Category Archives: Iraq Inquiry

May- June feels a little flat by comparison- Obama, Iraq, Osama

I have been waiting patiently since this announcement was made one month ago for some kind of comment…

But with ash filling the skies on the day this story featured on page 8 of the ipaper…

… the symbolic end to a shambolic war was easily lost among the noise…

… leaving a distinctly Iraq-shaped hole in Obama’s first visit to the UK three days later.

The War on Terror, Axis of Evil and WMDs. More than 1 million people marched, and they did it anyway.

What have we learned?

The Robin Cook Memorial Conference is being hosted by Compass at the Institute of Education in London on Saturday.

As a fierce opponent of the war, Cook would have been pleased that t

he event brings together progressive politicians of all parties, pressure groups, trade unions, think tanks, NGOs, academics, activists, thinkers and campaigners from across civil society to discuss and debate how we build the good society.

Since 2003, Compass Youth has aimed to engage young people to find out what issues really matter.

At 12.45pm they will host: Liam Burns, NUS President-elect, Adam Ramsay, co-editor of the Bright Green blog, Tom Wood, Chair of Liberal Youth, Shiv Malik, Guardian journalist and co-author of ‘The Jilted Generation’ and Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan.

The panel, chaired by Luke Pearce from Compass Youth, will discuss: ‘Signals of Intent: Values and Structures of Tomorrow’.

“There exists a generational disparity in the way politics is practised and the values political parties represent. Increasingly youth politics is practised on issues and through structures distinct from conventional politics.

“At a time when youth have been disproportionately affected by the recent cuts to funding and in order for the centre left to grow support for our ideals, we must embrace the distinct way of thinking and doing politics that youth movements represent.”

So, a month ago, after nine years, my whole political lifetime, the British armed forces stepped off Iraqi soil for the final time.

Where is the Opposition? In fact, where is the Government? Or as a country, after nine years, is this us done?

Tony’s children, surely, we have to work out what we need to do to make sure this never happens again?

The Iraq Inquiry

First published at

Alistair Campbell stumbled on his words. For the first time I have ever seen, he has lost his cool. But this wasn’t during the Iraq Inquiry.

Like Fern Britton, the ‘morning political heavyweight’ who tackled Tony Blair a few weeks ago, Andrew Marr sleighed yet another New Labour Dragon on the sofa.

Campbell regained his composure during the Sunday morning roasting, and blamed the persistent line of questioning for his hesitation; the media is out to get him, a claim reiterated on the couch with the Loose Women on Tuesday.

But the real questions, it seems, are being asked outside of the investigation.

I visited the Iraq Inquiry, jovial… rather sadly, that I’d managed to get a ticket to see Tony Blair. Here, after yet another Inquiry, his uppance would come…

Blair was made Middle East Peace Envoy for the UN, the EU, the US and Russia on the day he left office in 2007, (yes, after Afghanistan and Iraq), yet he took the photo-opportunity to condemn Iran throughout his evidence.

He spoke of “security”, “fear”, “risk” and “attack” but just how alarmed should we be? After all, the Iraq War was supposed to make our streets safer?

The BBC reported on the 23rd January that “The UK terror threat level is being raised from “substantial” to “severe”, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said.”

Almost as unclear as some of Blair’s justification for war; “What if the intelligence was right and we hadn’t acted?”, “If Saddam was getting WMDs, I thought he might attack the UK”, “It wasn’t something that people disputed at the time”.

“The relationship with the US is vital for our security” Blair urged, “I didn’t want America to feel like it was doing it on its own”. Since Barack Obama came to power, he has distanced himself from any “special relationship” with the UK. Probably out of coolness, to shake off the International Lap Dog.

Ultimately Tony Blair’s defence of the ‘intelligence’ on Weapons of Mass Destruction was, “I believed it, beyond doubt”.

From Thatcher to the height of the Blair reign, the position of prime minister has centralized to the point where Blair allowed his own judgment to be the justification. David Cameron is reportedly checking all Tweets made by his shadow ministers in the run-up to the general election.

The lines of question were often probing: “Whose advice were you listening to who didn’t agree with you already?” Chilcot queried. Blair was also lead around a series of “Why Iraq, why now questions”.

But to the dismay of the 700 people who thought they had the golden ticket, they couldn’t get the same answers Fern Britten had pleasantly posed before he appeared.

One only need see the sign of a protester outside the building to see what ‘the world’ might now think: “7 million Iraqis killed, injured or made homeless since 2003”.

Associated Press estimated last year that more than 100,000 civilians had been killed, but for every innocent person, there are relatives who have lost a loved one, looking for somebody to blame.

A protester was restrained trying to perform a citizen’s arrest on Blair, influenced by, a website offering a reward to people “attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest” on Mr Blair “for crimes against peace”. But he left without detention.

Peter McKay said in the Mail “Perhaps we need an inquiry into inquiries themselves — how they are set up, why some people are chosen for them above others, and the true motives of those who decide to have them.” And, apart from the format being the obvious flaw, I’m afraid he might be right.

The Metropolitan Police declined to comment on how much the policing of Blair’s Second Coming had cost. But a helpful Met Police Officer who had been drafted in for the day said that just outside the building there were more than 150 officers- four higher ranking officer per patrol of 21. You do the maths.

Words are the only things that last forever- visiting the Iraq Inquiry

@font-face { font-family: “Times New Roman”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

First published in Pluto Student Newspaper.
The Iraq Inquiry started last week and after serious deliberation over the previous months Gordon Brown said it will be held in public. So we undertook our public duty to attend the hearing on Monday.

Unlike the Hutton Inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, the Iraq Inquiry “is not a court of law. The members of the Committee are not judges, and nobody is on trial.”

Members of the audience were sceptical about this remit.

If evidence is deemed to be a threat to national security, the cloak can be cast back over
proceedings. It will be interesting to see what happens when Blair makes his appearance early next year.
There were no lawyers present, which meant Sir David Manning, former foreign policy adviser to the Prime Minister, spoke at length.

His evidence highlighted the New Labour dependence on unelected advisers. While Condaleeza Rice, then US Secretary of State’s name frequently came up, the UK foreign secretary did not.

Robin Cook had been the Foreign Secretary until he was moved in the 2001 general election.
And the new appointment, Jack Straw was, by Manning’s account, nowhere to be found.

He emphasised that when Bush and Blair met, they did not just talk about Iraq. Which again makes you wonder why the PM was taking such a front seat in someone else’s portfolio.

Largely reading from a document he’d brought in with him, it was almost like he was trying to bury the important things. Or bore everybody so they didn’t come back for the second half.

The man leading the Inquiry, Sir John Chilcot was Staff Counsellor to the Security and Intelligence Agencies from 1999 to 2004 and the National Criminal Intelligence Service from 2002 to 2006. Both are government intelligence agencies.

Michael Crick, Political Editor of BBC’s Newsnight commented on the appointment of war historian Sir Lawrence Freedman to the inquiry in his blog on the 15th June: “Critics of the war might argue Sir Lawrence was himself one of the causes of the war!

“The professor once told me how, back in 1999, he was contacted by Downing Street seeking his thoughts for a speech on humanitarian intervention which the-then Prime Minister Tony Blair was about to make in Chicago.

“When was military action justified for, liberal, humanitarian reasons?

“Sir Lawrence says he was astonished when he heard and read Mr Blair’s famous Chicago speech- perhaps the most important of Blair’s premiership – that it was based largely on the memo he had sent to Number 10.

“And the rest was history.”

He went on to question the appointment of another historian, Sir Martin Gilbert: “In 2004, he went so far as to compare US President George W Bush and Mr Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill.

It was also Sir Winston Churchill’s birthday on Monday 30th of November so we took a trip to the cabinet war rooms hidden beneath the ground near 10 Downing Street.

Churchill is known as a great wartime leader, but less is known is the writing he did throughout his life.
Having been to the Inquiry, and thinking what could and should come out of it I pondered
Churchill: “Words are the only thing that last forever.”

In a world of deeply woven webs, with many powerful and self-interested parties, one can’t help but think that often words mean nothing at all.