No Comment — November 30, 2009, 6:15 pm

English AG Opined Iraq War was Illegal

In Britain, a public inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot and four other members of the Privy Council is busily burrowing into the circumstances surrounding the commencement of the war in Iraq. While the inquiry was initially criticized for lacking sufficient expertise to examine the complex legal issues raised, it now seems positioned to break new ground in just this area. Over the weekend, Britain was rocked by disclosures that Prime Minister Blair was advised by his attorney general, Lord Peter Goldsmith, that the proposed invasion of Iraq would be illegal. Rumors to this effect have circulated for some time, but Goldsmith and Blair squelched them, insisting that Goldsmith had given the invasion a green light. Goldsmith was pressed on the question quite aggressively, and stuck tenaciously to the view that the operation was legal.

Now it appears that he came to that view through a very rocky process. The Mail on Sunday reports that Goldsmith put his opinion that the war would be unlawful in a letter:

The Mail on Sunday can disclose that Attorney General Lord Goldsmith wrote the letter to Mr Blair in July 2002 – a full eight months before the war – telling him that deposing Saddam Hussein was a blatant breach of international law. It was intended to make Mr Blair call off the invasion, but he ignored it. Instead, a panicking Mr Blair issued instructions to gag Lord Goldsmith, banned him from attending Cabinet meetings and ordered a cover-up to stop the public finding out. He even concealed the bombshell information from his own Cabinet, fearing it would spark an anti-war revolt. The only people he told were a handful of cronies who were sworn to secrecy. Lord Goldsmith was so furious at his treatment he threatened to resign – and lost three stone as Mr Blair and his cronies bullied him into backing down. Sources close to the peer say he was ‘more or less pinned to the wall’ in a Downing Street showdown with two of Mr Blair’s most loyal aides, Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan.

So how did Goldsmith come to issue an opinion that the war was lawful and to testify in support of its legality? Blair has vehemently denied that Goldsmith was “bullied,” but he has not denied the core of the report about the earlier Goldsmith opinion.

If the Mail’s account is borne out, then the Chilcot inquiry will likely secure and publish the earlier Goldsmith letter. The disclosures challenge the credibility of Tony Blair, and they also make Lord Goldsmith, who now serves as the global chair of Debevoise & Plimpton, a New York-based law firm, look like a weak figure who bent his legal views to fit the needs of a political client. And for Americans following the Chilcot inquiry, the disclosures raise more fundamental questions: why has our nation failed to attempt similar fact-finding into the slippery origins of the Iraq conflict? Britain is offering us a lesson in how a democracy proceeds, settling the historical narrative and flushing out unpleasant facts that politicians would rather keep secret as it prepares to move forward.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

  • dengcai

    sanitary valves

    Are you looking for special birthday dinner ideas for a special person in your life? sanitary valvesEven if this person says that birthdays are no big deal, the fact is that every person likes to feel pampered on this day. You don’t have to spend a great deal of money to give someone a really extraordinary birthday; a few special birthday dinner ideas will help you make do with what resources are available. There are many interesting wine bottle crafts that you could make out of empty bottles you have accumulated. These bottles are made of strong materials and they also come in attractive colors. If you have collected a whole lot of these graceful looking bottles then you will easily be able to create all sorts of things out of them. vibrating screenAs a result of the constraints of the Japanese living standards and the environment, using incense was restricted to the of Buddha while in the temple, and occasionally scenting rooms and clothes. However, the incense culture hadn’t yet extended into daily living. The art of mixing and matching is a trend in weddings and many events that will stand the test of time. It is done all the time in fashion, tire manufacturerso why not transfer those styles into your wedding? You can use simple, styling techniques to make your event stand out in a modern way. Does your daughter have what it takes to be a model? Are you prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to support her goals? If you are committed to help make her dream a reality, you need to be well-informed. This mother’s guide to the modeling industry will help give your daughter an advantage. The “I do’s” have been said, the toasts made, and you are back from your amazing honeymoon. Upon your arrival home, you are snapped back to reality by the overwhelming task of writing thank you cards. Where do you start?Glass CNC Below there are answers to several common questions, and simple methods to make the task a little bit easier. As long as you begin early enough, big cities have a wide variety of reception halls to choose from when you begin planning your wedding. Once you’ve chosen the location, it’s time to think about the decorations which will personalize your reception. Some decorating ideas are surprisingly easy: When choosing your location, pick an area that lends itself to easy decorating. A person who has a large collection of music simply cannot do without a good music manager. If you have ever spent precious time searching for a particular song for your kid’s birthday party or for a romantic evening then you’ll understand the importance of a good music organizer. rare earth magnetsYou might have to go through immense numbers of songs collected in different drives on your computer in no particular order. As the holiday season approaches, once again, many of us are turning our thoughts to gift giving and that same old question – what can I get them for Christmas? Buying for the people that seem to have everything is always difficult, so this year perhaps you might want to consider something different – create your own gift that is specifically designed for the person in question. Given the development of the photo gifts industry, it’s now easy than ever to make your own gift. ??seoWhen the holidays come around each year we always face the same dilemma – what can we buy for our wife or husband for a Christmas surprise?

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2014

Israel and Palestine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Washington Is Burning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Free Will

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They Were Awake

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
Post
“There was torture by the previous regime and by the current Iraqi regime,” Dr. Amin said. “Torture by our Kurdish government, torture by Syrians, torture by the U.S.”
Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Article
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
Criticism
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
New Books
New Books·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

 
“Almond insists that watching football does more than feed an appetite for violence. It’s a kind of modern-day human sacrifice, and it makes us more likely to go to war.”
Photograph by Harold Edgerton

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today