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The judge heading an inquiry into the suicide of government weapons adviser David Kelly said on Friday he will ask Prime Minister Tony Blair to testify.

Lord Hutton, an appeals judge, said he would ask Blair to give evidence in connection with a decision to name Kelly as the possible source for a disputed news report on the government’s handling of intelligence on Iraqi weapons.

Blair’s office said the prime minister “will cooperate fully with the inquiry.”

Hutton made clear that he planned a wide-ranging inquiry not just into Kelly’s death, but into the government dossier on Iraqi weapons, which was at the core of the dispute which brought Kelly into the spotlight.

Speaking at a preliminary hearing, Hutton said he would also seek to question Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, and Blair’s communications director Alastair Campbell.

“At some stage in the course of the inquiry, I propose to ask the prime minister and the Secretary of State for Defence Mr Geoff Hoon to give evidence of their knowledge of the discussions that took place and the decisions which were taken in relation to Dr Kelly,” he said.

Kelly, a respected former United Nations *(UN) weapons inspector and adviser in the Defence Ministry, was the source for a British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) report citing claims that Blair’s aides doctored an intelligence dossier on Iraqi arms to exaggerate the threat posed by Saddam’s weapons and win backing for the war.

The microbiologist’s body was found on July 18 with his left wrist slashed. Two days later, the BBC confirmed that Kelly was the unidentified source for its report, which had sparked a huge row
with the government.

Hutton said he would explore how BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan compiled his report based on the Kelly interview, and how the Defence Ministry came to name Kelly as the possible source for the
story.

The identification placed him under intense media scrutiny and led him to give testimony before a parliamentary committee. Hutton said journalists would be able to follow the proceedings of the inquiry, which will get underway after Kelly’s funeral, scheduled for Wednesday.

He added that the proceedings would be made available on a website.

“I should emphasize that this is an inquiry to be conducted by me,” Hutton said.

“It is not a trial conducted between interested parties who have conflicting cases to advance. I do not sit to decide between conflicting cases, I sit to investigate the circumstances surrounding Dr. Kelly’s death.”

Before the start of Friday’s preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Hutton asked for a minute’s silence to honor Kelly. – Sapa-AP

For the first time, President Bush has accepted personal responsibility for a now-discredited portion of his January state of the union address, dealing with claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear material from Africa.

At a news conference Wednesday at the White House, the president also defended his National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, who has been criticized for her role in the controversy. He said the United States is lucky to have such an “honest, fabulous” person working in its government.

CIA Director George Tenet took responsibility for the nuclear materials claim, as did deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley. In recent weeks, the administration has distanced itself from the claims, saying they were based partly on forged documents.

Must be nice to be able to take responsibility without consequences. In the world I live in, consequences always accompany my actions, whether I take responsibility for them or not. In Bush’s world, he can take responsibility because he has the power to insure there are no consequences.

Mr. Bush again rejected criticism of his administration’s use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq, saying he would never assume that dangerous enemies will exercise restraint and show goodwill.

How can he both say that his use of faulty intelligence is his responsibility and also state that his administration did not err in its use? He seems to be saying that the intelligence didn’t matter, our decision to invade would have been correct regardless of what the intelligence said. This is madness! Only hallucinating schizophrenics insist that reality has no bearing on their experience or decisions and justify it all the same.

The president said in the months ahead he will focus on the economy and security for the American people.

I would have thought that the economy and security for the American people would have been his focus all along. Guess I was wrong.

The President rejected assertions that his tax cuts are partly to blame for the country’s increasing deficits.

This is absurd. Could anyone of us who is spending more than we are taking in say that a cut in our income would not result in increased indebtedness? This man doesn’t even have basic arithmetic skills. We are all in peril while he represents us.

It was Mr. Bush’s first extensive news conference since March 6 – 13 days before the beginning of the Iraq war. The president is leaving Saturday for a month-long stay at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

I hope he gets a lot of sleep. Because “the more he sleeps, the safer we are.” (Thanks Arlo Guthrie).

Nobel laureate, George A. Akerlof:
“‘I think this is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. It has engaged in extradordinarily irresponsible policies not only in foreign policy and economics but also in social and environmental policy,’ said the 2001 Nobel Prize laureate who teaches economics at the University of California in Berkeley.”

“‘This is not normal government policy. Now is the time for (American) people to engage in civil disobedience. I think it’s time to protest – as much as possible,’ the 61-year-old scholar added.”

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Political Jokes

The Great Wizard of Oz

The last four ex-U.S. Presidents are caught in a tornado, and off they whirled to OZ. They finally make it to the Emerald City and came before the Great Wizard.

“WHAT BRINGS YOU BEFORE THE GREAT WIZARD OF OZ?”

Jimmy Carter stepped forward timidly:” I’ve come for some courage.”

“NO PROBLEM!” says the Wizard. “WHO IS NEXT?”

Ronald Reagan steps forward, “Well………, I…….I think I need a brain.”

“DONE” says the Wizard. “WHO COMES NEXT BEFORE THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ?”

Up stepped George Bush sadly, “I’m told by the American people that I need a heart.”

“I’VE HEARD IT’S TRUE!” says the Wizard. “CONSIDER IT DONE.”

There is a great silence in the hall. Bill Clinton is just standing there, looking around, but doesn’t say a word. Irritated, the Wizard finally asks, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?”

“Is Dorothy here?”

Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and George W. Bush were set to face a firing squad in a small Central American country. Bill Clinton was the first one placed against the wall and just before the order was given he yelled out, “Earthquake!” The firing squad fell into a panic and Bill jumped over the wall and escaped in the confusion.

Al Gore was the second one placed against the wall. The squad was reassembled and Al pondered what he had just witnessed. Again before the order was given Al yelled out, “Tornado!” Again the squad fell apart and Al slipped over the wall.

The last person, George W. Bush, was placed against the wall. He was thinking, “I see the pattern here, just scream out something about a disaster and hop over the wall.” He confidently refused the blindfold as the firing squad was reassembled. As the rifles were raised in his direction he grinned from ear to ear and yelled, “Fire!”

To judge from the exciting build-up, Saddam Hussein will be killed very soon. Once his location is identified, the spectacle of his death can soon be orchestrated.

To have the greatest impact, perhaps it will be televised in all time zones on a weekday, avoiding the competition of weekend sports. There must be burnt offerings and a triumphal revelation of the corpse. For an insecure America, this killing will be a “ritual of blood,” a “compact of fellowship” – terms used by West Indian sociologist Orlando Patterson in the context of ritual lynchings in the Old South.

“American military confidence has increased notably since the deaths of Mr. Hussein’s sons in a shootout in the northern city of Mosul,” reports the New York Times. So has the confidence of the neo-conservatives, none of whom has served in combat, as well as that of the chattering classes.

Most important, the coming televised ritual death of Saddam Hussein is meant to console the families of the 116 GIs who have been killed in Iraq since Apr. 9, the day of the ritual destruction of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad. They will be encouraged to feel that their sons have not died in vain.

The Iraqi people, on the other hand, are seen by the Pentagon as the frightened villagers in “The Wizard of Oz.” Once they sing “Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead,” they will shake off their fears and sign up for their duties in the new order: to work happily for Bechtel and Halliburton and start policing their malcontents.

Thomas Friedman, the ever-breezy prophet of this new order, is becoming testy toward these reluctant Iraqis. He expects them “to prove that they really can work together and are willing to sacrifice for the chance to rule themselves. (Why are we offering them $55 million in rewards for finding Saddam and his sons? They should be paying us!)”

Paul Wolfowitz, just returned from Iraq, laments that most of all “what we need are Iraqis fighting with us,” against other Iraqis. These expressions of imperial impatience echo Winston Churchill who, as British colonial secretary, described Iraq as an “ungrateful volcano.”

It has been a bad summer for the Pentagon and the White House, but Saddam’s death could be their summer hit. Nothing the growing number of critics can say compares to the potential public gratification and fortification of righteousness that the White House hopes to generate by the coming assassination. That the administration lied, that the occupation costs $4 billion per month, that we have antagonized our allies, that thousands of Iraqis are collateral damage – all these venial sins will be forgiven, they assume, when Saddam is dead and gone. To seal the victory, at some later date, weapons of mass destruction will be discovered, both Bush and Blair assure us. That prospect should finish off the lingering critics and set the stage for a triumphal November 2004.

But what if the master plan is left unfulfilled? It seems unlikely, but Saddam may elude the Delta posse or already be dead. Or what if the pursuit climaxes in Saddam’s ritual death, but the chaos in Iraq continues unabated? What if Saddam, living or dead, is not the deux ex machina behind the daily shootings and woundings of American soldiers? What if the occupiers are facing a vengeful Iraqi nationalism, not the remnants of the old regime?

There is an opening for the peace movement here. If and when Saddam is killed the question becomes, “Why should American troops continue to die if the dictator is dead?” If the ritual symbolizes victory, why shouldn’t the American troops come home and leave the rest to the Iraqis? Why shouldn’t Paul Bremer III declare victory, set a date for a national Iraqi election and a parallel American troop withdrawal? Or are American troops dying for purposes other than overthrowing the dictatorship?

That’s a question the White House will have to answer if the resistance continues under the banner of “No to Saddam, No to America.”

Tom Hayden is a progressive activist, politician and author. His most recent book is “Irish on the Inside.”