Thursday, March 26, 2009

Iraq war inquiry will hear evidence in secret, Miliband hints to MPs.

Once the majority of UK troops have left Iraq the British government will be willing to have an inquiry into the Iraq war, although David Miliband appeared to be bending over backwards to insist on the advantages of such an inquiry being held in private rather than public.

Speaking in a debate in the Commons, Miliband said that the inquiry would be set up after the majority of British combat troops depart from Iraq at the end of July, leaving fewer than 400 to take part in training.

Without giving details of the nature of the inquiry, he spoke of the "advantage" of having one conducted along the lines of the Franks inquiry set up after the Falklands war.

"The fact that it was conducted in private meant that it had access to all the relevant papers," Miliband said.

The Franks inquiry was conducted by privy counsellors. "Franks was not a judicial inquiry so it did not require its witnesses to have lawyers," Miliband said. "There were no leaks or interim findings to distract from the final conclusions and recommendations of the inquiry."

I think we need a full public inquiry and that all giving evidence should have to swear an oath that they are telling the truth, although I note that I am in the minority, with both the Tories and the Liberals perfectly content with a privy council inquiry.

I would also like to see that any inquiry looked into the reasons for going to war and whether or not those reasons were valid and also to give a finding on whether or not the war was legal; which is the contentious point which this Labour government has been at pains to prevent any court from ruling on.

Any proper inquiry would also have to have the power to look at Lord Goldsmith's ruling on the wars legality and to question whether or not his advice changed in the run up to the war and to establish why.

There have been several inquiries into this war - both Butler and Hutton spring to mind - but neither of those was permitted to ask questions regarding how the war came to be fought in the first place and whether or not our troops should ever have been put at risk for the threat which emanated from Iraq.

Any new inquiry must be able to ask the questions that both the Butler and Hutton inquiries were ordered to avoid, although I would still prefer that these questions be asked in public rather than in private. The Franks inquiry, which is being held up as the example which everyone thinks should be followed, only published it's conclusions; which might have been acceptable in 1983, but seems rather woeful in 2009.

The notion that a government - which many of it's citizens believe lied to them in the run up to the war - can hold an inquiry in private and then deliver to us it's own conclusions, seems to me to be a ridiculously antiquated set up which takes far too much on good faith.

The public trust in the government to do the right thing and unearth the truth is broken. I genuinely would find it hard to believe a single thing they had to say on this subject. That's why it is so important that any inquiry must be public rather than behind closed doors.

I simply would be unable to take their word for it and to believe that they were telling me the truth unless I could see that truth established under cross examination.

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2 comments:

Steel Phoenix said...

Cowards.You ought to boot them and let their successors do the inquiry.

Kel said...

I doubt we will even get a proper inquiry SP. Certainly not one which looks into the reasoning behind the rush to war.