Cabinet 'Misled' On Iraq, Says Short

A former 'rebel' cabinet minister has said her colleagues were "misled" into believing the Iraq invasion was legal.

Appearing before an inquiry into the war today, Clare Short claimed Attorney General Lord Goldsmith's legal assessment had been "leaned on".

She said Tony Blair "and his mates" were determined to press ahead with the invasion, claiming "everything was done on a wing and a prayer".

Ms Short resigned from her role as International Development Minister two months after the March 2003 conflict began.

Appearing in front of a panel chaired by Sir John Chilcot, Ms Short denied the cabinet had been a "decision-making body" and referred to Parliament as a "rubber stamp".

She was highly critical of her former boss Tony Blair and said she had been "conned" into holding off on resigning until May 2003.

The public gallery applauded Ms Short while hearing her evidence.

In January 2003 Lord Goldsmith warned Mr Blair invading Iraq could be illegal without a second United Nations resolution.

However, a month later he advised the prime minister on a loop hole within previous resolutions which could sanction a war, after speaking to US diplomats.

Cabinet was informed of the decision to take action against Iraq three days before the conflict began.

Ms Short said she was not made aware of any earlier doubts over the legality. She said she was "jeered" by colleagues after inquiring why the Attorney General's decision was revealed so late.

Ms Short said that, when she repeated the question to Lord Goldsmith, he had replied: "Oh, it takes me a long time to make my mind up."

Now aware of the legal chief's "doubts and his changes of opinion", Ms Short said: "I think for the attorney general to come and say there's unequivocal legal authority to go war was misleading."

She said: "I think he misled the cabinet. He certainly misled me, but people let it through."

Ms Short also said the government had put out an "untrue" claim that France had vetoed a second UN resolution.

"I believed them at the time. You don't want to disbelieve your prime minister in the run-up to war and you want to believe the leader of your party. You want to be loyal".

She said requests for an intelligence briefing on Iraq in 2002 "didn't come" despite continued calls.

Ms Short branded Mr Blair's version of events, presented to the inquiry on Friday, as "historically inaccurate".

He said fears had been heightened in the wake of the 9/11 New York attacks.

However, according to Ms Short: "There was no evidence of any kind of an escalation of threats."

She added: "The American people were misled to suggest that al-Qaeda had links to Saddam Hussein.

"Everybody knows that is untrue - that he had absolutely no links, no sympathy, al-Qaeda were nowhere near Iraq until after the invasion and the disorder that came from that."

The inquiry continues.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

03 January 2013
2012 Second Wettest Year On Record
New data released by the Met Office has revealed 2012 to have been the second wettest in the UK since records began. The total rainfall for the UK during 2012 was 1,330.7mm (52.4in), just 6.6mm short of the record set in 2000.
10 April 2003
Iraqi humanitarian relief is priority says Short
As the military phase of operations in Iraq comes to an end the priority will be to provide order and humanitarian relief and to establish an interim authority, International Development Secretary Clare Short said today.
12 May 2003
Short resigns claiming Blair broke pledges
After weeks of speculation over her future, Clare Short has finally resigned her Cabinet post as International Development Secretary.
13 June 2013
Dale Cregan Trial Concludes After 12 Weeks
Dale Cregan, who previously pleaded guilty to four murders, two of which where of two female police officers, has been cleared of a final charge of attempted murder, the BBC have reported.
07 December 2009
Paedophiles On Most Wanted Website
Police have turned to the web and a 'Most Wanted' website to track down two criminals who have went 'AWOL'. The Police in Merseyside and Cornwall have placed two paedophiles who they have called 'dangerous' on the national 'Most Wanted' website.