Sunday, February 14, 2010


Last week, the Iraq Inquiry in London heard again from the 'inventive' Jack Straw. Andrew Gimson (Telegraph of London) observed, "In Mr Straw's evidence on Monday to the Iraq inquiry, words meant whatever he chose them to mean, or often considerably less." Chris Ames (Guardian) reported:

Straw, the man who backed the war but wants us to believe he was against it, tried to have it both ways at once, but eventually the weight of his contradictions caught up with him. Although most predictions were that Straw would be put under pressure over the legal issues, he was in most difficulty over the endgame: the failed attempt to get a second UN resolution to back the war -- sorry, to secure Iraqi disarmament.
The first major hint of what really happened was when Sir Lawrence Freedman asked Straw if Powell had ever told him that military action was planned for the middle of March 2003, even if Saddam complied with security council resolution 1441. Straw could not remember this but Freedman suggested that he check the records, which Straw agreed to do: "I think you are trying to tell me something." Nothing you didn't already know.

What is the Iraq Inquiry? According to former UK prime minister and forever poodle Tony Blair, it's a "conspiracy" and a "scandal." But let's allow someone who's not demented to explain it. This is John Chilcot, Chair of the committee, speaking at the close of the Inquiry on Monday:

We are here to establish a reliable account of the United Kingdom's involvement in Iraq, based on all the evidence, and identify lessons for governments facing similar circumstances in future. Now, we are committed to being open and transparent about how we are approaching our task and the information we are receiving. This is the first Inquiry of its kind in this country to have hearings broadcast on television and streamed on the internet, and tens of thousands of people have been watching the evidence sessions on our website. So far there have been nearly three quarters of a million hits on the website and people have access to more than 150 hours of video recordings, as well as thousands of pages of transcripts of the evidence, as well as the documents that have been declassified during the hearings. The initial hearings served two purposes. The first phase, largely before Christmas, set out to establish the narrative account of the United Kingdom's involvement in Iraq. In the last four weeks we have focused much more on the major decision-makers, politicians and senior officials, military and civilian, to examine why and how they made their decisions. Conducting the Inquiry in this way has allowed us to hear a range of different perspectives about the same events. The evidence we have been given so far has provided a much more detailed account of the United Kingdom's military action against Iraq and subsequent commitments than has previously been brought together in public. But these public hearings are only the most perhaps obvious aspect of our work; they are only one element of our Inquiry, though they are an essential one, and the great bulk of our evidence is in tens of thousands of government documents, many of them highly classified. They allow us to shine a bright light into seldom-seen corners of the government machine, revealing what really went on behind the scenes before, during and after the Iraq conflict, and they form the central core of this Inquiry's work. The Inquiry is still receiving more documents every week and we have no reason to believe that any material is being deliberately withheld. We have published a small number of those documents during the hearings but I should emphasise, and I want to emphasise: our access to the documents is unrestricted. Publishing a limited number of them is a separate matter. Over the next few months we shall examine all the evidence we have received, including those documents. They will enable us to see where the evidence joins together and where there are gaps, if there are, and only then can we decide what further evidence we need, the issues and points which need to be clarified and the identity of witnesses we may wish to question in the next round of public hearings in the summer. In the meantime, we will be holding a number of meetings and seminars with a range of individuals, British and non-British, who, we believe, will be able to provide relevant information and insights, and these could include, for example, veterans from Iraq, the campaign, officials from the former American administration. We also hope to visit Iraq later in the year. Now, we cannot take formal evidence as such from foreign nationals but we can, of course, and will have discussions with them. We shall also need a limited number of private hearings, to get to the heart of some very sensitive issues which are essential for our understanding, and the terms under which we shall hold hearings in private have been published on our website, and we will in due course publish as much of that evidence as we can. Now, the Inquiry has broken new ground and a great deal has been achieved since the launch at the end of July. We aim to complete our report, if at all possible, by the end of the year.


Meanwhile, the violence continued in Iraq. Sunday 11 people was reported dead and 6 wounded; Monday 1 dead and 1 wounded; Tuesday 1 was reported dead and 6 wounded; Wednesday 4 dead and 19 wounded; Thursday 3 were reported dead and 7 wounded; Friday 18 dead and 40 wounded; and Saturday 2 were reported dead and 14 wounded for a total of 36 reported dead and 94 wounded.

Thursday, the US military announced: "A United States Forces-Iraq Soldier died Feb. 10 of non-combat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The fallen was identified as 20-year-old Adriana Alvarez. KRGV reports, "CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to her family. They tell us they didn't want her to enlist and they're having a tough time dealing with her loss." The Brownsville Herald quoted her sister Alma Alvarez saying, "We are devastated" and notes that Adriana Alvarez' survivors include Alma, mother Alicia "and two other younger sisters." The announcement brought to 4376 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

And more violence is not just likely, it's expected. Currently, national elections are scheduled to be held in Iraq (and in countries with large exile populations such as Jordan) on March 7th. Last time, sectarian tensions were flamed as a campaign strategy. That's happening again. Remember what happened after the last national elections? What some like to call the civil war?
Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi confirmed that political parties are manufacturing "an enemy" in order to frighten the public and win votes at the forthcoming Iraqi elections. Al-Hashimi said that this was in order to push the Iraqi electorate to vote along factional or sectarian lines, which is in the electoral interests of some candidates and parties. Al-Hashimi also accused some candidates of not adhering to the principles of fair competition by employing unethical methods to win votes.

Last Sunday, Nouri and his political party organized 'independent' rallies against Sunnis in Baghdad and Basra (these 'independent' and 'spontaneous' rallies featured governors and mayors from Nouri's parties as well as Shi'ites waiving . . . American flags).

Over 500 candidates were banned last month with allegations that they were Ba'athists determined to bring back the Ba'ath Party. Then a ruling body reversed the extra-legal banning but last week the ruling body reversed themselves. Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) explained, "OK first and foremost, most important piece of news, confirmed news, which you will obviously not be reading about in your media. -- for the month of January 2010 ALONE, there have been over 1625 sectarian arrests." She also provided a breakdown of the numbers:

- 6'500 candidates for
- 350 parliamentary seats
- 50'000 voting locals inside of Iraq
- 320'000 "observers".
- Iraqi army and police which make up 1 million individuals will be voting in separate ballots. - important to remember this point, bearing in mind that army and police are most, if not all, affiliated to the Shiite parties,
- and now for the last point and a very important one too : again as per official government figures
only 18 million Iraqis are eligible to vote BUT 26 million voting cards have been issued so far. Observers ask why this is so -- hope you do too.

Meanwhile the most explosive news came from Steven Lee Myers and Anthony Shadid (New York Times) who reported that Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, sent the Iraqi military into Tikrit -- for the second time -- to force the choice of a new governor for the province. What's the result? You have US forces attempting to help and calm members of the province's council, telling them (rightly) that they have the law on their side.

The US military is now caught between the US-installed government in Baghdad and its attack on Tikrit.

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