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I don’t have a memory…

10 Jan

…but I do have a blog. However, for several years that blog, not then called a blog, was on Diary-X, which went into cyberspace never to be seen again. Substantial bits still exist on my computer despite the fact a total crash on my old computer made them disappear as well. Fortunately just before that happened I had invested in a flash memory stick, but there are still gaps. And let’s face it, there was a lot there not worth preserving.

I did note in the remaining archive here that Sitemeter Visit #20,000 was 11 Jul 2004, which must be around two years worth. (Visit #60,000 was on 20 July 2006; #80,000 was last night.) Looking at that July 2004 entry was instructive. Let me share it.

Time warp follows: you are from here on in July 2004.

NOTE: there is no guarantee all the links still work.

  • Visitor 20,000 was 205.188.117 on AOL from North America reading the Diary-X diary.
  • According to Mark Abley (Spoken Here: Travels among Threatened Languages London, William Heinemann 2003) the Lokele of the Eastern Congo distinguish “I’m watching the riverbank” from “I’m boiling my mother-in-law” by just one subtle shift in tone. Could be embarrassing.

* * *

dubya_cia I said yesterday that today’s entry would avoid politics, but it is hard to avoid: perhaps I made a “non-core promise”, to use the slimy John Howard’s classic bit of side-stepping. (Kind of related is The Language of Election Campaigning by Jessica Evans from the University of NSW.)

But how could I pass over such a classic as the following remarks by Australia’s prominent Foreign Body, Alexander Downer?

The Howard government has stood by its decision to take part in the Iraq war, despite a United States report saying intelligence agencies had overstated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

The US Senate Intelligence Committee’s report found that US intelligence agencies misrepresented the extent of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and key judgments were either overstated or not backed up with evidence.

The report also voiced concerns about US intelligence service failures leading up to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said the overthrow of Saddam’s regime was justified.

“It is perfectly clear from what we’ve found out since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime that Saddam Hussein’s regime was in clear breach of (United Nations) Security Council resolutions,” Mr Downer told reporters in Adelaide. He had missiles that exceeded the designated United Nations range. It was perfectly clear he had chemical and biological weapons programs. Chemical shells have been found in Iraq which are supposed to have been declared and destroyed.”

Mr Downer said the debate over whether certain pieces of intelligence were accurate “would go on forever. But in the end the right decision was made to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime and eliminate that threat to human rights, neighbouring countries and the international community.”

Mr Downer also rejected the report’s claim that the Iraq war had worsened international security, saying it had eliminated a terrorist breeding ground. “It’s good for Australia as well as the rest of the world,” he said.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said Mr Howard should apologise to the Australian people for taking the country to war on a lie.

“If John Howard had any sense of self-respect today he would apologise to the Australian people for taking them to war on the basis of a lie,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Brisbane. “John Howard’s claimed that Iraq possessed stockpiles of completed chemical and biological weapons.”

In his National Press Club speech in March 2003 John Howard stated:

Any action that’s taken against Iraq must of course stand or fall on its own merit according to the strength of the arguments that are engaged.

The address to the nation on the eve of the war made his reasons plain:

… International terrorism knows no borders. We have learnt that to our cost. Australia and Australians anywhere in the world are as much targets as any other western country and its people. Therefore the possession of chemical, biological, or even worse still, nuclear weapons by a terrorist network would be a direct undeniable and lethal threat to Australia and its people.

That is the reason above all others why I passionately believe that action must be taken to disarm Iraq. Not only will it take dangerous weapons from that country but it will send a clear signal to other rogue states and terrorists groups like Al Qaeda which clearly want such weapons that the world is prepared to take a stand.

There’s also another reason and that is our close security alliance with the United States. The Americans have helped us in
the past and the United States is very important to Australia’s long-term security.

It is critical that we maintain the involvement of the United States in our own region where at present there are real concerns about the dangerous behaviour of North Korea…

It would certainly appear, wouldn’t it, that “the ostensible reasons for attacking Iraq were cooked in Washington and served up by Australian leaders all too willing to march in lockstep with the Bush administration.” Or so says an article published on Monday, October 20, 2003 by the Miami Herald! And another article states:

Democrats have typically accused the Bush Administration of exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq in order to justify an unnecessary war. Republicans have typically claimed that the fault lay with the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community, which they say overestimated the threat from Iraq—a claim that carries the unlikely implication that Bush’s team might not have opted for war if it had understood that Saddam was not as dangerous as he seemed.

Both sides appear to be at least partly right. The intelligence community did overestimate the scope and progress of Iraq’s WMD programs, although not to the extent that many people believe. The Administration stretched those estimates to make a case not only for going to war but for doing so at once, rather than taking the time to build regional and international support for military action…

As Seymour Hersh, among others, has reported, Bush Administration officials also took some actions that arguably crossed the line between rigorous oversight of the intelligence community and an attempt to manipulate intelligence. They set up their own shop in the Pentagon, called the Office of Special Plans, in order to sift through the information on Iraq themselves. To a great extent OSP personnel “cherry-picked” the intelligence they passed on, selecting reports that supported the Administration’s pre-existing position and ignoring all the rest.

Most problematic of all, the OSP often chose to believe reports that trained intelligence officers considered unreliable or downright
false…

That is from “Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong” by Kenneth Pollack (Atlantic Monthly January-February 2004) whose earlier work, The Threatening Storm, was happily plagiarised by John Howard in that March 2003 National Press Club speech. Howard does not seem to quote Pollack’s more recent work.

See also the most instructive Wikipedia entry Weapons of mass destruction for semantic difficulties with the phrase, and a list of who has them. And if you want to know more about John Howard, you now know where to look.

Finally, all this rant today has been inspired by an excellent Michelle Grattan feature republished in today’s Sun-Herald:

Howard, who in taking Australians to war made a big pitch to the public on WMD and the danger of their getting into the hands of international terrorists, finds successive investigations, whether in the US, UK or Australia, further expose his pre-war position. Actually, of course, Australia went to war because of the alliance, not because of any perceived WMD threat or Iraq’s breaches of Security Council resolutions.

But Howard was never willing to concede the possibility of doubt or counter-evidence; he was all too ready to impugn the motives of his critics. Just as the American intelligence community has been found guilty of “group think”, the Prime Minister imposed “group think” on his whole party – and later thanked them for it.

That doesn’t mean Latham’s policy of pulling the troops out by Christmas is sensible or defensible. Indeed, quite the opposite. Australia has an obligation to help Iraq, and the troops are performing useful tasks. The symbolism of leaving would also send bad messages, to terrorists as well as Iraqis.

It does mean, however, that the Americans are even more out of order in trying to heavy and discredit Labor as it faces the election. Labor’s scepticism about the war – even though it believed WMD existed and would have backed a UN sponsored invasion – has been justified by hindsight.

Magisterial, Michelle!

Back to the present

Depressing, isn’t it? Wasn’t Alexander inspiring in 2004! Isn’t is great, in retrospect, to know that we eliminated a terrorist breeding ground?

Later

Let’s hope when in two or three years time we read George Bush’s statement of tomorrow (and whatever our government also says): 1) we are in fact all here to read it and 2) we don’t read it with the same stunned disbelief with which we now read what was said in 2003-2004.

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One response to “I don’t have a memory…

  1. al loomis

    January 14, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    The only difference between Bush and more successful American presidents (Johnson, Nixon, Reagan) is that poor Dubya only had a small army to work with, a bloated small army only 50% tooth, so he bumped reality much quicker and maybe won’t escape with an egg-free face. But he is not unusual, just unlucky.

    Dubya’s not the fundamental problem. A social/political system that allows a single person to unlease the military machine has disaster built in. It comes along quite often: the history of the usa is one war after another. For a long time the disaster was confined to America’s neighbors, but since Korea, only the invasion of Grenada was successful. Lately, everybody loses.

     
 
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