My mother forwarded me and others in our family an email from the Our World Our Say campaign group, which is demanding a judicial inquiry into the recent war in Iraq. My response:
I support this, but only reluctantly.
The long-term consequences of judicial inquiries into the activities of the executive branch of the government is the politicisation of the judiciary. The OWOS letter itself mentions what the real problem is: the Parliamentary committees which ought to have been carrying on these sorts of enquiries have been "prevented" from doing their job; the real solution is to unprevent them.
The letter's criticism of the terms of reference of the Hutton enquiry is also unnecessary, and coupled in the immediately following sentence with the qualification of the term "judicial inquiry" with the phrase "full, independent", creates the impression that the author doesn't view the judicial enquiry process, or at least Lord Hutton, as independent. It thus sounds like a call for an enquiry by someone whose impartiality will still be assumed by the public by virtue of being a member of the judiciary, but who must simultaneously be more likely to be critical of the government than Lord Hutton. Ultimately, what's being asked for is for the judiciary to give voice to the political views of one side of the argument, and this isn't really affected by whether I'm reading too much into those four words. It is embarrassing that the United States, of all countries, actually has a better system for dealing with this problem than we do over here: Congressional enquiries.
Why can't we press for a Parliamentary enquiry?
Incidentally, there's a good paper on executive accountability to the legislative and judicial branches from an Australian perspective just out at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=462163 ... meanwhile in Iraq, the US has decided to divert resources from the hunt for WMD to the hunt for the normal weapons currently being used by the resistance.
The paragraph from the OWOS letter:
As voters and citizens we have the right to hold government to account. Two Parliamentary committees were prevented from conducting full investigations. The Hutton inquiry has mainly focused on the events surrounding Dr David Kelly's death. We need a full independent judicial inquiry into all the circumstances leading to our involvement in the Iraq war. The voters of the UK deserve...and demand nothing less!