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Free research for anyone minded to follow up Independent on Sunday non-story splash

Posted on 23 June 2012 | 9:06pm

Based on a passage in my diary (clearly missed by The Guardian who serialised Burden of Power last week) The IoS has splashed with ‘How Blair misled Cabinet on Iraq.’ The Guardian were right to miss it first time round.

I went into rebuttal mode with reporter Jane Merrick on twitter, pointing out that the text she quoted did not remotely justify the headline. Pointing out too that it was exactly the kind of news and comment fusion Tony Blair, John Major and many others talked about at Leveson. I also drew attention to various passages of former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith’s evidence to Chilcot, and asked if the IoS had bothered to study it before rushing to print a story which conformed to their view of the Iraq war.

e.g. when Sir Roderic Lyne asks: ‘so no one at any stage asked you to restrict what you said to cabinet to the fairly limited terms in which you presented this to cabinet?’ And Goldsmith replies ‘No.’

e.g. (the paper suggests TB stopped him speaking to Cabinet) ‘I do recall telling Cabinet, “well, there is another point of view,”but this is the conclusion that I have reached’

e.g. ‘I was there. I was therefore in a position to answer all questions. I was in a position to say that my opinion was that this was lawful… I did say that there was another point of view, but they knew that very well in any event.’

eg ‘The cabinet I’m sure knew that there were two points of view because that had been well travelled in the press. The caveat was you need to be satisfied that there really has been a failure to take the final opportunity. That, of course, was something which was right in the forefront of cabinet’s mind, I have no doubt, and I’m sure was mentioned by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and others in the course of the debate. So I think the issue was well understood.’

eg “There were a number of cabinet ministers there who had actually seen….I knew had seen the whole of the minute, for example, of 7 March, although things, as you rightly say, had moved on.”

e.g. ‘Was it lawful? That was a necessary condition. Then they would need to consider whether it was the right thing to do. That’s what they then went on to debate, and I sat and listened as they went through the issues of the effect on the domestic community, the effect on international policy, what would this do in terms of the UN and so forth. So they were looking at much bigger questions of ‘is it right?’ Not just ‘is it lawful’.

I fear that a reading, let alone publishing of these passages, might have spoiled what, late this afternoon, the paper decided was a ‘good story.’ This was not the story originally put to me. That was about another passage in which I talked about worries Goldsmith might resign over the use of disproportionate force.

But then they decided that wasn’t a story at all and went for this other one. However they did not put it to me. Indeed I only heard about it because I called Jane Merrick around 630pm about the earlier story I thought they were running.

So I had about 20 minutes to get a reaction to them. It is only since that I have been able to research more thoroughly.

Here, for the sake of completeness, is what I told her just before they went to press. ‘Peter Goldsmith’s full legal opinion is in the public domain having been leaked and then fully published during the 2005 election campaign and it is no secret that he had concerns at various points. This entry is consistent with what he and TB said to the Chilcot Inquiry. At that point he was not being asked to give a formal opinion. When he did so, and was questioned by the Cabinet, as I record later in the diary, he said lawyers all over the world have doubts but he was confident in his position that Resolution 1441 gave legal authority for the use of force by reactivating prior resolutions.’

I have also pointed out that it is not even clear that the entry on which she bases this splash refers to a meeting with the AG, rather than a discussion in Number 10 of a paper he had sent a few days earlier.

All I know is that this is Chapter 9,547 of that well known never-ending book of modern political life, The Real Spin Doctors Are The Journalists.

Enough already. Time for bed.

  • Anonymous

    I bought Burden of Power and haven’t been able to put it down since and consequently had very little sleep as a result!!  Does the IoS seriously think The Guardian would have missed such an opportunity if there were any truth in this “revelation?”  Having read these very sections this afternoon the cynical ploy to boost their circulation has me as angry as Alastair – sue them and fast!

  • lucy

    I have to say I’m annoyed at the IoS, one of the few papers that I can read, criticism is something that is healthy but I (perhaps naively) think that peddling a story that fits a perspective should be left to the Dacre-tastic Mail because it reduces a journalist & newspaper’s credibility. I’m tempted to continue to rant as even though I might not always have agreed with the Labour gvmt I think as a grown-up to construct a non-story diminishes an argument. Apologies for waffling and typos/punctuation mistakes it’s late and I’m cross.

  • Olli Issakainen

    I have seen top secret Iraq documents like the Iraq Options paper and the so called Downing Street memo.
    They tell a clear story.
    Intelligence about Iraq is poor, not beyond doubt.
    Intelligence is never beyond doubt.
    Saddam is not presenting any clear and present danger. Threat from Iraq is not increasing.
    The head of SIS says that facts in the US are made to fit the chosen policy.
    There cannot be any closure on Iraq until it is explained how poor intelligence became excellent and threat that was not increasing clear and present one.
    Donald Rumsfeld admitted on CNN that the Iraq war was about regime change, not WMDs.
    He also states in his memoirs that the decision to go to war was made earlier than has been admitted.

  • Jane63c

    Totally support your #therealspindoctorsarejournalists yes PR folk have in the past been perceived to spin but our job is to present our client in the best possible light available. It is the journalists, or more charitably, their employers who could be argued to be the real spinners as Leveson is currently demonstrating. I have many friends who are journalists and teach PR at the University of Lincoln in the School of Journalism, but during my PR career in the public sector experienced the kind of twists and turns you have described, and yet I am the described as being from the dark side!

  • Hirondelle

    I think your penultimate paragraph is ironic, given that you were a journalist turned spin doctor.

  • Gilliebc

    I agree Olli.  When the Twin Towers were brought down on the infamous 9/11 i.e. demolished like Fred Dibnahs old factory chimneys!  We were told that AQ was responsible (lol) So therefore the US were going into Iraq!  That made no sense because Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with AQ.  

    George Bush jnr. used to go on about the axis of evil.  The truth as many of us see it, is that the US is the real axis of evil in this world, aided and abetted by other countries including the UK.  The so-called Arab Spring is the work of the US also.  Countries such as Libya, Syria and the rest of them were all on their (US) list of places to bring ‘democracy’ to.  It is anything but ‘democracy’  Nice to hear that the US and AQ are fighting on the same side now!  What they would have us, the people believe beggars belief imo. 

    Most ‘normal’ people find it difficult or nigh on impossible to comprehend that this crazy world and the US in particular is run by bloody (literally) physcopaths.  To them the people are no more than cattle.  They have no empathy with us lesser mortals, which is why they are able to carry out mass slaughter here, there and everywhere without sympathy, conscience or remorse. It is not as if they are hiding their plans.  Agenda 21 is essential reading for anyone who cares about their future and that of their children and grandchildren!  These evil crazy elite had better be warned though that there are more of us than there are of them!  People are waking-up from their MSM (which the elite own and control) induced semi-comas, but whether enough will awaken in time to put a stop to all this evil nonsense remains to be seen.  There is hope yet, I believe. 

  • Michele

     Your posts elsewhere expose you as a bit of a spinner yourself.

  • Anonymous

    I think the Tone should be quite flattered that editors still use him still to sell their rags, even if the editors are these days in what they then called spin mode, which really wasn’t then.

    War brings chaos from the planning stage to the almost never end – WWII you could say didn’t really finish until 1989, if that, with The Wall. Why don’t they go on about Chamberlain in ’39 as much, for instance – now there was a clown in history! And he got up to strange things in the years before, allegedly.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone remember the cannon barrels made by that Briitsh firm for Saddam and Iraq, that they claimed were oil pipes? That super gun saga, in the early 1990’s?

    Oh I forgot, it was a tory government then, and was eventually forgotten by the tory press.

  • Michele

     ‘go to war’ or go to witness and to limit?

  • Dave Simons

    You mean the Iraqi super-gun, parts of which were made by Sheffield Forgemasters. Iraq was at war with Iran at the time so it suited the Tory government to arm Saddam. Pity Saddam got so drunk on overconfidence that he subsequently invaded Kuwait and immediately became part of the axis of evil. ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’ is a pretty stupid policy but we keep falling for it.

  • Ehtch

    Sue? Fuck that. Laugh at them is better. Who wants to fuck about with press lawyer slugs for a couple of years? Life is short enough as it is. Just say they are a bunch of cees and leave it at that, ey Alastair? Agreed?

  • Anonymous

    Good book then? I’m still on the last one, but I’m reading it at the same time as a pesky economics book which is really slowing me down.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but Iran was next door to them, not a thousand Kms away, like Israel…..

    And Sheffield Forgemasters has had a management/workers buy-out, or something, since, hasn’t it?

  • arnoldo87

    Gilliebc,

    To have an axis, you must have more than one point.

    If you had read the “Guide For Manic Left-Wing Conspiracy Cranks” leaflet in more depth, you would have discovered that Israel is the other point on the axis.

    Hope that helps.

  • arnoldo87

    Gilliebc,

    To have an axis, you must have more than one point.

    If you had read the “Guide For Manic Left-Wing Conspiracy Cranks” leaflet in more depth, you would have discovered that Israel is the other point on the axis.

    Hope that helps.

  • arnoldo87

    Olli,
    Like so many people, you jump to incorrect conclusions on The Downing Street Memo.

    You also make false claims. The memo did not say that “facts in the US are made to fit the policy”. What it actually said was “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”. In other words intelligence and facts were not being made up but were being placed around the policy to create a coherent holistic case for ousting Saddam.

    The only other interpretation is that intelligence and facts on WMD were being invented,although all those in a position to know were fully aware that Saddam had no WMD. And yet, further down in the memo, this was stated:-

    “For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.”

    So we would have had the amazing situation of a roomful of intelligence professionals and politicians, all of whom knew that there were no WMD in Iraq, discussing what might happen if Saddam actually used them ( those things that didn’t exist, that is )

    Doesn’t quite hold together , does it Olli?

  • Anonymous

    How is it a stupid policy – without my enemy’s enemy is my friend, we most likely would have got beaten in WW2 for a start.

    From a purely geopolitical perspective, Iran and Iraq are our (the free and democratic west) enemies. Iran was the more powerful, and potentially powerful of the two, so we’d rather fight a weakened Iran or Iraq, and war between the two was the perfect way to weaken them. Stands to reason if one enemy has 500,000 soldiers and the other 700,000, then rather than fight them both (1.2 million soldiers) it suits an enemy of both better to let them grind each other down to a couple of hundred thousand, then we can fight the weakened force.

    Early 80s was a good geopolitical position in a sense, because Iran and Iraq were fighting each other, and the Soviets were bogged down in Iraq.

    Of course I prefer today’s world where the threats are much smaller than the Soviet Union.

  • Gilliebc

    Of course I accept your point about an axis having more than one point!  I did hint at that by writing that the US is ‘aided and abetted ….’      

    I am not aware of the leaflet you mention. Does it even exist?  In the unlikely event it does exist it certainly would have no appeal for me.

  • Gilliebc

    ‘…..and the Soviets were bogged down in Iraq’   Don’t you mean Afghanistan?   

    ‘………today’s world where the threats are much smaller…….’

    What about China then?

  • Michele

    I’d liked your post Gbc for its first para.  Re the rest I don’t see China as a threat in any way other than our high trade imbalance.  Do you? 

    It’s always been the most isolationist of countries, a friend that ‘married out’ has never been forgiven by her parents, not after 20+ years.

    Re the trade imbalance, that’s not going to change, China’s quality is now high and ever-improving and it’s in everyone’s interest for everyone else to be able to eat.

    TB was guest-editor of London’s evening paper yesterday and mentioned that
    China is planning 70 new airports in the next ten years (while we’ll probably still be arguing about the ‘where?’ for our next one).
    Given that their area is 460 times the size of ours (and a far more difficult topography making some land travel impossible) and their population is 23 times the size of ours I think their hands are going to stay so full there’s no reason for suspicion of them in terms of war.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, the nonsense of the Soviets and Aphganistan, well forgotten about these days. Caused 1980 Olympics complications, with US not going there, then USSR not going to 1984 Los Angeles – complete children human life.

    They made a film of it, Soviets in Aphganistan, in a tank, if I can find it, the trailer to it,
    FOUND! – The Beast of War,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxS3CL-IewY

    that was easy, when you know how what why think to search

  • Anonymous

    Sorry yes I meant Afghanistan.

    China is not yet anywhere near as powerful as the Soviet Union was. It may get there, but it is not there yet.

  • Anonymous

    If a non democratic country has the means to go to war, then they should always be suspected.

  • Gilliebc

    I completely agree with your points about China as a trading nation and also agree with what was said about their plans for all those new airports they are planning. They do have a lot more land ‘to play with’ in comparison with us.     

    I do see China as a potential threat though. e.g. if Israel and the US probably supported as per usual by the UK and some other countries decide to wage war on Iran, under whatever guise, like humanitarian or ‘democratic’ excuses.  Then I (and others too) believe that China and Russia and some other countries also will definitely weigh-in on the side of Iran.  That’s what worries me about China.  Although I don’t spend a great deal of time worrying about it, as yet 😉

  • Gilliebc

    Yeah, I thought that’s what you meant.  I wasn’t trying to catch you out, just seeking clarification.

    Regarding the military might of China.  You write that their power does not yet equal the power of the old Soviet Union.  I’m ‘happy’ to take your word on that one, because to be honest, I just don’t know!     

    How about China and Russia combined, in terms of military might?  Do you think/believe that those two countries combined may equal the former power of the old Soviet Union?  The reason I ask is because of the scenario I posed in my reply to Michele. i.e. that of Israel and the US starting something with Iran, possibly/probably.

  • Gilliebc

    Interesting post Ehtch.  The Soviets in Afghanistan does seem to have been largley forgotten these days.  I do recall thinking though, when they sent our service men and women to Afghanistan, ‘they have no chance or hope of ‘winning’ anything in that country, because if the Soviets couldn’t do it, then neither can we’.  Talk about lambs to the slaughter. The only thing I remember well about the Soviets in Afghanistan is Sandy Gall’s news reports made when he was riding around on a camel in appropriate attire! lol.

  • Michele

     Says you.
    Materialists are unlikely to kill their customers and/or their land.

  • Michele

     I don’t think the UK,  under present or future leaders, would weigh in with or for Israel.  It does nothing about HR abuses close to home.  That tap has been well and truly drained.

  • Michele

     We were supposedly a democratic country when we annexed HK.

    Nothing is absolute,

  • Anonymous

    You are right there, if the soviets cannot win it, then a much more restriced western army has no chance.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting question re China combined with Russia. I couldn’t answer that with any certainty.

  • Ehtch

    Yes, Gillebc and reaguns, the British Empire in the old days hundreds of years ago struggled to make heads nor tails of, AHEM!, Afghanistan.

    And yes again, excuse my spells, I am really crapola at it. Low grade dyslexia it is. Anyway, good engineers are well know to be totally rubbish at spelling, since that part of their brain is full of angles and vectors. Make good obsevational abilities though, non-tamlined.

  • Ehtch

    The Tone, between the lines, is thinking of re-entering Parliament, the elected side…. Interesting. Reminds me of Gladstone – he was in and out as Prime Minister like a revolving door, with his friend in enemy electorially Disraeli also spinning in said door.

    Watch and shoot, I suppose we have now got to say. Would like to see The Tone come back, to send the shits up Dave C.