Wednesday 25 November 2009
British officials discussed toppling Saddam Hussein in 2001 but rejected a policy of "regime change" as illegal under international law, the
war inquiry has heard. Iraq
By James Kirkup and Gordon Rayner
Published: 4:48PM GMT 24 Nov 2009
On its opening day of public hearings, Sir John Chilcot's public inquiry into the invasion heard that British diplomats heard the "drumbeat" of war emanating from
The inquiry into the war, which cost 179 lives, opened yesterday with a promise from Sir John, a former Whitehall mandarin, to "get to the heart of what happened" and "not shy away" from criticising anyone who made mistakes.
The first day of the inquiry in central
Inside, the inquiry's questioning focussed on British policy towards
Sir William Patey, head of Middle East policy at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the time, told the inquiry that he wrote a briefing paper on the options for Iraqi policy.
"We had at the end the regime-change option," he said, "We dismissed that at the time as having no basis in law."
Sir William said that the
The inquiry heard that in 2001, the settled view of the
Sir Peter Ricketts, then the political director at the FCO, told the inquiry: "We quite clearly distanced our self from regime change. It was clear that was something there would not be any legal base for."
The diplomats' evidence will focus attention on the decisions that led Mr Blair to change
Sir Peter, who also chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee, said that only weeks after the September 11 attacks, US officials began to discuss "phase two of the war on terrorism," shifting their attention from
"We heard people in
Officials suggested that it was the September 11 attacks and the events that followed had ultimately shifted the British view.
The diplomats told the inquiry that the containment policy was failing in 2001, but it could have remained viable if the United Nations had agreed to new "smart sanctions" on Saddam and the return of UN weapons inspectors.
The September attacks changed that, Sir Peter said. "I think if 9/11 had not happened, we would have remained convinced that a strengthened sanctions regime, tightened, narrowed, was the right way to go and we would have continued to push to get weapons inspectors back in."
Simon Webb, the former policy chief at the Ministry of Defence, told the inquiry that the September attacks increased
After the attacks, he said, "the focus didn't shift to regime change, the focus shifted to
WMD. In order to order to deal with the WMD problem in
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs