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Chilcot’s verdict: the Iraq War was a failure of oversight and planning

Written by Louise Kettle.

It’s been a long time coming, but the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War, all 2.6m words of it, is finally out. And contrary to some expectations, it’s far from a whitewash.

Although it will take time to wade through the details of this hefty document, it’s already clear that few people have escaped the careful and critical eye of the inquiry – including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the intelligence community, and the military.

The report’s key point is that the Iraq War happened principally because of failures to challenge key parts of the case for war and to plan for the invasion’s aftermath. From the outset, the report makes clear that the war was not one of last resort, that Iraq posed no imminent threat to the UK, that the intelligence assessments the government drew on were ill-founded, and that more peaceful options should have been exhausted before military ones were entertained. Continue reading Chilcot’s verdict: the Iraq War was a failure of oversight and planning

Controlling the Media in Japan

Written by Griseldis Kirsch.

“Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed. No censorship shall be maintained, nor shall the secrecy of any means of communication be violated.” (Article 21, Constitution of Japan)

In spite of this clear embracement of Freedom of Press, Japanese politicians, most notably of the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP for short) have long been engaged in fights to maintain control over the media. How is this even possible in a country that has a democratic constitution in which all human rights are enshrined?

Looking back at the history of the mass media in Japan, censorship was a common practice before 1945. State-controlled censors made sure that the news that were put on the air, or printed, were in line with government policy. This, naturally, worsened during the Asia-Pacific-War (1937-1945), as Japanese failures had to be disguised as successes. During the Occupation (1945-1952), a democratic Constitution was drafted, yet ‘tradition’, or customary right, continued to co-exist alongside. The press clubs, kisha kurabu in Japanese, is one such example. Founded in the late 19th century, they are informal gatherings between authorities and media, accessible only by invitation. Generally, all media outlets would have access to the important press clubs, and they have become the most important means of passing on information. As a result, newspaper headlines in Japan, at least of the big national newspapers, are fairly similar, and articles tend to be descriptive rather than analytical – as they all share the same source of information. Continue reading Controlling the Media in Japan

What to expect from the Iraq Inquiry report

Written by Louise Kettle

 Since 23rd June British politics has been focused on the fallout from Brexit, but this week another tremor will be hitting the establishment. On Wednesday the long awaited Iraq Inquiry report will be published. So what should we expect?

  1. A long read

The inquiry into the Iraq War has lasted longer than the war itself. Announced in June 2009 it began hearing evidence in November of the same year. It had the huge scope of examining the run-up to the war, the military action and its aftermath and was tasked with establishing what happened during this time and what lessons could be learned for the future. Continue reading What to expect from the Iraq Inquiry report

Brexit: Europe’s new nationalism is here to stay

Written by Simon Toubeau.

It is something of a tragic irony that the European Union – originally constructed to lay to rest the atavistic nationalist impulses of the 20th century – is today behind the resurgence of such feelings across much of Europe. The British referendum that has delivered a vote for “Brexit” is the latest, dramatic indication that this nationalism is here to stay.

This nationalism has brewed largely in reaction to how the EU has evolved over the past few decades. What started as a common market grew to embrace a single currency, the Schengen area and integration in justice and home affairs. All this has diluted core aspects of national sovereignty: states have less control over macro-economic policy, borders and people. Continue reading Brexit: Europe’s new nationalism is here to stay

Six months after its last election, Spain is having another. Here’s what you need to know.

Written by Fernando Casal Bértoa.

Spaniards head to the polls again on June 26 — just six months after the last elections. Here’s why: As predicted here in the Monkey Cage, the four main parties — the conservative PP, the socialist PSOE, the liberal Ciudadanos and the radical-left Podemos — failed to come together to form a government, even though some of them (mainly PSOE and Ciudadanos) certainly tried. Since the parties weren’t able to form a coalition government, Spain will hold a new election. Continue reading Six months after its last election, Spain is having another. Here’s what you need to know.

What would Brexit mean for the special relationship? Nothing good

Written by Scott Lucas.

In reality, the “special relationship” between the US and the UK is a bit of a myth. For many Americans, the UK – identified as “England” – means the Queen, Monty Python, and the Beatles (or One Direction, depending on your age).

But it has been a useful myth, on both sides of the Atlantic. Even if the UK needs the idea of a partnership far more than the US does, World War II, the Cold War and Churchill’s invocation of “fraternal association” have fostered lasting institutional bonds. A “first-among-equals” approach exists between diplomatic services, militaries, intelligence agencies and officials overseeing economies and finance. Continue reading What would Brexit mean for the special relationship? Nothing good

Michael Gove – not Boris Johnson – is the real contender for next Tory leader

Written by Mark Stuart.

Britain’s “Thatcherites” are an incredibly cohesive bunch. To the despair of historians, they do not write things down. Tory politicians prefer to eschew laborious meetings and minutes in favour of informal dining clubs at which future strategy is debated and plotted. Theirs is a close network of friendships.

This informal club is committed to keeping the Thatcherite flame alive, promoting the beliefs of its hero, Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Rightly or wrongly, given Thatcher’s cautious approach to Europe, securing Britain’s departure from the EU is regarded by the vast majority of Thatcherites as furthering one of her greatest aims. Mere ministerial careers may have to be sacrificed to achieve this goal. Continue reading Michael Gove – not Boris Johnson – is the real contender for next Tory leader

The Chilcot Report and the use of inquiries for research

Written by Louise Kettle.

On Wednesday 6th July the Iraq Inquiry’s report will finally come to light. Seven years after investigations began the 2.6 million word report will be published in twelve volumes and is expected to establish what happened in the planning and throughout the Iraq War. It is hoped that this will provide answers for families of those who lost loved ones in Iraq and lessons to be learned for all future governments.

In addition to these outcomes the report will provide invaluable insights for researchers interested in Tony Blair and his government’s handling of the Iraq War. Whilst archives, such as The National Archives at Kew, also offer a behind the scenes glimpse at the inner workings of government, researchers have to wait 30 years (currently transitioning down to 20 years) for documents to be publicly released. Inquiries, on the other hand, provide instant and easy (often online) access to contemporary sources without the prolonged process of a Freedom of Information request. Continue reading The Chilcot Report and the use of inquiries for research

Shakespeare Othello culture of suspicion

Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Much ado about a handkerchief

‘So much ado, so much stress, so much passion and repetition about an Handkerchief!’ (Rymer, 1693, p. 135). Many studies of Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello begin with the seventeenth century critic Thomas Rymer’s incredulity over Desdemona’s handkerchief having a pivotal role in her tragic murder. Nevertheless, through ‘so remote a trifle’, Shakespeare raises fundamental questions over our knowledge of others, and the problems of distinguishing authentic evidence and testimony from false. The tragedy’s concerns with problems of knowing are highly relevant to our contemporary insecurities and pursuit of suspicion from counterterrorism to child protection.

‘I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt prove’, Othello demands of his officer Iago (III.iii.190). Continue reading Shakespeare Othello culture of suspicion

Britain could become a global power – if it stays in the EU

Written by Mark Walters.

Even after weeks of campaigning, both sides of the referendum campaign have focused entirely on the short-term impacts of the debate. But the question really has to be where Britain will be in ten or 20 years from now.

And the future looks bright for Britain. It is actually on the brink of becoming the most powerful nation on the planet. But it has to remain in the EU to realise the ambition.

Before Brexit looked like a real possibility, the Centre for Economics and Business Researchpredicted that the British economy would overtake Germany’s as the largest in Europe by the 2030s.

Continue reading Britain could become a global power – if it stays in the EU