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Questions for the Iraq War Inquiry Team
Publication date: 2009-08-14

How to Avoid Another Whitewash

Although the British Iraq War Inquiry was originally announced by the British Government as private (secret), the persons appointed to conduct that inquiry stated that they would hold most of it in public and that they would expose whatever was wrong and would apportion the blame for whatever was wrong. Will this prevent the inquiry being a "whitewash" (that is an attempt to cover up wrongs committed by government officials)?

If to assume that those in charge of the Inquiry are acting in good faith and seek to "discover the truth", rather than to cover up wrongdoings of government officials, there is a very high probability that they will fail in their task, not due to lack of will, but due to failure to follow the right procedure. That is, instead of asking the right questions in the right sequence, and limiting the scope of the inquiry to what is strictly relevant, they will spend their time and effort on dealing with a multitude of questions that will overshadow and dilute the main issues, and will produce a lengthy document which will leave the issue of the Iraq War as "controversial" as it has ever been. And, as in the case of all the previous inquiries, the Government will claim that an Inquiry had taken place and the issue is resolved, while the People will call this Inquiry "just another whitewash".

So, what are the questions that need to be asked to resolve the issue of the Iraq War?

In the public debate concerning the war, there have been two areas of controversy: (1) the legality of the war, and (2) the conduct of the war.

Which of the areas should the Inquiry deal with, and in what order?

The issue of the conduct of the war can be relevant only once it is established that the war itself was legal. Because, if the war was illegal, then it was a crime, and the issue whether the criminals could have committed their crime more successfully, had they adopted a different strategy or used different equipment is of interest to the criminals themselves and to criminologists, and should not be subject of a public inquiry.

But, if it is established that the war was a legitimate act, then the issues of whether this war could have been conducted more successfully, do acquire some relevance, but these issues are of concern to the various ministries and departments, rather than the Government at the top level, unless there were some specific directions from the top that need to be questioned. Thus, if it were established that the war was legitimate, the conduct of the war itself should not be subject of a single "Iraq War Inquiry", but be subject of a number of local departmental inquiries and specific inquiries relating to specific top government decisions.

But the politicians and the media, sought to use the issues involved in the conduct of the war, as means of avoiding the issue of the legitimacy of the war. And there is a danger that the Inquiry will become a "whitewash", because it will mix these two issues, and will avoid to give a clear answer whether the war was legitimate or not, but instead will deal with a multitude of issues involved in its conduct.

So, to resolve the Iraq War Controversy, the Iraq War Inquiry Team need to concentrate on the issue of the legality of the Iraq War, and to resolve the following points of fact and law:

  1. Has the war taken place? - This issue of fact is not in dispute and is common knowledge, and the answer is: "Yes". The rest are issues of law to be established by the Inquiry Team.

  2. Is a war an act, which by its very nature legitimate, and does not require reasons for its justification? If it is, then the war is legitimate, and no further inquiries are necessary. End of Inquiry.

  3. If the answer to the previous question is "No", that is, a war without a valid reason is a criminal act, then the question arises: Does the British Prime Minister have powers to declare a war without any reason (except his own personal desire)? If he does, then the war was legitimate. End of inquiry.

  4. If the answer to the previous question is "No", that is, the British Prime Minister has the powers to declare a war, only if such war is justified, then the question arises: "What were the reasons for the Iraq War?". This question should be answered by the British Prime Minister who proclaimed the war, and failure to answer that question would mean that the war lacked a valid reason, and was illegal. End of Inquiry.

  5. If the reasons for the war are presented to the Inquiry Team, then the questions will arise:

    1. Are the reasons legally valid?

    2. Are the facts underlying these reasons true?

    The issues of law are to be established by the Inquiry Team, the issues of fact are to be proved by the Government. The amount of work would depend on the reasons given. But all irrelevant material should be rejected, and failure to provide clear and honest answers should be seen as attempts to pervert the Course of Justice. If the reasons are found to be legally valid and the facts underlying these reasons true, then the war was legal, otherwise it was a crime. End of Inquiry.
And, if the Inquiry Team proceed as suggested above, then the Iraq War Controversy will be resolved, and the Iraq War Inquiry will not be a "whitewash".

Many other questions can be asked about the war and the behaviour of the people involved in it. But these issues should be either subject of inquiries dealing specifically with these issues, if they relate to the operation of government (like for example, the scope of government powers, how government decisions are taken, etc.), or should be left to investigative journalists, psychologists, psychiatrists and historians, if they relate to personalities.

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