Pear Shaped in Fitzrvoia

Iraq Inquiry

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Jonathan Powell Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, 2001 - 2007 claims that there were some misunderstandings.

While Tony Blair assured the Inquiry that he hadn't made any promises about going to war and that George W Bush was an understanding person.

Which is good because it has to be said that there have been a few misunderstandings involving Labour Prime Ministers, security information, the CIA, plots and other such things in the past when UK and USA foreign policy seemed to diverge a lot from each other but that's all forgotten about now...

So it is good to know those days are behind us and the PM is free to make his own decisions.

Anyway ...amongst the most controversial evidence given to the Iraq Inquiry was, of course, that of
Lord Goldsmith

on the legal advice for going to war. In case you haven't heard it (it took a while to find its way into the public domain) here it is again...

...or is it?

Lord Goldsmith infamously, we learnt with hindsight, changed his mind from "it isn't legal" to "it is legal" as the date of the invasion approached.  His explanations for this are extremely long winded (you dont get to be Attorney General by using one word when a thousand will do).  But it comes down to something like this...

...after analysing the syntax of resolution 1441 he decided that a case could be made that it implicitly sanctioned the use of force even though it clearly didn't say that explicitly.  From this point he decided that it would be wrong to view the document "in a vacuum" and that the context and meaning intended by the Security Council members should be considered.

[be warned Lord G's video clips are about twice as long at least as anyone else's due to his extremely turgid verbosity]

As a result Lord Goldsmith pootled off to the USA to make enquiries about the negotiations at the time with the other parties to the negotiation of 1441 and concluded that a case could be made that the words that might imply force was sanctioned without another new resolution and that crucial words which could be stretched to intimate an intention to allow action without another resolution "could not have been included by accident" and therefore they must have been deliberate.

Of course the key question then is did the other parties to 1441 intend for it to be a sanction to use military force and had they conceded this in private negotiations.  Jack Straw has some document which it is vaguely claimed might relate to this matter but cant be shown in public so Lord Goldsmith agreed with the Inquiry that he had taken this on trust.

The Inquiry then asked if he had thought of talking to the French about what they thought was so important that they had never articulated it and Lord Goldsmith said he couldn't do that because it would undermine the diplomatic effort against Iraq. 

When it was suggested that perhaps the French could be consulted through diplomatic channels privately Lord Goldsmith said that this was impossible  ...as it probably was ...given that the French President had just been on French Television saying that the he saw no way to interpret resolution 1441 as a permission to call to a war against Saddam.

Lord Goldsmith's position was not helped by the fact that both his immediate underlings clearly thought that this was all drivel... One of them points out that you can actually look up what was said about 1441 at the time it was passed on the internet... and this does not seem to back Lord Goldsmith up...(a video was lost here due to Xtranormal going financially Pear Shaped) ...and, indeed, one of them actually resigned rather than agree to implement his instructions.  Maybe it is not an accident that there are so few women interviewed by the Iraq Inquiry. (Another video was lost here due to Xtranormal going financially Pear Shaped - ****s!)

Margaret Beckett

 ...who was in charge of liaising with the UN after the invasion admitted that post invasion UN cooperation was a bit grudging.  But cheerfully added that she doesn't care if it is grudging as long as people do what she wants.

Photo c/o www.securityconference.de by Sebastian Zwez

John Hutton MP viciously slagged off the MOD's ironically titled Future Rapid Effect System program that produced absolutely nothing in only 10 years because no one could decide on the specifications.

While Sir Kevin Tebbit Permanent Secretary, MOD, 2001 - 2005 stated that if there were lots of meetings no one invited him to them but that didn't mean they didn't take place

General the Lord Walker of Aldringham ...Chief of the General Staff, 2001 – Feb 2003 Chief of the Defence Staff, May 2003 – April 2006 talks about the mattress mice and levers

Clare Short stated pretty bluntly that Lord Goldsmith had in her view mislead the Cabinet about the surety of the advice he was offering on the legality of war and that everyone ignored her.

Photo c/o Darren Wyn Rees at http://www.aberdareblog.co.uk

Ann Clwyd MP Prime Minister's Special Envoy to Iraq, 2003 - 2009 and member of CARDRI ("Committee Against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq") who spent much time before the war drawing attention to the most sadistic aspects of Saddam's regime (culminating in this article) gave some gruesome testimony about the Iraqi penal system.  Here's a typical extact:

Many of the former members of CARDRI now have senior positions in the Iraqi Government. Like President Jalal Talabani the current President. 

Which is nice.

Of course CARDRI members may have their own political incentives for their not always deeply substantiated claims but it has to be said that most of them would seem to be true - certainly the subsequent invasion did reveal that Uday Hussein had some interesting garden furniture.  To many people Uday personifies the worst and most visible sadism in the Saddam regime.  Indeed so legendary was Uday's sadism that even before the invasion Saddam himself had his son locked up temporarily. Uday had attacked and killed his food taster with a cane and an electric carving knife. A bit of a PR disaster as it was in public at a party in honour of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's wife Suzanne ....a tad undiplomatic at a party to promote diplomacy. 

Much of Uday's most brutal sadism was reserved for the Iraqi National Football team who's members were variously shaved, made to kick concrete balls and according to one report dragged along the ground to make them bleed before being immersed in a sewage tank to induce infection.  The Olympic Committee also investigated him over reports that he made a group of track athletes crawl on newly poured asphalt while they were beaten and threw some of them off a bridge.  Maybe some of these stories have been exaggerated or embellished but there doesn't seem to be many forms of sadism that Uday couldn't turn his hand to.  Indeed Uday thought of more inventive ways to kill and maim people than the both James Bond and Saw film franchises put together ...with possibly a few scenes from Jackass thrown in.  It's as if when Ghandi said that any country would rather have its own government than any externally imposed one no matter how bad its own government got ....Saddam and Uday saw this as a personal challenge.

Due to her contacts with CARDRI and the placement of key CARDRI members in the interim transitional regime Tony Blair made Ann Clwyd his "Special Envoy to Iraq" liaison with the post-Saddam regime.
Who says it is a waste of time writing to your MP?

Jack Straw said that he didn't wish to invalidate Ms Short's recollection of the cabinet shouting her down but it wasn't his recollection and also the Cabinet wasn't exactly full of "wilting violets".

...and then went on to slag off Jaques Chirac. Taking apart every semantic nuance of his speech which you can read a detailed analysis of here...

...fortunately the speech was in French so an almost limitless volume time can be wasted over analysing the exact syntax, rhetorical emphasise and translations.  What he actually said was:

Jack Straw argues that when Chirac uses the words "this evening" he is simply commenting that he is talking this evening and not limiting his statement that whatever the circumstances France will not go to war to a fixed point in time.  No one is quite sure as it is impossible to determine exact punctuation in a spoken speech but guessing has got to be easier than actually just asking him what he actually meant.

Gordon Brown's testimony reveals exactly why he later rose to the top of the tree.  Like the late Jim Hacker he relentlessly uses the technique of answering one question with the answer to a different question usually involving his catchphrase "It was the right decision and it was for the right reasons.".  Despite actually living in Number 10 (Tony Blair lived in the flat above Number 11) Mr Brown insisted that he didn't know much about the diplomatic and military preparations for the war because he was as chancellor of the exchequer engrossed in doing complicated long division sums.  If a war crime was committed Gordon was not there.

Asked about the legal advice he commented that if he had known the uncertainty pertaining to Lord Goldsmith's legal advice then that he did now ... it would not have changed his view unless Lord Goldsmith was prepared to say that his unequivocal advice was that this was not lawful.  A cunning argument that no one else seemed to have thought of. He always has an alibi, or one or two to spare. He also attempted to put some distance between himself and President Bush's antics commenting that "I never subscribed to what you might call the neo-Conservative position that somehow, at the barrel of a gun, overnight, liberty and democracy could be conjured up."

He went onto say that if you look the question of expenditure in Iraq, you have got to start from this one fundamental truth -- that every request that the military commanders made to us for equipment was answered. No request was ever turned down. Unfortunately there is a difference, of course, between being turned down and being ignored. So clearly no one requested any UAVs and if they did they were not turned down ... the requests simply proceeded very slowly. Of course it could be that some things were turned down but if they were then they were turned down for good reason by someone lower down the command chain than Gordon himself who was, as he puts it, purely incharge of the finance of the war (not conducting it). He was forced to later retract his claims that defence spending had always risen.

Continue to part 3...