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October 6, 2013

Wikinews interviews specialists on South Korea military parade

Wikinews interviews specialists on South Korea military parade

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

File photo of South Korean military troops.
Image: US Military.

On Tuesday, South Korea staged a huge military parade to mark its armed forces’ 65th anniversary in a display of long-range missiles considered a direct threat to North Korea. 11,000 troops and 190 different weapons systems were on display in the parade. Wikinews interviewed several specialists about the parade’s possible significance.

Interviewees

Wikinews interviewed:

  • Robert Kelly, Associate Professor of International Relations Pusan National University (PNU) in South Korea
  • Margaret Kosal, Assistant Professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Gari Ledyard, Professor Emeritus of Korean Studies at Columbia University, New York
  • Sue Mi Terry, Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University in New York
  • Young-hae Chi, Instructor in Korean at the University of Oxford, England
  • Seungkwon You, Associate Teaching Professor of Korean Studies at the University of Missouri

Wikinews Q&A

File:Robert Kelly File Photo.JPG

File photo of interviewee Robert Kelly.
Image: Robert Kelly.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What is your job role?

Kelly: I am a Professor of International Relations at PNU.
Kosal: I am an Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, more commonly known as “Georgia Tech.” I also direct the Emerging Technology and Security Program and the Biological and Chemical Nonproliferation and Counterterrorism Program.
Ledyard: I retired from my professorship at Columbia thirteen years ago; since then I’ve had no role. When I was active there since 1964, I taught Korean history and culture, emphasizing the traditional periods of Korea’s earlier history. In those years I wrote a few articles on contemporary political issues but my research has been almost all in Korea’s past.
Terry: I am a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute.
Chi: I have been teaching Korean studies at Oxford University. I am specialized in international relations of the Far East and particularly North Korean human rights and refugee issues. I worked as an analyst of security issues at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses in Seoul between 1983 and 1988 authoring a number of policy papers for the South Korean Government.
You: Associate Teaching Professor of Korean Studies teaching Korean Unification, Korean film, Korean society [at the University of Missouri].

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is the display of cruise missiles and other weapons in a military parade by South Korea in direct response to repeated similar North Korean parades?

Kelly: Yes. I don’t actually think these sorts of demonstrations are proper in a democracy. Liberal states should not really be flashing their hardware in a strutting, provocative way like this. This is the sort of thing Putin would do. But SK’s [South Korea’s] case is rather exceptional. NK [North Korea] tries pretty regularly to bully SK, and as its nuclear and missile programs advance, SK deterrence become ever more important. So parades like this are a way of SK saying ‘don’t mess with us even though you have nukes.’

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye with United States President Barack Obama.
Image: White House.

Kosal: The “display” was multi-functional. It shows the modern, indigenous conventional military capabilities of the South Korean forces. It was also to credibly communicate — literally show to the North — possession of an adequate deterrent force, a force that is both capable and credible. The underlying capacity supports the newly announced bilateral tailored deterrence strategy between South Korea and the United States. The military parade served to transparently show, in a largely passive/non-offensive/non-reactionary way, the capacity to follow through on that strategy that is directed at North Korea’s offensive nuclear weapons, offensive chemical weapons, and offensive biological weapons programs rather than a more general deterrence strategy. There is much more to a tailored deterrence strategy, but that is one part of it. The specific declaratory policy highlights South Korea’s responsibility to “continue to build reliable inter-operable response capabilities and to develop the Korean Air and Missile Defense system.” These are largely passive defense measures to minimize the effects of a North Korean offensive attack and to reduce vulnerability of South Korean forces and civilians. It’s part of the overall strategic defense posture.
While not commonly observed in the US, parades like this are not atypical for East Asia, particularly in conjunction with significant anniversaries. In this case, the parade also marked the 65th anniversary of the Republic of Korea [South Korea] Armed Forces. In addition to the international visibility, it also serves South Korean domestic politics and advances South Korean President Park Geun-hye‘s own strong national security policies.
Ledyard: It could very well be, but I have no knowledge regarding it. It has long been routine for both Koreas to compete in the headlines.
Terry: President Park is trying to make it clear to the North that this time, under her watch, Seoul is now serious about responding to future provocations by the North. South Korea’s display of its missiles is meant to deter the North, to show the North that any provocation in the future would be met with strong retaliation.
Chi: The institution of the military parade has been a regular feature of the Armed Forces’ Day celebration in South Korea. Yet the display of the cruise missiles in the recent parade is designed to achieve specific purposes. One is obviously targeting at the North Korean regime as a warning for possible pre-emptive strikes on their conventional and nuclear missile sites. The other target is South Korean citizens who have been increasingly agitated about the possession of WMDs by its Northern counterpart and want to see some guarantee from their own government. Hence the parade is not only for displaying its military capabilities to its enemies but it is also playing a psychological game with its own people. Yet, Hyunmoo-3c, one of the cruise missiles displayed in the event, signals that the South Korean government’s perspective is no longer limited to the Korean peninsula. Hyunmoo-3c’s range of 1,500 km indicates that the Korean military oversees the entire Northeast Asian region as its strategic theatre. Such a wide strategic thinking is also behind the planned construction of the naval base in Jeju Island.
You: Not direct response. However, this parade has not been done for many years and resumed this year indicating [the] Park government would not tolerate any hostile action by North Korea.

File photo of interviewee Young-hae Chi.
Image: Young-hae Chi.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, has warned of a “very grave” threat posed by North Korea. Would a military parade like this be more likely to encourage hostile behaviour?

Kelly: Not really, because NK already engages in so much hostile behavior it is hard to know how much more restraint SK show. My own sense is that SK demonstrates remarkable forbearance in the face of NK threats. If one thinks of how, e.g., the US or Israel would respond to such threats, SK looks downright gentle. So SK needs to signal both that it does not seek escalation, but also that it cannot be bullied. It’s a tough balancing act, and this parade is to send that second message.
Kosal: Not necessarily. North Korean behavior is difficult to predict with any fidelity. The military parade, while it shows potential capacity, is a fundamentally passive (rather than active or reactive) form of behavior. Reinforces a consistent posture by the South Koreans and the US.
Ledyard: There is a sixty-year history of such back-and-forth with an impressive absence of active military conflict. It’s tit for tat, and both sides either maintain the balance or one or the other loses face. It would take much more than a parade for actual conflict to erupt.
Terry: No, not in the long run although this kind of a military parade might provoke temporary, short-term hostile behavior by the North. The North has never been ideological or suicidal. Its chief goal always has been regime survival. It knows if a war were to break out, it will definitively lose to South Korea.
Chi: The South Korean government has been implementing military parades since 1956, and as such it is unlikely to encourage or discourage hostile behaviour.
You: Could be. North Korea already criticized [the] Park government about the recent parade and very bold move by the Park Government in negotiating family reunion and resuming of Diamond Mountains. However, I do not believe that North Korea will take any hostile action since the US Secretary of State, Kerry, is proposing North Korea a peaceful dialogue.

File photo of interviewee Margaret Kosal.
Image: Margaret Kosal.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Does the presence of US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel to this military parade show a further strengthening in the US–South Korea alliance?

Kelly: It does, but the Secretary’s presence is more for the optics than substance. The US–Korean alliance was substantially strengthened about 4 years ago by the previous SK president. This is just a refresher that looks good on TV.
Kosal: Secretary of Defense Hagel’s presence, along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, shows the commitment of the United States to support its ally. The United States remains committed to the transfer of operational control (OPCON) to the South Koreans for general defense of South Korea. The US is also strongly committed to limiting proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Their presence reinforces that to the North Koreans as well as to the international community.
Ledyard: It is simple routine in the USA–ROK alliance. South Koreans depend on it and the US takes care to show support.
Terry: Yes, it further showcases the depth of Washington‘s support for South Korea against any provocation from Pyongyang.
Chi: Certainly he is there to add symbolic strength to the alliance which tended to be weakened until recently. Behind his presence is the recent agreement to reconsider the planed transfer of the war-time operation control from the UN/US to the Korean army.
You: US–South Korea alliance is strong but it is a bit more complicated since [the] US is supporting Japan in arming in naval forces to check China, which is a great concern for South Korea and [the] South Korean people. This might cause some issues in US–South Korea alliance.

File photo of interviewee Gari Ledyard.
Image: Gari Ledyard.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png North Korea’s rhetoric vows the repeated bolstering of its nuclear arsenal to what it calls US military threats. Do you think a military parade of this type backed by the US is likely to influence further hostility?

Kelly: No, because NK must be permanently hostile toward the US and SK anyway. NK has no reason to exist as a separate, poorer Korean state, just as the GDR [East Germany] had no post-cold war reason to exist, unless SK and the US can be regularly described as the enemy. So NK doesn’t want a war, but they certainly don’t want a warm peace, as then NK then loses its raison d’etre.
Kosal: No, North Korea and its leadership are responsible for its choices, which are the primary source of instability on the Korean peninsula with potential regional effects.
Ledyard: The “military threats” are more a reflection of North Korea’s fears than any concrete threats. They are more for internal DPRK [North Korea] efforts to keep its own population in tune with government policies.
Terry: No. I think it’s important to remember Pyongyang’s periodic provocations and its pursuit of nuclear arsenal are not reactions or self-defense measures against a threatening Seoul or Washington. Incapable of competing with economically flourishing South Korea, the North relies on bolstering its nuclear arsenal and on military and political brinkmanship to make up ground.
Chi: The two Koreas do the military parade almost routinely. South Korea will have a similar parade again when there is a new government in five years. It is unlikely the kind of parade to influence further hostility.
You: No, this is just symbolic. As a matter of fact, North Korea is very anxious to escape from the current gridlock and [the] US and South Korea do not give them plenty of reasons to go to the negotiating table.

File photo of interviewee Sue Mi Terry.
Image: Sue Mi Terry.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think it is likely that North and South Korea may at some point in the near future be engaged in direct military action with each other?

Kelly: Minor skirmishes are possible, indeed likely, given the border confusion in the Yellow Sea. But a major conflict is highly unlikely, no matter what bluster comes from NK. The NKs would lose such a war, decisively in fact, and the NK elite would face the hangman in the South afterward. NK is much too far behind to win. So full-scale conflict is very unlikely.
Kosal: I hope not.
Ledyard: No. A year or two ago there was a naval incident that occurred in the West Sea, but both sides separated quickly, although the North shelled an island claimed by both the DPRK and the ROK. Neither side has anything to gain from any such incident.
Terry: The North’s latest tactic — to return to diplomacy after provoking Seoul and Washington earlier this year — does not mean that the North has abandoned its timeworn brinkmanship strategy nor that it has shifted its nuclear policy. The North is likely to pursue more aggressive action down the road, attempting to ratchet up another sense of crisis, if it determines that its current peace ploy is not getting the concessions it seeks from Seoul. But while the North may provoke Seoul again with border skirmishes, or another missile or nuclear test, I think it will avoid direct military action with Seoul that will escalate to an all-out conflict. Again, Pyongyang will not risk outright hostilities that will lead to an all-out war.
Chi: You can never exclude possible exchanges of military actions within a limited range. At the time of North Korean attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November 2011, the South Korean Government made an official pledge to retaliate against any future military actions by North Korea. The government will face grave political consequences if it fails to live up to its own words. There is always a possibility of direct military actions but they will be more or less contained to a local level.
You: No, I would not think so. North Korea is more desperate to engage in a dialogue with South Korea and [the] US but they look for justification to go to the table. However, [the] Park government and US would not be simply welcoming them to the negotiating table. When they negotiate, they would be not generous or lenient to take all the North Korean offers.

A KPAF Ilyushin Il-76MD strategic airlifter in the mid-2000s, in Air Koryo markings.
Image: Regis Sibille.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png This parade has been described as an Anti-North deterrence, do you think this will act as such?

Kelly: Yes. NK is moving more rapidly toward nuclearization and missilization than many had expected. NK pretty clearly has no intention of de-nuclearizing. That is simply not going to happen no matter how many SK and US political figures demand it. So now, SK must show that it can keep up and match, if not outrace, the NKs. This is why there is so much focus now on SK missile and BMD capabilities.
Kosal: Yes.
Ledyard: Again, nearly sixty years of history supports the view that neither side has any interest in actual military conflict.
Terry: To some degree, yes. It’s good to remind the North of Seoul’s capabilities, although as I said before, Kim Jong-un, like his father and grandfather before him, already knows any all-out conflict would result in the destruction of his regime.
Chi: South Korea’s possession of cruise missiles and other advanced technology such as drones had been an open secret. There is nothing new about this parade, hence little deterrence effect added to the existing military posture.
You: No, it would not act as such. Rather, it has domestic purpose to draw [the] South Korean public to concern more about South Korean military and national security in general. For the past decade, [the] South Korean public have been very critical of the role of military in society. Certainly, the Park government wants to rectify it.



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April 7, 2010

US announces revised limits on use of nuclear weapons

US announces revised limits on use of nuclear weapons

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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US President Barack Obama today announced a revamp of a policy that dictates the conditions under which nuclear weapons would be used by the United States.

The Nuclear Posture Review, which was published on Tuesday, now completely rules out the use of nuclear weapons by the US in response to an attack using chemical, biological, or conventional weapons. The new document says that the US will use nuclear weapons only in “extreme circumstances,” although it did not specify what those circumstances would be. It also commits the US to not develop new nuclear warheads, although the country’s arsenal of conventional (non-nuclear) weapons will be maintained.

The document does, however, contain two major caveats. Only countries that comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty are subject to the new limitations, meaning that India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan would be exempt from the limitations, as these countries are non-parties to the treaty, and Iran would be except while in violation of the treaty. Also, the new strategy will maintain the option of reconsidering the pledge not to use nuclear weapons in retaliation to a biological attack, but only if it was judged that such technology had reached a point where the US was vulnerable to such an attack.

The revised strategy is expected to be controversial among both conservatives and liberals, who have, respectively, argued against reducing the power of nuclear weapons and advocated for a pledge to never initiate nuclear warfare. Obama called the new plan one that would enable the US to “move towards less emphasis on nuclear weapons” and that would “make sure that our conventional weapons capability is an effective deterrent in all but the most extreme circumstances.”

Obama held an interview at the White House about the new plans, in which he called the new strategy “a series of graded options.” He also said that “I’m going to preserve all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure.”



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January 29, 2010

Tony Blair tells Iraq Inquiry he would invade again

Tony Blair tells Iraq Inquiry he would invade again

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Friday, January 29, 2010

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2007 file photo of Tony Blair.
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Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, appeared before the Iraq Inquiry today. He faced six hours of questioning, starting at 6:30 am, at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London concerning his role in the 2003 Iraq invasion. During the inquiry, Blair stood by his decision to invade, saying he would make the same decision again.

This is the third time Blair has given evidence at an inquiry into the Iraq War, having already testified before the Hutton Inquiry and the Butler Review, as well as participating in an investigation by the Intelligence and Security Committee. The Hutton Inquiry found that the government did not “sex up” the dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The Butler Review uncovered “serious flaws” in pre-war intelligence, and this inquiry was set up by current prime minister Gordon Brown in order to “learn the lessons” of the war. Sir John Chilcott, the inquiry chairman, began by stressing that Blair was not “on trial”, but could be called back to give further evidence if necessary.

At the end of the session, Chilcott asked Blair if he had any regrets, to which Blair replied that he was “sorry” that it was “divisive”, but said that invading was the right thing to do since he believes “the world is a safer place as a result.” Blair said that the inquiry should ask the “2010 question”, which refers to the hypothetical position that the world would be in if Saddam Hussein were not removed from power. He said that “today we would have a situation where Iraq was competing with Iran […] in respect of support of terrorist groups”.

Reasons for invasion

At the inquiry, the topics on which Blair was questioned included his reasons for invading Iraq.

At the time, he said that his reasons were based on a need to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction; however, interviews held later suggest that removing Saddam Hussein from power was his primary objective. Blair denies this, asserting that the need to dispose of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was the only reason for the United Kingdom’s participation in the invasion. He explained that, in an interview with Fern Britton, he “did not use the words regime change”, and, what he was trying to say was, “you would not describe the nature of the threat in the same way if you knew then what you knew now, that the intelligence on WMD had been shown to be wrong”.

He said, despite no weapons of mass destruction being found by UN weapons inspectors, he still believes that Saddam Hussein had the means to develop and deploy them; “[h]e had used them, he definitely had them […] and so in a sense it would have required quite strong evidence the other way to be doubting the fact that he had this programme […] The primary consideration for me was to send an absolutely powerful, clear and unremitting message that after September 11 if you were a regime engaged in WMD [weapons of mass destruction], you had to stop.”

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He also said that weapons of mass destruction and regime change were not separate issues, but “conjoined”, since “brutal and oppressive” regimes with such weapons are a “bigger threat” than less hostile nations with the same weapons. He said that Hussein’s regime was hiding important information from UN weapons inspectors, and had “no intention” of complying with them. He asserted that he has “no regrets” about removing Hussein, “[a] monster and I believe he threatened not just the region but the world.”

There were also questions about why the UN weapons inspectors were not given more time in Iraq in March 2003. Blair responded by saying that it would have made very little difference, as Iraq had the knowledge and “intent” to rebuild its weapons program from scratch if it were dismantled. He was also asked whether he still believed that the war was morally justified. He said that he did. He also said that the war was required because more diplomatic solutions had already failed, and the “containment” of Hussein’s regime through diplomatic sanctions was “eroding” when the decision to invade was made.

Cquote1.svg I never regarded 11 September as an attack on America, I regarded it as an attack on us. Cquote2.svg

—Tony Blair

He also said that attitudes towards Saddam Hussein and the threat he presented “changed dramatically” after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. He said, “I never regarded 11 September as an attack on America, I regarded it as an attack on us.” He said that he believed terrorists would use biological and chemical weaponry, and also said, “if those people inspired by this religious fanaticism could have killed 30,000 they would have. My view was you could not take risks with this issue at all.”

He later said, “When I talked earlier about the calculus of risk changing after September 11 it’s really important I think to understand in so far as to understanding the decision I took, and frankly would take again. If there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him. That was my view then. It’s my view now.”

Crawford commitment

He was also asked about his supposed commitment to George W. Bush that United Kingdom would join the United States in an Iraq war, which he is said to have made at Bush’s Crawford ranch in 2002. Blair stubbornly denied that this took place, saying that what was said is that Saddam Hussein had to be “dealt with”, and that “the method of doing that is open”. Instead, he says, his reasons for the invasion were moral.

Cquote1.svg The decision I had to take was … could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programme? Cquote2.svg

—Tony Blair

He also said, “This isn’t about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception. It’s a decision. And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam’s history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given 10 years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programmes or is that a risk that it would be irresponsible to take?”

He said of Bush: “I think what he took from that [the meeting] was exactly what he should have taken, which was if it came to military action because there was no way of dealing with this diplomatically, we would be with him.” He did admit, however, that—a year later, as the invasion approached—he had been offered a “way out” of the war, which he declined. He said of this, “I think President Bush at one point said, before the House of Commons debate, ‘Look if it’s too difficult for Britain, we understand’. I took the view very strongly then—and do now—that it was right for us to be with America, since we believed in this too.”

The 45-minute claim

Another line of questioning focused on his 45-minute claim, which was included in the September 2002 dossier but redacted after the war. It states that Hussein was able to deploy nuclear weapons within 45 minutes of giving the order. This dossier also contained the words, “the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons”. However, the inquiry has revealed that there were certain caveats involved, so the claim was not—anti-war campaigners claim—”beyond doubt”, especially since senior civil servants have told the inquiry that intelligence suggested that Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction had been dismantled.

Blair said that it “would have been better if (newspaper) headlines about the ’45-minute claim’ had been corrected” to state—as he admits he should have made clear—that the claim referred to battlefield munitions, rather than to missiles. He says that, with the benefit of hindsight, he would have liked to have published the intelligence reports themselves, since they were “absolutely strong enough”. He did insist, however, that the intelligence that was available at the time put it “beyond doubt” that Iraq was continuing to develop weaponry. He added that “things obviously look quite different” after the war, since weapons of mass destruction were not found.

Legality and planning

File photo of Lord Goldsmith, who told the inquiry earlier this week that he changed his mind about the legality of the war.
Image: Johnnyryan1.

One of the main topics was the legality of the war. Earlier this week, a senior Foreign Office legal advisor claimed that the war would be illegal without a further United Nations Security Council resolution—which was not obtained. The attorney general at the time, Lord Peter Goldsmith, said that the cabinet refused to enter into a debate over the legality of the war, and that Blair had not received his advice that a further UN resolution would be needed warmly. He insists that he “desperately” tried to find a diplomatic solution to the problem until France and Russia “changed their position” and would not allow the passage of a further resolution.

Blair also said that he would not have invaded had Goldsmith said that it “could not be justified legally”, and explained Goldsmith’s change of mind by saying that the then attorney general “had to come to a conclusion”, and his conclusion was that the war was legal. He did not know why Goldsmith made this conclusion, but said he believes that it may be due to the fact that weapons inspectors “indicated that Saddam Hussein had not taken a final opportunity to comply” with the UN.

Questions were also asked on the government’s poor post-war planning, and claimed confusion about whether the US had a plan for Iraq after the war was over. Blair was drilled about the lack of priority that was given to the issue of post-war planning. He was also asked about the lack of equipment that British soldiers were given. This line of questioning was pursued in front of the families of some of the soldiers who died in Iraq—many of whom blame the poor equipment for the deaths of their relatives.

Response

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The families of some of the 179 British soldiers killed in the Iraq war, along with around 200 anti-war protesters, held a demonstration calling for Blair to be declared a war criminal outside the centre in London’s City of Westminster. They chanted “Tony Blair, war criminal” as the former prime minister gave evidence inside. Blair was jeered by a member of the audience as he made his closing statement, and the families booed him, chanting “you are a liar” and “you are a murderer” as he left the centre.

In order to avoid the protesters, he arrived early and was escorted by security as he entered through the back door, with large numbers of police officers standing by. One of these protesters, Iraqi Saba Jaiwad, said, “The Iraqi people are having to live every day with aggression, division, and atrocities. Blair should not be here giving his excuses for the illegal war, he should be taken to The Hague to face criminal charges because he has committed crimes against the Iraqi people.”

Ahmed Rushdi, an Iraqi journalist, said that he was unsurprised by Blair’s defence of the invasion, because, “A liar is still a liar”. He also claimed that the war had done more harm than good, because, “Before 2003 there were problems with security, infrastructure and services, and people died because of the sanctions, but after 2003 there are major disasters. Major blasts have killed about 2,000 people up till now. After six years or seven years there is no success on the ground, in any aspect.”

Cquote1.svg Why did we participate in an illegal invasion of another country? Cquote2.svg

—Nick Clegg

Current prime minister Gordon Brown, who set up the inquiry, said before Blair’s appearance that it was not a cause for concern. Anthony Seldon, Blair’s biographer, called the session “a pivotal day for him [Blair], for the British public and for Britain’s moral authority in the world”. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who opposes the war, said in Friday’s Daily Telegraph that it was “a pivotal moment in answering a question millions of British people are still asking themselves: Why did we participate in an illegal invasion of another country?” He called the invasion “subservience-by-default to the White House”, and questioned the “special relationship” between between the United Kingdom and the United States.

Vincent Moss, the political editor of the Sunday Mirror newspaper, criticised the inquiry for being too soft on Blair. He said, “A lot of ground wasn’t covered, and in my mind it wasn’t covered in enough detail, particularly the dodgy dossier in September 2002. There wasn’t very much interrogation on that, they pretty much accepted what Tony Blair said about the intelligence. We could have had an awful lot stronger questioning on that”.

It is feared by some senior Labour Party politicians that today’s events could ignite strong feelings about the issue in voters, and thereby damage the popularity of the party, which is already trailing behind the Conservative Party with a general election required in the first half of the year.


Related news

  • “UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war” — Wikinews, January 27, 2010
  • “UK cabinet minister Jack Straw ignored advice that Iraq invasion was illegal” — Wikinews, January 26, 2010

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December 13, 2008

Wikinews Shorts: December 13, 2008

Wikinews Shorts: December 13, 2008 – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews Shorts: December 13, 2008

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A compilation of brief news reports for Saturday, December 13, 2008.

President-Elect Obama’s inaugural donations to be listed online

President-Elect Obama in Austin, TX during the campaign. (Courtesy of Roxanne Mitchel)

The Presidential Inaugural Committee says it is “taking unprecedented steps to insure transparency in the public reporting of donors” by listing the names of individuals or organizations who donate over $200 towards President-Elect Barack Obama’s upcoming inaugural.

Logging onto http://www.pic2009.org/page/content/donors/ will show you a current list of over 169 current donors who have given at least that amount, and for most of the donors, much more. Donors include movie stars, real estate moguls, and sports stars, many of whom also contributed to Obama’s presidential campaign.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee states that it has raised almost $10 million dollars to cover the inaugural; and while that may seem like a large amount, the spending record for an inaugural is held by the current president, George W. Bush, with $42.8 million spent on his 2004 inaugural.


Scientists detect black hole at center of Milky Way Galaxy

A simulation of the black hole.

American and German astronomers have detected and confirmed that there is a ‘super-massive’ black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It is approximately 27,000 light years from Earth, and four million times bigger than the Sun. Scientists say it plays a significant role in forming all galaxies.

The 16-year study was performed using two telescopes located in Chile. They discovered it by tracking the movement of over two dozen separate stars. The study will be published next month in The Astrophysical Journal.

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Zimbabwe accuses United Kingdom of causing cholera epidemic

An ally of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, has said that a cholera epidemic in the country, which killed hundreds of people, was caused by the United Kingdom.

Ndlovu said of the outbreak that it was a “genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British.” It was compared to a “serious biological chemical weapon”.

This comes just a day after President Mugabe announced that the cholera epidemic had been stopped, contradicting aid workers saying that the crisis was only getting worse.

Mugabe has already accused Western powers of planning to use the epidemic as a reason to oust him.

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Colombia extradites drug lord to the United States

Montoya’s mugshot

Diego Montoya, who is alleged to be one of the Colombia’s most powerful drug lords, has been handed over to the United States authorities by Colombia to face trial. Montoya will face 12 charges, including those of murder, money laundering, and the trafficking of drugs. If convicted, he will serve no less than twenty years in prison.

Montoya was the leader of the Norte del Valle cartel, which is reported to have exported 70% of all the cocaine sold in both the European Union and the United States at its height. He was on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “Top Ten” most wanted fugitives.

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Rare snowfall strikes southern United States

Snow has started falling in some southern states of the US, including Louisiana and Mississippi. As much as eight inches of snow were recorded, and thousands of people were left without power – one of Louisiana’s largest power suppliers, Cleco Corporation, reported ten thousand outages. Forecasters warned of dangerous driving conditions, and some flights at Louis Armstrong International Airport, located near New Orleans, were affected.

In New Orleans, snow fell today for the first time in four years. The largest snowfall amount for the city ever recorded is about 5 inches, on December 30, 1963.

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Pin-up queen Bettie Page dies at age 85

Bettie Page, a model who became famous for her pin-up photos, has died at the age of 85. Page died of complications from a heart attack on Thursday, December 11.

She was born Bettie Mae Page on April 22, 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee. She was also one of the earliest Playmates of the Month for Playboy magazine.

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Estonian law to allow voting by cell phone

The Parliament of Estonia has passed a law that will allow citizens to vote by mobile phone in the 2011 parliamentary elections. Voters will need free, authorized chips for their phones.

In last year’s elections, Estonians voted online. The country’s Reform Party proposed mobile voting in September 2007.

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October 5, 2007

Biohazard lab supervision an issue says US investigation

Biohazard lab supervision an issue says US investigation

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Friday, October 5, 2007

An electron micrograph of the Ebola virus.

According to recent investigations by the Associated Press and Congressional investigations, the United States federal government is not properly handling serious biohazards such as Ebola in labs. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks the United States has increased by a factor of over 40 the funding for research related to potential biological weapons as well as other virulent infectious diseases, such as Anthrax, Ebola and Smallpox. Since 2003, there have been at least 100 incidents involving United States laboratories. These incidents have ranged from missing shipments of deadly viruses and bacteria to accidents in which lab workers have become infected. According to the Congressional panel even where research is going on is not precisely known.

The recent investigations were prompted in part by the suspension of research at Texas A&M University after repeated laboratory accidents and failure to report serious breaches to the Center for Disease Control including an incident in which someone was infected with brucellosis, a disease which can infect humans and a variety of domesticated animals and is generally not fatal in humans. Concern about safety and security procedures focus primarily on two risks: terrorists obtaining biological agents from laboratories or labs accidentally releasing infectious agents into the general population.

Critics have questioned the influx of new research as being unnecessary, unguided and dangerous both to workers and to the people around them and have pointed to the case of Janet Parker who was the last recorded case of someone dying from smallpox and had contracted the disease by working in a building with poor containment systems.

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April 15, 2006

U.S. claims of Iraqi bioweapons labs contradicted in classified Pentagon report filed on 27 May 2003

U.S. claims of Iraqi bioweapons labs contradicted in classified Pentagon report filed on 27 May 2003

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

In an article published on Wednesday by The Washington Post, reporter Joby Warrick alleged that the Bush administration and the CIA “possessed powerful evidence” that contradicted assertions made by President Bush one month after the Iraqi war began, where trailers found in Iraq were said to have been mobile biological weapons labs.

On May 27, 2003, President Bush made public statements on these trailers by asserting that “We have found the weapons of mass destruction,” which coincided with the CIA publishing a whitepaper that detailed how the trailers were allegedly used to produce biological weapons.

Warrick’s news report revealed that evidence exists to support that two days before the presidential statements were made and the CIA whitepaper was published, that a fact-finding group reached an opposite conclusion.

The group was comprised of U.S. and British civilian experts that investigated the labs and concluded unanimously that they had nothing to do with biological weapons production. They relayed their results back to Washington, where Warrick said in the front page Washington Post article that the newspaper interviewed six of the nine group members.

According to The Washington Post, this preliminary report was followed up with a detailed 122 page final report three weeks later, titled “Final Technical Engineering Exploitation Report on Iraqi Suspected Biological Weapons-Associated Trailers.” The report remains classified to this date.

Rendering of alleged mobile bioweapons labs used by Colin Powell in his Security Council speech

Reuters reported that an unnamed U.S. official confirmed the existence of the field report filed on May 27, 2003, and said that the field report had not been evaluated at the time of Bush’s statement. “You don’t change a report that has been coordinated in the (intelligence) community based on a field report,” he reportedly said. The Bush administration continued to make claims about having found mobile biological weapons facilities throughout 2003.

On June 8, 2003, an unnamed senior CIA official stood by the interpretation that the trailers were mobile bioweapons labs saying “It is what we think it is, to the best of our knowledge”.

Then Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed in June 2003 that “confidence level is increasing” that the trailers were intended for biological weapons production.

White House speaker Scott McClellan said on July 16, 2003, that “We’ve seen some of the evidence of his weapons of mass destruction program through two mobile biological weapon labs that have been discovered.”

Vice President Dick Cheney claimed in September 2003 that the trailers were “mobile biological facilities”. Then CIA director George Tenet claimed in a speech on February 5, 2004, that the trailers “could be made to work” as biological weapons labs.

The alleged existence of mobile biological weapons laboratories was one of the cornerstones in Colin Powell’s presentation in front of the United Nations to make the case for war on February 5, 2003. Much of the information came from an Iraqi defector dubbed Curveball who was an asset of the German BND. The credibility of this source was disputed by the BND.

The Iraq Survey Group reported in September 2004 that the trailers were “impractical” for biological agent production and “almost certainly” designed and built for the generation of hydrogen. Asked about the prospects to turn the trailers into biological weapons labs, Rod Barton, a member of the Iraq Survey Group, said “It would be easier to start all over with just a bucket”.

The Washington Post cites unnamed sources among officials and members of the initial survey group as claiming that the original classified report from May 27, 2003 and the classified final report three weeks later came to the same conclusions as the unclassified findings of the Iraqi Survey Group.

Scott Ritter, former United Nations weapons inspector

Scott Ritter, a former United Nations weapons inspector, wrote September 8, 2003: “However, it now is clear that these so- called labs were nothing more than hydrogen generation units based upon British technology acquired by Iraq in the 1980s, used to fill weather balloons in support of conventional artillery operations, and have absolutely no application for the production of biological agents.”

Scott McClellan. White House Press Secretary

In the April 12, 2006 press conference, Scott McClellan said “I will point out that the reporting I saw this morning was simply reckless and it was irresponsible. The lead in The Washington Post left the impression for the reader that the President was saying something he knew at the time not to be true. … The President’s statements were based on the joint assessment of the CIA and DIA that was publicly released the day before [the President made his statements].”

He did not answer repeated questions whether the President knew of the secret report at the time he was asserting that “we found biological laboratories” on May 29, 2005. When asked why the secret report was not made public earlier McClellan responded by saying that “it takes a substantial amount of time to coordinate and run through a declassification process”.

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November 20, 2005

German BND claims U.S. exaggerated Iraq WMD claims

German BND claims U.S. exaggerated Iraq WMD claims

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Iraq War
Other Iraq War stories
  • 14 March 2014: Labour politician Tony Benn dies aged 88
  • 28 February 2012: U.S. Army identifies remains of last U.S. soldier unaccounted for in Iraq
  • 21 December 2011: Remaining US troops exit Iraq
  • 3 December 2010: British warship HMS Invincible put up for auction online
  • 23 October 2010: WikiLeaks releases Iraq War logs
Iraqi security forces
Armed forces in Iraq - January 2008.png
Background
  • Wikipedia article about the Iraq War

One of the most important arguments in the run-up to the Iraq war made by Colin Powell in his United Nations speech and President Bush in his State of the Union address was that Iraq had an active biological weapons program and possessed mobile biological weapons labs. According to an investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the main source for this information was an Iraqi defector codenamed Curveball who was a source for the German central intelligence agency BND.

Several German intelligence officials responsible for Curveball have now told the LA Times that the Bush administration and the CIA have repeatedly exaggerated his claims and ignored warnings of the BND that the source was unreliable. Recounting his reaction after seeing Powell’s United Nations speech one German intelligence officer said: “We were shocked. Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven…. It was not hard intelligence.” This corroborates reporting by the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit from 2003 and 2004 based on statements of unnamed senior German intelligence officials.

Nine months earlier, in May 2002, a fabricator warning was posted in Curveball’s file in U.S. intelligence databases. Powell was never warned that his United Nations speech contained material that both the DIA and CIA had determined was false, even though several people present at Powell’s CIA meetings were fully aware of this.

At this time German intelligence officers would not let the CIA meet directly with Curveball, but allowed a CIA doctor to draw blood samples. Questioning the validity of Curveball’s information in front of his CIA supervisor, the doctor was advised to “Keep in mind that this war is going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn’t say and the Powers That Be probably aren’t terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he’s talking about.”

Shortly after Powell’s UN speech and several days before the invasion, United Nations weapons inspectors attempted to directly verify several key claims made by Curveball, but concluded that they were unsustainable. The White House insisted on its WMD claims based on Curveball’s information.

Even after the invasion, when more and more of Curveball’s accounts were shown to be pure fabrication, the CIA and the Bush administration relied on Curveball’s information. When U.S. forces discovered trucks with lab equipment and Curveball claimed that these were identical to the ones he has been reporting about, the CIA rushed to publish a White Paper claiming that these trucks were part of Saddam Hussein’s secret biological weapons program and Bush claimed publicly that “We found the weapons of mass destruction.” Several days later, twelve of the thirteen WMD experts who analyzed the trucks agreed that the equipment was not suited for biological weapons production, with the only dissenting voice coming from the author of the original White Paper.

The White Paper remains posted on the CIA website to this date, and President Bush has not yet retracted his statement that Iraq produced “germ warfare agents” made in his State of the Union address or his postwar assertions that “we found the weapons of mass destruction.”

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September 29, 2005

US military to buy anthrax and bioweapons production systems

US military to buy anthrax and bioweapons production systems

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Anthrax Bacteria

The US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah is looking for a subcontractor to produce the anthrax bacillus anthracis Sterne strain in 1,500 litre quantities. The Sterne strain is not thought to be harmful to humans, but the intended use of the anthrax remains unclear, worrying anti-biological weapons activists. Other recent Dugway contracts for equipment to produce unspecified biolgical agents in 3,000 litre batches are even more concerning to activists.

The contracts were uncovered by The Sunshine Project, a group opposed to biological weapons development based in Germany. The work involved seems to cast doubts on the ability of the US to live up to its commitments to the Biological Weapons Convention. The post 9/11 anthrax attack upon the U.S. used weaponized U.S. Army anthrax [1] [2], most likely produced at Fort Detrick.

A Dugway spokesperson declined to specify what the biological agents would be used for.

Related News

  • “9/11 Anthrax investigation quietly loses urgency” — Wikinews, September 28, 2005

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