14 Mar 2013

Jack Straw ‘edging towards the S word’ on Iraq

Ten years on from Iraq and – inevitably – more violence in the country today. So this morning I spoke to the former foreign and home secretary Jack Straw – as foreign secretary very much Tony Blair’s point man in the now infamous run-in to the invasion of Iraq.

A decade on, he’s not about to accept Iraq is quite a wholesale mess, though he accused the US Defense Department of “criminal negligence” in the post invasion phase of de-Baathification and dismantling of the Iraqi army. I clarified;  he said he meant criminal adjectivally rather than legally.

Is he about to say sorry for the notorious “dodgy dossier” on non-existent weapons of mass destruction? Well see for yourself. I felt he’s edging towards the S word, albeit at geological pace, and certainly comfortable saying sorry for various matters all around the terrible error upon which the invasion was largely sold.

But more tellingly,  what of the world into which the Americans and British have passed in that decade; the world where people are kidnapped and tortured at the diktat of western powers?

Politicians have come up with the depressing American neologism “rendition“, but it’s kidnap and torture and Jack Straw doesn’t bat an eyelid or demure for a nanosecond on my saying that.

Critically, at the end of the interview he says “we” – the British government are not involved in kidnapping and torture. Then seconds later a sudden dramatic change to “I”.

Jack Straw clearly cannot stand by the statement that the British are not kidnapping and torturing people using third-party countries, merely that he insists he was not involved himself.


After this blog appeared, Jack Straw’s office sent us this comment: “There is nothing new in what Mr Straw told Channel 4. He explained to his interviewer, in the same terms as he had used last week in the House of Commons, that he could not comment on the legal proceedings because they were current; that he had at all times been scrupulous about his legal duties, and that he hoped to be able to say more about the issues at an appropriate time.

“His switch to the first person was done for the obvious reason that he can only speak for himself, and no implication should be drawn from it”.

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13 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    Jack Straw? War criminal? Hillsborough denier and liar?

    And he wants us to feel sympathy for him?

    Oh please……………

  2. mikem1 says:

    He’s up to his not inconsiderable ears in it.

  3. gerry s says:

    No matter what weasly words Jack Straw hides behind, if he has a conscience he will know that he has blood on his hands. There is documentary evidence to prove this. The spectacle of this man responsible for kidnappings,torture and murder dealing in semantics to excuse himself is nauseating. Just like Blair,he is nothing more than a common criminal that if it wasn’t for his once high office would find himself in a court of law in need of a good lawyer.

  4. guess says:

    He knows what he did was wrong… he sold his soul

  5. Tony Burgess says:

    After yet another climb down vis-a-vis the torpedoing of the recommendations of the Levison enquiry bythe PM {read the 24/7 press core}. We now have the arrogance of a ch 4 interviewer{don’t know his name or want to}going over old old ground concerning who was or wasn’t to blame for the invasion of Iraq. It seemed to me then as it does now;days ,weeks,and months the debate laboured on as to were there weren’t there WMD. I d0n’t recall hearing many opposed to the decision to go in. A decision taken after numerous UN resolutions were flaunted by the Iraqis, after numerous occasions when monitors were denied access to areas considered to possibly hold WMDs. At a time when two middle eastern wars; one followed hot on the tails of the other overseen by the despot, dictator, madman {what was is name now?]A man who thought nothing of unleashing chemical weapons on a defenceless people in the north. “why is it you can’t say sorry?” says ouir pompous and smirking interviewer. Why? Because all roads led to Rome. All the indicators overwhelmingly pointed to the probability that there were weapons of mass destruction. I’d have thought chemical weapons were massive enough. Indeed he was never pushed to say sorry for that horendous act. No to our shame we treated him with the same deference as we might any other middle eastern ruler.
    Because of this fear that we might not be wholly able to justify our policies overseas to the ever demanding minutely investigative nature of the press genocide is rife just about in all parts of the world with the limp and ineffective clap-trap of diplomacy.
    Perhaps if the press were more demanding in highlighting the anomalies of supporting regimes due to the economics rather than first and foremost assessing the social, moral and democratic basis of a regime ; then i for one might be more supportive of a press {this refers to newspaper personel of all shades of grey}whose existence is paramount in 1} defending their freedoms and 2}defending ours

    1. Clive Wilson says:

      “I d0n’t recall hearing many opposed to the decision to go in.”

      Memories fade. You could check but I think we managed a million protestors on the streets of London alone. Wiki says that 3 million attended a rally in Rome (the city you mention in your post) – the largest ever anti-war rally in the history of the human race. These are just the people who turned out.

      Millions more argued against it in other ways. as it happens the BBC had a worldwide internet forum at the time which ended up being used to berate our warmongering governments. People from around the world joined in.

      Well we know what happened to the BBC don’t we. People wanted to know about Blair’s shortcomings so Blair rigged up the spurious Hutton enquiry into the death of a government scientist. David Kelly could easily have been murdered – the result was put under wraps for 70 years “to protect his family” [it is virtually impossible not to laugh really, isn’t it] and Hutton then did a hatchet job on the BBC.

      Suffice it to say that Blair slid out from under and the BBC – the propaganda arm of the government – supervised by their cronies (all selected by ministers) at the BBC Trust – doesn’t run any forum like that any more.

      IMHO a pity because a blog read by few people is no match for a vibrant world wide forum in which ordinary people can debate the deficiencies of government.

    2. Dougie says:

      Eh, as for not remembering anyopne opposed to invading Iraq, did 1 million people not march in protest against the propect of war?

  6. Pninist says:

    “[H]e said he meant criminal adjectivally rather than legally.”

    So in an effort to escape the reality that the US is legally culpable for committing criminal acts of aggression in Iraq (and other countries), Straw attempts to re-define the terms of language use?

    The word criminal is intrinsically linked to the law, and it cannot be uttered without resorting to legal imperatives. If one commits an act of criminality, then one is acting against the law; if one is a criminal, then one stands accused of violating the law. Straw seems to imagine that he can use words ‘adjectively’ but not ‘definitionally’; that he can describe something without situating it within a linguistic context. Such a view is functionally incoherent.

  7. Huw says:

    Do you mean “terrible error”? Surely you don’t believe it was an error? It was a deliberate lie.

  8. Ed says:

    You did a good job with Straw last night, but he kept saying the whole international community believed that Iraq had WMD. Isn’t the UN part of the international community? As UN investigators, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei were certainly not saying they thought Iraq had WMD. I don’t think we should forget what they reported about WMD or uranium from Niger.

  9. Clive Wilson says:

    Mr. Straw and that Blair clique should be appearing before the International Criminal Court (based in The Hague) on charges of war crimes. It is only be nailing these sort of people that the world can move on to a better order. Mr Straw in particular can be singled out as the mouthpiece for that Blair government on the subject of the Iraq War; on the Today programme enunciating the government’s lies for it as the consummate advocate that he is – no evidence of morality – no evidence of scruples. You will notice that I do not accuse him of being a War Criminal; I just think that the international community has the right to an opinion on the matter after due process. It is only when the big bullies of England and the USA are called to account in a meaningful way that the lesser bullies all over the world will see any benefit in changing their ways. Footnote: the UN inspectors were withdrawn early from Iraq having been unable to find any evidence of weapons of mass destruction; so that Bush and Blair could pursue their vendetta and the killing could start.

    1. Clive Wilson says:

      Seems a pity to broadcast such an important and interesting interview and then not maintain the blog which enables people to comment on it! It gives the impression that nobody was interested.

  10. Clive Wilson says:

    Ah….we are in print! I forgot to mention that it was a good interview Mr Thomson. You managed to make him look quite uncomfortable, which takes a bit of doing. Hats off for keeping this subject alive. This sort of thing really matters if the human race is ever going to change its ways. The US and UK governments plunged the world into their ridiculous war on terror leading to the home brewed London bombings and with thousands of other innocent people being killed; a process that hasn’t stopped today. There was also the matter of the UN resolution 1441 that didn’t give anyone a mandate for war. A second resolution was called for by ALL but they didn’t get the mandate, at which point Straw was quite definite – he said it wasn’t necessary to have a UN resolution – such hubris. You might want to interview Lord Goldsmith the Attorney General who ‘changed his mind’ on the legality. Please go on reminding people of the details of this squalid bit of our history because it is already being forgotten. It doesn’t seem right that a politician has just been crucified and sent to prison for lying about a speeding ticket whilst the people responsible for years of chaos and war are going about their daily business. There is no proportionality.

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