The Chilcot Inquiry
Dossier Presented in London by Emma Bonino and Marco Pannella
Angry: Multinational protesters demonstrate as Tony Blair gives evidence to the Inquiry (source)
We believe there is more than what Lord Goldsmith defined a “reasonable case” for saying that the Iraq war could have been avoided through the exile of Saddam Hussein.
The entire truth needs to emerge or we will have missed an opportunity to restore the west's credibility in the promotion of human rights, rule of law and democracy.
According to a WikiLeaked cable, on 22 September 2009, in a meeting with officials of the UK administration U.S. Undersecretary for Justice Ellen Tauscher stated that the General Director of the British Ministry of Defence Jon Day had assured her that the UK had “put measures in place to protect [American] interests” during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq war. The Chilcot inquiry did not ask Mr. Day to deny that statement.
19 February 2003 - The Italian Parliament with the support of Government adopted the radical proposition (345 yes, 38 no, 52 abstentions) which committed Government to seek support in all international bodies, primarily within the Security Council of the United Nations, to the option of an exiled dictator of Iraq and [...] establishment of a provisional government that will restore a control of the full exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms of all Iraqis.
During a meeting in Crawford, on 22 February 2003, Bush said to Aznar that Gaddafi told Berlusconi that Saddam wants to go.
Aznar: «Is it true that there’s a possibility of Saddam Hussein going into exile?»
Bush: «Yes, that possibility exists. Even that he gets assassinated».
Aznar: «An exile with some guarantee»?
Bush: «No guarantee. He’s a thief, a terrorist, a war criminal. Compared to Saddam, Milosevic would be a Mother Teresa. (source)
1 March 2003 – Colonel Gaddafi disrupts the Arab League meeting of Sharm el-Sheik where the United Arab Emirates (UAE) representatives were supposed to table the document outlining the exile plan as agreed by Saddam Hussein.
18 March 2003 – The White House spokesperson states that the American troops and their allies will enter Iraq anyway, no matter how.
19 March 2003 – Bahrain officially offers Saddam Hussein a last-ditch proposal to go into exile.
Clare Short, on 2 February 2010: “I'm sure that's in the public domain, were initiatives from the Saudis and the Jordanians about possibly getting Saddam Hussein to go into exile, which would have been an attractive option, it seems to me.”
“As I have said, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were talking about getting him into exile. There was the possibility of the International Criminal Court. He wasn't popular in his country. There is an argument about very strong sanctions that you actually lock countries in, and it is better to open them up, because then, as with Serbia, that's the way we got -- in the end, the people of Serbia sent Milosevic to the International Criminal Court. That was all another option. “
“the Arab world was talking more and more about taking him out, getting him into exile, you know, getting more pressure on him, getting a resolution of the problem and him out without a war. It is just not true that he was jerking any strings. He was -- the pressures were mounting and mounting.”
A dispatch sent by Ellen Tauscher, the US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, describes a conversation with Jon Day, the MOD Director General for security policy, in which he "promised that the UK had ’put measures in place to protect your [US] interestshttp://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cables/2009/09/09LONDON2198.html> during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq War.
Freedman: So timing of your advice is determined by questions of diplomacy and readiness for armed forces - but your advice might've been different two or three weeks later?
Goldsmith: That depends what would have happened. More could have come to light. If there'd been a sea-change, if Saddam had gone into exile say, why would we then need force.
Hans Blix, 27 July 2010: “I thought it was, both then and in retrospect, a bit curious that precisely at the time when we were going upward in evidencing cooperation, at that very time the conclusion from the UK side and also from the US side was that no, inspections are useless.”
“They had opened the doors. I had said on some occasions it is not enough to open doors. You also have to be proactive. I think that's what they became when they came up with the idea of further excavations, for instance.”
“Was Iraq a danger in 2003? They were not a danger. They were practically prostrate and could not – it would have taken a lot of time – to reconstitute in selling oil.”
As Elizabeth Wilmshurst put it at the Iraq Inquiry, “I could see that the UK reputation as an upholder of the rule of law and as an upholder of the United Nations would be seriously damaged, at least that's what I foresaw.” We believe that the same applies for the reputation of democracy and the rule of law. The things Jod Day said to the American undersecretary of defense in september 2009 cast a worrying shadow over the Chilcot inquiry and its criteria and limits. Should none of the members of the inquiry look into the dark pages that Blair wrote, so that the International Criminal Court would not be able to proceed, the liberal and democratic values and society that we struggling to uphold will be compromised for generations to come.
Finally, the Cato Institute has mentioned a recent debate in which Condoleeza Rice partook, to possibly spark a debate on the fact that Saddam might have been willing to go into exile. Justin Logan (associate director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute) writes in ... that “if there was anything approaching a realistic opportunity to make this happen, we really missed out on the bargain of the century here. You’re looking at something like 500%-1000% returns, not counting several thousand American and a-hundred-or-so-thousand Iraqi lives saved.”
The exile of Saddam Hussein would have set an important precedent as far as conflict-resolution is concerned. Had it been applied - possibly under the thrust of the UN authority - for the first time to an influential country whose strategic position and role is of the utmost importance in the development of the world order, the benefit of it would reverberated in the Middle East, in the Arab world and beyond. Thus, the most precious lesson to learn from the 2003 invasion may not be drawn by a seemingly endless analysis revolving around the (il)legality vs. (il)legitimacy of the military action, but by a deeper understanding of the reasons why a peaceful outcome was not eventually sought. So far, former rulers who peacefully ousted through include Idi Amin Dada (Uganda), Gen. Alfredo Stroessner (Paraguay), Charles Taylor (Liberia), Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire) and Hissene Habre (Chad).more: http://bushblairagainstsurepeacewagedwariniraqpreventingexiletosaddam.org/
AFP TV: Protests as Blair back at Iraq inquiry
Testimony by Rai journalist Duilio Giammaria to Radio Radicale
Duilio Giammaria: During those years, as the Iraqi situation unfolded, we obviously paid frequent visits to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which proved to be a real discovery since we found a world revolutionizing itself and of tremendous economic development. Those who know the region, know there are seven Emirates. Usually we would fly aboard military aircraft, leaving from Abu Dhabi, about 150 km north of Dubai. Travel time on these 150 km is about one hour by car on a huge highway consisting of eight lanes. Exactly in the middle of this route between Abu Dhabi and Dubai , one finds a particular place, strongly defined by a long, endless and very orderly line of fences. I asked what this place was, in the midst of the endless route between Abu Dhabi and Dubai we were travelling up and down from.
“It’s interesting, try and figure it out,” I was told half-heartedly. I happened to be lucky enough to meet someone very close to the Emirates’ Royal family. He was a close friend of one of the Emir’s sons.... he was close to the Emir’s sons, and he gave me this news which I found extremely interesting at the time, although I have to confess not to have elaborated on it sufficiently for the exact same reasons Alberto Negri just gave.
“It is a field, a special field belonging to the Emir’s family, containing many houses”, they told me. Coming from Abu Dhabi, it is on the right-hand side, towards the desert.
“Most of them are inhabited by Iraqi officials.”
“Iraqi oficials?’, I said.
“Yes, those people have been living there since 2003, and it was meant to harbor all of Saddam Hussein’s nomenclature that was supposed to be exiled with him.”
If an agreement had been secured, obviously Saddam Hussein wouldn’t have left on his own. Let’s say he would have taken his top aides and closest staff with him, since a head of state clearly doesn’t leave his country thinking that everything remains the same.
But the most amazing feat –this took place in 2004- is that this happened before one of Sheikh Maktum’s sons explicitly told Al Arabyia that the agreement negotiations had in fact been brought up to the final stage. The UAE believed up until the end that this agreement was possible. So in 2005, when this news feat became known, Al Arabyia suddenly published the declaration by one of the sons, stating the word about a hidden field in the desert of the Arab Emirates, prepared to receive Saddam Hussein’s nomenclature, was completely true. This is in 2005. Also at this point however, we didn’t elaborate on it enough, because obviously there was enough to work on, exactly as there is enough to work on today.
Iran calls for intl. court to try Blair
Jan 24, 2011
The Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council told a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey that Blair should be tried as a war criminal at an international court for his complicity in the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq.
In his second appearance at the Iraq War Inquiry in London on Friday, Blair unleashed an all-out attack on Iran, accusing the Islamic Republic of posing a “looming challenge” to the West by pursuing its nuclear activities.
The Iranian official reacted to the allegations, noting that “Blair should first save himself at the trial.”
“A dispute arises at this point over the fact that why some people allow themselves to violate the rights of other nations and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, but nobody neither issues a resolution against them nor questions them in this regard,” Jalili said.
Bringing up the question that why the UK government is the only nation that tries Blair, the top Iranian official stressed that “he attacked Iraq without United Nation's authorization, an act that contributed to the death of hundreds of thousands of people. But nobody questions him today.”
The former British Prime Minister and the then US president George W. Bush are complicit in the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Blair made all the crucial decisions that led Britain to become the second-biggest contributor of troops to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Whitehall chief blocks release of Blair's notes to Bush on Iraq
Sir Gus O'Donnell stops publication of documents Chilcot inquiry says are crucial to understanding how invasion happened
18 January 2011
Britain's top civil servant, Sir Gus O'Donnell, is preventing the official inquiry into the Iraq invasion from publishing notes sent by Tony Blair to George W Bush - evidence described by the inquiry as of "central importance" in establishing the circumstances that led to war.
O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, consulted Blair before suppressing the documents, it emerged tonight. The Cabinet Office said: "There is an established convention covering papers of a previous administration whereby former ministers would normally be consulted before release of papers from their time in government." The prime minister's spokesman said David Cameron had not been consulted.
Raising the stakes ahead of Blair's recall on Friday, Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry's chairman, released a sharp exchange of letters with O'Donnell in which he repeated requests for the notes to be declassified. Chilcot said: "The material requested provides important, and often unique, insights into Mr Blair's thinking and the commitments he made to President Bush, which are not reflected in other papers."
In a letter dated 6 January, his third to O'Donnell in less than a month, Chilcot wrote: "The question when and how the prime minister made commitments to the US about the UK's involvement in military action in Iraq and subsequent decisions on the UK's continuing involvement, is central to its considerations".
He refers to passages in memoirs, including Blair's autobiography, A Journey, and disclosures by Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff, and Alastair Campbell, his former head of communications. Those publications, and the refusal to disclose Blair's notes, Chilcot said, "leads to the position that individuals may disclose privileged information (without sanction) whilst a committee of privy counsellors established by a former prime minister to review the issues, cannot".
Chilcot, who, with his four-member panel, has privately seen Blair's notes, said the documents "illuminate prime minister Blair's positions at critical points".
O'Donnell replied to Chilcot that releasing Blair's notes would damage Britain's relations with the US. and would not be in the public interest. "We have attached particular importance to protecting the privacy of the channel between the prime minister and president," he told Chilcot.
The Cabinet Office said the refusal to allow Blair's notes to be disclosed conformed to the inquiry's protocols. Chilcot said recently the protocols were "put in place to protect national security, international relations and the personal security of individuals. They are not there to prevent embarrassment."
In evidence to the inquiry last year, Campbell described the tenor of Blair's notes to Bush as: "We share the analysis, we share the concern, we are going to be with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is faced up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed."
Campbell added: "If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there. That would be the tenor of the communication to the president."
The inquiry has also heard from senior British diplomats that regime change was being discussed by Blair in meetings with Bush in 2002 even though, according to leaked documents, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, warned that military action aimed at regime change, as opposed to disarmament, would be unlawful.
One document, previously leaked, notes that Blair told Bush at a meeting in Washington on 31 January 2003, less than two months before the invasion, that "he was solidly with the president". That was his response after Bush said military action would be taken with or without a new UN resolution and the day after Goldsmith warned Blair that an invasion of Iraq would be unlawful without a fresh UN resolution. Goldsmith subsquently changed his mind.
An inquiry official said: "It not about what President Bush told prime minister Blair. It is about what Mr Blair said to President Bush."
The inquiry has summoned back the former prime minister, to press him about what he promised Bush in private, and why he repeatedly questioned, then shut out, his government's chief law officer, Lord Goldsmith, after receiving unwelcome advice about the legality of an invasion.
Tony Blair 'misled' Commons over legal advice on war in Iraq Tony
Blair misled Parliament by claiming that Britain could legally attack Iraq in the face of United Nations opposition despite being given clear advice to the contrary, new evidence suggests.
17 Jan 2011
In evidence to the Iraq inquiry, Lord Goldsmith, who at the time was the government’s top legal adviser, disclosed that he was “uncomfortable” about statements made by the then-prime minister in the run up to the 2003 invasion.
Two months before the war began, in a meeting at No 10, the former attorney general told Mr Blair that war would not be legal without a fresh mandate from the UN.
In a statement to MPs the following day, however, the Labour prime minister said that there were “circumstances” in which an attack could be valid.
The following month, he gave an interview in which he suggested that war would be legal if another nation had made an “unreasonable” veto at the UN on military action.
A witness statement to the Chilcot Inquiry into the war, published today, makes clear that Lord Goldsmith considered that this did not accord with the advice he had given Mr Blair.
Asked whether Mr Blair's words were compatible with the advice he received, the former attorney general wrote simply: "No."
He added: "I was uncomfortable about them (the prime minister's comments) ...
"My concern was that we should not box ourselves in by the public statements that were made, and create a situation which might then have to be unravelled."
Lord Goldsmith evidence to the inquiry has come under scrutiny after he admitted changing his mind about the legality of military action on the eve of the war.
His views were swayed during meetings he was encouraged to have with American government lawyers and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the UN.
Giving evidence to the inquiry last year, he denied that he was “leant on” by No 10 to change his legal opinion.
Until two weeks before the invasion, in March 2003, Lord Goldsmith had been of the view that UN resolution 1441, which was passed in November 2002 and declared Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations to disarm, was not sufficient to sanction war by the UK and United States.
In the new evidence to the inquiry, Lord Goldsmith said in his statement that the phrasing of resolution 1441 was "problematic".
He was not actively consulted on the final drafting of the resolution after telling Mr Blair in October that the text as it stood did not authorise the use of force.
The former attorney general said: "I was not being sufficiently involved in the meetings and discussions about the resolution and the policy behind it that were taking place at ministerial level.
Wednesday 12 January 2011
Documents reveal how Goldsmith repeatedly warned Blair of the consequences of invading Iraq without fresh UN authority.
A note from Goldsmith to Blair, marked secret and dated 30 January 2003, stated: "I thought you might wish to know where I stand on the question of whether a further decision of the [UN] security council is legally required in order to authorise the use of force against Iraq."
Goldsmith warned Blair that "the correct legal interpretation of resolution 1441 [the last security council decision on Iraq] is that it does not authorise the use of force without a further determination by the security council". He concluded: "My view remains that a further [UN] decision is required."
The document contains a handwritten note, by David Manning, Blair's chief foreign policy adviser, which warned: "Clear advice from attorney on need for further resolution."...
By 7 March, 2003, Goldsmith had told Blair that a new UN resolution might not be needed after all, though war without one would risk Britain's indictment before an international court.
On 17 March, Goldsmith, published a short note saying an invasion was lawful....
David Kelly death riddle grows as it emerges personal items found on his body did not have fingerprints on them
27th January 2011
Further questions have been raised over the death of Dr David Kelly after police admitted that two personal items found with his body – his mobile phone and a watch – did not have any fingerprints on them.
The news brings the number of objects without fingerprints at the site where the weapons inspector’s body was discovered to five – the other three being the knife he allegedly used to slash his wrist, the packs of pills he is said to have overdosed on, and a water bottle.
It had been suggested that the lack of fingerprints on the knife might be due to the presence of gaffer tape on it. But Thames Valley Police have now confirmed that the knife had no tape on its handle.
Full report into the death of Dr David Kelly
Chilcot inquiry's credibility 'is on edge of an abyss'
Leading international lawyer Philippe Sands says inquiry has shown inability to tackle central question of illegality – or otherwise – of Iraq invasion
14 November 2010
The credibility of the Chilcot inquiry into the invasion of Iraq is "on the edge of an abyss" because of its lack of transparency, a leading international lawyer warned today.
Philippe Sands QC, professor of international law at University College London, said the inquiry had been undermined by its inability to refer publicly to documents it had seen.
He said it had shown an inability to tackle the central question of the illegality – or otherwise – of the US-led military action head on.
Sands said he had seen some unpublished documents which contradicted or undermined the testimony by witnesses to the inquiry. The inquiry had also had a series of "private chats" with a number of "notable individuals", he said.
The lawyer referred to what he called a "curious advertisement" the inquiry had placed, asking international lawyers to submit their view of the invasion. More than 30 had done so more than two months ago, yet the submissions have not been posted on the inquiry's website.
"Why did the inquiry not issue personal invitations to key individuals to appear before it in a public session? Why has it not even convened a private seminar amongst invited international legal experts, as it has done on other matters?" Sands asked.
His comments came in the 2010 Remembrance Sunday lecture on war and law at the Imperial War Museum in London. The lecture was sponsored by the Movement for the Abolition of War.
Sands noted that the Chilcot inquiry had appointed an "adviser on international law" - Dame Rosalyn Higgins, a former judge and president of the international court of justice – but said it was unclear what her role was.
He said he hoped the inquiry would insist that, in future, the attorney general must provide early and full advice on the legality of a future use of force, ensure the attorney provided advice to all of government, not just the prime minister, and give a parliamentary committee an oversight role on legal advice relating to war.
Britain held secret war talks with U.S. general 11 months before Iraq invasion
Blair must be arrested
04 August 2010
Tony Blair must be prosecuted, not indulged like Peter Mandelson. Both have produced self-serving memoirs for which they have been paid fortunes; Blair's, which has earned him a £4.6m advance, will appear next month.
Now consider the Proceeds of Crime Act. Blair conspired in and executed an unprovoked war of aggression against a defenceless country, of a kind the Nuremberg judges in 1946 described as the "paramount war crime". This has caused, according to scholarly studies, the deaths of more than a million people, a figure that exceeds the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the Rwandan genocide.
In addition, four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes and a majority of children have descended into malnutrition and trauma. Cancer rates near the cities of Fallujah, Najaf and Basra (the latter "liberated" by the British) are now higher than those at Hiroshima. "UK forces used about 1.9 metric tonnes of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003," the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, told parliament on 22 July. A range of toxic "anti-personnel" weapons, such as cluster bombs, was employed by British and US forces.
Such carnage was justified with lies that have been exposed repeatedly. On 29 January 2003, Blair told parliament: "We do know of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq . . ." Last month, the former head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller told the Chilcot inquiry: "There is no credible intelligence to suggest that connection . . . [it was the invasion] that gave Osama Bin Laden his Iraqi jihad." Asked to what extent the invasion exacerbated the threat to Britain from terrorism, she replied: "Substantially."
Press kit ITV
The War You Don't See
His ongoing theme of injustices perpetrated by our foreign policy, and the lies told to keep us in the dark, always carries with it a critique of the media for not exposing the truth. But now, reporters are his specific target. Pilger's thesis is that uncomfortable facts, such as the extent of civilian casualties, are not part of a mainstream media narrative instead dominated by officialdom's talk of "spreading democracy", "fighting terror" and so on. The film argues that this censorship by omission dates back to the First World War. Journalists who are now on the outside looking in, including (now of ) and CBS's Dan Rather, speak about the pressure they worked under; Julian Assange of Wikileaks likens modern whistleblowers to the conscientious objectors of previous wars; and BBC and ITV news chiefs face Pilger's admirably direct questioning. Conventional wisdom about modern warfare comes under a sustained assault.
Chilcot inquiry: Iraq expert Carne Ross claims civil servants are withholding vital documents
Britain's 'deep state' of secretive bureaucrats is denying witnesses to the Chilcot inquiry crucial files
I testified last week to the Chilcot inquiry. My experience demonstrates an emerging and dangerous problem with the process. This is not so much a problem with Sir John Chilcot and his panel, but rather with the government bureaucracy – Britain's own "deep state" – that is covering up its mistakes and denying access to critical documents.
There is only one solution to this problem, and it requires decisive action.
After I was invited to testify, I was contacted by the Foreign Office, from which I had resigned after giving testimony to the Butler inquiry in 2004, to offer its support for my appearance. I asked for access to all the documents I had worked on as Britain's Iraq "expert" at the UN Security Council, including intelligence assessments, records of discussions with the US, and the long paper trail on the WMD dossier.
Large files were sent to me to peruse at the UK mission to the UN. However, long hours spent reviewing the files revealed that most of the key documents I had asked for were not there.
In my testimony I had planned to detail how the UK government failed to consider, let alone implement, available alternatives to military action. To support this I had asked for specific records relating to the UK's failure to deal with the so-called Syrian pipeline, through which Iraq illegally exported oil, thereby sustaining the Saddam regime. I was told that specific documents, such as the records of prime minister Tony Blair's visit to Syria, could not be found. This is simply not plausible.
I had also asked for all the Joint Intelligence Committee assessments on Iraq, some of which I helped prepare. Of dozens of these documents, only three were provided to me – 40 minutes before I was due to appear before the Chilcot panel.
Playing by the rules, I had submitted my written testimony to Chilcot before my appearance. In the hours before my appearance, invited to visit the Foreign Office to see further documents (mostly irrelevant), an official repeatedly sought to persuade me to delete references to certain documents in my testimony.
He told me that the Cabinet Office wanted the removal of a critical reference in my evidence to a memo from a senior Foreign Office official to the foreign secretary's special adviser, in which the official pointed out, with mandarin understatement, that the paper sent that week to the Parliamentary Labour Party dramatically – and inaccurately – altered the UK's assessment of Iraq's nuclear threat.
In a clear example of the exaggeration of Iraq's military capabilities, that paper claimed that if Iraq's programmes remained unchecked, it could develop a nuclear device within five years.
The official's memo pointed out that this was not, in fact, the UK assessment: the UK believed that Iraq's nuclear programme had been checked by sanctions.
The paper to the PLP was instead sent by the foreign secretary to "brief" the wider cabinet. This paper was pure overstated propaganda, filled with ludicrous statements like "one teaspoon of anthrax can kill a million people". The paper was soon made public, as part of the campaign to create public hysteria.
The official's memo about the PLP paper contained nothing secret. It relates to a public document, the PLP paper. Yet, of all the references in my testimony, this was the one that the Cabinet Office most wanted removed. I refused. Strikingly, this memo has never been mentioned to the inquiry, including by its author, who testified earlier this year. Neither has the author of the PLP paper been questioned, or the paper itself discussed.
I was repeatedly warned by inquiry staff not to mention any classified material during my testimony. The only problem is that almost every document I ever wrote or read in my work was classified. It was made clear to me, and to journalists attending the hearing, that if I mentioned specific documents the broadcast of my testimony would be cut off. Other forms of retribution (Official Secrets Act prosecution?) hung in the air. It was a form of subtle intimidation.
Meanwhile, my requests to see documents about the infamous Number 10 WMD dossier were ignored, including requests for letters I had written.
This experience and the inquiry's record so far is cause for concern. It is clear from testimonies so far that most witnesses, most of whom went along with the war at the time, are offering a very one-sided account to the panel. A story is being peddled that sanctions on Iraq were collapsing and the allied policy of containment was failing. Thus, the military alternative to deal with the Iraqi threat was more or less unavoidable.
Though there is some truth to this argument, it was not what the Foreign Office, or the government as a whole, believed at the time. The true story is there to be seen in the documents. In memos, submissions to ministers and telegrams, the official view is very clear: while there was concern at the erosion of sanctions, containment had prevented Iraq from rearmament.
When invasion was promoted by Washington, the available alternative – to squeeze Saddam financially by stopping oil exports or seizing the regime's assets, which I and some colleagues had repeatedlyadvocated, was ignored. Here the documents tell a different but equally clear and appalling story: there is not a single mention of any formal discussion, by ministers or officials, of alternatives to military action. It is hard to pinpoint a graver indictment of the government's failure.
The oral testimonies delivered to the inquiry have not given an accurate picture of what the government really thought. Unfortunately, the panel is neither equipped, nor apparently inclined, to challenge witnesses on the contradictions of their testimonies with this documentary record. This may not be the panel's fault: how can they know which pertinent documents exist?
In these circumstances, it is very worrying that the government machine is still trying to withhold key documents, and silence those of us with detailed knowledge of the policy history – and documents. I have been told too, from secondary sources, that members of the panel have been refused documents they have specifically requested.
There is a clear solution to these problems: break down the continued obstruction by the bureaucracy by releasing the documents – all of them. Only the most secret documents deserve continued protection, and there are very few of these. The vast majority of relevant documents relate to policy discussion inside the government before the war. Though profoundly embarrassing, there is little here that damages national security, except in the hysterical assessment of officials protecting their own reputation. Nick Clegg said a few weeks ago that almost all documents must now be released. He is right.
Carne Ross was the UK's Iraq expert at the UN from 1997 to 2002. He now heads Independent Diplomat, a non-profit diplomatic advisory group.
Nick Clegg's 'illegal' Iraq war gaffe prompts legal warning
Coalition in confusion as deputy prime minister pronounces invasion 'illegal' at dispatch box
Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
The deputy prime minister insisted he was speaking in a personal capacity, as a leading international lawyer warned that the statement by a government minister in such a formal setting could increase the chances of charges against Britain in international courts.
Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London, said: "A public statement by a government minister in parliament as to the legal situation would be a statement that an international court would be interested in, in forming a view as to whether or not the war was lawful."
The warning came after a faltering performance by Clegg in the Commons when he stood in for David Cameron at prime minister's questions. The deputy prime minister made an initial mistake when he announced that the government would close the Yarl's Wood centre as it ends the detention of children awaiting deportation. The Home Office was forced to issue a statement saying that the family unit at Yarl's Wood would close but that the rest of the centre would remain open.
Shortly before that slip-up, Clegg threw the government's position concerning the legality of the Iraq war into confusion when, at the end of heated exchanges with Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the war, Clegg said: "We may have to wait for his memoirs, but perhaps one day he will account for his role in the most disastrous decision of all: the illegal invasion of Iraq."
Clegg's remarks could be legally significant because he was standing at the government dispatch box in the Commons.
Downing Street played down the significance of the remarks by issuing a statement saying that he was expressing his "long-held view" about the Iraq conflict. In an attempt to avoid speculation about splits with Cameron, who voted in favour of the war, Downing Street added that the government would await the findings of the Chilcot inquiry before reaching a view on the war.
"The coalition government has not expressed a view on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq conflict," the No 10 spokesman said. "But that does not mean that individual members of the government should not express their individual views. These are long-held views of the deputy prime minister.
"The Iraq inquiry is currently examining many issues surrounding the UK's involvement in Iraq, including the legal basis of the war. The government looks forward to receiving the inquiry's conclusions."
But this appeared to be contradicted by the Chilcot inquiry, which issued a statement saying it was examining the legal issues in the run-up to the war but would not make a judgment about the legality of the war. A spokesman said: "The inquiry is not a court of law, and no one is on trial."
The government also faced a challenge in explaining an apparently new constitutional convention that the second most senior member of the cabinet is now free to stand at the dispatch box and express opinions of his own that do not reflect government policy.
Asked whether Clegg had been speaking as the leader of the Liberal Democrats and not as deputy prime minister, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Yes."
Asked how MPs could establish in future whether Clegg is speaking as deputy prime minister or as leader of the Liberal Democrats, the spokeswoman said: "The deputy prime minister is entitled to express his own view at the dispatch box."
The Lib Dems were keen to play down the significance of Clegg's remarks. But it is understood that the Lib Dem leader feels freer to speak out against the alleged illegality of the Iraq war after the recent publication of previously classified documents by the Chilcot inquiry.
Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, wrote to Sir John Chilcot on 25 June to allow the inquiry to publish more documents relating to the legal advice. The most significant of these documents was a note on 30 January 2003 by the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, to Tony Blair.
In the note Goldsmith wrote: "I remain of the view that the correct legal interpretation of [UN security council] resolution 1441 is that it does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the security council."
Goldsmith famously changed his mind on the legality of the war in March 2003 after Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the former chief of the defence staff, demanded a clear undertaking that military action would be lawful. Boyce feared that British forces could face legal action unless the invasion had legal cover.
On 7 March 2003, after visiting Washington, Goldsmith told Blair that a new UN resolution may not be necessary, although invading Iraq without one could lead to Britain being indicted before an international court. Ten days later Goldsmith ruled that an invasion would be lawful.
Sands said: "Lord Goldsmith never gave a written advice that the war was lawful. Nick Clegg is only repeating what Lord Goldsmith told Tony Blair on 30 January 2003: that without a further UN security resolution the war would be illegal and Jack Straw knows that."
Former MI5 chief demolishes Blair's defence of the Iraq war
21 July 2010
Tony Blair's evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry that toppling Saddam Hussein helped make Britain safe from terrorists was dramatically undermined by the former head of MI5 yesterday.
Giving evidence to the same inquiry, Eliza Manningham-Buller revealed that there was such a surge of warnings of home-grown terrorist threats after the invasion of Iraq that MI5 asked for – and got – a 100 per cent increase in its budget. Baroness Manningham-Buller, who was director general of MI5 in 2002-07, told the Chilcot panel that MI5 started receiving a "substantially" higher volume of reports that young British Muslims being drawn to al-Qa'ida....
Lady Manningham-Buller also hinted at tension between Mr Blair's office and MI5 over the dossier that the Prime Minister presented to Parliament in September 2002, to prepare public opinion for the likelihood of war.
"We were asked to put in some low-grade, small intelligence to it and we refused because we didn't think it was reliable," she said.
Evidence: What he said – and what she said
False claims of links between al-Qa'ida and Saddam Hussein
Tony Blair claimed on 21 Jan 2003:
"There is some intelligence evidence about loose links between al-Qa'ida and various people in Iraq... It would not be correct to say there is no evidence whatever of linkages between al-Qa'ida and Iraq."
Foreign Office spokesman claimed on 29 Jan 2003:
"We believe that there have been, and still are, some al-Qa'ida operatives in parts of Iraq controlled by Baghdad. It is hard to imagine that they are there without the knowledge and acquiescence of the Iraqi government."
Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, yesterday:
"There was no credible intelligence to suggest that connection and that was the judgment, I might say, of the CIA."
Hand-picking flimsy 'intelligence'
Blair, to the Commons 24 Sept 2002:
"It [the intelligence service] concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes; and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability..."
Blair, to the Commons 25 Feb 2003:
"The intelligence is clear: He [Saddam] continues to believe his WMD programme is essential both for internal repression and for external aggression. The biological agents we believe Iraq can produce include anthrax, botulinum, toxin, aflatoxin and ricin. All eventually result in excruciatingly painful death."
"The nature of intelligence – it is a source of information, it is rarely complete, it needs to be assessed, it is fragmentary... We were asked to put in some low-grade, small intelligence to it [the September 2002 dossier] and we refused because we didn't think it was reliable."
Iraq posed no risk to Britain
Blair, to the Commons 10 April 2002:
"Saddam Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction, and we cannot leave him doing so unchecked. He is a threat to his own people and to the region and, if allowed to develop these weapons, a threat to us also."
"We regarded the direct threat from Iraq as low... we didn't believe he had the capability to do anything in the UK."
Ministers were told that invading Iraq would increase the threat of terrorism to Britain
Blair, farewell speech at the Labour conference, 26 September 2006:
"This terrorism isn't our fault. We didn't cause it. It's not the consequence of foreign policy."
"It was communicated through the JIC assessments, to which I fed in... I believe they [senior ministers] did read them. If they read them, they can have had no doubt."
The Iraq war made Britain a more dangerous place and allowed al-Qa'ida to gain a hold in Iraq
Blair, 29 Jan 2010:
"If I am asked whether I believe we are safer, more secure, that Iraq is better, that our own security is better, I believe we are. The world is safer as a result."
"Our involvement in Iraq radicalised a generation of young people who saw our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as an attack on Islam. We [MI5] were pretty well swamped... with intelligence on a broad scale that was pretty well more than we could cope with in terms of plots, leads to plots and things that we needed to pursue.
"We gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad so that he was able to move into Iraq in a way that he was not before....
Iraq war inquiry: Blair government 'massaged' Saddam Hussein WMD threat
Former diplomat Carne Ross says exaggeration, accretion and editing of intelligence documents led to lies in threat assessment
12 July 2010
Tony Blair's government "intentionally and substantially" exaggerated assessments of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction culminating in highly misleading statements about the threat that amounted to lies, the inquiry into the war in Iraq was told today
Carne Ross, a British diplomat to the UN who was responsible for Iraq in the runup to the invasion, said intelligence was "massaged" into "more robust and terrifying" statements about Saddam's supposed WMD.