BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE
STEVE HOLLAND, SUSAN CORNWELL, CAREN BOHAN AND JACKIE FRANK OF REUTERS DECIDE TO SHOW THAT JOURNALISTS COULD LET THEIR BIAS RUN FREE AND FAIL AT THE PRIMARY MISSION OF EXPLAINING WHAT IS HAPPENING AND HOW IT EFFECTS YOU.
DR. HOWARD DEAN OPPOSES BARACK OBAMA'S 'HEALTH CARE REFORM' PLAN. HE HAS EXPLAINED WHY.
THE REUTERS JOURNALIST COMPOSE A BITCHY LITTLE SNARK THAT INFORMS ON NOTHING -- INCLUDING WHY DEAN OPPOSES THE PLAN OR HOW THE PLAN WOULD IMPACT YOUR LIFE.
BUT THEY DO GET THEIR BITCHY IN WITH SNARK LIKE: "Leading the grousing from the left has been Howard Dean"
THEY TURN THE ENTIRE DISAGREEMENT INTO A SPORTS EVENT -- REFUSING TO REPORT ON REALITY AND THINGS THAT EFFECT OUR LIVES AND INSTEAD OFFERING 'WHO'S UP AND WHO'S DOWN' AND USING SUCH WORTHLESS 'EXPERTS' AS LARRY SABATO WHO OFFERS NOTHING ON THE ACTUAL ISSUE.
WELL DONE, RETUERS! YOU'VE DONE AS POOR A JOB AS THOSE COVERING TIGER WOODS' MANY AFFAIRS.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Starting with War Hawk Tony Blair, former prime minister of England and lapdog to George W. Bush. Neil Clark (First Post via Information Clearing House) notes that the Blair War Crimes Foundation has "an online petition addressed to the President of the UN General Assembly and the UK Attorney General, which lists 14 specific complaints relating to the Iraq war, including 'deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war' and violations of the Geneva Conventions by the occupying powers." Tony Blair is set to testify next year to the Iraq Inquiry in London. Today at the Iraq Inquiry, Chair John Chilcot declared will be in public. At the end of the hearing, he declared:
Evidence will only be heard in private in the narrow circumstances we have set out in the published protocols on our website. But I would like to be absolutely clear about this: eveidence sessions with key decision makers, including the former Prime Minister, will be in public. They will be openly questioned about the big issues that they were involved in.
Will come back to today's hearing in a minute. Of the remarks made by Tony Blair over the weekend that he would have found another rationale for the Iraq War if WMD hadn't been handy, Mick Hume (Spiked) offers the opinion that people are missing the point:
Today the obsession with the tired arguments about Iraq's imaginary nuclear arsenal is also distracting attention from the bigger political questions about the war. Yes, we all know now there were no WMD, it seems the authorities knew it before they invaded Iraq, and many of us had firm suspicions about all that for years beforehand. So, why did Blair and New Labour take Britain to war?
There are two bigger issues here that should be examined, which have little or nothing to do with WMD, or indeed with events in Iraq. The first is about old-fashioned great power realpolitik -- the importance of the US-UK alliance to the British state. The second concerns a more contemporary problem: the domestic crisis of authority facing the British elite.
The role that Britain's relationship with America played in drawing the UK into the invasion has been raised around the Iraq inquiry, but only in terms of what one former official described as Blair's 'sycophancy' towards President George W Bush's administration. The New Labour leader may well have loved the limelight on the White House lawn. But the fact is that any UK prime minister from any establishment party would have found it hard not to sign up for the Iraq War.
Standing alongside America in such conflicts is about more than being Washington's 'poodle'. It is the one chance Whitehall still has of looking like a British bulldog on the world stage. Being a nuclear power with the military force to play a part in great power politics is what still gives the British government a place at the top table of world affairs. That is why, for all the talk of how Gordon Brown would pursue a very different policy towards America from the 'sycophant' Blair, Brown is now the main European cheerleader and lieutenant for President Obama's Afghan adventure. It will take a more courageous political class than this to face up to the truth about Britain's place in the world.
Another opinion is expressed by Aijaz Zaka Syed (Arab News): "Blair and Bush told us this war had been absolutely critical to the security and stability of the "civilized world." Just like the morally bankrupt politicians before them did, they told us the war was necessary for peace! Even when the whole world stood up against the war, from Americas to Asia, the coalition stuck to its guns, insisting the war on Iraq -- already on the brink after two major wars and years of devastating Western sanctions -- was essential to rid the world of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction! And now Blair turns around to tell us WMD or no WMD, the Coalition of the Willing would have invaded Iraq anyway. Ironically though, in doing so, the man who has turned the old-fashioned deceit and lying into a refined art, may be telling the truth for a change! In a now infamous interview with BBC's Fern Britton, Blair gloated: 'I would still have thought it right to remove him (Saddam). I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat'." Sian Ruddick (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reminds, "It is against international law to attack a country on the basis of regime change."
Binoy Kampmark (CounterPunch) focuses on the Inquiry members themselves, "The body reeks of musty establishment. [Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken] Macdonald is quite right to note the less than taxing nature of the proceedings so far. Questioning has been 'unchallenging' and the chair, Sir John Chilcot, has done nothing to suggest that things might change in 2010." Media Lens (via Dissident Voice) has a similar conclusion, "In short, Brown's selection of the Chilcot inquiry committee was one more establishment insult to the British people and to our victims attempting to survive in the wreckage of Iraq. It was one more gesture of contempt for compassion, truth and democracy." Of what the Inquiry has seen during public testimony, Adrian Hamilton (Independent of London) offers: "Senior officials from the Foreign Office turned up before Chilcot to whine about how they were kept out of the loop of Blair's planning, with the implication that somehow it might all have been different if they had been brought in. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, our representative to the UN before the invasion and in Baghdad after, even declared that he was prepared to resign if another UN resolution went against us. Prepared to resign? Anyone who has ever worked in an organisation knows that the threat of future resignation isn't worth the paper it isn't written on." Chris Ames (at Iraq Inquiry Digest) looks at some of the press on the inquiry:To get the headline issues out of the way first, the Daily Mail and others focus on witnesses' doubts about whether the human cost of the war was justified by the outcome, the Independent and Mirror look at Sir John Sawers' admission that Britain had some advance knowledge of problems at Abu Ghraib and the BBC covers both issues, as well as pointing out that:"Panel member Sir Roderic remarked that [Lt Gen Sir Robert Fry] was the first witness to suggest that the UK's contribution was 'critical' to winning the war."The BBC's Peter Biles also says that:"With the steady accumulation of evidence over the past few weeks, there has been a noticeable and welcome change of tone at the inquiry."Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman) offers this take on Sawers, "So, according to the head of MI6 - who also happens to be a former foreign-affairs adviser to Tony Blair - it was not 'reasonable' to assume the violence should have been foreseen and that only President Mubarak of Egypt predicted the manner in which the invasion of Iraq would exacerbate the threat of al-Qaeda-related terrorism, inside and outside Iraq. Is he lying, suffering from amnesia or just plain ignorant? It must be one of the three because I can assure Sir John that countless intelligence reports, terrorism experts, diplomats, politicians and pundits, at home and abroad, warned that invading Iraq wouldn't be the 'cakewalk' predicted by the neocons and that it would only radicalise Muslims across the globe, destabilise the country and the region and provide new opportunities for jihadists to attack western troops on a Muslim battlefield." Sawers' testimony isn't the only one being loudly questioned. From yesterday's snapshot:In addition to Sawers possible problems noted earlier by Sparrow and Ames, the Belfast Telegraph states that another witness, also with M16 at one point (Sawers is the current head of M16) has problems: John Scarlett. They note his claim that the assertion of Iraq being able to attack England "within 45 minutes" was both "reliable and authoritative" is refuted by Brian Jones ("senior WMD analyst"): "Dr Jones, who was head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff in the run-up to the invasion, said that it was 'absolutely clear' the intelligence the Government relied upon was coming from untried sources. The 45-minute claim was one of the key assertions that convinced MPs to take Britian to war."Today Michael Savage (Independent of London) reports:The Iraq inquiry committee has come under pressure to recall Britain's former spy chief to give further public evidence after allegations that he misled them over Saddam Hussein's ability to use weapons of mass destruction. Sir John Scarlett, who oversaw the drafting of the government's controversial 2002 dossier outlining the case for invading Iraq, had claimed that intelligence indicating that Iraq could launch missiles within 45 minutes was "reliable and authoritative". But Dr Brian Jones, the most senior WMD analyst who saw the original intelligence, told The Independent that it was vague, inconclusive and unreliable.
And those sort of opinions -- which are held by a great many -- may be why today's hearing seemed to be less about the witnesses and more about the Inquiry itself. Jim Drummond, Martin Dinham and Stephen Pickford appeared before the committee (link goes to transcript and video options -- unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from the transcript). Today Chilcot announced that the hearing would draw to a close . . . and then went on to speak and speak in a defensive manner (including the already quoted section about Blair testifying in public). On and on he spoke. "With that I will draw this session to a close" appears at the bottom of page 113. And then launches into a defensive ramble that finally ends at the bottom of page 118. "We have . . ." "We expect . . ." "We will . . ." Criticism appears to be getting to Chilcot (that's a good thing). Let's hear a bit of the defensive posturing:
Chair John Chilcot: In the hearings so far, a huge amount of valuable and illuminating evidence has been uncovered, and that's why we approach the opening phase of hearings in the way we did. We have not been trying to ambush witnesses or score points. This is a serious Inquiry and we are not hear to provide public sport or entertainment. The whole point of our approach has been to get to the facts. We have been asking fair questions and have been expecting, and getting, full and truthful answers. That is the essence of a formal public inquiry and witness[es] have responded to this approach by being commendably open and candida, highlighting a number of issues which we shall examine much more closely as the Inquiry continues. Our model of questioning and our selection of witnesses in the hearing up until 11 January is designed to help to establish the narrative. We took a conscious decision to do this through the oral hearings rather than through the publication of a mass of documentary material because we believe that this is the most helpful way to provide the necessary context. We have, therefore, not yet made any requests to government to declassify documents to allow them to be published. As we move into the next phase of evidence taking, where we will hear from ministers and the most senior civil servants and military officers, the Inquiry will increasingly wish and need to draw on government documents and records which are currently classified, in some cases highly classified, in its questioning.
Chilcot's salutation, or 'ring off,' came as the Iraq Inquiry rested for the rest of the year. They will next reconvene January 5th in the new year. When that happens, they might try pursuing a list of questions Michael Evans (Times of London) has proposed including: "Why was no action taken when intelligence arrived in March 2003 -- just before the invasion -- that Saddam's chemical weapons had been disassembled?" We may go over today's hearing in tomorrow's snapshot but the big point today was Chilcott's need to offer a lengthy defense of the inquiry he is chairing.
In other news, Andy Sullivan (Reuters) reports that yesterday in the United States, the House of Representatives signed off on a $636 billion military spending bill (395 members voted for it, 34 against it). The huge figure only covers operations through the end of the 2010 fiscal year (September 30, 2010) and doesn't include the monies US President Barack Obama will need for his Afghanistan 'surge.' Today the Center For Arms Control and Non-Proliferation breaks down the bill that $497.7 billion of that is just Dept of Defense "base" spending and not to fund the "military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan." The analysis by Christopher Hellman shows that weapons and gadgets rank third on the funding (under "Procurement" with $105.2 billion) and they include such big ticket items as F/A-22 "Raptor" Fighter, C-130J Transport Aircraft, Joint Cargo Aircraft and C-17 Trasnport. $1.6 billion is budgeted for EA-18G Jamming Aircraft. Jamming aircraft?
All that money goes to waste if the military doesn't even understand the importance of encrypting. Mike Mount and Elaine Quijano (CNN -- link has text and video) report an "unamed" US Official has told them that 'insurgents' have been able to monitor the live streaming feeds the Predator drones flying over Iraq have been sending to the US military. The story was first reported this morning by the Wall St. Journal's Sibohan Gorman, Yochi J. Dreazen and August Cole who noted, "Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes' systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber -- available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet -- to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter." Brett Israel (Discover Magazine) blogs, "The Defense Department has responded by saying they discovered the vulnerability a year ago, and are working to encrypt all drone communications links in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. However, there are at least 600 unmanned vehicles and thousands of ground stations to upgrade, so the security improvement will not happen overnight. However, officials say they have made technical adjustments to systems in key threat areas to block the signal interception." Chris Gaylord (Christian Science Monitor) provides the walk through: "The setup requires a PC, satellite dish, satellite modem, and software such as SkyGrabber, which was developed by the Russian firm SkySoftware. Because of Iraq and Afghanistan's rough terrain, military officials cannot assume the Predators will have a clean, line-of-sight connection with the bases that send them orders. To work around the problem, the drones switch to satellite linkups. However, unlike credit card payments and cellphone calls, this military satellite data is not encrypted." Ewen MacAskill (Guardian) offers, "The US air force is responsible for drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the CIA for those in Pakistan. The CIA video feeds are reported to have been encrypted, while some of the air forces ones were not." Take away? Declan McCullagh (CBS News) observes that the "apparent security breach [. . .] had been known in military and intelligence circles to be possible".
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