Live Blog – 27 January 2010

Wednesday 27 January 2010


(There were two evidence sessions today, scheduled for 10:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 17:00.)

Topic: (The inquiry now only lists witnesses by relevant role, rather than by topic area.)

Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith QC, Attorney General, June 2001 – June 2007
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This afternoon’s hearing, as it happened


Today’s only witness is the Lord Peter Goldsmith QC, Attorney General, June 2001 – June 2007.

7 March 03 Advice; 17 March 03 advice

17.00 End of session. I cannot sum all that up right now but please do comment.

16.58 Goldsmith says until today he has kept his own counsel but today has had opportunity to go through it with a tribunal that has access to documents. Does not comment on policy but did conclude that the war would be legal and stands by that view. It was an independent view, consistent with his approach as a lawyer.

16.57 On lessons learned. 1) Is the UN structure as effective as it should be to deal with critical issues of peace/security/human rights. 2) degree of formality and discipline, perhaps a war cabinet sub-committee a good idea 3) perhaps better legal planning would have been a good idea.

16.54 Lyne says that others may have red lines. Goldsmith doesn’t agree with this point, still. Freedman says that FCO lawyers were ultimately not convinced. Goldsmith says he knew views of Wood and Wilmshurst. Doesn’t know position of others. Accepts a difficult issue. Keeps going back to ability of SC members not to sign up.

16.50 Freedman goes back to Goldsmith’s view that SC members should not have voted for 1441 if they did not like it. Points out that for some time after 1441 Goldsmith thought 2nd resolution but only changed view after discussions with key players. those explanations are not available to others. Is it not reasonable for others to stick to view that you held? Goldsmith says other SC members had opportunity to say no. Also, the principle point is that what negotiations demonstrate is that central issue is whether there was going to be a decision or not. The wording does not say that there is going to be decision. Freedman points out that Goldsmith already took a different view. Goldsmith goes back to red lines. Freedman refers to laws of unintended consequences. Not inconceivable that red lines might be breached? Goldsmith says unlikely that US would do this.

16.48 Chilcot refers to report of Dutch inquiry. SC resolutions did not provide a mandate. 1441 cannot be interpreted as giving authority to member states. Would that change your judgement? No, this will continue to be an issue of intense debate. Saw a translation. Not persuaded. Appeared to doubt revival argument. Did not pay enough attention to context. Did not see different meanings of automaticity.

16.46 Chilcot asks if he ever thought it might be too difficult to give advice that would be acceptable. Goldsmith says he only sought to give correct advice. Chilcot says what if your advice is ignored. Goldsmith says that would lead to a constitutional crisis.

16.44 Chilcot asks Goldsmith to explain difference between better view and safest course? Safest course is to go for 2nd resolution. In absence of this have to take view (better view) on lawful or not lawful.

16.43 Chilcot asks if a process like the 17 March cabinet discussion allows cabinet ministers to have a collective understanding… Goldsmith says he has seen the suggestion for a war cabinet… would have been a good idea.

16.42 Chilcot asks if it is fair that Goldsmith was discouraged from giving formal advice? Goldsmith has some sympathy with view that you don’t ask AG advice until you need it… fudges answer.

16.40 Chilcot asks about timeliness. How do you fold in in a timely way the legal advice. In general, what is your judgement? In the event, that did happen. Two occasions I offered a view that wasn’t being asked for. Another issue is advice on UN resolutions.

16.39 Would difficulties have been ironed out earlier if issues had been addressed earlier? My experience is that civil servants and military people get there eventually.

16.38 Prashar brings up reason for war to disarm Iraq? Discussion of role of Iraq Survey Group. New UN resolution set out what occupying forces could do. Issue of allowing Iraqis self-government.

16.34 Prashar asks about views on involvement of DFID and involvement of MoD/human rights issues. Discussion of role of DFID and role of soldiers in dealing with detainees. Fundamentally my advice was that obligations on proper treatment in European convention did apply. Subsequently gave permission for prosecutions. Arose where methods outlawed by Heath govt were being used. Surprised. Prosecution authorised. Did not get to bottom of who had authorised methods.

16.30 Prashar asks when he was first asked about duties and responsibilities of occupying powers? After intervention. Agrees rather late in the day. Main issue I was asked about was need for further UN resolution. Advice that was needed was taken. Reference to Short resignation.

16.28 Gilbert says that in April Goldsmith looked again at targeting and presented conclusions to cabinet? What were your conclusions? Don’t recall that. I was a member of the ‘war cabinet’. There was a planned attack on a city and I was unhappy and blocked it. Not happy about military justification vs risk of civilian casualties. I blocked it.

16.25 Gilbert asks about a Feb 03 briefing on military objectives. What was the nature of that briefing? Goldsmith explains briefing, mainly about targeting.

16.24 Prashar refers to a statement that the 17 March advice was/wasn’t a summary. Was it consistent?

That was a very unsatisfactory exchange. There is a written account that says that Goldsmith agreed on Straw’s advice not to tell the cabinet that “the legal issues were finely balanced”. Goldsmith simply denied this.

16.22 Prashar refers to Short’s complaint about breach of ministerial code. Goldsmith dismisses this by saying it is a different issue. Prashar asks if the Cabinet ever had a full discussion of the legality in the light of his caveated advice. Goldsmith says he does not strictly agree with this word caveated.

16.21 Prashar: why did the Cabinet not take the opportunity to discuss the finely balanced arguments? You are asking why there wasn’t more of a debate? There were ministers there who had seen the opinion of 7 March. They didn’t want to debate it. I can understand… it would have been a slightly sterile exercise.

16.15 Prashar asks about the record of Goldsmith’s discussion with Straw on 13 March. Goldsmith thought he might tell the Cabinet that it was “finely balanced”. Is that your recollection? It isn’t. No question of distributing FAC memo. Prashar says significant point is that you wanted to tell the Cabinet. Goldsmith denies this. I came to Cabinet ready to answer any questions that were put to me and to explain my advice. My answer to parliament was a good framework. I was ready to discuss. What happened was I started to go through the PQ. Someone said we can read it. There was a question that was then put. I do recall telling cabinet there is another point of view but this is the view that I have reached. The discussion at Cabinet then stopped.

Chris Ames back on the blog

(Last break)

16.04 LG – If there had been a sea change i.e. Saddam into exile things would have been different. LF – re FO document (15 March). LG – Was drawn up in my office. Factual issues for the Foreign Secretary. Understood this to be accurate. LF talks of final opportunity. LG – PM’s letter was not a legal requirement. Had it orally already but was confirmed in writing.

15.57 LF – material breach? Did you see UN document (cluster doc)? LG – Yes. Political judgment about time for compliance. LF – why this time? LG – Not a question for a lawyer.

15.52 RL – No-one limited your assessment to cabinet LG – No. RL – Morgan and Falconer influence? Goldsmith absolutely denies this. Informed them of the conclusion that had been made.

15.48 RL – Meeting with Foreign Secretary – purpose? LG – Planning. A risk of being taken to court if we go. Discussed developing the arguments. Can’t remember when notified about Cabinet meeting, but this was only the second ever appearance there.

15.44 RL – Meeting with Christopher Greenwood – was he the only one taking the view of Govt? LG – he was a strong and capable advocate for our position. The idea emerged that could argue the case in court if required (+ two others).

15.39 RL – Political consequences for moving without mandate? LG – Responsibilities of/for UK as a country and for those involved – those weighted with me.

15.36 LG – I reached a better view that it was lawful. RL – unlikely that SC would make a decision? LG – Yes. RL – How important 11 March Downing St meeting? LG – Not at all. CDS was present. RL – Did PM request a view? Lg – No – I don’t recall it that way.

15.31 RL – focus on change of position 7-17 March. Discussion on 13 March. Clear view was better view on revival. LG – Becoming clear that 2nd res was not likely – was presented with MoD letter stating view of CDS calling for yes or no answer. Visit from treasury solicitor – on behalf of Cabinet secretary on behalf of civil service. Saw this as reasonable approach/request.

15.26 MG – did you discuss this with PM. Yes.

15.25 MG – potential cases? LF – could have happened before or after action took place. MF – ICC? LG – An important issue. No case of aggression because no definition exists and it won’t be retrospective.

15.22 Back. MG – Risks and consequences. What were the risks of acting without specific authorisation? LG – deals with lawful action. Differences between FCO and MoD. MG – crime of aggression? LG – Issue as far as commanders were concerned. Dealt with in 7 March minute.

(Andrew Mason taking over blog again)

15.02 “Ten minute break” till quarter past.

15.00 Freedman summarises what he is saying on 7 March as pointing out to PM that he needs to be sure of reasonable breach/failure and also that it is controversial. Goldsmith says he didn’t need a declaration but was warning Blair that he needed to think, especially as it was controversial. Refers to reference anticipating failure to get resolution.

14.58 Freedman is struggling with the change without new information. Goldsmith says it was a different question; he would have liked to know before 7 March that the armed forces want more than a reasonable case. Freedman says that reasonable case is defined in 7 March as being watertight. Goldsmith says that is him explaining the yes, but.

14.53 Freedman brings up Goldsmith’s reference to reasonably arguable. Goldsmith says he was drawing a distinction between this and coming to a view on one side or the other. Freedman says is it a bit unnerving to have as little as this. Goldsmith agrees and says that is why he saw the armed forces’ need for a clear view. I concede that with hindsight I was being overly cautious in expressing it in this view. Freedman: overly cautious in expressing it in this way? Subsequently I saw that the armed forces deserved more than my saying there was a reasonable case and it was important for me to come down on one side or the other. Freedman says how does it suddenly become a stronger case? Goldsmith says it is about the judgement that you make. Freedman says you might be cautious in another direction, that you might need more than a reasonable case.

14.50 Freedman says the consequence is that material breach is determined by UK govt. Goldsmith disagrees. Pre-determined. If there was a failure that would be a material breach. Freedman says what is the need for the PM to decide? Goldsmith says he did not know what the facts were, also he wanted PM to focus on whether there was a failure. Freedman says this is the client confirming his own facts? Goldsmith says if there was a sea change and the PM had changed his view, that would have been a serious matter.

14.48 Freedman refers to Goldsmith 7 March 03 comment that views of UNMOVIC is important. Discussion of clusters document. Could have been a reference to February presentation by Blix and ElBaradei. Goldsmith is saying that he did not really have information on this.

14.45 Freedman asks about intelligence briefing in February. Scarlett and others gave me a briefing focused on issue of compliance. Was told that SH had not complied. Non co-operation, intimidation of interviewees, evidence both humint and sigint of dispersal and concealment of wmd. How weighty was this? I didn’t have resources to evaluate intelligence of that sort. I was dependent on government. That is why I particularly wanted to be sure that the PM was of the view that there had been a failure. Freedman says you couldn’t say the facts spoke for themselves? Goldsmith says the facts would speak for themselves but what were they?

14.40 Freedman is asking Goldsmith to go through his reasons in 7 March advice for saying a second resolution was needed. Goldsmith is reluctant to do this. He seems reluctant to discuss the strength of the case that pointed “the other way”.

14.38 Goldsmith refers to a telegram saying what advice Chirac was given. It is in the files…

14.36 Freedman points out that Blair met Chirac at this time, which may have been an opportunity to ask Chirac’s view. Goldsmith says he couldn’t possibly ask him. Freedman says nevertheless Blair may have wanted to speak to Chirac about working together on what a 2nd resolution might look like.

14.35 Freedman points out that in his 7 March advice Goldsmith said there was “very little hard evidence” of the French view. Goldsmith says you have to look at what the resolution says.

14.29 Now looking at Goldsmith’s 7 March 03 advice. Further discussion of material breach and how it is decided. Can Iraq get out of material breach? Goldsmith says the whole point of 1441 was to allow this. Says legality is a necessary but not sufficient condition for war.

14.25 Freedman is asking about proportionality and the risk (as seen by eg the French) that the US might take a minor breach as justifying full scale war. Goldsmith says they shouldn’t have agreed 1441. Freedman says that the French might say this is why an “assessment” is needed. Discussion of what is meant by “for assessment”. Goldsmith says having considered the situation the SC may take various courses of action at which point it came down to what was in the resolution.

14.16 discussion of proving a material breach in the absence of a smoking gun. Discussion of “serious consequences”. Goldsmith says it is the same thing as “all necessary means”, the usual phrase for justifying military action. Freedman is sceptical.

14.14 Freedman is asking what amounts to a material breach. Goldsmith talks about the need for active Iraqi compliance. Doesn’t think non co-operation is needed beyond inaccurate declaration.

14.12 Looking at 1441, Freedman asks if there are gradations of material breach? Of course there are more severe ones but the language means of such a character that the party can treat that as a ground for terminating or suspending a treaty, in this case a ceasefire.

14.05 Goldsmith is taking the Inquiry through his understanding of 1441. Comparing it with the 1998 resolution 1205, Goldsmith says 1441 was stronger. Discussion of Wilmshurst’s doubts about revival argument.

14.02 Goldsmith is explaining what happened after he returned from the US and came to the view that there was a reasonable case for backing the war, albeit the safest course…. On 27 February 03, he had a meeting with Blair’s officials. I had given them the green light, if you will. I was then asked to give written advice.
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Archived Comments


By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 3:12pm

What was the reference to the clusters document at 14.48? This was a draft document that the inspectors were working on in March 2003 as a basis for their work programme if inspections had continued. Is Goldsmith saying that this draft document, drawn up for another purpose, is the evidence for saying that Iraq was in material breach?

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 5:01pm

Chilcot was so splendidly accommodating and helpful to Goldsmith, to the point of actually suggesting answers to his questions, that I am surprised he didn’t go the full distance and offer to change Goldsmith’s nappy.

This is the spirit we expect of Britain; all the chaps giving unstinting support to one another off and on the field ! I suggest that when the enquiry ends, Chilcot open a dating agency.

By Tony Simpson

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 5:01pm

“The resolution [1441] strengthens the role and authority of the Security Council. That was the main and constant objective in our request for a “two-stage approach” to be established and adopted so as to ensure that the Security Council maintains CONTROL of the process at each stage.”

Statement by Ambassador Jean-David Levitte of France, 8 November 2002

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 6:13pm

Lord Goldsmith’s Testimony was a Morality Tale for Us All:

There was the dastardly charge that Lord Falconer pinned Goldsmith against the wall and insisted he give Blair what he wanted.

Goldsmith had a choice today. Do I tell the truth or do I hold the moral high ground. He did the latter, describing the charge that he was pinned against the wall and made to change his position by Lord Falkner and a lady whose name I forget and doesn’t matter.

Lord Falconer dismissed this as absolute nonsense, and folks, I believe he is telling the truth. The reason, which Goldsmith explained perfectly clearly, for his change in position, was a trip to Washington DC, where he consulted with the lawyers of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld administration, the guys who brought you Abu Ghraib, Guantanemo, and legalised water-boarding. These are the nice folks who changed Goldsmith’s mind, and we should be indebted to him for making this revelation in public at Chilcot today.

Lord Goldsmith, bring it on !!!

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 6:37pm

There were a few comments this morning (on the Lamentable process thread) about how the UK government came to decide that Iraq was in material breach of UN resolutions. As far as I could understand from Goldsmith today, Goldsmith didn’t even ask Blair to justify the assumption that there was a material breach and the Cabinet didn’t discuss it. So was this another thing that was just assumed by the UK Government, like it being an established fact that Iraq had WMD? Was this decided by Blair on his own without anything being put on paper?

Goldsmith appeared to mention the “clusters document”, a draft document that the inspectors were working on as a work plan for the next stage of inspections. Is this document really going to be the basis of the case that there was a material breach?

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 6:55pm

John: good points, and predictably dodged by the Chilcot Nappy-Changers

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 7:00pm

Can you imagine that the French seriously traded a bar on America invading with no further UN consideration, for (as Goldsmith asserted), a French desire to have nothing more than a Security Council chat with no powers or consequences. In any serious enquiry, there would have been shrieks of laughter at this claim made by Goldsmith. But, in keeping with their whitewash mandate, the Chilcot collective rolled over for their stomachs to be tickled. In terms of voluntary castration, this day represents the high point.

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 7:51pm

The lawyers who changed Goldsmith’s mind were, of course, speaking on behalf of an administration that hadn’t wanted any UN involvement in the Iraq issue in the first place, and that had just published the highly-contested doctrine of preemptive self-defense. The US administration had originally justified an invasion of Iraq on the basis of speculative concerns about what Iraq might do in future, a position that no other state would support and with which no international lawyers could agree. The UK was supposed to be keeping the Americans on the UN route but then allowed the Americans to decide what the UN route was. Priceless!

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/28 at 12:34am

If I remember rightly, there was a bit of public kite-flying by Ministers in early January 2003 about not needing a second resolution. There was then radio-silence on this issue and Blair said he was going to work for the second resolution. Apparently Goldsmith wrote his first paper in January 2003 saying that a second resolution was needed: was it this paper that persuaded Blair that he would have to try and get another resolution?

Did perhaps Blair then find out that it wasn’t going to be so easy? Did he perhaps find out that the swing six weren’t such swingers after all? Is this what led to Goldsmith being taken to the USA to get a one-sided view of the context of the negotiations around 1441? If it was clear from the beginning that a second resolution wasn’t needed, it is odd that Blair tried to get one; but maybe Goldsmith’s first advice in January made it clear how important it was.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/28 at 9:21am

I have to conclude that Goldsmith is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. He actually admitted that the main reason for finding the legal interpretation he did, was because of the failure to get a second resolution. Given that more most of the time, Goldsmith was saying a second resolution was essential (not just desirable as he tried to pretend to Chilcot), he laid bare for all of us to see that he is a political shill, despite all the pretend behaviour that he is simply a lawyer. For those who are passionately supportive of Blair, like my good friend Stan, Goldsmith will be seen as having brought off a decent, albeit somewhat embarrassing performance. For the rest of us, we saw one of Blair’s hollow men.

By barb bishop

Submitted on 2010/01/28 at 6:12pm

Lee Roberts

“Given that more most of the time, Goldsmith was saying a second resolution was essential (not just desirable as he tried to pretend to Chilcot)”

Can you please post up from the transcript where Goldsmith says the 2nd resolution was “essential”?

– can you please quote from the evidence where “

By barb bishop

Submitted on 2010/01/28 at 6:41pm

Lee Roberts:

“French seriously traded a bar on America invading with no further UN consideration, for (as Goldsmith asserted), a French desire to have nothing more than a Security Council chat with no powers or consequences”?

Alas, that’s exactly what the French DID agree to when it voted for the words:

“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;

“Consider the situation” i.e. an SC chat without powers or consequences! If the resolution had used the verb “decide” then everything would have been different.

That was the whole problem with 1441!

It’s interesting to think of the scenario for the UK if the French had insisted on the verb “decide” and threatened to veto if it did not. The US would not have agreed, so there would have been no resolution. In that situation, the UK may not have had a legal protection for military action

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 4:22am

Barb:

10.41 Summarises pre-1441. No argument on self-defence, humanitarian crisis. On UN authority agreed in principle with revival argument but needed new UN resolution.

It is clearly ridiculous to imagine that the Security Council could convene and not decide that it wished to make clear its opposition to any attack on Iraq. You give me evidence that a past resolution prevents a future SC meeting from adopting a new resolution. Goldsmith wants you to think that is possible, but it obviously isnt. It could have considered abandoning or amending 1441.
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This morning’s hearing, as it happened


Today’s only witness is the Lord Peter Goldsmith QC, Attorney General, June 2001 – June 2007.

The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow is also blogging live, and the Telegraph has just published Lord Goldsmith: the questions he will face at Iraq inquiry.

The headline so far is that both Goldsmith and Chilcot have expressed “frustration” at the government’s refusal to allow documents to be declassified/published. Goldsmith has said explicitly that he does not agree with this refusal. It also strikes me that Goldsmith has revealed exactly how dependent he was on the US, with whom the UK was working closely, to tell him the position of the French, with whom a diplomatic standoff was happening. Surely he must recognise that this biased the information that he was given about 1441?

13.04 Lunch break. Back at 2pm

13.03 Agrees that Greenstock didn’t get him there but combined with US view it had. Hard to believe that US had stumbled into a resolution that breached their red lines. Lyne points out that the US may have done this because it was not as concerned as the UK about the resolution? Goldsmith says a red line was a red line. Lyne says the Chirac would say he had achieved a different red line.

13.00 Lyne returns to Goldsmith’s return to London 11 Feb. Did you make a change to draft advice the next day? Yes, with assistance of official who came to Washington. We had seen Straw’s letter. Agreed reasonable case. It was suggested that it was sufficient to say what a reasonable case was. I wasn’t comfortable, preferred to examine what was a “better view”. But said there was a reasonable case. But safer to get a new resolution.

12.55 Lyne says if you look at discussions… I would interpret that as debates at SC private and public. You can take account of that because it is held in front of other people. But US discussions with French are not held in front of other people. Tries to park this point. Goldsmith says he tried to find out as much as possible about what was said but the issue is the relative weight placed. Lyne asks if he was aware of any point where the French conceded that they had lost. Sir Jeremy said it was apparent.

12.52 Lyne asks what a court would give greater weight to? I used a test which is to say “which side of the argument would you prefer to be on?” I would have preferred to be on the side that said a second resolution. Quotes from ICJ authority on interpreting UN resolutions. Lyne is trying to work out how much weight the negotiating record can bear. Quotes Wood yesterday “very little weight”. Combined with what was said on record, weight comes down as requiring the SC to decide? Goldsmith disagrees with this. Doesn’t grapple with OP12.

12.48 Lyne asks whether Goldsmith asked the French? I plainly couldn’t do that? Could you not have had a private communication or discuss it through diplomatic channels? This was a hugely sensitive area. The US and UK were acting closely together… but not with the French. Lyne sums up “so as you were formulating your advice, you have accounts from Greenstock and US about conversations with French without contemporaneous records and public statements pointing in a different direction? Goldsmith says he also had a letter from Straw (possibly not declassified). Did not have signed statement and we were dependent on their view but you have to interpret in context… look at resolution. “consider” not decide.

12.47 Lyne says that the UK also gave ground. Goldsmith again disagrees. By the time the resolution is concluded, there are a lot of clear indicators of use of force.

12.42 Lyne asks about Goldsmith’s trip to US in early 2003. Spoke to State dept, legal adviser to NSC, president’s council, Rice, Powell, DoD, Ashcroft. Lyne asks if they spoke with one voice? Absolutely one voice on this issue. Detailed textual questions but on one point they were clear – did they concede a veto? They were confident that they had not. Lyne asks what evidence there was? “I wish that they had given me more.” Lyne points out that he was only given the view of one party, they couldn’t give your clear evidence – you had to take their word for it? Yes but I had known in October that the need or not for a 2nd resolution was the key issue between US and France. Not a peripheral matter. When you go back and look at the resolution… OP12 says ultimately “can they really have made a mess of this, used this expression except very very deliberately?”

12.40 Lyne asks if Cook and Short ever shared their views with him? No.

12.39 Chris Ames back on the blog. Sorry but we had another crash. There has been a discussion about the late delivery of the advice and more recently Freedman has asked why Goldsmith was not involved in negotiating 1441.

12.20 Baroness Prashar – FCO (Wood) views? LG – I knew his and EW’s views. Confirms his view at that time, 2nd res necessary. Straws view.

12.19 Back. RL – outcome of meeting with Greenstock – did you report to PM? LG – PM was going to see Bush in January. Informed PM that provisional view was 2nd res was required.
RL – revival? LG – in principal.

(Another 10 min break)

12.06 Discussion about French position. LG – US/UK didn’t believe they needed 1441. Only negotiating position was that they mustn’t concede the need for a second resolution. Lyne hears Big Ben. Goldsmith makes last point about the requirement for a further material breach.

12.01 RL – quotes 687 re “all necessary means”. We couldn’t get this into 1441? LG – negotiators did not concede that they couldn’t get authority for action into 1441. Claims SC understood that the revival argument was contained in 1441.

11.56 LG – Greenstock believed 2nd resolution was not now necessary. There would not now have to be a decision (by SC). RL – explanation of votes? LG – The position was hinged on two or three words (discussion vs discussion). Claims that French stated to the US that they could “go” without 2nd resolution.

11.50 RL – Who else received advise at that stage? LG – Not Greenstock. Foreign Secretary was involved at this stage. Moving to meeting Greenstock 23 January. To get his views on textual arguments to get clarity. RL – F/R/C wanted provision for SC to make decision. LG – Greenstock stated that these countries “had lost” i.e. conceded the discussion.

11.44 RL – When did you give PM first advice? LG – Preliminary until February. Met PMs advisers 27th. At that stage advise was that 2nd resolution was not essential. Had short discussion with PM – he accepted that Goldsmith had to make the judgement.

11.40 RL – Why Powell and not Wood? LG – Needed to understand what was meant by “for assessment”. Not requested for formal advise, was to inform PM. Refers to PM as ‘client’. RL – timescale for advise? LG – you need to ask Tony Blair. Not in position to provide final advice at that time as research etc was not completed.

11.34 LG – Joke re final straw? (Laughter) Sorry. Not optimistic that 2nd resolution was not required. RL – docs not available – can’t go further. RL – Meetings in December re advice? LG – Detailed letter from FCO setting out both arguments but not deciding. Both plausible and reasoned. Covering note prepared. Conversation with Powell followed re OP 4. Result was draft advice was required.

11.27 LG – It was agreed that I would be formally asked for advise when it mattered. RL – Did you reiterate that only the SC could authorise force? That is so. Back to 1441 OP’s. Any failure would constitute a further material breach. Qns are whether there is a breach and the character of that breach.

11.22 Back after break. RL resumes. Moving to development of views after 1441 passed leading to advice to PM. Concerns about your own views? Where were ‘Chinese’ whispers coming from. LG – no idea. Response (No 10?) was that I was being understood.

(Andrew Mason taking over the blog for this next session)

11.06 Ten minute break

11.03 Lyne asks whether the way 1441 had come out presented UK with a difficult decision re seeking a second resolution? Goldsmith agrees. From legal point of view, safer, beyond doubt. From political point of view would have been good too. That’s what I understand Greenstock to mean re “legitimacy”. Lyne asks: from this state from a legal view second resolution was safest course? Agreed. Substantial difference with US – did you express concern? Goldsmith says he had to consider meaning of 1441. Agrees that my provisional view was there was not enough there. Subsequently I reached a different view…

11.01 Discussion of whether lack of clarity of 1441 means that it had or had not been decided. Goldsmith says French thought second resolution not needed. Had private lunch with French ambassador. Goldsmith asserts very strongly that 1441 did settle matters, even if it was unclear at the time.

10.56 Lyne refers to many levels of ambiguity. A lot left unclear? Goldsmith says difficulty was that it was not crystal clear.
Read Greenstock as a subtle way of saying that UK agrees with US. Lyne says it could be read the other way. Goldsmith says this is diplomatic language. Words carefully chosen. what is unspoken is what happens if they don’t.

10.55 Lyne refers to US explanation of vote as seeing resolution of not requiring new resolution. France had opposite view. UK explanation of vote, described by Wood as subtle, accurate and misleading. Goldsmith does not think this is misleading. Plainly two distinct issues going on in discussions. One was a concern that if UN passed resolution saying material breach “fighter planes could go in the following day”. Firebreak was put in on one last opportunity to comply. Lyne asks if “automaticity” could be interpreted otherwise, ie about what might happen in future? Goldsmith says “automaticity” has been interpreted by external observers in this way. Chinese, French etc never said “and the council must decide”.

10.48 Lyne asks about OP12 of 1441. UN SC required to convene and consider situation. Debate about meaning afterwards and explanations of vote. Goldsmith explains how he works. A document like this is not clear. Disagrees with Wood’s view that it was clear. Explanations of vote was important as was whole document.

10.43 Chilcot asks about relations with FCO legal advisers and then whether the AG should be asked about the potential effects of UN resolutions as they are being negotiated. No real answer. Chilcot asks if 1441 was a special case by trying to do two things and look forward into the future. Should this have come under your eye? Agrees special case. Waffle. In the context of 1441 did these arrangements ask sufficiently well? I’m not sure… waffle about 1441… if time had permitted, perhaps with hindsight it would have been desirable if I had been asked to be more involved in the detail. An evasion that shows how he is going to play it.

10.41 Summarises pre-1441. No argument on self-defence, humanitarian crisis. On UN authority agreed in principle with revival argument but needed new UN resolution.

10.40 On 7 November met Straw. Was this to make clear that it should be taken for granted that “it would be alright on the night”? To make clear that legal action would not be approved.

10.36 Met Blair 22 October. Were you anxious to give him your advice? Not much more to say. Was giving a bit of guidance. What was the purpose of the meeting? I think we had not met since July. I think he/officials called the meeting. There were two other issues. One was regime change. the other was Kosovo precedent. A view was taken that we ignored veto on that occasion, can we do it again? Goldsmith said no.

10.34 Prashar asks if things troubled him. My job was to give accurate legal advice. May have had private concerns but my job was to reach a correct legal view. Had concerns about public statements later. Not easy for ministers because they wanted SH to realise there was a credible threat. Prashar asks if Goldsmith was invited to meetings, to put advice in writing? Not aware what meetings happened. Not encouraged to put advice in writing. There came a time when it was agreed that I would. Were you wanting to? No, I don’t think I did need to. Had been clear in July.

10.32 Phoned Straw 18 October? Negotiations taking place, draft resolutions passed around. Copied to my office,not with request to advise, “slightly unsatisfactory”. Concerned to tell Straw that present draft unlikely to be enough. Did change, eg last opportunity reference and OP4.

10.30 Meeting with Manning and Morgan on 14 Oct 02. What does UN need to do to authorise military action/make credible threat of use of force. Explained that new resolution needed to make breach clear; force needed to be proportionate; regime change not basis for use of force in itself.

10.26 Discussion of July Meeting. Prashar asks if he was satisfied that Blair took legal issues seriously. Goldsmith goes back to revival argument. Could not rely on earlier judgement re breach. I spoke shortly at meeting. Followed up with written advice of my own volition. Knew Blair going to see Bush. Knew Iraq would be discussed. Didn’t want to be doubt that Blair could agree with Bush that he could go without UN. Did not think welcome. May have been contributing factor to Blair persuading Bush to go to the UN. Doesn’t know why advice was not welcome. Doesn’t know. Says that the Mail one page letter does not exist. Advice was not as described.

10.24 Meeting on 22 May 02 with Will Taft legal adviser at US State Dept. Did not feel ready to have discussion on legal justification for attack on Iraq. Aware that we had difference of view on revival, who makes judgement on breach.

10.22 Discussion of Goldsmith letter to Hoon following Dimbleby interview. Expressing views with too much clarity. I hadn’t been asked to advise. I was unhappy.

Goldsmith has just said he does not agree with refusal to declassify certain documents. Chilcot says he shares “frustration”.

10.20 Prashar asks if Goldsmith was aware of discussions across Whitehall in first half of 2002? Not really. Could see from press what Bush was saying. Prashar presses him on discussions. Not part of them. I did not attend cabinet. Was term “regime change” used? I didn’t see it, except publicly. Not asked to provide advice on military action.

10.18 Freedman asks about “fusion argument” re wmd going from Iraq to Al Qaeda? Might be part of policy argument. Never seemed to justify self-defence.

10.14 Freedman asks about Sept 02 briefing. Goldsmith did not know about dossier until it was presented. Briefing took place in context of previous assessment July where he had not assessed that there was a self-defence argument. Explains anticipatory self-defence. In summer 2002 press coverage of new doctrine of pre-emption. Decided to find what degree of threat was re UK understanding of anticipatory self-defence. Asked to be briefed. Saw Scarlett. He took us through the state of their knowledge wmd, CBW nuclear. Their position was that CBW existed but would not be used first. Might be used in response to attack, on own people, Israel. As far as nuclear was concerned, quite a long way around. My judgement was not evidence of imminent threat.

10.13 Freedman asks how well Goldsmith was being briefed on intel re Iraqi wmd? He did have briefings but not JIC as a matter of course. Had to press for this. Briefing from Scarlett Sept 02 and another Feb 03 and another one shortly before invasion.

10.10 Turning to legal authority to use force in Iraq pre-1441. Is it right that predecessors thought that a breach of ceasefire could revive authority to use force? Yes, if material breach. Stuck to the view that it was for the UN to decide if there was a material breach.

10.04 Gilbert opens with questions about the No Fly Zones before Goldsmith became AG in 2001 and subsequently. Goldsmith agreed that there was a “reasonable case” that they were legal. Discussed details of targeting.

10.01 Sir John explains that the main issue is the legal basis for the war and the process by which the advice was provided. No mention of newly declassified documents.
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Archived Comments


By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 12:58pm

I dragged myself through Goldsmith’s testimony so far, and all I can say is that this man is an incorrigible wimp and a f***ing useless lawyer. Doesn’t he know that heresay evidence is inadmissible ? He announces that the French believed they had lost and as a result of that no additional security council decision was needed. What is the basis for this rubbish conclusion ? Someone told him the French believed they had lost, and he had seen something in a telegram, and therefore because they believed they had lost, they had lost (utterly amazing !!), and Blair could attack Iraq with no further UN resolution. It gets worse. After hard negotiations, in which the US and UK have to drop their right to use force without going back to the Security Council, what do the French insist on in return ?? Just a chat. Isn’t that typically French. You desperately want to prevent Bush invading Iraq, but all you ask for in return is a meeting, and a meeting that isn’t allowed to take any decisions. Believe that and you will believe that Goldsmith has testes. There is no evidence for either.

The questioning was so tame that if no further evidence is needed that this is a whitewash. Is this the level of competence that can make it to high office ? Even I am shocked, and it takes a lot to shock me.

I pondered long and hard as to whether to print my full opinion if Goldsmith, and decided that it would be so grossly obscene as to be better stated by Private Eye. I look forward to their next edition.

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/27 at 2:02pm

Is that it? Is that Goldsmith’s explanation for his U-turn in interpreting UNSCR 1441? He appears to be doing no more than confirming what his critics have said in the past, that he was taken to see the Americans and caved in. I had expected a bit more rigour.

“Getting the Americans to go down the UN route” meant no more than getting a UN resolution and then interpreting it the way the Americans wanted.

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