British inquiry into Iraq war turns toward Bush, officials: report
Senior Bush administration officials, including former President George W. Bush himself, have been asked to give testimony before a British committee investigating the basis for the invasion of Iraq, according to a published report.
Other officials contacted by the panel include former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Bush adviser Stephen Hadley, among others.
“Members of Sir John Chilcot’s panel are believed to be willing to travel to the US to take evidence – almost certainly in private – on the administration’s policies between the 2003 invasion of Iraq and 2009,” The Telegraph reported on Sunday.
The paper’s lead is based on statements made by unnamed sources in Washington, D.C., and the story notes that even while the Chilcot has succeeded in obtaining testimony from high-ranking British officials, it does not have subpoena power in the U.K. or U.S.
The panel has so far managed to put former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and current Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the hot seat for hours at a time, forcing both men to offer repeated justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, while the Telegraph claimed approximately 10 Bush officials had responded positively to the panel, Washington Post columnist Al Kamen noted on Friday that most were “decidedly cool” to the idea.
“The general view,” we were told, was that while everyone was free to talk, “it was not right for American officials to be subject to a foreign investigative body.” Former national security adviser Hadley, for example, was said to have been among those voicing a strong disinclination to participate. A decidedly minority view was that talking to the panel made some sense, on the assumption that it might be worth the effort to get the administration’s views into the official record.
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Regardless of whether the interviews happen or not, the British panel cannot accept “formal evidence” from foreign former officials, the Post reported in February.
After his six hour testimony before the Chilcot panel, former PM Tony Blair blasted what he called the U.K.’s love of “conspiracy,” claiming his motives in launching an unprovoked war were pure. Sitting PM Gordon Brown later reaffirmed his predecessor’s sentiment, calling the invasion the “right decision.”
The United States and the United Kingdom both went to war with Iraq amid fervently repeated claims that the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, even as weapons inspectors claimed there was no proof. After seven years of war and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, no such weapons have ever been found.
When American officials were forced to state publicly that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, they blamed the intelligence community and professed their personal honesty. A key British document called the “Downing Street Memo” later surfaced, detailing U.S. and British pre-war political strategy, noting that the decision to invade was made months before it was announced and that “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
Paul R. Pillar, a former national intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, later confessed in a piece for Foreign Affairs that the Bush administration had used the intelligence community’s resources to “cherry pick” information that aided their drive to war.