Monday, July 16, 2007

Part 2: Viewpoints On Iraq

One Can Not Live On Facts Alone

Yesterday, I argued that the report of "The Iraq Commission" contained a valuable coverage of many of the complex facts about the current situation in Iraq.

But facts alone (which are always themselves selective) aren't enough to help shape our analysis of a situation. We need to listen to the conflicting arguments of those with claims to expertise. Where can we get hold of these easily? Well why not examine some of the raw material the Commission itself examined -here.

What Is This Commission Anyway?

The Commission does not have the status or the resources of the Baker-Hamilton Commission in the USA which was set up by Congress and spent some 9 months on its detailed work; producing the Iraq Study Group Report which has since been at the forefront of the dispute about the role of the Bush Administration actions over Iraq.

Our Commission had no legislative status. In association with Channel 4, it has been run by the Foreign Policy Centre which is an independent think-tank.

It trawled for written submissions, did some additional research and ended up interviewing 50 people face-to-face and another 6 by video link with Iraq. The interviews were all conducted between 9 and 16 June. It reported its findings on 14 July.

It would be the first to admit that it was a rushed job. Although Jon Snow the Link Man, the Chairs, Commissioners and their back-up delivered some good stuff.

TV And Web-Site Coverage

Channel 4 covered edited versions of the interviews and the launch of its report, in 9 two hour programmes from 2 to 14 July. I watched the lot.

It was a mixed bag. Some of those answering questions (including Ming Campbell) lacked any depth to their arguments. But others made for compelling viewing. Some of the key interviews were with what may be household names for Iraq Watchers - such as Sir Jeremy Greenstock, General Mike Jackson, Dr Ali Allawi (not to be confused with the intertim Prime Minister - Ayad Allawi) and Bayan Rahman, the Kurdish Regional Government High Representative in the UK. But some of the best of the rest were completely new to me, including the academic Gareth Stansfield, the Oil Industry's David Horgan and David Bullivant from the Private Security Business. Some of their revelations were fascinating.

Both transcipts of the interviews and the unedited tapes are also available. Why not click in (as above)to see what you think?

I will cover what I feel about the Report's recommendations in Part 3. But whatever that is, it does not diminish from the worth of the material I refer to above and in Part 1.

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