Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Iraq Enquiry - just better quality whitewash?

On February 15th 2003, Bob, Anna and I took the train to Glasgow, It was a beautiful, sunny, crisp and therefore absolutely totally freezing morning. We walked from Queen Street station to Glasgow Green along with huge crowds of people from across Scotland. The thing that struck me was that many of them were ordinary people, not the usual suspects who always go on these things, not just the sometimes scary hard left rabble rousers, not just political activists. The Police estimate at the time was that there were 30,000 people there.

The atmosphere was incredible. We seemed to be waiting there for hours and hours in the pouring rain. Anna, who was 3 at the time spent the time running around in a desperate attempt to keep warm, waving a cardboard dove on a stick. We'd told her, taking a tip from Sara at the time, that we were telling the Government that we didn't them to send our soldiers to hit the soldiere in Iraq. We wanted to give her an idea of what we were doing but not induce nightmares. Years later, she informed me, rather sadly, that she now knew that, it wasn't just about hitting.

This was the first time since we were students that Bob and I had felt moved to get out on the streets and protest. We were resplendent in our "We don't back this war with Iraq" badges and bright yellow Not in My Name Lib Dem t-shirts (worn over very many layers of woolly things.

After about 3 hours of waiting, we finally left Glasgow Green and processed round the centre of Glasgow. People had lots of Stop the War coalition and Daily Mirror anti war banners, but we really admired the work that had gone in to creating home made banners. The children who were there, too, were all so well behaved.

We dropped out before the march got to the SECC to surround the Labour Conference. We felt we'd tried Anna's patience enough, but the day prompted us to all go as a family to other demonstrations. We've "died" on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh (also on Iraq), paid a few visits to the US Consulate in Regent Road, and marched against the renewal of Trident and against the awful Israeli attacks on Gaza earlier this year.

To be honest, I'm not much of a fan of military action as a way to solve problems at the best of times, but while I was uneasy from the start about our involvement in Afghanistan and what it would achieve, the invasion of Iraq just seemed plain wrong.
We didn't buy the idea that there was credible evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction threatening the UK and we felt that our involvement would do more harm than good. We were horrified that it was a Labour Government taking us into a probably illegal war, too. I'd never been a fan of the Labour Party, but I'd never have imagined them capable of such a destructive and ill advised step.

Yesterday on Twitter, I saw a tweet from the BBC Have your Say people asking for comments from people who had been on the protest marches about the Iraq enquiry. I tweeted back and ended up being interviewed last night. You can see the result here, along with a photo which was hastily taken on my Blackberry by Anna.

I would much rather see an enquiry with its remit set by Parliament, not the Government, with people being questioned on oath with the threat of being banged up for perjury if they didn't tell the truth. I want to see the witnesses, especially Tony Blair, cross examined on their actions. It's better that the majority of the hearings will be conducted in public, not as Gordon Brown wished, in private, but I'm just not convinced that this enquiry has either the remit or the power to really get to the bottom of what happened.

We have to give it a go, but to me it looks like the Government has invested in better quality whitewash than its given us before. We'll have to see how closely the witnesses are questioned and what access they are given to Government records. The Government has not actually been forthcoming about what it thinks it should hand over. The fact that Chilcott has been a senior civil servant means that he probably knows the practical detail of how people could cover things up information if they wanted to, so he may have an idea of what he should ask for so that's probably an advantage, but on the other hand, the Civil Service does not exactly have a culture of transparency and openness.

I would prefer this inquiry to be conducted by a Law Lord or a Judge appointed by Parliament. If I were being investigated, I wouldn't get to choose the person who carried out that probe. If you want to keep in detailed touch with what's going on, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson among many others, are listed as supporters of this website which aims to provide all the information we need in one place.

1 comment:

Jo Swinson said...

Great interview Caron!


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