Dutch ex-foreign ministers favour Iraq inquiry
Five former foreign ministers of the Netherlands agree that a parliamentary inquiry should be held into the Dutch decision to actively support the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
At a debate in Amsterdam, organised by the newspaper de Volkskrant, the five former office holders from across the political spectrum all said that it is wrong for the current government to refuse such an inquiry. The debate was held on the occasion of the impending inauguration of the new US President, Barack Obama.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who was not present at the debate, has consistently turned down requests from parliament for an inquiry into the Dutch role in the 2003 invasion, saying that it would yield no new information. The three parties in the governing coalition, two Christian Democrat parties plus Labour, agreed in 2007 to let the matter rest during their period in office. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who was Dutch Foreign Minister when the decision to decide the invasion was taken, was also absent from the debate.
Hans van Mierlo, a leftwing liberal of the D66 party, called the prime minister's attitute "a shame". He said it is not up to the prime minister to decide whether to respond to the desire of the people to know what happened. His successor, right-wing VVD liberal, Jozias van Aartsen, said he agreed with Van Mierlo "one on one".
Ben Bot, a Christian Democrat, said an inquiry is "necessary". He is not expecting anything new to emerge, but expects it to have a "purifying" effect.
His fellow Christian Democrat Hans van den Broek said that "this uncertainty should not be allowed to continue". He reminded his fellow debaters that the US and the UK did conduct an inquiry into the Iraq decison-making in order establish the lessons learnt. Mr Van den Broek said,
"The Dutch cabinet apparently thinks that we learnt nothing and we don't need to learn anything." The doyen of the former foreign ministers, Labour statesman Max van der Stoel, said he agreed with Mr Van den Broek.
Foreign ministers of the Netherlands
Max van der Stoel (Labour PvdA) - 1973-1977
Chris van der Klaauw (right wing liberal VVD) - 1977-1981
Max van der Stoel (Labour PvdA) 1981
Job de Ruiter (Christian Democrat CDA) 1982
Hans van den Broek (CDA) - 1982-1993 - left office to become EU Commissioner
Peter Kooijmans (CDA) - 1993-1994
Hans van Mierlo (left wing liberal D66) - 1994-1998
Jozias van Aartsen (right wing liberal VVD) - 1998-2002
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (CDA) 2002-2003 - left office to become head of NATO
Ben Bot (CDA) - 2003-2007 - publicly criticised the Iraq decision in hindsight in 2008
Maxime Verhagen (CDA) - 2007
Radio Netherlands in collaboration with NRC Handelsblad