[JURIST] Former UK international development secretary Clare Short told the Iraq Inquiry [official website] in a public hearing [transcript, PDF; video] on Tuesday that Former UK prime minister Tony Blair [official profile; JURIST news archive] was "misleading" and "deceitful" with the Cabinet and parliament regarding the Iraq invasion. Short rejected Blair's statements [official transcript, video] to the Inquiry last week, in which he claimed that there had been "substantive" discussion regarding the invasion, which led to an "endorsement" by the Cabinet. Short claims that Blair continually blocked the Cabinet from discussing the legality of the war and they were soon reduced to having "little chats." Short also stated that her warnings about the humanitarian crisis that would result from the invasion were ignored by Blair. In a 2003 letter [text, PDF] to Blair, Short outlined her reservations:
[The] situation of the Iraqi people [is] already extremely fragile. Any disruption could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. With some more time sensible measures can be taken to reduce these risks and improve Iraq's prospects for stability after conflict. Such measures would also help persuade the Iraqi people – as well as neighbouring countries and the British public – that we have their concerns at heart.
Short also criticized former attorney general Peter Goldsmith [professional profile] for not voicing to parliament his doubts about the legal foundation for the Iraq invasion.
Last week, former chief legal adviser to the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office Sir Michael Wood told the Iraq Inquiry that he had advised the Foreign Ministry that the 2003 Iraq invasion was illegal [JURIST report]. Also in January, the Iraq Inquiry released [JURIST report] a 2002 letter from Goldsmith to former secretary of defense Geoffrey Hoon in which Goldsmith warned the Cabinet that the Iraq invasion was not supported by international law. In November, the Inquiry released a 2002 letter from Goldsmith to Blair, warning [JURIST report] Blair that the planned invasion of Iraq could be illegal. The letter laid out the reasons that Goldsmith believed the Iraq invasion might be illegal, including that an invasion could not be based on "regime change" alone. Despite these reservations, Goldsmith announced to parliament that the UK had "unequivocal legal authority" to invade Iraq. Short said the ministerial code was broken as cabinet colleagues were not aware of Goldsmith's modifications to his legal advice. The existence of these letters will increase the difficulty for Blair to use a good-faith defense against charges that he knowingly led the country into an illegal invasion.