Socialist Worker

Government knew the Iraq war was illegal

Issue No. 2209

Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith warned Tony Blair three months before the Iraq war that an invasion would be illegal, secret memos showed last week.

The Cabinet Office published Lord Goldsmith’s first draft of his legal advice and confirmed that he had serious doubts about the legality of the war without a fresh UN mandate.

The memo was written on 14 January 2003. It stated, “My opinion is that resolution 1441 does not revive the authorisation to use of force… in the absence of a further decision of the Security Council.”

The memo also made clear that Lord Goldsmith found arguments in favour of a war without the UN resolution “unconvincing”.

Yet within days he flew to Washington for a meeting with President Bush’s top advisers and changed his mind about the legal position.

John Bellinger, the former White House legal counsel, later told British colleagues: “We had trouble with your attorney. We got him there eventually”.

Goldsmith told the Iraq Inquiry that this version of events was “nonsense”.

But Goldsmith did change his mind and gave the go ahead for war on 10 March.

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