Title

Bush, Blair had 'no evidence' of Iraq WMDs: lawyer

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Electronic Media Monitoring Service 

Date

30-03-2006 10:56 PM

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ABC1

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ABC1

Start

30-03-2006 10:56 PM

Abstract

 
End

30-03-2006 11:51 PM

Cover date

2006-03-30 22:56:19

Citation Id

382532

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Reporter

JONES, Tony

Speaker

JONES, Tony

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Bush, Blair had 'no evidence' of Iraq WMDs: lawyer -

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(generated from captions) Stephen McDonell, Lateline. Well, Philippe Sands is Professor of International Law at University College London and the author of 'Lawless World' where details of the memo were first publicly revealed. He's now in Washington and joins us from the ABC's studio.

Phillipe Sands, thanks for being

there. Delighted to join you again.

Yes, indeed. It's extremely rare

isn't it to get this kind of an

insight of an extremely private, we

should say secret meeting between

two leaders preparing for a coming

war. Tell us what you think are

war. Tell us what you think are the main insights to be gained from

main insights to be gained from the

so-called White House memo? Well, I

think there are two really crucial

issues. Firstly, the memo of the

meeting of 31 January which has not

been challenged, its authenticity

hasn't been attacked in any way.

The contents haven't been attacked,

confirms the decision to go to war

had already been taken by President

Bush, in terms, irrespective of

whether or not there was a second

resolution. And the British PM

resolution. And the British PM does not Demmer from that zixgts

not Demmer from that zixgts secondly and I think even more significantly,

the memo effectively confirms that

there was no evidence of weapons of

mass destruction in Iraq. I think

it's clear that the material

indicates that both ╝flush╛ and the

PM had a belief that there were

weapons of mass destruction there.

But they didn't actually have any

evidence and that's why they

evidence and that's why they engaged in the type of conversation that relates to putting

relates to putting up spy planes,

because they needed to do something

to provoke some Iraqi reaction in

order to justify if you like a

second resolution. I'll come to the

detail of all of this in a moment.

First, I've got to ask you, how

First, I've got to ask you, how were you able to verify that this memo

is, in fact, the genuine article?

is, in fact, the genuine article? As you say, it hasn't been denied by

either of the two leaders, but it hasn't been

hasn't been confirmed, either.

Well the 'New York Times' reported

this past Monday and they've

obviously been doing their own

ferreting around two senior British

officials confirming the

authenticity of the material. So

there's independent verification.

For my own part as an academic, I

have to check my sources very

carefully. As a member of the

English bar I have to check that my

facts are accurate. And I

facts are accurate. And I satisfied myself and indeed nothing

myself and indeed nothing in the

book has been challenged in

book has been challenged in relation to its accuracy. I think you can

rely on it as accurate. Well

according to the memo, President

Bush discusses three possible ways

of provoking a confrontation within

Iraq. What detail of those options

is actually spelt out in what

appears to be a 5-page memo?

Well in my book I've indicated some

of the material and it's obviously

of the material and it's obviously a short memo of a meeting and so the

detail that has now come into the

public domain is about as detailed

as it gets. It doesn't indicate,

for example, how serious ╝flush╛

for example, how serious ╝flush╛ was about this idea of spy planes,

whether any preparation was taken

whether any preparation was taken or indeed, whether it actually

happened. It's floated if you like

as an idea. I have to confess I

as an idea. I have to confess I was pretty surprised that even such an

idea could be floated, because it

really brings back memories of what

happened in Vietnam in the Gulf of

Tonkin and so on and so forth. So

it's genuine material, but it's all

completely consistent with the fact

that a decision was taken and they

really didn't have any material.

And bear in mind as your piece

began, this was five days before

Colin Powell was due to go to the

Security Council and unveil the

smoking gun, so to speak. And that

fell as a damp Squibb. It's

fell as a damp Squibb. It's I

fell as a damp Squibb. It's I think all very telling. The second option

pertains to that in some way,

doesn't it? Because there was some

thought to actually bringing out

thought to actually bringing out one of the Iraqi, one of the key Iraqi

defectors who in the end were the

very people who provided that false

information to Colin Powell?

Well, we now know that a lot of the

material upon which various parts

material upon which various parts of the Bush Administration relied came

from selective and not

from selective and not well-tested people who came out of Iraq and

indeed, some suggestions are that

some of the material came from a

serving Foreign Minister of Iraq.

But we don't know anymore than the

detail that's come into the public

domain as to what precisely

happened. So it's sketchy, but

happened. So it's sketchy, but it's accurate. Yes, well the third

accurate. Yes, well the third option was to assassinate Saddam Hussein.

Once again, no detail as to whether

this was discussed

this was discussed seriously and it

appears no response recorded from

appears no response recorded from PM Blair. Well, in relation to that

suggestion, or that possibility,

it's unclear from the material

whether the suggestion was that any

effort to assassinate would come

from the US or the UK or from some

other source. It might be

interpreted simply as an expression

of hope that someone would pop off

Saddam Hussein and that would do

Saddam Hussein and that would do the job. But what is very striking is

that these ideas are floated by

╝flush╛ and there's simply no

reaction from the British PM. I

have to say personally I found that

rather disspirgt. There's no,

rather disspirgt. There's no, "Hang on a second George, you can't be

going down that line. " It's all,

"I'm solidly with you, Mr President.

" That I think raises serious

questions. At the beginning of the

interview you seemed to throw some

doubt over my next proposition but

it did appear that the main reason

for Tony Blair going into this

meeting was for him to seek and to

tell ╝flush╛ that without a second

resolution, Britain at least would

not be going to war. You're saying

that's not so? I think it's clear

from the memo that that is not so

and the British PM's decision, his

personal view - because it then had

to go back to Parliament - I think

was taken at that meeting on 31

January. "I'm solidly with you Mr

President", is I think unequivocal.

I think it is true to give the

British PM full credit, is that he

wanted a second resolution and he

wanted a second resolution because

he had been told by his lawyers at

that point, although the situation

subsequently changed, that he need

one. In the memo as I describe in

the book and as the 'New York

the book and as the 'New York Times' has provided further information on,

the reason for that in part is Tony

Blair's view that a second

resolution would provide an

insurance policy if things go

belly-up so to speak we'll have

Security Council backing and that

will make things much easier. That,

of course, becomes all the more

pertinent given ╝flush╛'s

expectation that there wouldn't be

conflict, which has proved

tragically to be strong. If

tragically to be strong. If there'd have been Security Council backing

there would have been the support

there would have been the support of the international uncommon. Put in

the actual words of the memo, Tony

Blair says, "A second resolution

would give us international cover.

would give us international cover. " Well it would have given the whole

action a legitimacy that it has

never had. I think it would have

made it possible, for example, from

the outset for military troops from

neighbouring Arab countries to join

in the operations or at least the

aftermath of the actual war and

armed conflict that would have

allowed a proper regional response

to a situation, rather than a

situation which we have which is

that no local countries have

provided any troops at all.

provided any troops at all. They've had to rely on Australia and

Britain, Honduras and all sorts of

other countries. And that has

really tended to delegitimatise the

issue. It's become part of the

problem in itself in terms of the

allegation it's fueling the

insurgency . So PM Blair had - he

was right, I regret very much that

he didn't follow through on the

vision that he had. What do you

vision that he had. What do you make of - this is real public I suppose,

what do you make of ╝flush╛'s

statement that the US would not

statement that the US would not only put its weight behind getting a

second resolution, it would

second resolution, it would threaten and it would twist arms? We know

that did happen. I've spoken

personally to ambassadors of

Security Council members and I'm

aware of the inducements that were

given to countries in the Security

Council to vote in favour of a

resolution. And I think the most

striking aspect of that period is

that not one country could be

persuaded. And if you talk to

persuaded. And if you talk to these people, ambassadors privately, the

reason they'll tell you is very

clear, they simply didn't believe

the argument. They didn't believe

that the evidence of this. At this

time Hans Blix was reporting back

Iraqi cooperation was accelerating.

Mr ElBaradei was saying there

weren't any materials and bl Blix

was saying he didn't think there

was saying he didn't think there was weapons of mass destruction. There

may be incipient programs to build

up in the future, but there would

up in the future, but there would be no hard evidence. It in the end

turns to the evidence. Here's one

turns to the evidence. Here's one of the critical bits of the memo from

your point of view. ╝Flush╛ Had to

say that if we ultimately failed,

military action, to get the

resolution that is, military action

would follow anyway? Those words

would follow anyway? Those words are totally unambiguous. That document

confirms irrovocably that the

decision had been taken by ╝flush╛

and it goes onto confirm that the

British PM was with him. There's

British PM was with him. There's an interesting question listening to

your piece as to the role of

Australia in all of this. No doubt

at some point material will emerge

to indicate at what point John

Howard gave his unequivocal support.

Anecdotally I do know that ╝flush╛

told an Australian acquaintance of

mine personally that John Howard

mine personally that John Howard was one man he could always count on.

So I'd be personally surprised if

there isn't some indication

somewhere that John Howard would

also have provided rather early

support. We'll have to see that

might be one for historians. I've

got to ask you, what was motivating

people clearly at very high levels

of the British Government to leak

this sort of information which is

clearly damaging to both

governments? Well, I think one of

the interesting aspects of the last

three years has been the amount of

material that has emerged. All over

the world, it's emerged in Spain.

It's emerged in the US, it's

It's emerged in the US, it's emerged in the United Kingdom and I think

that must be a reflection of

disquiet about the way in which

decisions were taken in that

decisions were taken in that crucial period. I don't know how it was in

Australia or so much in the United

States but in the United Kingdom,

States but in the United Kingdom, it is clear that there is very

considerable unhappiness at the

highest levels of government and

decision-making, as to the way in

which decisions were taken and, of

course, there've been inquiries

about that issue that have reported

and been rather critical of the PM.

Alright Phillipe Sands we will have