"Kat's Korner: Joni Mitchell's unearthed treasure" (Kat, The Common Ills):
Joni's charming and riveting throughout. On "For Free," following the first chorus, she starts the second verse before declaring, "Sometimes this song gets kind of hard to sing. Let me just putter around here a moment." She does just that, finding her way back to the chords and resumes singing. The audience responds warmly to that and other developments which had me thinking about Joni live. I've seen her live many times and it's Joni's publicly stated belief that the concert halls got too big. I remember the Rolling Thunder tour and she was more or less warmly received from the moment she stepped out on stage. Rolling Thunder was Dylan's How Much Money Can I Squeeze Out and the sound quality was hideous (I covered six of tour's concerts in print publications back in the day, just FYI) but Joni, and all the performers, were warmly received.
Joni's publicly stated belief is that the smaller clubs were a better setting for her and that's surely true compared to the disaster that was the Amnesty benefit of the late 80s in Denver. Joni was pelted by the audience with water bottles and cups and assorted other items (I believe the term she used was -- rightly -- "s**t" to refer to all of it collectively.) It was shocking to see because (a) she was in fact turning in a fabulous set (and I wish she'd stuck with the arrangement of "Number One" she performed which was far funkier than what later ended up on Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm), (b) if this allegedly enlightened audience would treat Joni like that, what would they do to others?
It was a truly shocking moment and a telling one that confirmed that the just-do-something 'activism' of the 80s (Buy a ticket! Buy a CD! You've changed the world!) was as shallow as it's supposed beliefs and actions. I don't care if Joe Montgomery, that you never heard of, showed up on stage and his voice cracked on every note, an Amnesty International audience shouldn't be booing. But it wasn't an Amnesty audience. It wasn't a rock audience either. It was a 'hipster' audience, people who wanted to see Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen and whomever else they considered the flavor of the month. Joni's the only one I remember get things thrown at her but I do remember several other acts being loudly jeered and heckled. I also remember middle-aged men (miles and aisles of them) wearing that annoying 80s 'cologne' of pheromones -- which always smelled like dried cum to me. And they were all decked out in their shades and pushed up jacket sleeves, an army of Don Johnsons, while the women were heavily tarted up, trying to paint over the years, with the whole thing reeking of the cocaine fad that had long since passed.
Whenever I read an interview with Joni and she's complaining about the stadium audiences, I always fall back to that concert. "Can you hear that?" Joni asks beginning "Carey" which she quickly merges into the Dylan classic of 'play a song for me' with Taylor joining her for the latter.
I love Kat's review and believe she has perfectly captured that Amnesty concert and that 'pocket book' 'activism.' If you haven't read the review, please make a point to and please make a point to check out the new CD from Greenpeace because Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs truly are amazing on it.
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Rolling In It" went up
I do remember hearing both Barack Obama and Michelle Obama on the campaign trail talk about the need for all to sacrifice. That obviously does not include them. Apparently, they will continue to spend tax payer dollars as if we had a Bull Market when, in fact, we're in a serious recession.
"An Analysis of Health Insurance Premiums Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (Congressional Budget Office):
The legislation would impose an excise tax on employment-based policies whose total premium (including the amounts paid by both the employer and the employee) exceeded a specified threshold. The tax on such policies would be 40 percent of the amount by which the premium exceeded the threshold. In general, that threshold would be set at $8,500 for single policies and $23,000 for family policies in 2013 (the first year in which the tax would be levied), although a number of temporary and permanent exceptions would apply. After 2013, those dollar amounts would be indexed to overall inflation plus 1 percentage point. CBO and JCT estimate that, under current law, about 19 percent of employment-based policies would have premiums that exceeded the threshold in 2016. (Because health insurance premiums under current law are projected to increase more rapidly than the threshold, the percentage of policies with premiums under current law that would exceed the threshold would increase over time.) For policies whose premiums remained above the threshold, the tax would probably be passed through as a roughly corresponding increase in premiums. However, most employers would probably respond to the tax by offering policies with premiums at or below the threshold; CBO and JCT expect that the majority of the affected workers would enroll in one of those plans with lower premiums. Plans could achieve lower premiums through some combination of greater cost sharing (which would lower premiums directly and also lower them indirectly by leading to less use of medical services), more stringent benefit management, or coverage of fewer services. Thus, people who remained in high-premium plans would pay higher premiums under the excise tax than under current law, and people who shifted to lower-premium plans would pay lower premiums under the excise tax than under current law—with other factors held constant. On net, CBO and JCT estimate that the excise tax and the resulting behavioral changes, incorporating the changes in premiums for employer-sponsored insurance that were discussed earlier in this analysis, would reduce average premiums among the 19 percent of policies affected by the tax by about 9 percent to 12 percent in 2016.
I oppose Barack's big giveaway to the insuance companies and the drug companies, I oppose mandatory insurance. If the government wants to expand Medicare and make it universal, I'm all for that. But I do not and will never support the notion that we will force anyone to purchase insurance. It's really amazing but telling about how little care or compassion there is for the poor and the working poor among our left gasbags. It is the working poor who will be the most hurt as they scramble to come up with the monies to pay for the costs of insurance the government forces them to buy or face fines.
It would be great if the CBO or someone would study that and determine where the working class, already stretched to the limit, will come up with the money to begin purchasing mandated insurance premiums.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, November 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, over the weekend a 2002 memo to Tony Blair is leaked -- a memo explaining that the Iraq War would be illegal,a War Criminal (Steven D. Green) plots another way to escape punishment for his War Crimes, November's US military death toll in Iraq is a five month high, and more.
Starting with employment opportunities: "Desperately seeking dirty whores willing to lie and look the other way while Iraqis are slaughtered. If you have no ethics and no real training, we'll send you to Iraq where you can be a reporter! Call 1-800-Reuters." The news agency continues to falter in Iraq without Tim Cocks to lead their coverage. Which is how you get them reporting no deaths -- NONE -- since Thursday. Today Michael Christie and Mark Trevelyan fetch coffee and take stenography for the Iraqi government as they announce the Interior Ministry's official death toll numbers of 88 dead in Iraq. They try to dress up with civilians, but what's a civilian? If a police officer and his or her family is slaughtered at their homes -- which did happen this month -- are they civilians? It's not even an issue of killed in the line of fire and it's such a stupid division to begin with. Are resistance fighters civilians? Again, it's a stupid division but then it's stupid for anyone to run with a count from the Interior Ministry which can't even release a total of the number of Iraqis imprisoned (including imprisioned in the Interior Ministry's secret prisons).
Excluding foreign forces and foreign contractors, how many people died in Iraq during the month of November thus far? November 1st through 7th saw at least 51 reported dead and 97 reported injured ("Sunday saw 25 Iraqis reported deaths and 97 injured. Monday saw 4 reported dead and 3 reported wounded. Tuesday saw 3 reported dead and 10 reported injured. Wednesday saw 7 reported dead and 25 reported wounded. Thursday saw 5 person reported dead and 15 reported injured. Friday saw 4 people reported dead and six people reported injured. Saturday saw 3 reported dead and 3 reported injured."). November 8th through 14th saw at least 29 reported dead and at least 44 reported wounded ("Sunday were reported 8 dead and 6 were reported wounded, Monday it was 2 dead and 15 wounded, Tuesday it was 4 dead and 2 wounded, Wednesday found 3 dead and 5 wounded, Thursday it was 6 dead and 10 wounded, Friday there were reported 3 dead and on Saturday the number killed was 3 and the number injured was 6. [Saturday's number may be 4 -- we are going with 3, use links and you'll see why.]"). November 15th through 22nd saw at least 44 reported dead and at least 93 reported injured ("Last Sunday 1 person was reported dead in Iraq and 8 were reported injured, Monday's numbers were 28 dead and 36 wounded, Tuesday's were 4 dead and 14 wounded, Wednesday's numbers were 2 dead and 5 wounded, Thursday's numbers were 4 dead and 6 wounded, Friday's numbers were 2 dead and 10 wounded and Saturday's numbers were 3 dead and 14 wounded."). November 23 through November 28th saw 34 reported dead and 120 reported wounded ("Sunday 11 Iraqis were reported dead and 22 wounded, Monday the numbers were 2 dead and 18 wounded, Tuesday the death total was 3 and the number wounded was 16, Wednesday the death toll was 13 and the injured numbered 38, Thursday were 5 dead and 43 wounded"). Yesterday the press reported 3 dead and 5 injured. That's a total of at least 161 reported dead and at least 359 reported injured. There's very little follow up reporting out of Iraq so those in the injured column who didn't recover, who died? There's no way of knowing.
The laughable ICCC count is 105 (civilians and non-civilians) killed in Iraq in November (thus far). Is it a count or is it a dabble? According to their 'count,' no one died in Iraq on November 19th, n one died in Iraq November 9th, 10th or 11th. So if you want to be crazy, idiotic or just a liar, feel free to cite the laughable count of ICCC. We don't cite Iraqi Body Count because it is an undercount and it has always given an undercount. Undercounts help sell the illegal war. We note ICCC's death toll for US service members since the start of the Iraq War -- the only thing they do worth citing. That number is 4367. Sunday the US military announced: "BASRA -- A Multi-National Division -- South Soldier died Nov. 29 of non-combat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The month is not yet over and the military often announces monthly deaths a few days into the next month but currently the monthly death toll is 11 making the month of November the deadliest month for US service members in Iraq since June.
Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) offers a lenthy state-of-Iraq piece today which includes this:
After Iraqi army troops and [Kurdish] peshmerga forces nearly came to blows last spring, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of American forces in Iraq, proposed joint patrols by the two armies, under U.S. supervision. The patrols have yet to begin.
Sheikh Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa, the minister of the peshmerga, told McClatchy that the Kurdish regional government has accepted Odierno's plan, but with reservations. However, he ruled out pulling back from the tense front-line region around Mosul.
"We will not withdraw one step, under any pressure, or any threat, or any request," Sheikh Jaafar said in an interview in Irbil, the Kurdish regional government's capital. "Solve the problems, we will withdraw the troops."
There are many sections from Strobel's report worthy of noting; however, we're noting that section because some outlets have falsely reported that those joint-patrols have already started.
Staying in the real world, if you were a kiddie rapist and the murderer of four people and were damn lucky enough to have been sentenced only to life in prison, you might want to consider that a 'win.' But Steven D. Green was never known for smarts and his cheap lawyers were never known for their ethics. Steven D. Green was convicted last May 7th of the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. The War Crimes took place in Iraq where Green was serving with the US military. Green was the ringleader and part of the plan was to blame the War Crimes on 'insurgents.' By the time the War Crimes were discovered, Green had already been discharged. The War Criminal was sentenced to life in prison only after the civilian jury appeared split on whether or not to sentence him to the death penalty. No reporter has covered this story as much as AP's Brett Barrouquere. Today Barrouquere reports that Green's attorneys filed an appeal today claiming that the 2000 Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act was not appropriate or legal and should be overturned (a claim the defense made in federal court already and a claim that was rejected). His attorneys are claiming that Green would have received more leniancy in military courts and want the conviction tossed out and for Green to be re-tried before a military court -- in other words, his attorneys are attempting to garner the death penalty for Green.
Green and his attorneys seem unaware of the reasons why some of the others involved received lighter sentences than Green did (Green is sentenced to life without parole). The reasons include that all four family members killed were shot dead by Steven D. Green. The reasons include that Green was the ringleader who plotted the entire attack. The reasons include that Green showed no remorse while others begged for the mercy of the court, going so far as to cry in court. Green showed no remorse. It should also be noted that Green and his two-bit attorneys did a lousy job in court. After Green was found guilty, the attorneys attempted to spin it and say that was their strategy. Hey, put that on a business card: "Defense attorneys who will work overtime so that you're found guilty." They claimed that they intended that and were saving their fight for the sentencing. That's an outright lie. They tried many tactics before the first day of the trial and the judge repeatedly shot them down. Pouting and not all that smart to begin with, they went through the motions in court and never regained their balance. So when you put your client in the courtroom and you never challenge the accusastions against him, when you never dispute them, when you never argue he's not guilty, don't be surprised when he gets convicted. Don't be surprised at all.
Green showed no remorse and that's public information now. It's unlikely that a judge will toss out the civilian court's conviction but it could happen. If it does, Green's not likely to face a jury nervous about sentencing him to death. Green is a War Criminal. A military jury (or just a judge if he skips a military jury) will see him as a disgrace to the uniform and someone who brought shame to the US military. They will know that he offered no remorse. Oops.
Let's stop a moment. In May, after being convicted and with the sentence hearing concluding and Abeer's family in the courtroom, Green read a statement (this is the prepared statement e-mailed to the public account of TCI, it varied a bit as Green stumbled through his public reading):
What I am about to say is completely my own. No one told me what to say. No one wrote this for me. Not my lawyers, not the government, not anybody.My feelings of remorse are directed solely towards the victims, and towards the family of the victims, who I do not deny are victims themselves.I am truly sorry for what I did in Iraq and I am sorry for the pain my actions, and the actions of my co-defendants, have caused you and your family. I imagine it is a pain that I cannot fully comprehend or appreciate. I helped to destroy a family and end the lives of four of my fellow human beings, and I wish that I could take it back, but I cannot. And, as inadequate as this apology is, it is all I can give you.I know you wish I was dead, and I do not hold that against you. If I was in your place, I am convinced beyond any doubt that I would feel the same way. And, if I thought it would change anything, or if it would bring these people back to life, I would do everything I could to make them execute me. I also know that you think I am evil, and I understand that as well, and even though I do not think that you want to hear this, I have to tell you that despite the evil that I have done, I am not an evil person. Before I was in the Army, I never thought I would kill anyone, and even after I was in the Army, but before I went to Iraq, I never thought I would intentionally kill a civilian. When I was in Iraq, something happened to me that I can only explain by saying that I lost my mind. At some point while I was in Iraq, I stopped seeing Iraqis as good and bad, as men, women, and children. I started seeing them all as one, and evil, and less than human. When that happened, any natural, learned, or religious morality, that normally would have stopped this, was gone. But I see now that I was wrong, and that Iraqis are human beings, and that despite differences of race, religion, culture, and language, they are still human. And that at their core, they have the same feelings, emotions, and needs as Americans. It was wrong to kill Iraqis, just like it was wrong to kill Americans, just like it is wrong to kill anyone, and I am very sorry. Most of all I am sorry for the deceased, but aside from them, I am the most sorry for the boys whose family are gone. I know what we did left a hole in their lives, and scars on their minds, and that there is no making up for that. I only hope for them that they can somehow, and I don't know how, move forward, and have a good future despite the nightmare in their past that I helped create. They have my apologies and my prayers, as meaningless as they must seem. The Government is not going to execute me, as I am sure you wish they would, but there is really no chance that I will step foot outside of prison for as long as I live. I know that if I live one more year or fifty more years that they will be years that Fahkriya, Kassem, Abeer, and Hadeel won't have not matter where I am. And even though I did not learn their names until long after their deaths, they are never far from my mind. But in the end, whether in one year or fifty, I will die, and when I die I will be in God's hands. In the Kingdom of God where there will be justice, and whatever I deserve, I will get. On the day of judgment, God will repay everyone according to his works, and affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil. I know that I have done evil, and I fear that the wrath of the Lord will come upon me on that day. But, I hope that you and your family at least can find some comfort in God's justice. I see now that war is intrinsically evil, because killing is intrinsically evil. And, I am sorry I ever had anything to do with either. And, I cannot say this enough times, whether or not you can ever forgive me, and I don't see how you could, I am and will always be sorry for what I did.
Oh, what a sweet little War Criminal. Abeer's family didn't buy his little act. Renee Murphy reported on the events in the court room for WHAS11:
Renee Murphy: I mean, they came face to face with the killer. Once again, the only thing different about this time was that they were able to speak with him and they had an exchange of dialogue and the family is here from Iraq and they got to ask Steven Green all the questions they wanted answered. They looked each other in the eye. Green appeared calm and casual in court. The victims' family, though, outraged, emotional and distraught. Now cameras were not allowed in the courtroom so we can't show video of today's hearing but here's an account of what happened. [Video begins] This is a cousin of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl raped and killed by Steven Green. He and other family members in this SUV were able to confront Green in federal court this morning. Their words were stinging and came from sheer grief. Former Fort Campbell soldier Steven Green was convicted of killing an Iraqi mother, father and their young daughter. He then raped their 14-year-old daughter, shot her in the head and set her body on fire. Today the victim's family was able to give an impact statement at the federal court house the young sons of the victims asked Green why he killed their father. an aunt told the court that "wounds are still eating at our heart" and probably the most compelling statements were from the girls' grandmother who sobbed from the stand and demanded an explanation from Green. Green apologized to the family saying that he did evil things but he is not an evil person. He says that he was drunk the night of the crimes in 2006 and he was following the orders of his commanding officers. In his statement, Green said if it would bring these people back to life I would do everything I could to make them execute me. His statement goes on to say, "Before I went to Iraq, I never thought I would intentionally kill a civilian. When I was in Iraq, something happened to me that I can only explain by saying I lost my mind. I stopped seeing Iraqis as good and bad, as men, women and children. I started seeing them all as one, and evil, and less than human." Green didn't act alone. His codefendants were court-martialed and received lesser sentences. Green will be formally sentenced to life in prison in September. [End of videotape.] The answers that Green gave were not good enough for some of the family members. at one point today, the grandmother of the young girls who were killed left the podium and started walking towards Green as he sat at the defendant's table shouting "Why!" She was forcibly then escorted to the back of the court room by US Marshalls. She then fell to the ground and buried her face in her hands and began to cry again. The family pleaded with the court for the death sentence for Green. but you can see Green's entire statement to the court on our website whas11.com and coming up tonight at six o'clock, we're going to hear from Green's attorneys.
His performance wasn't at all convincing and he dropped it when he popped back into court in September. From the September 4th snapshot:
May 7th Steven D. Green (pictured above) was convicted for his crimes in March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents and the murder of her five-year-old sister while Green was serving in Iraq. Green was found to have killed all four, to have participated in the gang-rape of Abeer and to have been the ringleader of the conspiracy to commit the crimes and the conspiracy to cover them up. May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. Today, Green stood before US District Judge Thomas B. Russell for sentencing. Kim Landers (Australia's ABC) quotes Judge Russell telling Green his actions were "horrifying and inexcusable." Not noted in any of the links in this snapshot (it comes from a friend present in the court), Steven Dale Green has dropped his efforts to appear waif-ish in a coltish Julia Roberts circa the 1990s manner. Green showed up a good twenty pounds heavier than he appeared when on trial, back when the defense emphasized his 'lanky' image by dressing him in oversized clothes. Having been found guilty last spring, there was apparently no concern that he appear frail anymore.
Italy's AGI reports, "Green was recognised as the leader of a group of five soldiers who committed the massacre on September 12 2006 at the Mahmudiyah check point in the south of Baghdad. The story inspired the 2007 masterpiece by Brian De Palma 'Redacted'." BBC adds, "Judge Thomas Russell confirmed Green would serve five consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole." Deborah Yetter (Courier-Journal) explains, "Friday's federal court hearing was devoted mostly to discussion of technical issues related to Green's sentencing report, although it did not change Green's sentence. He was convicted in May of raping and murdering Abeer al-Janabi, 14, and murdering her parents, Kassem and Fakhriya, and her sister, Hadeel, 6, at their home outside Baghdad."
Green was tried in civilian court because he had already been discharged before the War Crimes were discovered. Following the gang-rape and murders, US soldiers attempted to set fire to Abeer's body to destroy the evidence and attempted to blame the crimes on "insurgents." In real time, when the bodies were discovered, the New York Times was among the outlets that ran with "insurgents." Green didn't decide he wanted to be in the military on his own. It was only after his most recent arrest -- after a long string of juvenile arrests -- while sitting in jail and fearing what sentence he would face, that Green decided the US Army was just the place he wanted to be. Had he been imprisoned instead or had the US military followed rules and guidelines, Green wouldn't have gotten in on a waiver. Somehow his history was supposed to translate into "He's the victim!!!!" As if he (and the others) didn't know rape was a crime, as if he (and the others) didn't know that murder was considered wrong. Green attempted to climb up on the cross again today. AP's Brett Barrouguere quotes the 'victim' Green insisting at today's hearing, "You can act like I'm a sociopath. You can act like I'm a sex offender or whatever. If I had not joined the Army, if I had not gone to Iraq, I would not have got caught up in anything." Climb down the cross, drama queen. Your entire life was about leading up to a moment like that. You are a sociopath. You stalked a 14-year-old Iraqi girl while you were stationed at a checkpoint in her neighborhood. You made her uncomfortable and nervous, you stroked her face. She ran to her parents who made arrangements for her to go live with others just to get her away from you, the man the army put there to protect her and the rest of the neighborhood. You are one sick f**k and you deserve what you got. Green play drama queen and insist "you can act like I'm a sex offender" -- he took part in and organized a gang-rape of a 14-year-old girl. That's a sex offender. In fact, "sex offender" is a mild term for what Green is.
His September statements, where he pushed off guilt, rendered his carefully worded May statement a lie. That's public record. Even if the verdict is overturned and he's taken to military court, all that happened is public record and out there. And Green better understand that sympathy for those who cried, showed remorse and established that they were led around by a ringleader (Green) will not be there for him. He got very lucky that a civilian court didn't sentence him to death. A military court will not give him as much benefit of the doubt. They will not buy into his the cheap theatrics of his cheap attorneys. They will not fret that Green was 'forced' into these War Crimes by the military because they will grasp that Green's War Crimes are not common, are not universal and they will most likely decide that a strong, strong example needs to be made of Green. He seems to think that after he's murdered four people and raped a young girl that he deserves to roam the streets in two to five years. He's never accepted the horrifica nature of his crimes, he's never accepted the lives he destroyed and he's never taken accountability for the shame he brought to the US military. Most kiddie rapists who murdered their victim and her family would see life in prison as getting off easy but Green's never taken accountability for his crimes. Now Abeer's family may have to face yet another trial. But that doesn't concern Steve-o, he just knows he's itching to get out of prison. After all, there are lots of young girls in the United States. Who knows who he might be able to rape next? Repeating: No remorse, no guilt. He's never shown either.
Turning to London where the Iraq Inquiry chaired by John Chilcot continued today hearing evidence from David Manning. Over the weekend, Chris Ames (Guardian) demolished the claims by Jeremy Greenstock to the comittee on Friday that the Iraq was legal. Ames explained Greenstock had submitted a written statement to the committee which explained that if England stated that a resoultion for the Iraq War from the United Nations was necessary, that "would have been to reject the basis under which military action was taken in December 1998." As Ames pointed out, "It was a very careful, self-justifying performance from a former ambassador with an admitted propensity to cover his and his country's diplomatic tracks."
By Sunday, the big news was a 2002 memo leaked to the press over the weekend informing Tony Blair that the Iraq War, as Blair planned to carry it out, would be illegal. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explains, "Invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein would be a serious breach of international law and the UN charter.Lord Goldsmith, then attorney general, issued the warning in an uncompromising letter in July 2002, eight months before the invasion. It was becoming clear in government circles that Blair had had secret meetings with George Bush at which the US president was pressing Britain hard to join him in a war to change the regime in Baghdad." John Bingham and Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London) add, "The existence of the letter, disclosed in a Sunday newspaper, emerged after a week in which the inquiry heard that Tony Blair and George Bush, the former US President, 'signed in blood' a deal to invade Iraq as early as April 2002. [. . .] Tony Blair is due to appear before the inquiry next year when the Goldsmith letter is expected to form a centrepiece of the questioning." Jim Pickard (Financial Times of London) recaps on the July 2002 memo: "Lord Goldsmith, former attorney-general, wrote to the then prime minister on July 29, six days after Mr Blair first told his cabinet about plans for regime change in Iraq." As Bob Roberts (Daily Mirror) notes, "Lord Goldsmith's letter contradicts Mr Blair's repeated statements before, during and after the war on its legality." George Pitcher (Telegraph of London) offers his take on the developments and the impact they may have on the Inquiry: "Lord Goldsmith's letter doesn't just expose the invalidity of the endorsement of the war that Number 10 practically beat out of him. It makes a mockery of the Blairs' long and consistent claims to righteousness. There was Cherie, in her role as Lady Macbeth, oh-so-tastefully exploiting the suicide of weapons inspector Dr David Kelly to promote her sickly book, when she revealed that she whispered in her man's ear at a photo opportunity in Beijing just after he had heard the news of Dr Kelly: 'You're a good man. And God knows your motives were pure.' Then there was Blair himself at his 2007 resignation, just before he went commercial: 'Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right'."
Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger continues to live blog the hearings and noted of today's witness, David Manning, "The secret memo he wrote up after it -- and later revealed by Channel 4 News -- showed the US was already preparing for an invasion despite the ongoing diplomatic wranglings at the UN. It also showed George Bush was even considering painting an American reconnaisance plane in UN colours, flying it over Iraq and goading Saddam Hussain to fire." Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) also continued live blogging and he explains Mannin's memos:
The first was written in March 2002 and the full text is available on the Downing Street memo website. Manning wrote it after a dinner with Condoleezza Rice, George Bush's national security adviser at the time, and it shows that Blair was declaring his support for regime even before he met Bush at Crawford in April. This is the key quote:
I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. And you would not budge either in your insistence that, if we pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result.
Manning also wrote a memo, described as the "Manning memo" on Wikipedia, describing the outcome of a meeting that took place between Blair and Bush in the White House on 31 January 2003. The memo shows that Bush was, by then, determined to invade regardless of what happened at the UN and that the two leaders discussed the idea of getting Iraq to shoot down an American spy plane painted in UN colours to create a pretext for war. Philippe Sands, the British law professor who revealed the existence of the memo, said it raised "some fundamental questions of legality, both in terms of domestic law and international law".
Of today's hearing, Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) notes, "Tony Blair made it clear to George Bush at a meeting in Texas 11 months before the Iraq invasion that he would be prepared to join the US in toppling Saddam Hussein, the inquiry into the war was told today." That's the April 2002, Crawford Ranch meet up between Bully Boy Bush and Tony Blair. From Manning's testimony (PDF format warning, click here) today:
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.
Committee member Usha Prashar asked, "Against that background, when did you conclude that there was a significant likelihood of large-scale military action by the USA?"
Manning replied, "Not until much later." As David Brown (Times of London) explains, Manning said there were two "packages" the UK was offering. The first would use UK forces "already in the region" and the second would require deploying additional British troops. Apparently, there were no takers or possibly the packages were a limited time offer because in September Blair proposed a third "package" wherein an entire military division would be sent in. Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) provides this context, "Last week Sir Christopher Meyer, former ambassador to Washington, suggested Mr Blair and Mr Bush might have 'signed in blood' an agreement to topple Saddam during that meeting at the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas but Sir David insisted there was 'no war plan' at that stage." Today Manning told the inquiry:
If I go back to what I reported to you as the outcome, as we learned about it on Saturday morning, of his discussions, it seemed to me quite clear that, on the one hand, the Prime Minister was very clearly urging the President to go back to the -- to adopt the UN route and a coalition strategy, but was absolutely prepared to say that, at the same time, he was willing to contemplate regime change if this didn't work. In a way, I look back at Crawford -- and I think this may have come up in an earlier question -- as a moment when he was saying, 'Yes, there is a route through this that is a peaceful and international one, and it is through the UN, but, if it doesn't work, we will be ready to undertake regime change'. This, I think, is the balance he wanted to strike between warning Saddam Hussein that he could disarm peacefully, but, if he didn't, he would be disarmed. I do think that came out of Crawford, yes.
. . . I said to him that I didn't know where American thinking had reached at this point, but if there was going to be some kind of choice for regime
Jonathan Steele (Guardian) observes of today's hearing:
It is easy to second-guess the Iraq inquiry and, as one watches it unfold live on the internet, to think of all the questions its distinguished members fail to ask. It is also easy to be upset by their manifest unwillingness to use a more forensic style. But today's session of the Chilcot inquiry with Sir David Manning, Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser in the run-up to the war, was truly disappointing.
Manning was more involved than any other British participant, apart from the prime minister. Not only did he spend time with George Bush. He was also at Blair's side at almost every key meeting in the US and London, while also being in charge of the Cabinet Office's overseas and defence secretariat, which was supposed to commission any prewar analysis British officials did.
Yet he was given the safest and most deferential of rides. Two issues cried out for deeper scrutiny. One was the so-called UN route to tightening the pressure on Saddam Hussein and the consequences of the UN route's failure. Manning laid out the case -- which Blair will no doubt repeat when he faces the inquiry next year -- that throughout 2002 and early 2003, the PM pressed hard for Bush to take the international coalition approach through the United Nations, while also emphasising that if it failed, the UK would be at Bush's side in going for war.
Blair and his policies were the topic of today's hearings. These are the same policies Gordon Brown supported in real time and has continued as Prime Minister. Toby Helm and Rajeev Syal (Guardian) report, "Gordon Brown is facing demands to change the rules of the Iraq inquiry this weekend amid fears that the most explosive documents explaining why Britain went to war will not be made public." James Denselow (Guardian) puts the whole wars of this decade into perspective, "Both the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts highlighted how our foreign policy is driven by decision makers who hide their real intentions behind a bulletproof cloak of ethics and values. The reality was that both wars were interest-driven and largely about maintaining relations with the Americans in a post-9/11 world. The chimera of weapons of mass destruction was designed to 'play the UN system' to secure legitimacy. When this failed, the back-up plan was always the 'Saddam is evil' argument that justified our presence as designed to help the Iraqi people."
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