Political Wire: British PM at Iraq inquiry

15:42, March 09, 2010      

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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on March 5 defended Britain's participation in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 as the "right decision" but conceded the failure of the intruding forces to win peace quickly. Brown attended an official inquiry into the Iraq War and told the inquiry that joining in the 2003 U.S.-led war on Iraq had been the right decision but denied he had left the military short of funding.

To date, the Iraq War has been a very sensitive issue in Britain that has attracted strong sentiments against the war. There was blame game backfiring on former Prime Minister Tony Blair, which obliged him to step down shortly. As for incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who served as finance minister during the Iraq War, his performance at the inquiry would undoubtedly be "put under a microscope."

For up to four hours of questioning, Brown, like his predecessor Tony Blair, sought to join in defending the Iraq War and said the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 "was the right decision, and it was for the right reasons"… Brown told the inquiry he had made it clear "at every point" that the Treasury would support whatever military option it was decided was best. He presented and reasoned his point of view with a string of figures and evidences. Brown did not discredit his predecessor, and said instead Blair had done what a prime minister should do during the Iraq War.

Gordon Brown, however, showed a clear difference with Blair by the way they took to the inquiry. Both inquiries were held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center not far from the British Parliament Building and the Prime Minister's Office, Blair slipped into the back door to attend the inquiry, whereas Brown went through the front door of the conference center.

During the hearing, Tony Blair did not express any regret for Britain's entry into war, but Brown conceded the "lack of post-war planning", and also stressed both at the beginning and end of the inquiry that the casualties of the war in Iraq was "deeply saddened". Nevertheless, Tony Blair did not voice regret at all over the British involvement in the war launched by the U.S. But Brown, while showing British responsibility for the war, also implied to criticize the U.S. for the ineffective post-war reconstruction.

Moreover, Gordon Brown insists he did not reject pleas for more cash for British forces in Iraq. He said that Britain spent 8 billion British pounds for its involvement in the Iraq War, and spent a total of 18 billion pounds on the two wars respectively in Iraq and Afghanistan. So much cost filled him with a "sense of hardship" as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of Course, Brown did not forget to "gild" himself. As the Prime Minister, he presided over the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq… He also spoke about what went wrong, mainly with the post-war construction… Britain sent more than 45,000 troops to Iraq in 2003 to help topple Saddam Hussein… Furthermore, in accordance with the new situation, he added, Britain is prepared to withdraw its remaining forces at an appropriate time.

On Gordon Brown's performance at the inquiry, varied political parties reacted differently. The ruling Labor Party has certainly affirmed. The No. 10 Downing Street also issued a statement saying that Brown answered questions about the military spending issue in the "most sincere and frank manner".

Parties in opposition, however, responded with differently and made rude remarks. Liam Fox, the Conservative shadow defense secretary, accused Brown of a "pathetic" attempt to avoid his responsibilities and said the Prime Minister's evidence "does not add up." And Liberal Democratic Party leader Nick Clegg, whose party opposed the Iraq war, said that the Prime Minister put on a typical evasive performance, answering the questions he wanted to hear, rather than questions which were put to him. "There are still contradictions between wheat Gordon Brown said about defense spending and what Geoff, Lord Walker and others said" in slamming the government.

In Britain, apart from the "Iraq War Aftermath" continuously being fermented, there are a lot of headaches in the political, economic, social and other related issues, so Gordon Brown would apparently go on with his political manoeuvring or "political wire" game.

By People's Daily Online and contributed by PD resident reporter in Britain Wang Rujun
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