As we approach the fifth anniversary of the occupation of Iraq, it is indeed ironic that the man who now tells us that an oath of allegiance to the state by young people would enhance respect for authority and engender a stronger sense of citizenship, is the same person who in 2003 helped facilitate the illegal invasion.
Lord Goldsmith’s own respect for authority – in this case the established principles of international law – was found wanting when the Blair government asked for – demanded, to be more accurate - an opinion that an attack on Iraq was lawful. Step forward the then Attorney-General, the very same Lord Goldsmith. The accepted legal position was that an attack on another sovereign state was only justified under specific conditions, including the threat of an attack by that country or where force had been authorised by the United Nations. Neither applied in the case of Iraq.
Goldsmith’s creative mind was exercised by this dilemma. His original memo written on 7 March 2003 was equivocal. He said existing breach of Security Council resolution 1441 could provide a “reasonable case” for the use of force without a further resolution, but conceded that a court might well conclude that another UN resolution was needed. The armed forces were not satisfied with this position. So ten days later, on the eve of the invasion – with no prospect of getting a further UN resolution - Goldsmith bluntly stated that the use of force in Iraq was lawful, dropping all his earlier caveats.
In handing Blair a legal fig leaf, Goldsmith had given the green light to the blatant objective of regime change, the installing of a government more to the liking of Washington and London which would open up Iraq to foreign investment and guarantee oil supplies. When the invasion began on 20 March, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, promptly resigned in protest. She also accused Goldsmith of changing his view on the matter.
Respect for “authority” has continued to plummet following the invasion. In the case of Iraq, the authorities patently fabricated evidence and dossiers about so-called weapons of mass destruction. No wonder fewer and few people believe what the government says on any issue. The authorities are viewed as duplicitous at best, ignoring people’s wishes on a variety of questions ranging from nuclear power to expanded airports.
Goldsmith’s proposals on an oath of loyalty in schools have about as much merit as his discredited opinion on Iraq. The idea of swearing allegiance to the monarchy, Britain’s least democratic institution, is, in any case, absurd and laughable. Goldsmith’s nonsense is yet another sign of New Labour in disarray. Having lost the respect of millions of voters, creating a society more unequal than ever before, Brown’s government is wrapping itself in the Union Jack and banging on about imagined “shared values” in a desperate bid to rally support. Add this to the surveillance, database-driven state that is far advanced in Britain, and you get an idea of the direction New Labour is heading in. It’s not a pleasant prospect.
AWTW communications editor