Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Clare Short says Peter Goldsmith "misled the Cabinet"

THE Attorney General "misled" the Government over the case for going to war with Iraq, Clare Short told the inquiry into the conflict today.
Ms Short, who was international development secretary at the time, said she was not aware of Lord Goldsmith's "doubts and his changes of opinion" over the issue.
Lord Goldsmith gave legal advice before Britain committed to going to battle against Saddam Hussein in March 2003.
Giving evidence to the inquiry panel, Ms Short said: "I think he misled the Cabinet. He certainly misled me, but people let it through."

The above is from the Daily Record's "Iraq inquiry: Cabinet were misled over legality of war, says Clare Short" and, in London, the Iraq Inquiry continues their public hearings and Clare Short was today's first witness. Also scheduled to appear today are Hilary Benn and Peter Ricketts. Short, who resigned shortly after the Iraq War began in protest, has been much discussed in the public hearings and her appearance has generated much media interest. Channel 4 News reports:

In a letter on February 14th 2003 she told the prime minister: "The vulnerability of the Iraqi people to humanitarian catastrophe should not be underestimated. "United States (US) preparations to date have been dominated by military considerations.
"Plans for the provision of humanitarian assistance during and following any conflict appear quite comprehensive, but they rely on naïve assumptions that there will be no major problems and that conflict will be swift." She told Blair the need for United Nations (UN) backing "was critical", to give the military action "maximum authority".
Blair and United States ally George W Bush eventually went to war without the ultimate backing from the UN Security Council.
Short's warnings were contained in documents that were declassified ahead of her appearance before the Iraq Inquiry today.

Nicola Boden (Daily Mirror) emphasizes Short's denial that Blair's Cabinet was able to question Peter Goldsmith (Attorney General) about the war and legality, "That is untrue. I think he [Lord Goldsmith] misled the Cabinet. He certainly misled me." BBC News highlights that as weel and notes, "She said Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had been 'leaned on' to change his advice before the invasion." Nico Hines live blogs Short's testimony for the Times of London, Andrew Sparrow live blogs for the Guardian and Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs at Twitter. Iraq Inquiry Blogger also has a post up that provides an overview of Short's testimony. Chris Ames live blogs and fact checks at Iraq Inquiry Digest. At the Guardian, Ames wonders how much credibility the Inquiry has:

The credibility of the Iraq inquiry depends on witnesses telling the truth in its public hearings. So what does it do when a witness says something that is untrue and then declines to correct it in spite of a clear invitation to do so? It thanks the witness and carries on as if nothing had happened. Perhaps that is because the person in question is the head of MI6.
It's not as if Sir Roderick Lyne didn't give Sir John Sawers fair warning that documentary evidence disproved his version of events. But Sawers, who used to be Tony Blair's foreign affairs adviser and is now "C", called his bluff. Perhaps he thought he was untouchable; perhaps he thought the evidence would remain hidden, or perhaps he realised that an establishment inquiry recoils from calling anyone a liar.
But, as I describe on the Iraq Inquiry Digest website, the government has now declassified the document that shows that Sawers was wrong to deny personal involvement in the exclusion of the Department for International Development (Dfid) from the 2001 review of Iraq policy. Former international development secretary Clare Short is at the inquiry today and will be asked about the issue.

At Salon, Joe Conason writes of Tony Blair's testimony last Friday and wonders what effects it will have on Blair's post-prime minister life/career/money grubbing. Richard Norton Taylor (Guardian) covers Jock Stirrup's testimony yesterday.

Meanwhile Michael Savage (Independent of London) offers an explosive report:

A secret plan to foster an internal coup against Saddam Hussein was drawn up by the Government two years before the invasion of Iraq, The Independent can reveal.
Whitehall officials drafted the "contract with the Iraqi people" as a way of signalling to dissenters in Iraq that an overthrow of Saddam would be supported by Britain. It promised aid, oil contracts, debt cancellations and trade deals once the dictator had been removed. Tony Blair's team saw it as a way of creating regime change in Iraq even before the 9/11 attack on New York.
The document, headed "confidential UK/US eyes", was finalised on 11 June 2001 and approved by ministers. It has not been published by the Iraq inquiry but a copy has been obtained by The Independent and can be revealed for the first time today. It states: "We want to work with an Iraq which respects the rights of its people, lives at peace with its neighbours and which observes international law.

This is dictated and I'm trying to wrap up quickly so I don't have time to be polite. Point? Some will say, "Two years! That proves it!" Depending on how detailed the plans were, it doesn't necessarily prove a great deal. Blair long wanted regime change and governments often have 'hypothetical' war plans with any number of countries at any give moment (as the US does currently). What's explosive is the showing of the plans to the Iraqi exiles pushing for a war. That takes it out of the hypothetical realm even if the plans weren't 'actionable.' When they were shown to foreign eyes and shown to foreign eyes to persuade them that England would go to war, that's the explosive aspects -- both the showing to foreign eyes and turning what may have been hypothetical into actionable (by allowing any foreign eyes to see them). Some will rush with the, "Drawn up two years ahead! That proves it!" And it could, if they are very detailed plans. But if they weren't, the response from the government (usually via leaks) would be, "These were hypothetical and not real plans." And they could get away with that in some circles (provided the plans weren't in depth and/or the plans were hidden from the public) . . . except for the fact that they showed them to foreign eyes. That changes the whole dynamic. That's my take, my opinion and I hope that could be followed, I am rushing.

John Leland has an interesting article in today's New York Times (filed from Iraq), Craig Whitlock and Michael D. Shear (Washington Post) report on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And we'll make time to note and quote from Hints From Heloise:

Dear Heloise: While my niece's husband is serving in Iraq, she laminated an 8-by-10 photo of her husband. The photo is in their son's toys. He plays with it often, and when he picks the photo up, he's told "That's Daddy." -- Janis Stanley, Kilgore, Texas

Janis, this is a wonderful hint and a super way to keep children reminded of what an absent parent looks like. -- Heloise

Why? Because the Iraq War continues and for many newspaper readers, the only clue of that they'll be able to find is in Hints From Heloise. There is very little coverage of the Iraq War in print or on TV. Heloise's readers have enough awareness to know that it continues. Good for Heloise and her readers. This morning, Kathyrn Bigelow became the fourth women in Academy Awards history to be nominated for Best Director (of a full length feature film). As noted before, offline, I've campaigned for The Hurt Locker -- Bigelow's amazing film. Congratulations to Kathyrn on her well deserved and hard earned honor.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Obama's Base Pact With Colombia Accelerates 'Dangerous Trend'" (Veterans Today):

The Obama administration's pact to use seven Colombian military bases accelerates "a dangerous trend in U.S. hemispheric policy," an article in The Nation magazine warns.
The White House claims the deal merely formalizes existing military cooperation but the Pentagon's 2009 budget request said it needed funds to improve one of the bases in order to conduct "full spectrum operations throughout South America" and to "expand expeditionary warfare capability."
"With a hodgepodge of treaties and projects, such as the International Law Enforcement Academy and the Merida Initiative, Obama is continuing the policies of his predecessors, spending millions to integrate the region's military, policy, intelligence and even, through Patriot Act-like legislation, judicial systems," writes historian Greg Grandin, a New York University professor.

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