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‘Iraq investigation after all’

22 April 2007 - There is a real possibility that an investigation into the grounds for the Netherlands to politically support the American-British invasion of Iraq will be started after all. This was the conclusion of politicians of PvdA, VVD and SP during a debate at de Rode Hoed tonight.

Thomas Erdbrink, who is co-author of a book on Iraq that was presented tonight and arrived from Tehran this morning, was impressed that so many people had turned up at such a beautiful day to listen to such a sad story.

The story was sad alright, but there was plenty to laugh about as well. The jokes of America expert Maarten van Rossem for example, although there were some painful silences when he went too far.

There was also laughter when the first question was asked by a member of the public: why is there nothing in newspaper NRC Handelsblad - host of the evening - about the fact that the so-called Al Qaeda attack at the WTC was in fact carried out by Washington itself?

Less amusing was the debate about the number of civilian deaths in Iraq, estimated by the UN at 40,000 last year. Is that figure not far too low, someone asked. Are the UN not under political pressure to keep the figures low?

There is truth in the point about political pressure, said Carolien Roelants, who wrote the book with Erdbrink. Until recently, the local UN chief went to the morgue to count bodies, but the UN have been pressurised into stopping the publication of estimates of the number of deaths.

A considerable part of the evening was devoted to the question whether an investigation into the grounds for the Dutch decision to support the war politically should not be started after all. In the current coalition agreement, the PvdA gave up on that wish, reportedly because prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende was absolutely against it.

Erik Jurgens (PvdA) announced that the Senate will ask critical questions about the issue. If the government persists in its refusal to answer these questions, irritation may grow to the point that the entire Senate may support a parliamentary investigation.

Hans van Baalen (VVD) acknowledged that it is conceivable that his fellow party members in the Senate may end up supporting such an investigation. Incidentally, Van Baalen found himself in a hostile environment. Almost all critical questions were directed to him, and he received very meagre applauses at best.

Harry van Bommel (SP) had a different scenario in mind. If rumours that the Dutch army has been secretly involved in the invasion of the Iraq keep surfacing, this may lead to more pressure to start an investigation.

Van Rossem was pretty sure that an investigation will be carried out in the end, by the time Balkenende has become Royal Commissioner in the province of Drenthe.


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