Saturday, June 13, 2009

Paul Flynn MP - seminal notes

June 12, 2009

Iraq Inquiry-first step

Yesterday a seminar took place that could decide the nature of the long awaited inquiry into the Iraq War.

It was under Chatham House rules.They prevent my telling you who said what but I am free to discuss the general issues. The Public Administration Committee (PASC) invited past Chairmen of other major inquiries, academics, journalists and prominent MPs. I insisted on an invitation to representatives of the bereaved families. Reg Keyes was invited but unfortunately could not attend at the last moment.

I tried to make the points that I believe he would have made. What torments the bereaved families is the thought that their loved ones died in vain. Bush’s war was certain to happen. But did Britain have to join it? That decision was paid for with the deaths of 179 British soldiers.

Parliamentarians want answers too. For the first time ever, we MPs decided with our votes to go to war. We are directly responsible for the deaths that followed. Were we deceived? What was the legal advice? What is the truth of the briefings on WMD? These core questions must be answered by the Inquiry.

All who spoke wanted to avoid an Inquiry like the Bloody Sunday one that took seven years. A time limit of a year was thought to be desirable and attainable. There is broad agreement that only a public inquiry would be acceptable. There has already been far too much secrecy. We have a promise from Jack Straw that the cabinet minutes will be revealed to the Inquiry. There are other fuller cabinet notes that should also be published.

5 privy councillors have conducted recent successful brief inquiries. It’s a useful number that allows majority decisions to be made. There is no one in public life who does not have a settled view on the rights and wrong of the Iraq War, so it will not be possible to find impartial individuals. There should a balance of views of those trusted to follow the evidence.

There is real difficulty in allowing two many lawyers to attend the inquiry. They have the advantage of simplifying the procedures but they can clog up the processes by excessive caution in defence of their clients.

An Inquiry is now certain and the details may be announced in days. PASC has taken the lead. The views of our seminar will be presented to Government and I am sure they will be gratefully received and followed.


From the comments section:

... If the inquiry looks at the reasons for Bush going to war, it will add six months to the inquiry. If it is narrowed down to UK's involvement it can be completed in a year...

Posted by: Paul Flynn

... First a narrow inquiry is essential and there must be no room for delayers to extend the process for years. There is a belief that Ann Taylor tried a political hatchet job in the Butler inquiry. She had a role as a cheer leader for the war as chair of the Security Committee. There will attempts by some to widen the scope of the inquiry back to 20 years before the war started. This again will delay a conclusion. The inquiry will waste months on matters irrelevant to the core concerns.

Posted by: Paul Flynn

... The Americans will resist puttiing all their secret information into the public domain. They have no concept of an 'illegal war.' When asked about it, they shrugged and said "it was approved by Congress". We have a different view that is crucial. Our involvement was approved by Parliament but it was probably 'illegal' in our terms.

The purpose of the Inquiry is not just to answer the above questions, but to prevent repetitions of the tragic errors in future conflicts.

Posted by: Paul Flynn


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