Saturday, January 16, 2010

Even he regrets it





Turning to London where the Iraq Inquiry heard from Maj Gen Graham Binns and Lt Gen John Reith -- link goes to video and transcript option -- sort of. Reith demanded to testify in private and his wish was granted -- they did publish a transcript of Reith's testimony.

Chair John Chilcot: There are, as you see, no members of the public in the hearing room for this session and it is not being recorded for broadcast. However, after the session, we will be publishing a transcript of the evidence you give, so that, at that stage, your appearance before us will become publicly known. Before the New Year, we heard from a number of military officers involved at senior levels in the planning of operations against Iraq, including the Chief of Defence Staff at the time, Lordy Boyce, and one of your deputies, General Fry. So this session will cover 2002 up to and beyond the invasion, covering the period of your tenure as Chief of Joint Operations. I remind every witness that he will later be asked to sign a transcript of evidence to the effect that the evidence they have given is truthful, fair and accurate. With that, I will hand over to Sir Lawrence Freedman. Sir Lawrence?

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Sir, I think the easiest way to start is perhaps if you could just take us through how you became aware of the potential need for planning in -- for military action in Iraq, and your awareness of the American plans. It would probably be best if you just take us through from the start.

Gen John Reith: May I just start by giving you sort of mood music at the time and our situation with the Americans at the time, so you get a better understanding, if that would be helpful?

So he gets to demand that he testify off-camera and he gets to decide how he'll start his testimony? Some call the Iraq Inquiry "the Chilcot Inquiry" -- apparently it should also be called "the Reith Inquiry."

He prattled on and on about his special relationship with US Gen Tommy Franks ("So I forged quite a good relationship with him, and, in fact, he jokingly used to call me his deputy commander, and I was very much seen by the Americans as the UK's global combatant commander.")

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Can I just pull you back a bit on that? Because there is a meeting at Chequers, I think just before the Prime Minister goes to Crawford, where Alastair Campbell, in fact, reports in his diaries about Tommy Franks' view from "our military man based in Tampa", which I think was Cedric.

Gen John Reith: It would have been Cedric at the time, yes.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: And CDS was there and I think Tony Pigott as well. So what were they reporting on?

Gen John Reith: Cedric never gave me anything relating to Iraq. I presume that Cedric, again, had credibility with Tommy Franks, [redacted] and he may have given an opion, but it would have been a personal opinion, but he never actually raised it at as an issue with me.

The redacted portion is 36 spaces. For all the world knows, he was describing a deep, soul kiss with Tommy Franks. He was obsessed with Tommy Franks.

Gen John Reith: I tended to be very candid with Tommy Franks and I made it clear that there was no commitment from the UK. He used to rib me regularly that he was having to produce two plans, one with and one without the UK, but that he couldn't conceive that America's closest ally wouldn't go with them into Iraq if they went. That was his perspective. So, as we were developing plans --

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: How did you respond to that?

Gen John Reith: I responded to it. I mean it was all done in a very jocular way, but I responded to it that nothing in this life is certain.

And, yes, that is accurate portrayal of the entire hearing. He did not know about the Crawford, Texas meeting between Bully Boy Bush and then Prime Minister Tony Blair "until somebody mentioned it to me yesterday."

The jaw should drop at that one. Now some may rush to Gen Reith and say, "Well of course he knew his prime minister was in the US at that time. He just means that, until yesterday, he had no idea it was at this meeting that Blair told Bush England would give whatever needed to the Iraq War" (one with no UN approval at that point and that would never get UN approval). You can say that. It's not very likely, but you can say that.

Reality: The Crawford meeting has been big news, BIG NEWS, in England throughout the Inquiry. Don't say, "Oh, yes, yes, with Alastair Campbell this week." No. Not just this week.

The committee members and witnesses have raised it repeatedly. David Manning testified November 30th (see that day's snapshot). In his testimony, he noted:

The first evening, the President and the Prime Minister dined on their own, and when we had a more formal meeting on Saturday morning, which I think was the 6th, it was in the President's study at the ranch. There were, as I recall -- and I may be wrong about this -- three a side. I think it was the President, his Chief of Staff, Andy Card, and Dr [Condi] Rice and on our side, as I recall, it was the Prime Minister, his Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell, and myself. We convened about half past nine, after breakfast, and began with the President giving a brief account of the discussion that he and the Prime Minister had had on their own the previous evening over dinner. He said that they had discussed Iraq over dinner. He told us that there was no war plan for Iraq, but he had set up a small cell in Central Command in Florida and he had asked Central Command to do some planning and to think through the various options. When they had done that, he would examine these options. The Prime Minister added that he had been saying to the President it was important to go back to the United Nations and to present going back to the United Nations as an opportunity for Saddam to cooperate.

That was the take-away from Manning's testimony and the press (the British press) were covering it like crazy. You can refer to Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video), Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror), Kevin Schofield (Daily Record), Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian), David Brown (Times of London), Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) and Jonathan Steele (Guardian) just to start with. And this wasn't the first time it dominated the news cycle for the Inquiry. That was the week before when Christopher Meyer testified about Blair and Bush's agreement "signed in blood" (it really wasn't signed in blood, he was using that expression) and that got a huge amount of attention from the press.

Where has Reith been throughout all of this? If he's not even able to follow the headlines in the last weeks, how on the ball is he? It's just as likely -- some might say more likely -- that he's being dishonest. I don't know but it doesn't make sense and those who feel he may have been less than honest can refer to his exchanges with Committee Member Roderic Lyne where even the most basic questions (Lyne lays his questions out very clearly) were met with evasions and stumbles. Lyne would have to repeatedly clarify after a respone (usually in this form, "But . . . ") and the question he'd just asked was completely clear.

Maj Gen Graham Binns was much more straighforward and forthcoming with his answers. We'll note this passage on Basra.

Maj Gen Graham Binns: The security situation was difficult for us. Every move outside our bases required detailed planning and was high-risk. I thought that we were having limited effect on improving the security situation in Basra. 90 per cent of the violence was directed against us, politically there was no contact between us and the local provincial government, and coaltion-sponsored reconstruction had almost ceased.

That was how things were when he arrived but he credited his predecessor with putting in place a plan that allowed for some improvements. How much of an improvement? Asked how things were when he left, he replied, "So -- but I think it is fair to say that the security situation was such that we spent a lot of our time protecting ourselves."

Turning to US politics and the decade ended. A friend asked that we note Katha Pollitt -- a friend at The Nation -- from part one of her two part piece. From Part one:

Sonia Sotomayor joined the Supreme Court. Before that, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin showed how far we've come--and how far we haven't. Between them they normalized forever the idea of a woman running for president and withstood a ridiculous amount of sexist garbage, from nasty cracks (from both sexes) about Clinton's legs, clothes, voice and laugh to tinfoil-hat accusations that Palin's baby was actually her daughter's.

Good for Katha for decrying the sexism aimed at Palin -- a first for The Nation -- and for bringing up the nasty and disgusting rumors about Trig. Better if she'd named the pig who glommed on them in the fall of 2008 and continues to repeat them to this day -- at The Atlantic. What she won't scrawl across the women's room stall, we will: ANDREW SULLIVAN. That's the pig. For many years Anne Kornblut worked for the New York Times, she's now at the Washington Post. She has a new book out Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win and she weighs in on the campaigns at wowOwow:

Covering the 2008 campaign day-to-day, it rarely felt as if Clinton or Palin was having a harder time of it than the male candidates Рwho were also under constant scrutiny. I was as skeptical as anyone of Clinton's claim, after one of the Democratic debates, that all the male candidates were engaging in the "politics of pile-on." Really? She was a woman under siege? She had been the frontrunner for nearly a year, raising record-breaking amounts of money. Later on, I was among the reporters who challenged the McCain campaign's complaint that Obama was referring to Palin when he talked about putting "lipstick on a pig." Really? Wasn't he using a common clich̩ to describe a policy proposal?
When I went back after the campaign was over, however, and read through all the transcripts, columns and stump speeches, interviewing dozens of campaign
aides who advised the candidates and prominent women who watched the race from the sidelines, there was just too much evidence pointing to the influence gender had on the race to pretend that it had been otherwise. Clinton was often reluctant to talk about being a woman, and worked so hard to compensate for the perceived shortcoming of being female that she came off looking, to many, too tough. "She didn't get there on her own," was a refrain I heard repeatedly, which although factually true failed to take into account the fact that she had, just a decade earlier, been criticized for not being enough of a housewife. Here she was taking heat for being too much of one.
Palin failed to prepare for the extra layer of questions that women get – as mothers, as wives, as candidates who are sometimes perceived as being less qualified – and was shell-shocked after her daughter's pregnancy was revealed, and when critics called her inexperienced despite her tenure as governor. She shouldn't have been so surprised; female candidates across the country had been through similar ordeals. But Palin and the McCain team learned the hard way that crying "it's not fair" is not a winning political strategy.

No offense to Anne but what women cried sexism -- or men for that matter -- with either campaign? While the campaigns were going on? Give me some names. Because as I recall it, sexism was fine and dandy and no one objected. Bill Moyers, for example, willfully and happily engaged in sexism on the tax payer dime and PBS airwaves (which, thankfully, he's now leaving). As I recall the same Bill Moyers couldn't stop screaming "racism!" One ism was to be called out, the other to be ignored or (in Moyers' case) added to. I appreciate what Anne's saying and I think her book's a strong read that many will enjoy but the above excerpt does not fully capture the landscape (which is difficult to capture in so short a space) and this goes to what we value and what we don't (see last night's entry) and how a pedophile can be busted twice and still be treated as a 'good guy' and trusted voice. His third bust? Strange, Amy Goodman couldn't stop bringing the pedophile on her show but she hasn't found time in her headlines to note he Pig Ritter just got busted a third time. Or take FAIR -- allegedly Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting -- allegedly a media watchdog. One that didn't bark at sexism in 2008. Every week, the hosts of FAIR's radio show (Counterspin) noted real and imagined racism in the press that was harming St. Barack. Every damn week. Let's go to May 25th when Ava and I noted Counterspin's finally noting sexism against Hillary Clinton:

Last week, we noted that FAIR's radio program CounterSpin is happy to ignore sexism and, at the top of Friday's show, they appeared bound and determined to prove us wrong.Peter Hart: One of the most disturbing features of the media coverage of the Democratic presidential race is the way racism and sexism have been expressed. CNN viewers were treated to one pundit explanation that people might call Hillary Clinton a bitch because well isn't that just what some women are. Not everyone's so out in the open. MSNBC host Chris Matthews opened his May 18th show wondering how Barack Obama would connect with regular Democrats? Obviously code for working class Whites. This would seem to make the millions of Obama voters so far irregular. But then consider the May 14th op-ed by Washington Post Writers Group Kathleen Parker. She wrote about 'full bloodness' and the patriot divide between Obama and John McCain offering that there is "different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines through generations of sacrifice." This makes Obama less American than his likely Republican rival and his success part of a larger threat "There is a very real sense that once upon a time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity." Well thanks to The Washington Post, Parker's rant appeared in newspapers around the country including the Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune. We're not sure what those papers used for a headline but one blogger suggest [nonsense] would do. Parker's attack wasn't even new. Before in the pages of The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wondered if Obama had ever gotten misty thinking about his country's rich heritage. John McCain by contrast "carries it in his bones." There's an appetite in corporate media for such repellent ideas as Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell recalled, Noonan's column was praised by NBC's anchor Brian Williams as Pulitzer worthy.

And that was it. 25 words. Counterspin's ENTIRE 'coverage' of the sexism aimed at Hillary during her lengthy campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Even when they finally noted sexism (one example of it), notice that (a) they didn't tell you who made the remark, (b) they didn't tell you what program it was made on and (c) when they finally give (limited) time to sexism, they offer 25 words while providing -- in the same news item -- over 230 words on racism. But you do that and you note who said it and where when it's something that actually matters to you. When it doesn't really matter to you, you just toss out 25 words and pretend like you did a damn thing worthy of note. To provide some more context, if Keith Olbermann had said someone needs to take Barack into a room and only one of them comes out alive, FAIR would have screamed their heads off, but when he said about Hillary? Not a peep. Not a protest. That's how it went. Over and over throughout 2008. The sexism never ended, many of the 'left' took part in it and media watchdogs repeatedly looked the other way. Repeatedly? Maybe, like Barack, I should say "periodically"? Barack: "I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she's feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal." Or when he said "the claws come out"? One of the strong women (there were a few) in 2008 was Marie Cocco and we'll make the time now to note how she wasn't silent. Marie Cocco "Misogny I Won't Miss" (May 15, 2008, Washington Post).

"I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign."

Marie Cocco's "Obama's Abortion Stance When 'Feeling Blue'" (Washington Post Writers Group July 8, 2008).

Obama says that these women should not be able to obtain a late-term abortion, because just "feeling blue" isn't the same as suffering "serious clinical mental health diseases." True enough. And totally infuriating. During the recent Obama pander tour -- the one in which he spent about a week trying to win over conservative religious voters -- the presumptive Democratic nominee unnecessarily endorsed President Bush's faith-based initiative, a sort of patronage program that rewards religious activists for their political support with public grants. Then in a St. Louis speech, Obama declared that "I let Jesus Christ into my life." That's fine, but we already have a president who believes this was a qualification for the Oval Office, and look where that's gotten us.Obama's verbal meanderings on the issue of late-term abortion go further. He has muddied his position. Whether this is a mistake or deliberate triangulation, only Obama knows for sure. One thing is certain: Obama has backhandedly given credibility to the right-wing narrative that women who have abortions -- even those who go through the physically and mentally wrenching experience of a late-term abortion -- are frivolous and selfish creatures who might perhaps undergo this ordeal because they are "feeling blue."

And when the sexism was aimed at Palin, Cocco didn't play dumb or didn't go silent.
Marie Cocco, "Sexism Again" (September 16, 2008, Washington Post Writers Group):

This has a lot to do with a graphic image of Palin I just saw in which she is dressed in a black bustier, adorned with long, black gloves and wielding a whip. The image appeared in the Internet magazine Salon to illustrate a column titled: "The dominatrix," by Gary Kamiya. Kamiya calls Palin a "pinup queen," and says she not only tantalized the Republican National Convention with political red meat, but that her "babalicious" presence hypercharged the place with sexual energy, and naughty energy at that. "You could practically feel the crowd getting a collective woody as Palin bent Obama and the Democrats over, shoved a leather gag in their mouths and flogged them as un-American wimps, appeasers and losers." That's some sexual mother lode. Dare I point out that I have never -- ever -- in three decades of covering politics seen a male politician's style, even one with an earthy demeanor, described this way? Salon editor Joan Walsh says she agrees the "dominatrix" piece had a "provocative cover,'' and that her columnists enjoy great freedom. "One day Gary (Kamiya) called Palin a dominatrix, the next day Camille Paglia called her a feminist." The magazine exists, Walsh says, to "push the envelope."No sooner did Walsh give me this explanation than another Salon contributor, Cintra Wilson, pushed that envelope again. Wilson described Palin as follows: an "f---able ... Christian Stepford wife in a 'sexy librarian' costume" who is, for ideological Republicans, a "hardcore pornographic centerfold spread." That is, when Palin is not coming across as one of those "cutthroat Texas cheerleader stage moms." What is it about a woman candidate that sends the media into weird Freudian frenzies?

Related, at Women's eNew, Lisa Nuss calls out the bad makeover that turned high powered attorney and board member Michelle Obama into June Cleaver:

During Barbara Walters' interview with Michelle Obama last month, I never heard Walters say why she chose the first lady as the most fascinating person of the year.
I dug up the transcript, watched the video and confirmed that Walters never said why.
Michelle Obama did a lot that was fascinating before 2009.
After bootstrapping her way to an elite college and law school where she was outspoken about racism, she left corporate law for high-profile policy work in politics and health care and won a powerful corporate board position.
All the while she battled her husband to pick up his slack on the parenting and insisted on her own demanding career after his election to the U.S. Senate. She told Vogue in 2007, "The days I stay home with my kids without going out, I start to get ill." She said she loved her work challenges "that have nothing to do with my husband and children."
Am I the only one who misses that formidable woman?

As Ava and I observed of Barbara Walters' special, "Michelle Obama was the person of the year. Now that had us wondering because, outside of Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin, we were having trouble grasping what the women did in 2009 that made them fascinating? Gosselin is apparently fascinating because her marriage ended. The wife of a governor was termed fascinating by Barbara Walters because . . . her husband cheated on her? And she lived through it? (Was she supposed to commit suicide? After the special was broadcast, the woman announced she was divorcing the governor.) Silly us, we would have thought a person (male or female) actually had to do something in order to qualify as 'fascinating'."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Merrily, merrily, merrily Iraq is but a bad joke"
"Death toll for yesterday's Najaf bombings is 25"
"I Hate The War"
"A Bully Boy Easter"
"Onion, Bacon and Cheese Frittata in the Kitchen "
"The economy versus the pretend"
"KPFA loves the male guests"
"Ugly stats"
"Hillary Is 44, Ann Wright"
"And who got arrested?"
"no 1 knows their jobs anymore"
"amy goodman and her buddy the sexual predator"
"Alastair Head Up The Ass Campbell"
"The Women's Desk: The Motherhood Movement"
"I hate George Clooney"
"That Iraq Inquiry"
"The bad and the really ugly"
"Disaster Movie"
"Making sense"
"Iraq, women, TV"
"Tuesday, I'm voting for . . ."
"Big Mass election frenzy"
"Words have meaning?"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Words have meaning?






All last month, we had to endure a bunch of liars or idiots insisting the US was so 'noble' or uninterested in Iraq oil (hard to tell which assertion produces more laughs) and that was demonstrated by the US not being involved in recent biddings. You had to be really stupid not to notice the board of directors of those companies (identified as 'foreign' by the US press, they sure had a lot of Americans on their boards). Apparently all the laughs that could be have been wrung out of that so today Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports, "A wave of American companies have been arriving in Iraq in recent months to pursue what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar bonanza of projects to revive the country's stagnant petroleum industry, as Iraq seeks to establish itself as a rival to Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer."

Meanwhile in the US former journalist Thomas E. Ricks has taken to huffing publicly about James Cameron's box office smash Avatar. (Disclosure, I know Cameron and consider him a friend.) What could make a pudgy former journalist so angry? The answer is staring everyone in the face. Last week, Ruth noted WBAI's The Arts Magazine (airs each Tuesday from two in the afternoon until three in the afternoon) when Louis Proyect was the guest for the first half-hour.

Louis Proyect: And even though it's set some time in the distant future and on a distant planet, it's very obvious that it's about what's happening now in Iraq and Afghanistan. It just amazes me that anybody you know could think otherwise about this movie.

Prairie Miller: Yeah and then there's this attitude of rejecting this film outright because there's money behind it, there's Rupert Murdoch and whatever happened to the notion, the Marxist notion, of seizing the means of production? In this case of cultural production, you know, for other means. I mean this is amazing. He, Cameron has said about his film that there's a sense of e -- "There's a sense of entitlement. 'We're here, we're big, we've got the guns and, therefore, are entitled to every damn thing on the planet'." And incidentally, Cameron, who's a Canadian, he admirably dropped his application for American citizenship after Bush was elected in 2004 so there's much more than meets the eye concerning the attacks on this film.

Louis Proyect: Yeah. I'm glad we're in 100% agreement on this one because I thought we would be, Prairie.

Prarie Miller: Now you came up with some study about anthropological imperialist invasions. What was that about?

Louis Proyect: Yeah, right now, you have people working in Afghanistan -- and I think they were in Iraq as well -- who were anthropology professors who agreed to work with the military to win the hearts and minds of 'the natives.' And there's a huge controversy about this. They just had a convention of the American Anthropological Association where they-they went on record as being opposed to that. The idea is that what they want to use are what you might call professional techniques to figure out how to control a population combining measures that might improve their life somewhat but at the same time soften them up to accept a military occupation. And quite frankly, the-the anthropologists who are involved in this business are, you know, I don't think they have the right to teach. I mean, what they're doing, I think it's a kind of war crime. And Avatar deals with this because Sigorney Weaver, who's one of the major characters, is an anthropologist trying to pacify the local population. Well, I think your listeners would want to see the movie. I don't want to give too much away, too much of the plot. But it just has to do with how the professions in the United States, including psychologists by the way, who worked in Guantanamo, to-to get -- to make sure that torture was being carried out in such a way that people wouldn't be completely broken and capable of giving information. I mean, this is just horrible.

That edition of The Arts Magazine is available at the WBAI archives for 80 more days.
To refresh, from the December 3rd snapshot:

The American Anthropological Association's annual meeting started yesterday in Philadelphia and continues through Sunday. Today the association's Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities issued their [PDF format] "Final Report on The Army's Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program." The 74-page report is a blow to War Criminals and their cheerleaders who have long thought that the social science could be abused or that the social sciences were pseudo sciences.

Only a small number of outlets have covered the AAA's findings. First up were Patricia Cohen (New York Times), Dan Vergano (USA Today), Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (Science Magazine) and Steve Kolowich (Inside HigherEd). Another wave followed which included Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) reporting, "Today the program enjoys a core of supporters, but it's done little to address the concerns of anthropologists and, now, rising military complaints that the program has slowed the growth of the military's ability to train culturally sensitive warriors." Christopher Shay (Time magazine) added:

Two years ago, the AAA condemned the HTS program, but this month's 72-page report goes into much greater detail about the potential for the military to misuse information that social scientists gather; some anthropologists involved in the report say it's already happening. David Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martins University in Washington and one of the co-authors of the AAA report, says the army appears to be using the anthropological information to better target the enemy, which, if true, would be a gross violation of the anthropological code. One Human Terrain anthropologist told the Dallas Morning News that she wasn't worried if the information she provided was used to kill or capture an insurgent. "The reality is there are people out there who are looking for bad guys to kill," she said. "I'd rather they did not operate in a vacuum." Price and other critics see this as proof that the anthropologists don't have full control over the information they gather and that commanders can use it to kill. "The real fault with Human Terrain is that it doesn't even try to protect the people being studied," says Price. "I don't think it's accidental that [the Pentagon] didn't come up with ethical guidelines."

David Price is a member of AAA and with Network of Concerned Anthropologists. He reviewed Avatar:

Fans of Avatar are understandably being moved by the story's romantic anthropological message favoring the rights of people to not have their culture weaponized against them by would be foreign conquerors, occupiers and betrayers. It is worth noting some of the obvious the parallels between these elements in this virtual film world, and those found in our world of real bullets and anthropologists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since 2007, the occupying U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan have deployed Human Terrain Teams (HTT), complete with HTT "social scientists" using anthropological-ish methods and theories to ease the conquest and occupation of these lands. HTT has no avatared-humans; just supposed "social scientists" who embed with battalions working to reduce friction so that the military can get on with its mission without interference from local populations. For most anthropologists these HTT programs are an outrageous abuse of anthropology, and earlier this month a lengthy report by a commission of the American Anthropological Association (of which I was a member and report co-author) concluded that the Human Terrain program crossed all sorts of ethical, political and methodological lines, finding that:
"when ethnographic investigation is determined by military missions, not subject to external review, where data collection occurs in the context of war, integrated into the goals of counterinsurgency, and in a potentially coercive environment -- all characteristic factors of the HTT concept and its application -- it can no longer be considered a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology." The American Anthropological Association's executive board found Human Terrain to be a "mistaken form of anthropology". But even with these harsh findings, the Obama administration's call for increased counterinsurgency will increase demands for such non-anthropological uses of ethnography for pacification.

Thomas E. Ricks hates Avatar (and huffs and blogs to be sure we all know). Here's what those paying attention know: Ricks is this century's Walter Lippmann and that's not a compliment. He left journalism to whore for counter-insurgency. He has no ethical training and he thinks that general studies major (journalism degree) qualifies him for something. It doesn't qualify him for humanity and he's unable to address ethics. (Don't forget his stamping of feet at the AP last year.) He's a joke. He's a War Criminal now and he's joke.
Kelley B. Vlahos (Antiwar) addressed Ricks most recently earlier this week:In high school, there are always the Cool Kids. In the Washington military establishment, there are always the Cool Kids. Walking conflict ofinterest Tom Ricks loves to write breathlessly about Washington's prevailing Gang with the Name -- the COINdinistas -- most of whom now roost in the Pentagon or at the Center for a New American Security, which hired Ricks away from a full-time job at the Washington Post to do just what he's doing now: shamelessly promoting the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).But even the cool kids will eventually fall out of style. Like haughty Heidi Klum says, "In fashion, one day you're in, the next day you're out!" Perhaps that's why Ricks' latest Foreign Policy panegyric to his friends seems even more cringe-worthy and awkward than usual, mainly because this gushing yearbook entry -- dated December 2009 -- could have been written a year ago. Today, it tastes like slightly overdone steak. Stick a fork in it… you get the picture. Under the subheading, "Who knows everything there is to know and more about counterinsurgency and its current role in U.S. military strategy? These guys," Ricks effuses: "Pushed and prodded by a wonky group of Ph.D.s, the U.S. military has in the last year decisively embraced a Big Idea: counterinsurgency. Not everyone in uniform is a fan, but David Petraeus and the other generals in charge of America's wars are solidly behind it. Here are the brains behind counterinsurgency's rise from forgotten doctrine to the centerpiece of the world's most powerful military…"No. 1 on the list: Petraeus, or "King David," "who rules the roost," according to Ricks. He's followed by John Nagl, the former Army officer and Rumsfeld aide who now "beats the COIN drum" and might find himself in a "top Pentagon slot in a year or two"; Australian COIN-whisperer David Kilcullen, currently one of McChrystal's key eggheads, whom Ricks calls "the Crocodile Dundee of counterinsurgency"; Janine Davidson, a Pentagon policy-pusher who Ricks says is "now sitting at the adult table"; Dave Dilegge, editor of Small Wars Journal, which is "avidly read by everyone from four-star generals to captains on the ground in Iraq"; and Andrew Exum, another CNAS wonk, Iraq vet, and blogger, who "in his spare time has been known to play paintball against Hezbollah – no joke."

Little lesson today in: You are who you get in bed with. You are everything they were exposed to. So when someone's already has two arrests -- pay attention, Amy Goodman -- for attempting to have sex with a minor, you avoid them. You don't promote them as 'good' people. We've gone over that repeatedly but have to hit on it again today because Pig got busted and charged again. Laura Rozen (Politico) notes it here. If we had a working left, a functioing one, Pig would have been shunned long ago. But see, when the victims would be female, so much of the left doesn't give a damn. That includes women, we've named Amy Goodman. There's Laura Flanders as well. Rachel Maddow. All these 'strong' women who couldn't say no to Pig and kept booking him on their shows. We've called it out repeatedly here while so many women have WHORED themselves and others. That's not to let the men off. But it's especially disgusting when women -- hey, Lila Garrett -- we're talking about your WHORING ASS too -- give space for sexual predators. From the February 5, 2008 snapshot:

What the election cycle has demonstrated on the Democratic side is how much women are still devalued and hated. Don't kid that it's not so. Like Laura Flanders has no problem bringing the Pig (twice busted for attempting to set up sex with an underage female online) onto her radio program, Common Dreams has no problem posting him. They've got him up today. But they didn't post Steinem and they didn't post Morgan. With Pig, we're supposed to overlook the busts. It's more important that his 'voice' be heard than that he's a predator and, thing is, women know that argument because we've heard it over and over, decade after decade. Gender is the greatest barrier. All women are told to wait -- over and over. Ask Flanders why she was so offended about Gary Glitter but thought nothing of repeatedly booking Pig on her program? Ask her to explain that. Ask Amy Goodman to. Ask Katrina vanden Heuvel why she, the mother of a teenage daughter, thinks his rambles are worth carrying at The Nation? Big media had the sense to wash their hands of him when the arrests came out. Not little media. Because you've got a lot of queen bees who won't use their voices, they don't want to look 'bitchy' or 'assertive' or 'demanding.' How's that working out for you?

For those who don't know, Laura wouldn't join us in protesting Pig. She kept bringing Pig on air. But in the dying days of her bad radio show, she wanted to insist that a sports team stop using a Gary Glitter song because . . . Gary was a sexual predator. It offends her . . . at sporting events. Apparently. Lila Garrett, Laura Flanders, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Amy Goodman and a host of others better be willing to note Pig's latest arrest -- this would be his third sexual predator arrest for those paying attention -- and maybe explain why they continued to publish him or bring him on as a guest? They also never called him out when he attacked Cindy Sheehan. From the May 29, 2007 snapshot:

Now here's how polite society worked once upon a time, when someone was reported to have been twice busted for pedophilia, that was really it for them. They didn't get write ups, they didn't pen op-eds. They weren't invited on programs to chat. But for some reason, Pig Ritter is seen as a voice the 'left' needs to adopt. Scott Ritter was allowed to repeatedly attack Cindy Sheehan on his joint-tour in 2006 (The Sky is Falling Tour -- DVD set retails for $19.99 unless you're going for the NC-17 version) and everyone looked the other way and most of the press (big and small) just chuckled. That's why he felt brave enough to issue the nonsense in an interview proper (and one that didn't require him to be handcuffed -- how novel that must have been for him).The peace movement needs to be inclusive, no question, but that doesn't translate as: "Because we have the Peace Mom, we need to have the Pedophile Man." That's not inclusion, that's stupidity on ever level (including legal liabilities should anything happen to an underage female). We washed our hands of him a long time ago in this community. He is "pig" when noted here for any reason. His name is being mentioned here (for the first time since he went public in attacking Sheehan) only because there are some who seem unable to believe it could be true. Well it is. And it's equally true that you need to ask your outlets why they have repeatedly featured a man who will not explain his criminal busts and allows to stand the mainstream media's reporting that they were for attempting to hook up with young (underage) girls online. It is amazing that the same independent media that wants to scream 'crackpot' and 'crazy' to make sure they are not associated with certain groups is perfectly happy to break bread with a pedophile. Repeatedly.

The Sky Is Falling Tour? He did that with Sy Hersh. And I'd love for Hersh to claim he had no idea about Pig's history. He knew all about Pig's history and I'm laughing, Sy, because a lot of us warned you Pig would get arrested again. It's on you, Seymour, it's on your reputation now. We've noted this topic too many times to count and there's good chance we'll return to it tonight for "I Hate The War."

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Slowly they awake






Starting in London with the Iraq Inquiry. For any who missed yesterday's hearing and to give credit to an outlet for covering the events, we'll note this from yesterday's Pacifica Evening News (broadcast on KPFA and KPFK -- as well as other stations -- KPFA archives for 14 days, KPFK for 59):'s

John Hamilton: Prime Minister Tony Blair told then-president George W. Bush in 2002 that Britain would back military action if diplomatic efforts to disarm Iraq's Saddam Hussein failed. That's according to testimony today by Blair's former communications chief as he appeared before a public inquiry into the Iraq War in London. Alastair Campbell said there never was a precipitant rush to war despite the close ties between Blair and Bush; however, Campbell said that Blair wrote personally to Bush to offer his support for military action if Saddam did not accede to the United Nations demands on disarmament before the March 2003 invasion. Here he describes the content of secret letters from Blair to the former president pledging British support for an invasion as early as 2002.Alastair Campbell: We share the analysis. We share the concern. We're absolutely with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is -- face up to his obligations and Iraq is disarmed. If that cannot be done diplomatically, it has to be done mila-militarily. Britain will be there. That will definitely be the tenor of his communications to the president.John Hamilton: Campbell is a former journalist who was one of Blair's closest advisers from 1994 to 2003. He insisted today that Blair tried all along to disarm Saddam by diplomatic means. His testimony conflicted with widespread reports that a British intelligence dossier on Iraq's pre-war capabilities to produce Weapons of Mass Destruction was "sexed up" on Campbell's orders to make Saddam Hussein appear to be more of a threat to national security. Those reports were reinforced this week when the British Guardian newspaper reported that those who drafted the dossier were immediately asked to compare British claims against a 2002 speech to the United Nations by then-president George W. Bush. In that speech, the former president claimed Iraq would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within a year. The next day, the [British] dossier's timeline was halved to claimed Iraq could get the bomb within a year. Campbell today dismissed such reports.Alastair Campbell: But at no point did anybody from the prime minister down say to anybody within intelligence services, 'Look, you've got to sort of tailor it to fit this argument.' I defend every single word of the dossier I defend every single part of the process.John Hamilton: The five-person Iraq Inquiry also known as the Chilcot Inquiry was called by current Prime Minister Gordon Brown to examine the run up to the 2003 invasion. Critics point out that witness are not sworn to testify under oath. And others have criticized the panel's members for their lack of prosecutorial skills.

Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror) observes of Capmbell's testimony, "The Godfather of Spin bobbed and weaved his way through a five-hour long grilling without once displaying a hint of humility or a glimmer of self-doubt." Tom Newton Dunn (The Sun) zooms in on this detail, "Mr Campbell revealed Gordon Brown was in Tony Blair's 'inner circle' when the decision was made to go to war. The revelation is an embarrassment to the then-Chancellor who has long tried to distance himself." Before we get to today's hearing, we're going to stay with Gordon Brown and today's news. Brown came under pressure today regarding the Iraq Inquiry. Andrew Porter (Telegraph of London) reports, "Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, used Prime Minister's Questions to demand that the Prime Minister face questions from Sir John Chilcot's inquiry team in the coming weeks." Porter quotes Clegg stating, "Given everything that has come to light in the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War, will you now do the decent thing and volunteer to give evidence to the inquiry before people decide how to vote? When the decisions were taken to launch this illegal war, you weren't only in the room - you were the one who signed the cheques. People are entitled to know, before they decide how to vote in a general election, what your role was in this Government's most disastrous decision. What have you got to hide?" The Guardian of England has a web poll on the issue currently and, as this is dictated, the non-scientific results are 15% say that Brown shouldn't testify before the election and 85% say, "Yes. Voters hvae a right to know his responsibility." Tim Castle (Reuters) reports that Gordon Brown danced around the issue today declaring, "I have nothing to hide on this matter, I am happy to give eivdence." But that's not saying, "Fine, I'll do it." Helene Mulhooland (Guardian) adds, "Brown was also asked if he had any regrets regarding the war, and said he had already put on the record that he felt that the reconstruction of the country had been mismanaged. But he said he stood by all the decisions he was involved in during the run-up to the invasion in 2003."

The Liberal Democrats issued the following:

Following today's Prime Minister's Questions, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg is writing to Gordon Brown, urging him to indicate to the Chilcot Inquiry that he would prefer to appear before it ahead of the election.
The text of the letter is as follows: Dear Gordon,
I am writing to urge you to indicate immediately to Sir John Chilcot that it is your
strong preference to go before the Iraq Inquiry ahead of the General Election.

Follwoing developments yesterday at Alastair Campbell's hearing, your personal
role in decisions that led to the war in Iraq has now come under the spotlight. The
notion that you hearing should take place after the election in order that the Inquiry
remains outside of party politics therefore no longer holds. On the contrary, the
sense that you have been granted special treatment because of your position as
Prime Minister will only serve to undermine the perceived independence of the

As I said to you across the floor of the Commons today, people have a right
to know the truth about the part you played in this war before they cast their
verdict on your Government's record. I urge you to confirm publicly that should Sir
John Chilcot invite you to give evidence to the Inquiry ahead of the election you
will agree to do so.

Nick Clegg

Along with Brown's testimony, there is great interest around Tony Blair's testimony (Blair is scheduled to testify later this month). Catherine Mayer (Time magazine) notes:Blair's star turn is expected to be so heavily subscribed that the inquiry has launched a public ballot for seats. A key question will be at what point the British government gave pledges to Washington about taking part in military action. The inquiry panel's questions to Campbell revealed for the first time the existence of private letters in 2002 from Blair to U.S. President George W. Bush. The "tenor" of these letters, said Campbell, was "We are going to be with you making sure that Saddam Hussein faces up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed. If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there."

The Daily Mirror offers, "A little humility might have been appropriate when considering the dire situation Iraq is now in but perhaps we're expecting too much." Campbell has no humility. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger notes that Campbell insists he ignored the morning papers in which case he might wish to know that BBC News offers a press roundup of coverage (with links). Meanwhile Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) notes Campbell's taken to blog to toss out the Bible to hide behind. The Guardian's Nicholas Watt also caught Campbell's self-dramatizing posts:

So, once again, we are treated to some "unadulterated, bilious shite" on Alastair Campbell's blog today.
OK, that language is a bit over the top. But those are the exact words Campbell once used in public to dismiss a Guardian piece I had written.
Now Tony Blair's former communications director is denouncing the media in general for its coverage of his appearance before the Iraq inquiry yesterday. He has taken exception to the way the press highlighted a series of notes Blair wrote to George Bush in the run-up to the war in 2003.

Campbell's post is rather amazing for its inability to grasp reality and for little tidbits that say so much. An example of the latter, Campbell spent last night seeing The Misanthrope. But possibly Campbell's really not familiar with Moliere and missed those points. (In his post, he's obssessed with Keira Knightley and Damian Lewis.)

Today the Inquiry heard from Nemat Shafik and Andrew Turnbull (link goes to video and transcript options). Turnbull was Tony Blair's Cabinet Secretary (September 2002 to 2005).

Chair John Chilcot: I think we are coming to the end of this session. We have learned from this session a number of lessons and you may have others to suggest and certainly some last reflections.

Andrew Turnbull: Well, I have got one in particular. That is -- the perception in the British public is, we said he had weapons of mass destruction and we went to war in order to find them and disarm them, and we didn't find them. Thererfore, the 179 people [British troops] who died, many more injured, their sacrfice is in vain. That's a very kind of popular view. What I find extraordinary is that -- how little knowledge there is of what the answer to this story is, and I hope that this Inquiry will devote some time to explaining what we now know about what actually happened, the two main sources being the Iraq Survey Group and the debriefing of Saddam Hussein. If I said to people, "Who is George Piro?", I don't think one in 60 million would know -- do you know who George Piro is? George Piro is the FBI agent who debriefed Saddam Hussein over a perid of five months. So there is a sense that we do know the answer, and --

We stop there. We're not interested in garbage and it's a damn shame the Inquiry let him yammer on. Saddam Hussein was crossed or felt crossed by the George H.W. Bush administration (when H.W. Bush was president). He's captured by US forces after the illegal war has started. You think he's going to tell the truth? He's got a good guess he's going to be dying (he was executed). You think he's not going to taunt his interrogators?

While the Inquiry does not swear anyone in (or make them affirm to tell the truth), witnesses need to offer testimony on what they observed. Turnbull was not present for the interrogation. He's referring to an American FBI agent's observations. Bring that FBI agent forward if you want to hear what the FBI heard from Saddam. But don't let witnesses continue this crap. There was a passage last week, of testimony, that was so tempting to use because it would be perfect for the snapshot and back up several assertions we've long made. It never made it in the snapshot because the witness 'testifying' wasn't present for what he was describing. The committee doesn't need to be composed of attorneys to grasp that you don't rely on hearsay evidence.

They need to put their foot down on this because it's happening more and more as the Inquiry goes on and you better believe those who are coming in know it. Turnbull knew it. He knew he could go on (and on and on -- from where we cut him off he speaks for another page and six more lines before being interrupted). He offered nothing of value. What he didn't witness, he didn't witness. Early in his testimony, he told Chilcot, "I thought Alastair Campbell's description of Clare Short as untrustworthy was very poor. I didn't agree with that." Fine. That's his observation. He's making that call based on what he saw. He did not see Saddam Hussein interrogated and he doesn't need to be pinning his hopes that the illegal war was 'good' onto testimony he can't back up because he didn't witness it.

Andrew Turnbull: I think there were two problems. One was the US. The other is we made -- along with that -- when we allocated, we made some incorrect assumptions. There was a belief that we would succeed in persuading -- since we had persuaded the US to go the UN route on the confrontation of Saddam Hussein, they would buy into the UN route for the post-crisis. I think Bush -- when Bush said the UN will have a vital role (inaudible), he was fobbing us off, and he meant the UN agencies would have a vital role, but he was absolutely resistant. So we took false comfort from that. We took false comfort from the fact that there are papers which say, "This is a well-educated socity" and there were words around in the papers which say "with a functioning, public -- relatively functioning public sector". It turned out that it partly collapsed of its own accord and then Bremer destroyed what was left. We had underestimated the discord that would arise. In a sense, we were preparing, but we didn't -- there were lots of things we didn't forsee and it was getting the -- an arrangment with US apparatus that was the thing that was realy difficult. [. . .] No, what we did not get were large numbers of internal displaced people and we did not get hunger, and I have come to the view that the UN, when they said they were feeding 60 per cent of the population, they were boasting. Valerie Amos went to Basra in June/early Jule and reported that the markets were simply flowing with produce. So I don't think we were looking at a much, much worse scenario on those two fronts. What we did not anticipate was the collapse of civil order, and you could say this comes back to the fact that the one assumption that was absolutely correct in this whol thing was that Saddam Hussein could be toppled very quickly with a surprisingly small number of people, but the number of people required to topple him in three weeks was far les than the number required to occupy what was left. That was a major strategic miscalculation, not principally of our doing.

Turnbull stated that if they'd gone with another war option, the British could have utilized "warships and airships" but far less boots on the ground.

Andrew Turnbull: Whether people really understood that significance, I don't know. Maybe they did, but they understimated just how difficult it was going to be, and one of the reasons we underestimated it was, in my view, that the emigre groups had the ear of the people that mattered in the Pentago who said, once you have decapitated the Saddam regime, it will not be difficult to create a functioning Iraqi society. We were overconfident in that and didn't forsee -- this whole idea -- we didn't forsee that we would be in the midst of an extreme security problem. We didn't foresee that the Iranians would meddle as much as they meddled. It goes back almost to that point, but I think we seriously failed to see what was the real problem. The real problem was security and we probably spent too much time on humanitarian -- the movement of people, refugee camps, safe havens and the food supply issues, and we didn't catch this other issue that, if we didn't establish security, nothing else counted for anything.

This is in contrast to Shafik's earlier testimony and Chilcot pointed that out to Turnbull before noting that Shafik wasn't there (and Turnbull was) so obviously on some level John Chilcott does grasp that people need to be testifying to what they witnessed. I was not impressed with Shafik's testimony and we're not emphasizing it. Iraq Inquiry Blogger weighs in on Turnbull's testimony:

In the event it was a fascinating session. He attacked Alastair Campbell for describing Clare Short as untrustworthy ("very poor"), criticised Blair for allowing the 'culture of challenge' to ebb from Cabinet life and introduced the new (to me) phrase "granny's footsteps" to describe the troubling way the September dossier was pieced together by No 10 and the spooks.
How was Middle East security ever going to be improved, he asked, by taking out Saddam Hussein and leaving Iran with a neighbour newly run by 15 million Shia?
Perhaps most moving were his remarks about the late Robin Cook. A number of commentators have said the former Foreign Secretary wasn't always the easiest of people to get on with; I interviewed him once and was left with the distinct impression that mine were by some considerable degree by far the stupidest questions he'd ever been asked (then again maybe they were).
But Turnbull's description of the "quite remarkable" man was highly affectionate. Alone in a Cabinet that had bought the case for war, Cook was the only person who wasn't convinced about WMD or the failure of containment "and I'm sorry he isn't around to take the credit for that".

Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) focuses on the legal opinion given the Cabinet before the start of the illegal war:

Lord Turnbull, the cabinet secretary at the time, who gave the inquiry unprecedented insights into how the Blair government took the country to war in 2003, said there were significant differences between the final legal opinion Lord Goldsmith presented to the cabinet, and an earlier version he gave privately to Tony Blair.
"It was not, in my view, a summary of what had been produced 10 days earlier. It was materially different in some respects because of the passage of time. Certain things had changed," he said.
Blair has argued that the short statement Goldsmith subsequently gave the cabinet on the eve of the invasion was a "fair summary" of the attorney general's latest legal advice. However, it is now known that the only official legal opinion Goldsmith drew up was the one dated 7 March, which contained serious caveats about the lawfulness of an invasion.

David Brown (Times of London) adds, "Lord Turnbull said that the final legal opinion presented to the Cabinet 'was not, in my view, a summary of what had been produced ten days earlier. It was materially different in some respects because of the passage of time. Certain things had changed'." For Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry) the most telling moment of the hearing was that Turnbull became yet another who had faith in Blair early on but now didn't know what to make (he told the Inquiry he was confused by Tony Blair's recent claims that he would have invaded Iraq whether or not he thought it had WMD) and, "The trouble for Blair is that if the cabinet secretary didn't know what the true aim of his policy was, the evidence of all of the officials further away from him who have sworn that the objective of the policy was disarmament becomes worthless."

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The crazy world







"Today, we are moving on to hear from Ministers and the most senior decision-makers over the next four weeks," chair John Chilcot declared in London. "We will then take a break over the period of the general election, before resuming public hearings in the summer." Chilcot is the chair of Iraq Inquiry and Tony Blair's spokesperson Alastair Campbell (link goes to video and transcript options) was today's witnesses and the press -- the world press with the exception of the US -- has turned out. In the US, George W. Bush sold the illegal war on a number of false claims. In England, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair used the lie that Iraq could attack England with WMD within 45 minutes. It was a lie, the Iraq Inquiry (chaired by John Chilcot) has established that. Tony Blair will appear before them in the near future and, at that time presumably, he will explain whether or not he learned before the start of the war that his claim was false. What is known is that his staff was informed, days before the start of the Iraq War, that his claim was false and, if procedure was followed, that fact should have reached Blair. Along with Blair, current Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to testify. Among the commentaries on Campbell's testimony today, the most interesting is probably that of Ibrahim al-Marashi. He wrote the 'intel' for the Iraq War. He wrote it for his PhD and the British government stole it without attribution (as did Collie Powell who used it in his UN 'testimony' before the start of the Iraq War). al-Marashi writes in the Times of London:

What actually happened was this: the British Government took my material, then added pages that argued for military action against Iraq and changed key words to suggest that Iraq had supported al-Qaeda. This formed part of what became known as the "Dodgy Dossier", published in February 2003.
It followed a report released in September 2002, detailing Iraq's WMD programme and including the 45-minute figure four times. The BBC's assertion that Mr Campbell had inserted the 45-minute figure to "sex up" the document led to it being known as the "Sexed-up Dossier".
Sir John Scarlett, the intelligence chief, told the Chilcot inquiry that some of the facts he presented to the Government were "lost in translation". I would say that what got lost in translation is that governments have been spinning wars since the US Government set up the Creel Commission in the First World War.

John Scarlett, in the lead up to the Iraq War, was the chair of Tony Blair's Joint Intelligence Committee. He's already appeared before the committee. We'll note this section from today's hearing.

Committee Lawrence Freedman: On 5 and 9 September you chaired two meetings in the Cabinet Office with senior officials, including John Scarlett, to discuss the dossier. Why were you chairing these meetings?

Alastair Campbell: Because John Scarlett, having done what he considered to be a pretty advanced draft of the dossier, then said to me, I think quite rightly, "It is going to be a document the Prime Minister presents to Parliament. There are massive global expectations around it and I need a bit of presentational support," and that's what I gave him.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Can I just clairfy something you said there? You said Scarlett had already done a draft. I didn't think a draft had been done.

Alastair Campbell: There came a point where he said, "I have now reached a point where I need presentational advice on this". So we met on the 5th and the 9th. As a result of those meetings, a process was set out by me, in writing, around the system, which made clear what the dossier, in terms of its overall structure and contents, was going to be, but also emphasising to everybody within the system that this was now John Scarlett's work and anything that had gone before was redundant and irrelevant. Then, when he came back to me, it was to say, "I have now reached a position where I need presentational advice". I was chairing those meetings because the Prime Minister was going to be presenting the paper that John Was working on to Parliament, massive media interest right around the world, and I think it was entirely, not just appropriate, it was absolutely necessary that I should have done that.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: But in most organisations chairing a meeting confers authority and accountability. So basically you are saying you are a customer of this process as well as giving help with the presentation.

Alastair Campbell: I mean, look, in terms of the -- just as a point of accuracy by the way, the meetings were in Downing Street, not the Cabinet Office. Look, within the context of that meeting, I was the person who was charged by the Prime Minister to advise him on all the presentational aspects to do with the dossier, and indeed its production, which was going to be enormous. I think on the day that the dossier was published, the website sort of crashed and the interest was absolutely huge. So John's role within that, which was clearly understood by everybody -- and I think also in a way it hopefully was of assistance to John Scarlett and the JIC, that, in a sense, we were so clearly having that relationship, because to the rest of government it was sending very, very clearly the message: this is now the document that the Prime Minister is going to present to Parliament and that guy over there, John Scarlett, is the man in charge of it.

David Brown (Times of London) reports, "He rejected Sir John's evidence to the inquiry that he could not have altered Mr Balir's foreword -- in which he claimed that the intelligence showed 'beyond doubt' that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) -- as it was a political statement" and quotes Campbell stating, "If John Scarlett or any of his team had had any concerns of real substance about the foreword then they know they could have raised those directly with the Prime Minister."

Campbell was an ass throughout. He whined like a baby about the BBC and claimed it turned on Blair & Company and wouldn't report any good news from Iraq. He was and remains in a bubble, completely untouched by reality.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You have expressed today your support for the policy that was followed on Iraq with very great conviction. Do you consider now that it has been a success and, looking back on it, what lessons would you draw from it beyond the points that have already been made, for example, just now, about the aftermath, and what regrets, if any, do you have?

Alastair Campbell: Do I support it? Yes. I think that, as I said to you just before the break -- I think that Britain, far from beating ourselves up about this, should be really proud of the role that we played in changing Iraq from what it was to what it is now becoming and the potential impact that that has on the region. I think, for example that Libya and the moves that it made in relation to WMD, I think -- I don't know because I wasn't involved in those discussions, but I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't in part driven by them seeing these guys are serious now about this issue. I think that the -- when -- I saw the Prime Minister as closely and probably as often as anybody else, and I saw somebody of really deep conviction and integrity, who was making, without doubt, the most difficult decision of his premiership, knowing there were going to be consequences, but also understanding there are "what if" questions, had he taken another decision. Again, I thought Chris Meyer was really glib about the pontential impact on the transatlantic relationship in relation to that.

Did he just accuse someone else of being glib? Asked of regrets, he doesn't once note loss of life and he wants to call someone else glib? Really? It gets worse. Watch what happens when he's prompted about loss of life.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Looking at the huge cost in loss of life over, now, six and a half years, at the effects on the stability of the Middle Eastern region, at the development of international terrorism within Iraq, do you consider that, overall, the policy has succeeded?

Alastair Campbell: I do, but not without reflecting often and realising the import of the ccaveats that you have just put into that. I think, in relation to the Middle East peace process -- and bear in mind the road map is still -- the outline -- and the Prime Minister did get the Americans to go down there. I don't think they can solely be blamed for the fact that there has been such little process. I think, in terms of security, yes, the death toll has been high in terms of Iraqis, and obviously any loss of any British soldier's life is not just tragic but it obviously weighs heavily on anybody who was involved in that process, most particularly, obviously, the Prime Minister.

He yammers away but, note, he never mentions American lives. And, no, his being British is not an excuse. Every military officer testifying to the committee -- everyone -- mentioning loss of life has noted the US death toll. Campbell couldn't shut up about America or the United States when it was time to share blame. But here he notes the Iraqi death toll (he should, he's responsible for those deaths) and then pointedly declares "any loss of any British soldier's life is not just tragic but it . . ."

Let's go to the stats. The death toll for the UK forces in Iraq? 179. For the US? 4373. Repeating, every British officer appearing before the committee who has noted the death toll has been sure to include the US death toll. 4373 is not a minor number. (139 is the number of service members killed from foreign countries other than the US or the UK -- "foreign countries" means "not Iraq.")

But only some numbers matter to Campbell. Some numbers including thousands and hundreds of thousands don't matter to Campbell and never did. Wait. Let's let him explain it.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: My last question on this relates to the extraordinary demonstration, on 15 February 2003, in which vast numbers of people, including two of my three children walked through the streets of London protesting about the Iraq war, and it was said to be one of the largest demonstrations of recent times. What account did you take of this strength of public opinion and how did it inform the Prime Minister's preparation for what was going to be this very important Parliamentary debate?

Alastair Campbell: In one very specific way -- I think the day before the march, I think I'm right that we were in Scotland. I can't remember that precisely. The march was getting huge publicity in the build-up. It was clearly going to be an enormous event, and you have got to remember this is a democracy, the Prime Minister was intending to stand for re-election, he knew that this was a deeply unpopular policy with an awful lot of people and not just unpopular, tuition fees or whatever it might have been; this was deep. I always have a rule of thumb that, if somebody goes on a march, there are probably ten others who thought about it. So there were a lot of people who were opposed. I think, what it definitely -- look, there was the political consideration. That was a big protest and he was -- he thought about it a lot and he was seized of its significance. But ultimately, I think it just made him think more deeply about the issue. The day before -- I will check the chronology on this -- he did a speech. We met some Iraqi exiles in a hotel in Scotland, who had got in touch with me actually and said -- because they sensed the UN thing going wrong, and they just came and said, "Look, he has got to see this through. He has got to see this through. We have got family back there, we know what Iraq is like. You have got all these people on the march, no doubt well-meaning, but they just do not understand the reality of this regime. Please." I took some of them to see the Prime Minister and he then made a speech where I think the line that was taken out of it by the media, he made what he called the moral case for war, becuase people were talking about the moral case, those on the march, the moral case for inaction, and the Prime Minister really just set out that there is a different view to take here and, ultimately, he didn't -- he always uwed this word. He said, "I don't disrespect those who have come to a different conclusion."

After a break, Campbell corrected his timeline, "Can I just say that the moral case speech was the day of the march?" So thousands and thousands of people march -- and Campbell believes each marcher represents ten people -- and Campbell wants to pretend that people are being respected.

Which people?

Not the marchers. They don't get a private audience with Tony Blair. Iraqi exiles -- most of whom are now KNOWN LIARS -- get to meet with Blair. Blair's moving towards war, according to Campbell, and the world sees its largest demonstration and Blair responds by? Meeting with the ones demanding the war. Not with the ones opposed.

He meets with the CHICKEN HAWKS who are TOO DAMN CHICKEN to FIGHT THEIR OWN BATTLES. The trashy exiles who sought refuge in another country and then used those countries as an operating base to drag the world into war. These trashy disgusting people, too scared to fight Saddam so they ran from their own country, demanding now that the US, the UK, Australia and other countries send in soldiers to do the job that the CHICKEN HAWKS were too scared to do themselves.

Many of the exiles were on the CIA payroll throughout their period of exile. These weren't refugees. These were thugs like the ones in Florida who plot to overthrow Cuba. No country should grant asylum to any person who doesn't agree that the host country will not be used as a staging platform for war with the country they hail from.

The exiles lived it up. And got special access. The people protesting? They got nothing. Oh, some of them were 'lucky' enough to see their sons or daughters, husbands or wives, fathers or mothers, friends sent off to fight in this illegal war. And of course the exiles returned to Iraq. Whisked back in. For photo ops. And installed into the puppet government.

Tony Blair's apology to the British should include putting them second to please a bunch of spoiled, cowardly exiles.

Iain Martin (Wall St. Journal) observes, "But there is something strange about the unyielding nature of their responses and their lack of willingness to reflect meaningfully. Almost seven years since the invasion, it is disappointing that those who drove such an important decision are not more insightful about what went wrong and right." Today was probably the most media covered day of the hearing thus far (January 29th will be the big media day if Tony Blair appears then as scheduled). Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogged the hearing at Twitter and noted of the media, "Several satellite trucks praked outside QE2 centre. Two protestors, one billboard saying Campbell, Blair, Scarlett should be tried at Hague." Tom Baldwin (Times of London) makes this call: "Indeed, the blanket news coverage his appearance generated, showed that the passions that burned so hot over the invasion have not been cooled by either global recession or regime change in Washington and a new leader in London, as well as Baghdad." Iraq Inquiry Blogger was not the only live blogger -- Emma Griffiths live blogged for BBC News.Glen Oglaza continued live blogging for Sky News and the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow live blogged. In addition, Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) -- long on this story -- live blogged and his strongest post was probably the fact checking one:

Mr Campbell's claims:
1. In evidence (Q1092) to the Commons' foreign affairs committee (FAC), he claimed: "The entire document was the product of the pen of the Joint Intelligence Committee chairman [John Scarlett]."
2. Campbell also claimed: "The allegation… that I, or anyone in Downing Street, exaggerated and distorted intelligence…is totally untrue." (para 9 of his memo to the FAC.)
3. Campbell or his deputy, Godric Smith, repeatedly claimed that there had been no political interference whatever in the dossier. For instance, at the Downing Street press briefing of 4 June 2003 (on page 6 of this PDF): "The dossier was entirely the work of the intelligence agencies… Suggestions that any pressure was put on the intelligence services by No 10 or anyone else to change the document were entirely false."
The reality:
1. The foreword of the dossier was written by Campbell, as this memo of 17 September 2002, a week before publication, makes clear. In his own evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry a few weeks ago, Scarlett himself belatedly admitted this too. The foreword was where the dossier's most incendiary statements appeared, such as the claim that the intelligence on Saddam's WMD was "beyond doubt."
2. The 17 September memo also shows that Campbell suggested 15 changes to the executive summary and main body of the document to Scarlett. Most were accepted and their effect was to harden up the document's language from possibility to probability, or probability to certainty.
3. Among the most serious: following Campbell's suggestion in the memo, a false statement, unsupported by intelligence reporting, was inserted in the dossier that Saddam had continued to "make progress" with his illicit weapons programmes.

Note that the above is an excerpt, Gilligan's fact check continues at the link. David Brown (Times of London) zooms in on the testimony regarding communications between Blair and Bully Boy Bush, "Tony Blair promised George Bush that Britain would support military action by the United States to overthrow Saddam Hussein in a series of secret notes written a year before the invasion of Iraq." Philippe Naughton (Times of London) also zooms in on the notes, "Tony Blair's chief spin doctor revealed today that the former Prime Minister sent a series of notes to President Bush in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in which he made clear that Britain would 'be there' if it came to military action against Saddam Hussein." Campbell actually stated a bit more than that. He declared that, before 9-11, Blair -- who made his desire for regime change clear in the 90s -- told Bush the Middle East would be the big focus. Richard Norton-Taylor and Afua Hirsh (Guardian) go for the notes as well, "Blair was determined to disarm Saddam, Campbell said. Blair's message to the US in April 2002 was he would try to do it through UN resolutions. ­However, 'if the only way is regime change through military action then the British government will support the American government', Campbell said, describing Blair's view."

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