Friday, 4 December 2009

A Kangaroo Inquiry

Today we heard from witnesses who are (or were at the time) members of the Armed Forces. They were being asked to answer questions on their actions, the actions of others - both fellow soldiers and politicians and some who are , in the language used sometimes in the Inquiry, polmil.

The first witness was notably courteous and equally notably determined not to over-step his bounds of discretion. He answered in general terms and by describing some military processes and the kinds of background military undertakings are set against.

Usha Prashar insisted, even interrupted to insist, that process was understood, she wanted content. Angels shrank back at the witness's expression; the witness was being goaded by uncomprehending intrusive impertinence. Ushar Prashar may or may not have distinguished between the personal political response proffered, and the continued iron discretion on a campaign that the witness explained is, as are all campaigns, not really divisible into 'phases' or 'aftermaths' but could be still ongoing.

This is an ill-conceived Inquiry, even an evilly conceived Inquiry. To add insult to injury, witnesses are expected to sign transcripts declaring that their answers have been open, fair, truthful - as if they are engaged in producing advertising copy not, as seemed the case this morning, being asked to contravene private and professional reserve in public.

Reasonably we can expect our politicians, even our now-politicised civil servants, to answer us or our representatives in any forum they, or we, set up. They answer to us. The armed forces do not. They answer to the state whose power is exercised by those constitutionally entitled and there are conventions - forums with standard and formal rules. When it comes to the military, this is a kangaroo Inquiry. And what is more, the politicians should stop hiding and effectively disavowing their responsibilities behind the soldier's proper reticence.

When the politicians are brought back Angels will return to taking pot shots at them.

No comments: