How I wish we had wise leadership!

Last night I posted on Facebook while watching 7.30 on ABC:

How I wish we had wise leadership, but we don’t. Instead we have a PM who thinks like a shock jock. That’s why they are always his first port of call. Sadly too we have a dead fish opposition….

I referred then to Tim Jarvis, Critical Thinking And Contemporary Politics: The Tony And Co Conundrum.

…Critical Thinking courses turn out to be about two things, neither of which seem very exciting: teaching students to ferret out arguments and see them as questionable, and to provide them with the tools of argument analysis and assessment.

It doesn’t sound all that sexy, but it is valuable and necessary, and much less obvious than it sounds. Demanding that others and ourselves believe what we believe and do what we do for at least passably good reasons is the threshold of living up to that definition of humans as ‘rational animals’.

And yet the demand to provide good reasons and arguments seems to be a stumbling block to the powers that be. Cue the Abbott Government.

As we head off to war (again) for the sake of our security (again), reasonable questions have been asked about whether returning to the conflict in Iraq will actually make us less secure. A few weeks ago, rather than directly address these concerns, Abbott deployed the following howler:

“I should remind everyone that Australians were the subject of a terror attack in Bali long before we got involved in the 2003 Iraq war. The United States was subject to the September 11 atrocity long before any American involvement in Iraq. So, we are a target, not because of anything that we’ve done but because of who we are and how we live.

Let’s ignore the bizarre suggestion that, prior to 9/11, America had never done anything in the Middle East that could possibly have upset anybody, and just look at the argument.

This is a perhaps previously unknown species of the family of bad arguments known as ‘Fallacies of False Cause’. The most famous of these is post hoc ergo propter hoc: after it, therefore because of it: A occurred before B, therefore A caused B: Abbott was elected before the rise of ISIS, therefore Abbott caused the rise of ISIS…

I commend that article.

I commented then on my own Facebook post: “See tonight’s 7.30 and Tony Abbott/Alan Jones referred to therein. A starting point for my direct personal experience of Hizb ut-Tahrir…” I’ll come to that shortly.

Look, one thing clear: I have no truck with that awful bunch of total homicidal/genocidal fanatics called ISIS or whatever. I broadly support the military intervention, even if I can see problems with how it is supposed to work (or not). One major difference between 2003 and now is that ISIS or whatever manifestly does exist, whereas WMD and Iraqi-based terror in 2003 manifestly didn’t: cue Hans Blix and Scott Ritter just for starters. On the latter I wrote in 2008:

If Iraq were producing [chemical] weapons today, we’d have proof, pure and simple. (page 37)

[A]s of December 1998 we had no evidence Iraq had retained biological weapons, nor that they were working on any. In fact, we had a lot of evidence to suggest Iraq was in compliance. (page 46)

I read that 2002 publication and found it quite convincing, and it did after all turn out to be pretty much on the mark, didn’t it? No, Bush just wanted to invade Iraq. Trouble is none of them really had any idea once they actually got there. Now, many gigabucks and heaps of bodies later, it may be that things are a touch better, but what actually has been achieved in relation to terrorism?…

Sadly, when I look at and hear Tony Abbott what I too often see and hear is the wickedly accurate caricature that graced the front cover of the August Monthly:

abbottcover So here he went again, the master of the bogan slogan and spruiker on shock jock radio and TV, projecting his Great War Leader and Macho Guy persona to a sometimes adoring populace – though apparently not so adored by many of the populace at last weekend’s Rugby League Grand Final. (“It’s customary for the Prime Minister of Australia to appear at a Grand Final game to congratulate players. But things took an unexpected turn for PM Tony Abbott after last night’s NRL match between champions South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Canterbury Bulldogs.  As the Prime Minister was introduced in the post-game ceremony, the crowd quickly reacted with a tremendous chorus of boos, obviously unimpressed with his presence…”)

…SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: With Australia joining the US air strikes on Iraq, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s next event is a public lecture this Friday in Sydney titled The War to End A Blessed Revolution and advertised on Facebook.
FACEBOOK PAGE (male voiceover): America has initiated yet another war, rounding up its puppets and allies to attack the Syrian revolution, while using intervention in Iraq as a convenient excuse. … How should Muslims respond as America attacks the most potent uprising in the Muslim world in the last century: the revolution of Syria?”
ALAN JONES, 2GB RADIO HOST: This mob are banned in virtually all Arab nations in the Middle East.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: By this morning, the looming event had raised the ire of Sydney’s most influential shock jock, Alan Jones
ALAN JONES: Are you, before Friday, as Prime Minister of Australia, going to proscribe this movement? That is, put them outside the protection of the law, reject them as dangerous and exile them.
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: Alan, I understand your frustration and anger and I’m frustrated and angry myself. Under existing law, we can’t ban them. we’ve looked at banning them, but we’re advised under existing law we can’t do it.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The Prime Minister is planning new laws by the end of the year making it a crime to promote terrorism. On 2GB this morning, he said he wanted to use those on Hizb ut-Tahrir.
TONY ABBOTT: There is no doubt they are an organisation that campaigns against Australian values, that campaigns against Australian interests. They are a thoroughly objectionable organisation.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Despite being banned elsewhere, Hizb ut-Tahrir has taken a high profile, with promotional videos, public events and TV interviews.
WASSIM DOUREIHI (Lateline, 2007): Has no association whatsoever with terrorism or acts of terrorism and it entirely refutes any notion of being a conveyor belt to terrorism…

That contentious conference, by the way, in fact includes no overseas star turns, so the talk of “red carding” blow-ins who preach hate was strictly irrelevant. The episode may indeed be seen as yet another attempt to suppress dissent, as a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir has said. See also Media Watch on recent background developments: Security and secrecy: how the new anti-terror law has many Australian journalists worried about their freedom to report in the public interest.

Today Tom Allard is spot-on – and wiser than Jones or Abbott — in the Sydney Morning Herald:

…The planned conference on Friday in Lakemba that drew the ire of Mr Abbott will discuss how the US-led coalition’s campaign against Islamic State is actually an attempt to end the “blessed revolution” to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The contention underpinning the conference is conspiratorial and not readily supported by facts.

But wild conspiracies do not amount to promoting terrorism and Hizb ut Tahrir has loudly denounced the caliphate claimed by Islamic State as an aberration and condemned its killings of innocents and non-believers….

…For the past decade, security agencies in the West have repeatedly considered whether the group should be banned. Invariably, they have declined.

The main concern has been that the group is a “conveyer belt” for jihadists, a weigh station where they are inculcated with radical ideology before they leave for a group with more violent tendencies.

Nawab Osman, an academic at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who did his doctorate in Australia on the group, says the “conveyer belt” theory doesn’t stack up. Hizb, overall, acted as a bulwark against Islamic radicals taking the next step and turning to terrorism, he said.

A ban, he added, would be counter-productive.

“All you will do is create martyrs out of Hizb ut Tahrir. It will grow and it will grow underground. That makes it much more difficult for security agencies to monitor.”

It so happens I have actually met Wassim Doureihi a couple of times. I do not share his vision, clearly, but he is/was: a) thoroughly Australian in very many ways; b) very intelligent; c) capable of debate and discussion, given the right circumstances.  I attach a series of 2009 posts, the first in full. Note: “The Mine” or “The Salt MIne” refers to my principal place of work in the 90s and early 2000s.

Recycle: Some non-fiction read recently 2b – the personal component

20 APR 2009

==> See also Some non-fiction read recently: 2a. [On Madeleine Albright, The Mighty & the Almighty: Reflections on Power, God, and World Affairs, Macmillan 2006 and Michael Burleigh, Blood & Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, Harper 2008.]

This goes back to 2005 and a particularly interesting if controversial event. On the day I was not there, as I had to attend a meeting of ESL teachers at Erskineville – or was it Arncliffe, one of the last such meetings for me as I retired the following year. But I did know all the participants at The Mine end, and I posted on it at the time and the following year. See Salt Mine and Islamic Students; 7.30 Report: The Mine and the Islamists; The Mine and the Islamists: cause for concern?. On Floating Life Apr 06 ~ Nov 07 there is also a major entry from April 2006.

What I found yesterday was a video on YouTube of the complete 2005 Seminar [still there at 9 Oct 2014] referred to in those entries. The controversy centred on the guest speakers, Sheik Khalid Yassin and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Wassim Doureihi. These people would fall in one of Michael Burleigh’s inner circles (see previous entry) but not necessarily, of course, into the innermost circle. While I had concerns about the Mine students involved, I very much doubt they would have even considered the innermost circle – quite the opposite in fact. (I also refer to these students in my Cronulla 2005 posts.)


Stills from the video.

Mine students often show initiative, of course, and these particular students were very bright indeed and participated in all aspects of school life to the full. An earlier generation some ten years before promised they would have Barry Crocker and Kamahl at their farewell assembly. We thought they were joking, but on the day, there they were! The Tamils were especially happy. So were the office ladies.

Now you have to wait for Part C of this post.

Recycle: Some non-fiction read recently 2c – tentative conclusions

23 APR

And I really mean tentative. Further, there is no way a shortish post like this can do more than indicate rather than expound. After all, the books with which this series of posts began comprise around a thousand pages, while this post will most likely be just one to three! And I am about to add to that by recommending another thousand pages or more, which I have either skimmed or, in the case of Jason Burke, read attentively since commencing these posts….

Do read on!

Oh that we had really wise leadership!

Update 11.37 am 9 October 2014

It appears Wassim Doureihi was on Wednesday night’s episode of Lateline. I didn’t see it.

After a relatively subdued start to the ABC interview, Mr Doureihi repeatedly dodged questions about whether Hizb ut-Tahrir supported the “murderous campaign’ waged by Islamic State extremists. Hizb ut-Tahrir has previously dubbed Islamic State as an “armed group which only represents itself”.

Here is what he was trying to argue:

EMMA ALBERICI: We’ve invited you here tonight to help Australians better understand what it is that you stand for. So tell me first of all, do you support the murderous campaign being waged by Islamic State fighters in Iraq?
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Well, thank you very much for the opportunity. There is an urgent need in this country to have quite open and honest conversation. I want to take a moment just to take a step back. (Inaudible). I will come specifically – I will come …
EMMA ALBERICI: But I would like you to take this moment to my question only because we will have some time to go through a number of issues and I don’t want to run out of time.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: I will come specifically to that question. We won’t run out of time. We’ll definitely address the most important and pertinent points. The first point is this: that when we discuss the events in the Middle East, in the Muslim world, our entry point shouldn’t be what ISIS is doing or not doing. ISIS exists in a particular context. What’s that context? That context is a century or more of colonial occupation at the hands of the very governments …

EMMA ALBERICI: … you have made. And now I would just draw you back to my question.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: Yeah, and I’ll keep repeating the same point. This cannot possibly be our entry point in this discussion …
EMMA ALBERICI: Do you support ….
WASSIM DOUREIHI: … because why is the attention on ISIS – what ISIS is doing or not doing? Our position on ISIS is very clear. Our position on ISIS was released years before Tony Abbott wanted to make it a political issue….

EMMA ALBERICI: OK, let me ask you another one. OK, you’re not going to engage with that one.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: No, no, let me be very clear. No, no, no, no, let me be very clear: just because you don’t get the answer you want, just because I’m not reinforcing an Islamic-phobic narrative that justifies the wholesale slaughter of entire populations …
EMMA ALBERICI: You can dispel any supposed phobia out there …
WASSIM DOUREIHI: No, I’m explaining the context in which this entire discussion is happening….

Tony Abbott’s gloss on all that, according to the Herald:

Speaking on Melbourne radio station 3AW on Thursday morning, Mr Abbott said he was impressed with the ABC host’s tenacity.

“She’s a feisty interview … good on her for having a go and I think she spoke for our country last night,” Mr Abbott said. 

Mr Abbott’s praise was in stark contrast to his previous criticisms of the ABC.

I do wish Wassim Doreihi had resisted the urge to be an intellectual and had simply given the yes/no answer — and then set forth on the contextual issue, where what he is saying is in fact far from crazy – agree or not. Many on the left, including total nonbelievers in Doureihi’s ideology/religion, would share that line of thought. So while I can see what he was trying to say, there is little doubt he blew the opportunity. Perhaps talking inside the tent too much has wrecked his sense of audience.

Tony Abbott will seem less of a hypocrite when he himself submits to Emma Alberici’s “tenacity” rather than visiting all his usual urgers and groupies.

Update 10 October 2014

See Lateline host Emma Alberici’s only regret over Hizb ut-Tahrir interview.

The Lateline host was commended on Thursday by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who felt she “spoke for our country.”

Alberici said, while the opinion of the PM was important, her approach in the interview was merely the Lateline-way.

“We have a long history at Lateline of conducting interviews without fear or favour. So it’s terrific we have that kind of endorsement from the PM, but it’s just as terrific that in our plural liberal democracy people can disagree,” she said.

“But I don’t think it’s the best interview I’ve ever done, because I didn’t get any answers!”

Today’s Herald editorial is pretty good in my opinion.

…The exchanges between Mr Doureihi and host Emma Alberici escalated unhelpfully into a slanging match that left audiences none the wiser about Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott – having promised to try to stop the “thoroughly objectionable” group on Wednesday – generated more heat on Thursday by labelling it “un-Australian”.

As Australian personnel embark on dangerous missions to help minorities ward off IS in Iraq, such loaded rhetoric from both sides frays national unity.

The Herald urges the government, Muslim groups and every Australian to step back and regain perspective in an environment ripe for hatred and rushes to judgement.

That will require some unpalatable decisions.

Among them is recognising Australia values the freedom to disagree, even vehemently, and the right to air offensive views within certain limits…

…on August 13 this year Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia issued a statement that included key information missing from Lateline.

“Children holding severed heads, oppression of Christians, random killings and the like are wrong,” the August 13 statement said.

On July 2 this year, the director of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s central media office in Lebanon, Osman Bakhach, said: “Resurrecting the caliphate [an Islamic state operating under Sharia law] should not be accomplished through blood, charges of apostasy and explosions … We (call) for a state that opens its arms to all people, Muslims and others, including Christians and Jews … Establishing the Islamic state is not accomplished by considering every dissenter an apostate whose killing is deemed lawful. In this way, (Islamic State) proclaims itself both adversary and arbiter.”…

While the Herald agrees with Mr Abbott that Hizb ut-Tahrir “is very careful to avoid advocating terrorism”, it is less clear the group is “always making excuses for terrorist organisations”.

And there is no credible proof in the public arena that Hizb ut-Tahrir supports or advocates violence or terrorism, beyond the words “in whatever capacity” in its August 13 statement: “People travelling abroad to help the oppressed, in whatever capacity, is a noble deed.”

Such lack of clarity raises concerns about how some of Mr Abbott’s proposed counter-terrorism laws will operate. At what point will preaching peaceful pursuit of offensive ideas become “advocating terrorism”? And will eradicating those views spread a martyrdom complex intent on revenge?

The battle against terrorism traverses dangerous ground. Australia must tread carefully


Boston–nothing original to say here. And a slower bomb in Alice Springs?


I broadly agree with this:

RIP to all the innocent people who died today!
55 Iraqis were killed with over 200 wounded in several car bomb attacks across Iraqi provinces & the capital Baghdad today.
Also 2 people were killed in an explosion at the Boston marathon with over 100 injured.
Lets not just be sad about the deaths the media tells us to be sad about.
We are all human and one life is just as valuable as another.

But it came via World Wide Freedom, which, it appears, links to Anonymous. Unfortunately tinfoil hats are standard wear for some inhabitants of that space. For example:

    • Bet you they are going to blame it on the north corean so they can finally declare war, they are hungry to do it like they did with the Middle East.
    • This is exactly what the U.S Government & NSA have been waiting for, an excuse. I bet Iran, Cuba or North Korea get the blame for this. The last 3 countries without a Rothschild controlled bank.

God spare us such left-wing pea-brains, as undesirable as any other kind of doofus and as boringly predictable.

Nonetheless there is a point worth making in that first quotation.

The much maligned mainstream media have as much if not more to offer us at this stage of general ignorance about what really happened in Boston: Paul McGeough, for example.

One expert, Richard Barrett, the former United Nations co-ordinator for monitoring al-Qaeda and the Taliban, said there were hints the attack was the work of a right-wing terrorist rather than Islamic terror – it happened on the day Americans file tax return, in a symbolic city, on Patriots Day – but said it was still too early to tell.

For a time is seemed that Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post had an answer to the ”who” question. It reported that investigators had a suspect – a 20-year-old Saudi national who was under guard at an unnamed Boston hospital.

“The man was caught less that two hours after the 2.50pm bombing,” the Post reported. Not true, said a spokesman for the Boston police.

When NBC chimed in with ”a possible suspect in a Boston hospital”, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis was wheeled out. ”Not true,” he said.

Instead of pursuing conspiracy theories and pointless speculation, let’s focus rather on things like 10 Touching Acts of Kindness at the Boston Marathon. Here is one:


Alice Springs

Last night after the excellent Who Do You Think You Are on actor Don Hany’s Hungarian mother’s family story I stayed with SBS for Jenny Brockie’s Insight.

This week Insight is coming to you from Alice Springs. A lot is said about this place and it is usually adults doing the talking, tonight in a series of interviews Jenny Brockie will talk with Aboriginal teenagers and they have plenty to say.


JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell me about your brother’s accident. What happened?

KYLE: My cousin and my brother, they were drinking together. He grabbed a shovel and they were fighting and my brother got hit over the head with a shovel, but he got back up and he was alright. But they kept ongoing and then he hit him again. And then he fell over and he hit his head on the wall and he kind of broke it, because it was one of them hollow ones, he broke it with his head. And then them to, he got back up and was stumbling around but was still alright. They started having a go again and then my brother fell on a tree stump. When he fell on the tree, he jumped on top of ’em and broke his neck.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you saw all of this?

KYLE: Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:   So your mum wasn’t there when this happened?

KYLE: She wasn’t there. When she came home – because my mum knows Joel when he’s drunk or something’s wrong, and then she knew something was wrong and wasn’t right. So then we went to the hospital. They said he had a broken neck. I think what was pretty hard was he died three times bur t somehow they revived them three times as well. Like, he was in IC in the hospital. But somehow his heart started beating again. And then when he was in the plane, just about landing, he died again. And then when he was in Adelaide in ICU his lungs collapsed. And then that’s when I went and seen him, it was kind of hard for me because, like, I seen all of the wires up his arms and the tube down his throat and everything. It’s pretty hard.


KYLE: And like it was just pretty tough…

But also:

JENNY BROCKIE:  That’s a lot to deal with when you’re nine, yeah.

KYLE: It’s pretty hard.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Uh-huh. You were saying before that when you were little you used to run amuck a bit until that happened. How did that change you, do you think when you were nine? What impact did it have on you?

KYLE: I’m just like – I thought to myself – if I keep running amuck like that and I keep being naughty. And I said to myself, “If I keep going down this road I might end up like my brothers, I might end up going doneys or going like pass way, do something bad and get locked up.” Something like that, so I said, “I’m going to stop and be a good boy and just be good and that’s when I won that award.” I got Chief Minister’s Literacy Award Achievement.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You won that when, in 2011?

KYLE: Yeah, I got most improved in NT.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you feel when you got that?

KYLE: Speechless. I didn’t know what to say.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Now, you won that award for a specific reason.

KYLE: When I was in Year eight my aunt was my teacher. At the start she gave me a reading test and I was below average of a 6-year-old, so I couldn’t read that well. And then within about three-four months of reading and practising, she tried to give me the same book back that I read and struggled with. I said, “Aunt, this is too easy.” She gave me another one probably Grade seven. I said this was too easy and so I chose one myself and said, “I want to read this one.” When I was reading it, I read one page and then she just looked at me, she covered her hands over her mouth and she started crying because my average reading level went from a 6-year-old to Year 10.

You can also watch this online.

That last bit by Kyle blew me away, as an ex-teacher I suppose.  It is a reminder that good things can and do happen. But much we heard also reminded us that the hideous spectacle of the bomb-setting terrorist, or the clinical imprecision of a drone strike somewhere over the horizon, are not the only relentlessly destructive forces we have to contend with in this world.

John Howard on the Iraq War

See the text of former PM John Howard’s talk at the Lowy Institute.

Australia’s decision to join the coalition in Iraq was a product both of our belief at the time that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the nature of our relationship and alliance with the US. ?I never believed that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks nor did president Bush or, to my knowledge Tony Blair. Such a claim never formed part of the public case put by the Howard government for our Iraqi involvement. Some sections of the US administration may have had this conviction. It did not influence the Australian decision-making process.

He may not have been involved in 9/11, but Saddam had a grisly track record. He had used poison gas against the Iranians and the Kurds; gave $25,000 to every family of a Palestinian suicide bomber; was classified by the US State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism; was responsible for up to 100,000 dead in the Anfal campaign of 1988 against the Kurds; his 1991 campaign of reprisals against the Shia claimed 50,000 lives. Between 600,000 and 1 million died in the Iraq/Iran war. His human rights record was unspeakable. The claims of some that life in Iraq was better under Saddam than it has been since, defy belief.

The belief that Saddam had WMDs was near universal. As the Flood inquiry put it, “Prior to 19 March 2003, the only government in the world that claimed that Iraq was not working on, and did not have, biological and chemical weapons or prohibited missile systems was the Government of Saddam Hussein.”

Compare one of the many things I read in 2003, without the advantage of intelligence services but with dial-up internet.

10. Does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction?

We don’t know for sure – that’s why the UN inspectors are in Iraq. As of the end of 2002, the inspectors have not indicated they have found evidence of any viable weapons programs. When the earlier inspection team, UNSCOM, left Iraq on the eve of Washington’s December 1998 Desert Fox bombing, they said they had found and destroyed or rendered harmless 90 – 95% of Iraq’s WMD programs. Iraq has said that they have destroyed other weapons, but do not have a complete paper trail to fully document their destruction. There is certainly no active nuclear program – that would be easily detectable by satellite and other technologies. While it is possible that some chemical or biological material from earlier weapons programs may remain in Iraq, as yet undetected by UN inspectors, there is no indication that a viable delivery system for such weapons exists.

The Bush administration claims Iraq does have WMDs – but they have refused to reveal the evidence they claim to have to the public and won’t even provide all the evidence to the UN inspection teams. This contradicts Washington’s claim of an imminent threat from Iraqi WMDs – were there such a threat, U.S. officials would surely immediately provide the inspectors all the information needed to neutralize the threat. By withholding the information, the U.S. seems more interested in playing “gotcha” than in actually finding and rendering harmless any real weapons.

Further, the emerging example of North Korean nuclear weapons may be instructive. If, as is the case in North Korea, there was actual evidence of an Iraqi nuclear weapon, Bush would be unlikely to be threatening to go to war against Iraq. Instead, a combination of diplomacy and deterrence would be used. The U.S. willingness to talk to nuclear-armed North Korea, while refusing to talk to Iraq, provides another clear indication that Iraq does not have nuclear weapons.

11. Did Iraq have anything to do with September 11th, or with al-Qaeda? Would going to war against Iraq improve the security of Americans at home and abroad?

Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11th attacks.

In fact, Iraq has a long history of antagonism to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. According to the New York Times: “[S]hortly after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in 1990, Osama bin Laden approached Prince Sultan bin Abdelaziz al-Saud, the Saudi defense minister, with an unusual proposition.…Arriving with maps and many diagrams, Mr. Bin Laden told Prince Sultan that the kingdom could avoid the indignity of allowing an army of American unbelievers to enter the kingdom to repel Iraq from Kuwait. He could lead the fight himself, he said, at the head of a group of former mujahideen that he said could number 100,000 men.” Even though the offer was undoubtedly exaggerated, bin Laden’s hostility toward secular Iraq is clear. There is no evidence that that has changed.

Far from making Americans more secure, there is every reason to fear that war against Iraq will place Americans in greater danger. Across the Middle East, anti-American feeling is already widespread due to U.S. financial and diplomatic backing of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and its support for corrupt and repressive regimes across the Arab world. A U.S.-led war against Iraq will further exacerbate that anger, perhaps leading more desperate individuals to turn to acts of violence against individual Americans or institutions perceived as symbols of American power or policy.

12. If the U.S. doesn’t attack Iraq, how can we be sure there are no weapons of mass destruction?

By supporting the United Nations weapons inspectors, whose mandate is to finish the job of earlier inspection teams by finding and rendering harmless any remaining weapons of mass destruction. We can get further reassurance by implementing Article 14 of UN Resolution 687, which states that disarming Iraq of WMDs should be seen as a step towards a region-wide Middle East “zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and a global ban on chemical weapons.” Such an approach, rather than the current U.S. posture of flooding the arms-glutted region with ever more powerful weapons, would certainly help reduce military tensions in the region.

Compare this, also from the time.

With the war only hours away from beginning, I had a long talk with a senior Administration official about how it had come about and what it seemed to portend.

“Before September 11th,” the official said, “there wasn’t a consensus Administration view about Iraq. This issue hadn’t come to the fore, and you had Administration views. There were those who preferred regime change, and they were largely residing in the Pentagon, and probably in the Vice-President’s office. At the State Department, the focus was on tightening up the containment regime—so-called ‘smart sanctions.’ The National Security Council didn’t seem to have much of an opinion at that point. But the issue hadn’t really been joined.

“Then, in the immediate aftermath of the eleventh, not that much changed. The focus was on Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda. Some initial attempts by Wolfowitz”—Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense —“and others to draw Iraq in never went anywhere, because the link between Iraq and September 11th was, as far as we know, nebulous at most—nonexistent, for all intents and purposes. It’s somewhere in the first half of 2002 that all this changed. The President internalized the idea of making regime change in Iraq a priority. What I can’t explain to you is exactly the process that took us from the initial post-September 11th position, which was, Let’s keep the focus on Al Qaeda and Afghanistan, to, say, nine months later, when Iraq had moved to the top of the priority list for us. That’s a mystery that nobody has yet uncovered. It clearly has something to do with September 11th, and it’s clearly consistent with the President’s speech about weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogues, people with a history of some terror—but, again, how it exactly happened, and what was the particular role of Cheney, among others, I wish you well in uncovering.”

And according to the Flood Inquiry:

In September 2002, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released a comprehensive technical assessment of Iraq’s WMD capacities, drawing on technical experts with long experience with UNSCOM and IAEA in Iraq. This concluded that Iraq probably retained some stocks of both CW and BW, and that Iraq was capable of resuming both CW and BW production on short notice (weeks or months) using existing civilian facilities. The IISS described the retention of WMD capacities as the core objective of the Iraqi regime.

US and UK assessments on Iraq at this time are also well documented. Those that were publicly released concluded that Iraq had continued its WMD and proscribed-range ballistic missile programmes and that it possessed and had begun renewed production of CBW, and voiced concern about Iraq’s ongoing support for terrorism after September 11. While these US and UK views were stronger than many others, including Australia’s, it is noteworthy that prior to the coalition’s military action against Iraq on 19 March 2003, the only government in the world that claimed Iraq was not working on, and did not have, biological and chemical weapons or prohibited missile systems was the Government of Saddam Hussein. Although many made clear in their public statements that Iraq’s continued possession of WMD was yet to be proved, the unanimous passage of Resolution 1441 shows the strength of international concern, even amongst those countries which opposed military action in early 2003. Statements by French and German leaders and foreign ministers, for example, consistently called upon Iraq to disarm, as had those by the Clinton administration.


WMD is an inherently difficult and demanding target, requiring judgments to be made on the basis of information which is nearly always open to a range of interpretations. The fact that many components and facilities associated with WMD have legitimate uses and are therefore characterised as ‘dual-use’ illustrates these difficulties. During the period of inspections between 1991 and 1998, intelligence agencies had a range of information from often publicly available and reliable sources to supplement covertly acquired intelligence. However, following the withdrawal of inspectors, the volume of available material reduced significantly. In the absence of such corroborating material, and with relatively limited covert collection against Iraqi WMD targets, judgments on Iraq’s WMD programmes became very much more difficult to make. Intelligence assessment is almost always inexact – precision is difficult in an endeavour which seeks to discover what others seek to conceal. In the case of Iraq’s WMD, these difficulties were acute.

Adding to the problem was the thinness of the intelligence on which analysts were expected to make difficult calls. There was little by way of hard current intelligence available to analysts across the range of WMD capability issues, although the intelligence on Iraq’s efforts to deceive inspectors was clearer. Much of the information that was available was equivocal or of uncertain validity. A good deal of it was either reporting of dual-use acquisition activity, inherently difficult to interpret, or human intelligence of uncertain sourcing and reliability. The weakness of the intelligence picture on Iraq was in part due to inadequate collection.

Australian agencies had the added complication of an almost complete reliance on foreign-sourced collection and, on occasion, foreign assessments. Additionally, Australia’s focus on its nearer region meant there was limited analytical capacity in relation to Iraq and, while there was better capability in relation to WMD issues, it was still limited when compared to the capacity of US and UK counterparts. And it is in practical terms more difficult for analysts to query and challenge foreign-sourced material, especially when there is little or no alternative input. In general, source descriptions were less than helpful for analysts, tending to be selected from a small group of standard phrases. It is noteworthy in this context that most if not all of the material from Iraqi opposition groups was clearly marked as such, and was treated by Australian assessors with appropriate scepticism…

But on an issue with such potentially serious policy implications as Iraq’s WMD capabilities and the threat posed by Saddam, more rigorous challenging of the assumptions underlying their assessments should have been carried out. While individual analysts almost certainly travelled the ground in their own minds, and managers challenged the bases for particular judgments, there is little evidence that systematic and contestable challenging was applied in a sustained way to analysts’ starting assumptions.

There is also little evidence of a consistent and rigorous culture of challenge to and engagement on intelligence reports from collectors, and limited evidence of dialogue on assessed material. There are a number of reasons for the lack of rigorous questioning of sources, including the limited extent to which some raw material influenced key judgments in this case. But the lack of a dynamic dialogue on sources, one indicator of a healthy assessment process, is of concern…


There has been a failure of intelligence on Iraq WMD. Intelligence was thin, ambiguous and incomplete. Australia shared in the allied intelligence failure on the key question of WMD stockpiles, with ONA more exposed and DIO more cautious on the subject. But many of the agencies’ other judgments have proved correct. Overall, assessments produced by ONA and DIO on Iraq WMD up to the commencement of combat operations reflected reasonably the limited available information and used intelligence sources with appropriate caution.

The lack of comprehensive assessment, which might have been achieved by production of a National Assessment or an Intelligence Estimate to support ADF deployment considerations, was regrettable. Such comprehensive reporting may have helped to clarify a complex and fragmented picture. The limited analysis of the significance of Iraq’s WMD in terms of the threat that Iraq posed also impacted on the utility of the assessments.

The two agencies’ key judgments were largely consistent until late January 2003, when ONA assessed that Iraq must have WMD, while DIO continued to assess that the intelligence on the issue was inconclusive. But differences in style, including ONA’s lesser use of detail and qualification, led to an implicit difference in assessments from late December 2002. On the key points of Iraq’s possession of WMD, and the significance of its concealment and deception activities, ONA judgments were expressed with fewer qualifications and greater certainty than those of DIO.

On the critical issue of independence, the Inquiry’s investigations showed that, despite a heavy reliance on foreign-sourced intelligence collection, both agencies had formulated assessments independent of those of the US and the UK, in several notable cases choosing not to endorse allied judgments. The Inquiry found no evidence to suggest policy or political influence on assessments on Iraq WMD.

There was insufficient challenge both to assumptions and sources in the agencies’ assessments on Iraq, and both ONA and DIO need to institutionalise work practices and training to remedy this.

Not quite what John Howard concludes, is it, even if some of it does concede that the Howard government weren’t absolutely lying either.

And let’s not forget what an odd beast the “Coalition of the Willing” really was:


A quick scan of opinion polls reveals that, while governments are supporting the US, the people are solidly opposed to unilateral and even UN action in all but a few countries. This can be explained by diplomatic pressure which has, for now, overcome a distinct lack of popular support in the following countries:

Britain: 86% say give weapons inspectors more time, 34% think that US and Britain have made a convincing case for invasion. »

Spain: 80% opposed to war, 91% against attack without UN resolution »

Italy: 72% opposed to war

Portugal: 65% say there is no reason to attack now

Hungary: 82% opposed to invasion under any circumstances

Czech Republic: 67% opposed to invasion under any circumstances

Poland: 63% against sending Polish troops, 52% support US “politically”

Denmark: 79% oppose war without U.N. mandate

Australia: 56 per cent only backed UN-sanctioned action, 12% support unilateral action. 76% oppose participation in a US-led war on Iraq. Australian Senate voted 33-31 to censure Howard for committing 2,000 soldiers to US action…

See also Why Did We Go to War in Iraq?

Just thought it worthwhile to jack up against John Howard’s airbrush, even if it is not quite the major overhaul of history Alexander Downer recently committed.

Update 12 April 2013

Perhaps I was too kind to Mr Howard, compensating  for my endorsing, when he was PM,  the “lying rodent” tag once allegedly applied to him by his former colleague, currently a member of the Coalition Opposition. Say what?

Liberal Senator George Brandis does not deny routinely referring to the Prime Minister as “the rodent”.

He does, however, deny ever calling the Prime Minister “a lying rodent”. He believes John Howard is a truthful rodent.

Actually, we should clarify that further, for Brandis is a barrister, with a barrister’s capacity for fine distinction. He would only ever call Howard the rodent; never a rodent, because the former is a nickname, whereas the latter would be a pejorative term.

And, it must be said, in all the times this correspondent has heard Brandis use the r-word it has always been preceded by “the”, not “a”.

You may laugh, but it’s a valid, if somewhat legalistic, point. And a very important one, given the legal stoush now consuming the Liberal Party. According to a statutory declaration signed three days ago by a former senior official in the Queensland division of the party, Russell Galt, Brandis “unambiguously referred” to the PM as “a lying rodent”, in relation to the children overboard affair at a meeting in May last year [2003]…

George Brandis does not much like John Howard, and, judging by the efforts of the Howard faction to undermine Brandis in the past, the feeling is reciprocated. Yet ironically the two men were forced into reciprocal endorsements of one another’s integrity yesterday, as journalists asked gleefully loaded questions like: “Prime Minister, do you back George Brandis when he said he never called you a lying rodent?”

Howard: “Well, George Brandis has, on oath, denied those allegations and George Brandis is to be believed.”

But remember, George Brandis calls Howard “the rodent”. He privately says a lot of people in the Government regularly refer to Howard in the same way. Indeed, the PM has been descriptively tagged as the rodent almost as long as he’s been ironically tagged as Honest John. The nickname dates from the long internecine war between Howard and Andrew Peacock some 15 years ago.

It began as a reference to the way Howard ceaselessly gnawed at Peacock’s leadership, and was adopted by John Hewson supporters for much the same reason. And it lives on among Costello supporters, although it’s a fair bet it will be used more discreetly in future.

That’s from 2004.

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald Margaret Swieringa writes:

Former prime minister John Howard’s justification this week on why we went to war against Iraq in 2003 obfuscates some issues.

I was the secretary to the Intelligence Committee from 2002 until 2007. It was then called the ASIO, ASIS and Defence Signals Directorate Committee, which drafted the report on the Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Howard refers to this committee in his speech justifying our involvement in the war.

The reason there was so much argument about the existence of weapons of mass destruction prior to the war in Iraq 10 years ago was that to go to war on any other pretext would have been a breach of international law. As Howard said at the time: ”I couldn’t justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime. I’ve never advocated that. Central to the threat is Iraq’s possession of chemical and biological weapons and its pursuit of nuclear capability.”

So the question is what the government knew or was told about that capability and whether it ”lied” about the danger that Iraq posed…

On February 4, 2003, Howard said Saddam Hussein had an ”arsenal” and a ”stockpile”, and the ”illegal importation of proscribed goods has increased dramatically in the past few years … Iraq had a massive program for developing offensive biological weapons – one of the largest and most advanced in the world”.

On March 18, 2003, Alexander Downer told the House of Representatives that ”the strategy of containment [UN sanctions] simply has not worked and now poses an unacceptable risk”.

In his speeches at the time, Howard said: ”Iraq has a usable chemical and biological weapons capability which has included recent production of chemical and biological agents; Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons. All key aspects – research and development, production and weaponisation – of Iraq’s offensive biological weapons program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War in 1991.”

None of the government’s arguments were supported by the intelligence presented to it by its own agencies. None of these arguments were true…

Update 13 April 2013

The wonderful Riverbend has posted again.

…And then there are things we’d like to learn…

Ahmed Chalabi, Iyad Allawi, Ibrahim Jaafari, Tarek Al Hashemi and the rest of the vultures, where are they now? Have they crawled back under their rocks in countries like the USA, the UK, etc.? Where will Maliki be in a year or two? Will he return to Iran or take the millions he made off of killing Iraqis and then seek asylum in some European country? Far away from the angry Iraqi masses…

What about George Bush, Condi, Wolfowitz, and Powell? Will they ever be held accountable for the devastation and the death they wrought in Iraq? Saddam was held accountable for 300,000 Iraqis… Surely someone should be held accountable for the million or so?
Finally, after all is said and done, we shouldn’t forget what this was about – making America safer… And are you safer Americans? If you are, why is it that we hear more and more about attacks on your embassies and diplomats? Why is it that you are constantly warned to not go to this country or that one? Is it better now, ten years down the line? Do you feel safer, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis out of the way (granted half of them were women and children, but children grow up, right?)?

And what happened to Riverbend and my family? I eventually moved from Syria. I moved before the heavy fighting, before it got ugly. That’s how fortunate I was. I moved to another country nearby, stayed almost a year, and then made another move to a third Arab country with the hope that, this time, it’ll stick until… Until when? Even the pessimists aren’t sure anymore. When will things improve? When will be able to live normally? How long will it take?  

For those of you who are disappointed reality has reared its ugly head again, go to Fox News, I’m sure they have a reportage that will soothe your conscience. 

For those of you who have been asking about me and wondering how I have been doing, I thank you. “Lo khuliyet, qulibet…” Which means “If the world were empty of good people, it would end.” I only need to check my emails to know it won’t be ending any time soon.

See also Iraqi blogger returns after six-year hiatus.

Naj on Washington DC, old posts, and a great history site

Looking at my archives under “Iran” I find quite a few posts I can look back on with continued interest, even a smidgin of pride in having done not too bad a job, for a blogger. Here is a selection.

But what had gone before? And why might the Ayatollah’s revolution at first have seemed appealing? Here is one interesting account by NPR Producer Davar Ardalan. And here is another: Former Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, Fereydoun Hoveyda, “speaks to Global News Net for three hours on issues of both heart and mind. These include his thoughts on the dangers of fundamentalist Islam; the past and future of Iran; Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and son; the forces which resulted in the Iranian Revolution of 1979; the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and Yassir Arafat; George W. Bush; and the lasting legacy of his martyred brother, former Iranian Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda.”

See Wikipedia on the last Shah of Iran, a very mixed blessing that one. See also The United States and the Shah.

Sadly, the worst of Iran seems likely to triumph in the current elections there. It could be argued that George Bush’s sabre-rattling has assisted these Iranian troglodytes.

No guarantee all the links in that quote still work, but it is interesting that this was a topic that came up in conversation with my Iranian neighbour last night, when I asked him to have a look at Naj’s blog, especially the last two posts there and maybe tell me what he thinks.  I find these posts extraordinarily thought-provoking.

First An Ode to Life in America (19 March 2013).

On the eve of Persian New Year, sitting on my bed, looking out at the dark midday skies over Washington DC, from a window with one of the “most patriotic” views in the country: looking down onto the Capitol Hill, and Washington monument and even Pentagon if I stretch myself a bit, with the Marine Corp graves at walking distance, and the war-supplying BAE systems not too far.

I am posting it because this freshly decorated house was just set up two hours after I received the official letter of my termination from a job that I did not even start. Hubby and I decided to have the little furniture pieces I bought two weeks ago shipped, so I can enjoy a normal home for a few months, vacationing in DC as a tourist…

My 4-week ordeals in America have been educational and to have joined the American health-care workforce was a great experience (although financially costly and hassling):

Lesson 1: There is no freedom of speech in America!
Lesson 2: Corporates in America are criminal!
Lesson 3: The health-care market in America is scammed by insurance industry!
Lesson 4: American workers are prisoners to corporations, self-censoring, ratting on each other, scared and timid to ask, to question, to challenge anything that is ordered to them from above…

Second, The Heart of Dystopia: Washington DC (25 March 2013).

My newyear sun rose on Washington DC; the city where I moved to because of first curiousity and next the promise of “sky is the limit”. Those who knew me, warned me that I was not the sort to find happiness in America. they were right. I am leaving, in a hurry, there is too much WAR in this city for me to survive it sane or healthy. I must leave.

This city is depressing me. Not because my “free-speaking” led to my prompt termination based on the “employment-at-will” law of DC; but because in every corner of this capital city I look, I am reminded of  WAR…

Naj’s blog was a great source during 2009 especially, when Iran experienced that period of democratic protest – in which, incidentally, my neighbour was involved. Back to Naj:

Dystopia has now a real tone for me, after spending a lot of time talking to various government offices, with people introducing themselves with their agent-code and speaking to me in a tone that has made me pause in a few occasion to ask: sorry is this a human or a voice-robot. No, I am not kidding.

In Washington DC, the hub of the WAR industry, the heart of the “country of the free”, I am learning that those who “would NEVER live under the Iranian dictatorship”,  would also not risk losing their livelihood that is tied to DoD, Pentagon, CIA or the Hill. For there is this thing in DC called “employment at will”, that enables those in the upper food chain, to just fire those below without really needing to explain much. Association with a “careless” “opinionated” person like me might be too impudent for someone’s income. It is an illusion perhaps, but it is a strong illusion, one that makes you pathologically paranoid, and forces me to be in the “offensive” and “defensive” simultaneously–it is making me into a fighter, the wrong kind though.

Is this merely reflexive of Naj’s personal life issues, or is it an indicator – albeit disturbing – of the reality of this current world?

I also now have a Pakistani neighbour. He is a friendly person, but does appear to be a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. The Pentagon/CIA did it. We have had quite civil discussions where I expressed some scepticism about this, but I know a lot out there subscribe, perhaps especially in places like Pakistan. Perhaps as the latest drone buzzes overhead it all seems a touch more plausible there. I was rude enough to mention Elvis and moon landings, however.

My neighbour does construct an orderly narrative, in which much depends on a detailed account of the chronology of 9/11 and the subsequent action in Afghanistan. Now I have come upon an excellent resource – perhaps for the neighbour as much as myself: Complete 911 Timeline on History Commons, which has been called “the undisputed gold standard of truth research.”  It begins thus:

July 2001: Member of Al-Qaeda’s Hamburg Cell Detained in Jordan and Then Let Go

Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, is detained in Jordan and then let go. According to a German intelligence official speaking in 2002, Zammar is in transit through Jordan. However, the official will not say where Zammar is going, where he is coming from, or why he is held. Zammar is detained for several days and then deported back to Germany.[WASHINGTON POST, 6/12/2002] When Zammar is questioned by German intelligence shortly after 9/11 (see Shortly After September 11-October 27, 2001), he will mention his detention in Jordan. He will say that Jordanian officials “asked me about Afghanistan, the people there, my beliefs, contacts in Jordan, and my party membership. By party membership that meant whether I was a follower of Hezbollah, Hamas, [Islamic] Jihad, or Osama bin Laden.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 1/18/2003]Interestingly, in the beginning of July, CIA Director George Tenet made an urgent request to allied intelligence agencies to arrest anyone on a list of known al-Qaeda operatives (see July 3, 2001). In 1999, US intelligence determined that Zammar was in contact with one of Osama bin Laden’s senior operational coordinators, and the US notes Zammar’s terrorist links on numerous occasions before 9/11 (see Summer 1999), so Zammar would be a likely candidate for Tenet’s list. Zammar also was the target of a German intelligence investigation that started in 1996 and lasted at least three years (see 1996)…

Speaking of Afghanistan, did you see Four Corners last night? An extract from the interview following:

KERRY O’BRIEN: And of course the military and the police are there to act as a secure force to back the rule of law, but what is the rule of law in Afghanistan? What is the state of governance in Afghanistan? Is there an area of government anywhere in the country where corruption and abuse of power are not entrenched?

DAVID KILCULLEN: I think you’re putting your finger on what I think is actually the most important aspect of this whole thing. A lot of people are worried about the military side and how are we going to get to 2014? How are we going to hand over to the Afghans effectively and prevent the Taliban coming back?

And I think that’s the issue but it’s not the most important issue. The most important issue is governance and politics. And I would centre it on a couple of issues that you mentioned – corruption and rule of law, but also on the specific event of the 2013 Afghan presidential elections.

President Karzai right now is in his second term. The Afghan constitution limits the president to two terms and when he comes to the end of his term, there’s no identified successor, and there’s going to be some significant transitional issues politically across Afghanistan.

And when you add to that very pervasive corruption and abuse of rule of law, I think you’ve got some really significant challenges that to my mind actually dwarf the problems of the military transition.

I think we’ll get there. I think we’ve actually done a pretty good job militarily in defeating the Taliban in the field. We’ve done an okay job in standing up the Afghan military. That’s all messy but it’s going to hold.

The issue is the political side and the governance side. If we can’t get that to hold then everything we’ve done will be for naught.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But that’s…

DAVID KILCULLEN: And that I think is still very much an open question…

Also one must acknowledge the excellent series in the Sydney Morning Herald lately by Paul McGeough — and also here.


I recalled another archive of my posts:  especially The march of folly and the guns of war (20 September 2007).

Still true, as is Don’t Blitz Iran — Brian Cloughley (April 18, 2006). But they won’t take any notice of me, will they?

See also: Inside Iran (August 27, 2007); Iran, Hilaly, The Heathlander, and trying to keep some perspective… (April 10, 2007); Visiting Israeli fascist’s advice spurned? (February 17, 2007); Dissenting Jews on Israel (February 6, 2007); They would have to be mad of course… (February 3, 2007); Eteraz on Iran (December 16, 2006); Building peace on a foundation of lies? (December 14, 2006); Robert Scheer tells it like it is… (August 3, 2006); From The Poet: How We Miss Yitzhak Rabin (July 31, 2006); Three from Truthout (July 26, 2006); The new war in the Middle East — Sojourners (July 22, 2006); Strong stuff from the grumpy old man from Burgundy (June 3, 2006); CounterPunch: always provocative, sometimes enlightening (May 15, 2006); Raed Jarrar is hard to rebut on Iran (May 13, 2006); The Backlash Against Democracy Promotion (April 28, 2006); Zbigniew Brzezinski: Been there, done that (April 24, 2006); Yet more from The Poet (April 13, 2006). So I really have had a bit to say, or I have added thoughts to this“commonplace book” of my blog, on quite a few occasions. I just don’t see much point to banging on about it every day.

Iraq, Downer, Rudd, and a really positive story to end on

As we know it is ten years now since Shock and Awe and Alexander Downer, Foreign Minister at the time, has weighed in with a self-justifying set of reminiscences: Even with hindsight the Iraq war was the best option for all concerned.

Second, there is the issue of chemical and biological weapons. These days it’s fashionable to proclaim Hussein didn’t have any. The whole issue of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction arose not because poor old Saddam was some benign and misunderstood gentleman, but because he did have these weapons and he used them. He used them against the Iranians in the Iran/Iraq war which he started.

After the Iraq war, the unit charged with the task of finding Hussein’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons – known as the Iraq Survey Group – found none. The assumption is that the regime had destroyed its stockpiles sometime between 1992 and 2003. That remains an unanswered question. The UN inspectors were never happy this had happened. Nor were Western and Israeli intelligence agencies.

But what the Iraq Survey Group did find was that Hussein planned to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction programs once the UN inspection team had been sent packing. Had that happened, the Middle East would have been a much more dangerous place than it already is.

Not quite how I recall it.  I certainly blogged about it a lot but, alas, on the doomed Diary-X, almost all of which has disappeared for ever. Frustratingly there IS a list!

  • Monday March 31, 2003 The Canon fires a salvo…
  • Sunday March 30, 2003 Ho-hum… –** Still readable!
  • Saturday March 29, 2003 Rabbit returns; Ninglun raves about War but promises not to for a while…
  • Thursday March 27, 2003 Glebe 1981-1984: 4
  • Wednesday March 26, 2003 Concerning Mr Rabbit, Iraq and other matters.
  • Tuesday March 25, 2003 Ninglun muses.
  • Monday March 24, 2003 6 out of ten, perhaps?
  • Sunday March 23, 2003 Not on Iraq (includes recipe for Vegetarian Eight Treasures)
  • Friday March 22, 2003 Some well-chosen words on Iraq
  • Thursday March 20, 2003 Wartime Economy Entry
  • Wednesday March 19, 2003 Glebe 1981-1984: 3
  • Tuesday March 18, 2003 Alphabetical and visual
  • Monday March 17, 2003 Golden oldie
  • Sunday March 16, 2003 Bosie and Oscar at Cafe Max
  • Saturday March 15, 2003 Entry dedicated to cuteness and silliness
  • Friday, March 14 2003: Rabbit yesterday, rabid today?
  • Thursday, March 13 2003: Honouring Mister Rabbit
  • Wednesday, March 12 2003:Let’s get cynical 😉
  • Tuesday, March 11 2003: Glebe 1981-1984: 2
  • Monday, March 10 2003: Certainty is a curse — you can be sure of that 😉
  • Sunday, March 09 2003: Glebe 1981-1984: 1
  • Friday, March 07 2003: The 80s and a really good rant (not mine)
  • Wednesday, March 05 2003: Surry Hills is like that…
  • Tuesday, March 04 2003: Well may they say God Save the Queen…
  • Sunday, March 02 2003: Alexandra Road 1977-1978: 2
  • Saturday, March 01 2003: To be or not to be…
  • No, don’t bother. They are lost. All but one:

    It is a very quiet Sunday; indeed, in terms of human contact it has been a very quiet week. I haven’t actually seen anyone since a brief visit by M last Tuesday, and haven’t spoken to anyone outside work (and the people in the coffee shops — The Coffee Roaster opened at 7 am this morning, having forgotten about Daylight Saving ending) since Wednesday. I could have gone to the pub today, I guess, but the trouble is I am not really all that fond of pubs. Too often one is in fact talking to drunks who are, by nature, incredibly boring. Further, I do not feel like venturing far, and the pubs where I am likely to find friends or acquaintances are not all that close.

    So I am having a quiet one and actually wondering whether I enjoy the solitude. At times I do; at other times I don’t. I guess one needs to get used to it.

    Yesterday I could have had lunch with my friends Nina and Trevor, but their visit to Sydney was on a Saturday when I have to work, so that was ruled out. I am taking a short break from coaching in a few weeks, not doing any in the school (Easter) holidays: the kids don’t need it and nor do I…

    And I note that I had dinner with David Flint, among others, on May 23, 2003

    Back to Iraq. Late in 2002 I had read Scott Ritter, and more, and despite the subsequent issues with him (and his dick) I still think he got a lot right. Put it this way, his work of that period is rather less embarrassing than Blair’s Dodgy Dossier, still available as a PDF. Around the time I was also impressed by  the classic Four Corners American Dreamers, by the material coming from the Carnegie Institute – check what they say now, by Phyllis Bennis, and later in 2003 by Bridges, Bombs, or Bluster? by Madeleine Albright:

    Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.

    There are only two powers now in the world. One is America, which is tyrannical and oppressive. The other is a warrior who has not yet been awakened from his slumber and that warrior is Islam.

    Make no mistake about it: the choice for sure is between two visions of the world.

    Few readers will fail to identify the first quotation cited above: it was uttered by President George W. Bush, speaking soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Few readers, similarly, will be surprised to learn that the second quote came from a Sunni Muslim cleric in Baghdad, Imam Mouaid al-Ubaidi. The third quote, however, may be a bit harder to identify: it was spoken by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, describing the different world views now held by Washington and Paris. And it should remind us that not everyone divides the world along the same lines as the United States.

    Framing choices is central to national security policy. Since World War II, no nation has played a more influential role in defining such alternatives than the United States. Today, however, the Bush administration purports to be redefining the fundamental choice “every nation, in every region” must make. America’s radical adversaries — eager to promote themselves as the United States’ chief nemeses — are echoing the attempt. Those caught in the middle, however, suggest the choices before them may not be quite so simple.

    For President Bush, September 11 came as a revelation, leading him to the startled conclusion that the globe had changed in ways gravely hazardous to the security — indeed, the very survival — of the United States. This conclusion soon led Bush to a fateful decision: to depart, in fundamental ways, from the approach that has characterized U.S. foreign policy for more than half a century. Soon, reliance on alliance had been replaced by redemption through preemption; the shock of force trumped the hard work of diplomacy, and long-time relationships were redefined

    See also from The Atlantic in 2004 Weapons of Misperception:  Kenneth M. Pollack, the author of “Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong,” explains how the road to war with Iraq was paved with misleading and manipulated intelligence.

    Based on a review of the available information and on his knowledge from time spent as an analyst for the CIA and as a member of the National Security Council for two terms, Pollack now believes that experts and observers the world over were seriously mistaken regarding Iraq. After a period in 1994-1995 during which key discoveries, defections, and disclosures revealed the extent of Iraq’s continued efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction, Saddam may have recognized the degree to which those programs were hindering his efforts to get sanctions lifted. At this point, Pollack argues, Saddam likely reduced his programs and destroyed his weapons, retaining only a very limited research-and-development capability while ensuring that teams of scientists were kept together, in anticipation of one day restarting the programs.

    If this is indeed what happened, how did the world, and particularly the world’s top intelligence agencies, miss such a crucial turn of events? The simple answer, Pollack suggests, is that we never considered the possibility. The intelligence community made what might be called an “informed misperception”—based on what was known about Saddam, it was reasonable to assume that he would never willingly give up his weapons. After the UN inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in 1998, any information the intelligence agencies received was colored by the unchecked belief that Saddam would continue to pursue weapons whatever the cost. Without inspectors on the ground, the agencies were forced to rely more heavily on defectors’ reports for information on Saddam’s programs—many of which now seem to be false.

    Pollack does not suggest, however, that the seemingly false pretenses under which the U.S. entered Iraq were all, or even mostly, the intelligence community’s fault. His most scathing criticism falls on the Bush Administration and, particularly, its tendency to misstate the facts of the case when trying to persuade the country to go to war. In his eyes, the Administration consistently engaged in “creative omission,” overstating the imminence of the Iraqi threat, even though it had evidence to the contrary. “The President is responsible for serving the entire nation,” Pollack writes. “Only the Administration has access to all the information available to various agencies of the U.S. government—and withholding or downplaying some of that information for its own purposes is a betrayal of that responsibility.”

    Kenneth Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He was an Iran-Iraq military analyst for the CIA, and the director of Persian Gulf Affairs and Near East and South Asian Affairs for the National Security Council.

    See my links page from my former Geocities site for more of what I was reading at the time. Among them I note an earlier version of Sourcewatch. Worth reviewing is Weapons of mass destruction.

    So I don’t think I can accept Alexander Downer as settling the matter at all.

    Quickly referring to the extremely odd behaviour of the Labor Party in recent times, I do find I can accept much that Paul Sheehan says in the first three-quarters of his article today: PM in snake pit with no antivenom. Compare How ‘Chicken Kev’ has left Labor on its knees by Tim Soutphommasane.

    …as my colleague Nick Dyrenfurth has argued in these pages, Labor’s best hope in this year’s election may just be to lose with some dignity and honour. Like a footy team deep in the fourth quarter looking at a heavy loss, it may just have to continue doing its best to make the margin respectable. Good teams don’t abandon discipline in some deluded belief they can still win when they can’t. They know when they have to be content with winning back some respect.

    So it is, now, with Labor. The grand old party of Australian politics is losing not just the respect of the electorate, it is quickly losing its self-respect. Coming back from here will not be easy.

    Sad but true, I fear. Compare Jim Belshaw’s An odd post – why the ALP will, must, recover.

    Now for uplift.

    In 2007 I posted Three uplifting stories and Teacher Pride Rules!  In the latter I wrote:

    That’s for Dorothy Hoddinott, and every other teacher I have known — the good the bad and the ugly — from Cronulla to Wollongong to The Mine, down to the latest recruits carrying on the job, like Aluminium and The Rabbit.

    I haven’t heard from “Aluminium” lately but I do know The Rabbit’s teaching goes from strength to strength and he looks fairly set to outdo me.

    Dorothy I met through ESL circles.  There is a great story on her in today’s Herald.

    One morning earlier this month, Dorothy Hoddinott left Wollongong at the crack of dawn to drive back to Sydney. The Holroyd High School principal had been attending a conference but was determined to make it back in time to see one of her former students graduate from university.

    Zainab Kaabi finished high school 11 years ago. But her personal accomplishment was also an exceptionally proud and significant moment for her mentor and former principal.

    Not only did Hoddinott once willingly add $9000 to her personal credit cards to secure her student a place at university. But the young asylum seeker inspired her to set up a trust fund in her name, which has since expanded to support refugee students studying in public high schools and universities across the state.

    The Friends of Zainab trust fund was established when, in her final year of high school, Zainab Kaabi told Hoddinott she would have to drop out because, as she was now an adult, she would no longer be eligible for her welfare payments under the conditions of her temporary protection visa.

    Hoddinott recalls telling her ”I’m not going to let you leave school, you’re too good. Sorry but you’re a scholarly girl.”

    She contacted everyone she knew for donations and set up the trust fund, allowing her to remain at school.

    The donations continued to support her through a bachelor of medical sciences at Macquarie University and a bachelor of pharmacy at Sydney University…

    See also Holroyd High School.