Chilcot what? State Department clueless on Iraq War inquiry

British soldier Atkins of First Queen's Dragoon Guards provides cover as British convoy travels north from Basra. © Maurice McDonald
Washington’s refusal to declassify documents that could inform the UK probe into the 2003 invasion of Iraq is a major scandal in London. Yet the State Department spokesman says he has never heard of the Chilcot Inquiry.

Convened in 2009, the British probe into the Iraq War was named after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot. The five-member panel wrapped up its hearings in 2011, and one of the members died earlier this year, but the report has yet to see the light of day. Repeated delays in its publication have caused widespread frustration in the UK, from the Tory government of David Cameron to Labour officials critical of the war.

READ MORE: Iraq War justice: Families of killed UK soldiers demand immediate publication of Chilcot report

Among the reasons blamed for the delay has been the US refusal to allow the publication of certain documents deemed vital to “national security.” When the Daily Mail requested filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request to obtain the documents, US officials tracked down 97 documents pertaining to the 2002 meetings between President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at the Bush family ranch in Crawford, Texas. They refused to release 82 of them, citing national security and privacy concerns.

When asked about the US obstructionism of the Chilcot Inquiry documents, however, State Department spokesman Admiral John Kirby professed ignorance.

Kirby’s puzzlement is odd, considering that he had spent much of his Navy career in public information, and that he spent almost 18 months as the Pentagon spokesman, prior to replacing Jen Psaki at Foggy Bottom in May.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was aware of the Chilcot Inquiry from the very start, courtesy of her personal adviser Sidney Blumenthal.

“Britain and Europe are riveted by Chilcot, especially official circles,” Blumenthal wrote in November 2009. “The objective correlative, of course, is trust in any U.S. administration and deep skepticism about the Afghanistan project.”

Last week, the Daily Mail received from the Bush presidential library 15 non-classified documents related to the Crawford meetings, and another 31 pages of Bush-Blair discussions between 2001 and 2007. Most of the material consisted of cover sheets and itineraries, while the actual minutes of the meetings were redacted.

“It is understood the decision to redact material was taken after talks with White House security and intelligence advisers,” reported the Mail.

Washington is withholding details of conversations between George W. Bush and Tony Blair regarding the invasion in Iraq because they are “incredibly embarrassing”  and “discourage future wars the US is interested in,” American author and activist David Swanson, who believes this information is being withheld deliberately, told RT.

Otherwise Washington would lose the ability to threaten war on nations like Iran on very similar grounds – and have Britain involved in killing people in, for example, Syria.

“They don’t want the Vietnam syndrome, they don’t want out something that discourages further wars,” Swanson said.

“The inquirers have no interest in exposing the facts and the US is doing everything it can to discourage them. And they [inquirers] are bowing down to the US just as Tony Blair bowed down to George W. Bush,” he said. “Nothing that could be reveal could possibly legal or moral or less than catastrophic the war that was launched in 2003 [in Iraq].”

Families of British soldiers who died in Iraq are growing exasperated with the panel’s perceived stonewalling, and have even threatened to sue Chilcot if the report is not published soon. The most recent justifications for avoiding publication were the concern over influencing the May 2015 general elections, and the legal practice of allowing persons criticized in government reports to have a chance to respond. The latter is known as “Maxwellization” after a 1969 case involving media magnate Robert Maxwell.