Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No evidence of 'imminent threat' Goldsmith tells Inquiry

This Friday, two days away, one-time prime minister, forever poodle, Tony Blair will drag his War Criminal ass before the Iraq Inquiry in London. A major protest is expected to take place as War Criminal Tony attempts to wash the blood off his hands. From Stop The War Coalition's "Protest on Tony Blair's Judgement Day: 29 January from 8am:"

Peoples Dossier
New Stop the War pamphlet

Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Broad
Sanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3EE

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.

Writers, musicians, relatives of the dead, Iraqi refugees, poets, human rights lawyers, comedians, actors, MPs and ordinary citizens will join a day of protest outside the Inquiry to demand that this should be Tony Blair's judgement day.

There will be naming the dead ceremonies for the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in Blair's war. Military families who lost loved ones in Iraq will read the names of the 179 British soldiers killed.

Join us from 8.0am onwards.

The Inquiry's public hearings continue today with Attorney General Peter Goldsmith testifying. And the Liberal Democrats have already 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."

Of Peter Goldsmith, the Telegraph of London notes, "Today's hearing may prove a pivotal moment in the Chilcot Inquiry, as Lord Goldsmith is confronted with apparently compelling evidence that he reversed his view on the need for a fresh resolution in the two months before the invasion." 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. 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."

Richard Ford (Times of London) reports: "Jack Straw today defended his decision to ignore the legal advice of two senior Foreign Office lawyers in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The Justice Secretary rejected claims that he had ignored crucial advice over the legality of military action." Is Straw already back before the Inquiry? No, he's attempting damage control after yesterday's hearing. Iain Martin (Wall St. Journal) explains, "Jack Straw was warned by the Foreign Office’s chief legal adviser in the run-up to war that the invasion of Iraq was illegal, the Chilcot inquiry has heard. Sir Michael Wood said that action had not been approved by the U.N. Security Council and was, in his opinion, illegal. Straw, the then foreign secretary, rejected his advice." Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror) reports, "In dramatic evidence that suggested Mr Straw was pushing for invasion, Sir Michael revealed he sent the Foreign Secretary memos to say the "UK could not lawfully use force" and needed a second UN resolution. Sir Michael and his deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst also revealed all the department's legal experts regarded the invasion as unlawful." Information Clearing House has Alice Ritchie's AFP report on yesterday's hearing. They also repost George Monbiot's Guardian column "Wanted: Tony Blair for War Crimes." Brendan noted both ICH links and asked that this be noted: "We are paying attention to which of the beggars of Panhandle Media are covering the Iraq Inquiry and which aren't. That includes the biggest beggar of them all Amy Goodman." Indeed. Once upon a time the war mattered and now we have two government officials explaining that they repeatedly explained the Iraq War was illegal and they were ignored . . . By Tony Brown in real time and by Amy Goodman and all the other beggars today. A headline is not the way to 'cover' this story. But apparently when you're attempting to be Entertainment Weekly's Sundance Film Fest issue, you don't have time to cover the things that actually matter. Remember when she begs next that she never made it to London to cover the Inquiry but she did do celeb interviews from Utah.

Afua Hirsch (Guardian) notes
of Woods and Wilsmhurst testimony yesterday:

The implications for a lawyer's advice to be returned by the client with instructions to reconsider are clear, supporting previous allegations that Goldsmith was "leaned on" by the government to change his position.
What also came across with fresh ­clarity was the government's ­dismissiveness of the legal expertise in its own ­departments. "I have been very forcefully struck by a paradox in the culture of government lawyers," wrote Simon Macdonald, who drafted the ­letter on behalf of Straw. "The less certain the law is, the more certain their views become." This point was also taken up by Straw in his letter to Wood on 29 January, also declassified alongside today's evidence. During his time at the Home Office, Straw said, legal advisers had a tendency to offer advice but nevertheless accept "that there could be a different view … even on apparently open and shut issues".
Wilmshurst was unequivocal in her assessment of this dismissiveness. Not only were the views of the attorney general, Wood and herself disregarded, she also revealed not a single legal adviser within the Foreign Office believed the war to be legal. Her evidence chimed with the overwhelming wisdom in the community of international public lawyers -- not one of whom has come out in favour of the government's position.

Simon Hoggart (Guardian) explains the effect of Wilmshurst's testimony on those assembled:

The Iraq inquiry burst into life yesterday, thanks to a quiet, thoughtful yet furious woman who ripped into the government like a genteel but very hungry lioness. Elizabeth Wilmshurst was the first witness to get a round of applause from the public.
Her evidence was brief, less than an hour, but Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith must have loathed every word. It was like being torn apart by a cross between Judi Dench as "M" and Princess Diana -- softly spoken, but as hard and inflexible as a crowbar.
And it had been almost as bad in the morning, when Sir Michael Wood, Ms Wilmshurst's old boss, set about sticking pins into a wax model of Jack Straw. Not any old pins, either: these were beautifully chased antique pins, honed like the slenderest Toledo blades, so sharp he can't have felt them before he saw the spurting blood. Or as the late Boris Karloff put it: "An icicle inserted in the brain will melt, and leave no trace."
But it was Ms Wilmshurst who was the inquiry's first star, not least because she had resigned just before the war began on the grounds that it was ­illegal. Every lawyer in the Foreign Office thought it was illegal, and they had missed no chance to say so. Ministers ignored them.

The paper's editorial board offers:

The evidence of Sir Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmshurst, combined with the documents, tells a shocking story. In 2002, the Foreign Office and the attorney general saw little chance of establishing a legal case without one of three things: a second UN resolution (which Britain sought but did not get); an urgent need for self-defence (which -- despite the WMD dossiers – did not exist); or a humanitarian crisis (which did not exist either).
The prime minister and foreign secretary should have listened. Instead they treated this advice as an awkward distraction. In November 2002 the attorney general protested that his views were being misrepresented – he was "pessimistic", not "optimistic", about the legal validity of war without a second resolution, he told the foreign secretary. Meanwhile Mr Straw -- who presented himself as a reluctant supporter of war when he gave evidence last week -- turns out from the documents to have been the prime minister's willing helper, brushing aside his own chief legal adviser.
Mr Blair and Mr Straw took Britain to war knowing all legal advice -- before the attorney general's final draft -- was against it. They gambled. They lost. They have been found out.

Friday War Criminal Tony Blair is trotted before the committee on his leash. Henry Chu (Los Angeles Times) observes:

So intense is the interest in Blair's testimony that more than 3,000 people have applied for the 40 seats allotted to the general public during each of two three-hour sessions Friday before the Chilcot inquiry, as the Iraq Inquiry is also known.
For many Britons, the investigation represents their last, best chance to get at the truth of a war that polarized the nation, a conflict that unleashed a massive wave of public protest and has cost the lives of 179 British troops, billions of taxpayer dollars and a large chunk of trust in government.
"The role, for me, of the Chilcot inquiry is a sort of cathartic role. It's trying to help a country get over what was a deeply divisive moment," said Philippe Sands, a lawyer who has been highly critical of the legal grounds given for the invasion. "If it doesn't achieve that, then I think it will have failed."
On the surface, he couldn't care less. The only rational purpose to his interview with Fern Britton, when he pretty much admitted that regime change motivated him all along, and that he'd have been just as happy dreaming up justifications for that if required, was to trumpet his insouciant unconcern. He was giving the finger to the notion of legality itself. I wanted Saddam removed because I judged it right, ran the subtext. Petit bourgeois notions such as international law are for the little people, where I was a Titan. But then so was Prometheus. Mr Blair also played with fire, and so there will forever be eagles pecking at his liver.

Matthew Norman (Independent of London) sketches out the life of the War Hawk:

Yesterday's revelation that he will earn a reported £200,000 a day for making geopolitical speeches to a hedge fund best known until now for the money it made betting on the failure of Northern Rock needlessly confirmed this staggeringly defiant attitude. The timing of the announcement was as crude as the symbolism of its content. Whatever impertinences these Chilcot jokers subject me to, his message must be: "I'll be coining it in more than ever. So yaboo sucks to the whole stinkin' lot of ya."
You cannot fault his consistency. What proportion of the income received for his memoirs and after-dinner speeches in America devolves directly from his status as junior war leader is impossible to quantify, but it must be many millions. If he earns a few million more from a firm that benefited from the economic catastrophe overseen by Labour, he is loyal to his own avarice in profiting from his own mismanagement.

Non-related, Matthew Rothschild's column at The Progressive is probably must reading for anyone planning to watch tonight's State of the Union speech. We'll close with "Tony Blair is guilty of mass murder" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

'Tony Blair should be tried for his crimes against Iraq -- and the legacy the war has left there.

A million Iraqis have died, leaving millions orphaned and widowed. The war and occupation have made as many as four million people into refugees.

The whole infrastructure of Iraq has been devastated by the occupation. Our heritage has been looted and destroyed, the environment has been poisoned and vital water sources have been lost.

Iraq used to be the breadbasket of the region -- now once fertile lands are in danger of being transformed into a desert. Children are growing up suffering from disease and deformities.

Sectarianism has been elevated to all state institutions and the country is dangerously fragmented. Corruption is rife -- government officials have been caught taking bribes of millions of dollars from foreign companies.

Iraq's precious oil resources have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. Meanwhile the profits of private security companies have soared.

Ordinary Iraqis who have suffered the most from the illegal war and occupation are left to cope with living under the threat of violence.

Unemployment now stands at 50 percent in a country where infrastructure has been shattered.

Yet despite everything the Iraqi people will continue with their determined struggle to reject the occupation and build a democratic, free Iraq.'

Peter Brierley whose son Shaun was killed in Iraq in 2003

'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.'

The following should be read alongside this article:
» 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

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

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