Mass executions return to Iraq


Once the WMD excuse for the invasion of Iraq was exposed as false, the undoubted brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime was held up as a reason for the invasion. So it's interesting to hear that just over three years after Saddam's ouster, mass executions are back, not just by insugents, but by the Iraqi government.

The brutal excesses of Saddam Hussein's regime were relived yesterday as Iraq's new government announced that it had hanged 27 prisoners convicted of terror and criminal charges.

Mass executions at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, which has several gallows erected in the execution chamber, were suspended after coalition-led troops overthrew Saddam three years ago. The death penalty was reinstituted in 2004, and yesterday's executions took place just days after control of Abu Ghraib was handed over to the Iraqi authorities.

How would Blair want us to interpret this news, as a sign of progress, or of Iraq getting back to 'normal'?

Bad News Burial Time - *updated*


Luckily Justin has a large shovel.

Britain is to reinforce its military presence in Iraq in a move that reflects increasing concern about the threat to its troops and the inability of local forces to take over responsibility for the country's security.

The decision was announced by the Ministry of Defence as the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, on her first visit to Iraq, warned that it was making "very slow" progress on security. Separately, a leading international thinktank warned that the conflict in Iraq was producing highly trained and motivated jihadists ready to commit terrorist acts in Europe and elsewhere.

(thanks to Chicken Yoghurt for not getting distracted by the fun and games at Westminster).

Oh, and the 'terror school' in Sussex is turning out a bit of a damp squib as well - two of the fourteen arrested released already, the school was the subject of a TV documentary and Sussex Police said they used the site for 'diversity training'. They'd have noticed a terrorist training camp, surely ('you can't do that 'ere, mate')?

Beeb link.

quarsan writes:
Not the only bit of bad news today: Ruth Kelly breaks a promise

Ruth Kelly has reneged on a promise of widespread consultation on the politically sensitive issue of how the government should spend billions of pounds on new social housing for the poorest people in the country.

In June, the communities secretary promised a chance for everybody from council tenants to landlords to give their views on plans to make social housing a priority in Gordon Brown's spending review next year.

... With just under a fortnight to go before consultation finishes, Peter Wycherley, a senior civil servant at the department for communities and local government, admitted that only three discussion meetings were being held - in Newcastle, Cambridge and Bolton. The Bolton meeting will be held a week after the consultation period is over. He told Alan Walters, chair of Defend Council Housing, in an e-mail: "I am not aware that other Government Offices intend to hold events specifically on the discussion paper."

Suspicion that the government is biased against council tenants has been fuelled by a decision by Go East, the regional office organising the Cambridge meeting, to prevent an elected tenant representative on Cambridge's housing management board from attending the consultation.

And in the spirit of the Vogons Hyperspace Bypass plans:

A spokesman said: " The consultation has been widely advertised on the ministry's website and any tenant could write in with their views".

In fact the department's website does not list the proposals under their current consultation exercises seeking the views of the general public. It lists the proposals as a discussion document aimed at a more specialist audience.

And Tom writes again

I remembered another while wheeling offspring along the river - the Pakistanis have made peace with the Taliban, thus leaving the bearded boys free to attack Our Boys' homeopathic warfare unit in Helmand. This quote perhaps predicts the future for our own military 'strategy':

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says some observers believe the deal offers the government an exit from a military strategy that has largely failed.

Dozens of soldiers have been killed in North Waziristan over the past year and local support for the Taleban seems to have increased rather than decreased, she says.


Sistani Throws in the Towel


In a terrifying development Sistani gives up politics. As a leading moderate he has managed to keep the lid on things with his pleas for calm. His political strategy was to help build Iraq, safe in the knowledge that a Shia majority would be in the best interests of his people, if not all Iraqis.

But his pleas are being ignored in the sectarian civil war and he's decided to bow out with as much dignity as he can.

"I will not be a political leader any more," he told aides. "I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."

... Al-Sistani's aides say that he has chosen to stay silent rather than suffer the ignominy of being ignored. Ali al-Jaberi, a spokesman for the cleric in Khadamiyah, said that he was furious that his followers had turned away from him and ignored his calls for moderation.

Asked whether Ayatollah al-Sistani could prevent a civil war, Mr al-Jaberi replied: "Honestly, I think not. He is very angry, very disappointed."

So the political power flows to al-Sadr and in the north, the Kurds prohibit flying of Iraqi flags... not a good sign for the imminent negociations about how much revenue from Kurdistan oil fields goes to Baghdad.

More Legofesto from Abu Ghraib.


Bush gives up on democracy in Iraq


It's the mantra we've been hearing over and over again, every time the reasons for the invasion of Iraq have been questioned. It's about democracy. Not WMD any more, not links to Al Qaeda and not oil. Bush and Blair's altruistic 'liberation' of Iraq was all about democracy. It doesn't matter to them how many people get slaughtered in the violence as the country breaks up because the remaining Iraqi people are free of the evil dictator Saddam Hussein and they are now able to choose their own leaders.

Our coalition has a clear goal, understood by all -- to see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations. America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend - a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf. And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done.

So I guess this as as big as an admission of failure as we are likely to hear.

Bush administration officials now admit that Iraqi government’s original plan to rein in the violence in Baghdad, announced in June, has failed. The Pentagon has decided to rush more American troops into the capital, and the new military operation to restore security there is expected to begin in earnest next month.

Yet some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq’s democratically elected government might not survive.

“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity. [My emphasis]

“Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,” the expert said, “but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”

So what exactly does the Bush administration have in mind? Perhaps re-installing Saddam or finding some other evil dictator, one that's more friendly to America of course. Maybe Bush will try to do what the British did and install a King. I also wonder whether Blair has been informed of this sudden change of heart. If not someone should tell him because he's still banging on about democracy.

The reason I say our response was even more momentous than it seemed at the time, is this. We could have chosen security as the battleground. But we didn't. We chose values. We said we didn't want another Taleban or a different Saddam. Rightly, in my view, we realised that you can't defeat a fanatical ideology just by imprisoning or killing its leaders; you have to defeat its ideas.

Of course we know about Bush's attitude to dictatorship, so maybe he'll just rule Iraq directly from Washington. No change there then.

Legofesto - Abu Grahib in Lego


Legofesto - comment on the twisted nature of our world.
This new blog starts off with Abu Grahib, starring Lindy England - re-enacted in Lego.

Legofesto is a politics-junkie and news-hound, with a obsession for lego and other construction toys. This is not a blog for children.
She is very, very pissed off about how this War on Terror is being prosecuted by US/UK, led by the deluded fundamentalists George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and George's ever faithful lapdog, Tony Blair and the cabal of supine stuffed shirts he calls a Cabinet, with their dearth of humanity and love of war.
Real events in the world are recreated in lego.

With the promise of much more to come - rumour has it, that there is a 'Lego Lebanon' under construction...


Craig Murray's speech (and others) at the London 'Ceasefire Now' demonstration


Having failed in my attempt to record Craig Murray's excellent speech at the protest, I was relieved to discover that managed to film it in its entirety.

Ady also has very good footage of the speeches of:

Via The Antagonist who has a very good post on the protest.

Stop The War March Photos


While the rest of the world goes wet and gooey over the UN's proposed green light to Israeli aggression (or as the war criminal's poodle puts it 'I welcome the tabling of this resolution') a few people were apparently marching in London. We've exploded the myth of the police's official estimate of 20,000 already*, so here are five photos from various points. Plenty of others on the net, Lenin's set are particularly good.

12:43 By North Carriage Drive, just north of the march preparing to set off (I was attempting to circumnavigate it)

13:31 March turning into Mount Street, just south of the US embassy - I was turned away by two coppers when attempting a short cut just north of here)

14:07 Main march reaching Piccadilly Circus

14:28 Near the head of the march passing Downing St.

14:30 Down towards Parliament Square (the cables on the left went up to a lorry-mounted crane carrying a CCTV camera pointing at the Downing Street gates. Behind the lorry were 12 coppers on horses, tucked out of sight)

* I forgot to mention that Craig Murray, who started speaking at 15:25, said that he could see people all the way up Whitehall at that time, which is an hour after I got to Downing Street and the front of the march got to Parliament Square. 1.5 hours is looking like an underestimate for the length of the march.

More bad news for Tony (and Iraq)


The outgoing British ambassador to Iraq has just poured cold water over Bush and Blair's fantasy vision of Iraq.

Civil war is the most likely outcome in Iraq, Britain's outgoing ambassador in Baghdad has warned, in a confidential memo to ministers obtained by the BBC.

William Patey, who left the Iraqi capital last week, also predicted the break-up of Iraq along ethnic lines.

Only Blair and Bush could be surprised by this pessimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq. The violence has been getting worse day by day and many commentators have said the country is already in a low-level civil war. The only ray of hope in the memo which Blair will no doubt latch on to was the statement that "the position is not hopeless". But the tone of the memo is so bleak, and coming as it does from such a high-up official, the Downing Street spin machine is going to have to go into overdrive.

The diplomatic cable was sent to the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons, and senior military commanders in both Iraq and the UK.

Mr Patey wrote: "The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy."

He went on: "Even the lowered expectation of President Bush for Iraq - a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror - must remain in doubt."

Tony Blair has to face the media today amid widespread criticism of his handling of the Lebanon conflict. So this latest news will be an extra blow for him, particularly in the light of his 'arc of extremism' polemic in Los Angeles on August 1, in which he mentioned Iraq 20 times.

...we need to see Iraq through its crisis and out to the place its people want: a non-sectarian, democratic state. The Iraqi and Afghan fight for democracy is our fight. Same values. Same enemy. Victory for them is victory for us all.

It should be an interesting press conference with Tony defending the indefensible before getting as far away as possible from the chaos he has created.

Behold the Author of our Foreign Policy


Watch George explain everything. Watch Tony look on in barely concealed horror...

I could fisk this, but what is really important is to see just how clueless the President is and the total lack of any understanding of the situation.

Spotted on the first rate Talking Points Memo

Dahr Jamail's Hezbollah Interview

Wednesday, July 26

"I am in Hezbollah because I care," the fighter, who agreed to the interview on condition of anonymity, told me. "I care about my people, my country, and defending them from the Zionist aggression." I jotted furiously in my note pad while sitting in the back seat of his car. We were parked not far from Dahaya, the district in southern Beirut which is being bombed by Israeli warplanes as we talk.

The sounds of bombs echoed off the buildings of the capital city of Lebanon yesterday afternoon. Out the window, I watched several people run into the entrance of a business center, as if that would provide them any safety.

The member of Hezbollah I was interviewing—let's call him Ahmed—has been shot three times during previous battles against Israeli forces on the southern Lebanese border. His brother was killed in one of these battles. It's been several years since his father was killed by an air strike in a refugee camp.

"My home now in Dahaya is pulverized, so Hezbollah gave me a place to stay while this war is happening," he said, "When this war ends, where am I to go? What am I to do? Everything in my life is destroyed now, so I will fight them."

You can sign up to receive Dahr Jamail's Dispatches via email here, or help support Dahr's reporting here.

Dahr Jamail in Beirut


Dahr Jamail is reporting from Beirut.

Here are the 2 latest dispatches:

Bombings Hit Children Hardest

Lebanese Devastated In All Sorts of Ways

You can sign up to receive them via email here, or help support Dahr's reporting here.

Craig Murray Interview


Lenin's Tomb has an interview with Craig Murray in which he dicusses his book and experiences in Uzbekistan.

I asked Murray how he first came to encounter the repression that he describes. I wondered if he had been presented with a lot of documentary evidence or if he witnessed some persecution himself.

Well: "It started with me in first three weeks of arriving going to witness a dissident trial, and it was absolutely terrifying. It was like a Nazi show trial, they had dissidents signing confessions saying not only that they had been to Afghanistan, but that they actually met bin Laden – it was that obvious. And the prisoners were looking dishevelled and beaten, and they were surrounded by armed guards and the judge was screaming at them. It was an extraordinary, terrifying experience. Within a few days of that, I received photographs of one prisoner who had been boiled to death at the notorious Jaslyk prison complex. He later turned out to have been a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. But word got around – the attendance at a dissident trial created a ripple effect because in general no one showed any interest. Very soon, people were beating a path to my door, relatives of those who had been imprisoned, tortured, disappeared, murdered. And over time I started to get a picture of torture at an industrial level, with the common factor that if they were dissidents they were made to sign confessions indicating that they were connected with Al-Qaeda and if they weren’t dissidents, they had to name ten other people as being connected with Al Qaeda – and it was ludicrous, these were people they had never even met!

Read the whole interview here.

Update on the Al Jazeera memo


Sorry, still no memo yet but… There is a link between the current battle between the Government and Craig Murray over the publishing of documents which support the case he makes in his book, and the upcoming court case over the leaking of the Al Jazeera memo. The link was touched upon in the Oh My News article we posted in relation to the media catching on to the Craig Murray story.

There will be a jury trial in October under the Official Secrets Act about the leaking of a memo that may in part be about Al Jazeera. There has been a request to find out more about this memo under the Freedom of Information Act but so far, nothing has been published. If the FCO legal argument is accepted in court, Al Jazeera may succeed in their request for information but be unable to publish anything for copyright reasons.


Some of the documents Mr Murray had were obtained under the FoIA, and Al Jazeera want to obtain the memo (that allegedly has a discussion between Bush and Blair about the bombing of the Al Jazeera buildings in Qatar) under the same act, but may face the same problems as Mr Murray.

This is interesting for several reasons. On October 9 this year David Keogh and Leo O'Connor will appear at The Old Bailey criminal court to face charges under Britain's Official Secrets Act in the leaking of the memo. As part of their defence, they will attempt to use the memo as evidence in court.

Keogh's lawyer, Stuart Jeffrey, plans to argue that the government memo should be presented as evidence in open court, a move that is sure to be opposed by the prosecution and might muddy the proceedings.

"The prosecution has to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the disclosure they say occurred seriously damaged international relations or defense and national security," Jeffrey said. "We're saying, 'What's the damage?' It's not a situation where all of a sudden the administration in the United States has said, 'If you can't keep this under your hats, we're not friends anymore.'"

The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith has already used the heavy-handed tactic of banning the media from revealing anything from the memo under the official secrets act, so presumably they will be prohibited from reporting on the trial if the memo is admitted as evidence. Even if that ban is lifted, the copyright law will leave them unable to print anything.

In another development, the widow of Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayyoub, who was killed in 2003 when the US military bombed the Al Jazeera offices in Baghdad, is filing a lawsuit against the Bush administration.

Yesterday, the attorney for Dima Tahboub, the widow of Tareq Ayyoub, held a press conference in Washington D.C announcing the lawsuit. The attorney, Hamdi Rifai, said the case is being launched in part because of the disclosure last year in London's Daily Mirror that President Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair of his desire to bomb Al Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar. The Mirror cited a secret memo leaked from the British government.

This could have big implications for the releasing of the memo and the trial in Britain. Read the whole transcript of her interview with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now. US laws are a little different from British laws and if Dima Tahboub is successful in her lawsuit or even manages to have the memo read out in a US court, then it won't be long before we get to hear about it in Britain. That is, of course, a very big "if".

Meanwhile both the US and UK governments are going out of their way to halt the series of leaks that have been occurring since the invasion of Iraq. I feel we may be hearing more about the Al Jazeera memo quite soon.

Latest From Riverbend


In Baghdad it just gets worse and worse and Riverbend is fuming:

It promises to be a long summer. We're almost at the mid-way point, but it feels like the days are just crawling by. It's a combination of the heat, the flies, the hours upon hours of no electricity and the corpses which keep appearing everywhere.

The day before yesterday was catastrophic. The day began with news of the killings in Jihad Quarter. According to people who live there, black-clad militiamen drove in mid-morning and opened fire on people in the streets and even in houses. They began pulling people off the street and checking their ID cards to see if they had Sunni names or Shia names and then the Sunnis were driven away and killed. Some were executed right there in the area. The media is playing it down and claiming 37 dead but the people in the area say the number is nearer 60.