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Legal advice on Iraq

Apparently the best ways to increase your audience is to post a lot and to link to the story of the moment.

Why then did I fail to make any comment Channel 4 News' big breakthrough? Basically bullying Blair into releasing the legal advice given to him by the Attorney General on March 7th 2003, ten days before Parliament was briefed with a completely different document which contained no hazy grey areas at all.

I've just been reading the two side by side and its pretty damaging to Blair as leader of the Labour party, going into the final week before the election. I'd imagine its pretty damaging to the reputation of Lord Goldsmith too, but he stands by his assertion that there was legal basis to go to war:

Authority to use force against Iraq exists from the combined effect of resolutions 678, 687 and 1441. All of these resolutions were adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which allows the use of force for the express purpose of restoring international peace and security

as described in the March 17th note. That, unqualified position is very different to that set out in the summary of his March 7th note:

29. However, the argument that resolution 1441 alone has revived the authorisation to use force in resolution 678 will only be sustainable if there are strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity. In other words, we would need to be able to demonstrate hard evidence of non-compliance and non-cooperation. Given the structure of the resolution as a whole, the views of UNMOVIC and the IAEA will be highly significant in this respect. In the light of the latest reporting by UNMOVIC, you will need to consider extremely carefully whether the evidence of non-cooperation and non-compliance by Iraq is sufficiently compelling to justify the conclusion that Iraq has failed to take its final opportunity.

The Survey Group has found all the "hard evidence" that there ever was following an exhaustive search and its reports have done little but allow Hand Blix the opportunity of saying "told you so", not that he would, far too mature for that. See the NYTimes:

The final report of the Iraq Survey Group, headed by Charles Duelfer, has now declared any mass transfer of illicit weapons improbable. That judgment came in a 92-page addendum that was released this week to tie up loose ends from the comprehensive no-weapons-found report issued by the investigators last fall.

But even with that little problem push to the side, the final words of Lord Goldsmith's note are on proportionality of response:
36. Finally, I must stress that the lawfulness of military action depends not only on the existence of a legal basis, but also on the question of proportionality. Any force used pursuant to the authorisation in resolution 678 (whether or not there is a second resolution):

- must have as its objective the enforcement the terms of the cease-fire contained in resolution 687 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions;

- be limited to what is necessary to achieve that objective; and

- must be a proportionate response to that objective, ie securing compliance with Iraq's disarmament obligations.

That is not to say that action may not be taken to remove Saddam Hussein from power if it can be demonstrated that such action is a necessary and proportionate measure to secure the disarmament of Iraq. But regime change cannot be the objective of military action. This should be borne in mind in considering the list of military targets and in making public statements about any campaign.

Military action undertaken during the course of the war just doesn't fit with that advice as far as I can see. Didn't we ("the coallition") do things like bomb restaurants because we had had intelligence that suggested Sadam was planning to visit? I find it hard to justify that sort of action as necessary for Iraq to meet its disarmament obligations as laid out in resolutions 678, 687.

Goldsmith states at the beginning of the note that he had consulted with Sir Jeremy Greenstock, a man whom I've seen speak and met very briefly. He is an extremely bright man with a great insight into international relations. Reading the March 7th note, I feel his influence in the cautious tone.

What happened in those ten days?

Sunny Friday

this post was going to be a (slightly overdue) comment on the release of legal advice about the authority required to invade Iraq given by Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, to Prime Minister Blair on March 7th 2003. Which is available here. I was going to say how its shocking that the tone of the advice was changed so much by the time Parliament was briefed on March 17th. I was going to. But I've been reading the two documents and I'm not so sure.

Instead I'm going to post a picture of a flower from the outside.


Its beautiful weather here today - I haven't felt such warm sun since August. :)

I'll probably get back to the political post later, when its not so nice outside...

missed content

Further to comments on my British Blogging post:

an awful lot of stuff must get missed, certainly by me and probably by 99.9999% of users out there. So I started to think about how I end up reading any blogs at all.

I've got no idea how I got to Herge's blog Angry Chimp, maybe I did yesterday when I bookmarked it. But now, none at all.

There's no "audit trail", except for maybe searching through blogrolls. And I think that's where the community aspects of stuff like Yahoo 360 or Live Journal. And I've got no idea where Technorati et al come into it. Although I think I might start experimenting with the whole "tags" thing. Is it bad form to tag your own posts as ? Or is that the point? [Edit: I didn't get the tagging bit quite right]

I'm gonna think some more... but anybody got any ideas?

British blogging.

In Saturday's Guardian Mark Lawson brought blogging that little bit further into the light of mainstream media. He opened with "It's uncut, leftwing and Pooterish". He describes the general tone on show as "more bottom of a liberal broadsheet letters page" and goes on to say:

the majority of British blogging is leftwing. And almost all the bloggers seem to be male, which suggests at least one institutional problem of the old media has not yet been corrected by the newcomer.

and that's me. I am a man and leftwing and while we're at it I'm probably "pooterish" and could definitely do with an editor, internal censor, something. Apart from bad writing, what's wrong with all that? The internet and blogging is supposed to be an everyman thing. Anybody can do it, my one or two readers (hi!) would probably assert that you don't even really need a great deal of talent, the real point is that people are attempting to contribute. Contribute to the general understanding of what's going on or even just a very specific feeling about what's going on at the time.

Its contributing to something which has been totally off limits to the vast majority. Only a very few people have ever been able to comment and have it read by people across the country or the world. To have that opportunity is amazing.

While I agree with some things Lawson said:

But what we're mainly getting from bloggers is media commentary or, even worse, media commentary on media commentary.

Quite unexpectedly for a journalist, I came out of the experience with a fresh respect for editing and mediation. Not all intervention is censorship. At its worst, blogworld most resembles a radio phone-in for leftwing men but without a Victoria Derbyshire or Brian Hayes to interrupt the callers who lose the thread and start to free-associate.

I have to say that at its best the blogosphere, blogworld, whatever, is a great thing. Its an outlet for the writers and for the readers its indulgence.

As free media, without any inyourface self-promotion, anything a reader gets out of it is a pleasure. Whether its being made to think, pointed in the direction of something really interesting that you'd have missed otherwise or just getting really pissed off. Your sole investment is time and you generally leave a little better off.

Dream #1

and for something which can't possibly be tagged as political.

My extremely inconsiderate neighbours decided to get up this Sunday morning and start slamming car doors and shouting outside at 0658. That's two minutes to seven O'clock. On a Sunday morning. Bastards. But anyway, the spawn of this rude awakening was a couple of hours of weird, unusual for me, dreamy sleep. It went something like this:

there was a hill, which was more like a mountain. A big scary one. And I think I was racing somebody up it. Winning of course, what's the point of a dream if you can't embelish athletic ability a bit?

But then, it turned out that I was actually racing to rescue somebody. Damsel in distress style? Am I that chivalrous? Well there were no horses around...

So I get to the top of the hill and there's a cliff, turns out the mountain was by the sea. AND, it turns out that the lady is stuck on a rock halfway down the cliff.

So then it all gets a bit crazy and there's a helicopter and boats and a ladder. I remember racing up that ladder and getting to the top (beating the other would be rescuer, of course). And who should the lady be? but Lana Lang from Smallville.

And then I was so surprised to find her there that I fell off the rock - in the dream.

So, by the time I woke up I was just totally bemused. Yes, dreams are weird, but shouldn't you just be ready for anything? What was it about Lana? I mean, it could have been Joan of Arc. It was a dream. Who cares?

Either way, I should probably lay off the Smallville for a while. :S

not the only one

In fact it would seem that I'm not the only one who gets told they're a Liberal Democrat.

The stats say:
The figures for the first 10 days of activity on the new site show that only 11% of respondents are aligned with Labour, 16% with the Tories, while 36% are natural Lib Dem supporters. The rest are told that their political views makes them obvious Green (20%) or Ukip (17%) voters.

The results jarred with the majority of respondents' expectations. Site users had thought they would be told to vote Labour (25%), Conservative (26%), Lib Dem (29%), Ukip (4%), or Green (3%), respectively.

In fact John O'Farrell, author of the very funny "Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997", amongst other things, was given the same conclusion, much to his amusement:

Suddenly the door opens and a shocked wife is standing there in her dressing gown. "What's that you have accessed? 'You are a Liberal Democrat' - urgh, that is disgusting! How could you sink so low?"

"Darling, it just popped up on the screen! Honestly, all I did was tick the box saying I was in favour of higher taxes and banning smoking in public ... "

Food, Glorious, Food.

from the New York Times:
The study makes it clear that obesity, especially extreme obesity, can be lethal, causing some 112,000 extra deaths per year nationwide. But when the benefits of being modestly overweight are factored in (the 86,000 deaths prevented), the net excess mortality for all three categories is only 26,000.

This analysis brought to you by McDonalds.
Probably the wrong company lawyers to test...

That just stood out to me as the worst way to use statistics. Ok, maybe not the worst, that's reserved for people at school doing Maths homework, but its pretty bad.

Further help for voters...

As I mentioned in the comments to my previous post, Chris Lightfoot has produced a larger and more sophisticated survey. Which compares your own views with that of the rest of the country (as recorded in an opinion poll a few weeks ago).

My results look like this:


to the left, fine. But pro-war? I think it must have been bundled up with some Euro questions. Interesting to find out where you stand in relation to your neighbours etc though. e.g. 83% of people are more right-leaning etc...

either way, people not getting what they expected has resulted in accusations of a Lib Dem conspiracy! As Lightfoot discusses:

Anyway... there are a number of legitimate criticisms of the particular method they use; in particular they only ask about issues on which the main parties have differed and which are prominent in the coming election campaign. So the recommendations come out looking a little bit silly; for instance, they suggested that I vote Green (disqualified because they're unilateralists, among other reasons) or UKIP (disqualified because they're swivel-eyed loons, and also because of their policies -- see a previous note for more on this.).

This being the internet, there were also quite a few of the other sort of criticisms; specifically a number of people have claimed that the site is a Liberal Democrat plot. Now, to be honest, I'm not certain that Liberal Democrats do plot, but I can't say for sure. Frankly I can't be arsed to compile a list of these people, but this rant by `Recess Monkey', who previously worked for a Labour MP gives roughly the flavour. Amusingly the extent of the evidence for this theory is that people who vote Labour tribally object to the suggestion that perhaps they should vote for another party on the basis of its policies. I suppose this sort of optimisation must save a lot of effort in the polling booth.

Who *should* I vote for?

Who Should You Vote For?

Who should I vote for?

Your expected outcome:


Your actual outcome:

Labour 19
Conservative -32

Liberal Democrat 44

UK Independence Party 3

Green 13

You should vote: Liberal Democrat

The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

I won't though. Certainly not while "first past the post" is still in operation. And actually, I probably wouldn't anyway. My Labour candidate is too good an MP.

But still, let's support Charter88 and Make My Vote Count because proportional representation should be at least considered.

Green Party Manifesto

Today sees the launch of the Green Party manifesto for 2005.

Aside from the obvious environmental concerns they diverge from the current government in foriegn policy and in Education policy, notably planning to scrap tution fees.
Scrap tuition fees and restore maintenance grants:

The Green Party will replace student loans with maintenance grants to ensure students have a decent standard of living. They will not be charged tuition fees. The grants systems will subsequently be integrated into our proposals for a Citizen’s Income scheme, which will provide for basic living expenses and additional costs, such as books.
[quote comes from the pdf of the whole manifesto (377kb)]

I think we need more Greens in the Commons.

a quick note

In case you hadn't guessed, I'm just moving in here. So if my links are broken or my English is poor; I'll be placing the blame on my lack of Blogger experience.

I haven't worked out how

I haven't worked out how they'll get it, but Blogger clearly wants my money.

Backing Blair?

The guys at Backing Blair are advocating playing a dangerous game.

You can help. On election day, we want you to vote strategically. Ruthlessly. In 'safe' Labour seats and marginal seats we want you to vote for the candidate most likely to beat the Labour candidate.

Even with the UK's "first past the post" voting system making life easy for the government calling the election I don't think that there is room to "give Blair a bloody nose". It is clear that Blair does not have the enormous well of support that backed him in 1997 and 2001, but its foolish to think that this swing is due only to a protest vote against Blair/Iraq.

There will be plenty of Tory voters from the 80s, early 90s who swung to Labour in the last elections who will now have just had enough of Labour. Intelligent liberal people splitting their vote to the Lib Dems in marginal seats will just double the effect of any underlying "natural" swing towards the Torys.

Unseating longtime, decent Labour MPs is not the way to protest. Its foolish and short-sighted and Nick Cohen at The Observer would agree.
The only objection seems to be that the calculation involves a kind of intellectual cowardice by people who want to keep their consciences clean while relying on others to get on with the dirty business of voting in a Labour government.

and that's the rub. Nobody ever gets to have it both ways. Either you can take responsibilty for your actions and your position in a democracy, or you can let the bad guy win.

On the otherhand... this made me laugh a lot. [flash animation from backingblair]