Chirac changed mind on Iraq

John Rentoul

chirac2 300x205 Chirac changed mind on IraqGood letter from Denis MacShane, who was in 2003 a Foreign Office minister, in The Independent today:

Nicholas Wood is being economical with history when he describes ex-President Chirac’s famous March 2003 interview in which he announced France would veto a second UN resolution on Iraq (letter, 27 January). Chirac made his statement not once but twice in the interview because he wanted to underline his decision. In December 2002, Chirac said Saddam had WMD, because all western governments, not just Britain, were advised by intelligence agencies that Saddam had WMD capability or intentions. At the January 2003 UK-France summit, French officials told their British counterparts (of whom I was one as Europe minister) that France would “not leave Britain alone” in tackling Saddam. The mood changed in February 2003 as 250,000 troops waited on Iraq’s borders to know if they would move with or without the support of the rulers of China and Russia who, as veto-wielding powers at the UN, decide what UN “law” is.

I respect President Chirac’s right to announce his veto though it did not affect the decision of the Commons to vote to use force. I wish he had made clear in 2002 that he did not believe the advice he was getting on WMD and that France would not vote for a UN resolution to use force. Had Chirac adopted that position, shared by many in Europe and Britain, the politics of the decision by the Commons to support force would have been very different.

It remains a puzzle why the Chilcot inquiry is interviewing only retired mandarins, generals and former government ministers. Since the Commons took the decision, surely the view of the then opposition leadership is relevant. And since our fellow UN permanent Security Council ally France gave no indication up to January 2003 that a veto on a second resolution would be imposed, surely Chilcot has some duty to examine the European and wider Nato context of the decision by the Commons to authorise military action.

Denis MacShane MP, House of Commons

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  • tommyjudd

    MacShane is right but he should have gone further. Chirac not only admitted that Iraq possessed WMD (and he’d know, given his championing of the Osirak reactor and knowledge of Saddam’s real intentions for its product) but he sent his officials to DC to beg the administration not to seek a second resolution. The exiting resolution, they said, was sufficient authority for war.

  • stonedwolf

    Yes. It’s France’s fault – because they tried to stop us – that we killed all those Muslims in order to steal their all oil. Of course it is.

    But who is Denis McShane?

    After receiving a third-class degree (a Vordaman) he engaged in these political controversies:

    (1) He created a “Muslim forgery”, the article “The Five Myths Muslims Must Deny”, allegedly written by a Muslim but exposed as being written by McShane

    (2) He invents statistics of female sex trafficking and ignores counter-statistics. He does so for posturing purposes. What a guy.

    (3) He decided, in his medical opinion (yes, he has one despite his academic achievement of a 3rd class non-medical degree) that Gary McKinnon does not have Aspergers Syndrome.

    (4) In the expenses scandal, McShane claimed £125,000 for a single shabby lock-up garage that he claimed he used as an office. He didn’t pay rent on it, yet somehow it took thousands and thousands of pounds to have a lock-up locked-up. As of December last year his file was passed to the CPS to consider prosecution.

    His voting record?

    Voted very strongly for a stricter asylum system.
    Voted moderately against a transparent Parliament.
    Voted strongly for Labour’s anti-terrorism laws.
    Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
    Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
    Voted strongly for more EU integration.
    Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards.
    Voted moderately for allowing ministers to intervene in inquests.
    Voted very strongly for introducing foundation hospitals.
    Voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

    And this is Rentoul’s stand-up guy? Jesus H Christ.

  • stonedwolf


  • tommyjudd

    BBC interview with Jean-David Levitte and from Chirac Contre Bush by Cantaloube and Vernet.

  • byrresheim

    This is fascinating. I appreciate watching craftsmen do their trade: now I see how history is written. Let’s just hope you do not get away with it.

    This war was based on fakery and lies. The french expressed their doubts very clearly. As far as Blair is concerned: I too wonder how he sleeps at night.

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