The Chilcot Inquiry

Continues to Go

This page continues our cogitation on the eternal mystery
that is the Chilcot Inquiry - links to earlier episodes
in the Pear Shaped Iraq Inqury Enquiry
can be found at the bottom of the page


Following the statement by Sir John Chilcot that the Iraq Inquiry Report will not be released till after the General Election there has been something of an upsurge in media interest in what was previously a very niche market - talking about the Iraq Inquiry.  Despite public perception this has not always been a "hot topic".  Indeed for many years after the war those who questioned it even ever so slightly were regarded almost exclusively as only slightly more sensible than David Icke and people who believe that it's all the fault of lizards.

As a result I feel someone should answer the various articles postulating on why pundits are so desperate to see the Chilcot Report and as I have read at least all of the transcripts perhaps it should be me.  If nothing else it would be nice to write an article on the subject that is less than 10,000 words...

It is of course true that the purpose of most Inquiries is to kick the issues into the long grass.  Gordon Brown started the Inquiry with the intention of closing the issues for the 2010 election.  This it did.  The trouble is that it is now 2015 and there is another election and that is when the political long grass gets mown – and the political football sits there begging for someone to kick it.

During the previous 5 years the political class has of course assiduously tried to avoid writing/talking about Iraq at all costs.  Particularly those members of it who were in the last government or in the patronage of the last government.  But also those in old opposition who don't want to draw attention to their failure to bring the Government account or identify the scale of the dangers the Iraq War represented. 

During the 2000s the Conservative party seemed far more interested in internal wars than real wars at one point seeming to manage to change leader every 18 months.  Iain Duncan Smith who was leader of the opposition at the time was with hindsight inconveniently keen on the Iraq War.  Indeed no lesser personage than Alastair Campbell claims George W Bush threatened to "topple" “Iain Duncan Baker” if he didn't support the Iraq War.  Fortunately
Iain Duncan Baker seemed to have rather hawkish views coming out with such classics as "Proving one threat does not disprove another. And against many of these threats we are currently literally defenceless. That is particularly the case when it comes to ballistic missiles. Traditional methods of arms control will not solve the problem. Those countries like Iraq are the least likely to observe treaties.  Preventative defence, seeking to bring these countries within the family of civilised nations, clearly has a part to play".  Later, buying into both dossiers hook, lie and sinker, he told parliament that "The Government dossier confirms that Iraq is self-sufficient in biological weapons and that the Iraq military is ready to deploy these and chemical weapons at some 45 minutes' notice."

No More WMD
Fortunately Geoff Hoon doesn't read the Sun
and was in Kiev at the time.

When I started writing about the Iraq Inquiry as a one off joke article some time in 2010-11  it was rumoured it was near to issuing the report.  It wasn’t.  For a while after the public hearings ended the Inquiry released a number of private transcripts, documents and notes to keep us amused until it decided not to publish anything anymore because publication was imminent.  Imminent publication is the Section 22 exception to the Freedom of Information Act.  Of course when Whitehall uses the word Imminent they are of course using it in the Sir Humphrey sense of the word.  The Inquiry and all the documents around it are constantly Imminent.  In the same way that I once worked for a company that went bust but when I asked the boss why there was nothing to do anymore he replied that "Work will be in Imminently".  The report may be invisible, unread and cloaked in bitter disputes between Sir Jeremy Heywood and Sir John Chilcot but one thing it does not lack is Imminence.  The Iraq Inquiry has Imminence coming out of its ears.  A cynical mind might say that the report is being held back for political reasons however I am sure that each delay in the report’s release has been totally unpredictable.  After all Sir John is very busy in the important business of looking into the past.  We cannot expect him to be able to look into the future too...

Moving on …as the Chilcot Inquiry doesn’t… let me address some of the other issues this raises.  What can the Chilcot report really do? we are often asked.  Well surprisingly the Chilcot report has actually done quite a lot already for those willing to undertake the depressing and intensely boring task of actually reading the website.  For the first time …well, ever … we have serving members of the security services forced to talk about what they actually do …albeit with a lot of redactions.  Perhaps one reason the Inquiry stopped putting data on its website is that actually putting black lines over things can only conceal so much truth.  The Inquiry covers everything to do with the war “from 2001 up to the end of July 2009” including Gordon Brown’s inability to fund it properly and the various and many military cock ups along the way and the failure to predict the aftermath situation.  It’s not simply a matter of the narrow matter of whether Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair are liars.  After all if it was that simple it’d be over by now.  The object of Public Inquiries is not just to get information into the public domain before it leaks there but to bury it in million words.  We'll skip over the fact that Tony and Alastair seem to have told us all what happened in meetings "protected" by the Official Secrets Act in their own books bits...

Over at that paragon of sensible writing "Spiked" Tim Black tells us slightly optimistically that “There can be no sentient being outside the Euston Manifesto Group who still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea”.  But unfortunately there is  - it’s called John Rentoul who’s posterior had found its self a chair on Channel 4 news last night - a sort of upmarket Katie Hopkins.  It is no easy task writing about the Iraq War or trying to debate it with professional apologists like JR who seek to confuse, obfuscate and are a greater source of red herrings than Billingsgate market.  Quote too much from the available documents and you’re too boring to listen to …cut down to “the gists” and you open yourself up to accusations of selectively quoting.  JR's techniques range from spreading confusion ... insisting that Saddam wasn't sure what weapons he had and that was what the war was about (Well if that was what it was about it's a long way from "He's got 'em. Let's get 'im" as explained in the Sun) ... to simply stating over and over that the whole thing is a waste of time that will "satisfy" no one... rather missing the supposed central purpose of the inquiry - to discover the truth.

The fact that people are prepared to say so many preposterous things in defence of Mr Blair shows that under the surface of democracy still lurk the hungry sharks of patronage.  At the bottom of the intellectual pile of Blair defenders is probably Mr @BlairSupporter a being of very little brain who relentlessly adds twitter followers who dare to question the glorious leader to ever more elaborately named “lists”.  Check me out on “Very Unbalanced TB haters”.  Criticising Mr Blair’s motivations for going to war is like an episode of Columbo – we all know he did it … but proving it is another thing entirely.  Congratulations by the way to whoever picked up our original Columbo joke and used it to create the image above.  So… is asserting the continually denied undeniable reality pointless?  No.  I’ve learnt for example why Tony Blair is not at the ICC on any war crimes charges and can’t be.  Laughably the ICC has no “legal” definition of “waging aggressive war”…

…and won’t have for several years and when it does the definition will not be retroactively applied so even if Chilcot finds against him Tony Blair can never be charged.   Rudolph Hess who was found guilty of exactly this crime on 30 September 1947 and sentenced to life imprisonment for it must feel retrospectively a right nana.

Some say we surely know enough now about the Iraq War to condemn it and this is true but condemnation is not enough.  For democracy to function it needs accountability.  As I have already said mainstream politicians of both parties have been for the past 5 years fairly assiduous in their attempts not to talk about the Iraq War ...but you can’t put it off forever no matter how hard you try.  After all there’s a myriad of smaller party leaders like Caroline Lucas who are rather unsporting and force Commons debates.   Gradually too opinion polls have hardened against TB because actually we do now know more than we did in 2003 about what the government said it did and didn't know and what it did and didn't know.  To misquote Donald Rumsfeld there are less unknown unknowns. 

David Miliband has gone off to the US and is it just because he fears embarrassing his brother or is it because he fears a brother ruthless enough to stand against him for the party leadership might just throw him to the wolves?  John Prescott meanwhile has had a strange and gradual Road to Damascus conversion to Blair criticiser …perhaps prompted by the sound of approaching Salmon letters.  It’s a slow process but opinion on the war has definitely changed as the old guard retired...

However, yes, the Inquiry will and does tell us things and not just about Mr Blair.  It tells us the British Constitution or what passes for it is rubbish for one thing.  It’s easy to point a finger at Tony but he’s not the only problem.  Other legislative systems have effective separation of powers between  the executive, the legislature and the judiciary so even if abuses of power happen they at least happen clearly.  The British “Constitution” in contrast is a masterpiece of opacity and that is why the British Prime Minister can so easily ignore the Cabinet, Parliament and the Law.  Of course where there’s a will there’s a way but where there are no traffic lights just committees of Privy Councillors…

Also it may well have been obvious at the time it was wrong but did we as individuals question the agendas of PNAC, JINSA, the Quill and Dagger Society, Emma Sky etc…?  Because all these people are still out there … and as Gordon Brown would say …they may have changed their tune but they haven’t changed their minds.

Our initial interpretation of the transcripts (entirely filmed in Xtranormal) can be found
here which is more than you can say for Xtranormal (see here) ...although someone seems now to have bought Xtranormal and it has risen Lazarus like from dead ... but I dont think I'll be rushing to use it again.   Fortunately all the old Pear Shaped Iraq Inquiry Animations still exist on Youtube - and we have now gone through the painstaking tast of re-editing the Youtube videos into the old html.  Although for some reason people only ever watched the videos on Xtranormal...

Here's the usual resume of what we've covered so far in previous articles:

Pear Shaped Iraq_Enquiry_Enquiry Page 1 Covers public evidence from Christopher Meyer, Jeremy Greenstock, Tim Dowse, Edward Chaplin, Sir David Manning, Sir William Patey, Vice Admiral Charles Style, General Sir John Reith, Alistair Campbell, Lieutenant General Sir Richard Shirreff and Geoff Hoon
Pear Shaped Iraq_Enquiry_Enquiry Page 2 Covers public evidence from Jonathan Powell, Lord Goldsmith, Margaret Beckett, John Hutton, Sir Kevin Tebbit, General the Lord Walker of Aldringham, Clare Short, Ann Clwyd, Gordon Brown and endless analysis of what Jaques Chirac meant without asking him.
Pear Shaped Iraq_Enquiry_Enquiry Page 3 Covers public evidence from Douglas Alexander, David Miliband, Cathy Adams,  Sir John Holmes, Sir Jonathan Cunliffe, Mark Etherington CBE and Lord Boateng.
Pear Shaped Iraq_Enquiry_Enquiry Page 4 Covers public evidence from Carne Ross, Lt Gen Sir James Dutton KCB CBE, Stephen White, Baroness Elizabeth Manningham-Buller, Sir Peter Spencer KCB, Lord Prescott, Tony Blair (again) and Jack Straw.  It also covers some ludicrous conspiracy theories.
Most of the first 4 pages are brief commentary with the transcripts re-edited in Xtranormal format (the videos are on Youtube).  For the next article we tried a different approach with a mixture of commentary, transcripts and Xtranormal animation...
MI6 goes Pear Shaped Iraq Covers SIS private evidence from MI6 officers SIS1, SIS2, SIS3,SIS4, SIS5 and SIS6 and C (Sir Richard Dearlove).  The Iraq Inquiry have so far interviewed (as far as I can figure out) at least 12 members of MI6. SIS1, SIS2, SIS3,SIS4, SIS5 and SIS6 have all had their transcripts published in some form whereas statements have been made that SIS8, SIS9 and SIS11’s transcripts will never be published due to the fact that “The Committee has concluded, in line with its Protocols, that it would not be possible to redact and publish the transcript without rendering it unintelligible”. Which leaves open the question of what’s happened to SIS7, SIS10 and SIS12’s testimony and will we ever see a transcript because the inquiry has not made a statement that we wont…?
Reconstruction goes Pear Shaped in Iraq Covers the reconstruction effort after the invasion and the private evidence of Edward Chaplin CMG OBE, The Hon Dominic Asquith CMG and Christopher Prentice CMG, HM Ambassadors to Iraq (2004 – 2009 collectively) and DFID and FCO functionaries JOHN TUCKNOTT, JONNY BAXTER, RICHARD JONES, ROB TINLINE, KATHLEEN REID, LINDY CAMERON, SIMON COLLIS, JAMES TANSLEY and TIM FOY
Kurdistan Goes Pear Shaped With Emma Sky - Emma Sky was sent to the US controlled region of Kirkuk in Kurdistan by the USA who secured her services from the British Council.  She maintains she was acting as effectively as a private citizen (not an employee of the British Government) at the time which is why she has a page entirely to herself.
The JIC goes Pear Shaped in Iraq - Sir John Scarlett and Julian Miller (heads of the JIC during the run up to the invasion) and Sir William Erhman and Tim Dowse (heads of of the JIC after the invasion of Iraq in 2003) discuss the actual evidence or lack of it for the claims within the two dossiers and illuminate us as the JIC intelligence QC processes in what is widely regarded as one of the most boring pages on the internet.
Defence Intelligence goes Pear Shaped - Martin Howard the head of the DIS is interviewed by the inquiry both in public and in private. This page is extremely tedious.
GCHQ goes Pear Shaped - Sir David Pepper tells us what went on at GCHQ after the war and no one tells us what went on at GCHQ in the run-up to the war
Major General Michael Laurie goes Pear Shaped - More fun from the DIS
Major General Tim Tyler goes Pear Shaped - A view of the Major General's view as Deputy Commander Iraq Survey Group and a review of Decision Points insofar as it relates to the Tony Blair/George W relationship
Disaster Points - A read of George W's Autobiography
Chilcot Stasis - A read of Tony Blair's Autobiography

By the way if you cant see the inline videos properly you're probably using the 64 bit version of Windows Explorer 9.  Use a 32 bit version - you can download off the Microsoft website ...although it might just work now.  Or just use a browser that isn't entirely composed of old ActiveX controls and actually uses the HTML standards because its not built by egomaniacs.  You can also view all the animations on this Youtube page if that's easier.  As stated in the previous article this page is nonsense.  If you want a sensible analysis instead try the Iraq Inquiry Digest

That said there are NO inline animations in this page because I couldn't be bothered to struggle with GoAnimate.  We've gone for inapporopriate images instead.  I may insert some animations at a later date.  If I can be arsed..


Photo Credits
Gordon Brown - National Archives and Number 10
some have been stolen off the internet and wikipedia
in the public interest