Tony Blair: “the lies, deceits, duplicities and fudges”

Philippe Sands is professor of law at UCL and a barrister at Matrix Chambers.  His review of the Report of the Iraq Inquiry by John Chilcot appears in the latest issue of the London Review of Books. See: A Grand and Disastrous Deceit (LRB, Vol. 38 No.15, 28 July 2016).*


Professor Sands introduces the 12-volume, 6,275-page report, seven years in the writing, thusly:

It offers a long and painful account of an episode that may come to be seen as marking the moment when the UK fell off its global perch, trust in government collapsed and the country turned inward and began to disintegrate.

Professor Sands highlights the trenchant conclusions that have been singled out in most of the media commentaries on the report, namely that:

–          Peaceful options for disarmament had not been exhausted,such that military action was not a last resort;

–          The evidence did not support the judgments made about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction;

–          Despite explicit warnings the consequences of the invasion were underestimated and the post-war planning was wholly inadequate;

–          The government failed to achieve any of its stated objectives; and

–          The report does not identify even one positive outcome of the invasion.

Philippe Sands assiduously takes us through “the lies and deceits, the duplicities and the fudges, the techniques” that then British PM Tony Blair used to secure Cabinet and parliamentary support for the American invasion. And he reminds us that, despite these manifold manipulations, the Cabinet was not misled:

…the necessary information [was] available to the decision-makers if they had wanted to see it: on Iraq’s WMD capability, on the consequences of the war, on the strife and mayhem that would follow.

Quite appropriately given his painstaking account of the failure of the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to stand up to Blair’s maneuverings, Sands ends his review with an extract from the resignation letter tendered in 2003 by the Foreign Office legal adviser Elizabeth Wilmshurst, whose position he notes has been “vindicated” by the inquiry:

I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force without a second Security Council resolution … I cannot in conscience go along with advice within the Office or to the public or Parliament – which asserts the legitimacy of military action without such a resolution, particularly since an unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression; nor can I agree with such action in circumstances which are so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law.

For the full review of the Chilcot Report, see: A Grand and Disastrous Deceit (LRB, Vol. 38 No.15, 28 July 2016).

For our earlier blog post on the Chilcot Report, see:  The Iraq Inquiry: then and now (, 6 July 2016).


*(A subscription is not necessary to read the LRB online but registration is required.)

Photo credit: UK MOD.

Tags: Chilcot report, crime of aggression, Disarmament, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Foreign Office, George W. Bush, ICC, illegal war, International Criminal Court, Iraq, Iraq Inquiry, London Review of Books, Lord Goldsmith, Philippe Sands, Tony Blair, United Kingdom, United Kingdom Foreign Policy, United Nations Security Council, United States, UNSC Resolution, War on Terror, Weapons of mass destruction, WMD