Posts Tagged ‘Bush and Blair’

Iraqi cab driver was source for Iraq WMD claim, British MP says

December 9, 2009
By John Byrne, The Raw Story, Dec 8, 2009

blair bush image 300 779722 Iraqi cab driver was source for Iraq WMD claim, British MP saysA British parliamentarian claimed in a report published Tuesday that an Iraqi cab driver was the source of an infamous claim made by Prime Minister Tony Blair that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

The member of Parliament, a member of the conservative British Tory Party, claims that he was told by a British intelligence official that the claim actually came from an Iraqi taxi driver, and that it was considered highly unreliable but was tacitly backed by Blair’s government in public statements anyway.

Continues >>

Iraq Inquiry bombshell: Secret letter to reveal new Blair war lies

November 29, 2009

By Simon Walters, Mail on Sunday Political Editor
Mail Online/UK, 29th November 2009

Blair and Bush in April 2002

Resolve: Blair and Bush in April 2002, when they secretly agreed on ‘regime change’ in Iraq

An explosive secret letter that exposes how Tony Blair lied over the legality of the Iraq War can be revealed.

The Chilcot Inquiry into the war will interrogate the former Prime Minister over the devastating ‘smoking gun’ memo, which warned him in the starkest terms the war was illegal.

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.

The revelations follow a series of testimonies by key figures at the Chilcot Inquiry who have questioned Mr Blair’s judgment and honesty, and the legality of the war.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that the inquiry has been given Lord Goldsmith’s explosive letter, and that Mr Blair and the peer are likely to be interrogated about it when they give evidence in the New Year.

More…

Lord Goldsmith gave qualified legal backing to the conflict days before the war broke out in March 2003 in a brief, carefully drafted statement. As The Mail on Sunday disclosed three years ago, even that was a distortion as Lord Goldsmith had told Mr Blair a week earlier he could be breaking international law.

But today’s revelations show that Lord Goldsmith told Mr Blair at the outset, and in writing, that military action against Iraq was totally illegal.

Lord Goldsmith leaves No10 in March 2003 after talks with BlairPressured: Lord Goldsmith leaves No10 in March 2003 after talks with Blair

 

The disclosures deal a massive blow to Mr Blair’s hopes of proving he acted in good faith when he and George Bush declared war on Iraq. And they are likely to fuel further calls for Mr Blair to be charged with war crimes.

Lord Goldsmith’s ‘smoking gun’ letter came six days after a Cabinet meeting on July 23, 2002, at which Ministers were secretly told that the US and UK were set on ‘regime change’ in Iraq.

The peer, who attended the meeting, was horrified. On July 29, he wrote to Mr Blair on a single side of A4 headed notepaper from his office.

Friends say it was no easy thing for him to do. He was a close friend of Mr Blair, who gave him his peerage and Cabinet post. The typed letter was addressed by hand, ‘Dear Tony’, and signed by hand, ‘Yours, Peter’.

In it, Lord Goldsmith set out in uncompromising terms why he believed war was illegal. He pointed out that:

  • War could not be justified purely on the grounds of ‘regime change’.
  • Although United Nations rules permitted ‘military intervention on the basis of self-defence’, they did not apply in this case because Britain was not under threat from Iraq.
  • While the UN allowed ‘humanitarian intervention’ in certain instances, that too was not relevant to Iraq.
  • It would be very hard to rely on earlier UN resolutions in the Nineties approving the use of force against Saddam.

Lord Goldsmith ended his letter by saying ‘the situation might change’ – although in legal terms, it never did.

The letter caused pandemonium in Downing Street. Mr Blair was furious. No10 told Lord Goldsmith he should never have put his views on paper, and he was not to do so again unless told to by Mr Blair.

The reason was simple: if it became public, Lord Goldsmith’s letter could make it impossible for Mr Blair to fulfil his secret pledge to back Mr Bush in any circumstances. More importantly, it could never be expunged from the record as copies were stored in No10 and in the Attorney General’s office.

Although Lord Goldsmith had Cabinet status, he attended meetings only when asked. After his letter, he barely attended another meeting until the eve of the war. Mr Blair kept him out to reduce the chance of him blurting out his views to other Ministers.

When Mr Blair is quizzed by the Chilcot Inquiry, he will be asked why he never admitted he was told from the start that the war was illegal.

Equally ominously for Mr Blair, a defiant Lord Goldsmith is ready to defend the letter when he appears before the inquiry. Friends of the peer, widely derided for his role in the Iraq War, believe it will vindicate him.

A source close to Lord Goldsmith said: ‘He assumed, perhaps naively, that Blair wanted a proper legal assessment. No10 went berserk because they knew that once he had put it in writing, it could not be unsaid.

‘They liked to do things with no note-takers, and often no officials, present. That way, there was no record. Everything could be denied.

Baroness Sally Morgan
Lord Falconer

Heavy-handed: Baroness Morgan and Lord Falconer are said to have ‘more or less pinned Lord Goldsmith to the wall and told him what Blair wanted’

‘Goldsmith threatened to resign at least once. He lost three stone in that period. He is an honourable man and it was a terribly stressful experience.’

Lord Goldsmith’s wife Joy, a prominent figure in New Labour dining circles, played a crucial role in talking him out of quitting.

‘Joy was always very ambitious on Peter’s behalf and did not want to see him throw it all away,’ said a source.

Lord Goldsmith’s letter contradicts Mr Blair’s repeated statements, before, during and after the war on its legality.

In April 2005, the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman repeatedly asked him if he had seen confidential Foreign Office advice that the war would be illegal without specific UN support.

Mr Blair said: ‘No. I had the Attorney General’s advice to guide me.’ At best, it was dissembling. At worst, it was a blatant lie.

Mr Blair knew all along that Lord Goldsmith had told him the war was illegal, and that when the peer finally gave it his cautious backing, he did so only under extreme duress.

The Mail on Sunday has also obtained new evidence about the way Lord Goldsmith was bullied into backing the war at the 11th hour.

He was summoned to a No10 meeting with Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and Baroness Sally Morgan, Mr Blair’s senior Labour ‘fixer’ in Downing Street. No officials were present.

A source said: ‘Falconer and Morgan performed a pincer movement on Goldsmith. They more or less pinned him up against the wall and told him to do what Blair wanted.’

After the meeting, Lord Goldsmith issued his brief statement stating the war was lawful.

Lord Falconer said in response to the latest revelations: ‘This version of events is totally false. The meeting was Lord Goldsmith’s suggestion and he told us what his view was.’

Baroness Morgan has also denied trying to pressure Lord Goldsmith.

The legal row came to a head days before the war, when the UN refused to approve military action. Stranded, Mr Blair had to win Lord Goldsmith’s legal backing, not least because British military chiefs refused to send troops into action without it.

On March 17, three days before the conflict started, Lord Goldsmith said the war was legal on the basis of previous UN resolutions threatening action against Saddam – even though in his secret letter of July 2002, he had ruled out this argument.

A spokesman for Lord Goldsmith said: ‘This letter is probably in the bundle that has been supplied to the inquiry by the Attorney General’s department. It is presumed they will want to discuss it with him. If so, Lord Goldsmith is content to do so.

‘His focus is on the legality of the war, its morality is for others.’

A spokesman for the Chilcot Inquiry said: ‘We are content we have obtained all the relevant documents.’

A spokesman for Mr Blair refused to say why the former Prime Minister had not disclosed Lord Goldsmith’s July 2002 letter.

‘The Attorney General set out the legal basis for action in Iraq in March 2003,’ he said. ‘Beyond that, we are not getting into a running commentary before Mr Blair appears in front of the Chilcot committee.’

Leading international human rights lawyer Philippe Sands said: ‘The Chilcot Inquiry must make Lord Goldsmith’s note of 29 July, 2002, publicly available to restore public confidence in the Government.’

Diary of deceit … and how the Attorney General lost three stone

2002

April 6: Blair meets Bush at Crawford, Texas. They secretly agree ‘regime change’ war against Iraq.

July 23: Blair tells secret Cabinet meeting of war plan. Goldsmith is asked to check legal position.

July 24: Blair tells MPs: ‘We have not got to the stage of military action…or point of decision.’

Lord Goldsmith JULY 19, 2002JULY 19, 2002: Lord Goldsmith photographed ten days before he tells Blair war is illegal

 

Lord Goldsmith MARCH 20, 2003MARCH 20, 2003: Haggard Goldsmith arrives for War Cabinet on day Iraq is invaded

 

July 29: Goldsmith secretly writes to Blair to tell him war is illegal.

July 30: No10 rebukes Goldsmith. He is excluded from most War Cabinet meetings.

November 8: UN urges Saddam to disarm, but stops short of backing war.
2003

March 7: Despite duress from No10, Goldsmith tells Blair war could be unlawful.

March 13: Goldsmith is allegedly ‘pinned against wall’ by Blair cronies Charlie Falconer and Sally Morgan.

March 17: UN rules out backing war.

March 17: Goldsmith U-turn. In carefully worded brief ‘summary’, he says war is lawful.

March 20: War begins.
2005

April 21: Jeremy Paxman asks Blair if he saw Foreign Office advice saying war was illegal. Blair says: ‘No. I had Lord Goldsmith’s advice to guide me.’

April 24: Mail on Sunday reveals Goldsmith told Blair two weeks before war that it could be illegal.
2009

November 24: Chilcot Iraq War Inquiry begins.

Today: Mail on Sunday reveals Goldsmith’s ‘smoking gun’ letter to Blair in July 2002.

Blair ‘knew WMD claim was false’

By DAVID ROSE

David Rose

By the time Tony Blair led Britain to attack Iraq, he had stopped believing his own lurid claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, according to an unpublished interview with the late Robin Cook, the former Leader of the Commons who resigned from the Cabinet just before the invasion in March 2003.

In the interview, which Cook gave me in 2004, the year before his death, he described Blair’s actions as ‘a scandalous manipulation of the British constitution’, adding that if the then Prime Minister had revealed his doubts, they would have rendered the war illegal.

Cook, who was in almost daily contact with Blair in the months before his resignation, said that in September 2002, when the Government published its infamous dossier claiming Saddam had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons and could deploy WMDs within 45 minutes, Blair did believe these claims were true. But he added:

‘By February or March, he knew it was wrong. As far as I know, at no point after the end of 2002 did he ever repeat those claims.’

Tony Blair secures MPs' support for war on March 18, 2003, as Clare Short looks onTony Blair secures MPs’ support for war on March 18, 2003, as Clare Short looks on. But according to Robin Cook, the PM already knew WMD claims were untrue

 

On March 18, Blair had to face the Commons to ask it to vote for war but he knew, Cook added, ‘that if he now publicly withdrew the dossier’s claims, his position would be lost’.

Therefore Blair kept silent and so secured the war resolution, though 139 Labour MPs voted against him.

Cook added that if Blair had revealed his doubts, this would also have made it impossible for Lord Goldsmith to issue the fateful legal advice that Britain’s Service chiefs had been demanding: that war would be lawful.

‘What I’ve never seen satisfactorily defended by the Government is whether that opinion still stands up if the premise on which it was based – the claims in the dossier – turn out to be false,’ Cook said.

‘Tony didn’t focus on WMDs only for political reasons, but for legal reasons. He knew he was not going to get the Attorney General on side on any basis other than that Saddam had illegal weapons and could not be disarmed by any means other than war.’

Cook’s is not the only bombshell that remains unpublished. Last week, Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, told the Chilcot Inquiry that though Blair kept insisting almost to the end that ‘nothing was decided’ on Iraq, his decision to support the invasion actually went back to April 2002, when he visited President Bush’s Texas ranch.

However, both Meyer and other British and American officials told me in 2004 that Blair made up his mind even before April and that even then, Blair was saying in private that Britain would join the attack as long as Bush got UN backing. That meant proving Saddam had active WMDs, as the UN would not authorise an attack on any other basis.

Sir Christopher Meyer
Robin Cook

Revelations: Sir Christopher Meyer and the late Robin Cook

Meyer told me: ‘Some time during the first quarter of 2002, Blair had become resigned to war.’

Having committed himself to war, Blair believed he had to get military action approved by the UN to make the invasion legal, and to get the support of his own party back home. But leading figures close to Bush were deeply hostile to this idea, and would have much preferred to attack unilaterally.

Perhaps the most shocking disclosures concerned Blair’s propensity to bend the truth. For example, on July 26, 2002, Clare Short, then International Development Secretary, asked Blair whether war was looming.

His response was that she should go on holiday untroubled, because ‘nothing had been decided, and would not be over the summer’.

In fact, at that very moment, his adviser Sir David Manning was engaged in feverish diplomacy in Washington – because although Blair thought Bush had promised to go to the UN, he seemed to be changing his mind. Manning even had a personal audience with Bush.

A few days later, Bush and Blair spoke by telephone. A senior White House official who read the transcript told me: ‘The way it read was that, come what may, they were going to take out the regime. I remember reading it and thinking, “OK, now I know what we’re going to be doing for the next year.”‘

Later, both leaders would state repeatedly that they had not decided to go to war. But the official said: ‘War was avoidable only if Saddam ceased to be president of Iraq. It was a done deal.’

Yet the hawkish neo-conservatives at the Pentagon were still fighting hard to avoid the UN route, which would require a narrowing of focus on to WMDs. The crunch came at a summit at Camp David on September 7, 2002, when, most unusually, not only Bush but the neo-con vice president Dick Cheney met Blair. Cheney’s role, Meyer said, was solely to try to persuade Bush not to go to the UN.

In desperation, Blair, according to another White House official, told Bush and Cheney that he could be ousted at the Labour conference later that month if Bush ignored the UN. Afterwards, the official said, he and his colleagues pored over the party’s constitution, discovering that it was most unlikely that this threat would materialise.

But by then it was too late: a week after the summit, Bush spoke at the UN General Assembly, and announced America would be seeking what became Resolution 1442 – the resolution that, in Lord Goldsmith’s eyes, allowed British soldiers to kill Iraqis without being prosecuted for murder.

But not all who once saw Blair as a friend have forgiven him. ‘Blair was absolutely the reason why we went to the UN, because it was believed that his political fortunes absolutely demanded it,’ said David Wurmser, formerly Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser. ‘It really was a political concession to Blair – and also a disastrous misjudgment.’

Bush’s ‘coalition of the willing’ abandons Iraq

November 29, 2008

President Bush’s “coalition of the willing” is set to all but disappear from Iraq by the end of the year, with 13 countries, including South Korea, Japan, Moldova and Tonga preparing to withdraw their few remaining troops.

Britain, Australia, Romania, Estonia and El Salvador are the only nations, apart from the US, that plan to remain after a UN mandate authorising their presence expires on December 31.

London must still reach an agreement with Baghdad, however, to keep its 4,100-strong contingent on the ground into the new year. Failure to do so in time would leave British troops without legal cover and they too would have to leave.

“We are going to say farewell to 13 different nations in the space of two and a half weeks,” said Brigadier-General Nicolas Matern, a deputy commander for Multi-National Corps Iraq, which oversees the US military’s coalition partners.

“We started off with 35 countries but it has steadily been going down … As from December it is going to go all the way down,” he told The Times.

A farewell ceremony took place on Wednesday for 76 Macedonian soldiers. Another is due today for 86 troops from Bosnia and Herzegovina and a third is scheduled for South Korea’s contingent tomorrow. Others set to follow suit include soldiers from Albania, Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania and Ukraine.

President Bush and Tony Blair scrambled the coalition together in the build-up to the Iraq invasion in a bid to put an international face on what was fast becoming an unpopular war. But the list of participants drew scorn for failing to include a greater number of powerful states, with the US and Britain the main contributors.

The size of the outgoing contingents ranges from just 4 Lithuanians to 300 South Koreans. Many countries have reduced their presence over the past five years, but it has always been a fraction of the US deployment, now standing at 146,000.

Bulgaria – with only 150 troops left in Iraq – has had forces south of Baghdad since June 2003, taking part in various operations, including patrols and guard duty. Thirteen Bulgarian soldiers have been killed and 81 injured in that time.

Lieutenant Colonel Valeri Kolev Valchanov said: “I think we have contributed somehow towards the stabilisation of the country.”

Bulgaria’s troops are also preparing to pull out next month, a move that triggers mixed emotions for the Bulgarian officer. “I will never forget my friendships with Romanian soldiers, Ukrainian soldiers, Polish soldiers, American soldiers,” he said. “We were in dangerous conditions together and celebrated good moments together.”

Major Mario Ernesto Argueta is from El Salvador, which has 200 troops working on humanitarian projects in Wasit province, south of the Iraqi capital. He too believes that the efforts of a tiny contingent make an impact.

“It doesn’t matter how many we are, the most important part is that you made a difference, not for the whole country but for the person who got the aid,” he said.

El Salvador is one of four coalition countries – excluding the United States and Britain – which have been invited to stay in Iraq beyond the end of the year.

“The US approached the Government of Iraq asking that we consider asking a few countries other than the United Kingdom to continue to provide some specialist forces for non-combat tasks after 31 December,” said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s National Security Adviser. “After considering the request, the Prime Minister agreed and those countries were invited to continue to assist us.”

Formal agreements will be made with El Salvador, Australia, Romania and Estonia once a long-awaited security pact with the United States, which was approved by Parliament on Thursday, becomes law.

Outside the coalition, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which has 200 troops from 15 countries in Iraq, is also trying to finalise an accord with Baghdad to continue a training mission in the country beyond the end of 2008.

In addition, the United Nations has a number of Fijian troops working in Iraq.

While the coalition is dissolving, another force of foreigners is still thriving in the country: thousands of private contractors from developing countries such as Peru, Uganda, the Philippines and Bangladesh.

To Provoke War

August 2, 2008

Cheney Considered Proposal To Dress Up Navy Seals As Iranians And Shoot At Them

By Faiz | Think Progress, July 31, 2008

Speaking at the Campus Progress journalism conference earlier this month, Seymour Hersh — a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist for The New Yorker — revealed that Bush administration officials held a meeting recently in the Vice President’s office to discuss ways to provoke a war with Iran.

In Hersh’s most recent article, he reports that this meeting occurred in the wake of the overblown incident in the Strait of Hormuz, when a U.S. carrier almost shot at a few small Iranian speedboats. The “meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. ‘The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,’” according to one of Hersh’s sources.

During the journalism conference event, I asked Hersh specifically about this meeting and if he could elaborate on what occurred. Hersh explained that, during the meeting in Cheney’s office, an idea was considered to dress up Navy Seals as Iranians, put them on fake Iranian speedboats, and shoot at them. This idea, intended to provoke an Iran war, was ultimately rejected:

HERSH: There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up.

Might cost some lives. And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation. But that was rejected.

Watch it:

Hersh argued that one of the things the Bush administration learned during the encounter in the Strait of Hormuz was that, “if you get the right incident, the American public will support” it.

“Look, is it high school? Yeah,” Hersh said. “Are we playing high school with you know 5,000 nuclear warheads in our arsenal? Yeah we are. We’re playing, you know, who’s the first guy to run off the highway with us and Iran.”

Transcript:

HERSH: There was a meeting. Among the items considered and rejected — which is why the New Yorker did not publish it, on grounds that it wasn’t accepted — one of the items was why not…

There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.

And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation. But that was rejected.

So I can understand the argument for not writing something that was rejected — uh maybe. My attitude always towards editors is they’re mice training to be rats.

But the point is jejune, if you know what that means. Silly? Maybe. But potentially very lethal. Because one of the things they learned in the incident was the American public, if you get the right incident, the American public will support bang-bang-kiss-kiss. You know, we’re into it.

…What happened in the Gulf was, in the Straits, in early January, the President was just about to go to the Middle East for a visit. So that was one reason they wanted to gin it up. Get it going.

Look, is it high school? Yeah. Are we playing high school with you know 5,000 nuclear warheads in our arsenal? Yeah we are. We’re playing, you know, who’s the first guy to run off the highway with us and Iran.

UpdateKevin Drum adds:

If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In one of David Manning’s famous memos describing a prewar meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair, he says that Bush admitted that WMD was unlikely to be found in Iraq and then mused on some possible options for justifying a war anyway:

“The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours,” the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. “If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.”

In the end, of course, we didn’t do this. We just didn’t bother with any pretext at all.


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