Leading article: Why rake over the past when the future is at stake?

Share


The Independent has long argued for a full inquiry into the decisions that led to British troops being committed to combat in Iraq. The four inquiries held so far - Hutton, Butler, and two parliamentary committee inquiries - were too narrowly drawn. They have all fallen far short of the thorough and wide-ranging investigation into the whole complexion of political decision-making before the war that we - and a great many people in this country - felt was necessary to ensure that the appropriate lessons were learnt. Such an inquiry, preferably a full public inquiry, needs to be held.

The question is whether now is the right time. On the face of it, as Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party argued yesterday in the parliamentary debate they initiated, present circumstances in Iraq cry out for an investigation. There can be no doubt at all that the Iraq war has been a catastrophically ill-conceived and mismanaged venture. There can be no doubt either that the situation in Iraq is going from appalling to even worse.

Successive promises of improved security have come to nothing. It is all very well for the US and British governments to speak approvingly of the courageous participation of Iraqis in elections and of the need to back Iraq's "democratic" government. But the truth is that elections have not brought the hoped-for diminution of the violence, and the "democratic" government lacks authority in much of the country.

October was one of the costliest months in terms of American lives since the war began. Not a day goes by without the number of reported Iraqi casualties rising by several score. The Iraqi dead include police and troops trained by the US and British in what seems the increasingly vain hope that they will be able to take over responsibility for restoring order.

Last month, President Bush admitted that there might be parallels between Iraq and Vietnam. This week, the Foreign Office announced what it described as a partial relocation of staff from the British consulate in Basra in response to an increased threat of attack. If this is not the worst-case scenario envisaged at the outset by opponents of the war, it is hard to imagine what might be.

Yet the precariousness of the present situation is exactly why calls for an inquiry now, along the lines of the Franks inquiry after the Falklands War, are mistaken. The historic nature of the errors - of leadership or judgement - that took us into the war is quite clear. The Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, has come close to admitting as much, and she almost did so again in yesterday's debate, when she described the challenges as "acute". The over-riding issue, however, must be the future of Iraq and the welfare of the British troops serving there. If their mission is called into question by MPs sitting comfortably in London, while they are serving in such a hostile environment, the adverse effect on morale can only be imagined.

This is not to say that there is no discussion that should be undertaken now. Yesterday's debate dwelt on the past. Only a few speakers called for an open debate of what should happen next in Iraq. But this should surely be the immediate priority. Through scandalously ill-considered action, we have smashed Iraq and destroyed thousands of lives. The political leaders who set all this in train seem at a loss to know how to proceed. It is a pity that yesterday's parliamentary debate - the first to be held on Iraq since the war began - was not directed towards pooling constructive ideas about how to improve the lives of Iraqis and speed the return of our troops. Regrettably, it was a lost opportunity.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate  

Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Andrew Grice
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after agreeing a deal on carbon emissions  

Beijing must face down the perils of being big and powerful – or boom may turn to bust

Peter Popham
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable