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REVEALED: 'There was no Cabinet debate in run-up to war,' says Short as Government refuses to release minutes
"...the main reason for the ‘scandalous’ decision not to publish the minutes was not to protect confidential discussions about the war, but to cover up the fact there was no such discussion. At the last Cabinet meeting, no debate on the legality of the war was allowed and Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, said brusquely: ‘That’s it.’"
The Government is refusing to release minutes of Cabinet meetings before the Iraq War because they would reveal there was no discussion on the issue.
Details surrounding two crucial meetings on the eve of the conflict were laid bare for the first time yesterday when former Cabinet Minister Clare Short, who was present at both, gave a full account of what happened.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Civilian deaths in Iraq shot back up again in February, figures compiled by an Interior Ministry official show.
January had set a record for the lowest number of Iraqi civilians killed since the U.S.-led invasion nearly six years ago.
At least 211 civilians were killed in February — about 7.5 per day, numbers from the Interior Ministry, Health Ministry and Defense Ministry show.
In January, 138 civilians were killed — just under 4.5 per day.
The deadliest single incident in February was a suicide bombing carried out by a woman on February 13 among a crowd of mostly women and children on the way to a religious festival. She killed at least 38 people and wounded at least 50.
Iraqi casualty figures have been steadily dropping since the fall of 2007.
Obama seeks $130 billion for wars next year
By ANNE GEARAN
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama proposed war spending Thursday that nears $11 billion a month for the next year and a half despite the planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq.
The Obama administration wants to spend about $75 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through next fall, costs that were largely set by the Bush administration. On top of that, the new budget proposal asks Congress for $130 billion for next year.
It's not clear whether Obama's promise to bring combat troops home from Iraq will carry a cost savings in the near term. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the budget for next year figures in new costs for Afghanistan, and he warned that the process of pulling out tens of thousands of forces from Iraq will be expensive.
Iraqi President Meets With Iranian Officials in Tehran
By Edward Yeranian | Voice of America
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is visiting Tehran, Friday to meet with top Iranian leaders.
President Talabani was greeted at the airport in Tehran by top Iranian officials, as he arrived in the early morning Friday for his second visit to the Iranian capital in just over two years. Mr. Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party has traditionally been close to Iran.
Mr. Talabani, arrived for a three-day visit on the return-leg of a trip to South Korea, with a high-level delegation of Iraqi officials from the ministries of trade, electricity and foreign affairs.
Al-Iraqia TV reports that Iran is offering $1 billion in aid and trade credits to Iraq, in addition to helping with its electricity grid and other infrastructure projects.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali Debbagh says Iraq is an ideal trading partner for Iran. He says that the Iraqi market is open and any country or company or business can export to us, since we rely on a free-market system, based on competition. And I think that Iran has many products that it can export to us, provided that they do not flood our markets, either, since we have our own national industries to think about.
In January, Dianne Feinstein replaced Jay Rockefeller as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. And her first act as chair will be to coverup the Bush System of Torture. Joby Warrick of the Pentagon Post is the CIA's embedded spokesliar:
The officials described the planned inquiry as a "study" and stressed that it would not yield recommendations for possible legal proceedings.
Why not? Because the new CIA Director, Leon Panetta, wants to protect the torturers:
"I would not support, obviously, an investigation or a prosecution of those individuals" involved in the interrogation program, he said. "They did their job, they did it pursuant to the guidance that was provided them, whether you agreed or disagreed with it.
We can debate whether lower-level CIA torturers who "just followed orders" should be prosecuted. The United States emphatically rejected that defense for Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. The fact that Dick Cheney's neo-Nazi lawyer, David Addington, instructed John Yoo to write flagrantly lawless (and hence criminal) memos "legalizing" torture does not change the moral and legal responsibility of CIA officials to refuse to follow orders to torture.
Santa Barbara Welcomes Author of "The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans" This Sunday
Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life at UCSB present:
Aaron Glantz, author of "How America Lost Iraq" discusses his new book:
“The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans”
Sunday, 1 March / 3:00 p.m. / Free
Victoria Hall, 33 West Victoria Street, Santa Barbara
"The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans" is the first book to systematically document the U.S. government's neglect of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Aaron Glantz, who reported extensively from Iraq during the first three years of this war and has been reporting on the plight of veterans ever since, offers a devastating indictment of the Bush administration for its blatant neglect of soldiers and its disingenuous reneging on their benefits.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who led the effort in the House of Representatives against the war in Iraq as far back as 2002, today made the following statement after President Obama announced that the combat mission in Iraq will end by August 31, 2010. The President also indicated that between 35-50,000 troops will remain in Iraq to advise and train Iraqi security forces and protect American civilian and military personal.
“I support President Obama for taking a step in the right direction in Iraq, but I do not think that his plan goes far enough. You cannot leave combat troops in a foreign country to conduct combat operations and call it the end of the war. You can’t be in and out at the same time.
The military assumes the Iraq "SOFA" will be renegotiated to go for 15-20 years. And why not?
These treaties truly are worthless, because they are created by a single individual without the consent of Congress or the American people.
We let Bush get away with that, while peace groups were afraid to say a word and Rep Lee could only find 6 cosponsors to challenge it because everybody supposed that anything the Senate approved would be worse. But worse than worthless does not exist.
What is to stop Obama or the presidents who come after him from instituting more worthless treaties in Afghanistan and other places without the consent of Congress?
And then extending them with new ones?
Maybe the peace movement should talk to native Americans about treaties sometime.
Obama seeks $205 billion for Iraq, Afghan wars
By Tabassum Zakaria and Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama requested about $205 billion in war funding through the end of fiscal 2010 on Thursday, as he sought to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from Iraq and boost forces fighting a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.
Obama's first budget proposal asked for $75.5 billion through September, which would bring total war spending to $141.4 billion for the current fiscal year. Obama also requested a slightly smaller $130 billion to fund the wars for fiscal year 2010, which starts on October 1.
Obama asked Congress to increase the Pentagon's regular budget to $533.7 billion next year -- up 4 percent, or $20.4 billion, from its spending plan for the current year, drawn up under the Bush administration.
A key fact about the recent history of Iraq is absolutely critical to the nascent debate about Afghanistan: there was more to the Iraq "surge" than sending additional troops, so if folks are going to justify sending more troops to Afghanistan on the grounds that sending more troops "worked" in Iraq, we should be talking about the other elements of US policy in Iraq that changed after November 2006, not just about more troops.
Senate Democratic Leaders Concerned About Obama’s Iraq Plan
By Kate Phillips | NY Times
Even before they are briefed at the White House late this afternoon, Senate Democratic leaders expressed concerns over reports that President Obama’s proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq over a 19-month timeline would leave a residual force there of as many as 50,000 troops.
At a news briefing a few minutes ago, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader from Nevada, indicated that he would be conveying his concerns to the president about the reported troop levels that would remain once the withdrawal deadline is met in August 2010. Mr. Reid said:
President Obama is about to order the beginning of the end of the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. Or is he?
President Barack Obama said directly that he would be announcing “a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.” As far as it goes, that sounds good. This is an indication that President Obama is largely keeping to his campaign promises, and that's a hopeful sign, reflecting the power of the anti-war consensus in this country.
If this plan were actually a first step towards the unequivocal goal of a complete end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, it would be better than good, it would be fabulous. But that would mean this withdrawal would be the first step towards a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops, pulling out of all the 150,000+ U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries and contractors, closing all the U.S. military bases, and ending all U.S. efforts to control Iraqi oil.
So far that is not on Obama's agenda.
Officials: Pentagon OKs media photos of war dead
PAULINE JELINEK/AP News
Defense and congressional officials say news organizations will be allowed to photograph the homecomings of America's war dead under a new Pentagon policy.
The officials say Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided to allow photos of flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, if the families of casualties agree.
Gates planned to announce his decision later Thursday. The current ban was put in place by President George H.W. Bush.
Some critics have contended the government was trying to hide the human cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The government said Tuesday it would veto publication of minutes from ministerial discussions about the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, immediately drawing accusations of a cover-up.
Anti-war campaigners believe the minutes may conceal damaging information about how then prime minister Tony Blair's government reached the decision to support the US-led invasion.
However, current Prime Minister Gordon Brown's administration fears publishing the minutes may hinder ministers' ability to speak freely at confidential weekly Cabinet meetings.
"Confidentiality serves to promote thorough decision-making," Justice Secretary Jack Straw told parliament's lower House of Commons.
"Disclosure of the Cabinet minutes in this case jeopardises that space for thought and debate at precisely the point where it has its greatest utility.
By Dave Lindorff
Barack Obama’s first address to Congress provided Americans with yet another example of competent speechmaking, and I suppose, given that we’ve just endured eight painful years of oratorical farce, being able to listen to your president without wincing is something.
The problem is that the way forward proposed by the president as laid out in this address was almost always half-hearted, wrong-headed or doomed.
Obama declared at the outset of his address that the economic crisis was the major issue confronting the country, and while one could argue that this crisis is merely a symptom of much bigger issues, like the nearly completed deindustrialization of the nation, the death grip of militarism, and the growing political power of corporations, one could also concede that there is an urgent need to deal with the deepening recession.
Release of Iraq war minutes vetoed
By Michael Savage, The Independent
Details of cabinet discussions held in the run-up to the Iraq war are to be kept secret after the Government decided to take the unprecedented step of vetoing their publication.
Campaigners had demanded to see the minutes of two meetings, on 13 and 17 March 2003, amid allegations that the Cabinet failed to discuss properly or challenge the decision to invade Iraq. The legality of the war was also discussed at the meetings.
The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, had ordered the release of the minutes, arguing that their publication was in the public interest. His decision was supported by an independent tribunal last month.
REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN URGING OBAMA TO HELP IRAQI REFUGEE
Washington D.C. - As President Obama works to stabilize Iraq, he must be sure to comprehensively address the Iraqi refugee crisis. Five million Iraqis have been uprooted by conflict, forced to leave everything behind. They have sought refuge within Iraq, Syria, Jordan and other neighboring countries. They are running out of resources with little opportunity for employment; access to food, heath care, education and other essential services is extremely limited. The conditions for Iraqis to return home safely do not exist, and millions of Iraqi refugees are unlikely and unwilling to return to Iraq in the foreseeable future. The U.S. administration must lead international efforts to meet the long-term needs of displaced Iraqis. Failure to assist Iraqis will have dramatic impacts on security inside Iraq.
By PAMELA HESS and ANNE GEARAN, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama plans to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by August 2010, administration officials said Tuesday, ending the war three months later than he had promised during his presidential campaign.
The withdrawal plan — an announcement could come as early as this week — calls for leaving a large contingent of troops behind, between 30,000 and 50,000 troops, to advise and train Iraqi security forces and to protect U.S. interests.
Obama built enormous grass-roots support for his White House bid by pledging to withdraw troops 16 months after taking office. That schedule, based on removing roughly one brigade a month, was predicated on commanders determining that it would not endanger U.S. troops left behind or Iraq's fragile security.
The death of an American arms dealer in Iraq has led to one of the most intricate and far-reaching inquiries into corruption among US military officers in Iraq. Some suspect that he was killed because he was a whistleblower who knew too much.
When Dale Stoffel, 43, was gunned down on his way into Baghdad at the height of the insurgency in Iraq, his murder appeared all too predictable. He was an adventurer who seemed to have met his end at the hands of jihadists while engaged in one of the riskiest businesses on the planet.
Seventy percent of Iraq's doctors are reported to have fled the war-torn country in the face of death threats and kidnappings. Those who remain live in fear, often in conditions close to house arrest.
"I was threatened I would be killed because I was working for the Iraqi government at the Medical City," Dr. Thana Hekmaytar told IPS. Baghdad Medical City is the largest medical complex in the country.
Dr. Hekmaytar, a head and neck surgeon, has now been practising at the Saint Raphael Hospital in Baghdad for the last five years.
It is difficult now both as woman and as doctor, she says. Most women are now living in repressive conditions because the government is less secular. And that is besides the chaotic conditions around Iraq.
The American military is shipping battlefield equipment through Jordan and Kuwait, testing possible exit routes in advance of a U.S. withdrawal in Iraq, military officials said.
The convoys — carrying armored vehicles, weapons and other items — mark the Pentagon's first steps in confronting the complex logistics of transporting the huge arsenal stockpiled in Iraq over nearly six years.
It's also part of a wider assessment, ordered by U.S. Central Command, to decide what items the military can transfer, donate, sell or toss away once a full-scale withdrawal is under way, Marine Corps and Army officials told The Associated Press.
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander in Chief Obama suffered 22 combat casualties in the eight days ending Feb 18, 2009, as the official total rose to at least 71,142. The total includes 34,465 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,677 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 31, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries - mainly brain trauma from explosions (TBI) diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**
By Robert Dreyfuss, www.thenation.com
For the first time in six years, it's possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq. Despite all their flaws -- and there were many -- the January 31 elections in fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces ratified the resurgence of secular nationalism. A large majority of voters repudiated the Shiite and Sunni religious parties and the Kurdish separatists. And in so doing, they broke free of the rigid confines of the ethno-sectarian politics that has dominated the Iraqi scene since 2003. The results mean that the Obama administration may soon have to deal with a vastly different cast of characters in Iraq -- politicians less willing to tolerate a long-term US presence and firmly opposed to a special relationship between Baghdad and Washington.
A 28-year-old US Army medic has been sentenced by a US military court in Germany to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his role in murdering four Iraqi prisoners in 2007.
The US military court in Vilseck, Germany, on Friday evening, Feb. 20, found Sgt. Michael Leahy guilty of murder for his role in the execution-style killings of four Iraqi detainees.
The nine-member jury convicted Leahy, one of four soldiers charged in the slayings, of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. His rank will be reduced to private and he will be dishonorably discharged from the Army.
Another US soldier, Steven Ribordy, in October was sentenced to eight months in prison for his role in the killings as part of a plea deal.
As the $787 billion stimulus bill snaked its way through the House and the Senate and finally landed under the pen of President Obama, my predominant thought has been holy cow -- that's a lot of money!
Sen. John Thune was even kind enough to explain to CSPAN viewers last week how a stack of hundred dollar bills totaling $787 billion, wrapped side by side, would encircle the Earth nearly 39 times. As unsettling as this new financial commitment may be, it is at least an attempt to help more Americans achieve some semblance of economic security.
The stimulus package was aggressively attacked by fiscal conservatives who have been outspoken about the "pet projects" in the bill, and the wasteful programs that will weigh down future generations with massive debt. Point taken.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at George W. Bush said in the past he had videotaped himself practicing the Arab insult to use against the president whose "icy smile" had filled him with uncontrollable rage.
Muntazer al-Zaidi said on Thursday at the start of his trial in Baghdad on charges of assaulting a foreign leader that he took a recording of his shoe-throwing training two years ago and had hoped to accost Bush in Jordan but this did not take place.
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Archbishop Desmond Tutu warned Thursday that President Obama risked squandering good will from around the world if he failed to take concrete steps like apologizing for the Iraq war. Archbishop Tutu, 77, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the retired archbishop of Cape Town, also urged Mr. Obama to support the International Criminal Court and “come down hard” on African dictators. He wrote in an article for the BBC’s Web site that the high hopes surrounding Mr. Obama’s presidency could turn sour. Mr. Obama “could easily squander the good will that his election generated if he disappoints,” Archbishop Tutu wrote. “It would be wonderful if, on behalf of the nation, Obama apologizes to the world, and especially the Iraqis, for an invasion that I believe has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.”
By Jeffrey Klein and Paolo Pontoniere, AlterNet
Evidence suggests a payoff to Italy for supplying the forged documents Bush famously used to justify launching the Iraq war.
"Obama Confronts a Choice on Copters" read this week's New York Times. The President soon "will have to decide whether to proceed with some of the priciest aircraft in the world -- a new fleet of 28 Marine One helicopters that will each cost more than the last Air Force One....The choice confronting Mr. Obama encapsulates the tension between two imperatives of his nascent presidency, the need to meet the continuing threats of an age of terrorism and the demand for austerity in a period of economic hardship."