PM to order Iraq inquiry?
Posted by Ian at 9 15 PM on Saturday, March 21
GORDON Brown is set to order an inquiry into the war in Iraq, the News of the World can reveal.
The probe will look at the reasons behind Britain’s decision to join the 2003 invasion and the lessons to be learned from the bloody conflict.
Senior sources at the Ministry of Defence suspect the review will be announced in Mr Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference this autumn.
He has always insisted he will not hold an inquiry into the war as long as British soldiers are still fighting in Iraq.
But the last British forces will leave by the end of the summer.
Senior Whitehall sources say he will also appoint a senior British Muslim, possibly a judge, to carry out the inquiry.
It will have access to intelligence used to justify the invasion and records of the Cabinet’s discussions before the war.
It is also expected to review the Army’s performance in the invasion and its aftermath.
The report will be designed to check any loose ends from the Hutton Inquiry into the death of weapons of mass destruction expert Dr David Kelly, as well as the Butler Review into the intelligence used before the war.
But aides say Mr Brown is unlikely to authorise a full Bloody Sunday-style public inquiry. The Saville Inquiry into the 1972 deaths in Londonderry has so far cost taxpayers a staggering £185million and lasted 11 years.
However, Mr Brown believes some sort of investigation is vital to win back former Labour voters who turned their backs on the party after our troops joined the US-led occupation under Tony Blair’s premiership.
He hopes the decision to withdraw the remaining British forces and announce an inquiry will draw a line under the war.
A senior aide told the News of the World: “By the autumn, the Iraq war will be passing into history and British troops will be safely home from Basra.
“That will be the right time to announce a review because it is important we learn the lessons from the war.”
The PM has already announced new laws which would ban a government from sending British troops to war without the consent of Parliament.
But an announcement of a partial inquiry is unlikely to appease anti-war protesters, and the Conservatives, who have been calling for a full inquiry.
The British Army, meanwhile, is furious at the prospect of senior officers being called to justify their actions, even in private.
One senior Ministry of Defence source told us: “British soldiers were not involved in any way in the political decision to invade Iraq.
“Nor were they involved in the lack of planning for a post-conflict country, and the uprising that followed.
“To call them to account would be an appalling travesty.”
On Wednesday, the Tories will use a debate in the House of Commons to demand a full- blown investigation by the Privy Council of senior politicians.
And Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said last night: “The PM admitted months ago that there must be an inquiry.
“If he now wants to downgrade it to a ‘review’, it will be seen as a blatant attempt to sweep mistakes under the carpet.
“The British people will not be fooled by this. Only a Privy Council Inquiry, with the power to summon all the documents and persons it needs, will be enough to learn the lessons of our six years in Iraq.”