David Blackburn

The French ambassador has not contradicted Straw’s evidence to Chilcot

The French ambassador has not contradicted Straw’s evidence to Chilcot
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The drowsy Hay festival has been shaken by two bespectacled academics igniting a rather too intricate political bomb. Under the guise of a literary interview, Philippe Sands QC and the French ambassador to London, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, have connived to attack Jack Straw’s evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry.


Straw was adamant that President Chirac was ‘unambiguous, whatever the circumstances’ in his refusal to back a second UN resolution. The Guardian reports that Gourdault-Montagne told the Hay festival:

‘Chirac had made it clear that he meant France could not have supported a new UN resolution at that time since it would have triggered an invasion despite the lack of evidence that Iraq possessed WMD.’

That is itself a misrepresentation of UN resolution 1441. WMD intelligence was irrelevant to the terms of the resolution. The resolution merely set a clear timescale for Saddam Hussein to comply with directives, which he did not. If Iraq was deemed to be in material breach, which it was, force could be used without a second resolution; that was why Bush and Blair resisted the French wording of 1441, which would have tied the coalition to a second resolution. In the context of the timescale of a February negotiations and the planned March invasion, Chirac’s abeyance on the irrelevant grounds of intelligence was ‘unambiguous, whatever the circumstances’, as Straw claimed it to be.


As Gourdault-Montagne said this afternoon, ‘politics is politics’ and this retrospective attempt to crown Chirac in pacific glory ignores the French government’s adoption of the Anglo-American wording of 1441. The bald fact is that the French were routed in the halls of the UN. The war was unquestionably legitimate under the terms of 1441, and no amount of self-interest masquerading as piety can alter that.