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Matthew



Joined: 14 Jan 2004
Posts: 50
Location: Newcastle, UK

Post Post subject: MattC Letters Reply with quote

**************** To Matt Frei *******************************

Dear Mr. Frei,

I have just watched you on BBC News 24 talking about the growing calls for an independent inquiry into the issue of WMD in Iraq. Or rather the lack thereof. You agreed with the anchor that the issue of WMD is less important in the US than it is in the UK because the US administration had always made a case for regime change and that WMD were not an important issue.

This is simply not true and I would like to respectfully ask that you stop saying it.

President Bush consistently stated in the run-up to the attack that war could be avoided if Iraq gave up its alleged weapons. [‘In the speech today, Bush called on the world body to force Iraq to disarm and said that failing that, "action will be unavoidable.’ (Washington Post 13/09/02); ’President Bush put Saddam Hussein and the world on notice yesterday that "action will be unavoidable" unless the United Nations forces Iraq to disarm.’ (London Times 13/09/02); ‘Mr Bush said yesterday that Iraq could avoid war if it surrendered its weapons of mass destruction. "Hopefully, we can do this without military action."’ (The Age (Melbourne) 18/10/02); ‘President Bush: If Iraq fails to fully comply, the United States and other nations will disarm Saddam Hussein… All patriotic Iraqis should embrace this resolution as an opportunity for Iraq to avoid war and end its isolation.’ (Federal Document Clearing House Political Transcripts 08/11/02); ‘"The burden now is on Iraq's dictator to disclose and destroy his arsenal of weapons," [Bush] said in a radio address. "If he refuses then for the sake of peace, the United States will lead a coalition to disarm the Iraqi regime and free the Iraqi people."’ (Scotland on Sunday 29/12/02) ‘President George W Bush said yesterday he hoped the North Korean nuclear crisis could be resolved peacefully. But he added that it appeared Saddam Hussein had "not heard the message" that he must disarm to avoid war.’ (Daily Telegraph 01/01/03)].

in a speech to Congress on the 7th October 2002 Mr.Bush made many specific references to Iraq's WMD. These included : "an arsenal of terror", "more than 30000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents", "a massive stockpile of biological weapons", "thousands of tons of chemical agents", "horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons", "Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a range of hundreds of miles". He mentioned nuclear weapons 16 times and once invoked the image of a "mushroom cloud".

You will recall also Colin Powell addressing the UN actually brandishing a tube of Anthrax (dry powdered anthrax of a sort that Iraq had never produced, but that didn't seem to matter) and revealing transcripts of Iraqi soldiers discussing the hiding of weapons from inspectors. He even had satellite "before and after" photographs of bulldozers clearing suspect weapons sites.

Contrary to the position held by journalists, that the issue of WMD has never been important to the US, and that therefore this is an issue that the Bush regime can simply brush aside, Mr. Bush made constant, strident, urgent reference to WMD and the threat that they posed to the world, especially if they were to get into the hands of terrorist groups such as al qaeda, links to which, of course, were also never found.

Of course if journalists such as yourself continue to say that WMD is not really an issue for Bush, it becomes true. If, on the other hand you review the actual history of the build up to the conflict you will find that the exact opposite is the truth.

with kind regards
Matt Cummins
Newcastle Upon Tyne
UK

************************************************************

Turns out the speech I quote was delivered in Cincinatti not to Congress. Bum. Never mind.
Mon Feb 02, 2004 7:22 pm
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joe emersberger



Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 513
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada

Post Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Turns out the speech I quote was delivered in Cincinatti not to Congress. Bum. Never mind.


If these trivial little errors were the only kind the media made, the world would certainly be a better place.

The lie about Bush never really basing his case for war on WMD has been quickly spreading in the British media. I wrote to the Independent about a leader of their's that asserted this. Mary Dejecsky replied even though sje didn't write the leader. I posted the exchange on this board. It's astounding that we should even have to supply quotes at all to refute this lie.

Great job on your letter. Below is one I sent to the Guardian about the same lie. It appeared in one of their articles last night.

RE: Guardian: Blair alone after Bush WMD move : Nicholas Watt, Richard Norton-Taylor, and David Teather in New York: Feb 2, 2004

TO: Mr Watt, Mr. Norton-Taylor and Mr. Teather

You wrote in this article that

"Mr Blair will choose his words carefully, because failure to uncover banned weapons represents a greater political threat to him than it does to Mr Bush, who never used Iraq's banned weapons as the main reason for going to war."

This is an outrageous statement. Mr. Bush continuously referred to Iraq's WMD as the main reason for going to war. Bush's state of the union address before to the war referred to "25,000 liters of anthrax", "38,000 liters of botulinum toxin","500 tons of sarin","30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents". He asked US citizens to imagine the Sepetmber 11 hijackers "with other weapons and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein." The main reason he gave for invading Iraq was clearly the threat posed by WMD.

It is probably fair to say that Bush has not suffered as much political damage as Blair due to the failure to find WMD, but that is a separate matter. It has to do with the level of misinformation prevalent in the US which in turn has to do with the servility of the US media and other factors.

After the war a third of the US public believed that WMD had been found and 20% actually believed they had been used! (poll results published June 4, 2003 by the Program on International Policy Attitudes). Polls have also revealed that half the US public believes Saddam was personally involved in the 9-11 bombings and that Iraqis were among the hijackers.(NYT, March 22, 2003).

Regards,

Joe Emersberger
Mon Feb 02, 2004 10:47 pm
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Matthew



Joined: 14 Jan 2004
Posts: 50
Location: Newcastle, UK

Post Post subject: Toadying to the David's I know, but Reply with quote

my contribution to the Gavin Hewitt debacle.

Dear Mr. Hewitt,

I listened with amazement to your assertion tonight that any inquiry into the missing WMD in Iraq would ask one of two questions, either that 1) the intelligence services got their assessments wrong or that 2) the politicians failed to ask the right questions.

When Robin Cook resigned from the government he said that, having seen the "evidence" of WMD he could see nothing that would justify the war. He said :

"I never saw any [cabinet] briefing or other evidence that suggested that there was an urgent or compelling threat from Saddam Hussein. I am not going to comment on the motivation or sincerity of others, but I am rather puzzled that people who went to the same briefings as me and saw the same material could come to such radically different conclusions."

After his sacking from the Bush Administration, Paul O'Neill said much the same thing about the intelligence information that he saw. His words, quoted on the BBC News Online website (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3387941.stm) were :

"In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterise as evidence of weapons of mass destruction".

Surely this presents us with the possibility that there never was any compelling evidence presented to politicians in either administration. This might, might it not, present a third line of question for any upcoming inquiry, that Messrs Blair and Bush et al, simply made it up?
Tue Feb 03, 2004 1:41 am
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Matthew



Joined: 14 Jan 2004
Posts: 50
Location: Newcastle, UK

Post Post subject: Response from Gavin Hewitt Reply with quote

My mistake, I suppose for using the phrase "made it up". Did the David's get a reply yet?

*************************************************************
Dear Mr Cummins,

Thanks for your comments about last night's news. If I could deal with your last suggestion first. If the politicians had simply made it up then I do not believe that the Joint Intelligence Committee would have supported the government's september dossier. If this had been based on 'made up' information then I think the intelligence services would have made sure that we knew of their unhappiness. I also think, whatever your views about the Hutton report,
that in the course of the inquiry some official would have said if the intelligence had been 'made up' by ministers.

David Kay who acknowledges ' we got it wrong ' does not suggest that politicians simply made up the intelligence. He questions whether some of the caveats concerning those reports fell away as the reports were passed up the line.

I think there are a number of possibilities. Firstly that the intelligence services relied too heavily on defectors and opposition groups that had their own agenda and misinterpreted satellite information. Secondly, that the politicians did not evaluate what they were reading and hearing correctly. This is what I meant in the broadcast last night when I said 'that the politicians did not ask the right searching questions'. Asking the right questions involves finding out what the intelligence is based on and also weighing carefully all the qualifications. It is also possible that politicians failed to assess the information correctly because they wanted a different outcome.

I could have laid that out as a third option but I intended my second option to include that possibility.

Thanks again for your e.mail.

Yours Sincerely

Gavin Hewitt
*************************************************************
Tue Feb 03, 2004 3:36 pm
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Matthew



Joined: 14 Jan 2004
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Location: Newcastle, UK

Post Post subject: Reply to Gavin Hewitt Reply with quote

Dear Mr. Hewitt,

thank you for your response to my email of last night. It is always refreshing when journalists take the time to respond to emails, especially at such length and in such detail.

Perhaps instead of "made it up", I should have used a fuller phrase such as "selected from the large amount of information available only those things that supported their case". Indeed you yourself use a similar phrase in your email. You say that you meant this to be implied within "they failed to ask the right searching questions". I would suggest that these are not at all the same thing.

You say that David Kay suggests that “some of the caveats concerning those reports fell away as the reports were passed up the line”. You mean (to take only the best known example of this ) a caveat such as "may be able to" being changed to "are able to"? For the record this sort of change WAS noted by the Hutton report along with the disquiet that it caused amongst the intelligence services.

Dropping a "caveat" such as this amounts to a material change in the information. "Are able to" is not the same as "may be able to". This sort of material change, made at the behest of ministers and their spin-doctors is effectively the same as "making it up". The qualifications and caveats cannot simply be removed from the data. They are crucial to understanding the data and putting it in context. Not revealing that the source of this particular item was a single, unreliable one, is also, I would suggest a material change.

You suggest in your email that "[i]t is also possible that politicians failed to assess the information correctly because they wanted a different outcome". This is NOT the same as "failing to ask the right searching questions." Failing to ask the right searching questions suggests being incompetent, which would be bad enough. Failing to ask the right searching questions "because we don't want to hear the answers" is an ENTIRELY different matter. This suggests a deliberately highly selective reading of available matter because the decision to go to war has already been made and we only want information that supports that decision. This is what Paul O'Neill suggested, that the decision to go to war in Iraq had been made as early as January 2001.

You say "I could have laid that out as a third option but I intended my second option to include that possibility." This sounds like "I could have made this very damaging suggestion, but instead of saying it outright, I thought I would hide it inside the second one." And anyway, as hopefully I have demonstrated, they are simply not the same thing.

I do understand that the BBC is under a great deal of pressure at the moment and that post-Gilligan you have to be extremely careful what you say. But I would respectfully suggest that there are any number of formulae of words that would suggest the possibility that an inquiry might want to investigate the suspicion that our government "misused" the information presented to it without triggering another round of BBC resignations.

We have the luxury of bandying semantics with each other. The tens of thousands of people who died in Iraq as a result of what looks increasingly like sematic chicanery by our government do not have that luxury. Plain speaking would seem to be in order.

Thank you again for your response.
Kind regards
Matt Cummins
Newcastle
UK.
Tue Feb 03, 2004 4:29 pm
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To Donald Macintyre
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Post Post subject: Independent 3rd Feb 2003 Reply with quote

Dear Mr. Macintyre,

I read your piece in the Independent today with growing dismay and anger. Dismay because what you say seems to fly in the face of everything we now know about the search for WMD in Iraq and the way in which our government was, at the very least, selective about the information it chose to put before the House of Commons and the electorate. Anger because as I watch the abuse of power and language being perpetrated by the Blair government and echoed by commentators like yourself, I see our democracy disappearing and witness the continued unjustified murder of innocent civilians about which our establishment seems to care not one jot.

I would like if I may to challenge some of the assertions you make in your article.

1. “The government is certainly entitled to say that Lord Hutton has cleared it of falsifying the September dossier, and that the issue need not be revisited.”

Specifically Hutton said that Andrew Gilligan’s claims were “unfounded”. This “legalese” does not however answer certain specific questions raised by the evidence presented at the Hutton Inquiry. It became clear that several changes were made to the dossier at the behest of the government. The most obvious of these was the claim regarding WMD that could be launched within 45 minutes. The intelligence assessment was that Saddam “may” be able to launch such weapons. This was changed to “is” able to. Hutton’s assessment (and presumably yours) is that this is not a falsification. I would say that these two statements are so different that they are virtually two different pieces of information. False? Yes, I think so. Especially as it turned out (as Gilligan rightly reported) that this was single source and not a very reliable source at that. It also referred to battle field weapons (i.e. tank shells) with minimal range. Not WMD in the sense that those listening to the Prime Minister and those reading the dossier understood the term. False? Yes, I think so. If the Prime Minister had stood up in parliament and said “Saddam may be able to fire artillery shells filled with mustard gas, but this comes from an Iraqi defector whose information has not been terribly reliable in the past” do you think it would have had the same impact? Why did the Prime Minister choose not to present the information in this more balanced and accurate way? False? I think so. And therefore it certainly does need revisiting. This same point was made today at the Liaison Committee. They, or at least one Tory representative on that committee clearly also think it was worth revisiting. Many other changes were requested by Alistair Campbell. What is a government spin doctor doing requesting changes to intelligence reports? And why did Scarlett allow himself to be “subconsciously” affected by Blair’s need to make the dossier as convincing as possible. I think there’s quite a lot that needs revisiting.

2. “Maybe Saddam skillfully maintained the fiction that he had a WMD capability in order to frighten his many enemies”

This is one of the most monstrous fictions being perpetrated at the moment. A whole host of people have said that Saddam possessed no useable WMD, including Saddam himself. They include Scott Ritter, Rolf Ekeus, Richard Butler, Hans Blix, Hussein Kamel. They also include, bizarrely, Colin Powell, who said

"He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."

Cairo, February 24 2001

In the run up to the war we now know that Saddam tried to forestall the war by making overtures to the US. These included giving them control of the oil and holding elections, monitored by the UN, within two years, i.e. on about the same timescale we are now working to. The actions of a man hiding WMD? And if we did think he was hiding WMD what on earth were we thinking sending troops without proper protective gear to the gulf?

3. “I can remember one senior official at the time musing that it was better for London than Washington to produce such a dossier because it would be subject to less media scrutiny here than in the US.”

I nearly fell off my chair laughing. I guess he (?) was right, eh? What a sad state of affairs that is, given then risible state of the media in the states - that our media is seen to be less rigorous than that in the US. I’m interested, did you read the September Dossier? I did. Its mostly taken from Richard Butler’s extremely detailed report from 1998. Butler concluded that what remained to be found were 6500 chemical weapons shells that were “unaccounted” for, and some documents. These were the same “unaccounted for” WMD that Blix kept referring to. He kept saying as well that “unaccounted for” doesn’t mean they exist. They are simply “unaccounted for”. Like something that is “unfounded”? Blix kept desperately trying to remind the UN that “no WMD have been found in Iraq since 1994” (in his report to the security council feb and march 2003). The last time anything was found in Iraq was when Hussein Kamel defected in 1994. He told the US where to find the last bits of the Iraqi WMD programmes (the now infamous “chicken shed documents”) For this he was murdered on his return to Iraq. He had also said "I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons -biological, chemical, missile, nuclear - were destroyed." This part of his debriefing by the CIA seems to have been completely ignored even though, thanks to the like of John Pilger, it is now readily available in the public domain.

4. “You don’t have to believe that the government actually falsified the intelligence (which it didn’t)…”

I’ve already pointed out what I believe are the shortcomings of this idea. I just put it in again because I can’t quite believe you said it twice. So when Tony Blair said in October 2001 that we couldn’t go to war in Iraq unless evidence of complicity in 9/11 was discovered (he was in Dohar, his comments were reported by the Guardian) did he not have the intelligence then? There was no new evidence, as Donald Rumsfeld said. There was no new evidence, they just saw the same evidence through the prism of 9/11, he said. So had Blair not had a chance to look through this prism? Why did he change his mind? What did he suddenly see in the intelligence that was so urgent? Or was the evidence the same (which presumably did not justify war then) but started to make sense once Alistair Campbell had had it doctored?

5. “…or deny that Tony Blair was convinced it pointed to Saddam having a biological, chemical and nuclear capability (which it is overwhelmingly probable he was)”

I’m assuming you mean that it was “overwhelmingly probable” that Blair was convinced rather than it was “overwhelmingly probable” that Saddam had such things. Because of course everyone knows that Saddam had no nuclear capability. The Israelis blew it up. The aluminium tubes as “uranium enrichers” theory was completely rubbished by Dr. Mohammed El Baradei . The “yellow cake” from Niger fantasy turned out not only to be false but a forgery. Bush’s claim that the IAEA had produced a report that said that Saddam could produce nuclear weapons was greeted with scorn by Dr. Mohammed El Baradei who said that no such report existed. So much for nuclear weapons. Scott Ritter said that Iraq never successfully weaponised Anthrax of the kind that Colin Powell (remember him - "He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."?) brandished at the UN. Which according to Scott Ritter means they never had a biological weapons programme. On chemical weapons he said :

“Iraq had a massive chemical weapons program. They produced mustard agent. They produced nerve agent, sarin and tabun, and they produced a particularly lethal form of nerve agent known as VX. We destroyed the factories that produced mustard, sarin and tabun. We eliminated the production equipment associated with these agents. We destroyed the vast majority of the weapons produced by these factories.”

He went on to say that the Iraqis tried to hide their VX production but that eventually Unscom found it and destroyed it. On their chances of restarting VX production he said :

“this is something that's eminently detectable by the intelligence services of the United States, Great Britain, Israel and other nations. It's not something that's done in a basement or a cave…”
And this is the real lie about the “intelligence failures”. Iraq is one of the most extensively surveyed, searched, monitored and controlled countries in the world. It is also dirt poor. According to a UN observer after the first gulf war, “nothing that we had seen or read had prepared us for the devastation which has befallen the country. Most means of modern life have been destroyed. The authorities are as yet scarcely able to measure the dimensions of the calamity, much less respond to its’ consequences. The conflict has wrought near apocalyptic results. Iraq has been relegated to a pre-industrial age." ('Report to the Secretary General on Humanitarian needs in Kuwait and Iraq in the Immediate post-crisis environment - Mission led by Mr Martti Ahtisaari, Under Secretary General for Administration and Management,' 20th March 1991.) And this is before 12 years of criminally murderous sanctions. A country ready to produce wmd? I don’t think so. Government falsification? Yes, I think so.

All this is known. It is public information, publicly available. If it is “overwhelming probable” that Blair believed Saddam to be a threat then it is equally “overwhelmingly probable” that he is too stupid to be our Prime Minister.

6. “while Sir Richard Dearlove…told the Hutton Inquiry that the 45 minute claim might have been given undue prominence, no minister, as far as I know, has yet echoed the point.”

Well they wouldn’t would they? But of course some ex-ministers have made some extremely damaging claims about the intelligence in general. For example Robin Cook who said, after resigning :

"I never saw any [cabinet] briefing or other evidence that suggested that there was an urgent or compelling threat from Saddam Hussein. I am not going to comment on the motivation or sincerity of others, but I am rather puzzled that people who went to the same briefings as me and saw the same material could come to such radically different conclusions."

And in the US Paul O’Neill said :

"In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterise as evidence of weapons of mass destruction”.

There are serious, searching, urgent questions to be asked of the way in which the US and UK governments (and Australian governments, whose own Premier has been severely censured in his own country for his manipulation of intelligence information – something which has received scant attention here) appear to have manipulated intelligence information to make a case to wage a war that was being planned in the US as early as January 2001, if Paul O’Neill is to be believed. We know that there are people in the Bush administration who have been calling for a war to oust Saddam even while Clinton was in office. As a result of this war a new terrifying axis of Islamic fundamentalism and Arab Nationalism is now responding the only way it knows how. The world is not a safer place it is more dangerous and becoming even more dangerous as I write this very long email to you. Something which was predicted by the same intelligence services who now are apparently to take the blame for the unstoppable march to war that we witnessed in late 2002 and early 2003.

It would be a monstrous injustice if those who participated in these crimes were able to hide behind a new report whose remit was even more narrowly defined than Hutton’s. We need a proper open public debate about the way this country was taken to war. Now. Before more people are killed and before more illegal, unjust, pre-emptive wars are undertaken by Bush and Blair.

With kind regards
Matt Cummins
Newcastle
UK.
Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:23 am
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Matthew



Joined: 14 Jan 2004
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Post Post subject: Damn, I didn't log in first.... Reply with quote

So it didn't get it's Derrida. Boo! Rest assured that "guest" is me....
Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:28 am
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David Bracewell



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Post Post subject: Reply with quote

Matt, I'm never getting on your bad side. Ever!

Devastating. Like watching a tiger pull a fruit bat apart.
Wed Feb 04, 2004 4:49 am
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Matthew



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Post Post subject: Donald Mackintyre's Reply Reply with quote

Thank you, david, very kind. Just call me Sheer-Khan.

Here is Donald's Reply..............

************************************************************
I read your e-mail with interest and --as it happens--agree with many of
the points in it. I am slightly baffled, however, that a piece which was
saying in effect: "let's concede that Blair may not have actually lied,
that doesn't mean there is nothing for an enqiry to look at; indeed it
would be quite wrong to put the blame on the intelligence services rather
than the politicians for talking up a WMD threat which appeared not to have existed " should have been read by you as a slavish whitewash of the government case for war I am obviously doing something wrong.
************************************************************

I shall reply forthwith...
Wed Feb 04, 2004 5:34 pm
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Matthew



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Post Post subject: I replied thus.... Reply with quote

He didn't give me much to go on...so here goes......

Dear Mr. Macintyre,

thank you so much for your response to my email. Rest assured that this will not be so long!

You say :

'I am slightly baffled, however, that a piece which was saying in effect: "let's concede that Blair may not have actually lied, that doesn't mean there is nothing for an enqiry to look at; indeed it would be quite wrong to put the blame on the intelligence services rather than the politicians for talking up a WMD threat which appeared not to have existed"'

I am confused as well. If Blair did not actually lie, in the face of all the evidence in the public domain and the critical comments about the intelligence by ex-ministers on both sides of the atlantic, what did he do? It turns out, as revealed during the debate today on the Hutton report, that Mr. Blair did not even ask for details on the "45-minute claim".

One imagines a conversation that went something like this :

Dearlove : We have information from a source that Saddam may be able to launch WMD within 45-minutes....
Blair : Right, stick it in the dossier..
Dearlove : ah, yes, but....
Blair : No "but's" Sir Richard, stick it in....Oh and while you're at it change that "may" to "can" will you, makes it sound much better.....
Dearlove : Yes, Prime Minister, but the source....
Blair : never mind the source, all grist to the mill...
Dearlove : And really it only really refers to....
Blair (fingers in ears) : I'm not listening, la la la ....

What you are suggesting is that Blair can have been +honestly+ mistaken. But what can he have mistaken? The fact that Iraq is a poverty stricken, destroyed country, reduced to third world status after 20 years of terrible war and sanctions, without the infrastructure to produce food and medicine, never mind long range missiles with sickening payloads of some of the world's deadliest chemicals?

The best one seems to be able to say about Blair is that he was incompetent in his assessment of the intelligence presented before him. The actual evidence before and since the war simply does not suppoort the assertions he made about the need to go to war. He has since said, and this is simply incredible, that he is even more convinced of the need for war now than before. ??!!??

It is time, I think, for commentators to suggest that our PM might not be a bumbling, incompetent but sincere man. His sincerity is baseless. He changed his mind many times in the run up to the war. He did a Volte-Face from his original "we cannot launch a war against Saddam unless his complicity in 911 can be proved " (i.e. the right and proper position) to one which is now "It doesn't matter that our only possible, fig-leaf justification for the war, i.e. his possession of WMD, was wrong. We were still right to go to war."

To willfully kill 40000 people and to put the lives of the rest in mortal danger for many years to come. On the basis that their leader was a dangerous tyrant supported in his worst crimes by us, with chemical and weapons we had sold him. Because he was "overwhelingly convinved" he was right. I don't think it can have been possible for someone to be "overwhelmingly convinced" for all the reasons and evidence I gave in my lasy email.

If you believe that that is "in effect" what your article was saying, can you please say it a bit more frankly next time? Please? Because then we might all be living in a saner, safer world.

Thanks again for taking the time to email me...
kind regards
Matt Cummins
Wed Feb 04, 2004 6:06 pm
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Matthew



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Post Post subject: Latest Salvo in the Hari battle - silly man Reply with quote

Dear Johann. Having read your piece in today’s Independent (“We should build on our success in Iraq and Afghanistan, not decry them”) I felt I had to write to you with some observations.

I will talk about the “successes” in a bit, but first feel I have to deal with your opening remarks. You bemoan the concentration of the world’s media on the carnage in Iraq. In actual fact, of course, the (diminishing) amount of air time and media space given over to discussing the growing horror that Iraq is becoming, a horror predicted by US and UK intelligence agencies, is a woeful under-estimate of the carnage that is happening. It transpires that the US forces are under-reporting their own casualties. As for accurately reporting the Iraqi casualties, well this has never been of concern to them, in direct contravention of the Geneva convention.

Your second paragraph opens with a disgraceful piece of intellectual sleight of hand. The “bigger” picture, presumably you mean your positive one, is “unsexy”. By corollary, the [smaller] picture of the bombings and death is “sexy”. You mean that the anti-war camp focuses on it because it is sexy. This is sick. Please withdraw it. This is no way to conduct an argument and it's beneath you. But your journalistic prestidigitation doesn’t stop there. “The grotesque, racist idea that the Iraqis cannot be democrats” is one proffered by Iraq’s invaders, but your article suggests that it is the view held by the anti-war camp. It is another attempt to prove that “No to war” meant “yes to Saddam”. Nowhere in the anti-war camp is this view held. If you were paying any attention you would have noticed the wealth of ideas circulating concerning different ways to deal with Iraq. You choose not to notice. That’s your right, I suppose.

But I’m being churlish. Let’s focus then on the successes of the murderous, illegal war that ousted Saddam.

1. Opinion polls indicate that fewer than 5% of the population want the “Iranian option”. I’m not sure why this constitutes a success. Because the poll took place at all? Or because it gives you and your Iraqi friends the result you want? Personally I have no opinion on the kind of government the Iraqi people should have. It’s entirely up to them. That’s the point, isn’t it? If they wanted to vote for people who would then create a one-party Islamic state, so be it. It’s their choice.
2. Local elections in Battha resulted in the election of “moderate technocrats”. Great. That local elections took place is a success. How much effect they will have on the lives of the Iraqi people is yet to be seen. That they elected “moderate technocrats” is a matter of indifference to me (see my comments above). One is tempted to make a point about how the US “liberal democracy” has resulted in the appointment of a cabinet of religious extremists who have made it their declared aim to take want they want from the world, by force if necessary (2002 Strategic Review). But we’re trying to be positive.
3. The election mentioned above produced a younger more secular council than the one appointed by the US administration.
4. Oh…that’s it…

So, to summarize then, the “successes” we should be focusing on, instead of the daily rising death toll and the increasing prospects for an all-out civil war (witness the daylight raid outside Fallujah last week – the US reaction to which was apparently to run for cover) are : 1. That opinion polls you cherry pick give you the results you want and 2. That the iraqis are so desperate for their situation to improve that they are electing “technocrats” hoping that they can do what the UK/US reconstruction effort has so far singularly failed to do, i.e. deliver some services, energy, water, petrol, refuse collection, jobs, security, etc.

So you’re right. To focus on the bombings and killings, the illegal use of DU (never, never to be mentioned anywhere in the mainstream press), the economic rape of an impoverished country (what the Economist described as a “capitalist dream”) would be churlish given the extraordinary successes we are witnessing in Iraq.

That these “successes” “will produce a stable democracy” is just a guess. But even this guess needs qualifying thus – it will happen only “if the US government is sincere – the other great anxiety – about turning round its foreign policy.” You are right to be anxious about this. Evidence for this turnaround remains precisely – nil. While we gently banter about the state of Iraq the US administration is happy to watch Haiti slide into anarchy and despair. And then there is Afghanistan.

This is “less easily resolved” than Iraq. Sorry, Iraq is “resolved”??? Sorry, being churlish again. Focusing on the “sexy” stuff….

So what are the successes in Afghanistan?

1. The creation of a city-state within Afghanistan controlled by US forces in which Aid agencies are able to conduct polls of a population that feels safe enough to discuss politics. Of course, discuss it is all they can do. Oh no, sorry, 83% of the population “believes” it is easier to discuss political issues….
2. Oh that’s it…a few more poll results…that’s it.

The “biblical horror” in the west of the country, the fact that outside Kabul the country is controlled by war lords and a re-grouped Taliban, the failure to find Osama Bin Laden, or Mullah Omar, the fact that poppy cultivation is on the increase, the continued war, the continued instability of the country, which threatens to draw in Pakistan, the “pathetic” under-funding and under-staffing of aid agencies, the failure to create an Afghan Army, the failure to create anything approaching a stable democracy in Afghanistan, the fact that Karzai’s government includes the likes of General Dostum, the continued poverty and incredible hardships to be endured by the entirely innocent citizens of Afghanistan, these are presumably part of the [smaller, sexier] picture we should not be worrying about in Afghanistan. No, no, there are opinion polls being carried out in the safer parts of the country and that is to be celebrated. All this is fine for now, as long as “Bush and Blair’s talk of liberation was anything more than propagandist babble”. Well it seemed like babble before both wars and it seems, in the light of the lies that were told to get us into the wars and the actions of both governments since, like babble now.

Presumably what Kofi Annan will be pressing for in Iraq is UN monitored elections. This, we now know, is precisely what Saddam offered the US, via Richard Perle, in the last few days before the war. Instead of pursuing this offer the US and UK governments lied, telling us that all diplomatic measures had been exhausted. If they hadn’t lied (babbled?) and had instead pursued this offer, we might be well on the way to a democratic Iraq. Without the tens of thousands of deaths that have resulted from this phase of the war and without the disastrous splitting of the country into warring factions. That might indeed have been a success to build on, might it not?

Kind regards
Matt Cummins
Newcastle
UK.
Fri Feb 20, 2004 6:59 pm
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Matthew



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Location: Newcastle, UK

Post Post subject: Email to Johann Hari Reply with quote

...I've been trying to ignore all the press, it simply makes me mad. Caught your article today and some questions occur to me....Can I run them by you?

1. Access to records : this is controlled by Chalabi and (presumably) Bremer. WHo are the people that formed the HRC and how have they got access? If they got it through contacts with Chalabi, or if they are an organisation controlled by Chalabi, this makes the figures very suspect. Lest we forget, Chalabi was the man responsible for the 45 minute claim. He seems to be very bad at counting. How valuable then is this information?

2. You seem to want to separate out two things i) Liberation (from SH) and ii) the Occupation that resulted from the war. The latter you recognise as bad, and note that Iraqis find it humiliating and don't trust the coalition. The former can only be a good thing. Both are incomplete until the complete transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. When do you anticipate this will happen (in another year we will reach the deadline SH set himself for internationally monitored elections)?

3. How long will you wait for elections before the fact of liberation no longer becomes enough to justify your continued support of the war? In other words will you continue to support the war when sovereignty is passed to a hand-picked group of halliburton friendly appointees?

Oh, by the way, study after study has shown that the BBC gave the most pro-war coverage of all. Some of these studies have been published in the independant. So I'm not sure what you mean when you say "In the recent BBC poll (hardly a pro-war source).....".

I wonder as well how much money you gave to the Iraq Trades Unions. How far will your contribution go to the cost of repaying the economic rape of the country, the cost of rebuilding necessitated by 12 years of bombing and the cost of cleaning the country of the lethal by-product of DU weapons?

regards
Matt
Wed Apr 14, 2004 5:10 pm
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Matthew



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Post Post subject: Quick exchange with Hari Reply with quote

Sent JH this yesterday :

Alright, look, we badger you all the time about what we believe to be your blind assertion that the US will go against everything it has done in the past and this time, against all the odds, work as hard as it can to create a democracy in Iraq.

So, instead I'll make a prediction and then you can use it as a stick with which to beat me when I'm proved wrong and you're proved right. This is my prediction.

On, or before, June 30, the US will have manouveured Chalabi into an unassailable position in the Provisional Government (or whatever they are calling it). He will then work, with US backing and funding, to take control of the government and engineer himself into the presidency of the newly "free" Iraq.

I suspect that you already know this, but cannot admit it. I don't know why that is. It is confusing and bewildering that someone of your intelligence simply cannot see the truth of what is happening. Or can see it but looked determinedly the other way.

kind regards
Matt

Got this this morning. Brief but at least concrete.

Hi Matt - if Chalabi becomes leader of Iraq without a free democratic
election (and I find it very hard to believe that he would be chosen if
there was a free election) then it will be an obscenity and you will have
every right to chide me.

J
Thu Apr 15, 2004 11:46 am
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Matthew



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Post Post subject: Letter to Matthew Price Reply with quote

On a tip off from Raoul, emailed Price concerning a link piece to studio (News 24). Context is self explanatory, I think..

Dear Mr. Price,

I think I saw you on News 24 this morning. It would have been about 1100 BST and the piece concerned Palestinian reaction to Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza strip. If this wasn't you I do apologise for bothering you.

To cut to the chase, because we're both busy people, you (if indeed it was you) ended your piece with an observation I found so surprising that I wrote it down. You said :

"Palestinians are so shocked and amazed that America, the honest broker, has come down on Israel's side".

I found it surprising because given that the US bankrolls and arms Israel and has done so for a long time, and that given that the International outcry against Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land is held in check by continued US veto of UN resolutions against Israel, given that US funding is used to pay for the settlement expansion, illegally, and yet nothing is done to stop it, and that, most importantly, the Palestinians are fully aware of this, I don't imagine that they are actually shocked at all that the "honest broker" has come down on the Israeli side.

What is shocking, I suppose, is the fact that Bush is these days so brazen in his support of internationally criticised state terrorists, that he gave Sharon the full backing he asked for +in public+. Western media may be shocked, the Prime Minister might be privately sweating it out. But I don't suppose the Palestinians (or any other citizen of any Arab state) are at all surprised. Do you?

###############################

cheeky.
Fri Apr 16, 2004 3:20 pm
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Matthew



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Post Post subject: It wasn't Price Reply with quote

It wasn't Matthew Price. Not working that day. He emailed me.
Sun Apr 18, 2004 10:27 am
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