Ann Clwyd’s Iraq Inquiry evidence. The Press? Ooops, we forgot that.

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    7th February, 2010

    This is cross-post from Ingrid at the Blair Foundation blogspot.

    Did you ever wonder what happened to Ann Clwyd’s evidence this week at the Iraq Inquiry? Lost on the internet? Nope! Hardly appeared. Why? For the same reason that John Reid’s evidence hardly appeared. Both suggested that Tony Blair was RIGHT.

    [See Julie here on Reid & Clwyd’s evidence at the Iraq Inquiry]

    PRESS BIAS and MANIPULATION OF THE EVIDENCE.

    Ingrid addresses this post to John Rentoul. Why? Because very few other mainstream journalists are listening to this side of the story.


    From Ingrid  – hat tipped to David McDuff, Andrew Murphy and Harry’s Place:

    Question for John Rentoul re Chilcot Inquiry: Why was Ann Clwyd’s testimony on Iraq almost ignored by the mainstream UK press and TV?

    From A Step At A Time by David McDuff, Sunday, 07 February 2010:

    Ann Clwyd on Iraq
    Almost ignored by the mainstream UK press and TV, which had earlier devoted much air time and column space to Clare Short, the testimony of UK human rights envoy Ann Clwyd to the Chilcot Inquiry gives a picture of the genesis of contemporary Iraq that is rather different from the one propounded by the critics of Tony Blair’s policy who are currently so vociferous in the British media. For one thing, unlike many of the media “opinion-formers”, Clwyd obviously knows Iraq and cares about its civilian population, especially the Kurds among whom she has lived and worked at intervals for many years. Instead of focusing on issues from the past, she is concerned for the present and the future of the fledgling democracy that has emerged from years of brutal dictatorship – and like Iraqis themselves she sees an improvement. On police training, for example, she has this to say:

    Obviously we have been helping through our police training, through our training of judges —

    BARONESS USHA PRASHAR: When you say “our police training” — I was going to come to that — what sort of support have you been giving to them on police training? Because the evidence we have had shows that our kind of model is not necessarily relevant.

    RT HON ANN CLWYD MP: They have never actually said that in my hearing. I haven’t heard that from the Iraqis. In fact, they want more of the British. They have always said, I have to say, right from the beginning, you know, “The British understand us. We would like more of the British to come here, and, you know, we don’t want you to go away. We would like more help from you”. That’s why they can’t understand Inquiries like this. The Iraqis always say to me, you know — because weapons of mass destruction was Saddam — “Why are you still operating in this area? What we need is your help and your attention”, and obviously the Iraqis can pay for a lot of things themselves now, but nevertheless they appreciate the guidance that we can give them and we have had police trainers there. We have also had them in round tables.

    Ann Clwyd’s testimony can be viewed here (scroll down to Video 2), and the transcript is here (pdf). Via Harry’s Place

    – – –

    Ann Clwyd testifies before Chilcot
    From Harry’s Place by Gene, Saturday, 06 February 2010, 9:52 pm: (receiving many supportive comments)

    Labour MP Ann Clwyd Ann testifies before Chilcot

    Labour MP Ann Clwyd’s testimony before the Chilcot Inquiry won’t get a fraction of the attention paid to Tony Blair’s or Clare Short’s appearances– but it deserves every bit as much.

    You can watch it here (second video) or read the transcript here (pdf).

    Last year I singled out her and former Labour MP Harry Barnes for caring about what happens in Iraq even when it doesn’t give them a chance to blame the US or the UK for something.

    Clwyd has taken a passionate interest in the human rights of Iraqis since the 1970s, and that interest continues to this day. She first met Iraqi students who had been imprisoned and tortured through the National Union of Mineworkers. After the ouster of the Ba’ath regime in 2003, Tony Blair appointed her as the UK’s human rights envoy to Iraq. She has visited the country numerous times, before and after the 2003 invasion.

    Clwyd was deeply concerned with the situation of the Kurds in northern Iraq, especially after Saddam Hussein’s poison gas attack on Halabja in 1988. Before the war she was active in INDICT, a campaign to hold Iraqi leaders accountable for their crimes.

    She testified:

    In February 2003, before war was declared, I was on a visit with INDICT people to Kurdistan. Again, we were collecting evidence, and I was taken by the wife of the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani. I was taken by his wife, who was in Kurdistan at the time, to the border with Iraq and Kurdistan, which is an area called Sham Shamal, and she pointed towards the hillside where there were rocket positions and she said, “That’s where they are going to fire the chemical weapons at us”, and we didn’t stay there very long. She said, “Let’s get away from here. It is dangerous to be here”, and it was then, at that time, when I saw the Kurds were fleeing from the towns, the Kurds actually were, you know, going on cars, buses, all sorts of things out of the towns into the country because they so believed that chemical weapons were going to be used against them again, and I can remember, in fact, Jalal Talabani, who was also in Kurdistan at that time, asking me to ask Tony Blair, when I returned to the UK, for chemical weapons protection suits.

    Now, the Kurds had their own intelligence and, you know, when you saw women going into the market and buying piles of nappies because they thought they could put the nappies over their faces to protect them from chemical weapons, you realise that people there took the very threat seriously indeed, the threat of Saddam attacking them again.

    The Kurds had never told me before that they wanted to war. I mean they had their uprisings, you know, against the regime, the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south, but I had never ever heard them say, “We want a war”. They had tried to overthrow him — Saddam’s regime themselves, but never had anybody said, “We want a war”. But this time they said to me, “There is no other way”, and that’s the first time I ever heard the Kurds — and I have a very long association with them — say that. “There is no other way”. So when I came back and we had this debate at the beginning of February — the beginning of March — middle of February in the House of Commons, and I spoke then explaining what I had just heard and seen in Kurdistan, and I said for the first time that, you know, with INDICT over the years we had tried every way, with sanctions we had tried, but actually even that twin-track approach had not managed to move the regime. So I felt myself there was no other option. I didn’t feel that I could go back and face the Kurds and say that I had argued any other way because I couldn’t on the basis of what I had heard.

    Like many others, Clwyd expressed her frustration in dealing with the seemingly clueless Americans in charge of the occupation, especially when it came to the treatment of Iraqi army officers.

    Mr Bremer was in charge of the operation there and the British were there and so we talked about some of these issues. One of the first things that struck me was — because, again, because of my friendships with Iraqis, one of my Iraqi friends had [a brother who was] a General in Saddam’s army. He was now in a staff college, but he was a General, and immediately after 2003, my friend rang me up and he said, “Do you know what is happening with the military? Because there are lots of the military that my brother knows who would help the British. There are 50 to 100 senior Iraqi officers who are ready to help the coalition”.

    Well, obviously, I passed that information on. But, you know, the army wasn’t there anymore, but they were queuing up in very hot weather for their pensions, for their stipends, and I discovered that the man — the brother of my friend had been queuing up every day for two weeks, and he was a senior, you know, army officer, and yet had never got to the front of the queue. He said — I spoke to him eventually, and he said to me, you know, “If they want to humiliate us, this is the way of doing it”.

    …Well, I think many people slipped through the net actually, senior people, who could have been used in those early stages to help the coalition and wanted to help the coalition.

    She told about visiting one of Saddam’s mass graves.

    [I]n 2003 they started excavating the Al-Hillah sites near Babylon, and I went there to look at what was going on because there was a UK forensics team also working there and giving assistance to the Iraqis about how to handle evidence, because — I mean, it looked like a moonscape, it was so huge, the site. They estimated — I don’t know if they’ve revised the estimates since, but there were 15,000 bodies actually buried at that site in Al-Hillah, which is near Babylon, and I thought it was a very sad way that the Iraqis had to go to those sites, because you saw elderly women — when they excavated bodies, I think they excavated several thousand in that first round — if there was no identification with the body, they would then put — or rather, if they found identification, but couldn’t identify the name of the person or persons, they would then put their possessions in a plastic bag on the top of the grave and rebury the body, and, you know, old, old women were going round these sites, looking inside these plastic bags and pulling out a watch or a ring or a piece of cloth or a lighter just to see if they could identify them, and I thought, you know, that was really a very great concern to see people having to try and identify their lost relatives in that way.

    Clwyd continues to visit Iraq regularly and sees steady improvement.

    I see progress in all areas. I have always been optimistic about the future for Iraq and one of the reasons for that is I monitored the elections in Basra, the first elections, in 2005, which was, you know, a particularly joyful occasion, because people were voting for the first time, and you know, it reminded me of being in South Africa when I monitored the first elections there. People came out with their black fingers and they were waving them in the air at us saying, “There, we have voted”. There was an attack on one polling station in Basra in 2005, but apparently the women — women had turned out in great numbers, you know, about 80 per cent turned out to vote in those first elections in 2005 and there was a rocketed attack on one of those polling stations which was mainly filled with women at the time, and, apparently, they all stood there and sang and defied those people that were attacking them, and the same now for the election — for the provincial elections.

    You can see that the secular is winning over the religious, because more secular parties, more secular candidates got elected in those provincial elections. Again, there is a 25 per cent quota for women, which is much better than ours in the UK, and you know, the 25 per cent quota I think is extremely important because it is also so for the next elections in March, 25 per cent quota.

    Clwyd said the Iraqis still want help from the British.

    They have always said, I have to say, right from the beginning, you know, “The British understand us. We would like more of the British to come here, and, you know, we don’t want you to go away. We would like more help from you”.

    That’s why they can’t understand Inquiries like this. The Iraqis always say to me, you know — because weapons of mass destruction was Saddam — “Why are you still operating in this area? What we need is your help and your attention”, and obviously the Iraqis can pay for a lot of things themselves now, but nevertheless they appreciate the guidance that we can give them…

    Speaking to the British and American families who have lost loved ones in Iraq, Clwyd said:

    You know, we sat in the House of Commons as Members of Parliament feeling particularly responsible when the Prime Minister read out the names of those who had died, and you know, we all feel great sympathy for those people, but I do hope that Iraq eventually will turn out to be the kind of country that everybody can be proud of, and, of course, not just British troops, but, you know, American troops, coalition troops, civilians who have died, many, many Iraqi civilians have died. Then I can only say how sorry I am and — but I hope that, at the end of it, Iraq will be a much better country. I know Iraqis — I say this because Iraqis tell me so often. You know, they feel great sadness about people from this country who have given their lives to achieve their freedom and they certainly appreciate it.

    This is just a small part of what she had to say. Watch or read it all.

    (Hat tip: Andrew Murphy)




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    15 Responses to “Ann Clwyd’s Iraq Inquiry evidence. The Press? Ooops, we forgot that.”

    1. margaret walters Says:

      The problem is that if the press shows only half the evidence preferable to one side only, when the report is produced and not skewered to that side the population are going to feel that the report is a whitewash which it isn’t, and will be fair to Blair I’m sure.

    2. Iraq, Blair & the “Art of the Possible” « Tony Blair Says:

      […] Ann Clwyd’s Iraq Inquiry evidence – Didn’t hear much about this from our Blair dissing press, did we? BREAKING NEWS: […]

    3. Iraq Inquiry: Miliband to “pejorative” Lyne – “UN… feeble follow-through” « Tony Blair Says:

      […] have not heard from Ann Clwyd (didn’t the papers Mr Miliband reads mention this? Oh, no, of course they didn’t!) we had this warning from […]

    4. Vinny Says:

      What aspect of her evidence do you think worthy of publication? Is it her self admitted lack of knowledge of the way of life of the Kurdish people? Or is it possibly her ignorance of the political realities of Iraq? (both during Saddam’s time and after the invasion under the US Bremmer administration) I was disappointed that she didn’t tell us about the mincing machine again.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Vinny,

        Don’t show your ignorance again. Go and read her evidence again. Clwyd has spent years on Iraq issues. There is probably not ONE MP who knows that country and its people better than she does.

        I suppose you must have met her there many times on your many journeys to help out the Kurds yourself.

        No? You surprise me.

        Not.

    5. Vinny Says:

      Unfortunately JJ, acquiring real knowledge and understanding of a place demands more than simply the fact of having “been there”: poor old Anne doesn’t have the necessary intellect to allow her to make valid and useful contributions to any discussion about Iraq however many one week visits she has made over the years. It is also clear that she has little detailed knowledge of the historical, strategic, ethnic, religious, and cultural factors that have such an influence on every aspect of life in this highly complex part of the world.

    6. Stan Says:

      Guys like Vinny are very happy to accept reports of the suffering of Iraqis under the coalition but are very quick to dismiss the Clwyd accounts of Iraqi suffering under Saddam.

      Says it all about where they are coming from on this issue.

    7. Vinny Says:

      I know enough not to make one dimensional judgements about “plucky” Kurds/Chechens/Mujahideen being”good” and whoever it is that we don’t care for and is coincidentally oppressing our plucky chums being “evil”. The world is a complicated place, too complicated I fear for Anne ever to know WTF is going on.

    8. Grundoon Says:

      Hey, Vinnie, is youse da same Vinnie what used ta live in Chicago? I knew a Vinnie dere once. He was just about as stupid as you.

    9. margaret walters Says:

      This Vinnie shows the stupidity Blair is up against and the Iraq inquiry when making their report on what to do in future conflicts of this nature

    10. Little Ole American Says:

      Typical comments from blind-sided, mainstream media mouthpieces, such as Vinny. I feel sorry for them. Over the years, I’ve read reports on the awesome relationship between the British military and the Iraqi Security Forces (Michael Yon, comes to mind). The positive impact of the British troops and the coalition is simply ignored by the msm. I believe the MP when she says the Iraqis did not want the British to leave. It is EVIDENT to me, she really CARES about the Iraqi people. The msm is all about negativity, imho. Good news is boring to the “Drama Queens” like Vinny.

      This is a search at Yon’s site for “British troops” for anyone who wants to see what he says.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Liilte Ole,

        I am sure that NONE of our press will even recognise Michael Yon’s name, far less what he actually says and has been saying for years about our efforts in Iraq. Our press turns its back on anyone who isn’t reading from their script.

        Ann Clwyd is well-respected in parliament as a very knowledgeOble authority on Iraq. Coming from an ‘Old Labour’ constituency in Wales, she would be expected to be against Blair’s actions in Iraq. The fact that she supported him speaks volumes. It shows that the more people know the more they support what we are trying to do there. Or should I say what YOU are trying to do there, now that you’ve been left on your own.

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