The Iraq inquiry: a narrative verdict?

Dear Prime Minister,

Delayed publication of the Iraq inquiry report

I have written to you several times on this matter, but I would now like to give you a fresh proposal, which should allow for early publication of the major part of the Iraq inquiry’s report. It was aired by Mr Greg Mulholland MP at yesterday’s (January 27) meeting of the Commons Select Committee on Public Administration with Sir Jeremy Heywood, and is likely to attract further support at tomorrow’s (January 29) Commons debate.

The inquiry team should deliver to you a “narrative verdict” on the Iraq war, as an interim report by the end of February, that is to say a full account of all the key decisions and events in the relevant period, citing all the sources they had used as far as they were allowed. This report would not pass judgment on any individual. The British people could then draw their own conclusions from it. The Inquiry would complete the so-called Maxwellisation process and submit its final report, with its judgments on individuals, to the new Parliament after the election.

At the Select Committee meeting, Sir Jeremy suggested that Sir John Chilcot and his team might find it impossible to “disentangle” their judgments from the factual passages in their report. Respectfully, I completely disagree – assuming that the team have done their job properly, and based their judgments on the full evidence that they have studied and presented. Their report is written: they have identified the critical passages and put them into Maxwell letters. All they need to do is remove those critical passages from the report and publish all the rest. (The excisions might conceivably create some discontinuities or non-sequiturs in the report, but these should be easy to remedy). Preparing this “narrative verdict” should not be too onerous a task for the inquiry team – who currently have nothing to do but wait for Maxwellisation responses. They could be given additional temporary staff. As Mr Mulholland pointed out, this proposal would circumvent all the delays created by “Maxwellees”, whether these are reasonable or deliberately obstructive.

I believe that such a narrative verdict could be a valuable resource for British voters before the election. It could go some way to meeting the feelings of the victims of the Iraq war, who have waited so long for this report. May I urge you to commission it from the inquiry, at the earliest possible date, and then present it to Parliament for publication?

02. February 2015 by rkh
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