British Investigation Into Iraq War Begins

British investigation into the Iraq war, which will hear most of its evidence in public, began in London Tuesday with top civil servants and a former spy chief testifying on the conflict's origins.

On the opening day, the first of dozens of witnesses are being called to give their insight into the political and military decision making about Iraq. Tuesday's session is looking at the British government's foreign policy towards Iraq in the lead-up to the war, which began in 2003.

The witnesses appearing Tuesday are: Sir Michael Wood, former Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office, Sir Peter Ricketts, former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee,
Simon Webb, former Policy Director in the Defense Ministry, and Sir William Patey, Head of Middle East Department, Foreign Office, during 1999-2002.

Sir John Chilcott, Chairman of the Inquiry Commission, has insisted that it will be an honest examination of the facts leading up to war, the conflict itself and the post-invasion strategy.

The members of the Commission were chosen by Downing Street, raising doubts whether it can be independent of the government.

The investigation, looking over a nine-year period from July 2001 to July 2009, is expected to last months, with a report set to be published in late 2010 or early 2011.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his predecessor Tony Blair and other politicians are expected to appear before the panel early next year.

Former top civil servants, spy chiefs, diplomats and military commanders are to give evidence in the first phase.

Britain's seven years of involvement in the military mission in Iraq cost it the lives of 179 defense personnel.

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