More from: Issues


The FAC also want answers?

by Andrew Mason

From the Guardian ticker-tape:

Breaking news: Sir John Chilcot, chairman of Iraq war inquiry, to be summoned before the Commons foreign affairs committee to explain delay to report. More details soon…

Now updated:

Chilcot is to be summoned before MPs at Westminster to explain the delay to the publication, which has been denounced by senior politicians as “incomprehensible”.

Sir Richard Ottaway, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said there could be “no justification whatsoever” for the process dragging on as long as it has..

Ottoway said he had called Chilcot before the committee to “give him an opportunity to explain what stage of preparation of the report had reached and what obstacles remain before he can submit the report”. He has suggested that Chilcot appear before the committee within the next two weeks.


Hague hopes for report before the election

by Chris Ames

The BBC reports that

William Hague has said he “hopes” the Iraq Inquiry report will be published before the 2015 general election.

Hague was speaking as leader of the House of Commons  and reminded people that as shadow foreign secretary he led debates calling for an Iraq inquiry, which the Labour government resisted for as long as it could. Hague pointed out that it would all be over by now without the delay setting it up.


More on Tony Blair’s ‘untruths’

by Andrew Mason

In a letter to the Observer published yesterday, John Morrison wrote:

You quoted Tony Blair last week as saying: “What we now know from Syria is that Assad, without any detection from the west, was manufacturing chemical weapons. We only discovered this when he used them.” He (Blair) adds: “We also know, from the final weapons inspectors’ reports, that though it is true that Saddam got rid of the physical weapons, he retained the expertise and capability to manufacture them.”

As well as being DCDI from 1994 to 1999, Morrison had been head of the intelligence analytical staff and the secretary to the JIC. He was also the founder and head of the ‘Rockingham cell’, a small intelligence unit set up within DIS which coordinated with UNSCOM personnel, Dr David Kelly and quite likely Charles Duelfer amongst them. After leaving the civil service in 1999, Morrison became the ISC’s first formal ‘investigator’. His contract was ended in 2004 after he told the BBC’s Panorama programme that he “could almost hear the collective raspberry going up around Whitehall”, after Blair had asserted that the threat from Iraq’s WMD was “current and serious”.

As holder of these various positions within the intelligence community, Morrison would have been well aware of the Iraqi ‘Air Force document’. This had a fairly long history, going back to July 1998, when it had been initially discovered during an UNSCOM inspection of the operations room at the Iraqi Air Force headquarters building in Baghdad.

Readmore..


Ye ancient ghoste of impeachment

by Andrew Mason

Quite possibly, the Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell, read Simon Heffer’s Daily Mail piece published yesterday. Today, Sir Peter raised the same issue at Prime Minister’s questions in the House of Commons.

The process for impeachment of a high official (be they a peer or a commoner) has long been a statutory tool. First used in the Parliament of England in 1376 against William Latimer, 4th Baron Latimer, for the long string of crimes, this legal remedy fell out of use beyond the unsuccessful trial of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, the first Secretary of State for War, in 1806. According to the book ‘Royal Dukes’ by Roger Fulford (1933), it was said that Dundas was “so profoundly ignorant of war that he was not even conscious of his own ignorance.” One further attempt at impeachment was made in 1848, when Lord Palmerston was accused of having signed a secret treaty with Imperial Russia and of receiving monies from the Tsar.

However, Palmerston survived a vote in the House of Commons and the Lords did not hear the case.

In recent times (1967 and 1999) the question of the obsolescence of the impeachment procedure has been discussed. Despite this, in 2004 Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price attempted to move for the impeachment of Tony Blair for his role in involving Britain in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

At this time, Price consulted with the then Leader of the House of Commons, Peter Hain, as to whether the power to impeach was still available. Hain informed him that, based on the 1999 Joint Committee’s report, and with the advice of the Clerk of the House of Commons, that impeachment “effectively died with the advent of full responsible Parliamentary government.”

This situation arises because it is normally in the House of Lords that the case would be heard. The procedure used to be that the Lord Chancellor presided (or the Lord High Steward if the defendant was a peer) – but this was when the Lord Chancellor was both the Lords’ presiding officer and head of the judiciary of England and Wales.

Since both these roles were removed from that office by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which created the Lord Speaker to preside over the Lords and made the Lord Chief Justice head of the judiciary, it is not certain who would preside over an impeachment trial today.

If Parliament was not in session, then the trial could be conducted by a “Court of the Lord High Steward” instead of the House of Lords (even if the defendant was not a peer).

(The technical and legal differences between this court and the House of Lords are that in the House all of the peers are judges of both law and fact, whereas in the Court the Lord High Steward is the sole judge of law and the peers decide the facts only – this bearing in mind that the bishops are not entitled to sit and vote in the Court.)

Whilst no legislation has been produced to abolish the remedy of impeachment, and it is argued by some that it remains as part of British constitutional law, it would appear that other (quite likely considerably time-consuming) legislation would be required to bring this power into the modern age. In particular this could possibly require the re-establishment of a formal “Court of the Lord High Steward”; also the election of a suitable Lord High Steward in person. Alternately, a new mechanism in the House of Lords would have to be established whereby more than one judge could oversee the proceeding, namely the Lord Speaker and the Lord Chief Justice plus necessarily one other high-ranking Lord in order to form a decisive quorum.

Primary references:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Latimer,_4th_Baron_Latimer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Dundas,_1st_Viscount_Melville


Goodbye to Iraq as we know it?

By Andrew Mason

iraq map

At very rare times such as this, it is practically impossible to keep up with the Google news feed when using the search term ‘Iraq’. As I write, six full pages of results have been generated in just the last ten minutes or so.

President Obama has stated that: “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq” and former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential election nominee Hillary Clinton has said that: “…the United States should not provide military assistance – particularly airstrikes – to the Iraqi government “at this time” in response to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other militants.”

There are rumours that Iran has deployed three battalions of its ‘Qods Force’, which are part of the Iranian Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (otherwise known as ‘Revolutionary Guards’), into Iraq, and other reports that Kurdish pershmerga forces have moving to militarily secure and protect the regional multi-ethnic Northern capital of Kirkuk.

The ‘blame game’ has begun in earnest, with the word ‘legacy’ being frequently repeated in relation to Messrs Blair and Bush. In the US, partisan attacks by Republican senators and representatives accuse Obama of pulling out of Iraq too quickly, and of failing to negotiate and secure a ‘status of forces’ agreement, whereby US forces might have remained in Iraq.

In all likelihood, we are now witnessing the first stages of the disintegration of the Republic of Iraq as a homogeneous (although already long-fractured) nation state.


Blair again denies delaying the Inquiry

by Andrew Mason

Whilst speaking to James Naughtie on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning, Tony Blair reiterated his denial that he is holding up the progress of the Iraq Inquiry.

“I do not know what the reason for the delay is because I am not in charge of the inquiry and I am not in charge of the government. All I can tell you is it is not from me and I resent the suggestions that it is.

“I have as much interest as anyone seeing the inquiry publish its findings and to be able to go out and, frankly, restate my case and defend my position.”

Additional reporting:

BBC

Guardian

Telegraph


Boris trumps Dave with call for report to be published

by Chris Ames

For the past couple of weeks we’ve had leading politicians calling for the Inquiry report to be published but no consensus as to whose fault it is that the process has stalled. Tony Blair has been accused of being the block and has denied it but the real debate seems to be whether it is the Cabinet Office for failing to allow the publication of key evidence or the Inquiry for refusing to blink first.

So when you get first David Cameron and then Boris Johnson saying they should just get on with it, it isn’t clear who they think should budge. According to the Mail on Sunday:

‘The PM believes there is no excuse for any further lengthy delay in publishing Chilcot,’ said a No 10 aide.

‘It would be unreasonable to postpone it beyond the next Election.’

It’s good news if Camerson is not going to have publication delayed further because of the election, but is this implicit criticism of the Inquiry? Cameron knows very well that John believes he can only publish with the key evidence, so is he saying he should give in? If Cameron wants the report published, why doesn’t he tell the Cabinet Office to stop being obstructive?

On LBC’s Ask Boris this morning, Boris Johnson said he “passionately” agreed that the report should be published and that if he had it, he would publish it. But that supposes that there is a settled entity that can be published, whereas the reality is that there is no agreement about what can be published.

In the Telegraph, Dan Hodges also seems to think it’s a case of publish and be damned. I don’t think he really understands the issue either.

At each stage, Mr Cameron’s frustration at these continuing delays has becoming increasingly evident. His response to the first letter carried his “hope that it will be possible to meet this new timetable”. His second expressed a desire to see the report completed “as quickly as possible”. The third pointedly said: “I appreciate that consideration of the disclosure requests for the remaining sensitive categories of information must be handled sensitively, but I hope consideration of the final set of papers can be concluded as soon as possible.”

Unfortunately, Sir John failed to take the hint. And as a result, Downing Street is not prepared to entertain additional entreaties about how the dog has eaten his homework.

If this is pointed criticism of anyone, it is criticism of the people who are considering the disclosure requests, ie the Cabinet Office.

After all the blaming and buck passing, are we any further forward? I don’t think so. I think it would help a lot if those people who say they should just get on with it said who they think should give way.

 


Blair – “We’ve got to liberate ourselves from this”

by Andrew Mason

Whilst being interviewed by David Gregory of NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Tony Blair said:

…So you can carry on explaining all this by saying, “It’s us. We provoked them. You know, it’s really– they’re just trying to react against Western Imperialism.” It’s nonsense.

If it were the case, for example, that the reason why they were engaged in this terrorism in Iraq was because of the presence of American troops or British troops, you would expect when we’d get out, the terrorism would stop. It doesn’t. And it doesn’t because it’s not coming from us. It’s coming from this ideology. And we aren’t going to defeat it until we liberate ourselves from the attitude that somehow we’re the cause of it.

You can read the full transcript here.


A National Scandal

by Chris Ames

Today’s Mirror has an opinion piece by former Labour attorney general Lord Morris demanding that David Cameron should undertake to publish the Inquiry report before next year’s election.

In February Morris initiated a House of Lords debate on the issue. Morris says that the government reply to the debate “was one of the lamest I have ever heard in over 50 years in Parliament.”

Morris calls the delay “a national scandal”. On the question of who is to blame, he says:

Not Chilcot and his colleagues who must be anxious to publish.

It is a slightly confused article, which takes in the separate but related issue of the suppression of the minutes of the pre-war Cabinet minutes. It begins with the assertion that:

It has been four years and nearly five months since the inquiry into the Iraq War was launched.

In fact, it will be five years in July. Morris seems to be thinking about the first public hearings, in November 2009.