Thursday, January 20, 2011

Showing them what they bought






In England on Friday, former prime minister, forever poodle and eternal War Hawk Tony Blair is set to reappear before the Iraq Inquiry to offer additional testimony after his testimony last year just didn't appear to add up. Stop the War UK is organizing protests against War Criminal Tony Blair.

Reasons to protest when Tony Blair is recalled to give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry on 21 January:

QEII Conference Centre 8am-2pm
London SW1P 3EE

(Tube Westminster or St James's
Please publicise as widely as you can
Today the Iraq Inquiry heard from Tom McKane (held the post of Deputy Head of Defense & Overseas Secretariat from 1999 to 2002) and Stephen Wall (Prime Minister's Adviser on European Issues and Head of the Cabinet Office's European Secretariat, 2000 - 2004). Before we get to an exchange from McKane's testimony, we need to note a few documents the Inquiry published today. All are PDF format. First, a letter from Alan Goulty (Director Middle East and North African Department) dated October 20, 2000 to McKane. Most important part is: "Containment, but a looser version, remains the best option for achieving our policy objectives towards Iraq. International support is vital if this is to be sustained. SCR 1284 delivered the balanced package envisaged in the May 1999 DOP paper. Need for some tactical adjustments to make policy sustainable in the medium term."
SCR 1284 is United Nations Security Council Resolution 1284. Of the five permanent Security Council members, only the US and England voted for it. (France, Russia and China chose not to vote. Had any one of them voted against it, it would not have passed.) This turns weapons monitoring duties over to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. Previously, United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) had done the monitoring. (In March of 1999, Barton Gellman reported for the Washington Post that "United States intelligence services infiltrated agents and espionage equipment" in UNSCOM.) The October 20, 2000 letter from Alan Goulty notes that international support for SCR 1284 is weakening but calls it "the best means of pursuing our policy objectives" and insists "It would get us off the hook of responsibility for the humanitarian situation. It provides Iraq -- and us -- with an exit route out of sanctions. But its shelf life is limited. If there is no progress by next summer, SCR 1284 is likely to lose credibility, lending to growing pressure for a change of approach." The British government -- as evidenced by the letter -- assumed that whomever emerged as the Oval Office occupant in 2001 (Al Gore or George W. Bush), it wouldn't make a difference and the US would maintain a hard position against Iraq:
Most commentators (inside and outside the Administration) point out that either a Gore or a Bush Administration could be expected to be 'tougher' on Iraq. Bush's team includes noted hawks, and Gore (with [Leon] Fureth, his National Security Adviser) has consistently been at the harder end of the spectrum within the Clinton Administration. But neither has come up with specific policy directions. Bush attacks Clinton/Gore for failing to get rid of Saddam for eight years, but under the rhetoric, he goes no further than Clinton's stated red lines for military action, and he has avoided endorsing the "rollback" (regime change) philosophy of some of his advisers. Gore has made a big show of backing the Iraqi Opposition, but has also stressed continued containment, along the lines pursued by the current Administration.
Regardless of who wins, the letter cautions, "We cannot wait until the new Administration beds down to tackle them on Iraq policy. We need to get in early, before they make too many public policy statements from which it would be difficult to draw back, and be prepared to press them hard." Why? International support is waning, "sanction busting" is increasing.
February 15, 2001, McKane wrote John Sawers and noted, among other things, that sanctions were in danger of losing support because "there is an increasing sense that economic sanctions are unfair to the Iraqi people, ineffective as a means of pressuring the regime, and indeed counter-productive because Saddam and his cronies benefit disproportionately from the smuggling which undermines the sanctions." Now from today's hearing.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: In February 2001 on the eve of the first meeting between the Prime Minister and the newly elected President Bush you were asked to produce a note by officials to highlight the key issues.
Tom McKane: Yes.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: That were going to be settled in the course of the review of Iraq policy in order to basically inform the Prime Minister for the meeting. That note has been published today. Can you tell us who contributed to.
Tom McKane: It was the same group of people who had been engaged in the discussions on the Foreign Office's draft paper the previous autumn. So it would have been pulled together and coordinated in the Secretariat, but it would have included contributions from the Foreign Office and from the Ministry of Defence principally, but others would have seen the draft, other departments around Whitehall.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: Were suggestions being put forward by Number 10?
Tom McKane: there was a sense in Number 10 I think that the official machine was running too much along well-worn tracks and that it needed a bit of a jolt, that, you know, there was -- that the way the options had been reviewed in the first draft of the paper looked too much like a regurgitation of what we'd been doing up until then. So the paper was sharpened up at the request of Number 10, although my memory is that they were not the only people who thought the first draft was deficient, and it was quite frequent in that job to find quite a lot of comopetitive drafting going on, departments offering their version of the paper that you were trying to produce. That was a perfectly normal part of the way we did our business, but the end result, which I suppose is then encapsulated in the 7th March note, still is focusing on a policy of containment, not a policy of regime change.
And he keeps insisting that throughout his testimony. However, they knew sanctions were "increasingly" unpopular as was the UN Security Council resolution and they knew the No-Fly Zones patrols were also unpopular (one plan was to suggest to the US that British military fly them only) so for all of his talk about regime change not being a policy, you see that they are walling themselves off -- intentionally or not -- from maintaining what they had and, as for what replaces, it, they really only see war. That's most obvious in the sections of the February 20, 2010 letter which are edited out but indicate that, for example, to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait would require war and, specifically, the military of a neighbouring country (the country is whited out).
New developments also emerged (in the press, not from the Inquiry) on the private correspondence of Bush and Blair. From yesterday's snapshot:
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports, "Britain's top civil servant, Sir Gus O'Donnell, is preventing the official inquiry into the Iraq invasion from publishing notes sent by Tony Blair to George W Bush -- evidence described by the inquiry as of 'central importance' in establishing the circumstances that led to war. O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, consulted Blair before suppressing the documents, it emerged tonight." John Chilcot is the Chair of the Iraq Inquiry and, in his opening statement at today's session, he commented on the efforts to keep things from the public: [. . .]
Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) notes today that the letters are quoted in recent books by Alastair Campbell (his published diary) and Jonathan Powell and she notes: "Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, criticised the ban. He said: 'It is a bit thick that Mr Blair and Mr Bush have been able to draw on these documents for their own memoirs and to be entirely selective in the use to which they have put them'." Rosa Prince goes on to demonstrate just how much Bush and Blair have quoted from the (private) letters in their books.
Moving to the US, on Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton spoke with John V. Walsh and we'll note this section (we're editing Horton's use of term because we don't allow any deity's name to be used in vain):
Scott Horton: And it really is just amazing how you can have Barack Obama who we all know for a fact with no exceptions -- every single one of us knows -- that this guy kills people every day. And then he can go and give this speech and cry all of these crocidile tears about "Oh my G**! An employee of the State was on the receiving end of some violence one day." And according to all the polls and TV and the newspapers and whatever this has really done good for him and given him a bump in the polls and he needs to exploit this tragedy the way Bill Clinton did the Oklahoma City bombing, a Democratic strategist told the Politico. And apparently it's working. In fact -- I'll say one more thing before I turn it back over to you, John -- I only heard a small bit of Obama's speech in Arizona. And the small bit I heard, all I heard from him was blah, blah, blah, whatever. But what was interesting to me was the audience. They were whooping and cheering and whistling and celebrating and clapping and acting like it was a campaign appearance. "Oh my G**! There he is in real life!" Like he's a TV star or whatever. And here he is trying to eulogize the dead and exploit this tragedy and they're sitting there like literally whistling and yelling "WOO!" and things at him.
John V. Walsh: Well actually, I would also say that in the antiwar sentiment that we see on the left and the right, I have been impressed that there is much -- if I read the or the Future Freedom Foundation or Lew Rockwell, there's much more concern about the loss of human life in war than I see very often on the left, I'm sad to say. Because very often the left is talking about the cost of the war and how we could have more if only we weren't killing people over there. But that's true. We're a pretty wealthy country to begin with, that's true. But it certainly is not as important -- important though it may be -- as the loss of innocent life, the loss of life in general. Probably a million in Iraq alone. Certainly hundreds of thousands, there's no question about it. And people displaced by the millions -- four million in Iraq. Who knows what is going on? So there has to be some morality and concern for life attached to this. And it's kind of outside the discourse of the mainstream media. And it really almost has to be if we're going to continuing waging war because too much attention on that is going to distrub the average person. And so it's almost that we've fallen into a culture of -of irreverance for human life. It almost follows from having an empire. And that's very sad, it's of our own doing. Actually, in the Boston area, there's a syndicated NPR program called On Point and it's a talk show and you know, they have been, the host Tom Ashbrook, has been over -- all over this [Tuscon] story and the concern about guns and the Congresswoman's life. Yes, all of that is terrible. But it took him, I think, until something like 2006 before he ever had on his program anybody who was against the war.
Scott Horton: Huh.
John V. Walsh: He had experts that were for it in various ways. But not until well after there was a majority against the war did you ever one voice. And you rarelyl hear it anymore.
Scott Horton: Welcome back to the show. This is Antiwar Radio. We're talking with John V. Walsh of CounterPunch and about the permanent crisis and, I guess, the partisanship that is at the root of why we can't seem to get anything about it done. I mean, you think back, John, to the antiwar, anti-Bush rhetoric of the last decade and it wasn't just, "Well geez, we don't like this guy because he pretends to be a hick even though he's from Connecticut and we want power, not him." The criticism was that he's tapping our phones, he's murdering people, he tells lies all day, he's spending way too much money and breaking the dollar and real criticism. Yet when Barack Obama does all of these exact same things -- including killing kids like, I don't know, right this minute -- "Oh, no, we still love him. We woop and cheer and whistle." Just like the idiots who loved George Bush.
John V. Walsh: Yes. Well, you know, actually that brings me to another thing I wanted to mention while I was here. And that is one of the guarantees to make sure that this does not become a partisan issue -- that backing Obama or backing Bush or whatever -- doesn't take precedence over opposing war is to have -- as has been pushing for for a long time -- is to have a right-left coalition against war. And I just wanted to mention, I don't know if you've had this on yet or not, but you know that a year ago there was the conference in Washington, DC. There were about 40 of us, people who write and talk and do some organizing with respect to war -- to oppose war. And we came from left and right and there is now a book out called Come Home America and it's a book of essays from the people who participated from the left and from the right. I have a piece in there. Justin Raimondo has a piece in there. Ralph Nader has a piece in there. The editor of The Nation who was not as enthusiastic as the people on the right about this project but nevertheless she came. And the editor of the
American Conservative and so on and so on.
Scott Horton: Is David Beito's piece in there?
John V. Walsh: I'm not, I don't recall. [C.I. note, Beito's piece is on the American Anti-Imperalist League and it is in the book.]
John V. Walsh: I need to get a copy of that book soon.
John V. Walsh: It is available. And if people want to get it you can find it -- well, you can find it on Amazon. But I would recommend you buy it from another source.

Scott Horton: Right. Agreed.
John V. Walsh: But if you write the -- it's a little tricky to get the title. It's Come Home America all one word or if you write it in three words it's Come Home America.US. And there are the rationales and the ideas of people who want to do this and I think it's right-on. There are people who blame Bush -- and I would say that's -- antiwar people who blame Bush and cannot bring themselves to utter a word against Obama. Or if they do, it is so gentle and so muted and so in the vein of "Well he really means well, he just can't do anything about it." Which is baloney. He has the power to stop the conflict at once. Just like Dwight Eisenhower had the power to stop the Korean War and was elected to do that and did it.
Scott Horton: Right.
John V. Walsh: So you can't say -- which, by the way, was the first undeclared [by Congress] war -- you can't say it is impossible. It is quite possible and, as a matter of fact, that was the reason that a lot of people -- not myself because I never believed it -- went out and worked for Obama because they thought they would get peace.
ComeHomeAmerica features many essays including one by Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan. It came out at the end of 2010, don't accidentally confuse it with Will Grider's 2009 book Come Home, America. For more from John V. Walsh on the topic you can refer to his "Sarah Palin's Cross Hairs -- and Obama's."
MFSO has partnered with Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and other ally organizations for a weekend of actions, training, and lobbying in Washington DC to mark the 8th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Join us and make your voice heard!
A brief overview of the schedule....
  • Saturday, March 19th - actions to mark the anniversary of the Iraq War, TBD
  • Sunday, March 20th - MFSO meet-up and issue-area trainings
  • Monday, March 21st - lobbying, media, and organizing trainings
  • Tuesday, March 22nd - opportunity for lobby visits, and we will be delivering 20,000 postcards to members of Congress with the message "Bring our troops & tax dollars home!"
Some logistical info (more details coming soon)...
  • Housing - we are working to find homestays and affordable housing for as many Military Families and Gold Star Families as possible. Please indicate below if you need housing, can offer housing in DC, or already have a place to stay.
  • Travel - Please indicate below if you need financial assistance to get to DC. We will have limited scholarships available for Military Families and Gold Star Families.
  • Trainings - the trainings are being organized by FCNL for a small fee of $20 (this price includes lunch and refreshments on Sunday and Monday)

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Today's wave of attacks"
"Deployments, refugees, theft"
"Desperate Housewives"
"Gloria Feldt plays sexist"
"Motion in the right direction"
"brothers & sisters"
"Women's Media Center is not being a freind to women"
"Regis and franchises"
"Idiot Riverdaughter's online meltdown"
"Everybody has died"
"Harry's Law"
"Chuck, Third"
"It's a win for Barry"

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