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22 June 2009updated 05 Oct 2023 8:50am

Mesopotamia on the mind

Brown's Iraq inquiry, the unmasking of Nightjack and the B52s' Mesopotamia in our weekly round-up of

By Paul Evans

Inquiring minds

“There will come a time when it is appropriate to hold an inquiry,” the prime minister wrote to the Fabian Society’s Sunder Katwala last March. The clarification was welcome, but with the inquiry’s establishment this week has come discontent sufficient to unite even Justin McKeating and Iain Dale.

Katwala, who had originally called for a public inquiry, noted on Next Left Ed Balls’ remark that the Inquiry should be as open as possible, recalling that in 2005: “His view was that there had been a strong case for giving Hans Blix and the weapons inspectors more time in 2003,” and reinforcing the idea that an open and public inquiry should not be an alien concept to senior figures in the government today (especially those who, like Balls, they were not at the time MPs).

Response from Tory bloggers varied widely, from demands for a fully transparent and wide-ranging inquiry, to calls to scrap the entire endeavour. London Tory James Cleverly, a Major in the TA, wrote: “I’m not so naive to think that everything can be discussed in public but I feel that this (as with all government) should be as open as possible,” adding that “The justification for going to war given by Tony Blair at the time has now been shown to have been wrong, we need to know whether it was an inadvertent error of if the was ‘economical with the truth’”.

Meanwhile Kel on The Osterley Times wrote that: “Even if the inquiry ultimately decides that Blair acted in good faith, it should at the very least attempt to answer the many questions which the public have regarding this conflict”.

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Not all bloggers objected to the inquiry’s terms. Dave Cole identified timing, secrecy and outputs and the three principal objections that exist. He argued persuasively that its efficacy will rest upon it being given both the time and the confidentiality of testimony necessary to make it worthwhile – and that it must necessarily report on operational rather than policy issues – on the basis that: “Ultimately, going to war in Iraq was a political decision. While an inquiry may do much, it cannot decide whether a policy was right or wrong. That is reserved for the electorate.”

By Thursday, speculation was rife that the Labour ranks could force Brown’s hand – and insist on a reformulation of the inquiry’s basis. As Number Ten squeaked the possibility of holding parts of it in public, the progressive Christian Ekklesia blog noted the strange misuse of the term “theology” in respect of its openness, while Beau Bo D’Or had his own graphic take.

What have we learned this week?

The unmasking of Orwell prize-winning blogger Nightjack has caused widespread anger in the blogosphere – and provoked a spin-off debate on identifying the authorship newspaper leaders. Of the online comment over the issue, Carl Gardner’s broadside at the Times is particularly worth reading.

Around the World

Extraordinary photos, videos and coverage of the protests in Iran can be seen on the excellent Tehran 24 blog. While uprising following the presidential election has been characterised by the young protestors willingness to report on developments online, it is not the exclusive domain of the pro-reform camp. Here Hamid Tehrani translates the views of a pro-Ahmadinejad blogger, who believes that: “Mousavi, in the most optimistic scenario, is merely a victim of this deceiving movement”.

Iran has previously jailed bloggers on dubious pretext, not least Omid Reza Mir Sayafi, who died in a Tehran prison earlier this year, having been jailed for allegedly insulting religious authority.

Videos of the Week

To celebrate the launch of the Iraq inquiry, here’s a live version of Mesopotamia by the B52s.

Quote of the Week

“It is important that the inquiry recognises that this story didn’t start with the invasion, but that it nevertheless examines this suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam. For those reasons, it should take evidence in Iraq.”

Gary Kent of Labour Friends of Iraq calls for evidence to be taken from Iraqis.

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