Gordon Brown’s ‘inquiry’ into the Iraq war.
Investigation: rigorous examination, careful study, systematic search.
Can’t Gordon Brown do anything right? His announcement of the launch of an inquiry into the Iraq war (and its aftermath) is a ruse. It is political skulduggery masquerading as moral righteousness; duplicity and fraud clothed as veracity and good faith. It is more concerned with the political wars being waged against him at Westminster than it is with investigating the bombs in Basra.
The Iraq war has cost the lives of 179 British service personnel. They fought that we might be free; they gave their lives in order to defend liberal democracy and to permit the very sort of open inquiry which is only possible in a free state. One might think an investigation into the war might be transparent, in-depth, far-reaching, and able to apportion blame. It is the very least the dead are worth: it is what many families of fallen British troops want.
But Gordon Brown’s inquiry is none of the above. It is, as David Cameron suggested, ‘an establishment stitch-up’.
And if it is not, it certainly risks appearing so, and that, in politics, is all that really matters.
The Iraq war has already been subject to two official inquiries – Lord Butler looked into intelligence failures before the war and the Hutton inquiry examined the circumstances leading to the death of government adviser Dr David Kelly. There is little to suggest that Gordon Brown’s inquiry will go any further. It is to be chaired by Sir John Chilcot, a 70-year-old former mandarin considered ‘a safe pair of hands’. He was a member of the Butler review, and, according to Phillipe Sands QC, the international lawyer who closely followed that process, ‘it is not immediately apparent that he will have the backbone to take on former government ministers’.
The inquiry into the most significant foreign policy decision for a generation has a chairman with no backbone. He will not even be able to compel witnesses to attend: he will be constrained by their goodwill. And if they do attend, they will be at liberty to refuse to answer any question with which they are uncomfortable. And, as with all non-judicial inquiries, they will not be required to give evidence on oath, which somewhat diminishes the status of their testimony and the standing of the inquisition.
An investigation that is held in secret is immediately suspicious. And one that will not report until after the General Election is a blatant sop to those erstwhile Labour supporters who have since switched their allegiance to the Liberal Democrats (or to the BNP). The inquiry will have no political representation, no openness, no public session, no ‘systematic search’ for errors and no remit to apportion blame. One gets the feeling the outcome is foreordained: the terms of the inquiry are narrow and restrictive: they are hardly designed to inspire public confidence.
And it will all take a year.
How very convenient.
One can only hope that Prime Minister Cameron might swiftly amend the terms of reference and, at the very least, permit the investigators to apportion blame. What otherwise is the purpose of the inquiry? We are dealing with the facts of history: what on earth could there be to hide?
Unless the issue is the evidence which may be given by Tony Blair, who has long been suspected of having lied to the public and deceived Parliament on the run-up to the invasion. It is inconceivable that he would not attend, and one can but wonder at what he thinks of his successor’s decision to embroil him in such a murky and sullied saga just as he is persuading the world that he is a veritable angel of light, and right in the middle of his campaign to be the first President of Europe.
This inquiry will reveal nothing new, for it is not remotely concerned with uncovering truth. It is a monumental waste of taxpayers’ money designed to deflect attention from a dying government and a living-dead prime minister. Sadly, its principal effect will be to exacerbate the contempt in which politicians and the political process are already held.