WHATEVER the result of last night's debate on Iraq in the House of Commons (still awaited as I write) the fact will remain that Tony Blair does not want an inquiry of any kind into the Iraq war and yesterday used specious arguments to try to prevent that outcome of the debate. To say, as he did, that an inquiry would undermine British troops in the field by sending a signal of weakness to the insurgents was special pleading of a most dishonest kind. The British forces in Iraq know only too well that their mission has not gone as well as it should have done, through no fault of their own; indeed, their own commander publicly spelt out his misgivings in his controversial intervention a few weeks ago. The forces in the field, more than anyone else, are entitled to an inquiry into the political decisions that have given them such a tough, even impossible, task. The MPs calling for an inquiry have been careful not to link it to a withdrawal of British troops. The prime minister might have avoided the pressure he now finds himself under if he had been more willing to allow parliamentary debates over the progress of the Iraq war as its objectives changed from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and discovery of weapons of mass destruction. Winston Churchill was not afraid to face parliamentary debates on developments in the Second World War although, understandably, some were held in secret session.
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