Deceptiveness about Iraq
The 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 NylindTagged in: iraq, iraq war
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