Magazine article The Spectator

The Right Inquiry

Magazine article The Spectator

The Right Inquiry

Article excerpt

Taking the country to war is one of the most serious decisions a government can make. So it is right and proper that once the troops return home, there is a full investigation. To the greatest extent possible - given intelligence relationships and the need not to reveal information that could compromise national security - that inquiry should be public. It is essential for maintaining trust that people understand and have confidence in how such decisions are made. There is, however, something deeply unedifying about the debate over the coming Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war and its aftermath.

This inquiry is being convened for all the wrong reasons. Gordon Brown announced it not because it was the right thing to do but because he is too enfeebled to resist any demand from any faction of the Labour party. Indeed, so weak is the Prime Minister that, having conceded an inquiry to appease the left of the party, he was also forced to allow Peter Mandelson - as John Kampfner reveals on page 14 - to dictate its terms in a way favourable to Tony Blair. Flip-flop concessions are now being granted on how much of the inquiry should take place in private to prevent Mr Brown losing a vote in the House of Commons. The internal politics of the Labour party, rather than the national interest, is driving this process.

The inquiry will also - judging by the signals so far from Sir John Chilcot - focus on ground that has already been tilled extensively. We have already had five inquiries into how the intelligence was used in the run-up to the war. It is hard to see what good can come from yet another one. If Chilcot wants to perform a genuine public service, he should concentrate on what happened once the decision to go to war had been taken. If he does not, then the inquiry could turn into a kangaroo court that operates on a presumption of guilt towards all those who made decisions about the intelligence and ignores the post-9/11 context in which they were operating. …

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