Ex-British Defense Secretary Memoir: 'Iraq War May be Illegal'

Published January 6th, 2022 - 07:10 GMT
Iraq war may be illegal
The European Affairs Minister Geoff Hoon gestures during a press conference held at the Romanian Foreign Ministry headquarters out going Romanian Foreign Minister Razvan Mihai Ungureanu (not in picture) in Bucharest 06 February 2007. AFP PHOTO/DANIEL MIHAILESCU

Former British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, who was in office during the Iraq War, claimed he was told to burn a memo from the attorney general that said the invasion of Iraq could be illegal, local media reported Wednesday. 

Hoon served as defense secretary between 1999 and 2003 under former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Iraq was invaded in 2003 by a coalition led mainly by the US and the UK.

Hoon made the claim in his recently published memoir See How They Run.

The Daily Mail was the first to report the story and said that then Chief of Defense Staff Mike Boyce wanted legal backing that British troops could fight in Iraq.

Hoon in turn received a “very long and very detailed opinion” from the attorney general that essentially said the invasion of Iraq could be seen as lawful if the prime minister believed it was in the UK’s national interest.

“It was not exactly the ringing endorsement that the chief of the defense staff was looking for, and in any event, I was not strictly allowed to show it to him or even discuss it with him,” Hoon wrote in his memoir.

“Moreover, when my principal private secretary, Peter Watkins, called Jonathan Powell in Downing St and asked what he should now do with the document, he was told in no uncertain terms that he should ‘burn it’.”

Hoon said he did not end up burning the document.

“I agreed that we should lock the document securely into an MoD safe to which only he had access. For all I know, it is probably still there.”

Separately, Powell, who was Blair’s chief of staff, denied to the Daily Mail that he demanded the legal advice be burned, instead saying he told Hoon to destroy a separate document from months earlier.

Blair was awarded a knighthood by the Queen in her New Year honor’s list – but over 700,000 people have signed a petition calling for it to be rescinded.

The petition on Change.org reads: “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society. He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.”

For his part, current Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer told local media: “I don’t think it’s thorny at all. I think he deserves the honor. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views.”

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Copyright Andolu Ajansi

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