Historic civil law suit against alleged war criminal George W. Bush in California: Chilcot Report submitted to the Ninth Circuit Court

Global Research, July 25, 2016
Witness Iraq 23 July 2016

We are pleased to announce that excerpts from the Chilcot Report by the British Iraq Inquiry Committee have been submitted to the Ninth Circuit in support of the plaintiff’s case in Saleh v. Bush, et al.

What is the current status of the case?

Currently, Saleh v. Bush is on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.  Ms. Saleh’s lawsuit in federal court against US government leaders named as Defendants — George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz — was dismissed in December 2014 after the district court immunized the Defendants, ruling they were acting within the lawful scope of their employment when they planned and executed the Iraq War.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair shaking hands with Defendant-Appellee George W. Bush.

Ms. Saleh is arguing on appeal that the Defendants should not be immunized. She alleges that the Defendants  were acting from personally held convictions that the US should invade Iraq, regardless of any legitimate policy reasons. Specifically, she is pointing to a record of statements made by some of the Defendants in leading neoconservative outlets in which they called for the military overthrow of the Hussein regime as early as 1997.

She is also arguing that Bush administration officials knowingly lied to the public by fraudulently tying Hussein to Al Qaida and the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Such misrepresentations would also make them personally liable for their conduct under relevant law.

The Ninth Circuit has not indicated when it will issue a ruling on the appeal.

What is the Chilcot Report?

The Chilcot Report is the final report issued by the Iraq Inquiry, a committee established by the British Government in 2009 to investigate what happened during the run up to the Iraq War. Composed of British “privy counsellors,” the report was released on July 6, 2016 after more than 6 years of investigation, research, and drafting.

Why is the Chilcot Report important to the Saleh v. Bush lawsuit?

The Chilcot Report contains (i) factual conclusions by the privy counsellors about what happened during the run up to the Iraq War, (ii) actual documentation (including written notes between Blair and Bush) that show a plan to go to war in Iraq as early as October 2001, and (iii) statements of international law by distinguished experts who have concluded that the Iraq War was illegal and constituted aggression against Iraq.

What are some of the pieces of evidence submitted to the Ninth Circuit?

These are some of the excerpts that we highlighted for the Ninth Circuit as evidence that the Iraq War was illegal, and that government leaders were not acting within the lawful scope of their employment authority when they planned and executed the Iraq War:

Conclusions of the Iraq Inquiry Committee:

  1. President Bush decided at the end of 2001 to pursue a policy of regime change in Iraq.
  1. On 26 February 2002, Sir Richard Dearlove, the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, advised that the US Administration had concluded that containment would not work, was drawing up plans for a military campaign later in the year, and was considering presenting Saddam Hussein with an ultimatum for the return of inspectors while setting the bar “so high that Saddam Hussein would be unable to comply.”
  1. Mr Straw’s advice of 25 March proposed that the US and UK should seek an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to re-admit weapons inspectors. That would provide a route for the UK to align itself with the US without adopting the US objective of regime change. This reflected advice that regime change would be unlawful.
  1. Sir Richard Dearlove reported that he had been told that the US had already taken a decision on action – “the question was only how and when;” and that he had been told it intended to set the threshold on weapons inspections so high that Iraq would not be able to hold up US policy.

Conclusions of the Iraq Inquiry Committee related to the legal analysis of the British government leading up to the war:

  1. Despite being told that advice was not needed for Mr Blair’s meeting with President Bush on 31 January, Lord Goldsmith wrote on 30 January to emphasise that his view remained that resolution 1441 did not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council.
  1. Mr Wood had warned Mr Straw on 24 January that “without a further decision by the Council, and absent extraordinary circumstances”, the UK would not be able lawfully to use force against Iraq.
  1. Mr Wood wrote that Kosovo was “no precedent”: the legal basis was the need to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe; no draft resolution had been put to the Security Council; and no draft had been vetoed. He hoped there was: “… no doubt in anyone’s mind that without a further decision of the Council, and absent extraordinary circumstances (of which at present there is no sign), the United Kingdom cannot lawfully use force against Iraq to ensure compliance with its SCR WMD obligations. To use force without Security Council authority would amount to the crime of aggression.”
  1. Lord Goldsmith recognised that there was a possibility of a legal challenge

Underlying statements and facts relied on by the Iraq Inquiry Committee

15 January 2010 Statement by Foreign & Commonwealth Office legal advisor Sir Michael Wood to the Iraq Inquiry Committee

I considered that the use of force against Iraq in March 2003 was contrary to international law. In my opinion, that use of force had not been authorized by the Security Council, and had no other legal basis in international law.

18 January 2010 Statement by Foreign & Commonwealth Office legal advisor Elizabeth Wilmshurst to the Iraq Inquiry Committee

I regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal, and I therefore did not feel able to continue in my post. I would have been required to support and maintain the Government’s position in international fora. The rules of international law on the use of force by States are at the heart of international law. Collective security, as opposed to unilateral military action, is a central purpose of the Charter of the United Nations. Acting contrary to the Charter, as I perceived the Government to be doing, would have the consequence of damaging the United Kingdom’s reputation as a State committed to the rule of law in international relations and to the United Nations.

12 July 2010 Statement by Carne Ross, First Secretary of the U.K. Permanent Mission to the U.N. to the Iraq Inquiry Committee

This process of exaggeration was gradual, and proceeded by accretion and editing from document to document, in a way that allowed those participating to convince themselves that they were not engaged in blatant dishonesty. But this process led to highly misleading statements about the UK assessment of the Iraqi threat that were, in their totality, lies.

October 11, 2001 message from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to George W. Bush

I have no doubt we need to deal with Saddam. But if we hit Iraq now, we would lose the Arab world, Russia, probably half of the EU …

However, I am sure we can devise a strategy for Saddam deliverable at a later date. My suggestion is, in order to give ourselves space that we say: phase 1 is the military action focused on Afghanistan because it’s there that perpetrators of 11 September hide. Phase 2 is the medium and longer term campaign against terrorism in all its forms. …

(Mr. Blair was apparently discussing with Defendant-Appellee Bush regime change in Iraq just one month after the attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. Mr. Blair’s suggestion for “phase 1” of the U.S.-U.K. strategy on the war on terrorism to first direct military action toward “Afghanistan because it’s there that perpetrators of 11 September hide,” further supports allegations that U.S. officials used an unrelated terrorist attack to execute a pre-existing plan of regime change in Iraq.  Mr. Blair then went on to discuss a “phase 2” that would include invading Iraq).

December 4, 2001 message from  former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to George W. Bush

Iraq is a threat because it has WMD capability … But any link to 11 September and AQ [Al Qaeda] is at best very tenuous; and at present international opinion would be reluctant, outside the US/UK, to support immediate military action … So we need a strategy for regime change that builds over time. …

(This note supports allegations that U.S. government leaders were aware that Iraq had no link to the 9/11 attacks or Al Qaeda and support allegations that U.S. government leaders made false statements to the public about the threat Iraq posed, or its connection to Al Qaeda, in order to support a war and satisfy personally-held objectives of regime change that had no legitimate policy underpinning)

July 28, 2002 message from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to George W. Bush:

I will be with you, whatever …

The Evidence. Again, I have been told the US thinks this unnecessary. But we still need to make the case. If we recapitulate all the WMD evidence; add his attempts to secure nuclear capability; and, as seems possible, add on Al Qaida link, it will be hugely persuasive over here.

(This note confirms that U.S. government official’s intent to invade Iraq was well-formed by July 2002. Mr. Blair’s July 2002 note to George W. Bush observed that U.S. officials thought evidence supporting regime change was “unnecessary” and that an “Al Qaida link” could be simply be tacked onto government messaging in order to sell the war).

Statements by legal experts who have concluded that the Iraq War was illegal

10 September 2010 Submission by Philippe Sands QC to the Iraq Inquiry Committee

Distinguished members of the legal community in the United Kingdom have also concluded without ambiguity that the war was unlawful.

9 September 2010 Statement by Professor Nicholas Grief to the Iraq Inquiry Committee (emphasis added).

A second Security Council resolution specifically and unambiguously authorising military action was required. The vague warning of ‘serious consequences’ in resolution 1441 did not suffice, and to interpret resolution 678 as granting the necessary authority was not ‘good faith’ interpretation as required by international law. Without such a resolution, the invasion of Iraq constituted an act of aggression, contrary to Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

What happens next?

The Department of Justice has indicated that it will oppose the filing of these portions from the Chilcot Report with the Ninth Circuit. We will circulate the DOJ opposition once it has been filed.

Advertisements

Chilcot Report ignores secret US/UK Operation Southern Force air war against Iraq

Global Research, July 26, 2016
Antiwar.com 26 July 2016

The Chilcot Inquiry, set up to look into the British role in the war in Iraq, reported on July 6, and although it was overshadowed by the political fallout from the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, received a largely favorable reception from the media and commentators. It is unclear why those commentators judged it to be “hard-hitting” because in terms of its conclusions all it did was tell us what we already knew.

Then British Prime Minister Tony Blair pursued a war that was arguably illegal has had disastrous consequences, not least for the 179 British servicemen and women killed and their loved ones, but also for Iraq, its people and the fight against terrorism.

I was staggered by the rush to say the report was hard hitting. It wasn’t. It simply laid out the facts in a narrative format and let the reader decide. Those facts were of course damning but I struggle to find anything in the report that a well informed reader of British newspapers wouldn’t already know.

It was a very workmanlike narrative of what happened taken from secret documents and witness testimony and therefore providing far more detail than had been previously available but it was not anything like a proper inquiry in the real sense. It was more like a neutral court report than the solid analysis which was required, and what we actually got from the curiously much derided Butler report.

As a result of the Chilcot’s failure to carry out any detailed analysis of the evidence presented to his inquiry, it completely missed the extensive and conclusive evidence of a ten-month illegal air war by Britain and the U.S. designed to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse to go to war in Iraq.

All modern wars begin with an air war in which the enemy positions on the ground are “softened up” to make them easier to overcome. The Iraq War was no different in many ways. Except there was a difference. George W. Bush and Tony Blair didn’t tell us it was happening.

So why does this matter now?

It matters because the Iraq War didn’t begin on March 20, 2003 as everybody thought, it began ten months earlier on May 20, 2002 when the allies started the secret air war. It was definitely illegal because it started six months before the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1441 which Tony Blair’s government later used to claim the war was legal.

(U.S. readers might also care to note that it started five months before Congress passed the so-called Iraq Resolution which authorized military action against Iraq.)

The secret air war, codenamed Operation Southern Force, was carried out under cover of the UN-authorized operation under which U.S. and RAF aircraft patrolled a so-called no-fly zone over southern Iraq to protect the Shia majority from Saddam’s forces.

Lt.-Gen. Michael Moseley, the U.S. Air Force commander of allied air operations over Iraq, told a conference at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in July 2003 that during Operation Southern Force allied aircraft dropped more than 600 bombs on “391 carefully selected targets.”

British and U.S. officials claimed at the time that the reason behind the increased air strikes carried out in the southern no-fly zone, was an increase in Iraqi attacks on allied aircraft. But Lt.-Gen. Moseley said the bombing of Iraqi positions in southern Iraq paved the way for the invasion and was the reason the allies were able to begin the ground campaign without first waging an extensive air war as they had done during the 1991 Gulf War.

Planning for the illegal air war began shortly after Tony Blair attended a summit with George Bush at the U.S. President’s ranch in Crawford, Texas on April 6 and 7, 2002. Chilcot confirmed evidence from a Cabinet Office Briefing Paper leaked to me as part of the “Downing Street Memos” back in the spring of 2005 that Mr. Blair agreed at Crawford “to support military action to bring about regime change” in Iraq.

The British Prime Minister didn’t waste any time sorting out what would happen next. Chilcot records that the very next day, April 8, 2002, Geoff Hoon, the U.K. Defense Secretary, called in Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce (now Lord Boyce) and the Permanent Undersecretary at the Ministry of Defense (MoD) Sir Kevin Tebbit to discuss “military options” in Iraq.

Ten days later, Air Marshal Brian Burridge, Deputy Commander of RAF Strike Command, was sent to the U.S. to act as liaison with General Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. Central Command, who would lead the invasion force. Now Sir Brian, he told the Chilcot Inquiry that he had a meeting with Gen. Franks shortly after arriving at Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, discussing the no-fly zones over Iraq “at some length.”

Nine days later, on April 26, Franks flew to London with Burridge for discussions with the U.K. defense chiefs. The Chilcot Report says they talked about the patrols of the no-fly zones with details of the discussions “circulated on very limited distribution.”

A week later, there was a top secret meeting in 10, Downing St. chaired by Blair and attended by Hoon, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Adm. Boyce. The Chilcot Report notes briefly that “Mr. Blair had a meeting on Iraq with Mr. Straw, Mr. Hoon and Adm. Boyce on 2 May but there is no record of the discussion.”

It’s worth pointing out that the Downing Street note which describes that key meeting in such brazenly bare detail was initially provided to the Butler Inquiry which first looked at the intelligence provided to back the war in Iraq in 2004. So the cover-up goes back at least to then and in reality far beyond.

Three days later after that secretive Downing Street meeting, Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Defense Secretary, flew to London for talks with Mr. Hoon, following which British officials announced changes to the rules of engagement in the no-fly zones making it easier for allied aircraft to attack Iraqi military positions.

Simon Webb, then Mod policy director, told the Chilcot inquiry that the Americans had proposed “changing the nature of the no-fly zone, quite a lot of which we were persuaded about but which a part of we weren’t persuaded about … and stood aside from.”

As one of the Mod’s most senior civil servants, Webb was spouting the sort of doublespeak of which the writers of BBC Television’s Yes, Minister would have been very proud. The key words there are not “stood aside from” but “quite a lot of which we were persuaded about.”

On 20 May 2002, allied aircraft began ramping up the number of attacks on Iraqi positions. Throughout the first few months of 2002, they had dropped barely any bombs on Iraq. But answers to parliamentary questions asked by Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell (now Lord Campbell), reveal that during those last ten days of May alone, U.S. and U.K. aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone dropped 7.3 tons of bombs on Iraqi positions.

Far from standing aside, as Webb claimed in his testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry, RAF aircraft dropped more than two thirds of those bombs, a total of 4.9 tons.

Throughout the summer of 2002, both British and U.S. aircraft continued to bomb southern Iraq under cover of the no-fly zone while Blair and Hoon insisted that nothing was happening. The Defense Secretary told a cabinet meeting on 20 June 2002 that “except for continuing patrols in the no-fly zones, no decisions have been taken in relation to military operations in Iraq.”

During defense questions in the House of Commons on Monday 15 July 2002, Hoon told Labour MP Alice Mahon that: “Absolutely no decisions have been taken by the British Government in relation to operations in Iraq or anywhere near Iraq … I can assure the House that any such decision would be properly reported to the House.”

The next day, Blair appeared before the Parliamentary Liaison Committee. Asked if the U.K. was “preparing for possible military action against Iraq,” Blair replied: “No, there are no decisions which have been taken about military action.”

Tony Blair and his Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon were able to claim throughout 2002 that no decision had been taken on military action because the truth of what was taking place in southern Iraq under cover of the UN-authorized no-fly zones was kept on an extremely tight “need to know” basis. Even fairly senior British officials believed the increased air strikes were simply the result of the relaxation of the rules of engagement.

A week later, on Tuesday 23 July 2002, Blair was due to have a meeting with his war cabinet. In preparation for that meeting, the Cabinet Office produced a briefing paper which was one of the Downing St. Memos leaked to me when I was on the Sunday Times. It warned the participants that: “When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the U.K. would support military action to bring about regime change.”

This represented a problem for British policy-makers, the Cabinet Office briefing paper said.

“We need now to … encourage the U.S. Government to place its military planning within a political framework, partly to forestall the risk that military action is precipitated in an unplanned way by, for example, an incident in the no fly zones,” the briefing paper said. “This is particularly important for the U.K. because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action.”

This is all the evidence we need to show that the air war was illegal. Those conditions in which Britain could legally support military action did not yet exist. They had to be created. So although it was clearly not known to the officials who drafted the briefing paper, RAF aircraft and for that matter RAF servicemen were already involved in military action against Iraq which was not legal under the U.K. interpretation of international law.

The minutes of that war cabinet meeting on July 23 became best known for comments by Sir Richard Dearlove, the then head of MI6, who had just returned from a trip to Washington DC to see his CIA counterpart George Tenet. He told the meeting that the intelligence was being “fixed around the policy” in America.

But Hoon said something even more interesting. U.S. aircraft overflying southern Iraq had begun “spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime.” He did not mention that RAF aircraft were also taking part in the attacks. Presumably some of his colleagues in the war cabinet were unaware of that fact and the lack of an official record for the May 2 meeting suggests that both Blair and Hoon thought it sensible not to have the British participation on record.

The attacks continued through June, July and August with both U.S. and British aircraft carrying out increased bombing but nevertheless failing to provoke the Iraqis into a reaction which might give the allies an excuse for war.

The attacks needed to be ramped up still further.

On September 5 2002, more than 100 allied aircraft, both U.S. and British, attacked an Iraqi air defense facility in western Iraq on September 5, 2002, in what was believed to be a prelude to the infiltration of special forces into Iraq from Jordan. The RAF saw it as such a success that it was reported on the front page of the official publication RAF News.

During September, allied aircraft dropped 54.6 tons of munitions on southern Iraq of which 21.1 tons were dropped by RAF aircraft. In October, they dropped 17.7 tons of which 11.4 tons, roughly two-thirds, were British.

The Iraq Resolution authorizing U.S. military action against Iraq was not passed by Congress until the early hours of October 11, 2002, five months after the start of Operation Southern Force, the secret air war preparing the way for the invasion.

UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which the U.K. Government would later claim made the war legal, was not passed until November 8, 2002, six months after the secret air war began.

It was not until March 17, 2003 that British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith formally confirmed that military action was legal on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. A day later, the British parliament backed U.K. military action in Iraq.

Two days, later allied troops invaded Iraq. It was and remains widely regarded as the start of the Iraq War. Only a very few people knew that was not the truth. The war had begun ten months earlier on 20 May 2002 when British and American aircraft began bombing the 391 “carefully selected” targets assigned to Operation Southern Force, the illegal joint British and American bombing campaign that Chilcot completely missed.

Intelligence beast reporter Michael Smith broke the story of the secret “Downing Street Memos” in 2005. This article was originally published on Michael Smith’s blog.