29 May 2014

Iraq Inquiry inches closer

The letter from Sir John Chilcot to the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood shows two seasoned mandarins in slow motion protocol wrestling.

The retired one, Sir John, now turned investigator, is trying to extract the sort of top secret information he used to sit on as the Northern Ireland Office Permanent Secretary in the 1990’s.


The younger one, Sir Jeremy, a worthy successor in the mandarin dynasty, is clinging on to the old rules Sir John used to preserve on confidentiality.

The end result is a compromise reached through a process of glacial pace.

Some are reporting this latest letter as “agreement reached on documents.” What they’ve actually agreed is “agreement on the principles” for what will be seen by us of the Tony Blair/George W. Bush phone call transcripts and notes of conversations.

The detail of what will be shared is something that will now be discussed.

There was a similar “principles” agreement on Cabinet minutes and what we could see of them.

It came around July 2013. It wasn’t until about five months later that the older and younger mandarin and their respective teams agreed what exactly would be redacted and what would be published.

The documents they’re now going to clear for (very) partial publication or paraphrasing are even more sensitive. Maybe they’ll get through this lot at breakneck speed but the precedents don’t suggest that.

And the agreement on these documents would then be followed by months of “Maxwellisation,” during which those criticised by the report are given the opportunity to read in advance and comment on the relevant passages.

Sir John makes mention in his letter of “some material received by the Inquiry very recently” which filled “some potential gaps in the material provided.”

That sounds like it might be a reference to the “with you … whatever” letter that Tony Blair was reported to have sent to George W. Bush

Anyway, progress towards publication – but you would be very unwise to hold your breath.

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2 reader comments

  1. Aidan Turner says:

    I am beginning to doubt whether we will ever know the full story of the Iraq War. Did it originally stem from the attempted assasination of George Bush Senior after the first Gulf War ? Was it some sort of revenge, something “personal”? Will we ever get to know whether the Iraqi Oil reserves played a part in the considerations for invasion and if so, how much? Will we get to know how much Intelligence was suppressed or fabricated? Will we get to know any more about the fate of Dr. David Kelly? Will we get to know why the British Constitution was sufficiently “flexible” to allow so many of these considerations and discussions to take place in total secrecy, by-passing formal Cabinet discussions and Parliamentary debate?

  2. Alan says:

    How much money is being wasted upon this customer service style insult. Look at Libya, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Haiti, CAR, Yemen etc, etc and inquire over Britain’s contributions? Why not have an inquiry over the pedophile allegations that stretch to the Royal Family and why such investigations have been prevented by the Home secretary? Why not have an inquiry over the support for the Qatari and Bahrani regimes? The list goes on and on, but no let’s bash a second rate PM for his role in one instance from 10 years ago.

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