Catching Up

An interesting week. On Monday, the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee reported back on its inquiry into the case for the recent war in Iraq. Although the Government was cleared of charges of misleading Parliament, the report condemned the use of single-sourced data (the infamous 45 minute claim), the reliance on US intelligence, the plagiarised thesis, and the degree of autonomy that Alistair Campbell (the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary) appeared to have over the whole project. Campbell was cleared of embellishing the available evidence, but only due to the Chairman of the Committee’s casting vote (it was a 5-5 tie along party lines). The dissenters complained that they couldn’t determine whether he was innocent or not, because the Government refused to allow the Committee to see intelligence papers and question intelligence personnel, so all their information was coming from second-hand sources.

The Government claims that this vindicates their position, and demands that the BBC should retract their earlier report. The BBC continues to tell the Government what it can do with its demands, and then finds a source in Whitehall admitting that weapons of mass destruction may never be found. The moral? Accusing the BBC of bias is not something a Government should do lightly :-).

Back in America, attention has turned to the President's State of The Union address back in January, where he made the claim that Iraq had attempted to buy nuclear material in Africa. This claim has been refuted by the International Atomic Energy Board; the documentation that provided the evidence turned out to be forged. So far, nothing new. But it appears that the CIA knew that the Niger claim was false before the speech, and told The White House as such. And yet, the claim still made it into the Union address. Sure, it's not lying under oath, but it was a lie against the combined Houses; oh, and the Americans who happened to be watching. The Administration's response? A little revisionist history. According to Donald Rumsfeld, we went to war not because of a imminent threat (excepting us Britons, of course, who were told that we were only 45 minutes away from disaster), but because "we saw the existing evidence in a new light through the prism of our experience on Sept. 11." Which is a little harsh, considering that Iraq appears to have had nothing to do with the WTC attack. He was also rather defensive about the cost of the continued presence in Iraq, only providing answers after he had finished testifying in front of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. So far, the occupation of Iraq is costing America $4bn a month, on top of a $1bn/month bill for the presence in Afghanistan. They're hoping that that'll go down somewhat as NATO troops begin to replace some of the US soldiers, but that's an awful lot of money. Especially when going into an election year.

Meanwhile, the President is touring Africa. The people of Uganda seem to be doing well in fighting AIDS, but is it at odds with the USA's preference for abstinence programmes? Bush has also given a speech deploring America's past use of slaves, although this passage of the speech worries me somewhat:

In America, enslaved Africans learned the story of the exodus from Egypt and set their own hearts on a promised land of freedom. Enslaved Africans discovered a suffering Savior and found he was more like themselves than their masters. Enslaved Africans heard the ringing promises of the Declaration of Independence and asked the self-evident question, then why not me?
Does anybody else feel a little, well, unsettled by that? A sense of "these savages didn't know freedom until we beat Christianity into them"? Maybe I'm reading too much into things these days...

currently playing: Bob Dylan - Masters of War