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23 June 2005  |     mail this article   |     print   |   
Downing Street Memos officially prove illegality Iraq War
By Daan de Wit
Translated into English by Ben Kearney


Eight months before Iraq was attacked, Tony Blair received a memorandum which stated that the Americans manipulated the information of the secret services so that they would support the war plans. This document was followed by other memoranda, six of which have now been disclosed. The Downing Street Memos are official documents that prove that Bush and Blair have lied to justify the war against Saddam. The documents underline the illegal process that DeepJournal has described for years in the series Why war? and could be the beginning of the forced resignation of the BushBlairBalkenende administration.

One and a half months ago, the Sunday Times revealed the first memo that previously had been top secret, after which DeepJournal placed a 'follow-up' in part two of the article Blair lied to be able to wage war against  Iraq: '[In the memo] it states how Blair was told in July 2002 that 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy' by the Americans. Nevertheless, Blair kept persisting with Bush in the lies'. In the meantime, more memos surfaced and an American Congressman seized upon them to show the illegality of the Iraq War. The documents are the official affirmation of the lies against which millions demonstrated during the lead-up to the Iraq War. The neocons already had the plan before September 11 to force Saddam from his throne, a plan that was reconfirmed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz among others, a few hours after September 11. To execute this plan, Western populations were intentionally misled into supporting the approaching war, by deceptive techniques that normally are used only against the enemy.

Americans and Saddam oppose the Brits
The difference between the cowboys in the U.S. and the gentlemen in England is that the Brits worried about the legality of the approaching war in Iraq. It was't easy for the Brits: the Americans were breathing down their necks and Saddam did not want to cooperate either. Ray McGovern, who was an analyst for the CIA for 27 years, describes the difficult situation for the English and cites a formerly secret British Cabinet Office Paper: ''It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access).... However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003.' The British, you see, knew that the summer months in Iraq are uncomfortably hot. Thus, January was the time they thought an invasion would have to begin, or the attack would have to be put off until Autumn. As for a possible attack by Iraq, British government documents released to Parliament show that American and British aircraft dropped bombs on Iraq in March 2002, 10 tons of bombs in July, and 54.6 tons in September. Nevertheless, this failed to provoke Saddam Hussein into the kind of reaction that could be used as an ostensible casus belli. And intrusive inspections? Iraq wound up tolerating the strictest inspection regime in modern history. And when U.N. inspectors found Al Samoud missiles with a range greater than that permitted, Saddam allowed them to be destroyed. One can visualize the British lawyers wringing their hands: Foiled again.' Father Bush also had to lie to manage his Iraq War (about the non-existent murdered little incubator children), but at least he could point the finger at the Iraq invasion of Kuwait (which came to pass thanks to the Bush government itself). Bush Jr. and his friend Blair didn't have anything…

Fear over illegality Iraq War results in lies
'MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal. The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said: 'Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W. Bush three months earlier', writes Michael Smith, the Sunday-Times journalist who first published the Downing Street Memo. '[Blair] knew he was taking a huge political risk at home. He knew the war’s legality was questionable and its unpopularity was never in doubt”, says 'Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert who teaches at Queen Mary College, University of London' to MSNBC. 'On March 25 [2002] Straw wrote a memo [PDF] to Blair, saying he would have a tough time convincing the governing Labour Party that a preemptive strike against Iraq was legal under international law.' Blair persisted and now has to answer troublesome questions. So he denies everything: 'Facts were not being fixed, in any shape or form at all', he states in this item of NBC, of Tuesday last week.

British army command demanded lawful war plans (but reconsidered)
McGovern describes how problems about the legality of the approaching war with Iraq made the army command nervous: 'To his credit, British Admiral Michael Boyce, Chief of the Defense staff, demanded a straightforward, written opinion from the Attorney General [Goldsmith] that attacking Iraq would be lawful, before Boyce would put his troops at risk of subsequent prosecution as war criminals. This put the bite on Attorney General Goldsmith who had long shared the doubts of the legal establishment about the legality of starting a war without unequivocal endorsement by the United Nations. After much equivocation [you can easily say obscure circumstances], Goldsmith bowed to Blair and was asked to appear before the cabinet on March 17, 2003, two days before the war began, after which he considered quitting, like his colleague did before him: 'Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the deputy Foreign Office legal adviser, resigned around this time. She resigned because she said she could not be part of a government which was participating in what she called, 'the crime of aggression, an illegal war.' The mood was all set, as appears from the article of McGovern: '[...] Admiral Boyce, [...] now said that if British troops are brought to trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [in Den Haag], British ministers should be "brought into the frame as well." The London Observer asked Boyce if Blair and Goldsmith should be included. "Too bloody right," was his answer.'

Downing Street Memos are part of all the lies and deceptions
Investigative journalist Greg Palast places the Downing Street Memos in a recent historical perspective when he writes about the results of his research: 'Here is a small timeline of confidential skullduggery dug up and broadcast by my own team for BBC Television [Newsnight] and Harper's [Magazine] on the secret plans to seize Iraq's assets and oil. [...] March 2001 - Vice-President Dick Cheney meets with oil company executives and reviews oil field maps of Iraq. Cheney refuses to release the names of those attending or their purpose. Harper's has since learned their plan and purpose [...] 2002 - Grover Norquist and other corporate lobbyists meet secretly with Defense, State and Treasury officials to ensure the invasion plans for Iraq include plans for protecting "property rights." The result was a pre-invasion scheme to sell off Iraq's oil fields, banks, electric systems, and even change the country's copyright laws to the benefit of the lobbyists' clients. Occupation Chief Paul Bremer would later order these giveaways into Iraq law. [...] March 2003 - What White House spokesman Ari Fleisher calls "Operations Iraqi Liberation" (OIL) begins. (Invasion is re-christened "OIF" -- Operation Iraqi Freedom.)' Also see DeepJournal's seven part series titled Blood for Oil.

Possible legal consequences for parties to war
Now that it appears that the Iraq War is also officially illegal, it can have legal consequences for the parties to the war. 'Philippe Sands QC is the Professor of Law at University College in London. [...] He's also an author and his latest book is called Lawless World - America and the making and breaking of international rules.' Because of the illegality of the war against Iraq, he foresees problems for Australian Prime Minister Howard, Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush. These problems are based on the request for extradition of the former Chilean Head of State Augusto Pinochet. Sands says in an interview [ASX] with Lateline of the Australian ABC: 'The consequences in practical terms are that any Head of State or Head of Government who's engaged in activity which could give rise to a criminal investigation abroad at the level of international crime, it's got to be at that serious level, faces the prospect of investigation when abroad. To give you an example, Henry Kissinger was in Europe not so long ago publicising a new book and he took the decision not to go to Paris, I understand, because there was a credible concern that he might be the subject of a request for extradition in relation to activities he'd been involved with in Chile in the 1970s. Equally, I understand, that Baroness Thatcher after she left office in relation to issues relating to the Belgrano, the sinking of the Argentinian Naval vessel off the coast of the Falklands, the Malvinas, used to take considerable care in determining where she was going to travel.'

Possible legal consequences for indirect parties to war, like Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende
Up until now, the Dutch part of the BushBlairBalkenende administration has refused to declare what the basis was for the decision to get involved in the war. Prime Minister Balkenende is one of the lesser gods of the Iraq War, but not all small fish escape the net. Philippe Sands describes in his book Lawless World how for example the practices of torture that came forth from the signing of documents by Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld, could cause legal problems for Rumsfeld at the International Court in The Hague. If only Bush hadn't withdrawn the accountability of all Americans from the court's jurisdiction. About the bigger fish Sands states: '[...] most people now recognize that the war in Iraq was illegal and under international law, an illegal war amounts to a crime of aggression, and in some countries around the world a crime of aggression is one where they exercise jurisdiction. So the possibility really can't be excluded if Messrs. Blair and Howard at some point in the future travel after they've left office to a country which, for example, has an extradition agreement with another country where you have an independent prosecutor like the independent prosecutor in Spain who initiated the investigation of Senator Pinochet, a request for extradition or for investigation or questioning as happened in the case of Mr. Kissinger could happen. There's precedent for it.'

Congressman Conyers holds alternative public inquiry
In the U.S., the memos are made available to a large public by U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. He held an alternative public inquiry Wednesday of last week in the Capitol [video, audio]. Conyers describes in his web log how the Bush administration did everything they could to sabotage his hearing. Only the smallest room in the Capitol was made available (more than half too small for the crowding audience) and suddenly all kinds of votes were held at the behest of the Republicans (more than any in history) that could have forced Conyers' absence, if it weren't for his colleagues and some hurrying back and forth to be able to fulfill his duties.

Congressman Conyers collects signatures of colleagues and citizens
The New York Times is present at the meeting chaired by Conyers with ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson among others, former analyst for the CIA, Ray McGovern, and 'Cindy Sheehan, mother of a 24-year-old soldier killed in Iraq last year', said the memo "confirms what I already suspected: the leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry-picked intelligence." [...] After the hearing, Mr. Conyers and a dozen Congressional colleagues delivered to the White House bundles that they said contained the names of more than 560,000 Americans gathered on the Internet who had endorsed his letter to the president demanding answers to questions raised by the British memo. Some 122 members of Congress also signed the letter. Asked about Mr. Conyers's letter and the British memo, Scott McClellan, the president's chief spokesman, described the Congressman as "an individual who voted against the war in the first place and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed."' The letter of Conyers can still be signed; 'I will see that every last one is delivered to the president', writes Conyers.

Criticism of Bush administration increases
Even though it is not noticeable in the Dutch press, criticism of Bush in the U.S. keeps increasing. The New York Times writes: 'A bipartisan group of House members introduced a resolution calling on the administration to announce by the end of the year a plan for the withdrawal of American forces, and more than 40 legislators announced the formation of an "Out of Iraq" Congressional caucus led by Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat. Also, a New York Times/CBS News poll being published Friday found that 37 percent of Americans questioned approve of how Mr. Bush is dealing with Iraq, down from 45 percent in February. At an antiwar rally across the street from the White House after Mr. Conyers's hearing, speakers roused a crowd of several hundred people with calls to bring the troops home and to impeach Mr. Bush. The protesters, organized by a group called After Downing Street, called the British memo the "smoking gun" proving their case against the administration.' Another initiative to expose all deceptions, is the documentary Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire [Stream, RealPlayer]. To part of this, images are added about the Downing Street Memo's, which results in a short and interesting clip [RealPlayer].

Initiatives to force Bush to resign
Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader writes in The Boston Globe: 'THE IMPEACHMENT of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, should be part of mainstream political discourse. [...] A Resolution of Impeachment would be a first step. Based on the mountains of fabrications, deceptions, and lies, it is time to debate the ''I" word. [...] Another former presidential candidate also gets involved in the debate. The Boston Phoenix writes: 'In a statement e-mailed to the Phoenix on Tuesday, Kerry spokesman Setti Warren said, "[...] John Kerry will demand answers in the Senate. Stay tuned." Jeremy Scahill of The Nation writes: 'It only takes one member of Congress to begin an impeachment process, and [John] Conyers is said to be considering the option.' Alongside the letter of Conyers to Bush, there are other initiatives: 'Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy has a similar petition, and California Rep. Maxine Waters has vowed to introduce daily amendments to pending House legislation demanding Bush answer questions raised by the memo.' U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey says: '"If the president intentionally twisted the facts about the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq war, and lied to Congress about it, and then elicited authorization from Congress to launch a war that's caused the deaths of 1,700 U.S. men and women along with tens of thousands of others, that is definitely an impeachable offense". Also outside of politics there is a movement; Democracy Now writes: 'John Bonifaz [is] lawyer and author of the book "Warrior King: The Case For Impeaching George W. Bush." He is also co-founder of afterdowningstreet.org which is a coalition of various groups urging Congress to begin a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war'.

Downing Street Memo’s: Iraq War started before the beginning
The Downing Street Memo’s also prove officially what everyone knew vaguely, that the war had started long before the official beginning, during what could be called the No Fly Zone War. This is the unofficial war of 1991 to 2003, so the period between the wars of father and son Bush. During the months following the Downing Street Memos in the middle of 2002, Iraq was seriously assaulted by missiles, as can be read in this article for The Nation van Jeremy Scahill: 'It was a huge air assault [...]. The Pentagon's goal was clear: destroy Iraq's ability to resist. This was war. But there was a catch: The war hadn't started yet, at least not officially. This was September 2002--a month before Congress had voted to give President Bush the authority he used to invade Iraq, two months before the United Nations brought the matter to a vote and more than six months before "shock and awe" officially began. [... The] attacks were no less than the undeclared beginning of the invasion of Iraq. The Sunday Times of London recently reported on new evidence showing that "The RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war."' Scahill writes: 'On the eve of the official invasion, on March 8, 2003, Bush said in his national radio address: "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force." Bush said this after nearly a year of systematic, aggressive bombings of Iraq, during which Iraq was already being disarmed by force, in preparation for the invasion to come. By the Pentagon's own admission, it carried out seventy-eight individual, offensive airstrikes against Iraq in 2002 alone.'

Top diplomat: Acts of war during pre-Iraq War illegal
[News added 26 June: Michael Smith writes in The Sunday Times: '... Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 “carefully selected targets” before the war officially started.' According to Smith, this raises the question as to whether these actions were legal]. The attacks were part of an illegal construction, says ' former UN Assistant Secretary General Hans Von Sponeck, a thirty-year career diplomat who was the top UN official in Iraq from 1998 to 2000' to The Nation: '"The no-fly zones had little to do with protecting ethnic and religious groups from Saddam Hussein's brutality" but were in fact an "illegal establishment...for bilateral interests of the US and the UK."'

-

The first Downing Street Memo [PDF], text.  

The Options Paper [PDF].

The Ricketts Memo [PDF].

The Straw Memo [PDF].

The Meyer Memo [PDF].

The Manning Memo [PDF].

The Cabinet Office paper.

All memos neatly typed.

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