Iraq Inquiry streaming video – watch here
UPDATED 19th January – Former Defence Sec Geoff Hoon, all day today. Continues at 15:30 until 17:00
Comment at end
Tuesday, 24th November, 2009
Opening statement from Sir John Chilcot here. Excerpt: “As I have said before, we are not a court or an inquest or a statutory inquiry; and our processes will reflect that difference. No-one is on trial. We cannot determine guilt or innocence. Only a court can do that. But I make a commitment here that once we get to our final report, we will not shy away from making criticisms where they are warranted. “
DAY 1, Iraq Inquiry
Iraq Inquiry streaming video – watch here
Transcripts by date – Week 1, 24th November, 2009
- Oral evidence by date – videos will be uploaded as they become available.
- Public access to the hearings
- Hearings and Witnesses for week 1, 24th-27th November, 2009
WITNESSES ON TUESDAY, 24th November
REPORTS from the FIRST SESSION (morning) at the Inquiry
At the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in London, around a few dozen people turned up.
BBC report – with further links on Iraq and the Inquiry
The UK government “distanced itself” from talk of removing Saddam Hussein in early 2001 despite concerns about his threat, the Iraq inquiry has been told.
Sir Peter Ricketts, a top intelligence official at the time, said it was assumed it was not “our policy” despite growing talk in the US about the move.
Former civil servants and advisers are giving evidence on the war’s origins on the first day of public hearings.
The inquiry chairman said he hoped to conclude his report in late 2010.
The war resulted in the deaths of 179 UK forces personnel.
The long-awaited investigation, looking at the UK’s involvement in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the war itself and its aftermath, is expected to last many months.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be among the future witnesses.
Tuesday’s session is looking at UK foreign policy towards Iraq in the lead-up to the war, which began in 2003.
Asked about the threat posed by Iraq in early 2001, Sir Peter Ricketts, who was the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee – which oversees MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – said it was palpable.
He said there was a “clear impression” of Saddam’s “continuing intention” to acquire capability for weapons of mass destruction.
However, Sir Peter said there was no-one in the UK government in early 2001 “promoting support” for regime change, as it was assumed “it was not our policy that we were seeking the removal of Saddam Hussein”.
He noted there were “voices” in Washington calling for Saddam Hussein to be removed even before the Bush administration came to power in early 2001 – including its subsequent Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice – and the “rhetoric” increased after that point.
But he said there was not any “operational consequence” from this and that, prior to the 9/11 attacks, the US was still seeking to make its longstanding policy of containment towards Iraq work.
However, he said it was becoming clear the containment policy – underpinned by sanctions, an arms embargo and no-fly zone – was failing and the international community must try to “regain the initiative” with regard to Iraq.
“Saddam Hussein was feeling pretty comfortable,” he said.
Others giving evidence on Tuesday are former senior Ministry of Defence official Simon Webb and ex-Foreign Office officials Sir Michael Wood and Sir William Patey.
The long-awaited inquiry began with a statement from its chairman, Sir John Chilcot.
He stressed that the panel was apolitical and had an “open mind” about the UK’s involvement in the Iraq conflict and its aftermath.
He said it was the panel’s job to “establish” what happened in Iraq – “to evaluate what went well and what did not – and crucially why” – so that lessons could be learned.
He said he intended to produce a report which was “thorough, impartial, objective and fair”, stressing that it would not hold back from criticising institutions and individuals where this was “warranted”.
While most hearings would be held in public, Sir John said he reserved the right to conduct sessions in private where issues directly affecting national security were addressed.
The members of the inquiry’s committee were chosen by Downing Street, leading critics to ask whether it can be independent of the government.
Sir John has insisted the inquiry will not produce a “whitewash” but critics have expressed concern about the lack of legal experts on the panel and the fact witnesses will not be questioned on oath.
On Wednesday, the panel will hear from former senior Foreign Office staff on the claims that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed “weapons of mass destruction”.
Over the coming weeks the inquiry is expected to hear from a succession of diplomats, military officers and politicians, including Mr Blair, who is due to appear early in the new year.
Sir John Scarlett, the former chief of MI6 who as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee in 2002 drew up the Government’s controversial dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, is also due to give evidence to the five-strong inquiry panel.
Former Conservative leader Michael Howard said the inquiry would be broader than other past investigations into aspects of the Iraq conflict.
“I hope what we get out of Chilcot is the truth. That is what people yearn for,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, said it was important the inquiry had access to all documents covering the run-up to the war.
“There needs to be some definitive view about what happened.”
Previously, the Butler inquiry looked at intelligence failures before the war, while the Hutton inquiry examined the circumstances leading to the death of former government adviser David Kelly.
ITN News: What’s the Iraq inquiry all about?
My thoughts: Interesting how even this British News website implies that the people we elect may not be telling us the truth.
There’s nothing like an open mind.
And many people have nothing like an open mind as far as Iraq, politicians and in particular Tony Blair are concerned.
By Paul Reynolds, BBC – “Will the Inquiry be tolerant or critical?” Excerpts:
‘For some critics of the Iraq war, the Chilcot inquiry will have to set Tony Blair up as a potential war criminal or it will have been a whitewash.
For them, it is now clear that Mr Blair, with President Bush, took a decision to go to war, by July 2002 at the latest, and then manoeuvred to justify and implement that basic approach, failing to get specific UN approval.
Other critics seek a comprehensive analysis of the decisions Mr Blair and his government took (and the publication of all relevant documents) and want the inquiry to make critical comments on those decisions, perhaps even devastating ones.
Given that British inquiries are normally quite gentle on governments (The Franks Report on the Falklands, for example) these critics will be pleasantly surprised if the Chilcot panel uses its claws.
Supporters of the government might hope that Chilcot will vindicate their former leader.
But they are realistic enough to know that the best they can probably expect is that the inquiry will conclude that, as in many wars, the government simply stumbled into conflict, misled in this case by faulty intelligence.
One incident will be worth watching to see the kind of attitude the inquiry adopts towards Mr Blair.
That incident is Mr Blair’s reply to the Labour MP Donald Anderson during questions to the prime minister by the select committee on liaison on 16 July 2002 – that is, more than six months before the invasion.
Chilcot could take a very critical stance towards Mr Blair and his reply of 16 July, especially if it establishes that by then Mr Blair knew he was going to have the 23 July meeting and knew that it would be based not just on the likelihood that a war option would be pursued but that a war was now assumed.
But it could also fall back on a defence of Mr Blair by saying that he was correct in what he said and did not mislead, even if he did not say very much.
This will be an interesting moment.
Will it be tolerant or critical? More here
1. Sky News report
2. Al Jazeera video report. Note their bias in this video. Not every Iraqi feels as those interviewed do. Nor does every MP feel as the anti-Iraq war MP interviewed does.
So, presumably, this Al Jazeera video displays NO prejudices that matter!?
Oh, that every country (especially in the Middle East) would subject their leaders to this level of interrogation in this “NOT A TRIAL” of Tony Blair. Ahmadinejad anyone?
2. John Rentoul says “here we go again” at the 5th Iraq Inquiry AND to greet the inevitable reports. Interesting links to other less able politicos and their perfunctory verdicts. What? You mean you didn’t know we’d have a”verdict” on the first day? Silly.
The hanging judges are already with us, dear old sods.
It is the Hutton inquiry all over again. Almost all the reporting of the Chilcot inquiry will be through the anti-war prism of liberal journalists. So, when we get to the end of it and the committee comes to reasonable conclusions based on the evidence, the balloon will go up, because the report will seem to be at odds with the daily reporting of proceedings.
This reporting will be dominated by the idea that there is a big secret that is being concealed from us, a smoking gun that “explains it all”. This is a symptom of the anti-war psychology, which so strongly disagrees with the decision made by Tony Blair, the Cabinet and the House of Commons that it seeks constantly for a hidden reason for it. Oil. Poodledom. Some kind of sinister swearing of loyalty in a ceremony probably involving Blair signing in blood (hence the antis’ obsession with “when did Blair commit Britain to war?”).
Tags: Al Jazeera, Alastair Campbell appears, arrest Blair, bounty on Blair, Foreign Office (1999-2002), General John Reith, George Monbiot incitement, Gordon Brown, Iraq Inquiry live website, Jonathan Powell, Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office (1999-2006), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Simon Webb Policy Director MoD (2001-2004), Sir John Chilcot, Sir Michael Wood, Sir Peter Ricketts Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (2000-2001), Sir William Patey Head of Middle East Department, Tony Blair, YouTube Videos