Nine paragraphs took UK to war

Britain went to war in Iraq on the basis of a brief, nine-paragraph summary of legal issues produced for Cabinet ministers by the Attorney General, it emerged last night.

The absence of a full legal opinion from Lord Goldsmith was seized on by opponents of the war as evidence of chaos in Tony Blair's government as he prepared for the attack on Saddam Hussein's regime.

Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, said it was beyond belief that Cabinet ministers were given such an inadequate explanation, which was also published on the same day as a parliamentary answer.

"This is an astonishing revelation which suggests utter confusion at the heart of government," said Mr Kennedy.

"The Prime Minister must now clarify the situation, which is undermining public trust. He must provide a clear statement about what took place regarding the legal advice.

"Can it really be true that the legal basis on which we went to war consisted of a parliamentary answer and not a full legal opinion?"

Previously, critics of the war have claimed that Lord Goldsmith's short summary produced at Cabinet on March 17, 2003 was a condensed version of a more detailed legal opinion in which he had expressed some serious doubts about the legality of war.

Suspicion of a cover-up has been fuelled by the Government's consistent refusal to publish more of the legal advice given by Lord Goldsmith in the run up to war.

But yesterday, in evidence to the public administration select committee, Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary, said the summary given to Cabinet was the full extent of Lord Goldsmith's advice.

Asked why the Government had refused to publish the fuller account, Sir Andrew said: "There is not a longer version of that advice." He added: "There is no other version. This is the definitive statement of his views."

Sir Andrew told the committee that the presentation given to the Cabinet "did not purport to be a summary" of Lord Goldsmith's advice.

"It was the definitive advice that he had reached," he said. "He does not regard the statement in the parliamentary question as a summary. He regards it as his conclusive view."

Sir Andrew indicated that there was not enough time for Lord Goldsmith to have prepared a fuller statement because it was required quickly - when it had become clear there would be no second UN resolution.

He said it was a summary only in that it summarised his views. It was not a summary of a larger document.

Sir Andrew then caused confusion by saying there were "other papers" that the Government would not disclose. This may include evidence mentioned in the Butler report into the use of intelligence in the run-up to war.

It refers to advice given by Lord Goldsmith, before the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1441, in which he said there would be no justification for use of force against Iraq on grounds of self-defence against an imminent threat.

Clare Short, the former International Development Secretary, wrote this week to Lord Goldsmith accusing him of having breached the code for ministers by failing to give his full advice to the Cabinet.
Im afraid i have to agree with Claire Short on this one (ugh, im off to scrub myself clean! 8O )
Why has no-one felt the need to comment on this?

This is major news!

The armed forces were sent to war on NINE PARAGRAPHS!!

People died because the govt could only be arsed to write 9 bloody paragraphs about the legality of the war!

Call me a bluff old traditionalist if you must (cue Blackadder-esque squealing of "Bluff Old Tradionalist"!!), but surely there must be more to it than just 9 paragraphs?

For example, was it not reported last year that the Intelligence report into Iraq and WMD ran to nearly 40 pages? Then surely, after producing millions of memo's, questions, reports, cabinet meetings (and therefore minutes of meetings) as well as the published letters to/from the Advocate General, the reference to these 9 paragraphs is slightly skewed by media hype?

Like I said, maybe I'm too synical for this job, but I really don't think it is as straightforward as it has been reported.

I await a hail of derisory laughter at my obvious niaevity.....

The nine pages are the extent of the advice legal given to no10 (not the cabinet) by the atorney general. Not the information created, sorry presented to take us to war.


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