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The Court of Appeal has granted permission to claim judicial review of the refusal by the Government to hold an independent inquiry into the circumstances which led to the invasion of Iraq. R (Gentle & Others) v. Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Defence, and Attorney General [2005] EWHC 3119 (Admin.)

This is far from the end of the road of course, this is neither the Public Inquiry itself nor even the substantive JR hearing, merely leave for there to be a JR hearing into why there wasn't an inquiry (a stage designed, in theory, to weed out cases with no legal merit), and the Court hinted the chances of success were slim. Still, could be fun, and they are clearly going to have to consider legality of the war. The substantive hearing of the Review application is going to the same chamber of the CA, rather than back to the High Court, which is rather curious. Means that appeal against the outcome of the review itself will be straight to the Lords.

The applicants are relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq.

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Via Nosemonkey, as seems to be increasingly the case:

"The Propaganda We Pass Off As News Around The World": Media Guardian

A succession of scandals in the US has revealed widespread government funding of PR agencies to produce "fake news". Actors take the place of journalists and the "news" is broadcast as if it were genuine. The same practice has been adopted in Iraq, where newspapers have been paid to insert copy. These stories have raised the usual eyebrows in the UK about the pitiful quality of US democracy. Things are better here, we imply. We have a prime minister who claimed in 2004 that "the values that drive our actions abroad are the same values of progress and justice that drive us at home". Yet in 2002 the government launched a littleknown television propaganda service that seems to mimic the US government's deceptive approach to fake news.

[...]

World Television produces the fake news, but its efforts are entirely funded by the Foreign Office, which spent £340m on propaganda activities in the UK alone in 2001. A comprehensive post- 9/11 overhaul means that this figure has probably markedly increased since then.

[...]

The diet of "news" received by viewers of the service includes an endless pageant of government ministers and other official spokespeople. Recent headlines on Iraq refer to happy news such as "Prime minister in surprise visit to Iraq" (December 22 2005) or "Iraqi ambassador upbeat on elections" (December 14 2005). Often Chatham House provides the venue for policy discussions, as in: "The psychology of terror - experts meet" (December 23 2005).

Questioning the occupation is out of the question, but some criticism of US policy is possible. In an extraordinary apologia for the British occupation of Iraq in 1920, the "suggested intro" reads: "This year is not the first time an outside power has sought to construct a modern, democratic, liberal state in Iraq. Britain tried to do the same in the 1920s". The benevolence of the US and the UK is simply assumed: "Today's USled coalition, like the imperial occupiers of 80 years ago, are trying to free Iraq's government and security services from corruption and abuse."

I despair, really I do. As Brad has been known to fulminate about the US administration, "I'll stop calling this crew Orwellian when they stop using 1984 as an operations manual".

Nightmares

Jul. 11th, 2005 10:40 am
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I woke in the middle of the night sweating from a really rather dull nightmare about work. I'd screwed up a routine application of the kind I do several times a month and was desparately searching through a file to find something. You'd think Recent Events would at least leave me with a better class of nightmare. Then I couldn't fall asleep again because one of the neighbours was taking the "live for today" mantra slightly too far and still partying at 3AM on a Monday morning. To be fair, not heavy partying, but talking loudly on their patio, and sound carries a long way through the gardens of north London if your window's open, as mine always is.

I'm tired and grumpy as a result, and not inclined to draw conclusions and things. But I see from yesterday's Snowmail, and from the BBC, that at least 35 people died in bombs in Iraq on Sunday, 20 of them queuing at an army recruitment base in Baghdad. Then there's all those lives lost Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday, from poverty and disease, you know, the ones we were supposed to be concentrating on last week. And, incidentally, today is the tenth anniversary of the massacre of some 8000 at Srebrenica.

There are various things one can say about that, about relative values or the relative newsworthiness of human life. In response, one can quite fairly argue that human nature is inherently solipsistic, that death nearby, or the feeling "it could have been me", or hearing that the friend of a good friend is still among the missing, as I did this morning, is inevitably going to provoke more of an emotional response, even for those of us who have not personally lost anyone close, or who aren't still desparately waiting to hear from the missing. And the unusual and unexpected, which, grimly, none of the things I list above are, inevitably has a higher newsvalue.

I don't see that Iraq can be said to be causative of Thursday, we've been expecting this since 11th September 2001 after all: assuming it is fundamentalist terrorism they hated us enough already anyway. But it's hardly helping. As the Medium Lobster writes: Faster Flypaper! Kill! Kill! Kill!:

"If last week's tragic bombings of the London tube system demonstrate anything, it's that the war on terror has been a staggering triumph. The righteous onslaught of new-painted schools and fresh-pressed police uniforms in Iraq has clearly driven the jihadists fleeing from the central front in the war on terror, scattering from the Middle East all the way to England, where they, in desperation, have resorted to attacking our allies at home."

Which makes George Bush's repeated observation the other day that "We will stay on the offense, fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them at home," just a tad odd: as Hilzoy (quoting others) asks on Obsidian Wings

"But besides all that [ie the morality of the Flypaper Strategy as such], I have to ask: isn't London "home", in the relevant sense? If it comes to that, isn't Madrid?"

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Ed Harriman in the LRB on the audit trail in Iraq. Fascinating and disspiriting reading. (Open access while this is the current issue.)

The ‘financial irregularities’ described in audit reports carried out by agencies of the American government and auditors working for the international community collectively give a detailed insight into the mentality of the American occupation authorities and the way they operated, handing out truckloads of dollars for which neither they nor the recipients felt any need to be accountable. The auditors have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. They have also discovered that $8.8 billion that passed through the new Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted for, with little prospect of finding out where it went. A further $3.4 billion earmarked by Congress for Iraqi development has since been siphoned off to finance ‘security’.

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Those already aware of the odd traditions at Hammonds may be further amused to know that the story appears in Private Eye this week...

And in further quasi-legal news, Channel 4 have their hands on a copy of Goldsmith's summary opinion. I meant to be home in time for Channel 4 news because I'd guessed this was what Jon Snow was heavily hinting in today's Snowmail, but I, err, went to the pub instead.
(ETA: seems the BBC received a copy too.)

To sum up, the language of resolution 1441 leaves the position unclear and the statements made on adoption of the resolution suggest that there were differences of view within the Council as to the legal effect of the resolution. Arguments can be made on both sides.

No shit sherlock. If a summary of my advice in any case was "well, dunno mate, all depends, we might not win (in court)" it would be a blatant, and really rather rubbish, attempt to please my insurers on a case I thought stank to high heaven. It is also, blatantly, the opinion of counsel-who-is-being-very-heavily-lent-on-by-the-client.

...

27. In these circumstances, I remain of the opinion that the safest legal course would be to secure the adoption of a further resolution to authorise the use of force. [...] The key point is that it should establish that the Council has concluded that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity offered by resolution 1441, as in the draft which has already been tabled.

28. Nevertheless, having regard to the information on the negotiating history which I have been given and to the arguments of the US Administration which I heard in Washington, I accept that a reasonable case can be made that resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation in 678 without a further resolution.

This is so lazy.

30. In reaching my conclusion, I have taken account of the fact that on a number of previous occasions, including in relation to Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 and Kosovo in 1999, UK forces have participated in military action on the basis of advice from my predecessors that the legality of the action under international law was no more than reasonably arguable. But a "reasonable case" does not mean that if the matter ever came before a court I would be confident that the court would agree with the view. I judge that, having regard to the arguments on both sides, and considering the resolution as a whole in the light of the statements made on adoption and subsequently, a court might well conclude that OPs 4 and 12 do requ1re a further Council decision in order to revive the authorisation in resolution 678. But equally I consider that the counter view can be reasonably maintained.

Oh for crying out loud.

(Eh, what. I don't remember ever hearing that about Desert Fox and Kosovo)

ETA: A pdf of the full version is now here. Slightly more impressive reasoning than appears from the summary, but I still think it's a very dubious piece of work. Paragraphs 24 (setting out the argument that a second resolution was required), particularly 24(iii) (Any other construction reduces the role of the Council discussion under O[perative] P[aragraph] 12 [of 1441] to a procedural formality [...] I remain of the view this would be the effect.) and also 36 (on the impropriety of regime change per se as a justification) are particularly revealing though.

Thinking of legal stuff by the way, did any of you read about Giovanni di Stefano, "lawyer" to, err, Saddam Hussein and Jonathan King, personal friend of Arkan, and his somewhat dodgy credentials?

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That pesky opinion is back

On and on she goes, where she stops nobody knows...

I meant to write a while ago, when it came out that Goldsmith's Opinion ran to one A4 side, that this was all looking stranger and stranger. Perhaps he went back to the fine old traditions of the Bar, when leaders could get away with opinions that consisted in their entirety of the answers to your questions are (1) yes (2) no (3) yes (4) maybe. I remain etc,

Oh, and then there's this, from The Road to Surfdom (via Brad).

Yes, I really would rather have Michael Howard running the country.

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Some of the finest and rarest Russian wines ever to go on sale failed to sell well when they went under the hammer at auction house Sotheby's on Friday.

Well, if they're from Tsar Nicholas II and Joseph Stalin's cellars one doubts whether much of them will be any good by now. And I bet they're corked.

But I was reading recently, I forget where (TLS or LRB possibly) about luxury markets in a recession. In the case of rare books the market took a while to fall after Black Tuesday in 1929 but once it went it stayed down longer. Moral: those signed first impression JKR's may not be such a sound investment after all.

Currently reading Robert Irwin's The Arabian Nights: a companion. Brilliant.

Therefore [ie because of the stylistic differences between Arabic and European languages] only a half-wit or a liar would claim that it was possible to produce a complete and faithful word-for-word translation of the Nights, simply changing the Arabic letters into European ones; but, as we shall see below, Mardrus made this claim for his [French] translation.

Nothing to do with that, but read Keiran Drum on Crooked Timber on the admissability in US military tribunals of evidence gained under torture. Also Ogged on Unfogged. Read it and weep.

Edited to add: to cheer you up Former TV chat show host and European MP Robert Kilroy-Silk has had a bucket of farm slurry thrown over him in Manchester..

Yes, I am drinking at home on my own. Why do you ask?

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How many nails in the coffin now? "Well, he's dead now".

(ETA: Riverbend's reaction here. Says it all really.)

Links

Nov. 12th, 2004 07:17 am
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Crooked Timber analyses the criticism of the Lancet's statistical analysis in its article on Iraqi civilian deaths. Shortly put, the conclusion seems to be that the vast majority of the criticisms made are bollocks.

(ETA: see also Brad. As someone who knows sodall about stats I have to go with the people I trust: these two. Tim Lambert also has a long sequence of posts on it all, the most recent is here andis firmly on the same side: the comments threads on his posts make fascinating reading. Thanks to Martin for the last one.)

Boris on the merits of the "Special Relationship".

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Raed Jarrar,-who first came to the world's attention as the "Dear Raed" of Salaam Pax's blog, recently opened comments on his own blog. The result has been depressingly unsurprising

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"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.

In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

I look back now on what I wrote in early 2003 about how, albeit reluctantly and with massive reservations, I thought it might be possible to bring this off and come out somewhere better than where we went in, and I don't know what to say.

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You WHAT? -Journal entry leads to FBI/CIA investigation. At least, so the author says: I know nothing about her but it seems an unlikely story to make up and from the rest of her journal she seems sane... (Link from Quixotic Kitten)

Some other links, that in my painkiller fuelled world seem to connect in some way to paint a picture of a seriously fucked-up world:

Bush website blocked outside North America (and see also Crooked Timber)

The fallout from what I continue to think was a rather twattish idea of the Grauniad's.

And on a rather different note, Queen of the Sky suspended by Delta for "inappropriate" photographs on her blog (no one seems entirely sure what was so inappropriate about them).

ETA that it is now time for episode 2 of The Power of Nightmares

Edited to further add, because they seem to belong here, two other bits from Crooked Timber:

The ridiculous row about Charlie Brooker's throwaway comment in the Guardian listings mag;

and On bombing Fallujah because they "won't hand over Zarquawi".

"I am, as a result haunted by a nightmare in which I am flying in a helicopter gunship above the town of Fallujah, looking down on the wrecked buildings and bodies below. I find myself having a conversation, through a megaphone, with one of the residents:

Me: Just hand over Zarqawi and we’ll let you live!
Resident: OK! OK! We’re having a bit of trouble finding him!
Me: A likely story! Bomb them again, Lurch!
Resident: Could you just give us a hand? Like maybe tell us where in Fallujah he’s staying?
Me: I don’t know. But we have excellent intelligence that tells us that you’re harbouring him! Bomb that coffee shop, Lurch, it looks like an ammo dump!
Resident: Well, what does he look like?
Me: Everyone knows what Zarqawi looks like! You’re just playing for time! Bomb him again!
Resident: Well, how many legs does he have? Give us something to work with here!

And at that point I wake up, screaming."

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A mixture of scary big cases, urgent issues in my Chambers, pissy trials, and a fit of the blues over too close examination of the last eight years or so of my life is likely to continue causing something of a hiatus. I emerge purely to urge everyone who can to watch the remaining two episodes of Adam Curtis' The Power of Nightmares on BBC2. Particularly those who, like me, were fool enough to hold the opinion that going to war in Iraq was not necessarily an entirely stupid idea.

Incidentally, I do wish there was a political party in this country I could genuinely and happily vote for, instead of my permanent disatissfied vacillation between the more economically-liberal Liberals and the wetter Tories. Unfortunately, it died with Asquith's resignation. Such is life.

Hah. Entirely by coincidence, Keane's Everyone's Changing has just come up. Fits my mood right now.

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Reading the up to date report on the Royal Navy personnel in Iranian custody I was struck by the words:

"A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the boats were being used to train the Iraqi river patrol service, and may have strayed across the maritime border by mistake."

If this cockup is an example of the level of training we're going to be giving said river patrol service, we'd better be ready for the Iran-Iraq war to break out again...

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Is pissing around on the Iranian side of the Shatt al-Arab really a particularly clever thing for the Royal Navy to be doing in the current climate?

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It is, perhaps, time to worry when the best plan for Iraq seems to be that of Fafnir on the Fafblog:

In the middle of the night while everybody in Iraq is sleepin we pack up all our stuff, tanks, bombs, guns, tents, extra buildings and everything, and stuff it into our planes and helicopters so we can get out real fast at the drop of a hat - a fast hat. Then we will have specially trained troops sent out to each Iraqi home with cords attached to their backs and wait until sunrise and when all the Iraqi families start to wake up yawning and stretching and so on our troops jump out waving wiggly fingers and goin "It was allllll a dream... it was alllllll a dream!"

The wiggly fingers here are very crtical here and if not done correctly could spoil everything.

Yes, I have all the internet access in the world and nothing to say...

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... and a hearing anticipated to be a five minute in and out job turns into an hour and a half, with three counsel (all of whom were in agreement) being shouted at for the status of papers in a case they'd all received (in place of more senior people whose attendance was thought to be an unwarranted expense for such a hearing) the day before.

Oh well.

Two small snippets from this week's Private Eye that amused me:

In a world of "dogging", "piking" and other exotic modern practices, it can be tricky for hacks to keep up with the latest street-slang. Last week, however, consensus was reached on the Street of Shame on how to deal with the Kevin Spacey mugging story. The Independent, Times, Mirror and Daily Mail all described the actor not as a friend of Dorothy but "a friend of Peter Mandelson."

(I can't imagine what they might possibly be insinuating about Spacey, and the story...).

and a reference to the critics "quote" on the posters for the stage version of When Harry met Sally starring Alyson Hannigan and Luke Perry.

As quoted on the posters, the line is "Fans of Hannigan and Perry will be ecstatic", and I confess that, seeing them as I come up the escalators at Holborn every morning, the cynic in me had briefly wondered about the context of that. Well, apparently, the rest of the sentence, in a Time Out review, was "...their companions will just have to fake an interest", with added comments that "it is a long and tedious play" and "halfway through I began to wish that Harry and Sally had never met."

(While I haven't seen the play, I can't really see that the film is a natural candidate for a transfer to stage.)

Oh, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden unfavourably compares the analysis of Andrew Sullivan on Iraq to that of the Fafblog.. Read it and weep.

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When half the retired senior members of the diplomatic corps, including Crispin Tickell for fuck's sake, tell you your foreign policy is a bit of a cockup in an open letter to The Times it is just possibly a more worthwhile course of action to consider whether your foreign policy is a bit of a cockup than it is to call them "the camel-corps".

Yes, I know the Foreign Office is full of arabists. That's how they come to know a bit about the middle east. But diplomats just don't do this kind of thing, even when retired. Only very, very rarely. So when they do, it's worth paying attention.

Yes, I know that I peddled a rather different line about a year ago. I was wrong. I thought that Britain at least wouldn't cock it up.

(Declaration of bias: one of the signatories is a friend of my parents and another is the father of a very good friend. Actually, I thought the latter was still serving.)

Incidentally, I notice that Raed, of Dear Raed fame now has his own blog at RaedintheMiddle. To my mind, he's the best of the Iraqi bloggers, undoubtedly good though RiverBend and Salaam Pax are.

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So, we couldn't face Soho House last night after all, and instead ended up in the Lovely Lansdowne, a pub I may have to start visiting more often. And a very good evening it was too, even better for the fact that I live five minutes walk away...

Today, I continue in my abdication of content-writing duties to bring you more Wise Words of Wisdom from that great seer, Fafnir on the Fafblog, who tells us how to solve the growing turmoil in Iraq:

Imagine you are a country who has been ruled by brutal dictators for centuries and invaded and occupied by a foreign power. You are tired and angry and hostile. You possibly still do not have good food or clean water or a job. What do you want? Ice cream.

Who does not love ice cream? No one that is who! Children and mullahs and Baathists of all ages all love the sweet creamy taste of a fresh ice cream cone! Now imagine that you are the angry tired hostile unemployed waterless foodless Iraqi - and Americans are giving you ice cream, for free! How do you complain, you do not you are so happy with delicious ice cream! Your emotional landscape changes from angry hostile killing to delicious. Ice cream delicious.

For just 37 billion dollars a year we could pay for one pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream a day for the 22 million men woman and children in Iraq. And if we buy in bulk it's even cheaper! We could be feeding them ice cream three meals a day! We could feed them ice cream at all state functions and constitutional drafting meetings! Our troops will no longer ride in humvees, they will ride in ice cream trucks. No one will launch grenades at the ice cream man!

"But Fafnir" you are saying "won't this make the Iraqis very fat." Maybe but remember the ancient proverb: a fat Iraqi insurgent is a happy Iraqi insurgent - especially a fat Iraqi insurgent filled with ice cream. "But how will you pay for all this ice cream Fafnir" you say. The ice cream will pay for itself. As the love grows we will be able to phase out the military operation and thus afford the ice cream, and once we have normal relations with Iraq our ice cream exports there will be incredible. My only hesitation is that the wrong powers will launch other wars to open more markets. There must be no blood for ice cream.

Well that's it. Under the Fafnir Plan I expect there to be a working liberal democracy in Iraq by say Christmas. Lets get started.

Heed the wise words of Fafnir.

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