JANUARY 31st 2005
The elections in Iraq have
been completed. They are only the first stage, but they were conducted
satisfactorily. We can hope that in a later stage many Sunni voters
will not be subject to the intimidation they suffered from some of
their own this time. To those who organised the election and those who
stood for election and those who voted, the world owes the greatest
respect. This was courage of the highest order. Now that elections have
taken place this log will now continue in a new document, accessed
through this link: Between Iraq and a hard
place. But this part of the log will remain here to show that what
happened was neither surprising nor unforeseeable.
AND THE MIDDLE EAST and TERRORISM AFTER THE WAR
(including the BBC versus the Government)
from June 5th 2003 - Updated as marked
[ link to previous diary from Feb 16th 2003 ]
updates down the page
JUNE 5th 2003
Contrary to the title of this page and assertions of various
protagonists, the war in Iraq is not over. Saddam's plan to stay alive
and fund an army of terrorists (or patriots depending on your point of
view, mercenaries or thieves anyway in practically any realistic point
of view) is still in operation. They are joined by others with nothing
to lose and no place to hope for in a new regime. The truth is that for
a great many people there is little alternative.
Such is the now incontrovertible evidence of the mind boggling
simplemindedness of the American approach to the 'liberation' of Iraq,
that this has come as a surprise to them. That is unless you subscribe
to the position taken by the apologists who claim that this is the best
anyone could expect at this stage. Be that as it may, the only sensible
course of action now is to make the best of it and back up those on the
ground who are working to rectify the situation.
Instead, we have the pathetic waste of time caused by those who were in
favour of letting Saddam remain in power while all sanctions were
removed and no-fly and protected areas scrapped (yes, think about it
a moment, people) who claim that if, as is perfectly possible, Tony
Blair used all the intelligence information at his disposal to convince
the public and dithering members of his own party to support the
enforcement of resolution 1441, that this was in some way dishonest.
Deborah Orr, writing in the Independent on June 3rd, has it just about
right: "I don't myself believe that [Blair] was actually mendacious in
his presentation of the threat of Saddam's WMD. He was probably guilty
of no more than massaging what he saw to be the truth..."
Indeed. If that were a crime, then every advocate, defence and
prosecuting barrister, let alone politician would be behind bars. Blair
was asked ceaselessly in the days when he was trying to convince not
just the British public but the entire world, to explain why 1441
be enforced. He gave all the good reasons and was disgracefully ignored
by too many. The fact that some were, by their own admission, finally
swayed by the almost irrelevant news that some WMD could be readied in
45 minutes (something so obvious given the nature of chemical weapons
that it did not need professional intelligence to reveal it) is just an
example of the irrelevance of their judgment to this whole business.
Now that we have not so far unearthed any obvious stores of WMD, the UK
Intelligence services are not surprisingly windy that the wrath of the
anti-interventionists will fall on them. They are a proud lot and
jealous of their reputation. Amongst them are those who by temperament
as well as political views are not fans of Blair and are unwilling to
take the rap. It is not a conspiracy of rogue MI6 operatives, just
people putting their personal reputation above silent service.
Eddie Mair of the BBC believes that leaking is right if it is in the
public interest (i.e. what the public can be led to believe is in its
interest by the media). I do not. There are better ways of dealing with
these things, and all the intelligence I ever saw was that there was
absolutely no evidence of the destruction of the WMD which was known to
have existed prior to Blix, no evidence that R&D into WMD had been
stopped, and a probability verging on absolute certainty that any
attempt by Iraqis to free themselves from the tyranny of Saddam would
put down by the use of WMD as, when and where required. Even if not the
case, this judgment was so shared by the people of Iraq that they
never attempt even to vote against him. Saddam's prior use of WMD had
created a precedent which mean that he could use the threat even if he
had secretly buried or even destroyed the chemicals. Of course if he
admitted to the UN that he really had destroyed them his own people
might have no longer been terrified of him.
Those who say that Saddam obviously had no WMD or he would have used
them against the allied invasion are of course completely wrong. That
would have been the last thing he would ever have done. But those who
say that if he had buried them he would have furnished the evidence are
also wrong - he could not afford to for internal political reasons. The
possibility that it will take some time to find them, maybe months,
or decades, is unfortunately quite likely. Nobody apart from Saddam
himself can be considered as obviously in possession of the
Those who did the work [of burying or disposing] are probably not alive.
The reputation of anonymous (to the public) intelligence specialists is
not a national interest of great magnitude. That the public should
trust its Prime Minister to be honest (which sensible people can see
that he is) is more important. MI6 staff are expendable and anyway have
probably been faultless in their briefings so no heads will role
WMD are found or not. They should leave politics to the politicians.
Undermining the government to save their own prickly pride is not
Bringing law and security and employment, the chance to earn an honest
living to those Iraqis who aspire to that, is now the priority. It is a
massive task, and will require thousands of Iraqis of talent and good
will to return to their homeland and help. World Bank finance must be
forthcoming. The sanctions are lifted, so the possibilities are growing.
The next vital operation is, as explained in the Iraq pages on this web
site months ago, the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. This must proceed
till it gets to the crunch point when the illegal Israeli settlers have
got to be cured of their religious delusions that God is involved in
real estate and acts for Israel. If that can be done, by George Bush
guaranteeing Israel's integrity while at the same time refusing
financial support unless they sort out their settlers, then it will be
possible for the Palestinians to control their hardliners. I am not
optimistic having listened to some young Israelis. The trouble is that
so far Sharon has defined as illegal settlements only those settled
without Israeli government approval. He has got to do better than that.
It is probably right that Europe, including the UK, should now stay out
of the Road Map process The US is going to be the guarantor of Israel's
security and therefore the only player entitled to call the shots when
it comes to urging them to see sense.
UPDATE JUNE 26th
The shooting of six military police was, I am sorry to say, partly the
result of some misjudgments in handling an admittedly difficult task.
This was not just the result of Saddam's supporters or religious
fanatics or nationalists, even though some of these may have helped fan
the flames. Our thoughts must go out to the families of the these men,
who were doing a valuable job with great courage.
On the home front, I am writing off the BBC's Mr Sambrook - he says the
BBC needs no lessons on how to use 'sources'. That is exactly what the
BBC needs and I trust the arrogant Mr Sambrook will be taught it
personally, by way of being given the sack. On the Today programme this
morning he came over as a very dubious character. I wonder how he got
that job in the first place. "Dubious character" is a replacement for
what I wrote originally.
UPDATE JUNE 30th
No need to write more on the BBC's behaviour. It is completely out of
order and they have forfeited all right to the license fee, regardless
of whether they apologise to the government or Mr Campbell and almost
regardless of whether he had anything to do with the inclusion of items
relating to WMD in 'dossiers' or briefings. The self-important,
obsessive people behind this fuss are just making fools of themselves,
but the BBC is undermining the constitution and that's as serious as it
gets. I notice their supporters on this issue are nearly all Europhobes
or Eurosceptics too, desperate to discredit the PM on these grounds if
for no other reason. What else could bring Norman Tebbit on side?
The forged documents which the public are supposed to believe were
created to discredit Mr Galloway and prove Saddam was buying uranium
from Nigeria were of course (as I suggested at the time) concocted to
discredit the government, since it was obvious that their
would be discovered. On the WMD front, Sir Jeremy Greenstock reveals
today that the Nigerian 'letter' was not even seen by British
intelligence. Its a trick old as the hills. One thing you can count on
with the anti-war, anti-euro brigade (and anti-fox hunting come to
who think with their solar plexi, they will throw logic, evidence and
finally honesty out the window in order to be able to live with the
confused emotions on which they base their opinions. I always thought
Freud was a waste of space, but maybe there are people his theories can explain after all.
There is a tentative start to getting the Road Map implemented in
Israel/Palestine. If this can at least achieve less killing it will be
worth while, but I don't think the Israelis have a clue what is
of them, and I doubt if the US has the nous or political will to tell
UPDATE JULY 3rd
At last we have the public recognition by America that (a) the war is
not over and (b) Saddam is not yet removed from control, through fear
his return (for some), through family loyalty for others, and through
financial dependence by those he probably continues to support through
devious means. This in spite of the fact that this situation could not
have been spelled out clearer in advance of the campaign by Saddam
himself and his spokesmen. If concentrating on the proper
execution of this operation to liberate Iraq had been uppermost in
everyone's mind last January and February instead of months of battling
with a UN that shirked its responsibilities and peace-protesters who as
usual are the cause of wars, this mess could have been avoided. Dear
God, in the 65 years I have been alive on this planet, so far nothing
has happened that could not be seen coming by a blind mole.
Now we gather that the French would have supported 'regime change',
just balked at attacking Iraq on the basis of WMD. Well of course
technically they are being logical - it was only WMD in the hands of a
criminal dictator that was the problem. But the real reason the French
could not go along with the US-UK position was that the world's press,
and particularly the BBC, had been saying for months that of course the
French would fall into line at the end of the day, as they always
that game. This made it certain that they would be humiliated publicly
by 'les anglo- saxons' if they did so. The diplomatic failure by
Bush, on every front, was spectacular throughout.
UPDATE JULY 10th
The BBC, having asked the country to say whether they believe the
Government or the BBC (the BBC denies this in spite of selecting it as
the very first item of last week's Any Questions) is now pretending
never thought he PM was a liar, nor Alistair Campbell, just that they
misled the entire nation by taking us to war on false intelligence. The
triumphant posturing of Gilligham, Humphrys and others on the news that
many in Whitehall do not expect WMD to be discovered is as near to the
proverbial crackling of thorns under a pot as I have yet witnessed.
How likely is
it that Saddam, having decided not to use WMD against the coalition
don't have to be a genius to work out why he came to that particular
decision) would then leave anything lying around to be discovered and
produced at an international court to seal his fate in world opinion?
Answer: so unlikely as to be off any arithmetical scale. His intention
always was to win this game, and being smarter than Bush or Blair and
totally ruthless he is not having too much difficulty at the moment. He
knows exactly how to use the vanities and jealousies of the world. Evil
men are experts in the failings of others, especially the well-meaning
innocents who are also ambitious and feel the hand of destiny should be
on their shoulders rather than their elected leaders.
Saddam would have prepared the hiding or destruction of his WMD the
moment he knew it would be necessary. He would also have made sure that
intelligence would NOT reveal either destruction or secretion and of
course made sure that within Iraq, people were convinced he still had
WMD, even if within his regime people were desperately trying to comply
with Hans Blix demands, to avoid war.
Ian Duncan Smith is claiming he was never shown the vital intelligence
- a claim he can apparently make due to a mistake on the PM's part in
releasing the stuff to the press first. And so it goes, with all these
prima donnas in parliament and the media trying to justify their
miserable existence. Nothing they can say or do makes the slightest
difference other than to make it more likely that more UK, US and UN
military and civilians, as well as innocent Iraqis, will die in Iraq,
and more likely that Saddam will be welcomed back as a saviour. This is
his plan, was his plan from the start, and he knew he could count on us
to carry it out for him. It's funny how nice people have absolutely no
idea how the Saddam type can use them to do his work. Vanity of vanity,
saith the preacher, all is vanity, and Robin Cook is amongst the
vainest. John Major is amongst the least vain, and has spoken much
as usual. The rest of you: kindly leave the stage, you are wasting
space. That includes you, Ancram, you must be the most boring man who
There is only
one judgment to be made: given that sanctions had to be lifted, was it
better to have left Saddam in charge or remove him first? The
decision was the latter, properly and responsibly made by our elected
leaders and recognised institutions, not by John ****ing Humphrys. It
could turn out to have a problematic outcome, because it was not done
with full UN backing (due to failure of France, Germany and Russia to
swallow the gaffs and diplomatic blunders of G.W.B. and survive their
own electorate's disaffection with the same) and because the post-war
phase was not properly planned (due to failure again of the US
administration, intelligence, and also our own UK lack of clout in this
aspect of the planning). All this in no way excuses the
grandstanding of those who claim there was an alternative that did not
mean lifting sanctions and leaving Saddam - an alternative they never
The suicide of Dr Kelly must be the least surprising event of the
month. Murder would be a more accurate description, but a charge of
corporate manslaughter against the BBC, which would be in order, will
probably never be brought either. Those in the BBC who believe
that the PM was not entitled to lead the country in directions they did
not approve of, used the good doctor as a blunt weapon to impose their
agenda. Under the guise of holding to the sacred duty of protecting
their sources, the BBC took a variety of dissenting opinions (some of
which will have come from Dr Kelly, some quite possibly from MI6
personnel) and attributed them all to a 'senior intelligence source'
who, while remaining anonymous, had to be proved a liar if the Prime
Minister and Alistair Campbell were not to be assumed to be liars, on
matters of national and constitutional importance, with the clear
implication that the BBC, its DG and the Governors were so satisfied
with the probity of their source that they would not even consider the
possibility that the BBC and by
inference their source, could be in the wrong.
Dr Kelly then found himself the single individual behind which all
these others were sheltering. No other source was going to own up,
however many there may have been egging on the baying herd. All of them
must have known Dr Kelly's cover would eventually be blown. Were they
then going to come out of the woodwork and support him? Unlikely.
There was a time for dissenting opinions. Robin Cook stood up in public
and voiced his in Parliament near the end of the process, but every
organisation and institution involved in trying to deal with the
situation in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole had a decade to arrive
at their collective positions on how to deal with the continual
of UN resolutions by a homicidal dictator, with the capability to
develop WMD, no qualms about using them, destined to become the
man in the world if not contained by a process that ruined Iraq and its
We read in every newspaper that Dr Kelly had no interest in politics.
Many of the Nazi doctors and scientists claimed the same. It is the
responsibility of every individual to either take an interest in
politics or stay out of them, and out of any occupation that is used by
politicians. Dr Kelly did not do that, so he has nobody to blame but
himself for being the person that others used. This in no way absolves
the BBC and others from guilt.
I will not say here what Lord Hutton is going to say in
conclusion. He will give the official judgment on behalf of the
country, in the language that is prescribed for these things. He will
doubt not wish to bring more contempt on the heads of the parties
involved than is absolutely necessary, as low self esteem is these days
a national disease. We need to respect our institutions and the
individuals who head them. The BBC governors are still sticking to the
defense that it was right to run all the stories connected with this
affair. This misses the point completely. It was the BBC's support of
the absolute and literal truth of the allegations made by Gilligham,
attributed to a single anonymous source, which is the issue.
Gavin Davies' statement which I am listening to now makes it clear
that they don't and did not have the slightest clue how to do their job
or what was going on at the time.
UPDATE AUG 5th
I do not usually agree with the editorial position of the Daily
Telegraph, and when I do it is usually not for the same reasons that
motivate their writers. But Barbara Amiel's piece yesterday: "It is the
BBC's political agenda that should be investigated" is definitely worth
reading. I do not personally detect a 'left wing' or 'right wing'
in the BBC, and that is where I probably differ from Barbara. I just
detect a BBC agenda, of quite monstrous hubris, and quite extraordinary
dishonesty (on occasions) in the subtle phrasing of its news-speak to
defend itself against any charge of abuse of its extraordinary power.
This does not apply to the BBC as a whole, or to the governors. It
applies where it does, at very important 'nodes' at the heart of the
corporation where control is effectively exercised. At the same time
BBC is going to extraordinary lengths, particularly since the
of Hutton, to give freedom of speech to those who criticise it, even
when this is unjustified. Nobody could possibly, looking back over the
last week or two, think other than that I must be talking through my
proverbial. The Hutton enquiry is to a certain extent irrelevant to
vital issue. As one who has been happy with the BBC right up to this
latest affair, and wishes to see either its healthy survival in it
present form or its dismemberment (abolition not being an option), this
is the really important item on the agenda.
As for the latest wind and piss cooked up by The Independent to sell copy, it
falls into the same category as much of the previous - the crackling of
thorns under a pot, which will probably with luck boil over eventually.
Sorry to have to say that about the Independent, it is my preferred
broadsheet, but I suppose when times is hard anything goes.
UPDATE AUG 20th
The attack on the UN in Baghdad (17* dead including head of mission
Sergio Viera de Mello and his deputy, 100 wounded), tragic though it
may finally wake the governments of the world up to the fact that
we stand, divided we fall. Mary Robinson is the voice making sense
today. The UN would not follow Bush and Blair to war, believing (they claimed at the
there was a possible future for Iraq with Saddam remaining in power. In
fact they believed no such thing - it was just that Bush's credibility
with world public opinion was so low that each nation's domestic
politics made it impossible for them to support his action. Let us hope
this will teach the US that to have a role of world leadership they
to elect a credible President - credible outside the US that is, and
a pawn of a republican party who would rather destroy a Democrat
President and demean their own political system than accept and perform
a proper role in opposition. But now it is time for all the world's
democracies to pull together and support the efforts to bring security
and stability to Iraq. If this were to be an impossible task, it could
of course be abandoned; but it is not. It needs global commitment.
George Bush will have learned a lot by now - he could become a useful
man to have around for a bit, more than just a Saddam removal tool. So
even Saddam Hussein has had something useful to contribute, though the
cost is indeed high.
In Israel, the pain threshold is raised again; but to have avoided
this, Israel would have had to settle this business when they had the
chance. The terrorists are now playing a game with no rules and nothing
to lose, and the result will not be pleasant.
* revised death toll probably 22
UPDATE AUG 22
The French government are as usual concerned only about France and
French politics. They cannot afford to worry too much about the Iraqi
population who, as Johann Hari has so clearly explained in today's
Independent, would have marched in a majority of millions to get the
coalition to invade and rescue them and would march now to prevent them
leaving. But then there has never been morality in French politics,
pragmatism. It is very effective, of course, for France. They will make
the situation in Iraq even more difficult than it might be anyway, but
this is par for the course and we should not underestimate the
difficulties that any French government would face in sending troops to
Iraq under US overall control, even with a substantial measure of
UPDATE AUGUST 30th
Yesterday's bombing of the Shia mosque in Najaf, killing about 100
including Ayatollah Bakr-al-Hakim is as tragic and serious as anything
yet to happen this year in Iraq. Although Al Qaida elements and foreign
activists now working with funding from the old regime loyalists will
probably be blamed for the action, America will be blamed for the
for failure to protect civilians while preventing them from protecting
themselves. It was after all many years ago that Thomas Hobbes
established the still unchallenged theory that the social contract is
valid only if it is enforceable and enforced by the sovereign power.
This was the basis on which the coalition based the justification for
invading Iraq in the first place - that the UN resolutions had to be
enforced if the UN was to retain any standing at all. If ever the
expression 'hoist by their own petard'* was applicable it is here and
now for the US administration. The International Community must put
aside its jealousies and pride and support the coalition if they want
see this business through to better days. There never was a better
alternative. I would have thought the United States has been
sufficiently humiliated now, and the Iraqis suffered more than enough.
* hoist=blown up, petard=an explosive device
Sometimes it is hard to know
whether to laugh or cry. Today's Independent on Sunday carries on the
front page an article under the headline "Bogus Iraqi defectors may
duped allied spies". It refers to the "possible use of bogus defectors"
before the war. Dear God, what did they think Saddam was trying to do?
Of course there were bogus defectors. Of course he was spreading
undercover intelligence that he had WMD while at the same time denying
it publicly. I have pointed this out from time to time over the past
years. That is why the arguments over the precise value of intelligence
about WMD are so utterly ridiculous. Saddam ran Iraq by terrorist
methods. One way he imposed his total authority was through the threat
of treating any uprising, or any attempt during an election to tun out
less than a 100% vote for him and his regime, as an offence that would
be punished ruthlessly. Rebellion was an impossibility because he alone
had the command and control of his WMD, which he had proved he would
use. As the world's oil ran out over the next 50 years, Saddam intended
to become the richest man in the world (if he is not already) and as
such able to command a terrorist army that would undermine any country
in the Middle East that he chose to pick off. He would also, once he
forced the UN to back down, be able to arm himself with whatever he
chose once the US and allies had given up on their unsustainable
enforcement of leaking sanctions and protection of the No Fly Zones. To
carry out his plans he had to get world opinion to stop America, while
continuing to convince his own people he had WMD instantly available to
crush any revolt.
We do have the chance of a
post-oil economy and alternative energy, through developments pioneered
in America, Europe, Japan, Russia, India and China by forward-looking
people. But we need an orderly world with a manageable economy to get
through. Allowing the Middle East to be taken over by a homicidal
gangster would not have been a good start. That was the reason for
enforcing UN resolutions. The US was the only available enforcer, and
having deployed fully to try to get Saddam to back down, even offering
to look the other way if he and his family left Iraq, they proceeded
with enforcement. You do not bluff in situations like that. Because
Saddam succeeded in dividing a gullible UN, and because George Bush's
credibility amongst the public outside the US was low when he came to
office and lowered constantly by the ridicule of satirists, the lack of
UN support has made a difficult job of stabilising Iraq far harder,
tragic results. That is where we are now. The world, through the UN,
to decide now how to move forward. Since the universe is perfectly
designed, this test is for real. I look forward to seeing how people
The rest of the front page of the Independent on Sunday was taken up
with a story about Alastair Campbell's resignation, ending with a quote
from the chairman of the Liberal Democrat Party on the BBC Today
"In his own departure, Alastair Campbell has managed his greatest spin
ever. When we should be talking about where those weapons of mass
destruction are, about what is happening in Iraq where our soldiers are
being killed and peace is a long way off, he has taken those headlines
away and made himself again the major news story." Surely that is an
editorial decision for the Independent on Sunday, not one for Mr
While I (along with most of the British public) had given up years ago
on news reporting by much of the UK media as a source of anything
entertainment, I retained a respect for some broadsheet writers and
considerable respect for the BBC. It gets harder. I knew little about
Alastair Campbell before the current argument over WMD. I now think he
he may be a truly great man. It has to be said that Tony Blair has
totally lost contact with the 'man on the Clapham omnibus', but what
been claimed by the media as dishonesty is just a man tripping over
cleverly placed obstacles in a world he is (as any human being) only
partially equipped to understand, obstacles place by people with no
pretentions to honesty whatsoever. As for the Today programme, respect
has dwindled to contempt over time, I am sorry to say. [but see update
Freedom of the press is fundamental. What would be nice would be a bit
more intelligence. Any editor who decides Alastair Campbell is the main
story of the day and then blames Mr Campbell (through the voice of
others of course!) is either a fool or a hypocrite. Any news reporter
who thinks that the idea that Saddam was spreading false intelligence
the effect that he had and was developing WMD is news, is not a news
reporter. I read also that the Today editor congratulated Gilligan, at
the time of his stuff on Kelly, of 'a great piece of investigative
journalism'. Good grief! Squeezing quotes out of an age-old contact so
as to force the BBC to back up anonymously voiced claims is not
investigative anything. I doubt Gilligan could investigate his own
We now have generations who have been systematically misled by the all
the media on a great many issues. How can democracy function when the
press is free, but stupid? Answer: stupidly. OK.
UPDATE SEPT 1
With the appearance of Dr Kelly's wife at the Hutton tribunal we now
have evidence to support what seemed certain to be the case all along.
Dr Kelly, who had visited Iraq on a great many occasions and spoken to
many senior Iraqis had been utterly convinced that there was no end to
the suffering of Iraqis and no possible end to the sanctions unless
Saddam Hussein and his regime were overthrown. Dr Kelly knew that
enforcement of UN resolutions by military means was the only option
left. He was fully in favour of the war and explained his reasons to
family. It should now be clear to most people that when, as time went
on, the continued bleating by those politicians and their supporters
claim they only voted for war because of evidence of imminent attack by
WMD (which could not now be found) appeared to cast doubt on the work
Dr Kelly, this prickly professional should want to distance himself
their subjective interpretation of the published dossier of
on this subject. He made the great mistake of trusting a journalist.
was because up till then he had managed to keep the upper hand when
dealing with them. Rather than alienate the anti-war public by pointing
out that the published dossier did not claim that Saddam could launch
WMD missiles at 45 mins notice, he chose to leave Mr Gilligan with the
clear impression that the government had deliberately altered it so as
to confuse idiots and that Campbell was responsible, inserting
information he knew to be false.
Although Dr Kelly told his wife he felt terribly betrayed when the MOD
said a source had come forward, on reflection he obviously realised
after the BBC had made the appalling error of defending an anonymous
source accusing the PM and Campbell of deliberately lying (lying in
their rebuttal, that is, let alone the dossier) that the source of the
accusations could never possibly have been kept under wraps. There were
many reasons why it would have to be officially released (not least
because the government would be duty bound to locate the source and say
so), and the media would find out anyway. His only way out was to stand
up publicly and stand by Gilligan's interpretation of his reported
statements, or to say Gilligan had got it wrong and completely changed
what he had said. Add to that the obvious distress Dr Kelly must have
felt at some of the handling of the post invasion operations and the
ineffectiveness of some assurances he may have given in good faith to
some Iraqi contacts. Perhaps now, dear readers, you will
understand why this man, a stickler for accuracy and proud of his
reputation, topped himself. It did not need a high court judge and all
these witnesses to work it out. It was all perfectly clear before hand.
But since the media were unable or unwilling to print or broadcast the
truth, we needed an enquiry.
As I have said before, the responsibility for winding Dr Kelly up to
point of suicide lies fairly and squarely with the BBC, at every level:
reporter, programme editor, controller of news, board of governors.
are all guilty, .with no mitigating circumstances. Everyone else was
doing their job properly. Of course, having the worlds most powerful
tool at their disposal, the BBC might stop at nothing to make the
think otherwise. Or it might apologise. We are approaching a critical
moment, but the really critical point comes when Lord Hutton gives his
judgment. We will then see how the proverbial cookie is likely to
crumble for this country. Will he try to defuse tension with his
judgment, or will he fearlessly call it as it is?
There were other people in the intelligence services who were
'concerned' about the wording of the 'dossier', as I have pointed out
many weeks ago. The difference is that having voiced their opinion at
the proper time, they left the final decision with the head of the JIC,
who takes into account the advice from a great many sources. Dr Kelly
never claimed he was in possession of all knowledge about Iraq or WMD,
yet Gilligan painted him as the ultimate authority at the coalface who,
if he was to be believed, was saying that the PM took the country to
on a deliberate lie. The PM takes advice from yet more sources, experts
and students of history, politics, science, economics and philosophy
throughout the world and throughout the ages. A British Prime Minister
has a formidable panoply of advisors and sources on which to base his
judgments. Gilligan's aim was to discredit Campbell and Blair by using
Dr Kelly as the horse to carry all the doubts voiced by all the sources
he had managed to make feel uncomfortable when WMD were not found to be
have been left there to be discovered. One of the conditions that must
be observed in order for us to keep a free press and an independent BBC
is that they be brought to book when they screw up big time. The
government cannot do it this time, and Hutton is not a court of law. So
who will they be answerable to? I wonder if you can work it out....
UPDATE SEPT 02
Today, BBC's Today programme managed to give some airtime to a couple
of sensible discussions. In the first, Michael Ignatief was allowed to
explain why, in spite of the appalling mess in Baghdad, leaving Saddam
in charge was not an option. He was rationally opposed by a lady who
said that she feared that the whole region would erupt into chaos,
anarchy and terrorism. Due to the usual lack of time, Ignatief was not
able to come back on that. I hope he will not object if I guess here
what he might have said, namely that this is indeed a risk, a worse
scenario, which cannot be discounted. If it happens, then it is a hell
we shall have to pass through and help all those in the region and
elsewhere to overcome.
The second discussion was with an expert in genetics, invited to
suggest that the government was pouring billions into research and
development that made the drug companies rich, whereas the secret to
better future health was not in developing drugs, designer drugs,
patient specific drugs etc but in explaining to people how to
up and fly right so that a proper life style would make them healthy
keep them healthy. This could mean that some genetically disadvantaged
individuals might have to watch their diet etc, and many of us take a
bit more exercise. If a fraction of the money spent on encouraging the
drug manufacturers to get rich were spent on encouraging the public to
get healthy, it would be more effective in achieving the desired result.
I would be more impressed with the Today programme if it had given
these arguments more airtime long, long ago. It has taken an awfully
long time to get beneath the trivial level and Humphrys playing the
smart-arse interrogator. These days he likes to appear more chatty and
reasonable, I notice. The argument for lifestyle over drugs, preventive
over curative, has of course been covered elsewhere by the BBC over the
past 6 months very well indeed. Of course we should never have got to
the situation we are now in in the first place.Can we now look forward
to some sensible comments on IVF? The Restorative Regime link on this
web site home page points to some information published here because
inadequately covered in the media at the time. Since then there has
an improvement. I do not yet intend launching a broadside against IVF,
but unless there is a but more understanding of the issue, I may have
UPDATE SEPT 03
Today we have heard about the reservations that some at the 'coal face'
in the intelligence service had about the presentation of the infamous
'dossier'. Of course the whole thing went to pot when it was decided to
present any intelligence dossier to the public for its judgment.
Intelligence reports are not constructed for interpretation by
journalists or the uninitiated. Preparing them for such a purpose
never have been attempted. However the power of the media these days is
such that if the BBC and the press decide that this is what is
government is forced to oblige or pick yet another fight. Since all
intelligence from Iraqi sources was suspect, with false information on
the existence or non-existence of WMD just as likely to be initiated by
Saddam, his opponents, or those with yet other interests. all that was
known without doubt from many years experience was that no assurances
from Saddam and his regime could be trusted. There was no evidence that
WMD known to exist had been destroyed, or programs to develop stopped.
'Over-egging' is now the news-speak for 'worst case scenario'
apparently. A worst case scenario on an element of WMD employment was
part of the 'dossier', and so it should have been when so many
commentators had insisted the PM told the public the unvarnished truth
It was not the basis for enforcing the UN resolutions. Nothing we heard
today justifies Gilligan's accusation or the BBC's fanatical defense of
it which caused Dr Kelly to find himself taking responsibility for the
accusation that the PM, Campbell and the government as a whole were
lying to the nation.
UPDATE SEPT 04
So that is the end of Hutton part one. The newspapers claim there have
been revelations. That proves what I have long suspected, that the UK
media are the last to know what's going on. As for understanding it, it
takes a them decade or more, and then journalists try to rewrite
if they don't like it. I am glad to see some of Dr Kelly's colleagues
putting their heads above the parapet and talking frankly to Hutton. Dr
Kelly was after all just one amongst quite a few not wanting to have
entire invasion based on an intelligence estimate of the imminent
launching of WMD on Cyprus, who had obviously been muttering in the
background and the mutterings encouraged Gilligan to go on a fishing
trip and play name games with Kelly. Thanks to Gilligan and the
appalling behaviour of everyone else in the BBC chain above him, he was
left carrying the can alone for a serious accusation of bad faith
against the British government. And all because of the antiwar
lobby in the media, who would rather have left Saddam and his sons
continue unopposed unless we were threatened here and now with WMD. I
look forward to Hutton part II.
UPDATE SEPT 06
Today the BBC employed (I use the word advisedly) Kelvin Mckenzie, one
of the most unpleasant and ignorant men ever to have charge of a
Newspaper, to defend Andrew Gilligan and and the BBC. I never thought
the BBC could stoop so low as this. The word contempt is now
insufficient. As for Mckenzie's explanation of how the dossier
him to be gung ho for war, well, yes, I can understand that. The sort
thing that motivates a man like McKenzie is, usually, some
misunderstanding of something he knows nothing about but would fight
(sorry, send somebody else to fight for). This man is the ultimate
wanker. This is the sort of man the BBC now turns to for support.so
he can bring his sickening followers with him on the Gilligan issue,
even though they would like the license fee abolished.
The Palestinian Prime Minister has resigned. Quite right too. He could
not deliver because the Israelis continue with their occupation, have
intention of getting out of the occupied territories, continue with
assassinations of Hamas leaders and are not under pressure from the US
to do any better.
More British troops are heading for Iraq, an advance party for a
significant increase. Quite right too. I suppose it was right to wait
till it was obvious and wait till a new UN resolution was nearer, but
was inevitable. At least we can say that the MOD was prepared. Our
thoughts and hopes go with them.
UPDATE SEPT 09
Strange that critics of George Bush are now using as an argument the
fact that the invasion of Iraq has stirred up al Q'aida and attracted
more terrorists to Iraq than were there before. Is this a bad thing? It
may have not been foreseen or intended by George Bush but is it (a)
surprising to anyone with a functioning brain or (b) a worse scenario
than alternatives that would have followed a failure to follow through
with the UN resolutions and a failure to remove Saddam or (c) trying to
find these people elsewhere? It all depends how far you can think it
The Israelis still insist that they will not negotiate with Yasser
Arafat. The results will be no surprise. They will be worse than the
alternative. As for the preceding paragraph, it depends how
clearly and how far you can think it through. The Israelis are,
not employing thought (as we know it) in this matter so there is no
chance of them thinking anything through at all.
UPDATE SEPT 16th
Yesterday we heard from Sir Richard Dearlove just what I expected to
hear. The intelligence was properly sourced, that he was confident that
it was accurate, and that the use made of it was entirely consistent
with the original report. The headline in the Independent above this
assessment, quoted direct from the head of MI6, was "Dossier's
claim was flawed says MI6 chief". So much for headline accuracy. Sir
Richard also pointed out that Dr Kelly was seriously out of order in
talking, unauthorised, to Susan Watts of the BBC about intelligence
The Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, made a fairly
straightforward apology for not being aware of the unacceptable
behaviour of Gilligan and for the failure of others in the BBC to act
sensibly. He admitted the confrontation with Alastair Campbell was a
mistake. This is a very good start on a full and unqualified apology,
but I want to hear it now from others in the BBC as well, in respect of
their personal actions or failures to act. I also want to know why the
question selected to start Question Time was whether the public would
rather believe the BBC or the Government, and who was responsible for
UPDATE SEPT 18
The slob Gilligan, picking his nose and eating it, has resisted some
feeble efforts by Jonathan Sumption to get any sense out of him.
Hatfield on the other hand made perfect sense, pointing out that Dr
Kelly was personally responsible for his troubles and it was perfectly
obvious to Kelly and everyone else that once Gilligan had done his
and the BBC backed him up, that his name was bound to come out.
has made a sort of apology for some of his behaviour, but it is not
The ultimate absurdity though has come from Hans Blix, speculating that
perhaps Saddam Hussein had made the allies believe he had WMD even when
he had destroyed them, in order to use them as a deterrent. I would
thought that was obvious to anyone with a few connected brain cells. It
was also the deterrent he used to control internal revolt and ensure
100% favourable vote in elections. It seems Mr Blix, suggesting that
sign 'beware of the dog' might have been used without a dog, and that
this was a new idea, really may have been born yesterday.
UPDATE 24th SEPT
The press and broadcasters pretend that Alastair Campbell's diary and
the replies to further questions by recalled witnesses have added
something new and revelatory to the Hutton enquiry. If they really do
think that, it is further proof that our media are run by children
posing as informed, educated adults.
UPDATE 26th SEPT
The end of Hutton Part 2. The BBC claims, through their representing
barrister Andrew Caldecott, that Gilligan was right to talk with Dr
Kelly, right to take him seriously, right to bring it to the attention
of the public in the way he did and the BBC right to make its powerful
voice available to him. Dr Kelly seems to have disagreed to the extent
that he initially denied being the source, then claimed that he had
misquoted, then killed himself. It is perfectly obvious why. As a
knowledgeable advocate of regime change in Iraq, he realised that he
BBC's uncritical defence of a journalist who had accused the PM,
Campbell and the Cabinet as a whole of knowingly
lying in the dossier and knowingly
lying in their defense of the dossier meant that his position was
impossible. Dr Kelly had been trying to disclaim personal
for what the public, via the tabloid press, had understood
(misunderstood in his view) about the reasons for militarily enforcing
1441. Finding he was being used as a tool by the anti-Campbell,
faction within the BBC (the first question on Dimbleby's Question time:
"Who do you believe, the BBC or the Government?) he tried to back pedal
before the Commons select committee, then realised there was no way out
compatible with the image of the man he believed himself to be. That is
the usual reason for suicide.
Now we have
this astonishing claim from the BBC's counsel: "While some people saw
some of the pressures Dr Kelly was under, it was always going to be a
partial view. The BBC accepts nobody in the Government,
BBC or Civil Service had an inkling of all the
he was under."
I am going to suggest you read the last sentence of that quote several
times. Long before we knew who the source was, most people were
wondering if he had (1) left the country (2) decided to retire in a
blaze of defiant glory (3) was on a suicide mission (4) had been
misquoted (5) was insane (6) was figment of someone's deranged
imagination. There were some who believed that apart of what Gilligan
claimed might have an element of truth, but most people would have
thought that at best it would be just what it turned out
to be. The one thing that was absolutely certain was that unless
(1) or (2) or (5) or (6) was true, the purported source, whoever they
might be, must be under unimaginable pressure, as their identity was
absolutely certain, beyond any doubt whatsoever, to be revealed. They
would then have to substantiate or recant what Gilligan claimed they
So we now see that in order to claim that this level of ignorance and
lack of imagination is reasonable and believable, the BBC is reduced to
saying that the Government and the Civil Service were equally unaware
and should not be blamed for not knowing what pressure Dr Kelly was
under, and hence not blamed for his death. For we know that the BBC
more than the government before the alleged source was known, and held
onto the incredibly stupid idea that he could remain anonymous. Asking
known alleged source to give evidence in public is not using or abusing
them. Quoting a man anonymously to discredit a government with the
of the BBC, not just a correspondent, behind him certainly is.
So here we have it. The BBC is desperately trying to say that the
Government is not to blame because it knows that if it were to be, the
BBC would be doubly to blame. Of course it's only counsel speaking for
you, isn't it? And we know what that means in a court of law, don't
Some call it spin. I call it barefaced lies told to put the case for
client in an adversarial system. There is only one thing to say: you should not be in charge of a public
service broadcasting system if you have to stoop to this level to
yourselves. The BBC drove Dr Kelly to suicide. The government
did not. The decision was Dr Kelly's.
I apologise to all those excellent people in the BBC who do such a
superb job and have nothing whatever to do with this..
Should we have gone to war? Well, should George W Bush be
president of America? These things have to be done, and Nature uses all
the players. If you want to know the answer you will have to read
everything written on this web site not just pick at it
UPDATE OCT 02
Interim report of the weapons
inspectors reveals no weapons of mass destruction left lying around. It
would have been absurd if there had been. This proves that Blix would
have found nothing. The report makes it clear that Saddam was violating
the UN conditions and was ready to resume production of chemical,
biological and nuclear materials and the delivery systems. If Saddam
remained there is no chance that once sanctions were lifted a bunch of
UN inspectors could have contained the situation and prevented
development through monitoring. A number of undeclared laboratory
locations have been discovered due to the present teams having a freer
hand and more resources than would ever have been available.
UPDATE OCT 06
Shock horror! Robin Cook's Diary revelations! The PM believed Saddam's
weapons were all eliminated before war started, we are told! But
no, on closer reading all that is revealed is that Robin Cook, a good
Foreign Secretary in his day, is not capable of thinking in more than 2
dimensions (when 4 minimum are required for risk assessment) and is
using a few quotes and selected contexts to justify his own position.
The original words, if correctly quoted, reveal quite clearly that the
government based the case for war neither
on lies nor on self delusion.
To all rational thinkers, Robin has scored two own goals with one boot.
Whether the judgment call was right or wrong, it was clearly taken in
the light of all the evidence and expertise available. A public can
expect nothing better than that from its government. Let us not forget,
the 45 minutes notice for WMD launch was not noted as an issue in
parliamentary debates before the war, and indeed if we had waited for
Saddam to be the sort of threat some people wish to see now, it would
have been too late. Either the causalities that would have been
on all sides would make the current troubles look like a picnic or
Saddam and his heirs and henchmen would have been left to consolidate
his stranglehold for the foreseeable future.
True horror has been the continuing belief of the Israeli government
and too many of its citizens in the policy of retaliation against a
people which it has already placed in a position where they have
to lose and no means of controlling the hardliners and their
canon-fodder now even if their own future depended on it. But the
remedy they have chosen to this obvious error is even more dangerous -
to carry out the retaliation on a third party, Syria, on the grounds
that they will be able to take some action. The reverse will be the
case. There is only one solution: to withdraw to the boundaries
originally granted by international agreement and allow Palestinians to
belong to a Palestinian State.
UPDATE OCTOBER 10th
The Service of Remembrance today at Saint Paul's Cathedral. for those
who lost their lives in Iraq, was a solemn occasion well conceived and
well attended. The address by the Archbishop of Canterbury was profound
and concise, with the emphasis on the continuing responsibility that
rests on the coalition to follow up their intervention. We shall be
to account, was the burden of his message, and learn carefully any
lessons that we can. He did not shrink from pointing out the moral
conflicts. Considering he was, before the war, in favour of leaving
Saddam in place (this would have been the only possible outcome of
giving Blix more time), it was incumbent on him to speak for both sides
or neither on the decision to go to war. So he chose the latter, while
hinting that the translating the vision into reality must surely have
not gone according to plan. Looking back over the last 2000 years
of history, I would have thought it was a given that war never does, so
for me this was the weak point of his address. It could have been much
worse. As for the continuing responsibility, that's a given too, for
UPDATE OCTOBER 27th
On February 6th
Due to the enmity between the
the United States and its allies, there is no reason to suppose
[Saddam's regime] would object to terrorists operating from Iraq
acting as an additional deterrent against any external intervention to
remove them from power. It would be likely to assist them. However it
unlikely that there would be friendly relations between Muslim
fundamentalist Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein. They would each like to be
seen as the defenders of the Palestinians, but even that would not
make them allies. On the other hand it would not mean that there would
not be elements within each that colluded in measures against the US
and its allies.
It would appear now that this situation has indeed materialised, due to
the mistaken continuing unconditional support by the Bush
for Ariel Sharon's fatally flawed policy of confrontation and
retaliation with the Palestinians. There are now suicide bombers who
no doubt acting with the assistance of the supporters of the deposed
regime or at the very least Iraqis dedicated to the defeat of the US.
When I started these diaries in February it was clear that unless the
removal of Saddam was accompanied by the reining in of Sharon and the
effective progressive ending of Israeli racial-religious delusions, the
outcome would not be satisfactory or even temporarily stable. The
borders of Israel are a matter for definition by the UN. Present day
Israel was established not by its inhabitants but the effective
international community after WWII. Unless the Israelis can reach a
settlement with the elected leader of the Palestinian people, an
resolution by the United Nations is the only alternative. That would
require the UN to face up to its responsibilities. It appears that this
is unlikely, so once again the world will learn the hard \way. The
universe is perfectly self-designing, and this applies to human affairs
on this planet. Reassuring, but very, very painful.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 3rd
Yesterday a US helicopter crashed carrying troops to Baghdad on their
way to a
spell of home leave. There were at least 15 deaths. The evidence is
mounting that failure to heed earlier advice on the need to prevent an
effective anti-US organisation building on the ground over time out of
self-interested unification of old regime, Al Qaida, Palestinian
movements, fanatics and funds, has led to growing capability for
destruction. The number of ground to air missiles in the hands of these
forces is unknown but certainly very large. The fact that Saddam is
probably in Iraq orchestrating the process is a serious blow to US
On February 27th, 6 months ago, I wrote: "Saddam Hussein will teach
America a lesson, America will remove Saddam Hussein. The experience
can then be incorporated into human history...." So far, America
has deposed Saddam's regime but not removed Saddam from Iraq. He is not
only still there, he is mounting a counter offensive. So it would
that the operation has certainly not been completed, as far as the US
concerned. The job has not been done militarily.
On March 23rd I wrote:
"If public opinion does not back the coalition to the end, Bush and
Blair may be brought down and Saddam remain. That would be a disaster.
On the other hand if Saddam is brought down and Bush is humbled, that
would be the sort of symmetry that Nature is probably called on to
achieve from time to time if evolution is to avoid extremes and proceed
on a sustainable path." I think Bush has been humbled to a considerable
extent, but the attacks on the UN and the Red Cross can hardly be a
cause for satisfaction or an acceptable cost of either the removal of
Saddam or the humbling of Bush.
On April 16th I
"There is still hope that this exercise will achieve what this
commentator most desired, the fall of Saddam and the fall of
Bush...." However, the fall of Saddam is definitely a priority. If America is now standing in the way
of the removal of Saddam, this would be the supreme irony. It occurs to
me that if this is indeed the case, the US should speed up the
transition to Iraqi control of both politics and internal security,
leaving the US to take care of defence against external threats and
ready to intervene at the request of the civil authorities. That would
require the US to prepare to withdraw to a number of locations near to
but outside the towns and installations where the Iraqi authorities
would be responsible, but ready to intervene when called on. The
transition will be extremely delicate, and coalition forces will have
remain within striking distance for many years.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 15th
More suicide attacks in Iraq and elsewhere show clearly that the
combination of a global availability of those willing to sacrifice
themselves and those capable of financing, arming and organising the
terror side of the 'war' is becoming a serious threat to stability
world-wide. The question that needs to be answered now is that of
deciding what if any is the common, perceived motivation that drives
bombers? Is there a common front, is it just a combination of
opportunism on the one hand and despair on the other? Or is it a war of
Islam against the 'infidel', is it nationalism, anti-Americanism or
Most people agree that it is the combination of all of these things
that is so fatally reinforcing, but the poison at the heart is the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Yesterday a number of former senior
Israeli intelligence officials, through a spokesman, indicated that
thought Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories, removing
their settlers, and that Sharon was the only man who could get this
done. Bravo, gentlemen. This is intelligence indeed. Until the
Palestinians have their land and their state, there will be no adequate
peace anywhere. There is no use seeking justification, right or wrong
one hand or the other. Delusion and illusion reign supreme, hurt is
drives emotions, wrong is on all sides even while at the same time
honour and bravery is shown on all sides by those of good intention.
fact that these are former
intelligence officials is significant, revealing that current employees
are too frightened for their careers to speak out. But we are told they
reflect the leaked concerns of the Israeli Chief of Staff that Israel
'heading downhill to near catastrophe'.
They are not wrong. The Israeli tactics have been wrong, the strategy
has been wrong, and the whole has been based on faulty premises. This
talented nation has been a pioneer of civilization and spiritual
awareness, a gift to the entire world, but the failure by
fundamentalists to evolve past the tribal stage of religion, and the
refusal to recognise that every international boundary on the face of
this planet has been fixed by the result of bilateral or multilateral
treaty, either after conflict or by pre-emptive imposition of the
ruling regional authorities of the time, represents a level of denial
contemporary reality that can only lead to disaster. It has alway
been difficult to understand why the most intelligent people of a most
intelligent nation should fail so continuously to appreciate the
obvious. Today's news might just be an indication that they did not
to appreciate it, but were powerless to do anything but serve the
politicians, who were in turn hostage to complex electoral arithmetic
and dubious economic forces from a superpower with influential ethnic
links and an obsession with middle eastern oil resources. Powerless
is until disaster is staring the politicians in the face.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 18th (9am)
There is a song well known to Americans and Brits: "It's not what you
do, it's the way that you do it!". Never was an aphorism more
than this to George Bush. Saddam had to go, but the way George Bush and
his Vice President handled and headed up the operation managed to lose
the sympathy of most of the world and 50% of his own countrymen. I can
fully understand those who might stand in silent protest, or march in
black down Whitehall. Those whose families have been destroyed not as a
direct and necessary cost of the operations but as what they might
believe, rightly or wrongly, to be the result of the way things were,
were not done. But it is clearly right for Bush to come. Frankness is a
vital part of healthy relationships. I trust that genuine protesters
will be those who prevent any riots or terrorist acts, and the police
and the army will find the public and themselves on the same
Much as I have criticised Bush in these diaries, I have no time for
those who say he should not come, and should not come now. As for those
who claim it is part of his re-election campaign, can they please get
real? His is a job it is now almost impossible to get reasonably
qualified applicants for. We should be grateful that anyone with even
half a brain will take it on.
The security breach at Buck House raises some interesting points. On
the one hand, the incredibly blatant and clumsy infiltration, with
references that did not check out and a name that was identifiable from
a simple Google search on the Web as that of a journalist would seem to
show that there was really no in-depth security checking at all of
during the recruitment process. On the other hand the very lack of a
well-prepared CV and solid references, the fact that the telephone
number to ring came up with a reply that he was not known, might well
have been the reason why this individual was not considered as a
possible plant, not assessed at all on the basis of such factors (which
could in any case be easily forged) but taken in on the basis of an
interview. The man was assessed as not a risk, and this was correct.
The same was true in the case in the man who infiltrated the events at
Windsor Castle earlier this year. He was assessed personally by the
people who helped him into the secure area as not a threat. This
assessment was perfectly correct. Because the people concerned did not
go by the book and the 'system' they were hauled over the coals and
someone has been sacked. The truth is that only human intelligence can
handle these affairs correctly. If we rely on a system, all the enemy
to do is discover the system and use it to their advantage. Every
devised by humans can be broken by humans. Even today, the world's best
chess player has proved he can match the most powerful computer. In
of the immense power of the computer and the restricted nature of the
contest, this is the most impressive proof imaginable of the
of a human being in assessing a situation even when another human being
is not involved and the rules are circumscribed. When one is, and the
rules are unknown, there is no contest. So of course there should be
sensible procedures, and they should be followed, but in the final
analysis the business of assessing the suitability of an individual for
position, and a judgment that they are not applying for it in order to
assassinate a head of state, must be taken by those who meet and speak
with them, not on the basis of some written reference. This was done.
is absolutely certain that any serious attempt by an assassin to
infiltrate and remain within the Royal Household for any period of time
would entail meticulously prepared references and a name that would not
cause doubts if searched on the Internet.
What a pity the speech writers who prepared Mr Bush so splendidly for
his trip to London could not have done as good a job when he launched
his war against terrorism and when he was trying to get the UN to do
duty. Nobody should doubt that his 'three pillars' on which to build a
free and peaceful future are genuine, the real McCoy. They are the
modern equivalent of Hobbes' dictum on the Social Contract and the need
to enforce it, with the specific addition that democracy of some form
(parliamentary by implication given the historical precedents) is the
only way to achieve adequate political stability and defence against
tyranny. We are spared the gung-ho and the bible thumping. Would that
had been spared from the very beginning. There is still a strange
naivety, and not the slightest acknowledgment that America might, just
possibly, be responsible for the disease of terrorism that now afflicts
the planet just as the abuse of antibiotics is responsible for the
bugs that now infest our hospitals.
The terrorist attack in Turkey was a clear strike at British targets,
also designed to destabilize Turkey and object to its membership of
NATO, its secular government and its progress toward joining the EU.
The argument will no doubt be rejoined that removing Saddam has made
world a more dangerous place. On the same grounds it could be argued
that declaring war on Germany in 1939 made the world a more dangerous
place - quite obviously it became more dangerous than it has ever been
either before or since, till 1945, but there was no other way of
with it. We are told by Bruce Kent that the protesters today want
America out of Iraq immediately and the UN in. Surely he is aware that
only the Coalition is capable of holding the line in Iraq, and the UN
has no other forces that could do the job.
For the official US National Security Strategy as defined in September
2002 go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.pdf
It is now time to revisit the reasons the French gave for not
permitting the UN to enforce resolution 1441.
1. Saddam posed no imminent threat
2. The postwar pacification would be long and bloody
3. A US led intervention without UN approval would lead to increased
ant-American feeling world-wide.
The US Government's response to this is:
1. The time to tackle Saddam, when it was 100% certain that containment
would fail and he would become a threat to the Middle East and to any
forces then sent to oppose him, is before that situation is reached,
2. Yes, depending on the world-wide support and UN approval. Having a
deficit here, long and bloody it is.
3. That is why it was absolutely essential that resolution 1441, voted
unanimously, was enforced unanimously. So thanks a lot, France, for
making sure it was not.
At last we have a move to draft a reasonable settlement of the
Palestinians' problems. Admittedly it does not deal with the return of
the refugees, but maybe there could be some compensations for that
in. Details at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/geneva_agreement.html
Alistair Cooke has for some reason avoided discussing the
rationale behind the invasion of Iraq until now. This week he came out
of the closet and devoted his entire letter to a clear and concise
history of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, ending up with the real reasons
for the decision this year that either Saddam had to go or he had to be
removed. He called this "The truth that dared not speak its name". It's
name was, however, spoken loud and clear on this web site, in detail,
the start of the debate, at the start of the war and later in this
postwar document. Now that we are agreed on this, it would be
interesting to know why it was not sufficiently understandable and
understood by the world at large for the UN to have acted unanimously
the first place. The only conclusion one can come to is that global
prejudice against the US Republican administration and the Bush image
blinded most of the world to the facts.
Here's a relatively pessimistic view of the chances of setting up a
free market democracy from scratch in Iraq, from the Miami
Herald, brought to me courtesy of US Politics Today. To prove
this wrong will take some doing. That's not to say it is impossible,
it will take time and commitment. Today's naive politicians have
neglected the role of centuries of history in building societies in
which are embedded the trades and traditions that alone can hold the
integrity of systems firm when assaulted by opportunists under
Saddam Hussein has been captured. I assume he will be tried first by an
Iraqi court, carefully constituted to ensure that justice is seen to be
done. International matters and war crimes will have to wait. One can
only hope that his capture will lessen the motivation of at least some
of the suicide bombers and their exploiters and funders.
Nothing has been said to change the opinion I have voiced in the
previous paragraph. The coalition has the authority and duty under UN
provisions to ensure that Saddam is dealt with correctly. They could
administer justice themselves, but this would be a very bad idea. It
take time, but an Iraqi court must be constituted, with such
international help and staffing as it may require. It may be that this
has to wait until there is an Iraqi government with visibly greater
popular support, and the approval of the UN security council should be
sought. The temptation for a quick judgment and sentence must
be resisted, even though it is desirable. As to whether the death
penalty will be an option, this will be a matter for the Iraqi court.
The opinions of other countries on the use of the death penalty has no
bearing. See LIFE and DEATH on this site.
JAN 13th 2004
Former US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil claims that Bush has decided
before 'nine eleven' that Saddam had to be removed. The truth is close
to that but different in important respects. Bush and his advisors were
aware that there was no solution to the troubles of Iraq while Saddam
remained in power. Containment was destroying Iraq and doomed to fail
in the long term for one reason or another. So Saddam had to go. The
question was how to bring this about. It should have been the duty of
the UN security to deliver a united ultimatum. The current Iraqi
foreign minister has made this clear, in the light of cool clear
hindsight and made it the centre of his recent speech to the UN,
remarkable for its frankness. Those who were aware of the realities saw
it in cool, clear foresight long before 9/11. The fact that the events
of 9/11 enabled the US to back up a UN resolution demanding full
compliance with a credible threat of action is nothing to be
about. To rally the US population was bound to need an event to hang it
on. But the US always doubted that the UN would face up to its
responsibilities. Blair convinced them to go the last mile. But Bush's
lack of credibility amongst the electorates of many European countries
in commitment to global, rather than US interests, made it impossible
for the UN to follow his lead.
We will now find the same disaffection with the US at the root of US
isolation in the task of seeing the stabilisation of Iraq through to
end. The American people will be split as the death toll in Iraq
continues. The British electorate is similarly divided. There are still
those who think we should have left Saddam and his heirs in control,
and the war toll goes on. We must not shut our eyes to it. The cost is
real, and the dedication of the troops can only be sustained if we
believe it to be a task of global importance for the future of
deserves our attention and respect. It is updated regularly.
David Kay, head of the WMD searchers, has decided to give up the
I don't blame him, but the team will have to keep looking. As I have
written in these pages for the last year it was hardly likely that
Saddam would leave anything lying around to be found. It would have
sealed his fate no matter what happened. He was prevented from running
a serious replenishment of stocks due to sanctions and other efforts,
but since the only way to hold him down was to cripple Iraq and that
was unacceptable and unsustainable, as was the protection of the no fly
zones, what was done was the only action possible. Had the military
action not been taken, we would now have Saddam and WMD.
considerable reflection, I am preparing to re-acknowledge the BBC's
right to the license fee, depending in the result of the Hutton
inquiry. We have already had a forthright acknowledgment from Greg
Dyke that the BBC was seriously at fault over the Kelly affair. Now we
have had the Panorama programme covering the matter in some detail.
While I view this as a deliberate plea on behalf of the corporation for
viewers and listeners to have faith in its integrity, while I accept
this plea as legitimate and not cynical, and while I have no desire at
all to see the DG resign, I am still waiting for Hutton and the
reaction to Hutton before it is possible to be sure that the license
payers are not the only force in the land that can hold the BBC to
account. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the point I
have just made.
Discussion on the Hutton Report and
its fallout will now have its own pages> HUTTON
Thoughts on the theory of Pre-emption
and on Intelligence assessments of WMD are now in WMD and Pre-emption.
FEB 10th 2004
It is strange that when when it is beyond all doubt that the policy of
Al Qaida and/or whoever else is dedicated to the destabilisation of
Iraq and the failure of the Coalition mission is to slaughter all those
who present themselves for work with the police, that no sensible
precautions are taken when calling for a public assembly of potential
new recruits. I am not surprised that these appalling disasters are
growing in frequency and intensity. My early prediction at the
start of this business that Bush would remove Saddam and Saddam would
remove Bush looks ever more likely, especially now we have senator
Kerry from Massachusetts on the job. Unless something goes seriously
wrong, he should be able to win comfortably. Much as I will be glad to
see the back of Bush, failure in Iraq is a price we should not ask the
Iraqis to pay for this privilege
Today we have a repeat performance. You would think that after nearly
50 were killed assembling outside a police station yesterday that
lessons would have at last been learned, but no. 47 people assembled
outside an army recruiting station were killed in exactly the same way
to day. The first US military spokesman to comment on the news publicly
was named Slaughter. How appropriate - I see that was the word I used
in the preceding paragraph. He seems to have been replaced in later
bulletins by one called Baker. The UK government has described the
situation as 'grim'. Are we to assume that recruits for both army
and police and any other public service are going to continue to queue
up in this way in the road so they can be blown to pieces? Of course it
is easy when sitting back in England to offer cool advice to people
doing a job under the toughest conditions imaginable, but is no one
giving them any advice at all, or are we to accept that all practical
measures are a waste of time? Why cannot people assemble in areas out
of reach of passing traffic, where any vehicle that is capable of
ingress can be spotted in advance?
The gloves are fully off now. 50 armed men with grenades, mortars and
explosives, in multiple attacks in Falluja on Iraqi police is a direct
challenge. The Iraqi police cannot deal with this. They are neither
sufficiently armed nor fanatically motivated. The coming weeks will
possibly be decisive in deciding the future conduct of the coalition
and the UN in their efforts to stabilize the country. The anti-war
movement will say we told you so, ignoring the fact that they never
spelled out an alternative option of any credibility whatsoever.
FEB 20th (entry revised Feb 23)
The UN's Kofi Annan has announced his decision that it is impossible to
organise a general election in Iraq before the sovereignty handover
date of end of June is reached. He also agrees that the date should be
respected, but that a general election should take place by October
2004 - the total lack of electoral rolls and organisation makes it
difficult to guarantee anything earlier, though it may be possible if
security is achieved.
This agrees with US thinking except the US considers October 2005 a
more realistic date.No doubt it will
not be popular amongst those who have tribal or religious agenda that
will not accept an interim government organised during a period of
coalition control, but it will be acceptable to many, and all those who
realise that to prepare for a general election, an interim national
government is essential.
The following text and pictures are included with acknowledgment to the
BBC. If the events recorded below are not to be overturned and rendered
null and void at a later date by armed force or uncontrollable anarchy,
then it has to be admitted that what has been achieved is of historic
importance. Over decades and centuries past, millions of lives have
been given to bring about or defend the principles hereby agreed.
Individuals revered by posterity have worked, stood and died for such.
If those who are still seeking the justification for the removal of
Saddam Hussein are unmoved by this, then they are unlikely to be moved
by anything, and unlikely to defend even their own homeland until, too
late, the barbarians are at the gates.
FROM BBC NEWS, March 1st 2004
Iraqis agree draft constitution
A temporary constitution for Iraq has finally been
agreed after days of talks by the country's interim leaders.
The constitution is due to be signed after the
Shia Ashoura festival
Members of Iraq's Governing Council overcame
to compromise on issues such as Islamic law, the status of Kurdish
areas and women's rights.
Council member Adnan Pachachi said the document
a bill of rights, something which is "unprecedented in this part of the
The charter is due to be signed by US administrator
Paul Bremer on Wednesday.
The draft charter will recognise Islam as one source
legislation rather than the only source, and gives autonomy to the
Kurdish minority for now.
A coalition official said the agreed charter "strikes
balance between the role of Islam and the bill of individual rights and
The deal came at around 0400 (0100 GMT) on Monday -
two days after a deadline for finishing the document.
When Saturday's deadline - a key part of US plans for
handing over power to Iraqis by 30 June - passed without agreement,
American officials helped to mediate.
Iraq will have a president, two deputies, a
prime minister and a cabinet
Bill of rights includes protections for free
speech and religious expression
Women should make up 25% of assembly
Islam will be one of a number of legislation
Kurds remain autonomous
The coalition-appointed Council had to decide what
of country they wanted Iraq to be once the formal occupation ends and
Mr Pachachi, a Sunni council member, said members had
overcome deep divisions on many issues, but did so by consensus and
without having to take a single vote.
"The result is that after several months of hard work
have been able to reach agreement on all substantial issues before us,"
he told a press conference.
He described the event as "historic for Iraq" and a
"unique" day for the region as a whole.
"This document not only reflects agreement on many
aspects of Iraqi society, it is also an aspirational document which
looks to the future," he added.
The most contentious issue was what role Islam should
play in determining state legislation, and what would be the future of
Iraq's ethnic Kurds.
In the end it was a classic compromise, said the
BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad.
They fell in line with the US by agreeing that Islam
should be a source of legislation, not the single source as some
religious conservatives wanted.
The Council debated into the night before
However, they also said no legislation should be
passed that is deemed to contravene Islam.
Our correspondent said the issue of the Iraqi Kurds'
future was essentially deferred. They are to remain autonomous, but a
permanent constitution will at a later date determine the exact nature
of their self-government.
Women can also now hope for 25% of seats in a new
national assembly, although this is a goal, not a specific quota.
The document also stipulates that Iraq will have a
president, two deputies, a prime minister and a cabinet.
The bill of rights includes protections for free
speech and religious expression.
A coalition official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said Mr Bremer would approve the final document on
Wednesday, after the Shia Muslim religious holiday of Ashoura ends.
END OF BBC NEWS REPORT
MARCH 03 2004
The response the events described in the previous paragraph was not
long in coming, and was the bloodiest and cruellest and most desperate
response to date. It was tragic that there was so little time between
the announcement of the draft constitution and Shia's Holy Day. But it
is impossible to say that even with more time to prepare that what
occurred would have been prevented - after all it would have also given
the terrorists more time to plan their attack, and more time to realise
that they had at all costs to destroy productive cohabitation between
muslims and between Iraqis and the coalition whose task it is to see
the process through to the handover of sovereignty and protect the
country till democratic elections have taken place.
The celebrations could not have been called off. The numbers arriving
from outside made control of the situation extremely difficult. It is
wonder that people feel angry. The only hope is that it will lead to
further and better means of internal security involving the local
community but without turning men and women against their neighbours.
The coalition will be blamed, and they must just take the heat and bear
it. This is how many of us feared it would be. Nobody not in the firing
line has the right to demand the fortitude necessary of those who are,
but we can hope and keep morally supporting those who are there.
The horrific bombing in Madrid yesterday may well have been a
collaborative effort between some Al-Qaida cells and younger wilder ETA
terrorists who have taken the initiative now that so many ETA leaders
have been imprisoned. Terrorists are inclined to make common cause when
their individual causes are under great pressure and the global mood is
tense and desperate.
In the UK Professor
Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the
Commonwealth, deplored the terrorist action and said that the tragedy
terrorism was that it used violence to obtain what could and should be
obtained through negotiation. Would that it were true. The awful truth
is that while the Basque region has been given a great level of
autonomy, and is able to prosper as part of the Spanish state along
with other regions, the Palestinians never had a hope in hell of
regaining their territory from the illegal Israeli settlers. I wrote at
the very beginning of the Iraq diary on this web site, well before the
invasion became inevitable even though Saddam's departure or removal
had been inevitable, that if the removal of Saddam was not followed
progressively but starting immediately by the removal of the Israeli
settlers (not just those Sharon admits are illegal) and the
establishment of a Palestinian state, with US cheque-book pressure to
bring it about, there would be very serious trouble. We have very
serious trouble. How can it possibly come as a surprise. When desperate
people without a state or an army turn to terror, their powerful
opponents then refuse to negotiate or yield because it would be 'giving
in to terrorism, which must never be rewarded'. So the stage is set for
ever escalating brutality. Into the hideous fight come all sorts of
desperate and disillusioned characters who have nothing to do with the
initial quarrel or injustice, who exploit the grievances of the
wronged and kill the innocent on all sides. Worst of all, religion is
twisted to national and ethnic ends to justify killing in the name of
THE PRISONERS' RETURN
What are we to make of the returning British men who have spent 2 years
in Guantanamo their claims of innocence and their claims of
mistreatment? At least one of the 5 makes a very credible case that he
was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, was never a supporter of
any jihad (didn't actually know what it meant as used by his accusers),
was certainly never a terrorist and did not even support the right of
the Palestinians to resort to violence in pursuit of their legitimate
rights. He only wants a formal apology in a court of law for being
detained and abused for 2 years - an admission that he was wronged. It
is clear that the UK authorities have no case even against the others
as terrorists. If we assume that what this man says is true, then what
has the US Military who run Guantanamo done wrong?.
1. The US Military claim it took 2 years to be sure they had got all
the information they needed out of all 5. This is a matter of opinion.
It could be argued that it was very important, since they had a small
sample of British citizens who had apparently gone to Afghanistan and
apparently got involved in fighting against an international alliance
that included their own country, Britain, as well as the US, that it
was absolutely vital to find out the real motivation of these people;
for on this would be based some very serious future political
positions, strategies and tactics. This argument has very great force.
Maybe the US has learned a very great deal from the men they have
released - more than they care to admit. Maybe they found out that
these men were each motivated differently. That some or all believed
they were right to defend Afghanistan, but had no wish to attack
America. Some may have been no angels, may have had criminal records
before they went. Others not.
2. The prisoner claims they were transported in shackles and goggles in
the aircraft and that this was wrong. It was not wrong. It may have
been boring, uncomfortable and demeaning but it would have been folly
to have transported them any other way than the standard practice. The
cabin of an aircraft is no place to take chances.
3. The prisoner claims that his genitals were shaved at Guantanamo.
Frankly that is no big deal. You get shaved for a hernia operation. It
may have been for reasons for hygiene.
4. The prisoner claims that all prisoners were insulted and abused
during their captivity, in ways that were offensive to Muslims. He
claims they were beaten. This seems to me to be wrong, because given
the time they were held it was not necessary. It was not the best way
to get cooperation or information out of any of them, guilty or not
guilty, terrorists or not. The only defence the US Military could have
for roughing them up would be if they were against a deadline to
extract information which could prevent a major, catastrophic attack
against US citizens. I expect the US Military will use exactly that as
their justification. They will say that orders were handed down to use
every means, on all the prisoners they had, to crack the battle plans
of Al-Qaida. That these particular prisoners were unable to supply any
such information makes this defence seem ludicrous to them, of course,
but to those charged by their superiors with doing a job which for all
they knew might prevent New York from being blown up with a nuke pushed
up a sewer from the ocean it could have looked like the most serious
job they had ever been given.
However, we are stuck with a problem when Colin Powell comes on TV and
says "that is not the way America treats its prisoners." Are we to
assume that those at the top, having given the job to their
subordinates, shut their eyes and ears to the methods being used. It
has always seemed to me that of those in high office in the governments
of the world, some do not know what goes on in the prisons (of any
country) and some do not care. The ones who both know and care would
have difficulty sleeping at night unless they were truly
dedicating their political lives to bringing what goes on in such
places to an end. Now as realists, they may accept that it cannot be
done by decree or by handing down guidelines. It takes years.
Conditions are better than centuries ago. But the culture amongst those
who have to deal with some of the toughest, cruellest and often
insanest individuals on the planet is not the same as a personnel
manager of Tesco. So can we have a little consistency? Can George W
Bush get down off his self-righteous pulpit and admit that however high
his aims and worthy his goals Guantanamo was probably a hell-hole,
staffed by some soldiers who were not there to make the prisoners feel
at home. Maybe it could never be. Maybe some innocents who found
themselves there have had a raw deal. Maybe they have suffered for the
greater good of all in the long run. But it is better if we have
confidence that those at the top like Powell do know what is going on
at the coal face. Bush is fond of quoting Churchill. Churchill never
shrank from admitting the horrors of war, did not lie about them but
did not glory in them either.
RESULT OF THE SPANISH ELECTION
The new Spanish Prime Minister and his party have been elected due to
the complex effects of the Madrid bomb blasts and no other reasons.
Such was the approval of the Spanish public of the way the government
had been running things that they were about to vote them another term
in spite of 90% domestic disapproval of the invasion of Iraq and the
removal of Saddam. The bombs changed all that. The refusal of the
government to attribute the attack to Al-Qaida rather than ETA (not
surprising since ETA had been trying to blow up trains for several
weeks but been intercepted) allowed the opposition to circulate claims
that they were lying, to avoid admitting their responsibility for
incurring the wrath of the terrorists. It is interesting to speculate
whether, if they had attributed the bombing to (probably) Al-Qaida
instead of (probably) ETA, and thereby avoided any accusation of lying
(though how a tentative suggestion can be called a lie I don't know),
they would have won. Who can say?
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says the Iraq operation is 'a disaster'. I
think we can agree it has not gone well in many respects, and in
Baghdad in particular, but to class it as a disaster is to ignore what
would probably have occurred if the operation had not gone ahead when
it did. The judgment of those who believe the war was right depends on
that, and it is something those who are opposed to the war are
absolutely unwilling to discuss.
The new Prime Minister says he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.
"You cannot go to war on a basis of lies" he states. It remains to be
seen which lies he is referring to. Most sensible people know we went
to war on the basis of Saddam's lies over many years. Of more concern
his approval of the fact that terrorists can frighten people into not
voting for people the terrorists do not like. "You can vote on the
of appeasing terrorists" would seem to be his message, "as long as it's
for me". If he withdraws from Iraq, the terrorists will have achieved
How the withdrawal will help the Iraqi people is hard to see. However,
the threat of Spain's new PM is to withdraw if UN approval is not given
to the process now going on (the removal of Saddam having already taken
place, and his restitution not being suggested by anyone). So if
he were to achieve that, it would be a positive outcome. As\with all
objectors to the actions of the coalition, there is a refusal to
discuss, let alone think through, the alternatives. Robin Cook bleats
on about how the world is more dangerous because we took out Saddam and
took on terrorists. Of course it is! But it is still the right way to
go because it would be even worse if the only chance to act had been
missed. Jack Straw had some difficulty explaining to John Humphrys this
morning that it was possible to reflect on the decision to go to war
even now, and to keep an open mind, and still think it was the right
call. Humphrys' simple mind seemed to have a bit of difficulty here.
But let us give the BBC credit. Reporting has been fair and balanced.
Here is a report from William Horsley, today.
It is worth reading carefully.
Spain to re-join 'Old Europe'
By William Horsley
BBC European Affairs correspondent
The winner of the Spanish general election, Jose
Rodriguez Zapatero, has promised to end Spain's close alliance with the
US over Iraq and to revive its traditional ties with France and
The political landscape of Europe may again be split in
The Franco-German alliance has reason to
Within hours of the election result, Mr Zapatero
condemned the Iraq war and its US-led occupation as "disasters".
He said President George Bush and Britain's Prime
Minister Tony Blair should engage in "self-criticism" for their
He promised to bring home Spain's 1300-strong
contingent of peacekeeping troops in Iraq.
He is to announce the date after his inauguration, in
a few weeks.
These outbursts may reflect Mr Zapatero's political
inexperience, or his strong convictions.
Either way, they point to a re-heating of a cauldron
of old arguments within Europe and across the Atlantic.
Under Jose Maria Aznar, Spain became - along with
Britain - a pillar of the pro-American group of nations in western
Its main contributions were:
- internationally, giving diplomatic support to the
US and UK over the use of military force in Iraq
- in Iraq, deploying highly-skilled peacekeepers to
help with the physical and political re-building of the country
- in the European Union, standing up for Nato and
the vital importance of Europe's relations with America.
Along with Spain, the closest European allies of the US
over Iraq and its strategy against terrorism are Britain, Denmark,
Italy, Poland and most of the other eastern European countries which
will join the European Union in May.
On the other side, France leads another group of
European states which opposed the US-led war in Iraq and which still
refuse to contribute directly to the coalition's work in Iraq.
Zapatero: Speaking out of inexperience or
Germany and Belgium are in this group. Spain may now
For 18 months, from August 2002 up to last month,
efforts to forge a credible common foreign policy for the EU were
stymied as these two rival camps clashed in a series of public
The divide helped to poison the atmosphere as leaders
from 25 governments in Western and Eastern Europe struggled last year
to agree on the text of a new EU constitution, which was meant to
demonstrate the unity and common purpose of Europe as a whole.
'Appeasement of terror'
Instead, the talks on a constitution collapsed at an
EU summit meeting in Brussels last December.
Mr Zapatero has promised to revive Spain's
traditional "pro-European" foreign policy.
Its main points are:
- to compromise over Spain's defence of its national
interests - especially over its relative voting strength - for the sake
of early agreement on the EU constitution
- to bring back Spanish troops from Iraq to show the
new government's disapproval of a "unjustified" war
- to call for a new "international alliance"
against terrorism, based on the authority of the United Nations, not
"unilateral actions" by the US and UK.
This set of proposals has been welcomed by France, but
brought a cool response from the British government.
The European Commission President Romano Prodi, a
champion of a stronger Europe, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa
that the US strategy had failed, as it had led to international
terrorism growing "infinitely more powerful".
But a long-standing friend of the US, the German
Christian Democrat Freidbert Pflueger, told BBC Radio that the new
Spanish government was engaged in "appeasement" of terrorism.
Al-Qaeda appeared to have succeeded in changing the
government of one European country through terror.
"That must never happen again," he said.
MARCH 22 2004
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the assassinated
founder of the militant group
Hamas, targeted by helicopter gunships in
leaving dawn prayers at a mosque.
has been suggested that this is just as legitimate as the action taken
by coalition troops when bombing positions held by Al-Qaida. Where is
the logic in that? The Israeli government holds its action to be
legitimate self defense, but this can only be agreed if we believe
Israel's negotiating position and their occupation of Palestinian
territory to be based on international law, which it is not. That is
why the condemnation by the UK and other governments of this action is
perfectly right, and the failure of the United States to condemn it is
wrong. Israel is in the wrong. It has invaded Palestine and settled
parts of it - that is unacceptable in any logic. The coalition has not
the slightest desire to remain as settlers by force in any of the
countries it has troops in, and can't wait to get the troops home.
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was very probably responsible for suicide attacks
on Israel, but the Palestinians don't have any other military option.
Israel has the right to exist behind internationally agreed borders.
MARCH 24 2004
Richard Clarke obviously knew his job. But it is clear that the Bush
administration did not concentrate on a campaign to avoid airliners
being flown onto the twin towers because that was not the problem that
was presented to them by Clarke or anyone else. The reason why Clarke
did not get the attention he wanted was because the administration
doubted that time spent trying to kill Bin Laden was profitably spent.
It is absolutely certain that, had they succeeded, it would not have
stopped 9/11. Quite the reverse; world opinion, which knew nothing of
Bin Laden, would have seen 9/11 as revenge against Bin Laden's death.
The Bush administration was concerned about Iraq and quite rightly.
Saddam and his family were potentially the richest terrorists in the
world, contained only by unsustainable sanctions that crippled the
country and hurt innocent people. That Al-Qaida was not run from Iraq,
but Afghanistan, was why Afghanistan was dealt with first, Iraq second.
The sad truth is that neither action could have been undertaken without
the 9/11 disaster taking place first, as the American public would not
have accepted the cost.
The Prime Minister is quite obviously right to go to Lybia. It is even
obvious to Teddy Taylor. That's about as clear as anything can be. Let
us hope he his a safe trip.
The appalling savagery of the attacks on Americans in Iraq over
the past few days, though confined to certain areas and involving only
local violence, has borne out the fears expressed one year ago on this
web site. The process of forcibly removing Saddam and his regime,
although approved by the majority of Iraqis, has caused terrible damage
to a significant number of Iraqis, their families and their means of
employment. In certain areas, particularly Baghdad and environs and
amongst the Sunni, revenge is the sole thought in their minds. If this
was anticipated and there is still the will in the coalition to see
this process through, then well and good; but it is going to be a
terrible business and a long one. As written here a year ago, the
immediate post-war errors have made things worse than they might have
been. However, it has to be admitted that compared to having Saddam in
charge, with sanctions failing and proliferation in other areas
still on the rise, today's situation when the die has been cast and the
cards are on the table is preferable, however terrible. The media are
speculating that this could be the turning point where the US loses its
nerve, where low morale amongst the troops starts to eat away at public
opinion, and where the vital investors, experts and others needed to
rebuild Iraq will be scared off. We shall see. In my view it is up to
the Iraqis to decide, and they will either rally to make sure the
coalition stays till a proper handover can be accomplished or they will
not. If not, God help them.
APRIL 10th 2004
Jack Straw has rightly said that the
situation is now the most critical since the start of the operation.
Various commentators are summing up the options and the possible
best-case/worst-case outcomes of each. The bottom line, however, is
this: sooner or later the coalition will need to leave Iraq in the
hands of Iraqis. When this happens, there must be little risk that
those who supported the coalition and the rebuilding of Iraq will be
left in a situation where they could be the subject of large scale
revenge killings. If this commitment is not made clear at this stage,
there is no way the majority of Iraqis who supported the overthrow of
Saddam can be expected to stand up now to take part in the
reconstruction and the implementation of the rule of law by the interim
authority. This requires not just the coalition but the Iraqi
population to show their commitment over the coming weeks.
APRIL 17th 2004
The coalition has shown its commitment.
Over the past 7 days, violence has predominated in Iraq and
hostage-taking has become the new name of the game. Mistakes have also
been made (in my view) in dealing with the Falujah incident; but
overall it can be said that the reaction of the coalition to (i) the
hostage taking and (ii) the absurd offer of a truce by Bin Laden to all
countries who pull out of their commitments in Muslim countries - a
truce he could not even deliver of he wanted to, has been solid. Blair
and Bush have made their commitment very clear. As for the Israeli plan
to withdraw from the Gaza strip unilaterally, I have dealt with that in
a separate roadmap diary started today.
APRIL 24 2004
The truth is gradually emerging about the extent to which corruption
surrounding the sanctions and oil-for-medicine schemes allowed Saddam
to make billons of dollars anually with which he supported the economy
of Iraq on his own terms, paying off the people who are now, deprived
of their positions and Saddam's financial support, amongst the most
dedicated anti-coalition insurgents. We will no doubt see a more
serious attempt by the US to engage these people in the redevelopment
programme, and to use oil income legitimately to fund a social security
program as well as productive employment. Unless this is done, how can
they expect to engage Iraqi people in the process? It seems quite
incredible that it was not understood from the very beginning that
however appalling the Saddam regime was, the economy it ran, however
corrupt, needed to be replaced overnight by another. Naturally those
dedicated to preventing a democratic regime will do everything in their
power now to destroy the oil-export potential as this alone is capable
of funding the required process.
Of course the 52
retired diplomats are right. Of course the terrorism will go on until
the Palestinians have a state on acceptable terms.Of course they were
never going to get that under the peace plan they rejected many moons
back. Of course appalling misjudgements have also been made. The only
thing the 52 are wrong about is in believing that things would have
been better if, once Hans Blix had said he could not meet the timetable
for checking out WMD to match with the miltary timetable, the coalition
had packed up its tents and gone home or sat there till mid summer
before moving in. But hold on - actually they don't actually say that.
What they are saying is that the US approach to the post-Saddam
settlement has gone wrong. That's true. But there again they are
telling us nothing we don't know already. I see no harm in them having
spoken up though. The headlines in the media do not properly describe
the meaning or the purpose of their letter.
APRIL 29th 2004
Dame Pauline Neville Jones has described the Iraq/Middle-East situation
perfectly today on the Andrew Neil late night programme on BBC 1. Why
we have had to wait so long for the BBC to allow someone with a brain
to explain the facts clearly is not evident. Duncan Smith made total
sense on the programme too. Diane Abbott (as usual) was completely
unnecessary., as was Rhona Campbell earlier on Question Time, where
Baroness Amos was in charge of her brain and the facts, the rest of the
panel only occasionally. No wonder the wretched British public is
confused. The most absurd part of the picture is that people are
concerned whether the Iraq/Middle East events will break Mr Blair, when
they should only be concerned for the outcome for Britain, Iraq,
America and the World. Blair does not see himself as the centre of the
universe. He's just a guy doing the job he has to do. I hope I don't
sound as if I am Zaphod Beeblerox's lawyer, but that's the reality. The
outcome is important, but not for Blair - for millions of others. Blair
has done his best in any case.
The stories of
the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American and British troops are
disgusting. Why was it done? Why was it photographed, and why were the
photographs given to the media? It makes no sense at all. If those who
gave the photos to the press deplore the abuse, why did they not give
them instead to senior authorities in heir respective armies?
There are only
two possible explanations.
involved at the periphery of these actions had lost faith in the chain
of command in their particular unit. They were afraid to take the
evidence to the only senior officers they had access to.
2. The delivery
of the material to the media was motivated by money and/or a wish to
discredit the entire operation of bringing democracy, law and order to
Either way, the
whole thing stinks. It is hardly likely that those who perpetrated the
abuse were the same as those who publicised it, as they will be in deep
doodoo. It will be interesting to see if those who publicised it had
any hand in encouraging it to happen. Nothing more damaging could
possibly be imagined. It is interesting that the instances have all
come to light at the same time. I usually choose the cock-up theory
every time, but it will be interesting to see what emerges. Evil and
stupidity will always exist in our world, and one is always making use
of the other. The photos were definitely taken with the end in view
that they should be seen by others than the perpetrators. Think this
one through, dear reader. Think it through....
MAY 2nd 2004
Although it is too soon to come to a conclusion it has already been
noted that there is something suspicious about the photos that are
supposedly of the British troops. Something does not add up here. It
looks as if they were staged with a view to being used. The Daily
Mirror, with its anti-war agenda, would not care how it goes about
discrediting the operation. Lets face it, the entire anti-war movement
bases its case on the premise that however awful Saddam was, we are no
better and have no right to think we are and remove him on behalf of
his terrified subjects. If this sort of abuse has really been going on
and decent solders have been unable to report it and get it stopped,
then it has to be admitted that the Daily Mirror has done us a service.
But that is an admission so awful to have to make that it hurts to
write it. It implies that our military is under unacceptable strain and
pressure due to being asked to do too much on too few resources. A
strain that has meant officers are not able to attend to their duties
of proper liaison and maintenance of the chain of command except for
It seems to me that if these pictures were faked by soldiers, they
might be a reconstruction of something they witnessed but were afraid
to report. If this is the case, they chose a very stupid way to bring
these facts to the attention of senior commanders - one that is
damaging to every person in Iraq working for a peaceful solution. The
Daily Mirror should have told them to take their evidence to the proper
authorities and offered to back them if there was not a proper response.
My personal view so far is that these pictures are not so much faked as
'staged', with a view to being used for some purpose or another. It may
well be that some of those in the picture thought the purpose of the
photography was different to to what they were used for by the
photographer or by those who obtained them later.
We now know that the
Red Cross warned the
US military and Anne Clwyd warned the UK that there would
be hell to pay if abuse of detainees was not stopped and it became
was not the slightest chance, if it was going on, that it would not
become public. It now appears that there was worse abuse than the
Red Cross or Clwyd reported. There is no point in hauling the squaddies
coals (with some exceptions no doubt). The senior officers who ignored
the warnings should, on the other hand, be held responsible unless it
can be shown that they discharged their duties to the best of their
abilities and the abuses are contrary to their direct orders. In the
case of the US, maybe they can pass the buck up, not down, to Rumsfeld.
In the US
case it is likely that in order to obtain intelligence and avoid
sexual humiliation was advocated by the Intelligence branch as the best
safe softening up procedure. They will say in their defence that
commanders ordered them to come up with the intelligence info, that
failure to do so was not an option. When sexual humiliation failed,
they probably tried forms of torture, mainly bluffing and mental, but
with the occasional actual to give the bluff teeth. Given the fact that
most of the intelligence gained was either useless or deliberately
misleading (judging from the failure of military tactics in e.g.
Fallujah) it seems to me that the whole idea of getting intelligence
from detained prisoners was flawed. These guys are fighting the wrong
war. They need to get their intelligence from other sources altogether.
I fully realise the difficulties, but they can either run these things
on the lines of ancient Rome (get them by the balls, their hearts and
minds will follow) or with a hearts and minds approach backed by strong
discipline but according to the rules. British POWs were treated very
well by the German military - and that in a war where we firebombed
Dresden. The atrocities that went on were another story. In this
scenario in Iraq, the whole point is unified command, because the name
of the operation was Regime Change. The idea that certain things had to
go on under the carpet is wrong in this case.
While on the subject of intelligence, what on earth is all the fuss
about John Scarlett being appointed head of MI6? He is obviously well
qualified for the job. The idea that because one man or another is the
boss affects national policy is just baloney. He gets the job of
running the shop because he knows the business and has very wide and
deep and long experience. The intelligence his organisation produces
and processes is a function of all the personnel and systems at his
disposal - he will not be making it up himself on rainy afternoons
gazing at the Thames. Nor will he be ignoring what all the other
members of his staff have to say! The critics should grow up.
There is no getting away from the fact that from the evidence emerging
now it is increasingly clear that government ministers and senior
military officers have been either unaware, or wrongly tolerant of,
what goes on at the 'coalface'. There is just one point I would like to
make about the treatment of prisoners. Soldiers in the UK and US forces
are put through quite serious training to resist interrogation and
treatment which they might be expected to face from an enemy. This
includes treatment which is degrading and inhumane and forbidden under
Geneva conventions. It might well be that certain confused individuals
have picked up an idea of how prisoners should be interrogated or
prepared for interrogation that is based on this training. Nothing
could be more wrong or more damaging, particularly in the present
circumstances where the justification for liberating Iraq from Saddam
was based almost entirely on the humane treatment of detainees and all
individuals by state authorities or those acting under the protection
of the dictator. Furthermore there is
absolutely no chance of getting useful intelligence by using such
abusive techniques on Iraqis. Anbody wth any understanding of the
situation should have know that before operations were even
It is now perfectly obvious that pressure to come up with
'intelligence' was sent down from the highest level. At the moment, the
chain starts with Major General Miller (of Guantanamo fame) who appears
not only to have initiated the increase on the intelligence production
but to have applied it directly through instructions on site. In my
view this was completely dumb. The desperation to get intelligence was
no doubt caused by the number of US helicopters being shot down. The
reason for these casualties lies in the totally absurd failure of
military planners 15-20 years ago to realise the vulnerability of
helicopters in environments where the proliferation of hand-held
weapons in the hands of guerrilla forces cannot be controlled. It will
now be up to Major General Miller to state clearly if the methods he
used in attempting to get intelligence out of prisoners were on his own
initiative and with or without the knowledge of Rumsfeld. The comments
made here over the past weeks are proved to be more accurately focussed
than other media or even parliamentary speculation at the time or
It is now obvious that the pictures published by the Mirror are staged,
and not taken in Iraq. Of course Piers Morgan by his own admission
could not pass the most elementary intelligence test so would not have
been capable of figuring out the possible consequences of printing the
pictures even if he had the brains to see if they were staged. We know
from his track record that he is a dishonest man anyway, so even if he
had figured it out he might well have acted no differently. He can
understand circulation figures and no doubt those who gave him the
pictures could count the money they were paid; but we should not expect
much more from Morgan. This is not to say that there has been no
mistreament of any prisoners by British soldiers. It is to say that
having morons and crooks as editors of our newspapers is likely to lead
to trouble. As for the pictures of American abuse of prisoners it would
seem that the abuse and the picture of the abuse were stage
deliberately by a US intelligence service in the unbelievably stupid
intention of using them to gain intelligence through humiliation and to
document the procedures to show how they had done it..Rumsfeld has no
intention of resigning and Bush has no intention of sacking him, but
for a sensible opinion of reality I have to go along with Niall Ferguson, Professor of
Financial History at New York University as quoted in today's Independent (Review section):
judge Donald Rumsfeld?
his own hubris. He should resign. He must take responsibility for a
loss of legitimacy for American foreign policy in the Middle East. I
the invasion of Iraq, but there was not enough realism about what it
to make a success of transforming the country.
regain its independence?
degrees of independence. Clearly the formal transition to political
will take place this year, but it is far from clear when American and
troops will leave the country. Pulling out now is certainly not the
that would usher in a civil war in Iraq with a far higher death toll
seen since the invasion.
Rumsfeld's trip to
Baghdad today and his performance in front of the troops made me feel
nauseous. I realise that for the good of Iraqis it is probably
best that he stays and clears up the mess before he goes. Anything that
helps stability just now must take priority.
At last some good news - Piers Morgan has been sacked. Since it now
appears that everybody in Fleet Street had spotted from day one that
the pictures were fakes and only Piers thought it was a good idea to
publish them anyway, this is hardly surprising. Unfortunately damage
has been done. However, so much damage has been done by the whole
American approach to this operation in Iraq that it will not affect the
overall outcome that much. Robin Cook thinks the situation is
disastrous and Blair is in denial. I think the situation is just as bad
but Blair may not be in denial. Those who think that the world is a
much more dangerous place since Operation Iraqi Freedom started and
that therefore the logic behind it is flawed should remember that life
became much more dangerous for Britain after WWII started. That did not
mean that the world was being made a more dangerous place for the
future - far from it. Of course many mistakes will probably still be
made in the 'war against terror', but the logic behind the
removal of Saddam is embedded in a considerable body of knowledge which
is never even discussed in the media. The international community will
be truly tested in the coming weeks and months. Unless the
infrastructure in Baghdad and Basra can be seen to be moving forward,
the country may well become ungovernable. Unless the country becomes
more secure, contractors and developers will not work in Iraq, and
Iraqis will be afraid to work with them. Let us not forget that World
War II could have been lost. It is already certain that the outcome of
the current operation will not be as planned. That does not mean it
should not be pursued.
The latest news from Iraq is the worst ever. The American abuse of
prisoners now coming to light now removes all doubt that the moral case
for the US in Iraq has been lost for ever, even though 99% of all US
soldiers in Iraq may be innocent of any association with it. As for the
disputed bombing of a wedding party, any idea that the US general in
charge is capable of judgment of whether this or any other action was
justified has been utterly removed by his explanation of why he thought
it was. This man is so dumb he should not be given training as a
driving instructor in peacetime, let alone be put in charge of
important military operations. I am glad that any further deployment of
British troops has been put on hold. We cannot afford to be associated
with US operations any more. As for Bush it is now likely, to my mind,
that he doesn't have a clue what goes on in prisons in his own country,
never mind prisons run by Americans in Iraq. As for Rumsfeld, if he
knew, would he care? I think British and coalition contractors should
now get out of Iraq until the handover to an Iraqi administration is
completed and stabilised, as the danger is disproportionate to the
reconstruction that can be achieved in the next 2 months.
Much though I often respect Bill Clinton's analysis I cannot understand
this pronouncement today:
Clinton said the Bush administration
should have given U.N. inspectors a final chance to look for the
weapons of mass destruction that it accused the Iraqi leader of
hoarding and gave as the main justification for its invasion of Iraq.
No such weapons have yet been found.
"We should have let the U.N. inspectors
finish," Clinton said.
obviously have found nothing, as Saddam was not daft. He would have
remained in power, the UN would have had to remove sanctions, Saddam
would have become a local hero and with his vast wealth would have
control of the Middle East, running it on his usual Stalinist terror
lines. A great idea Bill? I don't think so neither does anyone in the
middle east apart from a minority that would prefer to work for him as
that is the life they can understand and handle, however violent,
ruthless and undemocratic it may be..
JUNE 6th 2004
Nothing too surprising about recent developments. The leaders of the
Iraqi provisional government have been agreed. The media waffle
about supposed arguments between the UN, the Iraqi Provisional Council
and the Bush administration about who should be the interim PM and
President has been mostly wide of the mark. No doubt there were
different preferences - why not? At the end the outcome is achieved. I
admire those who have agreed to stand. The terrorist attacks in Saudi
Arabia were hardly unexpected, tragic though they have been. The rise
in the oil price is not unexpected either, having multiple causes
related to supply and demand as well as terrorism and speculation and
some genuine precautionary stocking. We face difficult
times indeed. That is what teaches us the lessons we need to learn. We
should be very grateful that Saddam has been removed, as all the other
factors would have come into play at some stage anyway. The Chancellor
will make up his mind about fuel tax increases in due course. The
amount of political piffle being talked is monumental. As for Michael
Howard, he is shown up as the rubbish he always has been.
As for the resignation of G.Tenet and the retirement of his deputy, I
doubt that WMD or 9/11 are in any way a cause. There may be just a
desire to avoid having to answer more stupid questions. The abuse of
prisoners in Baghdad gaols may also be placed at the door of the CIA.
But when Tenet told George W that Saddams WMD capaility was a 'slam
dunk' I assumed he also explained that it was also a slam dunk that
Saddam would make sure there was nothing to find. He was never that
Today's vote at the UN to approve the final draft of the agreement on
Post-War Iraq, the handover and the elections, was bound to come sooner
or later. I suppose we had to wait for the D-Day commemoration to set
the scene for public consumption, and it took as long as this anyway to
get it through the heads of the Bush administration that their
grandiose plans for the middle east were ill conceived. But for all
that, what has happened had to be gone through. Right now, few people
in Baghdad amongst the ordinary population have much idea of what the
UN agreement means. All they know is life is dangerous, thieves and
armed robbers abound. George Bush will never be thanked for the
way he liberated Iraq, nor will he deserve to be. Between himself and
his father it is hard to choose who has been responsible for more
deaths of innocent Iraqis. But he performed his required role - as the
Saddam Hussein removal tool.
So Jaques Chirac thinks that playing any role in stabilising Iraq is
beyond the call of duty for NATO. And for the French, to do
anything beyond the call of duty in Foreign Policy is clearly not on.
We have got to know them over the years since 1945. While UK
politicians talk endlessly about the 'national interest', they tend to
do this mainly to placate the electorate. For the UK, national and
global interests have tended to be linked. The French don't talk about
national interest, they just serve it, silently or by a finessed
diplomatic vocabulary as in this case. It is "Not NATO's job".
As we were bringing the cold war to a halt in the 1980s, I explained to
worried Americans that NATO would continue to exist and would have an
evolving role. Let us not forget what it stands for: The North Atlantic
Treaty Organisation. Its members are some states who have learned from
experience how to work together on global military priorities to
pretect a certain idea of civilisation and democracy that has evolved
through some historic struggles, trials and errors. The success of the
transition of Iraq from Tyranny to Democracy is a global priority is
there for NATO to consider, and a job to take on if it decides to so
do. It is not for Jaques Chirac to decide in advance.
Al-Qaida has brought Iraqi oil exports to a total halt for a least a
week and murdered hundreds over the past 3 weeks. They have an endless
supply of individuals prepared to blow themselves up and apparently
well coordinated guerilla forces to attack the oil industry
infrastructure. It is at times like this one appreciates the insights
of great philosophers such as Sir Stuart Hampshire who is the subject
of a fine obituary in today's Independent. As he so rightly said, life
is a work in progress, pursued more or less fruitfully, with no
guarantees from God or Nature. Meanwhile the super-bores who never get
tired of declaiming the truth of what they cannot possibly know fill
pages and programmes with assertions that Al-Quaida never had any
connection with Saddam's regime or used Iraq as a safe haven. On
February 6th 2003 I wrote:
to the enmity between the [Saddam] regime and the United States and its
allies, there is no reason to suppose it would object to terrorists
operating from Iraq acting as an additional deterrent against any
external intervention to remove them from power. It would be likely to
assist them. However it is unlikely that there would be friendly
relations between Muslim fundamentalist Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein.
They would each like to be seen as the defenders of the Palestinians,
but even that would not make them allies. On the other hand it would
not mean that there would not be elements within each that colluded in
measures against the US and its allies. The fact that the threat of
such terrorism acts as a deterrent against enforcing the latest UN
resolution has been proved by polls of public opinion in the UK.
have no reason to change a word of that opinion today.
I also wrote that if Saddam was to be removed, the quid-pro-quo was
that the US would need to see that the Palestinians were given their
viable state, and that progression to this must start immediately after
Saddam's removal or the whole operation would go pearshaped. I realise
this is not easy, but the process has not been properly taken in hand
by the Bush administration, which still believes suicide bombers are
'evil'. If you smash up a bee's nest, they will indulge in suicidal
attack; that does not make them evil.
The seizure by Iran of some British patrol boats and their crew on a
delivery trip to Basra is interesting and enlightening. At first
glance, the display of the men blindfold on TV appears absurd, a
demonstration of the primitive mentality of those in power in Iran. But
we must remember that while no western government would contemplate
such an absurdity in their wildest imaginings, Iranians have been shown
televised pictures of prisoners of 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' with bags
over their heads and worse and are not able to distinguish between the
different processes that have led to the blindfolding, the filming and
the broadcasting in each case. For them, one is a mirror of the other,
with the difference that there is no obvious abuse or humiliation of
the British prisoners. We must remember we are dealing, in all these
instances, with confused and troubled people whose world has been
turned upside down regularly over the past half century by the products
and inventions and customs of western countries and cultures that have
an impact in their region that is often different from that which they
have in the nations that gave birth to them. Political power is still
not unified in Iran, and it will require a steady hand in UK diplomacy
to get the best result here. First of all we have to find out who we
are dealing with.. It's no use shaking a big stick at the wrong people
or making it harder for those who are most interested in future good
relations to manage the domestic scene. The apologies made (without
blindfolds) seem genuine. Maybe they goofed, maybe it was a bit
The execution of the unfortunate South Korean hostage has taken place
as threatened. There was never any doubt that it would. The orange
jump-suit he was made to wear was modelled on one said to be worn by
detainees at Guantanamo bay. This is altogether another kettle of fish.
Foreigners in Iraq are in increasing danger from Al-qaida. Attacks on
the oil pipelines is being stepped up again. We are approaching the
period of greatest danger.
The Iranian diplomacy was clearly well handled. The men are back, the
boats and gear are to follow. With regard to the last paragraph above,
the expected horrors have occurred. Many Iraqis have been killed. They
will need incredible courage and stamina to get through the next weeks
and months, and they will need to be better equipped. This clearly
poses a problem but I hope there are a few ideas prepared for what will
happen after handover. If we are just going to drop these guys in it,
that is not good enough. There has to be a rallying of the the
Coalition, the UN and NATO to see this thing through.
[Reuters report] Richard Lugar, chairman of the U.S. Senate's Foreign
Relations Committee, told a conference in Istanbul that NATO would
refuse any request from Baghdad "at its own peril."
"It is here that NATO's reputation will stand or fall," he said.
"Will it step up to its role as the defense arm of the Transatlantic
community or step off the world stage and risk becoming irrelevant?"
This is precisely what I
anticipated in 1987 when we discussed the future of NATO after the end
of the Cold War on the EIES conferencing system in New Jersey. But we
must be clear what we are defending. Is it the transatlantic community,
along with many other friends and allies with a common view of possible
futures, or is it what detractors and opponents claim: a financial
conspiracy for survival dominated by prejudiced racial and industrial
enclaves? The answer is: it is whatever we make it - so let's make it
right, and bring out the best in the world. The public is always
inclined to blame governments, but governments are limited by the
aspirations of the public. We need a lot more positive thinking.
Tabloid newspapers seem to hate that in an age of cynicism - it doesn't
Now we have the Iraq interim government established. They have decided
to deal immediately with Saddam Hussein, and that is a good decision.
He will get a fair trial, which is more than he allowed many others.
The fact that he remains where he is for the moment is also sensible -
there is not need to change his guards, just the jurisdiction and legal
custody. Whether he gets a death sentence if found guilty is not my
business. Life imprisonment is less humane than execution. We are told
many Iraqi's want revenge. There is a case for symmetry, in any event,
and unless the death penalty is abandoned in Iraq it would be strange
if he was not a candidate. The only defence in such cases is immunity
of a head of state acting as such, and therefore not in his own right -
but it will probably turn out that Saddam murdered many people
At the same time as moves towards the election of a representative
government get underway in Iraq, matters are coming to a head in
Afghanistan, where the same problem exists: how to stabilise and secure
the country so that such elections can take place. Just as on Iraq,
NATO is called on to train and assist on the ground. It seems there is
an agreement and a willingness now on paper amongst the NATO partners
to do this in both countries and outside them, but it will not be easy.
The situation in Afghanistan is urgent. The Taliban will stop at
nothing to prevent elections.
It appears the Iranians (more accurately: some Iranians).intercepted
the British patrol boats and forced them into Iranian waters. The boats
and equipment have not been returned on time as arranged. We must
therefore assume the usual chaos and internal political divisions have
entered the scene. There are various forms of pressure that can be
applied in due course and deadlines that must be set for the return of
the property. I imagine it will get sorted out as there is damn all to
be gained by the Iranians unless they are so desperate to get their
hands on the navigational and other gear in the craft that they are
prepared to sacrifice diplomatic relations. It is most likely that this
is true at the very low level at which this piracy took place, and a
pain for the higher authorities that favour good relations with UK.
Comments on the report blasting the CIA are covered in WMD and Pre-emption on this site. None of this
makes the slightest difference to the reality. It may, on he other
hand, be part of a process that starts a rapprochement
between America and Europe (for completely illogical reasons - we are
dealing with illogical people on both sides). Meanwhile in Iraq. the
regime will be putting certain democratic freedoms on hold if the
terrorists don't calm down. However, it will never go back to the days
of Saddam and elections where the population vote 100% for their tyrant.
Terrorism continues. Martial Law has not yet been declared - nor,
probably, could it be imposed. But it seems extraordinary to me that
recruits for the new police force are publicly invited to assemble in
the street in a place where any car bomber could kill them all
instantly before they can even join up. When this then happens,
everyone is surprised. Have we got to the point where the horrors of
the past years have destroyed the very idea of taking elementary
precautions, in favour of total fatalism? This is not the first time
that Iraqis who support the change of regime and wish to join the army
or security forces have been invited publicly to assemble in a public
place without preparing a secure area for them to do so. How could it
possibly not end in disaster?
Meanwhile in London we have a court case concerning the abuse of Iraqi
prisoners by British soldiers. Let us hope that at least we get to the
truth and the cause of any abuse, be it lack of training or
supervision, overstretch in situ, or a carelessness that permeates
several layers of command. We ask a lot of our troops - we need to know
if they can handle it or not. If not, we need to figure out what to do
about it. The one thing we have to avoid is denial
On the subject of avoiding denial, the following is a welcome step
forward, unfortunately many months late. The responsibility for the
appalling state of affairs described below lies largely with America
and France. On an international operation to rid Iraq of its tyrannical
and murderous regime, those two countries had to get it together and
act for the right motives. They failed, for reasons which are each very
different but sadly typical of both of countries. The UK believed that
when the chips were down, they would at least make new mistakes. So
far, only the old ones.
* * *
In a major report on the war on terrorism, the House of
affairs committee said the lack of law and order had created a "vacuum"
for criminals and militias, with "appalling consequences" for the Iraqi
Iraq's own police and armed forces are still "a long way
from being able to maintain security," and ongoing violence
could mar elections planned for early next year.
"We conclude that the violence in Iraq stems from a number of sources,
including members of the former regime, local Islamists, criminal gangs
and Al-Qaeda," the committee said.
"Iraq has become a 'battleground' for Al-Qaeda, with appalling
consequences for the Iraqi people," it added.
"However, we also conclude that the coalition's failure to bring law
and order to parts of Iraq created a vacuum into which criminal
elements and militias have stepped," it said.
It blamed an "insufficient number of
troops" for contributing to the
breakdown in security, adding that it was "disappointing" that some
countries -- which it did not name -- had not committed forces to Iraq.
"It is therefore of the utmost importance that current problems are
resolved in favour of the forces of order and that those who seek to
impede Iraq's transition to a free and democratic state are defeated."
"No one can pretend that everything in the country is going well,"
Donald Anderson, a member of Blair's governing Labour party who chairs
the foreign affairs committee, told reporters.
Asked whether the Iraq war had increased the threat of terrorism,
Anderson replied: "Clearly there are elements of Al-Qaeda that are
there that were not there before."
Echoing the current view of Blair's government, the report said
Al-Qaeda remains "a very serious threat" both to Britain and its
On the way forward in Iraq, the foreign affairs committee's report said
it was "highly desirable that elections proceed on schedule" to foster
confidence in Iraq's move towards democracy.
"However, we are concerned about the impact that the security situation
could have on the validity of the election process," it said.
It asked British government to explain what plans it has, both with
Iraq and with the United Nations, to beef up security for the polls,
due to take place before the end of January.
"We further recommend that the government encourage states that remain
reluctant to commit troops to counter-insurgency operations in Iraq to
send forces to assist with the elections."
* * *
indebted to AFP for some of the extracts above. Readers of this web log
will note that the problems listed above were obvious from immediately
after the overthrow of Saddam. I repeat: the responsibility lies with
America and France. There was no way Saddam could have been left in
power, or America dissuaded from removing him. So in the world of grown
up realists the failure to build a solid UN front lies with France, but
the extent of the current mess is largely the fault of the United
States. Britain is far from faultless or blameless - except by
AUGUST 12th 2004
The fighting in Najaf between the militiamen of Muqtada Sadr and the
Iraqi government backed by the coalition is rising to a peak. The next
few days will have to see some sort of result, but the suffering of
those who just want an end to the violence is appalling. Mr Gilligan is
raising his voice again, this time in the Evening Standard, complaining
that British policy is deluded. Gilligan, just to remind you, thinks we
went to war on a deliberate deceit. He would rather we had let Saddam
and his regime run on in the hope that something would happen to make
things better - anything rather than involve Britain in something
embarrassing, difficult and with a real risk of danger and failure and
death, and least of all paying for American blunders. He is now trying
to ingratiate himself in the press with the families of those who have
lost relatives in the fighting or peacekeeping. The death of Pte Lee
O'Callaghan was indeed a loss, but he died doing something we know,
from his own words, he believed was worth doing. I have several friends
and relatives who died doing something they believed in. It happens
somewhere, to someone, quite regularly. There are also those who live
lives believing in little and do not finding a cause worth any
sacrifice. There are those who die a miserable death from no fault of
their own, and those who do the same having contributed largely to the
One thing we can say about Muqtada Sadr's followers is that they are
certainly contributing to violence and unnecessary death rather than
submit to any civilian rule that is not based on a dogmatic ideology
that gives them supremacy. There have been many such movements in the
last 5,000 years of terrestrial history; but with the current
development of global communications and travel and interdependent
economies, combined with the privileges and power given to individuals
by technology, a more reasonable approach is required and, in the end,
has to be agreed on.
AUGUST 13th 2004
Larry Diamond, an occasional advisor to the coalition over much of the
past year, has summed up the position accurately.
His essay at: http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/publications/digest/042/diamond.html
was written in February, updated in July. He contributed thoughtfully
to today's World at One on BBC Radio 4.
August 24th 2004
There has been little point on commenting on the process of removing
the followers of Muqtada Sadr from control of either holy sites or
other urban quarters. It just has to take its course, though it looks
very near an end or a crisis this evening. Sadr has nothing to offer
and negotiations with him are clearly meaningless. No doubt beside his
deluded and criminal followers there are many who nurse genuine hurt
and grievance, patriotic sentiments, and hatred of the Bush regime that
they find as careless of what happens on the ground as Saddam once was.
So let us look at what has been turned up by the cleaners.
We now have the Schlesinger
report, and the Fay Report.
The Schlesinger report says
that the US guards in the Baghdad prison were out of control, under
strain ad attack and behaving badly, that the top brass did not know
this and should have done, and that the general tone of motivation
coming down from the top political and military machinery was such as
easily have encourage a kick-ass mentality. Certainly nothing at all
was done to see that care was taken to see that Saddam's prison regime
was not replaced by another, maybe less brutal (though not always even
that) and even more humiliating. In the circumstances it is hard to
imagine a failure more crass, more devastating, and at a stroke capable
of nullifying the moral case for invasion in the minds of a important
section of the public: those who had wisely suspended judgment till
My conclusion: Rumsfeld's advisors -the people who report to him on
what is going on, on a daily, weekly and monthly basis - must either
have been so dominated by him that they did not dare tell him, or so
incompetent and out of touch that they did not know. They should all be
sacked when a convenient moment comes, not just as punishment but
because they are no damned good at the job. Rumsfeld ought of course to
go, but that should wait till he has stayed to help clean up the mess.
Then he can go ignominy, even if the outcome is justified and worth the
cost. Lets us not forget, we never have to worry about the means
justifying the end. There is never and end, only an objective; and the
decision has to be in justifying that objective, which is a way-point,
and one method of reaching it as opposed to another. No 'other' means
has ever been proposed.
The Fay Report says (or I
assume it says because I have not read it) that the Intelligence
Service was actually responsible for instigating much of the abuse.
Conclusion: There again, those at the lower and middle levels should be
sacked as they are no good at their job and used the wrong methods,
dismissed the service if their behaviour was illegal, inappropriate,
stupid, contrary to instructions. If it was according to instructions
at any level, then the buck should be also passed up till it stops on
the desk of the man at the top. Oh, I see he has already left and
cleared his desk - and I said at the time, on these pages, that was why
he was going. Is it really true that we have to rely on these
semi-educated knuckle-heads to protect us from international terror,
anarchy and religious nuts? If so, we really must try to do better. The
trouble seems to be that nobody in their right mind would want to do
any of these jobs at the moment, in the media-driven world we now live
in. Yet without a free press we are also in deep doo-doo. An excellent
paradox. It should fill us with optimism, as the resolution of such
paradoxes (paradoi?) is the key to evolutionary progress, but it won't
relieve the pain.
SEPT 16 2004
The last weeks have seen more appalling violence in Baghdad and
to make Tim Collins, whose pre-invasion speech to his troops was
highlighted on this web site at the time, express his exasperation in
public that so little preparation was given to the post-war
organisation of Iraq. This has been a constant criticism by this writer
from day one. However, the blame for this lies not only with the US or
British governments. It lies heavily with the anti-war movement who
were prepared, come what may, to leave Saddam where he was rather than
face the alternative. There was only one policy that the US had decided
on - that was that Saddam had to go or cease his game of holding his
own citizens in thrall with internal intelligence reports that he had
WMD (now seen as false) while making it impossible for the UN to find
any. Right up to the invasion the door was not closed on the
possibility that he could come clean, or be removed by his own or leave
voluntarily if faced with the alternative of invasion. Had the US and
Britain prepared officially for the postwar period it would have been
taken as cast iron evidence that all these possibilities had already
been abandoned. They had not been abandoned. But it was the weakening
of the UN by the antiwar movement that prevented the second (or 15th?)
resolution being passed, as Saddam knew it would, and it was that which
made it impossible for any other outcome than an invasion at the time
it was made, and a lack of preparedness that has led to the sequence of
disasters in Baghdad. Tim Collins has every right to complain. Anti-war
protesters have not the slightest right - they are the people who made
preparations for the postwar period impossible and, as I wrote at the
time, made war inevitable. Such people have always done the latter
history, so there is nothing special about this time. That they
achieved the former so disastrously is due also to the fact that in
this case the war was so brief.
SEPT 19th 2004
3 days ago I wrote the phrase Civil War in the paragraph above and
deleted it 3 times. I did not wish to be the first to state the
obvious. Also, it is not a civil war in a sense that has easily
recognisable precedents. That Iraq is the crucible in which the
terrorists will confront the rest was true the moment it became
apparent that an authority to replace Saddam was not being put in place
progressively after his overthrow. That was evident at the time.
The position admitted now was made clear here from the start, if you
care to read from the beginning. That is not to say that backing off
and leaving Saddam in charge would have meant that this conflict could
have been avoided, or that it would have been less terrible - far from
it. As for Charles Kennedy calling for Tony Blair to apologise,
it just reinforces the growing impression that this guy has little idea
of reality, or what was in Blair's mind when he took the decision. He
thinks it was the right decision, and so do I. I don't think he
was unaware of, or ignored any warnings about what might happen.
SEPT 25th 2004
I was going to refrain from comment about the latest kidnapping in
Iraq, but the media circus and the antics of much of the British public
force me to say what needs to be said.
1. We cannot negotiate with
hostage takers who do not wish to
2. They do not have any
3. We cannot talk with them, as
they are in hiding.
4. There are no parallels with
the IRA, with whom contact was
established on an ongoing basis, and only then negotiations started
when the IRA made it known that they wished to negotiate a ceasefire
and replace war with politics. The British government wished Sinn Fein
to be part of the N.I. political process - it was only Paisley and his
followers who did not want them at any price, fr a mixture of.political
and religious reasons as well as their identity as the political wing
of the IRA.
5. The hostage.holder is not an
Iraqi. He is exploiting Iraqis in a
situation that was badly mishandled by the US.
6. Distributing thousands of
leaflets.asking Iraqis to risk their lives
by helping to locate Ken Bigley is unjustified, undignified and
insulting to Iraqis who suffered thousands of innocent deaths. While it
is true that there are insufficient organised records to tell who was
alive in Iraq before this conflict, and therefore no way to know how
many have died, the incredible demand that one Englishman of retiring
age who went voluntarily to Iraq knowing the risks merits this effort
is quite absurd. It has been done to appease the British public, of
whom the anti-war movement are the source of the serious mistrust
amongst some Iraqis of coalition policy and have a lot to answer for.
7. As for the opinion that this
kidnapping means the removal of Saddam
was not worth it, or not essential, and that we could have left the
whole area in his hands, it is not worth debating. I listen carefully
to all these opinions. The holders of them are often very correct about
the failure of understanding, by the US administration, of how to go about these
things; but their opinions on the
wisdom of the removal of Saddam Hussein and his terrorised supporters
(including his own family) are all based on a lack of information
and understanding - information and understanding of a kind that would
require a re-run of the educational history of those who hold these
views, taking quite a few years in the classroom and several
invigilated exams. I
include Denis Healy in this group.
8. The intelligence that Saddam
had WMD was a key part of Saddam's internal tyranny system. He made
sure that there could be neither insurrection or even the formation of
a political opposition, by the threat of chemical/biological
extermination, of the kind he had already demonstrated or worse. Had he
ever allowed his experts to talk publicly to say that he had hidden or
destroyed them, and told all his generals that none of them were
equipped with WMD, he would have dug his own grave and invasion would
have been unnecessary. That was why he did not allow them to speak, and
therefore could not comply with UN resolution 1441. This is just one
reason why regime change had to come from outside, and come when it
did. There are a great many others.
UPDATE OCTOBER 7th
At last the report from the Iraq Survey Group has been delivered. If
anybody now still fails to understand why it was imperative to remove
Saddam at the time it was done, then there is obviously something vital
and critical missing in their understanding of this planet, the life
forms that inhabit it, and the events of recorded history that have
been made available to us. There is absolutely nothing in the report
that has not been made crystal clear on this web site. There was no
way, short of the action that was taken, when it was taken, that would
not have resulted in the consolidation of an established criminal
headed by Saddam and his heirs - incapable of being removed by any
known process, capable of corrupting whom it chose as the pressures of
the coming decades press the survival buttons of the competing elements
in the human drama. I realise there are people who still don't get it -
Peter Kilfoyle has just finished demonstrating that on BBC radio 4,.
There are those who say there is corruption all over the world, so
what? Why go for Iraq? There are those who say there are evil tyrants
elsewhere, why Iraq? The audience and most of the panel on
tonight's Question Time certainly have not the slightest clue. It will
come to them eventually as history continues to unfold, and this is
quite apart from the fact that the world owed it to the Iraqi people to
remove Saddam. I have
to acknowledge that Michael Howard seems to have a grip on it, and that
has redeemed his standing more than a little. Combined with the
incredible favour the absurd Kilroy Silk has done the UK Conservative
Party, that party may be capable now of forming a respectable and
loyal opposition - providing it comes to its senses on Europe and
recognises that the EU will have to be run according to an agreed
constitution, and they will have to either approve the suggested one or
come up with a different one that is acceptable to the rest.
OCTOBER 11th 2004
I have respected the views of Douglas Hurd in the past. However, he
seems to have lost his sense of reality. He is quoted as saying: "The
case for war having evaporated, it has now been relegated to a
hypothesis of a future threat. This is a different thing from the real
and growing threat we were told about before the war, and it is not
grounds for attacking a sovereign country". Iraq, my dear little
Douglas, was not a sovereign country. Its people were held hostage by a
tyrant under threat of extermination of any individual or political
group that opposed him, by methods he had proved willing and capable of
using if threatened. The UN had a duty to remove him. The coalition
carried out that duty on behalf of the UN. Saddam's WMD capability was
never doubted by Iraqis, and he made sure it never was. He was hoist on
his own petard, and that was as right and right can be.
The mood this last week in the media has been in general a growing
hysteria amongst the anti-war bunch, with the anti-Blair political
opportunists climbing on the band-wagon. Greg Dyke want's the BBC to
apologise - this time to him for sacking him, claiming Gilligan was
right. Michael Howard, while approving of the war and the removal
of Saddam, accuses Blair of dishonesty daily on some point or other.
Bob Marshall Andrews ("pass the sick bag" was what a phone-in caller to
Any Answers (BBC Radio 4) thought of his contributions - and I agree)
claims that Blair took us, by lying, into an illegal war and should now
resign. Kennedy crows that he was right all along and heads the only
honest party in politics. While I personally welcome the departure of
Bush if Kerry can manage it, and have been stunned for the past decade
over the apparent naivety of Blair who seems to share a simplicity of
mind with Bush that is so extreme as to to be hardly believable, it is
clear that they took the right course of action whether or not they
knew the right reasons for it. Nature finds the agents to achieve its
ends, whether they understand it or not. They do need courage.
Kofi Annan, whose job it is to make the UN work, is doomed to repeat
that the war was illegal - because the only body that could have made
it legal was the UN. It could have, it should have, and it failed to do
so. Regime change, everyone babbles now, is always illegal. What
absolute cod's-wallop. Regime change is, from time to time, a
necessity. Think it through children. As for thinking Hans Blix would
have found any WMD, or the world would be a safer place if the
Coalition had sat in situ outside Iraq while he did that and then went
home, than it is now, dream on.
When Britain declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939 it was to make the
world a safer, better place. It did not get safer in 1940. As a child I
was kept out of London, where I was born, as it was not as safe as it
had been. My father survived, I am told, as he was sleeping under the
kitchen table when the bomb fell. But that war was fought to make the
world a safer place, and Churchill told us in very clear words that
that was why it was undertaken. He had to remind us from time to time.
The same applies today, except we have a very different public in this
country, with a crowd of would-be demagogues on a media binge thanks to
modern technology and a BBC that, while some of its output is
magnificent and necessary, has come to think that democracy is not our
parliamentry system but vox pop measured by the people who make the
most noise, encouraged by some of its own presenters who have much
power and no real responsibility. The latest wheeze is to give credence
to the theory that British troops cannot help the rest of the coalition
in Iraq, particularly the US troops, and must stick to Basra and
environs because it might help Bush's election campaign. Time for that
sick-bag again folks.
OCT 21st 2004
The extraordinry fuss that has been made about the deployment of the
Black Watch south of Baghdad will undoubtedly have made their job very
much more dangerous than it would have been. I hope that if there have,
unfortunately, to be more casualties than expected, the blame for these
will be placed firmly where it belongs: on those anti-war protesters
who have been singing the media's song. I am disappointed to find the
excellent Colonel Tim Collins being taken to the cleaners by the
anti-war journalists. The 1-2 minute film which he made with the BBC
(and was was presumably edited later) is understandable only when
followed by Collins talking to an interviewer and saying what he really
means - but we can be sure that the filmed moment will later be shown
repeatedly in his absence, by people who will have recorded it off the
box if not by the BBC themselves, to imply that he thinks quite
otherwise. There is no limit to the levels these people will not
stoop. But we can be grateful to Andrew Neil for letting Collins
make the situation clear, unedited and uninterrupted. How magnificent
it was, on the other hand, to hear the accounts yesterday of those
Brits building the water and electricity supplies for Basra and
environs and what a worthwhile job it was.
Boris Johnson's Liverpool trip just proves what we already know:
Michael Howard is a man of poor judgement and limited knowledge,
Johnson is a character, a nice chap, neither paranoid nor
guilt-obsessed, who on this occasion upset a few people to whom I would
personally, far from apologising, have gone and given a piece of my
mind. Boris was very humble. Contrary to what Mr Bigley says he is not
at all pompous, he comes over rather like Bertie Wooster. The spectator
is not the responsibility of the Tory party, but Boris cannot really
have both of these jobs..
Today ITV seduced Tim Collins into accusing the military command of
over-using the Black Watch regiment to fill the US request instead of
sending fresh troops from the UK. The power of the media to use the
lure of celebrity to further their ends is unstoppable. The result of
the lunchtime broadcast was to undermine the crediblity of, and
confidence in, both our political and military leaders. A nation does
not need enemies when it is intent on destroying itself by being
tricked daily by media that thrive on dispute and dissent to make the
money on which they survive. Personally, while not wishing to second
guess anyone, I would say it would make more sense to use the Black
Watch for the immediate task because they are there, which gives time
to prepare a replacement from the UK should they be needed. Since the
Black Watch are due to return before Christmas anyway this fits in with
already pre-prepared logistics. Hurriedly mobilising a new force to
fill the new short term but important task would be folly. It sounds
like Collins is talking through his bottom this time.
The kidnapping of Margaret Hassan is the most serious event to occur
this year. It will put the greatest strain on all those involved,
politically and military, in the current situation. It may provoke a
crisis of unprecedented proportions. It will certainly bring home to
all the magnitude of what we are up against. No doubt the UK and the US
will continue to tear themselves internally - this is what the
kidnappers are counting on.
OCT 24th 2004
There is something seriously wrong when the interception of recruits
returning in minibuses from a training camp is not anticipated. They
were sitting ducks. How could their departure possibly be kept secret?
Why on earth would it not be obvious that they would be a target? All
the time they were training the enemy must have been just waiting for
them to leave.
OCTOBER 28th 2004
The following report from Reuters is extremely disturbing. It
reinforces the view that the handling of the Falluja situation has been
an incalculable catastrophe. Having decided (right or wrong) to go for
an assault on the ground to take the area, the US stopped and pulled
back just before success was in their grasp. The result has been the
worst possible result. If the peer-reviewed study cited below is
accurate, Two-thirds of violent deaths in the study
were reported in Falluja, the insurgent held city 50 km (32 miles) west
of Baghdad which had been repeatedly hit by U.S. air strikes.
Civilian death toll in Iraq exceeds 100,000
|Thursday October 28, 08:14 PM
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON (Reuters) - Tens of thousands
Iraqis have been killed in violence since the U.S.-led invasion last
year, American public health experts have calculated in a report that
estimates there were 100,000 "excess deaths" in 18 months.
The rise in the death rate was mainly
due to violence and much of it was caused by U.S. air strikes on towns
"Making conservative assumptions, we
think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the
2003 invasion of Iraq," said Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg
School of Public Health in a report published online by The Lancet
"The use of air power in areas with
lots of civilians appears to be killing a lot of women and children,"
Roberts told Reuters.
The report came just days before the
U.S. presidential election in which the Iraq war has been a major issue.
Mortality was already high in Iraq
the war because of United Nations sanctions blocking food and medical
imports but the researchers described what they found as shocking.
The new figures are based on surveys
by the researchers in Iraq in September 2004. They compared Iraqi
deaths during 14.6 months before the invasion in March 2003 and the
17.8 months after it by conducting household surveys in randomly
Previous estimates based on think tank
and media sources put the Iraqi civilian death toll at up to 16,053 and
military fatalities as high as 6,370.
By comparison about 849 U.S. military
were killed in combat or attacks and another 258 died in accidents or
incidents not related to fighting, according to the Pentagon.
VERY BAD FOR IRAQI CIVILIANS
The researchers blamed air strikes for
many of the deaths.
"What we have evidence of is the use
of air power in populated urban areas and the bad consequences of it,"
Gilbert Burnham, who collaborated on
the research, said U.S. military action in Iraq was "very bad for Iraqi
"We were not expecting the level of
deaths from violence that we found in this study and we hope this will
lead to some serious discussions of how military and political aims can
be achieved in a way that is not so detrimental to civilians
populations," he told Reuters in an interview.
The researchers did 33 cluster surveys
of 30 households each, recording the date, circumstances and cause of
They found that the risk of death from
violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher than
before the war.
Before the war the major causes of
death were heart attacks, chronic disorders and accidents. That changed
after the war.
Two-thirds of violent deaths in the study
were reported in Falluja, the insurgent held city 50 km (32 miles) west
of Baghdad which had been repeatedly hit by U.S. air strikes.
"Our results need further verification
and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air
strikes," Roberts added in the study.
Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet,
said the research which was submitted to the journal earlier this month
had been peer-reviewed, edited and fast-tracked for publication because
of its importance in the evolving security situation in Iraq.
"But these findings also raise
for those far removed from Iraq -- in the governments of the countries
responsible for launching a pre-emptive war," Horton said in an
Two matters to consider today.
First, the truth about the arms dump about which the US administration
claims not to have information to hand to explain the absence of its
contents. The impression given is one of such utter incompetence at
senior political and military levels that is difficult to imagine how
reputations can be recovered. The only way out is if it can be
established that the material was considered so dangerous that it was
removed under a blanket of complete secrecy and destroyed; or.
alternatively that there was a period between inspection of the site
before the war and the arrival of troops when Saddam removed them. But
we are left with the impression of a President who heads a disjointed
government machine where chains of command and responsibility are
inadequate and there is nobody at the top with a mature mind and an
experience of how things in the real world work. When Bush senior was
head of the CIA during the Vietnam War he gave the impression, in spite
of gallant wartime experience, of complete ignorance of life, the
universe and everything. His son seems even more ignorant, being the
product of a sheltered and privileged environment.
The next item is a film purportedly
showing an American member of Al-Qaida explaining how they will exact
revenge against US citizens for every Iraqi life taken by US military
action. I have to say that whoever produced it went to great lengths to
make it look like a Hollywood production. It is conceivable that this
was done deliberately in the belief that this is the way to impress the
American public. To an impartial observer it just makes it look like a
Hollywood production. However, since the actor is an American, even if
he is a member of Al-Qaida, there is no inconsistency here. Most likely
it has been produced without reference to or complicity of any
organised terrorist group, by an individual with his own personal ideas
of politics and his own importance, though whether it will be to the
political advantage of Bush or Kerry is hard to say. However, in my
view Bush has now lost this election and it is Saddam who has defeated
him, as I said a year or more ago. Not even the intervention of the
self-centred Ralf Nader can save him this time.* [see next update].
A message from Bin Laden shown on
al-Jazeera is quite to the point - he couldn't give a monkey's who wins
the election, he just wants to make it clear that his way of
controlling some of this planet's future is competitive with that of
the western world's and the US in particular. This will certainly
challenge the theory of some US presidents that runs on the lines: "if
you have them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow", for the
simple reason that terrorism that is independent of states is very
difficult to get by the balls. The hearts and minds of both domestic
electorates and a majority of world opinion will have to be won if
international harmony is to be achieved and a united front against
terrorism is to be realised. But with every day that passes, however
awful the news from anywhere, it is clearer that the removal of Saddam
Hussein, even if it costs Bush the election, will be the best - maybe
the only good and necessary thing - he will be remembered for. The way
he buggered it up will certainly never be forgotten either.
For the first time, writing on this web site, I have been proved wrong.
Kerry was Bushwhacked. My view:
country where 60% of the population do not believe any theory of the
evolution of life is possible, democracy should be put on hold until
education has been reformed. However,
for a more detailed explanation read here.
I suggest that members of the Black Watch who are not prepared to die
in carrying out their operations, or whose family are not prepared for
them to die, should clear this matter up with their families and the
army before (1) Joining the army in the first place and (2) Accepting
orders to go anywhere dangerous. The lads who died were clearly much
loved, not only at home but in their regiment. I cannot believe they
would appreciate their work being so devalued by either their families
or by the unbelievable irony of Mr Salmond claiming that he is not
politically motivated, but the deployment of British soldiers in Iraq
was done for the political
advantage of Tony Blair. This Salmond guy is loonier than all
the rest combined. As for Kofi Annan advising that sorting out the
Fallujah insurgents could make peace more difficult, so what? He does
not have another solution with a time-table to warrant a delay. Nor
does he have an alternative scenario that could explain how Fallujah
can be left in the charge of the insurgents and elections still
proceed. Nor does he have one where the coalition could go home and let
Iraqis fight it out.
The death of Margaret Hassan was at least a release for her and her
family from what must have been an ordeal about as hard to bear as any
yet. Margaret had been against the invasion because she feared exactly
what has happened.might take place - a situation where violent
individuals and groups no longer fear authority and, with nothing to
lose, take that authority for themselves by force. Those who have
killed her care little for the fact that she opposed the invasion. They
know that in any subsequent Iraqi state, she would be an agent for
peace and reconiciliation, a supporter of free elections, of
international support and international agencies that would rebuild
Iraq. They are against that, and are out to destroy any possibiity of
Fallujah is under US and Iraqi Government control, just about, it
seems. But troubles have broken out elsewhere. The struggle continues.
Some long awaited sense from the International Community: Here is the
World leaders have ended a
conference on the future of Iraq by declaring support for the 30
Interim Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said
the elections would be held on time whatever the situation.
At the conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm
el-Sheikh, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the elections were
critical for ending the violence.
Among those in Egypt were the Arab League, the
Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the G8 nations and China.
At the end of the meeting, Mr Zebari said: "There
be no postponement of the elections which will take place in January at
the date set. Whatever the situation."
Mr Annan called for nations to support the electoral
process in Iraq to help create a "united and peaceful country".
The joint declaration adopted at the meeting sets no
timetable for the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq despite the
wishes of France and some Arab nations.
But it does stress that the mandate of US-led forces
not "open-ended" and countries should continue to help Iraqi security
forces to take over.
The BBC's Peter Biles reports from Sharm-el-Sheikh
some Arab delegates, including Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul
Gheit, have made it clear they want to see a withdrawal of coalition
troops by the end of next year.
The joint declaration also:
- condemns "all acts of terrorism in Iraq" as well
as kidnappings and assassinations
- calls on the interim Iraqi government to deal
"resolutely" with terrorism
- calls on all parties to avoid excessive force and
exercise restraint to avoid hurting civilians
- highlights the "leading role" of the UN in helping
Iraq prepare for elections and build consensus to write a new
On the sidelines of the summit, those behind the Middle
East "roadmap for peace" met over breakfast.
The US, United Nations, European Union and Russia
discussed the prospects for peace following the death of Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat.
Mr Abul Gheit, who hosted the conference, said the
two conflicts were tightly linked.
"Efforts to achieve stability in Iraq cannot be
separated from strenuous efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East,"
he said, calling for a quick resolution of "the Palestine question".
The reconstruction of Iraq was also on the agenda.
Nations have pledged about $30bn towards this task but only a fraction
of that has been spent, mainly due to the ongoing security problems.
On the question of Iraq's border security, US
of State Colin Powell said he had held talks with Syrian Foreign
Minister Farouk al-Sharaa in which he pressed Syria to do more to
prevent fighters and money entering Iraq.
"The Syrians have taken some steps recently but we
think there is a lot more they can do," Mr Powell told a news
"We discussed... our desire to see more done on the
border, to prevent the flow of terrorists and weapons and finances
across the border. We discussed that rather directly."
nothing to add at this stage, except that British troops will probably
be asked to stay rather longer than envisaged by some of the parties
attending this conference.
the battle of Fallujah is over it is time to speak a few truths.
Regardless of the lack of planning and bad planning for the post-war
phase and the awful failure to control and avoid some badly misjudged
actions, let alone abuse by a few coalition troops and associated civil
authorities, it is unlikely that the 'Battle of Fallujah' could ever
have been avoided. That it was an appalling, violent and brutal
operation is beyond doubt. That US forces exhibited bravery and skills
of the highest order is also beyond doubt. It would be a great mistake
to think their efforts were in vain, or that those who gave their lives
did not do so for a worthy cause. History will in time reveal this
operation as heroic, and possibly a turning point. Those who think it
was an obscene mistake should cast their gaze rather on John Humphrys
of the BBC, whose immature smart-arse never-ending attempts to justify
his sickening approach to life as he tries to overcome his
psychological problems is the real obscenity that continues to sully
the reputation of our otherwise generally excellent public service
broadcasting corporation. At least the other fools it gives air time to
(no doubt to balance the wise) do not pose as logical or fair minded
JANUARY 5th 2005
We are now at the most dangerous moment of the struggle for Iraq. The
terrorist attacks and assassinations will rise to a peak as every means
available is used and even more terrorist funds are applied to the
recruitment of the dispossessed. In conventional warfare a 10-to-1
advantage in casualties would be regarded as a winning formula. For
suicide troops, it is a normal minimum and the targetting is precise.
This is what those who wish to hold elections in Iraq are up against.
UPDATE JANUARY 16th 2005
'Specialist' Charles Graner seems to
have missed the point. For anybody at any level of command to have
thought for five seconds that the treatment he dealt out could have
helped in getting co-operation, intelligence or anything useful out of
the prisoners, even if there had been no publicity, is surprising to
say the least.
Graner showed no reaction when the
sentence was read and appeared calm before he was taken off to prison.
Asked if he regretted abusing prisoners, Graner paused, then said:
"Maybe you missed that there's a war on. Bad things happen in war.
"Apparently I followed an illegal
In his first public remarks on the
scandal earlier in the day, Graner told the 10 jurors he had acted
wrongly, but said he complained repeatedly to superiors and was told to
continue rough treatment.
It is really hard to come to any
conclusion other than that the US armed forces are infested by
half-wits at every level, no matter how many better educated and
informed individuals they may also have at their disposal. When this is
combined with a commander in chief who has clearly been sheltered from
most of reality, the best one can hope for is that America and its
'establishment' will have been taught a lesson they will never forge.
Unfortunately it is others who are also paying the prive of this
comments on this matter will now continue in section assigned to it,
access by this link Operation Ali Baba
Now we have
similar allegations against some British troops, again claiming the
orders come from above. Tomorrow we may learn if this is true and how
high the trail goes. It is becoming more and more likely that there is
a different interpretation of the meaning of words in a world where
are now no common educational standards. However, it is the business of
those in command to know the men they have under their control, their
capabilities and their limitations. If British Army Intelligence
authorities think that 'working prisoners hard' means abusing them
sexually as a replacement for physical violence outlawed by the Geneva
Convention, and that this could achieve anything positive or prevent
anything undesirable from occurring in the future, they must know
nothing about the people they have in their prisons and nothing about
the task they have taken on. However I do not believe this to be the
case. We have to find out where this went wrong.
JANUARY 31st 2005
The elections in Iraq have
been completed. They are only the first stage, but they were conducted
satisfactorily. We can hope that in a later stage many Sunni voters
will not be subject to the intimidation they suffered from some of
their own this time. To those who organised the election and those who
stood for election and those who voted, the world owes the greatest
respect. This was courage of the highest order. Now that elections have
taken place this log will now continue in a new document, accessed
through this link: Between Iraq and a hard
place. But this part of the log will remain here to show that what
happened was neither surprising nor unforeseeable.