Chilcot’s limits

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The controversy over the publication timescale for the Chilcot Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the Iraq war and its aftermath (your report, 22 January 2015) ought to remind us of two serious points.

The first is the constraints on what can be published. This is more than a question of national security or diplomatic protocol.

When criticisms are made of certain individuals, it is important that the facts are not just correct but legally watertight.

Thus the so-called “Maxwellisation” process whereby individuals, no doubt in the interests of natural justice, are given the chance to comment on what is said but also state again their own interpretation of the facts.

Whether that process alone accounts for the serious delay in publication is questionable, but it is an important factor.

The second is just how useful the report will be in any case. It is the fourth report into aspects of the conflict and was agreed to by the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a febrile atmosphere running up to the 2010 general election.

Its terms of reference, by Sir John Chilcot’s own account, were very broad. But simply put, they amount to this: what was the decision making process in the run-up to the start of war in 2003?

What lessons can be learned by governments in the future? The first point is shrouded in controversy as the various parties seek to make political points against former prime minister Tony Blair and his former colleagues.

The second begs a more serious question even than that. Who can possibly predict the circumstances in which the United Kingdom might go to war in the future?

Even if someone could, how is it possible to prescribe how a government should proceed when vital issues such as freedom and defence of the realm are at stake?

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes

I am absolutely appalled at the disgraceful delay of the publication of the Chilcot enquiry into the war in Iraq. It is completely inexcusable and an insult to the relatives of loved ones who died in Iraq. Do they not deserve to know the truth?

Chilcot has had six years to get this done and it has been nearly four years since the last witness was called. How on earth can this have taken so long?

In my personal opinion I feel that this has been delayed to save the Labour Party’s face at the general election and if that is the case it is inhumane to put political careers above grieving relatives searching for the “truth”.

This smarts of a whitewash.

Gordon Kennedy

Simpson Square

Perth

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