Saturday, December 19, 2009







Today on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show -- after the unplanned bluegrass moment (for approximatly five minutes of the show "Some Morning Soon" is playing over the guests during today's show) -- Iraq was noted by Diane and her guests Youchi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and Farah Stockman (Boston Globe)..

Diane Rehm: Youchi Dreazen of the Wall St. Journal and you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show and, Youchi, tell us about this software breach involving US drones in Iraq.

Youchi Dreazen: Yeah, what it is is that that the video feeds from the drones that are used and, frankly, from other aircraft as well but particularly the drones, the video feeds are not encrypted. Which means that if you're an insurgent nearby and you have a laptop and you have -- one of the programs you can use is called SkyGrabber which costs about $26 and you can download it off the web, you could then watch in real time and download and store the feeds of any Predator nearby which is significant for two reasons. One, the US often uses Predators over its own forces so that if there's a US operation, they have Predators overhead, so somebody who's watching that feed could be able to see our personnel. It's also significant because it shows somebody watching what we're looking for -- so Predators would be over a given highway, a given series of buildings, a lot of them are used along the Iraq-Iran border to try to cut down on weapon smuggling from Iran and this would show somebody watching those feeds theoretically what's being watched, when we're watching it, etc. What's somehow more surprising is that this has been known about for so long. It's been talked about in the Pentagon for so long and no one's done anything about it. This was an issue in Bosnia. And we reported today that in 2004 there was a concern about -- in 2004, it wasn't insurgents intercepting it, it was what if Russia and China basically use a James Cameron-style special effect so that somebody's watching a drone feed, they don't see anything and suddenly there's a tank? Or they do see something, but it's not actually there? So this has been known about, it's been discussed but no action's been taken --

Diane Rehm: Tom?

Youchi Dreazen: -- at least until now.

Tom Gjelten: Well, Diane, this is a really important story and we should point out that Youchi and his Wall St. Journal colleagues [Sibohan Gorman and August Cole] broke this story this week so, you know, credit where it's due. I think one of the complicating factors here is that ground troops, soldiers and marines are increasingly make use of use from drones and other-other aircraft. Now a lot of the time the troops on the ground don't have as high technology available to them, you know, as the drone operators do. So you have more simplified technology on the ground trying to make use of these feeds and the feeds are providing extremely important information to them to help chart their ground operations but the technology has to be to oversimplify it, it has to be simplified for the ground troops to make use of it. They may not have the decryption technology that is necessary so you can't have really highly encrypted signals coming from above if the soldiers and marines on the ground don't have the technology to decode it. That's one of the issues that complicates the solution of this problem.

Diane Rehm: So somebody got hold of this. What use was made of the information?

Youchi Dreazen: That's the open question. I mean, the way that this was discovered was a sort of interesting, cloak and dagger kind of case where US troops arrested a Shi'ite militant, took his laptop and started going through it and on the laptop found video files. Then, in July, arrested other militants elsewhere in Iraq, actually from another group as it turned out, went through their laptops and found an even wider array of drone video files so this is kind of interesting sort of spy versus spy, this power was discovered.The military continues to insist that no missions were compromised, nobody was hurt. In fairness, it's a hard thing to prove, one way or another, but that has been -- the military has been adament from the beginning till now that, yes, these were intercepted, yes, they could be used but they didn't see any evidence so far that they had been used.

Diane Rehm: How embarrassing is this, Tom?

Tom Gjelten: Well it is embarrassing and it's all the more embarrassing because it's coming at a time when this administration is really proposing a much broader uh use of these drone aircraft, the Predators in particular. I mean, yesterday -- between yesterday and today, there were ten drone strikes in Pakistan. Now I think that's the most in any two day period in a long, long time. And this fits into the broader counter-terrorism strategy that this administration is proposing for Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, you know, to-to-to highlight the vulnerability of this approach at the very time when you're really proposing an expansion of this approach is, as you say, embarrassing.

Diane Rehm: Farah?

Farah Stockman: It also just shows that these insurgents are a lot more technology savy than anybody ever imagined they would be and I think that's the -- that's the new world we're living in.

NPR sidebar: Today on NPR's Fresh Air Nellie McKay was a guest. Fresh Air is played on various NPR stations during the day and some NPR stations repeat that day's broadcast also at night and, in addition, the segment can be streamed online. Her new album is Normal As Blueberry Pie and this is a plug for Nellie because she stood up to all kinds of pressure in 2008 when she supported Ralph Nader. It took guts and, along with huge artistic talents, she has tremendous strength. Much more so than Ralph's 2000 'friends' who showed what cowards they really were. Excuse me, cowards and bullies since so many of them not only refused to stand with Ralph but actively tore down others who did. I voted for Ralph or Cynthia McKinney (I'm not saying which -- now or ever -- nor is Ava saying which she voted for). Either was a strong vote. This community endorsed Ralph. When Oklahoma members discovered they only had the choice of voting for War Hawk Barack or War Hawk John McCain, they went with with McCain because they knew there would be a strong push back on each of McCain's War Crimes as opposed to the limp response offerd by so much of the 'left' for Barack's. John R. MacArthur (Harper's magazine) notes the limp response from Frank Rich (a bad 'drama' 'critic' trying to masquerade as a 'thinker'), Hendrick Hertzberg, and others. We'll note his section on Tom-Tom Hayden:

Then there's Tom Hayden, the former radical and author of the Students for A Democratic Society's Port Huron Statement, who was a belligerent booster of Obama during last year's campaign. Hayden, too, is upset about Afghanistan, but not enough to cast aside his self-delusion about Obama. Claiming to speak for "the antiwar movement," he laments that the "costs in human lives and tax dollars are simply unsustainable" and, worse, that "Obama is squandering any hope for his progressive domestic agenda by this tragic escalation of the war."
Unsustainable? Tragic? There's no evidence that Obama and his chief of staff see any limit to their ability to print dollars, sell Treasury bonds and send working-class kids to die in distant lands. And what "progressive" agenda is Hayden talking about? So far, Obama's big domestic goals have been compulsory, government-subsidized insurance policies that will further enrich the private health-care business, huge increases in Pentagon spending and purely symbolic regulation of Wall Street.
While Obama was speaking to the unfortunate cadets, I couldn't help thinking of Richard Nixon and his "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War, a plan that entailed a long and pointless continuation of the fighting. Most liberals would agree that Nixon was a terrible president. Yet, for all his vicious mendacity, I think the sage of San Clemente had a bad conscience about the harm he did, about all he caused to die and be crippled.
Instead of shoring up Obama's image of goodness, liberals really should be asking, "Does the president have a conscience?" Because if he does, he's really no better than Nixon.

I always knew Tom-Tom would spend his faded years as Tricky Dick's mistress. Also noting Tom-Tom, is Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report -- link has text and audio) who explains Tommy and Bill Fletcher's organization "Progressives For Barack" has -- like Blackwater -- became an embarrassment so -- like Blackwater -- Tommy and Billy are trying for a clean slate by changing the organization's name to "Progressives For America":

The left-wing Obamites were the nastiest of all. They viciously libeled anyone that advanced a Left critique of their hero, calling them enemies of a new "people's movement," when in fact it was they who were shutting the movement down in favor of a fan club and cheering section for Obama. Amiri Baraka spit poison at all who failed to pledge allegiance to the Great Obama, calling us infantile ultra-leftists and just plain "rascals." Bill Fletcher and Tom Hayden stuck with Obama like little sorcerer's apprentices as the president methodically savaged virtually every item on the progressive agenda. What else could they do? To break with Obama would amount to an admission that they were wrong about the progressive "potential" of their candidate; that he had always been a thoroughly corporate politician who would lurch to the Right as soon as he took office; and that, by failing to criticize Obama early in the campaign, they were guaranteeing that he would disrespect and ignore Blacks and progressives, once in office.
Tom Hayden now declares it's finally "time to strip the Obama sticker" off his car. Well, whoopee. Back in the day, Hayden would have been expected to engage in some serious self-criticism for misleading so many people about Obama. The same goes for Bill Fletcher, who appeared on a Pacifica radio show last week sounding like he'd never been an Obama fan. Fletcher said it was inappropriate for the Nobel committee to award Obama the Peace Prize when the president had done nothing to cause a "fundamental shift" in U.S. foreign policy. You can't influence a president of the United States to do the right thing, Fletcher said, by giving him awards in hopes that he will earn them. But that's exactly what Fletcher and his fellow Obama fanatics tried to pull off when they endorsed candidate Obama on a wish and a prayer when there was no reason to believe he would undertake any "fundamental shift" in U.S. foreign or domestic policy. As a result, the Left played no role whatsoever in the 2008 election. They just blew kisses at Obama, hoping he'd kiss them back after the inauguration.

Actually, it was worse than that. Throughout 2008, Barack repeatedly HIT the left and the response was to get starry-eyed and sing, "He hit me and it felt like a kiss." Especially true of Tom Hayden who was repeatedly used by Barack as a public punching bag (not limited to but including the sneer at "Tom Hayden Democrats"). As we noted January 1, 2009: "That sort of behavior is a sickness. 2008 saw that sickness over and over as Barack repeatedly tossed population segments under the bus, repeatedly caved and sold out and was never, ever held accountable. But, hey!, he might have a liaison to the 'progressive' community! [. . .] Likewise, the Barack groupies will have to grow up at some point. Whether they do so in 2009 or after he's on his way out of office will determine whether the people force the change they need or spend the next years cheerleading blindly out of fear that they might hurt their Dream Lover. "

People need to get real. That includes grasping that a "draw-down" is what's promised in 2010, not a "withdrawal" from Iraq. Admiral Mike Mullens spoke of the "draw-down" today and yet notice all the sloppy so-called journalists calling it a "withdrawal." There is no talk of an Iraq withdrawal in 2010. The White House has been very clear that they plan a draw-down for 2010. Whether that will come to be, the world will have to wait and see. But a draw-down is not a withdrawal -- unless you're an ignorant fool.

A real demand for withdrawal -- not draw-down -- is in the news. Iraq's requesting that Iran withdraw. Caroline Alexander and Margot Habiby (Bloomberg News) report, "Iraq's National Security Council said today that Iran violated their shared border and Iraq's 'territorial integrity' and called on the Islamic republic to withdraw its forces from the region." Timothy Williams and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) add, "The Iraqi government said Friday that Iranian troops had crossed the border and occupied a portion of an oil field situated on disputed land between the two countries, but Iranian officials immediately and vehemently disputed the account." Dow Jones Newswires states they were told that by a Missan Oil Compnay official that "Iranian forces took hold of an Iraqi well in a disputed section of the border after opening fire against Iraqi oil workers"; however, the official tells Dow Jones this action took place "two weeks ago." Suadad al-Salhy, Missy Ryan and Ralph Boulton (Reuters) quote Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji, Deputy Interior Minister, stating, "At 3:30 this afternoon, 11 Iranian [soldiers] infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there until this moment." Gulf Daily News adds, "Officials have summoned Tehran's envoy in Iraq to discuss the matter, he said. Iraqi officials said the soldiers crossed into Iraqi territory yesterday and raised the Iranian flag at Fakka." Mosab Jasim (Al Jazeera) states, "The Iraqi president called for an emergency session to discuss what they describe as a violation from Iran, but nothing came out of the meeting and whatever actions they are going to take are still not clear." The President of Iraq is Jalal Talabani. However, the report indicates Jasim was referring to Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) offers this context, "Reports of the incident aggravated long-standing tensions between the countries, which fought a 1980-88 war that claimed as many as a million lives. Although Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government and Shiite Iran have grown closer since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ousted Iraq's Sunni Muslim dictator, Saddam Hussein, border issues remain thorny, with sporadic posturing from both sides." If it's been seized, what's been seized? Alice Fordham (Times of London) explains, "The well is one of several in the Fakka oil field, which was part of a group offered to foreign investors in June, but no contract was awarded." She also notes that Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani went on state television to insist, "Iraq will not give up its oil wealth" today. Adam Arnold (Sky News) offers US military reaction: "A spokesman for the US military confirmed the soldiers had taken control of the oil well but added it was in 'disputed territory' near the border and happened fairly frequently. 'There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran,' he said." While that source is unnamed US Col Peter Newell is on the record offering Arnold context. What really happened? Who knows? It will slowly emerge over the weekend, most likely. What is known is that the talk/rumors/incident had one result. Nick Godt (MarketWatch) reports that the rumors led to an initial rise in the price of oil per barrel today.

On the subject of oil, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding US interests. We'll leave out the partisans on the right (to avoid mocking anyone) and instead note that the same talking point Jim Jubak (MoneyShow) which is boiled down to: The US is shut out of Iraq oil money. (A number of right-wingers are expanding and stating, "See the war wasn't about oil." Oil was part of it, oil wasn't the only thing.) Jubak laments America's lack of success in winning Iraq oil fields and points to "Royal Dutch Shell" and its success. Excuse me? What's that supposed to mean? "Royal Dutch Shell"? We think the Dutch are the only ones raking it in at Shell? Check their board of directors. 14 members of the board, 5 are British, 1 is American (Lawrence Ricciardi). 'Foreign company'? In this day and age are we that stupid? It's not "nationals," it's multi-nationals today. Jubank also notes Total's success. Total bills itself as "the fifth largest publicly-traded integrated international oil and gas company in the world" -- international. And we're not even looking at major shareholders in these companies. Again, these are "multi-nationals." That's the key word and this silly nonsense that some on the right are offering is nonsense. WQhat is British Petroleum (another winning bid)? Those not in the know would think, "State owned company in the United Kingdom." Uh, no, kids. BP was privatized sometime ago. And it absorged Standard Oil and Amoco. US companies. It's an international congolomerate, a multi-national at this point. George David sits on BP's board. George David is an American citizen. I'm not sure whether the right-wingers are that stupid or if they think we are but this idea that the US is shut out from the oil fields demonstrates (at best) a highly simplistic view of today's economic playing field and (at worst) a desire to knowingly deceive the public.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009






BUT THEY DO GET THEIR BITCHY IN WITH SNARK LIKE: "Leading the grousing from the left has been Howard Dean"




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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Wednesday, December 16, 2009









Starting with Iraqi elections. At the start of this year, Iraq's national elections were supposed to take place in December 2009. There were many reasons for this including (a) the fact that it takes weeks for Iraq to put together a government (the winners of the elections will then decide in Parliament who the prime minister will be) and (b) the fact that the terms expire at the end of January 2010. But Nouri just knew he was able to move mountains and the elections were pushed back to January 2010. But no one worked the issue (including the US -- the scramble is yet another indictment against the US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill). The press kept talking about January elections, kept saying they were taking place. Predicting instead of reporting. Not really understanding their role, their function or their obligation. After an election law suffered a veto from the country's Presidency Council, January went up in smoke. Currently, 'intended' elections may take place in March. That's a possibility due to frantic, last minute deals being made in the hours before midnight on December 6th allowing the latest election measure to pass. What deals were made?

Fuad Hussein is the Chief of Staff for the KRG President Masoud Barzani and Falah Mustafa Bakir heads the KRG's Dept of Foreign Relations.. Both are in DC for the week with plans to also visit Detroit and the Iraqi community there. Eli Lake (Washington Times) reports the Kurds got behind the election measure only after the US made a "historic" commitment to the KRG which Hussein states includes promises that the long postponed census would take place, the the issue of Kirkuk being resolved and more. With Lake's article, the Washington Times offers a video clip:

Fuad Hussein: Many people know that we were negotiating with Washington, with Baghdad. In Baghdad, we were negotiating with our group in Baghdad. We had two groups in Baghdad negotiating election law. We were negotiating with the American ambassador, we were negotiating with the other political leaders, Arab political leaders, in Baghdad. So we were about, for two weeks, the whole day and sometimes until one o'clock in the night, negotiating about this. So when we felt that there isn't any alternative as far as distrubtion of these seats but, to be honest, we find that it is not fair to give so little seats to the Kurdistan Region. We were thinking about a linkage and politics you have got that so we were thinking about a linkage between accepting this and getting also somewhere else or reaching somehwere else, another target so then the Americans were ready to discuss other matters with us which are our priorities and which are important and which has been riased and disccused many times at meetings with the American side and then it has been accepted and there was a green light to accept the election law.

Meanwhile Zvi Bar'el (Haaretz) speaks with Barzani and reports the KRG "is making due with an American commitment to preserve the region's autonomy as part of a federal Iraq, but his remarks have caused a shudder in both Iraq and Turkey because an American commitment implies support for Kurdish demands that the Iraqi government opposes." And among the current conflicts between the KRG and Baghdad is oil. UPI notes, "As it is, Baghdad is already at odds with Iraq's Kurds, who run their own semiautonomous enclave in the northeast. In the absence of an oil law, the Kurdish Regional Government is battling the centeral government over Kurdistan's energy resources. The KRG has signed contracts, far more lucrative than those secured by the central government, with some 20 foreign oil companies. The Kurds see this as the economic underpinning of an eventual independent state." (Mike noted and weighed in on Eli Lake's article last night.)

Meanwhile BBC News reports that Nouri's cabinet has a new 'brainstorm' on countering bombings? Offer rewards "for information that prevents bomb attacks." Of course, you need to grasp that if you tip off on a bomb attack, your name probably goes on a list that, in a later bombing, will lead you to be among the many suspects who are beaten into giving confessions and then have your confession aired on Iraqi TV -- it's Nouri's own little reality show, Who Wants To Be Forced To Confess To A Crime You Didn't Commit? And, of course, turning tipsters into later suspects means Nouri won't actually have to pay any reward money. Not that there would ever be any check on it to begin with because it's not as if the tipster will show up on TV announcing, "We were starving but now, thanks to Nouri and my bombing tip, we have a home!" Such an admission would most likely get you killed. In the real world, Hoda al-Jasim (Asharq Alawsat) interviewed Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, this week and he had a number of comments regarding what's being called Iraq's "security crisis."

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Your joy did not last long, as less than 36 hours later the Tuesday bombings took place. What is your explanation of the timing of these attacks? In your opinion, who is responsible for this security crisis? [Tariq al-Hashimi] I have a theory with regards to these operations, as there is more than one party being targeted. I am very saddened by what happened and I feel embarrassed as although I am in a high ranking [governmental] position I am unable to reduce the internal casualties. The problem is that the security file is in the hands of one party, and the Presidency Council is marginalized and excluded from any consultation or participation [in this]. We have not received any information on the Bloody Wednesday attacks [19 August 2009], or the Bloody Sunday attack [25 October 2009] and the Tuesday attack [8 December 2009; all [the information] that we have is the same information that reaches any Iraqi citizen through the media. The Presidency Council does not know what is happening, and we do not have the capabilities that will allow us to find out what is happening or whether the official in charge of the security file had learnt from previous lessons and saved Iraqi lives. I hope that Iraqi Prime Minister and commander-in-chief (Nouri al-Maliki), who is exclusively responsible for this security file, is fair and courageous and shoulders the responsibility and gives justice to all the lives lost and blood shed by saying that the security challenges are greater than his ability, and that he admits default and failure, and hands the security file to professional security experts. When he does this, I will stand strongly beside the Iraqi Prime Minister and support him, when he admits failure in managing the security file, and makes the decision to hand responsibility of this over to someone else.
[. . .]

I am very concerned that the government has kept silent about the outcome of the Bloody Wednesday and Bloody Sunday investigations, as what happened happened because the dark forces had the freedom to pick the time and location [of the attacks], which not only targeted the institutions of the state, but also innocent people. Therefore the time has come to admit defeat and hand over this file to those who possess [security] expertise and skill. We must admit failure and hand over this investigation to specialist committees, the security services should not conduct this investigation as they themselves stand accused, rather this investigation should be handed over to high level committees to study what happened and hold those involved accountable.

Hand over? al-Hashimi responds to a question as to whether or not (as rumored) the Presidency Council is against the execution of 'suspects' by noting that Nouri has kept the Presidency Council completely out of the loop in the investigation and they've seen no evidence of anything: "the government hushed up the results of the investigation." On the investigation into yesterday's Baghdad bombings, Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report, "The [Iraqi] investigators were heard discussing how two people wearing officers uniforms had parked in the lot and walked away." Suadad al-Salhy, Ahmed Rasheed, Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan and Jon Hemming (Reuters) add, "There is widespread suspicion in Iraq that the police and armed forces have been infiltrated by militants, take bribes to allow insurgents to mount attacks, or may be colluding with militants to undermine Maliki before a March 7 general election."

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009







THE AP WRITER WHO WROTE: "He went by the name 'Barry,' attended the local elementary school near where his statue now stands and owned a pet monkey."



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." 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.

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Monday, December 14, 2009






For the first time since his spring 2007 exit as British Prime Minister, Tony Blair has become big news and dominated the world news cycle over the weekend due to his BBC interview with Fern Britton. Sunday, KPFA's The KPFA Evening News reported on the issue.Anthony Fest: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he would have sent British forces into the 2003 invasion into Iraq even knowing that Iraq did not possess Weapons of Mass Destruction. Blair's remarks came in a BBC interview pre-recorded for broadcast today. Blair was prime minister from 1997 to 2007 and was President George W. Bush's staunchest international ally in the Iraq invasion. In the buildup to the invasion, Bush and Blair claimed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical or biological weapons but after the invasion, no such weapons were found. Blair's response. Tony Blair: We've got to accept that that that intelligence turned out to be wrong. On the other hand, I think it's then important not to go to the other extreme and say, 'Well this is someone who was basically not a danger and not a source of instability in the region. Because I believe that he was. And personally, I think, there would always have been a time when you had to deal with him. Anthony Fest: Also in the BBC interview, Blair spoke of the more democratic government in Iraq today and said of Hussein "I can't really think that we'd be better with him and his two sons still in charge." The British government is conducting an investigation of the country's entry into the Iraq War. The probe is being led by retired civil servant John Chilcot and is known as the Chilcot Inquiry. Chilcot's committee began conducting interviews late last month and expects to hear from Blair early next year. But a British newspaper reported today that portions of Blair's testimony to the committee will be conducted in secret. The committee's mission is fact finding only. It does not have prosecutorial powers.On the BBC, Blair declared it didn't matter, "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." Henry Chu (Los Angeles Times) observed, "It was a startling admission from the onetime British leader, who was President Bush's staunchest ally in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Blair's comments were immediately denounced by critics who accused him of using false pretenses to drag Britain into an unpopular war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of allied troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians." Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) pointed out, "Mr Blair's statement that he wanted rid of Saddam all along, and would simply have 'deploy[ed] different arguments' to do so in the absence of WMD, is his clearest admission to date that the famous weapons were indeed a pretext. His belief that a war on Iraq would have been necessary even without WMD is both significant -- and highly questionable." Stephen Jones (Epoch Times) reports, "Tony Blair's admission that Britain would have still taken part in the Iraq war -- even if it knew that Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction (WMD), has sparked calls that Blair stand trial for war crimes." BBC provides reactions from the UK Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, and the former deputy prime minister, John Prescott. Ainsworth doesn't want to 'guess' but there's no guessing needed. Support for the Iraq War in England fell to 26% if the WMD 'cover' was inaccurate. What Ainsworth and Prescott muddy up, Mike Brecher makes clear in a letter to the Guardian:Boxed in by years of the insistent drip of truth on the dynamic behind his decision to invade Iraq, Tony Blair has finally conceded that he would have removed Saddam even if there had been no evidence of WMD. It seems, then, that we went to war because Blair is under the misapprehension that British general elections give the winner a mandate to make international law on the fly, and to be the world's policeman, judge, jury and jailer. Or perhaps he believes that if Robert Mugabe, say, had considered Britain to be a destabilising influence a few years back, he would have been fully entitled to remove Blair and his cabinet by force. So generous of Blair to "sympathise" with those unsophisticates who thought and think he made a mistake.Mark Hennessy (Irish Times) quotes the then-UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix declaring of Blair's statement, "It gives a strong impression of a lack of sincerity. The war was sold on the weapons of mass destruction [claim], and now you feel, or hear that it was only a question of 'deployment of arguments', as he said. It sounds a bit like a fig leaf that was held up, and if the fig leaf had not been there, then they would have tried to put another fig leaf there." In response to Blair's statements, the Scottish National Party released the following:The SNP have rounded on Labour over attempts to re-write history over Iraq, and stepped up calls for Gordon Brown to give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry and explain whether he would have still bankrolled the illegal war had he know there was no WMD in Iraq. The demands come as former Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted the weapons of mass destruction were not the point of the war -- contradicting repeated claims he made in parliament and in public as prime minister. SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP also said the current and former prime ministers must give evidence in public -- after reports today (Sunday) that the Chilcot inquiry would hear Mr Blair's crucial testimony behind closed doors.Mr Robertson said:"Tony Blair's comments are a shameful admission from a shameful man. He may now cut a rather pathetic figure, but the people who aided and abetted him in pursuing an illegal war are still in government, and tens perhaps hundreds of thousands of people are dead as a result of his duplicity. Alex Salmond and the SNP Westminster group played a leading role in seeking to impeach Tony Blair, and these latest remarks underline the rightness of that cause. "Tony Blair was clearly set on war with or without weapons of mass destruction, and Gordon Brown bankrolled it -- now both men must give evidence in public. Tony Blair is on record time after time saying that the war was not about regime change, and now he is trying to change the entire basis for the war to cover up the fact that we were dragged into an illegal adventure on a false pretence. "Gordon Brown must explain whether he would still have bankrolled the war had he known there were never any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As Chancellor, he wrote the cheques for the disastrous war in Iraq. "And it would be unacceptable if evidence was not taken in public -- especially after Tony Blair's astonishing chatshow attempt to re-write history. Both men should appear side by side when they give evidence, so that we can get to the truth behind the biggest foreign policy disaster in modern times. "This inquiry will be judged on the answers that it provides, and these fundamental questions must be addressed." Note:1. Details of Tony Blair's admission can be found here:2. Reports that Tony Blair will give evidence in private can be found here:3. Quotes from Tony Blair saying the Iraq war was not about regime change:Hansard - 24 Sept 2002 : Column 17: "Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction…"Interview with Radio Monte Carlo - 29 January 2003: "So far as our objective, it is disarmament, not regime change – that is our objective. Now I happen to believe the regime of Saddam is a very brutal and repressive regime, I think it does enormous damage to the Iraqi people... so I have got no doubt Saddam is very bad for Iraq, but on the other hand I have got no doubt either that the purpose of our challenge from the United Nations is disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, it is not regime change."PM statement on Iraq - 25 February 2003: "I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully."Hansard - 18 Mar 2003 : Column 772: "I have never put the justification for action as regime change. We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441 - that is our legal base."Jeff Sparrow (Australia's ABC observes), "As a result of choices made by George Bush and Tony Blair --and, yes, by John Howard -- hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - perhaps as many as a million -- are now dead. Millions of people have been become refugees; a generation across the Middle East has learned see representatives of the West as gun-toting occupiers. We will be dealing with the consequences for decades to come." That's Australia. Little Megan Tady of the laughable Free Press (slogan: "We WHORED for Barack because we thought we had a backdoor deal.") wants you to say no to "mega-media mergers" but, Megs, in your dualistic, yes/no world, we're left with what? The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times (Meggers wrote her bad article for the last one)? Well, goodness golly Meg, Tony Blair entered the news cycle on Saturday and yet not one of Panhandle Media's three big print outlets managed to say one damn word Saturday, Sunday or Monday. About the Iraq War. The war they grandstanded on for how many years? Get a real job, Meg, and then we'll take you seriously. Tony Blair reveals he would have launched the illegal war regardless and The Nation's offering . . . a synopsis of Oprah. Put a twit in charge and all you have left is Twitter. The Nation will inform and save the nation by offering . . . recaps of Oprah episodes. [Credit where it's due, The Huffington Post has repeatedly covered this topic in the last two days including this piece by Ben Cohen] In the real world, where Tony Blair's remarks are news, the former UK Direcotr of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald wrote a column for the Times of London in which he noted:

The degree of deceit involved in our decision to go to war on Iraq becomes steadily clearer. This was a foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions and playing footsie on Sunday morning television does nothing to repair the damage. It is now very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Tony Blair engaged in an alarming subterfuge with his partner George Bush and went on to mislead and cajole the British people into a deadly war they had made perfectly clear they didn't want, and on a basis that it's increasingly hard to believe even he found truly credible. Who is any longer naive enough to accept that the then Prime Minister's mind remained innocently open after his visit to Crawford, Texas?Hindsight is a great temptress. But we needn't trouble her on the way to a confident conclusion that Mr Blair's fundamental flaw was his sycophancy towards power. Perhaps this seems odd in a man who drank so much of that mind-altering brew at home. But Washington turned his head and he couldn't resist the stage or the glamour that it gave him. In this sense he was weak and, as we can see, he remains so. Since those sorry days we have frequently heard him repeating the self-regarding mantra that "hand on heart, I only did what I thought was right". But this is a narcissist's defence and self-belief is no answer to misjudgment: it is certainly no answer to death. "Yo, Blair", perhaps, was his truest measure.

Andrew Sparrow offers "'Sycophant' Tony Blair used deceit to justify Iraq war, says former DPP" (Guardian), "Macdonald's comments about Blair's decision to go to war are more critical than anything that has been said so far by any of the senior civil servants who worked in Whitehall when Blair was prime minister. Macdonald was DPP from 2003 until 2008 and he now practises law from Matrix Chambers, where Blair's barrister wife, Cherie, is also based." Kate Loveys (Daily Mail) explains, "The Iraq Inquiry has already heard evidence that Mr Blair was told days before the invasion that Saddam Hussein might no longer have access to WMD. The issue of what the former prime minister knew about Iraq's WMD arsenal was expected to form a key part of the inquiry." Loveys goes on to note that Blair will give 'secret' testimony to the Iraq Inquiry "under the guise of 'national security' concerns." Alsumaria reports, "'Stop the War' British Organization considered Blair's admissions as war crimes. Attacking any country in aim to change its regime is an illegal aggression by virtue of the International Law, the NGO said in a statement."

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Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: He's the world's War Hawk now
TV: When the guests call the shots
Those Wacky Ethics of Greg Mitchell
Every picture tells a story
NPR keeps selling the wars (Ava and C.I.)
Not So Fast Jeff Cohen (Ava and C.I.)
TV notes

"The greedy diva"