Monthly Archives: July 2016

Matters of Facts, and Opinions, this week

Public Health Crucial for Urbanized World, by Nate Berg  Report

CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=357998

Memorial to John Snow’s public health breakthrough in London. Wikipedia/Creative Commons

About 4 billion people now live in urban areas. Denser concentrations are considered efficient, reduce environmental impact and are more sustainable. They also mean a greater risk of exposure to infectious diseases.

Pope at Auschwitz, Says Same Horrors Happening Today, by Philip Pullella  Report

Pope Francis made an emotional and silent visit to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, and said many of the horrors committed are happening in places at war today.

Bernie or Bust? – Smells Like White Privilege, by Tom Regan   Column

On the opening day of the U.S. Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I invented a drinking game. Every time I saw a black or Hispanic (heck, any person of colour, period) shown by the cable news networks of Bernie Sanders supporters, I would take a swing of beer. I ended the night stone cold sober.

Turkey’s Shock Waves Slam Middle East, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

The fascist coup of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – for that is what it is – has thrown a large boulder into the boiling, muddy waters of the Middle East.

Photos Shape Attitudes to Refugees: View from Australia, by Jane Lydon  Essay

Photography has mapped a distinctively Australian version of this global story. Once migrants were represented as complex, vulnerable, diverse people. Today the Australian government seeks to suppress photographs of asylum seekers, seemingly from fear that such images will prompt empathy with them and undermine border security policy.

Boys arrange blocks at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen May 28, 2016. Picture taken May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Boys arrange blocks at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen May 28, 2016. Picture taken May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Mud, Water, Fire: Building Sanaa, by Mohamed al-Sayaghi   Photo essay

Author J.K. Rowling speaks to media as she arrives at a gala performance of the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child parts One and Two, in London, Britain July 30, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Author J.K. Rowling REUTERS/Neil Hall

Yemen, a poor country awash with weapons where the rule of law is weak, is no stranger to conflict. But the war that erupted last year brought widespread destruction. The traditional houses of Sanaa, a UNESCO world heritage site said to have been founded by the son of Prophet Noah two and half millennia ago, have been spared – mostly.

Harry Potter Has Cast Last Spell — J.K. Rowling, by Alexander Smith  Arts report

Harry Potter has cast his last spell, his creator J.K. Rowling said at the gala opening of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” in London’s West End.

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Noteworthy:

When a future generation looks back, what will they consider the landmark event of 2016? Heat records; British and American political upheaval; space exploration; Zika? My guess is the first around-the-world airplane journey on solar power, by the Solar Impulse. It’s a globe-sized rebuttal to naysayers who claim we can’t solve environmental problems and keep our options open.

 

Why we’re post-fact, by Peter Pomerantsev in Granta, is one of more thoughtful explanations for our bread and circus times.  Excerpt:

As his army blatantly annexed Crimea, Vladimir Putin went on TV and, with a smirk, told the world there were no Russian soldiers in Ukraine. He wasn’t lying so much as saying the truth doesn’t matter. And when Donald Trump makes up facts on a whim, claims that he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the Twin Towers coming down, or that the Mexican government purposefully sends ‘bad’ immigrants to the US, when fact-checking agencies rate 78% of his statements untrue but he still becomes a US Presidential candidate – then it appears that facts no longer matter much in the land of the free. When the Brexit campaign announces ‘Let’s give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week’ and, on winning the referendum, the claim is shrugged off as a ‘mistake’ by one Brexit leader while another explains it as ‘an aspiration’, then it’s clear we are living in a ‘post-fact’ or ‘post-truth’ world. Not merely a world where politicians and media lie – they have always lied – but one where they don’t care whether they tell the truth or not.

How did we get here? Is it due to technology? Economic globalisation? The culmination of the history of philosophy? There is some sort of teenage joy in throwing off the weight of facts – those heavy symbols of education and authority, reminders of our place and limitations – but why is this rebellion happening right now? Read the full article here. (Granta) via the Ethical Journalism Network

Ursula Franklin died this month. She was, said one of her colleagues in a University of Toronto memorium,  “one of Canada’s and the world’s most important interdisciplinary scholars. With a background in the sciences, engineering and physics, a strong scholarly engagement and achievement in philosophy and remarkable lifelong advocacy for peace, humanism, and the human priorities for technology, Dr Franklin’s work will live on for centuries to come.”

Who Is Polluting Rio’s Bay?” asked the New York Times. It sent a team of writers, photographers and a web producer to find out, and produced the kind of thoughtful, gorgeous and disturbing read that is too rare on the web.

“Anger is the emotion that has come to saturate our politics and culture. Philosophy can help us out of this dark vortex” writes Martha Nussbaum in Aeon magazine, with Oxford University Press.

America’s fall election will be, as usual, a fight between behemoths. This time, they’re poles apart. Noted  New York Times in the wake of the party conventions, “this is not going to be a “there’s no difference between the candidates” election.” Scores of people run for president, including under America’s Green and Libertarian parties. In healthy democracies, the Greens, Libertarians and others would receive their due. In the black-or-white U.S. everything is starkly simplistic: Democrat Hillary Clinton vs. Republican Donald Trump. America’s impact on the world is outsized. Here are the two party platforms, a must-read for anyone who wishes to be informed:

2016 US Democratic Party Platform 

2016 US Republican party Platform

Health authorities this week reported the first Zika infections transmitted by mosquitoes in the U.S., in Florida.  From our archives, read Love in the time of Zika by Beverley Paterson: “Love, sex and babies are the foundation of human existence. Without them the human race ceases to exist. Zika, a virus that few people had heard of a month ago, has suddenly disrupted this normal course of events.”

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Posted in Current Affairs

Matters of Facts, and Opinions, this week.

A woman walks past a laughing Buddha sculpture near the venue where the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting will be held over the weekend in Chengdu in Southwestern China's Sichuan province, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

A woman walks past a laughing Buddha sculpture near the venue where the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting will be held over the weekend in Chengdu in Southwestern China’s Sichuan province, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

Our work this week ranges from a photo essay of Ireland, to economics, to political commentary about what happens when a well-organised and productive country puts a despot in charge. You may have to read Jonathan Manthorpe’s piece to guess which country.  Hint: it’s not America (yet). See our list of new works, below, and on our Contents page. But first, some notes:

Forgo pursuit of Pokemon long enough to catch Syrian artist Khaled Akil, and his web series Pokemon Go in Syria. Akil superimposed Pokemon apparitions on Agence France Presse photographs, mostly of children, in the surreal landscape of bombed-out Syria.

Must we give the oxygen of publicity to the orange man who aspires to lead America? Some have tried to avert our gaze from the sick joke of American democracy,  and the descent of the Republican party into a freak show. But having officially captured the party nomination Donald Trump has become impossible to ignore. F&O columns this week allude to him,  pieces by Brian Brennan and Tom Regan. Otherwise, limiting exposure is recommended, along with keeping an eye on others hoping to preside over the country once called “leader of the free world” —  Hillary Clinton with running mate Tim Kaine (Democrats), Jill Stein (Greens) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian).  And — sigh —  here are three recommended readings about the man who should not be named:  AP Fact Check: Donald Trump’s RNC acceptance speech; “A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world,” said a Washington Post editorial; and “We should fear — for the republic, for a democracy facing its gravest peril since the Civil War,” wrote Timothy Egan in a New York Times piece titled, “Make America Hate Again.”

Turkey, as we reported last week, averted a coup. Already widely criticized for repression including of freedom of expression, the country immediately suspended the European Convention on Human Rights. As protesters chant  “God is great!” and “Death to the traitors!” Der Spiegel ponders “Turkey’s Post-Coup Slide into Dictatorship.”  F&O’s report about the G20 this week includes a statement from a Turkish official that it will uphold the rule of law; we shall wait and see.

Another German city was under attack on Friday. Follow the news from Munich on Deutsche Welle.

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New works on F&O this week include:

Commentary:

Trump as dealmaker-in-chief? by Brian Brennan

Donald Trump would envisage himself as America’s dealmaker-in-chief. What would that look like? Not a pretty picture, as I see it.

The American Dream is undermining America, by Tom Regan

It is perhaps the most famous myth about the creation of America:  the “American Dream.” The belief that no matter what your background, where you’re from, or who your parents were, that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything, any goal, any dream. But the American Dream has become a problem.

Zimbabwe Collapse looms over Mugabe succession, by Jonathan Manthorpe

The natural span of life is approaching its end for 92-year-old Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s leader since 1980, but the infighting over the succession is so intense that no one is running the shop, and there may be nothing much left to inherit when the time comes.

‘It Don’t Come Easy’ by Jim McNiven

We are coming to a crossroads. Either we continue with the globalization project that started with the Marshall Plan and the first GATT tariff reductions, or we don’t.

Johnny Cloherty from Mweenish Island who catches lobsters and harvests seaweed, takes his catch out of a lobster pot on his currach boat off the coast of Carna in Galway, Ireland, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh

Johnny Cloherty from Mweenish Island who catches lobsters and harvests seaweed, takes his catch out of a lobster pot on his currach boat off the coast of Carna in Galway, Ireland, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh

Photo-essay:

Seafarer’s Pilgrimage, by Clodagh Kilcoyne

It is said that people don’t come home for Christmas to the small western Irish village of Carna, they come back for St. MacDara’s Day. On that day, every July 16, hundreds make a pilgrimage off the coast of Gaelic-speaking Carna to tiny, uninhabited St. MacDara’s Island, to a celebration of mass and blessing of boats.

Expert Witness:

Can America’s polarization be traced to 1832? by Jennifer Mercieca

Perhaps instead of “to the victor belongs the spoils of the enemy,” we could learn to think of politics as “to those entrusted with great responsibility belongs the obligation to work for the common good.” It isn’t as poetic, but it also isn’t as partisan.

Reports:

Calls for G20 to act as fiscal, monetary policies falter, by Kevin Yao and David Lawder

Fiscal and monetary policies are becoming less effective at spurring economic activity so the world’s leading economies need to increase coordination to promote sustainable growth, said China’s Finance Minister.

Pokémon Go: the app that leads you places, by Tom Phillips

The Pokéstop passed on a daily commute could hold the key to capturing an elusive Charizard), but perhaps it can also become a place we get to know better in the real world.

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Posted in Current Affairs

Facts, and Opinions, that matter this week

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

Reporting

Turkish coup crumbles, crowds answer call to streets, by Nick Tattersall and Ece Toksabay

An attempted Turkish military coup appeared to crumble on Saturday after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets to support him and dozens of rebel soldiers abandoned their tanks in the main city of Istanbul.

How the mafia is causing cancer, by Ian Birrell  Magazine

When doctors in rural Italy began to see a surge in cancer cases, they were baffled. Then they made the link with industrial waste being dumped by local crime syndicates.

Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (R), greets Britain's new Prime Minister, Theresa May, as she arrives at Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (R), greets Britain’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May, as she arrives at Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

THERESA MAY: Britain’s new prime minister, by Victoria Honeyman  Report

Some newspapers obsessed over Theresa May’s quirky shoe choices, but she also hit headlines with her admission in 2002 that the Conservatives were often seen as the “nasty party”.

UK won’t trigger EU divorce until country-wide agreement, by Russell Cheyne  Report

Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would not trigger formal divorce talks with the European Union until a “UK approach” had been agreed, bidding to appease Scots who strongly oppose Brexit.

Oxford dictionary update shows beauty of English, by Annabelle Lukin  Report

By adding the “World Englishes” to the entries on British and American English, the OED has opened a pandora’s box.  Changes to the OED remind us that a language is open and dynamic.

If carbon pricing is so great, why isn’t it working? by Peter Fairley   Analysis

Carbon pricing has yet to deliver on its potential. To date most carbon prices remain low — “virtually valueless.”  That has led even some economists to question whether carbon pricing’s theoretical elegance may be outweighed by practical and political hurdles.

Commentary:

Beijing’s imperial ambitions run aground on legal reefs, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

The Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled that China’s claim over the South China Sea is invalid and unlawful. China must now recognise that what is on the line is Beijing’s trustworthiness as an international partner, in everything from trade deals to the working of the UN Security Council.

Why the NRA makes America so very dangerous, by Tom Regan   Column

Recent events in the U.S. – the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the subsequent shootings of five police officers in Dallas – show how the National Rifle Association’s toxic message of guns, guns, guns, and fear, fear, fear, affect the way people deal with daily problems, and the way police respond to all kinds of situations.

Recommended elsewhere:

The Great Republican Crackup is an excellent analysis of American discontent, by ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis.  Excerpt:

The disruption that the nomination of Trump represents for the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan has been cast as a freakish anomaly, the equivalent of the earthquakes that hit the other side of Ohio in recent years. But just as those earthquakes had a likely explanation — gas and oil fracking in the Utica Shale — so can the crackup of the Republican Party and rise of Trump be traced back to what the geologists call the local site conditions. … read the story on ProPublica

We’ve seen another week of blood shed by innocents, of countries roiled by war, of loud simpletons jumping to instant conclusions — including some politicians in positions of extreme power. Facts matter; here’s where to find some of them this week:

  • Follow France24 for news of the Nice truck massacre by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, whose first victim, reported the BBC, was a devout Muslim woman and whose own father described him as mentally ill and not religious.
  • Follow Al Jazeera and Reuters for news of the coup in Turkey.

Findings:

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1346294

FBI sketch of the man dubbed DB Cooper, via Wikipedia.

The man known as America’s air pirate, DB Cooper, is a man of myth, hunted for 45 years by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation after he hijacked a Boeing 727, was paid a ransom, then vanished via parachute somewhere over the Pacific Northwest. In an announcement on Tuesday the FBI officially conceded defeat in perhaps its most storied case. “The FBI exhaustively reviewed all credible leads, coordinated between multiple field offices to conduct searches, collected all available evidence, and interviewed all identified witnesses,” the statement said. ” Unfortunately, none of the well-meaning tips or applications of new investigative technology have yielded the necessary proof.” The hijacker  inspired stories in books, TV series and at least one movie. Shops in Washington and Oregon sell Cooper tourist souvenirs; the town of Ariel, in Washington, holds a “Cooper Day” each fall, notes Wikipedia. Was Cooper his real name? Did he survive the drop? Is he living somewhere in ripe old age? He remains a man of mystery.

American presidential hopeful Donald Trump selected Mike Pence as his VP hopeful. ProPublica compiled some of the best reporting for a profile of the Indiana governor.  Still in America: the climate denial apparatus that has long obstructed American politics needs investigating for fraud, argues U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the Columbia Journalism Review. In a piece about the hyperbolic reaction to his call for such an investigation, he points out, “fraud is not protected speech under the (U.S. constitutional) First Amendment.”

“Face it, Facebook. You’re in the news business,” writes media guru Margaret Sullivan.  Two-thirds of Facebook’s 1.6 billion users get their news there. At  stake, argues Sullivan — former public editor of the New York Times, now the Washington Post media columnist — are no less than civil liberties and free speech.

The close British vote to leave the European Union is already reshaping global security.  Germany Sees Brexit Opening for EU Defense Union With France, write Patrick Donahue and Arne Delfs, of Bloomberg. They report on the German defence minister’s plans for an overhaul, and her suggestion that the U.K. ‘paralyzed’ a joint EU security and defense stance.

Still on Brexit, we all know Churchill’s quip about democracy being the least bad form of government (it’s the tag line on F&O’s Publica section). In the wake of the Brexit debacle, scholar Geoffrey Pullum looked up the person Churchill quoted and, in  In Lingua Franca, the blog of the journal Chronicle of Higher Learning, presented his finding of Robert Briffault (1874–1948), a British surgeon, social anthropologist, and novelist.  Briffault’s exact words — considering the dire decline of political discourse internationally — are worth repeating here:

Democracy is the worst form of government. It is the most inefficient, the most clumsy, the most unpractical. … It reduces wisdom to impotence and secures the triumph of folly, ignorance, clap-trap, and demagogy. … Yet democracy is the only form of social order that is admissible, because it is the only one consistent with justice.  

Of note, the Chronicle also publishes Arts and Letters Daily. Take a look if (and I would be surprised) it’s not already on your must-read menu.

Last but not least: for a pick-me-up read this, from the Oatmeal comic site. Trust me, just do.

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Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , , |

South China Sea nears boiling point with Hague ruling

Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. U.S. Navy photo, Public Domain

Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. U.S. Navy photo, Public Domain

On Tuesday, July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled will rule on an argument by the Philippines government that China’s claim to own 90 per cent of the South China Sea is false. The court is expected to rule ruled in Manila’s favour. Beijing has already said it will take no notice of the judgement. Beijing’s reasoning is that as its territorial claim is beyond question then no one, not even an international court, can question it.

Update on July 12: read the notice of the court decision, which dismissed China’s case entirely, on the court web site. (The site was down periodically during the day.)

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Jan. 15, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts a live fire gunnery exercise with its 5-inch .54-caliber gun. Curtis Wilbur is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Jonathan Peterson, Public Domaine

American destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur in an Asia Pacific live fire exercise in early 2016. Photo: U.S. Navy, Lt.j.g. Jonathan Peterson, Public Domain

In anticipation of the court’s ruling, Beijing has been rushing to construct and arm islands in the South China Sea. The stage is now set for more confrontations with the forces of littoral states — most of them allies of the United States, which has already shown its determination to defend its right to freedom of navigation through the sea, which carries over 80 per cent of Asia’s maritime trade.

If, as expected, Beijing now tries to control and manage naval, maritime and perhaps air traffic on and over the South China Sea, the world is moving into a very dangerous era of pushing and shoving, when fatal mistakes can easily be made.

These three columns explain what you need to know about the dispute, from International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe:

China’s island building in defence of nuclear missile submarines

China’s island building in the South China Sea shows the challenges awaiting America’s next president. Forget the Islamic State group and the quagmire of the Middle East. Asia and the confrontation with China is where the real threat to North American interests lie. Indeed, the situation is fast approaching something that looks strikingly similar to the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Washington, courts defy Beijing imperialism

At long last, the Beijing regime has this week been dealt two significant set-backs to what is the world’s most extraordinary contemporary campaign of imperial expansionism. A tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea decided that Beijing’s claim to own almost all the South China Sea is not an indisputable fact, as the Chinese government contends.

China’s war for Asian domination is going well, writes Jonathan Manthorpe from Tokyo. Above, Chinese surveillance ships in waters claimed by Japan, in 2013. Times Asi photo, Creative Commons

China’s war for Asian domination is going well, writes Jonathan Manthorpe from Tokyo. Above, Chinese surveillance ships in waters claimed by Japan, in 2013. Times Asi photo, Creative Commons

China’s war for Asian domination going well

TOKYO, Japan — China’s war to supplant the United States as the regional super power in the Far East and western Pacific is under full steam and gobbling up its objectives. Over the last 15 years, China has not only built a large and potentially effective navy, it has by stealth and cunning either caused divisions between the United States and its Asian allies, or cast doubt among target states whether Washington can be trusted to support them, or both.

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In case you missed these on our Contents page, F&O’s new works include:

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Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , , |

Facts, and Opinions, this week

Fishermen use a fire to attract fish on a traditional “sulfuric fire fishing" boat in New Taipei City, Taiwan June 19, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Fishermen use a fire to attract fish on a traditional “sulfuric fire fishing” boat in New Taipei City, Taiwan June 19, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Fishing with Fire: a photo essay, by Tyrone Siu  Report

Under the darkness of the night sky, a small group of Taiwan fishermen set sail off the northeast coast, light a fire on the end of a bamboo stick using chemicals and wait for the fish to come. Like a magnet, hundreds of sardines leap out of the water towards the bright light waved by one fisherman and his colleagues angle their nets and haul in the catch.

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, delivers a speech following the publication of The Iraq Inquiry Report by John Chilcot, in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, delivers a speech following the publication of The Iraq Inquiry Report by John Chilcot, in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Faced with Trump/Clinton, Americans yearn for third choice, by Chris Kahn

Americans’ demand for an alternative to the two main presidential candidates has surged since the last election, a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll shows, underscoring the unpopularity of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Bitcoin “miners” face fight for survival, by Jemima Kelly   Report

On July 9, the reward for bitcoin miners will be slashed in half. Written into bitcoin’s code when it was invented in 2008 was a rule dictating that the prize would be halved every four years, in a step designed to keep a lid on bitcoin inflation.

Brexit will save the European project, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs    Analysis

When the dust of history settles, the moment angry Britons voted to quit the European Union will stand out as the moment that saved the 28-nation project.

Iraq Inquiry: a catalogue of political failure, by  Michael Holden and William James  Report

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s justification, planning and handling of the Iraq War involved a catalogue of failures, a seven-year inquiry concluded July 6 in a scathing verdict on Britain’s role in the conflict.

American media shares blame for Iraq fiasco, by Tom Regan  Column

Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry report, on Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, provided damning evidence of how the British people were misled by their political leadership. But once again the journalism media, enormously important in providing the false justification for the war, which in turn led to much of the violence and terrorism in the Middle East today, was ignored.

FINDINGS:

A woman weeps as she looks at the Basra memorial wall before its rededication at the National Arboretum in Alrewas, central England, March 2010. REUTERS/Darren Staples

The consequences of the Iraq invasion were underestimated, found the UK Iraq Inquiry. Above, a woman weeps as she looks at the Basra memorial wall before its rededication at the National Arboretum in Alrewas, central England, March 2010. REUTERS/Darren Staples

In 2003 the United Kingdom, alongside the United States, Australia and Poland, and supported by Peshmerga (Iraqi Kurdistan), invaded and occupied the sovereign state of Iraq. There are two pieces in F&O this week about the UK inquiry into that disaster: our news story and Tom Regan’s column about the role of media. But the statement by inquiry head Sir John Chilcot is also essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the state of our world, much of it now on fire in the horrific aftermath of the reckless invasion.

Chilcot was asked to consider the UK’s policy on Iraq from 2001 to 2009, and identify lessons for the future, specifically: 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. His report on July 6 concluded:

  • 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.
  • 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. …. go to John Chilcot’s statement

More reading, if you have the appetite, on the Chilcot report:

The Judgement of History, by George Monbiot

Justice is inseperable from democracy. If a prime minister can avoid indictment for waging aggressive war, the entire body politic is corrupted. In the Chilcot report, there is a reckoning, firm and tough and long overdue. But it’s still not justice.

Chilcot Report on Iraq War Offers Devastating Critique of Tony Blair,  New York Times:

“The sense that Britain was led into carnage by a foolish devotion to the United States has had lasting consequences”

Chilcot Report: How Tony Blair Sold the War, opinion, by Carne Ross, New York Times

There is also no recommendation of making reparation to the Iraqi people, let alone an apology. For me, this should be the ultimate significance of a report like this: that it speaks for those whose lives were needlessly wasted. It is their fate, not those of us and our politicians, that should preoccupy us. Only then can we begin to grasp the magnitude of what was done in our name.

Sir John Chilcot did his job, but after Iraq our whole system of government needs a rethink, by Mary Dejevsky, the Independent:

The seven years from the start of the inquiry to publication is unconscionable. In that time very many of those with direct responsibility for the misjudgements and sheer incompetence of the Iraq intervention – those in particular posts in the military, in intelligence, in politics, and Tony Blair – have not only left office, but moved into comfortable and well-paid positions in business, academia and consultancy. They have not had to pay – in any shape or form – for their culpability.

Noteworthy:

The world again watches, again aghast, American gun violence: this time focused on police, now as both suspects and victims. Meantime America flexed its science prowess as  NASA’s Juno Spacecraft reached  Jupiter, and is now in orbit and sending data back to earth. And American creationists opened a controversial Noah’s Ark attraction in Kentucky that teaches that Christian Old Testament stories are true.

Decisions made at North Atlantic Treaty Organization meetings will have long-term, global, results — from Afghanistan to Russia, our street to yours. Visit NATO’s newsroom here.

ProPublica’s gripping story The Terror Suspect Who Had Nothing To Give, is a chilling, first-person account of how U.S. officials tortured a man they wrongly believed was a top al-Qaida operative

China’s navy is holding live-fire drills in the South China Sea. (Readers of Jonathan Manthorpe’s International Affairs column know why that matters.)

Last but not least, here’s a video to offer some perspective after a rough week in the world. It’s proof that we humans are, indeed, capable of coming together in beauty and grace.

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