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News, 2-9/7/03 (3) THE BEST AND THE BRAVEST * Fourth at the fort a blast * Troop morale in Iraq hits 'rock bottom' * Urban Combat Frustrates Army KEEPING THE HOMES FIRES BURNING * Credibility of Administration Iraq Policy Substantially Eroded, Polls Find * One stark truth: Blair was wrong and must admit it now * Bush enmeshed in growing controversy over uranium claims * MoD report pours scorn on evidence for Iraqi weapons * Limelight exposes spies' failings * Bush Recantation Of Iraq Claim Stirs Calls for Probes THE BEST AND THE BRAVEST http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/world/1980878 * FOURTH AT THE FORT A BLAST by Jim Krane Houston Chronicle, (from AP), 4th July BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. soldiers observing Independence Day held barbecues at bases across Iraq on Friday and celebrated along with Kurdish allies, who are also marking the anniversary of the establishment of their first government. Thousands of U.S. troops chowed down at a gala barbecue at Baghdad International Airport, where the U.S. military trucked in 3,000 pounds of sirloin, 1,000 cases of potato chips, piles of corn on the cob and about one ton of charcoal. "This is what the 4th of July is all about -- us being here," said Army Spc. Irvin Spencer, 22, of Washington. "It's independence. It's freedom. It's us trying to get this country where we want it to be." For most, it was the hottest Independence Day ever, with the mercury hitting 115 in Baghdad. "I will never grill again on the Fourth of July, " said Sgt. Joseph Cannings, a 43-year-old Dallas native, as he flipped about 40 filet mignon steaks on an enormous grill. "My family will be eating lunch meat from now on." A huge line of soldiers snaked away from the barbecue pit. "Anybody want medium rare or don't care, come on up," screamed Sgt. Ronald Bretzke, 37, of St. Louis. There were few takers. Earlier Friday, troops joined Arnold Schwarzenegger at the airport to watch the muscle bound actor's latest movie, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Schwarzenegger addressed a rambunctious crowd of soldiers in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces near the airport. "It is really wild driving around here, I mean the poverty, and you see there is no money, it is disastrous financially and there is the leadership vacuum, pretty much like in California right now," he quipped. Schwarzenegger, 55, has indicated he may run for governor of California as a Republican if residents there vote to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. "I play Terminator, but you guys are the true terminators," he told the soldiers before heading to a base north of Baghdad near the town of Balad, where at least 18 soldiers were injured during a late Thursday attack. American troops have been beset by a stepped-up insurgency in recent weeks that has raised fears of a political and economic quagmire. For soldiers at a 1st Armored Division barbecue at the Baghdad airport, the attacks have been driven home by stories of ambushes and tougher security measures. "You think about it every day. You know they don't want us here," said Spencer, sitting on a concrete block with a pack of Newport cigarettes tucked into his waistband. "I don't get these people. We're here to help and they shoot at us." Spencer's friend, Spc. Byron Aiken, 27, of Converse, Texas, said he had no problem putting his life on the line for the sake of the U.S. mission here. But he wished the Iraqis appreciated his work. "It's time for us to go," Aiken said, an M-16 rifle propped between his knees. "As long as we stay here, we'll keep dying. They just don't want their country run by Americans." Troops said Friday the pressures of serving in Iraq -- and the immense summer heat -- made passing the holiday away from home even tougher. "I miss my family and I wish I could be there with them today," said Sgt. Jason Bramlett of Ft. Myers, Fla., on patrol in Baghdad. "But we have a job to do here. The Iraqi people need our help." Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers were treated to a grand Fourth of July celebration by grateful Kurds at a spectacular lakeside resort near Dokan, in Iraq's Kurdish north. Kurds also celebrate July 4 as the anniversary of the establishment in 1992 of a Kurdish government, thanks in part to a U.S.-British enforced no-fly zone that kept Saddam's forces out of the north. Barham Salih, a leader of the eastern half of the Kurdish enclave, thanked U.S. troops for ousting Saddam. "What you have done is immense," he said. "You have come from afar and delivered our people from injustice. You came to liberate our people. Mission accomplished." Salih invited all the military units with ties to the north, as well as the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. and British occupation power. "It's fantastic to celebrate the Fourth with our allies," said Dick Naab, northern Iraq's top coalition provisional authority official. "When you can't be home, the next best thing is being with friends." http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0707/p02s01-woiq.html * TROOP MORALE IN IRAQ HITS 'ROCK BOTTOM' by Ann Scott Tyson Christian Science Monitor, 7th July WASHINGTON - US troops facing extended deployments amid the danger, heat, and uncertainty of an Iraq occupation are suffering from low morale that has in some cases hit "rock bottom." Even as President Bush speaks of a "massive and long-term" undertaking in rebuilding Iraq, that effort, as well as the high tempo of US military operations around the globe, is taking its toll on individual troops. Some frustrated troops stationed in Iraq are writing letters to representatives in Congress to request their units be repatriated. "Most soldiers would empty their bank accounts just for a plane ticket home," said one recent Congressional letter written by an Army soldier now based in Iraq. The soldier requested anonymity. In some units, there has been an increase in letters from the Red Cross stating soldiers are needed at home, as well as daily instances of female troops being sent home due to pregnancy. "Make no mistake, the level of morale for most soldiers that I've seen has hit rock bottom," said another soldier, an officer from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq. Such open grumbling among troops comes as US commanders reevaluate the size and composition of the US-led coalition force needed to occupy Iraq. US Central Command, which is leading the occupation, is expected by mid-July to send a proposal to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on how many and what kind of troops are required, as well as on the rotation of forces there. The rethink about troop levels comes as senior military leaders voice concern that multiple deployments around the world are already taxing the endurance of US forces, the Army in particular. Some 370,000 soldiers are now deployed overseas from an Army active-duty, guard, and reserve force of just over 1 million people, according to Army figures. Experts warn that long, frequent deployments could lead to a rash of departures from the military. "Hordes of active-duty troops and reservists may soon leave the service rather than subject themselves to a life continually on the road," writes Michael O'Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution here. A major Army study is now under way to examine the impact of this high pace of operations on the mental health of soldiers and families. "The cumulative effect of these work hours and deployment and training are big issues, and soldiers are concerned about it," says Col. Charles Hoge, who is leading the survey of 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers for the Walter Reed Institute of Army Research. Concern over stressed troops is not new. In the late 1990s, a shrinking of military manpower combined with a rise in overseas missions prompted Congress to call for sharp pay increases for troops deployed over a certain number of days. "But then came September 11 and the operational tempo went off the charts" and the Congressional plan was suspended, according to Ed Bruner, an expert on ground forces at the Congressional Research Service here. Despite Pentagon statements before the war that the goal of US forces was to "liberate, not occupy" Iraq, Secretary Rumsfeld warned last week that the war against terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere "will not be over any time soon." Currently, there are some 230,000 US troops serving in and around Iraq, including nearly 150,000 US troops inside Iraq and 12,000 from Britain and other countries. According to the Pentagon, the number of foreign troops is expected to rise to 20,000 by September. Fresh foreign troops began flowing into Iraq this month, part of two multinational forces led by Poland and Britain. A third multinational force is also under consideration. A crucial factor in determining troop levels are the daily attacks that have killed more than 30 US and British servicemen in Iraq since Mr. Bush declared on May 1 that major combat operations had ended. The unexpected degree of resistance led the Pentagon to increase US ground troops in Iraq to mount a series of ongoing raids aimed at confiscating weapons and capturing opposition forces. As new US troops flowed into Iraq, others already in the region for several months, such as the 20,000-strong 3rd Infantry Division were retained in Iraq. "Faced with continued resistance, Department of Defense now plans to keep a larger force in Iraq than anticipated for a period of time," Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, explained in a statement to families a month ago. "I appreciate the turmoil and stress that a continued deployment has caused," he added. The open-ended deployments in Iraq are lowering morale among some ground troops, who say constantly shifting time tables are reducing confidence in their leadership. "The way we have been treated and the continuous lies told to our families back home has devastated us all," a soldier in Iraq wrote in a letter to Congress. Security threats, heat, harsh living conditions, and, for some soldiers, waiting and boredom have gradually eroded spirits. An estimated 9,000 troops from the 3rd Infantry Division - most deployed for at least six months and some for more than a year - have been waiting for several weeks, without a mission, to return to the United States, officers say. In one Army unit, an officer described the mentality of troops. "They vent to anyone who will listen. They write letters, they cry, they yell. Many of them walk around looking visibly tired and depressed.... We feel like pawns in a game that we have no voice [in]." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23707-2003Jul7.html * URBAN COMBAT FRUSTRATES ARMY by Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Molly Moore Washington Post, 8th July BAGHDAD, July 7 -- As attacks on occupation forces in Iraq escalate, assailants in Baghdad have used the capital's bustling crowds, tall buildings and busy streets as avenues for surprise strikes and easy escapes -- elements of urban warfare that U.S. troops managed to avoid during the military campaign to topple the government of Saddam Hussein. On Sunday, a U.S. soldier was fatally shot in the neck outside a packed cafeteria at Baghdad University by a man who disappeared into a throng of students. On Thursday night, a soldier poking out of the hatch of an armored vehicle was killed by a sniper perched in an eight-story building across the street. And 10 days ago, a civil affairs soldier walking along a sidewalk was gunned down by an assailant who had appeared from -- and then disappeared back into -- a swarm of shoppers. "When you're in the middle of a city, it's impossible to tell friend from foe," said Sgt. Lawrence Adams of the 1st Armored Division, whose field artillery unit has been attacked seven times since it arrived in Baghdad in early May to patrol a two-square-mile sector along the Tigris River. The incidents included mortar fire from a nearby neighborhood, a drive-by shooting, a rocket-propelled grenade launched from a bus stop and hand grenades tossed at soldiers' Humvees as they drove through a congested market. The daily attacks that use the urban landscape for concealment and flight have frustrated and frightened U.S. forces in Baghdad, many of whom have to drive through the city in open-sided Humvees, stand in front of government buildings and walk through public places every day. On a mission to restore public order and rebuild a war-scarred nation, soldiers regard themselves as particularly vulnerable to resistance fighters who take advantage of the fact that not all U.S. troops are hunkered down in sandbagged bases or driven around in armored vehicles. "If we have to be peacekeepers here, we're going to be exposed to all kinds of attacks," said a military police officer. "Sure, we have our flak jackets and our helmets -- and we're always on the lookout for suspicious activity. But the depressing thing is that there's not a whole lot we really can do about those guys who are determined to try to kill us." U.S. military commanders had hoped to avoid urban combat in the earliest days of the war and relied on airstrikes and a strategy of drawing the Iraqi army outside this sprawling city of 5 million people. But since Hussein's government collapsed and the war was declared over, unpredictable guerrilla-style attacks against U.S. troops have escalated. The death of Pfc. Edward J. Herrgott of Shakopee, Minn., illustrates the everyday dangers confronting U.S. troops. On Thursday evening, Herrgott was manning the gunner's hatch of an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle parked in front of the entrance to the Baghdad Museum, facing an eight-story building that has stores on the first two floors and an abandoned parking lot on the upper floors. Around 8:30 p.m., as the sun was setting but there was still enough light to spot a target, a sniper fired three rounds at the Bradley, killing Herrgott, said Habib Saleh, a guard at the shopping center who witnessed the shooting. "They should be somewhere else," Saleh said of the soldiers at the museum, which houses unremarkable wax figures in displays that depict life in Baghdad a century ago. "It's not safe where they are." The day after the shooting, members of Herrgott's unit stood behind the Bradley, nervously scanning the parking lot every few minutes. When a visitor approached on the sidewalk, they refused to talk, saying that walking toward a nearby razor-wire barricade would put them at risk. But one of the soldiers, who would not provide his name, shouted that the troops in front of the museum had been shot at before. "This happens all the time," he growled. Although no soldiers from Adams's unit -- Alpha Battery of the 4-27th Field Artillery -- have been killed, none of the unit's attackers has been apprehended either. "If we've got somebody firing at us from a bus stop across the street, you can't automatically open fire on them," said Adams, 46, of Kansas City, Mo. "And you don't always want to chase them in a Humvee." On Sunday night, a U.S. soldier was killed in Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood after he and other soldiers pursued two gunmen who had ambushed a patrol, military officials here said. A few hours later, insurgents threw a homemade bomb at a U.S. convoy in northern Baghdad, killing another soldier, the officials said. Those two fatalities brought to 30 the number of U.S. military personnel killed by hostile action since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1. U.S. officials blame the attacks on fighters still loyal to Hussein, Islamic extremists and others disgruntled with the occupation of their country. The attackers have become bolder, often striking in broad daylight. At the same time, they have become more selective in their targeting. Instead of attacking large, armed convoys, they now plant homemade bombs along streets where foot soldiers frequently patrol, attack convoys of light vehicles and catch victims off-guard with random, point-blank shootings in public places. "We're hit more now that the war is pretty much over," said Spec. Justin Keeney, 22, of Oregon City, Ore., who drives a heavy equipment truck between Baghdad and military encampments northwest of the city. "When we haul tanks or artillery, they don't mess with us. If we have engineering equipment, we get lit up. It's almost guaranteed." Pfc. Kyle Clark, 20, of Kent, Wash., a gunner on a military police Humvee who patrols Baghdad, said his unit was "shot at two times in the last two days." In one instance, a sniper fired from a school. Soldiers returned fire, then cordoned off the area around the school, but the assailant leaped over a wall and escaped, Clark said. "Two or three weeks ago, we used to be hit only at night," said Spec. Heath Montensen, 28, a driver with the 11th Transportation Company who travels throughout the area northwest of Baghdad. "Now we get hit during the day." Such urban combat not only poses an immediate threat to soldiers' lives, it has the potential to stir resentment toward occupation forces at a time when the U.S. government is attempting to focus attention on its efforts to rebuild Iraq. The deaths of innocent civilians trapped in crossfire or explosions have inflamed emotions among Iraqis who question the ability of the troops to bring stability to the country and have undermined support among those who have chosen to work with the occupiers. When a bomb exploded in the median strip of busy Haifa Street on Thursday, killing two Iraqis and injuring 12, angry residents held U.S. troops responsible for all the deaths and injuries, even those caused by the Iraqi-laid bomb rather than the spray of bullets that American troops fired in response. "I blame the Americans," said Ahmed Midhat, 12, whose legs were shredded by flying shards of metal from the explosive device. "You know why? The Americans started to shoot randomly." Many soldiers say they are not surprised by the increasing attacks or the displays of anger among Iraqis. "They're getting tired of us," said Spec. James McNeely, 48, a member of the D.C. National Guard's 547th Transportation Company. "Wouldn't you be mad if they invaded your country?" McNeely said his unit has had little chance to interact with Iraqis or play a part in the nation-building operations that Washington hopes will win the support of Iraqis. "We're just trying to survive, trying to make our lives a little more pleasant," he said during a stop at a roadside vendor to buy soft drinks for the men on his truck before heading into the military compound at Baghdad's international airport. For others, the attacks have become not only frightening, but disheartening. "We get so much resistance, we hear so much about different military people getting killed, it seems like people don't want to be helped," said Spec. Julian Snelling, 21, of Fredericksburg, Va., a member of the 307th Military Police Company. "Many Iraqis love us, but the bad apples alter your thinking." KEEPING THE HOMES FIRES BURNING http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=655&ncid=655&e=9&u=/oneworld /20030702/wl_oneworld/4536628431057165945 * CREDIBILITY OF ADMINISTRATION IRAQ POLICY SUBSTANTIALLY ERODED, POLLS FIND by Jim Lobe, OneWorld US Yahoo, 2nd July WASHINGTON, D.C. July 1 (OneWorld) - The credibility of the Bush administration's pre war claims about Iraq has eroded substantially over the past two months, according to two new polls that could signal political trouble for the U.S. president. Solid majorities of the public now believe that the administration's claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and alleged links to Al Qaeda amounted either to ''stretching the truth'' or deliberate falsehoods, according to a detailed survey carried out by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). The same poll found that over half of the public (53 percent) believes that the process of rebuilding Iraq is going either ''not very well'' (40 percent) or ''not at all well'' (13 percent). And, in a show of declining confidence in Washington's post-war performance in Baghdad, two thirds of respondents said they believe the United Nations should now take the lead both on reconstruction and forming a new government in Iraq. Despite these sentiments, however, 80 percent of the public say they believe Washington has assumed a ''responsibility to remain in Iraq as long as necessary until there is a stable government''--as opposed to withdrawing--down only slightly from 86 percent in April after U.S. troops established control over Baghdad. "I don't see anything on the horizon that will make the public want to withdraw," said Stephen Kull, PIPA's director, who added one caveat. ''If the perception emerged that Iraqi people wanted us to leave, this could change very quickly.'' A second poll published by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup found that 56 percent of the public still considers that Iraq was worth going to war over. But that number represented a sharp decline of 17 percentage points from a high of 73 percent in mid-April. The same poll found that Bush's overall job rating has declined ten points from six weeks ago -- from 71 to a still comfortable 61 percent. While Bush presently holds a commanding lead over any declared Democratic challenger, his father, who emerged from the first Gulf War in the spring of 1991 with approval ratings approaching 90 percent, was handily defeated just 18 months later by the governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, a relative unknown at a comparable time in the election cycle. Whatever political benefits Bush may have accrued from the war, according to Kull, he may already have reaped them. ''I think we're very likely on a downward slope,'' said Kull. ''Between now and the elections, (Iraq) will probably only erode in value.'' The PIPA poll was conducted with a nationwide sample of 1,051 respondents June 18-25, while 1,003 respondents in the Gallup poll were contacted last week. The latter found that about 53 percent of the public expects that WMD will eventually be found in Iraq, down from 84 percent in the first days of the war. The same percentage said it would matter ''a great deal'' if they were persuaded that the administration had deliberately misled the public about the weapons. The PIPA poll found that only 32 percent of the public thought the administration was ''being fully truthful'' about WMD in Iraq, while 52 percent said that it was ''stretching the truth, but not making false statements,'' and 10 percent said the government was ''presenting evidence (it) knew was false.'' In a finding that is likely to put Republican lawmakers on the defensive, 63 percent of the public said Congress should ''investigate'' the issue. The Republican leadership has so far resisted even using the word ''investigation,'' although they have gone along with Democratic calls for hearings. Surprisingly, the PIPA poll found that 23 percent of the public believes WMD have already been found in Iraq. Kull said he thought such a notion may be partly ideologically driven, because significantly higher percentages of Republicans said they believed this, particularly ''Republicans following Iraq news closely.'' Eighty percent of respondents said they depended more on television and electronic media for their news, and a particularly high proportion of Republican respondents cited ''Fox-TV,'' which has been especially jingoistic in its war coverage, as their main source. On Iraq reconstruction, only one percent described it as going ''very well,'' while 39 percent said ''somewhat well.'' The fact that a majority now sees rebuilding as going ''not very well'' or ''not at all well'' marks a sharp reversal from the situation in early May and also helps explain the strong support for the UN ''tak(ing) the lead'' in both building a new government and in reconstructing Iraq. Two thirds of the public continue to support the decision to go to war, although only 46 percent said they though it was ''the best thing for the U.S. to do,'' down slightly from 53 percent in May. Of that 46 percent, about half--or 23 percent of the whole sample--said they would still approve of the decision to go to war even if it turned out that Iraq had no WMD at all. The PIPA poll also found a strong preference for the U.S. to act multilaterally, rather than unilaterally in using force. Asked whether the U.S. should be willing to take military action to stop a government from conducting large-scale human rights abuses, only 23 percent of the public said it should do so whether or not it had broad international approval, while 52 percent said it should do so, but only with international support. The poll also found that the public was worried about increasingly negative perceptions about the U.S. in the rest of the world. Fifty-four percent said they believe that, on average, people in other countries see U.S. foreign policy as negative, while 19 percent said they believed foreign attitudes remained positive. That was a major reversal of perceptions just two months ago, when the comparable figures were 34 percent (negative) and 43 percent (positive). Almost three in four respondents said they considered negative opinions of the U.S. abroad to be either a ''big problem'' or ''somewhat of a problem,'' a view that could also erode popular support for Bush's anti-terrorism policies. ''The public tends to view terrorism as something that requires international co-operation.'' said Kull. http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,3605,992877,00.html * ONE STARK TRUTH: BLAIR WAS WRONG AND MUST ADMIT IT NOW by Jackie Ashley The Guardian, 7th July There is a festive feel about Robin Cook's new office, overlooking the Thames, next door to Clare Short. Scores of brightly coloured cards adorn the walls, shelves and radiators; there are several pictures of him at the races; and in prime position on his desk is the small stuffed stoat which has followed him everywhere for the past 15 years. The stoat was given to him ages back when he first won a reputation for ferreting out embarrassing truths that caused so much damage to the Tory government at the time. The cards are just some of the 3,000 sent to him when he quit the cabinet. "I'd like to apologise to them all for not replying," he says, "but to do so would have required me and my staff to do nothing else for a month, so I took what I hope was the correct view that the people who were writing with encouragement wanted me to carry on working on Iraq and not to take a month out." Though admitting to feeling "emotional" when he sat down after making his resignation speech, Cook has no regrets. "I stayed until it was clear there was going to be a war and there was not going to be UN support for it, and at that point I felt I had to record in public all the misgivings I had been expressing in private, otherwise I would have found myself a couple of days later, as leader of the house, answering questions on Iraq and defending a position with which I disagreed." Since then, he has indeed carried on working on Iraq, though does not hide his annoyance at the way the debate has gone since the war. He is furious about what he describes as "the Alastair Campbell feint", otherwise known as the red herring. Cook says he likes Campbell, which some may find odd, since it was Campbell who famously phoned him at the airport and told him to choose there and then between his wife and his mistress. (Cook chose the mistress, Gaynor, and is now happily married to her.) He believes Campbell is "unreasonably criticised for doing well the job he's asked to do", and opines in the dry way he does so well that, "he has handled the last two weeks brilliantly, in that he has managed to convince half the media that the foreign affairs inquiry is in to the origins of his war with Andrew Gilligan, not in to the war with Iraq. The fact that he's got away with it in large chunks of the media is the fault of those who have donned a pink hunting jacket, got on a horse and galloped after the red herring, and I really don't think we should fall for it". The sarcasm gives way to real anger: "I myself have never made the accusation that the government sexed up the dossier. The serious allegation is that they got it wrong, and they should not be allowed to get off answering that issue because Alastair has souped up this controversy." Cook's forensic brain has boiled down the issue to what he sees is a stark truth: there are no weapons of mass destruction, so the government got it wrong, and should now say so. "There is a problem of credibility if they continue to deny reality. There have been recently a number of government ministers or spokesmen saying that the September dossier was accurate. It clearly wasn't accurate. There aren't any weapons ready for use in 45 minutes, there was no uranium from Niger, there were no chemical production factories rebuilt, there was no nuclear weapons programme." Cook believes it is essential that this is now recognised. "If they don't want to have the continued problem of credibility, they have to find some way of admitting that there were errors made - in good faith, by all means - but certainly there were errors made and the case for war, which was put to parliament, has turned out to be unjustified." What of Tony Blair's belief that something may yet turn up? More precise, quiet scorn. "We are not now going to find a credible weapon of mass destruction that poses a current and serious danger to Britain, as was the phrase used in the debate on Iraq before the war. Such a weapon requires quite a large industrial infrastructure, a large workforce. "It is inconceivable that such factories exist in Iraq and we've not found them. There is no part of the globe that has been more managed by aerial surveillance. It is also inconceivable that anybody working on that programme hasn't come forward to tell us where it is: we've had the top people under interrogation for weeks now." I am reminded, by the acid focus of Cook's case, of how he took the Tory government apart over the Scott report. For him the "arms to Iraq" scandal has been succeeded by the "arms (not) in Iraq" scandal. If he had been on that foreign affairs committee, Campbell would have had a much rougher ride. Still, he is not going to criticise the committee, nor predict what might be in their report - "enough members of the committee seem to be doing that for themselves". He would still like to see an independent judicial inquiry with access to all the papers and carried out by someone "who would have forensic training and skills" - the nearest Cook will come to rebuking the committee. One of the key questions for a judicial inquiry, he believes, would be whether or not there is still a legal basis for the war. "It is not at all clear that the attorney general would have given that opinion if he had known then what we know now - which is that there were [no] weapons of mass destruction to be disarmed." These are big issues, which Cook is determined to pursue. But there is something else too: he is deeply concerned about what is happening in Iraq now, and declares himself "astonished" that the US did not prepare better for the aftermath. He fears that US incompetence will adversely affect Britain. "The difficulty is that the American military is heavily based on the doctrine of overwhelming force, which does not lend itself to peacekeeping, because if you respond to every incident with overwhelming force, then you leave behind more resentment than you had in the first place." Week by week, Cook says, the US is proving its inexperience in handling the situation in countries following such conflicts. "I was astonished at the decision to disband the Iraqi army without any jobs, and initially without pay, which released 400,000 men into Iraq with the knowledge of how to use weapons and nothing else to do." It is a mistake, he insists, that "no UN official would have made". Cook concedes that Blair "got his foot on the brake and held it back for a few months for extra work in the United Nations" before the war. But now, as the junior partner inside Iraq, "the decision on when, and if, we leave will come from Washington, and potentially that does expose us too. "If the US troops do not manage to achieve a better and healthier relationship with the Iraqi population, potentially it will rub off on us as well." He professes himself surprised "as to why we cannot ourselves show some more independence on the ground" and allow the UN inspectors into the British controlled sector. [.....] http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c =StoryFT&cid=1057562206323&p=1012571727172 * BUSH ENMESHED IN GROWING CONTROVERSY OVER URANIUM CLAIMS by James Harding and Guy Dinmore in Washington Financial Times, 8th July Tony Blair was not the only advocate of war in Iraq feeling the heat yesterday for his use of intelligence to justify military action against Saddam Hussein. The White House admitted George W. Bush's assertion that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Africa was based on "bogus" information. Responding to accusations that the White House "twisted" information to exaggerate the Iraqi threat, Ari Fleischer, the president's press secretary, insisted Mr Bush did not know the reports were wrong when he made the allegation - a central element of his case against Iraq - in the State of the Union address in January. Mr Bush has not faced the same scale of outcry over Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction as Mr Blair. But the White House is dogged by a growing number of unanswered questions about the president's eagerness to suggest that Iraq was developing a nuclear capability by citing evidence of efforts to buy uranium and aluminium tubes to serve as centrifuges. The concern in Washington over possible manipulation of intelligence comes amid rising levels of national anxiety about the prospects of a long, bloody deployment of US soldiers in Iraq. US military personnel have been dying at the rate of roughly one a day since Mr Bush declared the end of combat operations - another three US soldiers have died since Sunday night. Mr Fleischer yesterday offered a muddled account of how the US commander-in-chief could have used inaccurate information while laying out the central charges against Mr Hussein in the most important speech of the presidential calendar. In the State of the Union address, Mr Bush told both houses of Congress and a live television audience that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa". Mr Fleischer said Mr Bush's comments had been predicated on reports of the efforts to buy uranium from Niger. "The information turned out to be bogus," he said. Within the US intelligence community, there has been debate about whether Iraq may have sought to buy uranium to develop nuclear weapons from other African nations. The White House confirmed yesterday that Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador, investigated the Niger case for the CIA and, nearly a year before Mr Bush's State of the Union address, delivered his findings to the administration that there was no truth to the allegations. Mr Wilson wrote in the New York Times on Sunday that having seen his conclusions ignored by the White House, "some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons programme was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat". Mr Fleischer insisted that Mr Bush - and vice-president Dick Cheney - were not aware that the Niger report had been found to be inaccurate when the president made his State of the Union case. The White House has previously acknowledged the Niger account was later discovered to be false, but Mr Fleischer's admission yesterday was the clearest to date that the president had based a statement in the State of the Union address on what proved to be misleading information. Mr Fleischer promised to publish later a more detailed explanation of Mr Bush's comment about the Iraq link with Africa. The other element of Mr Bush's State of the Union allegation, that Iraq had "much to hide" by way of a nuclear weapons programme - namely Baghdad had "attempted to purchase high strength aluminium tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production" - is also coming under scrutiny. The claim was disputed by the International Atomic Energy Agency chief in United Nations Security Council sessions, but the US insisted on pressing the point. Nearly four months since US-led coalition forces moved into Iraq, and still with no discovery of weapons of mass destruction, intelligence officials are suggesting the significance of the aluminium tubes was also overblown. http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=422713 * MOD REPORT POURS SCORN ON EVIDENCE FOR IRAQI WEAPONS by Kim Sengupta The Independent, 8th July Britain and the United States had no clear intelligence on whether Iraq could use its supposed weapons of mass destruction during the war, the Ministry of Defence admitted yesterday. The MoD's first official report into the Iraq conflict gave no support to Tony Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein was "ready" to use chemical and biological armament "within 45 minutes". In fact, the report acknowledges very limited intelligence was available to the Allied forces before the invasion in March." It was therefore a very difficult intelligence target with few sources of information", the document said. " ... Although we knew much about the broad structure and disposition of Iraqi land and air forces, very little was known about how they planned to oppose the coalition or whether they had the will to fight". The 48-page report Operations in Iraq 2003: First Reflections stated "it was judged" the Iraqi regime may use ballistic missiles and "possibly" weapons of mass destruction; but only "if it could make the capabilities available for operational use and secure the obedience of subordinate commanders". The Prime Minister had claimed in a foreword to the Downing Street dossier in September last year, "his [Saddam's] military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them". In a subsequent Commons debate, Mr Blair continued "he [Saddam] has existing and active military plans for use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes". The proposition that Saddam Hussein had it within his power to start devastating chemical and biological attacks within 45 minutes was used by the Government to argue for military action rather than allow United Nations weapons inspectors to continue their work. The report is the first part of a "Lessons Learned" exercise carried out by the MoD, standard practice after a major conflict. The report also blamed lack of intelligence for the near anarchy which followed the collapse of the Saddam regime. The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, Paul Keetch, said: "The truth of the matter has fallen between the spooks and the spinners." http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,3605,993663,00.html * LIMELIGHT EXPOSES SPIES' FAILINGS by Richard Norton-Taylor The Guardian. 8th July Britain's intelligence community faces an unprecedented crisis of credibility in the wake of the Commons foreign affairs committee's report on the decision to go to war in Iraq. By clearing Alastair Campbell, at least of the charge that he sexed up the government's September dossier, and absolving ministers of misleading parliament, the cross-party committee has focused attention on the intelligence agencies, MI6 in particular. Sir John Stanley, a leading Conservative member of the committee and former defence and Northern Ireland minister, said yesterday that never before had Britain gone to war "specifically on the strength of intelligence assessments". Yet the MPs concluded that "the jury is still out" on the accuracy of the intelligence "until substantial evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is found". The intelligence services are desperate to find such evidence, partly to regain credibility, but also, they admit, because it is needed for political reasons - for the sake of the government. Though its report asks more questions than it answers, the committee paints a picture of how the joint intelligence committee (JIC) hardened the contents of the dossier on the basis of what it calls "thin" material as the government prepared for war against Iraq. Sir Peter Ricketts, a top diplomat and former chairman of the JIC, told the committee that a dossier drawn up in March last year was not published because of a need to "build up a fuller picture". Intelligence sources put it another way - there was nothing new to say. Robin Cook, as a former foreign secretary familiar with MI6 reports, told the committee: "We had very little access to human intelligence on the ground [in Iraq] and no hope whatsoever of putting in western agents." Gary Samore, weapons proliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said: "The record of western intelligence agencies collecting information on Iraq's various weapons programmes is very poor." Mr Cook said he would be astonished if the September dossier's reliance on US intelligence was "not immense", adding that "the Americans were drawing heavily on exiles who were inside America". The committee says it seems Britain's intelligence agencies relied too much on "defectors and on exiles with an agenda of their own". It is unclear whether a defector was MI6's single source for the claim that Saddam's forces could mount a chemical attack within 45 minutes of an order being given. He is described in the report as "established, reliable, and longstanding", providing MI6 with the controversial claim in August last year. Dame Pauline Neville Jones, another former JIC chairman, made it clear in her evidence that official intelligence reports should err on the side of caution, not exaggeration. She highlighted the dangers of information becoming propaganda. Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, admitted that some of the assessments in the September dossier were based on "judgment", not on intelligence. Intelligence sources privately admit this. They concede that intelligence can often be wrong, and that even if it correctly tells what a hostile regime possesses it may not tell anything about the regime's intentions. The intelligence agencies' job, they argue, is to give a "worst case scenario". They told British and US military commanders that the Iraqi army, including the Republican Guard, would quickly surrender and help the invading troops maintain law and order and also that Saddam Hussein would use chemical weapons in defence of Baghdad. Both assumptions were wrong. "Very little was known about how [the Iraqis] planned to oppose the coalition or whether they had the will to fight," the Ministry of Defence admitted in its report on the Iraqi war also published yesterday. The MoD report said Iraq was a "very difficult intelligence target with few sources of information". They were not sure whether Saddam's weapons of mass destruction were "available for operational use", placing further doubt on the 45 minute claim. It is one thing to alert British troops to the worst possible dangers on the battlefield. It is quite another to use a worst case scenario to advance the political case for war. The run-up to the Iraqi war was the first time a government had used intelligence in that way. The foreign affairs committee's report highlights an irony behind all this. MI6 was dragged into the limelight by the government against its will. It was nervous about the whole idea of a dossier in the first place, partly because it would show up its state of knowledge about Iraq's banned weapons. It also feared - in the event, rightly - that the way ministers would seize on intelligence to promote the case for war would lead to unwelcome pressure for greater openness. The committee chastised the government for not allowing it to see intelligence reports or interview John Scarlett, the JIC chairman. It also said the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, which meets in private and whose members are hand-picked by the prime minister, should become a proper Commons body under the control of MPs. "There clearly was turbulence inside the machine," Dame Pauline told the committee. Well placed sources admit there were serious divisions within the intelligence community over both the content and language of the September dossier, let alone the "dodgy dossier" published in February. There was serious disquiet in the top echelons of the intelligence world about the government's use of intelligence. This turned to fury when the February dossier was published by Mr Campbell without the JIC's say-so. But by generally backing the government, the Labour majority on the committee has turned the spotlight on the intelligence agencies, questioning the veracity of their information. The claims made in the September dossier and the way the government handled the Commons committee inquiry will ensure that intelligence will in future be treated with much more scepticism. The intelligence agencies will not be thanking Downing Street for that. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29766-2003Jul8.html * BUSH RECANTATION OF IRAQ CLAIM STIRS CALLS FOR PROBES by Walter Pincus Washington Post, 9th July Democrats called for investigations yesterday after the White House acknowledged Monday that President Bush should not have said in his State of the Union address last January that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa. The White House acknowledgment followed a British parliamentary report casting doubt on intelligence about the alleged uranium sale, which Bush had attributed to the British. "Knowing all that we know now, the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech," the White House statement said. In the speech, Bush was trying to make the case that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) called it a "very important admission," adding, "This ought to be reviewed very carefully. It ought to be the subject of careful scrutiny as well as some hearings." The senior Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), said the administration's admission was not a revelation. "The whole world knew it was a fraud," Rockefeller said, adding that the current intelligence committee inquiry should determine how it got into the Bush speech. "Who decided this was something they could work with?" Rockefeller asked. Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, yesterday questioned why, as late as the president's Jan. 28 speech, "policymakers were still using information which the intelligence community knew was almost certainly false." Levin said he hoped the intelligence committee inquiry and one he is conducting with the Democratic staff of the armed services panel will explore why the CIA had kept what it knew buried "in the bowels of the agency," repeating a phrase used recently by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to explain why she did not know the information was incorrect. Republicans saw things differently. Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), chairman of the Republican Conference, praised the administration for being forthright. "I think they had the best information that they thought, and it was reliable at the time that the president said it," Santorum told reporters. "It has since turned out to be, at least according to the reports that have been just released, not true," he said. "The president stepped forward and said so," he continued. "I think that's all you can expect." House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) also defended Bush's approach, telling reporters that it is "very easy to pick one little flaw here and one little flaw there." He defended the U.S.-led war against Iraq as "morally sound, and it is not just because somebody forged or made a mistake. . . . The Democrats can try all they want to undermine that, but the American people understand it and they support it." At the White House yesterday, officials stressed that Bush's assertions in the State of the Union address did not depend entirely on discredited documents about Niger but also referred to intelligence contained in a still-classified September 2002 national intelligence estimate that listed two other countries, identified yesterday by a senior intelligence official as Congo and Somalia, where Iraq allegedly had sought uranium. That information, however, has been described as "sketchy" by intelligence officials, and the British parliamentary commission said it had not been proved. Several candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination spoke out yesterday. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said Bush's "factual lapse" cannot be easily dismissed "as an intelligence failure." He said the president "has a pattern of using excessive language in his speeches and off-the-cuff remarks" which "represents a failure of presidential leadership." Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said the administration "doesn't get honesty points for belatedly admitting what has been apparent to the world for some time -- that emphatic statements made on Iraq were inaccurate." Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), former chairman of the intelligence panel, said, "George Bush's credibility is increasingly in doubt." Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) expanded the credibility problem to the administration: "The White House's admission that it cited false information to set this country on the path toward war erodes the credibility of the administration." Former Vermont governor Howard Dean said, "The credibility of the U.S. is a precious commodity. We should all be deeply dismayed that our nation was taken to war and our reputation in the world forever tainted by what appears to be the deliberate effort of this administration to mislead the American people, Congress and the United Nations." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk