Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hoon v. Goldsmith on legality of Iraq War?

He added: "Intelligence is something that suggests something - not proves something."
This appears to go against Mr Blair's statement in the September dossier setting out the case for war that intelligence proved "beyond doubt" Iraq still had WMD.
Mr Powell revealed the US had told Mr Blair a coalition with the UK was "not essential" to them.

The above is from Jason Beattie's "Iraq inquiry: No10 aide Jonathan Powell admits no WMD proof existed" (Daily Mirror). Powell offered testimony yesterday. (Click here for Andrew Sparrow's live blogging of that hearing.) He was the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister from 2001 to 2007. Geoffrey Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, 2001 - 2005 is testifying today and, later in the week, the Iraq Inquiry will hear from: Mark Lyall-Grant (Director General Political, FCO, 2007 - 2009), David Omand (Permanent Secretary Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator, 2002 - 2005), Jack Straw (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, 2001 - 2006), Suma Chakrabarti (Permanent Secretary, DFID, 2002 - 2007) and Nicholas Macpherson (Permanent Secretary, HMT, 2006 - 2009). The Inquiry takes place in London and the chair is John Chilcot. For background on Hoon, see Nico Hines (Times of London) sketch of Hoon. Today the Iraq Inquiry publicly released a document. James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) reports:

The law officer wrote to ministers in March 2002, almost exactly a year before the UK joined the US in invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein.
Documents released today by Sir John Chilcot's inquiry into the war show that Lord Goldsmith wrote to rebuke Geoff Hoon, then the defence secretary, for stating publicly that war could be justified in international law.
Mr Hoon made the claim in a television interview on March 24, 2002.

Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) is live blogging Hoon's testimony and we'll note this section:

11.51am: Chilcot now asks about the legal advice Goldsmith gave the government on March 7 2003. It was leaked some years ago and you can read the text here.

Hoon says he read the document at the time. It was clear that there was legal justification for war.
Chilcot asks about the need of a clear military advice. The military said they wanted something assuring them the war was legal.

Hoon says the politicians needed that assurance too.
Chilcot says that Goldsmith met Lord Boyce, the chief of the defence staff, on March 14.
Hoon says that if Goldsmith had said there was no basis for war, there would have been no military action.
Hoon says he had been an academic lawyer. He recalls being told off by his pupil master for being too academic in his own legal opinions when he was training. He was told: "The client needs an answer." In March 2003 he was in the position of a client needing an answer.
Chilcot says other cabinet ministers did not see the March 7 document. Should they have seen it?
Hoon replies:

I'm not sure it would be appropriate for cabinet to have that kind of discussion.

He says it would not have been appropriate because this was not policy advice.
Chilcot says Clare Short wanted a discussion on the legal issues.

Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger continues covering the hearing as well. And you can click here for Iraq Inquiry Blogger's Twitter feed. Sky News' Miranda Richardson reports on the hearing (link has text and video and you also have Sky News' live blogging of today's hearing).

Dropping back to the January 14th snapshot for this:

Yesterday, Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) were observing, "Another major attack would have been particularly damaging to members of Maliki's coalition running in parliamentary elections. The coalition's candidates are campaigning on a security platform." Nouri's grandstanding for elections, as he tries desperately to regain his (false) image as the person who gave Iraq security, coincides with the announcement of executions. Al Jazeera reports that 11 men have been sentenced to death for the August 19th Baghdad bombings ("Black Wednesday") and quotes the judicial body's spokesperson Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar stating, "Today an Iraqi criminal court imposed a death sentence against 11 criminals who have been convicted of implementing, planning and funding the bomb events that targeted the finance and foreign ministries." Nada Bakri (New York Times) states al-Beeraqdar declared that an investigation into the August bombings were conducted for over three weeks -- turning up 'evidence' on the men -- and then the 11 men faced a trial. A two-week trial. A two-week trial. And all are convicted to death by execution? How very fortunate for Nouri's efforts to hang on as prime minister (the prime minister is selected by Parliament, FYI). The 11 sentenced to die join a long, long list of other guilty or 'guilty' persons in Iraq facing execution. Last month, Amnesty International issued the following:

You can use the link for that statement but Amnesty International issued a release on the topic yesterday which we'll note in full:

Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to halt the mounting number of death sentences being handed out in the run-up to delayed national elections in March.

Last week, 11 men were sentenced to death for allegedly committing terrorist acts including truck bombings, and on Sunday Ali Hassan al-Majid -- a former senior official under Saddam Hussain known widely as "Chemical Ali" - was sentenced to death for the fourth time.

"The Iraqi authorities have been using the death penalty increasingly in response to the grave security situation that continues to prevail in the country and which has seen numerous murderous attacks on civilians," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"However, this is not the answer. This is further brutalising Iraqi society and the fact that many attacks are carried out by suicide bombers indicates that it is certainly not an effective deterrent."

Little information about the trial of the 11 is available but in other cases it is known that trials before the Iraqi Central Criminal Court (ICCC) have been woefully inadequate, with defendants being convicted on the basis of confessions that they made allegedly under torture while held incommunicado in pre-trial detention. Many defendants did not even have lawyers of their choice to defend them.

"Trials before the ICCC consistently fall short of international fair trial standards, according to evidence we have previously gathered," said Malcolm Smart.

In some cases, alleged "confessions" made by defendants have been broadcast on Iraqi state television.

In the wake of the 19 August 2009 Baghdad attack, an Iraqi TV channel showed a video of one of the defendants, Wissam 'Ali Kadhem Ibrahim, confessing to planning one of the two truck bombings -- but there was no indication whether this "confession" was freely given or obtained under duress.

Another court, the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, sentenced Saddam Hussain's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid -- or "Chemical Ali" -- to death for the fourth time. He was sentenced after being convicted of ordering a gas attack on the town of Halabja, which killed more than 5,600 members of Iraq's Kurdish minority in 1988.

"The Halabja killings were one of the very gravest crimes committed under Saddam Hussain’s government," said Malcolm Smart. "We have called since 1988 for those responsible to be held to account. At the same time, we oppose the death penalty in all cases, even those involving the most heinous crimes."
Make a difference!
» (UA 14/10) Stop the Execution of Eleven Iraqi Men
» (UA 12/10) Stop the Execution of Gan Jinhua
» Finality over Fairness: the case of Troy Davis

Independent journalist David Bacon reports on the education of K through 4th grade students:


David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST). Mike's "In Massachusetts, the view's far different than in NYC" went up yesterday and we'll close with this note from Phyllis Bennis at ZNet:

As for the wars - while the Obama administration is so far fulfilling the letter, if not the spirit, of the Bush-negotiated withdrawal plan from Iraq, we are already hearing from Secretary of Defense Gates and others that there are talks already underway to insure that U.S. troops remain in Iraq even after the end of 2011, supposedly the date for the "final" withdrawal of "all" U.S. troops from that country. The Afghanistan war is escalating, and there are new drone strikes in Pakistan. And now, Yemen. The UN has just reported that civilian casualties in Afghanistan were higher in 2009 than any earlier year of the U.S. war. This seems to be the Obama-as-president version of the Obama-as-candidate promise to not only end the war in Iraq, but "end the mindset that leads to war."
IPS just issued its one-year report card for Obama and his administration. We gave him a barely passing C-minus. And the lowest grades were those in war and peace.
We have a lot of work to do.

Actually, a note before we close. Rebecca's in England for at least the week (with her husband) it was last minute and I'm watching her child which is not a problem but just a heads up in case today's Iraq snapshot is less than usual. I'm not planning for it to be and Kat, Wally, Ava and I are keeping the same speaking schedule but if I have to short cut somewhere today, it will be when it comes to the snapshot. (Which will go up but might only or 'only' be 50K and not 93.)
The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

david bacon