Wednesday, February 23, 2005

No wonder they want to hide it

Since the beginning of the year, the Guardian has been engaged in a battle with the Blair government to win the release of British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith's advice on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq war. The British government has of course been refusing to release it, on the grounds that legal professional privilege and longstanding tradition should trump the public's interest in knowing if their elected representatives are war criminals. And looking at the excerpts of an upcoming book published in the Guardian today, it's no wonder that they want to hide it. According to international lawyer Philippe Sands QC,

The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, warned less than two weeks before the invasion of Iraq that military action could be ruled illegal.

The government was so concerned that it might be prosecuted it set up a team of lawyers to prepare for legal action in an international court.

And a parliamentary answer issued days before the war in the name of Lord Goldsmith - but presented by ministers as his official opinion before the crucial Commons vote - was drawn up in Downing Street, not in the attorney general's chambers.

The latter is the interesting part, as this answer was supposed to be a summary of Lord Goldsmith's advice, and asserted that the war was legal. But it was concocted by two of Blair's spindoctors, and then represented as the Attorney-General's opinion, to parliament, to the public, and to British soldiers, who rightly feared prosecution by the ICC for participating in an illegal war of aggression. Now it seems that everyone may simply have been lied to by a government desperate for cover for its decision to back Bush.

But then, is that really any surprise...?