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Jun 15th, 2009

Britain Authorizes Third Inquiry into Iraq War

Appointed panel will scrutinize country’s involvement behind closed doors

Protesters hold placards with the words ‘No Cover Up’ and ‘No More Lies’ as they demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London, June 15, 2009. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced an independent inquiry into the Iraq war Monday, six years after his predecessor Tony Blair controversially backed the U.S.-led invasion. Brown said the probe would not “apportion blame” but simply seek to learn lessons to “strengthen the health of our democracy,” while praising the role of British forces in Iraq. But David Cameron, leader of the main opposition Conservatives who are expected to win the next general election, accused him of deliberately delaying its publication until after the election to avoid any “inconvenient conclusions.”  (Photo credit: Shaun Curry / AFP — Getty Images)

June 15, 2009

LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown authorized a long-awaited inquiry into the Iraq war on Monday, but defied requests from bereaved families and campaigners to hold sessions in public.

Brown told the House of Commons that an examination of mistakes made during and after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion will begin next month, but take place entirely behind closed doors.

“Now is the right time to ensure we have a proper process in place to learn the lessons of the complex and often controversial events of the last six years,” Brown said.

Campaigners have repeatedly called for a public inquiry to scrutinize what they say are a range of errors made by Britain, the United States and other allies in prewar intelligence and planning for postwar reconstruction work.

Brown said a panel of appointed experts — not lawmakers — will conduct the inquiry, led by John Chilcott, a former senior civil servant who played a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

He said the panel would look closely at the build up to the Iraq invasion, how the conflict was conducted and problems with planning for reconstruction projects — seeking to draw lessons for future combat operations.

The panel itself will decide whether to address wider questions about whether Britain should have been involved at all in the Iraq invasion, Brown’s office said.

British officials said the inquiry is the first of its type by a country that joined the Iraq invasion, and will be more comprehensive than the work of the 2006 Iraq Study Group in the U.S., the bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton that helped chart a new course in the then-flagging war.

Unpopular war inspired record demonstrations

The war was deeply unpopular in Britain, prompting some of the country’s largest ever protest marches — including a rally which drew an estimated 2 million demonstrators to central London. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair was badly tarnished by his decision to join the war — and widely lampooned as U.S. President George W. Bush’s poodle. But later Blair won a 2005 national election, with a reduced majority.

Brown said the inquiry will examine the background to the Iraq war from 2001, be permitted to call witnesses and have access to all government documents — including classified papers. …

The prime minister said Chilcott’s group will likely report in July 2010. Brown must call a national election by June 2010.

Critics: Private inquiry ‘exonerates politicians’

Critics said the public would not accept a review held in private.

“I am staggered that the prime minister is seeking to compound the error, fatal to so many of Britain’s sons and daughters, by covering up the path that led to it,” said Nick Clegg, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats. …

Two British inquiries into aspects of the decision to join the U.S.-led war already have been held.

One cleared the government of blame for the death of David Kelly, a government weapons scientist who killed himself in 2003 after he was exposed as the source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that accused Blair’s office of “sexing up” prewar intelligence.

A separate 2004 inquiry into intelligence on Iraq also cleared Blair’s government, but criticized intelligence officials for relying on seriously flawed or unreliable sources.

2 Responses to “Britain Orders Iraq War Inquiry”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties Says:

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