Daily archives: January 28, 2010

Address to Scottish Independence Convention

I am addressing the plenary of the Scottish Independence Convention at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood on Thursday 4 February at 6.30pm. The subject of my address is

Might is Right: Torture and the Moral Void of UK Foreign Policy Since Robin Cook.

As ever, I won’t have a text, but I expect to cover extraordinary rendition, Iraq and Afghanistan – and why an independent Scotland ought not to maintain a common defence policy and armed forces with the rump United Kingdom.

The meeting is open (and free, I think) but you have to book in with the Scottish Independence Convention. Contact details are here:


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Lord Goldsmith Was Never The Attorney General

…in Scotland.

One of the things that makes Scotland a nation is that it has its own legal system. This is not only quite separate from the English legal system but has a distinctly different origin, in Roman as opposed to Anglo-Saxon Law.

Lord Goldsmith was never Attorney General in Scotland. His legal writ carried not a milligram of weight in Scotland.

Scotland has a Lord Advocate.

It speaks volumes about the reality of the so-called Union, that the English Attorney General advises the Cabinet on whether to go to war, and in so doing he travels to Washington to consult the opinion of US legal authorities, but he does not travel to Edinburgh to consult the opinion of Scottish legal authorities.

As a matter of urgency, the Scottish parliament should now request the Lord Advocate to produce a review of Lord Goldsmith’s opinion on the Iraq War in the light of the Scottish understanding of international law. He should also produce views on the constitutional questions which may arise when the Scottish Lord Advocate takes a different view on the legality of war to the English Attorney General.

The Parliament should make plain that the notion that Scotland does not have a view on the legality of a war in which Scottish troops will be involved, but is bound to follow the English Attorney General, is not an acceptable position.


(I initially proposed that the Advocate General undertake this, as he is the officer who normally advises the UK government on Scots law. It has been suggested that the Lord Advocate would be more appropriate, and after consideration I agree, despite sharing the concerns about the wide range of the Lord Advocate’s powers. The key point stands that Goldsmith’s writ did not run in Scotland).

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The Partiality of Lord Goldsmith



One of these two was an honest man. The other one caused his death.

Lord Goldsmith is partial to war. He likes to sit his well-padded bottom on comfortable leather chairs in expensive offices, and be flattered into agreeing that a bit of war would not be a bad idea.

Baha Mosua was a very quiet man, not partial to war at all. Unfortunately he is the one who got killed.

I have a policy of not using atrocity photos, not even on the issue of torture and extraordinary rendition. But the contrast between the easy glibness of Goldsmith and the consequences of his actions needs to be rammed home. The media seems imprssed by his 248 pages of well rehearsed verbiage. I am not.


To call Lord Goldsmith’s evidence yesterday “Partial” would be ludicrously polite. It turned on the crucial period in March, when he changed his advice to the view that UNSCR 1441 did indeed give, in itself, sufficient grounds to invade. With no personal experience of ever having negotiated a Security Council Resolution, Goldsmith did this in the teeth of fierce opposition from the FCO Legal Adviser Sir Michael Wood, a world renowned eminence in the subject of use of force and the security council, who had also served for four years in our mission to the United Nations.

Goldsmith’s change of mind was based on the notion that the negotiating history of UNSCR 1441 revealed intentions which were not plain from the text – a text which Goldsmith was at pains to characterise as extremely unclear, when actually it isn’t. He also took the view that the negotiating history should have more weight than the formal explanations of vote given in public.

That might be because the UK explanation of vote said this:

We heard loud and clear during the negotiations the concerns about “automaticity” and “hidden triggers” — the concern that on a decision so crucial we should not rush into military action; that on a decision so crucial any Iraqi violations should be discussed by the Council. Let me be equally clear in response… There is no “automaticity” in this resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required in paragraph 12. We would expect the Security Council then to meet its responsibilities.

As I have posted before, as a British Ambassador I saw at the time the telegrams of instruction go out from the FCO. The matter was so grave that not only was 1441 being negotiated for in New York, we were lobbying for it in capitals as well, and the instructions were clearly to stress that 1441 contained “No automatic triggers.”

Indeed, our original draft did authorise “all necessary means” – the accepted formula for force – but we dropped it in negotiation. That part of the negotiating history was something that Goldsmith did not volunteer at all. He repeated the Jack Straw line that UNSCR 1441 must authorise force because France and Germany had dropped wording making specific that it did not do so. But we dropped our wording too. That didn’t count in his Lordship’s mind.

Where he was really partial was the “Mr Goldsmith goes to Washington episode”, He met the Americans, listened to their legal interpretation, and crucially listened to their version of the negotiations with the French. But as Michael Wood had pointed out, these negotiations were private meetings, some literally in corridors, of which no records were taken and which are disputed.

Goldsmith absolutely gave himself away in the contempt with which he greeted Rod Lyne’s suggestion that he might have asked the French for their version of events – what happened in the negotiating history and what they believed the resolution meant. There is an important point here, United Nations documents are produced in five languages, all equally valid.

Personally, I believe with Sir Michael Wood that for Goldsmith to put so much weight on the negotiating history, in order to give 1441 a meaning which is not apparent in the text or in the public explanations of vote on the text, is very dubious. But if you are going to rely on the negotiating history, it is ludicrously partial to rely only on the assertions of one party – the Americans – and they being the party known to have the most extreme position on the issue.

Goldsmith accepted the US account that in negotiations, though not in their explanation of vote, the French had accepted 1441 provided a basis for the use of force. This exchange is highly revealing:

SIR RODERIC LYNE: What evidence did they give you that the French had acknowledged this?

RT HON LORD GOLDSMITH QC: I wish that they had presented me with more. That was one of the difficulties.

That Goldsmith point blank refused in these circumstances to ask the French, is evidence that he was partial. he was firmly committed to the US, and to the invasion. He had chosen sides. His legal advice was going to back his mate Tony. All this pretence of his careful legal consideration is a transparent sham.

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The 9/11 Post

Having complained of people posting off topic, it seems a reasonable solution to give an opportunity for people to discuss the topics I am banning from other threads – of which 9/11 seems the most popular.

I do not believe that the US government, or any of its agencies, were responsible for 9/11. It would just need too many people to be involved. Someone would have objected. There are some strange and dangerous people in America, but not in sufficient concentration for this one. They couldn’t even keep Watergate quiet, and that was a small group. Any group I can think of – even Blackwater – would contain operatives with scruples about blowing up New York. They may be sadly ready to kill people in poor countries, but Americans en masse? Somebody would say it wasn’t a good idea.

I asked a friend in the construction industry what it would take to demolish the twin towers. He replied nine months, 80 men, and 12 miles of cabling. The notion that a small team at night could plant sufficient explosives embedded at key points, is laughable.

The forces of the aircraft impacts must have been amazingly high. I have no difficulty imagining they would bring down the building. As for WTC 7, again the kinetic energy of the collapse of the twin towers must be immense.

I admit to a private speculation about WTC7. Unfortunately in construction it is extremely common for contractors not to fix or install properly all the expensive girders, ties and rebar that are supposed to be enclosed in the concrete. Supervising contractors and municipal inspectors can be corrupt. I recall vividly that in London some years ago a tragedy occurred when a simple gas oven explosion brought down the whole side of a tower block.

The inquiry found that the building contractor had simply omitted the ties that bound the girders at the corners, all encased in concrete. If a gas oven had not blown up, nobody would have found out. Buildings I strongly suspect are very often not as strong as they are supposed to be, with contractors skimping on apparently redundant protection. The sort of sordid thing you might not want too deeply investigated in the event of a national tragedy.

Precisely what happened at the Pentagon I am less sure. There is not the conclusive film and photographic evidence that there is for New York. I am particularly puzzled by the much more skilled feat of flying that would be required to hit a building virtually at ground level, in an urban area, after a lamppost clipping route – very hard to see how a non-professional pilot did that. But I can think of a number of possible scenarios where the official explanation is not quite the whole truth on the Pentagon, but which do not necessitate a belief that the US government or Dick Cheney was behind the attack.

In my view the real scandal of 9/11 was that it was blowback – the product of a malignant terrorist agency whose origins lay in CIA funding and provision. Also blowback in a more general sense that it was spawned in the nasty theocratic dictatorship of Saudi Arabia which is so close to the US and to the Bush dynasty in particular. As with almost all terrorist activity, I do not rule out any point on the whole spectrum of surveillance, penetration and agent provocateur activity by any number of possible actors.

But was 9/11 false flag and controlled demolition? No, I think not.

(Now I have given full opportunity to discuss 9/11 here, any further references on other threads will be instantly deleted).

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