Carne Ross on the Chilcot Inquiry

by | Jul 21, 2010

Carne Ross – who now runs Independent Diplomat, but who used to be a Foreign Office diplomat based at the UK Mission to the UN until he resigned in protest at the decision to go to war in Iraq – gave evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry last week; here’s his testimony.

Carne comments in an email to me and others (quoted with his permission) that:

Before I testified, FCO officials refused to give me access to all the documents I requested.  They also pressured me – apparently on behalf of the Cabinet Office – to delete references to some of the most egregious documents including those directly illustrating how the government exaggerated the WMD case (I refused, though I agreed to a couple of insignificant redactions at FCO request).  It was not a pleasant experience nor was I left feeling that Chilcot et al are equipped for the task of dismantling a well-constructed infrastructure justifying the government’s decisions. 

Chilcot’s panel has largely been offered a narrative that war was more or less unavoidable because Iraq was escaping from sanctions and containment was collapsing.  There is some truth to this, but there is also an alternate account – namely, what the Foreign Office actually believed at the time.  The testimonies of other witnesses showed clearly that many are painting a picture at odds with that evident in the internal policy documents and, secondly, that the panel is not forcing them to reveal the true picture, and instead letting them proffer their account without much challenge.

Tediously therefore, for these reasons, the fight for full revelation and the truth must continue.  My main conclusion is that the answer lies in more or less full disclosure of the relevant documents (as no less than the Deputy Prime Minister seems to have suggested).  Chilcot instead seems to be proposing partial disclosure when requested by witnesses.  This is in no ways adequate.

See also this by Chris Ames in the Guardian.


  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.

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