Jack Straw’s Biggest Lie 94


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.

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/43198/100121pm-straw.pdf

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.) “

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4377605.stm

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.


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94 thoughts on “Jack Straw’s Biggest Lie

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  • Sue

    It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that this whole enquiry would be a complete waste of time. Can you not do something to bring these lies to their attention?

  • Jon

    Well, the enquiry is also being taken quite seriously by the mainstream media. With high levels of self-deception and cognitive dissonance, the guilty parties are being given a golden opportunity to cover their behinds. A sickening show indeed.

    Slightly OT, though involving the same double-standard. This week my firm sent around an email urging support for the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Haiti. I’ve donated, but did wonder why they didn’t do the same for another DEC appeal just over a year ago, when it was Palestinians who needed the humanitarian support.

  • Adrian

    Have you written to Sir John Chilcot setting out these facts? If not, I urge you to do so forthwith – and certainly before Blair’s appearance.

  • Dick the Prick

    Soz Craig – but Labour politician in bullshit shock isn’t that shocking. From the very top they have manipulated the British state to breaking point.

    Every conceivable things these lot have touched is fucked, everything. From the role of mothers, to the diminution of extended families, the economy, the world, our competetive advantage, public services, the NHS (swine flu rather than MRSA or Cdiff).

    I appreciate that this remains a personal and professional piece of New Labour mendacity (and, one which will have generational implications) but i’ve got disgust fatigue.

    All the best, hope you have a lovely weekend.

  • Ed

    As ever, you are better placed than any of us to eviscerate Jack Straw’s lying. The only surprise to me is that it took you till this afternoon to write a post on the latest untruths.

    Don’t know if you caught Newsnight last night, but they had a pretty useless discussion about Straw’s testimony, and the insidious John Rentoul took the opportunity to spread unchallenged further misinformation. He claimed first of all that the Commission had no remit to look into the legality of the war.

    Strictly, that may be true, but Chilcot is specifically tasked to examine the run-up to the war – where if legality isn’t a central question, there is basically no public inquiry to be had (save to investigate military planning).

    He also said that legality was an immaterial point – because once Goldsmith said it was legal, that was that.

    He also chided “hysterical” media reporting, for focusing only on the fevered months of early 2003 – going further to suggest there are a more relevant aspects to the inquiry such as what went wrong once we were in Iraq.

    But the absolute shitbomb in Rentoul’s commentary was that the question of legality was moot anyway, because there isn’t a judicial authority before which these questions can be addressed.

    None of these points were countered, there was a gentle apology only that no-one had the legal background to fully explore these issues.

    I’m no legal expert either, but I do know that when humankind has needed to create ad hoc tribunals for monumental criminality, we have done so. And to quote Justice Robert Jackson: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

    That’s what earlier generations died to put an end to, that’s what John Rentoul wants you to think is an irrelevance.

  • eddie

    “I was copied all or nearly all of the telegrams” – so, in fact, you don’t know the full facts of the internal machinations, and it is pretty pompous to suggest you do.

  • Johan van Rooyen

    I heard Straw on the Today programme referring in his testimony to a lesson learned from Suez – pathetically, it was that the UK should always take the side of the US. (I was in the shower so not sure about the exact wording.)

    It immediately brought to my mind the fact that Straw, Blair et. al. will come out even worse than Eden in the pages of History.

    I’m so grateful to Jack Straw for having planted that comforting thought in my mind!

  • glenn

    I remember quite clearly the phrase that there was no ‘automaticity’ in 1441 for war, so it was OK for countries very uncomfortable with the idea of waging war to go along with it. I also remember 1441 as being the most extensive jury-knobbling case in history. Blair was getting somewhat manic in his insistence that there would definitely be a second resolution, but then it became pretty obvious a war was going ahead anyway (as if it had taken on a life of its own), so the second resolution apparently became moot.

    Anyone else recall the UK ambassador to the US, Sir C. Meyer, saying (in writing) that we (the British) needed to “wrong-foot” Saddam Hussein into starting a war, and suggestions for this included the possibility of painting a military plane with UN colours in the hope Iraqi forces would fire on it?

    http://downingstreetmemo.com/publishednews.html

    Blair was/is insane, fanatical and a traitor. Straw is one of the most cowardly, murderous, weaseling excuses for a human being politics has ever produced. His sort is exactly what Eichmann had in mind when contemplating the ‘banality of evil’. I do wonder what Brown’s position was in all of this.

  • Ruth

    Sue said:

    ‘It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that this whole enquiry would be a complete waste of time.’

    I disagree. For the Establihment/those who really make decisions it is a set agenda to placate public disgust at the war.

    A great fuss is stirred up over an issue ie the Diana inquest or Lockerbie. Once the public have been served a morsel (in this case it’ll be that Blair made a mistake) all goes quiet. The public get bored very quickly.

    It’s up to us to continue the pressure and press for charges of genocide against Blair and his cabinet.

    Moreover, it’s up to us to get rid of the parliamentary system that gives the semblance of democracy but serves the interests of the Establisment and those who really dictate policy.

  • eddie

    My eyesight is not bad Craig, although I wear glasses like you. My point being, that you give the impression that you were party to all the behind the scenes discussions, but you clearly were not and it is pompous of you to suggest so. You were just an ambassador.

  • technicolour

    Yep, eddie, just as you didn’t retract the lie that Craig was sacked for incompetence on another thread, but repeated it.

  • Richard Robinson

    “Yep, eddie, just as you didn’t retract the lie that Craig was sacked for incompetence on another thread, but repeated it.”

    Not the only instance.

    Could I suggest “blinkered” instead of blind ? He sees the bits that offer a platform for going through the tape-loop talking points yet one more time, but acts as though he’s somehow completely unaware that there’s anything outside of that restricted range of vision.

    Perhaps he really does need protecting, maybe a fuller vision really would have him bolting in panic. I don’t know. Don’t really care. I have work I should be doing …

  • George Laird

    Dear Eddie

    Your comment ‘just an ambassador’ is pretty petty even by your low standards.

    Envy is destructive.

    Craig has achieved quite a lot, can you say as much?

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird

    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • glenn

    CM isn’t “just an ambassador”, eddie. He was an honest one, with the courage to do the right thing. That’s a distinction which makes him vanishingly rare. As for yourself, we know you’re not honest of course, but is there anything that makes you a “somebody” ?

  • Craig

    Eddie,

    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.) ”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4377605.stm

    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 to be in my article.

  • Jon

    On the Powell thread I asked a number of questions of Eddie about a potential psychological duality between supporting New Labour generally and the discomforting notion that ones favoured leaders may be liars trying to save their own skin after all.

    @eddie – not trying to have a pop at you, but am trying to understand your motivation. I think you have abandoned all curiosity and questioning in favour of allegiance, which is rarely a good thing. I think in the wider case – such as why the unions have not abandoned New Labour for a new workers party – this examination is instructive.

  • Julie Beverly

    Well said, Craig.

    Another lie and, in my view, not a minor one, is Straw’s “interpretation” of the observations made by Chirac regarding the possible use of a veto in the interview that the French President gave on 10th March 2003

    (transcript available at: http://www.elysee.fr/elysee/elysee.fr/francais_archives/interventions/

    interviews_articles_de_presse_et_interventions_televisees/2003/

    mars/interview_televisee_du_president_de_la_republique_sur_tf1_et_france_2.935.html )

    At the Chilcot inquiry both Freedman and Lyne comment on the ambiguity of Chirac’s words but in the context of the full interview there is no ambiguity – as another former ambassador, Sir Brian Barder, has pointed out: http://www.barder.com/tony-blair-and-iraq-some-texts

    Straw, in his evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, continues to peddle the same mendacious nonsense that he and Blair and other ministers used in March 2003 to blame France for the failure to obtain a second resolution eg http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/mar/15/france.politics

    Chilcot 21.01.10

    4 Sir Lawrence, if you are asking me at what moment

    5 did I think this was not going to be possible, it is

    6 the moment when I turned on the television and saw

    7 President Chirac saying that, whatever the

    8 circumstances, France would veto a second resolution.

    and:

    2 RT HON JACK STRAW: Sir Lawrence, I know there has been some

    3 textual analysis of the use by President Chirac of the

    4 word “Le soir”, but I watched him say this and I took

    5 this as no more than saying, “This evening”, comma, and

    6 then he announces, “France will, whatever the

    7 circumstances”, he says, right? If he was saying,

    8 “Look, just for tonight, we are going to veto, but not

    9 tomorrow”, he would have said that, but this was a great

    10 Chiracian pronouncement. “Whatever the circumstances”,

    It’s an important lie because it was included in the Government motion passed by the House of Commons on 18 March 2003:

    “That this House … regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her Majesty’s Government it has not proved possible to secure a second Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the circumstances;”

    In proposing the motion, the Prime Minister identified the Permanent Member as France, which, he said,had undermined support for a second resolution:

    “Last Monday [10 March], we were getting very close with it [the second resolution]. We very nearly had the majority agreement. If I might, I should particularly like to thank the President of Chile for the constructive way in which he approached this issue.

    “Yes, there were debates about the length of the ultimatum, but the basic construct was gathering support. Then, on Monday night, France said that it would veto a second resolution, whatever the circumstances.”

    From: http://www.david-morrison.org.uk/iraq/b-liar-e2.pdf

  • eddie

    Craig just beccasue the FCO felt it was not legal does not mean it was not legal. The FCO is just one department of state, and a pretty wet one at that. Remember Kosovo and Bosnia and their appeasement of Milosevic.

    So is the wikipedia entry on you wrong Craig? It says you were charged with gross misconduct and that you effectively jumped ship before you were pushed. If gross misconduct is not incompetence what is it? If you had nothing to worry about why did you go? So why is it a lie to allege incompetence?

    Jon, playing the amateur psychologist again. I have answered your question. And George Laird, who has still not explained what human rights are being attacked at Glasgow University.

  • George Laird

    Dear Eddie

    “Jon, playing the amateur psychologist again. I have answered your question”.

    Are you opposing his right to free of expression?

    You may have supplied an answer to his question but was it the right answer?

    “And George Laird, who has still not explained what human rights are being attacked at Glasgow University”.

    If you are interested in my story then surely going to my website and reading about it is the correct course of action.

    Mind you, details of facts don’t appear to interest you much, it’s why you’re Labour!

    Long narratives can’t be absorbed by you either it seems.

    You need to be repeatedly told the same information time and time again.

    Which is why you are so angry.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird

    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • Craig

    Eddia,

    I was found not guilty on all charges of gross misconduct – which were trumped up to try to get rid of a critic. You know that full well.

    On questions of international law, it is the FCO view that counts, Eddie.

    First you say that the FCO view was not, as I say, that a seond resolution was needed. Now you concede I am right, and say that the FCO view was not important. Eddie which Ministry is better placed than the FCO, in your view, to pronounce on UN Security Council Resolutions. Where do you think UNSCR 1441 was actually drafted?

  • technicolour

    Obviously, it’s a lie, or an untruth, if your prefer, to say that someone was ‘sacked for incompetence’ when they were not ‘sacked for incompetence’.

    I shouldn’t think anyone is particularly impressed by the question ‘if gross misconduct is not incompetence, what is it?’, but I note your further attempt to conflate ‘being charged with’ with ‘being sacked’.

    Sigh.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    “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.”

    Why would it be necessary that only ambassadors to “Islamic countries” (whatever that means) be privy to these communications? Doesn’t it have to be the case that ambassadors to all countries be privy to these communications?

  • Craig

    Larry,

    Good questions. Not all diplomatic telegrams go to all posts. They are copied around by subject.

    There are key “routeing indicators” to make this easier. Self-evident examples might be “EU Posts” and “Security Council Posts”. “Islamic Posts” is such a routeing indicator. It included Tashkent, and the “Islamic Posts” indicator was routinely used on telegrams connected to the Iraq dispute.

  • Anonymous

    Eddie, it’s getting on almost a year since yo told us Pilger has been sacked from the New Statesman. Pilger must be in denial then as he keeps writing articles for them. The New Statesman must be in denial too as it keeps publishing them.

    Oh Eddie. Dear Eddie. Dear dear Eddie.

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