The following are two substantive viewpoints by regular contributor Dr Chris Lamb concerning the present situation in the Ukraine, which had previously been posted in the comment section of the last thread. Given the potential severity of this crisis, we have brought these forward to form a new topic here at the Digest.
As the crisis deepens in the Ukraine, a few observations might be made concerning developments. The warning from earlier in the week by Sue Rice of the Obama administration and by Barack Obama yesterday that Russia should respect the political sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukraine (Article 2 of the UN Charter) displays a fair amount of hypocrisy from a power which breached precisely that Article in invading Iraq in 2003. The UK has made similar noises and is open to charges of hypocrisy for the same reasons. It seems that to some state powers international law can be applied selectively and be observed by other powers in their dealings with critical situations and not themselves.
The precedent laid by the 2003 Iraq invasion whereby international law was breached and state leaders concerned seem to have got away with it increases the difficulty of insisting that these laws should be obeyed in future by state powers.
Another issue concerns the capacity of the UN Security Council in this crisis to be a strictly impartial mediator given that at least three of the Permanent Five members have preconceived positions and/or direct interests in the confrontation, how it came about and, no doubt, how it should be resolved.
There is no doubt that the US has played an overt and covert role in provoking the movement to cede from the Russian Federation and join the EU. (Witness the involvement of neo-con Senator John McCain). The UK has also played a role.
Here is a link to an event of last September sponsored by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation (a funder of the Tony Blair Foundation) that looks forward to Ukraine splitting off from Russia:
Russia also has an interest in what the outcome of the crisis should be. At the recent crisis session called of the UN, Russia has come out against a forced mediation of what should happen in the Crimea, probably for the reason that the impartiality of the Security Council cannot be relied upon.
The most recent developments concerning the Ukraine cast the 2003 invasion of Iraq in an even more ironic perspective. Obama has accused the Russians of a ‘crime of aggression’ in invading Ukraine and calls upon Putin to withdrawal Russian forces while Putin appears to be invoking Article 51 of the UN Charter as justification for Russian actions in defending the ethnic Russian interest in the Crimea. The leader of the ‘Autonomous Republic of the Crimea’ (recognized in the 2004 Ukrainian constitution) has called upon Russia for assistance.
It becomes more untenable for the US to claim the high moral ground about a ‘crime of aggression’ without an admission that the 2003 Iraq invasion constituted just such a ‘crime of aggression’ as adjudged under the terms of the UN Charter.
The question also needs to be raised about the legitimacy of the government now sitting in Kiev in terms of the Ukrainian constitution. On the eve of the ousting of Yanukovych an Accord was agreed – mediators including Russia, France, Germany and Poland as well as Ukraine – and signed that there would be a swift return to the 2004 constitution with amendments severely restricting powers of the President and establish within ten days a ‘government of national trust’. That seems to have been jettisoned. The role of the Ukrainian extreme right both in the coup against Yanukovych and in the current Kiev government needs serious examination.
Here is an interesting link on that question:
If Putin is invoking Article 51 of the UN Charter for Russia’s actions, this needs serious examination by the UN. Article 138 Section 7 of the 2004 Ukraine constitution, specifying powers of the ‘Autonomous Republic of Crimea’, gives it the competence of ‘participating in ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens, national harmony and promotion of the protection of legal order and public security’. If ethnic Russians feel threatened an appeal to Russia for help would seem legitimate under that competence.
The international community also needs to examine the tenability of Ukraine’s expanded borders since 1954 given the critical circumstances that have arisen. The Crimea was given to the Ukraine as a (possibly impulsive) gift by Khrushchev in 1954 without evidence of consulting its majority Russian population beforehand. We have seen with Syria and Iraq how the imposition of entirely arbitrary and inappropriate borders to these countries by outside forces have strongly contributed to a history of ethnic and sectarian unrest and conflict unresolved even after a century.
by Andrew Mason
An interesting interview with Lord (David) Owen was published just over a week ago on The Conversation website. The main theme is about the effects of power on personality. As a case-in-point he discusses Tony Blair’s susceptibility to what he personally terms to be a “Hubris Syndrome”.
Blair and the Iraq disaster
Owen is at pains to point out that these are not pre-existing personality problems, genetically endowed, which have caused hubris.
“These are changes in behaviour and demeanour,” he tells me. “Take Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, both of whom won three elections in a row before being thrown out by their own MPs. Every person you talk to involved with them point to a change in personality which happened after they had held power for several years. Thatcher was not always hubristic.”
A gently spoken and warm man, Owen’s voice sharpens when he talks about former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“Blair’s personality change came with Kosovo – all these television pictures of him surrounded by cheering troops …”
I ask what the greatest disaster caused by this hubris syndrome was in recent times.
“The Iraq War … I think Bush in a way got hubris too – I mean he used to write about a ‘modest foreign policy’. We don’t know what will happen but if it is the nexus for a Sunni-Shiite war – which might be the history of the next 100 years … it’s far worse than Suez as a foreign policy mistake.”
“I supported it …” he adds quickly. “This guy lied to me. I had two meetings with Blair in identical circumstances. It was in Downing Street, with our wives, the four of us. The second was in June 2002 and it was clear he had decided to go to war. I asked him whether in Iraq nuclear weapons were being built and he replied ‘yes’; Chemical weapons? – ‘Yes,’ he told me. No qualification or doubt. I now know what he had been told in intelligence reports in the weeks before he met me and that he should have told me that the intelligence was far from conclusive.”
Owen continues: “Lloyd George and Neville Chamberlain both had hubris syndrome, as did Generals Patton and McArthur … McArthur lied about the intelligence, claiming the Chinese were already in North Korea because he wanted to use nuclear weapons.”
“Contempt is the classic sign of hubris – like Patton kicking up the arse the two soldiers in hospital in Sicily … and the total contempt which both Thatcher and Blair had for their cabinets.”
“If people say, ‘it takes one to know one’, I don’t dispute that. I believe that I have hubris in my own character and I think many politicians do. But I believe it is in every walk of life and the general public have a way of knowing it.”
(The interview was conducted by Ian H Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College, Dublin.)
(CC BY-ND 4.0)
by Chris Ames
Yesterday’s House of Lords debate on the reasons for the delay to the Inquiry threw up some interesting comments, some of them better informed than others. It may have ended with a promise from a government whip that he would try to move things along.
The debate was initiated by Lord Morris, a former Labour attorney general. His contribution was pretty perceptive, including the ability to spot the sort of non answers that ministers frequently think it clever to give, even in 2014:
Public inquiries are set up to deal with public disquiet, to establish facts and to learn lessons. Not to publish is to undermine the whole object. Delay is unjust and justice to the public is denied. In January, in a Written Answer, Francis Maude said that,
“the completion of its report is a matter for the Inquiry Committee”.
Later in the month, he said:
“The Iraq Inquiry has been provided with all of the documents it has requested”.
Your Lordships may consider, from the very tight drafting of both answers, that they are less than frank.
There was then a less than helpful contribution from Lord (Donald) Anderson, the man who fixed the 2003 Foreign Affairs Select Committee inquiry on behalf of the Labour Government and allowed Jack Straw to conceal the involvement of four government spin doctors in the drafting of the September 2002 dossier. Anderson’s most insightful comment was that:
The inquiry is unlikely to find a smoking gun and it has said in terms that it will not apportion blame.
It’s a fascinating comment on the determination of an establishment enquiry to see no evil. Although the Inquiry has not said in terms that it will not apportion blame.
A particularly ill-informed comment came from former No 10 apparatchik Lord (Roger) Liddle, who said:
I think one of these questions has already been sorted out: the question about dealing with the use of intelligence, and the worries as to whether disclosure of anything to do with intelligence compromises sources. I should like the Government to confirm what I think to be the position: that in the case of Iraq those questions were sorted out in the Butler inquiry in 2004, and that there are no new intelligence issues arising in the case of Chilcot.
Liddle doesn’t appear to have noticed that Lord Butler told BBC’s Panorama last year that his inquiry was not told about two intelligence reports from high ranking Iraqi officials, both stating that Iraq no longer had WMD. Or rather, that inquiry was given paperwork about one of them but failed to notice.
Responding to the debate on behalf of the government was whip Lord (William) Wallace, who has the laughable but perhaps appropriate title of Lord in Waiting, although his final comment suggested that he may have rather less patience than that would suggest:
I assure the House that a large number of officials are working through those issues. The Chilcot inquiry and its four active members are still at work, and we very much hope to publish the final report within the foreseeable future. I will be pushing for that future to be as foreseeable as it can be.
by Chris Ames
In the Sunday Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan uses the recent failed attempt at a citizen’s arrest of Tony Blair to argue that the Inquiry could slap metaphorical “cuffs” on Tony Blair:
as Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq inquiry shows signs of at last creaking to a close, could it be the former civil servant who finally slaps the metaphorical cuffs on Mr Blair? Ten years to the week after the first official Iraq investigation, by Lord Hutton, was published, it seems clear that this one will be more critical. Key figures in the debacle are showing distinct signs of nervousness.
Gilligan’s argument, supported by a quote (“I’ll believe it when I see it”) from myself at the bottom of the piece, is that criticism from former cabinet secretaries Lord Turnbull and Lord Wilson of the way that Blair left his cabinet almost as much in the dark as the rest of us could allow Chilcot to be very critical.
Wilson was the Cabinet Secretary when Blair sent his much discussed but still suppressed note to George Bush in July 2002. Here is what Turnbull told the Inquiry about Wilson’s comment that Blair had a gleam in his eye at the time.
What Richard Wilson said — this is the phrase he in his valedictory meeting, bilateral with the Prime Minister said, “I can see there is a gleam in your eye”. What I think he meant was there was rather more than a gleam in his eye. Had Richard known now, for example, about the Note on Iraq, “You can count on us whatever”, and the subsequent telephone call with Bush, I don’t think he would have described it as a gleam.
By Chris Ames
When Tony Blair was in power, no journalist was better at disseminating his spin than the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour. In a piece in today’s paper by Wintour, Blair again has a free hit at damage limitation in advance of the inquiry report.
Ministers are also bracing themselves for strong criticism, probably this summer, by the marathon inquiry conducted by Sir John Chilcott (sic) over the UK’s conduct in the run- up to the Iraq war in 2003.
Tony Blair has admitted to political allies that he expects it to be revealed that he gave George W Bush strong unequivocal support at a private summit in Texas in April 2002, well before the attack on Iraq, but will point to the fact that he was given an opportunity to draw back from the invasion.
Is this the first hint from Blair that he will reject the Inquiry’s findings?
The main thrust of the piece is that senior military figures say the British public no longer has the appetite for foreign wars on the scale of the Iraq invasion, which makes you wonder how useful the Inquiry’s lessons learned will be.
by Andrew Mason
Today is the fifth anniversary of US President Barack Obama first taking the oath of office to assume ultimate responsibility for the well-being of his nation – put another way it is also exactly five years since the end of George W. Bush’s presidential administration.
This means that it is now possible for anyone, anywhere in the world, to request the records from the second President Bush’s term in office.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum has now marked this occasion with the following statement:
Bush Library to Begin Accepting FOIA Requests January 20
DALLAS (1/17/14) – The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum will begin accepting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for presidential records from the Bush presidency beginning at 12:01 a.m. CST on January 20.
Access to the Bush presidential records is governed by the Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978 which says, among other provisions, that records may be requested by the public five years after the end of a presidential administration – for the administration of George W. Bush, that date is January 20, 2014.
Any individual – regardless of citizenship – as well as organizations, companies, and state and local governments will be able to submit FOIA requests.
All requests must be in a written format (e-mail, mail, or fax) and must state that the records are being requested under the “Freedom of Information Act” or “FOIA.” If you are e-mailing your request please include your name in the subject line.
The contact information is as follows:
George W. Bush Presidential Library c/o FOIA Coordinator
2943 SMU BLVD
Dallas, Texas 75205
FAX: 214-346-1558 (please include cover sheet if possible)
January 20 will be the first day the Bush Library can accept FOIA requests for records pertaining to the Bush presidency and all FOIA requests will be processed in the order in which they are received.
Incoming requests will be placed in a queue – and requestors should note that, given the laws and regulations, the volume and complexity of presidential records, and the process of making materials available, the process will take time.
“Still, the Library remains committed to providing access to our holdings and will make every effort to provide records in a timely manner,” said Alan Lowe, the director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
“This is an exciting and important event in the life of the Bush Presidential Library and Museum,” he added. “Our dedicated staff stands ready to respond to requests and to provide our customers with invaluable information about a tremendously consequential time in our nation’s history.”
Located on the campus of SMU – which is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas enrolling nearly 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students from throughout the world in seven degree-granting schools – the facility is the 13th Presidential Library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.
To learn more about the Freedom of Information Act and the Presidential Records Act of 1978 please go to www.archives.gov, and for more information on this story please e-mail email@example.com.
If anyone would now care to attempt to obtain under the US FOIA laws, say for example, the transcripts of conversations between Tony Blair and George Bush in 2001/2/3 from the American end of affairs, they are now perfectly at liberty to do so. Please form an orderly queue!
by Chris Lamb
With the recent submission of a substantial legal writ to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by Public Interest Lawyers and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights concerning the alleged systematic abuse of civilian detainees during the invasion and occupation of Iraq between 2003-08, the question of whether Tony Blair (and potentially George W Bush) can be brought before the ICC for directing a “crime of aggression” in mounting the invasion of Iraq becomes more pressing.
Article 5 of the 1998 Statute of Rome identifies the “crime of aggression” as one of the core crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction. However, the Court has been unable to exercise its jurisdiction because the Rome Statute did not define the substance of the crime or set out the conditions for prosecution.
This changed on 11 June 2010 when amendments were adopted to the Rome Statute arising from legal research into aggression in Kampala, Uganda.
The amendments provide the groundwork for a definition of the crime of aggression and a jurisdictional framework. The definition has two key component:
a) the planning, preparation, initiation or execution by a person in a position to effectively exercise control over, or to direct the political or military action of a State in an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations;
b) the use of armed force by one State against another State without the justification of self defence or authorization by the UN Security Council.
A strong legal case can be built that the invasion of Iraq qualifies as “aggression” under both definitions. The Blair government followed the US “revival” legal argument that UN authorization was implicit in a 1991 UN Security council resolution (SCR678) following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. An explicit UN Security Council vote on the use of military force was, therefore, not required. This doctrine of “implicit authorization” has been subjected to withering criticism by international lawyers.
This is what Matthew Gillett, Legal Officer at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, The Hague, has to say about “implicit authorization” used by the US and UK on the UN Security Council to initiate the 2003 invasion of Iraq;
The strenuous efforts made by the US and its allies in 2003 to obtain a new UNSC resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq significantly weakened the argument that authorization was already implicit in pre-existing resolutions. Most commentators concluded that the argument was legally unsustainable in relation to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The “implicit authorization” argument in the context of the Iraq invasion should be seen for what it was – an attempt to justify the use of force on the basis of UNSC consent when there was no such consent.
The Kampala amendments come into force within the jurisdiction of the ICC in January 2017. By then, the Iraq Inquiry should have reported. The question must be seriously posed whether interested international lawyers will sift through the evidence and conclusions of the report to build a legal case for challenging the legality of the invasion as a “crime of aggression” and thus bring Tony Blair, Jack Straw and other leading figures of the invasion before the International Criminal Court.
by Chris Ames
Today’s Guardian says that:
Tony Blair is preparing himself for the defining moment of his post-prime ministerial career as Whitehall sources confirmed that Sir John Chilcot will publish his report into the handling of the Iraq war in the new year.
A compromise agreement between Chilcot and the cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, who had been resisting calls for the publication of correspondence between Blair and George Bush, is understood to mean that the final stages of the inquiry can be started in the new year.
What exactly “the new year” means is not clear. It clearly isn’t imminent as the inquiry has to pick up where it left of with the “Maxwellisation” process of writing to Blair and others to tell them what the proposed findings are so that they can have them watered down.
It’s a badly mangled report that describes this process, and then says at the end of the same paragraph:
Extracts of the correspondence are now expected to be published in the report in redacted form.
Presumably, despite its context, this refers to the correspondence between Blair and Bush. Given that it’s an establishment inquiry and is reported to have reached a compromise with the establishment, the redacted versions will go something like: “Dear George…. yours ever, Tony”.
The spinning has already started of course. It’s pretty obvious that this is coming from Nick Clegg:
A senior Whitehall source told the Guardian: “In the new year it seems the Chilcot inquiry is going to be published. Everyone will be assuming: bad hair day for Tony Blair and Jack Straw. The Conservatives can’t say or do very much given that Iain Duncan Smith was further ahead than Blair. But the Conservatives are irrelevant to it.”
And then there is this:
Blair’s office and the Iraq inquiry declined last night to comment on the timing of the publication of the report. But it is understood that the former prime minister is relaxed about the publication of his correspondence with Bush. Some friends of Blair say that the report would lack credibility unless the correspondence is published.
In his evidence to the inquiry Blair said it was important to protect the confidentiality of correspondence between a prime minister and a president. But friends point out that Blair went out of his way to explain the correspondence without breaking confidences.
So the tactic of putting your spin on something that other people haven’t seen is spun as going out of your way to explain the correspondence. Classic Blair.
by Chris Ames
Forty-two months after being charged with laying the demons to rest, Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry has no end date. Britain does not need an official inquiry to tell it what to think. Leaked papers have already revealed that London knew that “facts were being fixed” by Washington, and tasked a press officer with the first draft of an “intelligence” dossier that warped perceptions. We know, too, that No 10 fed journalists with old information about weapons Saddam Hussein was known to have destroyed, a campaign of misinformation to support a misadventure that led to military humiliation in Basra.
But an inquiry could mark the moment when the British state officially accepts how wrong things went, and could educate future administrations in doing things differently. The guardian of good governance is supposed to be the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood. But, as Sir John’s testy correspondence with No 10 implies, Sir Jeremy has become the roadblock to progress. He is barring publication of the records of cabinet-level and White House discussions on which Sir John insists he needs to rest his conclusion.
Digest readers will note that one of the references is to this site’s page on the John Williams draft dossier.
The Guardian suggests that Heywood may be blocking publication of documents because he is a stickler for secrecy or, as has been widely suggested, because as Tony Blair’s principal private secretary during this time, he “has particular secrets to withhold”. It concludes:
Let us hope that he will soon rethink, publish the documents and let the inquiry conclude. Otherwise, a darker third reading comes to the fore – the possibility that Sir John is being strung along to report closer to the general election in order to do maximum damage to Sir Jeremy’s old political masters at the behest of his new overlords.
by Chris Ames
The Telegraph has run another story reminding us that Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6/SIS at the time of the Iraq Dossier and the invasion, has threatened to spill the beans if he is criticised by the Inquiry. The story is based on the announcement that Dearlove is to leave his role as Master of Pembroke College Cambridge.
An honourable man, Sir Richard has been bound by official secrecy rules from defending himself from the suggestion that Tony Blair’s government was misinformed by the intelligence services about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction ahead of the war.
Sir Richard has spent the last year on sabattical (sic), writing a detailed account of the events leading up to the war, which, if he faces censure by the Chilcot Inquiry, he may place in the public domain. He had previously intended to make the work available to academics only posthumously. Sir Richard, 68, who became Master of Pembroke at the start of the Michaelmas Term, 2004, will retire in 2015.
Sources close to Dearlove have spoken about how he feels Chilcot should recognise the role played by Blair and his spokesman Alastair Campbell in the reports which suggested Saddam could use chemical weapons to target British troops in Cyprus – a claim which put Britain on a path to war in Iraq.
The story is so sympathetic to Dearlove, you wonder if he wrote it himself. I don’t think anyone can be in any doubt who those “sources close to Dearlove” are. But why, you have to ask again, can Dearlove have anything to say about the dossier or anything else that he didn’t say to the Inquiry? If his main revelation is that he told Blair and Campbell that there were doubts that Iraq had wmd but they told the public a different story, why would “official secrecy rules” stop him?