Former UK defence secretary told to 'burn' memo that said Iraq invasion could be illegal

Former UK defence secretary told to 'burn' memo that said Iraq invasion could be illegal
Former UK defence secretary Geoff Hoon claimed he was ordered by Tony Blair's chief of staff to 'burn' a memo that said the war in Iraq could be illegal.
2 min read
05 January, 2022
Geoff Hoon said the order to burn the document was defied, and instead the memo was locked in a safe [source: Getty]

Former UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon claimed he was told by Downing Street to "burn" a secret memo stating that the 2003 invasion of Iraq could be illegal. 

Hoon alleged that his principal private secretary was told "in no uncertain terms" to destroy the document written by then-Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, ahead of the US-led invasion which resulted in at least tens of thousands of deaths in Iraq. 

The order came from former Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell, Hoon claimed, despite the former Labour leader dismissing the allegations as "nonsense" when they first emerged in 2015. 

This is "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", said human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, who revealed the existence of Lord Goldsmith's advice in his 2005 book, "Lawless World". Powell has denied the allegation. 

Lord Goldsmith is thought to have written the memo in 2003, warning that the war could be challenged under international law. 

Hoon’s account is featured in his recently published memoir "See How They Run". 

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It is widely believed that the resurfacing of these allegations will bolster the campaign to have Blair stripped of his knighthood, awarded by the Queen of England in her New Year’s Honours list this year. 

More than 700,000 people have signed a petition to have Blair's knighthood removed as of 5 January.

The page accused the former Labour leader and British prime minister from 1997 to 2007 of being "personally responsible for causing the death of countless, civilian lives", in reference to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  

Blair's government, alongside the US, decided to invade Iraq in 2003. This decision has since been slammed by the 2016 Chilcot Inquiry for having a "far from satisfactory" legal basis. 

The war in Iraq killed hundreds of thousands, created millions of refugees, and has left Iraq fractured until today.