Memorandum by Sir Jeremy Greenstock GCMG
It might be helpful for the Committee at the
start, though of no particular public interest, if I give a brief
account of my approach to writing a book on my experiences on
Iraq and set out some of the steps and timings relevant to seeking
clearance from the Foreign Office.
The idea of writing something on the United
Nations arose when it looked likely that I would have a gap between
retiring from the Diplomatic Service at the end of July 2003 and
taking up the position of Director of the Ditchley Foundation,
which was set for August 2004. My wife and I had decided to travel
and relax in the intervening year, but also test what flowed from
the pen in recounting some of our career experiences. I particularly
wanted to describe what it was like to work at the UN, since so
few people seem to understand how that organisation works on the
inside. By May 2003 we had made provisional arrangements to spend
a few months in France and then in South Africa up to the spring
of 2004, but I was a long way from taking a decision to publish
Those plans were knocked on the head when in
June 2003 I was asked to serve in Baghdad as UK Special Representative
from September 2003 to March 2004. That timing was agreed personally
with the Prime Minister and, contrary to some misplaced reporting
in the media, I was never asked to extend it. The experience in
Baghdad increased the motivation to write, both because I felt
the subject-matter was of cardinal importance to UK interests
and because the public debate seemed to me to be under-informed
and distorted. Over the late summer of 2004 I consulted and then
appointed a book agent and, during the autumn, began to sketch
out a framework and synopsis. In mid-October 2004 I asked the
Foreign Office to send me the text of Diplomatic Service guidance
on the publishing of memoirs by retired members of the Service.
That served as a form of notice that I was considering writing,
while also conveying the (correct) impression that I intended
to seek clearance of anything I wrote about my official work.
I began writing in earnest in January 2005.
In April, understanding that my interest in writing for the record
might be misconstrued, I told my London publisher, Random House,
that I would donate all personal proceeds from the book to a charity
working in Iraq, and we agreed that this would appear on the book
cover. On 19 April, when I had completed some two thirds of an
initial draft text, I contacted the Office by e-mail to give specific
notice that I would be submitting a text. Having agreed with my
publishers by then that we should aim at a publication date of
September 2005, this seemed to give plenty of time for an exchange
with Whitehall on the details. The officer in charge of the FCO
section handling clearance responded helpfully and said that the
Office normally aimed to clear texts within a month or so. We
agreed that I would send in groups of chapters as they emerged,
even if they were unpolished drafts, to make work on them easier
to organise. I submitted four of the six parts on 23 April and
we both fully expected the process to be finished by June. The
final two parts were submitted at the end of May.
I received reasonable comments on the first
four parts in June, and incorporated most of the amendments suggested.
I was told that the last two parts, mostly comprising my account
of the Baghdad months, would take a bit longer and might cause
a few more headaches, but the tone of these exchanges, and of
other conversations I had with colleagues in the system, were
largely encouraging and sympathetic.
At the end of June 2005 Sir Michael Jay informed
me that the Foreign Secretary had just become aware that I was
intending to write for publication and had expressed strong objections,
though he had not read the text. I went in to see Mr Straw in
early July and he confirmed his opposition to a book as a matter
of principle. I said I would take account of what he had said,
but would wish to finish the clearance process.
At that point I warned my publishers that publication
might have to be delayed. They encouraged me to complete the process.
The FCO, however, went silent for the next two and a half months.
Speculation in the media as to what was going on, mixed in with
comment on the other books attracting public interest, was fairly
constant throughout this period, though it was usually inaccurate
on my situation. In early October I finally received a further
set of comments from the FCO, but was told that even the rather
more comprehensive amendments they had proposed would need to
be cleared by Ministers. Given the heightened public focus on
the whole area, I decided that it might be wiser to go for a longer-term
I therefore agreed with my publishers in London
and New York that publication should be delayed sine die.
Part-advances received were returned in full. Contrary to the
impression gained, as I have read, by some members of the Select
Committee, the final decision was mine and the relationship with
the publishers has not been broken. It remains my decision whether
to return to the book in the future.
These are the basic facts. I am happy to discuss
further details if the Committee has questions.