domingo, 17 de decembro de 2023

Milleiros de galegas e galegos nas rúas de Compostela esixen o alto ao fogo en Gaza -- Thousands of Galicians on the streets of Compostela demanding a ceasefire in Gaza #StopPalestineGenocidio #FreePalestina



mércores, 13 de decembro de 2023

Neal Hanvey (Alba Party) calls for Blair to be stripped of his Knighthood in wake of new declassified documents over Iraq #IraqWar #WarCrimes #HHRR

Neale Hanvey MP said:


UK military action in Iraq and declassified documents from 1998



Declassified UK, and in particular their co-founder and Editor, the journalist and author Mark Curtis, have provided an invaluable public service in shining a light on declassified British documents, at the National Archives, from 1998. 


These documents which run to over 900 pages reveal what actually went on behind the scenes, in terms of the UK Government’s decision to take military action in December 1998 in what became known as Operation Desert Fox, the four-day bombing campaign in Iraq from 16 to 19 December 1998 by the United States and British militaries.


This is important in and of itself but also because, as we now know, it was the precursor to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Before I turn to the key findings contained in the declassified documents, at the outset I will recap on the human cost of military action in Iraq.


This House will forever remember the sacrifice of the 179 British servicemen and women, as well as the 23 British civilians, who lost their lives during the conflict in Iraq.


Yesterday I joined Scotland’s War Widows for their Christmas gathering and I want to pay tribute to my K&C constituent and their Secretary Sue Raw and the amazing women and men who lost a loved one during, or as a result, of the lasting consequences of conflict. 


In addition to this, there is also the horrific human cost of the war in Iraq.  A research study published in the Lancet in 2006 estimated that, 655 000 Iraqis have died as a consequence of recent wars.

In November 2006, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 1.8 million Iraqis had been displaced to neighboring countries, and 1.6 million were displaced internally. As recently as March 2023, the Watson Institute at Brown University, estimated that 1.1 million Iraqis are still displaced internally or live as refugees abroad.


According to an April 2014 Guardian report, the war cost the British taxpayer £9.6 billion.


Doubts over the legality of the invasion of Iraq has done irreparable reputational damage to the western world including the United Kingdom throughout the middle east and among Muslim populations at home and abroad. 

I will now turn to key findings from the declassified documents in relation to discussions involving, and advice given, by the

Foreign Office’s Legal Adviser,

the Solicitor General,

the Chief of the Defence Staff,

the Attorney General,

and the Deputy Secretary for Defence and Overseas Affairs respectively.


Foreign Office’s Legal Adviser

On 12 February 1998. The Foreign Office’s legal adviser Sir Franklin Berman wrote to his department’s senior civil servant:

The only valid claim to employ force (in this case) is under the authority of the Security Council……My view is that a new resolution in suitable terms is a sina qua non”.


He added: “The Ministerial Code requires Ministers to comply with the law, including international law…I cannot believe that Ministers would wish to order British servicemen into action unless their legal advisers were able to assure them that it was legally justifiable”.

Solicitor General

The then Prime Minister Tony Blair was again told of the Foreign Office view two days later, on 14 February, in a meeting with the then Solicitor-General for England and Wales, the now Lord Falconer.

Referring to the UK’s invasion of Egypt over Suez Lord Falconer told Tony Blair that in the Foreign Office “some lawyers argued very strongly that it would be the first time since 1956 that the UK had used force without the backing of the Security Council Resolution”.

“Some lawyers might feel strongly enough to resign”, Lord Falconer stated, since they might be expected to implement decisions “that they believed were incompatible with international law”. 


Chief of the Defence Staff

Five days later, on 19 February, the Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and the Defence Secretary George Robertson attended a briefing by Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) Sir Charles Guthrie and Air Marshal John Day on “targeting plans for operations against Iraq”.


The minutes note that the Chief of the Defence Staff “mentioned that he was worried about the legal side; he hoped this could be sorted quickly”.


The minutes then state: “The prime minister (Tony Blair) noted that the legal advice was that securing another SCR [Security Council Resolution] was preferable.”


It added: The prime minister concluded that…he did not want to have everything depending on securing a further Resolution”.


What on earth does he mean by “everything”, what exactly had he committed to?


We know that Tony Blair had been told by then in a communication entitled ‘The Legal Use of Force’ from Michael Pakenham, Deputy Director for Defence and Overseas Affairs to John Holmes (Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister) that a further resolution was essential, not preferable.


Tony Blair’s statement in the minutes of the meeting with the Chief of the Defence Staff implies that he would be prepared to use military force without such a resolution. That is unlawful, yet that is exactly what happened as events transpired.

The Attorney General

One note in the bundle of papers – which is undated but likely to be from February 1998 – appears to be from officials in advance of a meeting between Tony Blair and Attorney General John Morris.

This note suggests that Tony Blair pressed Morris to legally justify the use of force.

The “Speaking Notes for the Prime Minister: Iraq – The Legal Position”, references Morris’s memo of 14 November 1997 and that it:

“helpfully indicated” there could be “exceptional circumstances” in which the use of force could be justified without a Security Council statement. It then says: “I trust that you can confirm now that my description of what would constitute ‘exceptional circumstances’ is correct”.

However, Morris’ memo clearly states:

“Such a situation has not yet arisen; and even in such extreme circumstances. the UK could expect to be questioned closely about the legal basis for its resort to military force. The Government would need to have the strongest factual grounds for such action.”

This advice from Attorney General, John Morris, makes clear that a Security Council statement was “an essential precondition” to using force.


Deputy Secretary for Defence and Overseas Affairs

In July 1998, Michael Pakenham, Deputy Secretary for Defence and Overseas Affairs from 1997-99 wrote a confidential note entitled “The Legal Use of Force”. This was sent to the John Holmes (Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister).  He said the Foreign Office legal team was continuing to advise that:


“the bottom line remains that in most foreseeable circumstances, a Resolution of the UN Security Council is required before the use of such force can be authorised”.


He added that:

“acting against UN principles or without UNSCRs [UN Security Council resolutions] may in the short term meet some immediate need but is in the long term wholly contrary to our interests”.


The communication also states: “... the advice given by the FCO legal team, and closely followed by the Law Officers, is that there are certain fundamental rules which any Government must follow, and tests they must meet, before authorising the use of force by our Armed Services. Without such tests being met, there would be a very real risk of members of the Armed Services being subject to criminal prosecution.”


Summary of Advice

So, in summary, the then Foreign Office’s legal adviser stated that the “only valid claim to employ force” was under the authority of the United Nations Security Council.


The Solicitor General warned the Tony Blair that there were lawyers who might resign rather than have to implement decisions “incompatible with international law”


And what is absolutely clear is that neither the Foreign Office’s Legal Adviser nor the Solicitor General were willing to advise that military action was legally justifiable. 


And we have evidence of the then UK Prime Minister pressing the then Attorney General to provide a legal justification for military action.

If that wasn’t concerning enough, we also had that Chief of the Defence Staff stating that “he was worried about the legal side.”

Crucially, the Deputy Secretary for Defence and Overseas Affairs offered absolute clarity that  “the bottom line remains that” a UN Security Council Resolution is required  before the use of force can be authorised. In fact, the communication sent to Downing Street makes clear that the Prime Minister’s office was told that this was essential!


Countdown to Military Action

On 14 November 1998, Tony Blair authorised the strike on Iraq but UK and US forces were stood down at the last minute when Saddam Hussain agreed to permit weapons inspections.


Just before Iraq’s climb-down, the Tony Blair had held a meeting with the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Defence Secretary, now Lord Robertson, and the Chief of the Defense Staff Charles Guthrie in which he affirmed: “The time had now come for military action to be taken against Iraq”.


According to the minutes of that meeting there no consideration of legality, except that it was agreed to justify the use of force “not because he [Saddam] was in technical breach of UN Resolutions but because he posed a real and imminent threat to peace and security in the region”.


As Declassified UK have stated, “This was a de facto acknowledgement that the threshold demanded by Britain’s legal advisers – a new Security Council authorisation – had not been met.”



Military Action

On 16th December 1998, the US and UK struck Iraq in a wave of air attacks. Almost 100 sites were attacked by US and British aircraft, with cruise missiles fired from US navy ships and B-52 bombers.

General Peter de la Billiere, a former head of the SAS who commanded British forces in the 1991 Gulf war, questioned the political impact of the bombing campaign.

Tony Blair misled Parliament

It is clear from these declassified documents that Tony Blair misled Parliament.  When he announced military action to parliament on 17 November 1998, he said: “I have no doubt that we have the proper legal authority, as it is contained in successive Security Council resolution documents”.


But this was clearly misleading as he had been consistently advised by the Solicitor General, by the Attorney General, by the Foreign Office Legal Adviser and by the Deputy Secretary for Defence and Overseas Affairs that further UN authorisation was required for the use of force.

Thus British officials justified their action by claiming that other UN resolutions passed in 1998 revived the authorisation to use force provided in Resolution 678, a remnant of the Gulf War passed eight years earlier, in 1990.


But since these other resolutions did not explicitly authorise the use of force, the UK argument was a spurious one. Of the 15-member Security Council the 1998 action only secured from support the US, Japan, and Portugal.

And five years later, in 2003, the UK and US relied on the same resolution – 678 – to justify their subsequent invasion when they again failed to secure a further Security Council resolution for the use of force.

The Real Motivation for Military Action

These files from 1998 suggest Tony Blair was motivated more by maintaining relations with the US than by upholding international law, as he was again in 2003.


On the same day, President Clinton told Tony Blair during a phone call that military action against Iraq “might have to be used”. Blair replied saying he agreed and that Mr Clinton “could count on our support throughout”.


That commitment of support was not underpinned by international law.


On the point of Saddam Hussain being unwilling to cooperate, “we would have to enforce our will”, Blair said, adding “even if there were some differences between us on the legal front”.

According to Declassified UK, “Blair was intimating to the US president he was prepared to override British legal concerns and obligations.”

On 14 February1998, as Washington and London were close to striking Iraq, Blair told Solicitor-General Lord Falconer “it was inconceivable that we would refuse the Americans the use of the base at Diego Garcia. At the very least this had to be legally possible”.



So far, the government has not declassified all files relating to this period. It has kept secret several of the Iraq files from the prime minister’s office, covering the end of 1998 and early 1999.  Can the Solicitor General explain why these documents have not been put into the public domain and when we can expect publication?

The files do not appear to contain the minutes of the meeting between then Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Attorney General John Morris. Can the Solicitor General confirm if this is the case and if these minutes will be published in full and when?


These declassified documents show Tony Blair was determined to take military action against Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1998 against explicit advice and in the absence of sound legal arguments or justification.

These documents show Tony Blair dismissed legal objections to his 1998 bombing campaign. This was the direct precursor to his stance over the invasion of Iraq five years later in 2003 which was also deemed illegal by UN Sec Gen Kofi Annan when he said in Sept 2004 “from our point of view and the UN charter point of view, it (the war) was illegal.”

Indeed it was the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who privately warned Tony Blair in 2002 that an invasion of Iraq was legally dubious stating: “regime change per se is no justification for military action”, and the weight of legal advice here is that a fresh (UN) mandate may well be required.”

These words chime with and are foretold in the declassified documents which I have highlighted today.


I wish to place on record my appreciation to parliamentarians who have raised similar concerns to mine today.  These include the former Labour MP Dennis Canavan, the Right Honourable Member for North Islington, and SNP MPs Margaret Ewing and Jim Sillars. 


I recall that Margaret Ewing questioned the Prime Minister directly in the House of Commons at the time and Jim Sillars called in 2016 for a retrospective Iraq War Crimes Act to be passed by the Scottish Parliament.

It was the Right Honourable Member for Haltemprice and Howden who stated “The second Iraq war was started to liberate the Iraqi people. Instead, it shattered their country. It was intended to stabilise the middle east. Instead, it destabilised the middle east.” (Hansard, 14 April 2016.)

He deserves credit as does my own party leader Rt. Hon Alex Salmond. Mr. Salmond was right when he said:

“Through the long debates on Iraq, many of us suspected that the Prime Minister had given commitments to the American President which were unrevealed to this House and to the public.  The Chilcot report outlined these in spades.  The famous phrase ‘I will be with you whatever’ will go down in infamy in terms of giving a commitment.” (Hansard, 30 November 2016.)

In both instances in 1998 and in 2003 we know Mr. Blair received legal advice warning that military action was illegal and, in both instances, he ignored that legal advice and went on to authorise the deployment of British service personnel.


Blair pressed officials, in particular the Attorney General to provide a legal justification for the use of force. He received none, but he did it anyway.


Blair misled Parliament by claiming that a legal basis for military force, without a UN Security Council Resolution existed, when in fact it did not.


The consequences have been devastating for Iraqis, for the region and for military personnel and their families.


Lives lost in the theatre of war are well understood, but the lives wrecked by the trauma of conflict are less easily quantified yet every bit as real.


I heard such stories yesterday when speaking to the War Widows.


Such loss and devastation is met with great courage by those affected, but every person's loss should surely be based on lawful instruction.


How can it be that a Prime Minister who prosecuted two wars against lawful advice and instruction has been rewarded with a knighthood.


This is an insult to every single life lost and it should be withdrawn forthwith and a path to full justice secured.


Governments should not lie to go to war, and the truth must now be told.