Asked if the Prime Minister was adamant that he would not agree to a Franks style inquiry into the Iraq war, including in when deployment was over, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that people really needed to ask themselves how such an announcement now would be treated when our soldiers were still very much serving overseas and when operations were very much on going. In whose interests would it be to make such an announcement now. That questioned answered itself.
Asked if we were saying it was the timing that was the worry not the possibility that it may be an option in the future, the PMOS said that was the ultimate hypothetical question. The facts of the matter were that we had troops that were operating in the field of combat. The enemy was looking to exploit any sign of weakness. Any hint of a loss of determination to see the job through would be seen as such. We would not give any signal that we were anything less than fully determined to see the job through.
Asked why an inquiry now would be a sign of weakness, the PMOS said that, as all journalists knew, the headline would be "Government forced to concede". There was no need to be naive or beat about the bush. That was how it would be characterised. We fully supported our troops and we should do nothing to undermine their ability to do their job, which included not sending any signal to their enemy that we were anything other than resolute in seeing things through.
Put that the US had sent out the Senate Armed Services Committee to look into the 18-month deadline, the PMOS said that we had been completely transparent in talking about our goal in Iraq and in talking about a rough timescale where things might be possible. That was markedly different from conceding an inquiry into the war from the start. Asked whether the Government would accept an inquiry at the end of next year, the PMOS said that, again, that was accepting a hypothetical position. Nobody could tell what the precise position would be this time next year. Put that we were not ruling out an inquiry after withdrawal, the PMOS said that he was choosing not to debate hypothetical discussions of the future. He was dealing with now and the headlines that would result from any such decision now.
Asked whether in that case those that were asking for an inquiry were undermining our troops, the PMOS said that it was not for him to speak for, or second-guess in anyway, those who were calling for an inquiry. He was simply stating what the government believed the effect of an inquiry would be. It would directly affect our troops and those they were fighting against in opposite ways.
Asked whether that meant that the 2 million people who marched against the war were undermining our troops also, the PMOS said that we had stated the case for the war at the time. The Prime Minister had said repeatedly since that no matter the views held on the origins of the war everyone now had to acknowledge that we had been there for 2-3 years serving under a UN mandate and at the request of a directly elected multi-ethnic government. That was what we were there defending. Anything that undermined the support for that democratic government weakened your ability to defend it.
Asked if the Prime Minister would consider it critical if those who had backed him originally over the war switched their position today, the PMOS said that it was for people to make their own objective assessment of whether their actions were supportive of our troops and also whether they would be taken as a sign of weakness by the opponents of a democratic Iraq.
Asked whether the Prime Minister would take part in the debate tomorrow, the PMOS said that we would deal with tomorrow when it was tomorrow. Asked what the Prime Minister’s position would be if the Government lost the vote, the PMOS said that was another classic hypothetical question.
Asked if Saddam were still in power would the world be safer place, the PMOS said that we could not relive history but the best judges were the people of Iraq. People who were supportive of Saddam had been able to stand in the Iraqi elections but they did not get many votes. That answered the question.
Briefing took place at 16:00 | Search for related news
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