17 July 2004

Iraqi PM executed six insurgents: witnesses

MAXINE McKEW: Paul McGeough, thanks for joining us.

Paul, as you've also made clear in your article, Prime Minister Allawi has flatly denied this story.

Why then is the Herald so confident about publishing it?


What you have is two very solid eyewitness accounts of what happened at a police security complex in a south-west Baghdad suburb.

They are very detailed.

They were done separately.

Each witness is not aware that the other spoke.

They were contacted through personal channels rather than through the many political, religious or military organisations working in Baghdad that might be trying to spin a tale.

And they've laid it out very carefully and very clearly as to what they saw.

MAXINE McKEW: You haven't identified these witnesses but why have they felt free to talk about such an extraordinary story?

PAUL McGEOUGH: Well, they were approached through personal connections and as a result of that, they accepted assurances.

They were guaranteed anonymity, they were told that no identifying material would be published on them and they told what they saw.

Both the Herald and McGeough are sticking to their guns, if you'll forgive the expression.

16 July 2004

Hawking cracks black hole paradox

After nearly 30 years of arguing that a black hole destroys everything that falls into it, Stephen Hawking is saying he was wrong. It seems that black holes may after all allow information within them to escape. Hawking will present his latest finding at a conference in Ireland next week.

The about-turn might cost Hawking, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, an encyclopaedia because of a bet he made in 1997. More importantly, it might solve one of the long-standing puzzles in modern physics, known as the black hole information paradox.

It was Hawking's own work that created the paradox. In 1976, he calculated that once a black hole forms, it starts losing mass by radiating energy. This 'Hawking radiation' contains no information about the matter inside the black hole and once the black hole evaporates, all information is lost.

But this conflicts with the laws of quantum physics, which say that such information can never be completely wiped out. Hawking's argument was that the intense gravitational fields of black holes somehow unravel the laws of quantum physics.

Other physicists have tried to chip away at this paradox. Earlier in 2004, Samir Mathur of Ohio State University in Columbus and his colleagues showed that if a black hole is modelled according to string theory - in which the universe is made of tiny, vibrating strings rather than point-like particles - then the black hole becomes a giant tangle of strings. And the Hawking radiation emitted by this 'fuzzball' does contain information about the insides of a black hole.

The Man of Steel may have to abandon the black hole in his private office and go back to using plain old shredders to deal with children overboard, SIEX-X, the dangerous Tampa refugees he's admitted to Australia, the Manildra meeting he as sure his advisers had told him he did not attend, the qualifications to prewar Iraqi intelligence and a number of quantum politics anomalies.

Allawi shot inmates in cold blood, say witnesses

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they 'deserved worse than death'.

The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.

This bears watching. The journo, Paul McGeough, has always been reiable.

14 July 2004

The crane is still my neighbour

On the off-chance you have a passion for slightly obscure Australian poets, you can get the complete works of John Shaw Neilson in a variorum edition here. I still think ripples are thoughts that go out to the edge of a dream.

Lord Butler delivers Iraq verdict

The quality of the intelligence used to make the case for Britain going to war with Iraq has now been thrown into doubt, the Butler inquiry has said.

The 196 page report says MI6 did not check its sources well enough, and sometimes relied on third hand reports.

Lord Butler was asked by No 10 to look at the accuracy of Britain's pre-war intelligence after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

He is now outlining his report, before Tony Blair faces MPs at 1330 BST.

The whole report is now available for download.

11 July 2004

U.S. News obtains all classified annexes to the Taguba report on Abu Ghraib

Among the more shocking exchanges revealed in the Taguba classified annexes are a series of E-mails sent by Major David Dinenna of the 320th MP Battalion. The E-mails, sent in October and November to Major William Green of the 800th MP Brigade, and copied to the higher chain of command, show a quixotic attempt to simply get the detainees at Abu Graib edible food. Dinenna pressed repeatedly for food that wouldnt make prisoners vomit. He criticized the private food contractor for shorting the facility on hundreds of meals a day, and for providing food containing bugs, rats, and dirt.

"As each day goes by tension within the prison population increases," Dinenna wrote. "...Simple fixes, food, would help tremendously." Instead of getting help, Major Green scolded him. "Who is making the charges that there is dirt, bugs or what ever in the food?," Major Green replied in an E-mail. "If it is the prisoners I would take it with a grain of salt." Dinenna shot back: "Our MPs, Medics and field surgeon can easily identify bugs, rats, and dirt, and they did." Ultimately, the food contract was not renewed, an Army spokeswoman says, although the contractor holds other contracts with the military.

Interesting that the upper reaches of the US military command were just not interested in anything more than making a problem go away by ignoring it. It's also interesting that, for all the scare stories about the need for intelligence justifying anything and everything, Taguba found so many prisoners were simply never interrogated and political pressure from Washington for actionable intelligence was driving the chaos and violence at Abu Ghraib.

It's almost as though this one prison served as a metaphor for the whole of Iraq.

agressively not apologising

British PM Blair 'Considered Resigning
Blair, who has seen his ratings tumble in opinion polls since last year's war in Iraq, had been 'seriously considering his position' following a series of attacks on his leadership, the broadcaster said in an unsourced report.

Three cabinet colleagues, Health Secretary John Reid, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and Education Secretary Charles Clarke met Blair, urged him not to quit and sought to assure him he had wide government support, it said.

'I'm not going to speculate on what I see as Westminster gossip,' Jowell told BBC radio Saturday. 'Tony Blair is our prime minister -- the most successful prime minister of modern times. He will continue to lead our government.'

US findings turn up heat on Blair as he awaits the Butler report
The United States Senate committee�s damning findings last night piled more pressure on Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, as he and his ministers braced themselves for criticism from Lord Butler�s inquiry into intelligence on Iraq next week.

Lord Butler, a former Cabinet secretary, will report on Wednesday and will cast serious doubt on the quality of British intelligence reports that the Prime Minister said made military action in Iraq a matter of urgent national interest.

While Mr Blair is likely to avoid a direct rebuke, his September 2002 dossier on Iraq may be targeted by Lord Butler, as may Sir Richard Dearlove and John Scarlett, the current and future heads of MI6.

In the face of controversy over the MI6 role, Mr Blair decided earlier this year to promote Mr Scarlett to replace Sir Richard at the end of this month. Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, a former head of the joint intelligence committee, last night told the BBC that the Butler report could make it impossible for Mr Scarlett to take over as head of the Secret Intelligence Service.

"You do have to ask the question whether somebody who�s been deeply involved and possibly criticised in the findings of the Butler report is regarded as a suitable person to head [MI6]," Dame Pauline said.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday emerged as another possible target for Lord Butler, who is expected to reveal that he over-ruled Foreign Office lawyers who said military action could not be justified in international law.

Meanwhile, back at the fort:
Now say sorry for war, PM told
The Labor Party yesterday called on the Prime Minister to apologise for taking Australians to war under false pretences, after an American inquiry's damning findings about US intelligence failures over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said John Howard talked a lot about character these days.

But, he said: "A core part of character is telling the truth. It's time John Howard at last told the Australian people the truth - that the reasons he gave them for going to war were wrong."

The US Senate committee has said most key judgements in the intelligence community's major October 2002 report on Iraq's WMD programs were overstated or not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting. The intelligence community suffered from a "collective presumption" that Iraq had an active and growing WMD program. "Group think" led to ambiguities being put aside or ignored, and usual mechanisms for challenging assumptions not being used.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat member of the committee, said the lapses "rank among the most devastating... intelligence failures" in American history. "We in Congress would not have authorised that war... if we knew what we know now," he said.

Really, it's weird how the party of personal responsibility seems to think a war for WMD's that don't exist is not even a case for an apology.