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The Chilcot inquiry


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The Chilcot inquiry is incapable of addressing the key issue of whether the invasion of Iraq was legal, senior judicial figures have said, adding to the controversy surrounding the inquiry's legitimacy.

The inquiry into one of the most contentious political decisions of modern times begins hearing evidence tomorrow, and its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, has insisted that the legality of the invasion in 2003 will be one of the key issues it addresses.

But one senior judge told the Guardian that analysing the war's legality was beyond the panel's competence.It does not include a single judge or lawyer.

"The truth of the matter is, if the inquiry was going to express a view with any kind of authority on the question of legality, it would need a legal member and quite a senior one," the judge said. "Looking at the membership … it seems to me that legality just wasn't going to be a question they would be asked to review."

Another senior legal figure said: "The panel clearly lacks the expertise to address the question of legality. The members are not experienced at cross-examination – it is simply not their skill set."

The criticisms come after the chairman of the inquiry has been repeatedly forced to defend its approach amid claims that the process is a "whitewash".

There have been repeated calls from influential legal and judicial figures for an investigation into whether the invasion of Iraq was illegal, including the former senior law lord Lord Bingham, who last year reiterated that it was "a serious violation of international law".

Sir John Chilcot, a former senior civil servant who was criticised for adopting a "light touch" in some aspects of his questioning during the Hutton inquiry and whom critics regard as having strong links with the establishment, appeared to acknowledge demands for an investigation of legality recently by confirming that Tony Blair, and possibly the former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, would be called to give evidence.

But scrutiny of the panel's lack of experience on law and cross-examination techniques raises questions about the willingness of the government, which established the inquiry, to look seriously at whether the government acted illegally.

"Some of the debates around the legality of the war are quite sophisticated – it is not all clear-cut," the senior legal figure said. "It's going to be very difficult to deal with someone like Blair without a panel experienced in cross-examination.".

"Looking into the legality of the war is the last thing the government wants," said the judge. "And actually, it's the last thing the opposition wants either because they voted for the war. There simply is not the political pressure to explore the question of legality – they have not asked because they don't want the answer."

Last month it emerged that Dame Rosalyn Higgins, former judge and president of the international court of justice – the world's highest court – was to be a legal adviser to the panel. But Higgins, who is highly regarded in legal circles but also said to be an "establishment figure", will not sit on the panel or cross-examine.

"Lawyers are trained to weigh up evidence and will know and say when they see a decision-making process that appears to be out of the ordinary," said the British international law expert Professor Philippe Sands QC. "The fact that the members of the inquiry do not include a lawyer is very, very telling".

Experts also criticised Chilcot's statement today that the inquiry was "not definitive in the sense of a court verdict". "That's an avoidance strategy" to "keep control of the agenda", one said.



Ready for a whitewash?

Edited thread title. :D
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That is much less likely now that hundreds of pages of debriefing testimony from military officers have somehow 'found' there way into the hands of the Telegraph. I'd say this a very deliberate move by the Armed Forces to prevent a whitewash by Chilcott.

Some reading for starters:

Secret papers reveal blunders and concealment

Secret plans for war, no plans for peace

Britain 'unprepared' for nation building

Troops 'rushed' into battle without armour or training

I don't see how it is any longer possible for those responsible to wiggle out of what they have done.

Edit: Where is the bollitics tag?!

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So now we have a fourth inquiry that doesn't address the core argument. Sadly predictable really.

They still don't intend to call rupert to give evidence even though fox, sky and the sun were running the pre-war propoganda machine on both sides of the pond.

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So now we have a fourth inquiry that doesn't address the core argument.

How so mate? The only thing I've read which makes my skin crawl is the offer of immunity from prosecution being in the gift of the inquiry if they think it is required to get full and frank evidence.

Other than that (and the lack of a mandate to directly apportion blame, but where that lies should become very clear anywhere) I'm not sure how they could have wider remit?

Edit: I see what you mean now, hopefully if the evidence compiled by Chilcott is strong enough the public pressure will force the CPS to take action - assuming those they should be acting against haven't already been given immunity :evil:

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I don't see how it is any longer possible for those responsible to wiggle out of what they have done.

Well, the protocol for the publishing of information by the Inquiry seems to have been drawn up giving government departments the power of veto on what evidence the inquiry publishes (and ultimately it is up to the Cabinet office to decide if the inquiry pushes things).

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Chilcot Iraq Inquiry: Britain 'knew Saddam Hussein had destroyed WMD'

Intelligence information that Saddam Hussein had dismantled his weapons of mass destruction programme was received by the Foreign Office days before Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, an inquiry into the war heard today.

The revelation on the second day of the Chilcot Inquiry will raise fresh questions about the justification for invading Iraq in March 2003.

The inquiry heard that the Foreign Office did not believe that Iraq had a large number of long-range missiles and that the claim that Saddam could launch a chemical or biological attack within 45 minutes related only to battlefield weapons and not those capable of reaching other countries.

Sir William Ehrman, a senior Foreign Office official, told the inquiry: “We were getting in the very final days before military action some [intelligence] on chemical and biological weapons that it was dismantled and [iraq] might not have the munitions to deliver it.”

Sir William was the Foreign Office’s director of international security from 2000 to 2002 and director-general of defence and intelligence from 2002 to 2004.

He told the inquiry that there had been little fresh reliable intelligence on Iraq’s weapons programmes after United Nations inspectors were expelled in 1998.

Intelligence assessments read by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, from 2000 to September 2002 referred to information on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction being “patchy”, “poor” and “limited”, he said.

However, new intelligence suggesting chemical and biological weapons were being produced began to arrive in late August and September 2002.

Tim Dowse, the Foreign Office’s head of counter-proliferation at the time, said: “In a way it did not come as a great surprise.

“It enabled us to firm up the assessment that had previously been carefully caveated.”

Mr Dowse said that the Government’s approach to dealing with rogue countries had changed after the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001.

“After 9/11 the tolerance diminished for mere containment, if you like, and there was more emphasis on trying to remove the threat,” he said. “We removed the long-term threat from Iraq by the action that was taken.”

After the invasion, weapons inspectors discovered that Iraq had destroyed its chemical stockpile in 1991. The Iraq Survey Group found only a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions.

The Butler Report into the information received by ministers in the run-up to the war concluded that the intelligence used to justify claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was unreliable.

Mr Dowse told the inquiry that he was not surprised by the now notorious claim – contained in a dossier published by the Government before the invasion – that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could be used within 45 minutes.

However, he said he assumed the claim referred to a weapon to be used on the battlefield, not to an inter-state ballistic missile, but this was not spelt out at the time.

“Speaking personally, when I saw the '45 minutes' report, I did not give it particular significance because it didn't seem out of line with what we generally assessed to be Iraq's intentions and capabilities with regard to chemical weapons,” he said.

"It certainly took on a rather iconic status that I don't think that those of us who saw the initial report really gave. It wasn't surprising," he added.

Asked about suggestions that the 45-minute claim referred to weapons of mass destruction which could be employed by Iraq to strike another nation, Mr Dowse said: “I don't think we ever said that it was for use in a ballistic missile in that way.”

Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, a member of the inquiry panel, pointed out: "But you didn't say it wasn't.”

Mr Dowse admitted that the Foreign Office failed to properly evaluate some of the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD that subsequently proved false.

“Although our intelligence assessment process is generally robust,” he said. “I think in respect of Iraq [there was] a failure of the system.”

Mr Dowse was asked whether Iraq was one of the biggest threats he faced when he became head of counter-proliferation in 2001.

“It wasn’t top of the list,” he told the panel. “I think in terms of my concerns in coming into the job in 2001 we would put it behind Libya and Iran.”

He said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other non-proliferation agencies had been very successful throughout the 1990s in effectively disarming Iraq.

The Foreign Office felt there was little threat from nuclear weapons and no serious fear for international security in regards to chemical and biological weapons.

“We were concerned about what he was doing but we felt that the sanctions were having an impact,” he said.

Yesterday, on the opening day of the inquiry, senior civil servants revealed that British and US officials held secret discussions about ousting Saddam Hussein two years before invading Iraq and months before the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry chairman, heard that Foreign Office officials drew up an internal “options” paper that included the possibility of regime change while the “drumbeats” of war were reverberating around parts of Washington soon after the election of George W. Bush.

However Sir William Patey, the then head of the Foreign Office’s Middle East department, said the idea had been swiftly rejected on the grounds that there was “no basis in law” for such action.

The inquiry is expected to take up to a year, with Gordon Brown and Tony Blair expected to be among future witnesses. Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to the US, will give evidence tomorrow.

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We went in to remove a Dictator and suceeded ...

The EU is a European dictatorship so assume the enquiry rules it all above board it means we can march in a get rid of them as well without fear

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The EU is a European dictatorship so assume the enquiry rules it all above board it means we can march in a get rid of them as well without fear

Why do you think they want control of our armed forces?

We went in to remove a Dictator and suceeded ...

If that was the reason then fine, all we need to do to wipe the slate clean is prosecute Blair, Brown, Hoon and Straw for lying consistently to the public, Parliament, their own party, the armed forces and our NATO allies.

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We went in to remove a Dictator and suceeded ...

Tosh and nonsense.

Nothing to do with a dictator. Plenty of dictators around the world, some quite nasty ones. This was to do with oil. As everyone knows - this was not for the good of the iraqi people or world security. It was to do with that black gooey stuff. Look at saudi arabia, nasty dictatorship, atrocious human rights records, funding terrorism - but look they are nice traders and willingly sell us their oil. No plans to invade there.

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We went in to remove a Dictator and suceeded ...

Tosh and nonsense.

Nothing to do with a dictator. Plenty of dictators around the world, some quite nasty ones. This was to do with oil. As everyone knows - this was not for the good of the iraqi people or world security. It was to do with that black gooey stuff. Look at saudi arabia, nasty dictatorship, atrocious human rights records, funding terrorism - but look they are nice traders and willingly sell us their oil. No plans to invade there.

yeah but that wouldn't have worked for my little dig at the EU would it :-)

Said it before in the various Iraq threads , we will get peace there when another friendly dictator takes power and instead of going after him we will be out of there quicker than Liverpool out of the Champs league , with weapons contracts signed sealed and delivered ... and then possibly we might try and encourage him to have a little bash at Iran for us but that will be more long term ....

a Question though , has there ever been concrete proof that it was about the oil ? I don't mean the fact that oil companies have done well out of it and conspiracy theories on the interweb , I mean firm evidence a policy document or a leaked memo or something ?

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a Question though , has there ever been concrete proof that it was about the oil ? I don't mean the fact that oil companies have done well out of it and conspiracy theories on the interweb , I mean firm evidence a policy document or a leaked memo or something ?
Well not leaked exactly, but if you read through the PNAC manifesto it's quite plain that ensuring no other empire has rights over the main oil source's was a constant underlying theme.

edit - from PNAC

"The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
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a Question though , has there ever been concrete proof that it was about the oil ? I don't mean the fact that oil companies have done well out of it and conspiracy theories on the interweb , I mean firm evidence a policy document or a leaked memo or something ?
Well not leaked exactly, but if you read through the PNAC manifesto it's quite plain that ensuring no other empire has rights over the main oil source's was a constant underlying theme.

edit - from PNAC

"The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

Don't forget:

"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor

Rebuilding America's Defenses is available here as a PDF file 852kb

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Said it before in the various Iraq threads , we will get peace there when another friendly dictator takes power and instead of going after him we will be out of there quicker than Liverpool out of the Champs league , with weapons contracts signed sealed and delivered ... and then possibly we might try and encourage him to have a little bash at Iran for us but that will be more long term ....

Otherwise known as (early) Saddam, no? :P

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As we should have known, the fix is in:

Iraq: The inquiry cover-up that will keep us in the dark

Gordon Brown was accused of strangling the inquiry into the Iraq war at birth yesterday by refusing to let it make public sensitive documents that shed light on the conflict.

A previously undisclosed agreement between Sir John Chilcot's inquiry and the Government gives Whitehall the final say on what information the investigation can release into the public domain. Mr Brown, who initially wanted the inquiry held in private, was forced to climb down earlier this year after an outcry and promised that most of its sessions would be heard in public. He said information would be withheld only when it would compromise national security.

However, a protocol agreed by the inquiry and the Government includes nine wide-ranging reasons under which Whitehall departments can refuse to publish documents disclosed to the investigation. Crucially, disputes between Sir John and the Government over disclosures would be resolved by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell.

Critics warned that the catch-all exemptions on disclosure could spare the Government from a repeat of the embarrassment it suffered during the Hutton inquiry into the death of the weapons expert David Kelly, when a string of sensitive documents were disclosed.

The agreement allows the Government to stop publication of material which would "cause harm or damage to the public interest" such as national security, international relations or economic interests; breach the disclosure rules of the security services; endanger life or risk serious harm to an individual; breach legal professional privilege; prejudice legal proceedings or a statutory or criminal inquiry; breach the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act or Data Protection Act; or be commercially sensitive.

It goes much wider than the reasons for preventing disclosure outlined by Mr Brown in the Commons in June. He said then: "I have asked the members of the committee to ensure that the final report will be able to disclose all but the most sensitive information – that is, all except that which is essential to our national security."

Last night Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, likened the clampdown to an episode of Yes Minister, saying that senior civil servants had taken their revenge after the U-turn over private hearings. He appealed to Mr Brown to revise the rules, saying they made a mockery of his promise of a public inquiry.

Mr Clegg told The Independent: "This is tantamount to Whitehall putting a blindfold over the whole process. Chilcot and his colleagues have been completely rolled over and have allowed their hands to be bound before they have even started work. The Government will act as judge and jury on what will be disclosed. That is wholly unacceptable."

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the Government's independent reviewer of terrorism laws and a Liberal Democrat, said: "The protocol has the potential of turning a tiger into a mouse."

He said the reasons for withholding publication were so broad that "almost everything of interest" could be blocked.

Sources close to the Chilcot inquiry denied that it had been muzzled and said it was happy with the agreement with the Government. They insisted that the presumption was that information would be put in the public domain and that the protocol was designed to underline that. They said that they would "kick up a stink" if they felt documents were being withheld unreasonably. If the Cabinet Office blocked publication, the inquiry could announced that this had happened and why.

Inquiry sources stressed that the agreement would not stop its members having access to sensitive documents – only whether they could be published during the proceedings or in the final report.

Yesterday, the second day of the inquiry heard that Britain received intelligence days before invading Iraq that Saddam Hussein may not have been able to use chemical weapons. Foreign Office official Sir William Ehrman said that a report suggested that such weapons may have been "disassembled", while another report suggested Iraq might also lack warheads capable of spreading chemical agents.

Mr Clegg clashed with Gordon Brown over the rules on disclosing information during Prime Minister's Questions. Mr Clegg said: "It is vital that the Iraq inquiry, which started its work this week, is able to reveal the full truth about the decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq."

The Liberal Democrat leader said the nine reasons why information could be suppressed "have nothing to do with national security and outrageously give Whitehall departments individual rights of veto".

He asked the Prime Minister: "Why did you not tell us about this before? And how on earth are we, and the whole country, going to hear about the whole truth about decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq if the inquiry is being suffocated on day one by your Government's shameful culture of secrecy?"

Mr Brown referred to exemptions on grounds of damaging national security and international relations. He insisted that the inquiry team were happy with the way they were being asked to carry out their work, saying that Sir John had been "given the freedom to conduct an inquiry in the way he wants".

The Liberal Democrats said they would keep up the pressure on Mr Brown to tear up the agreement to allow more documents to be disclosed. They warned that, as currently drafted, the rules would be even more restrictive than the Freedom of Information Act, which forces the Government to state publicly why requests for disclosure are turned down. In contrast, decisions on the Iraq inquiry material would be taken behind closed doors, they said.

I suppose it was a bit much to expect a Government responsible for the most disgraceful episode in 50 years to allow the truth of their actions to see the light of day.

Utter scum.

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Many a true word said in Jest - I did like Simon Carr's take on the inquiry

If he's come to this inquiry with an open mind, he'll leave with one too

Wise old birds will counsel caution, but a rush to judgement may save time in the end. The Chilcot inquiry looks set to be boring, miasmic and faintly dishonest.

Very nearly the first thing Sir John Chilcot said wasn't true. Not casually or mistakenly or evasively untrue. But considered and unambiguous. "I come to this with an open mind." He'd prepared that remark, written it down, sent it out in a press release.

But the fellow served on the Butler inquiry. Listened to months of evidence. Signed up to a report that criticised the then PM for fixing the evidence, misleading Parliament about the planning for the war and jazzing up the famous dossier.

Had the wretch formed no views at all through that six-month process? If he's come to this inquiry with an open mind, he'll probably leave with one too.

Whatever we thought of Hutton's judgement, the inquiry itself was superb and sometimes electrifying. First, the speed with which he set it up, and the mental preparation got it off to a flying start.

He had screens showing the documentary evidence – astonishingly private emails from Blair's personal staff. That was radical new information about how government worked. He used a counsel – the dashing young James Dingemans to pursue lines of questioning, pushing, pressing and keeping witnesses on the point.

Chilcot's lot – for all their reading seem woefully unprepared. Maybe they're pretending to have open minds.

Thousands of documents have been read. But that produced no edge, bite or line of purpose. A rambling collection of assertions would be followed by the self-regarding question: "Is that a reasonable assessment?"

One witness suggested regime change was discussed a bit, another contradicted that. No member of the panel went diving in to explore the discrepancy. No one mentioned the Iraq Liberation Act had passed through the US Congress in 1998 specifically declaring regime change to be US policy – a clue to their intentions, perhaps.

This is a panel that the toadiest of Blair toadies would have chosen. Why Brown agreed to it is a mystery.

Too sharp? One of the panel asked one of the witnesses what the Russian position had been on some Security Council resolution. "You'd know more about the Russian position than I would," the witness said. "Yes," the panel member said, "I was ambassador to Moscow at the time."

We don't know whether the ribald laughter from the press room penetrated down to the hearing.

An ex-ambassador questioning a serving ambassador on government policy. What on earth do we expect?

Will they do what they're told? Good God no. They are so well chosen they don't have to be told.

To be fair, there's a year to go. Maybe they'll get beyond their pass-the-port reminiscences and do some inquiring.

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The only thing I've read which makes my skin crawl is the offer of immunity from prosecution being in the gift of the inquiry if they think it is required to get full and frank evidence.

I think this stops things getting messy.

If Bush and Blair are prosecuted then what about the people supplying them with the information? What about the MPs voting in favour of invading Iraq? The leaders of the Armed Forces? Previous trials have shown that ignorance or "following orders" is no defence.

It's a bit like South Africa's trials after the end of Apartheid; get the ugly truth out in exchange for clemency.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"You'll never guess who I had in the back of my cab last week. Thay Uday Hussein bloke, picked him up oustide Khayyams - a little the worse for wear. He reckons his old man ain't scared of bush and his poodle. Reckons they got tons of WMD, and can launch them them in under 45 minutes. Then he got sick on the seat, just where you are sitting."

Tales of a Taxi Driver

Next week: A liverpool cabbie reveals how Paul McCartney is really the anti-christ

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