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Deceptiveness about Iraq

John Rentoul

sands192 300x154 Deceptiveness about IraqThe robustness of Philippe Sands’s opinion that he didn’t agree with the invasion of Iraq is undermined by an article he has written to introduce his talk at the Hay festival today. It praises Daniel Ellsberg, the New York Times and the US Supreme Court for the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Ellsberg was the former Department of Defense official who leaked the documents to the NYT, which published them after the Supreme Court ruled against the Nixon administration’s attempt to stop it:

Their actions have inspired countless others: after the Iraq War, I was given sight of Lord Goldsmith’s secret legal memo to Tony Blair on the war’s likely illegality, advice that was hidden from the Cabinet, Parliament and the public. If that document – and others – had not emerged, as a result of actions based on principle, the full extent of the Blair government’s deceptions may never have become known.

Having “had sight of” the Attorney General’s longer advice (pdf), Sands (above) ought to know that it was not on the “likely illegality” of military action. Its conclusion was that the legal position was “unclear”, that “arguments can be made on both sides”, and that “a reasonable case can be made” that such action would be authorised under the terms of UN resolution 1441.

To compare this document to the Pentagon Papers, which revealed that presidents Kennedy and Johnson misled the American people and Congress about their intentions in the Vietnam war, is an idiosyncratic judgement. One’s confidence in that judgement is not strengthened by Professor Sands’s ignorance of the contents of the Attorney General’s advice.

The document, which was leaked in the last week of the 2005 election campaign, failed either to substantiate the libel of “deception” or to influence the outcome of that election.

Photograph: Linda Nylind

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  • BlairSupporter

    When was Blair’s trial, again? The one where he was found guilty of war crimes? Do remind me. You so-called liberal types really do not understand the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”, do you?

    You are very strange creatures if you take the word of truth-murdering fellow so-called liberals at face value.

    (Abuse enough for you? Throwing back your own insults? Hmmm? )

  • stonedwolf

    Hitler wasn’t prosecuted either, but like British Roman Catholic
    mass-killer-of-Semitic-peoples he inspired he was guilty as sin too.

  • Kippers

    Indeed he changed his mind. He claimed that he changed his mind because he read the negotiating history. However he had had the negotiating history since November 2002 so it is far from clear why he only changed his mind in February 2003.

  • Kippers

    Do you have any evidence that Goldsmith’s position was that there is no distinction between legality and illegality in this area of international law as there is no court to enforce it? Has he actually said that? Was that the position of the Blair government? Did the Blair government ever say that in a public statement?

  • Kippers

    Have we always known what commitment Blair made to Bush in December 2001?

  • Kippers

    A more suitable phrase would have been “is a load of nonsense”.

  • Kippers

    Goldsmith’s draft advice handed to Blair on 14th January 2003 is based on an analysis of the negotiating history and the statements made by the various members of the UNSCR. This is well before he changed his mind, so his explanation for why he changed his mind makes no sense.


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