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Runaway Betrayal

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How the Bush regime cooked up its justifications for war. Read about it in the British press.

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Foreign Office
Brent Musburger (left) and James Gandolfini (right) share a jokeBritish Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (left) and stooge Ayad Allawi (right) share a joke. Unlike Lord Goldsmith, Allawi—who was installed as the puppet in Iraq after Bush and Blair lied about having to go to war—had the kind of “spine” for violence that Straw appreciated. Read what Seymour Hersh writes about Allawi’s blood lust.

The gripping drama of Great Britain’s upcoming election is lost on Americans, thanks to the irresponsibility of most of the U.S. press. How else to explain why American newspapers and TV aren’t reporting the hot, previously secret documents the British papers are spilling about the chicanery leading up to the unjustified invasion of Iraq?

OK, Jennifer Wilbanks is now back home, and there are several thousand stories about how the whole town of Duluth, Georgia, “feels betrayed” by the runaway bride.

You want to read about betrayal? How about betrayal that leads to death—thousands of deaths?

The documents heating up the May 5 British election detail lots of juicy info about the behavior of George W. Bush‘s handlers and other lawyers. Basically, the stories now gushing out of the British press (and barely seeping into the U.S. press) confirm what many people suspected: The Bush regime decided right after 9/11 to use the “war on terror” as an excuse to seize oil-rich Iraq. Then it concentrated on coming up with justifications for doing so. Knowing that it couldn’t go it alone, the U.S. twisted Great Britain’s arm.

The case of Lord Goldsmith is a perfect example. As my colleague Jarrett Murphy noted late last week, new documents shed light on Goldsmith’s last-minute change of mind to issue a legal opinion just before the invasion that basically said, go ahead, everything’s cool, it’s legal. New documents confirm that he was expressing grave reservations to Tony Blair in private.

And now other documents and interviews detail a secret round of meetings in February 2003 in D.C. at which the Bush regime’s hard-line lawyers twisted Goldsmith’s arm.

This morning’s Observer (U.K.) details what happened during those sessions, but first pauses for a note of perspective from a prominent critic of the neocons:

    Philippe Sands, an international lawyer whose book Lawless World re-ignited the row over [Goldsmith’s] legal advice said: “How delightful that a Labor government should seek assistance from US lawyers so closely associated with neocon efforts to destroy the international legal order.”

In yet another darkly humorous sidelight to the Bush regime’s radical—not conservative—behavior, one of those interventionist U.S. lawyers is a descendant of America’s most prominent isolationist senator of the ’40s.

Senator Robert Taft was known as “Mr. Republican” from the late ’30s to the early ’50s and co-author of the onerous Taft-Hartley Act, which cut the balls off the U.S. union movement. But he also was a supreme isolationist who once warned, “Political power over other nations, however benevolent its purposes, leads inevitably to imperialism.”

Franklin Foer reminded us of that with his nifty October 2004 essay in the New York Times that wove the history of how the Republican Party, once dominated by old-school conservatives (paleocons like Taft), transmogrified into a neocon-dominated GOP.

william-h-taft-IV-121.jpg Now it turns out that a descendant of the America Firster, William Howard Taft IV (left), the State Department’s legal adviser during 2002-03, was a key figure in strong-arming the reluctant Goldsmith. That was important for the British, because, unlike the U.S., Great Britain recognizes the International Criminal Court. Even the top British generals knew they had to have the official go-ahead from Goldsmith or their soldiers could face prosecution for war crimes.

So Goldsmith came to D.C. in early February ’03 for the quick round of brainwashing by the Bush regime’s top warmongering lawyers. Here’s more detail from The Observer story by Antony Barnett, Gaby Hinsliff, and Martin Bright:

    Taft was one of five powerful lawyers in the Bush administration who met [Goldsmith] in Washington in February 2003 to push their view that a second UN resolution was superfluous.

    Goldsmith, who had been expressing doubts about the legality of any proposed war, was sent to Washington by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to “put some steel in his spine,” as one official has said.

    On 11 February, Goldsmith met Taft, a former US ambassador to NATO who was then chief legal adviser to the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. After a grueling 90-minute meeting in Taft’s conference room 6419, Goldsmith then met the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, followed by a formidable triumvirate including Judge Al Gonzales, Bush’s chief lawyer at the White House.

    Goldsmith also met William “Jim” Haynes, who is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld‘s chief legal adviser, and John Bellinger, legal adviser to Condoleezza Rice, then the National Security Adviser. This group of lawyers is as renowned for fearsome intellect as it is for hard-line conservative politics. Bellinger is alleged to have said: “We had trouble with your Attorney; we got there eventually.” From copies of Goldsmith’s legal advice to the Prime Minister published last week, it is clear that these meetings had a pivotal role in shaping Goldsmith’s view that there was a “reasonable case” for war.

Lawyers are trained to cobble together justifications. These Bush regime lawyers will obviously say and do anything to justify their unilateral crusade.

The Observer noted Taft’s pride in his accomplishments:

    Taft denies that any undue pressure was put on Goldsmith or that the British Attorney General expressed grave doubts about the legality of any war. He said: “We all told him what our views were in the same way … although he didn’t indicate at the time what his own conclusion would be. Our discussions were very straight up and he was looking to understand our argument.”

    Laughing he added: “I will say that, when we heard his statement in Parliament, which was the next thing we heard about, what he said sounded very familiar.”

Well, the humor has to stop at some point. This was a crucial moment in the runup to the invasion. Why is all this being ignored by the U.S. press? As the Observer notes:

    The visit to Washington proved to be vital for providing a case for war that side-stepped the need for a second UN resolution: the so-called “revival argument.” This relied on linking three UN resolutions: 678, which authorized the use of force in removing Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1990; 687, which set the cease-fire conditions at the end of the war in 1991, including the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction; and 1441, which threatened “serious consequences” if those conditions were breached.

Now we have other “serious consequences,” as Tony Cordesman and General Anthony Zinni have noted.