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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