US told Britain to get new legal opinion on Iraq war, book claims

The United States told Britain to get a new legal opinion to back war in Iraq after Foreign Office experts had advised that military action would be illegal without a second UN resolution, a senior government source has revealed.

After the warning, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, approached one of only two British lawyers who took a "hawkish" view of international law. The Government's top law officer then based his own legal opinion authorising the Iraq invasion on the new advice, the Whitehall source has said.

The detailed revelations from the source will appear this week in a book by Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, a Labour peer and lawyer, on the use and abuse of the law by governments. The book, Just Law, reveals that the Americans told Britain in the run-up to the war early last year that it should "get yourself some different lawyers".

"In the weeks before the war, the British Government conveyed to Washington its concerns about the war, explaining that the preponderance of its legal opinion was that war would be unlawful without a second resolution of the Security Council," the book says.

Lady Kennedy, who previewed some of the claims yesterday, said the "preponderance" of legal opinion within the Foreign Office was that war would be unlawful if it was not in self-defence, if there was not an imminent threat directly to the UK, or if there was no second UN resolution. "I certainly know that ... by the end of January, it was still the position. My source said to me: 'Law is the glue. We have to have a second resolution,'" Lady Kennedy told The Independent.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office who resigned when the war started, felt strongly that war would be illegal. Her boss at the FCO felt that a range of opinions could be put forward to ministers.

After the warning from the US, and when a second resolution looked unlikely, the Attorney General sought new advice and gained it from Professor Christopher Greenwood at the London School of Economics. "Legal advice was sought from outside of that circle, and went beyond to somebody who was known was more hawkish," Lady Kennedy told the GMTV Sunday programme.

"Professor Greenwood's opinion, that Britain could rely on UN resolutions from the Gulf War of 1991 to authorise the use of force, then became the basis for the Attorney General's own advice to Tony Blair. When they [the UK Government] told Washington that their legal advice was suggesting illegality, they were told that they should look for further legal advice," Lady Kennedy said.

Professor Greenwood declined to comment on suggestions that he may have been consulted by Lord Goldsmith.

Robin Cook, a former foreign secretary, said Lord Goldsmith should reveal what evidence he had that WMD were in Iraq as his opinion was based on the existence of an urgent threat.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16k - £22k

£16000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager / Invoice Finance £75k OTE

£40000 - £50000 per annum + £75,000 OTE Car+Mobile : h2 Recruit Ltd: Business ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager-Managed Services-£80,000 OTE

£45000 - £80000 per annum + £80,000 OTE + Car,benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Busine...

Langley James : IT Sales Executive;Borehamwood;£40k(neg) uncapped comm£100k+OTE

£40000 per annum + £100k+ OTE: Langley James : IT Sales Executive; connectivit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital