More from: Families

Government let families down – Ainsworth

by Chris Ames

The BBC and Sky News both report former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth as telling the Inquiry that the government “let down” or “failed” the families of service personnel killed in Iraq and elsewhere.

According to the BBC:

Mr Ainsworth told the Iraq inquiry that the Ministry of Defence “simply did not get it right” in terms of the overall “welfare package” given to families.

Communication with families was inconsistent and inquests into deaths in service took too long, he said.

The Inquiry has not yet published the transcript of any of today’s witnesses. They will appear here.

Who is spinning more, Chilcot or his witnesses?

by Chris Ames

Sir John Chilcot’s statement this afternoon was reported by the Telegraph at 3.30, a few minutes after he gave it. Presumably they had an early copy of the text. I didn’t get one, perhaps because I have been critical on some of the issues that Chilcot addressed. I’m going to be even more critical: it is difficult to know who is spinning more – Chilcot or his witnesses.

We have learnt that Tony Blair will give evidence in public, although it remains unclear whether he will also have a secret session; that the Inquiry will seek to protect Labour from political embarrassment during the election campaign; and that it will only now begin to ask government permission to discuss and disclose actual documentary evidence.


Hassan Sisters feel let down

by Chris Ames

I met the sisters of Margaret Hassan, who was kidnapped and murdered in Iraq in 2004, at the Inquiry’s meeting with families in London two months ago. They are very angry about the way the Foreign Office handled the kidnapping and wanted the Inquiry to ask some tough questions to get to the bottom of it.

Unfortunately, as the Times reports this morning, they feel badly let down by the Inquiry’s questioning yesterday of Edward Chaplin, who was the British ambassador to Baghdad at the time.

The family of the murdered British aid worker Margaret Hassan said that they have been “betrayed” by the official inquiry into the Iraq war after it spent just three minutes yesterday discussing her kidnapping.

I was also in contact last night with Deirdre Manchanda, one of Margaret Hassan’s sisters. This is what she said to me. She has given me permission to publish everything she said, although I have had to hold back some of the more defamatory statements:


Inquiry issues family meetings ‘debrief’

by Andrew Mason

The Inquiry has posted a statement on its website regarding the October meetings with the family members of those who lost their lives or remain missing in Iraq. One further meeting has been announced, to be held on 18 December, for anyone who was unable to attend the earlier meetings.

The statement states that the main issues identified during the discussions and in the subsequent correspondence were:

  • the overarching question of why and how the UK committed to military action in Iraq
  • the adequacy of equipment
  • the level of appropriate training
  • the inquest/criminal investigation process; and
  • Government contact with, and support for, bereaved families, injured Service personnel and kidnap victims.

My Iraq Inquiry experience

by Tertia Boshoff (South Africa), mother of †RM Sholto/Sonic Hedenskog (4 November 1976 – 21 March 2003)

On 20 August 2009 I received two letters from Sir John Chilcot and Margaret Aldred (dated 28 July and 12 August respectively) informing me of the launch of the Iraq Inquiry on 30 July in London and asking whether I would like to participate. I replied on the same day, via e-mail, that I would definitely want to meet with the committee members.

I had already accepted an invitation from Navy Command Headquarters in July to attend the dedication service of the Royal Marines Memorial Wall at CTCRM Lympstone, Devon. This event was planned for the weekend of 26 and 27 September.

I purchased my flight ticket at the end of July and would be in the UK from 23 to 28 September, incorporating a set itinerary whilst in the UK.

Sixteen e-mails were exchanged between me and the Inquiry secretary’s office during the period of 20 August and 17 September, trying to set up a meeting of approximately 30 minutes. Initially I suggested either 23 or 28 September, explaining my itinerary. I tried to make changes to my flight ticket to make more days available in London, but was unsuccessful. My final suggestion was 28 September.