FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Gordon Brown’s War Inquiry

Any inquiry into politically calamitous causes is bound to be better received if done transparently.  The circumstances behind the Iraq War, from lead-up, commencement and execution, has been anything but transparent.  Behind a very thin veil, crimes in international law have been committed with flagrant disregard.  Evidence has been discounted.  The campaigns have been costly and, at stages, incompetently waged.

It is then little surprise that the recent announcement by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to hold an inquiry into the origins and execution of the conflict should take place in the same circumstances it began: behind closed doors.  The microscope of inquiry will be well and truly hidden, insulated in heavy, establishment wool.  The Tory leader, David Cameron, has termed it “an establishment stitch-up.”  Given the cautious chairman who will preside over the inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, a powerless mandarin in the eyes of many, he might be right.

The entire field is already muddied by previous inquiries that did little to restore the faith of a skeptical British public in their war-hungry leadership.  The 2003 Hutton Inquiry confined its investigations to the narrow circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly, a government advisor who had been critical of the British government’s deeply flawed dossier on Iraq’s spectral weapons of mass destruction.  On its heels came the Butler Inquiry, which examined the intelligence that supposedly catalyzed the British decision to throw in its lot with the United States.

The inquiry is supposedly to be modeled on the Franks Inquiry undertaken into the Falklands conflict in 1982, eschewing the temptation to apportion blame and seek, instead, the strengthening of “the health of our democracy, our diplomacy and our military.”   It is intended to be independent, comprising two historians, a member of the House of Lords unaligned to any party and a diplomat.  It will consider the period from the buildup to the conflict in the summer of 2001 to July this year.

We can speculate what the inquiry will be most concerned with.  There are the strategic blunders – why did Britain reduce the numbers of personnel at Basra even as the Shi’ite insurgency was raging?  What role did the behemoth of American unilateralism play in driving the decision?

The difficulty with this inquiry is that it already has an appearance of being toothless even before it begins in earnest.  The procedure of this paper tiger will take place in camera.  It has no powers of any consequence, lacking such important means as that of subpoena, relying on the goodwill of those it asks to attend.  (Tony Blair will, in all probability attend to spite his long time rival, though he need not.)  Evidence need not be given on oath.  When ultimately published, sensitive material will be abridged for the public readership.

The final matter that further weakens the credibility of this gesture is one of timing.  In politics, timing is all, and Brown has decided to sink his project before it event gets off the ground by releasing the report after the General Election.  It will take twelve months to complete.  “No inquiry,” argues Brown, “has ever been conducted over such a long period or in such breadth.”  Nor, it can be said, has an inquiry promised to be so ineffectual before it even starts, so devoid of worth before a single deliberation is undertaken.  With British politicians heavily derided and maligned, Brown will have done wonders to affirm the views of cynics and critics.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 21, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Reports of War Crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan Highlight the Failures of Both Wars
Steven Gorelick
Thinking Outside the Grid
William Hartung
America’s Arms Sales Addiction
Michael Welton
Christianity is the Religion of Imperialism
Binoy Kampmark
Letting the Side Down: Prince Andrew, the Royal Family and Jeffrey Epstein
Craig Collins
Open Letter to the People of Planet Earth
David Schultz
The Democratic Party’s Missing Electoral College Game Plan
Norman Solomon
Joe Biden’s AstroTurf Campaign
Bob Lord
Health Care and “Head Taxes”: an Unhealthy Combination
Steve Brown
Why Did MSNBC Spend So Much Time Bashing Gabbard?
Jesse Jackson
The Right to Vote Should not Fall Victim to Partisan Battles
Ted Rall
Billionaires and Corporations Love Anti-SLAPP Laws, Why Does John Oliver?
Priti Gulati Cox
One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and an Impeachment
Thomas Knapp
Voters Say They Want a Third Party, They Should Vote Accordingly
Jenna Orkin
Overtunring WI v. Yoder: Making Education a Federal Right for All Children (and Bringing the MeToo Movement to Fundamentalist Communities)
November 20, 2019
Vijay Prashad
The Coup in Bolivia Has Everything to Do With the Screen You’re Using to Read This
Kenneth Surin
Labor and the UK General Election
Ron Jacobs
The Trumpists’ Attempts at Snark Define Their Day: Impeachment Day Three
George Ochenski
The Walls are Closing in on Donald Trump
Timothy M. Gill
Towards a Democratic Socialist Foreign Policy
Robert Hunziker
Neoliberalism Backfires
Thomas S. Harrington
Let’s Give Three Cheers for Those “Western Ears” 
Michelle Renee Matisons
Freedom, Valor, Love: On Snowden’s Permanent Record
James C. Nelson
How Trump is Warping the Federal Courts: the Case Against Lawrence VanDyke
Rev. William Alberts
Whistleblowing Religion
Chandra Muzaffar
The Coup That Ousted Morales
Mike Garrity
Trump Administration Ignores Court Order Stopping 85,000 Acre Payette Forest Logging and Burning Project, Conservation Groups Sue
Andrew Moss
Raising the Stakes in the Struggle Over Immigration Detention
Dean Baker
Making Andrew Yang Smarter
Lawrence Wittner
The People of the World
November 19, 2019
Ramzy Baroud
How Western Media Bias Allows Israel to Getaway with Murder in Gaza
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Kurds is Still Happening
Dave Lindorff
Student Protesters are Walking a Tightrope in Hong Kong
Richard Greeman
French Yellow Vests Celebrate First Birthday, Converge With Planned Labor Strikes
Dean Baker
Impeachment is a Kitchen Table Issue
Walden Bello
Is China an “Imperial Power” in the Image of the West?
Jim Britell
Modern Biology and Ecology: the Roots Of America’s Assertive Illiteracy
Sabri Öncü
Non-Financial Private Debt Overhang
John Steppling
Baby Shark Coup
Binoy Kampmark
Open Guidelines: The Foreign Interference Problem in Australian Universities
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Greece and the Struggle for Freedom
Colin Todhunter
Lab Rats for Corporate Profit: Pesticide Industry’s Poisoned Platter
James Graham
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn on the Eve of the Debate
Elliot Sperber
Scrutiny – From Scruta
November 18, 2019
Olivia Arigho-Stiles
Protestors Massacred in Post-Coup Bolivia
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail