19 July 2003

The UN strikes back!

From the Asia Times:
This is poison for a president.

There are signs that Bush realizes this, particularly after meeting with Annan. Before this week, Washington showed little interest in returning to the UN for a new resolution. But that changed this week, as Secretary of State Colin Powell began sounding out US allies - including German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer - about what kind of resolution could persuade Berlin to help out.

Annan himself was encouraging. Diplomatic sources pointed to his statement Wednesday in which, after noting the divisions that existed in the Security Council before the war, he stressed that "Now that the war is over, we should focus on stabilizing and building a peaceful and prosperous Iraq."

"It's getting more and more obvious that the [Security] Council's leverage [vis-a-vis Washington] is increasing," said one source who noted the growing sense in the US capital that the optimistic predictions of the hawks had put the president in serious peril.

The question is, what will be the UN's price for bailing the administration out, and will Bush be willing to pay it

And from the Christian Science Monitor

RIS � Pressured by signs of fatigue and dissent among US soldiers fighting a guerrilla war in Iraq, and disappointed by allies' reluctance to join what many see as an occupation army, the US may be forced to cede some control over Iraq's future to governments who disagreed with the war.

That is likely to be the price of coaxing major nations into an Iraqi force through the United Nations, a process Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday he was discussing with the UN and allies. "The situation in Iraq is highly complicated and we are interested in a real, strategic trans-Atlantic debate," said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who met with Mr. Powell in Washington, signaling the European desire to help shape events in Iraq.

Faced with the need to keep some 150,000 soldiers in Iraq to hold the lid on a deteriorating security situation, the US has asked about 80 countries to contribute troops.

So far, the US has cobbled together a multinational force that will total 9,200 troops from about 30 countries when it deploys fully in September

Last week the US Senate voted 87/0 to ask Bush to request UN and NATO troops.

The Bush administration's command diplomacy was always going to fail. The diplomatic cost of Iraq had already ensured that no further pre-emptive wars would ever get off the ground. New Zealand demanded and got Australian assurances that the Solomons would not be wrapped into the War on Terror. The tragic cost for Bush's unilateralism, a cost we may all end up paying is a nuclear Iran and North Korea.

NB I corrected a typo. I always meant to say Iran in the last line.

Correction on Guant�namo Bay detainees

Proceedings have also been suspended agaoint the Australian detainees, although our government is taking a rather different line from Britain's.


Prime Minister, what's happened in relation to David Hicks?


Well, what's happened is that it's been agreed, it's been agreed with the Americans that the military commission process for the time being will be put on hold. Two senior officials from the Attorney General's Department, namely the Secretary Mr Robert Cornall and the relevant branch head, left Australia this morning to go to Washington to conduct discussions with the Americans. It's likely, if necessary, that Chris Ellison, the Justice Minister, who in our system is the equivalent of the British Attorney General, will join the discussions at the concluding stages. And we'll be having discussions with the Americans about ensuring that if these people are tried in the United States, the process will be as transparent as possible and as compatible with the notions of justice and fair dealing that we regard as meeting those requirements in Australia.


Do you expect the military trials to proceed after these negotiations?


Well, the process is yet to be finalised and I don't want to pre-empt the discussion. One of the things you've got to bear in mind is that it's quite conceivable in these situations that somebody may have committed an offence under American law and not committed an offence under Australian law. And it could well be that if Mr Hicks, for example, were to come back to Australia, it may not be a prosecutable offence, yet if he's retained in the United States there is an offence.

Coral reefs in steep decline

The Caribbean is losing coral reefs at a horrific rate, British scientists say.

A team from the University of East Anglia reported in the journal Science yesterday that the average amount of hard coral cover on the reefs had fallen from 50 per cent to 10 per cent in the past 30 years.

Tropical coral reefs are among the world's richest habitats, and are at risk everywhere, chiefly from overfishing, pollution, storms and sedimentation.

Experts have warned repeatedly that corals are sensitive to temperature. Reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans have suffered dramatic bleaching during cycles of warming. But in the Caribbean the problems have been of a different kind.

"The feeling has long been that the Caribbean corals are doing badly," said Toby Gardner, who led the study. "We are the first to pull information together from across the region and put a hard figure on coral decline. The rate of decline we found exceeds by far the well publicised rates of loss for the tropical forests."

There are similar troubles much closer to home. The State of the Reef Report:

The Great Barrier Reef is under mounting pressure. For example:

since the European settlement of Australia, the annual flow from the land of sediments and nutrients into the Great Barrier Reef has increased four fold;

since 1998, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered its two worst ever recorded coral bleaching events, caused by unusually hot sea water;

the effort in the Reef Line Fishery has doubled since 1995;

recreational fishing effort continues to increase as population increases and fishing and boating technology improves;

over the last 40 years, numbers of nesting loggerhead turtles have declined by between 50 percent and 80 percent; and

estimates of dugong populations adjacent to the urban coast of Queensland indicate that they are currently only about 3 percent of what they were in the early 1960�s.

While many areas of the Great Barrier Reef are in good condition, mounting pressures on the Reef leave no room for complacency.

Similar pressures, elsewhere in the world, have contributed to the loss of up to 25 percent of the world�s coral reefs.

None of these problems are (of course) due to global warming which as (as we all know) is not happening and if it is happening (which it isn't) has no effect on the economy.

Be very, very afraid

From the Sydney Morning Herald:
North Korea is poised to build at least one nuclear missile, according to new Chinese intelligence, taking the crisis over its weapons program to a dangerous and alarming phase.

The finding comes amid reports that Beijing has recently determined that Pyongyang has reprocessed enough spent nuclear fuel rods to produce the plutonium for a nuclear bomb.

This would partly support North Korea's recent claim to the United States that it had reprocessed 8000 rods - enough for at least six bombs.

The confirmation by Beijing of the advanced state of North Korea's nuclear program would explain China's intense efforts in the past week to bring it to the negotiating table.

China's Vice-Foreign Minister, Dai Bingguo, was due in Washington last night to brief the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, about Mr Dai's rare audience on Monday with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il.

He is believed to have a letter from China's President, Hu Jintao, for President George Bush. In Pyongyang, Mr Dai delivered a letter from Mr Hu to Mr Kim, as China pressured North Korea to join talks with the US, hosted by Beijing.

As intensive diplomatic rounds continued in the region, South Korea struck an optimistic note, telling the Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday that it was confident of forging a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Mr Howard said such a development would remove any question of Australia joining a proposed naval force to intercept North Korean vessels suspected of carrying weapons and drugs.

I am not certain history will forgive Bush and Blair if it turns out that the axis of evil speech and the lurch to military adventures merely persuaded Iran and North Korea that the only defence against these new empire-builders is going nuclear.

Ruddock v Clarke

Alan Ramsey tells us:

When Clark went to Ireland last year on a trip as the most senior elected official of Australia's peak Aboriginal organisation, ATSIC, he took his wife. Clark's board had approved the trip. Clark's minister, Philip Ruddock, had approved Clark's wife going with him on the basis that she had "significant duties". Taxpayers weren't asked but they paid the bill. Taxpayers always pay the bill. The Clarks were away for 10 days. Their trip cost $31,000. Last year, just before the Clarks went to Ireland, Ruddock spent 15 days in Switzerland, Canada, Malaysia, the Philippines and Korea. The cost was $113,404 and 67 cents. Taxpayers paid that bill, too.

What Ramsey does not address is why Ruddock demanded immediately that Clarke step down when faced with civil rape proceedings but felt a former governor-general's options in identical circumstances should be quite, quite different. Perhaps Ruddock was seeking a preferred political outcome?
US suspends proceedings against Guantanamo Britons

The United States has agreed to suspend controversial military court proceedings against British detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, pending talks with British legal officials, it was announced today.

The prime minister's official spokesman said a joint US-British statement, due to be released later today by the White House, would confirm the decision, which follows Tony Blair's talks yesterday on the subject with US President George Bush.

"The president listened to the concerns of the prime minister and we believe that this is the best way forward," the spokesman told reporters travelling with Mr Blair to Japan.

There are nine Britons being held at Guantanamo Bay - two were on an initial list of six detainees out of a total of 667 prisoners to be tried by a military tribunal in the camp.

Proceedings against the two are now off until a British legal team, led by the attorney general, meets a high-level American legal team to discuss "all aspects" of the nine Britons' cases next week.

A pity the man of steel did not argue this issue as vigourously about the Australians facing proceedings before military tribunals. Rather than argue that they should face a fair trial the government chose to leak prejudicial information about Hicks.

MoD to hold inquiry into Kelly death

The Ministry of Defence is to hold an independent judicial inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the death of David Kelly, the prime minister's official spokesman said today.

The move has yet to be confirmed by the MoD itself, although a judge is expected to be appointed as early as this afternoon.

Mr Blair's spokesman, speaking as the prime minister arrived in Tokyo on the latest leg of his marathon diplomatic mission, said: "We have indicated that if this is Dr Kelly's body, then the government intends to hold an independent judicial enquiry.

"In these circumstances, people should not jump to conclusions and they should exercise restraint."

He said: "The prime minister is obviously very distressed for the family.

Mr Blair's official spokesman added: "The prime minister has been speaking for a fair amount of time on the phone in recent hours to the permanent secretary at the ministry of defence, Sir Kevin Tebbitt and the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, and [the] constitutional affairs secretary, Charles Falconer."

The discovery of the body in the Oxfordshire beauty spot -now presumed to be the missing defence scientist - will also require a coroner's inquest. The remains are expected to be identified formally tomorrow.

David Kelly appeared before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee and was said to be the source who briefed Andrew Gilligan about the sexing up of the September dossier.

18 July 2003

Mandela's Birthday
Nelson Mandela turns 85 today. The link will take you to a book of birthday messages. History might forgive Tony Blair but it will smile at the memory of Nelson Mandela.
Bad news for Cheney, very bad news for Saudi Arabia and the UAE

(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption and abuse, said today that documents turned over by the Commerce Department, under court order as a result of Judicial Watch�s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force, contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as 2 charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and �Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.� The documents, which are dated March 2001, are available on the Internet at: www.JudicialWatch.org.

The Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates (UAE)documents likewise feature a map of each country�s oilfields,pipelines, refineries and tanker terminals. There are supportingcharts with details of the major oil and gas development projectsin each country that provide information on the projects, costs,capacity, oil company and status or completion date.

Judicial Watch has been seeking these documents under FOIA since April 19, 2001. Judicial Watch was forced to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch Inc. v. Department of Energy, et al., Civil Action No. 01-0981) when the government failed to comply with the provisions of the FOIA law. U.S. District Court Judge Paul J. Friedman ordered the government to produce the documents on March 5, 2002.

Unbelievable. The second paragraph should be treated as very bad news by Suadi Arabia and the UAE because it implies they may appear on somewhere on Cheny's axis of conquerable oil-rich states.

Link via DailyKOS and Atrios from Tom Tomorrow

17 July 2003

Jack M Balkin is really angry

Being a decisive leader is not the same thing as being a good leader. Decisive action may make a person appear tough and principled, but it may just be a cover for recklessness, stubbornness and the refusal to listen to reason. These are characteristics that leaders can do without. For that sort of leadership, willfully blind to consequences, engaged in wishful thinking, and disgusing its real motives, may cause enormous problems for the country down the road. I have long believed that this President, and this Administration, are not providing strong leadership, but rather reckless leadership. That recklessness is becoming more apparent every day, as the economy worsens, the deficits soar, and more and more Americans die in a war that the President stated was officially over as he strutted like a popinjay up and down the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. Good government is not a crap shoot, nor is it best achieved through bluffing. It is a sign of the President's failure of leadership that all he has to offer now is what he has always offered-- tough talk, vague generalities, and attempts to change the subject. Such forced machismo rings increasingly hollow as the casualties mount, the predicted duration of occupation lengthens, the forces necessary to our self-defense are stretched to the breaking point, and the long term economic health of the nation is endangered by a massive redistirbution to the wealthy and the powerful.
snark of the week
From Arianna Huffington in the Los Angeles Times:
Suddenly everyone is asking: What didn't the president know, and why didn't he know it? And why does he know less and less every day?
The worms are turning

Atrios has an excellent post summarising the state of play on the US media. In just a week the Bush/Blair conventional wisdom has collapsed.

John Howard should read the Time article, in particular, with special care:

The Niger yellowcake uranium imbroglio concerns a piece of intelligence Washington knew was bad that was nonetheless restated in President Bush's State of the Union address. A bureaucratic snafu, says the Bush Administration, and one which doesn't detract at all from the case for war; in fact it was hardly a significant part of that case in the first place. Indeed. But three months after taking control of Iraq, the deeper question looming on the horizon is less how one item of bad intelligence slipped into a keynote speech than how so much of the intelligence the Administration had believed was solid appears to have been rather liquid, even gaseous.

Time is not usually widely-regarded as an organ of the Left. If Blair and Bush find themselves not just under fire, but ridiculed, for advancing arguments identical with Howard's than that is very bad news for the prime minister.
Maverick Maine charts its own course on key issues

AUGUSTA, MAINE � Folks in Maine take great pride in bucking conventional wisdom - in taking feisty and independent stances on everything from war to politics to health care. And even breakfast food.

Back in 1839, for instance, Maine risked losing a big chunk of territory to the British. So it took the unusual step of declaring war on Britain. It's the only time a state has threatened to attack a foreign power.

Maine was also the first state to elect an independent governor - and to send one woman to both houses of Congress. As for food, Yankees here still consider apple pie a perfectly nutritious breakfast item. (Try explaining that to Californians.)

Now this independent streak is leading to big policy differences with the Bush administration, differences that symbolize growing gaps between Washington and many states.

� Maine recently became the first state to pass a law to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. It's quite different from President Bush's approach to the issue.

� It was the first state to seek a waiver from Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind education policy - and is now part of a wider rebellion on the issue.

� Prompted by federal inaction, Maine recently passed a first-in-the-nation plan to provide affordable health insurance to every resident within five years - a costly idea at a time of big state budget crises. The plan is called Dirigo Health after Maine's Latin motto, which means, "I lead."

"It's a kind of cranky independence," says former Gov. Angus King of Mainers' approach to life. He served two terms as Maine's second independent governor.

The US is a lot more than Bush and the ideologues in Washington.
Australia's Treatment Of Asylum Seekers: The View From Outside

by Julian Burnside

A speech at Parliament House, Victoria on World Refugee Day 2003

The universal declaration of human rights is the most widely accepted international convention in human history. Most countries in the world are parties to it. Article 14 of the universal declaration of human rights provides that every person has a right to seek asylum in any territory to which they can gain access. Despite that almost universally accepted norm, when a person arrives in Australia and seeks asylum, we lock them up. We lock them up indefinitely and in conditions of the utmost harshness.

The Migration Act provides for the detention of such people until they are either given a visa or removed from Australia. In practice, this means that human beings men, women and children innocent of any crime are locked up for months, and in many cases years.

They are held in conditions of shocking harshness. The United Nations Human Rights Commission has described conditions in Australia's detention centres as "offensive to human dignity". The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has described Australia's detention centres as "worse than prisons" and observed "alarming levels of self-harm". Furthermore, they have found that the detention of asylum seekers in Australia contravenes Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans arbitrary detention.

The Delegate of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner who visited Woomera in 2002 described it as "a great human tragedy". Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly criticised Australia's policy of mandatory detention and the conditions in which people are held in detention.

In short, every responsible human rights organisation in the world has condemned Australia's treatment of asylum seekers. Only the Australian government and the Australian public are untroubled by our treatment of innocent, traumatised people who seek our help.

Just for the record, the text of Article 14 reads:

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Read the whole speech. And weep.

Weird that I picked this up at Crooked Timber instead of Virulent Memes, but that's the way the blogosphere works.

Via Virulent Memes, I see that an American-Australian academic is recommending Australia merge with the U.S. This kind of suggestion comes up a lot, though for some reason the suggestion always seems to be that Australia would become the 51st state. Wouldn�t it be better if the six Australian states stayed as separate states? Not sure.

The article doesn�t mention the obvious reason this merger won�t happen any time soon. Australians aren�t about to give up universal public health insurance, and Americans aren�t about to vote to bring that in. More generally, once they hear anything about it Australians aren�t going to voluntarily become part of the American health care system. (Would anyone?) Maybe there is some way Medicare could be converted to a state-based system and keep working, but I suspect this would be an insurmountable problem in the medium term.

What�s more interesting to think about is what the consequences would be politically if Australia joined America. I�ve always thought that Australians would vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The point isn�t that Australians are particularly left-wing, it�s just that (urban) Australian conservatives seem more like right-wing Democrats than like Republicans. (By �conservatives� here I mean people who vote Liberal, not the self-labelled conservatives one sees on the op-ed pages. Some of them would be Republicans.) They believe in balanced budgets, don�t care for religious arguments in politics, have at least some sympathy for libertarian values, are pragmatists about gun control, are usually pro-choice, and so on. In other words, practically everything the DLC believes in. These people aren�t going to vote for Dennis Kucinich, or perhaps even Dick Gephardt (b/c of the union connections) but they would I think vote for Clinton, and probably Gore, much more than Bush. Obviously this is analysis is so simplistic to barely count as half-baked (maybe quarter-thawed?), but if it�s right maybe there are partisan reasons to push for a merger!

Google's number one response for weapons of mass destruction

This site has been around for some months. A friend emailed it to me back in February. Apparently it's now made it's way so far up Google's algorhythm that it comes out as their first site. Voltaire said the ancien r�gime in France was destroyed not by power but by le ridicule. Here's hoping.

16 July 2003

Tuvalu seeks mass migration

KERRY O'BRIEN: The tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu is pleading for a large-scale exemption from Australia's tough immigration laws.

Tuvalu wants to move its entire population of about 12,000 to Australia to escape an increasingly precarious existence on the coral atolls it inhabits.

The islanders fear the combination of global warming and cyclones will swamp their low-lying homeland and, with strong connections to Australia, they want to come here.

And while the Federal Government has promised help in the event of a disaster, it's not throwing out any lifelines yet.

Tuvalu's previous claim to fame was when they sold their top level domain, .tv, to Rupert Murdoch. Now they are the first small island state to propose a dramtic policy on global warming. They believe they have to leave their islands.

I guess the people of Tuvalu take global warming seriously. They do not have much choice. Already, according to the report, one of their islands has been washed away by increased storm surges and cyclonic activity.
America's Unintelligence Community

SO THE INTELLIGENCE community has provided faulty information to policy makers who then used it to justify disastrous decisions. When have I heard this story before?

Was it in 1944 when a savage Allied air war against cities was based on British intelligence assessments (disputed by some Americans) that bombing would destroy enemy ''morale''?

Or was it in 1945 when Manhattan Project intelligence, overseen by Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves, provided estimates (disputed by scientists) that the Soviet Union would not have the atomic bomb for up to 20 years?

Or was it in the 1950s when American intelligence so emphasized the monolithic character of world communism that it missed the obvious anti-Moscow nationalist fractures in Yugoslavia and China?

Or was it in 1960 when US Air Force intelligence, having seen a ''bomber gap,'' then discovered a ''missile gap,'' sparking major escalations in the arms race with the Soviet Union?

Or was it in 1968 when military intelligence, obsessed with ''body counts,'' had so exaggerated the progress of the war (counting dead women and old people as soldiers) that the Tet offensive took Washington by surprise?

Or was it in 1969 when Richard Nixon, to justify his anti-ballistic missile proposal, cited intelligence reports (disputed by the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency) that the Soviet Union was preparing to launch a first strike?

Or was it in the 1970s when US intelligence, propping up the shah of Iran, dismissed as irrelevant the tape-recorded rantings of an exiled mullah named Khomeini?

Or was it in the 1980s when, emphasizing the ''evil empire,'' American intelligence missed entirely both the internal collapse of the Soviet economy and the historic significance of the nonviolent democracy movements?

Actually, it's worse than this article suggests. Several of these intelligence failures were also dramatic policy failures such as supporting the shah, then Saddam, then anyone-but-Saddam, all in order to stabilise the Middle East. Or abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban. Or arming the jihadis in Afghanistan with Stinger missiles. Presumably the Central Asian fiasco was a way of stabilising the Middle East as well. As was invading Iraq.
Bush is a coward

On 9/11, when the nation needed leadership, Bush hid at an Air Force Base. The most protected person on the planet went into hiding, not because he was in danger, but because he is a coward. I cannot imagine another president who would have hid like that. Even the spineless Nixon would have seen it is the job of a president to go to the White House and assure the masses that everything is under control.

The Democrats seem unable to locate an issue with which to oppose Bush, most having voted for everything he's requested to date. May I suggest the truth? The single image Bush has promoted is flag-waving hero of the Republic. The evidence proves he is a coward.

Link via my increasingly incestuous relationship with This is not a blog.

14 July 2003

Return of the vulture

Vultures have been making a comeback in mainland Europe. Experts say it won't be long before we see them circling over Britain, reports Paul Brown

This is not the kind of nasty, politically-obessed blog (ploblog?) where you would read a cheap crack that the returning vultures are heading directly for the dead meat at Number 10.
snark of the week

That Iraq was lynched by Bush and Blair has become plain as a pikestaff. Take the saving of Private Jessica. Said at first to have been shot and held hostage by Iraqi doctors, and now revealed to have been in their care after a road traffic accident, her story serves as a metaphor for the mendacity so deep and treacly-black it might be an oil sump: from the 45-minute warning to the banks of the Niger and the sweepings of the internet floor.

By George Galloway, himself not unfamiliar with the impact of forged documents, writing in the Guardian.

Galloway quotes another famous snarker:

Now does he feel

his secret murders sticking on his hands;

now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach;

those he commands move only in command,

nothing in love: now does he feel his title

hang loose about him, like a giant's robe

upon a dwarfish thief.
British justice and Guant�namo

From the Guardian
The home secretary, David Blunkett, and the constitutional affairs secretary, Lord Falconer, believe that if the two alleged terrorists were returned to Britain, they may well not be sent to trial due to the way in which any evidence has been extracted from them. The decision would rest with the crown prosecution service.

Mr Blunkett leans towards trial in the US civil courts, rather than repatriation, but such a trial risks ending with the death penalty, leaving ministers without an easy option.

This is cloud cuckoo land. The US has abandoned its own human rights tradition in order to justify its conduct at Guant�namo Bay. If the Australian and UK detainees cannot be tried in their own countries that does not justify drumhead courts which, like so much of the Bush administration, give the appearance, but not the reality, of justice.
Gone to the blogs

From MaxSpeak
"A senior administration official said Bush's chief speechwriter, Michael J. Gerson, does not remember who wrote the line that has wound up causing the White House so much grief."

Not credible. A speechwriter doesn't forget unless he is told to "forget". A speechwriter KEEPS RECORDS OF DRAFTS AND CHANGES TO DRAFTS. It's called cover your ass. Presumably Mr. Gerson's memory lapse also entails considerable shredding of paper and physical destruction of hard drives. There will be no "eighteen and a half minutes of erased tape" this time.

A speechwriter forgetting a phrase like that? I lived through Watergate even if I was on the other side of the planet. I knew about Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon was my antihero. Mr President you are no Richard Nixon. He had a brain.

Link courtesy of Brad de Long

What little intelligence was new on Iraq's suspected weapons has been called into question
The various items of intelligence provided by the US and Britain are all beginning to look like vaporware. To summarise:

Nigerien yellowcake - denied by US and Australia, maintained by Britain

Activity at nuclear sites - not happening

New Scuds - not happening according to UN

Aluminium tubes - not happening

Mobile labs - not happening

Iraq/al-Qa'ida link - actively denied by UK, maintained by US and Australia

Rice said Britain was unable to share more information it has with Washington because of sensitivities surrounding the source. But Britain, like all U.N. members, is resolution-bound to share any intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs with U.N. inspectors.

Robin Cook, who resigned from Blair's Cabinet to protest the war, told the House of Commons committee that information sharing between Washington and London was so intense that it was often difficult ''to spot which raw data was originally gathered in the United Kingdom and which was originally gathered by the United States.''

Other new intelligence presented by the United States and Britain before the war included a charge that Iraq was hiding scud missiles. So far no scuds have been found, U.S. weapons hunters told The Associated Press.

The United States claimed there were signs of suspicious activity at a number of sites previously used in Iraq's former weapons program. U.N. inspectors checked those sites and found no such activity. American weapons experts have not found anything either.

U.S. claims that Iraq was trying to buy aluminum tubes for a renewed nuclear program were dismissed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and by an outside panel made up of two American nuclear physicists, two British experts and a German expert. The United States however insists the tubes were for a nuclear program.

Two mobile labs found in Iraq which the Bush administration believes were designed to be used in a biological weapons program were reviewed by three different groups of experts who couldn't agree on the trailers' use. Some State Department analysts have questioned the CIA conclusion the two truck trailers were mobile weapons labs.

Compelling evidence linking Saddam to al-Qaida also has not been confirmed. In the run-up to the war, the United States failed to convince much of the world of the ties. Most U.N. Security Council members said flatly that they didn't believe a connection existed.

A U.N. terrorism committee says it has no evidence other than Secretary of State Colin Powell's assertions in his Feb. 5 U.N. speech of any ties between al-Qaida and Iraq. And U.S. officials say American forces searching in Iraq have found no significant evidence tying Saddam's regime with Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

The US and Britain share everything, including raw intelligence. Nothing has ever been held back before in order to protect a source. Blair and Straw can rabbit on all they like about separate intelligence of the Niger claim but they haven't shared it with anyone else, not the US, not Aistralia, not the IAEA, not even their own parliament. Why is that?

We do not need to go through lists of faith-based intelligence like this. We already know from Rumsfeld what the quality of prismatic intelligence is. Oh, and we now know one more thing - these people will say and do anything to avoid admitting a mistake.
Australian describes breakdown in security
The head of Australia's agricultural team in Iraq says security has deteriorated markedly in the past few weeks, forcing Australian civilian workers to wear flak jackets and helmets, restrict their movements and cut back meetings with farmers in the countryside.

Trevor Flugge, who was in Washington for meetings with Bush Administration officials, said a shooting had occurred recently just across the street from the Agriculture Ministry where he is working.

"We are seeing sabotage to some of the utilities. We are seeing these random shooting events," he said. "Whether they are linked to something organised we don't know.

"The fact of the matter is they are occurring. So for us, as civilians, I think it is really going to change, certainly for the next month or so, the way we go about our business."

Mr Flugge said that when he first arrived in Iraq it was possible to travel extensively in the north and south of the country, meeting farmers, and his team had received a positive welcome. Now, however, the honeymoon is over.

"I must admit that the last couple of weeks things have changed. In the short term, security is going to become a fairly high priority on all of our lists."

Mr Flugge and his United States colleagues cited power failures, water shortages and lack of telephones as serious problems, but he said there was now also a new sense of fear among some Iraqis that the countries that invaded the country might pull out if the attacks continue. He echoed the views of some State Department officials and US senators that the coalition had relatively little time to stabilise the security situation.

The facts on the ground are so far from what the Pentagon and the White House proclaimed would happen it's no wonder the facts on the desk in the White House and Number 10 are so far from the truth as well. Oh well, at least we have a fair chance these difficult ideas will not reach any desk where the buck stops.
The enemy of our friend, the US, is not necessarily our enemy
The war on Iraq has arguably made the pursuit of the war on terrorism more difficult. The US has dissipated the friendship generated in September 2001. We have made ourselves the closest of allies in this war on terrorism and have supported strategies which make its achievement more difficult. America's enemies will unnecessarily become Australia's enemies.

I have a living memory of what is, for many, history. Britain was left alone with Commonwealth support for two years and five months in the war against Nazism. Britain was bankrupt and desperate but fighting with a tenacity that led to democracy's greatest victory. I do not believe America would have joined that war if Japan had not attacked Pearl Harbour. There were many who believed the US could deal with a triumphant Hitler. The US was concerned that Britain could not again be a financial power. Were it not for Pearl Harbour, America would probably have stood aloof.

If America could not see the way its interests coincided with the interests of Britain at that time, until it was forced by Japan's actions, how can we believe that the US will see its interests coincide with ours?

I do not believe that America, however benign the exercise of its current power, would necessarily use that power for Australia's protection. It has, in fact, become a fundamentalist regime believing fervently that what it judges to be right, is in fact right, and that others do not have anything much worthwhile to contribute. Such an America will not make friends.

Dean Nye, from the Kennedy School of Government, and Henry Kissinger have both conceded this point. They recognise the need for America to wrap its military power with the cloak of diplomacy, with persuasion, with respect and esteem for the views of other states.

This is not the America we deal with. This is perhaps emphasised in the presidential order establishing military tribunals which makes it clear that the US expects any country to give up any person the US believes to be covered by the order. From that point of view it makes no difference whether Hicks is in Guantanamo Bay or walking free in Sydney.

Such a presumption should make us more cautious. The US is not prepared to comply with international law carefully drafted and supported by legal authorities from many countries. It is prepared to assert and, I believe, to enforce its law well beyond normal US jurisdiction if it perceives it to be in America's interests.

Do we really serve Australia's interests by such uncritical support and by such an apparent loss of our own sense of purpose and independence?

Malcolm Fraser has come a long way since he lost the prime ministership in 1983. John Howard and Attorney-General Darryl Williams would do well to listen to him instead of dribbling out spin like the claim that Hicks has confessed when that confession would not be accepted in any Australian court. They would also do well to confess that Hicks probably cannot be successfully prosecuted in any Australian court because none of the so-called evidence collected in Guant�namo Bay would be acceptable under Australian law.

13 July 2003

Nigerien yellowcake claim was pulled from a Bush speech last October
There is evidence that there was concern in the C.I.A. about the credibility of the uranium information and that those doubts reached at least some White House officials months before the State of the Union address. Administration officials involved in drafting another speech Mr. Bush gave about Iraq, in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, said that at the C.I.A.'s behest, they had removed any mention of the central piece of intelligence about African uranium � a report about an effort by Iraq to obtain "yellowcake," which contains uranium ore, in Niger. No one has fully explained how, given that early October warning to the White House, a version of the same charge resurfaced in the early drafts of the State of the Union address just three months later, and stayed there, draft after draft.

I guess they must be forgetful types at the White House. If the Nigerien claim was known to be suspect in October how had they managed to forget that by January?
the real numbers who support the war
I've used US data only because I cannot find a poll in quite the same terms in Australia. According to the Washington Post at end of June:

The survey also suggests that the fog of war extended far beyond the Iraq battlefield. About one in four Americans incorrectly believes Iraq used chemical or biological weapons against U.S. forces during the conflict. Slightly more than six in 10 said Iraq had not, while the remainder weren't sure.

We can assume there would be few if any citizens who believed the nonfact of WMD use and opposed the war. The same article cites US support for the war at 67%. If you subtracted the 25% whose decision is grounded on a nonfact then the level of popular support starts looking fairly shaky.

The dramatic dip in Bush's numbers and in Blair's suggests that popular support was never all that deep and can be expected to continue eroding quite dramatically in light of the collapsing and contradictory stories coming out of Canberra, London and Washington. Sometime soon, for example, someone in the tradmedia is going to ask why Blair has not shared with Bush the slamdunk Niger vidence he claims to possess.