Simon Carr: When legal opinion became a political embarrassment

The Sketch

Share
Related Topics

So, to summarise. They fixed the facts, tortured the texts, invented the evidence, blitzed Blix, gelded Goldsmith, framed the French, wrecked Iraq and hanged Hussein.

What energy these people have, what a range of talents, it's hard not to admire them.

We had two interesting witnesses - Michael Wood the legal leader of the Foreign Office and one of his team members.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst is a formidable legal personality projected from remarkable moral structure. When the Attorney gave legal approval for the war she resigned. In civilian terms, there was something heroic about that, something most unusually admirable.

In the year before the war, all the legal advisers at the Foreign Office were of one opinion. This has probably never happened before. In private practice such unanimity constitutes professional malpractice. That is by the way. Going to war without a second UN resolution, all agreed, was illegal.

Every time ministers or officials alluded to regime change, Michael Wood wrote to them pointing out they were wrong. Once he wrote to Jack Straw telling him he was "completely wrong". And "occasionally you'd get the PM saying the wrong thing privately and I'd jump in." There was no deniability for any of them. They can't have liked that, not one bit.

When Wood sent a paper to Number 10 advising on the consequences of an illegal war the response came back, "Why has this been put into writing?"

A pretty straight kind of guy? Bad faith hardly starts to cover it.

The Attorney, it was said, was solid with the Foreign Office position: "I'm sure he was aware and agreed with it." He shared their reservations right up to his final decision ("the better view" as we heard it called).

So, Wood said, because the government knew what the Attorney's view was they didn't ask him for it.

Ms Wilmhurst said it was as though the legal opinion was an impediment, an obstacle. And it was "extraordinary" (in layman's terms, an effing scandal) that the legal OK wasn't sought before troops were deployed.

But life is a journey and with troops poised to invade, Goldsmith came to believe there was no need for a second resolution after all. This realisation came, we were told, through an interesting process. He didn't examine the text of the first resolution (that is, the famous 1441). Instead he talked to the people who negotiated it. By that means, he found out what they'd really intended.

Obviously the French negotiators wouldn't have known what was really intended so he didn't ask them.

He what? No, he didn't ask them.

Best question of the day came from Roderick Lyne: "Should the Attorney give draft advice, thereby opening up a process of negotiation?"

What a polite way of putting it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world