Friday, June 24, 2005

Good news!

Waa Hoo! Mom passed the dissy!

Damn, I make it sound like a kidney stone or a large bowel movement...

Yeah, it was about an hour of not-so-quality doze time (I was trying not to drool on her committee). One guy kept interrupting her to ask questions that even I could tell were asinine (mostly because the other members of the committee were rolling their eyes). She finally finished her presentation and the committee wer eallowed to ask their questions. Two people didn't have any comments or questions, two people had just slight things they mentioned, and two harped on about typos and other lame, lame things (these other lame things had to do with the samples and numbers and Mom shot down every comment with, "Well, I thought about that, but it won't work because..." And that was that. The committee finally kicked us out of the room and debated Mom's dissy (or talked about basketball). Then they called her back in and pronounced her done... with a "few small changes that should only take a week to finish."

Mom and I went to eat with three other doctorate students. Pizza. Yum. Oh, and we had a bottle of sparkling white wine (and between the five of us, managed to not finish the bottle. Go figure.)

Now Mom is meeting with her adviser (Satan Bill) to talk about... I don't know what. She's done, damnit. Leave her alone so we can get back home and I can take a nap. I really need one after sitting through an entire accounting dissertation defense.

Oh, speaking of Satan, I must recommend the movie "Manos: The Hands of Fate." Try to find the MST3K version (because otherwise it is completely unwatchable).

My fan mail

So, here is an e-mail from my British buddy Jo (or as Natalia, the Argentinean spells it, Joh.) This is just an example of the many, many fan letters I have received about my 'blog (okay, this is actually the one fan letter I have received about my 'blog--but it's a start.)

Hey justine!!!

how are you? I've been keeping track of you're
movements through your blog
- it makes me laugh so much to read all the
stuff, it's just like having you
here chatting away - u still have the same great
way with words!
Congratulations on getting your
tutoring/assistant thing by the way, am
really pleased all is going well 4u!

First things first, i posted your little gift
when I got back, was just
wondering if you had ever received it or not?
The english postal system is
notoriously bad so in case of non delivery, feel
free to blame us

ooooooh got to go for dinner, will write more
later xxxx

She is just too cute for words, itsn't she? Anyway, to answer the question of all you curious readers out there ("all you curious readers" being, um, my mom) No, I have not received the package and Yes, I am blaming it on shoddy English post. There are many things that the US does wrong, but US mail is pretty damn good. If the Brits can ever get my package off the island (and towards the West), I may actually see it some day.

Well, it is time to go down to Mom's dissy defense. Wish her all sorts of luck.


Oh no!

Well, today is the big day. Mom has her dissertation defense in about a half and hour. I am here with her, lending moral support and humor (and eating the cookies that she baked for her committee). Neither of us slept well last night, so while she is running high on adrenaline, I am going to be dozing in the back of the room while she gives her presentation (and hopefully I will not be snoring... too loudly). I do know that her presentation has something to do with not-for-profits and they way they are required to report income (and promises of future donations) and the way it affects creditable contributions... so if she gets too nervous, she can wake me up and I can continue the presentation. Actually, I am thinking about having her give me a really intelligent question I can ask.

Yeah, so I just asked her for a question and she told me to read this long governmental report that she just printed out. So I guess I won't be asking any questions during the defense. I did, however, bring along a copy of Kipling's _Kim_, so maybe I can ask her some questions about that.

Anyhoo, I will post some more later to let everyone know how it went.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Downing Street Memo

The secret Downing Street memo


From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02

cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell


Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.

This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.

(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.

(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.

On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.


(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.

He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.

(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)


(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

I don't know what it says, but doesn't it remind you of something? In fact, I'm feeling a little peckish right now... Posted by Hello