David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

13 July 2016

As somebody once said, context is everything : John Howard and the Con Text

John Winston Howard ( Prime Minister of Australia 1996-2007 ) is fond of saying "Context is everything".
2012 : writing in the Financial Review
Context is everything, says John Howard 
"So the optimistic note that I end on is that I think the Australian population is fairly savvy about the importance of our linkages with our own region, the great significance of the mining industry, and indeed any industry that makes a contribution to the generation of wealth and that would have been the source of continuing reassurance and continuing comfort to us all – and it is a reminder, once again, that context is everything."
Shall I compare me to a Menzies? 
2014 (25 Sept) ABC.777 Canberra/Hannah Walmsley
From one PM to another: John Howard pens a tome to his hero            
Referring to the Vietnam War as 'the great divisive issue', Howard said it was during the last years of Menzies Prime Ministership that the crucial commitment was made to send an infantry battalion to Vietnam.
"I asked myself the rhetorical question 'was that the right decision or the wrong decision'. I said in the book that I'd have taken the same decision as Menzies took."
"Context is everything, when you look at decisions like that and why it's now quite possible to look back and say well that was a mistake.
"But you have to ask yourself, how would you have reacted in 1965 with the information, the assessments, the attitudes and the values at that time.
"If you're looking at causation in Iraq to current events, you really have to look at those events since the surge in 2008-2009," he said.
As for his own 'Vietnam' moment, Howard said he doesn't regret intervention in Iraq. 
"I believed there were weapons of mass destruction...the balance of advice that we had said that," he said.
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Last week in the UK, Sir John Chilcot released his committee's findings of the Iraq Inquiry into the British Government's 2003 decision to go to war in Iraq. 
2016 (July 6) : Isabel Hardman 6 July 2016 The Spectator
Iraq Inquiry: Key points from Sir John Chilcot’s statement 
Should the UK have gone to war in Iraq? Did it have the necessary legal basis and intelligence to do so? And did it mess up once involved militarily in the country? Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry finally published its report this morning, and these are the key conclusions that he reached in his statement:
1. While military action against Saddam Hussein ‘might have been necessary at some point’, in March 2003, he posed no imminent threat, the strategy of containment could have been continued for ‘some time’, and the majority of the Security Council supported continuing UN inspections and monitoring’. ‘Military action at that time was not a last resort,’ Sir John said in his statement.
2. The way in which the government decided that there was a legal basis for military action was ‘far from satisfactory’.
3. ‘Flawed intelligence and assessments’ formed the basis of policy on Iraq. Chilcot said ‘they were not challenged, and they should have been’. The judgements on the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were ‘presented with a certainty that was not justified’.
4. Planning for a post-Saddam Iraq was ‘wholly inadequate’. The Inquiry took a dim view of Tony Blair’s claim that the difficulties encountered in the country could not have been known in advance, arguing that 'we do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and Al Qaida activity in Iraq, were each explicitly identified before the invasion.’

Tandberg : The Age, 8 July 2016  
Immediately after the Chilcot Inquiry findings were published Tony Blair called a press conference in his own defence. John Howard did likewise in Australia, and again repeated his post-Nuremberg Principles (Lord Prescott, Deputy PM At Time Of Iraq Invasion, Brands War Illegaldefence mantra "Context is everything".
2016 (July 7) : news.com.au (extract below)
Chilcot report finds 2003 Iraq war unnecessary, Saddam Hussein was ‘no imminent threat’
Today Mr Howard acknowledged the Chilcot Report touched on some issues regarding the political justification for the Iraq War.
He backed Mr Blair, saying “there was no lie”.
Asked whether it was time Australia held a similar inquiry, Mr Howard said we had “held a number of inquires already”.
“We are all informed by subsequent events but as somebody who’s been in a decision-making position in relation to these matters, I make the obvious point that you make judgements based on the information available at the time,” he said.
“Context is everything, as a wise man once said, and it’s very important to keep that in mind.”
Mr Howard said it was both the judgement of the UK’s JIC, MI6 and US intelligence agencies that Iraq did have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
“In the years that have gone by there’s been this constant claim that we went to war based on a lie,” he said.
“There was no lie. There were errors in intelligence but there was no lie and can I also make the observation that the Chilcot Report imposes a standard of beyond doubt.
“Can I offer the view that when you’re dealing with intelligence it’s very, very hard to find a situation where advice is beyond doubt.
“Sometimes if you wait for advice that is beyond doubt you can end up with very disastrous consequences.”
That evening John Howard also went on ABC.TV 'Lateline'. And again he incanted "Context is everything." Tony Jones challenged him on that.
JOHN HOWARD: Yeah, but I can tell you about a meeting I had with Sir Richard Dearlove, who was the head of MI6, at Stoke Lodge, the residence of the Australian High Commissioner in London, in which he showed me the latest transcripts of conversations and repeated his very strong view that Iraq did have stockpiles of weapons. So let's - let's put the perspective that you're in my position as Prime Minister of the country and I'm getting advice about the possession of weapons of mass destruction from intelligence agencies. Now, I know that has turned out to be flawed. I know that. I accept that. Nobody can argue with that. But as somebody once said, context is everything and the context ...
TONY JONES: But Mr Howard, we're trying to find the context here when it comes to why the peaceful option of going with Blix was ignored. And here's what David Manning ...
JOHN HOWARD: It wasn't ignored.
TONY JONES: Here's - well, hang on. Let me, let me just...
JOHN HOWARD: It was assessed to have been something that wasn't going to work.
TONY JONES: Let me just read you what Chilcot says David - Sir David Manning's advice at the breakfast meeting was to the people round the table. He said Blair should focus in public on the underlying message that there was not a fundamental change in attitude, but he should privately challenge the idea that the peaceful option might work and publicly state that it's dead in the water. So, they're looking at Blix being optimistic and they're trying to work out how we can get that out of the public space.
JOHN HOWARD: Well that's the interpretation that you place on that.
TONY JONES: Chilcot.
Context is everything : before 2003 and after

If, as it is said, the first casualty of (the prelude to) war is Truth ("weapons of mass destruction"); and if, as the truism (often attributed to Winston Churchill) states, History is written by the victors, then staking claim to the bounds of a total ("everything") and forgivable context would be a part of that re-construction. 
In 2003, a bloody-minded John Winston Howard ignored the largest ever public protest movement in Australia to join with George W Bush and Tony Blair to wage war in Iraq.
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