An Iraq inquiry will change nothing

ACCORDING to TheyWorkForYou, I voted “strongly against” an inquiry into the war in Iraq. Apparently.

Now that a date has been set for withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, an inquiry is back on the agenda. But an inquiry into what? Nick Clegg says he wants an inquiry into “an illegal war“. So, no prejudging the outcome there, then.

And if Nick doesn’t think the legality or otherwise of the war needs to be looked at, what does he want to be examined? An inquiry into the conduct of the war, or of events leading up to the start of the war, would be fair enough. But I would not support an inquiry seeking to make judgments about political decisions made in February and March 2003 by ministers and MPs. Yes, MPs sometimes make mistakes, and when that occurs, they are responsible for those misjudgments to their electorates, not to an inquiry headed up by some judge or other who isn’t accountable to anyone.

Similarly, ministers should be responsible to parliament, not to an inquiry. Supposing Judge Whoever decides that the decision to go to war should not have been made. He or she is entitled to his or her view. But my judgment, and the judgment of most MPs, was that it should. The electorate have since had an opportunity to make their own judgment.

Whenever an inquiry is held, and whatever its structure, it will be a huge disappointment to many people. Many of those calling for an inquiry are doing so only because they expect it will bolster their own view on Iraq.

But I doubt if there is a single person in the UK (among those who care one way or the other) whose mind is not already made up about the justification, or lack of it, for the invasion of Iraq. Personally, I’m not about to change my mind just because an inquiry tells me I should. And before you start fulminating at my arrogance, just remember that the same goes for those who opposed, and still oppose, the occupation: will any of them change their mind if the inquiry concludes the invasion was justified? Of course not.

An inquiry will happen; an inquiry should happen. Just don’t expect it to draw a line under this particular episode.

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31 Comments

Filed under Government, International, LibDems, Nick Clegg, Parliament

31 responses to “An Iraq inquiry will change nothing

  1. richard

    “ACCORDING to TheyWorkForYou, I voted “strongly against” an inquiry into the war in Iraq. Apparently.”

    So you voted for one?

  2. “But I doubt if there is a single person in the UK (among those who care one way or the other) whose mind is not already made up about the justification, or lack of it, for the invasion of Iraq”

    Actually I’m still on the fence (but I’m married (ho ho)). There are some good points to be made on both sides of the argument.

    It’s a huge conceit of people in Britain to think that we could have prevented the invasion. So the real question that MPs had to debate was not “should there be a war” but “should we join in or leave the US potentially to go it alone”. A rather more subtle question and one even harder to address, especially for those whose minds are easily made up, perchance.

    Anyway I’m glad I didn’t have a vote…

  3. Okay, I meant to say “But I doubt if there is a single person in the UK (among those who care one way or the other) whose mind is not already made up about the justification, or lack of it, for the invasion of Iraq. Apart from Brian Hughes.”

  4. Tacitus

    Justified and legal are totally different things. This was an act of “aggressive war”, the same crime as saw various Nazis swing at Nuremberg.

    Many many Labour voters left the fold after Iraq, and most of those are unlikely ever to return.

    We take offence at being lied to, and we take offence at the facts being twisted to “fit” the case.

    We are appalled at the hounding of David Kelly.

  5. Jane

    I do not want an enquiry at this time. Neither do I share some of the arguments above. I thought the war was morally justified as Saddam Hussein’s regime was causing global instability and was a threat to world peace. I totally accept that mistakes (particularly intelligence and this was a world mistake), errors of judgement to do with the aftermath and even deceptions by some neo-conservatives within the Bush regime were made However, I read too many arguments which do not hold up and are just anti war.

    I also resent the fact that because I have these views I am thought to be anti-labour or am not liberal in my views. I always thought that socialism was intended to be a force to stand against totalitarian regimes and tyranny? I also thought that being liberal was to stand up for human rights and standing with those who are oppressed.

    I will never accept that our Government acted illegally. It seems wrong to me to suggest that the government at the time was given conflicting advice. Legal advice will always provide arguments used for and against any case and conclude with the right course of action within the law. The AG would never have jeopardised his legal standing and would have resigned if the government had gone against advice.

    I think the calls for an enquiry at this stage are purely political. There appears to be many other pressing issues for politicians to involve themselves with rather than scoring political points. As you said Tom, we all have fixed views and no enquiry will change my mind. We all make decisions based on the evidence we have at the time. The Liberal Democrats have flogged this issue – we all know where they stand.

  6. More to the point, we need an inquiry ASAP to find out what went so dreadfully wrong in Iraq in order to see if there are any lessons to learn that might be useful in Afghanistan. And that should be underway right now, because boy do we need that information.

    Or don’t you think that is important?

  7. Rapunzel

    For many of us this was never a black and white issue, as we could appreciate arguments on both sides. Ultimately, will it not be for the people of Iraq to judge whether or not the war was justified?

    And the people of Britain had the chance to express their views at the last election. Many did leave the Labour party. Many may now be returning! That was surely when the Liberal Democrats stand against the war would have had the greatest impact on their share of the votes.

  8. Madasafish

    “An inquiry will happen; an inquiry should happen. Just don’t expect it to draw a line under this particular episode.!”

    How true.

    After Lord Hutton, it’s obvious that anyone who expects inquiries to find or tell the truth is plain naive.

  9. Mad – your point rather proves my case. The appointment of Lord Hutton was generally welcomed, until he delivered the “wrong” verdict, and then he was vilified. As far as the anti-war movement is concerned, the only “fair” inquiry is one that would deliver a verdict they agree with, rather than one which comes to an objective conclusion.

  10. Tacitus said:

    “Justified and legal are totally different things. This was an act of “aggressive war”, the same crime as saw various Nazis swing at Nuremberg.”

    I was brought up to believe that everyone should play fair – by the same rules. We should wait until the January sales though – we could need an awful lot of rope and inverted L-shaped wooden structures.

    I dislike this oft-used phrase “illegal war”, whatever that means (I’m afraid I don’t like the idea of international law – made by whom? A corrupt UN full of members whose countries are headed by dictators?)

    The whole episode stinks. There was no danger to us from Iraq, so maybe it wasn’t really about oil after all, maybe Saddam was so horrible that the leaders of the “free” (cough) world had to remove him from power?

    It’s not so, is it? Take Uzbekistan. A few years previously, our ambassador to that country, Craig Murray, alerted London to the ghastly torture by the US-funded regime of Islam Karimov, which included boiling people to death.

    Murray was removed in case he upset the apple cart with our friends in the “War on Terror”.

    Or what about North Korea’s diminutive demon or Eritreas’s Isaias Afewerki or dear leader Mugabe or many others?

    Ah, no oil, eh?

    As Tacitus says “We take offence at being lied to, and we take offence at the facts being twisted to “fit” the case.”

    “We are appalled at the hounding of David Kelly.”

    …And his murder and subsequent cover-up.

    Was keeping Dr Kelly permanently schtum a price worth paying, Tom?

    You were lied to the same as the rest of us. Do you not take exception to that like we do?

  11. Johnny Norfolk

    There is no point in an enquiry. We all know Blair got it wrong and we went to war for no good reason.
    We have made matters worse not better.

    The only thing that need to be decided is if Blair should stand trial for war crimes. ie was it legal.

  12. Johnny – obviously Tony Blair will not stand trial for war crimes, because (whisper it) he’s not a war criminal. That’s just a chattering classes wet dream.

    As to the war being “illegal” or not, I’m more concerned about whether it was justified. The Nato bombing of Serbia in 1999 was undoubtedly “illegal” but it was also justified and I was very proud of our government at the time for taking part.

  13. Julian Gall

    Tom, you seem to be saying that you’ve made your mind up about the war and that, because everyone else can do the same, an inquiry is not needed.

    The point surely is that many of us genuinely cannot understand why Tony Blair was quite so keen to support the US. He has not been able to explain to us why he was so sure Iraq had WMDs. He told us at the time that he had visibility of information that was too sensitive for us to see. Most MPs (Conservative and Labour) trusted him on this and took him at his word.

    Many of us have a suspicion that Blair did not in fact have this information and that he only said so in order to garner support for the war. We just don’t know whether the reasons he gave us for going to war were the same ones that convinced him that we should. We don’t know whether he saw some deeper need that he knew no one would support him on. We don’t know whether he deliberately lied to us. We don’t know whether he just made an honest mistake.

    You may have made your mind up so firmly that you will never change it but is it not important that we know the truth about what happened?

  14. Alasdair

    “The Nato bombing of Serbia in 1999 was undoubtedly “illegal” but it was also justified and I was very proud of our government at the time for taking part.”

    Not really, Tom – there is an emerging peremptory norm that states have an obligation/right to intervene to prevent imminent genocide. So there was a somewhat stronger legal basis for the bombing of Serbia than there was for the invasion of Iraq…

  15. Mr. Charlie

    So who then decides what constitutes “justified”. The law of the most powerful now prevails, with no constraints any more. Welcome to the jungle, and may the beast with the sharpest claws and longest teeth prevail.

    Your boss won’t be best pleased with this tho’

    Beeb home page

    Iraq MPs block non-US troop bill

    Iraq’s parliament rejects a draft law to allow troops from the UK and a number of other countries to remain after 2008.

  16. John

    The Iraq war was a disgrace. There needs to be an inquiry because things don’t add up. Examples?

    The Claim:
    Iraq had WMD’s that threatned it’s neighbours and the west and were deployable in 45 mins.

    The Truth:
    Iraq had no WMD’s of any kind, and even it’s military was ill equipped, poorly trained, and was simply used to keep order in Iraq. There was certainly no threat to Iraq’s neighbours, and certainly not the west.

    Now, that’s a colossal mistake isn’t it? To mistake “fresh air” for WMD’s? To mistake “nothing” for missile silo’s? To mistake “nothing” for chemical labs?

    So either the security services who investigated iraq were criminally incompetent, or they weren’t incompetent and the people at the top lied to the people of this country, parliament, and indeed the world, and are criminally responsible for their actions.

    Any way you choose to look at it, there was a colossal failure here that someone somewhere is criminally responsible for. It’s either the security services or the people at the top.

    We need to know which.

    However, we’ll never know as any inquiry can be nothing other than a whitewash. Any evidence that would be able to prove any of this is years old, and thus is long gone. Now there can only be scapegoats, and I have absolutely no stomach for that.

    What iraq has taught us is that there needs to be a more transparent, accountable change in procedure to make sure that this can’t happen again.

    However, that won’t happen either.

  17. Steve

    An enquiry will just be another money making exercise for some expensive legal types, Bloody Sunday enquiry mark 2, loads of things we already know, no new answers.

    How about we dump the whole idea, and give the money it would have cost to the Royal British Legion.

  18. Chris' Wills

    Obviouslly the war did have some impact on me, only second hand thankfully.

    I thought going in was silly but once in staying was the correct choice. You break it you fix it and hopefully the glue will hold long enough for a new pot to be made.

    On an inquiry, please hold one to find out why our forces didn’t have the correct, most upto date equipment. Was the body armour upto the needs of our forces, if not why not and who denied the necessary funds. Where the troop transports sufficientlty armoured? Was there a clear objective or planning for after the war was won etc.

    These need answered and those who denied resources for our troops need to be sacked and villified, denying resources also includes insufficient funds.

    If they are, as seems likely, on their way to Afghanistan these issues need to resolved and fixed; otherwise we are sending people to be killed for want of equipment.

    Spend a few billion protecting and helping our armed forces, not on ensuring bankers don’t suffer a loss of bonuses.

  19. I was against the war. I did all the things most people who were against the war did. I wrote to/hassled MPs over it, I held street stalls, went on marches, tried to get other people to do the same etc etc.

    And yet I didn’t support holding an investigation for party political reasons instead of to find the truth. If you’re interested in the truth you hold the investigation at a time when enough time has passed to get some objectivity. If you’re interested in holding an investigation for party political reasons you hold it as soon as possible while the war is still going on.

    Don’t believe me that the motive for having a vote on an investigation was party political? Here’s what Salmond said at the time:

    “If the motion were to be carried, the PM’s tenure in office would be measured in hours and days rather than in weeks or months. But even if the Government wins it by a narrow margin then he would be in a Neville Chamberlain situation where you win the battle but lose the war.”

  20. bensix

    Hi Tom,

    “Johnny – obviously Tony Blair will not stand trial for war crimes, because (whisper it) he’s not a war criminal. That’s just a chattering classes wet dream.”

    There’s a page here that documents lies specific to Tony Blair. I’m aware that you didn’t have a lot of time to debate Iraq, but you could try, y’know, catching up.

    Whether you’d like to call it a “mistake” or not, the invasion has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and 4.7 million refugees. Can’t quite be aligned with, say, leaving a file on the train (however sensitive the information contained therein).

    Cheers,

    Ben

  21. At the heart of this question is New Labour’s confusion between duty to country and party political advantage.

    All major wars should have public inquiries, which don’t have their remits tightly controlled by the government. The Hutton inquiry is seen for what it was by the antics of signed copies that were auctioned of for Labour party funds.

    The case of Iraq is even more important due to the apparent intelligence failure behind the war. Lets be clear thousands of people were killed because of false intelligence, and the question remains to the involvement of spin and falsification.

    If removing Saddam Hussain had been important the first Gulf War would never have stopped.

    The truth is important, even if its inconvenient. Surely you see that ? Given you supported a war on a false perspective don’t you want to find out why you were lied to and mislead ? Or would you just rather answer for that on judgement day ?

    I don’t blame you for the way you voted – personally I would have done the same based on the information provided, but its time to ask the questions where ever they lead us.

  22. timbone

    If an elected government make a decision which I do not agree with, that is one thing. If however they make a decision, give me a reason for that decision, and it turns out that the reason is fabricated, then I feel humiliated and angry.
    The present government have done this twice (I am speaking of major life changing legislation).

    I believed in WMD. It then turns out that the government were hoodwinked. Did they apologise because they had not looked into it properly? Did they immediately set about amending their mistake? No

    I believed in SHS. It turns out that the government were hoodwinked. Did they apologise because they had not looked into it properly? Did they immediately set about amending their mistake? No

    I would have preferred it if they had said “look, we are not really bothered about WMD/SHS, they look a bit made up to us, but we don’t like Husein/Smokers, so we are going to invade Iraq/ban smoking everywhere we can.

    At least that would have been more honest.

  23. Mr. Charlie

    You’ll be with our dear old friend, Speaker Martin, then, I guess?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/3867599/Speaker-Michael-Martin-blocks-inquiry-into-his-handling-of-Damian-Green-arrest.html

    Pesky nuisance, these inquiries eh?

  24. Mr. Charlie

    Tom is right in a way, that it is pointless, as the result is known already – all those involved with be exonerated, even though we know Blair lied, and even though we know Campbell (excuse me whilst I throw up; that man has damaged politics in this country, and should himself be held to account) sexed up the “intelligence” to help Tony, no-one but no-one will be held accountable.

    Because in the end, it’s never New Labour’s fault is it? Indeed, I am surprised they didn’t form a private company to declare war, so they could blame them when – as anyone with their head screwed on knew at the time – the whole thing went tits up, and wholesale slaughter spread across Iraq.

    We – the UK – are responsible for terrible suffering for millions of Iraqis. Who in this government is man or woman enough to stand up and admit it?

    (Hint. Don’t hold your breath. I mean, they’re all regular sorts of guys, aren’t they?)

  25. Andrew F

    I still find the Iraq war a bit paradoxical, morally speaking. There’s the liberal instincts which scream: lied to, where are the weapons, Bush-poodle, rargh-rargh-rargh. But on the other hand, I find it slightly difficult to ‘oppose’ the removal of a genocidal dictator like Hussein.

    So, there are shades of grey here – that transcend the political spectrum. And I think, thus far, we’ve failed to recognise that in our national debate.

    The hard left is bitter about a percieved, and so has spent the last five years screaming, “Withdraw, withdraw!” This despite the fact that for four out of five years it has been a purely humanitarian mission – and these people would normally oppose isolationism and nationalism.

    By the same token, the political elite have stuck their fingers in their ears and moved the goal posts. It is as if they thought no one would notice that there are no ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq; it is as if they thought we’d all forget why we were supposed to be involved in the first place.

    It’s positively bemusing.

    There needs to be an enquiry and it needs to be followed by a more mature discussion. It needs to be followed by a discussion in which those involved don’t think of “for-the-Iraq-war” and “against-the-Iraq-war” as ideological stances.

  26. Stewart Knight

    Of course there needs to be an enquiry, and for a an MP to prejudge whether the enquiry would be right or wrong is the height of arrogance, but hey, you are a Labour MP aren’t you?

    Blair may well face a war crimes tribunal if an enquiry concluded he should, and who are you, a public servant, to conclude otherwise?

    Your attitude sums up the desperate need for an enquiry as you are totally partisan about this issue; how can you talk about a majority in Parliament when Labour are the majority?

    There are issues about the build-up, justification for and prosecution of this war that you as a public servant have no right to deny the people of the UK an enquiry on. You, like most labour MP’s opposed to an enquiry , talk glibly about the whole issue as though it was a local strike or some other trivial issue; many, many men lost their lives and many more lost limbs and were damaged beyond repair, not to mention Iraqis, and they at least deserve to have the issue justified, not to be ignored in pursuance of your Governments well being and grubby hunt for votes to cling on to power. Your lot were quick to demean the UK and appease terrorists with a massively expensive and long running enquiry on Bloody Sunday, but not this? You’ll instigate enquiries on issues that don’t affect your party or Government, and embarrass others.

    When you jacked it in in protest not long ago, there were many of us who thought you were one of those most rare of politicians, a Labour MP with integrity, but now you just look like a greedy jock looking to his future, like so many others. What has Brown promised? Milliband?

  27. I wrote: “An inquiry will happen; an inquiry should happen.”

    In response, Stewart (Angry) Knight wrote “for a an (sic) MP to prejudge whether the enquiry would be right or wrong is the height of arrogance.”

    You really ought to read what I write before commenting on it, Stewart. Now calm down, son.

  28. brian in the tamar valley

    Tom, in your comments you have made a reference to the Hutton Enquiry and it will be remembered that it was Lord Hutton alone that decreed that Dr Kelly committed suicide. Ordinarily one would have expected the Coroner’s Inquest to continue so as to reach a verdict as to the cause of Dr Kelly’s death. I shall summarise the advantages of that alternative action:
    A Coroner could have issued subpoenas for witnesses to attend (Hutton couldn’t do this)
    A Coroner would have ensured witnesses gave evidence under oath (not required by Hutton)
    The inquest into such a controversial death would one presume be before a jury of 12 to give a verdict (not only one person as with Hutton)

    Are you comfortable therefore with the much lower standard of determination into the cause of death of Dr David Kelly that was applied?

  29. Stewart Knight

    You really ought to read what I write before commenting on it, Stewart. Now calm down, son.

    Angry? Not at all. Frustrated at politicians who see their career or the best interests of petty party politics as more important than the lives of men and women who signed up to protect this country? Sure thing sonny.

    But what a backtrack that response is, and how typically disingenuous in trying to portray what you said as reasonable; just because you said an enquiry should happen does not make any difference, but let’s look at what you have said and see if what I understood was taken out of context…

    An Iraq inquiry will change nothing

    So that isn’t prejudging?

    But an inquiry into what?

    You make this statement then want, presumably, to be taken seriously?

    An inquiry into the conduct of the war, or of events leading up to the start of the war, would be fair enough. But I would not support an inquiry seeking to make judgments about political decisions made in February and March 2003 by ministers and MPs.

    So the enquiry would be perfectly acceptable to you, as long as they didn’t judge any of the main political protagonists or make judgements on whether they illegally and dishonestly took us to war? The politicians took us into a war that resulted in hundreds of deaths of UK troops, and tens if not hundreds of thousands of others, and if they lied or were dishonest they should be held to account, wouldn’t you think?

    Yes, MPs sometimes make mistakes, and when that occurs, they are responsible for those misjudgments to their electorates,

    I would class that as one of the most contemptible statements ever made by a politician; perhaps you would like to repeat that to Rose Gentle? So MP’s are beyond the law eh?

    The electorate have since had an opportunity to make their own judgment.

    So the electorate voted on Iraq and nothing else? How many of the electorate voted for top up fees when that wasn’t in the manifesto, and in fact a pledge was made not to have them? Silly statement unbecoming of an adult.

    Whenever an inquiry is held, and whatever its structure, it will be a huge disappointment to many people. Many of those calling for an inquiry are doing so only because they expect it will bolster their own view on Iraq.

    I refer you back to my previous statement on the Bloody Sunday enquiry. You really didn’t answer any of the points raised previously and merely dismissed me as angry. Care to go back?

    whose mind is not already made up about the justification, or lack of it, for the invasion of Iraq.

    So who cares about the truth?

    I feel vindicated in what I sad earlier because anything you said was tempered by the statements made which basically says you don’t agree with an enquiry and think it is useless.

  30. Mr. Charlie

    “A war of aggression is a military conflict waged in the absence of “a necessity of self-defence, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation.“[1] Waging such a war of aggression is a crime under the customary international law. It is generally agreed by scholars in international law that the military actions of the Nazi regime in World War II in its search for so-called “Lebensraum” are characteristic of a war of aggression.”

  31. Jimmy Sands

    The politics of the war are for politicians. The narrow issue of the intelligence has already been dealt with. that leaves the question of legality. Unlike Tom I happen to think the invasion was illegal and that legality matters. The Government at the time relied on an interpretation of the law that struck me as forced and self-serving, and indeed the (entirely correct) search for a SC Resolution indicated a lack of faith in its own argument. Nevertheless these matters of general principle seem to me beyond the competence of an individual state. The only body competent to determine the issue would be the ICJ. Let it be referred there. Otherwise let it lie.

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