Tony Blair has admitted that he never warned George Bush that his senior legal adviser had warned that the invasion of Iraq would not be legal. The former Prime Minister made the admission at the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war in central London this morning (21 January).
In a written statement to the inquiry, released at 9.30am today, Blair acknowledged that his Attorney General, Peter Goldsmith, had advised him that an invasion would be illegal without a second United Nations resolution. Blair said that he regarded the advice as “provisional”. Goldsmith later changed his opinion.
But Roderick Lyme, a member of the panel, pointed out that Goldsmith had deliberately written to Blair on 30th January 2003 - the day before he met with US President George Bush - to make sure that he was aware of his legal opinion.
Blair said, “If I'd started raising legal issues at that point with the president, it would have started raising doubts about whether we were really with them”.
Blair admitted that he had also received negative legal advice from Goldsmith only shortly before making a contradictory statement to Parliament. Blair told the Commons that an invasion could be justified without a resolution, in the event of an “unreasonable veto”. Goldsmith had told him the opposite only shortly before.
Pressed on this point by Lyme, Blair said, “I was making basically a political point”. He added, “I was saying not, in a sense as a lawyer, but politically”.
When Lyme asked if it were possible to distinguish legal and political points in this context, Blair failed to give an answer to the question, repeating earlier points about the situation he was facing.
Protesters have gathered outside the inquiry hearing to call for Tony Blair to be put on trial for war crimes.