Controversial Iraq war memoir to be published by William Heinemann

Controversial Iraq war memoir to be published by William Heinemann

The memoirs of former Iraq envoy Jeremy Greenstock, initially blocked in 2005 for his efforts to reveal "certain truths" about the conflict, are to be published by William Heinemann this November.

Greenstock was UK ambassador to the United Nations between 1998 and 2003 and experienced first-hand the lead up to the Iraq invasion in March 2003 and the aftermath on the ground in Baghdad while serving as a Special Envoy for Iraq, working side by side with Paul Bremer, the US administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). 

Iraq: The Cost of War is to be a "definitive" and "dramatic" first-hand account of Britain’s controversial decision to go to war in Iraq, the publisher said.

It was originally written and accepted for publication by Public Affairs, USA, a division of Perseus Books, in 2005, to publish in March 2006, but Jack Straw, the then UK foreign secretary, asked for its publication to be delayed until the ministers involved had left office. Since it was first held back from publication, the title has been revised and contains a new foreword and epilogue.

The Guardian reported in 2005 the Foreign Office had "effectively killed the publication", referring to it as a "controversial fly-on-the-wall memoir of the Iraq war by one of Britain's most senior diplomats, which would have called the conflict 'politically illegitimate'". It said the book was blocked until substantial passages involving "embarrassing disclosures" were removed, with officials who had seen it "deeply shocked" by his quoting of "privileged" private conversations, including with Tony Blair, Straw and the private deliberations of the UN Security Council.

Greenstock said: "In July of that year [2005] Jack Straw, then secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, asked me to delay publication until the ministers involved had left office. He also expressed unhappiness with the concept of government servants publishing comment on their official work. I therefore withdrew the text from the publishers. When the Chilcot Inquiry was set up in 2009, I decided to wait until the inquiry reported before reconsidering publication. Now that the report is in the public domain, I feel it is a more appropriate moment to re-present my account."

William Heinemann called the book both a "sensational account" and "vitally important" as a record of what Greenstock saw while privy to the inner workings of power in the CPA.

Jason Arthur, publisher of William Heinemann, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights from Natasha Fairweather of United Agents.

Arthur said: "Iraq: The Cost of War is a seismic and sensational account, and one that, eleven years on from our originally-conceived publication date, we at William Heinemann are very excited to be publishing. No one is better positioned than Sir Jeremy Greenstock to set the story of Britain’s decision to go to war in its international context: this is a vitally important book – revealing, authoritative and unique. It is a necessary and timely contribution to the ongoing debate about the Iraq war and its aftermath, and also a provocative exploration of foreign policy aims and war-making in the twenty-first century."

Greenstock went to Baghdad in September 2003 as UK Special Envoy for Iraq, returning from Baghdad in March 2004 when he retired from the Foreign Office. He subsequently has worked as director of the Ditchley Foundation and then chairman of the UN Association in the UK. He is currently chairman of Gatehouse Advisory Partners Ltd and of Lambert Energy Advisory Ltd.

Iraq: The Cost of War will be published in hardback and e-book by William Heinemann on 3rd November 2016.