Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, vice char of the Homeland Security Committee ands the senior Republican on the panel, Rep. Peter King of New York, both told Matt Lauer that they would like to hear from White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers on this matter.
“It just makes sense when you come to one of the most important places on earth that there be somebody to greet you,’’ Sanchez said of the failure of the White House to have someone besides Secret Service agents at the entrances the night of the dinner. “Even Wal-Mart has a greeter.”
That's Dena Buris (OC Register) reporting on Loretta Sanchez' thoughts on the matter. Patricia Murphy (Politics Daily) adds:
But members of the committee wanted more than one person to blame and specifically wanted to know what role the White House Social Secretary, Desiree Rogers, had played in the process of admitting guests to the dinner. Rogers was asked to testify at the hearing, as were the Salahis, but all three declined to appear.
"For Desiree Rogers not to be here . . . is wrong, stonewalling, an affront to our committee," said Rep. Peter King, the top Republican on the panel. "This is half a hearing; we're only getting half the picture," King said.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, defended the White House staff as "party planners, not security personnel," but Democrat Loretta Sanchez agreed with King.
"I have never seen just a Secret Service agent at the gate," Sanchez said, describing her own experiences visiting the White House. She said that a member of the White House staff had always greeted her at a checkpoint, in addition to Secret Service agent, at every visit she has ever made to the executive mansion.
"I thank you for taking responsibility," she said to Sullivan, "But there is a lot of responsibility that should be spread around on this."
Doug Heve (US News & World Report) offers:
Despite Obama's repeated claims of transparency, the White House is not allowing their own personnel to testify at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee (Tiger Woods has been more forthcoming than the Obama White House), instead throwing Mark Sullivan, head of the Secret Service, to the wolves of Congress—not to mention the cameras.
Following the hearing, on the same day Obama held a "jobs summit," three employees of the Secret Service's uniformed officer division have been put on administrative leave. It is widely expected that the public servants will be fired.
The Secret Service did their job. They ensured they everyone was safe to enter and that the President and Vice President were not put at risk. The Secret Service is not there to be glorified bouncers, making a list of attendees and checking it twice. That's the job of the host organization—in this case, the White House.
Perhaps no one explained the issue better than Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez (she of awesome Christmas cards): "It's always been my experience that the White House—either social or legislative division, in the case of when Congress people are coming—are always at the front gate. I mean, come on, even Wal-Mart has a greeter."
And this is Margo Howard (wowOwow):
Having just returned from a funeral in Chicago, Obama country, I have Obama on my mind. First, the flap I have written about previously wound up taking over the talk shows, television and the blogosphere. Some information about Gate-Crashergate has been printed … some only whispered about. The thing that le tout Chicago knows (well, heavy-hitter, political Chicago) is that Desiree Rogers, herself a "socialite," viewed her appointment as social secretary not as a job where she would be there to serve the Obamas, but as a step up the social ladder for herself. With no particular qualifications for this job, she was simply an event planner with money. Period. And of course a friend of the larger Obama circle. I can’t say "everybody," but many of the people of my acquaintance who know her do not care for her. In a previous job she was said to have made young employees miserable … which fits in with hearing from a man who took a flight with her that she is pretty grand and unpleasant "with the help."
The politically savvy say no previous social secretary has ever wound up on the cover of a magazine during the early years of an administration, if ever, and not one of them has ever anchored her own table at a State dinner. Somehow, Desiree imagined it was all about her. She is tight with Valerie Jarrett and the initial thinking was that Jarrett could protect her; now it may be impossible. The Secret Service took the fall, but the major fault was that of the White House social office. Desiree (ill equipped for the job in the first place) fired what were called "the clipboard girls." ("We don’t need them," she is reported to have said.) The "clipboard girls" knew everything and everybody and they had the lists, and once you got by them you went to the first layer of Secret Service.
To my way of thinking, the limelight-loving Ms. Rogers is just the visible part of another problem insiders are talking about. And that is that Obama is surrounded by "too much Chicago." There is a schedule for which Chicago friends will go to Washington on the weekends to help Obama relax. Well, if they want to make him feel like he never left home, what’s the point? The inside White House management, of course, is basically all Chicago … with all that that implies. Lotta talk in political circles these days that too much Chicago is not such a good thing.
Desiree Rogers needs to testifiy to Congress. She's being paid by the US tax payers and her job involves nothing classified. The refusal to allow her to appear before Congress is a slap in the face to the American tax payer and goes to just how secretive the Obama administration is.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, November 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the Iraq Inquiry continues in London and we learn that the US rules England -- long live Queen Barack apparently, NPR finds time to advance war with Judith Miller like claims while refusing to cover Iraq, and more.
Starting with NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, the second hour where the panelists are Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) which was a wealth of stupidity and lies. So many lies, so little time. Let's start with Barbara.
Barbara, grab your passport and, yes, Annie Grab Your Gun, and get your ass over there. Over where? Where ever it is from one moment to another that Barbra 'knows' Osama bin Laden is. Take your ass, take your gun and get the hell over there, Big Girl. Reality, Barbara Slavin doesn't know where Osama bin Laden is -- a point Diane Rehm should have made -- but it isn't it interesting that Barbara's claims support further war? And isn't that really the point of your claims, Barbara? You really want to be the next Judy Miller? Really? And what about you, Diane? You going to keep letting guests claim to know where Osama is and use that 'knowledge' to launch a verbal attack on a country? You going to do that? And delude yourself that you've informed the public? How very, very sad.
James Kitfield, I have heard repeatedly how I hurt your feelings when I pointed out that you needed to learn speak. Well boo-hoo cry baby. This time you actually finished a few sentences. But maybe you should return to your stammering half-sentences? You don't know what the hell you're talking about as usual. There's reality and then there's James Kitfield's reality. The paying off Sunnis (Sahwa, the "Awakenings," the "Sons Of Iraq") was not about getting people "off the fence." That's a bold face and ignorant lie. Then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and then-top US Commander in Iraq General David Petreaus testified publicly to Congress in April 2008. Where the hell were you, Kitty? What did they say? They said the US paid the Sahwa so that they would stop attacking American military equipment and US service members (they put the emphasis on military equipment in their testimony to the House and Senate). People who are attacking the US military equipment and US service member are not "on the fence." They have made a choice. You can agree with the choice or disagree with it but they are not "on the fence." Try knowing something before you open your mouth.
It was the third Friday show where Iraq was not addressed (in fairness, last Friday was a canned special and not the roundtable). Diane will claim otherwise. No, Iraq popped up as a 'historical' to compare Afghanistan to. Iraq itself was never discussed. Except for the last thirty seconds when Abderrahim Foukara was supposed to provide an 'update' -- in 30 seconds. As he spoke vaguely of whether "elections are going to happen or not" the audience was likely confused if Diane Rehm's show is their primary news source.
Diane Rehm listeners who hear only her show have no idea what's happened for two weeks now in Iraq. And when James Kitty Litter and others are lying about 'success' in Iraq, it damn well matters.
Diane and her guests need to grasp FAILED STATE is the only term for Iraq. FAILED STATE. Now Diane's listeners would know that if they knew there were not going to be January elections. But that topic has NEVER been addressed and the final 30 seconds Diane tossed to Abderrahim Foukara were confusing at best as he attempted to sum up the problems and, honestly, didn't do a very good job. But, in fairness to him, you can't in thirty seconds. You can't update her audience in thirty seconds. The last time The Diane Rehm Show discussed Iraq (a discussion is more than 30 seconds) -- FOUR FRIDAYS AGO -- the listeners were told that elections were a go. What were they told. Let's drop back to the November 13th snapshot for a reminder of what listeners of Diane's show were told:
Susan Page: Roy Gutman, I know that you were reporting from Iraq last month. This week we hear that Iraq's Parliament finally has approved a law for its election in January. There had been a kind of stalemate before that.
Roy Gutman: Well there had been and it was a very damaging stalemate. If they hadn't approved the law by this point then you begin to have to predict the country going downhill rather quickly. Uhm, had they approved it a month ago, you could have said Iraq is almost heading towards a normalcy despite all of the violence. This kind of muddled middle that took a long time to decide actually is nevertheless huge progress. This election, uh, is in a way is going to create a new Parliament. There will be what they call open lists -- every parliamentarian or every person running for a seat uh will be named before the elections so it's possible for people to find out who they are and rather they have dual citizenship. You know I heard while I was there that as many as 70% of the Iraqi -- of the current Iraqi Parliament has dual citizenship. Many of them Iranian-Iraqi dual citizenship. So that-that part will end and it looks like -- they have an independent election commission, they run elections that I think, in comparison with Afghanistan, certainly in comparison with Iran, are going to look good, very clean. It's possible that this election could make a real big difference.
Is that possible? Not currently. There will be NO January elections. Diane's audience still doesn't know that, even after the 30 second update today. But there will be NO January elections. None. That's all fallen apart. Iraq is a FAILED STATE. It may hold elections at the end of Februrary, it may do it in March. It may do it later. But the reality is these elections were supposed to be held in December, mid-year Nouri kicked them back to January and the US wasn't alarmed by that. The Parliament and Nouri are legally no longer in office February 1st. By the Constitution, their terms are over. But they will remain in office, in violation of the Constitution, because they couldn't get it together to meet their Constitutionally mandated deadline. That's reality. It makes Iraq -- forget being ranked the second most corrupt state currently -- a FAILED STATE. When you can't follow your own Constitution for elections, when you can't meet a simple election deadline, you are a FAILED STATE.
And when your show tells listeners that Iraq elections are a go four Fridays ago and then they aren't a go, you do a damn update. In four weeks, you've got more than enough time to do an update. If you don't make the time for it, that's telling something about you and what passes for journalistic standards on your program.
FAILED STATE. The only term for it and though Diane Rehm avoids it, the US State Dept is in the midst of a major spin operation. Tariq al-Hashemi vetoed the law that Roy Gutman was discussing above. As one of the three members of the presidency council (he's one of the country's two vice presidents), he has that right (not explained in the 30 seconds on Diane's show today). The response to the veto from Parliament (not touched on at all) was to offer a counter-proposal which stripped seats from Sunnis and gave them to Kurds and a few of Iraq's minority population (ethnic and relegious). al-Hashemi is not pleased, nor are Sunnis. At present, the UN and Iraq's independent election commission (also not discussed on Diane's show today) say elections might be able to happen at the end of February or the start of March if Iraq can get a law in place.
Yesterday, the US State Dept's Rachel Schneller contributed "Avoiding Elections At Any Cost" at the Council of/on/for Foreign Relations. In this piece of spin, Schneller tries to stamp Happy Faces all over the disarray:
But the derailing of the election law may not be as bad as it sounds. The version approved by the governing council actually could have triggered greater instability in Iraq. Not only could corruption and fraud call the results and a new Iraqi government into question--even if Iraqi elections are free, fair, and uncontested--the new election law could lead to troubling divisions over oil revenues. The law has created conditions for even greater Kurdish control over Kirkuk and oil resources in northern Iraq. Other oil-rich regions of Iraq, such as the largely Shia south, will also have a basis to agitate for oil revenues to flow to regional governments. With the Iraqi central government still relying on oil for more than 90 percent of its national budget, the long-term viability of the country is called into question even if elections signal short-term success. The Sunni minority in Iraq, facing ever more desperate political and economic conditions in Iraq, is likely to resort to increasingly desperate measures to ensure survival as they face another round of elections where they could lose further seats in parliament.
Schneller calls for the US to stop pressing Iraq to put through an Iraq law. Schneller calls for? A US State Dept employee calls for the US to stop doing something?
Are you laughing? How stupid do they think everyone is? The State Dept knows they have no power on this issue (Iraqi MPs tried to block US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill from the Parliament in November) but they need to spin it and along comes Rachel Schneller to 'advocate' for the US not to 'pressure' when, in fact, the US has no power to pressure on this issue as has been repeatedly demonstrated in the last weeks.
Is it a good thing, as Schneller argues in her spin, that the election law has not yet gone through? If this were October, it might be. But this is December. And Iraqi elections are Constitutionally mandated to take place in January. That's not blaming al-Hashemi for any of this. He has the right to veto and he used that right and did so, according to his public stated remarks, for valid reasons: Concerns that Iraq's refugee community was being under-represented. He did what he did and he's stated why he did it. But to spin this, as the State Dept is attempting, as a good thing is a HUGE STRETCH to the point that the truth just broke apart.
FAILED STATE. Iraq's installed government always knew that elections had to take place no later than January. That's why they were supposed to take place in December. After the elections take place, it will take weeks for the ballots to be counted and weeks for process to go through -- as has happened with every election held in Iraq since the start of the 2003 war. This is known. It is known that the Parliament and the Prime Minister's term expires at the end of January 2010. Is known and was known. And yet the Constitution is going to be 'bent' (thwarted) and al-Maliki will get to serve additional days. How many? Who knows. But everytime you treat your highest law of the land as something you can ignore, you set a dangerous precedent.
It is a FAILED STATE and the State Dept needs to stop embarrasing itself by sending Rachel Schneller out to spin it. There is no way to spin the Constitutional crisis -- that's what it is -- that Iraq's currently going through. That's true if Iraq's passes a law tomorrow. They are in a Constitutional crisis. They have disregarded their Constitution. That's the reality.
Reality is also that an Iraq Inquiry continues in London and reality is that Diane Rehm listeners don't know that because the show never tells them. Despite all the revelations, Diane's show has ignored the inquiry. From today's Free Speech Radio News:
Dorian Merina: The British government continues its inquiry into its role in the Iraq War. The inquiry, which began last week, showed that senior diplomats had doubts about the legality of the war. This week, Tony Blair's former foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning testified. Panel members asked about the controversial Crawford Ranch meeting, during which some speculate former US President George W. Bush convinced Blair to support an invasion of Iraq regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction were discovered. FSRN'S George Lavender reports.
George Lavender: The five person commitee of inquiry, selected by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, is chaired by Sir John Chilcot, a career civil servant.
John Chilcot: My colleagues and I come to this task with open minds. We are apolitical. We are independent of any political party. And we ought to examine and rely on the evidence.
George Lavender: Despite assurances that the inquiry is impartial, the committee includes prominent supporters of the war. Among them Sir Lawrence Friedman, a former foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair. Nadji Mahmoud is an Iraqi political activists in the south of the country.
Nadja Mahmoud: I watched the news on Iraqi TV channel sattelite it's an inquiry that comes from the establishment, it's not outsiders that want to do this inquiry. Iraqi people don't put a lot of of hope on the results.
[. . .]
George Lavender: In a small room near the Houses of Parliament the panel heard evidence last week from senrior government officials and diplomats that regime change in Iraq was supported by many in Washington even before 2001.
Christopher Meyer: There is a more of a continuum here with previous administrations before George W. then maybe the Democratic and Republican party would be willing to admit.
George Lavender: Former Ambassador to the United States, Christopher Meyer, testified on the third day of the hearings.
Christopher Meyer: So sometimes people say to me, well, it was the nutiers, the right-wingers, the neocons who invented regime change. Absolutely wrong.
George Lavender: The panel asked Meyer when the British governement became committeed to the policy of regime change? He speculated that Tony Blair and George W. Bush reached an agreement on taking that action almost a year before the war started.
Christopher Meyer: To this day, I'm not exactly clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood at-at the Crawford Ranch.
George Lavender: For many antiwar activists the inquiry lacks credibility. Witnesses may be offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony and are not under oath. In setting up the inquiry, Gordon Brown also made it clear it would not apportion blame. For many Iraqis, the inquiry is inconsequential. Again, Nadja Mahmoud.
Nadja Mahmoud: I think what the Iraqi people are really concerned about is not what the Iraq Inquiry is going to find out. They are really concerned about their daily life, about security, about jobs. It is chaos here, it is a mess here and people really care about these things.
George Lavender: Violence has increased in the country in advance of government elections last month [October] more than 155 people were killed in two car bombings in Baghdad in the deadliest attack since 2007. The panel will also hear from both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. It's expected to publish a final report at the end of 2010. George Lavender, FSRN, London.
Staying with the inquiry, which heard from British Maj Gen David Wilson, from Dominic Asquith and from Lt Gen Anthony Pigott today. Click here for video and transcript options.
Maj Gen David Wilson testified today about being at the Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood at the start of the Afghanistan War and serving "as a conduit for communication between the operational level heaquarters, Central Command, commanded by General Tommy fRanks, and the permanent headquarters at Northwood, a conduit for information" on Afghanistan. He stated he was kept in the dark and "not made aware" of any plans on Iraq.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: When did this change? When did Iraq come within the argument?
Maj Gen David Wilson: It did change. It changed in the latter part of June of 2002 and it changed very suddenly from where I sat in Tampa. The change was signalled by what was then the draft planning order for Iraq, early stage work, being authorised to be sent to the Permanet Joint Headquarters and that is what happened. Soon thereafter, there was a high level team visit led by General Sir Anthony Pigott, which I was invited to join and he spoke to that this morning, when they closed in Washington and then came down to Tampa. So the first -- it is almost a defining moment this, in a way. This is when, not just we, the British, but also, I understand, the Australians, were made privy to the planning that had gone to that point by the US.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: In addition to being made privy to the planning, at what point were you asked by the United States, what questions of the possibility of integrating British forces into the overall American plan, when did this become, if it did become, a question of discussion?
Maj Gen David Wilson: That comes later, and we can -- I will certainly speak to that, of course, and that takes us into the beginning of August, when we had -- when the United Kingdom had received an invitation from Central Command to attend the whole, as opposed to half, which is what we had done previously, of the two-day programme. This -- I can't remember exactly when the invitation went out, some time in July, and the -- after debate -- whatever discussion in London, I was instructed that -- I pulled a long straw, or the short straw, depending on your perspective, and I was going to step up as the representative and I was going to say words that were produced for me, helpfully, which I received the day before I was due to get on my feet.
Wilson went on to testify of things he learned later such as that US Gen Tommy Franks came up with "a commader's concept for military action in Iraq" at "the end of November 2001" and had done that at the request of the then US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. There was a 1998 plan that Rumsfeld was not happy with because it called for a large number of US forces.
Maj Gen David Wilson: What General Franks determined very early, as I understand it, was that whatever he and the team at CentCom came up with, it needed to have three dimensions to it. It needed, if you like, a robust option; in other words, all the enablers fell into place within the AOR. The countries that were required provided the staging, the basing, the overflight, the three critical enablers that he needed to project force. So a robust option. Reduction option, as it would sound: they didn't all sign up; and then his worst case option was the unilateral 'go it alone'. He did see that was the worst case option.
Half-way into the testimony, an important question was raised.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: What I'm interested in is, as you are having these discussions, if I was an American planner, it could get a bit irritating after a while to say, "Well, hypothetically, this is the sort of thing the Brits might do." At some sense you would want to firm this up. How was that happening? Were we able to go a little bit beyond a hypothesis or was it, "This may well happen, although we can't actually confirm it at the moments"?
Maj Gen David Wilson: I understand your question. I said, in answer to an earlier question, that the Americans were pragmatic, accomodating and very flexible. I was never put on the spot, if I can put it as crudely as that. I was never brought in at any level and they said, "Look, what's going on?" They know what's going on, they knew what was going at that level because it was my job to make sure they did, that we were in a process, we were in permissions and authorities, and they knew very well indeed that no commitment could be made until the process moved forward.
That was a less than complete answer as anyone paying attention grasped. Minutes afterwards, he would explain, regarding the US hopes that the British might be able to provide support in northern Iraq, "As I mentioned to you, on 2 August I spoke to the northern option and I, under direction, floated the notion that if everything was to fall into place, there might be a tract or we might be . . ." He wasn't put on the spot because he was always providing that reassuring float. Matthew Taylor (Guardian) covers Lt Gen Anthony Pigott's testimony noting that he stated that "Britian committed a large land force to the invasion of Iraq in an attempt to buy influence with the United States."
Lt Gen Anthony Pigott: Well, you know the US/UK, Mil/Mil relationship, you would enhance that no end by offering this sort of option that eventually was selected. You would enahnce it no end, and that's a pretty important relationship politically -- I'm talkin gon the Mil side -- where we have enormous access and enormous say in a whole range of things, not just to do with Iraq, but with other things, because they know you are a serious player and they know you have got . . . I put that right up at the front of -- at the heart of the UK/US Mil/Mil relationship, required from a military perspective a -- hence it coming through from the military perspective, something meaty to do, and if there wasn't anything meaty, then we weren't really -- it was a long way to go to do nothing -- you know, meaty.
Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: So it was good for our standing, it was good for our relationship, but they didn't actually --
Lt Gen Anthony Pigott: Good for future links on future operations, it's good for sharing intelligence --
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So it has some broader benefits --
Lt Gen Anthony Pigott: -- it helps with logistics --
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: -- but they didn't actually pay attention to our advice on how these big issues should be handled in the campaign? They didn't put in enough boots on the ground, they didn't plan properly for the aftermath, as Lord Boyce told us yesterday, despite our advice to the contrary.
Back to Taylor who quotes the coldest comment by Pigott, "You buy that on your contribution and your willingness to put ‑ not just boots on the ground ‑ [but] people in danger." Lives were traded for influence, to be 'let in the game.' It's cold blooded and you got your tip off on that yesterday. We noted this exchange in yesterday's snapshot:
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Can you say something a bit more about this question of influence as a factor in British military planning? Because it is assumed that if we had just gone for the package 2, which would not have been a trivial thing, which would have been quite a substantial commitment by the UK, that that would not have brought influence? After all, the Australians didn't provide that much, but they seem to have got a certain amount of influence and kudos with the Americans from what they did. We're a different sort of power to the Australians, but is there a direct relationship between the size of force and the amount of influence?
Michael Boyce: I am not sure the Australians did have any influence. They certainly got a lot of kudos from the Americans and we were very grateful for their contribution. I don't think they were as heavily involved in the planning process as we were. Also -- although you might say the final outcome didn't indicate it -- we had quite a lot of influence with regards to what was called Phase 4, all the aftermath planning as well, as a result of the size of our contribution.
Freedman whines, "We did! We did! We did this! But the Australians didn't do anything! Why didn't we have more influence!!!!" That exchange was telling yesterday and it only became more so today. As Tony Blair's foreign advisor, Freedman's singing his own blues. He apparently isn't pleased with the arrangement he advised on -- the one that sent British soldiers into an illegal war so that the UK could get a closer to the US.
Mark Stone (Sky News) reports:
The third witness to appear revealed perhaps the most interesting lines today. Dominic Asquith was the director for Iraq at the Foreign Office from 2004 to 2006 before becoming ambassador to Baghdad during 2006 to 2007.
He said that inter-departmental co-ordination within the UK was good but that the funding given to the post-invasion effort in Iraq was not.
"The direction was that this was a high priority but we weren't being given the extra resources to deliver..... It was left to Whitehall departments to put the case to the Treasury for resources to cover this to which the answer was 'There are no resources'."
Michael Savage (Independent of London) adds to that, "Political tensions were so great in the years following the invasion that Iraqi politicians told him that only the heavy presence of international troops stopped the newly formed government in Baghdad from being toppled." Opinions on the inquiry vary. We'll note two, one pro and one con. Richard Ingram (Indpendent of London) observes:
It's supposed to be an inquiry but there's not much sign of any inquiring going on. I have been studiously following reports of the current investigation into the Iraq war and have even seen bits of it on television and I have yet to read or see a single case of any of the five-strong panel asking a question of those giving evidence. One by one the civil servants and the army generals queue up to say their piece and that's about all there is to it.
The lack of probing questions ought not to surprise us given the composition of the panel, all of them with close links to the political establishment. One of them, our old friend Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, pictured, of King's College London, provided further evidence of this when during Tuesday's session he volunteered the information that he had "instigated" a pre-war seminar for Blair to discuss Iraq because, he said, "I was aware of misgivings among some specialists in Iraq about the direction of policy". He added that this was "my only direct engagement in Iraq policy making". We were not told how a professor of history came to be in a position to organise such a seminar for the Prime Minister, nor, for that matter, whether there might have been some indirect engagements subsequently on the part of Freedman.
This hitherto unreported seminar is further proof of Sir Lawrence's close links to Blair. We already know that he provided the bones of a speech Blair made in Chicago in 1999 justifying the military intervention in rogue states. Later, in a TV interview, Freedman spoke of the "rather noble criteria" which lay behind the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
In a more scrupulous society than that in which we nowadays live there would be calls for Professor Freedman to resign from the inquiry.
While Peter Biles (BBC News) argues, "The Iraq inquiry has produced another week of compelling evidence. We are beginning to understand how and why Iraq ended up in such a parlous state after the 2003 invasion. A number of witnesses have pointed a finger of blame at the United States for the chaos that ensued." Biles go on to insist upon a coherent war plan being needed before the war started. A few snapshots back, I noted how a number of British government witnesses were hiding behind Condi Rice's skirt and, in some cases, distorting her. This week, they've moved on to Donald Rumsfeld. Now Conid and Rumsfeld need to be answerable for their actions, no question. But, help me out here, because I guess my history is rather loose.
As I understood it, the American Revolution was fought with the British so that what is now the United States would not be under British rule. As I understood it, that meant that Americans were free from British rule but I did not understand the American Revolution to mean that British was under American rule.
Did I miss that? Did I fail to grasp reality?
Point: This is embarrassing. British government officials and now military persons are testifying over and over about how they wish Donald had done this or Condi wanted that and blah, blah, blah. The US does not rule Great Britian. Tony Blair's government made its own decision to get into the Iraq War. There's no point in blaming the US for that and it is past time that the inquiry got serious and started correcting witnesses who want to push blame for decisions made by the British government off on the US government. Bush's administration was nothing but War Criminals. I don't deny it. But Tony Blair's a War Criminal as well and it's really interesting to watch all these War Criminals in England insist that the Holy Doofus Bush managed to outwit and enslave them. They have yet to take accountability for their own actions which led England into an illegal war.
In related news, Tim Shipman and David Jones (Daily Mirror) report, "Tony Blair and George Bush were orchestrating a witch-hunt against Saddam Hussein that ended with the Iraq War, according to a former UN weapons inspector. Hans Blix said the two leaders behaved like 17th century witchfinders in their willingness to oust the dictator." The Daily Mail notes the Iraq Inquiry has not called Blix to testify which is rather strange and adds, "Most alarmingly, Dr Blix reveals that, after he made a speech to the UN asking for more time to complete his work, he received a phone call from Mr Blair. The Americans had been deeply disappointed by Dr Blix's contribution, the Prime Minister said, in a clear attempt to bounce him into backing the war."
Staying in London a bit more, Amnesty International (UK) issued the following earlier this morning:
17 women among those set to die with fears government is 'playing politics'
Iraq is preparing to execute hundreds of prisoners, including 17 women, warned Amnesty International today, as it issued an 'urgent action' appeal to try to prevent the deaths.
The 900-plus prisoners have exhausted all their appeals and their death sentences are said to have been ratified by the Presidential Council, meaning that they could be executed at any time. Amnesty supporters are contacting Iraqi embassies around the world, including that in London, in a bid to stop the executions.
The condemned prisoners have been convicted of offences such as murder and kidnapping, but many are likely to have been sentenced after unfair trials. The 17 women are thought to include a group known to have been held on death row at the 5th section (al-Shu'ba al-Khamissa) of Baghdad's al-Kadhimiya Prison.
Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:
'This is a staggering number of people facing execution and the fact that the government may be playing politics over these cases is truly frightening.
'Wholesale use of the death penalty was one of the worst aspects of Saddam Hussein's regime and the present government should stop aping his behaviour.
'Instead of sending nearly a thousand people to a grisly death by hanging, the Iraqi authorities should halt all executions and impose an immediate death penalty moratorium.'
Iraqi media reports suggest that the Iraqi government is currently trying to present itself as 'tough' on crime ahead of national elections scheduled for January. Iraqi opposition politicians have expressed concern that executions may be carried out to give the ruling party a political advantage ahead of the elections, and there have been calls for the government to temporarily suspend all executions.
Amnesty is warning that Iraq's use of capital punishment is already spiralling. At least 120 people are known to have been executed in Iraq this year, greatly up on the 34 executions recorded during 2008.
Iraq is now one of the world's heaviest users of the death penalty. After the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority suspended the death penalty following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, Iraq's subsequent reintroduction of capital punishment led to a rapid acceleration in death sentences and executions. Despite this, and contrary to some claims made by the Iraqi authorities, use of the death penalty has not seen a drop in crime levels in the country, with rises and falls in insurgency violence having no discernible relation to execution rates.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing which left five people wounded and a Mosul bombing in which 1 person was killed and a second was wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Turkman Hazim Akbar was shot dead by unknown assailants in his Salahuddin Province home. Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Kirkuk.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk.
Turning to TV, NOW on PBS debuts its latest episode tonight on most PBS stations and this one examines:
As Congress hammers out legislation that will determine the future of health care in this country, NOW travels to the nation's heartland to see what reform could mean for the middle class. On Friday, December 4 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa meets two tight-knit Oklahoma families whose problems with private health insurance left them unable to get proper medical care -- and on the brink of financial ruin. One of those families - the O'Reillys -- grapples with the issue of how to cover needed respiratory therapy treatment for their eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, who was denied coverage for what the insurance company labeled a "pre-existing condition.""People pretty frequently say, 'Oh, you know, my plan works great for me'," says Sophie's mother Natalie O'Reilly." And my answer to that is -- insurance works really well until you need it. Until you really, truly need it."
Washington Week also begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the roundtable are Michael Duffy (Time), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Irene Natividad, Tara Setmayer and Wendy Wright to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Zone Geoffrey Canada's remarkable experiment in inner-city education, the Harlem Children's Zone, has helped put historically low-achieving students in New York City on academic par with their grammar-school peers. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports. Watch Video [here]
Personal Foul Disgraced ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy speaks for the first time about betting on pro basketball games, his Mafia involvement and subsequent prison term. Bob Simon reports. (This is a double-length segment.) Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
That's it. We'll try to grab Iraqi press issues next week along with other issues. Thank you to the Iraq Study Group at Trina's (put together sometime ago by Mike and his friends) who gave an hour tonight for me to go over the Iraq Inquiry and then thirty more minutes stating what they felt should be emphasized from that. There was a great deal to cover and without their help, I wouldn't have been able to narrow it down. Thank you.
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