7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018

Why no Iraqis at the Iraq inquiry..?

Captain Louis Renault, the roguish French police chief in Casablanca, would feel right at home in the Chilcot inquiry into the war in Iraq.

Faced with any challenge he would order his officers to "round up the usual suspects". For very important cases, twice the number of usual suspects would be brought in.

The aim was not to investigate a crime but to make it look as if the authorities were doing something.

The same procedure is now well underway in the Iraq inquiry. Tony Blair remained unrepentant. Alastair Campbell defiant. Lord Goldsmith vacillates. Geoff Hoon claims that he wasn't there at key moments, wasn't consulted and wasn't to blame when things went wrong. And so on.

It is hard to see beyond the theatre of the occasion what light will be shed on events leading up to the invasion of Iraq seven years after tanks rolled across the Kuwaiti border.

The inquiry could have done so much better. The hint is in the name - Iraq.

Why have no Iraqis, or Americans for that matter, been asked to testify about an event that affected them more than anyone?

If, as so many people believe, the war was about oil, why not call Hussein Al Sharistani to testify? He was a prisoner in Abu Ghraib under Saddam, escaped, resettled in London and returned to become oil minister.

Or what about Ahmad Chalabi, the former leader of the Iraqi opposition in exile?

He was accused of providing misleading intelligence on weapons of mass destruction that helped make the case for the invasion.

He is now regarded as an Iranian ally. He was certainly at the centre of events leading up to the war.

So too was Ayad Allawi, the Surrey-based opposition figure, openly supported by the British government and now a candidate in next month's elections.

All three had front-row seats in the run-up to the war, its conduct and the aftermath.

Iraqis could also help establish whether this war was justified, not in the narrow legal sense that has obsessed politicians in Britain, but morally.

Would Iraqis rather have left Saddam in power to live under United Nations sanctions and a Stalinist dictatorship or would they prefer his removal and suffer the terrible violence that ensued?

Opinions are deeply divided just as they are in this country.

Why not call Ghaith Abdul-Ahad? Now an award-winning journalist who covered the war, he would still be stuck in Iraq had Saddam been left in place.

In Iraq this debate is not some point-scoring dinner party game. It has been a life-or-death decision for tens of thousands of Iraqis. If we are going to learn anything, we should let these voices speak.

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