Thursday, March 03, 2005
Quiet but not forgotten

Although the war in Iraq may have proven successful in establishing a democratic regime, the Guardian Security Affairs editor, Richard Norton, shows that the legal advice remained obscure.

It is becoming increasingly clear that in his final written advice on the war, the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, warned Tony Blair that British participation in an invasion of Iraq could be ruled illegal. The advice was given in a 13-page paper on March 7 2003, less than two weeks before British troops joined the invasion of Iraq. The attorney said Britain could find itself arraigned in an international court and found guilty. So worried was the government that it gathered a group of lawyers to prepare for litigation.

None of this was known to MPs when they voted for war on March 18. They were led to believe that the attorney's final legal advice was contained in a parliamentary answer the previous day. In it Goldsmith said it was "plain" Iraq was in breach of its UN disarmament obligations.

Though the answer was presented to MPs as the attorney's "opinion", Goldsmith now says it was no such thing. "The answer did not purport to be a summary of my confidential legal advice to government," he insisted in a statement last Friday contradicting remarks made by the prime minister. He told the House of Lords on Tuesday that his March 17 answer expressed only what he called his "view".

Still a false prospectus!


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