Critics are charging that a UK inquiry into the country's role in the Iraq War has "neutered" its own investigation by censoring critical conversations between George W. Bush and Tony Blair in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.
Headed by Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry was convened in 2009 by the UK government and tasked with establishing "what happened" in Iraq and identifying "the lessons that can be learned." The report's released is years behind schedule, in part due to debate over the release of 25 letters and 130 recordings of conversations between Blair and Bush.
The U.S. has heavily pressured the UK government to block the release of these conversations, which the U.S. says are classified. The UK government has also fiercely lobbied against the full release of the documents.
In a letter dated Wednesday (pdf), Chilcot stated that an agreement has been reached with the UK government to release the "gist" of the conversations and only use direct quotes "the minimum necessary to enable the Inquiry to articulate its conclusions." According to Chilcot, "Consideration will be based on the principle that our use of this material should not reflect President Bush's views."
The announcement was immediately met with condemnation from peace and justice campaigners, who say the public has a right to know why the country went to war.
"Five years, £8 million and we can expect little from the Chilcot report," Lindsey German of UK-based Stop the War Coalition, declared in a statement. "Launched with a fanfare that it would be the definitive investigation into Blair and Bush's disastrous and criminal war, it has been neutered effectively, as Chilcot bows to the wishes of the British and US governments and allows only the 'gist' of 130 conversations and 25 notes to be made public."
Lindsey added, "Given that we already know a great deal from the evidence which has already been made public, how bad can this secret evidence be that they are refusing to release it?"
Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon died fighting for the UK in Iraq in 2004, told the BBC that families who have lost loved ones "have the right to see those letters."