grilling by the Chilcot inquiry tomorrow.
He has not been abandoning all other business to prepare for the inquiry. He was in Paris on Tuesday for a meeting of the quartet on the future of the Middle East, and it was announced this week that he would take up a lucrative post on the board of a hedge fund, Lansdowne Partners.
But Blair has been working hard to prepare himself for his six-hour session, refamiliarising himself with the documents and reading digests of the evidence given by previous witnesses.
He knows that even though he has been asked many of the questions likely to be posed today innumerable times, this represents his last chance to justify the war. He made a long speech in his Sedgefield constituency in March 2004 defending the invasion once it was clear no weapons of mass destruction would be found. But he feels tomorrow's hearing, probably more than the report's ultimate findings, will shape the judgment of history.

Yes, C.I. will cover it. She's covered all the public hearings the Iraq Inquiry has held. But start paying attention to who else in the US is bothering to cover it. I think you'll be surprised by how few there are.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday:

Thursday, January 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a former US Staff Sgt admits to money laundering (for plastic surgery and other 'needed' items) while serving in Iraq, the US Senate continues to ignore a bill proposed to assist veterans exposed to toxic hazards, Iraq cracks down on the media again, and more.

Today the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing to vote on a nomination and proposed legislation. Starting with the nomination, November 9th, US President Barack Obama nominated Raul Perea-Henze to be the Assistant Secretary of Policy and Planning, Department of Veterans Affairs. Today the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee took a vote. Excepting Ranking Member Richard Burr, Lindsey Graham and Johnny Isakson, all voted in favor of Perea-Henze (Graham was not present during the vote, Burr asked that the record reflect Graham and his own votes opposing the nomination). ("All voted in favor? I would assume the entire committee. Most of whom did not show -- eight of the fifteen committee members were present during the vote -- for the hearing but if Graham's vote in opposition is recorded despite him not being present, I would assume those not present could also vote in favor of the nomination.)

Markup hearing? If you're thinking they addressed S. 1779, you are wrong. That bill addressed the need for a federal registry, similar to the one for Agent Orange exposure, for veterans exposed to contaminates while serving. It was
introduced by Senator Evan Bayh, has been held up by the Committee since October 21st. Bayh's bill is co-sponsored by Byron Dorgan (who has been also been a leader on this issue), Robert Byrd, Jeff Merkley, John Rockefeller, Ron Wyden and Richard Lugar. That bill's still buried.

If that surprises you, imagine being Senator Jay Rockefeller who had a statement on the bill all ready for delivery. In fact,
it's posted at the Committee's website:

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for this mark up, following up on the powerful and emotional hearing of October 8th last year with military personnel and family members exposed to toxic materials in their combat service, and even from their military housing.
At that hearing, my remarks and questions focused on Russell Powell, a medic with the West Virginia Guard. He and hundreds of other members of the Guard were exposed to toxic chemicals while on duty guarding the Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Facility in Basra, Iraq. For years, they were kept in the dark -- not told about their exposure. And today, they are still struggling to get the health care they need.
That is simply not acceptable. It must be fixed. And I believe today's mark represents the first important step forward.
I greatly appreciate that Chairman Akaka has incorporated a vital provision from Senator Bayh's legislation -- which I have cosponsored -- to guarantee these guardsmen the quality VA health care coverage they have earned.
That guarantee is an important element of the Homeless Veterans and Health Care Act and I strongly support it.
But at last fall's hearing, we also were moved by the heartbreaking testimony from military family members.
In particular: families describing serious water problems at Camp Lejeune and dangerous toxins in the air at Atsugi Naval Air base in Japan.
There is no doubt, we all agreed: Military personnel and family members dealing with the painful consequences of toxic exposure deserve the best health care possible.
Chairman Akaka's new legislation provides the right kind of care to families from Camp Lejeune and Atsugi Naval Air base.
But his bill goes beyond those two locations and their toxic exposure incidents. It creates a process between the VA and DoD to deal with thousands of potential exposures through a joint board. And, so future families don't have to wait for decades, the bill establishes a clear time frame for the board's decisions.
I firmly believe we must be absolutely clear about our shared responsibility. The VA's responsibility is our veterans and their care. DoD has a longstanding policy of caring for their military dependents.
DoD bears significant responsibility and has to take responsibility, today. The Pentagon has to acknowledge what happened and bear the financial costs. This matters.
The Akaka bill strikes the proper balance -- allowing the VA to provide coverage for veterans while DoD covers their families. The Chairman's legislation gets it right and I strongly support his efforts. This is our chance to do the right thing, honor our veterans' service and recognize their families' sacrifice, by ensuring they get the care they seek, they need, and they deserve.

It needed saying. Sadly, it went unsaid. There was no time for the needed bill.

What did they discuss? We'll note Richard Burr's remarks.

Ranking Member Richard Burr: As you know one of my top priorities in the Congress has been to end homelessness among our country's veterans. And the Committee Print S. 1237, the Homeless Veterans and Other Health Care Authorities Act of 2010, furthers that goal and I applaud all the members for their commitment to homelessness. I'm concerned however that the Committee's marking up legislation without having the official views of the Dept of Veterans Affairs on S. 1547, one of the key measures in the Committee Print before us today. We've heard the President talk about el-eliminating duplicate programs. We have had a legislative hearing on 1547 in October at which time where officials views from the administration were promised but, three months later, we still don't have those views. Without those views, the Committee doesn't have a full scope of key questions such as how the creation of a new program or the expansion of an existing ones will be coordinated with other homeless programs administered by the VA and other federal agencies? Or how this legislation fits with the [VA] Secretary's overall plan to end homelessness in five years? As well: What is the cost of the legislation and how long will it take the VA to be able to be appropriately staffed to carry out the bill's mandates? Now I'm not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that any administration's testimony should dictate how this Committee proceeds but it would be helpful to have information to make an informed judgment on what's best for veterans and addressing their specific needs. As for the second bill on the agenda, quite frankly I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed at the approach used to provide health care for veterans and family members exposed to contaminated well water at Camp Lejeune. Not only might this bill be subject to Rule 25 Point Of Order because of subject matter, it's arguably in another Committee's jurisdiction, it also fails to appreciate the deep distrust that family members and veterans have for the Dept of Defense and, specifically, it's handling of these matters once these wells were found to be contaminated and, in the years since, on the scientific inquiries that have been ongoing. Frankly, to those effected by the contamination at Camp Lejeune, requiring DoD to be a key decision maker and provider of health care is absurd. Now. I'm disappointed personally that the majority has decided to take the tack that they have to put a different bill in. Uh-uh. I don't think it's been the practice of the Committee in the past. And, uhm, I hope this is not an indication of how we proceed forward in this Committee. I understand the Chairman has the votes, I know what the outcome is. It won't change my passion for this debate. It will not change the degree of description of what I share with the members . It is the reason that and I other members have turned to this legislation and it is certainly indicative of why Democrats and Republicans in the House next week will introduce practically the same bill with VA responsibilities to provide health care to individuals and family members that have disease that could likely be tied to exposure to contaminants on a military installation. Now I would only ask the members of this Committee -- likely included that group are some of your constituents -- and though you haven't had to fight the Dept of Defense day in and day out on behalf of this group, I have and members before me have -- without any conclusion, without any finality, without any help. Today as we sit here getting ready for this markup, even though under US Code 42, statutorily the Secretary of the Navy is obligated to pay for the studies required to understand the health and mortality effects of this exposure, the Secretary of the Navy refuses to fund the CDC's arm at ASTDR that is obligated entity to go out and share with the country their scientific conclusion. Let me say that again: The Secretary of the Navy has refused to fund -- even though the law says he has to. So for me in good conscience to turn this over to the Dept of Defense to determine the scope of coverage for these individuals is insane. If the outcome of this vote is pre-determined, then so be it. I would hate for members to leave the markup today and believe that they will not revisit this issue. It will be revisited time and time and time again until the Congress recognizes that maybe the Dept of Defense, maybe the Secretary of the Navy can hide but the Congress can't hide from these people. These are people we represent. These are people that have asked us to come here and represent their interests, their health concerns, their future and I can't hide from them.

To be clear, his objection to the second bill is that DoD is being put in charge when DoD is seen as the person who put people at risk to begin with and is seen as refusing to admit to the contamination after the public discovered it. He is advocating for, among other things, the VA being over the issue the way that the House proposal will advocate (US House Rep Chet Edwards is introducing that measure). Burr proposed an amendment, 9 (Democrats plus Bernie Sanders -- Sanders was not present) voted to table the amendment, all five Republicans voted against tabling it. (Again, only 8 of the 15 Committee members were present.)

On the first bill, his objection is one that is being whispered by Democrats and will probably come out in public in the next months: The administration promises to get back to Congress but never does. Publicly, Ike Skelton and Carl Levin (chairs of the House and Armed Services Committee) have made statements in hearings regarding this issue but look for more serious statements to be made. (Congress -- those two committees in fact -- have still not been provided with the so-called 'withdrawal' plan from Iraq by the administration despite repeated promises.)

Burr is stating that he is unsure of whether the bill is workable or what is needed because the VA has not provided the feedback that was promised. He is stating that hearing from the VA wouldn't mean a yes or a no vote for him but it would mean that he and the Committee would have a stronger framework to judge the bill and the needs. That is what he is saying. But what Democrats are saying (Burr is a Republican) is that they're getting very tired of the administration promising testimonies and witnesses and reports that never arrive. A Republican brought it up for the first time in a hearing this year but if the White House doesn't start living up to their promises to Congress, Democrats who are complaining privately are going to go public and they will not do it as nicely as US House Rep Skelton and US Senator Levin did last year.

For Jon Tester and you can read
Kat tonight -- she'll cover his testy nature. Wally filling in for Rebecca tonight intends to note one aspect of Burr's remarks.

Today the
US Justice Dept announced that Theresa Russell (not the actress, this is a one-time US Army Staff Sgt) entered a guilty plea to money laundering while 'serving' in Iraq and that her ill gotten gain went on to fund her purchase of "a car, cosmetic surgery, and" more. From the Justice Dept news release:

WASHINGTON -- A former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army pleaded guilty today to a one-count criminal information charging her with money laundering arising from a scheme involving the fraudulent awarding and administration of U.S. government contracts in Iraq, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
Theresa Russell, 40, of Pleasanton, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in San Antonio. According to court documents, from January 2004 through October 2004, Russell was deployed to Logistical Support Area (LSA) Anaconda, a U.S. military installation near Balad, Iraq. As part of the plea, Russell admitted that from April 2004 to February 2005, she received more than $30,000 in cash from John Rivard, a former major in the U.S. Army Reserves. Russell admitted that she knew the money she received from Rivard was the proceeds of bribery.
In July 2007, Rivard pleaded guilty to bribery, among other offenses, in connection with his service as an Army contracting officer at LSA Anaconda. According to court documents, from April 2004 to August 2005, Rivard conspired with a government contractor to steer federally-funded contracts to the contractor's company in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit bribe payments.
According to court documents, Rivard instructed Russell to divide the payments she received from him into several smaller monetary bank deposits, which she admitted she did, in an effort to avoid the detection of law enforcement authorities. Russell admitted that she subsequently used the criminal proceeds to purchase, among other things, a car, cosmetic surgery, and household furnishings and goods.
The maximum penalty for the money laundering charge is 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release following the prison term. Sentencing is scheduled for May 21, 2010.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Daniel A. Petalas and Justin V. Shur of the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section, as well as Trial Attorney Ann C. Brickley. This case is being investigated by Army Criminal Investigation Command; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the FBI; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

While we're on the legal system, we'll drop back to last week. Danny Fitzsimons is a British citizen who stands accused of killing two 1 British citizen (Paul McGuigan) and 1 Australian citizen (Darren Hoare) while wounding one Iraqi (Arkhan Madhi) in an
August 9th Baghdad shooting.

"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by
Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.

Iraq War veteran Danny Fitzimons joined the British military at the age of 16 and was deployed on his first mission at the age of 18. Before he was 28-years-old, he'd been diagnosed with PTSD. Out of the military, he began working for the contractor AmrourGroup Inc in August 2009. The shootings took place August 9th. By August 10th,
Martin Chulov and Steven Morris (Guardian) were reporting that British embassy staff was not allowed to speak with Danny and that the Iraqi government or 'government' was announcing Danny had been in court (the day after the incident) and given a full confession. To be clear, the reporters were not vouching for the confession. Only an idiot -- or an American reporter -- would do that. Iraq has a long history (even just post-invasion) of forcing 'confessions'. August 11th, Amnesty International issued the following:

Responding to reports that a British employee of a security company working in Iraq may face a death sentence, Amnesty International UK Media Director Mike Blakemore said: 'It's right that private military and security company employees like Danny Fitzsimons are not placed above the law when they're working in places like Iraq and it's right that the Iraqi authorities are set to investigate this very serious incident. 'However, as with all capital cases, Amnesty would strenuously oppose the application of the death penalty if applied to Mr Fitzsimons in this case.'Iraq has a dreadful record of unfair capital trials and at least 34 people were hanged in the country last year alone. 'The important thing now is that if Danny Fitzsimons is put on trial he is allowed a fair trial process without resort to the cruelty of a death sentence.' Last year 34 criminals were hanged in Iraq. Private security guard Fitzsimons, employed by UK firm ArmorGroup, would be the first Westerner on trial since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reported last Thursday that Danny appeared in Iraqi court and "was sent for psychiatric evaluation minutes after the start of his trial". Oliver August (Times of London) adds, "Efforts to have Mr Fitzsimons tried in the UK have failed since Iraq and Britain do not have a prisoner transfer agreement. However, once he has been sentenced or is found to be mentally ill, London and Baghdad may discuss the possibility of bringing him back." Adam Schreck (Time magazine) reports, "The trial has been adjourned until Feb. 18, according to Fitzsimons' attorney, Tariq Harb." There is a petition on Facebook calling for Danny to be tried in the United Kingdom and not in England. Reprieve is raising funds for Danny's defense.

Yesterday's snapshot noted: "Vying for the title of Idiot of the Week, Hill has competition!, is Ali al-Lami who insists to Asharq Al-Awsat that he is not controlled by Iran. The fresh from prison al-Lami heads the extra-legal Accountability and Justice Commission. And certainly, if you were released from prison mere months ago, you too would be heading a government commission because that's what cronyism is all about, right, Ali? Don't call him Ahmed Chalabi's lover because they insist they are just friends. With no benefits. Or none they admit to. But Ali explains that he's cracked down on the media and they've figured out their place and 'calmed down' because he's threatened them with 'lawsuits'. He's a little bully." Lawsuits are just one path to censorship in Iraq -- a path Nouri al-Maliki's sashayed down repeatedly. Aseel Kami, Missy Ryan and Andrew Roche (Reuters) report today that Iraq's government or "government" is attempting to convince Syria, Lebanon and Egype to shut down various satellite channels originating from their countries. This will be presented as 'fair' but anyone in the world paying attention will say, "Hey, Iran's a neighbor. Iran's got stations 'inflaming' tensions as much as anyone else." But notice that Iran isn't a source of concern. Notice that and then start looking at the media reports and noticing how many fail to raise that issue.

Let's turn to some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured seven police officers and a Kirkuk mortar attack left four people injured.


Reuters reports 1 Sunni Imam shot dead outside a Baghdad mosque and that 1 police officer was wounded in a Baghdad shooting.

Monday, Baghdad was slammed with bombings and the death toll is at least 41 with over seventy wounded. Yesterday Ann noted Martin Chulov of the Guardian appearing on KPFA's The Morning Show and explaining:

After that there was a lot of shooting very near our location. Some colleagues of my staff wanted to run to their families who lived inside the Hamra compound. We had to restrain them. We were very near and it became clear that a car was trying to get through -- to get inside the hotel. So we ran and the car did get inside and it detonated. During the explosion, most of my colleagues emerged unscathed. There were some walking wounded at the Washington Post who had a house inside the area and also in the hotel itself. And sadly, one of our collegues from the Times of London a longtime local employee was killed.

Ann also notes, "Now to see photos of the destruction inside the al-Hamra Hotel,
click here for an Iraqi correspondent with McClatchy Newspapers." Yasser was killed and yesterday's snapshot noted Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's Morning Edition. link has text and transcript) remembering him and James Hider (Times of London) remembering him as well. The Times of London's Richard Beeston notes:

Yasser, the Times's driver killed on Monday in a bomb attack, was among the very best. He delivered daily accounts of the vicious sectarian street battles that erupted in Baghdad between 2005 and 2007. He knew better than anyone how the contest between Sunni gunmen and Shia militias was being played out because he and his family lived in one of the disputed areas.
Driving through the city he would point out which roads were safe and which were dangerous. His intelligence assessment was far more valuable than anything I ever heard at security briefings in the American or British embassies.

The Economist notes today that their correspondent was wounded in the al-Hamra Hotel bombing. The Economist also tackles the banning of political candidates in Iraq:

IN THE run-up to a general election due on March 7th, Iraq's authorities seem to be taking a page out of Iran's illiberal electoral rule book by barring candidates they dislike. One of the competing parties, the Iraqi National Congress, led by Ahmed Chalabi, a longtime Shia exile who helped persuade George Bush to invade Iraq in 2003, has persuaded the election's overseers to ban some 500 candidates deemed too close in the past to Saddam Hussein's Baath party. After the invasion the Americans put Mr Chalabi, then their closest Iraqi ally, in charge of "deBaathification", but he later fell out with them, so he turned for succour to Iran. Now, with a view to winning more votes for himself, he is using his long-dormant post to accuse his foes of having supported the deposed dictator. Though the list contains many Shias, Iraq's minority Sunnis, who ruled the roost under Mr Hussein, are outraged, seeing a plot to discriminate against them. The episode could badly tarnish the poll.
Many other Shia politicians have joined what looks like a witch hunt. Muhammad al-Haidari, a leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a powerful Shia group, says that Baathists are worse than Nazis; all past members should, he says, be banned from public life. In the holy city of Najaf, ISCI's heartland, a new rule decrees that former Baathists must be purged from government and chased out of town. Never mind that Iraq's post-invasion constitution bars only senior Baathists from public office and that millions of ordinary Iraqis joined the party only out of necessity, not conviction. Ostracising them threatens once again to split Iraq down the middle and disfranchise many Sunnis, who used to dominate the Baath party.

National Newspaper offers:

Maliki has not only failed to condemn the commission's decision to bar 511 candidates, he has embraced it, piously invoking the law -- and surely reckoning that standing up for the Baath party in the name of reconciliation is political suicide, especially in an election year. Yet not many months ago, Maliki was negotiating with the Sunni leader Saleh al Mutlaq, one of the current campaign's main targets, to form a joint coalition.
The crisis of today represents the consequences of yesterday's bad policies: both the Americans and the ruling parties have encouraged the selective use of de-Baathification -- whether to protect people with suspect records who were prepared to serve the new order, or those who proved useful in the campaign against insurgents. The US appears motivated primarily by the need to keep things relatively stable and solidly on track for a smooth troop withdrawal, regardless of what may come afterward. The Maliki government has used the threat of de-Baathification to bring people to its side and under its control, while getting rid of those who were unwilling to co-operate or whom it felt it could never trust.
The Baath party, which is today a thoroughly discredited shadow of its former self, would seem to pose little threat even to Iraq's fragile political stability. But a small group of self-interested figures have seized the opportunity to use de-Baathification to advance their own electoral prospects, precipitating a far greater crisis in the process: the de-Baathification genie has escaped and gone on a rampage.

Turning to England where it's surely not Waiting For Lefty so maybe it's Waiting for Godot?

What is known is that Tony Blair is set to appear before the
Iraq Inquiry in London -- the Inquiry did not hold a public hearing today. A major protest is expected to take place as War Criminal Tony attempts to wash the blood off his hands. From Stop The War Coalition's "Protest on Tony Blair's Judgement Day: 29 January from 8am:"

Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, BroadSanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3EEOn Friday 29 January, Tony Blair will try to explain to the Iraq Inquiry
the lies he used to take Britain into an illegal war.
Writers, musicians, relatives of the dead, Iraqi refugees, poets, human rights lawyers, comedians, actors, MPs and ordinary citizens will join
a day of protest outside the Inquiry to demand that this should be Tony Blair's judgement day.
There will be naming the dead ceremonies for the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in Blair's war. Military families who lost loved ones in Iraq will read the names of the 179 British soldiers killed.Join us from 8.0am onwards.
And protests are already ongoing.
Sian Ruddick (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports:

Three days of activity against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began with a 200-strong public meeting in central London tonight, Wednesday.
The meeting took place in on the eve of a meeting of Nato leaders to discuss sending more troops to kill and be killed in Afghanistan. This will be followed by Tony Blair's appearance before the Iraq inquiry on Friday.
Anti-war activists will protest at both of these events.
Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), described the Afghan conference as an "admission of failure" of the war and occupation of the country.
Andrew said that protesters will defy any police ban and demonstrate outside both the conference and the Iraq inquiry.
Kate Hudson, chair of CND, spoke from the platform. She said, "Whatever these goverments agree, they will be at odds with the populations of their countries. Some 82 percent of French people oppose their government's involvement in the war. Meanwhile 71 percent of British and German people want the troops home."
The meeting heard messages of solidarity from across Europe.
Tony Benn, president of the StWC, told the meeting, "The war in Afghanistan has cost billions. The latest plan is to bribe the Taliban to comply with the occupation -- which will make the situation ever more bitter."
Anger at the lies world leaders have told us ran through the meeting. Lindsey German, convenor of the StWC, said, "We need a complete holding to account to all those in charge when we went to war. If we don't have this, how can we be sure it won't happen again?"
Guardian journalist Seamus Milne also spoke from the platform. "These two events show history catching up with those who unleashed this pain and suffering.
"Gordon Brown tries to tell us this is a war for democracy and freedom. Well tell that to the families of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans killed in air strikes."
Respect MP George Galloway said, "The life and blood of soldiers and Afghans is too precious for this war to continue."
People left the meeting determined to build the protests tomorrow and Friday.
Protest at the Afghanistan Conference
Blockade the conference, 8.30am, Thursday 28 January, Lancaster House, Stable Yard, Saint James's Palace, London SW1A 1BH
Blair's judgement day at the Iraq inquiry
Protest from 8am Friday 29 January, Queen Elizabeth Conference centre, SW1P 3EE. Nearest tube Westminster.
Go to
» for more information

Will the War Criminal offer revelations to the Inquiry? Will the press covering the team brought in Tuesday to provide constant coaching since Tuesday? Will he wear sun glasses and a hat with veil for dramatic impact?
Ann Talbot (WSWS) observes, "But whether or not he faces awkward questions, he can do so without fear that he may be indicted for the war crimes of which he is so clearly guilty. The Chilcot inquiry was specifically set up in order to avoid the possibility of a war crimes trial. It has no remit to determine whether the war was legal or not. Its members have no legal training or experience and they sit without legal advice. Sir John Chilcot made it clear when the inquiry began that he did not see his task as one of determining guilt. Witnesses are not under oath and none of them are cross examined as they would be in a court of law. They have been allowed to give long, self-serving statements that have gone entirely unchallenged." Chris Ames' Iraq Inquiry Digest notes multiple developments today.

Lastly on Iraq, we'll note this from Dahr Jamail's "
When Scholars Join the Slaughter" (MidEast Dispatches):The two highest ethical principles of anthropology are protection of the interests of studied populations and their safety. All anthropological studies consequently are premised on the consent of the subject society. Clearly, the HTS anthropologists have thrown these ethical guidelines out the window. They are to anthropology what state stenographers like Judith Miller and John Burns are to journalism.Truthout consulted David Price, author of "Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War" and a contributor to the "Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual," a work of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, of which he is a member. According to Price, "HTS presents real ethical problems for anthropologists, because the demands of the military in situations of occupation put anthropologists in positions undermining their fundamental ethical loyalties to those they study. Moreover, it presents political problems that link anthropology to a disciplinary past where anthropologists were complicit in assisting in colonial conquests. Those selling HTS to the military have misrepresented what culture is and have downplayed the difficulties of using culture to bring about change, much less conquest. There is a certain dishonesty in pretending that anthropologists possess some sort of magic beans of culture, and that if only occupiers had better cultural knowledge, or made the right pay-offs, then occupied people would fall in line and stop resisting foreign invaders. Culture is being presented as if it were a variable in a linear equation, and if only HTS teams could collect the right data variables and present troops with the right information conquest could be entered in the equation. Life and culture doesn't work that way; occupied people know they are occupied, and while cultural knowledge can ease an occupation, historically it has almost never led to conquest - but even if it could, anthropology would irreparably damage itself if it became nothing more than a tool of occupations and conquest."

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

Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, in addition to leaving lives andinstitutions in ruin, also exacerbated a much more common and lethalemergency in Haiti: Dying during childbirth. Challenges intransportation, education, and quality health care contribute to Haitihaving the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere, anational crisis even before the earthquake struck. While great strides are being made with global health issues likeHIV/AIDS, maternal mortality figures worldwide have seen virtually noimprovement in 20 years. Worldwide, over 500,000 women die each yearduring pregnancy. On Friday, January 29 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), a NOW team thathad been working in Haiti during the earthquake reports on this deadlybut correctable trend. They meet members of the Haitian HealthFoundation (HHF), which operates a network of health agents in more than100 villages, engaging in pre-natal visits, education, and emergencyambulance runs for pregnant women.

Those looking for commentary on the laughable State of the Union address (and the jokes is on all of us) can see Cedric's "
That's presidential?" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HE'S A FUNNY BOY?"; Betty's "Congress disgraces themselves," Stan's "No, it wasn't presidential" and Isaiah's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts 'Wheel of Misfortune'."

joni mitchell
amnesty international
kim sengupta
the independent of london
iraq inquiry digestchris amesthe socialist workerdahr jamail
nprmorning editionlourdes garcia-navarro
james hider
the times of london
now on pbs