Iraq War – Blair – Legal Advice – Lord Goldsmith – Attorney General

Posted by Tim Ireland at 11 March 2005

Category: It's War! It's Legal! It's Lovely!

This entry was posted on
Friday, March 11th, 2005
9:17 pm and is filed
under It’s War! It’s Legal! It’s Lovely!.

[NOTE – I don’t do this kind of thing often, but this article has been mirrored here in full so it may be found by those who missed it during today’s shedfight.]

Independent (11 March 2005)

Iraq war revelation – There was no full legal advice

Cabinet Secretary admits invasion based on single page of A4

Britain went to war on the basis of a single piece of paper setting out the legality of invading Iraq, the country’s most senior civil servant has revealed.

The Government’s case for war appeared to be in tatters last night after the Cabinet Secretary admitted that a parliamentary answer from Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, was the final legal opinion on the case for war. In an astonishing admission, Sir Andrew Turnbull disclosed that no “full” legal advice on an invasion of Iraq has ever existed.He confirmed that a short parliamentary answer by the Attorney General was the “definitive advice” on the war sent to the Prime Minister and that “there is no other version”.The renewed doubts over the legality of the conflict are a severe setback to Tony Blair, who was hoping that Iraq would fade as a general election issue.MPs had assumed that the parliamentary answer was a précis of a longer, more detailed legal opinion and ministers had come under intense pressure from the media to publish the “full” advice under the Freedom of Information Act.The revelation astonished MPs. Sir Andrew was cross examined about the existence of full legal advice in a Commons committee after The Independent revealed Mr Blair may have breached the prime ministerial code by failing to provide the full legal advice to the Cabinet. Yesterday The Independent reported that questions were being raised by MPs about the existence of legal advice.Charles Kennedy seized on the news and said it showed that the Government’s case for war was shambolic. “This is an astonishing revelation which suggests utter confusion at the heart of government. The Prime Minister must now clarify the situation which is undermining public trust,” the Liberal Democrat leader said. “He must provide a clear statement about what took place regarding the legal advice. Can it really be true that the legal basis on which we went to war consisted of a parliamentary answer and not a full legal opinion?”After intense cross-examination by Tony Wright, the Labour chairman of the Public Administration Committee, Sir Andrew admitted: “There is not a longer version of that advice. There is no other version. This is the definitive statement of his views. In his view it was sufficient for his colleagues to be assured that he thought there was a legal basis for military action. It does not purport to be a summary of his advice. It was the definitive advice that he had reached.”Sir Andrew indicated there was not enough time for Lord Goldsmith to prepare a fuller statement because it was required quickly, when it became clear there would be no second resolution in the UN. He said it summarised his views and was not a summary of a larger document. “What he has put forward is the conclusion that he reached as a result of all the thinking he had been doing.”But Sir Andrew added there were “other papers” which the Government would not disclose.Downing Street refused last night to “get into the advice process”. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added that the Cabinet was given “an explanation of [the Attorney General’s] conclusions” about the legality of war.But Gordon Prentice, a Labour member of the Public Administration Committee, expressed amazement. He said: “We have been taken to war on the basis of a two-page summary conclusion.”The Attorney General gave a parliamentary answer in the Lords on 17 March 2003 which appears in the Butler report on the intelligence that led to war, on a single page of A4.The answer says “authority to use force” exists from a combination of the UN resolutions. Lord Goldsmith concluded “the authority to use force under resolution 678 has revived and so continues today”.Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman and a senior barrister, said the parliamentary answer could not be described as a legal opinion. It should contain pages of detailed argument and summaries, particularly on an issue such as war. “The written answer provided in the House of Lords could not possibly be described as a legal opinion,” he said. “The Cabinet Secretary appears to confirm what many have suspected; that there was no formal opinion recording the Attorney General’s change of mind.”The Attorney General did prepare a longer piece of legal advice which he presented to Mr Blair on 7 March. But that advice, believed to be a 13-page paper, is thought not to have given a definitive view on whether war would be legal.Clare Short, a member of the Cabinet at the time, said the absence of a longer legal opinion meant Mr Blair had taken Britain to war “by deception”.She said: “The more one scrutinises what took place the more shocking it is.”The fact that there was no further legal document is astonishing. Then there is the fact that all the to-ings and fro-ings on the legal advice were kept from the Cabinet and Parliament. That means the war was by deception.”Yesterday the Attorney General wrote to Ms Short, the former international development secretary, saying he did not accept her “allegations [on Tuesday] that I failed to comply with the ministerial code or that I misled the Cabinet”.In the letter to Ms Short, Lord Goldsmith said: “At its meeting on 17 March 2003, I reported to Cabinet that I had answered a Parliamentary Question on the authority for the use of force in Iraq. I produced the text of that answer for Cabinet and made an oral presentation. That answer set out, as I have repeatedly stated, my genuine, independent view that the use of force in Iraq was lawful.”

1 Comment

  1. pafoth says

    War of Massive Disaster9/11 doesn?t add upWho?s to Bless, Who?s to blame?Plane one crashes into Tower one, Plane two crashes into Tower two, Plane three crashes into the Pentagon, Plane four is allegedly shot down.Panic ensues to find out what is the threat posed by these events.When a clearer picture emerges, anger and recrimination ensue whilst the population try to make sense of it all and set about clearing the debris and searching for bodies.The government and security forces look for the perpetrators.Rightly so that they should get after them, they should be punished for what they didBut can anyone imagine what would have been the outcome if President Bush had strapped on his side irons and rounded up a posse, and, unrestrained, rode into Baghdad guns blazing?You may think things are bad now but what if the scenario had been as I have outlined?For Tony Blair to stick his political and personal neck out to side with Bush and then try to apply the brakes to his war machine, as I believe he did, when almost all other political heads of state shied away from getting involved, fearing the likely outcome and the consequences of possible terrorist attacks on their respective countries.The first amendment was the first application of the brakes, but, was not able to slow down the war machine sufficiently to avoid a debacle of proportions that can only be speculated at, possibly even a third world war, and how bad would that have been.So a second amendment was sought to apply even more pressure to the brakes.It unfortunately didn?t stop the war taking place, but, I firmly believe that Tony Blair did a brilliant job of averting what could have been a disaster of biblical proportions.We won?t know if my theory is right for many years to come, if ever, but I do wish that the so called thinkers amongst the snipers will stop and consider what I am in my humble way trying to say.Now if whoever reads this considers themselves a thinker and is honest enough to admit that this theory has merit then let them enter it into the arena of debate that I don?t have access to.I personally don?t hold any one person responsible for what happened on 9/11, we as the population of this planet are all responsible as it is we who set the climate for this type of event to take place.If anyone is to blame we all are.

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