Another Inquiry or Another Whitewash?

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Protestors outside the inquiry / Photo: Chris John Beckett/flickr

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will be recalled for a second round of questioning after conflicting testimonies were given to the Iraq Inquiry.

It is unclear, however, what the consequences could be if Blair is found guilty of promoting false information regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in making the case for war. There seems to be a culture of inquiry in the UK that reinforces our democratic conscience but often results in ambiguous or anticlimactic conclusions.

BBC reports in 2003 quoted a government source claiming the 45-minute dossier had been ‘sexed up’ to justify the Iraq invasion. The Hutton Inquiry was held after the source, Ministry of Defence employee David Kelly, was found dead having apparently committed suicide. The inquiry cleared the government of any wrongdoing and heavily criticized the BBC’s actions – a verdict widely condemned by the press as a whitewash.

Clare Short, the former secretary for development, was clear in her condemnation of Blair’s actions. She said she had been “sidelined” and “conned” and that Blair had deliberately misled members of the cabinet. Added to a statement by Sir Michael Wood, chief legal adviser at the Foreign Office, that his opinion regarding the illegality of invasion had been disregarded, the case is looking shaky for Mr Blair. Too much has already been said for another whitewash, but could the inquiry seriously reach its logical conclusion and see him tried in an International Criminal Court?

Blair’s arrival to Friday’s hearing was met by protestors calling for his imprisonment for war crimes, but the mood seems uncertain as to where the inquiry is really heading. His performance was strong but showed signs of weakness, especially when questioned about the television interview last year in which he admitted he would have “still though it right to remove” Saddam Hussein had he known the WMDs were not there.

The performance by the inquiry set up by Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been more convincing. Let us hope the script has not already been written.

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