Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chill Out Chilcot

Tony Blair: veni, vidi, vici.

I may be late but I'm very near the mark. The so-called Iraq inquiry finally got a chance to question Tony Blair and they muffed it big time.

It seems amazing to me that the Chilcotters are simply unable, or unwilling, to ask the type of questions designed to bring out the real answers.

At the moment it goes something like this:

Chilcot: Welcome (three minutes of waffle ensues outlining why the inquiry is there and expressing real regret that the witnesses are inconvenienced by having to attend). Now, Prime Minister, oh sorry I meant Mr Blair, could you please, please tell us a bit about what you were doing in relation to the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq?

Tony Blair: Well, (there follows a 35 minute uninterrupted monologue by Teflon Tone).

Got the idea?

Where's Paxman when he's needed?

Actually, taking cheap shots at Chilcot, whilst it has become a sort of unofficial Olympic sport, is not entirely fair. After all he is getting a whacking great sum to do this job and has a very nice lunch everyday courtesy of the government.

How so? How about consulting the terms of reference?

Who picked the members?

The Prime Minister appointed the members of the Committee. Opposition parties were consulted. (Oh gosh, that's all right then!)

Why don’t you have politicians on the Inquiry team?
The Committee’s membership is a matter for the Government. Sir John has, however, discussed his approach to the Inquiry with the Government, leaders of Opposition parties, Chairmen of relevant House of Commons Committees and other interested Parliamentarians. The Committee will continue to discuss the Inquiry with politicians as the Inquiry progresses. (Ok, this is a joke from a dodgy internet site, isn't it?)
Will the Inquiry look into issues that are being considered by other proceedings?
There may be issues that are subject to other ongoing proceedings – for example, legal proceedings or police investigations - on which it would not be appropriate for this Inquiry to comment. We will decide that on a case-by-case basis, subject to legal advice. (And, we trust you implicitly, after all you were appointed by the very people you are supposed to be questioning and holding to account!)
How is the Government co-operating with the Inquiry?
As the Prime Minister told the House of Commons, “no British document and no British witness will be beyond the scope of the Inquiry.” The Government has assured the Inquiry of the full co-operation of the relevant Departments. (I'm so relieved!)
Will all the documentary evidence be published on the website?
The Committee intends to publish the key evidence with its report at the end of the Inquiry. It may also publish material on the website as the Inquiry progresses where this will help increase public understanding of its work. (I'm sure I read somewhere that the Road to Hell is paves with good intentions.)
Will you tell witnesses the line of questioning they will face?
In order for the evidence sessions to be as effective as possible, and in order to ensure fairness to the witnesses, the Inquiry will provide guidance on the matters that the Inquiry wishes to cover in the hearing, and any documents the Inquiry wishes to refer to. The witnesses will not be told of the precise lines of questioning they will face. (Good, they will only be asked questions they are expecting, how fair is that?)
What protection do witnesses have to speak freely?
The hearings are not covered by Parliamentary or other privilege. The Committee expects all witnesses to provide truthful, fair and accurate evidence. The Inquiry welcomes the fact that the Government and Services have extended an immunity from disciplinary action to serving officials and military personnel who give evidence or otherwise assist the Inquiry, as this will help reassure witnesses that they can provide frank and honest evidence.
Should a witness feel unable to answer questions due to a genuine fear of self-incrimination of a criminal offence, it would be open to the Inquiry Committee to consider whether, in order to secure the greatest possible openness and co-operation, it would be appropriate to seek an undertaking from the Law Officers that evidence provided to the inquiry will not be used in criminal proceedings against them, in accordance with the usual practice in inquiries. (Read this bit again please – if you can bear it.)
What will the Inquiry do if it receives evidence or information about criminal offences?
If the Inquiry receives credible evidence that criminal offences have been committed that has not previously been referred to the investigating authorities, it would be obliged to refer that evidence to the appropriate investigating authority. (I'm just so comforted.)
I would gladly give up a year's pay to get Tone, Gordo, The Man of Straw and the rest of the divots in front of a U.S. Senate Committee. Then the money spent providing this sham might be said to have been well spent.

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