Thursday 20 August 2009

Sir John Chilcot: Not yet Another Inquiry into the Iraq War!

by Trowbridge H. Ford

The terrible state of public accountability in the Anglo-American world became all too clear when Britain had to make some kind of accounting of its devastating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - where it had only followed American orders by joining, and felt increasingly obliged to render some scrutiny of since Washington did so too. When Washington did agree to the Iraq Intelligence Commission, co-chaired by Senator Charles Robb and Judge Lawrence Silberman, to assess the adequacy of the intelligence justifying Saddam's ouster - after the Iraq Survey Group had failed to find any of its claimed WMD, the Blair Government followed suit, appointing the Butler Review to see if Downing Street had sexed up the intelligence to justify war - what the similar secret Franks Commission had found to be essentially not the case when Argentina increasingly threatened to invade the Falklands in 1982. Instead of Thatcher's Downing Street ignoring the growing isolation of the Falklanders - what gave the Junta the expectation that it could get away with a successful assault - the Blair goverenment had used all kinds of suspect intelligence to justify most dubious claims, especially the one that Iraq could mount a serious WMD missile attack within a period of 45 minutes.

What was really interesting about the Butler Report is that most people thought that it was the creation of his Lordship - a well-known mandarin, noted for dealing with responsible politicians, especially serving as private secretary to no less than five PMs - and those who didn't took offence at Labour MP Ann Taylor, who was a vigorous supporter of the war, and chairman of the influential Intelligence and Security Committee in the Commons, making these complaints. There were actually three other members of the inquiry, Field Marhal Lord Inge, Conservative MP Michael Mates, and mandarin Sir John Chilcot. The Liberal Democrats had refused to participate in it because the efforts by politicians, unlike even the Franks Commission, were excluded from its scrutiny. Chilcot performed for three previous Home Secretaries, Merlyn Rees, Roy Jenkins, and William Whitelaw, the same kind of secretarial duties that Butler was known for with Prime Ministers. During the Butler Inquiry hearings, Chilcot was expected to mind the clock while witnesses, especially the current Prime Minister Blair, were giving their expected testimony while Butler presided from the chair.

The Butler Inquiry was further limited in the scope of its investigation by the Hutton one, appointed to clear up the unexpected death of weapons inspector Dr. David Kelly whose earlier claim about Saddam Hussein's expected WMD capability with medium-range rockets was the centerpiece of what it was supposed to be investigating. Lord Hutton was a law lord, noted for his most servile service for government authorities, especially in Northern Ireland, and he quickly showed that its confidence in giving him the responsibility for determining how Kelly died - what would normally have been decided by an inquest - was not misplaced when he simply delegated the decision to suicide expert, Oxford Professor Keith Hawton. The Hutton Report, consequently, concerned why, when and how Kelly had apparently been allowed to kill himself.

While Blair's replacement, Gordon Brown, fully expected this dribs and drabs approach to Britain going to war in Iraq would finally kill off calls for why it all happened, he was obliged to appoint a Chilcot Inquiry into why it still had. While one would have expected in the first place something like what happened to Lord Aberdeen's Ministry in Parliament 154 years ago, Chilcot was obliged at least to hold an inquiry in public, unlike what happened during the Franks Commission, and to put hard questions to leading politicians about why the war was a complete snafu from start to finish, unlike what the Butler Inquiry had done. Still, the Chilcot Inquiry sounded too much like the Hutton one, though many proclaimed that the investigation was in 'good hands' with the well-respected mandarin. This is also the motto of Allstate insurance, increasingly noted for ripping off its customers.

The doubts become more serious when one looks into the background of Chilcot's Whitehall service, especially when he really got on the map with his leaderhip of the Home Office's Police Department in February 1987 when John Stalker - leader of the inquiry of the Shoot-to-Kill murders in Northern Ireland - was being forced to resign from the Greater Manchester Police; apparent assassin Captain Simon Hayward of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was causing increasing problems about the still unsolved murder in Stockholm a year before, and the ongoing effort to stop the flow of Libyan arms to the Provisional IRA; the murders of private eye Daniel Morgan and Hayward's sister-in-law Chantal who were trying to clarify problems relating to the Haywards: and the continuing struggle by Manchester businessman Kevin Taylor, who was an acquaintance of Stalker's, to clear his name of cavorting with criminal associates. If these problems were not solved quickly, and effectively, no one could predict where the continuing problems would end up.

The drawn-out Stalker inquiry was running out of control, thanks to RUC Chief Constable's increasing stone-walling of the inquiry for fear that it was focusing on Simon Hayward's activities further afield, apparently the Stockholm assassination on February 28, 1986. The immediate cause of the delay was Stalker wanting a copy of the tape recording of the Hayshed shooting of Michael Tigue on November 24, 1982 near Lurgan in Northern Ireland, fearing that it would confirm Hayward's leadership of the reinforced RUC Special Branch operation - what Home Office Regional Inspector of Constabulary (Northwest) Sir Philip Myers feared would be extended to the statsminister's assassination, thanks to the clandestine Interim Report Stalker had provided. As Francis X. Clines of The New York Times wrote when Stalker finally resigned from the GMP: "His inquiry also looked into the death of one unarmed man who was shot through the back and heart when, policemen said, he presented a threat.." ("Detective in Ulster 'Shoot to Kill' Inquiry Quits," March 17, 1987, A13) This was obviously an allusion to the Stockholm shooting where Palme was shot by a single bullet which severed his spinal column and aorta. (Jan Bondeson, Blood on the Snow: The Killing of Olof Palme, p. 52) When Stalker attempted to continue his investigation despite Myers telling him twice to desist, he was removed permanently from it. (John Stalker, The Stalker Affair, p. 280)

Its effect upon the operation of the security forces in Northern Ireland, especially Hayward's South Detachment of the 14 Intelligence Company, was dramatic, with its refraining from all offensive operations, especially ambushes, despite the fact that the body of Frank Hegarty, the British tout who had tipped them off about where PIRA weapons caches in Ireland were located in anticipation of the Anglo-American non-nuclear showdown with the Soviets - what was to be triggered, if everything had gone ahead as planned, by the Palme assassination. The weapons were the threat that Clines had referred to in his article about Stalker's retirement. In contrast to the Brits adopting a most low profile, assuring that there would be nothing new to add to Hayward's alleged assassinations, the Provos went on a rampage in December, mounting 22 attacks on RUC stations until Hayward was finally rendered harmless by a drugs setup in Sweden in March. With the Op Officer finally out of the way, the British security forces then responded in April with the famous Loughgall Massacre.

Meanwhile, Hayward was lulled into thinking that he was going up the British military promotion ladder, attending classes which would allow him to be promoted to major (PQS 2) while he was not performing routine duties with the 14th back in Ulster. Hayward's problems were compounded, though, by the activities of Soviet spy, Michael Bettaney, who had worked for MI5's K Branch, and had become completely disaffected by its conduct in Northern Ireland. especially the Shoot-to-Kill murders. While he was on remand in Brixton jail, awaiting trial, he told IRA suspects all he knew about what the Security Service had done in Ulster, supplying, as Mark Urban wrote in Big Boys' Rules: The Secret Struggle against the IRA, "...the names and addresses of senior officers. including those involved in anti-IRA work, (who) had been compromised, and that the people concerned had taken increased security precautions, some moving house." (p. 99)

In Hayward's case, this meant getting a new job elsewhere - as he was now believed to be on the IRA death list - so he, it seems, was transferred to a new top-secret military intelligence postition in London, once he had taken a vacation with his brother Christopher on his catamaran, The True Love, in the Mediterranean. The Haywards were on a mission to carry out some kind of terrorist action, apparently an assassination, at Libya's expense This was just when Chilcot was taking over the Home Office's Police Department, and it decided, along with Anthony Duff's MI5, to make the best of Bettaney's betrayals. Now the Security Service was committed to capturing the Eksund, loaded with Libyan weapons for the IRA, and was willing to set up Simon as a drug runner to satisfy its tout in the PIRA Council, DOOK apparently aka 'Steak Knife', whose cooperation was vital to capturing the vessel. (For more on this, see Simon Hayward, Under Fire: My Own Story, p. 57ff.)

Once the set up of Hayward had finally been achieved, thanks particularly to the efforts by informant Forbes Cay Mitchell, it was the job of the Home Office's National Drugs Intelligence Unit (NDIU), especially Detective Sergeant Brian Moore and Detective Inspector David Morgan, to secure his conviction. They submitted a signed statement, claiming that Hayward was a professional cannabis trafficker who knowingly used his brother's Jaguar to transport 50.5 kilos of it into Sweden, and for which he was to be paid £20,000 - claims which fellow suspect Mitchell fully and freely corroborated. (p. 147) When Hayward's defense demanded that they be forced to give evidence at any upcoming trial, Scotland Yard's Assistant Commission Colin Hewett, under the supervision of the Chicot's Home Office police, refused to allow the officers to attend because what the NDIU officers had supplied was only hearsay evidence which would be inadmissable in an English trial.

When it seemed that this dubious case against Hayward was starting to break down, it was suddenly revived by the suspected murder of his sister-in-law Chantal by a massive drug overdose a few day later. "There is very little doubt in mind that Chantal was murdered" (p. 185), Simon wrote. The most disburbing evidence was that she, not known as a drug user, had suffered a puncture wound on her left arm, just below the elbow. Then right after Hayward's lawyer, Tom Placht, informed the prosectuor of DOOK's existence, and asked what it knew about him, Hayward's mother was immediately interviewed by British police on July 24th. "It also would appear that the authorities suddenly became extremely worried as to the security of the trial proceedings because of the possiblity, in their eyes, of IRA reprisals." (p. 195) Prosecutors then decided to prosecute Hayward, changing the venue of the trial to Stockholm because of fears as to his safety, and that of members of his family. Thanks to the hearsay evidence which British authorities were not willing to back up under oath, Hayward was duly convicted of drug-trafficking, and sentenced to five years in prison.

While Hayward was being legally disposed of, South London, private detective Daniel Morgan and Hayward's sister-in-law Chantal, Christopher's former wife, were being physicallly eliminated. Morgan had learned through his contacts in the underworld that Hayward had been set up to help protect the continuing trade in narcotics which the Metropolitan police were deeply involved in, and threatened to publish his information in media tycoon Robert Maxwell's Daily Mirror for an alleged £250,000, but when the criminal underworld got wind of what he was up to, it arranged a meeting in the parking lot of a South London pub on March 10th where a professional assassin killed Morgan with an axe in his head. Interestingly enough, the London police, thanks to the direction of officials like Chilcot, have not been able to find, and convict his killers of this terrible crime for 22 years now.

Then the security risk to Hayward's family had already resulted in the apparent murder of Chantal, who had visited her mother-in-law in Putney over Hayward's problems, and was in the process to fleeing to Canada because of fears over her own safety and that of her son Tarik. On June lst, a woman sounding like Chantal had met a female police officer in the South Croydon Railway Station, telling her of the drug ring which had set up Simon in Stockholm, and wrote to Hendon MP John Gorst, who was activity involved in securing Simon's release, thanks to encouragement by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Home Secretary Merlyn Rees, to the same effect. The policewoman had simply allowed the woman to disappear without a trace. However way Chantal died, whether it was by her own hand or that of the Provos, the drug ring or crooked Metropolitan cops, it has never been investigated, though the Metro did revive her existence years later when it apparently wanted to finally solve the Morgan murder, and apparently set up GMP Chief Constable Mike Todd for a similar fate when he threatened to take action last year against Britain's covert state's complicity in secret rendering of suspected Muslim terrorists to places like Diego Gardica and beyond.

For more on this, see this link:

If all this wasn't enough to keep Chilcot most busy, then there were the problems that Manchester businessman Kevin Taylor was continuing to cause because of the police's pursuit of him. Even before Stalker was removed from his inquiry, he suspected that they raided Taylor's house on May 9th, hoping to find real evidence which would cooroborate simmering interest in their criminal activity - what, Stalker wrote, "...was brought to the boil only after the contents of my interm report became known in late 1985 and early 1986." (p. 267) Then Chilcot saw to the quashing of Taylor's summons against GMP Chief Constable John Anderton and some of his associates for conspiring to subvert the course of justice. In July, when Hayward's trial was beginning, the Home Office saw to the quashing of judicial review of the authority which allowed police access to his bank accounts. Then, when Hayward was convicted, the police arrested Taylor on a charge of conspiring to defraud one of the banks where he had an account - what would justify Stalker's removal from the inquiry if proven true, but turned out to be nothing more than the police committing perjury and losing documents when Taylor was acquitted right after Hayward's release from prison in Sweden in September 1989.

Then there was the problem of Stalker possibly revealing in some blockbuster book untoward action by the Home Office in his removal, especially the role of Chilcot and his Police Department. Actually, they were never even mentioned in The Stalker Affair, but Stalker added enough to make clear to the reader that it was not so. Chilcot managed to get the current Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, to conveniently write this in a letter to an unnamed Conservative Member of Parliament (Gorst?): "The Home Office played no part in the enquiry into Mr Stalker and there is no basis on which the Department might pay his cost." (Quoted from p. 223.) Of course, the claim was an outrageous lie as the text and index of Stalker's book showed, but since the responsible Minister was willing to say so, that was the end of it. It even has references to the role its Inspectorate played in his ouster, especially Sir Philip Myers, adding that Stalker would have seriously considered instituting a "...formal statutory disciplinary process that would have involved officials of the Northern Ireland Police Authority and the Home Office" (p. 266) if he had been allowed to continue his inquiry.
Little wonder that Chilcot was then made Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Northern Ireland Office. During his tenure there, the still unsolved fire on January 10, 1990 at the NIPA which destroyed the files of the Sir John Stevens' investigation of collusion of the security forces in paramilitary murders - reminscent of what had started the Stalker inquiry - remained, though the Stevens' team after a decade finally got access to the Force Research Unit's " secret records (including the book that recorded all intelligence passed to the Special Branch) and getting ever closer to the truth of what happened." (Peter Taylor, Brits: The War Against the IRA, p. 295) Unfortunately, this expectation was suddenly crushed when the Castlereagh headquarters where the Special Branch files were kept was raided on St. Patrick's Day, 2002, and were carried away by a three-man team which had inside information about the facility. Then Sir John Chilcot was appointed to get to the bottom of the break-in - what he, unsurprisingly, did not manage to achieve.

With a track record like this, anyone who expects any surprises from the Chilcot Inquiry will be sadly disappointed.

Modern Warfare and the Decline of Parliamentary Sovereignty

by Trowbridge H. Ford

When a country, at least in modern times - especially in the Anglo-American world - suffers a disastrous military campaign or the loss of a serious war, there is rarely an inquiry into why everything went so wrong. Even if a country somehow still manages the adversity, there is rarely a complete investigation of why affairs went so badly at first. Of course, the reason for no such inquiries is that they happen so rarely that when they do, they are just dismissed as unique occurrances from which nothing worthwhile can be learned. As I recall, there was no inquiry into why the Northern States nearly lost the Civil War, and why the US government clearly lost trying to dictate its solution to the Vietnamese one.

The first such attempted investigation that comes to mind is that which started in Britain during 1810 when the invasion of Walcheren island in the Scheldt estuary along the now Belgium-Dutch border during the depths of the Napoleonic Wars turned out so badly. The plan was based upon a 40,000-man invasion force to make sure that the French Emperor did not secure total dominance of the continent - what was attained soon thereafter by his smashing victory at Wagram..The irrelevant force was then decimated by a plague of diseases, leaving the commander of the whole operation under threat of serious consequences. He was the Earl of Chatham, son of the famous Prime Minister, and a member of current Prime Minister Spencer Perceval's Ministry, who blamed the mission's failure upon the naval commander on the scene in a secret personal statement to ailing monarch, King George III.

Rising barrister Henry Brougham made such a case against such futile efforts that the Tory Ministry was engaged in around the world that the Whig opposition was obliged to see that he was elected to a seat in the Commons so that he could lead the fight against the Ministry. In his maiden speech, he charged that Chatham had engaged in unconstitutional behavior by dealing privately with the King, contrary to its customs and conventions, calling upon the House to censure the Government - what it threatened to dissolve Parliament if it occurred during this most difficult time.

When the whole House became involved in debating the question, however, it was compounded by Francis Burdett's breach of privilege by publishing in Cobbett's Weekly Political Register his challenge to Brougham's view of the Constitution, especially the role of the Crown in its functioning - what permitted the Percevel Ministry to defeat passage of Lord Porchester's hostile Resolutions, approving instead the continued retention of Walcheren during the confusion, as Brougham so lamented:

"Had it not unfortunately been mixed up with other subjects, so successfully introduced by the minister for the express purpose of distracting the public attention, we should in all likelihood have owed to the most eloquent event - that powerful display of the rhetoric of numbers - a complete change in the opinion of the people on the cause of reform, and a certain prospect of its being speedily victorious." (Quoted from Henry Brougham, "Rose on the Influence of the Crown," Edinburgh Review, vol. 16, no. XXXI, April 1810, p. 205.)

What Brougham threatened for the Perceval Ministry occurred for real in 1855 when Lord Aberdeen's Government floundered in its conduct of the Crimean War against expansive Russia. Thanks to its lack of planning, especially a strategy of reasonable targets to hit - what was exposed by the famous charge of Lord Cardigan's Light Brigade, and the treatment of casualities resulting in the process, the Commons got so worked up during the continuing hostilites that it called for the appointment of a select committee to investigate the manifest failures - everything from the recruitment of capable military leadership to the flogging of insubordinate subordinates - what the Ministry made a matter of confidence, resulting in its retirement when it failed, and shortly thereafter the resignation of its leading administrator, First Lord of the Admiralty Sir James Graham. The leadership of the succeeding one, Lord Palmerston, was so vigorous in the pursuit of victory that the necessary changes in Britain's military establishment were postponed in making for another decade - the Cardwell reforms effected by Gladstone's Secretary of State for War.

This experience was not lost upon British officialdom when similar kinds of disasters had to be covered up from the public. When the United Kingdom mounted Winston Churchill's dubious assault on Gallipoli in the midst of WWI in the hope of knocking Turkey out of the war, and opening up the Black Sea to unimpeded Allied forces, it resulted in an even worse result than the Scheldt adventure through disease and Turkish resistance, but there was no immediate inquiry into why things had gone so wrong for fear of breaking the Allied support for the continuing, irrational conflict. It did result in the recall of Mediterrean Expeditionary Force commander Sir Ian Hamilton, Churchill losing his position at the Admiralty, and Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith having to give way to a Coalition Government under Lloyd Geroge.

Only when the crisis had passed with the Allied victory at Beersheba in Egypt - what accomplished what Gallipoli had attempted - the Dardenelles Commission was appointed in 1916 to investigate what had gone so wrong in the Gallipoli campaign, particularly to molify AnZac complaints about its planning and conduct, and its composition - especially the presence of former Australian Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, the colonial politician so noted for his support of Britain through thick and thin, and so damning of the campaign as it was unfolding - assured that its report would only be a belated one, and even then only containing what everyone already knew. The commission had been headed by William Pickford, an uninformed Appellate Court judge, who later went on to become Master of the Rolls. The commission finally reported in 1919.

The lack of official assessments of British conduct during not only the wider war but also WWII only compounded the problems of keeping a handle on the whole process. Britain came quite close to losing both conflicts, but the public hardly even suspected it, much less why it almost happened. There is nothing of an official nature assessing their conduct, leaving even British officials to rely upon the volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States to help reconstruct what happened during both wars. With the public having such wide misconceptions of what was attempted, and achieved until much later - what historians only started seriously supplying during the 1980s - it was most difficult for Governments to focus the public's attention on the real problems, and how to meet them, given the complete mythology about the real conflicts. - i. e., the 'good war' versus the 'bad war' when both claims were highly arbitrary. Rather than trying to educate the public about such complex concerns, Ministries simply settled for getting by in the hope that everything would work out okay.

Of course, Britain could have had a similar inquiry like the one about Gallipoli over the ill-fated Suez invasion in 1956 while it was trying to hold onto its Mideast influence as its empire was starting to fall apart, but the humiliation was so immediate, and so obvious to all that no inquiries were required. Without the expicit knowledge and approval by Washington of what Britain, France and Israel had planned in the area by the covertly coordinated assaults, they were doomed to fail unless they quickly toppled Egyptian President Nasser. President Eisenhower called for an immediate cessasion of hostilities, and a quick pullout of the forces involved or the United States would stop supporting sterling, undoubtedly causing its devaluation at a most critical time, the imposition of oil sanctions on the offending powers, and replacing them with UN ones if the offending ones refused to move. The result was the physical collapse of Prime Minister Anthony Eden, forcing his resignation when he tried to make a comeback after the dustup had settled, a cost which required no inquiry nor further resignations, not even that of the most deceitful Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd, thanks to Ike's willingness to provide the necessary "fig leaves" to cover up the special relationship's snafu.

While the Suez debacle did not prevent Britain from going it alone in such adventures without explicit American approval when it considered action especially vital, as its recapture of the Falkland Islands confirmed when Washington provided another "fig leaf" - crucial air intelligence about Argentine air strikes - it still pretty well knew how to handle such difficulties if they occurred, especially if they backfired - i. e., having no serious parliamentary involvement in investigating the problem as it might well bring down the Ministry, having peripheral investigations which helped dilute the controversy by settling unexpected developments, especially of a personal nature, establishing no main inquiry even after the difficulty has been resolved, and making sure then that it was not conducted by someone with a well-known reputation for intelligence, independence, and probity - using someone who is used to being told by others what to think and do. Britain wanted no more Broughams, Fishers, or even Pickfords to tell it where it had gone so badly wrong in wars.