The Partiality of Lord Goldsmith 31


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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.

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/43803/100127-goldsmith.pdf

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.


31 thoughts on “The Partiality of Lord Goldsmith

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve been watching goldsmiths evidence and before you jump down my throat (nicely educate me on the error of my ways)…

    1) Goldsmith looks to have set up a reasoned (legal) argument on the UN resolutions that ‘legally’ allowed us to go to war. I suspect this is a question that should be placed before the UN legal advisers. It would be interesting to hear both sides (Goldsmith and the FCO legal advisers) debate this….

    2) Now, actually going to war….well thats a different matter, and Mr Blair should be quaking in his boots.

    3) Weres the in depth questioning on WMDS?

    4) were is the questioning on Dr Kelly?

    5) Were is the detailed questioning on tourture, espcially to JS?

  • writerman

    It’s tremendously frustrating that the Chilcot inquiry doesn’t have even one lawyer, or expert in international law, on the panel asking the obvious questions that stare one in the face and demand that one asks them. But, this is, of course, diliberate policy.

    It’s tiresome that Goldsmith, who appears blatantly partial and biased, wasn’t questioned more closely about his lack of experience and competence to make such monumentally important decisions about complex international law.

    Why did he give more weight to what the American version of events than those of all other counties combined?

    His defence is essentially the same as Blair’s. The issues were complex and finely balanced, and in the end I had to make a decision. I did what I thought was right, honestly. It may, possibly have been wrong, seen in hindsight, even a mistake, but it was an honest mistake, after all we are all only human aren’t we?

    It’s a very convenient form of defence, if one accepts the preimises it’s based on, because it’s actually difficult to prove that someone is lying about what they believed, thought, or felt, was right. At least it’s virtually impossible in non-trial situation like Chilcot, when no one is speaking under oath, with polite and respectful questioning, by unqualified questioners.

    So one sees a row of “skilled” lawyers given time to justify, make speeches, and defend themselves, and so on, yet they are not subject to proper cross-examination by other lawyers! It’s so one-sided. Really, a grotesque farce, close to a parody of how an inquiry into such a serious matter should be conducted. It would almost be amuzing, if only the consequences for so many people weren’t so dire. Goldsmith seems rather casual about the consequences for Iraq of war, though he is able to emote about british soldiers.

    These people are, despite their slick language, smart suits, and civilized style; really the scum of the earth. Shallow, vain, hypocritical, arrogant, swine; who we’d be far better off without.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    “But we dropped our wording too.”

    “all necessary means” – the Codex Alimentarius in the International relations cosmos.

    NO FORCE – NO AUTHORITY = ILLEGAL WAR

    —– THE IRAQ WAR WAS ILLEGAL —–

    —– THE IRAQ WAR WAS ILLEGAL —–

    —– THE IRAQ WAR WAS ILLEGAL —–

    —– THE IRAQ WAR WAS ILLEGAL —–

    —– THE IRAQ WAR WAS ILLEGAL —–

    —– THE IRAQ WAR WAS ILLEGAL —–

    —– THE IRAQ WAR WAS ILLEGAL —–

    Blair, Anthony Charles Lynton,

    Do you understand?

  • Anonymous

    The big white-collar criminals are a smooth bunch.

    “They protest their innocence right up to the end, unlike many small crooks .”

    paraph — Eva Joly the french judge in the ELF affair .

  • mary

    What is the significance of Gilbert playing the anti-Semitism card in the midst of the ‘proceedings’ and a day before the actor Anthony Charles Lynton Bliar comes on centre stage?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8484000/8484588.stm

    Radio 4 Today 28.1.2010

    0739

    A member of the Iraq War inquiry has spoken publicly about what he says is the antisemitism which greeted his appointment to the Chilcot committee. Sir Martin Gilbert made the comments to internet radio station, Israel National Radio. Middle East correspondent Tim Franks outlines the accusations.

  • Anonymous

    of course, lord goldsmith if 1441 did justify war ‘and im not legal’, there is one caveat that has not been explored.

    I would have thought, and im again not in the top 95% of those with a cerebral apparatus, BUT surely if were playing by UN rules…..and we dammmmmmm weel SHOULD be, should it be up to the Security Council to decided on WAR?

    Should the UN not charge the UK and USA with some sort of charter violation?

    Goldsmith could have rules on the legality of war, but that is is the role of the Security Council to decide. Hes done his job….case over?

  • mary

    Another stage is being filled as 69 ‘leaders’ ie mostly warmongers assemble for the Afghan conference. It is in the style of the Oscar red carpet parade with Milipede acting as doorman/greeter.

  • Anonymous

    of course what iraq and the rest of the workd needs is Americas special brand of democracy, you know :-

    1) Illegal wiretaps on and surveillance on its citizens. The give away was the aptly named ‘Patriot Act’

    2) Mercenary usage in Iraq/Afghanistan

    3) Woeful medical insurance.

    4) War Profiteering

    5) unabridged financial ponzi schemes and insider trading

    6) American corporate to rip of the tax payer…check out taf.org

    the list goes on…by the way Nice speech Obama and thats all it was

  • Richard Robinson

    “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.”

    It seems like a potted summary of the whole business. Anything that can be seen in public has no weight whatsoever, the decisions get made off the record. They might as well just say it didn’t count because they had their fingers crossed behind their backs.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Memo extracts

    Updated on 02 February 2006

    By Channel 4 News

    Taken from the White House Meeting Memo, 31 January 2003, seen by Channel 4 News – and detailed in ‘Lawless World’ by Philippe Sands.

    President Bush to Tony Blair: “The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach”

    Bush: “It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam’s WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated.”

    Blair: “A second Security Council Resolution resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected and international cover, including with the Arabs. ”

    Bush: “The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would ‘twist arms’ and ‘even threaten’. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.”

    Blair responds that he is: “solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam.”

    Bush told Blair he: “thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.”

  • duppyconqueror

    we’ve been this way before..

    the cops who shot JCM had plenty of time to concoct an alibi. All we are seeing at chilcott is a more sophisticated version of that with a slim veneer of integrity.

  • Anonymous

    anon poster at 8.05

    Why would I jump down your throat? But I do think you hve been taken in by slick presentation.

  • Richard Robinson

    “Should the UN not charge the UK and USA with some sort of charter violation?”

    I suddenly realise, I don’t even know if the UN ever carried out any kind of investigation/enquiry.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to ask the other governments involved for their sides of the discussions on ‘automaticity’ ? If one party makes unprovable assertions about what was understood in a private conversation, couldn’t we hear the other party say that, yes, that was their understanding too ? If it was.

    Mainly, what I remember is the german bloke (I forget who, dammit) with his “But if you want us to believe you, you have to convince. And, I am sorry, but this does not convince”. The discomfort I thought I was hearing in his voice seemed to say more than all the speeches. (Welll, apart from the bit about ‘opening the gates of Hell’, anyway)

  • writerman

    I think it’s pretty clear that the UN has been gutted and sidelined by the entire Iraq affair. It now has very little to say in international affairs. It seems that every UN Secretary General is weaker than the one he replaces.

    In theory the UN could have stood up to the US/UK and declared their plans to wage an agressive war on Iraq, illegal, or in breach of the UN Charter. In theory, I suppose one could have imposed economic sanctions on the two leading nations as well. Only I suppose this is unrealistic, especially with whispering Kofi in charge.

    Of course being permanent members of the Securtity Council, US/UK would have used their veto against sanctions being imposed on them. The point is, that international law, if it’s to have any legitimacy and strength, should be applied to big as well as small nations. All nations, like people, should be equal before the law.

    That US/UK should choose, on such a transparently dubious basis, to rip, what international law we have in relation war, to shreds and interpret it so tendentiously and with disdain for world opinion, is outrageous and dangerous. After Iraq any powerful nation can do whatever it likes, if it has the means and will.

    It’s the extraordinary lack of understanding, or thought, reflection, about the dreadful consequences of attacking Iraq, that strikes one about Blair, Hoon, Straw, Campbell, Goldsmith, Powell ect. It’s like they live in strange, isolated, bubble, apart from the real world, where consequences don’t seem to really matter, and actions don’t have effects, as in the real world. I suppose it’s the bubble of power, they live in and love almost to distraction.

  • stephen

    “Should the UN not charge the UK and USA with some sort of charter violation?”

    Now that is funny given the UN’s history in standing up for its own charter – remember Srebrenica, Rwanda, Darfur, Gassing of Kurds, massacre of Marsh Arabs, getting Saddam to account for his WMDs, Sierra Leone, Isreal’s attacks on Palestinians, East Timor etc.etc.

    And even if they did try and charge the UK and US – perhaps the UK and US might use their vetoes.

    Perhaps one of the lessons of this whole mess is that the war against Saddam may not have been considered necessary if the UN had been at all effective in dealing with him in the first place.

  • Jon

    @stephen, the problem with that approach is that it sidesteps the issue of legality; it is rather like saying “I know it was illegal, but (insert excuse here)”.

    They would not be well-advised to try that – it would make prosecutions possible, and for obvious reasons they want to avoid that at all costs.

  • stephen

    Jon

    The problem with debating legality in international law is that such debates will achieve absolutely zero in the current situation where the main international body charged with setting that law is hopelessly ineffective and corrupt – and is incapable of taking any effective action to prevent abuses of human rights.

    Those who cannot see that Saddam had to be dealt with for his many abuses of human rights well before the military action took place – and that the UN was failing in that role – really are being blinkered by their anti-Amricanism.

    The law is an ass – and international law even more so at present.

  • Guano

    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 have this image of Godsmith as a commercial lawyer saying that his client wouldn’t have signed the contract if it had meant that he actually had to supply the goods mentioned in the contract.

  • writerman

    The idea that Saddam had to be dealt with because of his abuses of human rights, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    Saddam abused human rights, that isn’t contested; but was he really so much worse than other abusers of human rights? And who decides who is the worst abuser of human rights? And who decides what should be done about it? And who decides which human rights are the most important?

    Surely Craig’s career is an illustration, even for the intellectually challenged, that our attitude to human rights isn’t simply and clear-cut at all? Some tyrants that grossly abuse human rights are let off lightly, while others become this years monster. We are very selective when it comes to abuses of human rights. Craig would probably call it hypocritical, cowardly, and close to criminal.

    We prostitute human rights as an excuse to demonise those leaders who we don’t like or who are no longer useful to us. Saddam was one of those. He got too big for his boots, trod on our toes, and had to be removed. When he was fighting a proxy war for us against the spread of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, there was scarcely a mention of his abuse of human rights, because it wasn’t important, we had other things on our minds.

    And furthermore, what about the two to three millions excess deaths we are responsible for in Iraq over the decades, aren’t they an abuse of human rights? Or can we define our way out of that mountain of corpses too?

  • stephen

    I’m sure Craig can speak for himself – and while I may disagree with him on many things – I suspect that his view is that abusers of human rights should be stood up against early and whatever their political views. Our disagreements on this are probably about what measures are likely to be effective and the relative costs/benefits of different measures.

    So writerman what would you have done about Saddam? – I suspect nothing once he fell out with the Americans – since that appears to be the yardstick against which you define human rights.

  • Jon

    Stephen:

    > The problem with debating legality in international law is that

    > such debates will achieve absolutely zero in the current situation

    > where the main international body charged with setting that

    > law is hopelessly ineffective and corrupt – and is incapable

    > of taking any effective action to prevent abuses of human rights.

    No, I think your analysis is wrong. International law does not depend on the existence, or the condition, of the UN. If the UN was abolished tomorrow – perhaps as some of the unilateralists would like! – international law would continue to exist.

    I am not an international lawyer, but I think that is an accurate summation of the views of Phillipe Sands, who is one. Happily, international law ‘takes on a life of its own’ and starts to shape decisions around the world, even in nation states that are not signed up to them. So, for example, I believe it is correct to say that international laws on, say, the ICC, will start to affect US policy even though they are not a signatory to it. But the change there will be glacial, I suspect.

  • writerman

    Stephen,

    What would I have done about Saddam Hussein? That all depends. How much power am I allowed? I suppose I would never have chosen him for the job in the first place? Or is that too glib?

    As far as I can asertain Saddam was, from a early stage in his career closely associated with the American intelligence services, especially the CIA, who had him on their payroll.

    It’s a long time ago now, but he seemingly came to power in a coup, which was, let’s just say facilitated by bit of American help.

    Shortly after he grasped power along with the secular Baath party, he began a campaign to eliminate the Iraqi Communist Party, especially its members in the trades union movement. He was handed a long, long, list with the names of nearly all party members, the list was supplied by the Americans, who obviously took a special interest in Communists in Iraq, for obvious reasons.

    Saddem then launched an attack on the Communists, supposedly somewhere between twenty-five and thirty thousand were killed. This episode made him extremely popular in Washington.

    From then on the only way was up for our boy Saddam. He made have been a brutal sonofabitch, but he was *our* sonofabitch, which is all that really matters, when one hires a killer to do ones dirty work.

    No, I wouldn’t have employed him in the first place, not my kind of guy.

    It’s not as if Saddam was every a threat to the West. After all he fought a war against Iran for us and was our campion against the forces of Islamic extremism. He must have thought it grotesquely ironic to be placed in a box with Bin Laden and the Islamists after nine eleven. But then there is little honour among thieves. Come to think of it, there’s probably more honour among thieves than among great powers and their hitmen.

    Saddam’s big mistake, which many in the Middle East think was trap he was stupid enough to walk into, was his conflict with Kuwait. It’s all water under the bridge now, but Kuwait seemed intent on forcing some kind of conflict with Iraq, which is odd, considering the difference in their military capabilities. But then perhaps Kuwait had a big brother waiting in the wings with an even bigger stick than Iraq had?

    The point is, Iraq was a country on its knees, a broken country. Saddam still had the strength to oppress his own people, but as to posing a threat to his neighbours, the west, or the world; well that’s just ridiculous, as the war showed. The Iraqis had nothing militarily, which everyone knew all along. After all we only attack very weak countries, don’t we?

    Sure, Saddam killed people, but then so do we, and I would argue in far higher numbers. But then we do it very reluctantly and it’s not something we enjoy, which is a tremendous concilation to the Iraqi dead I’m sure.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    A soulful, heavyweight Daguerrotype of Lord of the Realm, Goldsmith. A pity there’s no soul and Goldsmith’s will is as light as air… and so it becomes clear that the image is nothing more than an ode to a pallid mendacity. If Blair is a footnote, Goldsmith barely amounts to a semi-colon.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Writerman,

    You said:-

    ” These people are, despite their slick language, smart suits, and civilized style; really the scum of the earth. Shallow, vain, hypocritical, arrogant, swine; who we’d be far better off without”

    I could not agree with you more.

    The nature of these formal processes,as with the Princess Diana inquiry, and the “Mishcon letter”, is that the obvious stares one in the face – and the wordsmiths suggest that ‘truths’ are lies – that ‘wrong’ is ‘right’ – that ‘dishonesty’ is ‘honest’ foreign policy. And thus, this exercise is ably demonstating the process in action – should we care to look closely enough.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Writerman,

    Again, you say:-

    “That US/UK should choose, on such a transparently dubious basis, to rip, what international law we have in relation war, to shreds and interpret it so tendentiously and with disdain for world opinion, is outrageous and dangerous. After Iraq any powerful nation can do whatever it likes, if it has the means and will.”

    I would qualify what you have said and add – “only if we let them”. The powerful are not omnipotent. There are dimensions where power becomes strained. The American Empire, as with the one ( forgot its name) – on which the sun ought never to have set – or the Roman one of years ago, are examples that there can be processes of implosion – Soviet style – over-expenditutes – and mass resistance to the forces that do not auger well for the future of humankind.

    There is a way, but the way forward involves struggle!

  • Richard Robinson

    writerman (again) – “Or is that too glib?”

    There’s probably no answer that isn’t, it’s a glib question.

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