A few years ago, I joined a campaign (simply ‘No Star Wars’) against the use by the US of North Yorkshire’s Menwith Hill radar base. Such was the open-minded and democratic virtue of our last Government, Tony Blair’s Labour party decided to announce that he’d given the green light to the US request (along with the upgrading of RAF Fylingdales) on the last day before Parliament went into recess, amid another 29 similar announcements. (I know, amazing isn’t it, Blair going along with a request from Bush Jr without looking at the facts…..)
Aside from the democratic validity of deliberately obstructing debate on an issue that goes to the heart of Britain’s strategic role in Europe and the world, there was a wider point at issue then - the system didn’t actually work.
So, while embarking on an arms race of stratasphoric proportions (for indeed the natural progression from the shield was for weaponising the upper levels of the earth’s atmosphere and ultimately space) we did it before the thing even worked. Alas, we were told, it’s essential or we’ll all get nuked by a ‘rogue state’ like Iran or North Korea. Now, Wikileaks has exposed a key flaw in this argument - the system couldn’t actually see nuclear weapons.
It was a farce Britain supported a system that had yet to even work, a shameful act of Parliamentary abuse to rush out the confirmation and I hope this news will be the last nail in the coffin of a scheme that should be left where it belongs - in Ronald Regan’s favourite 1970s sci-fi B-films.
what’s the point in an inquiry if it’s in secret? a week after being told it was illegal to prosecute people and not tell them why, and intially refusing to release the report that cleared a minister of wrongdoing, the government is embarking on its latest act of ‘transparency’ - holding an inquiry into the iraq war, only in secret.
I’ve long since argued the iraq war was illegal. I was lucky enough to be taught by some exceptionally bright lawyers about international law, and they argued the war was illegal with far more elocquence and wisdom than i will. so i’m not going to bother repeating those arguments (if you’re interested, the guardian site did a good rundown in 2005 here, including colin warbrick, who i heard speak as a student several times.)
fundamentally, the inquiry shouldnt be about whether the war was, or was not, illegal.
it should be about how our country was taken to war, and countless lives of civilians and british service personell sacrificed, on what has transpired to be a lie.
Pretty much all our intelligence on iraq was wrong - from the WMD to links with bin laden and the 45 minute claim - pretty much everything we were told at the time has been shown to be bollocks.
in other words, the government and intelligent services were either terrifyingly inept, criminally negligent, or acting with malicious intent.
at a time when MPs are saying publicly they are not to be trusted to look after their own expenses, do we expect them to admit the momumental faliures or criminal acts that Iraq has involved?
At a time when we are being told government should be more open, the full course of legal advice given to the government by the attorney general- hardly a deep-throat-esque record of intelligence - will still not be published.
As a final point, just note this: Lawrence Freeman - an academic who advised Tony Blair on his “liberal interventionism” speech in Chicago, which essentially sought to explain why it was right to attack a sovereign state, will sit on the inquiry panel. independent my arse.
this is absolutely an issue that demands a full and frank inquiry. and the public have every right to know what it discovers so we can make up our own minds.
this is a case in point of the need for a total overhaul of the select committee system - these inquiries should not be at the whim of the executive. we need independent inquiries that have teeth, with the power to compel witnesses and set their own terms of reference.
until then, i’ll stick with cynicism thanks.