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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 conference. 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) STATE OF IRAQ * 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 resonance.] * 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) STATE OF THE ADMINISTRATION * 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] HERALDS OF FREE ENTERPRISE * 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) SECURITY IN IRAQ * 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] PAGES FROM HISTORY * 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) STATE OF THE PRETEXT * 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 ...] STATE OF THE US * "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 elsewhere] * 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 ...] STATE OF THE MIDDLE EAST * 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 STATE OF BRITAIN * 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] _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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