By Rowan Wolf
Have you heard of the Chilcot Inquiry? If you are in the U.S., the answer is likely "No". The Chilcot Inquiry - also known as "The Iraq Inquiry" - is the UK's investigation into the events that led to and followed from the invasion of Iraq. The Chair of the investigation is Sir John Chilcot who stated the purpose of the inquiry as follows:
"Our terms of reference are very broad, but the essential points, as set out by the Prime Minister and agreed by the House of Commons, are that this is an Inquiry by a committee of Privy Counsellors. It will consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath. We will therefore be considering the UK's involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned. Those lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country."
The Formation of the Committee
The British Parliament approved the forming of a non-political, non-government, inquiry group which was publicly launched by this report from the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee. The reasons for launching a public inquiry are instructive - particularly for the United States. The following quotes are from the Select Committee's report as the reasons for having an inquiry.
From "Conclusions and Recommendations" (Pg 7) 3. The need for effective accountability and public confidence demands that the inquiry be conducted as openly and publicly as possible. We recommend that the Government reconsiders its decision to conduct the Iraq inquiry in private. There needs instead to be a presumption in favour of the inquiry proceeding in an open and public manner. There should be only very limited exceptions to this general rule, which would be best decided by the members of the inquiry itself, not by the Government. (Paragraph 16)
So one reason to perform a public inquiry into Iraq is to restore public confidence in the openness and integrity of their duly elected government.
From "Purpose of the Iraq Inquiry" (Pg 10) 4. The scope of the Iraq inquiry, as announced by the Prime Minister, covers an eight year period that encompasses the circumstances leading up to the decision to go to war, the military conflict itself, and the post-conflict administration of Iraq. The inquiry will focus on the lessons to be learned from Britain's involvement in Iraq. We share the Government's belief that the inquiry should be constructive and that it should seek to identify the policy lessons to be learned from Iraq, particularly if there are lessons that could be applied to the UK's involvement in other conflicts (such as Afghanistan).
Another reason to engage in a thorough investigation is because it may impact on other conflicts such as Afghanistan - where both the United States and the UK are still embroiled.
From "Purpose of the Iraq Inquiry" (Pg 10) 5. There is, however, another fundamental reason for holding an Iraq inquiry. In the words of one of our seminar participants, an inquiry needs to "get at the truth" and to be seen to be getting at the truth. This is vital to restoring the loss of public confidence in governing processes and institutions that has resulted from the UK's involvement in Iraq. There is also a justified expectation--demanded in particular by the relatives of British soldiers who have died in Iraq--that the inquiry will enable the executive to be held to account for its decisions and conduct.
This is a stronger reiteration of 3 above. There is an admission that the Iraq war, and the events surrounding it, have damage the people's confidence in both the government and the institutions thereof. The confidence of the people of the United States has also been damaged, and there is a demand for accountability.
The Iraq Inquiry
Out of this came The Iraq Inquiry which is still ongoing. However, this is not the path that has been taken in the United States. Despite broad public demands for investigations, the Obama administration has repeatedly made clear its reluctance to pursue any such inquiry. Obama wants to "move forward." In fact, efforts that had been made to identify the various issues surrounding th invasion of Iraq, and notorious events surrounding it, have been quietly moved from public view. Perhaps you remember Representative Henry Waxman's dogged efforts to address various aspects of the Iraq adventure - such as his this link, or search the Guardian site for "Chilcot Inquiry."
Many of the things that have come up in the inquiry thus far should be making big news in the United States, and definitely should provide impetus for investigations in the United States.
- In 2000, the new Bush administration was already talking about "regime change" in Iraq.
- That after 9/11/2001, the Bush administration was pushing a link between Hussein and bin Laden even though there was no evidence of any such connection.
SIr John Scarlett testified that Blair's claim of WMDs in Iraq, and the 45 minute launch capability, was overtly political. This is confirmed to some extent by Blair's own admission that he would have supported the invasion of Iraq even had he known there were no WMDs. However, as the Downing Street Memos and Scarlett's testimony show - it was known (or at least not proven).
As reported by David Stringer of the AP, the UK Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, testified that Bush was "hell bent" on invading Iraq, and felt the UN approval was a waste of time.
While Britain was the primary U.S. ally in the invasion of Iraq, Bush chose to go it alone by keeping Britain out of the information loop according to MI6 chief Sir John Sawyers.
Why Britain and not the U.S.?
The question has to be asked why it is that Britain keeps pursuing the truth of the Iraq invasion, but the United States does not. While it is no surprise that the Bush administration would not investigate itself, it is stunning that the Obama administration continues to pursue a "let by-gones be by-gones" approach. For all the much smaller involvement of the UK, they have much more concern for the effects on the people and their government. What happened in the United States poses a much more significant challenge to the very structure of our government and the way that it operates.