Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon says Blair ordered him to destroy briefing note from top lawyer
Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has thrown new fuel onto the fire of outrage at Tony Blair’s knighthood – by accusing the former PM of ordering him to burn a secret 2003 legal memo saying the Iraq war could be illegal. The accusations bite all the deeper because Hoon was formerly a close Blair ally.
The allegation first surfaced in 2015 and was dismissed by Blair as ‘nonsense’, but Hoon has told the Daily Mail that the allegations are true – and that he and his senior Ministry of Defence civil servant were ‘deeply alarmed’ at the order and instead locked the document in a safe.
The Chilcot Report on the decision to go to war raised questions about the manner in which the then-Attorney General firmed up his legal advice saying there was a legal basis for the war – after the circulation of the memo Hoon says he was ordered to destroy.
Professor and human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, who first revealed the existence of the memo in a 2005 book, told the Mail:
When Lord Goldsmith wrote the legal advice warning that war in Iraq could be illegal, he can hardly have expected that those who received a copy would be told to ‘burn after reading’.
Yet Mr Hoon says that this is what he was told, offering further confirmation of what has long been known – ministers, parliament and the public were misled by Mr Blair into supporting a war that was seen by many as unlawful and a crime. In modern Britain, it seems, such a manifest act of wrongdoing does not preclude the offering of a high-level gong.
The Downing Street civil servant who allegedly passed on the order has denied telling Hoon’s secretary to burn the memo, saying that it was an earlier document and that he simply said to destroy it, not burn it. Hoon’s allies have insisted that he is wrong.
The illegal Iraq war led to up to a million deaths, many of them civilians, with millions more lives blighted and ruined. The knowing co-architect of that disaster should be forced to defend himself in The Hague, not slapped on the back and knighted by the monarch in the UK’s corrupt honours system.
However, unsurprisingly if politically foolishly Keir Starmer claimed on Tuesday that Blair deserves the honour.
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