THE Brown government has been told by the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, to release the minutes of two cabinet meetings, from March 7th and March 17 2003, just days before the invasion of Iraq by the Anglo-US armies.
Thomas said that production of the minutes would ‘allow the public to more fully understand this particular decision of the cabinet’. He added the fateful words that accountability for the decisions made is ‘paramount’.
Central to the release, is that on the eve of the war, on March 17, Lord Goldsmith the attorney general told the cabinet that the war was legal. That night the Leader of the House of Commons Robin Cook made his resignation speech in the House of Commons at 9:44pm.
Goldsmith was responding to queries by military chiefs on the legality of the war, and their concern that they could end up as defendants at a war crimes tribunal.
His initial advice to Prime Minister Blair, given on March 7th, and leaked in 2005, was that without a second UN resolution, war with Iraq could be illegal.
Blair said that he had not shown the cabinet Goldsmith’s full advice since Goldsmith was present and was able to explain his view on the legality of the military action.
Now the world will shortly know what really happened at the two cabinet meetings, before the House of Commons was presented with the ‘dodgy dossier’ and voted to go to war.
Robin Cook during his speech of resignation on March 17 hinted to the the House of Commons on the illegality of the action. He said: ‘I do not think that anybody could have done better than the foreign secretary in working to get support for a second resolution within the Security Council.
‘But the very intensity of those attempts underlines how important it was to succeed.
‘Now that those attempts have failed, we cannot pretend that getting a second resolution was of no importance. . .
‘It is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany wants more time for inspections; Russia wants more time for inspections; indeed, at no time have we signed up even the minimum necessary to carry a second resolution. . .
‘The reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner – not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the Security Council. . .
‘Our difficulty in getting support this time is that neither the international community nor the British public is persuaded that there is an urgent and compelling reason for this military action in Iraq.
‘The threshold for war should always be high. . .
‘Iraq’s military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war.
‘Ironically, it is only because Iraq’s military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam’s forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days.
‘We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.’
Now hundreds of thousands of corpses later, we have been told by ex-SAS soldier Ben Griffin that in Iraq since April 2003, UK Special Forces have detained and handed over to the US forces many hundreds of Iraqis for waterboard torturing and interrogation, and that this has, and is, being done with the full knowledge of the cabinet.
We have seen other illegal actions such as the murder of Baha Moussa, and the allegation that up to 20 Iraqis were executed by British forces in just one illegal action.
Not just the minutes of two cabinet meetings but the minutes of all of the meetings that prepared this illegal war must be be opened up for the public to see.
In fact all those responsible for this illegal war and its illegal conduct from Blair and Brown downwards must be tried for war crimes.