Wednesday, January 27, 2010

today : star witnesses

I know it's a huge long shot, but what if all the witnesses to the Chilcot Inquiry are being honest and telling as much of the truth as they can recall?

It's interesting to watch the likes of Christopher Meyer, Alistair Campbell, Jeff Hoon et al giving their evidence. So far, it seems that only Meyer has been in any way maverick. But then again, if you read his book DC Confidential he is a maverick kind of character. Lord John Marbury, if you like. But even then, he didn't rock the boat too much and what he said more or less fitted with the larger narrative.

Last week the reporters got all hot under the collar over Jeff Hoon. In some ways this is understandable, as Hoon might've shed more light on his recent attempt to oust Gordon Brown. But, it was never going to happen. The inquiry was not about what happened last week, and I imagine that Hoon is not so stupid that he doesn't realise he already looks a bit foolish. The worst it got was the fact that there might have been more helicopters for use in Afghanistan, had the green light been given five years ago. It's pretty convoluted and speculative, and, despite the right wing press endlessly exploiting the relatives of dead soldiers to to try and make it so, hardly controversial. The worst you could say was that the government didn't envisage what might be needed some years into the future and on the far side of both a UK and a US election. Having 20-20 long term foresight is something no government can even be credited with.

One blessed relief is that when the evidence has been shown, it has just been shown with none of the usual presentational tics, such as a correspondant breaking in every few seconds to tell you what you are watching and, whilst trying to summarise what you just heard, stopping you from hearing what you wanted to hear now. I imagine all the people whose job this usually is, sitting around having tea and cakes with their feet on the desk.

The heavyweight political correspondants are puffing and wheezing, as trying to find cynical angles and points of outrage is proving pretty difficult. The other day they got all worked up to a frenzy when they found out the date of Tony Blair's appearance. I think they will find themselves disappointed. How likely is it that Blair will sit there and announce that it was all a conspiracy, and that he is a swivel-eyed colonialist and had planned to start a war all along, whilst deceiving everyone on all the details and even personally murdering David Kelly in order to shut him up? Blair's answers will prosaically chime with those given already, even as the press and TV will try desperately to hype up every word to try and create controversy (especially given that this is a 'Labour' issue and much of the press and Sky News are in pre-election mode, where everything is about trying to undermine Labour).

The fact remains that there are two main camps. Those who think that the war was wrong and that there were conspiracies, who will never really change that view whatever is said or done, and those who believe it wasn't so bad in the end, who really don't want to spend any more time raking over the details, given that Iraq inquiries are getting a bit like a Status Quo greatest hits. People have a habit of vehemently defending their previous positions by any means necessary. To do otherwise would be to show embarrassment at their previous actions and statements.

The Chilcott inquiry will change nobody's mind on the issues. All it seems to be there for is to give political junkies something to have wet dreams about.

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