Pear Shaped in Fitzrvoia

Iraq Inquiry

part 2
part 3
part 4

This page is dedicated to a back of a fag packet analysis of the Iraq Inquiry.
The Iraq Inquiry is like a very long episode of Columbo
We all know who did it because we saw what happened.

The only question is can anything be proved. 

It started in 2009 and has been trundling along with brief spouts of media interest ever since with a brief recess to "avoid influencing the general election".  Of course the Inquiry's actual powers are very limited.  Documents can be withheld from it on security grounds and no one gives evidence on oath.   None-the-less almost all the oral evidence has been given in public and even some of the non-public hearings are available to read as transcriptions so it is possible for observers to write their own reports.  So for some time we toyed with the idea of a Pear Shaped Inquiry Enquiry and this page is the result.
If you want a sensible analysis instead try the Iraq Inquiry Digest

Technical Problems

One problem in coming to any understanding from the Inquiry is the sheer volume of material.  The transcripts are long and, taken in their original form, extremely dull.... often running to hundreds and hundreds of pages.  Even an extremely extremely abridged transcript would be enormous to behold.  Added to this its terms of reference are extremely wide meaning that information on pre-war build-up and post-war operations are confused and overlapping and testimony is not always chronological meaning the casual reader has a hard time understanding it.   Many of the witness tell slightly similar versions of the same stories and there is much repetition of evidence so the idea was made more difficult by these factors.  This is, of course, how the Inquiry is supposed to be seen. 

from left to right :
Sir John Chilcot (ex-senior Civil Servant) Chairman
Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman (Military Historian)
Sir Martin Gilbert (Military Historian)
Sir Roderic Lyne (ex-Ambassador and Diplomat)
Baroness Usha Prashar (professional sitter on committees and boards of things)

All public inquires are really an exercise in getting embarrassing data into the public domain as slowly as possible given the speed with which it is otherwise likely to leak there. In general they tend to exist to make sure that if the truth cannot be whitewashed then it can at least be spread about fairly equally.  So sporadic bursts of interest come and go but no overall cohesive story is transmitted to the public.  Of course now all the evidence has been submitted there will soon be a final report but Whitehall still has powers of veto.  So below is the little sense we could make of it.   After considering reproducing transcripts might be slightly visually and mentally dull we decided instead to opt for animation using the Xtranormal web platform which is still a bit dull as all the 3D animated characters speak in monotone and look a bit jerky ...unlike the real video footage of the Iraq Inquiry which shows a number of people who are monotonous and a number who act like ... We couldn't help but notice that almost all the interviewees are men but fortunately we are not bright enough to draw any conclusions from this. 

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.  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 here if that's easier or on this Youtube page.

So then, are you ready?

Good... then I'll begin...

The Inquiry stats with Christopher Meyer the United Kingdom Ambassador in Washington throughout
the run up to the war telling the Inquiry about George W Bush's lack of belief in his own competence in the area of foreign policy and how, as a result, he hired the Vulcans.

The Vulcans were led by Condoleezza Rice
and Paul Wolfowitz ...


and included Richard Armitage, Robert Blackwill, Stephen Hadley, Richard Perle, Dov S. Zakheim, Robert Zoellick and Wolfowitz protegé, Scooter Libby.

recalls how to begin with the Americans weren't that interested in Iraq but 9/11 changed things slightly. 


Jeremy Greenstock the United Kingdom Ambassador to the United Nations for five years, from 1998 to 2003 explains how there is no supreme arbiter of international law ...

Tim Dowse former head of the Non-proliferation Department in the Foreign Office in 2003 commented on the level of Iraq's actual WMD capability as far as he knew.

...and tried to nail down the more wobbly question of what exactly is a WMD?

The Foreign Office's Political Director for the period from September 2001 through to July 2003 Edward Chaplin ponder on how things could have been handled differently...

While Sir David Manning ponders on how George W Bush's administration was so bitterly divided amongst its self that they didn't even know what George W Bush would say to the UN before he said it to the UN ....

....and after he had said it Condoleezza Rice rang up to say that when he'd told the UN what they thought they wanted to hear about a second resolution that was only because he'd been reading the wrong draft of the speech because there were so many they got mixed up.

There was also evidence from military officers containing a lot of general moans.  Here's some comments about plugs and sockets

Sir William Patey the British Ambassador to Iraq  from June 2005 to July 2006 talked a lot about electricity

Major General Graham Binns General Officer Commanding Multi-National Division South East, Aug 2007 – Feb 2008 talks about exactly how the UK forces supported the Iraqi General Mohan in Basra who commanded using a mobile phone...

Vice Admiral Charles Style talks about exactly how many military operations the British Armed Forces are designed to undertake and sustain at any one time and how running the Afghanistan and Iraq operations in parallel caused some resourcing issues.

General Sir John Reith Chief Joint Operations Aug 2001-Jul 2004 speaks in private about playing on a field where the goalposts are moving ... and the field as well.

Lord Turnbull Cabinet Secretary, 2002 – 2005 described the generation of the Iraq War dossier as process of "granny's footsteps".

Alastair Campbell says with no irony that you can't just choose the leadership of another country...

...and blames the French for causing the war.

Lieutenant General Sir Richard Shirreff complains about the lack of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles ...

...over a period of 4 years and then says sorry for whinging too much...

Jack Straw says that while the wider issues were discussed you cant just go around trusting the Cabinet with information.  There are 27 or 28 of them.  Far too many.  Just him, Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and erm...?

Geoff Hoon

claims he did not know a misleading impression of the 45 minute claim had been circulating in the press as he was too busy and out the country in Kiev...

...with so few people being allowed to know anything Mr Hoon simply had too much to do.  Mr Hoon claims he only really understood what the issue was afterwards when he saw an episode of Panorama.

To be fair the size of the Cabinet has always been controversial.   And it has been growing in size since 1900.   In the 1950s Harold McMillan actually had to make the table larger due to the increase of people in the government...

The cabinet is technically a sub-committee of the Privy Council that was naturally formed when the Privy Council became too large to make decisions like which of the King's wives should have their head cut off this week.  The machination of "sofa government" is simply the subconscious reiteration of the basic laws of optimum committee size.  Huge volumes of research are done all the time into optimum committee sizes.  The most often cited guesses for the best size are between 5 and 7 people.  Which is fine as long as you're not discussing taking an entire nation to war...?  Of course the other problem with the Cabinet is while it's too large to make fast decisions it's also too small to have the authority of the House of Commons ...so is it a decision making policy committee or a policy rubber stamp?
Your guess is as good as mine.

Continue to part 2...