Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s contining refusal to agree to a public inquiry into events surrounding Dutch support for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is beginning to look like the petulant behaviour of a stubborn teenager.

There are a number of questions which need to be answered about the Dutch position, and continually repeating the same tired arguments is not working.
There is evidence that civil servants had their doubts about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, doubts which the government of the day – led by Balkenende himself – ignored. The Dutch also ignored the fact there was no UN mandate for action.
In one sense, the weekend revelations from the NRC – that a memo by government lawyers warning of the lack of legal basis for the Dutch position – are a red herring. After all, the invasion had been under way for more than a month by the time it was written.
But the memo does add to the disquiet in The Hague about the war.
We cannot change what happened in 2003, but we do have the right to know exactly how the government came to support the invasion politically, but not militarily.
Was it a clever decision which allowed Balkenende to keep in with the British and the Americans without risking Dutch lives. Or simply an expedient political fudge?

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