BREAKING NEWS — Downing Street Dossier on Iraq plagiarized

The dossier on Iraq published by the British Prime Minister’s office — which was lauded by Colin Powell yesterday at the United Nations — appears to have been plagiarized from a small Middle Eastern studies Journal.

Oh, boy. The dossier on Iraq published by the British Prime Minister’s office — which was lauded by Colin Powell yesterday at the United Nations — appears to have been plagiarized from a small Middle Eastern studies Journal.
The dossier, “Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment Deception and Intimidation,” was published Monday on the office of the prime minister’s web site, www.number-10.gov.uk. It reproduced, almost verbatim, portions of an article from the Middle East Review of International Affairs, according to Cambridge academic Glen Ranwala. The author of the original article is Ibrahim al-Marashi, a postgraduate student from Monterey in California.
One section, six paragraphs long, on Saddam’s Special Security Organization uses the exact language, even down to the typographical errors, as al-Marashi’s article ldoes. There also seems to be several places where the language was made more sinister. For example, Downing Street says Iraq’s Mukhabarat, the main intelligence agency, is “spying on foreign embassies in Iraq” while the original language says it is “monitoring foreign embassies.”
The dossier does not appear now on the PM’s site, to the best of my searching. Perhaps it’s been pulled?
[UPDATE: Thanks to a clear-eyed reader, the dossier link is here. I just never found it. Oopsies.]
I can only shake my head at this. I understand that Team Bush — which now must surely include Tony Blair — is feeling the pressure to make their case to invade Iraq and topple Saddam. I’m not saying the information in the dossier isn’t true, but credibility is all-important here. How can the United States and Britain be so careless as to rip off journals to produce heavily scrutinized reports? Don’t they know how this will appear to the world? The Arab world is utterly suspicious of the Anglo Alliance’s motives. France and Russia are skeptical, too. This is the moral equivalent of planting evidence. While you know the guy’s guilty, and the evidence is likely there, there are procedures prosecutors have to follow, otherwise the whole process is compromised.
But perhaps this is the point. Team Bush has been contemptuous of the U.N. since he took office, and this seems more of a pattern that comes from the White House — and now from Downing Street. Actions such as this tell the world that Team Bush will do anything to get their way with Iraq.
And that’s not the way to win the peace after a war.

Navy Seals

The Navy, under the aegis of the Marine Mammal Program has had to acknowledge a squad of anti-terror sea lions, trained to patrol the Persian Gulf for terrorist divers, based in Bahrain harbor. Their barking was so loud there was no way the Navy could hide the existence of the mammals, which are not native to the Persian Gulf. I’m not making this up.

Sea lions and their handlersOK. Usually this is a very serious site, but every now and then I find something a little … odd. This is one of those things.
Turns out the Navy, under the aegis of the Marine Mammal Program has had to acknowledge a squad of anti-terror sea lions, trained to patrol the Persian Gulf for terrorist divers, based in Bahrain harbor. Their barking was so loud there was no way the Navy could hide the existence of the mammals, which are not native to the Persian Gulf. I’m not making this up.
The Navy has long feared enemy divers who could blow up ships by attaching mines to them. Sea lions, dolphins and even a Beluga whale are trained to patrol the waters around the ships, locate enemy divers, snap a clamp onto one of their limbs and leave.
ABCnews.com continues: “The clamp is connected to a rope and signal buoy that humans with guns would then reel up, presumably pulling up a human on the other end.” [“Humans with guns”? Who writes this stuff? — Ed.] “In theory, the animals would not be hurt. Their contact with a potential terrorist — who would presumably be surprised — would last only an instant as they briefly made contact.”
“When you study the animals and you come to realize what they can do in their own environment, the aquatic environment, it’s no surprise that we have not been able to build a machine that can do what they do,” said Navy veterinarian Eric Jensen.
Sea lions are preferred because, unlike dolphins, they can continue their pursuit of an enemy diver onto dry land. What? How hard is it to outrun a waddling circus act on flippers?
In a time of continuous bad news, this story — while weird — made my night.
UPDATE: Yes, yes, I know sea lions are not seals, already. But c’mon, that headline was too good to pass up.

Chalabi in Iraq

INC leader Ahmed Chalabi is reportedly back in Iraqi Kurdistan for the first time since a disasterous rebellion attempt in the mid-1990s. His presence is said to pave the way for a meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders in mid-February. Is this meeting a sign of when the air war will start?

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The Kurdistan Regional Government, based in Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, has revealed that Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, based in London, arrived in the Kurdish enclave Friday. This marks the first time Chalabi has set foot inside Iraq since an unsuccessful Kurdish rebellion in the mid-1990s that was ruthlessly crushed by Saddam’s troops.
“Mr. Ahmed Chalabi is now in Salahuddin,” located some 30 miles east of Arbil, the defacto capital of both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the KRG, an unnamed source reported. Yesterday he visited Suleimaniya, capital of the rival PUK territory. He’s apparently in the region preparing for a meeting of the Iraqi opposition groups in mid-February. The meeting of Iraq’s opposition groups is aimed at following up on a London conference, during which the groups formed a 65-member committee — to which a further 10 names were later added — that could form the basis of a new Iraqi government when Saddam Hussein is routed from power.
Chalabi, 57, is a controversial figure, having been sentenced in 1992 in absentia by a Jordanian court to 22 years in prison for bank fraud following the collapse of Petra Bank, which he founded in 1977. This blot on his record has caused the U.S. State Department to look skeptically at Chalabi as a power locus in a post-Saddam Iraq.
Interestingly, if the INC is planning a mid-February meeting of opposition leaders on Iraqi soil, that could mark the start of the military campaign against Iraq. As soon as the bombs start falling, Chalabi and his group would be in position to declare a new government, with masses of Iraqi defectors flocking to their banner. At least that’s probably the plan. Why declare a government in exile when you can declare a new government on native soil?
By the way, the bombing campaign I mentioned above was leaked today in the Times (and elsewhere) in an attempt to further rattle Baghdad. The plan, for you lazy people who don’t want to click on the link, calls for 3,000 precision-guided munitions to be launched in the first 48 hours of a bombing campaign. “The initial bombardment would use 10 times the number of precision-guided weapons fired in the first two days of the Persian Gulf war of 1991, and the targets would be air defenses, political and military headquarters, communications facilities and suspected chemical and biological delivery systems, military and other Pentagon officials say.” The problem with this plan is that most of Iraq’s military targets are centered in civilian neighborhoods. If the bomber wings hit Baghdad — a city of four million people — hard, which they probably will since Iraq is a highly centralized country, thousands of civilians will die. Even if the bombs are 80 percent accurate, that’s still about 600 bombs that could go astray. That’s a lot of civilian casualties — all of which will be shown on Al Jazeera.
This bombing tactic, while militarily sound, sounds like it could bring up comparisons with Dresden in World War II, in which the city was reduced to ash as a way of “softening up” the civilian population’s will to resist. Let’s hope civilian deaths are kept to a minimum, not only for their sake, but for ours.

Axe de mal?

Is France trying to get into the George Bush’s Axis of Evil? France has said, in effect, “non” to “guerre”. The French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said his country would not support an Security Council resolutions authorizing war right now. And furthermore, if the Statue of Liberty gets blown up by terrorists pissed off at the attack on Iraq, France won’t replace it either! (OK. I made that last part up.)

Is France trying to get into the Axis of Evil? While the U.S. Army is “cocking the fist” of the 4th Infantry Division, it’s most modern heavy division, and aiming it at Iraq, France has said, in effect, non to guerre. The French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said his country would not support an Security Council resolutions authorizing war right now.
De Villepin said Washington was being impatient in regards to the United Nations weapons inspectors in Baghdad, and added, “We believe that nothing today justifies envisaging military action.” He also said France might veto a war resolution if the United States and Britain didn’t, in effect, sit down and shut up. President George W. Bush, predictably, had a merde fit.
“This business about more time — how much more time do we need to be sure he is not disarming?” he fumed.
What’s ironic about all of this, of course, is that Team Bush keeps moving the goal posts on Saddam. When the game seems to be going against them, with weapons inspectors finding scraps of information, France and others urging that the inspections be given a chance to work and Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei reporting that talks with the Iraqis had been “productive”, the Bush team shifts the goalposts in its quest to attack and occupy Iraq. The New York Times, by way of the International Herald-Tribune reports that the Bush team now says that, “This should not be about smoking guns,” an unnamed White House official was quoted as saying. “We may never find a smoking gun, though it sure would help. Rather than a site-by-site investigation, you need to look at this as an investigation to test certain principles — whether Iraq is truly cooperating or not.” (Emphasis added)
So, the United States is saying that it’s willing to go to war — without a Security Council resolution authorizing war — because Saddam is not complying with … Security Council resolutions. Wouldn’t that mean, if France vetos a war resolution, that the United States would be guilty of violating not a Security Council resolution but Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, which states “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”?
Oh, the irony. Saddam is charged with violating UNSCR 1441, and when things don’t go America’s way, Bush maintains the right to violate the charter of the United Nations, making the United States an even bigger international outlaw than Iraq.
Yes, yes, I know. There are those who say Article 51, which supports the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security,” grants the United States the right to attack Iraq. But so far, Iraq has not attacked the United States nor is there available proof that it intends to do so — unless it’s attacked by the United States, of course, and then it could invoke Article 51 of the United Nations charter and defend itself. (And around we go! …)
The Security Council, through the inspection regime, is taking measures to maintain international peace and security. The inspections should be given a chance to work. Bush is piqued because the Security Council is just not doing what he wants it to do — namely OK the occupation of Iraq’s oil fields, encirclement of Iran and the establishment of a forward presence in the region to pressure Saudi Arabia. The impatience of the White House is not borne of the threat of imminent danger from Iraq; it’s borne of the fear that the world will finally say “non” to an American imperium.

Revised estimate to start of war

I’ve decided to revise my estimate as to the start of a war against Iraq. I’m changing it to March 1 and not Feb. 21, as I previously said. Why? Because March 1 is a new moon, and the U.S. military loves to fight in the very dark of night. Also, the majority of troops will be in place by Feb. 15, and two weeks to prepare the troops would be better than one week.