Part of the purpose of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is what has become known, post the end of apartheid, as ‘truth and reconciliation’.
Part of the purpose of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is what has become known, post the end of apartheid, as ‘truth and reconciliation’. That is why it does not matter much that material already studied closely in the Hutton and Butler reports is being gone over again: this time, the hearings are public. The trouble is that truth and reconciliation are rarely compatible with general elections. In a classic example of the lack of courage for which he is known, Gordon Brown neither refused to have the inquiry at all, nor agreed to have it as soon as he became Prime Minister. Instead, he temporised, and eventually gave in. He also decreed that the inquiry should hear evidence in private, but then faced outcry, and passed the buck to Sir John Chilcot, who chose to go public. Finally, the Prime Minister hoped to time everything so that he did not have to appear until after the election. Now that trick, too, has failed. It would have been better for him if he had got it all out of the way quickly. Another effect of delay is that it has emboldened the mandarins and military, many of whom now want their revenge after years of being slighted. The entire administration is now being submitted to a severe tutorial by the Better Government Group. As I write, Tony Blair has not yet performed, but his psychological position is much stronger than that of Mr Brown. He is defending in public something he has always defended. Mr Brown will have to defend something whose authorship he has always sought to deny.
Listening to the Chilcot hearings, I notice the usage that various government departments are described as ‘customers’ for intelligence.