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Wednesday, 6 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Dec 06, 05:51 PM

iraq203i.jpgAssessment of the Iraq Study Group; Martin Bell talks to Afgan war children; and how green are Brown's taxes?
Comment on Wednesday's programme

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  • 1.
  • At 06:53 PM on 06 Dec 2006,
  • Brian J Dickenson wrote:

I think that this report confirms the widely held view that the inmates are running the asylum.
Just what did Bush and his poodle Blair and co expect when they went to war with Iraq.
Will we ever be told the real reasons for this illegal war. Rumour has it that it's more to do with the
'petro-dollar' and Saddam's possible move away from it and into the Euro. Of course his threat to Israel reinforced America's plans for domination of the Middle East.

  • 2.
  • At 11:21 PM on 06 Dec 2006,
  • JSF wrote:

MARVELLOUS to see a Martin Bell report after so long. He hasn't lost any of his journalistic touch. More of his excellence, please!

  • 3.
  • At 11:33 PM on 06 Dec 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

On the day it is confirmed that the Iraq strategy is a disaster, we see Blair and Brown in parliament talking about exempting a couple of houses in the UK from stamp duty. How many more UK lives will be lost before Blair stands up and admits the decision to go to war was wrong, the decision to blindly take orders from the US was wrong and that UK forces have been treated shabbily from start to now. How more confident can we be of the experiment in Afghanistan?

On green taxes, Jeremy was correct and vigorous in exposing Brown as a visionless meddler, through his questions of his Financial Secretary and the answers or non answers received. It is all about raising taxes, and the environment is a pretext for nothing else. The privatization of utilities, aided and abetted by this Government, has led to savage increases in the cost of utilities. How much has this transfer of wealth from billpayers to shareholders reduced carbon emissions?

Arrogance is the most dangerous disease which can hit politicians who hold in their hands the destiny of millions of people. The worst situation which can paralyse a leader is to be blinded by self-centredness and stubbornness. Unfortunately Iraq’s situation has made a lot of top politicians blind in our world, paralysed and stubborn and the Iraqi people and the soldiers are paying the price.
Those politicians still refuse to see the big picture and listen to responsible people who are crying and trying in everyway to bring to their attention the importance of looking at the big picture in the Middle East. The disaster happens when the political agenda clashes with the life of thousands of people. The result is devastating for everyone. We must see the Middle East as a chain every little ring cannot stand on its own. Isn’t it time that the leaders in the US and in Britain realise that there is no solution for any problem in that region as long as they look at one single issue ignoring its connections to the other issues there. We start making progress only when we understand the culture there and the absolute necessity to deal with Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia in connection and in relation to each other. When are we going to admit that an international conference including all these countries plus the US, the UK, France, Russia and China is the obvious step which stares at us in the eye? Isn’t it so clear that when all these countries which have been part of or involved in the whole Middle East conflict come together, they can talk without the stupid politics of isolating or punishing or threatening this or that country? Spreading fear, anxiety and mistrust can never build peace neither between countries not religions. We live in an ever changing and shrinking world and that makes it imperative for all countries in the region with the help of the international community to think together and talk to each other in order to reach to a common ground which insures that solving problems can never be by fighting and bloodshed.

  • 5.
  • At 12:13 AM on 07 Dec 2006,
  • J Peters wrote:

Bush and Blair have revealed to the world the paucity of the democratic quality of their own governments in this whole sorry episode in Iraq.
The people marched in their masses against the invasion, and all the leading Iraq experts such as the ill-fated Dr David Kelly unanimously predicted the chaos that ensued and recommended against the invasion, but as we all now know, this got twisted and "sexed up" in the "dodgey dossier" so that which was not true was told as truth to Parliament. Moreover nor should we forget the gargantuan struggle by countries such as Russia and France to try to prevent the invasion.
Yet Bush and Blair took it upon themselves to deceive their elected houses in order to embark on their misguided mission.
The great tragedy is not just merely the devastation of peace and security in Iraqi, but within the UK, the devastation of freedom of speech and corruption of democracy.
A democracy functions as a democracy only so long as we are able to hold our leaders to account. The BBC used to be one of several pillars that fulfilled this role. Following the resignation of Gavyn Davies, Greg Dyke and Andrew Gilligan we now know that the UK government can be brutally effective in silencing criticism when it chooses. The Prime Minister has lied to parliament and the 10 Downing Street propaganda machine continues to churn out spin about the state of the war in Iraq. Unfortunately they use the same techniques of spin to churn out propaganda not just about Iraq, but everything else relating to matters of government in the UK. This reduces public debate on matters of government to the level of not only of soundbites, but soundbites which paint the message the government wishes to convey, but which are in fact totally false. The result of this is that it is no longer possible to hold serious debate about any policy matter beyond the closed doors of the wealthy inner circles of the establishment elite. This has very serious implications for a country which does not have a written constitution to safeguard the rights of its ordinary citizens.
We see the results of this every day. Policies are decided upon behind closed doors and not given thorough honest and transparent public airing, and in so doing they end up as unfit for purpose or ill thought out, such that we have whole tracts of areas such as deprived inner cities and poor rural communities misgoverned with policies more properly suited to affluent Surrey or Chelsea. Even worse, because the judicial values of common law are case-based, our continuing tolerance of the corruption of our civic values in government and in the media impacts on the standards with which we enforce law and order in this country.

If our political leaders wish to start on the path of morally redeeming themselves, they can only do so if they face up to the lies and deceptions that have taken place. So far this has not happened in this country.

All the public inquiries to date have been establishment whitewash. As far as the US is concerned, the Iraq Study Group is a step in the right direction, but it only happened because the reality in Iraq has become so dire that even the Whitehouse spin machine ran out of spin to the extent that it could no longer control the opinion of its public on this particular matter.
We need to rethink the way we hold our political leaders to account and deal with their lies and spin in our own country for all our sakes.

  • 6.
  • At 01:03 AM on 07 Dec 2006,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

I agree with JSF (2) more Martin Bell please

Re public scrutiny of the Government I would like to see security checks and vetting mandatory for all cabinet ministers as applies to even the lowliest civil servant and to people in many professions. I'm worried that politicians can continue to exempt themselves from such checks. It seems outrageous in fact, as a previous head of Mi5 Sir Martin furnival Jones told the Franks committee back in 1972 'If the Russian Intelligence Service can recruit a back-bench MP and he climbs to a ministerial position the spy is home and dry'.

Substitute Russian for any country or organisation, even a friendly one that would like to influence British problem and surely the risk we run by having no checks is clear?

Its an open invitation for someone to use for example blackmail to gain an advantage. The way it works is for the victim to be asked to commit a 'token' betrayal, perhaps as a favour or in return for silence on some matter. Of course the indiscretion is not what sinks the victim but the misuse of office, and once this has occurred once, I presume it could only get worse.

As it stands the only thing our security service could do would be to leak the misuse of office to the media before things got worse, as they do not yet have a remit to do anything or a procedure to follow in such an eventuality. Clearing leaking to the press isn’t the way to do this.

And the media do not have the resources or training to expose an operation by a half competent foreign intelligence organisation.

Given the concern for national security could a member of the Government explain why they should have no checks whatsoever, and that the Security service are continued to be denied such a role -to protect cabinet ministers and us- it seems completely unacceptable. Also given that mi5 have recruited politicians using blackmail, Independent Saturday 17th December 2005, Page 4 (Home) (Politics).

So why would we assume that what we do, might not be used against us?

Is there any chance, if Newsnight reads these blogs that you could ask this question on our behalf

see also

Best wishes
Bob Goodall

  • 7.
  • At 01:14 AM on 07 Dec 2006,
  • Saud Qadir wrote:

Will those responsible for the (apparently illegal) invasion of Iraq with the ensuing carnage, ever be brought to justice? I am not speaking of Saddam of course!

  • 8.
  • At 07:31 AM on 07 Dec 2006,
  • khelef khalifa wrote:

The West did not invade the apartheid South Africa at the height of severe human rights abuse against black Africans. What is it so special about the Iraqi people to warrant such a drastic decision to invade a sovereign state with a pretext of spreading demo-crazy idea to people who were far better off than most of her neighbors?

To what extent do you expect us to sympathize with the West when your cities are bombed while thousands of innocent Muslims are perished in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon everyday? It is not enough to say we made a big mistake, there ought to be accountability and the rule of law should be applicable to Bush and Blair too.

  • 9.
  • At 08:09 AM on 07 Dec 2006,
  • J Peters wrote:

In a democracy, if we disagree with the government we are supposed to vote them out. Unfortunately the British electorate is held to ransom by a gang of politicians and their multinational backers who control the reins of the economy, so that even though we are against the majority of their policies, we keep voting them back in for fear of losing our jobs. This is hardly democracy as our forefathers envisaged it, but more akin to economic blackmail.
Given that the invasion was illegal and US$26billion of Iraqi assets were misappropriated by corrupt US officials, not to mention the devastation of the economy and infrastructure, the Iraqi nation has an overwhelming case for seeking reparations. Of course given the dominance of the US, this will not happen, but until it does, it will remain a contentius thorn in the relationship between Iraqis and the US.
Remember, the invasion was unnecessary. Saddam Hussein was contained and controlled economically (i.e. at vastly lower costs) and effectively by sanctions and radar-guided missiles. The Kurds and Marsh Arabs were protected in safe zones, and Saddam Hussein was complying to the letter with every single UN demand.


Before the US mid-term elections, and before he saw it, George Bush had grasped the pending results of the Baker Report as a drowning man is supposed to grasp any straw in the vicinity. Now he has seen it, what will he do with it? After all, its conclusions are much stronger than expected and were unanimous; from a group which contained a number of George Bush Sr. loyalists. With a Democrat Congress what choice has he? Will he jeopardize the prospects of his own party fighting the next presidential election?

You bet he will!

What the commentators – and Tony Blair - have ignored, even after nearly 8 years in office, is that Bush only listens to a handful of trusted advisers; especially Dick Cheney, Richard Perle and Donald Rumsfeld. The latter will probably still carry almost as much weight even after leaving office, where the new appointee – Robert Gates – will be a necessary outsider in the way that Conan Powell was in the first term.

It is true that Bush Jr. is emotionally linked to his father’s record – not least he wanted to remove the blot on the family’s record of its ultimate defeat by Saddam Hussein. For that reason he will never himself accept anything other than victory; and that bodes ill for the future of Iraq. It is also true that he accepted domination by his father’s lieutenants. But this was not all of these, hence the reason why the Baker Report will be sidelined, but just a few of the hardliners. It is those hardliners who will still rule. Thus Richard Perle has already dismissed the Baker Report – from the well respected, bipartisan Iraq Study Group – as naïve!

Expect, therefore, the future of US politics to become a battle between the Congress, with little power in such matters but with the electorate behind them, and an embattled Presidency heavily into groupthink.

The problem posed by such groupthink, first recorded in terms of Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs disaster, is that the more the small group is embattled the more it refuses to recognize any signals coming from the outside world. Kennedy, a strong President, did eventually recognize that reality, Bush – a weak man held in thrall by a few suicidal hardliners – almost certainly will chose (as did Hitler) to (politically at least) die in his bunker! Along with him will die the short-term future of the Republican Party and not a few Iraquis!

  • 11.
  • At 07:35 AM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

A very worthwhile edition of Newsnight.

JP was very well informed in this questioning on "green" taxes. Would it be asking too much for Newsnight to take further the very strange situation that has developed and led to GB making such a splash about so very few new "green" houses? What are presently regarded as lunatic fringe designs are to be the mandatory pattern in ten years? How has that been decided, and with what public participation? Has the carbon (and other pollution) cost their construction, or the cost of cooling been taken into account in their "certification", or the distance from public transport? There are committees in Whitehall deciding this sort of thing that has huge impact on homes, and their residents, and the environment, with no scrutiny, and, I strongly suspect, far too much influence from those marketing patent solutions, so billions will end up in private pockets whilst millions suffer and will be able to do nothing because the decisions were made years previously and have been incorporated into so many plans and processes. As ever this government is not exercising the qualities we are entitled to expect.

A shame that the programme's report on the Iraq Study Group, whilst rightly highlighting that Bush, as commander of the US armed forces and solely in charge of foreign policy, was falsely making out that it was Congress that was needed to take the study on board, blandly accepted that the "spread of democracy" would always be likely to be US policy. Other reports over the last few days have been raising the need for the US State Department to reconsider what it does in supposedly "promoting democracy", which has often been actually to disrupt, prevent or even overthrow democracy, as it would normally be understood, which has then actually worked against wider US, and world interests. US backing of coups, of one side in open elections (as in Nicaragua and Venezuela in the last weeks), of actions that weaken democratic governments (as in Lebanon), and backing, as "democratic" what are actually undemocratic regimes (many times, but Israel comes to mind), means that "democracy", whenever the word is used by US officials, should be carefully examined, not taken simply on trust.

And, as a final point: Martin Bell, although doing a largely excellent report, is unfortunately still the "man's man" he always was. Yes, he visited the women's school, and the girls' high school. Yes, he gave the women a chance to give some very worthwhile quotes, and say things that the BBC's very "brave" reporter should have put to the Taliban's spokesman a few weeks ago (like the point that in burning girls' schools they burn copies of the Koran too, so they are not Muslims at all, at a very essential level), but, when it came to a conclusion, voiced over a group of men and boys fighting with kites being disrupted by a fiercesome band of horsemen fighting over the carcase of a young animal, it was only the children he foresaw as being the victims of any extension of the civil war with the Taliban. The suffering of the women that has essentially involved, and would continue to involve (additionally to deprivation of education and knowledge, also deprivation of physical freedom, of healthcare, even in childbirth, often of any means of support) was again forgotten. As was (is?) traditionally the way of BBC news and current affairs.

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