If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Iraq - it's coming closer

I know I keep banging on about the Iraq war when everyone is saying it's over, and time to 'move on'. But there are so many unresolved issues in my mind about those dreadful years that I can't. Now that we have a new government and our former rulers haven't got quite the leverage they used to have over inquiries and investigations, it's starting to change, and I am starting to take the view that some day the truth will, in fact, be told.

There is an excellent article by Ian Bell of the Scottish Herald which summarises the situation now that Blair's placemen are no longer in power. It's well worth a read, if only because he manages to articulate the anxieties and unanswered questions that I, and I am sure many others, have. A few quotes for the flavour of the thing: apologies for length, but it's worth reading the whole thing. Emphasis is mine.

Good news: Tony Blair is to receive a medal, £100,000 and the thanks of a grateful nation.

Not, sad to relate, this nation, for reasons that no doubt continue to baffle our former prime minister, but you can’t have everything. Just the £20 million accrued since ­exchanging public service for self-service.

The Liberty Medal is being bestowed by the Americans, who like our Tony. They have admired him ever since discovering that he can tell lies in perfect sentences. Blair, for his part, has always seemed happier on the far side of the Atlantic, where they better understand that a man has to do what a man’s gotta do. Especially when he claims to be doing something else entirely.


Each of the men bidding to become Labour’s next leader has discovered – just in time – that the Iraq war was a bit of a mistake and yet, somehow, nothing to do with them. David Miliband, for one, has urged that we all “move on”.

This is the same Miliband who, as Foreign Secretary, rose in the Commons to state categorically (and indignantly) that MI5 had not, and would never, involve itself in the torture of prisoners. He had better hope that the forthcoming Government inquiry into the issue is also happy to “move on”.


Remember how we were all dismissed as mad conspiracy nuts for ever believing that an august personage such as England’s Attorney-General could debase his high office by twisting every principle of international law just to suit Blair’s purpose? That was true.

Remember, also, how we used to be accused of puerile anti-Americanism for believing that Blair had set aside any duty to his country just for the chance to say, “Yes, George, right away, George”? It was all true. Seedy, sad, near inexplicable, but true.

As it transpires, the then Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, told the then Prime Minister the same thing over and over. The advice scarcely justified a fancy salary, given that it was founded on the basic principles of international law, but Goldsmith attempted, for a while, to do his bit.

To wit: you can start a legal war for one of three reasons. Either you are under attack, an attack is clearly imminent, or the UN has authorised your actions for the common good. Goldsmith even went to the bother of pointing out that Saddam’s alleged interest in weapons of mass destruction was not, of itself, good enough evidence of “imminence”. He also said, repeatedly, that UN resolution 1441 had failed to give explicit authorisation for bombing the entrails out of Iraq.

But there was a problem. As though in a deleted scene from a Godfather movie, Blair had already given his fealty to Bush. Parliament didn’t matter, then or afterwards. The British public – yes, all that marching was hard on the feet – certainly did not matter. And the advice of the law officer charged under our sketchy constitution to keep government in the vicinity of the straight and narrow was the least, say the declassified documents, of Blair’s worries.

Goldsmith changed his mind. It amounts to an actually fabulous episode in the annals of governmental gall. Subjected to no pressure whatsoever – for that would be horribly illegal – the Attorney-General realised that Blair had been right all along. Bombing Iraq, as Bush had planned since his first weeks in office – the journalist Bob Woodward’s account has yet to be refuted – was perfectly fine. Such was m’learned Goldsmith’s advice.


So do you remember how we were mocked for calling Blair a war criminal? Such an absurd notion. But the Goldsmith papers, as we must now call them, are beyond ­rebuttal. The Government’s lead lawyer, backed by a host of Whitehall types, stated the fact: a war would be illegal. Ergo, those who waged that war would be engaged in a criminal act. Blair simply thought: better find me another opinion, then.


Last week there surfaced another claim concerning Dr David Kelly, the man who knew all about Iraq and WMD. That individual ended his life, they said, because foolishly he encouraged a BBC journalist to question Downing Street’s claims. Now it is argued seriously that Kelly was physically incapable of cutting his own wrists.

More conspiracy nonsense? Considering what we know now about Blair’s war, I offer one piece of advice: don’t seek an opinion from Lord Goldsmith.

Thanks to Subrosa for the link.

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