Simon Carr: Weak questioning gets answers it deserves

If they are unable to stop politicians regurgitating this drivel they shouldn't be on the committee
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The only questions that politicians now answer clearly are the ones they ask of themselves. They're all at it. Here's Des Browne at Chilcot yesterday: "Do I think we have achieved progress? Yes I do."

It's not exactly paint-stripper, is it? That's why the inquiry has inquisitors. So, here's Sir Lawrence Freedman: "Was Iraq an embarrassment or did you feel it had to be brought to as good a conclusion as possible?"

Honestly, Deirdre! What did the old fool expect his witness to say? Here's another of his mildly interrogative assertions: "Though you could see the way forward there was very little on which you could base any optimism."

The minister's response deserves dwelling on. We join it some distance in: "... time to ensure the relevant supporting resources both from the Iraqis or our coalition partners were made available to us to be able to get through the time that we needed to allow for the development of the forces that would eventually be able to deal with and allow the..."

If they are unable to stop politicians regurgitating this administrative drivel they shouldn't be on the committee. What about bringing in young James Dingemans to ask their questions – and get their answers?

In the event, we caught only a glimpse of the humiliation Browne must have felt when an Iraqi Division complete with a fully integrated US command structure swept into Basra in the Charge of the Knights. Our lot were holed up at the airport trying to get out. Des hadn't been told about it. The first he knew was watching it on the news.

When Lyne asked if Iraq supplies suffered from the Afghan commitment, he was asking a question that reflects on the deaths of 100 soldiers.

The minister's answer went off in all directions at once. If you kicked over a box of cockroaches you'd see a physical metaphor for it. Why did no one stop him? They must know what Des is like.

"We are a 'lessons learned' inquiry," Chilcot said. I wish they'd learn how to construct a line of questioning.

Lyne had Straw in his sights last week. You remember Blair abandoned the UN route by saying that Chirac was going to veto the second resolution "whatever the circumstances". Lyne said Chirac's words were ambiguous. But they jolly well weren't. The interview is still on the internet and Chirac's meaning is the opposite of what Straw wants him to say. Chirac said that if the weapons inspections were to fail, war was "inevitable", and France would fight.

There's a lesson in there somewhere, surely.