Pre-Chilcot -- and expertise
I am posting this well before we all have the chance to read the headlines of the Chilcot Report -- so that you know I am doing it 'blind' and un-influenced by the instant reaction.
Like everyone, I guess, I have resentment, anger, regret and sadness about the Iraq War. But over the years, I have come to puzzle most about the non-transmission of 'expertise' (term used advisedly, especially against the background of recent events and comments). My puzzle goes like this.
Just a week or so before the House of Commons vote, I went to a meeting for the 'university community' about the crisis in what was then called the Faculty of Oriental Studies. As I recall, it was hosted by Anne Campbell, the Labour MP at the time, and David Howarth, the Lib Dem candidate, and then (as again now) a University academic.
It was an eye-opener in many ways.
There were not many of the usual suspects there. In fact, there were quite a few be-suited scientsts, whom to start with I thought were probably as conservative as their suits suggested. But I was wrong.
As I recall it now, scientist after scientist insisted that the whole idea of Sadam having mobile labs, powering the WMD, in the desert was a fantasy. I remember them explaining that this was scientifically impossible (you could only imagine this being feasible if 24/7 electricity could be guaranteed, and it could not be, even with generators, in the middle of the desert). Whatever their politics, all these scientists said that what we were being told was simply wrong.
And they were right.
What exercises me now is the lack of communication between government and expertise. Here was a fairly unpoliticised group of expert senior scientists in a major university demolishing the 'evidence' for WMD in front of their local Labour MP (who resigned her junior job over the war).. how was it that that message did not get through to the powers at the top.
Your answer is as good as mine. But I would like to hear from Chilcot how the avenues of communication got so very blocked. I don't know if will discover that .. but it makes me think that we might have to learn to love 'the expert'.