Monday, April 30, 2007

Response to YouTube interview with Blair on Iraq

This blog makes a slight change of direction with more on my own views about the UK. As mentioned previously, in the USA there is now more agreement in opposition to the war. The Democrats have a fairly coherent view. Dan Froomkin is less isolated than previously.

In the UK we still have a Labour Party sticking to the idea that Bush and Blair were right all along, except for the not WMD turning up, and that there is no issue about Iraq in any local elections. I find this annoying, as I used to vote Labour and have tried to communicate during local and European elections why I have voted for the Liberal Democrats since 2003.

The Labour Party now has a YouTube channel. When it started they claimed it would allow for direct communication without the "media" who are alleged to be the source of questions about Iraq etc. There were many comments about Iraq anyway and there is still no video from the Foreign Secretary. Maybe this will change after the elections later this week.

The format has broken new ground for YouTube so that Tony Blair answers a selection of questions put by an interviewer. Not quite back to a TV format as John O'Farell is a former Labour candidate and is clearly sympathetic.

He did ask about Iraq though. There could have been further questions. If the war was started for regime change, why was this not stated at the time? What was the legal advice? Why was a second UN resolution asked for at one stage? What was the scope of the enquiries Blair refers to? Why did the Scottish Nationalists put a motion for an enquiry into when the UK made it clear to Bush that a war would be supported?

My own question about the current Al Jazeera leak trial was not mentioned. No surprise there. But this illustartes what seems to me an unfortunate consequence of the Iraq policy, a weakened civic space in the UK. According to a Daily Mirror report there was a talk about bombing Al Jazeera. David Blunkett has spoken to Channel 4 about "taking out" Al Jazeera. There is very little discussion about this in the UK.
The Associated Press has included the context of the Daily Mirror story in reporting the Official Secrets Act trial but the Times, BBC and Guardian have yet to do so.

The Guardian is just a bit elusive in connecting the Iraq issue and the Labour vote. This is a blog so I don't mind generalising a bit from a selection.

Jackie Ashley, today-

One cabinet minister tells me that a typical conversation has gone: "How are you voting?" "Dunno." "Have you ever voted Labour?" "Oh yes, always." "So what's the problem?" "Dunno."

One more selection, Polly Toynbee last week

Listening to the sounds and the silences on the doorstep is a salutory reminder that politics is not only about policy but also about atmosphere and mood. Ask what exactly Labour has done wrong and few mention the war, some mention immigration but most put their finger on nothing so specific. Ignorance of almost everything can be breathtaking, but the general leakage of trust is a warning that Labour's time could be up.

My guess is that for whatever reason, the war is a much bigger issue that the Labour Party or friendly journalists are making out.

Here is a short extract from a news item in the Daily Record, published in Scotland.


JACK McCONNELL last night urged Scots not to let Iraq cloud the issue of how they vote in the Holyrood poll.

But SNP leader Alex Salmond hit back, saying 146 British soldiers had died in Iraq, "the latest one today, many of them Scottish.

"Tony Blair is coming back to Scotland one last time. That's one last opportunity to say to the people, 'I apologise for misleading us into a war in Iraq'."

You know what? Alex Salmond has got a point. I wonder how the Scottish results will be reported in England.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Daily Mirror mentions al Jazeera

Doing some more searching on Google News it turns out that the Daily Mirror did mention how the memo was first published. There is also mention of a possible conversation about al Jazeera. However so far as I can tell from websites, most UK media have not made the connection with al Jazeera as context for this story.

The trial so far

OhmyNews has published my story on the trial reporting so far.

Briefly, there is a contrast between Associated Press and BBC/Times on whether or not to mention al Jazeera as anything to do with the case.

The information that Colin Powell was at the meeting could be significant. Christopher Hitchens wrote in Slate about an apparent denial of this. The US Freedom of Information Act might be different for State Department docs.

Looking at Google News it seems there is still not much comment. There was a lot more at the time of the Daily Mirror report. The Associated Press report is widely used, including the word Jazeera in the headline.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Official Secrets, whatever next?

It is getting more obvious that there is a mismatch between discussion on Iraq in the US and UK. Dan Froomkin continues to report about what appears to me to be a sensible view on the White House. He recently linked to an article by Peter Baker and Thomas E. Ricks. This claims that few people are interested in a possible new job to run the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile in the UK there is concern about the permission for serving navy staff to talk to the Sun. The Official Secrets Act was dropped for the occasion but is now back again. Some people think the original incident is worth more discussion. But a background issue seems to be that relatives of servicemen who have died are asking the question why their story is not valued. The army and navy are aware that there is little public support for the wars and continuing doubts about the case made for starting the war in Iraq.

So far as I know there is no recent update on news that Peter Kilfoyle MP may be charged in connection with the leak of the Al Jazeera memo. There could also soon be a trial, mostly held in secret but again there is not any news about this.

Al Jazeera are supporting a BBC discussion about the dangers for journalists working in the Middle East, currently concentrating on a BBC journalist. They are also concerned when bombs drop on their own offices and a journalist is killed. Al Jazeera has asked for more information about the memo and about the remarks by David Blunkett on Channel 4 that appeared to confirm that "taking out" Al Jazeera had been discussed. These are genuine concerns and it would be reasonable for the UK government to offer a response.

For some reason the UK media are not covering these issues at this time. It is possible that the changes in the US scope for discussion will influence the UK before long.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The YouTube context for Labour on Iraq

Tony Blair has launched a YouTube channel for Labour. I have left a comment on the Official Secrets Act and Peter Kilfoyle but don't expect an answer any time soon.

On Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti claims the numbers are low for most Labour videos, with better results for his own channel recording demonstrations against the Iraq war. I have to say that the Tony Blair intro is doing better from what I can make out. However through a George Galloway sample I found several others. His US Senate evidence gets the highest numbers of all, way off anything on the Labour site. This may change over time, of course.

Galloway is explicit about calling the case for the Iraq war "a pack of lies".

Whatever opposition in the UK comes up with the problem for Labour seems to me to be that most US opinion is now anti war, including many Democrats. This is reflected on YouTube. They may try to continue avoiding Iraq as an issue. Simonetti points out there is nothing on their site so far from the Foreign Secretary.