2 August 2003

Negro emancipation:
Saturday August 2, 1834

How the declaration was published

Throughout the British dominions the sun no longer rises on a slave. Yesterday was the day from which the emancipation of all our slave population commences; and we trust the great change by which they are elevated to the rank of freemen will be found to have passed into effect in the manner most accordant with the benevolent spirit in which it was decreed, most consistent with the interests of those for whose benefit it was primarily intended, and most calculated to put an end to the apprehensions under which it was hardly to be expected that the planters could fail to labour as the moment of its consummation approaches. We shall await anxiously the arrivals from the West Indies that will bring advices to a date subsequent to the present time."

Slavery, 169 years later, is still a major scourge.

For many people, this is the image that comes to mind when they hear the word slavery. We think of the buying and selling of people, their shipment from one continent to another and the abolition of the trade in the early 1800s. Even if we know nothing about the slave trade, it is something we think of as part of our history rather than our present. But the reality is slavery continues TODAY.

Millions of men, women and children around the world are forced to lead lives as slaves. Although this exploitation is often not called slavery, the conditions are the same. People are sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and are at the mercy of their 'employers'.

Slavery exists today despite the fact that it is banned in most of the countries where it is practised. It is also prohibited by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery. Women from eastern Europe are bonded into prostitution, children are trafficked between West African countries and men are forced to work as slaves on Brazilian agricultural estates. Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, sex and race.

Slavery's continuing existence in the 21st century affronts the human rights and dignity of everyone on this planet.
Asia Times - Australia joins US strategic revolution:
Therefore Canberra's decision suggests that finally at least some governments have understood that distant threats such as those in the Solomon Islands constitute a threat to international or at least regional security that must be dealt with expeditiously. Otherwise they can grow into phenomena like al-Qaeda and the Taliban or the Bali bombing and other terrorist examples, even leaving aside September 11. The justification of preventive action to forestall crises, ie genuine crisis prevention, undertaken by regionally powerful states who can assemble political-military support for their actions may prove to be a precedent that is usable beyond this case in other troubled areas. This precedent is unlikely to be a perfect solution to all the many examples of state failure, civic violence etc. But in the absence of effective multilateralism and given the UN's inability to function as a peacemaker or peacekeeper without great power support from all members of he Security Council, the Australian precedent could mark a step forward in international security, not to mention the 'war against terrorism'.

While Australia's new regional strategy is therefore clearly inspired by the US example and precedent, it also can serve as a precedent and example for other states facing this kind of security threat. And it can bring about genuine crisis prevention in a host of areas lest more such examples soon emerge. While this may not be a prefect solution to the problems of failing states, until and unless a better solution comes about, it may be the most effective one that we currently can devise. And in that respect it could actually mark a step forward in the construction of a stable international order. "

In short, I could not disagree more. The right to protect sets out 6 characteristics of international humanitarian intervention. They are:

  • just cause

  • precautionary principles

    • right intention

    • last resort

    • proportional means

    • reasonable prospects

  • right authority

The Solomons intervention is at the request of the Solomons government and parliament. There is no need for UN authority because the Solomons has itself requested and consented to the intervention, so the question of right authority does not arise as it does in Iraq. I would argue that the question of reasonable prospects and last resort damn the Iraq intervention even before you look at right authority.

Despite some slight vapourings on the subject by members of the Australian government the Solomons intervention cannot be conflated with Iraq. New Zealand and other Pacific Forum nations actually sought and got an undertaking from Australia that there would be no claim by Australia that the Solomons intervention justifies any pre-emptive war without UN sanction.

1 August 2003

Hijack alert based on one al-Qaeda source:

The warning that terrorists might try to hijack aircraft originating from Australia to attack the United States came from a single al-Qaeda operative only recently arrested and interrogated by US agencies.

Government sources have told the Herald the Americans passed on the news to Australian intelligence agencies in the middle of last week, but that ASIO had been against making it public because it saw the information as a 'single piece of intelligence which remained untested'.

But it privately briefed Qantas, a number of other airlines and the Australian Federal Police on the matter late last week.

Last night CNN named the source as Ali Abd al-Rahman al Faqasi al-Ghamdi (also known as Abu Bakr al-Azdi). He was one of the key organisers of the May suicide bombings in Riyadh.

It remains unclear if the idea of striking the US using aircraft hijacked from countries such as Australia, Italy and Britain was simply 'an idea in the operative's head', or if it had progressed to a planning stage, Government sources said. This would emerge from further interrogations.

However, the information was significant because it revealed al-Qaeda continued to see aircraft as targets, and that it had been testing airline security by seeking to adapt as weapons 'everyday items' , such as cameras, which passengers were still allowed to carry on to planes.

It is understood that ASIO and other Australian agencies were caught by surprise when the US embassy in Canberra advised them on Monday night, local time, that the US Homeland Security Department had issued the memo nominating Australia as a possible 'attack venue'.

ASIO immediately advised the Americans that it regarded the wording as inaccurate, and that the intelligence identified Australia as a possible launch-site for an attack rather than a target."

I've stayed with this story all day because the breaking shifts and changes exemplify a whole lot that is wrong with the War on Terror. The treatment of intelligence by Australia and the US throughout this exercise was more about the domestic impacts of the threat any assessment than any actual threat. The raw intelligence proves to be one individual. The raw intelligence is treated very differently in the two nations. In the US a heightened threat is an excellent technique for taking the heat off the administration. In Australia it's bad for the tourist business and reflects on the government's preparedness so suddenly our intelligence people are prepared to question this in a way they never questioned the Iraq assessment.

The most interesting thing is that our director-general of intelligence and security is suddenly in public disagreement with their department of homeland security and has questioned their comeptence. I cannot recall that ever happening before.

31 July 2003

US admits bungling warning, Australia threat downgraded:
The United States today admitted it bungled a security warning that listed Australia as a potential target for al-Qaeda hijackers.

The US Department of Homeland Security said it would revise the advisory, downgrading the threat to Australia.

Australia would still be listed as a possible boarding point for al-Qaeda hijackers and bombers heading to the US but the country would no longer be listed as a potential target.

The reversal came after Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director general Dennis Richardson, Attorney-General Daryl Williams and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer all said the US warning was wrong.

'They clearly did make a mistake, and they've rectified that mistake, or are in the process of rectifying that mistake,' Mr Downer said.

Mr Williams said both the Department of Homeland Security and the US State Department had indicated a correction would be issued.

Early this morning Department of Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said there would be no revision to the warning but later changed his stand to say a revised statement would be forthcoming.

'The US Government had not realised the language it used was not specific enough and would cause confusion in Australia,' the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement, reported by the ABC. "

Remember these people are our closest allies and provided the indubitable intelligence on the basis of which the Howard government committed us to war. If an election had been on the horizon, and there'd been no threat to our travel industry, I wonder if the government would have been as quick to check and verify?

US terror warning a blunder, says spy chief:
Dennis Richardson, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), said the warning issued by the US Department of Homeland Security did not accurately reflect the available intelligence.

'The central point here is that threat advisories, whether they go to industry or whether they go to anywhere else, must accurately reflect the intelligence on which they are based,' he told reporters.

'Unfortunately the threat advisory issued by the (US) Department of Homeland Security in so far as it referred to Australia, did not accurately reflect the intelligence which was available to that department.

'I think it was probably an honest bureaucratic mistake.

'It is not a case of interpretation.

'It is simply a question of fact.

'The intelligence on which that threat advisory was based did not refer to Australia as being a target.

'It referred to Australia as being a point of origin.'

A pity the ASIO DG did not follow his own strict tests with respect to WMD intelligence received from the US and Britain.
US clarifies terrorism warning. 31/07/2003. ABC News Online:
The Australian Government is pushing ahead with plans to put sky marshals on some international flights.

So far those air marshals have operated on domestic flights, but Mr Williams has said today that Australia is now negotiating with authorities in the United States and Singapore to put air marshals onto selected international flights."

I would have thought that putting senior ADF commanders on planes was a bit silly. Why would we send Air Marshals to Singapore? And which ones? Are we sending Air Marshal Allan (Angus) Grant Houston, AO, AFC, the Chief of Air Force? Air Vice-Marshal Christopher Spence, AM, the Deputy Chief of Air Force?

US standing by Australian terror warning:
Spy agency ASIO has briefed airlines and airports about the US warning and Qantas said it was in regular contact with intelligence and security organisations.

In the US today, President George W Bush said there was a 'real threat' of new al-Qaeda attacks.

'The threat is a real threat ... We don't know when, where, what,' he said at a news conference.

'We have got some data that indicates that they would like to use flights, international flights for example. I'm confident we will thwart the attempts.'

Mr Downer said it was unlikely flights from Australia would be used for terrorist attacks in the US or Europe because Australia was so far away.

'If you were to hijack an aircraft in Australia and fly it all that way it would have to refuel on the way, it would be a complicated situation,' Mr Downer said.

'Seems to me on the face of it, a little unlikely that Australia would be the ideal source.'

Mr Downer said Australia had a high level of airline security, with air marshals travelling on many flights and baggage being carefully screened at airports.

'Ever since September 11 2001 we've increased very substantially the degree of security for aircraft going overseas, as well as domestically,' he said."

How quickly they turn. As soon as the domestic needs of the two governments diverge, suddenly Australia and the US do not agree on aviation intelligence nearly as much as they do on the WMDs. On the other hand, I find it more than faintly worrying that I am in agreement with Lord Downer of Baghdad.

The US claim is that planes might be hijacked in Australia for suicide attacks on the US east coast. They do not say whether the hijacked planes would be flown to the US east coast via Europe (flight time around 30 hours) or by way of the US west coast (only around 22 hours but it does involve overflying the entire continental US. With lead times like that even the Bush administration could possibly get its air defence system working in time to intercept. They could even get Air Force One and George Bush safely aloft and still scramble interceptors.

more fleeing legislators!
Just in case you'd missed the story that the Texas legislature is again debating a redistribution and that Texas legislators (democrat senators this time) have again fled the state, here's the latest from Talking Points:
In any case, without the ability to use the state police, Republican state officials are now considering sending bounty-hunters across state lines to bring them back -- an idea you can certainly understand since bounty-hunters are such an upstanding and constitutionally-minded group of characters. Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) has helpfully obliged by issuing an opinion okaying the bounty hunter idea.

Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, has provided the Dems with a state police detail to protect them and, reportedly, has vowed to press kidnapping charges against any bounty hunters who try to take them into custody.

One issue that's exciting opinion in the US is the legitimacy or otherwise of redistributing more frequently than after each decennial census. The electoral map the Republicans are promoting seems partisan and unfair, but I think the underlying problem is worse. Australia redistributes federal seats whenever:

the number of parliamentary representatives to which a State or Territory is entitled has changed (see population quota);

the number of electors in more than one third of the divisions in a State or one of the divisions in the ACT deviates from the average divisional enrolment by over 10% in three consecutive months; or

a period of 7 years has elapsed since the previous redistribution.

Note that redistributions happen when the number of voters changes, not at artifially-fixed intervals. Note also the process is controlled by an independent, neutral and professional electoral commission. The US adopted the Australian ballot from us. Adopting the Australian redistribution might be a good idea as well.

Terrorist hijackers target Australia:
Australia has been targeted by al-Qaeda as a potential 'point of origin' for hijacking international flights, which United States intelligence agencies believe may form part of a new wave of September 11-style attacks.

The warning will be included in a new security alert from the US Government and will correct a blunder made in an earlier memo from the US Department of Homeland Security, widely reported yesterday, listing Australia as a possible 'attack venue' of such al-Qaeda strikes.

The new advice suggests that Australia could be a take-off point for suicide attacks, using commercial aircraft, on other countries.

The Australian Government initially responded to the reports yesterday by saying that the first memo was wrong and that it had been advised 'the US is correcting that information, and will be issuing a new threat advisory shortly'.

'The intelligence on which the US threat advisory is based did not refer to Australia as a possible site for an attack,' a spokeswoman for the Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, said yesterday.

It was only later that government sources confirmed that the new clarified US security alert would list Australia instead as a potential 'point of origin'.

The Opposition called yesterday's confusion 'an extraordinary series of contradictory events'.

Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, said it didn't 'exactly inspire confidence in the Howard Government's handling of sensitive national security matters'."

I am alert, but not alarmed. Let's imagine it's a busy Friday at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. QF11 departs SYD for LAX at 1400. At 1420 the signal from QF11's IFF transponder beacon stops transmitting. At 1905 New Zealand time the tower at AKL reports that they are getting no response from the pilot and that the transponder is still switched off. After an emergency trans-Tasman conversation Prime Ministers Howard and Clark agree that they need to speak to President Bush immediately. Bush is greeted in the White House situation room by his chief of staff:

'What are our options?'

'The hijacked flight will reach US airspace in around 9 hours, Mr President.'

'My God! Can we get a message to NORAD in that time?'

'We can try, Mr President...'

Good news from ozone layer - smh.com.au:
The hole in the ozone layer can be seen in the dark-blue areas in this image of Earth, but the problem appears to be easing in the upper stratosphere.

Ozone destruction in the upper atmosphere has begun to slow - a first sign that the international ban on emissions of chlorofluorocarbons is working.

The good news for the protective ozone layer was discovered by researchers analysing measurements made by three NASA satellites over the past 20 years.

The team leader, Michael Newchurch, of the University of Alabama, said the recent changes they had observed were small but important. 'This is the beginning of a recovery of the ozone layer. We had a monumental problem of global scale that we have started to resolve.'

He said the findings, to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, meant the ban on CFCs and other halogenated hydrocarbons should continue.

Scientists had known from research in Australia and overseas that phasing out these chemicals from 1989 had already led to a slowdown in the accumulation of chlorine in the atmosphere. But the satellite study is the first to observe an associated reduction in ozone depletion."

Envirotreaties do work. Stopping greenhouse would be harder but it can be done. Pity the Bush administration thinks otherwise.

29 July 2003

Asia Times - The day irony failed:
During the predawn hours in Manila on�Sunday, disgruntled junior officers of the Philippine armed forces seized a shopping and residential complex in the fashionable Makati district. Their act not only spotlighted the soldiers' grievances against the regime of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but it focused attention on how badly the sense of irony fails today's leaders, news media, and, apparently, those of us who abet and tolerate those failures.

The 20-hour standoff brought an outpouring of endorsements for the loyalists. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer expressed his nation's support for the 'democratically elected government of the president of the Philippines'.

That declaration must've come as quite a shock to Joseph Estrada, winner of the Philippines' most recent presidential election, in his prison cell, particularly given Australia's previous reticence regarding Estrada's two-and-a-half-year confinement.

Similarly, Singapore's Foreign Ministry declared, 'The resort to unconstitutional means by the rebels is unacceptable.' That statement would have been far more apt at the time of the 'People Power II' demonstrations and military maneuvers against Estrada, such as fighter jets buzzing Malacanang Palace, that brought Arroyo to the presidency. Those events also confirmed that following the constitution is hardly a reliable path to power in the Philippines: of the country's last five presidents, only Fidel Ramos entered office via election and left at the end of his legal term. "

I'd count President Aquino among those elected to office but the point is well-made. Thailand and South Korea have got past the coup as the sole method of changing government or even proposing reforms.
Argentina takes step toward cleaning up 'Dirty War' | csmonitor.com:

BUENOS AIRES The former Navy officer's dashing white dress suit is long gone. But Alfredo Astiz retains enough of his youthful good looks for Argentines to instantly recognize him as he was led from a courtroom in handcuffs last Friday.

Justice finally looks to be catching up with Mr. Astiz. Twenty years after Argentina's return to democracy, Astiz remains for many the public face of Argentina's military death squads, which human rights groups say were responsible for the disappearance of up to 30,000 people during the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

For years, Astiz and other former officers accused of human rights abuses have been protected by a series of amnesty laws passed in the face of pressure from the military in the years following the return to democracy in 1983.

But all that changed Friday when Argentina's new president, Nestor Kirchner, annulled a decree forbidding extradition of former military men to stand trial abroad for crimes committed in Argentina. Many here hope that Mr. Kirchner's move is just the first step in rolling back all the legislation that has protected the former officers, including amnesty from trials in Argentine courts.

Among the crimes Astiz is accused of is the disappearance of three of the founding members of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group formed during military rule to pressure the Army for information about their missing loved ones.

France has wanted to extradite Astiz since 1990 when a French court sentenced him in absentia to life in prison for his role in the disappearance of two French nuns in Argentina. Sweden also wants him in connection with the 1977 killing of Swedish teenager. Since Friday's ruling, he has not responded publicly.

Since the president's move, more than 40 other former officers have been arrested along with Astiz. Spain has issued extradition warrants for men who committed crimes against Spanish nationals. Among those being held is former dictator Jorge Vidal.

Kirchner, who was detained briefly during military rule, has actively identified himself with the 'disappeared generation.' One of his first acts upon taking power at the end of May was to purge the military of generals whose attitude he considered ambivalent toward the Army's role in the 'Dirty War.'

He told The Washington Post on his trip to the US last week that he was in favor of repealing the laws protecting the military from Argentine courts, though he does not have the power to repeal them himself."

If, at the time the Dirty War was happening in Argentina and elsewhere in the Southern Cone, you'd ever suggested the US would begin disappearing citizens and noncitizens under presidential decrees that could not be reviewed by the courts then you'd have been laughed at. And rightly so. The US is not Argentina. No US president would ever do such things...

The Dirty War was an utter failure. The economy did not advance. The opposition to military rule was not destroyed. The only permanent effect of the Dirty War was the entrenchment of civilian rule.

Ultimately the Bush administration will fail for the same reasons. Letting a self-indulgent national leader do whatever he likes is a recipe for chaos, not efficiency.

28 July 2003

Iran holds Al Qaeda's top leaders | csmonitor.com
"The Tehran government is holding several top-level Al Qaeda operatives that, experts say, could lead to the biggest breakthrough in curtailing the organization since the fall of Afghanistan.

Though the Iranians haven't mentioned any names, intelligence officials and press reports indicate they've captured Saad bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's son, who has assumed a leadership role; Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the Al Qaeda spokesman; and Saif al-Adel, the latest No. 3 who is believed to be in charge of military operations.

Even more significant, according to one Western intelligence official, Tehran is also holding Al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is known as an Islamic fundamentalist intellectual and eloquent speaker for the organization. While some US intelligence sources have expressed doubt that Iran really has Dr. Zawahiri, the European official says Tehran 'absolutely' has him.

If so, his capture, along with that of the other top members, would deal a major blow to the terrorist network. 'Zawahiri would be an incredible blow,' says Stanley Bedlington, a former senior analyst in the CIA's counterterrorism center. 'All four of them would be a tremendous blow.... Al Qaeda will continue to rebuild, but it will take a lot of time to get new leadership with those sorts of skills and experience.'

Whether Iran will hand them over is another question. The senior Western intelligence official says a European country is involved in negotiating some kind of turnover now. It would be difficult for Iran to directly turn them over to the US for the obvious political considerations: It is an Islamic country named as both a sponsor of terrorism and a member of the 'axis of evil' by the US.

Moreover, the US accuses Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and is pressuring it to stop. Conversely, Iran would like the US to stop supporting Mujahideen e-Khalq, a group that opposes the Iranian regime and operates freely in the US."

If it's confirmed, this will be fantastic news. The diplomatic results are going to be very strange. Iran has signed, but not yet ratified, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Iran might prefer surrendering these people for trial by the ICC rather than the rough justice handed out in the US. They might even ask for deletion from the axis of evil.

Niger hits back over uranium claim

The prime minister of the west African state of Niger has challenged Tony Blair to produce evidence for his controversial claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium there.

"If Britain has evidence to support its claim then it has only to produce it for everybody to see," said Prime Minister Hama Hamadou in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

Mr Blair has stuck by the claim, first made public in a British Government dossier, that Iraq tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from Niger, even though the allegation has been widely discredited.

The Bush administration has said it was a mistake for the claim to have been included in the key presidential State of the Union address in January.

The head of the CIA and a senior national security adviser have taken the blame for allowing the allegation to be included in the address, despite the CIA's long-held doubts about its credibility.

The UN has said that the claim was based on forged documents but the UK says it has a different source which substantiates the claim.

"We were the first African country to send soldiers to fight against Saddam after the invasion of Kuwait in 1991," Mr Hamadou said.

"Would we really send material to somebody whom we had fought against and who could destroy half the world with a nuclear bomb? It's unthinkable".

He told the newspaper his government had not received any formal accusation of involvement with Saddam, saying that the row had its roots in the battle for public opinion in the UK and the US.

"We cannot get involved in the politics of the world's most powerful nations. We are a poor country. Our uranium is tightly controlled and our priorities are to produce enough food to feed our people and provide education for all of our children," he said.

But he said the row would not affect Niger's reputation.

"Everybody know s that the claims are untrue," he told the paper.

"We have survived famine in Niger. We can survive this".

Nough said, really.

27 July 2003

Allies of ex-president Estrada 'behind coup plot:

"Manila: Allies of deposed Philippine president Joseph Estrada may be behind the coup plot against his successor, President Gloria Arroyo, a senior military official said today.

Military spokesman Lieutenant General Rodolfo Garcia said that 'we do not want to believe it yet but there is information which we are verifying that (the plotters) are connected with the Estrada group'.

He refused to elaborate, saying, 'I would not name names at this point.'

Earlier, in exposing the coup plot, Arroyo warned 'unscrupulous politicians who exploit the messianic complex of these officers for their naked ambitions'.

Defence Secretary Angelo Reyes said, 'there are some people who would want to work behind the scenes, controlling or manipulating (the officers) - taking advantage of their youth and lack of experience', to mount this coup.

Whether Estrada is really involved does not make all that much difference. At the time of writing about 50 of the mutineers have surrendered, the hostages have been released and there is little sign of the coup succeeding.

United Press International: White House 'delayed 9-11 report':

"Although the committee completed its work at the end of last year, publication of the report has been delayed by what one committee staffer called 'vigorous discussion' with administration officials over which parts of it could be declassified.

The 800-page report -- 50 pages of which were censored to protect still-classified information -- was published Thursday.

It is a litany of poor management, bad communication and flawed policy that enabled the 19 hijackers to carry out their deadly plan. Failures by the CIA, the FBI and the super-secret National Security Agency are catalogued.

Many of the censored pages concern the question of support for al-Qaida from foreign countries. Anonymous officials have told news organizations that much of the still-classified material concerns Saudi Arabia, and the question of whether Saudi officials -- perhaps acting as rogue agents -- assisted the 19 men, 15 of whom were Saudis.

Inquiry staff would not comment to UPI about the issue, but one did say that the section contained references to 'more one country.'

Prior to the report's publication, a person who had read it told UPI that it showed U.S. intelligence agencies had no evidence linking Iraq to the 9-11 attacks or to al-Qaida. In fact, the issue is not addressed in the declassified sections of the report.

One other person who has seen the classified version of the document told UPI subsequently that the Iraq issue is not addressed in the still-classified section, either. 'They didn't ask that question,' the person said"

This story has now been through several versions as noted previously.
Ghost of al-Qaeda left out of story
The claims that the Washington administration made for an al-Qaeda/Saddam link were based on three broad elements. The first was that a Jordanian 'bin Laden associate' called Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had sheltered in Baghdad after fleeing the American onslaught in Afghanistan. Al-Zarqawi was indeed in Iraq but was not, as a thick sheaf of reports of interrogations of his close associates open on my desk make clear, an ally of bin Laden. His group, al-Tauheed, was actually set up in competition to that of the Saudi. To lump them together is either a wilful misrepresentation or reveals profound ignorance about the nature of modern Islamic militancy. Either way, there's no link there. Nor has any evidence for one surfaced since the end of the war.

The second claim linked al-Qaeda and Saddam through the militant group called Ansar-ul-Islam that was based in the north of Iraq. Ansar certainly had ties to bin Laden - its followers received money and training from the Saudi in 2001 and provided a safe haven for at least 100 of his fighters in 2002 - but they had no connection to Baghdad. In fact they were based in the part of Iraq outside Baghdad's control.

The third claim was that al-Qaeda and Saddam had 'had contacts', since 1998 if not earlier. Bin Laden did send representatives to talk to an emissary of the Iraqi leader who arrived in Afghanistan in the autumn of that year. But he rejected the overtures of the munafiq (faithless hypocrite) dictator. Once more nothing has surfaced, other than documents showing further attempts by Baghdad to woo al-Qaeda, that proves any 'alliance'.

It was further claimed that an Iraqi diplomat had met Mohammed Atta, the best known of the hijackers, in Prague before the attacks. That official is now in American custody. Again, there has been no word yet to substantiate the previous claim.

Instead the congressional report fingers Saudi Arabia, the ruling family of which has hitherto been a key US ally. The report indicates that some officials in Riyadh are likely to have colluded with the hijackers, three quarters of whom were Saudi, at certain stages. The report also alleges, not unfairly, that the massive support for, and export of, radical conservative strands of Islam by the Saudi establishment was - and is - a key element in creating the conditions for Islamic terrorism.

I am still collating each mention of 'Iraq' or 'Saddam' in the document. If Saddam was associated with the 11 September attack you would surely expect some discussion of that, and it's just not there. It's not just missing from the joint inquiry's conclusions, it appears to be missing from what the Bush administration gave the committee as well.