Live Blog – 2 February 2010

Tuesday 2 February 2010

(There were three evidence sessions today, although we only blogged the first one, scheduled for 10:00 – 13:00.)

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

Clare Short MP, International Development Secretary, 2001 – 2003

This morning’s hearing, as it happened

This morning’s witness was Clare Short MP, International Development Secretary, 1997–2003.

The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow also blogged the hearing live.

Key quote of the morning: “Why exclude me when I believed what they said the policy was?”

12.50 The session ends with a big round of applause – presumably for Short.

12.48 Lessons learned?

1) Whitehall system needs to involve DFID
2) Machinery of government broken down badly but when you add secrecy and deceit…
3) Role of AG completely unsafe
4) Special relationship – we need serious debate about what we mean.

12.47 Freedman asks about role of UN? Kofi did not want to run post-war Iraq. Question of sovereignty and occupying powers – that’s not running it. Would have taken on proper role but that wasn’t on offer.

12.44 Was it realistic to expect progress at this time to a Palestinian state? Blair sincerely wants peace but incapable of using massive leverage that he has in his hands. I think he was absolutely sincere in thinking Iraq was the right thing, albeit deceitful.

12.42 Freedman – further discussion of post-war, and resources.

12.38 Lyne says we have heard witnesses saying that prolonging the inspections was allowing SH to jerk our string? Disputes this. Lyne asks if she is sure that more time would have achieved SC unity? No. But no need to rush. Scared of Blix being successful. Started smearing him. Dreadful.

12.37 Lyne says there is a real point that you could not leave the troops there indefinitely? They were not ready.

12.35 Says they were briefing against Blix. Terrified of success.

12.34 Lyne refers to the French “any circumstances”? This was one of the big deceptions.

12.23 Chilcot asks about resignation and claim in her letter that negotiations on 1483 were secret. She must have known it was being discussed? yes but she did not know the negotiations. Break of faith. it was feeble. Chilcot suggests that Blair might have been fobbed off by Bush? We had given away leverage but he wouldn’t talk to me. Chilcot asks if he had done that, would you have stayed? Don’t know.

12.19 Discussion of “shambles” of ORHA. Gilbert asks what was the relationship with the military? Being frozen out affected my relationship with Boyce. My reports at war cabinet of chaos in Basra annoyed him. Disputes that DFID were in their tents etc. A very good organisation. Cannot work if there is disorder. We didn’t sulk. The situation was too serious. The chaos had its consequences. The UK military should have said to Blair, we are not ready.

12.17 Gilbert says given the dominance of ORHA, was there any other route you contemplated to get your staff in? We were doing stuff all the time, dealing with the immediate. Looting in Basra.

12.16 Gilbert summarises: so the perception that you were reluctant was a misunderstanding? No, no (I think she agrees!)

12.12 Discussion of US dislike of UN. Then got 1483 which was too weak and other countries would not come in. Then I left the govt. What Blair had promised was not true, he had just conned me.

12.13 Did establishment of ORHA knock your belief that the UN would be brought in? No, we were all just lunatics.

12.10 Gilbert asks how absence of UN resolution affected things. She says we could do humanitarian at any time. For aftermath and reconstruction, there were very serious legal discussions. A fair old mess.

12.08 Prashar asks if more resources would have made a difference. Yes, she agrees. Discussion of what others in the cabinet said. They just stuck with Blair.

12.03 What about what Blair was saying to Bush? I think he thought the US could do it. Does not think Britain influenced anything. If Britain had the courage to do what we said the policy was… that’s where Britain should have been. Prashar asks why she supported the policy, if her concerns about the aftermath were not being listened to? Why did she not resign? If I had known then what I know now I would have. I thought we could have stopped a disaster taking place. I still think we should have done what we said the policy was.

12.00 Prashar returns to discuss Short’s letter of 5 March 03. Why was Blair ignore her. Short says it goes back to the leaked document and Blair’s promise to Bush. He was so frantic to be with America… Britain needs to think about special relationship, do we mean we abjectly go where America goes…

11.53 Here is the Guardian’s take on the morning so far.

11.47 As they go for another break Short asks the stenographer if she is going too fast. Much to fast for me!

11.46 Discussion of what Blair said to stop her resigning. Lots of promises including ME roadmap.

11.42 Did you discuss with other ministers at the time? No, talked to Gordon. Talked to Straw at Labour conference. I didn’t know Robin was going to resign until Blair told me. All fractured and broken down.

11.41 Freedman asks about run up to war. What was your reaction when you realised that there was not going to be a UN resolution. They claimed – it was untrue – that the French had said they would veto anything supporting military action. I believed them. You do not want to disbelieve you PM in the run up to a war. I believed them too often, I think. I thought we might get the thing done right. Interview with A Rawnsley. Off my own bat. Also I said to Blair no hurry so why not to ME first.

11.36 Freedman is trying to keep Straw to the prewar, i.e. 14 Feb. Discussion of “exemplary role”. What sort of resources was she after? It was very late that this came up. We were up for it. I had written a number of letters saying we have only got our contingency reserve. No answer, nothing from Treasury. Brown marginalised at the time. Telling me Blair obsessed with legacy… quick war move me. Then there was a Treasury decision. How you can have an exemplary role when it is that late – it is impossible.

11.32 Freedman asks about 14 Feb 03 letter to Blair. Planning for different scenarios. Pentagon believed own propaganda about Iraq response. We knew we needed a new UN resolution for reconstruction.

11.31 Freedman asks about other things that were foreseen and planned for. Looting? That was the catastrophic success!

11.30 Short reminds everyone that she did not know date of war. Expected proposed date (e.g. 15 March) to be put back. I would not have believed we could go that quickly given how unready everyone was.

11.28 Discussion of Tim Cross. I have read his evidence. I am very surprised by it. He says he asked for someone from DFID to go into ORHA then. We had one adviser, I asked him to talk to Cross. Does not agree that she would not allow him to work with cross full-time because of her well known concerns.

11.27 Discussion of “sectarian divisions” with US. Colin Powell was becoming marginalised.

11.24 Discussion of shift in US from State dept to Dept of Defense. Concerns about Geneva convention responsibilities.

11.21 Freedman asks about relations with US. Main interlocutor Andrew Natsios at USID, also State dept.

11.20 Why did you accept the instructions not to talk to people? the only real issue was the NGOs and they were not involved in Iraq.

11.19 Here is the Daily Mail’s take on it so far.

11.17 Discussion of what sort of issues were being discussed with UN. Prashar: what were the UN telling you about their role after military action. Preparing for military action but keeping it quiet.

11.13 Prashar asks about planning with external partners. No 10 had issued instructions not to engage? There was the No 10 block. NGOs were queuing up to be involved. We met with them later. they became more active. thought they were not being included as much as they might have been. They were excluded initially. not big players in Iraq. We did disobey the block and spoke to UN. Prashar says No 10 had imposed constraints but you personally hadn’t? That’s right. I talked to Kofi a number of times.

11.12 Prashar puts comment that DFID officials could hardly conceal their moral disdain for what we are about to embark on? disputes this.

11.08 What were you planning for? Success (disarmament); war with UN backing; war without backing; “catastrophic success”. Failed in Geneva convention responsibilities. Military should have said ready. Says again they should publish documents. Prashar asks what her instructions were to her staff? We got down to planning against all eventualities. There was a moment when Chakrabarti, Nicola Brewer said there was a strong rumour that AG might resign, military were worried about legal consequences. I thought what about putting my people at risk. Turnbull asked AG for view on this. Then I clarified that even if war was illegal, still right to prepare humanitarian relief. In reconstruction, I looked towards new UN resolution.

11.05 Resuming with Prashar asking about planning in late 2002. How did you manage to prepare without showing that there would be a war? I thought we should prepare for all eventualities, including success. Asks inquiry to publish the record of humanitarian work to show that they were planning.

10.53 Ten minute break. Wow! that was very fast and furious!

10.51 Prashar asks about Short’s letter to Goldsmith re ministerial code and need for full advice? Short says it was complex because he was changing his advice. Prashar points out that Short wrote to AG and cabinet secretary. Did she get anything out of committee for standards in public life? Got nowhere with Bar Council. Cannot remember complaint to Committee. Pursued as far as she could. Says ministerial code is deficient because it depends on PM. Wasn’t even a summary. Unequivocal I thought it was stunning. When I looked into it, I thought we were misled.

10.50 Posted this on Comment is Free re Sawers.

10.49 Lyne refers to Blair Texas April 02 speech. Was this government policy? I thought it was quite a good speech.

10.46 Why was it right to use force against Milosovic? In international law there is an emerging view that it is OK to do so to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. My own view is that we should have taken action against Serbia earlier (Bosnia). There were (Kosovo) refugees pouring over the border. Needs to be case by case.

10.45 What about the argument that SH would have gone on to develop links with international terrorism? No doubt US people were misled re SH and Al Qaeda. Were there links with terror? There were some things going on but no links with Al Qaeda.

10.39 Lyne asks about Blair’s view about what might have happened if they left Saddam in place (the 2010 question). Was it a question of either removing Saddam or allowing him to develop… etc? Short disagrees. No evidence of an escalation of threat, no hurry. One of the untruths is the exaggeration of risk re wmd. Going on alongside that was initiative for SH to go into exile. No nuclear. People thought there were labs. Not sure if weaponised. I would have like to get SH into international court. I am saying we could have gone more slowly more carefully, not gone into Iraq and brought Al Qaeda in. Made Iraq more dangerous. Lyne: you said there were alternative ways? Short lists them.

10.37 Lyne asks if she agrees that the AG’s advice should be accepted? Well I did. Lyne says you have now had the benefit of seeing the 7 March advice. Would that have changed the decision? I think it would have been seen as more equivocal. Didn’t know that both legal advisers believed no authority. He made Blair sign a document re material breach at a time Blix was asking for more time. Lyne says that first thought 1441 required a determination that Iraq was in material breach. Goldsmith then thought this was unnecessary, so someone had to make the decision? Short says she thinks the idea of no decision is nonsense. If the AG is coming to us and says this is how I am interpreting this and I have asked Blair for a written assurance, we should have been told that. I think that is misleading.

10.35 What did Lyne want to ask Goldsmith? At the meeting there was a piece of paper and he started reading it out. We could read it but people said they didn’t need to. I wanted to have a discussion but was jeered? at. No discussion allowed. AG has said he was ready to have a discussion. Says the committee should check the record.

10.33 Lyne refers to week before invasion. On 13 March AG made up his mind. In the days before, was he subjected to evidence? Do you have any evidence of non-legal pressure at this time? No I don’t have any evidence but I think him changing his mind 3 times. And then for him to require Blair secretly to sign re material breach. There was no discussion at cabinet meeting.

10.31 Lyne asks if Short had seen the evidence? Yes. Short had said in her book that Goldsmith was leant on. He had denied. Blair said it was ok? Do you accept that? No, Goldsmith said he was excluded, that’s pressure. He said he went to US, who had low respect for international law. Surprised by Greenstock’s explanation re discussion no decision. All that was leaning on him.

10.27 Lyne says it was talked about at the Cabinet. Surely it was up to you (cabinet) to do something about it if you were unhappy? Short mentions Blair saying “I had to decide”. He closed things down and then drip-feed of little chats to cabinet. Lyne says the cabinet endorsed this? Well the last meeting was the one with the AG. I think he mislead the cabinet. Who? AG. Hid his doubts. Had this private side deal where Blair said there was material breach. Very late. He was misleading us.

10.25 Lyne asks why she was excluded? She says ask Blair. She never obeyed Campbell. I believed what the stated policy was, that the sanctions were causing so much suffering it could not go on. I believed in getting the inspectors back in. Why exclude me when I believed what they said the policy was?

10.24 Lyne asks if she saw the March 2002 options paper? No. Arabists in FCO were marginalised.

10.23 Lyne says does she not agree that the right people were discussing things, looking at risks? Discussion of Downing St leaked docs. Short says it is an in-group. You are briefed against if you don’t agree.

10.21 Lyne asks about machinery and Blair (etc’s) view that it didn’t matter if the committees etc were not meeting, as long as everything was being discussed? Short fundamentally disagrees with this. Believes in the old-fashioned civil service way of doing things. Government does not work like that. Everything for the media. No scrutiny. Machinery of government is unsafe, lead to endless litigation. In the case of Iraq, there was secretiveness and deception on top of that. Disputes Blair’s view. Departments were excluded..

10.20 Freedman points out this was the time the dossier was being planned. Was she aware? She didn’t want to get involved.

10.18 Prashar asks about when Short went to Mozambique with Blair and he said she would be told about military options. When was this? This was Sept 02. Prashar says there was a meeting 23 July? this was one of the things he said that was not true. There was a presentation on water, infrastructure etc.

10.17 As far as the aftermath was concerned, it was all done on a wing and a prayer. Said she did not have enough money. Treasury had a look at it. It goes on and on and on across Whitehall.

10.14 Gilbert asks, did she have enough time to make the decisions/do the planning? She says no-one had enough time. Explains how DFID works, “we” in the present tense. No great lot of people to come over the hill. UN had people in Iraq for oil-for-food. There was no humanitarian crisis because ICRC was fixing things. It was working. The humanitarian thing worked because a lot of work was done by a lot of people.

10.13 What we had at Cabinet was little chats. Blair would invite Straw to talk about meeting with C Powell and he would make a few jokes. The first meeting after summer (2002) was substantive but it went back to little chats after that. There was never a meeting of Defence and Overseas policy that said, what is the problem? what are we trying to achieve? What are our options.

10.12 Other new letters are here.

10.10 Short says she was being left out of the loop on Iraq but not other agencies. Gilbert asks what she did to get through the “block”. She says she was then prevented from talking to the intelligence agencies, which was not how things worked before. Made a fuss, talked to Manning, eventually Blair said yes she could talk to them. Did things improve? Had a couple of meetings with C. Saw written assessments. Blair probably didn’t know.

10.07 Short is talking about concerns about being excluded in late 2002. She had a lunch with various people including the ICRC. She wanted to look at all the options. She was seeing the intelligence. Knew the intelligence agencies knew no military and thought probably had labs producing C and B but no new threat. Was concerned about possible use.

10.05 Short is explaining how she brought up her concerns about Iraq in 2002, on a trip to Africa. Blair said don’t worry. Short said what are the military options? Blair said I haven’t had any presentation on the military options, which was untrue. Short has a diary.

10.03 Gilbert asks Short about the way the cabinet did or did not discuss Iraq in 2001? Short does not remember substantive discussion – as Blair claimed. Blair would dissuade you from bringing things up.

10.02 The Inquiry has just published this letter, complaining about the exclusion of DFID. To what does Sawers attribute this exclusion? Short is not sure if this was the old habit of excluding DFID or a deliberate exclusion.

10.01 Chilcot says that this will be an opportunity for Short to give her views and to respond to what others have said about DFID and her.

Archived Comments

By Tony Simpson

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 11:58am

Clare Short didn’t know of the meeting in Downing Street on 23 July 2002 which set out three military options for UK forces in the coming war on Iraq. Blair subsequently told her, in September I think, that there was no military planning. She later read Blair’s comments about support for regime change in The Downing Street Memo of the meeting, which was leaked in 2005. This also summarised the three military options. Lyne quickly said in response to Short’s mention of the “famous” Memo that they would come back to that, but there’s been no sign, so far.

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 1:17pm

Useful list of lessons to be learnt, which flags up key issues

By Jane

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 2:14pm

I have listened to this morning’s hearing. Some points I recall… and counter evidence provided to the enquiry.
1. The US and UK smeared Hans Blix.
Other witnesses – Jack Straw I recall stated that what Hans Blix was saying to the media at the time and subsequently, was not in accord with what he was telling the FCO and PM. He said the opposite. He said the report by the Inspectors which he had read on an aircraft on his way to the UN would have alarmed everyone.
2.Chief of Defence Staff only got his job because he spent a lot of time on submarines. This was a personal and unforgiveable attack from someone who does not know how the military operate in terms of promoting personnel. Perhaps this man did not like Clare’s talk and chose not to engage with her.
3. She supported the war only on the grounds of the UN approval. Not so as she voted for the aims of the war too. According to Tom Harris (blog) she also wrote to MPs to encourage them to vote yes.
4. She was jeered at in Cabinet. I find this astonishing…. There was no discussion in Cabinet. Margaret Beckett stated on Newsnight that Iraq was permanently discussed and all Ministers had been kept fully informed.
5. Jeremy Greensmith. She disagreed with his assessment that other members of the Security Council felt it unnecessary to have a further resolution as essential. I think the UN Ambassador had a greater insight into the UN than Ms Short. He gave an account to the enquiry on the process and thinking of the UN.
6. Tony Blair was the devil. Personal attacks demeaned some of the important issues that she made.
7. Lord Goldsmith misled the government. Not even the two FCO lawyers suggested this. To get back at him she reported him to the Bar Council in 2005. Why? Is it because she could not get back at Ministers so sought to have him removed from the Bar?
8. The FCO blocked her department as prior to DFID the FCO were responsible. FCO personnel stated that they found Ms Short difficult to deal with. Instructing her staff not to cooperate etc.

She criticised many others. What do I make of her testimony. There were many important issues that she raised. Some of them one can dismiss. For example decision making cannot always take place in a large group. Cabinet government matters but not at time of war regarding planning. The Cabinet Office role does need to be looked at to ensure the relevant departments are kept in the loop.

She was very critical of our relationship with the US. We have always aligned ourselves with the US and relied on them too. I thought she went over the top on this issue which denigrated some of her astute observations. Further, she was responsible for DFID not foreign affairs or defence. Both those departments spoke very warmly of their relationships with their US counterparts (as did the Military) and how their views were valued.

Ms Short talked so much that she often lost the thread of the questioning. Many of her points were valid but lost in the highly vitriolic and personal attacks on all. She was speaking as if she was Defence Minister and Foreign Secretary. What we got was the view of the world according to Ms Short. Anyone who did not, does not agree with her have their characters assassinated.

By Michael Ayton

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 4:00pm

Sharply different, then, from those who “may smile and smile, and be a villain”.

By Mike Snow

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 4:03pm

Clare Short is like manic gossip and needed reigning in by the Inquiry as she rambled on so much and at such a pace that she even lost track of the questions asked of her. No wonder Blair kept her out of the loop…But she did reveal in her testimony the the chronic state of the cabinet at the time as Blair steam-rollered all of them, and the advisers and military, towards a war built around an American timetable. Blair’s Place In History…the Great American.

The inquiry should have reigned her in as all her backstabbing was predictable and not needed but the Inquiry seems unable to stop witnesses rambling on and evading questions. Its a serious weakness and wastes time. If they stopped both Blair and Short’s testimony from all the tangents and bombast they would have had time to get down to brass tacks and nail the shysters.

By Chris Ames

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 4:24pm

Thanks for your extensive comment. I can’t say I agree with all of it but I don’t think you should just put comments like this on the end of my live blogs.

Perhaps you would like to write a few posts for the digest?

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 4:34pm

Does anyone know whether its possible to replay Short’s testimony, which I missed. Is there an archive anywhere ?

By andrewsimon

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 4:39pm

Lee –

Every session is available at the Inquiry website to watch again. Ms Short’s testimony is here:

By Bill Corry

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 4:54pm

This is the first time I have seen a human being appear before this panel – to inject some reality!

It is no coincidence that it is a woman striving with her conscience in a man’s world against the odds. The 2nd woman to resign over Iraq.
The people who criticise her show they have vested interests… The truth hurts.

Shallow thinkers look at the wrong things, never the big picture.
I regard her as a loyal Brit and whilst not perfect in presentation gets a 10/10 for Integrity.

This compares with Mr Blair’s (and close friends) 10/10 Presentation but 0/10 for Integrity.

By Stan Rosenthal

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 7:17pm

Just one comment on Ms Short’s evidence.

Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned.

By andrewsimon

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 8:05pm

Stan –

Just one comment…

That just goes to show how we all see and hear things differently. I just watched her whole session through because I wasn’t able to view it all this morning and I thought she was spot on. I didn’t register anger or bitterness, just the strongest of desires to explain the whole thing through to the best of her ability. Judging by the audience reaction at the end, I wasn’t the only one left with this impression. I also think the panel took her very seriously indeed, and realised that she was a breath of fresh air when compared to a lot that they have already had to listen to.

I also notice that well-known Govt mouthpieces are already setting out to run her down. This says something else. That the powers-that-be are seeking to denigrate her because they know full well that her testimony drives a coach and horses through their very carefully planned defence of all that took place.

I look forward to more testimony like hers. Only then are we going to get to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

By Chris Ames

Submitted on 2010/02/02 at 8:43pm

Stan, could we keep the sexism out of it, please?

By barb bishop

Submitted on 2010/02/03 at 1:59am

It would seem that Tony Blair made a serious error in not appointing Clare Short to be SOS Defence. Given her support for the war aims, the removal of Saddam by force if necessary and generally for regime change as spelled out in Blair’s Texas speech, her long experience in International Development would have ensured that the military did its duty and properly planned for the aftermath. Then she would have not been so frustrated and “cut out”.

A great opportunity missed.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/02/03 at 5:23am

I disagree with Jane that Clare Short went over the top or indulged in unjustified personal attacks. What she described is what she experienced. I imagine Jane is now so accustomed to the club old chaps talk that has characterised this “inquiry” that yes, Clare Short didn’t do that over-qualified, awfully nuanced, fake stuff so many other witnesses have done. She told the story. She has the kind of personality that is sure to grate on some people, but hey, that is par for the course. I found her very credible. Of course, as has been the case all along, the panel had no idea what it was doing, asked stupid questions, missed the questions it should have asked, and generally came across as rank amateurs. I dont think that is Clare Short’s fault.

The only fault I find with the way she handled the affair is that she should have resigned much earlier and she hurt her credibility by not doing so. Its not that she only later found out that Blair is an utterly unscrupulous liar. She knew that very much earlier.

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