Brian | 03.05.2005 12:10
Blair's problem is that he always had a Foreign Office legal opinion dating from March 2002 that an attack on Iraq would be illegal under international law without another UN Security Council Resolution. All the machinations with Lord Goldsmith were an attempt to override this opinion, which stood squarely in the way of an attack. The original opinion was written by Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned on the eve of the attack as a matter of principle (she had been with the Foreign Office since 1974!). Her resignation letter was released with one paragraph missing:
Tony Blair is a war criminal
The B-liar timeline is fairly simple: From a letter from Gordon Logan to Reg Keys (the guy who's running against Blair!; see also here) dated April 29, 2005:"All the discussion on the Iraq war is essentially a diversion. There is a secret clause in the Trident submarine treaty that was signed by Mrs Thatcher in 1983. The secret clause states that the British Prime Minister is required to go to war if he/she gets the order from the President of the United States. You will appreciate that this information explains a lot, notably why Blair has repeatedly gone to war, but only when required to by the Americans. It also explains why Blair is so different from his Labour predecessors, such as Harold Wilson, who refused to send our troops to Vietnam in 1968. The secret agreement was designed by Thatcher to secretly tie the hands of British Prime Ministers for many years to come. Without naming sources, I received this information from a British Army officer a couple of years ago." In March 2002, Blair received legal advice from the Foreign Office that an attack on Iraq was illegal under international law. The advice was drafted by the Foreign Office's deputy legal adviser, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned on the eve of war in protest at what she called a 'crime of aggression'. Blair met with Bush in Crawford April 2002 and received his marching orders - literally! - that Britain must support the American attack on Iraq. Blair chaired a war meeting with his inner circle in July 2002, in which it was planned to arrange a reason for war. From The Independent:". . . the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, had warned that the case against Saddam was 'thin'. He suggested that the Iraqi dictator should be forced into a corner by demanding the return of the UN weapons inspectors: if he refused, or the inspectors found WMD, there would be good cause for war."From The Times:". . . at the July meeting Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, said the case for war was 'thin' as 'Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran'.Straw suggested they should 'work up' an ultimatum about weapons inspectors that would 'help with the legal justification'. Blair is recorded as saying that 'it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors'.A separate secret briefing for the meeting said Britain and America had to 'create' conditions to justify a war."This trick was necessary as Elizabeth Wilmshurst's legal advice was presented to the meeting. Blair lied continually from April 2002 to the eve of the attack that the war was not inevitable (needless to say both Blair and Bush lied, as both had determined to attack Iraq in April 2002, but both consistently said the attack was not inevitable if Iraq complied with its obligations to the UN). The lies are particularly odious as the most recent revelations show that the British government was actively trying to guide Saddam into providing the rationale for war by rejecting the weapons inspectors. The March 2002 advice remains dangerous, to the extent that Blair specifically lied about it:"Mr Blair was challenged on whether he had seen Foreign Office legal advice in a BBC interview with Jeremy Paxman on 20 April. He replied: 'No, I had the Attorney General's advice to guide me.' In fact, Mr Blair had seen the Foreign Office advice as early as 8 March 2002, in an annex to a secret Cabinet Office 'options paper'. That annex is published in The Independent on Sunday for the first time today.Asked to account for the discrepancy, a Downing Street spokesman said: 'The Prime Minister accepts his legal advice from the Attorney General, not from individual departments. We are not going to comment on any papers prepared for specific meetings.'" In 2002 Goldsmith was informed by the most senior Foreign Office lawyers that war without a specific UN resolution would be illegal. He told them he was forbidden to give his view by Tony Blair's office, presumably because they didn't want to hear advice which could have stopped the attack. In autumn 2002 one cabinet minister challenged Blair on why the Government had not yet received formal advice from Goldsmith, and Blair responded: 'I'll ask him when I have to, and not before.' Around this time Goldsmith was telling friends that he believed the war was illegal and feared he might lose his job because he wasn't able to give Blair the right answer. He was unambiguous that an attack on Iraq would not be legal. As Philippe Sands explains, Blair must not have received any advice from Goldsmith that he didn't need a UN resolution, as Britain made Herculean efforts to get one during January and February 2003. It was only when such efforts failed that the advice needed to be reworked. Goldsmith was sent off to Washington for 'reeduction', and received a thorough woodshedding:"On February 11 2003, Lord Goldsmith met with John Bellinger III, legal adviser to the White House's national security council. The meeting took place in the White House. An official told me later: 'I met with Mr Bellinger and he said: 'We had trouble with your attorney; we got him there eventually.''I put this to Mr Bellinger; he reflected and then told me: 'I do not recall making such a statement,' adding diplomatically, 'I doubt that an individual of Lord Goldsmith's eminence would adopt a legal argument based on pressure from the US government.'" Bellinger had peeled off the idea that the attack was outright illegal, but there was still some fight left in Goldsmith. On March 7, 2003 Goldsmith sent a 13-page memo to Blair saying the war could be justified without another UN resolution, but that it could be open to legal challenges (which meant war crimes trials, especially as Britain is part of the International Court of Justice). In particular, there was an issue whether Britain could rely on UN resolution 678 concerning the first Gulf War, and it was up to the UN, not Britain and the United States, to determine whether Iraq had defied international calls to disarm. He thought a case for revival of the old UN resolution could be made without a further resolution but only if hard evidence of non-compliance and non-cooperation could be demonstrated. He therefore recommended a further resolution authorising force. Blair's government was sufficiently concerned by this memo that it set up a team of lawyers to prepare for legal action in an international court. Blair recently released this memo under pressure. On March 13, Goldsmith met with Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan, members of Blair's inner circle, who put huge pressure on him to declare that the attack was legal. Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, then chief of the defence staff, demanded an answer on whether the military could be charged with war crimes. On March 17, Goldsmith, having been put through the wringer in both Washington and London, delivered a clean 337-word statement without any of the qualifications of his March 7 or March 13 memos. Goldsmith did not write this statement. It was written (or here) by Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan.They say that politics, like sausage making, is something you don't want to know the details of, and this is a particularly good example. In this fiasco of lies, refusal to hear or admit to hearing information you don't want to hear, and convoluted methods of justifying a war that everyone knew was illegal, including manipulating Saddam into providing a reason for war and placing incredible pressure on Lord Goldmith, we can perceive a whiff of the atmosphere which also led to the murder of Dr. Kelly. Bottom line: Blair knew in March 2002 that the attack on Iraq was illegal, and has known this ever since. Blair was ordered to attack Iraq by Bush in April 2002. Blair and his inner circle arranged to set up Saddam in July 2002. When he couldn't get a UN resolution, Blair arranged for both American and British pressure to be placed on Lord Goldsmith, until he was so worn down that he issued an opinion written by Blair's inner circle. Blair lied about the state of the legal advice he had been given, and refused to hear advice he knew he wouldn't like. Both Blair and Bush have consistently lied in claiming that the war was not inevitable.Tony Blair is a liar and a war criminal.