Monday, June 15, 2009

Iraq Inquiry Stitch-Up Then Whitewash

Any pretence of a born-again Brown has been blown out of the water with the lies, deceits and cover-ups over the illegal Iraq war set to continue. A secret stitched-up inquiry will treat people like mushrooms - kept in the dark and fed on shit.

Philip Cooper, whose son Jamie was the youngest soldier seriously injured in Iraq, told the Observer yesterday: "Ministers should not treat us like us mushrooms - kept in the dark and fed on shit".

But that's exactly what has happened, as Brown's grandstanding talk of "reforming politics" and transparency have been revealed as cheap words and a hollow sham.

An inquiry into the disgrace of a war is set to take a full year until after the general election before the public are any the wiser. Leaving only a festering reminder of a fag-end government. Crucially it will not have powers to subpoena witnesses under oath.

Now once again a bunch of faceless cronies will be locked behind closed doors in secret while the public is kept in the dark waiting for another whitewash.

The shameful legacy of events leading to war has left many with blood on their hands, not least a disgraced two-faced ex-prime minister Blair and his "taste for war". A bloody six-year battle which left 179 UK servicemen and women dead and God only knows how many innocent Iraqi men, women and children.

But as chancellor, Brown not only supported the deceit but also authorised the war which cost taxpayers around £6.5 billion and an endless loss of lives on all sides.

Still unresolved is the squalid part played by New Labour chief spin doctor Alistair Campbell over sexed-up dossiers and invisible Weapons of Mass Destruction and the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly. The whitewash of the Hutton inquiry still sticks in many people's throats and looks set to continue.

But at the heart is the still raw anguish of the families of brave servicemen and women whose loved ones were sent to a bloody war ill-equipped and duped into the Iraq killing fields on the back of a pack of lies and deceit.

Announcing the new inquiry Brown said its structure would be similar to the Franks inquiry into the 1982 Falklands war, which was held behind closed doors and branded a "whitewash" by the then Labour opposition.

That is no justification for keeping this inquiry secret.

Few are under any illusions. The events leading up to the Iraq war and its awful aftermath was undoubtedly the worst policy mistake made by any UK government since Suez. Its dreadful legacy still fresh in many people's minds.

At issue is the legality and how the wool was pulled over everyone's eyes. Regime change and overthrowing Saddam's rotten regime was not the issue and wouldn't stand up to international legal scrutiny.

Instead it is the smokescreen of WMDs which will be buried under the new smokescreen of secrecy.

The legality of a war based on the discredited claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction which could be used within 45 minutes, a sexed-up dossier, a cabinet which hardly discussed Blair's war and a parliament which was conned with lies, lies and more lies. A BBC and a then campaigning Daily Mirror (opposite) which put brave heads above the parapet.

True Labour 'rebel' MPs have been let down and were expecting more than this sham. LibDems are disgusted.

Leader Nick Clegg has already said if Brown holds it all or partly in secret and kicks the eventual report into the long grass, "it will be a betrayal of all those families who lost children serving in Iraq. They need answers, not another Whitehall stitch-up."

The least Brown could have done was to throw open a new inquiry to the public and in particular families of soldiers who died. To hide behind the smokescreen of secrecy is an insult.

An inquiry of some sorts has always been on the cards. The whole shameful episode needs the disinfectant of the public spotlight. It's the timing too which is galling.

Using the inquiry as part of a personal political fight-back and to curry favour with true Labour backbenchers is playing a dirty little trick which fools no-one.

Only last year the government stalled Tory attempts to force a public inquiry. In February justice secretary Jack Straw vetoed publication of minutes of cabinet meetings discussing the legality of the war.

Just what is the point of an inquiry behind closed doors? No family, no MP with a heart or a conscience would be happy with that. They have already been lied to by the government. The time for lying should be over.

If the expenses scandal taught Brown and MPs anything is should have been that now is the time for honesty and open government.

Today's stitched-up secret inquiry with a whitewash outcome in a year's time just puts the clocks back to the bad old days of New Labour lies, deceit and spin.

Top/Middle picture: Private Eye. Bottom picture: Daily Mirror 2003

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