17:22 Thursday 13th August 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Families of British soldiers who were killed in Iraq have threatened legal action unless the official report into the war is published by the end of the year. The findings were meant to be released four years ago, but the Chairman Sir John Chilcot said he’s waiting for responses from some of the people likely to be criticised. Relatives including a Cambridgeshire woman I’ll be talking to in just a moment have given Sir John two weeks to set a date for releasing the report. With more details the BBC’s Ben Geoghegan.
BEN GEOGHEGAN: What they’re saying is that this whole process has taken far too long, and that in effect Sir John Chilcot has acted unlawfully by allowing it to drag on for so long. There’s a process called Maxwellization that’s at the centre of all of these delays, and that’s where people who may be criticised in the final report are given advanced warning of what may be said about them, and they’re given an opportunity to respond to that. And as many as 150 witnesses during this process may end up being criticised. And so what has taken so long is the process of telling them what the criticism about them is, and then allowing them to come back. But the families are complaining that’s gone on too long, there is no legal justification for allowing that to happen, and that is what their challenging. They do want the report published by the end of the year, and I think they have been spurred on to some extent by the Prime Minister himself, who in a letter in June written to Sir John said that we the public and everyone else, the families of British soldiers, soldiers who servd in Iraq, we are all fast losing patience.
CHRIS MANN: Ben Geoghegan with that background report. Let’s bring in a Cambridgeshire woman who is at the forefront of this threatened legal action. Sarah O’Connor lost her brother in Iraq ten years ago. Ten years or more that you’ve been waiting for answers, answers to what questions Sarah?
SARAH O’CONNOR: Answers as to why we entered Iraq on false information, to sate the agenda of one man Tony Blair. And the people that were within his close circle that allowed this decision making process to be made, and justified the war that was brought.
CHRIS MANN: So 2009 Chilcot started his inquiry. You were promised answers. You still don’t have them officially, however much you might think privately. How has that affected you?
SARAH O’CONNOR: Grief is something that will always remain with myself and with many other families. We don’t walk away from the unknown causes as to what led to the death of our loved ones who bravely unquestionably did their job to the best of their abilities. It changed my life in many many ways. But the positive action is that at least it’s highlighted just actually how corrupt (are) our governments of the past, and maybe to a degree present, with the Ministry of Defence not equipping our troops properly.
CHRIS MANN: And yet Sir John Chilcot says he’s just trying to be fair to everybody; that those that have perhaps had criticism against them, he’s waiting for them to respond to that so he gets it right. Isn’t that the most important thing, that no matter how long it takes, the truth comes out?
SARAH O’CONNOR: The truth comes out. However at what point do you stop hearing the words, stop believing the soundbites that are proferred? You can maybe get away with saying them once, but please do not ever insult the families. It’s very plain that they are absolutely being contemptuous, to actually decimate the Maxwellization process, for such questions to be brought that will maybe change future histories and any enquiries.
CHRIS MANN: And it appears that even the Prime Minister has had enough. He said he’s fast losing patience with the process. So do you think the Government are on your side here?
SARAH O’CONNOR: I am aware that the crux of the enquiry is independent and to a degree hands are tied. I would like to think that David Cameron was actually acting on behalf of the families, rather than jumping on a bandwagon to assist himself in two causes, one which is to further himself as a Prime Minister and his government away from the government of the past which was Blair’s. But also to try and deflect any responsibility from himself, and lay it firmly on the shoulders of Sir John Chilcot, which I absolutely agree with. It’s his fault.
CHRIS MANN: It seems clearly there’s a great deal of anger amongst the families, and a determination to do what? What is your next stage? What is this legal action that you’re contemplating?
SARAH O’CONNOR: Well a very strongly worded letter, asking, well telling Sir John to outline and complete the timetable set for the report. We then have a right also to know what the results are. That does not mean it’s filtered down throughout different sources of media. But we as families are actually allowed to see the report in full. This report primarily is for us to have lessons learned. Now as much as I hate that phrase, this report also, when Sir John Chilcot met with the families, we were supposedly one of the major directors and themes of people to have our questions answered, and closure to a degree to be brought on to us. He’s actually now just siding with those people who are showing their true colours, because their delaying tactics of replying to the criticisms made prove only to serve in our favour.
CHRIS MANN: Do you think the truth will eventually come out?
SARAH O’CONNOR: It has to. I think for historical lessons to be learned. I think for the current interweaving of different practices, both within political structure and also a world structure, let’s look at where we are today. There was a country, admittedly it was run by a dictator, but there was an infrastructure. When Tony Blair went and invaded Iraq based on his agenda, now look where we are today. We are still feeling the shockwaves. ISIS, they’re knocking on our door. This all because of one man.
CHRIS MANN: Sara O”Connor. Thank you.
SARAH O’CONNOR: Thank you.