17 January 2004

Hotter summers, fewer frosts for Australia

Up to 15% less rainfall is expected in the south and east by 2030, especially in winter and spring. In the southwest, rainfall may decline by up to 20%. This is likely to be associated with more droughts.

'With likely increases in evaporation this means drier conditions in future, with reduced water supply and greater water demand. In the southwest, rainfall has already decreased by about 20% since the mid-1970s,' he says.

Australia has already warmed by about 0.8% since 1950. 'This doesn't sound like much but it has been associated with an increase in extremely hot days and hot nights, and a decrease in extremely cold days and cold nights,' says Mr Hennessy.

The Bureau of Meteorology recently announced that 2003 was Australia's 6th warmest year since 1910, with the global average temperature being the 3rd warmest since 1861. The hottest year, both globally and in Australia, was 1998.

The impacts of changes in climate are widespread, says Mr Hennessy. 'Hotter and drier conditions would lead to greater fire risk, more heat stress for humans, crops and livestock, greater energy demand for air conditioning. But there will also be less energy demand for winter heating and less frost damage, so there will be winners and losers.'

He says strategies to adapt to climate change include water demand management (for example, restrictions and recycling), breeding and selection of heat-tolerant and drought-tolerant crops, adjusting cropping calendars to take advantage of a longer frost-free period, more shade and water for livestock, and heat-smart buildings.

'However, some animals and plants may be highly vulnerable to climate change, with limited options for adaptation. For example, coral reefs are likely to experience more bleaching, and some Western Australian frogs and east Australian alpine mammals will find their habitats shrinking as the temperature rises.'

Gee, I'm glad the earth isn't warming.

16 January 2004

He cannot tell a lie

O'Neill's revelations have not been met by any factual rebuttal. Instead, they have been greeted with anonymous character assassination from a 'senior official': 'Nobody listened to him when he was in office. Why should anybody now?' Then the White House announced that O'Neill was under investigation for abusing classified documents, though he claimed they were not and the White House had eagerly shoveled carefully edited NSC documents to Woodward.

Quietly, O'Neill and his publisher have prepared an irrefutable response. Soon they will post every one of the 19,000 documents underlying the book on the Internet. The story will not be calmed.

Wow, it seems O'Neill is determined not just to spill his guts but to make the result accessible to the whole world.

Bush's self-serving Iraqi timetable

The difficult challenge facing the CPA is to help the Iraqis create a constitution that fairly and democratically balances the role of the Shi'ite majority with the Sunni and Kurdish minorities. The agreed on solution must be acceptable to Iraq's neighbors and be granted legitimacy by the United Nations if it is to endure. The design of the fundamental law and the method chosen to form the transitional national assembly are critically important to this total process because they will establish precedents for representative government in Iraq.

The Bush administration, wrongly focused on a speedy transfer of sovereignty to a friendly Iraqi government, has its priorities upside down. The real priority in Iraq today is an electoral process that ensures a legitimate government, valid in the eyes of Iraqis and the rest of the world.

The White House is concerned a summer of electioneering in Iraq, followed by elections in the weeks before the US presidential election, could reinforce the American public's image of conflict and confusion in Iraq, making it difficult for President George W Bush to declare victory in what has become the central issue of his presidency. On the contrary, Washington 's real concern should be that a hasty turnover of power next July to whatever slapdash body is formed could result in civil war by November.

What needs to be done? The declared goal of the Bush administration is to create in Iraq the most democratic government in the Arab world. To achieve this goal, the occupation authorities need to listen to all Iraqis, involving as many as possible in the creation of a durable democratic system. This means forming alliances with moderate Shi'ite groups, reconstituting Iraqi army units, involving the international community, and organizing elections for a provisional government.

The sooner the IGC is replaced by a more representative, independent and legitimate government, the better. If the Bush administration takes the time to do the job right, Bush might just end up with the victory in Iraq he so desperately wants - and needs, in spite of himself.

The article is out of date because the IGC has already issued a decree revoking Saddam's secular legislation and giving legal control of personal status to the different confessional groups in Iraq, so in a sense al-Sistani's Shari'a demand has already been met. My guess is that the transitional constitution will follow the Afghan precedent and further enhance the status of Shari'a.

The caucus system is not an election and will produce a government very like the feeble RVN governments which shattered US efforts in Vietnam. The first line of this extract is wrong. The new Iraqi constitution is not a CPA problem but a challenge for the Iraqi people. Smoke-and-mirrors may persuade the American electorate but the constitution will be a piece of paper unless it enjoys popular support.

The risk in the caucus plan is obvious to anyone, especially when the Iraqi interior ministry says it could produce a national electoral roll by September. There can be only one explanation for its adoption - the moral obscurity of the Bush administration.

Change of mind

Senator Jan McLucas, chairwoman of the Senate select committee inquiry into Medicare which is due to report when Parliament resumes this year, says she has had submissions from several allied health professions seeking access to the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

'The [psychologist's] submission was compelling ... but it was the view of the committee that it was extremely difficult to identify which service could be included [in Medicare], in the knowledge that all couldn't, due to funding restraints,' McLucas told the Herald. 'The difficulty ... is trying to pick where you apply scarce health dollars.'

Also in the 'no' camp is the Australian Medical Association, which in November last year decided to maintain its position of not supporting the extension of Medicare to any 'non-medical' group such as psychologists.

The two big gaps in Medicare coverage are dentists and clinical psychologists.

Oral health, as we know from recent research, is critical to general health, especially to preventing cardiovascular disease. The Senate committee argues that the health of the nation is crucial to economic performance and that this is the underlying principle of Medicare. It should follow that it is better to cover dental and clinical psychological services, if only for their preventive value. Australia is unusual in the pattern of psychological services because expensive psychiatrists can bill Medicare, but cheaper clinical psychologists cannot.

I am chasing down some information about exercise therapists and I'll add that when I can. The ADA put in a submission arguing for at least concessional coverage. The APA asked for clinical psychs to be given access to the Medicare billing system. The AMA put in its customary closed shop submission.

The Senate committee could do worse than going with the ADA/APA position.

15 January 2004

Plan 3 From Outer Space: The Bush Budget Switch

There is essentially no possibility of squeezing this kind of money out of the existing manned programs. There can't be any significant scale back in Shuttle or Station in the FY05-09 time frame, because we will still be assembling the Station. Possibly there will be some small reduction in the Shuttle flight rate from the former 5/yr. But as NASA never tires of mentioning, cutting back the flight rate of Shuttle doesn't save a lot because the marching army of support people have to be kept on salary anyway. Implementing the CAIB recommendations will increase cost and staffing levels, not reduce them. Maybe they can save some money by letting VAB and the rest of LC-39 decay away, but not very much.

So there is really no alternative to cutting over $2B/yr out of the non-manned-space half of NASA's budget. That's a ~%35 cut if you assume it is equally distributed over the five years 2005-2009!! If it is ramped in like most big budget cuts, the final cut by 2009 would be much larger. Goodbye aeronautical research, goodbye Webb Space Telescope, goodbye planetary probes to boring places like asteroids.

Do we really want to trade all this in for Apollo Mark II? A lot of people will say no. Even a lot of Space Cadets will say no. We lost ten years of solar system exploration to pay for the Shuttle and it left a bloody wound that still drips. A lot of influential people will fight this proposal to the last round, and then fix bayonets and keep on fighting until it is defeated.

The Shuttle was cut to the bone throughout its development and the tragedies that followed reflect that. Cutting it further is literally impossible if any shuttle is ever to fly again. Abandoning the Shuttle would mean abandoning the International Space Station as well. Bush I proposed a similar plan at a cost of US500 billion. I have not been tracking US inflation since 1989 but I doubt it has deflated half a trillion dollars to just over one hundredth of a trillion dollars.

The Bush plan, then, is (surprise!) a severe budget cut to the unmanned space program, far the most productive NASA activity, in favour of a goal that can only succeed at least 7 years after Bush leaves office (if he is re-elected next year). I hesitate to call a space program so much air, but what choice do I have?

Ocean Floor Reveals Clues To Global Warming

Scientists at the University of Wyoming may have discovered how massive amounts of carbon enter the atmosphere during periods of global warming.

In a paper published Jan. 8 in the journal Nature, UW Department of Geology and Geophysics graduate student Matthew Hornbach and professors Demian Saffer and Steve Holbrook propose that the source of the carbon is methane gas found beneath methane hydrate -- an ice-like substance consisting of frozen methane and water. Methane hydrate exists in vast quantities beneath the ocean floor and is believed to constitute the largest reservoir of organic carbon on Earth.

As far as I know no cute dinosaurs were harmed in the course of this study, but others might have better information.

next to of course god america i... (III) - Poem by e. e. cummings

'next to of course god america i

love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh

say can you see by the dawn's early my

country tis of centuries come and go

and are no more what of it we should worry

in every language even deafanddumb

thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry

by jingo by gee by gosh by gum

why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-

iful than these heroic happy dead

who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter

they did not stop to think they died instead

then shall the voice of liberty be mute?'

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

Dead comments society

BlogSpeak will be back up by this weekend, maybe. Tino has set me up with hosting, however I don't know if it will work the way I need it to. HaloScan has offered to pick up the hosting, and transfer everyone's comments to their system.

Commenting will be back up as soon as BlogSpeak is. It's an excellent service and I'd prefer to stay with it. Thanks to the people who emailed me about the missing comments.

NSW electoral distribution under the microscope

The independent body set up to draw the new boundaries is the Electoral Districts Commission. The current review is chaired by retired judge the Honourable Jerrold Cripps QC and by statute the commission also includes the NSW Electoral Commissioner John Wasson, and the State's surveyor-general Warwick Watkins.

The overriding task of the commissioners is to ensure equality of enrolment between electorates. Enrolment in all new electorates must be within a 10 per cent of the state average. A second tighter restriction also applies to projected enrolments. Boundaries must be drawn so that at the time of the next election, all new electorates will have predicted enrolment within 3 per cent of the average.

After meeting these numerical restrictions, the commissioners must take into account community of interests arguments, including economic, social and regional interests; means of communication and travel within the electoral district; the physical features and area of the electoral district; mountain and other natural boundaries; and the boundaries of the existing electoral districts.

In New South Wales, the state's electoral geography offers huge scope for parties to gain political advantage. No other state has industrial centres the size of Newcastle and Wollongong. Probably no other city has the clear class voting lines of Sydney, where the hilly and leafy Liberal voting North Shore contrasts markedly with the generally flat and Labor voting seats south of the harbour. The state also has significant mining towns like Lithgow, Broken Hill and Cessnock that lie in the middle of territory that would otherwise be tough for Labor to win.

Indeed, both sides have their gallows humour about the state's electoral geography. Labor people quip their job is always made easier by the tendency of Liberal voters in Sydney to all want to live together on the North Shore. Liberal and National Party officials sometimes wistfully ponder how much easier life would be if they could just get rid of Broken Hill, Lithgow and Queanbeyan.

Redistributions are always fun to watch. The NSW constitution requires a redistribution whenever it is needed to ensure voting equality. The tight rules mean that the Labor and Coalition submissions are actually only 1 seat apart, but I doubt that will prevent the usual catfight and eventually the supreme court may have to resolve the matter.

Tasmania has a fairer system where each federal electorate returns 5 members elected by STV, but that reform is not going to happen in NSW any time soon.

2004 Queensland Election Home. ABC Online

The Opposition admits it is facing an uphill battle, with the Coalition holding just 15 seats compared with Labor's 66. Queensland Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg is trying to limit the impact of minor parties and independent candidates. The Opposition needs to win 30 seats to form government but says it is not impossible.

With a two-party preferred vote at the last election of 60%, I would think the Beattie government's chance of losing is roughly equivalent to the chance of discovering that Mars is really Barsoom.

14 January 2004

So, why did we kick out Saddam?

It may have been different had the military campaign been prolonged or if Australian troops had been arriving home in body bags. But as it is, Hussein is gone, Australia's commitment in Iraq is substantially limited and many like the idea of Howard endearing Australia to the US.

But this, too, is a simplistic notion, given that Howard's support is geared to a particular US administration; should a Democrat be elected later this year, things could become very different. And it is surprising the number of times commentators in the US, when discussing international support for the war, ignore our role - Britain and Spain get mentioned, but not Australia.

As for the free trade agreement with the US, its benefits will only become clear after the fine print is settled.

Does any of this make any difference? What matters is what the future holds for the people of Iraq. The means justified the end. But if that's the case, if it was all about removing Hussein for the benefit of the people of Iraq, it would have been nice if that case was properly made, to the exclusion of all this nonsense about WMD and the like.

Everyone knows that if Howard had put the case to parliament that the enterprise of Iraq was designed to remove Saddam Hussein whether or not he possessed WMDs the motion would have failed. Indeed Howard explicitly recognised this before the war.

An equally important point is that there was no need for Howard to put any case before the parliament because the extraordinary weakness of the Australian parliament and the extraordinary strength of the Australian prime ministership.

I'd happily live under the House of Windsor or the House of Jerilderie forever if it meant vesting the warmaking power where it belongs, in parliament. Or if parliament had to approve treaties like the FTA with the US. Or if we had a bill of rights.

13 January 2004

Truth About Iraq Known; Fallout Isn't

In another sense, though, it matters a great deal. A nation that holds itself up to the world as the exemplar of representative democracy cannot blithely ignore the fact that its elected representatives were led into war under false pretenses.

In October 2002, there was no way on earth that Congress would have voted to authorize war had it known the truth. 'The possibility of a link' between Iraq and al-Qaida would not have been considered sufficient cause for invasion. Nor would Congress have voted to spend hundreds of billions of dollars and the lives of 500 American soldiers and counting because Iraq possessed the intention to someday create programs that might someday in the future be used to create weapons of mass destruction.

In fact, as I recall, those who had dared to suggest that there must be some other reason for the war, because this talk of Iraqi WMD and alleged ties to al-Qaida made no sense, were accused of spouting wild theories unsupported by fact. As it turns out, the wild theories unsupported by fact were coming from the most powerful people in the U.S. government.

Do we not care how this happened? Are Americans not curious to know how much of this was an honest mistake, and how much of it was official deception? To ignore such questions -- to leave undisturbed the intelligence systems and personnel that created the problem -- is to increase the likelihood of being deceived again in the future.

It is time, past time, to put this controversy behind us and move on. But that won't be possible until we acknowledge the truth and deal with its consequences. The first half of that task -- acknowledging the truth -- is all but accomplished. Now, what will its consequence be?

And do we, as Australians, not care that our canny prime minister relied on a mess of potage served up by the Bush administration? And do we, not care that the same canny prime minister is about to sign a missile defence MOU without any shred of parliamentary debate, let alone consent, on the same flawed premises that he signed up to an unjust and unnecessary war?

The Awful Truth

The point is that the credentials of the critics just keep getting better. How can Howard Dean's assertion that the capture of Saddam hasn't made us safer be dismissed as bizarre, when a report published by the Army War College says that the war in Iraq was a 'detour' that undermined the fight against terror? How can charges by Wesley Clark and others that the administration was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq be dismissed as paranoid in the light of Mr. O'Neill's revelations?

So far administration officials have attacked Mr. O'Neill's character but haven't refuted any of his facts. They have, however, already opened an investigation into how a picture of a possibly classified document appeared during Mr. O'Neill's TV interview. This alacrity stands in sharp contrast with their evident lack of concern when a senior administration official, still unknown, blew the cover of a C.I.A. operative because her husband had revealed some politically inconvenient facts.

Some will say that none of this matters because Saddam is in custody, and the economy is growing. Even in the short run, however, these successes may not be all they're cracked up to be. More Americans were killed and wounded in the four weeks after Saddam's capture than in the four weeks before. The drop in the unemployment rate since its peak last summer doesn't reflect a greater availability of jobs, but rather a decline in the share of the population that is even looking for work.

More important, having a few months of good news doesn't excuse a consistent pattern of dishonest, irresponsible leadership. And that pattern keeps getting harder to deny.

My favourite White House critique of O'Neill was the claim that he lacked sufficient access to make those judgements.

A top U.S. administration official told Time that O'Neill was not in a position to have seen the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction because access to it was limited.

The top US official did not mention that he was a member of the National Security Council. It follows that NSC members do not get adequate intelligence to perform their function or that the White House source was simply lying. And if they are prepared to lie about a matter of public record what are they prepared to do about matters that are not on the public record?

Now O'Neil is to face a leaks inquiry. The White House took 74 days to investigate the Plame leak and less than 24 hours to investigate O'Neil. The Plame leak threatened national security. The O'Neil leak threatens only Bush's job security.

Lastly, the president himself has chosen untruth as a means of defence. He is quoted in the Washington Post as follows:

I appreciate former secretary O'Neill's service to our country," Bush said, rejecting O'Neill's description of the Iraq chronology. "In the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with Desert Badger or flyovers and fly-betweens and looks, and so we were fashioning policy along those lines. And then all of a sudden September the 11th hit.

We now know that the White House was given warning of an al-Qai'da attack and (despite their denials) were also warned of the possible use of weaponised jetliners. September 11th did not 'all of a sudden, hit'. September 11th happened after an astonishing period of White House complacency.

Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong

Another step worth considering is forbidding the CIA or anyone else in government from making any intelligence estimates public for five or ten years. As someone firmly committed to the concept of open government, who believes that the CIA has benefited from its efforts in the past decade to be more open to the public, I dislike the idea of greater secrecy. However, when intelligence estimates become public, they have a huge impact on the course of foreign-policy debates, and administrations therefore find themselves with a great incentive to make sure the Agency's estimates support the Administration's preferred policy. If such estimates were not made public, an administration would have little reason to try to influence them. The government could still produce white papers, but they should come from the State Department - the agency that is, after all, officially charged with public diplomacy.

Finally, the U.S. government must admit to the world that it was wrong about Iraq's WMD and show that it is taking far-reaching action to correct the problems that led to this error. Iraq is not going to be the last foreign-policy challenge in which we must make choices based on ambiguous evidence. When the United States confronts future challenges, the exaggerated estimates of Iraq's WMD will loom like an ugly shadow over the diplomatic discussions. Fairly or not, no foreigner trusts U.S. intelligence to get it right anymore, or trusts the Bush Administration to tell the truth. The only way that we can regain the world's trust is to demonstrate that we understand our mistakes and have changed our ways.

Much of Pollack's article is self-serving and excuses his own advocacy for removing Saddam before the war. These last 2 paragraphs do raise some useful ideas. Intelligence was published, in Britain, America and Australia, as a way of authorising political judgements already made by those governments. Questioning the intelligence was impossible without access to the raw intelligence and that just made the war drums louder. A public admisison that the intelligence was wrong might be costly in political terms but it is inescapable if the US is ever to restore its diplomatic position.

Beattie opts for short election campaign

'We've had enough delays, we've had enough agony, we've had enough pain for Queensland children,' Mr Beattie said.

'We need a new government in place to implement the recommendations and make them happen and that's the reason why I've taken the decision to call the election today for the 7th of February.'

Political analyst Dr Paul Williams from Griffith University says he is not surprised the Premier has called the election this soon.

'Given that the Premier has in the last six months of last year probably weathered the toughest six months of his second term, with certain problems with the ambulance levy, problems with misuse of ministerial vehicles and of course the children in care inquiry,' he said.

'I'm not surprised that the Premier would be very keen to go to the polls in order to maximise his own political appeal.'

Mr Beattie cut short his summer holiday and went to Government House this morning to ask for an election.

There will be a 26 day campaign leading up to the poll.

Mr Beattie is looking for a third term in office and goes to the polls with a huge majority.

Labor holds 66 seats compared with the Coalition's 15.

This year Oz faces elections in Queensland and the ACT. If Beattie is re-elected (and it's hard to see how he won't be) Labor will say it helps them federally and the Coalition will say it was decided on state issues. Poll junkies will be watching closely to see how One Nation performs after the Pauline Hanson story last year. One Nation's performance will be read by some as a proxy for the size of the national security vote in the federale lection, although I think Abbot's involvement in Hanson's demise (but not her resurrection) makes that dubious.

The Man of Steel will almost certainly call a federal election before the end of the year. The double dissolution triggers expire on 11 August.

Latham reignites Iraq debate

Mr Latham said the government had claimed Australia had to go to war to find and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

'It was a war justified primarily to find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction. None were used in the conflict, none have been found since,' Mr Latham told Sydney radio 2UE.

'I think they made a mistake in going to a war on Iraq, whatever the reason or motivation was, I think it was a mistake.

'And on that basis it is a worry it was a war that was sustained on a premise that hasn't been proven and hasn't been justified.

'And for that reason you'd have to be worried about the conduct of Australian foreign policy.'

Mr Latham said Australia had to have very good reasons to go to war.

'We shouldn't be getting into overseas conflicts unless we've got the very best reason to do so,' he said.

In a rebuff to the close links between the government and the Bush administration, Mr Latham said a Labor government would act independently on issues ranging from Iraq to the proposed free trade agreement.

'We value the American alliance, but we value more the Australian national interest, and if there is a point of disagreement, of course we will stand up for what's best for this country,' he said.

The comments were immediately attacked by Acting Prime Minister John Anderson, who accused Mr Latham of defending the regime of Saddam Hussein and of other rogue states.

Howard is running for re-election without any real program by talking about national security and (so far) not much else. The increasing holes in the WMD story cannot be good news for him, especially after Blair's weekend admissions (blogged below) and now the O'Neill allegations. A Man of Steel who was sold a pup badly needs something else to talk about.

The attacks on Latham right after his election died away on the release of polling that all states except Queensland and all age groups agreed with his characterisation of Bush as the 'worst and most incompetent president'. The new information about Bush's governance cannot add much to Howard's own reputation as a shrewd operator. And shrewdness is all he has ever really offered.

Extreme heat on the rise: Climate model predicts more stifling summers.

The heatwave that paralysed Europe last summer was hailed as a harbinger of global warming by many, including climatologists who predicted wilder extremes in floods, droughts and storms thanks to climate change. Results from a climate model now add evidence to the idea that extreme temperature events are set to rise - for Europe at least.

More than 20,000 people are thought to have died as a result of Europe's heatwave last year.During June and July, temperatures across much of the continent
topped 40 �C.

Gee, it's a good thing the Earth is not warming.

12 January 2004

One hour in 'The Den' that may seal Blair's fate

In the skies above Shanghai, at the centre of a scrum of reporters - some standing on seats to hold tape recorders in his face - Mr Blair was asked the crucial question: 'Why did you authorise the naming of David Kelly?'

'That is completely untrue,' snapped Mr Blair.

'Did you authorise anyone in Downing Street or in the Ministry of Defence to release David Kelly's name?' the reporter, Paul Eastham from the Daily Mail, persisted.

'Emphatically not,' Mr Blair said. 'I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly.'

It was, by any standards, a strong denial and one that kept the pack at bay. The search for how Dr Kelly's name entered the public domain moved from Mr Blair himself and towards the MoD, particularly Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Defence.

Last week, however, six months after that mid-air briefing, Mr Blair began to pay for his denial.

With the precision of the QC he is, Michael Howard has zeroed in on the evidence given to the Hutton inquiry by Sir Kevin Tebbit, the most senior civil servant in the MoD, in particular Sir Kevin's claim that the 'policy decision on the handling ... had not been taken until the PM's meeting of Tuesday [8 July]'.

Fairly soon, whether he wants to or not, Gordon Brown is going to find himself in Paul Keating's position in Hawke's last days - wondering if the government is about to bleed to death in parliament if he does not act.

Niue may return to New Zealand rule

Niue's status as a nation is under question after the cyclone that hit the tiny Pacific nation, causing more than $50 million damage.

In the aftermath of the storm, some island leaders are calling for a return to New Zealand governance, and expect the population to fall from about 1200 native Niueans to an unsustainable 500 people.

Such a drop would likely render the nation unviable. Niue currently receives $8m in aid a year from New Zealand, the equivalent of a cash hand-out of around $16,000 per head should the population fall to the predicted 500.

Fears for Niue's political survival come amid the declaration of a major health crisis over asbestos in the air, accusations of looting among destroyed villages and claims that early plans to alert the island's population to the cyclone were called off.

If Cyclone Heta is classified as an extreme weather event, then Niue could become the first nation extinguished by global warming. The Pacific has several other candidate nations, including Kiribati and Nauru. These are microstates, but their abandonment would make the world a poorer place.

'I will not hide' from Hutton

TONY BLAIR: I can say, but let me put it this way, I believe that we will but I agree, you know, we, there were many people who thought we were going to find this during the course of the actual operation.

Now we've got to see what the Iraq survey group come up with and, what is interesting, is that if you actually talk to experts in this field. I mean, someone said to me the other day for example, that if take it that we were looking for Saddam Hussein who is an individual on the move about whom we had reasonable intelligence.

We knew it was within an area of Tikrit, one particular city, and yet it took us six months to find him. In a land mass twice the size of the UK it may well not be surprising that you don't find where this stuff is hidden because part of the intelligence was that it was hidden and concealed. But you know we just have to wait and see.

The one thing I do think and hope people understand is that I received this intelligence and I believe it would have been irresponsible not to have acted upon it. And you can only imagine what would have happened if I ignored the intelligence and then something terrible had happened.

This is dishonest in 3 ways.

Blair is refusing to say he will even participate in the debate when Hutton releases his report. As is becoming customary he claims the browny point s of 'not hiding' while refusing to say he will lead the Commons debate.

Blair picks up the Rumsfeld line about the relative difficulties of finding WMDs and Saddam. As far as I know, no-one has claimed Iraq had mastered artificial intelligence to the extent that the alleged WMDs are capable of seeing an ISG search team coming and moving out of the way. The claim is a joke.

Lastly we have the apocalypse otherwise argument. It is pure and unadulterated hot air that marks rhetorical desperation rather than anything else. A responsible leader, who cared about the bloodshed on both sides, would have acted responsibly by questioning and analysing intelligence rather than sexing it up.

Maher Arar

Of course I thank all of the journalists for covering my story.

The past year has been a nightmare, and I have spent the past few weeks at home trying to learn how to live with what happened to me. I know that the only way I will ever be able to move on in my life and have a future is if I can find out why this happened to me.

I want to know why this happened to me. I believe the only way I can ever know why this happened is to have all the truth come out in a public inquiry.

My priority right now is to clear my name, get to the bottom of the case and make sure this does not happen to any other Canadian citizens in the future. I believe the best way to go about achieving this goal is to put pressure on the government to call for a public inquiry.

What is at stake here is the future of our country, the interests of Canadian citizens, and most importantly Canada's international reputation for being a leader in human rights where citizens from different ethnic groups are treated no different than other Canadians.

Thank you for your patience.

Maher Arar was detained by the US, deported to Syria under protest despite being a Canadian citizen, and there tortured for months before being returned to Canada. This practice is common enough to have generated its own CIA jargon - extraordinary rendition.

Candada's new prime minister has promised to pursue the issue with George Bush:

Mr. Martin has also promised to take up the issue of "respect for the Canadian passport," a reference to the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen deported from New York to Syria and tortured there.

A couple of things have worried me about this incident, apart form the obvious and disgusting violation of human rights. Arar describes being delivered to the Syrian Mukhabarat and tortured for information related to the War on Terror. What is the relationship between the US and Syrian intelligence? Why was Syria ready to torture someone for information required by the US?