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London Blocks Inside Account Of Iraq Envoy

A tower of babble

London (UPI) July 18, 2005
Frequented by heads of state, ministers and military leaders, the Ditchley Foundation has long been the pulsing heart through which the Anglo-American alliance flows.

Now, however, it is at the center of a political storm that threatens to strike at the ties binding the old allies, as its director, former British ambassador to the United Nations and special envoy to Iraq, Jeremy Greenstock, attempts to publish damaging allegations about the Bush administration's rush to war in Iraq.

Set in rural Oxfordshire, the 18th century mansion house of Ditchley Park has welcomed a succession of distinguished visitors, most notably during World War II when it served as Winston Churchill's weekend headquarters.

Since its establishment as the home of the Ditchley Foundation in 1958 -- with the objective of advancing Anglo-American links -- it has hosted around 15 "intimate weekend conferences of decision-makers" each year.

"Small select groups" of no more than 40 "distinguished" senior figures from the worlds of politics, business and industry, academia, the civil service, the armed forces and the media, are invited to attend the low-key gatherings, where matters of international concern can be discussed in an open, strictly off-the-record forum.

Given the levels of secrecy surrounding this protectorate of the trans-Atlantic marriage, whose governors include former heads of state, the revelation that its director is involved in a battle with the British government over his attempt to publish private conversations with, among others, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, has come as a shock to many.

The Foreign Office has blocked publication of "The Costs of War" by Greenstock, a highly respected former diplomat who served as the British ambassador to the United Nations during the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and as the prime minister's special envoy to Iraq in its aftermath.

In an extract seen and reported by The Observer newspaper Sunday, Greenstock describes Washington's decision to go to war as "politically illegitimate" and says U.N. negotiations "never rose over the level of awkward diversion for the U.S. administration."

And though acknowledging that "honorable decisions" were taken to remove the threat of Saddam Hussein, he claims the opportunities of the post-invasion phase were "dissipated in poor policy analysis and narrow-minded execution."

During his time in Iraq following the fall of Saddam, Greenstock became disillusioned with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and its leader Paul Bremer. By the time he returned to London, his relationship with Bremer had deteriorated.

A CPA official told the Telegraph newspaper last year: "There was an understanding in the CPA that Bremer and Greenstock didn't like each other. It personified the differences between the two views. Greenstock thought Bremer was naive; Bremer thought Greenstock was pursuing the wrong policies."

Greenstock kept a diary as the security situation in Iraq deteriorated, and in his book is said to lay bare the inner workings of the CPA as it attempted to deal with the spiraling violence.

Officials who have seen the book are said to have been "deeply shocked" by the way in which Greenstock has quoted widely from the private discussions of the U.N. Security Council and "privileged" private conversations with Blair and Straw.

The exchanges are said to paint a rather unflattering picture of both politicians. He is also said to be scathing about Bremer and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who at the time of the Iraq war was President Bush's national security adviser.

"I think some people are really quite surprised that someone like Sir Jeremy has done this," one source told the newspaper. "In particular the way he has quoted private conversations with the prime minister."

Greenstock has been asked to remove all such sections from the book before its publication, originally due in the fall. Though his British publishers, Random House, has remained silent on the issue, it is likely the release date will be pushed back. The book was also due to be serialized in a British newspaper.

In a statement over the weekend, the Foreign Office said: "Civil Service regulations which apply to all members of the diplomatic service require that any retired official must obtain clearance in respect of any publication relating to their service. Sir Jeremy Greenstock's proposed book is being dealt with under this procedure."

Downing Street has denied any involvement in the censoring of the book, after the Observer claimed Blair wanted to block its publication.

However the attempt will undoubtedly be seen as motivated by a desire to prevent further embarrassing disclosures about the decision to go to war in Iraq, at a time when many in Britain are beginning to question whether the invasion may been a contributing factor in inciting the recent terror attacks in London.

Likewise the mounting death toll of both coalition forces and Iraqi civilians and the increasing frequency of suicide attacks in the country is fuelling public dissent on both sides of the Atlantic.

The government's attempt to move the media and public focus away from Iraq has already been hindered by revelations of the attorney-general's uncertainty regarding the legality of the war.

And unlike other insider accounts, such as that written by former International Development Secretary Clare Short, a left-winger who resigned over the Iraq war, Greenstock's book, coming from such a credible diplomatic source, cannot be dismissed as politically motivated.

The fact the onslaught is coming from the head of the Ditchley Foundation, the traditional guardian of trans-Atlantic secrets, will no doubt add to the ire of both Washington and London.

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