Leak substantiates accusations on Goldsmith advice to Blair

[Updated] According to a story in the Independent, “12 days before Britain went to war [in Iraq], Lord Goldsmith warned Mr Blair in a 13-page memo of six reasons why the war could be illegal. In spite of assurances that the Attorney General had been ‘unequivocal’ in saying that the war would be legal, Lord Goldsmith said Britain could be challenged under international law because it was up to the UN, not Mr Blair, to decide whether Saddam Hussein was in breach of UN resolutions. He said it would be ‘safer’ to obtain a second resolution to justify using military force.” An excerpt from the memo states:

However, the argument that resolution 1441 alone has revived the authorisation to use force in resolution 678 will only be sustainable if there are strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity. In other words, we would need to be able to demonstrate hard evidence of non-compliance and non-cooperation. Given the structure of the resolution as a whole, the views of UNMOVIC and the IAEA will be highly significant in this respect. In the light of the latest reporting by UNMOVIC, you will need to consider very carefully whether the evidence of non-cooperation and non- compliance by Iraq is sufficiently compelling to justify the conclusion that Iraq has failed to take its final opportunity.

When the memo was leaked (it has now been published), Blair seemed to have been caught lying. “Michael Howard, the Tory leader, [called] the Prime Minister a ‘liar’. Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, said it would put trust in Mr Blair at the heart of the election and turn the contest into a referendum on Mr Blair’s integrity.” If Blair is perceived to have misled Parliament, it has been said in the past he would have to resign. According to yet another story, “Professor Peter Hennessy, an expert on constitutional affairs, said: ‘The whole thing reeks.’ Dominic Grieve, the Tory legal affairs spokesman said: ‘There has been a gross deception.'” The election will be held on 5 May.

I would expect Ministers in a Government I lead to resign if they lie to Parliament.

The fallout may be beginning. According to the Independent, “Brian Sedgemore, who is standing down after 27 years as a Labour MP,” wrote, “”I voted against the war on Iraq and it becomes clearer every day that Blair decided to go to war after meeting Bush on his Texas ranch in 2002. After that, he lied to persuade the country to support him.” According to the BBC, “The Scottish National Party is set to join Celtic counterparts Plaid Cymru and call for Tony Blair to be impeached over the war in Iraq. The SNP will make the joint declaration alongside the Welsh nationalist party on Tuesday.”

A defiant Mr Blair insisted he would not apologise for the war when he came under sustained criticism after the leaking of the Attorney General’s advice questioning the legality of the conflict. But Mr Sedgemore , who has been a Labour Party member for 37 years, yesterday blamed the Labour Party’s policies on Iraq for his decision to join the Liberal Democrats.

Blair has, as seen on the BBC World News (produced for the US market), been pointing to a desire to remove Saddam Hussein. This is London quoted him saying, “I cannot apologise for that decision because I still think the world is a better place with Saddam in prison rather than in power.” And indeed, lots of people wanted Saddam out of power. This at least is an honest answer, as opposed to claims about weapons of mass destruction, and spreading democracy. If it were an adequate answer, surely Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe, among others, would also have been removed from power. On the other hand, “The Labour Party has opened a 10-point lead over the Tories, the latest opinion poll by NOP for The Independent found.” “But there will be fears in the high command that [Sedgemore’s] call to voters to back the Liberal Democrats could mobilise dissenting voters against the war, and tip the balance against Labour in marginal seats.”

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