Should Britain hold another Iraq war inquiry?
Former civil servant Sir John Chilcot has been tasked with the latest inquiry into the Iraq war – the fifth – and has promised to investigate “as thoroughly, as fairly, as independently as we can”.
But given the rather lukewarm response from the opposition parties, Chilcot faces an uphill task to deliver on that promise and avoid accusations of a “whitewash”.
Already questions have been asked about the independence of Chilcot’s five-member panel.
While Chilcot himself was a member of the Butler inquiry that cleared former Prime Minister Tony Blair of dishonesty in using intellligence in the run-up to the war, another panel member — the historian Martin Gilbert — wrote in 2004 that Tony Blair and George Bush could one day be compared to Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, while a third member — fellow historian Sir Lawrence Freedman — helped Blair develop his doctrine of liberal interventionism.
And Chilcot’s suggestion that the inquiry would occasionally hold private hearings to ensure openness from witnesses has been described by shadow foreign secretary William Hague as a “worrying new caveat”.
The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has also criticised Chilcot’s decision not to employ a barrister to cross-examine witnesses.
“This is important to ensure that as gifted a communicator as Blair is not allowed to slip off the hook.”
The inquiry is expected to last until late next year and may not deliver its report until 2011. That means its conclusions will not be published before a general election due by next June, though Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government could still be embarrassed with Chilcot’s insisting he is prepared to apportion blame.
“If we find that people fell short in their duty, made mistakes (or) acted wrongly, we shall most certainly say so and say so clearly,” said Chilcot.
Do you think there is a need for another inquiry into the Iraq war? And will Chilcot’s probe succeed in holding past and present leaders to account?