Downing Street Memo II: Bush wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera

President George W. Bush planned to bomb al-Jazeera, the Arab TV station headquartered in friendly Qatar, according to a newly leaked “Top Secret” memo from No. 10 Downing Street, London. But Bush was talked out of it at a White House summit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.

A British government official suggested that the Bush threat had been “humorous, not serious.” But another source declared: “Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men.”

A different source said: “The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush. He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem.”

The attack would have led to a massacre of innocents on the territory of a key ally, enraged the Middle East, and almost certainly have sparked bloody retaliation.

Labor Defense Minister Peter Kilfoyle challenged Downing Street to publish the five-page transcript of the two leaders’ conversation. He said: “It’s frightening to think that such a powerful man as Bush can propose such cavalier actions. I hope the Prime Minister insists this memo be published. It gives an insight into the mind-set of those who were the architects of war.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell told the Press Association news agency: “If true, then this underlines the desperation of the Bush administration as events in Iraq began to spiral out of control.”

Pres. Bush disclosed his targeting plan to Mr. Blair on April 16 last year. At the time, the U.S. was launching an all-out assault on insurgents in the Iraqi town of Fallujah.

Al-Jazeera infuriated Washington and London by reporting from behind rebel lines and broadcasting pictures of dead soldiers, private contractors, and Iraqi victims. The civilian station, watched by millions in the Mideast, has also been used by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to broadcast atrocities and to threaten the West.

Al-Jazeera’s HQ is in the business district of Qatar’s capital, Doha. Its single-story buildings would be an easy target for bombers. Dozens of al-Jazeera staff there are not, as many believe, Islamic fanatics. Instead, most are respected professional journalists and technicians — some formerly with the BBC. To have wiped them out would have been equivalent to bombing the BBC in London and been the most spectacular foreign policy disaster since the war itself.

Abd al-Bari Atwan, chief editor of the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, said: “Reporters in the U.S. and Britain are enraged by reported U.S. plans to use force against media organs. Arab and international media organs are now under a terrorist campaign launched by the U.S., as it does not want the truth to be revealed. This [U.S.] administration has been disgraced, as it has used immoral and illegal ways to occupy and tear out a country, kill more than 100,000 and wound more than 400,000 of its people.”

Tony Blair’s office declined to comment on the memo, stressing it never discussed leaked documents. However, the British attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, threatened newspapers with the Official Secrets Act if they revealed the document’s contents. Two men have already been charged under the Act and were released on bail. David Keogh, a Cabinet Office civil servant, was charged with illegally passing the memo, and Leo O’Connor with receiving it. O’Connor showed the memo to a former Labor Member of Parliament, Tony Clarke, who returned it to the Blair government.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told The Associated Press, “We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response.” The Bush administration has regularly accused al-Jazeera of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for anti-American sentiments.

Downing Street Memo II raises fresh doubts over U.S. claims that previous attacks against al-Jazeera staff were military errors. In 2001 the station’s Kabul office was knocked out by two “smart” bombs. U.S. officials said they believed the target was a terrorist site and did not know it was al-Jazeera’s office. And in 2003, al-Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub was killed in a U.S. missile strike on the station’s Baghdad center.

        – compiled from The Daily Mirror (U.K.) and
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Powell calls his U.N. speech a lasting blot on his record

Former secretary of state Colin Powell said in a TV interview broadcast Sept. 9th that his 2003 speech to the United Nations, in which he gave a detailed description of Iraqi weapons programs that turned out not to exist, was "painful" for him personally and would be a permanent "blot" on his record.

"I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world," Mr. Powell told Barbara Walters of ABC News, adding that the presentation "will always be a part of my record." Asked by Ms. Walters how he felt upon learning that he had been misled about the accuracy of intelligence on which he relied, Mr. Powell said, "Terrible." He added that it was "devastating" to learn later that some intelligence agents knew the information he had was unreliable but did not speak up.

Mr. Powell also implied in the interview that the United States did not go to war in Iraq with sufficient troops to secure the country and failed to keep sufficient Iraqi forces to help stabilize the country. "What we didn't do in the immediate aftermath of the war was to impose our will on the whole country with enough troops of our own, with enough troops from coalition forces or by re-creating the Iraqi forces, armed forces, more quickly than we are doing now," he said.

Since leaving office in January, Mr. Powell had declined interview requests. But his expressions of regret about the weapons intelligence and the lack of troops were consistent with many of his statements in office, especially after it became clear that Iraq had none of the weapons that Mr. Powell had said it was stockpiling.

Asked by Ms. Walters, "When the president made the decision to go to war, you were for it?" Mr. Powell said, "Yes."

Asked about editorials asserting that he had put loyalty "ahead of leadership," Mr. Powell parried the question. "Well, loyalty is a trait that I value, and yes, I am loyal," he replied. "And there are some who say, ‘Well, you shouldn't have supported it, you should have resigned.' But I'm glad that Saddam Hussein is gone."

– edited from The New York Times, Sept. 9, 2005
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Internationalizing Iraq is our best option

By George Hunsinger

Back in September 2002, James Webb, assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, raised a specter that has come back to haunt us. "The issue before us," he wrote in The Washington Post, "is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years."

Recently the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a prominent London-based think tank, concluded that the United States will be in Iraq until 2010 because of the difficulties in establishing law and order. University of Michigan Mideast expert Juan Cole sees this estimate as optimistic. "The guerrilla war," he writes, "is likely to go on a decade to 15 years." Paul Rogers, a diffident Oxford military expert, now echoes Mr. Webb. His "ostensibly rash" conclusion is that "a 30-year war is in prospect." On June 19, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that America's involvement in Iraq is indeed "a generational commitment."

Mr. Webb had warned about our not having an exit strategy. In an August 2002 television interview, Charles Krauthammer, the well-connected neoconservative columnist, explained why not. "We don't speak about exit strategies," he noted. "We are going to stay." Responding to concerns about the cost, he explained, "If we win the war, we are in control of Iraq, it is the second largest source of oil in the world, it's got huge reserves. ... We will have a bonanza, a financial one, at the other end." Today we can see that while Mr. Krauthammer was wrong about the bonanza, he was right about the prolonged stay.

Currently the occupation is going poorly. One reason is the indiscriminate tactics used by U.S. forces. Whole towns — from Fallujah to Ramadi and now to the desert villages around Qaim — have virtually been flattened. Fred Kaplan, the "War Stories" columnist for the online magazine and a former military correspondent for The Boston Globe, comments: "Leveling towns, bombing every suspicious target in sight — this is not how hearts and minds are won or how persistent insurgencies are defeated." Indiscriminate tactics, of course, also violate morality and the laws of war.

It is not surprising that the occupation lacks wide popular support. Civilian casualties — already in the tens, and perhaps hundreds, of thousands — are steadily on the rise. Among children, malnutrition has doubled and mortality has tripled. Hospitals still lack basic medicines and equipment, water and electricity are in short supply, stagnant sewage pools in the streets, half the population is unemployed and prices for food are inflated. Car bombs, assassinations, kidnappings and strikes from American forces are a daily occurrence. At least 1 million refugees have fled the country.

Those who insist on "staying the course" overlook [deny] the unpleasant fact that the occupation is the main cause of the insurgency, not its cure. Outstripped and illegitimate, it will only bring more death and destruction.

Although no good options exist, the least bad choice would still be "internationalization." A viable exit plan might include the following:

      The United States should cease all offensive military operations, withdraw from population centers and announce that it plans to depart in six months.

      An international conference should be convened under the auspices of the United Nations. Participants should include Russia and China along with the United States, Iraq's current interim government and representatives of the various insurgency groups. An agreement should be hammered out for a cease-fire and a viable plan to hold the country together by creating strong incentives for the various blocs and factions.

      An international peacekeeping force should be established, consisting of U.N. blue helmets along with forces from the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, until the Iraqis can take over on their own.

      Iraqi security forces should be trained under international auspices, with special attention being paid to respecting human rights.

      Plans for permanent U.S. military bases should be abandoned, and the American embassy (now the world's largest) should be reduced to normal size.

      A generous aid package, with no strings attached, should be offered to rebuild what the war has destroyed.

As unpalatable as such a strategy may be to our national pride, it is as prudent, principled and ambitious as the quagmire permits. It is arguably more "realistic" than continuing to fight indefinitely against a growing insurgency that is increasingly sophisticated in weaponry and tactics. It is also more realistic than current rumored plans for a merely partial withdrawal. These plans have a double drawback. They risk moving so quickly that Iraqi security forces would collapse, yet they would also keep the U.S. military bases intact, thus sowing the seeds for future preemptive wars. Those who object to this path as unrealistic need to explain how we can better extricate ourselves from the biggest U.S. policy disaster since Vietnam.

George Hunsinger is McCord Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary and coordinator of Church Folks for a Better America, an online initiative for peace. His article appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, September 9, 2005.

– PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Samaritans to Iraq fined $20,000

A U.S. federal judge has ordered the humanitarian group Voices in the Wilderness to pay a $20,000 fine for bringing medicine to Iraq in violation of the U.S. economic sanctions. Voices in the Wilderness began a campaign of open nonviolent civil disobedience a decade ago to challenge the harsh U.S.-led sanctions. VitW broke the sanctions more than 70 times by bringing duffel bags of donated medical supplies, plus educational materials and other humanitarian aid, to children and families in Iraq.

The Treasury Department initially imposed the fine in 2002, days after VitW participated in international actions opposing the U.S. buildup for war against Iraq. Although U.S. economic sanctions against Iraq were lifted over a year ago, on Aug. 12 this year Judge John Bates in Washington DC Federal Court ordered payment of the fine. In concluding his 17-page opinion, Judge Bates quoted from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's letter from a Birmingham jail: "Those who break an unjust law should do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty."

Kathy Kelly, co-founder of VitW, said in a radio interview: "[I]f Judge Bates were to choose to put any one of us in jail, then we would go openly and lovingly, but we won't pay one penny, not one dime, to these war criminals to continue putting U.S. productivity into attacks against Iraq's people or into the imperial designs to seize Iraq's oil revenue. It's something that, relying on Dr. King's teachings, we in conscience cannot do. And so we see our resistance to paying this fine as a way for us to continue our conscientious objection to the ghastly suffering that's being imposed on Iraqi people and the risks that are being imposed on U.S. soldiers that are sent to Iraq."

In a statement released to the press, VitW said: "The economic sanctions regime imposed brutal and lethal punishment on Iraqi people. The U.S. government would not allow Iraq to rebuild its water treatment system after the U.S. military deliberately destroyed it in 1991. The U.S. government denied Iraq the ability to purchase blood bags, medical needles and medicine in adequate supplies, destroying Iraq's health care system."

Bert Sacks, Seattle, the first person to be fined by the government for breaking the sanctions against Iraq, said: "Treasury Department's  Office of Foreign Assets Control paid almost no attention to U.S. oil companies that violated economic sanctions so they could make millions of dollars and yet was swift to threaten and penalize people who traveled to Iraq for humanitarian reasons." There have been no repercussions for two Texas-based oil companies — BayOil and Odin — accused of flouting the sanctions. BayOil allegedly gave $37 million in illegal kickbacks to the Saddam Hussein government in order to secure key contracts, while Odin was, with the apparent knowledge of the U.S. Navy, offloading oil smuggled by Jordan onto several of its tankers. Both were direct violations of the sanctions.

The federal court ruling effectively freezes the assets of VitW. They have stopped cashing donation checks and started returning them when they come in. What's happening is that VitW will come to a close as a name. But the same group of people will continue to do the same kind of work under a new name.

In a Sept. 26 e-mail, the Chicago-based group announced a new campaign to challenge U.S. military and economic warfare against Iraq and to end the "Global War on Terror." They already have a new name, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and website:

– compiled from various sources
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Iraq must not be seen as a failure

by Ewen MacAskill

Diplomats in the British Foreign Office are working frantically in private on what they refer to as the "exit ticket" from Iraq. In contrast to the official line that British forces will remain until the job is done, the Foreign Office wants to engineer a set of circumstances in which both Britain and the U.S. can begin to reduce troops next year. But the speed with which unrest and violence is growing is making this harder.

Ambitions for Iraq are being drastically scaled down in private. A Foreign Office source said the goal of the U.S. administration to turn Iraq into a beacon of democracy in the Middle East had long ago been shelved. "We will settle for leaving behind an Iraqi democracy that is creaking along," the source said.

These days there is little or no optimism. Before the war, Washington saw Iraq not only as a likely beacon for democracy but also potentially as a stable source of oil and a well-positioned strategic base. Reflecting lowered expectations, the source said the first priority for withdrawal was merely that "George Bush is not seen to have failed. He will have to have at least set Iraq on the road to democracy." Iraqis are scheduled to vote on October 13 on a new constitution and in December in a general election, allowing Mr. Bush to claim he had put down democratic roots.

The second priority is also an American one: "The U.S. does not want a legacy of Iran having extended its influence over the Middle East," the source said. The fear is of an Iran that has the capability in a few years of acquiring a bomb, continues to have a say in Lebanon through Hezbollah, maintains close ties to Shia-controlled southern Iraq, and has the potential to wreak havoc there and in Saudia Arabia.

The third priority is that Iraqi forces should be able to be responsible for law and order.

The "drawdown" of troops would be done in stages, and the U.S. wants to keep four air bases in Iraq. But this is not part of some strategic plan for mastery of the Middle East. Like its other ambitions for Iraq, the U.S. has scaled down this plan and Britain is happily backing it, in the hope of an early exit.

Ewen MacAskill is diplomatic editor of The Guardian (U.K.). His article (edited here) appeared on Sept. 22, 2005.

– PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Panel indicts U.S., U.K. over Iraq

by Jonathan Gorvett

ISTANBUL, Turkey - An independent anti-war tribunal has found the United States and United Kingdom guilty of a variety of crimes in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) in its concluding verdict on June 27 found the U.S. and U.K. governments guilty of "planning, preparing, and waging the supreme crime of a war of aggression in contravention of the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles."

The tribunal also found the U.S.-led forces had been "intentionally directing attacks upon civilians and hospitals, medical centers, residential neighborhoods, electricity stations, and water purification facilities" in violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

The tribunal, an independent panel of academics, writers and activists with roots in the anti-war movement in the West, was set up in 2003 after the invasion to collect testimony of soldiers, civilians and other witnesses for legal cases connected with the war. The final session met over three days at the historic Ottoman imperial mint, part of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. About 100 participants from across the globe attended.

Speakers such as former U.N. assistant general secretary Denis Halliday, former U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Hans von Sponeck, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation Chairman and former Euro MP Ken Coates, and UNESCO Peace Prize winner Richard Falk addressed the tribunal. Evidence was presented before a panel of international jurists on a range of issues, from the use of depleted uranium weaponry to conscientious objection, and from the privatization of the conflict to the war's standing in international law.

"We are here to make concrete records, documents and analysis," said organizer Ayca Cubukcu. "The findings of the WTI are then being taken to the International Criminal Court."

That is being done by a collection of international bar associations, with the Istanbul Bar Association a leading light in the prosecution of the U.K. government for its part in what the Istanbul lawyers claim is an illegal war.

"We only have the documentation and facility to indict British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the U.K. foreign secretary," said Kazim Kolcuoglu, president of the Turkish Bar Association. "We'd like to have Bush and Powell in there too, but we can only cite them as witnesses."

The legal documentation is also vital in other areas of the anti-war campaign. "The evidence we collect can also strengthen the cases of conscientious objectors in the U.K. and U.S.," added conference organizer Muge Sokmen.

The tribunal does have its critics. As a "court" judging the attack on Iraq and subsequent occupation, there were no speakers to defend the actions of London or Washington. Did this not make the tribunal something of a kangaroo court?

"I think that comes from a misunderstanding about what the tribunal is," answered Richard Falk. "The tribunal is not set up to discover the truth but to confirm it … The real importance, for example, of the Nuremburg trials at the end of the Second World War was that they established a record of the Nazi regime and its crimes. When governments and the United Nations are essentially silent over aggression in Iraq, this tribunal is trying to fill that vacuum."

"We know that history is written by the victors," Cubukcu says. "Our aim here is to write an alternative history."

– edited from, 27 June 2005
PeaceMeal, July/August 2005

AFL-CIO calls for ‘rapid' return of U.S. troops

In an unprecedented action, delegates to the AFL-CIO national convention in Chicago voted July 26 in favor of a resolution calling for "rapid return" of all U.S. troops from Iraq. Adoption of the resolution was the first time in its 50 year history that the labor federation has taken a position squarely in opposition to a major U.S. foreign policy or military action.

Eighteen AFL-CIO state federations, central labor councils, and unions had submitted resolutions to the convention calling for an immediate or rapid end to the occupation of Iraq and return of the troops. The resolution which was passed incorporated the 18 into a consensus statement. Following a parade of delegates who spoke in favor of its adoption (none spoke in opposition), the resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority.

The resolution states: "Our soldiers—the men and women risking their lives in Iraq ... deserve a commitment from our country's leaders to bring them home rapidly. An unending military presence will waste lives and resources, undermine our nation's security and weaken our military.

"We have lost more than 1,700 brave Americans in Iraq to date, and Iraqi civilian casualties are in the thousands. ... The AFL-CIO applauds the courage of the Iraqi people and unequivocally condemns the use of terror in Iraq and indeed anywhere in the world.

"No foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. The American people were misinformed before the war began and have not been informed about the reality on the ground and the very difficult challenges that lie ahead.

"It is long past time for the Bush administration to level with the American people and for Congress to fulfill its constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities. The AFL-CIO supports the call from members of Congress for the establishment of benchmarks in the key areas of security, governance, reconstruction and internationalization."

The resolution calls for expanded benefits for veterans, protection for workers affected by military base closings, and full respect for the right of Iraqi workers to organize and bargain in unions they choose.

Speaking in favor of the resolution, Henry Nicholas, President of District 1199 of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) of Pennsylvania, told the delegates that his son had been deployed to Iraq four times and was about to be sent again. He said, "In my forty-five years in the labor movement, this is my proudest moment in being a union member, because it is the first time we had the courage to say ‘enough is enough.'" Gene Bruskin, co-convenor of the organization U.S. Labor Against War, observed, "The action taken by this convention puts the AFL-CIO on record for a rapid end to the Iraq occupation — a stand squarely in the mainstream of American public opinion." Polls taken in late June show more than half of the American people believe the war was a mistake and similarly that it has made the U.S. less, not more safe. A majority of Americans also say the administration "intentionally misled" the public in going to war.

PeaceMeal, July/August 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Downing Street memo a smoking gun

A highly classified British memo, leaked in the midst of Britain's recent election campaign, indicates that President George W. Bush decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by the summer of 2002 — at least nine months before launching his unauthorized invasion — and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.

The secret document summarizes a July 23, 2002, meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair with his top security advisers in his official residence at 10 Downing Street, London. It reports on a visit to Washington DC by the head of Britain's MI6 intelligence service, Sir Richard Dearlove, referred to as "C". The visit took place while the Bush administration was declaring to the American public that no decision had been made to go to war and all their actions focused on preparing for war.

Minutes of the proceedings, headed "Secret and strictly personal — UK eyes only," state: "This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents."

The shocking contents of the memo detail how the Blair government did not believe Iraq was a greater threat than other nations, how the Bush administration's public assurances of "war as a last resort" were contradicted by their privately stated intentions, and how the intelligence was "fixed" to sell the case for war to Congress and the American public.

The secret memo has not been disavowed by the British government. A White House official said the administration would not comment on leaked British documents. But a former senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during the visit of MI6 chief Dearlove to Washington.

A briefing paper prepared specifically for the July 23 meeting reveals that Prime Minister Blair had made his fundamental decision on Saddam in April 2002 when he met with President Bush in Crawford, Texas. "When the prime minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April," states the paper, "he said that the U.K. would support military action to bring about regime change." The following day in the House of Commons, Blair told Members of Parliament: "We have not got to the stage of military action ... we have not yet reached the point of decision."

To British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, according to the leaked memo, "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided." Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said "he thought the most likely timing in U.S. minds for military action to begin was January [2003], with the timeline beginning 30 days before the U.S. Congressional elections."

Straightforward regime change presented a problem because, as the secret briefing paper made clear, there were no clear legal grounds for war. "U.S. views of international law vary from that of the U.K. and the international community," says the briefing paper. "Regime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law." Another reason was needed.

MI6 chief Dearlove said at the meeting, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," or weapons of mass destruction. Straw is quoted in the memo as having his doubts about the Iraqi threat: "... the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

In September 2002, President Bush made his case for war by warning of a "mushroom cloud" — an atomic bomb. But it was well known that Iraq's nuclear weapons program was totally dismantled by the United Nations weapons inspectors after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and harsh economic sanctions foreclosed the possibility of rebuilding it.

The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq following President Bush's declaration of "Mission Accomplished," ended in December with no weapons of mass destruction found. Charles Duelfer, the CIA's top weapons hunter, submitted a report to Congress that contradicts nearly every prewar assertion about Iraq made by top Bush administration officials.

The White House has repeatedly denied accusations made by several top foreign officials that it manipulated intelligence estimates to justify an invasion of Iraq. The principal U.S. intelligence analysis, the National Intelligence Estimate, wasn't completed until October 2002, well after the United States and Britain had apparently decided military force should be used to overthrow Hussein's regime. The Downing Street memo states: "the intelligence and facts [in Washington] were being fixed around the policy."

The White House had already taken the unprecedented step after 9-11-2001 of setting up its own so-called "intelligence" unit on Iraq, known as the Office of Special Plans, headed by undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith. The OSP was created to put a pro-war spin on the official intelligence estimates coming out of the CIA and State Department by using only selected bits of information that supported the president's already-made plans for war.

 The Bush administration distortions were so blatant that columnist Paul Krugman posed the question: "aren't the leaders of a democratic nation supposed to tell the truth?"

Krugman went on to say: "One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false."

– compiled from The Sunday Times (London),,
Newsday, Reuters, and The New York Times
– PeaceMeal, May/June 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Secret memo sets off impeachment campaign

A coalition of veterans, peace, and political activist groups announced on May 27 a campaign to urge that the U.S. Congress launch a formal investigation into whether President George W. Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with his invasion of Iraq. The campaign focuses on evidence in the Downing Street memo (see front page), a leaked secret document that contains minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials. The shocking contents of the memo detail how the Bush administration's public assurances of "war as a last resort" were contradicted by their privately stated intentions, and how the intelligence was "fixed" to sell the case for war to Congress and the American public.

John Bonifaz, a Boston attorney specializing in constitutional litigation, sent a memo to Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, urging him to introduce a Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House to impeach President Bush. Bonifaz's memo begins: "The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4, of the United States Constitution."

In February and March 2003, Bonifaz served as lead counsel for a coalition of United States soldiers, parents of U.S. soldiers, and members of Congress (led by Representatives Conyers and Dennis Kucinich) in a federal lawsuit challenging President Bush's authority to wage war against Iraq without a congressional declaration of war or equivalent action. That case and its meaning for the United States Constitution are chronicled in a book authored by Bonifaz: Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush (NationBooks, New York, 2004).

For more information, see:

– PeaceMeal, May/June 2005

British MP attacks Senate chargesgalloway.jpg (3537 bytes)

British Member of Parliament George Galloway attacked a U.S. Senate subcommittee on May 17 for its "schoolboy errors" over claims that Saddam Hussein awarded him lucrative contracts under the United Nations Oil-for-Food program. In a defiant performance on Capitol Hill, the MP from London accused the committee of slandering his reputation and mounting "the mother of all smokescreens" to hide the real scandal — that Americans had plundered billions of dollars of Iraqi wealth.

The committee, chaired by Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman, had alleged that Mr. Galloway used a charity he established in 1998 to channel funds from allocations of 20 million barrels of oil from 2000 to 2003. In response, Mr. Galloway stated: "I am not now nor have I ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone on my behalf. I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and American governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas."

Mr. Galloway, who appeared voluntarily and testified under oath, used his opening statement to attack the allegations made against him in a dossier that he said was full of errors.

"On the very first page of your document about me, you assert that I have had ‘many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false," Mr. Galloway said."As a matter of fact," he added, "I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps, the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr. Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country ...."

Mr. Galloway selected Sen. Coleman as the focus of his wrath, adding: "You have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Iraq. Now I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice."

The day-long hearing was reviewing three major reports from the subcommittee of the U.S. Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, which studied in great detail how Saddam made billions in illegal oil sales despite U.N. sanctions imposed in 1991 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Sen. Coleman alleged that Mr. Galloway and others received oil allocations, then paid kickbacks to Saddam as part of the deal. He claimed that Saddam received more than $300,000 in surcharges on allocations involving Mr. Galloway.

The allegations first surfaced in the Daily Telegraph in April 2003 when the paper claimed that Mr. Galloway had personally profited from Iraqi oil deals. He sued for libel and won a resounding victory in court last December with $274,000 in damages.

The Christian Science Monitor also alleged it had documents to show that Mr. Galloway had received $10 million from the regime over 11 years. It, too, had to apologize and pay damages when the documents were shown to be forgeries.

Mr. Galloway accused Sen. Coleman of never having contacted him about the allegations. He also defended his opposition to the U.N. sanctions and the U.S.-led Iraq war: "I gave my heart and soul to stop you from committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq," Mr Galloway said. "And I told the world that the case for war was a pack of lies."

The Oil-for-Food program, which ran from 1996 to 2003, was designed to let Saddam's government sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods to help the Iraqi people cope with crippling U.N. sanctions led by the United States. But Saddam peddled influence by awarding favored politicians, journalists and others vouchers for oil that could then be resold at a profit. He also smuggled oil to Turkey, Jordan and Syria, often with the explicit approval of the United States and the rest of the U.N. Security Council.

Mr. Galloway said the lists on which his name appeared had been provided by "the convicted bank robber and fraudster and conman" Ahmed Chalabi, the former Pentagon ally who fell out of favor in Washington and is now a Deputy Prime Minister in the new Iraqi Government. "What counts is not the names on the paper," Mr. Galloway said. "What counts is where's the money, Senator? Who paid me money, Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who paid me a penny, you would have produced them here today."

One of the Iraq officials who allegedly gave evidence against him, Mr. Galloway said, was being held in Iraq in the Abu Ghraib prison on war crimes charges. He added, "I am not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything which you managed to get from a prisoner in those circumstances."

– edited from The Times (London) and Daily Telegraph (London)
– PeaceMeal, May/June 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

An election to anoint an occupation

by Salim Lone

George Bush was quick to characterize the election in Iraq as a triumph of democracy over terror. He declared it a "resounding success." And yet the election fell so completely short of accepted electoral standards that, had it been held in Syria, say, America would have been the first to denounce it.

Draconian security measures left Iraq’s cities looking like ghost towns. The ballot papers were so complicated that even the Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani, needed a briefing on how to use one. Most candidates had been afraid to be seen in public. The United Iraqi Alliance, identifying only 37 of their 225 candidates, explained:

"We offer apologies for not mentioning the names of all the candidates ... We have to keep them alive."

The millions of Iraqis, as well as the United Nations electoral team and the Iraqi election commission staff, who did participate in the process despite the grave risk, deserve our respect and admiration. But it was a risk taken in vain. The election was illegitimate, and cannot resolve the rampant insecurity resulting from the occupation. The only way to stop the destruction of Iraq is to end the occupation and enfranchise the Sunnis, who are leading the resistance because they see the United States as systematically excluding them from the role they deserve to play in Iraq.

Indeed, this so-called election, with its national rather than provincial voting rolls, was designed to reduce Sunni representation and to anoint U.S.-supported groups who will allow this occupation to continue. A high turnout does not change the fact that this is an illegitimate, occupier’s election.

Early in the occupation, the Bush administration recognized that a democratic Iraq would not countenance the strategic goals the war was fought for: controlling Iraq’s oil reserves and establishing military bases in Iraq — 14 of them — to enable the political transformation the neocons envisage for the Middle East.

Even as the U.S. proclaimed its mission as introducing democracy to Iraq, they worked to make sure that the processes they put in place would produce leaders they had picked. The U.S. obtained a carefully circumscribed U.N. involvement in order to provide the chosen leaders a measure of legitimacy.

It was clear to those of us in Baghdad right after Saddam’s fall that no long-term American project there would succeed. The limited self-governance plan was a non-starter because of the obvious control the U.S. exercised over the process. In any event, virtually no Iraqis, not even those benefitting from the U.S. presence, see the superpower as a promoter of human rights and democracy — even before the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, Najaf and Falluja.

As a result, each U.S.-dictated self-governance milestone backfired — just like the current election undoubtedly will, generating wider support for and bloodier attacks by the insurgency. The first devastating attacks on the foreign presence in Iraq, including the truck bombing of the U.N.’s Baghdad headquarters, came soon after the U.S. selected the Iraqi Governing Council.

In its search for greater legitimacy for its preferred Iraqi leadership, the U.S. has avoided the U.N. Security Council, since most of its members abhor what is being done to Iraq. The U.S. has instead chosen to work with individual representatives. The first such U.N. involvement, when the late Sergio Vieira de Mello headed the U.N. mission in Iraq, was the most effective. He was able to persuade the then-U.S. proconsul, Paul Bremer, that he should appoint an Iraqi Governing Council rather than an advisory body. Even at that, the anger about the individuals and groups on this council, and for UN support for it, was palpable in Iraq.

Nearly a year later, in another bid for UN support, Bush assured the world that the interim government would be picked by Lakhdar Brahimi, Kofi Annan’s special representative. Brahimi spent weeks in Iraq consulting domestic groups about who they felt should lead the country. But on the day the interim government was to be appointed, a deal was struck by the Americans — behind Brahimi’s back — to make the CIA-linked Ayad Allawi prime minister.

The U.S. has little popular support in Iraq. It has, however, won the support of the extremely influential Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who tolerates an occupation most of his followers hate, with the single-minded sectarian goal of having the majority Shia at the helm of power in Iraq. The occupation has destroyed Iraq and is destabilizing the world by exacerbating the deep animosity that most Arabs and Muslims feel for the United States. The Bush administration is now further provoking the Muslim world by threats against Iran. The rest of the world looks on, mostly helplessly.

Salim Lone was director of communications for Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. representative in Iraq, who was killed in the August 19, 2003, bombing of the U.N.’s Baghdad headquarters. His article is edited from The Guardian (U.K.), January 31, 2005.

– PeaceMeal Jan/February 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Iffy propositions

The following letter to the editor was published in the Tri-City (Washington) Herald on October 26, 2004.

U.S. troop levels in Iraq may be reduced next year, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says, "if" the security situation there improves.

When President Bush launched "shock and awe"against Iraq, he ignored advance warnings of post-war chaos by experts in the State Department, senior military officers, and intelligence reports. He listened instead to his hand-picked advisers, who predicted the Iraqi people would welcome our troops with flowers.

And when President Bush declared "mission accomplished" almost a year-and-a-half ago, his crystal ball gazers predicted U.S. troop levels would be down to 40,000 by August 2003. Troop levels are currently 135,000 and stretched thin.

Now, after extending tours of duty for the regular military, reserves and National Guard, President Bush is calling up thousands of the rarely used Individual Ready Reserve — people who have completed voluntary military commitments and returned to civilian life, but remain eligible to be mobilized in a national emergency.

But there won’t be a draft, President Bush said in the October 8th debate, "if" he is reelected.

"If" George W. Bush weren’t in the White House, our troops wouldn’t be on the ground in Iraq in the first place — nor in the ground here at home.

Jim Stoffels
Chairman, World Citizens for Peace