A commission of inquiry, presided over by former Supreme Court President Willibrord Davids, has submitted an extremely critical report on the Dutch political support for the American Iraq campaign before it started. The report says that, according to international law, there was no legal basis for this. The government said falsely that the Dutch intelligence services had an independent position on the matter and the government selected the information as it suited it. The report also said that Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende had shown little leadership in the matter.
The most damaging conclusions of the report are widely regarded to be that 1) parliament was not sufficiently informed and 2) United Nations resolutions on Saddam Hussein’s weapons programme were not a sufficient mandate to justify the invasion of Iraq by the US and Britain. Hence, the commission of inquiry (the Davids ‘commission’) holds that the support for the invasion by the Dutch government was not legitimate.
Of course, what International Law does or does not mean is very much a matter of opinion. Which is exactly what our PM told the press, defending the decision made by one of his earlier cabinets.
The prime minister told a news conference late on Tuesday afternoon that parliament was fully informed about the Americans’ request for help in preparing the invasion. The report said MPs had not been kept in touch with all developments.
And the prime minister reiterated the government’s standpoint that it was up to Saddam Hussein to prove he did not have weapons of mass destruction, not the west to prove that he did. That was the legal basis for the invasion, Balkenende said.
Not in the report was the PMs remark that whether there was or was not a legal basis for the invasion is a matter of opinion, with the commission of inquiry of one opinion and the PM (and others) of another.
But this galvanized the political left in parliament into huffing indignation. Especially coalition partner PvdA (Dutch Labour) reacted as if stung, with the fraction leader demanding in high volume for Jan Peter Balkenende to make a new statement on the report. This on the principle that the PM should represent all coalition partners. Something which our intrepid PM conspicuously failed to do with his disagreement with some of the conclusion of the Davids commission.
So now the coalition government of the Netherlands are embroiled in a real crisis today. Today saw emergency meetings of the cabinets nucleus and (separately) of the head honchos’s of the different fractions. An emergency session of parliament is scheduled for tonight. On Twitter (NL) rumours abound of the impending demise of yet another Balkenende cabinet (which would make it a pristine four out of four cabinets that did not reach term).
And just today Geert Wilders announced (NL) that his PVV will support a minority cabinet of CDA (christian democrats) and VVD (liberal conservatives). In the present conditions of the highly polarized Dutch political landscape this makes eminent sense. And I have to hand it to Wilders: This is the most statesman-like thing he’s done to date.
With the high number of projected seats for the PVV, its support for a minority centre-right coalition would ensures this to be virtually the only possible outcome, should elections be held. And it would be the dream coalition to deal with a number of pressing, but still highly incorrect, issues: Immigration, economic recovery (without Keynesian debt spending) and
climategate climate change.
Between Wilders’ promise and the current crisis, things are looking quite hopeful all of a sudden…
[UPDATE001] For some more explanation of the crisis see Numan at GoV.