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Major, Blair and Bush » Iraq Inquiry Digest

Major, Blair and Bush

By Chris Ames - Last updated: Friday, May 30, 2014 - Save & Share - 37 Comments

by Chris Ames

John Major’s comments on the Inquiry this morning are interesting for two reasons beyond his main point – that it is now for Tony Blair to facilitate the disclosure of the relevant documents and not just the quotes and gists we are promised.

Firstly, that a former prime minister should implicitly reject the idea that disclosing what a British PM says to a US president will cause serious damage takes the wind from the sails of that establishment contention.

Secondly, Major has articulated what many other people have said since the compromise agreement was announced – that many people will still feel they are not being told the whole truth and leave the issue festering. For the Inquiry to leave this impression would be a truly lamentable outcome.

 

Posted in Opinion • • Top Of Page

37 Responses to “Major, Blair and Bush”

Comment from andrewsimon
Time May 30, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Perhaps even more importantly, John Major, in suggested that either a previous government or its leader could possibly overturn a current ban on publication of documents from their time in power:

“That is the decision that has been reached by the Cabinet Office..”

“I suppose the previous Labour government could approach them and say, ‘We would like to overrule this and think it is better they release those papers,’ but the government cannot do that. Let me make that clear.

“Mr Blair could, the previous Labour government could. Maybe in their own interests they should because otherwise this will fester and nobody wants to see that.”

Whilst this in someway does lob the ball back into Tony Blair’s side of the court, is he also alluding to the fact that as PM himself he was involved in Iraq and the WMD issue from 1990 to 1997 and indeed might himself have some fire-power in terms of intimate governmental knowledge about the inspection process which (although strictly speaking may be outside the precise remit of the Inquiry) might be relevant to final closure on the entire non-existent WMD debacle?

Comment from Anthony Miller
Time May 31, 2014 at 8:31 pm

http://newstoad.net/2014/05/29/blair-bush-iraq-talks-to-be-re-enacted-by-sooty-and-sweep/

John Rentoul sent me this via twitter. When even he cant keep a straight face…

Comment from Peter Beswick
Time June 1, 2014 at 8:56 am

We live in a funny world! I suppose when election outcome’s are determined by the public’s desire of who they don’t want to speak for them, then politics makes more sense.

We know politicians lie but we vote them anyway, does the “I’m not a liar” candidate really stand a chance?

So we must accept that the truth will be kept from us on occasion and this is acknowledged (subliminally?) with very few caveats.

If military intelligence and the law (or application of) can be fixed around government policy why not trust?

Because the caveat that requires public trust to be upheld at all cost (without costing money other that the taxpayer’s) is in place to ensure that the ruling class carry on ruling.

And that, I’m afraid, is why we have come to the end of this epoch. Chilcot has destroyed our society! The last bastion of trust has been felled, the public inquiry lies in it own putrefying juices.

Hutton had a bloody good go but failed miserably. The fact that a man died in odd circumstances and the police decided not to investigate the odd circumstances only enraged a controllable portion of the public for a few years. Chilcot managed (unwittingly I’m sure – in his defence) to unrail the very people who entrusted him to uphold the Trust.

Trust is dead! Chilcot killed it. Time to move on.

It won’t be the same, news programmes will be replaced by the Test Card, newspapers primary purpose will resort to wrapping chips and MP’s will gradually become things of pity rather than contempt after the last Act of Parliament which decrees that bells should be sounded by MP’s to warn of there proximity.

Or David Cameron may have a Road to Damascus experience, until then I look forward to my chips in front of the test card.

Comment from andrewsimon
Time June 1, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Lord Owen suggests Tony Blair should be charged with contempt of Parliament – but only after Chilcot has reported.

So how can the House of Commons best respond to the public’s disillusionment when the Iraq inquiry reports?

I believe the Liaison Committee, formed of the chairmen of the select committees, should consider charging Tony Blair with contempt of Parliament.

This could be done by putting forward an all-party resolution for debate in the House of Commons, a few weeks after the report is published.

Then – and only then – might we be able to draw a line under this inglorious period in our modern political history.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2645051/Charge-Blair-contempt-Parliament-know-lied-Iraq-An-explosive-proposal-former-foreign-secretary-DAVID-OWEN-crucial-evidence-Chilcot-Inquiry-censored.html

Comment from Anthony Miller
Time June 2, 2014 at 8:09 am

I see Norman Tebbit is playing the ooooh but the special relationship card over at telegraph blogs

Comment from Anthony Miller
Time June 2, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Well we’ve kind of been here before, haven’t we? Remember it was all originally supposed to be behind closed doors until…?

Comment from John Bone
Time June 2, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I wonder whether there is a risk of failing to see the woods because of the trees in all these discussions in the press. There is a lot of focus on what Blair and Bush said to each other, with the expectation that a certain form of words was used or a certain letter from Blair to Bush exists.

Isn’t there already evidence that Blair promised unconditional support to Bush? Kevin Tebbit’s “Iraq: what if?” memo to Geoff Hoon of 13th Janury 2003 (in the part that isn’t redacted) says that Blair had been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the USA and showing that a Labour PM could work with a Republican president, that there was a risk that the USA would go to war without an enabling UNSCR, the USA would expect the UK to go to war with it and that this left the UK in a worse position than those countries that hadn’t created an expectation that they would invade Iraq alongside the USA. It also says that the consequences for the UK could be serious. Doesn’t standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the USA mean offering unconditional support?

And why should we be surprised that Blair’s policy was to offer unconditional support? At the time there were many loud voices in the press and in parliament suggesting that this was exactly what he should do and that those who were against this were lunatic anti-Americans.

The only way out of the dilemma set out in the “What if?” memo was to pretend that there was a UNSCR mandate and to pretend that it was an established fact that Iraq had WMD. Is this still a mystery?

Comment from andrewsimon
Time June 2, 2014 at 9:54 pm

John Bone -

I wonder whether there is a risk of failing to see the woods because of the trees in all these discussions in the press.

I think you are right, but the modern day pressure to quickly fill column-inches means that there is huge repetition (and a certain superficiality) in day-to-day reporting of any new development that takes place. Any serious observer of these proceedings would have been well aware that this predetermined decision about limiting disclosure was going to happen, the only question was about the timing of the announcement, in all likelihood it was the threat of a PASC inquiry into the delay that forced the issue. There was always going to be a lot of reaction, but this was already similarly predetermined and just awaiting the right day.

Has anyone got any idea about what the Americans actually think about the prospect of GWB’s words being published? Has anyone asked them? Has anyone there actually investigated and reported on this? And if the transcripts etc were actually released would many of them there even notice?

Comment from Lee
Time June 2, 2014 at 10:03 pm

“Firstly, that a former prime minister should implicitly reject the idea that disclosing what a British PM says to a US president will cause serious damage takes the wind from the sails of that establishment contention.”

When has banning publication ever been about state security ? Who seriously believes such claims ? Throughout the Chilcot inquiry, documents once banned from disclosure because of state security, were declassified. Not a single one of these documents revealed any state security concerns. Why werent the officials who originally banned these documents indicted and imprisoned. Chilcot has shown corruption far beyond the reach of his inquiry.

Comment from Lee
Time June 2, 2014 at 10:12 pm

“Has anyone got any idea about what the Americans actually think about the prospect of GWB’s words being published? Has anyone asked them? Has anyone there actually investigated and reported on this? And if the transcripts etc were actually released would many of them there even notice?”

I think this misses the point. Obama has championed Bush/Cheney/Blair, and recently declared the Iraq War to have been fully legal, carried out with full respect for international standards. Obama has also been exposed as a serial liar at least as egregious as Bush, and probably worse. This is all about Obama covering his own bum. It no longer has anything much to do with Bush.

We need an inquiry about the role played by David Cameron in Obama’s illegal bombing of Libya and the disastrous consequences, as bad for the Libyans as Blair and Bush’s invasions were disastrous for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan

Comment from andrewsimon
Time June 2, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Lee -

The real culprit here is Obama. He has pledged to do everything he can to protect George Bush, Cheney and their fellow war criminals…

Not so sure about this. Given the fractious nature of American politics I can see that Obama put this to one side in order to ease his time in power. But he can’t stand for a third term. Come the next election there this issue might be dry powder for the Dems, ready to use against the GOP. Kind of like getting others to do his dirty work for him. The next presidential election will be held on November 8, 2016. For this reason I can see the Maxwellisation process taking nearly this long. And then if the US releases this stuff under FOI from their end…?

Comment from Lee
Time June 2, 2014 at 10:22 pm

THE BUSH BLAIR LETTERS IN FULL: READ THEM HERE !!

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/05/30/chilcott-inquiry-blair-bush-spoof-letters_n_5416178.html

Comment from Lee
Time June 2, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Andrew: Sorry, I disagree. Obama is now a war criminal too. His crimes may not be as spectacular as Bush’s, but they are sufficiently clear to ensure he has violated the Nuremberg principles for which the response is hanging. The Dems will have no dry powder..they are as deep in blood as the Repugnants. Of course, we all know that Obama is typified by cowardice and lack of principle. The fact that he not only refused to even have an inquiry into Bush/Cheney et al, and has concealed the torture evidence, was not enough. He gave a full pardon to Bush and Cheney which effectively protects them from prosecution in future. This was a great deal more than “easing his time in power”. This complicity on Obama’s behalf, together with his deep friendship with Tony Blair, is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Its not fash to tell the truth about Obama, so he is never named at the person behind the controversy on the Bush-Blair letters.

Comment from andrewsimon
Time June 2, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Lee -

He gave a full pardon to Bush and Cheney which effectively protects them from prosecution in future.

You can’t give a pardon to someone who hasn’t been convicted – instead what happened was that the DOJ filed a ‘motion to dismiss’ – a Grant of Immunity – effectively pursuing immunity for the defendants (George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld) in the case of Saleh v. Bush (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2013, No. C 13 1124 JST).

See:

http://witnessiraq.com/blog/

and their April 3, 2014 update on the lawsuit, which states that the case has been ‘vacated’ and is ongoing. All relevant documents are viewable on the same page.

Comment from Anthony Miller
Time June 3, 2014 at 10:44 am

One question I’d like an answer to is …even if Chilcot doesn’t exactly point the finger at Blair will he say something like “there are Constitutional problems” and suggest kerbs on the Prime Mininster’s power and/or suggest how to redefine the realtionship between the PM, Cabinet and Parliament to prevent this from happening again?
Will the loopholes Blair exploited be closed?

Anyway it hasn’t all been an waste of time Baroness Usha seems to have got a new outfit, hairdo and publicity photo out of it
http://www.pearshapedcomedy.com/A_Vast_Cock_Up.html

Comment from BobM
Time June 3, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Andrew Simon

“http://witnessiraq.com/blog/
and their April 3, 2014 update on the lawsuit, which states that the case has been ‘vacated’ and is ongoing. All relevant documents are viewable on the same page.”

Thank you for this.

I am bowled over by Mr Comar’s erudition: is he preparing these documents entirely on his own, one asks?

Of special interest is his response document of 28 January in which it is posited, on the precedent of the Nuremberg arguments and judgements, that Bush and co cannot have the case struck out as “political” or subject to sovereign immunity.
Goering and co used the same defence as the Justice Department is now invoking on Bush and co’s behalf; it was dismissed then, and Nuremberg has been the bedrock of cognate international law, ever since.

This is specially interesting from a Chilcot perspective, in that Blair seems to have been as closely involved in the invasion “plan”, which is the subject of the Californian complaint, as the unfortunate General Powell was. (It is hard to imagine that Bush gave him as much time as he gave our Tony.)
And Mr Comar cites our own Lord Steyn on the “plain” illegality of the war.

Impossible to say how long it will take for the US case to progress, if at all. But one wonders what scope there might be for a similar UK action against TB?

Comment from BobM
Time June 3, 2014 at 4:45 pm

A props of which

Search for Saleh v Bush.

The Wiki entry, presumably written by Mr Comar, gives a concise summary of the issues, but hasn’t been updated since the April hearing was vacated [ie, cancelled by the court pending further consideration of the papers].

Comment from Lee
Time June 3, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Andrew: Thanks for the correction. In doesnt really change anything I have said about Obama’s role, and the sad reality that British liberals (of which this digest is an example) fall over backwards not to implicate Obama, who is the main reason for the censorship we have just witnessed. This is poodle-cameron doing what barack demands.

Comment from andrewsimon
Time June 3, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Lee -

Thanks for the correction.

You are welcome.

…and the sad reality that British liberals (of which this digest is an example) fall over backwards not to implicate Obama, who is the main reason for the censorship we have just witnessed. This is poodle-cameron doing what barack demands.

Are you an American by any chance? I only ask because the word ‘liberal’ has a slightly different connotation there. I’ve been a staff member on this blog since its inception and we, the small team of core writers here, have always striven to be apolitical in any party-political or philosophical sense.

What we are all trying to do here is to accurately record, report and comment on anything and everything that has a bearing on not just the remit of the Iraq Inquiry, but also on the entire set of circumstances that led to the situation that Iraq (and the wider Middle East) now finds itself in.

Everything is open to interpretation and just about everyone has a slightly different take on the elemental causes and repercussions of the invasion. Is anyone really surprised that politicians practice politics? If any such serving high-ranking individual condemns the practices of a former government then he/she is also being critical of the earlier actions of his/her nation as a whole. Which also means they are likely to become alienated by a good proportion of their supporter-base. Which is why this is something that none of them are likely to do.

What we haven’t really seen is any documented reporting of any solid evidence that Obama is in fact having this claimed effect on the progress of the Inquiry. All we’ve seen are various proof-less allegations (from mostly biased or implicated individuals here) that suggest that this is happening and that the supposed ‘special relationship’ is at stake.

If you’ve got any good source material for this please post it up – I’m sure it will get discussed further.

Comment from Peter Beswick
Time June 4, 2014 at 11:49 am

“and the sad reality that British liberals (of which this digest is an example)”

I don’t know what this means but I took offence anyway or maybe it was indignation, I’m not sure.

Obama was led by the British Parliament voting not to bomb Syria, Cameron pretended he wanted to bomb Syria but went through the motions only to discover that there were more lunatics in the house of commons than he had bargained for and therefore pulled up his ride; that got passed the Speaker and a few more besides.

I don’t know what this means either, other than Obama / Cameron – Bush / Blair are/were not calling the shots.

And this is a lesson that Chilcot will not learn, two planes driving into two tall buildings does not mean Britain has to go to war with a completely unrelated country. What it does mean (and Chilcot has learned this lesson) is when the truth is known by the public but not spoken by politicians there will always be a place for Digest.

Comment from Peter Beswick
Time June 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

I understand that Mike Smith used to contribute here, if anyone is in touch with him could they please ask him (and let me know the answer if he gives one) how he knew that the police knew Dr David Kelly was dead before his body was discovered.

This is what Andrew Gilligan claims Gilligan also said that his boss, Richard Sambrook told him painkillers were involved several hours before the blister packs were discovered in the coat pocket by the forensic team.

And yes I believe this is relevant, Chilcot and Aldred may say Kelly has nothing to teach the inquiry, that is a bit like saying gravity has nothing to teach quantum physicists.

Comment from Chris May
Time June 5, 2014 at 11:09 am

Many commentators seem to conclude from the bush/blair letters compromise that the findings of the inquiry will be a whitewash. I do not believe this is by any means certain, for two reasons.

First, the fact that the inquiry have taken so long to conceed on this specific issue indicates to me that they are not easily dissuaded from the line of argument they are following. If the inquiry was keen to present the findings in a more favourable light they would have rolled over on this issue years(!) ago.

Second, this is but one element of a mass of evidence (much of which is now in the public domain) covering the intelligence, diplomatic, political and legal areas. Blocking full publication of the bush/blair letters will not in any way be a barrier to producing a thorough report. Furthermore, I do not understand why finally seeing that Blair had personally committed himself to alligning with the US position is that significant, given that parliament was in any case asked (although not required) to authorise military action.

Comment from andrewsimon
Time June 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Chris May -

…I do not understand why finally seeing that Blair had personally committed himself to aligning with the US position is that significant, given that parliament was in any case asked (although not required) to authorise military action.

I think many people see this as being highly important because it is indicative of whether the government’s case against Saddam was being drawn-up around a preconceived (albeit perhaps single-minded) outcome. Although it was denied, the September dossier was seen by many observers to have made the case for war. How many MPs who read it took it to be an accurate representation of the facts, and how many of the eventual votes for action were swayed by it? My understanding is that Blair himself staked everything on this final vote, making it known that he would have to stand down if the vote went against him. How many of those votes were then cast partially for the reason of party unity rather than entirely for the underlying premise of military action against Iraq as proposed?

(Also noting that it is still not entirely clear why the Conservative party voted so overwhelmingly in favour of the government’s motion on 18th March 2003.)

I think that unless we learn the precise details of this hugely significant factor with certainty, then the final outcome of the Inquiry will be seen to have been compromised by outside influence. Given that we don’t yet know what Chilcot will say I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that the whitewash roller is already in hand. But without this necessary understanding of the entire sequence of events the omens for a complete, concise and accurate historical record are not good.

Comment from John Bone
Time June 6, 2014 at 5:33 pm

“… I do not understand why finally seeing that Blair had personally committed himself to aligning with the US position is that significant, given that parliament was in any case asked (although not required) to authorise military action.”

By the time parliament was asked for authority, it was being said that it was an established fact that Iraq had WMD. This was untrue. So was this a mistake or a way of getting out of the a dilemma (a previous promise to support the USA and then finding that the USA was going ahead without international support)?

Comment from BobM
Time June 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm

The Commons Resolution also noted:

“that in the 130 days since Resolution 1441 was adopted Iraq has not co-operated
actively, unconditionally and immediately with the weapons inspectors, and has
rejected the final opportunity to comply and is in further material breach of its
obligations under successive mandatory UN Security Council Resolutions.”

My recollection is that Saddam was prepared go to extraordinary lengths to avoid invasion, as his interview with Dan Rather indicated.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_2003_Saddam_Hussein_interview
It was the US that didn’t want to listen.

It would be very interesting to know on whose instructions the Resolution was drafted [its breadth is pretty staggering]
and whether Chilcot will touch on this episode.

Comment from Peter Beswick
Time June 7, 2014 at 10:20 am

It’s true Saddam did want to avoid invasion, he even offered to go into exile but Bush rejected the terms of the offer instead choosing to destroy the country.

It’s also true that there was little or no post conflict planning but there was strong intelligence to suggest that the chaos that ensued was entirely predictable. It was predicted by an SIS analyst who confirmed there no evidence of stockpiled WMD but if there was Saddam was unlikely to use it if invaded.

Bush wanted the war, so dis Blair, Check out the Iraq Body Count website for how many people were blown up yesterday and the day before and for the past ten years plus.

Saddam didn’t want the war, Bush and Blair did, they got what they wanted and they are responsible for the consequences including the men, women and children who will be blown up tomorrow and the next day and the day after.

Maybe if Cameron’s next coalition permits the referendum that has been repeatedly promised, there should be a question 2) An In / Out option of the UN. The UN failed to prevent the war and has done nothing to alleviate the suffering caused by it since. Does the UN, like the EU have a relevant role in politics in its present form? A Bit like the Chilcot Inquiry, a talking shop with little use for anything else.

Comment from Anthony Miller
Time June 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

” Furthermore, I do not understand why finally seeing that Blair had personally committed himself to alligning with the US position is that significant, given that parliament was in any case asked (althoughnot required) to authorise military action.”

If parliament was asked to make a decision on going to war on what was clearly and deliberately misleading and concocted evidence then a crime has been committed. If it is unclear what crime then that legal loophole needs to be closed but I think there is a good case to charge Blair under the Treason laws. On its own his making a promise he hasnt the authority to make isnt a big deal but in this case it shows motive. A wider problem is it shows up that Constitutionally Bush and Blair are not equals. In the US it is uneqivocal that the buck stops with the directly elected President who is head of state. In a Constitutional Monarchy it’s much less clear who is responsible for taking us to war. Constitutionally the PM is just ” first among equals” but he acts like he is directly elected etc

Comment from chris lamb
Time June 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Although I tend to agree with Chris May’s first point on the Chilcot Inquiry and the Bush/ Blair correspondence, I disagree with the second point.

If we look at the wording of the Commons Resolution of 18 March 2003 flagged up by Bob M;

“that in the 130 days since Resolution 1441 was adopted Iraq has not co-operated
actively, unconditionally and immediately with the weapons inspectors, and has
rejected the final opportunity to comply and is in further material breach of its
obligations under successive mandatory UN Security Council Resolutions.”

The Resolution usurps the powers uniquely given to the UN Security Council to determine these matters by the UN Charter.

The original usurpation was by Blair on 14-15 May 2003 when he gave written assurances to the Attorney General that Iraq had failed to comply with its treaty obligations; had rejected the final opportunity available to it to comply and thus was in material breach.

It was not within the power of Blair (or Bush) to make these declarations. The Commons Resolution even changed the wording of ‘serious consequences’ in SCR1441 to ‘all necessary means’- a recognized UN shorthand for authorizing military force. Neither the wording of the UN resolution or the Security Council itself had explicitly agreed to any such thing. (Ironically, the only thing the Security Council had overwhelmingly agreed upon explicitly about SCR1441 was that implicit authorization of military force- ‘automaticity’- should not be permitted).

In taking such powers upon himself Blair breached international treaty law and in importing this into a Commons Resolution made Parliament complicit in such a breach. As with any other three line Whip vote- notwithstanding that this one was given much greater precedence than the run of the mill- I assume the Labour Whips, by hook and by crook, ensured a majority party vote on the day.

This is why Blair’s personal commitment- and its timing- to the Bush administration position is so significant.

Comment from John Bone
Time June 9, 2014 at 11:37 am

I see that there was a John Rentoul blog post on 29th May called “George Bush’s gists and quotes” (though I didn’t know that gist could be plural). Some of the below-the-line commenters said that Blair couldn’t have given an open-ended commitment to Bush because he would still have had to get approval from parliament. Some of these comments were rather forceful, to say the least, and seemed to suggest that a belief that Blair had made an open-ended commitment to Bush was a sign of being deranged. A similar comment pops up here: so it must be a new talking-point.

I feel that it is a bit of a red herring. Firstly, Blair may well have judged that there was a section of parliament that would back him in making an open-ended commitment to Bush and even expected him to make such a commitment. Members of the Conservative Party and conservative commentators throughout 2002 made positive comments about standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the USA.

Secondly it isn’t really important whether Blair told Bush that he would have to get parliamentary approval. More important is whether Blair insisted that any action be necessary, doable and legal. So far there is little evidence that Blair did that as the idea of an invasion of Iraq emerged out of the vague rhetoric of the War on Terror in early 2002.

By the way: also on 29th May the Daily Mail had an article about Chilcot and those letters, to which was tagged on a Daily Mail comment. This said that “When the Chilcot inquiry was established in 2009, the public was promised it would finally reveal the unvarnished truth about how Tony Blair, in the face of overwhelming opposition, dragged Britain into the shameful Iraq War.” This is an interesting bit of spin: despite being part of that opposition, I wouldn’t say that it was overwhelming. My memory is that most of the political establishment was in favour of the invasion and the opposition mainly came from outside the political class, which makes it hard to measure. The Daily Mail didn’t seem to be part of that opposition nor did the Conservative Party. Blair didn’t face much opposition, except from a few of his backbenchers and people like me handing out leaflets at traffic-lights. It wasn’t just about Blair, so it will be interesting to see how Chilcot frames that issue and how the other guilty parties try to spin themselves out of the frame.

Comment from Chris May
Time June 9, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I see the presumed commitments Blair gave as a continuation of past practice, and a symptom of the lamentable style of centralised presidential sofa government. John Kampfner in his book ‘Blair’s Wars’ describes how the PM

‘led Britain into war in Afghanistan almost single-handedly. Between 1 1 September and the first missile strikes on 7 October he held only two meetings of his Cabinet. Both devoid of debate’.

Seeing the letters will not be revelatory. The issue is about whether Blair isolated cabinet from the policy and decision making process. The evidence from the two former Cabinet secretaries alone provide enough evidence to merit substantial criticism.

In reply to Chris Lamb on whether Blair had the right to declare that Iraq was in material breach, it may be the case that this was a flawed interpretation of UNSCR 1441, but it was the attorney general’s interpretation. Although one may criticise Blair’s apparent disinterest with the legal details he did not go against the advice. Whether the process which led up to that final advice was satisfactory and gave Lord Goldsmith adequate time and distance from the political/military engagements to finalise his research in a way that can be seen to be independent I believe is the question as it relates to the PM.

Comment from Peter Beswick
Time June 9, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Blair could not have duped Parliament without the help of others who knew what they were doing was dishonest; some went along with the lie out of loyalty, others career enhancement / security, some a twisted sense of duty, one or two just weak.

For Blair to give a cast iron guarantee of British support he had to be certain he could get the deception past Parliament. Blair succeeded by exploiting the flawed characters that he entrusted to his inner circle and kept Ministers he feared at a controllable distance.

When Chilcot reports it will be for Parliament to decide how they deal with being misled into sanctioning a disastrous war and how to deal with those that facilitated the deception.

The central lesson that Chilcot has to examine is how Parliament came to be misled and what safeguards are recommended to prevent it happening again.

But it is up to Parliament to put its House in order as Robert Marshall Andrews points out …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJGkXQ8zfwo

Comment from chris lamb
Time June 9, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Blair effectively declared Iraq in further material breach of its treaty obligations before Goldsmith fully changed his mind about the US revival argument interpretation of SCR1441. The UK was placed on a course for war when Blair, over 14-15 March 2003, provided a written assurance to the Attorney General that it was his view that Iraq was in further material breach. (At the same time, the military high command was assured that mobilizing for the invasion would be legal).

Goldsmith published his much shortened advice unequivocally backing the legality of the invasion on 17 March.

There is a strong argument that Goldsmith insisted on Blair giving a written assurance that this was his view because Goldsmith, at that juncture, was rattled that the UK could be taken before an international court as a consequence of it.

There was considerable political pressure on Goldsmith to firm up his backing of the US revival argument, not least because, by 17 March, the key Executive decisions committing the UK to the invasion had already been taken. Legally backtracking on this would have been very difficult and political suicide for Goldsmith.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/jun/30/chilcot-inquiry-lord-goldsmith-blair

Comment from Peter Beswick
Time June 10, 2014 at 9:01 am

Blair’s legacy just keeps going on and on

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/world/article/militants-seize-iraqs-second-largest-city-mosul?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

Comment from Peter Beswick
Time June 10, 2014 at 9:31 am

“The removal of Saddam remains a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies”
SIS4 briefing paper

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/52012/2001-12-03-Dearlove-Private-Secretary-to-Manning-letter-and-attachments.pdf

A Google news search for “Mosul” returns many reports of the Militants / Insurgents / Terrorists / Freedom Fighters and shows how well equipped they are.

Is Obama in danger of losing the heavily prized oil security gained by Bush?

I hope Chilcot comes up with some useful lessons soon or it could get very messy.

Comment from andrewsimon
Time June 10, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Chris May -

…on whether Blair had the right to declare that Iraq was in material breach, it may be the case that this was a flawed interpretation of UNSCR 1441, but it was the attorney general’s interpretation. Although one may criticise Blair’s apparent disinterest with the legal details he did not go against the advice.

Did Blair ever ask for specific legal advice as to whether he had the authority to determine that Iraq was indeed in further material breach? If he didn’t (and I’ve seen no evidence that he did) then he may have not completely understood (or deliberately ignored) the wider advice (mostly with respect to the revival of R.678) he was receiving from Goldsmith.

Goldsmith’s truncated and rather simplistically written final advice (with no mention of ‘proportionality’ as was in the earlier paper) of 17th March 2003 states at the final point that:

9. Resolution 1441 would in terms have provided that a further decision of the Security Council to sanction force was required if that had been intended. Thus, all that Resolution 1441 requires is reporting to and discussion by the Security Council of Iraq’s failures, but not an express further decision to authorise force.

Neither Blix nor ElBaradei made a report to the Security Council in respect of Para. 11 of R.1441:

11. Directs the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and the Director-General of the IAEA to report immediately to the Council any interference by Iraq with inspection activities, as well as any failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations, including its obligations regarding inspections under this resolution;

Nor did the Security Council ever convene to consider such a report:

12. Decides to convene immediately upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 above, in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council resolutions in order to secure international peace and security;

Para. 4 of R.1441 also states that any further material breach was to be reported to the Council:

4. Decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below;

Goldsmith’s above advice does not go into sufficient detail to explain to the casual reader (or Parliamentarian) that in either circumstance (Para. 4 or Para. 11) the report had to be made specifically with reference to R.1441 Para. 12.

Some of the later reporting that the Security Council received from Blix and ElBaradei (on 7 and 19 March 2003) was made with respect to R.1284, which established the mandate and procedural obligations for UNMOVIC. R.1441 did indeed call for UNMOVIC and the IAEA “to resume inspections no later than 45 days following adoption of this resolution and to update the Council 60 days thereafter”, but this was just a progress report, as was another briefing that took place some two weeks later. It cannot be claimed that any of this reporting was in response to Para. 12 of R.1441 – Blix himself makes this point on 9 January 2003:

“Should some inspection event call for an immediate report to the Council, I would, of course, ask permission to present it, as allowed for in paragraph 11 of resolution 1441 (2002).”

and:

“Evidently if we had found any ‘smoking gun’ we would have reported it to the Council. Similarly, if we had met a denial of access or other impediment to our inspections we would have reported it to the Council. We have not submitted any such reports.”

Similarly, Blix states in his 2004 book Disarming Iraq at P150 “…the Council could look to the inspectors for reporting any non-compliance immediately. However, on no occasion did UNMOVIC or the IAEA submit any special report to the Council.”

Therefore, Goldsmith’s final condition for this reporting of further material breach to be made to the Security Council (actually requiring further discussion therein) in order for R.1441 to be ‘active’ in regard to the (disputed) revival aspect of R.678 would have to have been made by a UN member state. As far as I can determine, this report was never made. Frankly, I cannot see how military action can be taken under the claimed authority of the final resolution when one of its key conditions does not appear to have been met.

(N.B. typo corrected in third paragraph – originally wrote 14th March which should have read 17th)

Comment from BobM
Time June 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

” Although one may criticise Blair’s apparent disinterest with the legal details he did not go against the advice.” [Chris May]

Further to AS’s comments, I believe that we also know that Jack Straw DID disregard the advice that he was getting from the international lawyers in the FCO.

Now, it is very hard to imagine that Straw, being the person he is, would have failed to ensure that No 10 was aware of the FCO advice.
And Blair, like Straw, is a lawyer.

All things considered, CM’s formulation doesn’t wash. But how far will Chilcot address this?

He has to address what the cabinet was[n't] told. And if Straw [and Hoon?] were sitting on their hands during cabinet, in the knowledge that Blair’s presentation of the case was materially misleading, it’s not just Blair that should be feeling the heat.

Comment from John Bone
Time June 10, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Blair did go against the advice of the AG at the end of January 2003, when he made commitments to Bush during a visit to the USA.


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