Browne squeezes through...
shrinking gap for dissent
However, partially using a disputed document which has been deemed a "complete forgery" by the attorney General's office, Mr. Browne made what should have been a simple argument, fatally flawed. (1)
The minutes drawn up by Blair's foreign policy advisor's assistant revealing the events of a meeting on 23 July 2002 attended by Geoff Hoon and Jack Straw among others, was released by the Sunday Times on May 1st. In this document the Attorney General says 'that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.' Which Tony Blair countered with 'Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD.'
The case for war, described as 'inevitable', being made by Washington at the time was based on the threat from WMD. The MI6 director further remarked that 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.' Although Jack Straw said 'the case was thin', 'Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.'
In the conclusions of the meeting, it was made clear that, 'We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action.' Which was a direct contradiction to Tony Blair address to the House of Commons, 'We have not got to the stage of military action. If we do get to that stage, at any point in time, we will, of course, make sure that Parliament is properly consulted (col 975)... we have not yet reached the point of decision (col 980).'
On the 23 July 2002 Tony Blair said 'The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.' The case was being shaped for an illegal war behind closed doors.
The result of this private meeting was, that in order to shape public opinion to support war, the focus would be on "work[ing] up an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors." Which "would also help with the legal justification for the use of force," in the event that he refused them access, which he stubbornly didn't.
In the event that Saddam failed to comply, Lord Goldsmith stated "It is clear that if Iraq fails to comply...there will be a further Security Council discussion. The text is, however, ambiguous and unclear on what happens next." Therefore no legal case for war was found. The smoking gun, is as Mr. Browne says, could not be smoking more clearly.
The Attorney-General subsequent U-turn 10 days later, informing the Cabinet that the war would be legal due to an accumulation of previous Security Council resolutions demanding that Iraq disarm or face the consequences, is largely irrelevant, as no new evidence for this conclusion surfaced between these two meetings. The advice therefore was either reached due to pressure from the Prime Minister or an epifiny on the Attorney General's part.
Without a reliable alternative, the Conservatives representing a further shift to the right and the Liberal Democrats a possible back door for the Conservatives, the chances are, that a man who should face criminal prosecution under the European Convention of Human Rights will be re-elected, because of a lack of options.
If only the 100,000 dead Iraqis could appreciate their country without Saddam, I'm sure they could understand Blair's latest admission: "I cannot apologise for that decision because I still think the world is a better place with Saddam in prison rather than in power." (4) If they lived beyond the next bomb attack that is.
1. The Scotsman
2. Official Documents
3. BBC NEWS Election 2005 Election 2005 Analysis Iraq war legality
May 01, 2005, The secret Downing Street memo, SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY DAVID MANNING (Blair's Foreign Policy Advisor) Meeting minutes by Matthew Rycroft
Making Blair pay for war
On March 1st, 2003, Peter Goldsmith, the UK attorney general, wrote a brief note to Tony Blair. It was headed: "Regime-change and the use of force".
It stated:"There are three possible bases for the use of force: (a) self-defence; (b) to avert an exceptionally overwhelming humanitarian disaster or catastrophe; and (c) via a mandate from the Security Council acting under chapter VII of the UN charter.
"As you are aware none of these avenues currently suffice. Iraq poses no direct threat to the United Kingdom. At best it may threaten its neighbours, however, the overwhelming opinion is that the current sanctions and inspection regimes have sufficed since the Gulf War in order to contain Saddam hence significantly eliminating any danger of an imminent attack.
"I understand how it is being argued that terrorists may get their hands on weapons and hence become a threat. However, there must be a degree of imminence. It is important that the implications are understood before proceeding with our American partners in their doctrine for regime-change, I will be justifying what in essence may turn out to be an illegal war. However, this is why it is necessary to grey the lines as much as possible.
The Irish Times