It’s difficult, I know, to have rational thoughts about Iraq these days. We’re being told the troops are being withdrawn on schedule–British troops left earlier this year—but the bombings continue on a regular basis, and it’s not at all clear what will happen after US troops are no longer actively patrolling the country. The political dimensions of what the new Iraq will look like remain very unclear, especially since there is no new government actually in place, except for the fact that Iran is a lot more influential under the new government than it ever was under their sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein. There has been some movement in making Iraq more like America, however—Iraq is now back among the world leaders in executions. So one is left with rage and frustration over the waste, the carnage, the millions displaced, the hundreds of thousands dead, the geopolitical wreckage that will take decades to repair.
The fact that there are some bright spots might not—and does not—compensate. But bright sports there are. One is the tale of the Iraq marshes, and the efforts by Azzam Alwash to restore them. Continue reading →
I never found much point in shouting “Bush’s War”. Maybe i take the whole Constitutional Republic thing too seriously, but i will argue until the end of time that both Afghanistan and Iraq are our wars. We elected the jackass. We reelected the jackass. And the Democratic Party never lifted a finger to stop any of his jackassery. I’ve argued publicly and in private that each and every American of voting age by Oct. 2001 should be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. And i mean it.
Still, i could also make a reasonable argument that what was done in my name was done against my will. I didn’t vote for Bush. I didn’t vote for the vast majority of the asshats in Congress either. Now i have to accept a much more personal responsibility for every drone strike and torture coverup. Continue reading →
This week it finally emerged that Tony Blair has been waging a 20 month battle to keep some of his advisory relationships secret, and the committee that vets this sort of thing finally got fed up with Blair’s stalling. On Wednesday The Guardian revealed that Blair has been seeking to protect two relationships, one with a South Korean oil firm, the other with the government of Kuwait. Conveniently, as The Guardian points out, the South Korean firm has interests in the Kurdish area of Iraq. Who knew? The Guardian recounts:
According to a committee spokesman, Blair’s claims of the need for secrecy were first made in July 2008, when the committee agreed to break its normal rules, and postpone publication for three months.
Blair’s office went back to the committee in October of that year and asked for a further six months. They promised to let the committee know as soon as the “market sensitivity” had passed.
Committee sources said they heard nothing further and had to “chase” Blair. This culminated in a formal letter from the committee last November. Blair’s office responded last month, claiming the deal was still too sensitive to reveal.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just finished testifying (at his insistence) in front of the Chilcot Iraq inquiry. After some discussion of how he thought that invading Iraq “was the right thing to do,” we’ve been getting a stream of figures and more figures and then even more figures in an attempt to justify why the military had what it needed, irrespective of what anyone else has said. Brown himself came across as a rather pleasant and well-meaning sort of fellow—he wasn’t nearly as patronizing as Tony Blair was, nor as abrasive as Alistair Campbell was, nor as apparently clueless as Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon were. He seemed to be trying to be both avuncular and precise at the same time, but he couldn’t help himself—he kept butting into questions with long and detailed explanations as to why the Ministry of Defense (MOD) was in fine shape. Continue reading →
Operation New Dawn! How disarming it would be were this a sign that a bit of dry wit had penetrated the mental fastness that is the American defense establishment. Alas, the truth is that the Pentagon’s public relations machine is still grinding away. This administration’s dedication to continuing the tradition of dishonest public communication bequeathed it by the Bush bunch is of cardinal importance. For its implications for how we conduct the nation’s affairs are deeper and more enduring than this ridiculous try at casting the mantle of success over our gory, corrupt and inept escapade in Iraq. First a few thoughts on the dimensions of our failure there.
“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading →
Well, sadly, I couldn’t take my laptop into the auditorium, so it’s all written notes. You might as well head over to the Guardian Iraq Inquiry website for the live blog there. It’s the best one out there. So before I start watching the talking heads give their analysis, or, even worse, that of other Labour Party hacks (Margaret Beckett is droning on right now on Sky–anyone who lives in the UK will know what a dreaded prospect that is) here are some observations.
It was a bit surreal, in fact–the Alternative Viewing Facility turns out to be the large auditorium in the Queen Elizabeth II Center where the inquiry is being held. There must have been 800 people in there, not many of them likely to have been on Blair’s side. All very well behaved, I must say–and a really broad age range, Clearly a lot of people had taken time off from work, as I had. This was important. It’s like being in the Iraq marches in 2002 and 2003–there was a need to bear witness, and this was one of those occasions that required it. Chilcot, to his credit, understands this, I think. It goes without saying that neither Tony Blair nor the current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown (who testifies next month) wanted this inquiry. There were lots of demonstrators outside, of course, but there seemed to be even more police. Continue reading →
OK, today is the big day. We’ve already had three hours of Tony Blair this morning, but they’re only letting the public in to either a morning or an afternoon session for Blair’s testimony, and I got the afternoon. I can’t believe I got one of these tickets—I never win anything. But here we are.
And I haven’t heard back on whether they have Wi-Fi in the room that I’ll be sitting in, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to post. If not, it will all come out in one large post later.
So what happened this morning? Blair was asked about what happened at Crawford (nothing special, no secret deal), the relation of Iraq to the mid-east peace process (none, apparently, although he said he was “frustrated” at the lack of progress), his relationship with Bush (fine, and did not set conditions). So far, Blair’s main point is that 9/11 changed everything—specifically, the perception of risk. So even though he more or less conceded that the actual risk posed by Saddam Hussein did not change, the perceived risk did. And he was very fudgy on one point—he saw no real difference between regime change and disarming Iraq, an interesting non-distinction for someone who trained as a lawyer to make. Blair also said that his comments in his now-notorious interview with Fern Britton of the BBC last year was a mistake. We’ve also learned that Blair seems to worry a lot about threats—he’s mentioned Iran several times today. Is he secretly lamenting that he didn’t get an attack on Iran in while he still could? Continue reading →
“The guys who are shooting films now are technically brilliant, but there’s no content in their films. I marvel at what I see and wish I could have done a shot like that. But shots are secondary for my films, and with some of these films, it’s all about the shots. What’s the point? I’m not sure people know what points to make.” Who said it? Continue reading →
We learned a lot this past week in the Iraq Inquiry. Jack Straw, for example, told us that he almost thought the war was a bad idea, and was, well, awfully close to being illegal. But then he changed his mind, apparently, maybe. That’s the way it went pretty much the whole week. Geoff Hoon agreeably admitted that he did what he was told to do. I suppose reading between the lines, we learned that everything that was done under Tony Blair was against the will and judgment of those who worked for him–and yet, somehow, they managed to do what he told them to do anyway.
And we have an exciting week coming up. First, we have a bunch of people from the Foreign Office, who will be telling us that in all likelihood the invasion of Iraq was illegal without a second UN resolution, which of course Tony was happy to ignore. Continue reading →
This forthcoming week we expect some more outright lying to go on in the Chilcot inquiry. This is because those appearing—-particularly former Defence Minister Geoff Hoon and former foreign secretary Jack Straw-—have an occasional habit of doing this. Both are expected to provide some interesting testimony, especially in light of testimony this past week from Alistair Campbell, and testimony in December from a number of senior military figures.
Before getting to what we might expect, let’s look at what we learned this past week. P.G. Wodehouse’s Lord Emsworth, whose motto was “Stout Denial!” would have been proud of Alistair Campbell. Campbell, Tony Blair’s Communications guy, can lie with the best of them, and we presume he did. In fact, what was unsurprising about Campbell’s testimony was the extent to which he stuck to the script, while at the same time the extent to which he tried to blame everyone else. Campbell’s testimony and answers to questions even included a reference to Psalm 56 on his whiny blog, “All day long they twist my words”, which, as Hugh O’Shaughnessy pointed out, would be funny if it came from someone else. Continue reading →
Wow, 100 issues of Nota Bene! Props to Russ for helping me for a while with this nifty little S&R feature. Never mind all that now, let’s get on with this issue. “What splendid buildings our architects would be able to execute if only they could finally be less obedient to gravity!” Who said it? Continue reading →
Over 6,600 uninsured veterans will die by 2013: estimate
A Raw Story analysis, based on a recent Harvard Medical School study, estimates that 135,000 American citizens and over 6,600 US veterans will die due to a lack of health insurance before current proposed healthcare reform measures would take effect.
One hundred and thirty-five thousand US lives far exceeds the total number of Americans who died in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the attacks of 9/11 combined. The lives of over 6,600 US veterans is more — by over 1,300 — than the total number of US soldiers who have thus far died in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard University and co-author of the Harvard Medical School study, called Raw Story’s estimates “quite reasonable.”
Read the rest… (great insights from experts throughout, including a veterans’ advocate who discusses the correlation between lack of proper healthcare and the military’s suicide epidemic)