The smoking gun: Tony Blair accused of betrayal

Tony Blair was accused of a ‘gross betrayal’ of the Queen and Parliament last night after it emerged that the Government’s chief law officer warned him eight months before the Iraq invasion that regime change would be illegal.

In a previously undisclosed memo, described as ‘the most vital piece of the jigsaw so far’, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith told the Tony Blair and President Bushthen prime minister that the war would be a blatant breach of international law.

But rather than slow his rush to war, Mr Blair froze Lord Goldsmith out of Cabinet meetings and sent two of his closest allies to menace him into changing his mind.

On March 13, 2003, a week before the invasion, the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and Mr Blair’s political fixer Baroness Morgan reportedly launched a ‘pincer movement’ on Lord Goldsmith and ‘pinned him up against the wall and told him what Blair wanted’.

Both peers deny that charge. The explosive secret letter was written in July 2002, six days after a Cabinet meeting at which ministers were secretly told that Britain and the U.S. under President George W. Bush were set on ousting Saddam Hussein.
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Lord Goldsmith wrote a single side of A4 pointing out that war could not be justified solely on grounds of regime change and that Britain could not rely on claims of self- defence to justify war since Iraq was no threat to the UK.

He also ruled out using exisiting UN resolutions and warned that the justification of ‘humanitarian intervention’ was not relevant either.

But his memo was never shown to the Cabinet, to MPs or the Queen, in whose name Britain goes to war.

The letter has been provided to the Iraq War Inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot. Mr Blair and Lord Goldsmith will both be interrogated about its contents early next year.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg told the Mail last night: ‘ Parliament, the Cabinet and the Queen were all told that the Attorney General had given the all-clear for the decision to go to war. This is a gross betrayal of all the institutions of the British state.

‘In all the murky dealings in No. 10 in the run up to the decision to go to war in Iraq, this is by far the most devastating evidence that the basic rule of law was altered to suit Tony Blair’s decision to go to war.’

Mr Clegg called for the memo to be published in full by the inquiry.

‘This is one of the most vital pieces of the jigsaw so far,’ he said. ‘The integrity of Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry will be seriously undermined if it is not published.’

Several sources say Mr Blair was furious with Lord Goldsmith about the letter at the time.

One source close to Lord Goldsmith said: ‘He assumed, perhaps naively, that Blair wanted a proper legal assessment. No. 10 went berserk because they knew that once he had put it in writing, it could not be unsaid.

‘Goldsmith threatened to resign at least once. He lost three stone in that period. He is an honourable man and it was a terribly stressful experience.’

It was already known that Lord Goldsmith’s advice to the Government had changed in tone and substance in the run up to war, eventually telling Parliament that the exisiting UN resolution 1441 provided the necessary legal authority for war.

A spokesman for Lord Goldsmith would not confirm the existence of the letter but said he would address the legality issues when called to give evidence to the inquiry.

Relatives of the 179 servicemen killed in Iraq called for the memo to be published immediately.

Reg Keys, of the Military Families Against the War pressure group, said: ‘Tony Blair appears to have bullied the Attorney General into changing his mind.

‘This is just another example of the abuses of power that Blair was prepared to resort to for his grubby little war.’

Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq, added: ‘This letter should be published immediately then everyone can see it.

‘The more that comes out just reinforces my view that Tony Blair lied. He sent my son to die in a war based on lies.’

A spokesman for Mr Blair said: ‘The Attorney General set out the legal basis for action in Iraq in March 2003. Beyond that, we are not getting into a running commentary before Mr Blair appears at the Committee.’

Growing calls for Blair to face war crimes trial over invasion of Iraq

Tony Blair is facing a growing clamour that he should appear before a war crimes trial for backing the invasion of Iraq.

A 3,500-strong petition demanding that he stand trial was sent to the United Nations last month.

Campaigners want him to join a list of international ogres who have been put in the dock, including Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, Liberian butcher Charles Taylor and Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

They believe Mr Blair is guilty of initiating a ‘war of aggression’ because they claim he knew that Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction were no threat to Britain, which would have given the UK a self-defence justification.

The problem for campaigners is that the International Criminal Court, based in the Dutch city of The Hague, does not have jurisdiction to rule that unlawful aggression was a war crime because ‘war of aggression’ has not been properly defined by the signatories who set up the court.

But critics say Mr Blair could be tried under the much older Geneva Conventions.

They believe he could also be liable under ICC rules for failing to prosecute the war in a ‘proportionate manner’, as cluster bombs and depleted uranium weapons were used. They are known to cause birth defects and cancer, the incidence of which has been rising in Iraq.

The possibility that British officials might end up in the dock was a concern of Britain’s generals in the run up to war.

Admiral Sir Michael Boyce demanded an unequivocal statement from the Attorney General that the invasion was legal under international law.

Brown urged to rethink inquiry rules that keep documents secret

Gordon Brown came under fresh pressure to change the rules of the Iraq Inquiry last night amid fears that the most damning documents will not be made public.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has written to the Prime Minister calling for a change after it emerged last week that Government departments could veto the publication of papers on nine different grounds.

The new revelation that another previously unknown memo by Lord Goldsmith on the legality of the war exists yesterday strengthened calls for key documents on the build up to the invasion to be published.

Mr Clegg stepped up his campaign for transparency a day before Sir David Manning, Tony Blair’s chief foreign policy adviser, testifies today at the Chilcot Inquiry.

Sir David is expected to give evidence about a memo he wrote in January 2003 which makes clear that Britain and America had agreed to go to war regardless of finding weapons of mass destruction.

One of the get-out clauses excludes publication of issues that might embarrass Britain’s allies. That could mean that the original memo is never released, even though details of it have previously leaked.

‘Unless you provide Chilcot with the freedom you claimed he has across the floor of the Commons this week, public trust in the final outcome of this review will be deeply damaged,’ Mr Clegg wrote.

Mr Clegg raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions last week, but Mr Brown said he was satisfied with the status quo.

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