Andrew Marr: Do you think Tony Blair should be giving evidence in public?
Nick Clegg: And second I'll be saying if the inquiry is to have any legitimacy, the prime architect of the decision to go to war in Iraq, along side George Bush, should give his evidence in public under oath. I think anything less will make people feel this is just a grand cover up for, after all, what was the biggest foreign policy mistake this country has made since has made since Suez.
Andrew Marr: And what about Cabinet documents and documents that have been private before like, for instance, the one you mentioned from The Observer which suggest that there was a discussion [between Bush and Blair] about sending a plane over Iraq to see if they'd shoot it down as an excuse for starting the war?
Nick Clegg: I think all of that should be made possible with, of course, some exceptions where you, for instance, endanger the lives of intelligence officers -- if you reveal through a public session where they're working how they're getting their intelligence. Just like the 9-11 inquiry in the United States. Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, some of these key players, they gave evidence in public and we should do exactly the same thing with only very small exceptions for evidence held in secret. I think, look, diplomats think it should be held in public, military figures do, the public clearly do, the families of the soldiers -- the brave service men and service women who've lost their lives, most political opinion thinks we should hold this in public. The only two people who don't are Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair because they want to cover up their tracks. We shouldn't have this inquiry determined by precisely the people who risk being most embarrassed by it.
The above is a transcript of The Andrew Marr Show's exchange with Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg and that segment can currently be found on the BBC article "Balls backs open Iraq war inquiry" (Balls is Ed Balls and he backed a public inquiry last week.) Covered or not by the US press, this story isn't going away. The Irish Independent offers "Earthquakes leave Brown on the edge of a precipice:"
Brown's reputation has been hit by his disastrous handling of the planned inquiry into the invasion of Iraq.
Apparently under pressure from Tony Blair, he initially announced that this would be held in private but quickly had to backtrack as public protests mounted.
Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, said that anything less than an open inquiry would "make people feel this is just a grand cover-up for, after all, what was the biggest foreign policy mistake this country has made since Suez", back in 1956.
The furore over the botched attempt to run a "freedom of disinformation" exercise intensified yesterday with the leak of new evidence suggesting that Blair knew of secret attempts by the US to provoke Iraq into attacking UN-badged reconnaissance flights over its territory in order to provide a legal pretext for another UN resolution.
In an attempt to limit the fallout from the inquiry, Brown has ordered it not to report until after the next general election.
"Why not international probe on UK in Iraq?" wonders Lucien Rajakarunanayake(Sri Lanka's Daily News):
But in the recent announcement by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown of an inquiry into what caused the UK to invade Iraq, its conduct of the war against the people of Iraq and its consequences, there is pretty little to show that Brown and his losing string of Labour hacks have any regard in transparency.
For all the international involvement of the UK in the war in Iraq, Gordon Brown only offers an internal probe; and that too in private. The British public that lost more than 140 troops, and the Iraqis who lost more than 1.5 million people, will be kept largely in the dark about UK in Iraq as would the world community, quite unlike the demands being heaped on Sri Lanka.
[. . .]
The facts of the UK’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq, it would show there is every reason to call for a fully independent and international probe into why the UK went to Iraq, what it did there and what it has left the Iraqi people with.
The reasons are compelling. They went to a foreign land. They went there uninvited by its people. They went under false pretexts, having lied to their own legislature, the House of Commons, that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of acquiring WMD.
They spun and twisted intelligence reports to mislead their own legislature, and even worse, together with those in Washington who misled both Houses of Congress about Iraq and WMD, also misled the UN Security Council on the same matter.
They fooled the UN into endorsing the invasion of Iraq, which was in fact an illegal and criminal act. The entire invasion was a war crime of the highest order. All the bloodshed there was a humanitarian catastrophe - bloodbaths aplenty that no one in the UN warned about. But what do we have instead.
Gordon Brown, David Miliband and the other pathetic caricatures of true Labour politicians, eating off the hands of a so-called Tamil Diaspora that promises them vote banks and plenty of undeclared stuffed brown paper envelopes, have announced a probe into the UK’s participation in the war against Iraq, to be held in private.
An international atrocity of such magnitude is to be probed in private, without even the media present to report what happens, at least to the British people, if not the world. Such is the level of transparency practised by those who demand the very extremes of public disclosure from us.
Pru notes "Protest at parliament against holding Iraq enquiry in private" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):
The Stop the War Coalition has called a protest outside parliament at 2pm this Wednesday, demanding "No Whitewash, No Cover Up", in the Iraq enquiry.
The protest is timed to coincide with a debate in parliamet on the enquiry.
Stop the War has stated, "The scandal over Gordon Brown's decision to hold the Iraq war inquiry in private has united in condemnation the most unlikely people, including MPs, peers in the House of Lords, military leaders, former civil servants, bereaved families and even Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain's US ambassador at the time the decision was taken to go to war.
"The anger over this appalling decision has intensified with the revelation that Tony Blair was behind Brown's decision to have a completely secret inquiry."
Stop the War is also asking all its local groups and supporters to contact their MPs as a matter of urgency, by letter, telephone, email or fax, and urge them to support the call for a full public inquiry.
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Tony Blair is in the news. Nick Clegg was asked of Jamie Doward, Gaby Hinsliff and Mark Townsend (The Observer) report on a January 31, 2003 memo ("almost two months before the invasion") which is a "record of a meeting between President Bush and Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq, outlining their intention to go to war without a second United Nations resolution". The two War Hawks were admitting that WMD might not be found and that they needed other ways to force the war with Iraq. Blair doesn't want to testify in private and has argued against it. From Jason Beattie's "Tony Blair 'wanted Iraq inquiry in private':" "Tony Blair sparked fury yesterday over claims that he tried to 'muzzle' the Iraq War inquiry. The former PM is reported to have told Gordon Brown the probe would become a 'show trial' unless it was kept behind closed doors." Rachel Cooke's "Unrepentant Tony Blair describes Iraq as 'a hassle' and claims his conscience is clear in revealing interview" (Daily Mail):
The Iraq War, which lots of us regard as a mistake, in its execution as well as its principle, is something that he still stands by - though it's interesting that he talks about regime change so openly, so unblinkingly, now, when this was not at all the reason we were given for going to war (we were told that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, which he did not).
'I've no regrets about that decision because it was difficult to get rid of Saddam, but leaving him would also have been difficult, and when I look at the region now, I think it would be a lot more complicated [were he still there].'
But is this true? I would say that the hand of Iran has simply been strengthened, with all the attendant problems that brings.
'I completely reject that thesis. The reason why this problem is there in the region with this extremism is not because Saddam Hussein is not there to keep a grip on it. That is absurd.'
Was it a lonely decision, the move to war?
'All these decisions are lonely.' Is he someone who makes a decision and then moves on? Or does he make a decision and then worry away at it?
'I think I'm more the first. The one duty you owe people is to be decisive. I started as a politician who was anxious to please people, and I ended as a politician who understood that my duty was to do what was right. Perpetual agonising is not helpful.'
Bonnie reminds Isaiah's illustration of Sandra Bullock went up last night and joins in the chorus of praise for Sandra's performance in the number one film over the weekend, The Proposal.
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