Tuesday, December 15, 2009

They called him Soetoro






THE AP WRITER WHO WROTE: "He went by the name 'Barry,' attended the local elementary school near where his statue now stands and owned a pet monkey."



In London today the Iraq Inquiry continued it's 'public' hearing. Channel 4 News was the first to report the day's big development: "For the first time since it began sitting, the Childcot inquiry blacked out televised courage of evidence being given for intelligence security reasons. The dramatic intervention to project confidentiality came as Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the former British Ambassador to Washington, was speaking. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) observes, "Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the Iraq inquiry, cut the live video of today's hearings, raising fears that he is suppressing evidence on grounds of embarrassment rather than any damage to national security." Politics.co.UK states the blackout lasted "for over a minute". Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger was in the press room:

But the national security blackout -- triggered when the inquiry heard something that would endanger national security if reported (we were told) -- was undeniably an attention-grabber.
We've had a few blank screens before but only due to technical glitches. This was clearly of an altogether different order.
One inquiry official tried to seal us into the press room, which even the slower among us (ok, me) thought could possibly mean something was afoot.
Another told us that she couldn't tell us anything, but that she'd tell us later if she could, but asking us not to report that. An eminence grise purred in from the Cabinet Office to assess the damage.

What was said in the censored moments? Richard Norton-Taylor recounts, "A member of the audience in the inquiry chamber said that after the feed was cut Greenstock went on to say that Colin Powell, who was then secretary of state, used British intelligence reports about the situation in Iraq because they were more accurate than the more optimistic dispatches that Bremer was sending to Washington. People aware of the piece of intelligence now deleted from the record dismissed it as insignificant. They made it clear that in their view the information was not at all sensitive from the point of view of national security." The witness, Greenstock, previously testified November 27th and Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) emphasized from that testimony Greenstock's statement of, "I regard our invasion of Iraq as legal but of questionably legitimacy, in that it didn't have the democratically observable backing of the great majority of members states or even, perhaps, of a majority of people inside the UK." Greenstock was the morning witness and Lt Gen William Rollo and Lt Gen John Cooper were the afternoon witnesses (link goes to video and transcript options, unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from transcripts). We're going to the transcript for the censored moment (censored in the transcript as well). We're starting with Greenstock on line 25 of page 67 and he's referring to Paul Bremmer who was not "Ambassador" despite Greenstock's use of the term. He was the US Presidential Envoy when he arrived and became the Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and then became the US Administrator of Iraq -- all from his May 2003 arrival to June of 2003. He was also seen as the Governor of Iraq.

Jeremy Greenstock: Can I bring another point in here? Coming back to best case scenarios, Chairman, it was very clear to me, even before I got to Baghdad, that the United States had been working on and continued to work on the best case scenario: that they could administer Iraq and turn it back to Iraqis who could administer Iraq, with the lowest possible input of resources and troops and in the most direct way possible. And they didn't insure against things other than the best case scenario, with a higher number of troops or with alternative political plans. Ambassador Bremer was responding to the Pentagon in trying to run a best case scenario approach and that's why he didn't want alternative plans. But when I talked to other members of the American team, when I talked informally to the military, to the intelligence agencies, to other people who were operating, I found a very much more gloomy prognosis of what was going on than I felt or understood Ambassador Bremer was reporting back to the Pentagon. I reported these things back to London. [Redacted by the Inquiry.] My telegrams would describe what was going on, and I later discovered that [US] Secretary [of State Colin] Powell was reading the UK telegrams from Baghdad because he wasn't getting enough information from the Pentagon about what was really going on in Baghdad, as opposed to what Ambassador Bremer was reporting. So it was becoming quite a complex picture.

Chair John Chilcott: Can we stop the broadcast for a moment. We need to stay off sensitive areas. Can we just resume then without touching on those things? Thank you. We can deal with those in private.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: Just --
Chair John Chilcott: Resuming the broadcast.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: To move on, the intelligence report which was published in February this year, talks about [. . .]

Remember "talks about" above. In the transcript, the redacted testimony is on page 68, lines 20 through 23 -- indicating one long sentence or two or more short ones. Best guess would be one long one since Greenstock speaks in long sentences. In the video, the censored moment takes place starting at 118:04 (one hundred-and-eighteen minutess and four seconds) in the stream and continues through 119:17 at which point Prasher is shown saying "talks about" (it starts on those words). During the censored section, the screen shows "THE IRAQ INQUIRY Public hearing temporarily suspended" -- the same display they use when the Inquiry takes a break.

BBC News reports of today's testimony, "Sir Jeremy Greenstock told the Chilcot inquiry the UK wanted post-war Iraq to have a 'clear UN label' to ensure it was not regarded as an occupying power. The ex-UN ambassador said the US wanted a 'definite limit' on the UN's role." Paul Bromley (Sky News) observed, "I think we've just witnessed another moment which will go down in history. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the United Nations at the time of the Iraq war, has just come up with a phrase which will become part of the language. He's told the Iraq war inquiry that the invasion was a 'catastrophic succes'.

Munir Akram was Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations and, in 2003, was also the President of the Security Council of the UN. (His UN career ended in 2008.) Prior to testifying, Greenstock submitted a letter he and John D. Negroponte co-wrote to Akram. Negroponte was the US Ambassador to the UN when the letter was written (in 2004, he would become the US Ambassador to Iraq -- the first post-2003 invasion, US Ambassador to Iraq). The [PDF format warning] May 8, 2003 letter is a piece of fiction. What Negroponte knew or didn't know is debatable but the British witnesses have already testified that by March 10, 2003, reports were noting Saddam Hussein did not have WMD -- British intelligence reports. Therefore, by May 8th of that year, the British Greenstock should have known there were no WMD. Yet the letter opens with the lie: "The United States, United Kingdom, and Coalition Partners continue to act together to ensure the complete disarmament of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions." The entire letter's a piece of fiction and Greenstock should have been asked to explain it by the committee.

But no hard questions were asked of him and, if they had been, he would have pleaded he was a victim. Greenstock is, in his mind, never responsible for anything. He's a victim always. Those big bad Americans pushed little Jeremy around. (If true, why didn't Tony Blair stand up for his officials? As Bush's buddy, then-prime minister Blair should have had some US clout.) He told the Inquiry Bremer didn't want him to be his deputy and he didn't want to be the deputy either because he wanted to maintain his "independence" but no "independence" was apparent in his testimony.

"My first responsibility," he declared to the committee today, "and I said this to Ambassador Bremer when I first telephoned him on his own appointment, as sson as I knew that I would be coming -- was loyalty to him and support for him in getting our joint job done in Iraq." Wow.

A British citizen -- excuse me, a British subject (they have a monarchy) testified to an inquiry held in London that when the British government posted him to Iraq, his FIRST responsibility was not to the Crown but to a man from a foreign country? That's pretty sad and pretty strange and, in some countries, qualifies as treason. You might think the committee would pursue that but, no, they didn't. We'll note this exchange.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: But if you were talking about being able to exercise some sort of veto and not being the deputy to Bremer -- in some way that almost puts you in the position of being Ambassador to Iraq -- I mean, or in some way Bremer having an accountability to the British Government through you, but that certainly never happened?

Jeremy Greenstock: No, that's what I tried to establish, that Bremer had a direct responsibility to London. But in practice, he did not report to London; he relied on me to do that and to tell London what was going on. If London disagreed with something that the United States was doing or wanted something to be done that was not happening, London would talk to Washington.

Of course he wouldn't. Bremer's salary was paid for by the US tax payers. Bremer's a US citizen. He was put in that US government position by the US government. He's not reporting to the British government. What kind of an idiot is Jeremy Greenstock? A pretty weak one.

Jeremy Greenstock: The second or third day I was in Baghdad, Secretary Colin Powell came on a short visit and he, Bremer and I sat in Bremer's office to talk about the political process and the seven steps, and I was asked for my views by Secretary Powell and I suggested, as I had done to Bremer in Washington in July, that it would be wise to think of options, political options: what if things don't happen as we predict, as often does happen in an unusual situation.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: In other words, not sticking to the steps agreed, but --

Jeremy Greenstock: Well, we were behind the seven steps plan, but what if the Iraqis don't go along with that bit or that bit of it, are we thinking about alternative routes? And on both occassions in July and on this occassion in September, I was given a very direct and preremptory message from Bremer that I was to stick to the seven steps plan. This was what had been decided, this was the mission, this would be accomplished and I was to support it. So I turned to some other subject with Colin Powell and decided to see how things played out. But these --

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So although you were not his deputy he was issuing instructions to you?

Jeremy Greenstock: Yes, and I was trying to suggest that there was a political discussion to be had. So in a situation like that, you take a step back, you consider what has happened and you decide how you exercise your influence on the next occassion or how you put in your thoughts about the political process and whatever I was concentrating on in the next round of conversation.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: But he was not receptive to your advice. You were there as a very senior person, outranking him actually in your own diplomatic career, and you were there to offer him advice. And when you offered him advice, he was telling you that you were to accep the order and that was it, not to raise points of this kind, even in a small conversation with himself and Colin Powell?

Jeremy Greenstock: That was the outward and immediate effect, yes, that he didn't want to hear suggestions about how to complete a satisfactory political process that were different from what the President had decided.

Apparently, England's biggest problem in post-invasion Iraq was that they posted too many delicate flowers to the region, delicate flowers like Jeremy Greenstock who wilted but, presumably, were good at picking up Bremer's dry cleaning and doing assorted other personal errands. Greenstock's so victimized, he's practically Binah in The English Roses. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) live blogged Greenstock's testimony. One excerpt:12.04pm: Prashar asks about Bremer's policy of de-Baathification. Greenstock says this decree was issued before he arrived. It was an "understandable decision". The Shias were strongly opposed to bringing Baath party members into the government. But the decree was issued before Bremer had identified alternative people to run the government of Iraq.Bremer put Ahmed Chalabi, who was "deeply anti-Baathist", in charge of implementing the decree. Greenstock says he thought it was taken too far. He wanted more Baathists to be allowed to keep their jobs.

Iraq Inquiry Blogger continues blogging including at the Twitter account. The British military testified in the afternoon. As has been the case throughout the hearing, the British military takes responsibility for their choices and decisions, unlike the British officials who apparently break out in a heavy sweat at even the idea of telling a foreigner "no." That's not me stating the military witnesses are honest or 90% honest. That's only an observation that they own their actions -- good or bad -- which is something the British officials consistently refuse to do. I'm not seeing a lot in their testimony that's different from what's previously been stated by military witnesses. We'll note a few moments that did stand out.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Can I just come back on this? Why on earth were things like energy and economic development military matters four years after the conflict, a year after the [Nouri-al] Maliki government had come into power? Shouldn't this have been put into the hands of civilians? I mean, are you qualified to lead economic development strategies?

Lt Gen William Rollo: Of course I'm not.

Lt Gen John Cooper offered his assessment of the Iraq War and the British involvement:

Again, let's be honest. I think history will say of the British overall effort in southern Iraq, "Could have been better," but actually we produced the effect that we set out to do. 179 people died there and none of them died in vain, and what we left behind was certainly better than that which we found. Things didn't go entirely as we would have wished them. There were setbacks. But in the end we left a position in Iraq that was Iraqi, inside a broadly democratic, stable country. So I wouldn't necessarily disagree with the way you characterised it there.

Shortly after that, this was stated.

Lt Gen Williasm Rollo: John has spoken about our own losses. I would remember that 5,000-plus American dead and up to 30,000 seriously wounded and say that that was an army which, while taking those sort of casualties and doing 15-month tours several times, achieved that. So I have got tremendous admiration for them.

Rollo mispoke and meant "4,000-plus American dead." I include that not because of his mistake but because he noted the US service members who died and were wounded. The dead and the wounded -- foreign and Iraqi -- are rarely ever mentioned in the Inquiry.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Censorship of Iraq Inquiry, Christians attacked in Iraq"
"The Defense con-game"

"Postal blues"
"Gayle, watch your back, your girlfriend's nutty"
"We knew"
"flashpoints and other items"
"Lila Garrett: Fool or tool?"
"Robin Oakley: War Criminal"
"Finally a victory"
"Laugh, death and the liars"
"Tom Hayden continues his long lying streak"
"Barry O and his never ending boobery"
"Barry O the busty co-ed"

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