The Archbishop, Oedipus, and the Golden Ass

The British Labour Party is in the process of rehabilitating Tony Blair. In my latest for Al Jazeera, I follow Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s shot across the bow with one of my own, presenting irrefutable evidence of exactly what Blair knew before he joined Bush’s war against Iraq.

It is a fact that by early 2003, British intelligence had established that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or a weapons programme. In several secret meetings in Amman with Iraqi intelligence chief Tahir Jalil al-Habbush, the head of MI6 for the Middle East Michael Shipster had already received detailed reports on the absence of Iraq’s weapons.

This story was confirmed by former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ron Suskind who recounts it in considerable detail in his book The Way of the World. According to Dearlove, the meetings happened with the full knowledge of Bush, Cheney, George Tenet and Tony Blair. After the war, Suskind reveals, Habbush was resettled by the CIA and paid $5 million in hush-money to prevent him from undermining the official narrative.

The second claim – that Saddam had to be removed because he was a murderous dictator – would be less incredible if the person making it were not Tony Blair. Blair’s affinity for tyrants is well-documented. His cozy relations with Muammar Gaddafi are well-known; and it has now emerged that at the time Blair was contemplating war on Iraq, he was also considering a knighthood for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

You can read the rest here.

Iraq: After the Americans

Second part of an excellent documentary on post-occupation Iraq from Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines (Also see Part 1)

In keeping with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign promise, the US has withdrawn its troops from Iraq and by the end of 2012 US spending in Iraq will be just five per cent of what it was at its peak in 2008.

In a special two-part series, Fault Lines travels across Iraq to take the pulse of a country and its people after nine years of foreign occupation and nation-building.

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Humanitarian Intervention and Neo-Orientalism

A panel discussion featuring Tariq Ramadan, Glenn Greenwald, M. Cherif Bassiouni, and Jennifer Pitts, hosted by Muslim Students Association at the University of Chicago and produced by the Chicago Multimedia Initiatives Group (CMIG).

The uprisings of the Arab Spring, and the prolonged nature of the internal conflicts in Libya and Syria, have once again sparked debate over the status of international law and the use of military intervention to enforce human rights. However, the discourse over humanitarian intervention has often overlooked the more unsavory aspects of liberal thought and Western power politics. This panel will explore the fundamental problems concerning Neo-Liberalism and its connections to the development of Neo-Orientalist thought.

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An immeasurable loss

Christopher Lydon of the excellent Radio Open Source pays tribute to Anythony Shadid.

The death of the reporter Anthony Shadid in Syria — apparently of an acute asthma attack — is a tragic blow to our hope of grasping the Arab turmoil, also to the flickering idea of straight journalism. Three dimensions of our loss come immediately to mind. First, Anthony Shadid (with Nir Rosen on my honor roll) was the rarest instance of a mainstream reporter who gave some of his heart to people on the ground suffering through war in Iraq and chaos in North Africa. Second, in Iraq where he’d won two Pulitzers, he framed his work in the understanding that what American force was about was not liberating Iraq, much less democratizing it, but about destroying a country. Third, he had the temerity to speak with us about one further tragedy: that the honored brand of journalism he practiced had shockingly little impact on American consciousness…

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Rumsfeld-Era Propaganda Program Whitewashed by Pentagon

by Cyril Mychalejko

This article first appeared at Toward Freedom.

A controversial public relations program run by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon was cleared of any wrong-doing by the agency’s inspector general in a report published last month. The program used dozens of retired military officers working as analysts on television and radio networks as “surrogates” armed by the Pentagon with “the facts” in order to educate the public about the Department of Defense’s operations and agenda.

At the same time, the report quoted participating analysts who believed that bullet points provided by Rumsfeld’s staff advanced a “political agenda,” that the program’s intent “was to move everyone’s mouth on TV as a sock puppet” and that the program was “a white-level psyop [psychological operations] program to the American people.” It also found a “preponderance of evidence” that one analyst was dismissed from the program for being critical of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, while another analysts said a CNN official told him he was being dropped at the request of the White House.

Nevertheless, the inspector general exonerated the Pentagon, stating that it complied with Department of Defense (DoD) policies and regulations, including not using propaganda on the US public, while also claiming that retired military analysts, many of whom were affiliated with defense contractors, gained nothing financially or personally for the businesses they were affiliated with.

The investigation was requested by Congress after the New York Times published a story revealing the Pentagon’s public relations program, “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” (04/20/2008), which was subsequently awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. The article showed how these analysts, many of whom had ties to military contractors, were used to help sell the war in Iraq, to push other Bush Administration foreign policy “themes and messages” and to act as a rapid response team to counter criticisms in the media. One official Department of Defense talking points document released while the Bush Administration was still trying to sell the need for a war with Iraq to the public states, “We know that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.”

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Punishing the whistleblower?

As Bradley Manning faces charges of espionage over the Wikileaks cables Inside Story Americas asks if the US government is overreacting.

Bradley Manning, a private in the US army, has been accused of perpetrating the biggest intelligence leak in US history.

Now a military judge is trying to determine whether Manning should face a court martial. He could face as many as 22 specific allegations in the charges that include aiding the enemy and espionage.
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Are there any winners of the Iraq war?

With Inside Story Americas, Shihab Rattansi has really elevated the quality of the show. Rattansi is in my view Al Jazeera’s best anchor and the following is a rather superb show with an excellent selection of guests. Don’t miss.

The Terrible Beauty of Wikileaks

The following appears in The Arabs Are Alive, edited by Ziauddin Sardar and Robin Yassin-Kassab. 

On 7 December 2010, Tunisian despot Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s regime blocked internet access to the Beirut daily Al-Akhbar for publishing a US embassy cable which painted the dictator, his wife and her family in a deeply unflattering light. In the July 2009 cable, US ambassador Robert Godec had accused Ben Ali’s regime of having ‘lost touch with the Tunisian people…[tolerating] no advice or criticism whether domestic or international,’ and of increasingly relying ‘on the police for control and focus on preserving power.’ The cable mentioned the growing ‘corruption in the inner circle,’ particularly around first lady Leila Trabelsi and her family, whom it said the Tunisians ‘intensely dislike, even hate.’ It finally concluded that ‘anger is growing at Tunisia’s high unemployment and regional inequities. As a consequence, the risks to the regime’s long-term stability are increasing.’

Ten days later in Sidi Bouzid, 26-year-old street vendor Muhammad Bouazizi immolated himself in front of the local municipality building after his vegetable cart was confiscated by Faida Hamdi, a female municipal official who had then slapped him, spat in his face, and insulted his dead father. Anguished friends and sympathizers soon took to the streets to protest, and Youtube, Facebook and Twitter helped spread the fire further—the long deferred anger of the Tunisians had finally erupted. On 4 January 2011, when Bouazizi succumbed to his wounds, the 5,000 mourners at his funeral were heard chanting, ‘Farewell, Mohammed, we will avenge you. We weep for you today. We will make those who caused your death weep.’ Ten days later, as the protests reached a crescendo, Ben Ali and his wife hoarded their loot and decamped to Saudi Arabia. Some suggested that Wikileaks had drawn first blood.

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