by Chris Ames
It argues that “the steady drip-drip of its evidence has served largely to confirm what many people suspected, rather than revealing anything startlingly new” and gives as an example that “George Bush and Tony Blair were set on regime change in Iraq from very early on”. That is quite a selective view of the witness evidence and one that is by no means certain to be adopted by the Inquiry.
The piece also says that:
“There have been some interesting shifts of nuance: the former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, who had been portrayed as believing that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, testified that, though his doubts grew, he still advised Mr Blair fairly late in the day that Saddam probably did still have them.”
What Blix actually said was that he still thought there were “prohibited items” in Iraq:
“I talked to Prime Minister Blair on 20 February 2002 and then I said I still thought that there were prohibited items in Iraq but at the same time our belief, faith in intelligence had been weakened. I said the same thing to Condoleezza Rice. Both Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Blair, I sort of alerted to the fact that we were sceptical. I made the remark that I cited many times, that: wouldn’t it be paradoxical for you to invade Iraq with 250,000 men and find very little.
So certainly I gave some warning that things had changed and there might not be so much.”
The article concludes much like Matthew Partridge’s Comment is Free piece. It says:
“The lack of decisive new evidence now severely constrains Sir John’s options. If his final report broadly absolves Tony Blair from the charges of deliberately misleading Parliament and undertaking an “illegal” war, it will be considered a whitewash. If it does not, there will be those who will dismiss it as a kangaroo court. Unless there are further witnesses with something substantively new to say, it is probably now time for the inquiry to be drawn to a conclusion.”
Again, this is to confuse what the Inquiry has done in its public hearings with what it has found out behind the scenes. Given that the Independent has done so much to highlight the unpublished documents, this is surprising. If the Inquiry is not able to publish any further information and thus confront witnesses with the contradictions, it may as well draw its public hearings to a close. But Chilcot’s options are not constrained by the lack of decisive new evidence, just limits on what he is able and willing to make public.