The same-sex marriage movement appears likely to end a banner year with a string of stinging defeats that opponents say have undermined a core proposition of the movement - that the acceptance of gay marriage is, sooner or later, inevitable.
After a year that saw laws allowing same-sex marriage expand from a lonely toehold in Massachusetts to five other states and, likely, the District of Columbia, the defeats have served at the least as a reality check to proponents of gay marriage.
That's from Ben Smith's "Is gay marriage 'inevitable'?" (Politico). Yesterday, I wrote: "In Sunday's "Roundtable" at Third, I talk about a topic a number of you have e-mailed asking me to blog about. I'm not in the mood to. So refer to the roundtable. I'm just not in the mood and foul language would be every other word." I'm going to note the section from "Roundtable" and in the excerpt below the people talking are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty and Jim, Ruth of Ruth's Report and me:
Jim: Okay. Dona's saying we're running out of time. Marriage equality. Last week, the state of New York said no to marriage equality. Ruth, you blogged about this in "Another blow to equality" so why don't you kick it off by explaining what happened?
Ruth: Alright. New York's state senate took a vote on whether to support marriage-for-all or not? They decided not to. The final vote was 24 state senators in favor of marriage equality and 38 against it. Following the vote, Governor David Paterson stated he understood the anger and outrage over the vote and that it was not over. For a number of people, it felt over.
Marcia: For me it does. I mean how many defeats is the LGBT community going to have to suffer? It's been one right after the other including all of Barry's homophobe supporters in California and homophobic Barry himself refusing to call out Proposition Nine. But it's been nothing but defeat, defeat ever since, or that's how it feels. And it feels like we're going backwards and backwards and we have no leadership on the issue and the White House is screwing us over on everything from Don't Ask Don't Tell to DOMA -- neither of which have been repealed. So I'm honestly really angry and that may just be me.
Ty: No, it's not just you. That's how my boyfriend feels as well and, to be honest, things are rough right now between us. We toyed with the idea of getting married before the Prop 8 vote, we live out here in California, at C.I.'s. We didn't think Prop 8 would pass and we weren't ready to get married. But Prop 8 did pass and if we had gotten married our marriage would still be valid. But because Prop 8 passed, we now can't get married. And the fact that we didn't then is becoming a sore spot with my boyfriend. It's becoming a sore spot, it's becoming a real problem. Our relationship has lasted how many years now? And we lasted his staying in New York when I moved out here to C.I.'s. And it's deepened and all of that. And we can't get married. Any man and woman can get married even if they just met hours before. But we can't? The anger Marcia's feeling, the anger's she talking about, that's how my boyfriend feels and that's how a lot of gay people are feeling right now. It's becoming very obvious that there's a strong movement to make sure we are not included in the country we live in. And like Marcia, I blame Barack Obama and his damn cult because they've done nothing to help us and everything to hurt us. And a lot of gay people around the country are under a lot of stress because of this crap.
Marcia: I have a couple I'm friends with who live in New York, upstate, and they were really happy about the vote because they're a lesbian couple and they've been together about five or six years and they were so excited. They just knew it would pass. And they could get married. And that meant so much to them. Then it didn't pass. And when it doesn't pass, which straight people may not be grasping, when it doesn't pass, you can't just say, "Well, these things take time." Gay people know that, thank you very much. But more importantly, this is such a huge rejection of our lives. This reject us on every level and rejects our relationships. And the problem's Ty's having, I know couples breaking up in part over the stress that's going on as we have one defeat after another. Because you have one person who's trying to be upbeat and maybe is upbeat and the other doesn't want to hear it because these votes are so insulting and hurt so to the core of who we are.
Ruth: I am really glad that Ty and Marcia are speaking about this. I knew some of it from Marcia and I was glad she felt comfortable talking to me about it because she is my very good friend. I was also glad because if she is feeling that way, others are as well and I am a glass is half-full type person. Once I knew how much it really shook someone's faith and belief system, these votes against equality, I stopped trying to be the cheerleader on "It will come, just wait, it will come." And no one needs this old grandma playing cheerleader anyway. My grandson Jayson is not going through this but he is young and new to the dating scene and all of that. People like Ty, and Marcia especially, have been waiting, have seen changes, were told change was coming and just got a homophobic president who will rub up against homophobes but does nothing for gay Americans. So it is very distressing.
I don't disagree with Ben at all. That's why I've been unable to write about the issue here for two or three weeks. It's disgusting.
My rights aren't important.
And that's where I fault him.
"My rights aren't important." He doesn't deal with that aspect in his article. I deal with it because I'm pissed about the whole damn thing.
"My rights aren't important." Ben might argue, "I did talk about the opposition to marriage equality."
And he did. Ben covered the conservatives.
I'm not talking about that.
I'm talking about my supposed supporters. I expect conservatives to be against strides towards equality. In some cases it's bigotry, in some cases it's the conservative impulse to resist change regardless of what the change is.
But I'm not really concerned about them.
I'm concerned about my supposed supporters.
For example, Barack has said he is a "fierce advocate" for gay rights and Michelle has said that of him as well. So name one time when the "fierce advocate" has expressed any support for us in any of these election battles?
Not one damn time. Now we all know he's done nothing as president.
But he's refused to advocate for us.
You may say: Tough.
And maybe you're right. And I think the man's a liar.
But he said he was a "fierce advocate." He said that on the campaign trail and he said it during the summer when he feared he was losing money from the LGBT community (donating to Democrats). He's the one saying it.
But he hasn't done a damn thing.
He's endorsed candidates since becoming president. He moved heaven and earth to try to impact the New Jersey governor's race, for example. But he can't even issue a statement of support on any ballot measure involving our rights. So I'm sick of him.
I'm sick of all the so-called supporters who don't do a damn thing.
And I think I managed to write that without using the f-word repeatedly.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wednesday, December 9, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, despite his so-called money woes Nouri is notching up another big buy, Tony Blair's right hand test public waters about revising the public record, the Rolling Stones are mentioned in the Iraq Inquiry, Iraqis want answers to yesterday's bombings, and more.
National elections in Iraq were once supposed to take place this month. They hit the snooze button but swore it would happen by January 2010. The Constitution mandated that the elections take place in January because the terms of the current members of Parliament (that includes Nouri al-Maliki) expire at the end of January. December was pushed by the Bush administration because Iraq does not vote and have the results that night or the next day. Futhermore, after the votes are counted, there are many deals and alliances to make. It was months after the last national elections before the Parliament came up with Nouri as prime minister -- however, their first choice was shot down by the US government. So December was thought to be ideal since it would allow weeks after the election to sort out various things.
Despite the promise of January, despite the Constitutional mandate of January, no elections will take place in January. Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports elections are now supposed to take place March 7th. Al Jazeera explains, "The election, which will now fall on a Sunday, the first day of the working week in Iraq, is seen as a crucial step towards consolidating Iraq's democracy and securing a complete US military exit by the end of 2011, as planned." Prashant Rao (AFP) reminds that the new date is "almost six weeks later than the originally planned date of mid-January". An overview of the changes resulting from Sunday's measure Parliament passed shortly before midnight can be found here. These are still 'intended' elections. After what's taken place in the lats months, nothing should be accepted as a done deal until the elections are actually held. (For example, Nouri might postpone the elections citing 'rising violence'. That's the fear of one European diplomat.) CNN reports that today a presidential decree is supposed to be issued making March 7th the election date.
Yesterday, Baghdad was rocked by bombings. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) counts four bombs which "exploded near education facilities, judicial complexes and other targets" leading to the deaths of "at least 127 people" and approximately five-hundred injured. Warren P. Strobel and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Mohamed Hussein who was in the court house during one of the bombings, "My colleagues and I were fine, but as I ran out of the room and outside the building I saw the female employees and other men injured and running, not knowing where to run. We carried our general director and other employees to the hospital." The Daily Mirror offers a photo of two injured little girls, sisters, who were wounded in yesterday's bombings. Nouri immediately began proclaiming the 'evil doers' were al Qaeda in Iraq. And Ba'athists outside the country. And people in Syria. And possibly little green men from Mars will be next in the Nouri blame game. Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) report, "It was not known who was responsible for the bombings. Some believe political blocs in teh centeral government could be sponsoring attacks in an attempt to bring down Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Others believe that dissidents, including some army and police officers resentful of the political order installed by the United States, are intent on overthrowing the system." Today the Independent of London editorializes (and hypothesizes), "The aim of the bombers is none other than to sow public panic and expose the government as too weak to safeguard people's security. In the fearful atmosphere that would result, many people would be deterred from voting, so discrediting the whole process -- and tipping Iraq back to the brink of civil war, where it was as recently as two years ago. For the many Iraqis for whom life has started to improve after the ravages of a war they did not seek, this would be nothing short of another tragedy." The NewsHour (PBS) reported on the bombings yesterday (link has text, video and audio options) with Washington Week's Gwen Ifill speaking with the Christian Science Monitor and GlobalPost's Jane Arraf who didn't buy into the absolute 'knowledge' the Independent does.JANE ARRAF: And this was kind of more of the same. The attacks were government institutions. And, in fact, two of them, connected to the finance ministry and the justice ministry, were based in buildings that were actually moved after their major ministries were bombed earlier in the year. So, this really is connected, a lot of people think, to undermining the government, undermining faith in the security forces, and, a lot of people believe, geared at influencing the elections.GWEN IFILL: Well, that's what I was going to ask next, whether it's a coincidence that these attacks should occur just as people were -- as they were announcing this March 7 date for these elections.JANE ARRAF: Probably not a coincidence, but, certainly, the feeling is that it takes more time than a couple of days to plan these kind of attacks. And the cycle of what we have seen is actually that they have been about two months at a time. Now, these have probably been in the works and probably have been sitting in some car bomb factory somewhere waiting to be detonated and waiting to set out into the city. But that is one of the issues that Iraqi security forces are grappling with.
And the Iraqi people grapple with the bombings as well. CBS News' Charlie D'Agata reported on the bombings (link is video) and survivor Ahmed Jabbar wondered how the Iraqi forces allowed the car with bombs to pass through their checkpoint? Yesterday, Glenn Reeder (The Pacifica Evening News -- heard on KPFA, KPFK and other California outlets and streamed online) observed that "authorities also faced angry questions about how bombers found holes in Iraqi security again." This is echoed by Michael Jansen (Irish Times) who observes, "However, many Iraqis ask why, after more than five years of US training, the country's post-war police and security forces are unable to halt the bombings, particularly at high profile government institutions." (Mike noted that last night and passed it on to me, thank you Mike.) Meanwhile, Alsumaria reports that the Minister of the Interiror, Jawad al-Boulani, is saying he will appear before Parliament "to clarify security conjunctures around Iraq." Oliver August (Times of London) added that Nouri "and several senior ministers are expected to appear in Parliament today to justify the current safety precaustions and give details of the attacks". Michael Gisick (Stars and Stripes) reports that the appearances before Parliament have been postponed until Thursday according to Speaker of Parliament Ayad al-Samarraie. While testimony was postponed, Warren P. Strobel and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspaper) report Baghdad's "chief military official" has been relieved of his duties by Nouri. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) adds that Lt Gen Abboud Qanbar (the one relieved) will be replaced with Lt Gen Ahmed Hashim Ouda.
US officials also had reactions to the violence in the country they continue to occupy. Yesterday, Robert Knight ( KPFA's Flashpoints Radio) noted that "Obama's Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that today's bombings mean the country is 'going in the right directions' and asserted that it was the attackers who he believed were threatened, rather than the Iraqi public." Also Tuesday evening,the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, found anchor Katie Couric addressing the bombings with the top US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno:
Katie Couric: Does it make you rethink the strategy of withdrawing US forces from major cities? Gen Ray Odierno: Uh, no, it doesn't. That's what they'd like us to do, frankly. I-I think it's important for Iraqi security forces to secure their own people. Combating suicide bombs is a very difficult business. But they are doing very well at it and we'll continue to support them in all their endeavors. Katie Couric: Having said that, why weren't the Iraqi security forces better able to protect these innocent people? Gen Ray Odierno: Yeah. Well, in two cases today -- in two of the bombs, actually, they were stopped at police checkpoints. Unfortunately one of the bombs went off near a school, a college, which killed many young people and children as well. And frankly, what it's doing is turning the Iraqi people more and more against their movement. So I think it's a strategy for them that's not going to work. And it just is so painful for me and for everybody to see these innocent people killed.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured, a Baghdad bus bombing which claimed 2 lives and left eleven people injured and a Baghdad mini-bus bombing which claimed 3 lives and left eight people wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul shooting at a police checkpoint in which one police officer was injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Mosul. Reuters identifies the corpses as "Christian men".
Turning to the Ukraine. From Kiev, Simon Shuster (AP) reports Ukranian MP Anatoly Grytsenko is trumpeting the new $2.5 billion sale of "weapons and military equipment" deal that has just been made for the "Ukraine to produce and deliver 420 BTR-4 armored personnel carriers, six AN-32B military transport planes and other military hardware to Iraq." There's no money to fix the services -- the basic services (potable water, electricity, etc.) -- but yet again Nouri's making a big money buy of weapons?
Excuse me, but setting aside the fact that these weapons aren't needed and overlooking the fact that turning all of these weapons over to a Failed State which can still not protect its own government building's might strike many as dangerous, wasn't concern over Iraq and weapons the heart of selling the illegal war. England could be attacked in 45 minutes! (It couldn't.) Chemical and biological weapons were amassed! (They weren't.) We don't want the next warning sign to be a mushroom cloud! (Iraq had no nuclear weapons.)
Not only were weapons what the Iraq war was sold on, but weapons were what the conservatives attempted to sell debt relief on. Don't believe me. Click here for the Heritage organization -- right-wing as they come -- advocating for debt relief for Iraq in 2003 and let's zoom in on one key section:
The case of Iraq also raises an important moral dilemma: Should the citizens of a liberated country be burdened with the debts of a brutal dictatorship? As U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz observed in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, much of the money borrowed by the Iraqi regime had been used "to buy weapons and to build palaces and to build instruments of oppression."
So in 2003, not only did alleged possession of weapons sell the war on Iraq but the fact that Saddam Hussein spent money on weapons was reason enough, according to Paul Wolfowitz, for Iraq's debt to be forgiven. But all Nouri does is buy weapons. Does no one get that. He stockpiles a ton of money and spends a bit -- but spends it on weapons. For those who have forgotten, let's drop back to March of this year. Aseel Kami (Reuters) reported, "Iraq's falling oil income will force it to cut spending on basic services that its war-weary citizens crave, such as sewage treatment and power supply, officials say." Grasp that Nouri's deal today is only one of many weapons deal. And yet Kami was reporting that the electricity contracts with GE -- for $600 million -- were canceled because Iraq just didn't have the money. For things that really matter. But for weapons? Nouri's always got the money for the weapons. Something is very wrong with this picture. Nouri, the new Saddam, is allowed to stockpile weapons and no one's supposed to ask: "Weren't weapon allegations how the illegal war was sold?" Nor are they allowed to point out that while Nouri spends everything on weapons, the Iraqi people continue to do without. And how did Basra's deal with the lack of potable water this summer? Saleem al-Wazzan (Nisqash) reported in July, "Recently, Shiltagh Abboud Sharad, the province's governor, resorted to religious pleas to encourage the frustrated population. On a tour of teaching hospitals the governor told doctors complaining about the lack of drinking water to be 'patient' and to remember the fortitude of the revered Iman Hussein."
NPR's Corey Flintoff (Morning Edition) filed a report earlier today where the problem for Iraq's economy was that the private sector is forced to face too many rules and regulations. Of course Flintoff also used Leigh University's Frank Gunter as an expert for the same story which made it only more questionable. Gunter insists, "If they don't find jobs, then these young Iraqis, mostly men, mostly young, mostly uneducated, become a recruiting pool for the criminal gangs, for the insurgency, the militias that work for the religious and political groups." Really? That's the problem? That's the problem if you're both a pig and and idiot. In the real world, Iraq has two growth 'areas': Orphans and widows and shame on any 'expert' who dismisses women's need to work. Of course, Nouri does have that new plan for women. They can whore themselves out and get a few bucks tossed at them for marrying a Sunni (if they're Shia) or a Shia (if they're Sunni). That's Nouri's 'answer' to the widow issue. And shame on Gunter for refusing to acknowledge the serious problem women face and let's note that Sahar Issa remains the only one at a major US outlet who has reported on women's economic plight this year from Iraq.
Sahar Issa is an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers. It's not easy to be a US reporter stationed in Iraq but it's not easy to be an Iraqi reporter in Iraq and, in fact, most evidence would suggest being an Iraqi makes it even harder -- as evidence by the death toll of journalists in Iraq (most are Iraqis). McClatchy's Warren P. Strobel reported at the end of November on Iraqi journalists being brave and taking a public stand in Baghdad's Firdos Square: "There was nothing stage-managed about today's gathering--a demonstration in response to the near-fatal shooting five days ago of Imad Abadi, a well-known television anchor known for his criticisms of politicians and parties of every stripe, his crusades against corruption, and his aggressive defense of press freedom. Abadi, 36, was wounded in the head and neck, in what the nonprofit group Reporters Without Borders said was clearly a target shooting. He remains in intensive care at a Baghdad hospital." In October, Joel Brinkley (News Observer) noted another demonstration by journalists and explained, "Today many of the surviving reporters are scared. The government is censoring, suing and harassing reporters. In July, The Economist reported, police arrested a journalist for taking pictures of a typical, massive Baghdad traffic jam, saying the photos reflected badly on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's campaign to demonstrate that the quality of life was improving." Noting that the satellite channel Al-Alarn was taken off the air, the Layalina Review points out:
Other media outlets are also feeling the wrath of censorship in Iraq, reports Asharq-Alawsat, raising fears of a crackdown on Iraq's often partisan media ahead of national elections early next year. Lawsuits have been filed or threatened against both foreign and local media outlets critical of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki's government.
Asharq-Alawsat points to a recent incident where the British newspaper The Guardian was ordered by an Iraqi court to pay 100 million Iraqi dinars (USD 86,000) in compensation for an article "in which unnamed Iraqi intelligence officials accused Maliki of being increasingly authoritarian."
At the same time, the Iraqi Department for Communications and Media has issued rules allowing it to shut down any media company that encourages "terrorism, violence and tensions," and requiring individual broadcasters to obtain licenses. The Iraqi government is also moving to censor some books, and is seeking powers to block websites deemed to be pornographic or inciting violence.
As November grew to a close the Guardian newspaper and the press found a hitherto unknown defender: former UK prime minister and forever Poodle Tony Blair. Julian Borger (Guardian) quoted Tony Blair writing and e-mailing the following statement, "I have been following the Ghaith Abdul-Ahad court case against the Guardian in Iraq. We fought for freedom in Iraq including freedom of the press. Often what the press says is harsh or unfair. But that freedom is essential and must be upheld. So while I may not always agree with what the Guardian write I do hope that when the case goes to appeal the courts will follow due process in accordance with the Iraqi constitution." But it was Tony Blair's decision to force the scientist David Kelly to testify in public (Blair already knew who Andrew Gilligan's source was) that added to Kelly's stress. If indeed Kelly killed himself (there's a call for an inquiry into that) then Blair's actions clearly influenced Kelly's actions. Blair was offended that Kelly had told the BBC about the way intell was fixed and "sexed up." It's a strange kind of support for a free press Tony Brown thinks he has.
In London, the Iraq Inquiry continues. Brian Jones worked for the UK Ministry of Defence from 1973 to 2003. In the Guardian, he argues the Iraq Inquiry needs to show more openess:
I have published all my witness submissions to the Hutton inquiry and Butler review on the Iraq Inquiry Digest website to add to public understanding of the two issues on which I feel best qualified to comment: weapons of mass destruction and intelligence analysis. These are complicated matters, and there is a risk that the Chilcot inquiry will miss significant facts.
So far the inquiry has provided precious little documentary evidence as background to its hearings. It is not clear whether this is the inquiry's decision or a consequence of the protocols imposed by the government. However, the result is that there is uncertainty about the sources the inquiry is using and the assumptions it may be making about their evidence.
Such uncertainty is likely to inhibit those who might be inclined to offer additional insights to the inquiry, because potential witnesses are unsure whether the inquiry is already aware of the information they know about. There may also be some reluctance to submit complicated information through a secretariat whose loyalties are unclear and that may decide to prevent public release under one or other of the exclusions offered by the protocols. I hope that others who provided written evidence to previous inquiries might be encouraged to disclose them for public scrutiny.
In the opening to the [PDF format warning] statement he's released, he argues for various reforms regarding intelligence analysis and the communication of it. Reports going up the chain are not, he argues, always properly appraised due to a lack of knowledge in the higher pools reviewing the reports. This makes it easier to misunderstand and also easier to distort what the data actually states. We'll note this re: Iraq from his statement:
At the time of the production and issue of the Prime Minister's dossier on Iraq's WMD in September 2002 and up to my retirement in January 2003 there was no convincing evidence that Iraq had nuclear weapons or even significantly progressed its programme following its dismantlement in the 1990s.
The evidence supporting the existence of an offensive CW [Conventional Weapons] and BW [Biological Weapons] capability was of a much lower order than in 1990. [. . .] there was no solid evidence of the continued existence of either capability or continuing programmes.
Jones then republish's his previous statements to both inquiries.
Today's witnesses were Lt Gen Frederick Viggers, Lt Gen Andrew Figgures, Hilary Synnott, Lt Gen Lamb and Maj Gen Andrew Stewart (link hs videos and transcript). John Chilcot is the chair of the Inquiry which started with Viggers and Figgures whom Chilcot identifed as "the Senior British Military Representatives in Iraq based in Baghdad". The two testified together and had no disagreements, even when asked such as by Committee Member Lawrence Freedman ("Can I just check with General Viggers, did you have that role in terms of liaison with the CPA as well?" "Absolutely."). The following section sums up their joint-testimony:
Commitee Member Lawrence Freedman: When you arrived, did you have any sense that -- had you been warned this is what you were going to face or did it become glaringly obvious on arrival?
Lt Gen Frederick Viggers: Yes, and I think before we came it was rather like going to the theatre to see one sort of play and realising you were watching a tragedy as the curtains come back. We suffered from the lack of any real understanding of the state of that country post-invasion. We had not done enough research, planning, into how the country post-santcions -- the country coming out of 30 years of the Ba'athist regime, the dynamics of the country, the cultures, the friction points between Sunni, Shia, Kurd, the malevolent influence of people from the region, none of that had really been thought through. So as this curtain came back, what we thought we were going to be dealing with, which was essentially a humanitarian crisis and a population willing to support us, was a long way from that.
The next grouping of witnesses did not offer a more organized picture of preparations or support. Maj Gen Andrew Stewart testified with Lt Gen Graeme Lamb and the former Coalition Provisional Authority South head Hilary Synnott. We'll note this section of Synott's testimony where he's speaking of having heard from Basara that things were "bleak" before he arrived.
Hilary Synnott: Once I got out there, this was very much confirmed: A pretty dysfunctional team of eight to ten different nationalities, very, very few British, three Foreign Office officials, one permanent DFID official and a lack of focus and a lack of capability. In a way, to me on the first night the taste of it was confirmed to me when I said, well, I have been asked by the Foreign Office to send at least a report a day. So I said, well, how do I report back? And there was nothing available. The phones didn't work, there were no mobile phones at that time and nobody had thought to provide me with any form of computer. So the Americans very kindly provided one and linked me through their computer network through Washington and the only way I was able to communicate with the Foreign Office was by setting up my own free computer link on Yahoo. And that became the main, and, indeed, only form of communication to London for some time. Fortunately -- I mean, what we agreed was that those reports should be taken off Yahoo and then circulated as Foreign Office telegrams, as coming from me. So that to me was a sort of indication of the sort of problems we had to face.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Not exactly a secure line?
Hilary Synnott: No. Actually, funnily enough when I called on the Prime Minister the day I left, at the Prime Minister's request, I had already heard there was no secure communication and I pointed this out, and the head of the JIC was present at that meeting and was not aware, he said, that there was no secure communications. But then, you know, up to that point it hadn't been a British-run arrangement.
Another key moment for that group of witnesses was the following.
Maj Gen Andrew Stewart: I think the biggest concern I had was the one that Graeme had had, which was the inability to meet the expectations of the Iraqi people, because retaining the consent of the Iraqi people there, we saw as my centre of gravity. I had to work within their country, they had to accept us and we just were never going to meet expectations. If I can give you a very quick example, walking through the souk, went to a white goods seller, "How many washing machines do you sell a week," I asked, because washing machines use electricity, they use water and they produce sewage. Three areas -- three of the four things we could not provide. He was selling 20 a day. So our ability to help the Iraqis by producing white goods for them at a cheap price was destroying our ability to help, and we were never going to meet that expectation. And I think it is -- that's something that we never really came to terms with. And if you think again about the Basrawi, he used to have under Saddam 18 to 20 hours' electricity a day; under us, because Baghdad was the centre of gravity and CPA saw that and it was, "We must sort Baghdad," they reduced from 18 to 20 hours a day to about 12 hours a day because electricity was being moved up to Baghdad. So life was getting worse for the Shia under us than it was getting better, and that was a real issue with how we, therefore -- all the commanders -- were focused on trying to talk to the major dealers, whether it was the clerics, whether it be the local heads of the SCIRI or Badr, to try to keep them on side, to say, "Look, this is how we are trying to help" because actually each day it was getting worse for them and actually we started to see that build up as time went by.
Lt Gen Graeme Lamb felt that CPA was not at all helpful and declared that ". . . Hilary's arrival was most welcome. I think we got on pretty well actually, but it is all in the delivery and I think in one of my reports I likened the CPA to dancing with a broken doll. It was a lot of effort, and in fact the department wasn't giving much in return. In fact they were making you look rather stupid." Lamb also found a way to compare Moqtada al-Sadr to the Stones, s "Those that followed Moqtadar himself, rock star status -- he could call out a large crowd a bit like the Rolling Stones".
The Iraq Inquiry is on MP John Prescott's mind. He's served in Parliament for nearly forty years now and was Tony Blair's Deptuy Prime Minister. He spoke with James Macintyre and Sophie Elmhirst (New Statesman):
Prescott makes his most outspoken comments yet about Iraq: "Listen, Bush is crap; you know it, I know it, the party knows it." He also recalls the conversations he observed between the then US president and Blair: "I did listen to some of the video links between Tony and Bush . . . and I mean, they can be hair-raising, because Bush has got his own kind of approach . . . It did make you think."
He went to see the then US vice-president, Dick Cheney, with Christopher Meyer, who at that time was Britain's ambassador to Washington ("bloody red socks, that idiot"), and was alarmed at the US administration's approach. He has since imagined how Blair might have stood up to Bush, musing: "I've often thought, 'Well, you could have just said: Sod you . . . we're not doing it.'"
He acknowledges that the Chilcot inquiry is essential, but suspects it still will not be enough for those who want to see Blair punished. Even though Prescott will not be called to give evidence, the inquiry is forcing him to reflect on his and his colleagues' roles in the run-up to the war. He is clear about the suggestion that the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, was bullied by Blair into giving his approval of the war: "If you say, 'Was Goldsmith a happy man about this?' - no, he wasn't." He clarifies his position, arguing: "That's quite different from saying, 'No, I'm sorry, my view is that it's illegal, I'm not supporting it.'"
Forcing him to reflect or to rewrite?
TV notes. Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings), NOW on PBS asks: "Why are we sending thousands of military personnel to Guam?"Over the next five years, as many as 30,000 servicemembers and their families will descend on the small island of Guam, nearly tripling its presence there. It's part of a larger agreement that the U.S. signed with Japan to realign American forces in the Pacific, but how will this multi-billion dollar move impact the lives and lifestyle of Guam's nearly 180,000 residents? On Friday, December 11 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW on PBS travels to the U.S. territory of Guam to find out whether their environment and infrastructure can support such a largeand quick infusion of people, and why the buildup is vital to our national security.This Sunday the History Channel airs The People Speak, Anthony Arnove notes it's "the long awaited documentary film inspired by Howard Zinn's books A People's History of the United States and Voices of a People's History of the United States." It airs Sunday, December 13th at 8:00pm EST and 7:00 Central (8:00pm Pacific as well):
Using dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries and speeches of everyday Americans, the documentary feature film THE PEOPLE SPEAK gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout U.S. history, forging a nation from the bottom up with their insistence on equality and justice.Narrated by acclaimed historian Howard Zinn and based on his best-selling books, A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History, THE PEOPLE SPEAK illustrates the relevance of these passionate historical moments to our society today and reminds us never to take liberty for granted.THE PEOPLE SPEAK is produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn, co-directed by Moore, Arnove and Zinn, and features dramatic and musical performances by Allison Moorer, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Robinson, Christina Kirk, Danny Glover, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle, Eddie Vedder, Harris Yulin, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Josh Brolin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Lupe Fiasco, Marisa Tomei, Martín Espada, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Mike O'Malley, Morgan Freeman, Q'orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Rich Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Staceyann Chin, and Viggo Mortensen.
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