The long-awaited inquiry into Britain’s role in the invasion of Iraq has begun, with the promise that much of it will be held in public. Some 45,000 British troops joined the US-led assault, 179 of them subsequently died. The hearings will investigate the run-up to the invasion, but will not apportion blame.
“The inquiry is not a court of law, and nobody is on trial,” said inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot. “But I want to make one thing absolutely clear: this committee will not shy away from making criticisms. If we find that mistakes were made, if we find there were issues which could have been dealt with better, we will say so, frankly…. I consider that as much as possible of the inquiry’s hearings should be in public, for the inquiry to succeed in getting to the heart of what happened, and what lessons need to be learned for the future, we recognise that some evidence sessions need to be private.”
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to be among those giving evidence. He had wanted the inquiry kept secret for security reasons, but finally bowed to pressure. Another star witness will be former premier Tony Blair whose decision to join the invasion sparked widespread protests and ministerial resignations. Critics accuse his administration of distorting intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to justify the attack.