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[casi] News titles, 24/9-1/10/03

News titles, 24/9-1/10/03

In his masterly speech to the Labour Party Conference, the Prime Minister
invited us to 'attack my decision but at least understand why I took it and
why I would take the same decision again.'

Which is fair enough. But there are obstacles to the business of
understanding why Mr Blair took his decision. Not least of which is that the
reasons given publicly do not appear to be the real reasons.

The public position, reasserted at Bournemouth, is that he had been
overwhelmed with the quantity of 'intelligence' he was receiving to the
effect that Iraq was bristling with weapons of mass destruction, and that
its President was having all sorts of dealings with murky terrorists. In a
rather sinister note he tells us that 'this is not just about Iraq'. The
problem of all these weapons of mass destruction has still not been solved.
There are still rogue states, indeed rogue individuals who might get their
hands on a bag of chlorine and a bunsen burner. There is still more work to
be done ...

But coming back to the intelligence on Iraq, we have a rather obvious
problem. Which is that, while Mr Blair was being overwhelmed by the amount
of intelligence he was receiving, the people who were pressing for war in
the USA - Mr Wolfowitz and his friends - were suffering from a dearth of it.
The CIA and the DIA (not bodies we old lefties regard as particularly
pacifist or reluctant to get their hands dirty) weren't providing the goods.
So we had to have the Office of Special Plans (see eg article by Seymour
Hersh in News, 01 07/05/03 (1)) to re-examine everything in the light of the
assumption that there must be something there to be found. But even so it
wasn't difficult to see that they weren't coming up with very much. So was
Mr Blair simply failing to share the great riches that were coming his way
with his American friends? Or were they just a little more demanding as to
the quality of intelligence they required?

Or perhaps, instead of a great wealth of precise intelligence it was a great
wealth of rather vague intelligence and conjecture as to the dreadful things
that could happen if ... Yes, indeed, the thought that a terrorist might let
off a dirty bomb in the middle of London is very scary. But it is difficult
to see how that possibiity has in any way been reduced by the invasion of
Iraq. Mr Blair tells us that 'I believe the security threat of the 21st
century is not countries waging conventional war. I believe that in today's
interdependent world the threat is chaos'. For the moment Mr Blair has
overthrown a country and replaced it with chaos. In the early stages of this
chaos a large amount of the sort of material that could be used for making a
dirty bomb went missing.

It may be that an Iraqi state, a 'country', will eventually be put back
together again, but it is far from certain. And it seems fairly clear that
an Iraq that is perceived as a western puppet will engender huge
anti-western resentment of just the type that Mr Blair says he fears. This
is exactly what happened in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has become, as the
neocons love to point out, a hotbed of Islamic 'terrorism'. Why? Because
Muslim pride was wounded by its perceived slavish dependence on the West. It
takes idiocy of a degree difficult to imagine to conclude from this that the
solution is to humiliate Muslim pride still further by trying to create a
similar state of slavish dependence in Iraq. The Hutton Inquiry has not left
me with a high opinion of the intelligence of the 'Joint Intelligence
Committee' - but even they were able to see that the danger of terrorism
would be increased, not lessened, by the invasion.

Mr Blair's argument amounts to saying that terror can be defeated through
the application of greater terror. I am an Ulster Protestant of a Unionist
tradition and political outlook, and as such I lived for some twenty years
under the pressure of a 'terrorist' campaign which killed more people than
the attack on the World Trade Centre (though admittedly not all at once). It
only really came to an end when Mr Blair offered the 'terrorists' more or
less guaranteed positions in government. During those twenty years there
were many Unionists who wanted a campaign of counter-terror of the kind Mr
Blair now wants to apply to the whole world. They/we were always told that
wasn't the way to deal with the situation, it would only engender even
greater support for the 'terrorists'. I didn't agree with much of what the
government said but I always agreed with that. But I can't help but smile
when I see that Mr Blair, faced with a 'terrorism' that touches himself
(since he obviously feels spiritually more akin to the denizens of the WTC
than he did to the ordinary people of Belfast) reacts like the wildest of
Unionist backwoodsmen. And gets applause for it at a Labour Party

But then he says: 'So what do I do? Say "I've got the intelligence but I've
a hunch its wrong?" Leave Saddam in place but now with the world's
democracies humiliated and him emboldened?' And here, it seems to me, he is
on stronger ground, particularly in the phrase 'the world's democracies
humiliated and him emboldened'.

I have always seen this as an eyeball to eyeball staring match between
Saddam and the Anglo Saxon world; and that as long as Saddam did not blink
before overwhelmingly superior physical might, he had 'won'. And he never
did blink. Indeed it may be said he still hasn't. Clearly there was a real
prospect (it was one of my own dearest hopes) that Iraq would make its way
back into the community of nations, would wriggle out of the sanctions net
and be able to rebuild in partnership with its immediate neighbours and with
France and Russia and any other countries of the world that had treated it
half way decently. Leaving the United States and the United Kingdom (and the
whole perverse system of the United Nations Security Council) on the
sidelines, looking foolish.

In those circumstances undoubtedly Saddam Hussein would have become much
more influential, at least economically (it would have been insane to
attempt anything in the military line) and morally. And in those
circumstances, dare I say it?, much less cruel. Cruelty is born of weakness,
defeat and desperation. The government of the United States destroyed
Afghanistan in vengeance for a spectacular but obviously exceptional act of
terrorism (to which Afghanistan was only tangentially related). What would
they not have done if they had found themselves on the verge of extinction,
which is where the Iraqi government has been ever since 1982 when the tide
turned against them in the Iran/Iraq war?

But it was never realistic to think that the US - whatever about the UK -
would have let Saddam, and with him the Iraqi people, out of the sanctions
net. Realistically, given the insurmountably vicious nature of the Anglo
Saxon powers - their neurotic determination always to be seen to be top dog
- the choice was always between war or keeping Saddam, and with him the
Iraqi people, 'in his box'. The point was often made by David Aaronovitch as
an argument for war and really he was right. There were only very few of us
willing to argue the case for ending the horror by simply freeing Saddam
from his box.

So that provides a stronger argument for war. It might prove to have been
better than continued sanctions. At least so far as the people living in
Iraq are concerned. That depends on whether or not the present chaos is
brought to an end. Chaos, it can be argued (as previously pointed out, it is
the basic argument of Hobbes' Leviathan) is worse than tyranny. One imagines
that the end of the chaos requires the installation of a strong government
which at least a substantial part of the population can recognise as
legitimate. I can see no prospect of such a thing emerging from the hands of
the occupying power, therefore from its emanation, the Iraqi Governing
Council. The only possibility I can see is a successful liberation struggle
against the invaders.

But in all decency I can only hope I'll be proved wrong and a stable
government will be established without a lot more bloodshed. In that case,
those Iraqis who have not lost their families and their sense of their own
personal worth through the war - and especially those Iraqis who suffered
terribly at the hands of Saddam Hussein - will feel that, in the end, the
war has resulted in a state of affairs that is better than it was before.

But it remains that for the Arab world as a whole, the implantation of a
huge Western military presence in their midst is a disaster and humiliation
of the first degree (imagine the implantation of a huge Soviet military
presence in England. Justified on the grounds that the English aren't
capable of managing their own affairs, that the English are a danger to the
rest of the world). And for us too, the British people, it is a disaster. We
thought we had freed ourselves from the ignominy of being an Imperialist
power. Some of us even thought this was a major achievement of the Labour
movement. And here we are back again. East of Suez. And consequently seen by
a large part of the world as a natural enemy (and target). And paying
through the nose for the privilege of maintaining a 'defense' capacity far
in excess of what would be required to defend our own borders. And all in
the name of Mr Blair's determination to stamp out evil wherever it appears.
A war that can never end. And that can only - as it has done in the Balkans,
in Afghanistan and now in Iraq - generate and perpetuate the very chaos that
Mr Blair has described as the 'the security threat of the 21st century'.

News, 24/9-1/10/03 (1)


*  Baghdad's Packed Morgue Marks a City's Descent Into Lawlessness [Extracts
from a powerful article in the LA Times]
*  Most Iraqis take dim view of Bush and Blair [Poll in Baghdad finds that
Baghdadis think the removal of S.Hussein was worth the subsequent
discomfort, but feel little gratitude towards the people responsible]
*  'At stake in Iraq is the future of the entire region' [Michael Jansen in
the Jordan Times argues, statistics to hand, that for financial and manpower
reasons the US cannot possibly succeed in Iraq. He concludes: 'If Bush and
Rumsfeld remain in charge, Iraq will not become a democratic light unto the
Arab world but a core of anarchy spreading chaos throughout the region.']
*  Crossed Wires Deprived Iraqis of Electric Power War Plans Ignored Worn
Infrastructure [Excellent account of the electricity shortage. Rajiv
Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post, who seems to be one of the most
outstanding journalists around at the present time, gives short shrift to
JPB3's contention that "It's hard to exaggerate the impact of three decades
of crippling under-investment by Saddam Hussein in Iraq's infrastructure".
'The plant sputtered to a halt after being hit by six U.S. bombs during the
Persian Gulf War....After the war, U.N. economic sanctions prevented Iraq
from ordering new parts from G(eneral).E(lectric).' Then, after Oil for
Food, 'the sanctions effectively prohibited the import of parts that had
potential military applications, such as chlorine to purify water going into
steam turbine units, further degrading the electricity system'. The article
is long and I only give extracts but readers should go to the original. The
last sentence quotes Capt. Roderick Pittman, the officer assigned to Baghdad
South: "This place is very Stone Age." For those of us who remember the 1991
boast that Iraq would be bombed back to the stone age, that has a certain
*  Patriots and invaders [Sami Ramadani, a political refugee from Saddam's
regime and senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University,
celebrates the 'indomitable spirit' of his countrymen which wasn't beaten by
Saddam and isn't now going to fold before the Americans. He also sees little
danger of a Sunni/Shi'i split. The reason why there has been so much trouble
in the so-called 'Sunni triangle' is, he claims, that it was deliberately
provoked by the Americans]
*  PM: Democracy won't solve Iraq's woes [Account of a speech by Malaysian
Prime Minsiter Mahathir Mohamad who I would have seen as one of the hopes of
the world if he weren't about to retire]
*  Postwar tremors deepen Iraq fissures [Long, interesting Washington Post
account by Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Anthony Shadid of tensions between Kurds
and Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, Sunni and Shi'i. Extracts, but the whole is
worth reading]
*  Iraqi Family Ties Complicate American Efforts for Change [John Tierney in
the New York Times attempts to come to terms with a society that isn't made
up, as we are, of free floating atoms ('committed', the person he is quoting
would have us believe 'to a public good'!). By contrast with our well known
commitment to the pubic good, we learn 'Iraqis frequently describe nepotism
not as a civic problem but as a moral duty'. The article, which I think does
raise a question of great importance, is followed by a critique, or
alternative view, from the riverbend blog, a comment on the system of tribes
and the power of the sheiks (and on the 'veil')]
*   Baghdad Burning - Sheikhs and Tribes...

and, in News, 24/9-1/10/03 (2)


*  New CPA appointments announced [George Wolfe as director of economic
development; Robert McKee as the senior oil adviser to the Iraqi Oil
Ministry replacing Philip Carroll]
*  U.S. transfers authority over Al-Najaf to Spanish
*  Iraqi Interim Government takes seat at the OPEC table
*  No democracy is possible without security [Noah Feldman, sometime
constitutional adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council, defends the current
US policy in Iraq, arguing that political progress is being made, Kurds have
renounced autonomy (because 'they are so close to achieving long-awaited
freedom from autocratic Arab rule', ie autonomy?), the Shi'i are giving up
clerocracy and the administration is concentrating on the most important
thing which is the building up of a new police and army. A quick handover to
an Iraqi government unable to deliver security (as demanded by France and
Germany) would be disastrous]
*  Governing Council President said to be challenging U.S. plan in Iraq
[Imminent Chalabi/US split]
*  Al-Hashimi: Baathist who survived the purge [Aljazeera account of Aqila
al-Hashimi: 'At a press conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Kuala
Lumpur in February, she famously declared, "The defence of Iraq is now the
defence of the civilised world."']
*  Iraqi council has growing pains [Confusion over whether or not the
Council backs Finance Minister Kamel Al Kilani's statement that the Iraqi
economy is open to unlimited penetration]     
*  Houston Exec Gets Top Iraq Energy Post [Account of Robert E. McKee III,
new senior adviser to the Iraqi Oil Ministry.]
*  [Dismissal of Shi'i dean of Baghdad University] [Here's one for Milan.
Popular democratically elected Shi'i replaced by old Baathist]


*  Friends of the family [Iraqi International Law Group, founded by Salem
Chalabi, nephew of Ahmad, and its relations to Douglas Feith and to 'Zell,
Goldberg &Co, which claims to be "one of Israel's fastest-growing
business-oriented law firms"']
*  Influx of goods, cash puts Iraqis in buying mood [Draws a picture of an
Iraq swimming in cash in which those with jobs have seen their wages spiral.
There is also a mysterious reference to 'shoppers who have waited for years
to be able to spend their hoarded dollars']
*  [Large quantities of Iraqi counterfeit bills found]
*  Will the US Privatize Iraq? Should It? [Lew Rockwell, president of the
Ludwig von Mises Institute, is a real believer in privatisation and knows
that it is not the same thing as 'contracting out', which is what the US
government is doing in and to Iraq]
*  World Bank/IMF meetings focus on Iraq
*  Free markets are the key to rebuilding Iraq [Amity Shlaes in the FT is
enthusiastic about the opening of Iraq to foreign investment, and about
A.Chalabi as just the man to do it. She and he cite the precedent of
Adenauer and Erhart in Germany. Which was odd to me because I thought
Germany was a) protectionist (how come they have a motor industry and we
don't?) and b) had a very efficient system of social security and inbuilt
workers' representation at management level. None of which I see in the
proposals of Mr Chalabi ...]
*  International oil companies step up development talks
*  Washington Insiders' New Firm Consults on Contracts in Iraq [Account of
New Bridge Strategies]

and, in News, 24/9-1/10/03 (3)


*  U.S. 'Ali Babas' Inspire Iraqis Into Hiding Valuable Things [US soldiers
have reputation as thieves]
*  More attacks on US troops [Various incidents, Wednesday 24th September]
*  Governing Council member dies five days after attack [Aquila al-Hasimi]
*  Explosions rock hotel, movie theater in Iraq
*  Shi'ite cleric discusses his army, relations with Iran [Interview with
Muqtada al-Sadr in Al Ahram: 'There is no harm in my being an extension of
the Khomeini revolution']
*  Bloody day in Iraq as UN pulls out staff [Aljazeera account of incidents
on Thursday 25th September]
*  US forces shoot dead Iraqi child [Aljazeera account of incidents
cSaturday27th-Monday 29th September]
*  Shiite cleric attacked [Narrow escape of Jalaladin Al Sagher, a Shiite
cleric on a panel examining how to draw up a new Iraqi constitution]
*  Ambush Sparks Lengthy Firefights [Monday 29th September, near Habaniya]
*  Adjusting to Reality in Iraq [David Ignatius on the training of the New
Iraqi Army and role of elements of the previous regime, including possibly
'the former defense minister, Gen. Sultan Hashem Ahmed']
*  One Polish Soldier Killed, Four US Troops Wounded [Only Juan Cole seems
to have thought the death of a POLISH soldier worthy of mention]
*  Sadrist Militia interferes with Burial Rites for Aqila al-Hashimi
*  U.S. Compound in Baghdad Is Hit in Attack [Attack on Rashid Hotel]
*  Iraqi Police Open Fire on Demonstrators [Wednesday, 1st October]


*  The men who shot Uday Hussein: First inside account of a 1996 ambush that
signaled active Iraqi resistance [and of the vengeance the regime took on
their families.]

and, in News, 24/9-1/10/03 (4)


*  US intelligence on Iraqi weapons 'flawed' [According to a letter from
'senior members' of the intelligence committee of the US House of
Representatives 'controlled by Republicans ... signed by the committee
chairman, Congressman Porter Goss, a Republican from Florida who is a former
CIA agent and a long-time supporter of Mr Tenet and the intelligence
agencies.' Though read carefully we see that these claims are not being made
by the committee as a whole]
*  Butcher Buffaloed [The New York Post tells us (rather improbably giving
Time as its source) that 'Saddam Hussein's own scientists may have fooled
him - and the world - into thinking he had weapons of mass destruction that
he no longer possessed ...' So much for the various stories about how
they're really in the Bekaa Valley in the Lebanon. Or in Syria. The NYP also
tells us, with breezy disregard for the truth that 'U.N. inspectors,
effectively kicked out by Saddam in 1998, reported vast stocks of Iraqi
chemical and biological weapons materials'. They didn't. They reported that
large quantities were unaccounted for. Which isn't the same thing.]
*  Iraqi defectors' weapons claims were 'false' [This like the previous
article from the NYPost, purports to come from Time but gives a rather
different impression. Is it from the same article? Interesting quote from a
DIA spokesman: "We don't make decisions or take action based on sole
sources." So their standards are rather higher than those of Sir Crispin
Tinkerbell, or whatever his name was (I make a point of not remembering
things the government obviously doesn't want me to know), head of MI6 ...]


*  "Marshall Plan to Bush Iraqi Plan: No Comparison" [Senator Byrd's
statement, though critical, still seems to be based on the assumption that
the $87 bn is directed towards the reconstruction of Iraq. My understanding
is that the great bulk of it is going to the military - in Iraq and
*  CPA head addresses Senate on U.S. supplemental aid package for Iraq [Some
details of '$87 billion supplemental request package for reconstruction
efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan' ... 'which includes $20.3 billion in grants
for work in Iraq', which includes '$5.1 billion to enhance security'. So
what's the rest of the $87bn going to?]
*  The Bush Assault on the World Order [This article by Peter Hitchens of
the Mail on Sunday has a certain interest as a 'Conservative' view of the
evil alliance between Neo Conservatives (not to be confused with real
Conservatives) and the Neo-Imperialist Left (Mr Blair and friends). Not to
mention the 'ex-Marxist secular globalists' like his near namesake
Christopher. What a confusing, interesting world we live in ...]


*  Syria proposes changes to US draft resolution on Iraq [Is Syria beginning
to get its spirit back?]
*  Iraqi tribal delegation meets with Syrian President [A delegation of the
National Council of Iraqi Tribes headed by Chairman Shaykh Husayn Ali
al-Sha'lan; and Syria offers troops 'if the UN were put in charge of Iraq
and the United States set a clear timetable for withdrawal'.]
*  U.S. Transfers Border Patrol to Iraqis [to stop illegal pilgrims from
Iran to Najaf: '"The word is out in Iran that Iraq is free," Allen said.
"For years, Saddam Hussein did not allow them into the country ...' But it
doesn't seem Lt Col Reggie Allen wants to let them into the country either]
*  Iraqis report being trapped in Syria [' after the U.S. banned individuals
between the ages of 18 and 45 from entering Iraq' It seems the word isn't
out yet in Syria that Iraq is free]
*  Tehran putting its spies in Iraq ['Iran has dispatched hundreds of agents
posing as pilgrims and traders to Iraq to foment unrest in the holy cities
of Najaf and Karbala, and the lawless frontier areas'. Mischevous article
with a familiar wardrum beat to it]
*  Kuwait MPs reject call to drop Iraq debt demands


*  Blow to Blair as majority say war not justified [Guardian/ICM poll]
*  Thousands in Asia, Europe protest over Iraq war [in London. And in
Greece, Cyprus, South Korea and Turkey]     
*  Emotions dominate Iraq debate [Account of Iraq section of Labour Party
debate on foreign policy]

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