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Ghost Dog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 06:30 PM
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Ten days to war
Five years ago the world was gripped by the last-ditch effort to win UN backing for war in Iraq. Now a leading writer has created the most detailed account yet of those events for a series of BBC films. Here he reveals the true story of the days before the invasion

Ronan Bennett, The Guardian, Saturday March 8 2008


Over the past months I have worked with a team of BBC researchers to find out what really happened in those difficult days. We scrutinised documents and interviewed those involved, and I wrote about what we found out in eight short films about the run-up to the invasion, to be shown next week. Our film set in the UN describes the efforts to persuade those states unwilling to vote for the second resolution. Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the UN, arranged for his Mexican counterpart, Adolfo Aguilar Znser, to be briefed by MI6 on the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Aguilar, who died in a car crash in 2005, was an acutely intelligent, ambitious, articulate and sophisticated diplomat, and he was determined not to be steamrollered or bamboozled. The briefing, he recalled with some bemusement, took place in a sealed room, amid conditions of elaborate security, all very James Bond. Here British intelligence officers spread out maps of alleged WMD sites on the table.

The brains of politicians and diplomats - journalists too - have a tendency to turn to mush during briefings with secret agents. Not Aguilar. The former lawyer's questioning was forensic and insistent: he asked the MI6 officers directly if they had "full proof" of evidence of WMD on these sites. According to his account, the officers said, "No, we don't. We can't tell you this is a weapon here. But we have reasons to believe there are weapons because we can document the way Saddam hides them."

Aguilar then asked where the Iraqi leader was hiding the weapons. The agents had suspicions but weren't able to say for certain. As Aguilar noted, the rather more qualified private answers of the MI6 officers contrasted with Blair's categorical public statements that there were WMD in Iraq. The Mexican diplomat asked an obvious but pertinent question: what was the correlation between how well a weapon was hidden and the ease with which it could be used? The answer was that it was "a negative correlation"; that is, the better a weapon was hidden, the more time it would take to prepare for use. It was the British case that Hans Blix and the UN weapons inspectors could not find WMD because they were so well concealed. But it was also the British case that the weapons could be prepared for use in 45 minutes. The two positions, Aguilar was pointing out, could not be reconciled.

When Aguilar went into the sealed room, he did not know if Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. When he came out, he was even less sure. He was not alone. He cooperated closely with his friend from Chile, Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valds, in trying to forge a counterweight to Britain and the US over the second resolution. They took a legalistic position: in order for conditions to be met under UN charter, the threat must be evident before force can be authorised. They argued there was a mechanism in place - the weapons inspectors - to determine the extent and reality of the threat. Along with Cameroon, Angola, Pakistan and Guinea, Mexico and Chile became known as the "six undecideds". Aguilar maintained this was a misnomer: they were not undecided but very much opposed to war. They argued that Blix and co be given the time they needed to finish their job. Blix would either find the weapons and destroy them or confirm WMD did not exist, in which case there would be no evident threat and no legal basis for war. It was not a position that suited the British and Americans, whose diplomacy was being driven by the military timetable, for as we now know Blair had signed up to war regardless of whether he got a second resolution.

/full article here...

10 Days to War, starring Kenneth Branagh, Tom Conti, Patrick Malahide, Juliet Stevenson and Harriet Walter, starts on BBC2 on March 10 at 10.30pm GMT

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Vincardog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 06:35 PM
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1. Anyone who did not know jr would invade Iraq as soon as he could after he stole the election please
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Ghost Dog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 06:52 PM
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2. Note the conclusion of the article:
Edited on Sat Mar-08-08 06:52 PM by Ghost Dog
In the British version, there was every chance of getting a second resolution had it not been for the perfidious French. But as Aguilar said, it was convenient for the British to pretend the second resolution failed because of President Jacques Chirac and the threatened French veto. It would have been far less palatable to acknowledge the truth: that Britain had four votes on the security council out of 15 (the UK, US, Spain and Bulgaria). There never was going to be a second resolution.
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Ghost Dog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 09:04 PM
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3. Here is Mr. Aguilar's NYT obituary, BTW:
...The Mexican federal police said Mr. Aguilar Zinser was returning to Mexico City on Sunday afternoon when he lost control of his Jeep Liberty and struck a bus near the Tepoztln toll booth. A car behind Mr. Aguilar Zinser's vehicle was also involved in the crash, which injured four people, including Cecilia de la Macorra, his assistant.

A forceful writer and uninhibited critic in Mexico for decades, Mr. Aguilar Zinser became best known in the United States when, as Mexico's representative to the United Nations, he strongly opposed the Bush administration's effort to gain approval for military force against Iraq in 2003.

Mr. Aguilar Zinser's position caused trouble for President Vicente Fox and put Mexico, then a non-permanent member of the Security Council, in the uncomfortable position of choosing between raising the ire of the Bush administration and offending the majority of Mexicans, who opposed a war in Iraq.

A final vote on the issue was avoided when the United States decided to go ahead with plans for an attack without the passage of a second resolution by the United Nations.

But Mr. Aguilar Zinser had already strained his relations with Mr. Fox and the Foreign Ministry. The breaking point came when Mr. Aguilar Zinser said in a speech in late 2003 that the United States wanted a "relationship of convenience and subordination" with Mexico, and saw Mexico not as a partner but as "a backyard."

After Secretary of State Colin L. Powell strongly objected to the comments, Mexico's Foreign Ministry removed Mr. Aguilar Zinser from office.

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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 07:25 PM
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4. The first 4 of these are now available on the web

and the BBC is putting them on YouTube as well. They are fascinating to watch.
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