Defense Chief Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, who led 60,000 British troops into battle in Iraq, told The Observer (U.K.) over the weekend that he had been sufficiently nervous that he formally demanded an “unequivocal” statement from the British attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, that the war would be legal, before engaging in combat. Without such a statement, he worried, British troops could be prosecuted for war crimes. Up to just before the fighting started last spring, the attorney general sat on the fence. Finally, after what appears to have been an internal crisis within the Blair government, a short statement was produced. Had Boyce not gotten it and withheld troops from the attack, there would have been a huge crisis in Britain that would have reverberated in the U.S. His demand apparently set off a row within the Blair government that sent the attorney general flying over to the U.S. to consult in secret with Bush’s attorney general, John Ashcroft.
“It would have been difficult for our people in the field, for the families of the troops and our commanders if we had not had the reassurance that what they were about to do was legal,” Boyce told The Observer. “Their doubts —if they had doubts—would have been exacerbated by the fact that we were signatories to the ICC [International Criminal Court].” The U. S. does not recognize the court.
Additional reporting: Alicia Ng and Ashley Glacel