Iraq: Senate sets course for parliamentary enquiry

23 December 2008

Iraq: Senate sets course for parliamentary enquiry

The Senate’s disappointment regarding the answers given by the government to more than a hundred questions on the Iraq war represents a first step towards a parliamentary enquiry. This is the conclusion drawn by SP Senator Arjan Vliegenthart following this afternoon’s deliberations in the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. “The Senate can do nothing with the answers given,” says Vliegenthart. “The government continues to refuse openness. Now that the VVD has ceased to rule out an enquiry this remains a possibility.” The right wing VVD, now after the SP the second biggest party of opposition, was a member of the governing coalition that took the decision to support the war. “The government has only itself to blame, given the contemptuous way it has treated the Senate.”

Almost seven months on, the government last week finally answered over a hundred searching questions on the country’s involvement in the Iraq war. The questions came from the SP, Labour Party, and three smaller groups of left and centre. The quality of the answers was not, however, found to be adequate.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Development Cooperation has decided, as a result, to subject the government to further and more detailed questioning. Questions will be prepared over the next few weeks and submitted to the government on 17th February. It seems probable that following this the Senate will opt for a parliamentary enquiry, now that the VVD has dropped its opposition.

Arjan Vliegenthart SP Senator Arjan Vliegenthart, whose initiative sparked the questions, is pleased that the Senate refused simply to resign itself to the treatment it had received from the government. “After five year of a lack of clarity over our country’s decision-making process, parliament at last seems to have had enough. Going to war with neither prior evaluation nor later judgement is not only politically unacceptable but also replete with risk for the future. We should not be subjecting ourselves to this, neither soldiers nor civilians.”

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