The Partiality of Lord Goldsmith 31



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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31 thoughts on “The Partiality of Lord Goldsmith

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  • George Dutton

    “Goldsmith changed his mind twice: between January 2003 and 7th March 2003, then again between 7th and 17th March 2003. The first time was because he had been taken to see the Americans (who were involved with the UN and resolutions very reluctantly) and they seemed like nice blokes so their interpretation must be right! The second time was because he had to otherwise there would have been a political crisis.There appeared to be absolutely no legal reasons why he changed his mind.”


    I wonder why he changed his mind…

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