He is offering some sympathy for Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, who provided legal advice to the British government regarding the legality of the proposed war:
After a second 10 day phase, Goldsmith:
Unfortunately, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the chief of defence staff, refused to commit troops to action without an unequivocal guarantee that it would be lawful. So, in a final three day phase, Goldsmith provided
...a written statement that authority to use force could be exhumed from the ceasefire resolution of the first Gulf War over a decade earlier.
You've gotta love exhumed. But Cook is on a roll, and the snark continues:
Cook finds it in him to regard Goldsmith as perhaps more sinned against than sinning:
So Goldsmith obtained from Blair an "unequivocal assurance that Iraq was in breach of its disarmament obligations".
And the rest of the story we know. However, to Brits, and most of all to British Labour supporters, like me the mystery is why Blair should ever have taken such a risk, especially in support of a US president with whom he shares so little, ideologically. Later in the article, Cook (who is in a position to know) puts his finger on at least one part of the answer.
As to why Iraq is still dogging both Blair and Bush two years later is, Cook puts attributes the reason in part to:
However, here is where Cook put in his final, classy boot:
We were told that the threat was current and serious, but we now know the intelligence was limited and the sources unproven.
We were told that occupying Iraq would be a defeat for terrorism, but we now know the joint intelligence committee warned, correctly, that it would give a boost to terrorism.
And now we learn that the legal case for war was cobbled together at the eleventh hour after months of equivocation.
Read the whole article - no-one snarks quite like Cook.
The tragedy is that snark is not a quality that people look for in a party leader.
Update: A short bio of Robin Cook here. He was Blair's first foreign secretary, and launched into an "ethical foreign policy" but was something of a disappointment. He was edged out of the centre of power by being demoted to "Leader of the House". He resigned from the government in March 2003 and sits as a Labour backbench MP. He looks like a gnome.