Be sure to read Ruth's "Lila Garrett: Fool or tool?" if you haven't already. We both covered the Lila Garrett show last night.
"Note to Police: Cell Phones Really Are Hands-Free" (Mike Brickner, ACLU Blog of Rights):
Today, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking decision in the case State of Ohio v. Antwuan Smith (PDF) requiring law enforcement have a warrant in order to search the contents of someone’s cell phone. This marks the first time a state supreme court has ruled on this issue.
Perhaps what is most encouraging about the ruling is the Ohio Supreme Court’s recognition that cell phones are much different than previous items that courts have allowed law enforcement to search without a warrant. Indeed, today’s modern cell phone is not simply used to make and receive phone calls. For many of us, it may be where we access the internet, manage our finances, maintain personal contact information, or where we store private photos. As a result, people have a much higher expectation that this information will remain private. If police were able to have unfettered access to cell phones without a search warrant, unimaginable amounts of personal data would be subject to government scrutiny.
The Court did outline two narrow exceptions where police could conduct warrantless searches: if it was necessary to protect the safety of officers, and if they believed the individual may delete evidence. However, in the second circumstance, the Court said the officers may only seize a cell phone to prevent the destruction of evidence. They did not give officers permission to search the phone prior to receiving a search warrant.
To me, that's a very important article. But I can remember searches when I was in college and the lack of privacy, lack of respects and lack of rights. I think it's past time that the courts ruled on this issue (cell phones) and agree with the author of the post that it is so much more than just a 'phone' for people today.
It would be great to see this verdict be the first in a series of privacy rights issues that the courts would settle. I don't see any concern on the part of Congress and, certainly, there's no push from the White House on this issue.
"As Awful As It Is To Say This" (Susan, Random Notes):
As we have seen, more and more of the Obama supporters are becoming increasingly jaded by what they are seeing. Instead of moving this country forward, Obama is keeping this country stuck in a rut. More than a few of his policies, especially in the area of education, are hard right and NOT truly Democratic Party policies.
I have no problem with the Obama voters per se. Per se? If you got your information from the media, they are the problem not you. But I do have a huge problem with the gas bags who lied to pimp Barack. He was a piece of garbage. I've been telling you that for how many years now? I've shared the story of C.I. and I meeting him at the big money shin-dig. How we were so excited and we were going to write huge checks. Then we're there and waiting to speak to the anti-war candidate. He comes over and says we're in Iraq now so we can't leave. My mouth drops. C.I.'s never at a loss for words and quickly grills him. Barack supports the illegal war. He's running for the Senate and he supports the illegal war.
C.I. and I immediately leave and write no checks, not even a token gesture.
We knew he was trash when people were slobbering over him at the DNC convention in 2004.
The gas bags lied and I do not forgive them.
(Susan isn't a gas bag. She supported John Edwards originally and was for Hillary when it came down between Barry and Hillary. She was not a Kool-Aid drinker, just to be clear.)
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, March 15, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry gets censored, Jeremy Greenstock testifies to being a victim of some form of date-diplomacy while stationed in Iraq, Tony Blair's remarks (and Barack's prize) continue to garner criticism, Camp Ashraf residents state they're not leaving, and more.
In London today the Iraq Inquiry continued it's 'public' hearing. Channel 4 News was the first to report the day's big development: "For the first time since it began sitting, the Childcot inquiry blacked out televised courage of evidence being given for intelligence security reasons. The dramatic intervention to project confidentiality came as Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the former British Ambassador to Washington, was speaking. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) observes, "Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the Iraq inquiry, cut the live video of today's hearings, raising fears that he is suppressing evidence on grounds of embarrassment rather than any damage to national security." Politics.co.UK states the blackout lasted "for over a minute". Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger was in the press room:
But the national security blackout -- triggered when the inquiry heard something that would endanger national security if reported (we were told) -- was undeniably an attention-grabber.
We've had a few blank screens before but only due to technical glitches. This was clearly of an altogether different order.
One inquiry official tried to seal us into the press room, which even the slower among us (ok, me) thought could possibly mean something was afoot.
Another told us that she couldn't tell us anything, but that she'd tell us later if she could, but asking us not to report that. An eminence grise purred in from the Cabinet Office to assess the damage.
What was said in the censored moments? Richard Norton-Taylor recounts, "A member of the audience in the inquiry chamber said that after the feed was cut Greenstock went on to say that Colin Powell, who was then secretary of state, used British intelligence reports about the situation in Iraq because they were more accurate than the more optimistic dispatches that Bremer was sending to Washington. People aware of the piece of intelligence now deleted from the record dismissed it as insignificant. They made it clear that in their view the information was not at all sensitive from the point of view of national security." The witness, Greenstock, previously testified November 27th and Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) emphasized from that testimony Greenstock's statement of, "I regard our invasion of Iraq as legal but of questionably legitimacy, in that it didn't have the democratically observable backing of the great majority of members states or even, perhaps, of a majority of people inside the UK." Greenstock was the morning witness and Lt Gen William Rollo and Lt Gen John Cooper were the afternoon witnesses (link goes to video and transcript options, unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from transcripts). We're going to the transcript for the censored moment (censored in the transcript as well). We're starting with Greenstock on line 25 of page 67 and he's referring to Paul Bremmer who was not "Ambassador" despite Greenstock's use of the term. He was the US Presidential Envoy when he arrived and became the Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and then became the US Administrator of Iraq -- all from his May 2003 arrival to June of 2003. He was also seen as the Governor of Iraq.
Jeremy Greenstock: Can I bring another point in here? Coming back to best case scenarios, Chairman, it was very clear to me, even before I got to Baghdad, that the United States had been working on and continued to work on the best case scenario: that they could administer Iraq and turn it back to Iraqis who could administer Iraq, with the lowest possible input of resources and troops and in the most direct way possible. And they didn't insure against things other than the best case scenario, with a higher number of troops or with alternative political plans. Ambassador Bremer was responding to the Pentagon in trying to run a best case scenario approach and that's why he didn't want alternative plans. But when I talked to other members of the American team, when I talked informally to the military, to the intelligence agencies, to other people who were operating, I found a very much more gloomy prognosis of what was going on than I felt or understood Ambassador Bremer was reporting back to the Pentagon. I reported these things back to London. [Redacted by the Inquiry.] My telegrams would describe what was going on, and I later discovered that [US] Secretary [of State Colin] Powell was reading the UK telegrams from Baghdad because he wasn't getting enough information from the Pentagon about what was really going on in Baghdad, as opposed to what Ambassador Bremer was reporting. So it was becoming quite a complex picture.
Chair John Chilcott: Can we stop the broadcast for a moment. We need to stay off sensitive areas. Can we just resume then without touching on those things? Thank you. We can deal with those in private.
Committee Member Usha Prashar: Just --
Chair John Chilcott: Resuming the broadcast.
Committee Member Usha Prashar: To move on, the intelligence report which was published in February this year, talks about [. . .]
Remember "talks about" above. In the transcript, the redacted testimony is on page 68, lines 20 through 23 -- indicating one long sentence or two or more short ones. Best guess would be one long one since Greenstock speaks in long sentences. In the video, the censored moment takes place starting at 118:04 (one hundred-and-eighteen minutess and four seconds) in the stream and continues through 119:17 at which point Prasher is shown saying "talks about" (it starts on those words). During the censored section, the screen shows "THE IRAQ INQUIRY Public hearing temporarily suspended" -- the same display they use when the Inquiry takes a break.
BBC News reports of today's testimony, "Sir Jeremy Greenstock told the Chilcot inquiry the UK wanted post-war Iraq to have a 'clear UN label' to ensure it was not regarded as an occupying power. The ex-UN ambassador said the US wanted a 'definite limit' on the UN's role." Paul Bromley (Sky News) observed, "I think we've just witnessed another moment which will go down in history. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the United Nations at the time of the Iraq war, has just come up with a phrase which will become part of the language. He's told the Iraq war inquiry that the invasion was a 'catastrophic succes'.
Munir Akram was Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations and, in 2003, was also the President of the Security Council of the UN. (His UN career ended in 2008.) Prior to testifying, Greenstock submitted a letter he and John D. Negroponte co-wrote to Akram. Negroponte was the US Ambassador to the UN when the letter was written (in 2004, he would become the US Ambassador to Iraq -- the first post-2003 invasion, US Ambassador to Iraq). The [PDF format warning] May 8, 2003 letter is a piece of fiction. What Negroponte knew or didn't know is debatable but the British witnesses have already testified that by March 10, 2003, reports were noting Saddam Hussein did not have WMD -- British intelligence reports. Therefore, by May 8th of that year, the British Greenstock should have known there were no WMD. Yet the letter opens with the lie: "The United States, United Kingdom, and Coalition Partners continue to act together to ensure the complete disarmament of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions." The entire letter's a piece of fiction and Greenstock should have been asked to explain it by the committee.
But no hard questions were asked of him and, if they had been, he would have pleaded he was a victim. Greenstock is, in his mind, never responsible for anything. He's a victim always. Those big bad Americans pushed little Jeremy around. (If true, why didn't Tony Blair stand up for his officials? As Bush's buddy, then-prime minister Blair should have had some US clout.) He told the Inquiry Bremer didn't want him to be his deputy and he didn't want to be the deputy either because he wanted to maintain his "independence" but no "independence" was apparent in his testimony.
"My first responsibility," he declared to the committee today, "and I said this to Ambassador Bremer when I first telephoned him on his own appointment, as sson as I knew that I would be coming -- was loyalty to him and support for him in getting our joint job done in Iraq." Wow.
A British citizen -- excuse me, a British subject (they have a monarchy) testified to an inquiry held in London that when the British government posted him to Iraq, his FIRST responsibility was not to the Crown but to a man from a foreign country? That's pretty sad and pretty strange and, in some countries, qualifies as treason. You might think the committee would pursue that but, no, they didn't. We'll note this exchange.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: But if you were talking about being able to exercise some sort of veto and not being the deputy to Bremer -- in some way that almost puts you in the position of being Ambassador to Iraq -- I mean, or in some way Bremer having an accountability to the British Government through you, but that certainly never happened?
Jeremy Greenstock: No, that's what I tried to establish, that Bremer had a direct responsibility to London. But in practice, he did not report to London; he relied on me to do that and to tell London what was going on. If London disagreed with something that the United States was doing or wanted something to be done that was not happening, London would talk to Washington.
Of course he wouldn't. Bremer's salary was paid for by the US tax payers. Bremer's a US citizen. He was put in that US government position by the US government. He's not reporting to the British government. What kind of an idiot is Jeremy Greenstock? A pretty weak one.
Jeremy Greenstock: The second or third day I was in Baghdad, Secretary Colin Powell came on a short visit and he, Bremer and I sat in Bremer's office to talk about the political process and the seven steps, and I was asked for my views by Secretary Powell and I suggested, as I had done to Bremer in Washington in July, that it would be wise to think of options, political options: what if things don't happen as we predict, as often does happen in an unusual situation.
Committee Member Usha Prashar: In other words, not sticking to the steps agreed, but --
Jeremy Greenstock: Well, we were behind the seven steps plan, but what if the Iraqis don't go along with that bit or that bit of it, are we thinking about alternative routes? And on both occassions in July and on this occassion in September, I was given a very direct and preremptory message from Bremer that I was to stick to the seven steps plan. This was what had been decided, this was the mission, this would be accomplished and I was to support it. So I turned to some other subject with Colin Powell and decided to see how things played out. But these --
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So although you were not his deputy he was issuing instructions to you?
Jeremy Greenstock: Yes, and I was trying to suggest that there was a political discussion to be had. So in a situation like that, you take a step back, you consider what has happened and you decide how you exercise your influence on the next occassion or how you put in your thoughts about the political process and whatever I was concentrating on in the next round of conversation.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: But he was not receptive to your advice. You were there as a very senior person, outranking him actually in your own diplomatic career, and you were there to offer him advice. And when you offered him advice, he was telling you that you were to accep the order and that was it, not to raise points of this kind, even in a small conversation with himself and Colin Powell?
Jeremy Greenstock: That was the outward and immediate effect, yes, that he didn't want to hear suggestions about how to complete a satisfactory political process that were different from what the President had decided.
Apparently, England's biggest problem in post-invasion Iraq was that they posted too many delicate flowers to the region, delicate flowers like Jeremy Greenstock who wilted but, presumably, were good at picking up Bremer's dry cleaning and doing assorted other personal errands. Greenstock's so victimized, he's practically Binah in The English Roses. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) live blogged Greenstock's testimony. One excerpt:12.04pm: Prashar asks about Bremer's policy of de-Baathification. Greenstock says this decree was issued before he arrived. It was an "understandable decision". The Shias were strongly opposed to bringing Baath party members into the government. But the decree was issued before Bremer had identified alternative people to run the government of Iraq.Bremer put Ahmed Chalabi, who was "deeply anti-Baathist", in charge of implementing the decree. Greenstock says he thought it was taken too far. He wanted more Baathists to be allowed to keep their jobs.
Iraq Inquiry Blogger continues blogging including at the Twitter account. The British military testified in the afternoon. As has been the case throughout the hearing, the British military takes responsibility for their choices and decisions, unlike the British officials who apparently break out in a heavy sweat at even the idea of telling a foreigner "no." That's not me stating the military witnesses are honest or 90% honest. That's only an observation that they own their actions -- good or bad -- which is something the British officials consistently refuse to do. I'm not seeing a lot in their testimony that's different from what's previously been stated by military witnesses. We'll note a few moments that did stand out.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Can I just come back on this? Why on earth were things like energy and economic development military matters four years after the conflict, a year after the [Nouri-al] Maliki government had come into power? Shouldn't this have been put into the hands of civilians? I mean, are you qualified to lead economic development strategies?
Lt Gen William Rollo: Of course I'm not.
Lt Gen John Cooper offered his assessment of the Iraq War and the British involvement:
Again, let's be honest. I think history will say of the British overall effort in southern Iraq, "Could have been better," but actually we produced the effect that we set out to do. 179 people died there and none of them died in vain, and what we left behind was certainly better than that which we found. Things didn't go entirely as we would have wished them. There were setbacks. But in the end we left a position in Iraq that was Iraqi, inside a broadly democratic, stable country. So I wouldn't necessarily disagree with the way you characterised it there.
Shortly after that, this was stated.
Lt Gen Williasm Rollo: John has spoken about our own losses. I would remember that 5,000-plus American dead and up to 30,000 seriously wounded and say that that was an army which, while taking those sort of casualties and doing 15-month tours several times, achieved that. So I have got tremendous admiration for them.
Rollo mispoke and meant "4,000-plus American dead." I include that not because of his mistake but because he noted the US service members who died and were wounded. The dead and the wounded -- foreign and Iraqi -- are rarely ever mentioned in the Inquiry.
On Iraqi deaths, Saturday an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reported at Inside Iraq:Iraqi secular parliament member Mithal Al Alusi said that the Iraqi prime minister told the Iraqi parliament on Thursday, in a secret parliament session after Tuesday's deadly bombings, that the Americans tipped-off the Iraqi government about the looming threat of car bombs attacks around 6 a.m. on Tuesday.On Tuesday Dec 8, five car bombs killed 127 Iraqis and injured more than 450 others in Baghdad as it targeted government offices around 10 a.m. On Saturday, Iraqi ministry of interior said it informed Baghdad military operations, the Iraqi special command formed by the prime minister to lead security operations within Baghdad, of the imminent attack, yet the attacks succeeded in reaching its target.
Today in Mosul, Iraqi Christians were again targeted with violence. Al Jazeera notes one bombing was at the Syrian Catholic Church of the Annunciation and another exploded at "the Syrian Orthodox Church of Purity and a nearby Christian school". Iran's Press TV counts four dead in one of the church bombings and forty injured which they identify the church as Virign Mary Church which AFP says is the Syrian Orthodox Church of Purity. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Catholic Church (which is billed as "Mariamana Church") was targeted with two bombings -- the first apparently to draw a crowd of which the 4 were then killed and the forty injured. The other church, Issa states, only suffered "material damages to the church" with no one reported dead or wounded. Mohammed Abbas and Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports among Teba Saad Jassim was among the dead ("a seven-day-old baby girl") and quotes a Mosul priest who did not want to be named stating, "We are peaceful people, but we come under attack sometimes. We are the victim of instability in this province."
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Baghdad car bombings opposite government institutions (Iranian Embassy, Ministry of Immigration & Displaced and Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and where employees parked resulting in 4 deaths and fourteen people wounded, and an attempt by Iraqi security forces to detonate a bomb they discovered in Mosul resulted in one person being injured. Reuters drops back to yesterday to note a Kirkuk bombing which resulted in "an Iraqi army officer, his wife and another woman" being injured. Han Jingjing (Xinhua) reports a grenade attack on a police patrol also took place in Mosul today "damaging a police vehicle and killing three policemen aboard".
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Hussein Shamma ("senior municipality official in Sadr City") and his brother were wounded in a drive-by Baghdad shooting.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul (Abdulqadir al Aglat is his name).
Violence continues and the Iraq War continues under Barack Obama. It does not stop. Rumors to the contrary. Since 2007, we've noted the Iraqi air force, how it would not be ready for years and year, well after 2012 according to the US military and various Iraqi officials -- statements noting that have been made at joint US-Iraqi press briefings in Baghdad repeatedly since 2007. But some people want to insist that the SOFA (a contract) means the Iraq War ends in 2012 and all US troops leave. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) explores the air force and reports:
But despite a US-Iraqi agreement for all US forces to withdraw by the end of 2011, neither Iraqi nor US officials envision that Iraq will be ready to protect its skies by then -- a worrying prospect for a country with five neighbors, including Iran.
"They are increasingly coming to understand that on Jan. 1, 2012, they will need American help on their airspace," says John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security in Washington, who expects any security agreement past 2011 to allow a significant US Air Force presence in Iraq.
Contracts can be broken. New contracts can then be drawn up. Contracts can run their term. New contracts can then be drawn up. The press -- with few exceptions -- has repeatedly gotten the SOFA wrong and were I one of the many news outlets who has 'reported' that the US leaves in ___ (that would actually be a prediction and once upon a time, reporters knew the difference), I think I'd be doing everything I could in terms of reporting and editorializing to ensure that happens.
Yesterday's snapshot included this in the opening: "a War Hawk re-enters stage center, faux 'peace' 'activist' Tom Hayden finds a new way to disgrace himself (and who would have thought that was possible)," -- and there's no Tom Hayden mention elsewhere in the snapshot. Yesterday's snapshot also included: "That's all we have time for. Ruth and Elaine are grabbing a bad radio program tonight so be sure to check them out. I agree with the points they outlined over the phone and would gladly weigh in but there's just not the space in this snapshot." The snapshots are dictated and they're rearranged as they're being dictated. A lengthy section was removed to include the news of Camp Ashraf instead -- this included the Tom Hayden part. Elaine's "Tom Hayden continues his long lying streak" addresses the topic of peace fraud Tom-Tom. He was on Lila Garrett's KPFK show yesterday and Ruth addresses the show in "Lila Garrett: Fool or tool?" where she notes Lila's firey monologues are not 'enhanced' by weak guests who exist to cheerlead for the Democratic Party, not to end wars.
Picking up on Camp Ashraf. Today was the day they were supposed to have been forcibly 'relocated'. The residents are Iranian dissidents who have lived in Iraq for decades now. Following the US invasion, the US made them surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28th the world saw what Nouri's 'promises' were actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Last week, his plans to 'relocate' them was announced. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the residents "vowed Tuesday not to abandon its besieged camp" when journalists were allowed to visit the cmap today ("the first time authorities have allowed media to visit since a dealy raid on the compound last July"). Hammoudi reports, "Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Basil Hamad, the Iraqi government's spokesman on the media tour, said the government had warned the MEK that they were to begin emptying the camp Dec. 15. However, no one was removed from the premises Tuesday and Hamad didn't say how long the group had to evacuate." Iran's Press TV reports that the residents "defied the Iraqi government's orders to leave" and that, "According to a plan ordered by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki the group should first be moved to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and later to a 1950s detention camp in southern Iraq." Sarah Cosgrove (Enfield Independent) reports that in the British town of Enfield, residents are protesting "to save their relatives from a feared massacre in Iraq" and "in a show of solidarity, protesters were joined by Parliamentarians outside the Foreign Office in Whitehall. Amid cries of 'shame on you' and 'displacement of Ashraf, crime against humanity', protesters spoke of their fear for their families and anger at the lack of action from the British Government."
Meanwhile Jack A. Smith (Monthly Review Magazine) says the US has lost the Iraq War (and the Afghanistan War) but that the US refuses to acknowledge that reality:
The mighty U.S., which invaded Iraq in March 2003, was fought to a standstill from the summer of 2003 to the end of 2006 by up to 25,000 mostly Sunni guerrilla resistance fighters belonging to various small groups, nationalist or mujahedeen. The resistance largely evaporated two years ago because of President Bush's "surge," but this had nothing to do with military defeat. The struggle was subverted mainly by three things:
(1) The Shi'ite refusal to take part in the opposition to the Bush Administration's unjust and illegal invasion and occupation, knowing that when the invaders left they would be in charge, and the Shia government's antagonism toward the Sunni combatants.
(2) The entry of al-Qaeda, which before the war was never allowed into Iraq, and its indiscriminate war against civilians that undercut the resistance and dismayed Sunni nationalist ranks.
(3) The "surge" that began in 2007, which was principally based on offering large sums of money to Sunni elders and tribal leaders, combined with paying salaries to thousands of jobless fighters, plus offering to protect the Sunnis from possible retaliation by the puppet Shi'ite government.
President George W. Bush's claimed objective was to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and to punish the Ba'athist government of President Saddam Hussein for conniving with al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. When these lies were exposed they were replaced by two new lies: bringing democracy to Iraq, and protecting the Iraqi people from al-Qaeda.
I'm joining Rebecca in noting that Bonnie Erbe, host of PBS' To The Contrary, tackles the recent Nobel Peace Prize in "Norwegians Must Be Asking: Why Obama for Peace Prize?" (Politics Daily):
A little bit of background research might have alerted the Nobel Committee to Obama's annoying tendency toward expediency and away from commitment to principle. Instead, the Nobel Committee mimicked America's voters when they rushed to select Obama. Both votes, by the American public and the Nobel Committee, struck me as more appropriately viewed as a rebuke to former President Bush than as a rah-rah for Obama.
The Nobel Committee rushed into bed with Obama. When the alarm bell rang the next morning, six Norwegians found themselves sleeping next to someone quite apart from the person they had viewed through gin-altered glasses the night before. Hence his tepid public support from Norwegians Friday.The Nobel Committee nominated someone members saw as the Prince of Peace -- the same man whom a majority of American voters were wishfully hoping would pull them out of seemingly unending wars (and right the tanking economy, but that's fodder for another column). Instead, President Obama is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and taking much longer than his anti-war base expected he would to pull American troops out of Iraq. Wish I had been watching through a secret webcam when the six Norwegians cried, "Oops!"
Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) also weighs in on the prize and he also weighs in on Tony Blair's weekend statements to the BBC such as: "I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat." We'll note Floyd on Blair:
Next month, Blair will go before the Chilcot Inquiry, a panel of UK Establishment worthies charged with investigating the origins of Britain's role in the invasion of Iraq. Although the worthies have been remarkably toothless in their questioning of the great and good so far – the smell of whitewash is definitely in the air – the inquiry has at least performed the useful function of bringing the forgotten subject of Iraq back into the public eye, while collating and confirming, with sworn testimony, much of what we have learned in dribs and drabs over the years about the rank, deliberate deceit behind this murderous catastrophe. One choice bit that has emerged from the inquiry is the revelation that the centerpiece of Blair's case for immediate war – the claim that Saddam Hussein could hit Europe with WMD-loaded missiles on just 45 minutes' notice – came from unconfirmed, third-hand gossip passed along by an Iraqi taxi driver. As Blair's turn on the well-padded Chilcot cushion draws near, he has launched frantic efforts to keep his testimony secret while at the same time trying to undercut the rationale for the whole war origins inquiry, which has focused on the professed justification for the invasion: disarming Iraq's (non-existent) WMD. So last week, Blair gave an interview to a friendly, timorous chat-show host in which he made the brazen admission – no, the proud boast – that he would have found a way to drive Britain into war with Iraq even if he had known for certain that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. (And of course, given the nature of the "'intelligence" that Blair used in his pre-war WMD claims it is certain that Blair was indeed certain that Saddam had no such weapons when the invasion was launched).Thus it is now Blair's contention that there is no charge to answer concerning the origins of the war; all this WMD guff is meaningless. He would have found "other arguments" to persuade Britons to follow George W. Bush into the war that American militarists had long been planning.Blair's admission has drawn a remarkable response from another Establishment mandarin, Sir Ken Macdonald, who served for five years as Director of Public Prosecutions under Blair's government – and now works in private practice at a major law firm…alongside Tony Blair's wife, Cherie. The headline in The Times puts it plainly: "Intoxicated by power, Blair tricked us into war."
Brendan O'Neill (Christian Science Monitor) observes of Blair's recent statements, "This suggests Blair did not actually have the courage of his convictions. He may have considered it 'right' to remove Saddam -- yet instead of trying to win public support for war on that basis, he cynically searched for some legalistic fig-leaf with which he might doll up his invasion."
Meanwhile Walter Pincus (Washington Post) explores US State Dept spending -- specifically what's spent on diplomacy and what's spent on 'security' for diplomacy. He reports, "In 2008, according to the GAO, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security's direct-hire personnel totaled about 3,000. But 90 percent of State's security personnel are contractors, who in 2008 numbered 37,566, according to the GAO. Only 2,000 of these provide the publicized protective services for State officials and dignitaries in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel. The bulk are guards protecting not only U.S. embassies and missions but also the homes of some Foreign Service personnel."
Lastly, from Oilwatch Southeast Asia:Southeast Asian Leaders - Go for Solution Not Delusion! A Joint Statement, Copenhagen, Denmark, December 14, 2009 Copenhagen - 14 December 2009: We, members of Oilwatch Southeast Asia[i] and Indonesian Civil Society Forum for Climate Justice (CSF) declare our common position and demands on the current climate negotiation in COP 15 UNFCCC Copenhagen. We have witnessed the lack of leadership among industrial countries to significantly cut carbon emission let alone show their responsibility to support developing countries to tackle the impacts of climate change. Southeast Asia is considered as one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to impacts of climate crisis. Most of the Southeast Asian countries are poor and majority of the population in the region live in deep poverty resulting to a very low capacity to adapt to climate change impacts. The location of the region poses high risk for disasters such as typhoons, droughts, earthquakes, and flooding. We are disappointed that the negotiations in COP15 UNFCCC do not take into account the reality in the ground that fossil fuel exploitation by industrial countries have been going from strength to strength. Oil and gas projects of transnational corporations are mushrooming and demand for coal is increasing[ii].. Big foreign and private corporations such as Royal Dutch Shell, BHP Biliton, CNUOC, Chevron Texaco, Amarada Hess, Conoco Phillips and Bumi Resources, are the same actors who plunder natural resources and pollute the environment[iii]. These big corporations control and exploit the rich natural resources of the region particularly fossil resources like oil, gas and coal. Also these entities with the support of international financial institutions like International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, are the owners and suppliers of fossil-based technologies and products that the people of Southeast Asian are forced to be dependent with. Given the fact that burning and consumption of fossil fuels especially oil and coal is the leading cause of global carbon emission, we demand the national governments in Southeast Asia •· To agree on a common position to push for more than 40% carbon reduction from ANNEX I countries by 2020 from the level of 1990. •To demand from ANNEX I countries to compensate Third World countries from ecological debt and fund their mitigation and adaptation initiatives •To declare an immediate moratorium on new exploration and commercial operation of oil, gas and coal by big transnational companies in the region. •To define a concrete timeline and comprehensive plan on eventual phase out of fossil fuel extraction and usage in the region. In this regard there should be a significant investment on research and fast development of technologies that harness alternative and renewable resources of energy that are cheap, safe and clean. This is needed to make the economy and energy needs of Southeast Asia to veer away from relying on the production and consumption of fossil fuels. Majority of the income and revenues from the existing extraction of fossil fuel in the regions should be automatically appropriated for funding public services We oppose the false solutions being implemented and pushed for by ANNEX I countries and their transnational corporations such as carbon trading, clean development mechanism, the proposed REDD and 'clean' coal technologies. These market-based and profit-oriented solutions put the interest of private corporations and ruling elite above anything else. We push for the leaders of Southeast Asia countries to unite for truly address the issue of climate change and curb global warming. There should be a reversal of the orientation and framework of economic development and production in the region. In this regard, climate solutions should be based on human security, rectification of ecological debt, land rights, the change of production and consumption pattern, to realize social justice and people's sovereignty. These principles ensure in the heart of climate solutions are the welfare and interest of the people and the environment. The Oilwatch Southeast Asia, CSF, PACC, La'o Hamutuk and TCJ remain committed not only in pushing for genuine climate solutions but also in steadfastly fight along with grassroots communities against agreement, policies, program and projects that will further aggravate climate change and endanger our communities. Media contacts:Clemente Bautista, People's Action on Climate Change (PACC), email: email@example.com; cell phone: +45.2639.2749 •Ines Martius, Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; cell phone: +45 5274 8769 · Siti Maemunah, CSF Indonesia, email: email@example.com; cell phone +45 5049 9567 · Penchom Saetang, Thai Working Group for Climate Justice (TCJ), email: firstname.lastname@example.org; cell phone: +45 2862 7267
iraqthe telegraph of londonthe guardianandrew sparrowsky newspaul bromleychannel 4 newsbbc newsmcclatchy newspaperssahar issalaith hammoudi
mohammed abbasmissy ryan
to the contrarybonnie erbe
the christian science monitorjane arraf
the washington postwalter pincus