UK’s Iraq war inquiry targeted with mudslinging campaign by establishment – newspaper

John Chilcot © Luke MacGregor
The British political establishment is targeting an independent inquiry into the Iraq invasion of 2003 and how the UK handled the aftermath with a campaign to discredit its damning findings, the Independent reported, citing well-informed sources.

According to the British newspaper, Sir John Chilcot, who chairs a panel of experts conducting the Iraq Inquiry, and his three surviving colleagues at one stage considered resigning in protest against the pressure on the team, but dismissed the idea.

The inquiry was launched in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown and has been criticized recently by senior figures in the government of failing to produce a report in a timely manner.

“It is immensely frustrating. People listening to this will think ‘why on Earth can’t the prime minister order this thing to be published?’ I can’t. It’s an independent inquiry. It has to be that way,” Prime Minister David Cameron commented on the process for last week BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

“I feel it’s not just because the politicians want to see this, but actually you meet mothers and fathers of those who died in Iraq who want to know the answers, and want to know before they reach the end of their lives. So they are immensely frustrated and I share their frustration.”

READ MORE: Iraq war report’s ‘inordinate delay’ criticized by Baroness Butler-Sloss

Similar sentiments were voiced by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who said the report had “been delayed long enough.”

The panel’s explanation of the delay is that the report, which is estimated to be over a million words in length, criticizes many individuals and that they must be given a chance to respond to those criticisms. The process is called ‘Maxwellisation’ after Robert Maxwell, a newspaper owner who took the British government to court in 1969 over a critical report by the Department of Trade and Industry. The judge ruled that DTI should have allowed Maxwell to defend his name before the document was published.

“The inquiry is being attacked from three sides. The prime minister wants everyone to know he is not holding things up. Others are accusing the inquiry of being engaged in a dastardly plot to cover things up. These are clear threats, and the inquiry can’t do anything to challenge them,” a source close to the inquiry told the Independent.

READ MORE: No more military action against ISIS until Iraq War report published – Labour’s Cooper

The newspaper added that much of the opposition came from a “mandarinate” class of powerful civil servants, where leading figures are seeking to discredit Chilcot panel’s findings to protect governmental institutions.

“Rather than being seen as the tools of the mandarinate, the problem is potentially the opposite. The material so far sent out to key individuals at the center of the war decisions criticizes the institutions of government in a way that Whitehall will not like,” a legal source in the government told the newspaper.

“These are proud people with reputations at stake. They argue back. Yes, there is nit-picking, and the exchanges between lawyers have been complicated. But it’s their right,” the sources said.

The panel chaired by Chilcot also included two historians, a former diplomat and an expert in human rights. Military historian Martin Gilbert, who was a member, died in February.

The inquiry was previously blocked by the government from obtaining dozens of records of conversations between Tony Blair and George W. Bush, the leaders of the UK and the US at the time of the invasion. The government argued that making the conversations public would deal serious damage to British-American relations.