Independent Commission To Investigate Dutch Government’s Support For U.S. Iraq Invasion
Just as Americans have had a thousand questions about the Iraq war, there have been many and persistent questions and concerns in the Netherlands as to how the Dutch government came to its decision to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Today, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports:
Dutch parliament has voted to support the institution of an independent commission to investigate the Netherlands’ support for the war in Iraq, despite vociferous opposition calls for a parliamentary inquiry.
Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende says parliament will still be free to hold an inquiry after the commission, to be headed by lawyer Willibrord Davids, has reached its conclusion in nine months time. Balkenende expressed his confidence in the commission, and denied that it would be less probing than a parliamentary inquiry. He told parliament that people might in fact be inclined to speak more freely in front of Davids.
Dutch opposition parties have been highly critical of the Davids commission performing the investigations vs. one conducted by Parliament
A February 3 Handelsblad editorial, “A handicapped Iraq inquiry,” had this to say about such an independent investigation:
An investigation is better than no investigation. So it is gratifying that prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende has finally relinquished his lengthy and obstinate opposition to an inquiry into the Dutch government’s political support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. But this is the only positive thing that can be said about the decision taken on February 2 to set up an independent commission of inquiry.
In addition, parliament has been more or less gagged until November, when the investigation is due to be completed, with all questions on the affair being referred directly to the commission rather than through the normal parliamentary channels. The government will not answer them. So for the time being it will not say why the then coalition of Christian Democrats, right-wing Liberals and anti-immigration LPF (List Pim Fortuyn) ignored or never received civil servants’ advice that political support for the war was not in accordance with international law. Nor if the US had asked the Netherlands for military support.
And on a very related matter, and closer to home, also in the Handelsblad, by Radio Netherlands Worldwide:
Former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage has denied saying that the United States asked the Netherlands for military support before the invasion of Iraq.
In an interview with Dutch public television news, he said he could not remember making the comments published in Dutch newspapers last week. Armitage said he was probably misunderstood.
A news agency claims it has the tape recording of the interview with Armitage to prove that he said the United States did ask the Netherlands for military support.
In the same interview, Armitage is also said to have denied that Dutch political support for the invasion of Iraq was a precondition for the decision to appoint former Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as Secretary-General of NATO, but that the Netherlands’ support had benefitted de Hoop Scheffer’s appointment.
Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende has also denied any link between Dutch support for the US-led invasion of Iraq and de Hoop Scheffer’s NATO appointment.
The plot thus thickens and gets closer to (our) home.