Dysfunctional democracies

There seems to be growing dysfunction in democracies with important associations with New Zealand.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom continues to struggle with it’s exit from the European Union after a controversial referendum in 2016 chose Brexit by a fairly close margin. It is claimed that the referendum was unduly affected by social media manipulation similar to what happened in the US election, also in 2016.

Prime Minister Theresa May made a disastrous decision to have a snap election and seems to have gone downhill from there. Her Conservative Party has been in a close contest with the opposing Labour Party in the polls for some time, largely because of the arguably equally unpopular leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Not only does UK politics look in dire straits, their future as a country, especially as a trading nation, looks precarious. They are struggling to sort out an exit of the European Union, and that is delaying attempts to negotiate with alternate trade partners.

The Telegraph: Theresa May is showing how thorny a ‘clean Brexit’ could be so voters reconsider her plan

The Telegraph: Who do you think should be the next leader of the Conservative Party?

Over the past few months notable Conservative politicians and outside voices have questioned Theresa May’s ability to lead the party through Brexit and beyond. This in turn has cast doubt over the stability and longevity of the Prime Minister’s position in the top job.

 

United States

Who is in the most disarray, the Republicans or the Democrats? Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton deserved to lose the 2016 presidential election, and it’s arguable that the worst person won.

Trump has had some short term wins with some policies, especially with huge tax cuts, but the effects of resulting huger debts may case major problems in the future, especially if the record length bull run in the markets hiccups, as it inevitably will at some stage. the odds are that that will be soonish.

Trump has had a shambolic approach to trade ‘negotiations’, and a high risk approach to international relations. He often seems to work (or tweet) at odds with his top officials, and has questionable inclinations towards appeasement with Russia (while his country increases sanctions for interference in their democracy).

National Security Adviser John Bolton: U.S. sanctions to stay until Russia changes its behavior

Trump’s claims of great success in his meeting with Kim Yong Un seem to have been premature: Trump says Pompeo won’t go to North Korea, criticizes denuclearization progress

And his potential legal problems grow. Graham: Trump Will “Very Likely” Fire Sessions After Midterms – sacking everyone who won’t support his attempts at interference is unlikely to save him in the long run.

Much of the world watches in wonder at what the most powerful democracy in the world has become.

While many stupid and troubling things are by Trump there’s hope that his big mouth and little fingers won’t work there way towards the big button – however there are risks that Trump might escalate attempts to divert from all his problems by choosing a military sideshow, a common ploy of tyrants who can make their people revere them.

But the Democrats look in disarray after the disastrous Clinton presidential campaign. Hillary may be considering another shot at the presidency, which would likely dismay many, and there is no clear alternative (although in US politics it’s a long time until the next presidential election (2020). Trump was just an unlikely contender in a crowd of wannabe candidates two years before he won.

Australia

Our relatively) close neighbours the Aussies have a new Prime Minister that most Kiwis are unlikely to have heard of (Scott Morrison, after two leadership votes in a week. The deposing of Malcolm Turnbull adds to the procession of Australian Prime Ministers who have failed to see out a term in office.

See Out with the not very old Aussie PM, in with the new.

The change of leadership looks like a bit of a move right, but looks likely to be tested at an election soon, if Turnbull resigns and the Government loses it’s one seat majority.

Labour’s left has been riven by ructions in the not very distant past.

Depressing

This could be quite depressing for those who yearn for healthy democracies and competent politicians and parties. Is democracy self imploding, or can it recover?

Meanwhile, New Zealand

Here we have a three party government that has it’s challenges, and it’s critics, but the big local political stories of the week have been about the leak of expenses details several days before they were due to be released, and the semi-demotion of a Minister who didn’t properly record or advise having a meeting with someone who could potentially be a big benefit to the country.

Dirty democracy: Clinton, Trump, Russia

Investigations and revelations continue on dirty democracy involving the US and Russia.

The use of Facebook by Russians continues – CNBC: House panel plans to release Russian ads that ran on Facebook, committee leaders say

The House Intelligence Committee plans to release Russia-linked ads that ran on Facebook during the 2016 election, the panel’s leaders said Wednesday, according to NBC News.

The House committee is investigating Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., are leading the probe.

Facebook has already shared about 3,000 ads bought by Russia-linked groups with the congressional committees investigating the Russian influence campaign.

Google also has discovered that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its platforms, according to reports.

Recode:  Facebook admits Russia agents used Messenger to disrupt U.S. presidential election

A top Facebook executive admitted Wednesday that Russian agents had used the social network’s popular Messenger platform to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook Messenger boss David Marcus disclosed that a “very small” number of the 470 accounts active in the Russian interference campaign were using Messenger to communicate with their users.

Messenger was reportedly used by some pages with ties to Russian operatives. Marcus, like other Facebook executives, argued that the work done by Facebook around the world was being wrongly “overshadowed” by the Russia “narrative.”

Investigations continue into possible links between the trump campaign and Russians.

Newsweek: DID TRUMP FAMILY, ASSOCIATES BREAK LAW WITH RUSSIA? A GUIDE TO POTENTIAL SUSPECTS IN MUELLER’S PROBE

It has been a big few days in the ongoing investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and possibly collude with Donald Trump’s campaign. The president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has appeared before multiple congressional committees…

Paul Manafort: At the same time, the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is delving deeper into Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager.

This week, it was reported that the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, in conjunction with Mueller, is investigating Manafort for money laundering. It is widely believed that Mueller aims to use the money laundering charges to flip Manafort and turn him into a witness against Trump.

Roger Stone: A longtime adviser to Trump, Stone boasted during the campaign that he was in communication with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before that outfit released emails from the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Stone has also confirmed that he exchanged messages with a hacker believed to be responsible for attacking the Democratic National Committee.

NBC:  Kushner Under Scrutiny By FBI as Part of Russia Investigation

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple US officials tell NBC Nightly News.

And the Clinton campaign is also reported to be close to Russia in it’s dirty campaigning too – Washington Post: Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier

The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

So both the Republicans and then the Clinton campaign have had Russian connections in what appears to have been a particularly dirty campaign.

The US and Russia have interfered in other democracies for a long time, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that Russia has tried to interfere in the US election, and both sides have had connections to Russia in conducting their campaigns.

Vanity Fair: THE DIRTY TRUTH ABOUT THE STEELE DOSSIER

On many levels, the Post story merely confirms earlier reports about Steele’s backers. The same day that BuzzFeed published the dossier in its entirety, CNN confirmed much of Corn’s earlier reporting. “The memos originated as opposition research, first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats,” Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper and Carl Bernstein wrote. (As Howard Blum recently reported for Vanity Fair, the funding for the research originally came from a “Never Trump” Republican but not specifically from the war chest of one of Trump’s rivals in the G.O.P. primary, according to a friend of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson.)

The involvement of Clinton and the D.N.C. in funding the Steele dossier is not surprising, but it does add fuel to the partisan fire. “I have to say, the whole Russian thing is what it’s turned out to be,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday morning. “This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election.” Conservative pundits and commentators celebrated on Twitter, seeing in the Post story validation of their arguments that the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia were overblown, if not fabricated.

Complicating matters is the fact that Fusion GPS has also worked with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who attended the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, in which Donald Trump Jr. was promised damaging information on Clinton as part of what was described to him as a Russian government effort to help elect his father.

It is all extremely messy.

It has become a very dirty democracy in the US, with mud covered credibility. I don’t know if it is repairable.

The end result so far is the Trump presidency that risks becoming an increasingly disastrous train wreck.

(Dotcom and) Ortmann v The United States of America

High Court media release on a judgment on the extradition of Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk, Kim Dotcom, Finn Batato to the United States.


Result

In a judgment released today the High Court has confirmed that Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk, Kim Dotcom, Finn Batato (the appellants) are eligible for extradition under section 24 of the Extradition Act 1999.

The United States Government has been seeking the appellants’ extradition to face trial on 13 counts including allegations of conspiracy to commit racketeering; copyright infringement; money laundering and wire fraud since 2012.

The High Court has found that the District Court decision in December 2015 finding that the appellants are eligible for extradition was flawed but that the errors in the judgment were immaterial because there are available pathways for extradition on each count.

The key legal questions

In extradition proceedings the primary role of the Court is to determine whether the requested persons are eligible for surrender in relation to the offences for which surrender is sought. Broadly speaking, this requires the Court to follow a two-step approach.

First, the Court must be satisfied that the alleged conduct constituting the essence of the offence for which surrender is sought correlates to an “extradition offence”. In this case, because there is an extradition treaty, this will depend on whether the conduct correlates to an offence listed in the NZ-US Treaty or deemed to be listed in it by the Extradition Act.

Second, if the Court is satisfied that the offences for which surrender is sought are extradition offences, it must then determine whether the evidence relied on by the requesting State (the US) is sufficient to justify a trial if the offence had been committed in New Zealand. This is what is commonly referred to as a prima facie case – is there sufficient evidence for a properly directed to jury to convict?

Contents of the judgment

The essence of the United States’ case is that the appellants, as officers of Megaupload, were party to a conspiracy to profit from copyright infringement by users of Megaupload’s services.

One of the central issues in the case is whether copyright infringement by digital online communication of copyright protected works to members of the public is a criminal offence in New Zealand under the Copyright Act. The High Court has held that it is not, contrary to the conclusion reached in the District Court. The appellants have therefore succeeded with one of the main planks of their case.

However, the High Court has found that a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement amounts to a conspiracy to defraud and is therefore an extradition offence listed in the USNZ Treaty. Further, other extradition pathways are available for all counts because of their correlation to a number of serious crimes in the Crimes Act. These offences are deemed to be listed in the Treaty by a provision in the Extradition Act, subject to various criteria being met.

The High Court has confirmed the conclusion reached by the District Court that the evidence relied on by the United States for the purposes of extradition does satisfy the prima facie case test against each appellant on each count. The High Court has also confirmed that the District Court was correct to dismiss the appellants’ applications for a permanent stay of the extradition proceedings for alleged abuse of process.

Decision

The District Court judgment finding that the appellants are eligible for surrender to the United States on all counts in the indictment is confirmed.


The full High Court judgment is here: Ortmann v The United States of America

Refugees detained after Trump ‘executive order’

There has been immediate collateral damage after US immigration has acted on an executive order signed by President Trump putting an immediate stop to refugees from seven Muslim countries. Some refugees in transit when the order was signed have been detained at US airports.

And a department of Homeland spokeswoman has advised that the ban on entry also applies to green card holders (legal permanent US residents) trying to enter the US.

BBC: Trump executive order: Refugees detained at US airports

Entry to the US for nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries has been stopped for 90 days by Donald Trump.

The exact implications of his order remain unclear. The US State Department has told the BBC it is working on the immediate implementation of the ban.

People fleeing Syria are banned until further notice.

The other countries affected are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

The two Iraqi refugees detained in New York, one of whom had worked as a US Army interpreter, were in transit when the executive order was signed on Friday.

The National Immigration Law Centre (NILC) told the BBC that it was suing President Trump and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

It described the two Iraqis as “courageous Haneed Khalid Darweesh, who interpreted for US army & Haider Sameer Alshawi also targeted for aiding US military”.

That appears to mean that people with permanent resident status who were out of the country when the order was signed may not be allowed into the US.

The executive order includes the following measures:

  • The suspension of the entire US refugee admissions programme for 120 days
  • A ban on all refugees from Syria until “significant changes” are made
  • A 90-day suspension on anyone arriving from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, except certain visa categories such as diplomats
  • Priority for future refugee applications from those persecuted for their religion – but only if the person is part of a minority religion in their home country
  • A cap of 50,000 refugees in 2017 – less than half of the upper limit under Barack Obama

Mr Trump signed the order on Friday, which was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The president’s statement to mark that occasion, on the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism.

This just popped up on my Twitter feed:

US Congress condemns UN

The United States House of Representatives has voted to condemn the Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements by 342-80 and was critical of the Obama administration for not vetoing the resolution.

Bizarrely they also said that the US should oppose and veto any future resolutions “that seek to impose solutions to final status issues, or are one-sided and anti-Israel”. That a country can take a non-negotiable position regardless of the merits of any future resolution, and can veto everything, is a fundamental weakness of the UN – and of the US.

The US seems to be threatening the UN’s existence unless it becomes US compliant.

Politico: House condemns U.N. over Israel settlement vote

The House voted overwhelmingly to rebuke the United Nations for passing a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction, a bipartisan slap that also targets the Obama administration while signaling a rocky road ahead for U.S.-U.N. relations under soon-to-be-President Donald Trump.

The U.N. Security Council voted 14-0 to condemn Israeli settlements on Dec. 23, despite vigorous opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Trump, both of whom demanded that the United States exercise its veto.

The House measure, which passed 342-80 on Thursday, is likely to be followed by a similar, largely symbolic non-binding resolution in the Senate.

And there is talk in the US of throwing their money out of the UN cot case.

Some U.S. lawmakers already are saying they want to go further in the coming months by stripping the United Nations of U.S. funding.

So they will only support the UN if they get their own way? This is pathetic, especially of a super power that should support the principal of UN votes on international issues regardless of them getting what they want.

Perhaps the UN should be based somewhere other than the US.

“The United States Government should oppose and veto future United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues, or are one-sided and anti-Israel,” the House measure states. It also demands that the U.N. repeal or fundamentally alter the measure it passed.

It is ridiculous to state a position on any future resolutions involving Israel. As the US has veto power this is basically trying to say that the UN shouldn’t deal with any issue involving Israel.

And demanding that the UN should repeal a resolution that passed 14-0 is just plain nuts.

If the US tries a counter resolution once Donald Trump takes over it is unlikely to succeed as it would need a reversal of a majority of countries in the Security Council (the membership has changed since 1 January) and would need agreement of all of the other four permanent members. That’s unlikely to happen.

Trump’s decision to weigh in came at the behest of the Israelis, and it was unusual in the sense that during presidential transition periods the incoming commander-in-chief typically defers to the sitting president on policy decisions.

But Trump has been trying to meddle early on a number of issues, it seems to be his way. The UN may be at serious risk of becoming more dysfunctional with the US under Trump’s presidency.

That there were several dozen Democrats, and a handful of Republicans, who voted against the resolution will be seen as a victory in some corners, including among left-leaning Jewish activists who took comfort in the fact that rival resolutions with softer language had also been proposed.

A minor victory if any.

Nonetheless, that so many Democrats and Republicans joined to condemn the U.N. resolution once again underscored the depth of the bipartisan support for the Israeli government in Congress.

And that underscores the impotence of the UN on Middle East issues. Entrenched side taking means little of value will ever be done.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who chairs a key appropriations subcommittee, has vowed to “suspend or significantly reduce” that America’s contribution to the United Nations, which amounts to about 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget.

If the US doesn’t get what it wants it won’t continue it’s support.

If the US pulls it’s support it should also lose it’s permanent member status.

And if the US won’t support the fundamental principals of how the UN works – democratically albeit flawed due to the extraordinary voting power of the permanent members – then the UN should consider relocating out of the US.

“I think we have to participate in the United Nations, but I’m very disappointed in our lack of our exercising our rights at the United Nations, or exercising them properly,” said GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, adding that he is interested to hear the details of Graham’s proposal and is “inclined to be supportive.”

So their grizzles should be directed at themselves, the United States, rather than directing their petulance at the UN that operated as it is designed to do.

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, meanwhile, said “there are certain elements of the U.N. we want to keep.”

They want to keep the bits that allow the US to get it’s own way, and eliminate the bits that don’t do what the US wants? This is pathetic posturing. The world is bigger than the US, and the UN should be too.

The US-UN relationship is likely to deteriorate.

Trump has expressed skepticism about the nature and role of the United Nations over the years, in line with his suspicion of multilateral organizations more broadly.

The president-elect spoke Wednesday morning on the phone with the new U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, according to transition officials who did not give details of the conversation. Guterres previously led the U.N. agency that helps refugees and has been a passionate advocate for that cause; Trump has insisted the U.S. should not accept any Syrian refugees, putting him at odds with U.N. priorities.

It looks like Trump wants the UN to be a compliant arm of US power and decisions and preference, but he isn’t president-elect of the world.

Trump could munt the UN – without the US it would be meaningless, but it can’t bullied into compliance with US wishes either. Russia and China at least would resist this.

The US under Trump can’t dominate the UN and dominate the world and at the same time  withdraw from it’s UN responsibilities and withdraw from international trade agreements.

There could be a fundamental conflict in Trump’s aims.

Trump versus Mexico on paying for the wall

A bizarre bunch of tweets from an apparently authentic Twitter account of an ex-president of Mexico, and the president-elect of the United States.

Ross Sea marine sanctuary

A massive area of the Southern Ocean – the 1.57 square kilometres of the Ross Sea, has been declared a marine sanctuary.

BBC: World’s largest marine protected area declared in Antarctica

Delegates from 24 countries and the European Union have agreed that the Ross Sea in Antarctica will become the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA).

At this meeting in Hobart, Australia, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) agreed unanimously to designate the Ross Sea as an MPA, after years of protracted negotiations, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced.

The Ross Sea, its shelf and slope only comprise 2% of the Southern Ocean but they are home to 38% of the world’s Adelie penguins, 30% of the world’s Antarctic petrels and around 6% of the world’s population of Antarctic minke whales.

The region is important to the rest of the planet as the upwelling of nutrients from the deep waters are carried on currents around the world.

The Ross Sea is also home to huge numbers of krill, a staple food for species including whales and seals. Their oil is critical for salmon farming. However there are concerns that overfishing and climate change are having significant impacts on their numbers.

The proposal, introduced by New Zealand and the US, and accepted by all the other nations, will see a general protection “no-take” zone where nothing can be removed including marine life and minerals.

As part of the compromise that emerged in negotiations, there will be special zones where

Stuff: What you need to know about Antarctica’s huge marine reserve

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the final decision to create the reserve was unanimous, though the original proposal required “some changes”.

“New Zealand has played a leading role in reaching this agreement which makes a significant contribution to global marine protection,” he said.

New Zealand and the US have been pushing for a marine reserve since 2012, but such decisions require a consensus.

The negotiations have been complicated because the proposed protected area was situated in the high seas where no one country has control.

It’s good to see New Zealand (and ther National led Government) actively promoting environmental protection, especially on this scale.

If you head directly south from Gisborne you will end up in the Ross Sea – Bluff is slightly to the west.

ross-sea-7-flagsmaps-18307

Chilcot summary – unanimous view

A summary of the findings of the Chilcot report: The Iraq Inquiry

The Inquiry Report is the Committee’s unanimous view. Military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point. But in March 2003:

  • There was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein.
  • The strategy of containment could have been adapted and continued for some time.
  • The majority of the Security Council supported continuing UN inspections and monitoring.

Military intervention elsewhere may be required in the future. A vital purpose of the Inquiry is to identify what lessons should be learned from experience in Iraq.

There are many lessons set out in the Report.

Some are about the management of relations with allies, especially the US. Mr Blair overestimated his ability to influence US decisions on Iraq.

The UK’s relationship with the US has proved strong enough over time to bear the weight of honest disagreement. It does not require unconditional support where our interests or judgements differ.

The lessons also include:

  • The importance of collective Ministerial discussion which encourages frank and informed debate and challenge.
  • The need to assess risks, weigh options and set an achievable and realistic strategy.
  • The vital role of Ministerial leadership and co-ordination of action across Government, supported by senior officials.
  • The need to ensure that both the civilian and military arms of Government are properly equipped for their tasks.

Above all, the lesson is that all aspects of any intervention need to be calculated, debated and challenged with the utmost rigour.

And, when decisions have been made, they need to be implemented fully.

Sadly, neither was the case in relation to the UK Government’s actions in Iraq.


 

Chilcot report: The Iraq Inquiry

Statement by Sir John Chilcot: 6 July 2016

We were appointed to consider the UK’s policy on Iraq from 2001 to 2009, and to identify lessons for the future. Our Report will be published on the Inquiry’s website after I finish speaking.

In 2003, for the first time since the Second World War, the United Kingdom took part in an invasion and full-scale occupation of a sovereign State. That was a decision of the utmost gravity. Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly a brutal dictator who had attacked Iraq’s neighbours, repressed and killed many of his own people, and was in violation of obligations imposed by the UN Security Council.

But the questions for the Inquiry were:

  • whether it was right and necessary to invade Iraq in March 2003; and
  • whether the UK could – and should – have been better prepared for what followed.

We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.

We have also concluded that:

  • The judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – WMD – were presented with a certainty that was not justified.
  • Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated. The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate.
  • The Government failed to achieve its stated objectives.

I want now to set out some of the key points in the Report.

First, the formal decision to invade Iraq, if Saddam Hussein did not accept the US ultimatum to leave within 48 hours, was taken by Cabinet on 17 March 2003.

Parliament voted the following day to support the decision.

The decision was, however, shaped by key choices made by Mr Blair’s Government over the previous 18 months – which I will briefly set out.

After the attacks on 11 September 2001, Mr Blair urged President Bush not to take hasty action on Iraq.

By early December, US policy had begun to shift and Mr Blair suggested that the US and the UK should work on what he described as a “clever strategy” for regime change in Iraq, which would build over time.

When Mr Blair met President Bush at Crawford, Texas, in early April 2002, the formal policy was still to contain Saddam Hussein. But, by then, there had been a profound change in the UK’s thinking:

  • The Joint Intelligence Committee had concluded that Saddam Hussein could not be removed without an invasion.
  • The Government was stating that Iraq was a threat that had to be dealt with. It had to disarm or be disarmed.
  • That implied the use of force if Iraq did not comply – and internal contingency planning for a large contribution to a military invasion had begun.

At Crawford, Mr Blair sought a partnership as a way of influencing President Bush. He proposed a UN ultimatum to Iraq to readmit inspectors or face the consequences.

On 28 July, Mr Blair wrote to President Bush with an assurance that he would be with him “whatever” – but, if the US wanted a coalition for military action, changes would be needed in three key areas. Those were:

  • progress on the Middle East Peace Process;
  • UN authority; and
  • a shift in public opinion in the UK, Europe and the Arab world.

Mr Blair also pointed out that there would be a “need to commit to Iraq for the long term”.

Subsequently, Mr Blair and Mr Straw urged the US to take the issue of Iraq back to the UN. On 7 September, President Bush decided to do so.

On 8 November, resolution 1441 was adopted unanimously by the Security Council. It gave Iraq a final opportunity to disarm or face “serious consequences”, and it provided for any further breaches by Iraq to be reported to the Security Council “for assessment”. The weapons inspectors returned to Iraq later that month.

During December, however, President Bush decided that inspections would not achieve the desired result; the US would take military action in early 2003. By early January, Mr Blair had also concluded that “the likelihood was war”.

At the end of January, Mr Blair accepted the US timetable for military action by mid March. To help Mr Blair, President Bush agreed to seek a further UN resolution – the “second” resolution – determining that Iraq had failed to take its final opportunity to comply with its obligations.

By 12 March, it was clear that there was no chance of securing majority support for a second resolution before the US took military action.

Without evidence of major new Iraqi violations or reports from the inspectors that Iraq was failing to co-operate and they could not carry out their tasks, most members of the Security Council could not be convinced that peaceful options to disarm Iraq had been exhausted and that military action was therefore justified.

Mr Blair and Mr Straw blamed France for the “impasse” in the UN and claimed that the UK Government was acting on behalf of the international community “to uphold the authority of the Security Council”.

In the absence of a majority in support of military action, we consider that the UK was, in fact, undermining the Security Council’s authority.

Second, the Inquiry has not expressed a view on whether military action was legal.

That could, of course, only be resolved by a properly constituted and internationally recognised Court.

We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory.

In mid-January 2003, Lord Goldsmith told Mr Blair that a further Security Council resolution would be necessary to provide a legal basis for military action. He did not advise No.10 until the end of February that, while a second resolution would be preferable, a “reasonable case” could be made that resolution 1441 was sufficient. He set out that view in written advice on 7 March. 5

The military and the civil service both asked for more clarity on whether force would be legal. Lord Goldsmith then advised that the “better view” was that there was, on balance, a secure legal basis for military action without a further Security Council resolution. On 14 March, he asked Mr Blair to confirm that Iraq had committed further material breaches as specified in resolution 1441. Mr Blair did so the next day.

However, the precise basis on which Mr Blair made that decision is not clear. Given the gravity of the decision, Lord Goldsmith should have been asked to provide written advice explaining how, in the absence of a majority in the Security Council, Mr Blair could take that decision.

This is one of a number of occasions identified by the Inquiry when policy should have been considered by a Cabinet Committee and then discussed by Cabinet itself.

Third, I want to address the assessments of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and how they were presented to support the case for action.

There was an ingrained belief in the UK policy and intelligence communities that:

  • Iraq had retained some chemical and biological capabilities;
  • was determined to preserve and if possible enhance them – and, in the future, to acquire a nuclear capability; and
  • was able to conceal its activities from the UN inspectors.

In the House of Commons on 24 September 2002, Mr Blair presented Iraq’s past, current and future capabilities as evidence of the severity of the potential threat from Iraq’s WMD. He said that, at some point in the future, that threat would become a reality.

The judgements about Iraq’s capabilities in that statement, and in the dossier published the same day, were presented with a certainty that was not justified.

The Joint Intelligence Committee should have made clear to Mr Blair that the assessed intelligence had not established “beyond doubt” either that Iraq had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons or that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued.

The Committee had also judged that as long as sanctions remained effective, Iraq could not develop a nuclear weapon, and that it would take several years to develop and deploy long range missiles.

In the House of Commons on 18 March 2003, Mr Blair stated that he judged the possibility of terrorist groups in possession of WMD was “a real and present danger to Britain and its national security” – and that the threat from Saddam Hussein’s arsenal could not be contained and posed a clear danger to British citizens.

Mr Blair had been warned, however, that military action would increase the threat from Al Qaida to the UK and to UK interests. He had also been warned that an invasion might lead to Iraq’s weapons and capabilities being transferred into the hands of terrorists.

The Government’s strategy reflected its confidence in the Joint Intelligence Committee’s Assessments. Those Assessments provided the benchmark against which Iraq’s conduct and denials, and the reports of the inspectors, were judged.

As late as 17 March, Mr Blair was being advised by the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, the means to deliver them and the capacity to produce them. He was also told that the evidence pointed to Saddam Hussein’s view that the capability was militarily significant and to his determination – left to his own devices – to build it up further.

It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and they should have been.

The findings on Iraq’s WMD capabilities set out in the report of the Iraq Survey Group in October 2004 were significant. But they did not support pre-invasion statements by the UK Government, which had focused on Iraq’s current capabilities, which Mr Blair and Mr Straw had described as “vast stocks” and an urgent and growing threat.

In response to those findings, Mr Blair told the House of Commons that, although Iraq might not have had “stockpiles of actually deployable weapons”, Saddam Hussein “retained the intent and the capability … and was in breach of United Nations resolutions”.

That was not, however, the explanation for military action he had given before the conflict.

In our Report, we have identified a number of lessons to inform the way in which intelligence may be used publicly in the future to support Government policy.

Fourth, I want to address the shortcomings in planning and preparation.

The British military contribution was not settled until mid-January 2003, when Mr Blair and Mr Hoon agreed the military’s proposals for an increase in the number of brigades to be deployed; and that they would operate in southern, not northern, Iraq.

There was little time to prepare three brigades and the risks were neither properly identified nor fully exposed to Ministers. The resulting equipment shortfalls are addressed in the Report.

Despite promises that Cabinet would discuss the military contribution, it did not discuss the military options or their implications.

In early January 2003, when the Government published its objectives for postconflict Iraq, it intended that the interim post-conflict administration should be UN-led.

By March 2003, having failed to persuade the US of the advantages of a UN-led administration, the Government had set the less ambitious goal of persuading the US to accept UN authorisation of a Coalition-led interim administration.

When the invasion began, UK policy rested on an assumption that there would be a well-executed US-led and UN-authorised operation in a relatively benign security environment.

Mr Blair told the Inquiry that the difficulties encountered in Iraq after the invasion could not have been known in advance.

We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and Al Qaida activity in Iraq, were each explicitly identified before the invasion.

Ministers were aware of the inadequacy of US plans, and concerned about the inability to exert significant influence on US planning. Mr Blair eventually succeeded only in the narrow goal of securing President Bush’s agreement that there should be UN authorisation of the post-conflict role.

Furthermore, he did not establish clear Ministerial oversight of UK planning and preparation. He did not ensure that there was a flexible, realistic and fully resourced plan that integrated UK military and civilian contributions, and addressed the known risks.

The failures in the planning and preparations continued to have an effect after the invasion.

That brings me to the Government’s failure to achieve the objectives it had set itself in Iraq.

The Armed Forces fought a successful military campaign, which took Basra and helped to achieve the departure of Saddam Hussein and the fall of Baghdad in less than a month.

Service personnel, civilians who deployed to Iraq and Iraqis who worked for the UK, showed great courage in the face of considerable risks. They deserve our gratitude and respect.

More than 200 British citizens died as a result of the conflict in Iraq. Many more were injured. This has meant deep anguish for many families, including those who are here today.

The invasion and subsequent instability in Iraq had, by July 2009, also resulted in the deaths of at least one hundred and fifty thousand Iraqis – and probably many more – most of them civilians. More than a million people were displaced. The people of Iraq have suffered greatly.

The vision for Iraq and its people – issued by the US, the UK, Spain and Portugal, at the Azores Summit on 16 March 2003 – included a solemn obligation to help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours. It looked forward to a united Iraq in which its people should enjoy security, freedom, prosperity and equality with a government that would uphold human rights and the rule of law as cornerstones of democracy.

We have considered the post-conflict period in Iraq in great detail, including efforts to reconstruct the country and rebuild its security services.

In this short statement I can only address a few key points.

After the invasion, the UK and the US became joint Occupying Powers. For the year that followed, Iraq was governed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. The UK was fully implicated in the Authority’s decisions, but struggled to have a decisive effect on its policies.

The Government’s preparations failed to take account of the magnitude of the task of stabilising, administering and reconstructing Iraq, and of the responsibilities which were likely to fall to the UK.

The UK took particular responsibility for four provinces in the South East. It did so without a formal Ministerial decision and without ensuring that it had the necessary military and civilian capabilities to discharge its obligations, including, crucially, to provide security.

The scale of the UK effort in post-conflict Iraq never matched the scale of the challenge. Whitehall departments and their Ministers failed to put collective weight behind the task.

In practice, the UK’s most consistent strategic objective in relation to Iraq was to reduce the level of its deployed forces.

The security situation in both Baghdad and the South East began to deteriorate soon after the invasion.

We have found that the Ministry of Defence was slow in responding to the threat from Improvised Explosive Devices and that delays in providing adequate medium weight protected patrol vehicles should not have been tolerated. It was not clear which person or department within the Ministry of Defence was responsible for identifying and articulating such capability gaps. But it should have been.

From 2006, the UK military was conducting two enduring campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. It did not have sufficient resources to do so. Decisions on resources for Iraq were affected by the demands of the operation in Afghanistan.

For example, the deployment to Afghanistan had a material impact on the availability of essential equipment in Iraq, particularly helicopters and equipment for surveillance and intelligence collection.

By 2007 militia dominance in Basra, which UK military commanders were unable to challenge, led to the UK exchanging detainee releases for an end to the targeting of its forces.

It was humiliating that the UK reached a position in which an agreement with a militia group which had been actively targeting UK forces was considered the best option available.

The UK military role in Iraq ended a very long way from success. We have sought to set out the Government’s actions on Iraq fully and impartially. The evidence is there for all to see. It is an account of an intervention which went badly wrong, with consequences to this day.

The Inquiry Report is the Committee’s unanimous view. Military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point. But in March 2003:

  • There was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein.
  • The strategy of containment could have been adapted and continued for some time.
  • The majority of the Security Council supported continuing UN inspections and monitoring.

Military intervention elsewhere may be required in the future. A vital purpose of the Inquiry is to identify what lessons should be learned from experience in Iraq.

There are many lessons set out in the Report.

Some are about the management of relations with allies, especially the US. Mr Blair overestimated his ability to influence US decisions on Iraq.

The UK’s relationship with the US has proved strong enough over time to bear the weight of honest disagreement. It does not require unconditional support where our interests or judgements differ.

The lessons also include:

  • The importance of collective Ministerial discussion which encourages frank and informed debate and challenge.
  • The need to assess risks, weigh options and set an achievable and realistic strategy.
  • The vital role of Ministerial leadership and co-ordination of action across Government, supported by senior officials.
  • The need to ensure that both the civilian and military arms of Government are properly equipped for their tasks.

Above all, the lesson is that all aspects of any intervention need to be calculated, debated and challenged with the utmost rigour.

And, when decisions have been made, they need to be implemented fully.

Sadly, neither was the case in relation to the UK Government’s actions in Iraq.


Dotcom to take on Hillary Clinton, apparently

Dotcom on Twitter today:

I’m not a pirate.
I’m not a fugitive.
I’m not a flight risk.

I’m your Internet Freedom fighter

AND

Hillary’s worst nightmare in 2016!

The Internet Party is coming to the United States in 2015. Stay tuned for our celebrity founders from the music, film and Internet industry.

The Internet Party US will be well funded and run by American citizens. I will help with Public Relations 😉

So if he wants to be Clinton’s ‘worst nightmare’ he wants the Republicans to win in 2016?

Taking the piss. Or nuts.