What's the chance of the Chilcott Iraq Inquiry arriving at a satisfactory objective conclusion?
Andy Beckett asks in The Guardian if the inquiry can do a better job than past whitewashes.
Then there are the inquisitors themselves. None of them is a lawyer, despite the Iraq war being a minefield of legal issues. All are peers, and four out of the five are men; the sole woman is Baroness Usha Prashar. What is more, all four men seem to have pro-government elements in their biographies.
The chairman, Sir John Chilcot, a former senior civil servant, was part of the Butler inquiry panel which, in the eyes of most observers, was robust in its detailed judgments but too charitable in its conclusions. Sir Martin Gilbert is the official biographer of Winston Churchill; in 2004 he wrote in the Observer, "George W Bush and Tony Blair . . . may well, with the passage of time . . . join the ranks of [Franklin] Roosevelt and Churchill [as war leaders] when Iraq has a stable democracy."
Sir Lawrence Freedman is another grand British historian – professor of war studies at King's College London since 1982 – with less than neutral past views on Iraq. In the lead-up to war, he repeatedly wrote hawkish articles for British newspapers about the strategic threat allegedly posed by Saddam Hussein. In 1999, he contributed heavily to a famous Blair speech in Chicago that set out the arguments for military action against repressive and dangerous regimes.
Finally there is Sir Roderic Lyne, a former British ambassador to Russia. In Alastair Campbell's diaries he is referred to fondly as "Rod". In June 2003, a few weeks after the invasion of Iraq, the Times reported that during an international summit in St Petersburg, "Campbell took time out to race Sir Roderic Lyne through six miles of city streets. This was the third in a series of three races that the pair have run."
Watch Blair's testimony live on Friday at the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry website.
UPDATE: Applause for Flying Rodent's splendid rant, Lefties – stop chasing the Chilcot farce at Liberal Conspiracy on what the real narrative actually is and why everything else is smoke and mirrors. Good comment at No 9, as well.