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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Shoot First, Provide Rationales Later 

Courtesy of our revered colleague Susan Madrak at Suburban Guerrilla: Pity the poor poodle, who unlike his owner has the misfortune to live in a country where it is generally considered bad form for a leader to start a war on demonstrably false pretenses:
A SECRET document from the heart of government reveals today that Tony Blair privately committed Britain to war with Iraq and then set out to lure Saddam Hussein into providing the legal justification.

The Downing Street minutes, headed “Secret and strictly personal — UK eyes only”, detail one of the most important meetings ahead of the invasion.

It was chaired by the prime minister and attended by his inner circle. The document reveals Blair backed “regime change” by force from the outset, despite warnings from Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, that such action could be illegal.

The minutes, published by The Sunday Times today, begins with the warning: “This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. The paper should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know.” It records a meeting in July 2002, attended by military and intelligence chiefs, at which Blair discussed military options having already committed himself to supporting President George Bush’s plans for ousting Saddam . . . .

Straw suggested they should “work up” an ultimatum about weapons inspectors that would “help with the legal justification”. Blair is recorded as saying that “it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors”.

A separate secret briefing for the meeting said Britain and America had to “create” conditions to justify a war.

The papers, the second sensitive leak close to the election, appear to be an attempt by disaffected Whitehall insiders to attack Blair’s integrity. They are likely to fuel claims he misled the country on Iraq.

One reason for the secrecy is that the minutes record discussion of US plans for invasion; another is that at the time Blair had given no indication that plans were so advanced.

He had not revealed to MPs or the public that in April 2002 he had told Bush “the UK would support US military action to bring about regime change”, as recorded in the Foreign Office briefing paper. Both before and after the July meeting Blair insisted in public no decision had been made.
Meanwhile, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, who led Great Britain's forces into Iraq, worries that Blair's machinations may have exposed him and his troops to prosecution for war crimes. But if Boyce goes down, he promises to take Blair & co. with him:
In a remarkably frank interview that goes to the heart of the political row over the Attorney General's legal advice, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the former Chief of the Defence Staff, said he did not have full legal cover from prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

'If my soldiers went to jail and I did, some other people would go with me,' said Boyce.

In his most detailed explanation yet of why he demanded an unequivocal assurance from lawyers that the war was legal, he said: 'I wanted to make sure that we had this anchor which has been signed by the government law officer ...

'It may not stop us from being charged, but, by God, it would make sure other people were brought into the frame as well.'

Pressed by The Observer on whether he meant the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, Boyce replied: 'Too bloody right.'

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