I was a British Ambassador at the time of the events covered by the Iraq Inquiry. I know many of the witnesses and a great deal of the background. I can therefore see right through the smooth presentation. Jack Straw was the smoothest of all – but he told lie after lie.
Straw’s biggest and most important lie goes right to the heart of the question of whether the war was legal. Did UN Security Council Resolution 1441 provide a legal basis for the invasion, or would a second resolution specifically authorising military action have been required? The UK certainly put a massive amount of diplomatic effort into obtaining a second resolution.
Here is Straw’s argument that the invasion was legal without a second resolution:
SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Then you make a point very strongly in your statement and this has been confirmed by Sir Jeremy Greenstock that you did not believe that
military action thereafter, in the event of noncompliance, would depend on a second resolution. It would be desirable but it wasn’t dependent on that. We are not, today, going into the legal arguments on that. Sir Jeremy’s basic contention was that he had got the Americans and British into a comparable position as before Desert Fox in December 1998. So I think that’s
quite important, that your understanding, at least of the position, was that it wasn’t absolutely essential to have a second resolution.
RT HON JACK STRAW: I was not in any doubt about that and neither was Jeremy Greenstock, and for very good reasons, which is that there had been talk by the French and Germans of a draft which would have required a second resolution, but they never tabled it. We tabled a draft, which, as I set out in this memorandum, and which Sir Jeremy Greenstock confirms in his memorandum, was aimed to be selfcontained, in the sense that, if very important conditions were met through failures by the Saddam regime, that of itself would provide sufficient authority for military action, and no doubt the next time we will get into the wording of the resolution, which, as I say in this memorandum, I can virtually recite in my sleep, but there are reasons why in OP12 we use the language that we do, and serious consequences are mentioned in OP13 and so on. For sure, we wanted a second resolution after that and well, again, I set out
SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: We will come on to that in a moment.
As Ambassador in an Islamic country, I was copied all or nearly all of the telegrams of instruction on the diplomatic efforts to secure a second resolution. I can tell you these facts as an eye-witness.
Straw argues that the proof that no second resolution was needed is that
I was not in any doubt about that and neither was Jeremy Greenstock, and for very good reasons, which is that there had been talk by the French and Germans of a draft which would have required a second resolution, but they never tabled it.
But they did not table it because we gave assurances to the French and Germans (and Russians and Chinese) that our draft of UNSCR 1441 did not authorise military action. The instructions were to inform those governments that UNSCR 1441 contained “no automatic trigger” which would lead to military action. I remember the phrase precisely “no automatic trigger”. Rod Lyne on the committee must remember it too, because he was one of the people, as Ambassador in Moscow, instructed to give that message.
It is the most perverse of lies by Straw to argue that the fact that the Germans and French did not table their draft proved that 1441 authorised war, when we had told them not to table their draft because 1441 did not authorise war.
I read with enormous care and in real time every single word of the scores of telegrams on the effort to secure the second resolution. Not one word gave any hint at all that a second resolution might not be necessary to authorise war. There was absolutely no mention in telegrams to Embassies of the notion that UNSCR 1441 was a sufficient basis for war, and no second resolution needed, until many weeks after 1441 was passed, just before the invasion.
STOP PRESS ADDITION
In response to New Labour hacks questioning my word, I can offer you irrefutable evidence to back up my own evidence that all the FCO material at the time of the adoption of UNSCR 1441 and for weeks afterwards right up until March, took the view that UNSCR 1441 did not provide legal grounds for the invasion.
It is the resignation letter of Deputy FCO Legal Adviser Elizabeth Wilmshurst in which she stated:
“I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force against Iraq without a second Security Council resolution to revive the authorisation given in SCR 678. I do not need to set out my reasoning; you are aware of it.
My views accord with the advice that has been given consistently in this office before and after the adoption of UN security council resolution 1441 and with what the attorney general gave us to understand was his view prior to his letter of 7 March. (The view expressed in that letter has of course changed again into what is now the official line.) “
All FCO instructions in the period to which I refer would have had to be in line with the view expressed by FCO legal advisers at that time. That view was precisely as I have stated it above.
This part of Straw’s evidence is therefore a huge lie.
There were numerous other minor lies from Straw. It is completely untrue that we had persuaded the three African security council members to support a second resolution authorising war. Baroness’ Amos mission to Francophone states we had ignored for years was a miserable failure. That was clear from reporting telegrams from posts.
It’s a small point, but Straw’s lie that upset me most personally was:
I don’t in the least mind people disagreeing with me, indeed I encourage it, but I do ask them to be loyal, because, otherwise, you can’t operate any kind of governmental system.
I disagreed with Straw, over the issue of the use of torture to gain intelligence in the “War on Terror”. I was very loyal. I kep my disagreement entirely internal and argued it in top secret telegrams and internal policy meetings. As a result of my disagreeing, Straw attempted to have me framed on false charges, destroying my health in the process and leaking false accusations to the tabloids to ruin my reputation too. When my name was finally cleared, they had to give me six year’s salary to settle.
I defy anyone to read Murder in Samarkand and say Straw is not a liar.