Tony Blair’s former defence chief, the late Lord George Robertson, was told to destroy a note containing details that indicated UK troops were committing war crimes in Iraq. The paper bore the name of David Campbell-Bannerman QC who said it should be destroyed as soon as possible in case it became public knowledge
Elaine Dumelow, Tony Blair’s defence chief, was ordered to burn the note which said Iraq war may be illegal.
Geoff Hoon, Tony Blair’s former defence secretary, claimed the legal paper was held in a Ministry of Defence safe. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/SWNS)
Former Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair’s military secretary alleges he was directed to ‘destroy’ a memo warning that attacking Iraq may violate international law.
Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has long been chastised for leading the UK into war with Iraq in March 2003. His former defense secretary is now accusing him of collusion.
According to allegations from 2005 and 2015, Sir Tony sought to destroy documentation proving he had received legal advice from his then-attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, showing that invading Iraq may be regarded unlawful.
At the time, Sir Tony rejected the allegations as “nonsense.” Geoff Hoon, his former defence secretary, has now reiterated the charges.
In his book, See How They Run, published in November, he revealed what allegedly occurred.
‘British forces must operate in line with the law,’ Mr Hoon wrote. Mike Boyce, the Chief of the Defence Staff, was pressuring me to give him the legal power he needed to take action with the soldiers under his command.
‘Without a clear authorization in the shape of a second UN resolution authorizing the use of force, the UK’s involvement in any invasion would have to rely on a complicated interplay involving numerous UN resolutions that were not totally coherent.’
‘It was Lord Goldsmith’s obligation to answer the question. He wrote a lengthy and elaborate legal judgment that only advanced international law academics could comprehend.’
When Sir Tony sacked him over the phone in 2005, Mr Hoon says he “hung him out to dry.” (Photo: Getty Images) )
Sir Tony has already dismissed the allegations of ‘burning’ as ‘nonsense.’ (Photo courtesy of PA)
‘I was provided a copy from Downing Street under strict terms of confidentiality,’ he said. I was advised that it was solely for my eyes and that I shouldn’t tell anybody else about it. I had no clue whether anybody else had gotten a copy.
‘I read the opinion numerous times since it was difficult to read. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the attorney general had concluded that invading Iraq would be legal if the Prime Minister thought it was in the national interest of the United Kingdom to do so.
‘It wasn’t quite the ringing endorsement the Chief of Defence Staff was hoping for, and in any case, I wasn’t permitted to show it to him or even talk about it with him.’
‘Moreover, when my Principal Private Secretary, Peter Watkins, contacted Jonathan Powell in Downing Street (Sir Tony’s chief of staff at the time) to inquire what he should do with the paper, he was instructed flatly to “destroy it.”
‘Peter Watkins was the epitome of a committed British public servant, and that directive deeply concerned him. He inquired what we should do, and I suggested that we put the paper in a secure MoD safe that only he had access to. For all I know, it may still be there.’
More than 600 British soldiers were killed in the Iraq war, along with tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians (Picture: PA)
Ten days later, Lord Goldsmith reversed his position and produced a new legal judgment suggesting that using war against Iraq was legitimate. It’s long been thought that Labour placed pressure on him to do this.
It comes as more than 700,000 people have signed a petition asking for Sir Tony’s knighthood to be revoked.
‘[Tony Blair] was directly responsible for the killing of numerous innocent civilian lives and service in different wars,’ according to the petition. He should be prosecuted for war crimes based only on this.
‘Tony Blair is the person who is least worthy of any public honor, especially one bestowed by Her Majesty the Queen.’
In Iraq and Afghanistan, he led the UK into a conflict that killed over 600 British servicemen and tens of thousands of civilians.
After the Chilcott Inquiry – which looked into the UK’s participation in the Iraq war – determined in 2016 that the former Labour leader overplayed ‘flawed’ information to justify the invasion, many people feel the war was unjustifiable.
This was a reference to the infamous dossier that claimed the UK was ’45 minutes away from doom’ due to Iraq’s supposed WMDs.
According to the Chilcott report, then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein constituted “no immediate danger” at the time, and Sir Tony was accused of neglecting nonviolent options.
Sir Tony and his director of communications, Alastair Campbell, have disputed responsibility for the media’s portrayal of the ’45-minute’ warning, but Mr Hoon has now openly accused them.
‘[An expert from Defense Intelligence] told me he thought [the dossier] related to the time it took to deploy and launch a toxic artillery round,’ he writes in his book.
‘Because Saddam Hussein had used similar munitions in the war with Iran — and against his own people – the answer came as no surprise.’
Mr Hoon went on to explain that he had “no clue the “45-minute warning” problem had been used by the Downing Street press office in a totally different context.”
It’s important to note that Mr Hoon’s professional relationship with Sir Tony did not end well.
When he was sacked over the phone in 2005, the former Labour lawmaker feels Sir Tony ‘hung [him] out to dry.’
Sir Tony has been approached by Metro.co.uk for comment.
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