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.

  (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 for 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 should 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 be 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 would 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 had 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, years or decades, is unfortunately quite likely. Nobody apart from Saddam himself can be considered as obviously in possession of the information. 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 whether WMD are found or not. They should leave politics to the politicians. Undermining the government to save their own prickly pride is not called for.

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 that 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.

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.

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 inauthenticity 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 that) 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 required of them, and I doubt if the US has the nous or political will to tell them.

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 of 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 played 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.

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 they 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 (you 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 truth 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 ever lived.

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 spell out.

22nd JULY
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 flouting of UN resolutions by a homicidal dictator, with the capability to develop WMD, no qualms about using them, destined to become the richest man in the world if not contained by a process that ruined Iraq and its people.

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 no 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.

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' agenda 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 the BBC is going to extraordinary lengths, particularly since the appearance 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 this 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.


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 is, may finally wake the governments of the world up to the fact that united 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 time) that 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 need to elect a credible President - credible outside the US that is, and not 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

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, only 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 autonomy.

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 event, 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 to 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 have 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 had 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, with tragic results. That is where we are now. The world, through the UN, has 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 perform.

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 programme:
"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 Campbell?

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 except 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 has 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 Sept 02]

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 to 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 fundament.

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.

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 his family. It should now be clear to most people that when, as time went on, the continued bleating by those politicians and their supporters who 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 of Dr Kelly, this prickly professional should want to distance himself from their subjective interpretation of the published dossier of intelligence on this subject. He made the great mistake of trusting a journalist. This 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 the point of suicide lies fairly and squarely with the BBC, at every level: reporter, programme editor, controller of news, board of governors. They 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 public 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 war 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....

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 case 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 straighten up and fly right so that a proper life style would make them healthy and 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 been 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 to.

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 should 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 required, 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.

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 history 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 the 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.

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 Tabloid 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 convinced him to be gung ho for war, well, yes, I can understand that. The sort of thing that motivates a man like McKenzie is, usually, some misunderstanding of something he knows nothing about but would fight for (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 that 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 no 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 it was inevitable. At least we can say that the MOD was prepared. Our thoughts and hopes go with them.

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 through....

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, however, not employing thought (as we know it) in this matter so there is no chance of them thinking anything through at all.

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 45-minute 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 matters.

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 that selection.

The slob Gilligan, picking his nose and eating it, has resisted some feeble efforts by Jonathan Sumption to get any sense out of him. Richard 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 stuff and the BBC backed him up, that his name was bound to come out. Gilligan has made a sort of apology for some of his behaviour, but it is not enough.
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 have 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 the 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.

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.

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 been 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 responsibility 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, anti-war 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 pressures 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 had alleged.

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 knew more than the government before the alleged source was known, and held onto the incredibly stupid idea that he could remain anonymous. Asking a known alleged source to give evidence in public is not using or abusing them. Quoting a man anonymously to discredit a government with the force 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 we? Some call it spin. I call it barefaced lies told to put the case for the 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 defend 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

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 had 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.

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 suffered 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 nothing 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.

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 held 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 all nations.

On February 6th I wrote:
Due to the enmity between the regime and 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 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.

It would appear now that this situation has indeed materialised, due to the mistaken continuing unconditional support by the Bush administration for Ariel Sharon's fatally flawed policy of confrontation and retaliation with the Palestinians. There are now suicide bombers who are 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 imposed 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.

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 a 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 credibility. 

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 appear that the operation has certainly not been completed, as far as the US is 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 wrote: "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 to remain within striking distance for many years.

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 the 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 just anti-Bushism?

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 they 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 on one hand or the other. Delusion and illusion reign supreme, hurt is what 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. The 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 is '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 of 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 fail 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 that is until disaster is staring the politicians in the face.

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 applicable 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, or 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 side.  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 staff 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 has to do is discover the system and use it to their advantage. Every system 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 view of the immense power of the computer and the restricted nature of the contest, this is the most impressive proof imaginable of the superiority 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 a 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. It 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 its 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 exact 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 we 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 killer 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 the 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 dealing 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, not after.
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 built 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, at 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 in 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, but 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 pressure.

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 may 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 therefore 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 embarrassed 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 the 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 all.  http://www.montanaforum.com/documents/wartoll.php deserves our attention and respect. It is updated regularly.

JAN 24th
David Kay, head of the WMD searchers, has decided to give up the search. 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.

After 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

FEB 11th
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?

FEB 14th
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.

REPORT FROM BBC NEWS, March 1st 2004

Iraqis agree draft constitution
Security is tight as Iraqi Shias gather at al-Khullani mosque in Baghdad for the Ashoura festival
The constitution is due to be signed after the Shia Ashoura festival
A temporary constitution for Iraq has finally been agreed after days of talks by the country's interim leaders.

Members of Iraq's Governing Council overcame differences to compromise on issues such as Islamic law, the status of Kurdish areas and women's rights.

Council member Adnan Pachachi said the document includes a bill of rights, something which is "unprecedented in this part of the world".

The charter is due to be signed by US administrator Paul Bremer on Wednesday.

The draft charter will recognise Islam as one source of legislation rather than the only source, and gives autonomy to the Kurdish minority for now.

A coalition official said the agreed charter "strikes a balance between the role of Islam and the bill of individual rights and democratic principles".

Deep split

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 sources
Kurds remain autonomous

The coalition-appointed Council had to decide what kind of country they wanted Iraq to be once the formal occupation ends and sovereignty returns.

Mr Pachachi, a Sunni council member, said members had to 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 we 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 wider aspects of Iraqi society, it is also an aspirational document which looks to the future," he added.

Classic compromise

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.

Council members Rajaa al-Kuzaai(L) and Mahmoud Othman(R)
The Council debated into the night before reaching agreement
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.

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.


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 no 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.

MARCH 12TH 2004                              MADRID
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 of 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 innocent 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 God.
 MARCH 13                                        
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.

MARCH 15th                                   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 is 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 basis 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 their aim.

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 Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has promised to end Spain's close alliance with the US over Iraq and to revive its traditional ties with France and Germany.

French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
The Franco-German alliance has reason to celebrate
The political landscape of Europe may again be split in two.

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 mistakes.

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.

Valuable ally

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 Europe.

Its main contributions were:

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.

Socialist candidate Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
Zapatero: Speaking out of inexperience or conviction?
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.

Germany and Belgium are in this group. Spain may now join them.

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 wrangles.

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:

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 Gaza after leaving dawn prayers at a mosque.
It 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. 

APRIL 2nd 2004

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.

APRIL 27th
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.

APRIL 30th
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.

1. Those 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 Iraq.

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 priority operations.

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.

MAY 04
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.

MAY 06
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 public. There 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 over the 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 torture, sexual humiliation was advocated by the Intelligence branch as the best safe softening up procedure.  They will say in their defence that their 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.

MAY 10
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 contemplated.

MAY 12th
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 since.

MAY 13th
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):

How will history judge Donald Rumsfeld?

As a victim of his own hubris. He should resign. He must take responsibility for a disastrous loss of legitimacy for American foreign policy in the Middle East. I supported the invasion of Iraq, but there was not enough realism about what it would take to make a success of transforming the country.

When will Iraq regain its independence?

There are degrees of independence. Clearly the formal transition to political sovereignty will take place this year, but it is far from clear when American and British troops will leave the country. Pulling out now is certainly not the answer - that would usher in a civil war in Iraq with a far higher death toll than we've 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.

MAY 14th
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.

MAY 21
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.

MAY 22
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.

They would 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 bought 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 daft.
JUNE 8th
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.

JUNE 10th
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.

JUNE 17th
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:
Due 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.
I 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.

JUNE 22nd
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 borderline.

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.

JUNE 25th
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.

JUNE 26th

[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 sell well.

JUNE 29th
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 personally.

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.

JUNE 30th
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.

JULY 9th
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 new 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.

JULY 28th
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

JULY 30th
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 Commons foreign affairs committee said the lack of law and order had created a "vacuum" for criminals and militias, with "appalling consequences" for the Iraqi people.

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 interests.

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."
* * *
I am 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 comparison.

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 end result.

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 later.
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 environs; enough 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 throughout 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 negotiate.
2. They do not have any realistic demands.
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.

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 regime 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 rational 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..

OCT 22nd
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.

Thursday October 28, 08:14 PM

Civilian death toll in Iraq exceeds 100,000

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of 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 and cities.

"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 medical journal.

"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 before 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 done 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 selected neighbourhoods.

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.


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," Roberts said.

Gilbert Burnham, who collaborated on the research, said U.S. military action in Iraq was "very bad for Iraqi civilians".

"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 deaths.

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 questions for those far removed from Iraq -- in the governments of the countries responsible for launching a pre-emptive war," Horton said in an editorial.

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:
In a 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 it occurring.

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 BBC report...

World leaders have ended a conference on the future of Iraq by declaring support for the 30 January elections.

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 will 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 is 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 that 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:

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 Secretary 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 conference.

"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."

I have 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.

Now that 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.

'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 order."

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 education.

JAN 18th
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 there 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.

Further comments on this matter will now continue in section assigned to it, access by this link Operation Ali Baba

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.