12 July 2003

US Defence Secretary Jorge Luis Rumsfeld
According to The Age:
"The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit" of weapons of mass destruction, Mr Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light - through the prism of our experience on 9/11."

Now I approve of Borges a lot. I even approve (mildly) of Rumsfeld's burgeoning poetic career. But I think you have to treat any evidence proffered by the Pentagon or the White House carefully. It may, by their own admission, be prismatic.
Whoops 4
The Independent claims that the September dossier was plagiarised from the net as well. They do not publish text-by-text comparisons so it is impossible to test their claim. The Independent has to publish their sources. this is 2003 and press reports should be taken at face value about as much as intelligence reports should.

One claim that can be tested is the Blair claim of separate evidence on Niger. If he had it he could pass it to Bush and save his ally's bacon. Not only has it not gone to Bush, it has not gone to Oz or the IAEA either.

BTW, the defence intelligence agency has now joined the office of national assessments and the department of foreign affairs in claiming they omitted to make the prime minister aware of any doubts about the Niger claim. (Audio link only at this stage) I hope they charge intellectual property fees to George Tenet who seems to have borrowed the technique.
Whoops 3
From Seeing the Forest:

Atrios points to Oliver Willis, who remind us:
Condi June 8, Meet the Press: "We did not know at the time - no one knew at the time, in our circles - maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery."

Today's news:
"There was even some discussion on that specific sentence, so that it reflected better what the CIA thought and the speech was cleared," Rice said.
"Some specifics about amount and place were taken out...with the change in that sentence, the speech was cleared."

It's beginning to look a lot like the art of intercontinental fibbing is beyond the abilities of the coalition leadership.

11 July 2003

Time to narrow the gap
Aid, debt relief and improving governance must be part of any rescue strategy. But the truth is that the biggest single factor that would help developing countries would not cost the west anything at all. In fact, developed countries would gain by doing it.

And what is this elixir? It is simple: abolish agricultural subsidies. Not some of them, but all of them, so that there is no scope for wriggling out of it.

It almost beggars belief that the Bush administration, which came into office to reduce subsidies, has actually massively increased them to farmers.

This means that US farmers are paid by the US taxpayer to produce crops, such as cereals and cotton, that could be more economically produced by countries in the developing world. It is economic and social madness. In Europe, farmers in Scandinavia, thanks to EU subsidies, are growing sugar beet, a product far better suited to being grown in parts of Africa. This is barmy.

Not only do African producers find it extremely difficult to sell in export markets against this subsidised competition, but they are even undercut in their home markets by surplus EU beet produced at ludicrously subsidised prices.

Abolishing agricultural subsidies is, virtually, a free lunch. Practically everyone gains. Consumers in rich countries will gain from lower prices (worth �20 a week for a family of four, according to Oxfam), taxpayers will pay less to fund the subsidies, and developing countries will have the opportunity to sell products in which they have a competitive advantage (lots of land and low wages) on world markets.

Agricultural reform is a dry-as-dust topic but ultimately it would make a huge difference to millions of people in the developing world.
The Sgt Schultz defence...

But you actually did raise it though Prime Minister and you don�t want to look foolish so when you raised the information in Parliament and then your own office has got doubts about, you don�t want to look foolish and you don�t want the Australian people to �


It�s not a question of looking foolish. It�s a question of keeping things in perspective and what I said was that if I had been told in January of this material it would not have altered in any way our decision to participate in the military operation. That�s the point I�m making. The other point to remind you of is that the assessment that the British made, they are still standing by. I mean everybody is going around incorrectly saying that the International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded a document was forged. But what the British are saying is put that aside because they have other evidence. That�s their judgement. It�s not mine because I haven�t seen any of the evidence. I�m only reporting their judgement, I�m not saying that I have independently reached the same conclusion. I can�t do that. But what the British are still saying as of now is that forget the forged document, accept that it is a forgery, it doesn�t alter the view that we held then and which we still hold to. So the suggestion that the original claim has been disproved is itself not proved and all that�s been established is that one piece of evidence on which it rested has been established as a forgery but according to the British they have other evidence which does not in any way alter their conclusion


Prime Minister, you claim that weapons of mass destruction will be found, as times goes by without having found any are you more convinced (inaudible)?


Well look, I�m certainly� I remain rock solid in the belief that the decision we took was justified on the basis of the intelligence assessments that were available. There were clear, compelling intelligence assessments available to the effect that Iraq had a WMD capacity and nothing I have seen since has shaken the assessments that were made at that time. As far as the current search for evidence and material, that goes on and I think it�s too early for people to jump to the conclusion that it won�t be successful.

We have a pure repeat of the Children Overboard affair where information available to the prime minister's office mysteriously failed to reach the prime minister. Just as with that incident the prime minister tells us he did not know until long after he had milked it for every political advantage he could gain.

From the Sydney Morning Herald
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) admitted last night that it knew intelligence on Iraq's nuclear program was questionable shortly before the Prime Minister, John Howard, presented it to Parliament to build a case for war.

The revelation will deepen the damaging controversy about the Government's use of flawed intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

The department claims it did not tell Mr Howard or the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, of information from the American State Department in January that cast doubt on claims that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

This follows the extraordinary admission yesterday by Australia's peak intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments (ONA), that it received the same information but had also failed to pass it on to Mr Howard.

So now the foreign affairs department as well as the office of national assessments have mysteriously failed to make ministers aware of things. It's not even worth asking if the government will take any action will be taken to discipline the relevant officials.
Grave crisis! Britain breaches UN Resolution 1441! Bush calls for war!
Okay, a light blogging day has caused me to have a rush of blood to the head. However, the Independent reports:

But Tony Blair was adamant in testimony this week that the UK had "separate intelligence" on Iraqi attempts to import uranium from Africa. Last night, the Foreign Office stated that Britain's information was based on "additional evidence other than documents, forged or genuine".

Britain has not handed this "evidence" to the IAEA for assessment, despite its obligations under the mandatory UN Security Council resolution 1441 to do so. The Foreign Office maintained last night that "we comply fully with our obligations to provide evidence with the IAEA" but that "in the case of uranium from Niger, we did not have any UK-originated intelligence to pass on".

A UN diplomatic source told The Independent that the UK position was "incredible". Another diplomatic source said: "The only concrete evidence the UN got was the Niger set of letters [subsequently proved to be forgeries] and it was told that there was nothing else."

In a letter to the US congressman Henry Waxman - who has been at the forefront of those questioning the White House's evidence - Paul Kelly, the State Department's assistant secretary for legal affairs, pointed out that when it passed the documents to the UN's Iraq Nuclear Verification Officer in Vienna, it inserted a caveat. Mr Kelly wrote: "[It] included the following qualification: 'We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims'."

Mr Baradei told the Security Council in March: "Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents - which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger - are in fact not authentic."

On 10 June, the Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien said that "the Government shared all relevant information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction with the weapons inspection teams from both Unmovic and the IAEA". But less than a month later the Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane said: "The UK Government did not pass to the IAEA any information on Iraqi attempts to procure uranium."

The evidence in question is the separate evidence claimed by Blair before the House of Commons Liaison Committee (Question 194). That evidence has not been published anywhere or shared with the US or Australia. That evidence was not, as required by Resolution 1441, shared with the IAEA. Note that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw claimed it had been passed to the IAEA in his appearance before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (Question 1269).

This separate evidence is getting almost as hard to find as the weapons of mass destruction themselves. Even the date on which the separate evidence was briefed to the IAEA during 2003 seems to be very hard to find.

We have three governments trying to maintain a common account of their war claims and they're just not doing a very good job.

The US and Australia continue to argue for the Iraq/al-Qai'da link but can't produce any evidence. The UK disavows the link.

The US and Australia disavow the Niger claim. The UK insists that the Niger claim is real and insists that they hold separate evidence apart from the forged documents.

The 45-minute claim is history and none of the three governments maintain it. The saddest (and funniest) of their communications problems was Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer defending the White House version of the Niger claim after the White House had abandoned it.

You would think 3 close allies with an intel-sharing arrangement going back to the Second World War would be able to do a better job of holding their story together.

10 July 2003

Ouch! Or 'Who wants to be a klutz?
From the Australian

JERRY McBrien walked away from Monday night's episode of the Nine Network's quiz show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire with $32,000.

But according to some of Australia's keenest legal minds, he was robbed.

Playing for $64,000, Mr McBrien, wrongly according to the network, said that five justices sat on a full bench of the High Court of Australia. The correct answer, host Eddie McGuire told him, was seven. But news of Mr McBrien's $32,000 loss has reached the hallowed halls of Australia's highest court and the ears of Chief Justice Murray Gleeson. The Australian understands the Chief Justice, who did not see the program, reckons Who Wants To Be a Millionaire got it wrong and his opinion is backed by leading scholars.

While it is correct that seven judges sit on the High Court of Australia, the term Full Court or Bench is defined under the Judiciary Act 1903 as a hearing comprising "two or more justices".

Mr McBrien had four answers to choose from on Monday night: five, seven, nine or eleven.

Stop it! This is a deeply-serious post of high political import! How many PBL (Channel 9's owners) papers will report this travesty of justice? Or will they just rely on the program blurb?

This week on Millionaire, Jerry McBrien was back in the chair, he said he was nervous, but would take good care.

Naturally he started his journey with the $100 question, up the millionaire money tree in quick succession.

He made his way up to question 11 in a flash, gave it his best shot but left with $32,000 cash.

Tim Soltys from Victoria was just happy to get in the hotseat, for a shoe-man at Myer, that�s no mean feat.

But at question eight, he used the advice of his phone-a-friend, and found himself leaving with just $1,000 to spend.

From Dunedin, New Zealand came Stuart Faulds, after winning fastest finger, he was eager to go for gold! And with a guaranteed thousand, he will return next week, for his turn at climbing the million dollar peak�

Can Stuart successfully realize the coveted million dollar prize? Find out on Channel 9 Monday at 8:30pm.

We blog, you decide.

Sorry, that's not a Packer slogan, it's a Murdoch slogan. But then Murdoch owns the Australian...
I do not accept in any shape or form that the information in that second briefing paper was wrong. Those parts based on intelligence were indeed based on intelligence.

A relieved planet breathes a collective sigh of relief now that Tony Blair tells us those parts of the February dossier based on intelligence were indeed based on intelligence. Will we learn from the prime ministerial lips tomorrow that those parts of the February dossier which were a complete Horlicks were indeed a complete Horlicks? Or that those parts of the sky which are blue are indeed blue?

9 July 2003

Whoops! 2
From the 7:30 Report
MAXINE McKEW: Mr Downer, on a related question about quality of intelligence, you'd know that today's news out of the White House is that President Bush got a key fact wrong in his State of the Union address that suggests either perhaps an interagency failure or selective use of material.

This, of course, is in relation to uranium out of Africa, possibly to Iraq.

How does this misstatement sit with you as a member of the coalition?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Look, I think to call it a misstatement is a complete re-creation of history.

Obviously President Bush, as others, did use this information -

MAXINE McKEW: Sorry, the White House has admitted they got this wrong.


MAXINE McKEW: The White House has said they got this wrong.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Yeah, but I think to say that this was a misstatement or that to imply, as I've noticed some people have done, that somehow President Bush knew that this was wrong at the time he uttered these words is entirely unfair.

That's not true.

People don't follow these issues very closely -

MAXINE McKEW: Sorry, if that's not true, that means his system has failed him and if his system has failed him --

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No, I don't think that's fair at all.

MAXINE McKEW: ...and, if that system has failed him, then it's failed our intelligence agencies as well.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I don't think that's fair at all.

Of course, nobody is claiming every piece of intelligence ever received by any government on earth is always right.

No-one ever claims that.

In this case, before the war against Iraq started, the International Atomic Energy Agency came out, I think in early March, and said that they thought they had concluded, having examined these documents relating to uranium trade from Niger, they had concluded that these documents were forgeries.

Well, that's fair enough.

And that's not to say when President Bush made his State of the Union address he knew these documents were forgeries.

Now some people say someone in the State Department had some doubts or other about it, well, fair enough.

But, in the end, the CIA would have made an overall assessment of the credibility of the information and they would have passed that on to the White House.

Now subsequently, the International Atomic Energy Agency in early March has established these documents were forgeries, and everyone accepts that.

No doubt the White House press office are all scurrying to deny their denial now that Australia's foreign minister has set them straight.
The US government has admitted the Niger claim was untrue. The Australian government agrees that it was untrue and has fallen back on a combination of the Sgt Schultz defence and desperate cries about moving on.

The waters are muddier in Britain. According to Blair the Niger claim is true and is based on separate evidence from the forged Nigerien letter. So the hunt is on. Any such intelligence must, as a matter of law, be passed to the IAEA. Our scene turns to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. From the Independent:

Sir John Stanley, the Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling, said: "We are talking about fresh intelligence which came to your Government and which underpinned putting into the September 2002 dossier the detailed statements that were made in emphatic terms about uranium supplies to [sic] Africa. That intelligence was under the obligation of your Government to pass on to the IAEA. When was it done?"

William Ehrman, the Foreign Office's director general of Defence and Intelligence, accompanying Mr Straw, replied: "The intelligence came from a foreign service, and it was briefed to the IAEA in 2003." Sir John asked: "What date in 2003?" Mr Ehrman responded: "I would have to check."

Mr Straw was also asked when Britain first learned that the US-supplied documents to the IAEA were forgeries. He replied: "We will find out." However, there has been no further information to the committee.

A senior diplomatic source close to the IAEA said yesterday: "The only information we received was from the US, and this included documents which turned out to be forgeries. This was sent to us in February.

"We certainly have not received anything from Britain, and we have not received anything from a third country.

"It did not take long to uncover the forged documentation. We did a Google search and discovered that someone named as a minister in the Niger government has stopped being so years ago. A lot of it was pretty crude - a cut and paste job."

The Blair contention then, is that they published the unreliable Niger intelligence in the September dossier to explain and justify the need for the war but did not publish the more reliable evidence that would have proved their case? Is this claim to be taken seriously? Where is the separate evidence? The US does not have it. The IAEA does not have it. Australia may have it, but we're not telling.

And why did that incompetent Alastair Campbell leave this devastating evidence out of the September dossier? Why did Blair allow Bush to embarrass himself in the US Congress by withholding the devastating evidence from his closest ally? Or is it just that the devastating evidence does not actually exist?
It Was The Politicians Who Took Us Into War, and Not The Intelligence Services
If the matter itself were not so grave, it would be entertaining to watch the antics of the government in evading responsibility for the September dossier. Alastair Campbell waxes indignant when it is suggested that anything in the dossier came from him. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw very deliberately told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the claim that weapons could be ready in 45 minutes was not his claim. The lack of enthusiasm to take credit for the September dossier is eloquent about the government's current lack of confidence in its claims.

But somebody somewhere has to take responsibility for how the government got it wrong, and I would not advise ministers to leave the blame to fall on the intelligence agencies. They have kept their heads down very loyally for the past month, but nothing would be more likely to provoke further murmuring from them than the sense that they were being set up as the fall guys.

Nor should ministers now be allowed to shrug their shoulders and say with a sigh that the intelligence agencies got it wrong. It was not the intelligence agencies that took the decision to go to war. The decision was that of the prime minister, and it was he who used intelligence to justify the case for war.

The tragedy was that the United Nations weapons inspectors had already demonstrated that the intelligence claims were unsound. Hans Blix observed again Sunday that whenever they went to a site identified by western intelligence they drew a blank. It is extraordinary that this gulf between our intelligence information and the reality on the ground did not prompt doubts in the government before they unleashed the war.

I fear there is some truth in the suspicion that Washington wanted the inspectors out of Iraq before they comprehensively proved that Iraq was no threat.

Last Sunday was the feast day of Doubting Thomas. Famously he was misplaced in his doubts. But it will no longer do for the government to take its cue from its sermons of last Sunday and urge us to have more faith in their claims that Saddam was a current and serious threat. If they hope to convince us that the war was justified, they will need to come up with weapons of mass destruction as tangible as the evidence that was required by Thomas.

The date the Nigerien evidence became inoperative is important. The Nigerien evidence was in Bush's state of the union speech and it was in Howard's war speech. The Nigerien evidence was used again and again by all three coalition leaders. If either of them knew at the time that they were citing an untruth their heads are going to roll. Or get thrown in the water.
The man of steel at the Sydney Institute

Howard's opinions and actions on the US and Iraq are well-known. I was interested in what he had to say about the Solomons and New Zealand:

Such a coalition of interest and effort will be well placed to provide the necessary assistance, especially the substantial policing, law and justice and economic resources required.

But we must also ensure that the environment is stable and secure enough to implement reform � without security the Solomons cannot begin the task of rebuilding.

Restoring security to the Solomon Islands is essentially a policing task. But any policing assistance must be provided with adequate protection and support. In finalising the shape of an Australian contribution we must ensure the safety and security of all those who are involved. This is likely to involve a substantial number of defence personnel and the precise mix of police and military personnel will be determined by the expert advice of the Chief of the Australian Defence Forces and the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.

The Solomon Islands is a sovereign country. Any action will be in response to a properly issued legal request from the government of the Solomon Islands, thereby ensuring that our assistance fully complies with the requirements of international law.

We recognise that such an action represents a very significant change in the way we address our regional responsibilities and relationships. But our friends and neighbours in the Pacific are looking to us for leadership and we will not fail them.

And the rest of the world, understandably, sees this as an area where Australia has particular responsibilities


Could I just ask a final question on Australia / New Zealand relationships. I mean, as you know, you�ve got a good personal relationship with Helen Clark, Australia and New Zealand are at distance on some strategic issues � New Zealand and United States is quite distant. How do you see New Zealand fitting into any Australia / US free trade agreement? I mean, I think you�ve said that you would speak for New Zealand�s interest. But it seems that the United States in this present frame of mind isn�t particularly interested in New Zealand in that respect. I mean, how do you see our relationship, vis-a -vie in New Zealand and New Zealand visibly to the US?


Well there is a difference in the defence relationship between New Zealand and the United States and the defence relationship between Australia and the United States. New Zealand made a decision in the 1980�s under the leadership of David Longey, and it was not significantly reversed when there was a change of government, not significantly reversed, to pursue a less engaged approach. Now, that�s New Zealand�s decision and New Zealand�s right. One of the reasons why I think I have developed and maintained a good relationship with Helen Clark is that although we come from different sides of the political spectrum and neither of us from occasions is regarding entirely as sitting in the exact dead centre of our two parties. Despite that, I do sort of think that one of the ways in keeping that very important relationship is not to give too much public advice about what are essentially domestic matters for the other country in the partnership. We just do though have a different approach. As far as the free trade agreement is concerned, we are negotiating one for Australia and that�s my preoccupation. I�ve indicated that if there are ways in which out of that process we can assist New Zealand, we�d be very happy to do so, but there�s no conditionality involved in that, they have to be separate operations. We do, for example, have separate interests. I mean, clearly if New Zealand were ever to have a free trade agreement with the United States, dairy would� their dairy industry would bulk very large in anything that New Zealand would need, where as that is not necessarily the case with Australia.

If the Solomons intervention works (and I think it might) it will be another success to add to East Timor. The fact that this, like East Timor, a multilateral effort in response to an invitation from the Solomons government (and hopefully) parliament places it in a different category from Iraq.
Mystery behemoth proves to be American diplomacy

The mysterious dead gigantic sea creature that washed up on a Chilean beach yesterday has now been positively identified by scientists as American Diplomacy.

The 40-foot long rotting grey creature was at first misidentified as a whale, but then proved to have no spine. "That was our first clue," said Dr. James Mead of the Smithsonian Institute. "Then we had to start asking ourselves - what gigantic old creature has died recently?"
From the New York Times via This is not a blog:
Tonight, after Air Force One had departed, White House officials issued a statement in Mr. Fleischer's name that made clear that they no longer stood behind Mr. Bush's statement.

How Mr. Bush's statement made it into last January's State of the Union address is still unclear. No one involved in drafting the speech will say who put the phrase in, or whether it was drawn from the classified intelligence estimate.

That document contained a footnote � in a separate section of the report, on another subject � noting that State Department experts were doubtful of the claims that Mr. Hussein had sought uranium.

It's a little weird that the White House appears to be overruling one George Bush. It's even weirder that, according to the Los Angeles Times:
Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson publicly revealed over the weekend that he was the mysterious envoy whom the CIA, under pressure from Cheney, sent to Niger to investigate a document � now known to be a crude forgery � that allegedly showed Iraq was trying to acquire enriched uranium that might be used to build a nuclear bomb. Wilson found no basis for the story, and nobody else has either.

What is startling in Wilson's account, however, is that the CIA, the State Department, the National Security Council and the vice president's office were all informed that the Niger-Iraq connection was phony. No one in the chain of command disputed that this "evidence" of Iraq's revised nuclear weapons program was a hoax.

Yet, nearly a year after Wilson reported back the facts to Cheney and the U.S. security apparatus, Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union speech, invoked the fraudulent Iraq-Africa uranium connection as a major justification for rushing the nation to war: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa." What the president did not say was that the British were relying on their intelligence white paper, which was based on the same false information that Wilson and the U.S. ambassador to Niger had already debunked. "That information was erroneous, and they knew about it well ahead of both the publication of the British white paper and the president's State of the Union address," Wilson said Sunday on "Meet the Press."

Bad luck for Blair and Bush that they don't live in Australia where the man of steel has announced that we've moved on from questioning the prewar intelligence.

I refute any suggestion that we misled Parliament and the people totally.

I assume that Blair thought he was refuting totally but actually he merely refuted that he had misled totally. What a tangled web we weave...

8 July 2003

select intelligence
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report is now online. It clears Alastair Campbell of the 45 minute allegation, but states that special advisers should not chair intelligence meetings (as Campbell did) and suspends judgement on the accuracy of the September dossier pending investigations in Iraq. Amazingly, it seems that Blair quoted the February dossier in parliament without knowing who prepared it or how. The Committee has also demanded specific dates in relation to the Niger uranium claim.

More to come when I've finished the entire report.