Wednesday, January 27, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Ali al-Lami is not Ahmed Chalabi's lover (or that's the claim), the Iraq Inquiry hears from Peter Goldsmith who confesses to way more than he realizes, an Iraqi who died on Monday is remembered by those who knew him, and more.
Today the Iraq Inquiry in London heard from the former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith who apparently had trouble with timelines (link goes to video and transcript options). Ruth Barnett and Andy Jack (Sky News) report, "There was no evidence of an 'imminent threat' from Iraq to justify a war in self defence, Lord Goldsmith has told an inquiry." That was early in the morning. The hearing got more interesting as it went along. Goldsmith would explain the US never wanted a second resolution and if Goldsmith knew that, Tony Blair did which means Blair most likely never wanted a second resolution despite remarks to the British public as well as the Parliament in the lead up to the Iraq War. In addition, Goldsmith revealed that when he finally decided to flip on his own advice (he'd stated the Iraq War was legal without a second UN resolution), he did so not based on the law but based on whose side he wanted to be on -- as if a war is a game of dodge ball.
Before we get to the sorry excuse for a lawyer and human being that Goldsmith is, let's note that the Liberal Democrats issued a release today:
Following Sir John Chilcot's admission today of 'frustration' over the Government's unwillingness to declassify certain information, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has called for key documents to be published before Tony Blair's hearing on Friday.
The documents, which must be made public if the Blair hearing is to be effective, include correspondence between the then-Prime Minister and George W Bush which has already been discussed, but so far remains unseen.
Commenting, Nick Clegg said:
"Despite Gordon Brown's claim that he has 'nothing to hide' this has all the hallmarks of a cover up. Just as Liberal Democrats warned, the protocol on the release of documents is being used to gag the inquiry.
"To restore trust in the inquiry the Government must immediately declassify certain key documents ahead of Tony Blair's hearing -- the memo from Sir David Manning to Tony Blair dated January 31, 2003 and the letter from Tony Blair to George W Bush sent July 2002.
"Labour are leaving themselves open to charges of outright sabotage of Chilcot's work to save their own political skins. If Tony Blair gets through on the nod due to the withholding of key documents, the public will rightly dismiss this inquiry as a whitewash.
"This will not go away. The Government must understand that the truth about this illegal war must and will emerge eventually, and that the time to come clean is now."
Now let's jump in to the hearing and if you're lost in the timeline, consider the confusion to be Goldsmith's fault. He will apparently identify an event, a trip, in February 2003 as having taken place in February 2002. Follow down the rabbit hole if you can.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: When did you actually give the Prime Minister your first advice?
Peter Goldsmith: Well, my advice remained preliminary until July -- I'm so sorry, until February. It remained preliminary until February, because I was still conducting my enquiries and researches. On, I think, 27 February, I met in Downing Street with, again, the Prime Minister's advisers and I told them then that, in the light of the further enquiries I had made, following my visit to the United States, following discussions with Jeremy Greenstock, following my investigation of the negotiating history, I was of the view that a reasonable case could be made -- I'm sorry, there was a reasonable case that a second resolution was not necessary, and that that was, on past precedent, sufficient to constitute a green light.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You have moved ahead to 27 February.
Peter Goldsmith: Yes.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: We were hearing yesterday in discussion with Ms Wilmshurst, about presentation of draft advice by you in the middle of January to the Prime Minister.
Peter Goldsmith: Yes.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Advice that she said that she had, I think, seen unofficially.
Peter Goldsmith: She wasn't involved. Ms. Wilmshurst wasn't --
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Let's not personalise it and her. I think she was speaking for the FCO legal advisers collectively then. The question I wished to ask you is: what did you present to the Prime Minister, and how and when, in January?
Peter Godlsmith: As I said, I presented a sort of draft provisional advice as a basis for understanding what the response was to some of my concers, particularly drawing attention to the need to understand what was meant by "for assessment" in operational paragraph 4.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Was this in sort of fleshed-out form?
Peter Goldsmith: Yes.
Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: Was it quite a lengthy document?
Peter Goldsmith: Because the whole point was there were a number of textual arguments that were being raised. You couldn't explain those in a ten-second conversation.
Goldsmith then explained he met with Tony Blair, then prime minister, to discuss a draft of his findings. The draft also made it to Jeremy Greenstock and others but Goldsmith only provided it to Tony Blair. January 23, 2003, he met with Greenstock to discuss the findings. Greenstock told him that a resolution from the United Nations' Security Council authorizing the Iraq War was unnecessary. The issue of the first resolution (the one allowing UN inspectors into Iraq) was raised.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: In one of the early drafts of that resolution, that the United Kingdom and the United States, I think, showed to the French on 25 September 2003 -- and I appreciate that you were not being consulted on the drafting process, so let me quote from that: "We were bidding to include the following words in the resolution, that the Security Council", I quote: ". . . decides that false statements or omissions in the declaration and failure by Iraq to comply shall constitute a further material breach, and that such breach authorises member states to use all necessary means to restore international peace and security in the area." Now, presumably, if we had succeeded in getting those words into the resolution, there would have been no need for a second decision at all?
Peter Goldsmith: Quite right.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: But we do not succeed in getting those words into the resolution. So in order to achieve a resolution, we had to give ground.
Peter Goldsmith: Well, the ground that was given particularly was to concede some second stage. The difficult question is whether the second stage was a Council discussion, where they would consider the discussion, or a Council discussion where they would decide what would happen next.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: We conceded that we had not been able to achieve a clear statement in this resolution that authorised member states to use all necessary means, ie to use force?
Goldsmith then goes off topic and Lyne tries to bring him back. Whenever Goldsmith goes off topic -- especially to avoid answering a question -- he ends up giving away much more than he realizes. He's not on topic but we'll jump in here anyway.
Peter Goldsmith: The United States, as everyone has said -- Sir Michael said it, I have said throughout, it is apparent on 7 March -- didn't believe they needed an United Nations Resolution at all. They believed they were able themselves to make the determination that Iraq was in material breach, and, therefore, they didn't need -- they didn't need 1441. Mr. Blair had -- and I said, I think to his credit -- had got President Bush to the UN table.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: I think, with respect, that's a separate point. We have gone past that point already.
Peter Goldsmith: With respect, may I make the point? Because it is important, and it is one of the things that came across very clearly in the meetings I had in February with the UN. Because the United States didn't need 1441 -- we did because we took the view that there had to be a determination of material breach. The United States didn't need it. They could have walked away from 1441 and said, "Well, we have been to the United Nations, they haven't given us the resolution we want, we can now take force." The only red line I was told by the State Department, legal adviser, the only red line that the negotiators had was that they must not concede a further decision of the Security Council because they took the view they could move in any event.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.
Peter Goldsmith: Therefore, if they had agreed to a decision which said the Security Council must decide, they would have then lost that freedom.
Do you find Peter Goldsmith to be believable? That's a person call and people will have to make it on their own. But the above exchange -- an exchange Goldsmith offered willingly (in an attempt to avoid Lyne's questions) is rather explosive and people seem to be missing that.
Think for a moment what the Iraq Inquiry has been told. You've got, yes, one group that declares that England had 1441 and didn't need another resolution for the war to be legal and then you have the legal experts who say of course England needed a resolution authorizing the war. But back that up. Forget for a moment whether it was needed or not. We are told, over and over, that Tony Blair thought he could get a second one or thought that a second one would be sought. But Goldsmith has just revealed the US government's position -- after 1441 -- was that NO other resolution from the Security Council would be sought.
Because of wasting time? No.
The US government's position, according to Goldsmith, was that if a second resolution was passed it might limit the US' actions. Goldsmith (leaving out Lyne's "yes"): "The only red line I was told by the State Department, legal adviser, the only red line that the negotiators had was that they must not concede a further decision of the Security Council because they took the view they could move in any event. [. . .] Therefore, if they [the US] had agreed to a decision which said the Security Council must decide, they would have then lost that freedom."
That's rather important. Not because of the US administration's legal 'strategy' (or 'legal' 'strategy') but because if that was the US position and it was conveyed to Goldsmith then we've heard a lot of liars in this Inquiry insist that Blair was trying for a second resolution. Tony Blair was attached to George W. Bush at the hip and Bush was saying that a second resolution could restrain US actions so the US didn't want a second resolution, you better believe Tony Blair wasn't attempting a second resolution.
If you find Goldsmith believable, then the above is explosive because it reveals that witnesses have lied to the Inquiry (some may have been misinformed -- it would go to how high up they were) and it means Tony Blair has lied to the British people because the US position would have been in place before 1441 passed. When they saw the language emerging for 1441, the US position would have been in place and it would be, according to Goldsmith, "Fine. That's our resolution. We won't go back for another because it might hem us in."
The Inquiry should ask Tony Blair Friday to explain his understanding of the US position on a second resolution and when he became aware that they felt a second resolution might hem them in? At what point did Blair decide to go along with no second resolution? He should then be asked if he was sincere in his talk (during the lead up) about a second resolution? It does not add up, it does not make sense. Clearly, by March, it was too late to talk of a second resolution for Blair (because the date was already set for the war and Blair knew it). So at what point was Blair stringing along the public (and possibly his Cabinet members)?
In January 2003, as Blair prepared to meet with Bush at the end of the month, Goldsmith testified he again informed Blair a second resolution was necessary for the war to be legal. In February 2003, Goldsmith states he changed his mind about that. Repeated attempts by Committee Member Usha Prashar to determine why that was were met with Goldsmith doing everything but answering her questions.
February 10, 2003, Goldsmith went to DC. Please note, he is asked and he says it is February 10, 2002 (page 108 of the transcript, lines 21 through 25). That does not appear to be correct. He was in DC February 10, 2003. He was at the White House on Feburary 11, 2003 according to the official records. If indeed he visited in 2002 -- as he seems to think he did, that would mean that the US government and the British government defrauded the UN as well as the citizens of the world. 1441 is passed November 8, 2002. For Goldsmith's timeline to be correct -- maybe it is -- they would have had to have planned in February 2002, nine months before seeking the resolution, how they would not go for a second one. Again, I can get a confirmation on the February 2003 visit. I can't find out anything on a February 2002 visit. If I'm wrong and he did visit in February 2002 and that what follows took place then, there are some additional issues of fraud to the ones US House Rep John Conyers once noted.
Goldsmith testified he spoke with Will Taft IV of the US State Dept., he states he spoke to the legal adviser for the National Security Council, to Condi Rice, to "Colin Powell's people," to "Judge Gonzalez" (that's Alberto Gonzalez) and with John Ashcroft who was then the US Attorney General.
Peter Goldsmith: On one point, they were absolutely speaking with one voice, which is they were very clear that what mattered to them, what mattered to President Bush is whether they would, as they put it, concede a veto -- I need to explain that -- and that the red line was that they shouldn't do that, and they were confident that they had not conceded a veto. The point about conceding a veto was that the reg light was, "We believe" -- they were saying "that we have a right to go without this resolution. We have been persuaded to come to the United Nations" -- plainly some in the administration disagreed with that, you know that very well, "but the one thing that musn't happen is that by going this route, we then find we lose the freedom of action we think we now have", and if the resolution had said there must be a further decision by the Seucrity Council, that's what it would have done, and the United States would have been tied into that. They were all very, very clear that was the most important point to them and that they hadn't conceded that, and they were very clear that the French understood that, that they said that they had told -- discussed this with other members of the Security Council as well and they all understood that was the position.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So they were very clear that the French had acknowledged, presumably in private, that there wasn't any need for a second decision?
Peter Godlsmith: Yes, in the discussions that they had had. They were very clear -- they were very clear that they had been adamant that this was key to them and that they had stuck to their guns and they had therefore conceded the discussion, the French acknowledged that, and discussion and no more.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: What evidence did they give you that the French had acknowledged this?
Peter Goldsmith: I wish they had presented me with more. That was one of the difficulties, and I make reference to this, that, at the end of the day, we were sort of dependent upon their view in relation to that. But I had seen -- certainly I had seen -- I looked very carefully at all the negotiating telegrams and I had seen that there were some acknowledgements of that, acknowledgments that the French understood the United States' position, at least, in telegrams that I had seen, and I was told of occasions when this had been clearly stated to the French.
To repeat, all the above describes what he would have encountered in February 2003 but he is saying it was February 2002.
In one of the more laughable moments, he explains he did not confirm the French government's position. He merely took the word of the Americans (and of people in his own government). Why? Because he insists he couldn't speak to the French government. It gets more crazy: He insists no British official could speak to the French. He couldn't place a call and no one could attempt to go through diplomatic channels.
He says because there were hard feelings between the US and France at that time and England was partners with the US and, golly, if the US saw Britian standing with France behind the gym, smoking a cigarette, the US might not invite Britain to the big party Friday. At "golly," I'm satirizing but it was his position and that's laughable. Even the Chair, John Chilcot, expressed surprise and asked of diplomatic channels which Goldsmith insisted couldn't be used.
Lyne asks Goldsmith what a court of law would say if he presented this? You have the official, public record of France's position. And if Goldsmith presented this hearsay of France's position (provided second hand by the US), what would a court say? A court would rule against it (it's hearsay) and Goldsmith knows that so he gets nervous (and gives away more than he realizes) and changes the topic. Asked what a court of law would say about that, he replies:
Well, can I answer this way, and I know I'm moving forward, but at that point that I took the view -- and I'll explain why -- that I had actually to come down on one side of the argument or other, I used a test which I quite frequently use when I'm having to advise on difficult matters, which is to say "Which side of the argument would you prefer to be on?" and I took the view I would prefer to be on the side of the argument that said a second resolution wasn't necessary.
That's not what a lawyer does. A lawyer does not say, "Do I want to be on A or B side?" An attorney looks at the law. The law is the law. You can interpret it, you can argue for grey areas, but the law is the law. You do not say, "___ is guilty or innocent. Which side do I want to be on?" You look at the evidence. You look at the facts. You go to precedents and you make a call. But Goldsmith has confessed to the Inquiry that when Tony Blair and Jack Straw didn't want a second resolution -- even though Goldsmith had been insisting the war would be illegal without a second resolution -- Goldsmith decided he'd rather be on Tony Blair's side. (He testified he decided that in March . . . and he testified he kind of decided that in January. We'll just say "March" and leave it at that.) It's not about sides, it's about the law.
Goldsmith is a joke and should be disbarred. He is saying he decided on a position -- not based on the law -- and then cherry picked through various things to back up the position. He should be disbarred and the UK should make him return his salary because that's not practicing the law.
Nico Hines live blogs the hearing for the Times of London. Andrew Sparrow live blogs the hearing for the Guardian. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs at Twitter. Chris Ames will blog and fact check at Iraq Inquiry Digest.
If you've ever wondered what it's like in the committee hearing room, Andy Beckett (Guardian) provides a detailed picture, he also sketches out each committee member and we'll note one section of his report:
As soon as I sat down and took out my notebook, a woman in a neighbouring seat with an intense air introduced herself. "I am from one of the bereaved families," she said. "My sister was kidnapped and died in Iraq."
Margaret Hassan was a British aid worker murdered during the Baghdad insurgency in 2004. Her family saw video footage of her captivity and death. Hassan's sister, Deirdre Manchanda, was contemptuous about the inquiry: "Sir John Chilcot," she said, with heavy sarcasm, "I wish he was my grandfather. When he consulted the bereaved families [before the hearings], I said, 'This is a huge conference centre, get another room for when Tony Blair appears. Or can the --bereaved families have reserved seats that day?'"
Manchanda went on: "I wouldn't shake Tony Blair's hand. But like other people here from the bereaved families, I haven't thrown eggs. We have conducted ourselves in a dignified way. Chilcot wrote back very politely, but not one proposal I put was agreed to."
And for the reaction of another person who lost a loved one in Iraq, we'll note Peter Brierly (father of Shaun Brierley) from "Tony Blair is guilty of mass murder" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):
'We've been saying what has now come out of the Chilcot inquiry for the last six years. The decision to go to war was made years before it was announced, it was illegal, and it was to depose Saddam Hussein.
They denied it all this time, and now it's out.
But that isn't enough. The only acceptable outcome is for Tony Blair to face investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
When he gives evidence Blair will deny these things. Unless they put charges to Blair, the inquiry is in disrepute.
The Iraqi people should have a voice too, to come and give evidence. It wasn't just people who were killed -- a whole country was destroyed.
Every other day there seems to be a bombing or something similar in Baghdad.
The violence only exists because of the instability war has created.
We went and met with John Chilcot along with other military families before the inquiry started.
I met him individually and he said that if anything illegal came out in the inquiry he wouldn't hesitate to pass it on.
Well now it has come out of their own mouths that it was for regime change.
Since I refused to shake Blair's hand, he seems a bit different.
People used to say you'll never get what you want, but he's looking less cocky now, less confident.
We won't stop until we get him -- and until we get justice.'
There is more to "Tony Blair is guilty of mass murder" but we don't have the room in today's snapshot, we'll note the other half tomorrow. Great Britain's Socialist Worker's coverage on this topic also includes:
» Blair and Brown have blood on their hands
» Afghanistan: Conference will not stabilise the 'good war' gone bad
» Chilcot whitewash brings out the dirt
» Attempt to ban protest outside Tony Blair's appearance at Iraq inquiry
Friday, one-time prime minister and forever poodle Tony Blair will appear before the Iraq Inquiry. A major protest is expected to take place outside as War Criminal Tony testifies. From Stop The War Coalition's "Protest on Tony Blair's Judgement Day: 29 January from 8am:"
Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Broad On Friday 29 January, Tony Blair will try to explain to the Iraq Inquiry the lies he used to take Britain into an illegal war.