They clearly want to keep this going, this series of inquiries about the war instructed not to touch on why we went to war. The next one will be told to confine its findings to the role of gardening in the run-up to war, and somehow result in widespread resignations at the Royal Horticultural Society. Then there'll be one that concentrates on which font was used in the dossier, with the judge declaring: "It seems to me to be perfectly preposterous that the previously undiscovered passage that suggests Saddam couldn't possibly have a single chemical weapon of any description is in Times New Roman. At the very least they could have used italics."
Blair's argument seems to be: "There's no need to investigate the actions of the Government, as we've already been cleared in the other inquiry that wasn't allowed to investigate the actions of the Government." They might as well say: "And look at the inquiry into Rio Ferdinand, not a word of criticism from the judge about our behaviour. How many more inquiries do you want?"
So, as investigations go, this one will hardly be Inspector Morse. If it is, it would be the shortest episode ever made. Lewis would say: "I don't know, Morse. This chap Blair says there were weapons of mass destruction, but thousands of people with unprecedented access, wealth and equipment can't find them and have concluded they aren't there, as has almost everyone in the world. My hunch is there's something about Blair's statement that doesn't add up." And Morse would say: "I don't think there's anything to be gained from going down that road Lewis, let's call it a day", and that would be the end.
The only reason there's another inquiry at all is because of this elaborate game of "Simon Says" that Blair plays, called "George Bush says". For six months he's heard screams of "we need an inquiry", but he was thinking: "It doesn't count because it doesn't go 'George Bush says' first."
So now we have the inquiry and, to make it fair, the team of five that will run it are drawn from a wide cross-section of the aristocracy. Lord Butler once let off Jonathan Aitken, saying he'd done nothing wrong. Michael Mates resigned as a Tory minister because of his connections to Asil Nadir. It seems you can't get on this panel unless you've been of assistance to a crooked millionaire. Perhaps it's like The Usual Suspects; the real reason they're being brought together is to plan a major heist. Halfway through the inquiry the crown jewels will go missing, while Sir John Chilcot screeches down the Strand in the getaway van as Lord Butler yells: "Step on it Chilcot. If we're not all back in the Royal Courts of Justice at 10 o'clock sharp they'll start asking questions."
If the inquiry was supposed to be genuinely searching, why can't it be carried out by a cop with a shaved head from Bermondsey, the sort anyone else would get if they were being investigated. Instead of all this archaic language he'd just grab Blair by the hair and snarl: "You can deny it all you like, but your mate Hoon next door has already grassed you up."
It's hard to see why we need an inquiry at all. We already have an abundance of evidence showing that the Government has been willing to twist the facts to try and prove the existence of those weapons. Whatever the dossier said, Blair was never going to say: "Ah, it seems Saddam doesn't have much at all", then ring Bush and tell him to call the whole thing off.
Every piece of information has been deemed to prove their case. As recent as last week, John Reid on Newsnight was asked for a response to David Kay's statement upon resigning as head of the Iraq Survey Group. Reid said that if you looked at what David Kay actually said, he'd admitted they'd found 85 per cent of the stuff they were looking for. But David Kay's exact words were: "I think we have found probably 85 per cent of what we're going to find", which means almost the exact opposite, especially in the context of him resigning having said they'd got everything wrong. Why didn't Reid say: "What David Kay actually said was, 'Greg Dyke, he's the idiot who lost the rights to Match of the Day. I for one won't miss him'."?
Now the tactic seems to be to claim they were misled. After all, given the evidence available, who could possibly have doubted it. Except for Scott Ritter, previous head of weapons inspectors, Hans Blix, the current one, the United Nations, the governments of France and Germany, 90 per cent of Spain, the entire Arab world and, we now know, huge chunks of the intelligence service itself, such as Brian Jones, whose interview was in this paper yesterday.
Incidentally, shouldn't The Independent learn how to market these scoops properly. If he does another one, how about a TV advert with Jones in his swimming trunks catching a beach ball, and grinning: "Read my story of spooks who couldn't find nukes, it's spy-sational, it's inquiring, it's inspiring, it's only in The Independent."
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