Deluded


12:22 pm - January 18th 2010

by Conor Foley    


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Nick Cohen has not written anything on international issues for a while, but he was back on form in the Observer this week. “Opponents of the Iraq war are deluded if they think Chiclott will find the allied intervention was illegal” he thundered, The “central allegation that the second Iraq war was ‘illegal’ is unsustainable,” he concludes.

Uh huh.

An inquiry into the Netherlands’ support for the invasion of Iraq says it was not justified by UN resolutions. The Dutch Committee of Inquiry on Iraq said UN Security Council resolutions did not “constitute a mandate for… intervention in 2003″.

The inquiry was launched after foreign ministry memos were leaked that cast doubt on the legal basis for the war.

But what would they know, eh Nick.

Meanwhile the Economist has some reasonable questions for the inquiry to put to Tony Blair:

When they question Mr Blair about WMD, Sir John and his colleagues should concentrate on nuclear weapons—and in particular on the government’s assertion that Saddam might develop one “in between one and two years”. These nuclear allegations, which helped Mr Blair call the threat from Iraq “serious and current”, need further probing.

A second focus should be on how raw intelligence was changed. Mr Blair described as “extensive, detailed and authoritative” intelligence that was, in fact, patchy and old; he described conclusions that were speculative as “beyond doubt”. At the inquiry, Mr Campbell drew a distinction between shifting lines and paragraphs in dossiers and actually fabricating intelligence. . . . .

There is also a string of outstanding questions about the conduct and aftermath of the war. For instance, why did some British troops seem not to have been fully equipped for the task? . . . . Another concern is the increasingly vexed issue of when, precisely, Mr Blair committed British forces to the invasion—and whether he simultaneously said different things to George Bush and the British public. And why did he enter the war without much assurance that the Americans had a plan for post-war reconstruction?

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About the author
Conor Foley is a regular contributor and humanitarian aid worker who has worked for a variety of organisations including Liberty, Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He currently lives and works in Brazil and is a research fellow at the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham. His books include Combating Torture: a manual for judges and prosecutors and A Guide to Property Law in Afghanistan. Also at: Guardian CIF
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East ,Realpolitik ,United States

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Reader comments


1. Dick the Prick

‘The Dutch Committee of Inquiry on Iraq said UN Security Council resolutions did not “constitute a mandate for… intervention in 2003?.

Yeah, read the Cohen yesterday morning and you can see his point – whilst the Dutch may assert that the UN resolution did not constitute a mandate i’m not sure that gives rise (legally – i’m no lawyer) to it being illegal.

Is there a law, ratified by all parties – UK, US, Iraq etc that specifically forbids invasion? If we don’t receive UN agreement does that necessarily mean that it’s illegal or just not sanctioned by a vague (charter wise) supra-national and unaccountable body? Must all wars be signed off by the UN? One would suspect that the answer would be no – that, as yet, we can do what the hell we like based on our own (parliamentary) judgement. This isn’t a binary issue, there are more than 2 answers. I know that Cohen has become a bit of a bette noir for the left but I think his op-ed was a good Sunday morning polemic.

I dunno.

2. John Meredith

Yes, Dick is right, the Dutch finding doesn’t really change anything. And I think Nick’s main point deserves an answer: do those who hold the war was illegal genuinely believe that there was a moral and legal imperative to hand the country back to Saddam or another Baathist regime? If you don’t, what do you mean by ‘illegal’?

I am amazed that this point (quoted gy Conor) is still staggering on as well:

‘Another concern is the increasingly vexed issue of when, precisely, Mr Blair committed British forces to the invasion’

Who are these commenters who think that Blair had the power to secretly commit the UK to war? Should they really be commenting on politics?

While I have *no* idea of the legal side of this I can’t help feeling that the chances of the inquiry coming right out and saying “The war was illegal” are pretty low. I suspect the best we can hope for is some mealy mouthed wording that suggests that it wasn’t quite as legal as claimed.

I do sincerely hope I am just being cynical and am wrong about this though.

4. John Meredith

Mark, you obviously think that war WAS illegal, so can you explain what you mean by ‘illegal’? Do you believe, for example, that Saddam Hussain was the lawful ruler or Iraq and that there was therefore a moral obligation to return him or his heirs to power? That was Nick Cohen’s central point in the article.

Tony Blair addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on Thursday, July 17, 2003.


Can we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will join together? Let us say one thing: If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive.

But if our critics are wrong, if we are right, as I believe with every fiber of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive.

But precisely because the threat is new, it isn’t obvious. It turns upside-down our concepts of how we should act and when, and it crosses the frontiers of many nations. So just as it redefines our notions of security, so it must refine our notions of diplomacy.

Of course he didn’t have the luxury of 20/20 hindsight which many people here enjoy, but he had a certain amount of foresight and honesty about the situation as the quote demonstrates.

He was well ahead of the game.

Sorry I didn’t quite make myself clear:

“Mark, you obviously think that war WAS illegal”

No – I have no idea.

What I would *like* would be for there to be a clear international legal framework that said when force could or could not be used. I am not so naive to think that force is not necessary sometimes, but it would be nice if there was some thoughtful restraint on its use.

At the moment the barrier to the use of force is seems to be wait until “all the spin is lined up properly so its nice and unclear as to what the hell is going on”

I’lll hold my hand up: I can’t be entirely sure of whether it was illegal or not. Certainly, its rationale was founded on a lengthy series of deceits and distortions – told to both the public and the UN – but there may be a loophole that validates lying one’s way into an invasion. It’s still very immoral, though.

8. Dick the Prick

@Mark – geez man – that’s a scary desire. As some here will probably know i’m a screaming righty wingnut but, in that vein, I really am not in the slightest bit happy with having the security council sign off what we can & cannot do (sure, it’ll happen some day but hopefully later rather than sooner).

I think it’s a job of immeasurable international complexity to design a legal framework on anything (e.g. Copenhagen – I think the deal on the table was a legally binding commitment to at least consider reducing carbon outputs) but what you’re asking for would be for the 5 permanent nations on the security council (along with I think 11 floating nations) to be judge & jury over what constitutes a legal war (if war can ever be legal). Which, in effect would allow for the UK, US, China, Russia & France to never be in any position whatsoever to engage in illegality unless you want to end the security council and put it to the full vote of the UN which err…well, you see the point.

Now that scares the fricking bejesus out of me.

John, I have discussed the legality issue several times, most recently here

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/12/14/war-crimes-and-war-criminals/

The overwhelming majority of informed legal opinion says that the invasion violated international law. Saying that we are ´deluded´ and that this opinion is ´unsustainable´ is just silly.

John,

Mark, you obviously think that war WAS illegal, so can you explain what you mean by ‘illegal’? Do you believe, for example, that Saddam Hussain was the lawful ruler or Iraq and that there was therefore a moral obligation to return him or his heirs to power? That was Nick Cohen’s central point in the article.

I think that conflates two issues: the first, whether or not the invasion was illegal; second, what to do about it if it was found illegal after the event.

11. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Is there a law, ratified by all parties – UK, US, Iraq etc that specifically forbids invasion? If we don’t receive UN agreement does that necessarily mean that it’s illegal or just not sanctioned by a vague (charter wise) supra-national and unaccountable body?

Nothing need be ‘ratified’, it’s called customary law, AQ can’t/haven’t signed the Geneva conventions, yet they’re still guilty of crimes against humanity, they can’t simply turn round in court and say ‘well, we’re not governed by any laws’.

However, various articles of the UN charter (2, 33 and 39 off the top of my head, probably others) basically forbid what we did, the UK, US and Iraq have signed the UN charter.

“To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” – Robert H. Jackson, Supreme Court Justice and chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunals.

Must all wars be signed off by the UN? One would suspect that the answer would be no – that, as yet, we can do what the hell we like based on our own (parliamentary) judgement.

Rationally all ‘wars’ as you put it, require UN approval (ie – a mandate for a police action). The only (non UN sanctioned) circumstances in which you can attack another state is if you’re under armed attack by that state.

Conner, I’m genuinely interested, which law exactly are you talking about?

Conor@ 9

The overwhelming majority of informed legal opinion says that the invasion violated international law. Saying that we are ´deluded´ and that this opinion is ´unsustainable´ is just silly.

But the Attorney General at the time said it wasn’t illegal.

It is surely reasonable that the government relied on the opinion of the AG rather than on the opinion of other lawyers?

sl – Here is another link to two articles I have written on this

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/10/12/back-through-the-looking-glass/

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/11/29/chilcot-and-the-smoking-gun/

If you click back through my previous articles you will see quite a few more.

As disgusted says the use of force is prohibited by both international customary law and in the UN Charter save on two specified grounds – self-defence and with UN Chapter VII authorisation. Many international legal scholars also believe that a third exception exists – that of humanitarian intervention. However, the invasion of Iraq cannot be legally justified under any of these thre categories.

Nick Cohen can insult us, and smear and sneer at us all he wants (can Nick ever write an article on this subject when he does not throw charges of antisemitism around I wonder), but he cannot get around this simple point.

Jaylaw @ 13, IIRC the government didn’t have the benefit of the A-G’s full opinion.

I strongly welcome the allegations of derangement, dementia, and delusion emanating from the Cohen-Geras axis. Compared to the previous allegations of fascism, appeasement, and apologism, these represent a significant step towards civility.

sl @ 5, AFAIK regime change is not sufficient justification for war.

@11 If we’re talking illegality as being breaking an article of the UN charter then I would propose that all countries that have done so should be dragged before a court. It should be the turn of the UK in about 2067.

@16 Appeasement and apologism are still very much in vogue, have you heard of the UN?

@17 I didn’t say it was. Blair (see quote) new he was taking a risk, he expects History to forgive him, i don’t think he mentioned Liberal Conspiracy.

20. Dick the Prick

@14 – did we not blag it that it was in self defence? And, subsequently that it was found to be implausible – does that alter the fact? Can we retrospectively be found to be guilty based upon evidence that was deemed by all our agencies, democratic institutions and the AG etc to be accurate at the time?

21. John Meredith

“(can Nick ever write an article on this subject when he does not throw charges of antisemitism around I wonder), ”

I didn’t see any charges of antisemitism in that article.Who did he charge with antisemitism?

“However, the invasion of Iraq cannot be legally justified under any of these thre categories.”

Conor, it can and has. You may disagree and you may feel really, really sure that you are right, but there really, really are at least two ways of looking at this issue. And no legal body has found the war to be illegal yet, although lots of bloggers have, of course.

22. John Meredith

Nick C, of course, points out that the occupation of Iraq was explicitly mandated by the UN which puts the UN in a difficult position if the war was, in fact, illegal. The UN cannot mandate illegal occupations.

23. John Meredith

“I think that conflates two issues: the first, whether or not the invasion was illegal; second, what to do about it if it was found illegal after the event.”

Doesn’t one follow from the other? Can it really be illegal to invade a country but then legal to stay in occupation of that country? How does that work? If I take something from you unlawfully, the law must give it back to you, no? They can’t let me keep it or give it to someone else.

Larry Teabag the article is full of the usual stuff about ´the mental deformations appeasements brings´ and how he is the only person who has ever cared about human rights and the Kurds, etc. He has toned down his attacks on the UN and humanitarian aid workers though. I think even he probably now gets how stupid that was making him sound.

Yaylaw – yes do read some of my previous posts on this. Cohen is trying to make out that there are no more questions to be asked about the public and private advice that the Attorney General gave, but it is simply not true. Even if you supported the invasion of Iraq (as the Economist did at the time) there are a whole set of questions that do require answers. Those of us who lost friends and colleagues there have every right to keep asking them.

25. organic cheeseboard

on antisemitism:

For years, we’ve had the notion that democracies are the “root cause” of every Islamist atrocity accepted in polite society. You must now prepare yourself for the return of the Jewish conspiracy theory to supposedly honourable discourse. Indeed, if you look around, you will find it is already there.

not sure how much clearer that could be. are people actually reading the piece? i mean, it’s typical of Cohen to sling mud without actually naming names, but he pretty much unambiguiusly states that a lot of critics of the iraq war hate jews and that this is their motivation.

i can’t understand why anyone takes his ranting sreiously. if nothing else, it’s just so badly put together.

Conner:

there are a whole set of questions that do require answers

Maybe so, but this doesn’t seem to stop you (without, by your own admission, having all the facts) deciding that the war was illegal and Blair is a criminal.

sl @ 5, AFAIK regime change is not sufficient justification for war.

@17 I didn’t say it was. Blair (see quote) new he was taking a risk, he expects History to forgive him, i don’t think he mentioned Liberal Conspiracy.

I didn’t say you did; I implied Blair appears to think it sufficient.

John,

And no legal body has found the war to be illegal yet, although lots of bloggers have, of course.

Lovely sneer. As you presumably know, not merely “lots of bloggers” but also a number of eminent jurists as well as among others. Of course it is their opinion; it has not been proved illegal as no court yet has the jurisdiction to hear the case.

Nick C, of course, points out that the occupation of Iraq was explicitly mandated by the UN which puts the UN in a difficult position if the war was, in fact, illegal. The UN cannot mandate illegal occupations.

That’s somewhat tautologous; ISTM an invasion as a discrete event could be illegal, a subsequent occupation as a discrete (and somewhat longer) event could be legal, depending on the circumstances.

Dick,

@14 – did we not blag it that it was in self defence? And, subsequently that it was found to be implausible – does that alter the fact? Can we retrospectively be found to be guilty based upon evidence that was deemed by all our agencies, democratic institutions and the AG etc to be accurate at the time?

Are we still expected to believe that Blair & co. genuinely believed the UK was under direct threat such that the invasion of Iraq was necessary?

28. Dick the Prick

@27 – I don’t know, I can’t answer that – I think they stated that munitions could be deployed at Cyprus. Powell is wittering about the fact that Iraq broke her UN resolutions which gave rise to our ability to act (multi) bilaterally.

John – he accuses an (unnamed) ´allegedly left-wing journalist´ of being ´obsessed with Jews´ and says that this has ´infected his thinking´. ´Now, his battered mind was wide open to racial fantasies´ according to Cohen.

On your point about the legality of the invasion and the subsequent occupation. Of course they are different things. I opposed the invasion as did a majority of members of the UN Security Council. Kofi Anan is amongst the people who is on record as saying that without a UN-mandate the invasion was unlawful. This view is hardly confined to the blogosphere. However, after the invasion had taken place someone had to be put in charge of running the country and trying to re-build it. Have a read of Samantha Powers biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello for more on this. My review of her book is here.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/12/sidingwithpower

Dick @28, “I don’t think we were ever saying, ‘Saddam’s got these weapons and he can whack them over to Cyprus in 45 minutes’.” – Alistair Campbell

In relation to the evidence, such as it was, I forgot about this memo (my emphasis in bold):
“C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

31. Dick the Prick

@30 Whoops – mae culpa.

32. John Meredith

“However, after the invasion had taken place someone had to be put in charge of running the country and trying to re-build it. ”

But if the invasion was unlawful, that person should have been the lawful ruler of the country reinstated, namely Saddam, surely? How can you say it was illegal to depose him but not illegal to keep him deposed? You must see that there is a contradiction there?

As to the ‘antisemitism’ bit, some people will see charges of antisemtism everywhere, I suppose. All Cohen pointed out was that a journalist had told him that the Chilcot enquiry was compromised by having too many Jews involved. And this is something that has been said in the mainstream presss (we have all seen it), so it is hardly outlandish and it is certainly to the point.

33. John Meredith

“That’s somewhat tautologous; ISTM an invasion as a discrete event could be illegal, a subsequent occupation as a discrete (and somewhat longer) event could be legal, depending on the circumstances.”

Why be so coy? We know the circumstances here. If you believe the invasion was illegal in any meaningful sense, you must believe that Saddam was the legal ruler of Iran and that the country should have been returned to his regime, surely. How can it be otherwise?

sl @ 26 did you actually read the articles that I linked you to

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/12/14/war-crimes-and-war-criminals/

@ 12 you say that you are ´genuinely interested´ in discussing the issue and then a few comments later you deliberately misquote me.

Debating with stupid, lying trolls is a waste of time so I will stop

John some people will see accusations of antisemitism in articles which accuse unnamed people of being obsessed with jews and having racial fantasies. Cohen does this a lot.

He has also just come up with a completely bizzare theory about how international law works, which you are asking me to respond to. International law governs relations between states, while domestic law determines how countries are governed – so – no, there is no logical connection between your points. You would be on much stronger grounds if you stuck to the fact that the invasion was not condemned by the UN Security Council (where the US and UK have a veto) and has not yet been condemned by international court.

35. Dick the Prick

@32 – to be fair – Colonel Jay Garner has a hell of a lot to answer for even though he received his orders from Rumsfeld – those 2 guys are perhaps the most arrogantly inadequate pieces of crap in the whole episode.

36. John Meredith

“International law governs relations between states, while domestic law determines how countries are governed”

You mean that international law can say nothing about the occupation of one country by another? Really? What was that UN resolution mandating the occupation then? You know that is silly.

But leaving that aside, what about you? Do you think that Saddam was the lawful ruler of Iraq and that he should therefore have been restored to power? If it was unlawful to unseat him by foce, how can that not be your conclusion?

@34

Where did i misquote you, I didn’t mean to. If i did I’ll withdraw it.
Where did I lie?

If on the other hand you’re going to take the usual stance here of calling anyone who disagrees with you a troll then I think that will say more about you than me.

I expected more.

John – read the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions and then get back to me. I would also recommend you read the judgments of the International Court of Justice on Nicaragua v US, the Corfu Channel Case, DRC v Uganda, Legality of the Use of Force (Serbia v the NATO powers) and the Genocide case (Bosnia v Sebia).

These type of conversations where people make sweeping statements about what international law says and means – based on fairly minimal knowledge – are always difficult to respond to because as soon as I answer one set of points you will come back with another. And (with the greatest respect) I do not have time or inclination to give you an introductory course on the subject.

John

But if the invasion was unlawful, that person should have been the lawful ruler of the country reinstated, namely Saddam, surely? How can you say it was illegal to depose him but not illegal to keep him deposed?

Your assumption – that if an invasion is illegal, the system it replaces must have been valid – doesn’t make sense to me. Say there’s a wife-beater living across the road. Clearly, his actions are illegal, yet it doesn’t give one the right to tool up, kick in the door and blow his arm off.

It’s the specific invasion that people are claiming was unlawful, not the general deposition of Saddam (if there’d been an uprising, for example, the only condemnation would have come from The Palace, Baghdad, BA3).

John,

Why be so coy? We know the circumstances here.

I don’t claim to be competent. You’ll note I haven’t expressed an opinion about the legality of the invasion. I’m merely pointing out what I see as flaws in some arguments presented in this thread.

If you believe the invasion was illegal in any meaningful sense, you must believe that Saddam was the legal ruler of Iran and that the country should have been returned to his regime, surely. How can it be otherwise?

I don’t know what you mean by “legal ruler”. Do you mean someone who runs the country having murdered or caused to be murdered those who would oppose him?

I think democracy is the least bad system of government overall and therefore we ought to facilitate democracy so, after an invasion of a country and destruction of its government, we ought to facilitate democracy in that country.

To be honest this is rather pathetic Conner.

You accuse me of trolling, lying and misquoting – none of which are true, which makes you what?

Now (38) you complain about the level of debate and that you’re not going to waste your valuable time explaining things to us lesser mortals.

You wrote this article on a political blog; a political blog note, not a legal one.

People are interested but no we’re not all lawyers, I’m getting the impression that you haven’t had it as easy here as you expected.

42. John Meredith

“Your assumption – that if an invasion is illegal, the system it replaces must have been valid – doesn’t make sense to me. Say there’s a wife-beater living across the road. Clearly, his actions are illegal, yet it doesn’t give one the right to tool up, kick in the door and blow his arm off. ”

But it does give you the right to stop him beating his wife, even if that means you use some illegal means. So the analogy rather supports my position, no?

I find it hard to understand if you are saying that Saddam was not the lawful ruler of Iraq that the invasion to depose him was therefore illegal.

43. John Meredith

“John – read the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions and then get back to me. I would also recommend you read the judgments of the International Court of Justice on Nicaragua v US, the Corfu Channel Case, DRC v Uganda, Legality of the Use of Force (Serbia v the NATO powers) and the Genocide case (Bosnia v Sebia).”

Conor, thanks for the suggestions. I understand why you are being evasive, but you must see that your wriggling on this pin supports Nick C’s contention. You don’t want to say that Saddam was the rightful ruler of Iraq but your position on the legality of the invasion forces you to that position.

44. John Meredith

” don’t know what you mean by “legal ruler”. Do you mean someone who runs the country having murdered or caused to be murdered those who would oppose him?”

UKliberty, I mean it in any sense you like. Was Saddam the lawful, legal, rightful (whatever you prefer) ruler of Iraq? If so, why do you not (assuming you don’t) support the positioin that he should have been restored to power? If you don’t, what do you mean by the ‘illegality’ of the war to remove him? Whose soverignty was abused?

I find it hard to understand if you are saying that Saddam was not the lawful ruler of Iraq that the invasion to depose him was therefore illegal.

Perhaps because it is illegal to invade a country even if it has an illegitimate ruler?

46. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@18

Not required, we can be tried under the Rome statute in the ICC, which we are of course, a member of.

@39

I’d largely ignore him, he’s trying to impose the ‘Saddam or bust’ false choice, we all know who was responsible for Saddam and we all know there was never anything lawful about it.

46 thanks i’ll have a google at that.

48. John Meredith

“Perhaps because it is illegal to invade a country even if it has an illegitimate ruler?”

So you are saying that Sadam was not the legitimate ruler of Iraq? Then you need to explain how it was illegal to go to war against him, I think.

49. John Meredith

“I’d largely ignore him, he’s trying to impose the ‘Saddam or bust’ false choice”

Disgusted, it is an actual choice. If it is illegal to remove Saddam, it follows that he should have been returned to power. Just as your car would be returned to you if I stole it. Can you imagine a court that found it was illegal to steal your Testarossa (I assume) but that I could keep now it was done.

John,

“Perhaps because it is illegal to invade a country even if it has an illegitimate ruler?”

So you are saying that Sadam was not the legitimate ruler of Iraq?

Where did I say that? I said I do not know what you mean by legitimate ruler.

Then you need to explain how it was illegal to go to war against him, I think.

Eh? It is the invasion of the country that is considered to be illegal.

The country the ruler.

“The country the ruler.”

That was supposed to be the mathematical symbol for “not equals”: i.e. The country is not the ruler.

But it does give you the right to stop him beating his wife, even if that means you use some illegal means. So the analogy rather supports my position, no?

No. It’s an example of deposing an illegal power with illegal means, something your assumption – that if an invasion is illegal, the system it replaces must have been valid – didn’t account for.

The difference between that analogy and the reality of international law is that, with invasions, one is placing millions of lives in danger, and there’s the clear possibility that the act will only make matters worse. This, indeed, is what came to be. However invalid a system may be, then, we can’t pronounce an open season, there must be circumstances in which an invasion is legitimate; circumstances in which we can be reasonably sure that the good that comes from it will be greater than the bad. The US lied repeatedly in their attempts to meet those conditions (see my links in comment 7), very possibly didn’t meet them and then and charged off for a bloody, catastrophic invasion. It wasn’t – in my humble opinion – just that Saddam ruled, but nor were the US/UK actions rightful.

53. John Meredith

“Where did I say that? I said I do not know what you mean by legitimate ruler.”

I mean the person who had a moral/legal right to head the country. In other words, the person who should have been restored to power. If you think Saddam should not be restored to power, it follows that you do not think he was the legitimate head of government, so he was not legally ruler of the country. So how was it illegal to remove him given that the regime that removed him was thern given a UN mandate to govern the country?

54. John Meredith

“and then and charged off for a bloody, catastrophic invasion.”

But the invasion wasn’t catastrophic. It was very quick and with low casualties. It is the occupation that has been a disaster, and that is mandated by the UN.

John,

“Where did I say that? I said I do not know what you mean by legitimate ruler.”

I mean the person who had a moral/legal right to head the country. Do you honestly think Hussein had a moral right to head the country? I don’t.* Of course he had a (domestically) legal right, he wrote the laws.

In other words, the person who should have been restored to power. If you think Saddam should not be restored to power, it follows that you do not think he was the legitimate head of government, so he was not legally ruler of the country.

No, it does not follow, as I do not confuse legitimacy with legality.<blockquote So how was it illegal to remove him given that the regime that removed him was thern given a UN mandate to govern the country?Having destroyed Hussein’s regime, it was convenient to replace it during the UN mandated occupation by facilitating democracy in Iraq. I don’t see how this excludes the invasion itself from being illegal, nor why you keep conflating different events.

56. John Meredith

“Do you honestly think Hussein had a moral right to head the country? I don’t.* Of course he had a (domestically) legal right, he wrote the laws.”

I don’t think he had a moral or legal right. But I also don’t think it was illegal to remove him. You seem to think he was ruling legally because he said so. But you don’t seem to think that the war was legal just because George Bush said so. Why the discrepancy?

sl – sorry that was a bit harsh – and you are right this is a political rather than a legal blog. But if you read the article I linked to you, it should be very clear that I do not say that Blair is a war criminal. I say that the invasion of Iraq was unlawful, because there is no basis for it international law and I explain why I think that is important. I also say why I think a prosecution of Blair under either domestic law or the ICC is going to be extremely unlikely.

john – I am not being evasive, but this is a long and complex discussion, which I do not have that much time to explain. International law has very little to say about whether or not Saddam Hussein was the ´rightful leader´ of Iraq. However, it also does not list ´regime change´ as a valid reason for one country to invade another.

International law regulates inter-actions between states. It prohibits the use of force in all but two situations – where these have been authorised self-defence (which can include coming to the aid of an ally and can include some pre-emptive action to prevent an imminent attack) and by the UN Security Council. I realise there are about 20 points of clarification and detail that you could come back to me on regarding both those points, but I really do not have the time to explain them further. The case that I cited (and the Caroline case) give more details.

There is a third – even more controversial – grounds in which some argue that the use of force may be permissible and that is referred to as the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. You can read some extremly long exchanges that I have engaged with over this or you can buy my book which has a chapter on the subject.

International law has very little to say about how countries should organise their systems of government. Membership of the UN is open to all countries which agree to abide by the basic rules of not attacking one another and – although there are some references to promotion of human rights in the UN Charter, being a democracy is clearly not a pre-requisite of UN membership. Article 2 of the UN Charter also prohibits ´interference in states internal affairs´.

So, according to international law, a head of state is entitled to the privileges of that position (eg state and diplomatic immunity, etc.) for as long as he or she remains one. Recent years have seen moves to limit this. Human rights treaties have been drawn up providing – among other things – for universal jurisdiction over certain crimes (eg torture and genocide). The ad hoc international tribunals for Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Yugoslavia have all charged former heads of state with various crimes. The ICC is up and running, etc.

All of this is work in progress and – as you will see from my previous articles – one of the reasons why I opposed the invasion of Iraq was that it set back this process – probably by at least a decade.

But the invasion wasn’t catastrophic. It was very quick and with low casualties.

This is rather like saying that it wasn’t catastrophic to leap from a plane without a parachute, because it was hitting the ground that did all the damage. The following bloodshed wouldn’t have arisen without the instability that the invasion caused. And, by the way, “low casualties?“?

Air war commanders were required to obtain the approval of Defense Secretary Donald L. Rumsfeld if any planned airstrike was thought likely to result in deaths of more than 30 civilians. More than 50 such strikes were proposed, and all of them were approved.

Moreover, the fact that the UN authorised the occupation doesn’t mean that the invasion was legal any more than the US paying various thugs as part of the “Surge” means they weren’t criminals. Legal authorities don’t necessarily judge by their own laws.

John,

“Do you honestly think Hussein had a moral right to head the country? I don’t.* Of course he had a (domestically) legal right, he wrote the laws.”

I don’t think he had a moral or legal right. But I also don’t think it was illegal to remove him. You seem to think he was ruling legally because he said so. But you don’t seem to think that the war was legal just because George Bush said so. Why the discrepancy?

Because Hussein’s rule was (presumably) legal according to Iraq’s domestic law (I have no idea of its status in international law, or whether international law has any bearing on the legality of a nation’s government); George Bush may have facilitated the legality of the invasion in terms of US domestic law but in terms of international law it was (apparently) illegal.

Sorry for the jumbled up nature of my third para. I meant to write

It prohibits the use of force in all but two situations – self-defence (which can include coming to the aid of an ally and can include some pre-emptive action to prevent an imminent attack) and where these have been authorised by the UN Security Council

57. Conor .
What are the legal positions of Tanzania removing Amin from Uganda and Vietnam in removing the Khymer Rouge from Cambodia?

Charlie – in both cases the governments of Tanzania and Viet Nam argued that they were acting in self-defence (they were attacked first) but some argue that both interventions could be justified with refence to the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. This is the position that Gareth Evans of the ICG takes in his book (which is reviewed here with mine)

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/13/arts/13iht-IDLEDE13.1.18551942.html

Having spent some time in both Uganda and Cambodia I am not sure how far I would go along with the latter argument. Although Amin and Pol Pot were undoubtedly monsters (up there with Sadam Hussein), the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia was a very brutal one in which the country´s natural resources were fairly systematically plundered and the restoration of Milton Obote in Uganda also ushered in a very bloody civil war.

63. Dick the Prick

The elephant in the room is that no member of the security council gives a toss about international law as we write it as we go along.

@57 Fine and you’re correct; you didn’t say that TB was a war criminal.

I will try and read the articles you quoted, but you must realise some of us are at work when we’re posting – and you did reference a whole list of things.

You wrote “the invasion of Iraq was unlawful, because there is no basis for it international law ”

Two points:
1) If you refer back to #5, the Blair quote, I’m willing to accede that TB acknowledged – before the fact – that it was, at the very least, questionable.

2) In anglo saxon based law something does not have to be codified for it to be permissable, it’s a very different approach to some other systems.

65. FlyingRodent

On the But if the war was illegal… then OMG you luv Saddam and want to be his boyfriend and kiss him on the lips! point – I’m unsure whether there’s a legal term meaning “Two wrongs don’t make a right”, but if I could understand that at the age of four then I’m sure enterprising concern trolls can get it in their ill-tempered middle age.

This isn’t to say that you guys shouldn’t be applauded – I’d thought that after nigh on seven years of catastrophe, folks like Nick would be stumped for new ways to accuse their readers of engaging in debauched, four way anti-war sex with the corpses of Saddam, Uday and Qusay. Bravo, lads.

On the question of illegality, I couldn’t really give a damn myself. There seems to be a substantial number of people who believe that an inquiry declaring the war illegal will settle the issue once and for all, but it won’t – we’ll just have cats like John showing up shouting about the inquiry was bullshit and how we all want to blow dead dictators anyway.

The question of whether the war was right or wrong was settled long ago, of course, when it turned into a horrifying bloodbath that caused so many casualties we literally cannot count the hundreds of thousands of dead bodies from the conflict. The best-case scenario from Iraq is a weak central government elected on straight ethno-religious lines, local rule by US-aligned psycho militias in a system that threatens to explode into further ultraviolence at the next political crisis, with Iran pulling strings left, right and centre.

And that’s the best-case scenario, mind. That’s the Lebanon model rather than the Yemeni one.

Yes I think FR is right that the legality issue is only one – and from the point of view of the Iraqis, probably not the most important – issue arising out of the invasion. There are no grounds for thinking that UN approval of the invasion would have avoided the fairly foreseeable problems that flowed out of the occupation.

But it still a fairly stunning point that Cohen sits down to write an article dismissing entirely the possibility that an official inquiry may make a finding on the legality issue only days after an official inquiry in another European country has made such a ruling. Research is not a four letter word Nick.

@39 BenSix: “Say there’s a wife-beater living across the road. Clearly, his actions are illegal, yet it doesn’t give one the right to tool up, kick in the door and blow his arm off.”

Let’s consider a variant of that analogy. Assume that you and a bunch of mates abduct the wife beater, pack his belongings into a couple of bin bags, change the locks on the house’s doors and leave the man on the street. That would be illegal but there would be a moral defence that you might use in mitigation. You might claim that it was a humanitarian intervention. Or that you believed the man intended to kill his wife. And you would have to show that your actions were proportionate and well considered.

The illegality of the first act does not take away rights from the battered wife. She can keep the new locks on the doors and apply for an injunction to evict the man permanently. Or she can invite the man back into the home.

Nor does it give new rights to the wife beater. The police can still pick him up and prosecute him with any evidence of crime that they may have.

Possibly you made a mistake about identity (which is why such acts should not be taken lightly), in which case the man would have every right to be restored to his home.

In the case of the Iraq invasion, the illegality of invasion is only relevant to itself and other prior events, not to the events that followed. Saddam Hussein and his regime were already identified internationally and within Iraq as criminals, and could not expect to be restored.

@6 Mark: “What I would *like* would be for there to be a clear international legal framework that said when force could or could not be used.”

In my view, that is the exact opposite of what is best. As Conor argues, some international rights lawyers argue that intervention to prevent human rights abuse or genocide is a legitimate reason for military action. In the 1990s, military intervention in the Balkans would have saved many lives and possibly reduced factional and nationalist break down. But no western government had the balls to act; when they did act, international law and basic morality had not changed; only the names of government ministers and advisors had changed.

Thus my argument is that a legal framework is unnecessary, and possibly an encumbrance. Those who wish to intervene for the right reasons may be stifled by the framework, and military adventurists will do whatever pleases them.

The status quo may even work well. Invasion or attacks on a country are illegal unless sanctioned by the UN, but sometimes they are morally justified. Imposing a framework, that can never accommodate every scenario, reduces the clarity of moral arguments.

@68: “As Conor argues, some international rights lawyers argue that intervention to prevent human rights abuse or genocide is a legitimate reason for military action.”

Just where did Nazi Germany go wrong by invading Poland on 1 September 1939 making the claim that the invasion was to protect the civil rights of the German speaking residents living in Danzig?

And btw there is some historic evidence that German speaking residents in Danzig were indeed subject to popular and possibly official harassment prior to the invasion, which isn’t altogether surprising in the light of the German occupation in October 1938 of the Sudetenland in Czecho-Slovakia, where the majority of the population were German speaking.

I raise this crucial question because the declared motives of invaders are justifiably suspect. One hugely important motive for setting up the UN in the first place was to assess and then sanction or condemn such unilateral military actions, almost invariably supposedly undertaken for the best of all possible reasons.

Obama, then a senator, opposed the the Iraq war from the start. He wasn’t convinced.

Tony Blair in that keynote speech in Chicago in April 1999 said:

“If we want a world ruled by law and by international co-operation then we have to support the UN as its central pillar.”
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/international/jan-june99/blair_doctrine4-23.html

The text of that speech used to be accessibe on the 10 Downing St website but not any longer.

Shorter Nick: “Saddam was dead bad, therefore the war was legal, therefore anyone who thinks otherwise is a supporter of Saddam and probably spends his evenings ranting about Jewish conspiracies at Islington dinner parties.”

Shorter Geras: “Yes, the invasion was a disaster in practice, but I supported this batshit insane policy in good faith, and the greatest injustice in all of this is that some people won’t accept that I meant well.”

Neither is very edifying, to be frank.

I have some difficulty rationalising this concept of legal or illegal war. I am anti-war but not a pacifist. I would rather see diplomats endlessly discuss things rather than commit to hostilities. However, I am anti-war because people needlessly die prematurely. They die whether that war has an abstract label of legal or illegal applied to it. How can a conflict be considered to be immoral in one circumstance but gain in stature because it proceeds on the say so of those bastions of freedom Russia and China? A war is either wrong or there was no alternative to conflict. It can’t gain in morality implied through a concept of legality.

If the Iraq invasion was legitimate absent UN sanction, what possible reason can there be for complaining about the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, Czecho-Slovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in December 1979?

@69 Bob B: “I raise this crucial question because the declared motives of invaders are justifiably suspect. One hugely important motive for setting up the UN in the first place was to assess and then sanction or condemn such unilateral military actions, almost invariably supposedly undertaken for the best of all possible reasons.”

I agree with the first sentence: the motivation of attackers should be considered as aggressive until otherwise contradicted. (When we look at Hitler’s previous deeds, the Nazi invasion of Poland has context, and it is not one of social liberatation.)

I’m not sufficiently familiar with the history of the UN to comment on the motives of those who founded it. However, I agree that the role of the current UN is “to assess and then sanction or condemn such unilateral military actions”. To act as a brake on well intended folly.

@72 Bob B: “If the Iraq invasion was legitimate absent UN sanction, what possible reason can there be for complaining about the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, Czecho-Slovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in December 1979?”

Hungary 1956: Soviet invasion uninvited by government. No human rights argument or sovereignty threat for mitigation.

Prague Spring 1968: ditto.

Afghanistan 1979: Soviet troops invited by Marxist government in order to counteract internal attacks.

All of which is entirely irrelevant.

@74: “All of which is entirely irrelevant.”

Rubbish. The Soviet invasions of those countries was to establish or to protect the institution of “socialism”, which is in the best interests of the proletariat in those countries – or so the Soviet argument could go.

Invaders can usually be relied on to provide some supposedly legitimising rationale, which is precisely why we need an institution like the UN to assess such claims and sanction those it considers valid.

The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 brought to an end the Thirty Years War in Europe. It was fought mainly in or around the country we now call Germany as sovereign countries invaded neighbouring sovereign territories supposedly to install some better brand of Christianity. The Peace settlement instituted the principle that the internal affairs of a sovereign state were the sole prerogative of its sovereign. The motivating intention for the peace settlement was to prevent a repeat of what had been a long and very bloody and destructive succession of wars all supposedly legitimised by the purpose of saving the immortal souls of the residents of the invaded territories – what higher motive could there possibly be?

That explains why we still need the intervention of a body like the UN to sanction invasions.

I’m not here stating any novel principle. Obama (at one time a law professor at Chicago Uni) opposed the Iraq war. Blair himself recognised the crucial role of the UN in international law. And these eminent teachers of international law registered their position on the legality of the Iraq war in early March 2003:

“We are teachers of international law. On the basis of the information publicly available, there is no justification under international law for the use of military force against Iraq. The UN charter outlaws the use of force with only two exceptions: individual or collective self-defence in response to an armed attack and action authorised by the security council as a collective response to a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. . . ”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,909275,00.html

76. John Meredith

“But it still a fairly stunning point that Cohen sits down to write an article dismissing entirely the possibility that an official inquiry may make a finding on the legality issue only days after an official inquiry in another European country has made such a ruling. ”

Conor, we know that you feel resentful towards Nick Cohen, but why all the effoprt to misrepresent him? He did not say that the inquiry would not ‘make a finding’ on the ‘legality issue’, he said you were deluded if you thought it would find that the war was illegal, which is quite different. No other competent body has found that the war was illegal, not even in Holland, so it looks like he might be right.

John – How am I misrepresenting Nick. I simply pointed out that his article – in which he claimed that anyone who thought that the Chilcott inquiry might find the invasion to have been illegal was ´deluded´was written only days after an official inquiry in a neighbouring country reached just such a conclusion.

78. John Meredith

Conor, now you are misrepresenting yourself. No official enquiry in any country has found the war to be illegal and you were careful earlier not to actually claim that they had. The Dutch enquiry simply found that the existing UN resolutions did not constitute a mandate for invasion, which does not mean that the war was illegal. I suspect Nick C is aware of the distinction and I know you are. If you think Chilcot will come to a stronger conclusion you are, I tend to think, deluded.

This is a useful review of the issues.

http://www.justice.org.uk/images/pdfs/Iraq-thepaxAmericanaandthelaw.pdf

As Lord Alexander points out (pages 2 – 3), the question of the legality of the invasion of Iraq is important because it might have created a precedent.

The world could have set off down a slippery slope of starting wars on the basis of subjective feelings about the nature of regimes, and not on the basis of fairly well-understood rules. The USA saw the invasion of Iraq as part of its doctrine of preventive military intervention, which very clearly is illegal; if a fuss hadn’t been made about the legality of the invasion of Iraq, the UK might have found itself buying into the very risky doctrine of inading countries in case they become a threat in the future.

It is worth noting that the UK Government does not defend the invasion of Iraq in the same terms as Nick Cohen does, nor do other senior politicians such as the Conservative front bench. There is a good reason for this. Various leaked documents show that Ministers were well aware that international law does not one country to invade another because they don’t like the regime, and that other pretexts would have to be found. The claim that the invasion was legal rests on a series of very dubious assertions about what was in Resolution 1441, about the ability of one country to unilaterally claim that another is in material breach of UN resolutions and about the certainty that Iraq had WMD. Jonathan Powell’s admission yesterday that it was an assumption, not a certainty, that Iraq had WMD destroys the Governments justification that the invasion was legal.

Is it within the remit of the inquiry to rule on the legality of the war? I mean they may well conclude that Blair received advice that there was no legal basis for the invasion (or that indeed there was such a legal basis) but would they actually be competent to rule on the correctness or otherwise of such advice?

82. John Meredith

“Various leaked documents show that Ministers were well aware that international law does not one country to invade another because they don’t like the regime, and that other pretexts would have to be found. ”

This is a very odd way of putting thigs. It seems to imply that the ‘real’ reason for invading Iraq was that Bush and Blair ‘did not like the regime’ whereas concerns about security etc were all ‘pretexts’. But surely there are other regimes that they didn’t like that would have done as well or better? The US really, really, doesn’t like Iran, for example, and those devious Israelis would have liked to see that, eh?

Guano,

As I understand it the non-existence of the WMDs may not in itself destroy the supposed legality of the war, as Resolution 1441 imposed certain requirements on Saddam such as allowing the inspectors full and free access and accounting for WMDs which he was known to have posessed in the past and he could still be deemed to be in breach of these conditions even if there were no WMDs. I think the issue is more that 1441 did not in itself authorise the use of force, which is why those who defend the legality of the war are forced to invoke previous resolutions, specifically those dating back to the first gulf war.

The Dutch enquiry simply found that the existing UN resolutions did not constitute a mandate for invasion, which does not mean that the war was illegal.

But if there was no UN mandate for the invasion what was the legal basis for the war?

This is another useful summary of the international rules for the use of force by States.

http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/3278_ilpforce.doc

Nick Cohen does not, as far as I can see, attempt to make a case that the invasion of Iraq fitted into these rules. His justification for the invasion of Iraq would appear to lie well outside these rules. The case that he seems to be making, through all the bluster, is that people like Conor or myself are deluded or appeasers because we draw attention to how far outside the established rules the invasion of Iraq was. He doesn’t show much sign of knowing what the rules are.

“But if there was no UN mandate for the invasion what was the legal basis for the war?”

There was no legal basis for the war and the supposed intelligence justification of Iraq’s WMD was fabricated. Blair just wanted to play the role of the Great War leader and show that Noo Labour could run wars as well as Mrs Thatcher had run the Falklands war.

An enduring part of Labour mythology is that the Tories (unfairly) won the September 1983 election because of the Falklands war. Supposedly, the loss of that election had absolutely nothing to do with an election manifesto aptly described by Gerald Kaufman as “the longest suicide note in history.” Btw Tony Blair was first elected to Parliament on that (daft) manifesto.

87. John Meredith

“But if there was no UN mandate for the invasion what was the legal basis for the war?”

A war can be legal without mandate. The UN implicitly accepted that by mandating the occupation and witholding from condeming the war as illegal.

88. John Meredith

“The case that he seems to be making, through all the bluster, is that people like Conor or myself are deluded or appeasers because we draw attention to how far outside the established rules the invasion of Iraq was.”

No, he is quite clear on this, he thinks you are deluded if you think Chilcot is going to find that the war was illegal, that’s all.

In this morning’s press:

“The Attorney-General sent a furious letter to the Defence Secretary a year before the invasion of Iraq warning that he saw ‘considerable difficulties’ in giving legal approval for war, it emerged this morning. ”
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article6993409.ece

90. FlyingRodent

I find it absolutely astonishing that any human being on Earth could look at everything we know about the Iraq invasion, now in 2010, and conclude that we did it because we were afraid of Saddam’s weaponry.

The world’s only superpower, with its trillion-dollar defence budget, invading a castrated tinpot dictatorship in self-defence! This goes beyond gullability and out past Pluto, through another galaxy of self-deception and powering into the orbit of Offensively Feeble Bullshit For Suckers And Morons.

At least we’ll get the entertainment value of Tony looking the public in the eye and laying out this sorry smorgasbord of half-truths, postgrad cut ‘n’ pastes and deliberately misleading bollocks one last time, I suppose. Watching him trying to credibly big-up Saddam as a mortal threat to Life As We Knew It while simultaneously acknowledging that he was, in fact, just a nasty, murderous little man with a shit army and no air force, is going to be a chuckle. It’ll do the public some good to recall how much respect the former PM has for their intelligence.

91. John Meredith

“I find it absolutely astonishing that any human being on Earth could look at everything we know about the Iraq invasion, now in 2010, and conclude that we did it because we were afraid of Saddam’s weaponry. ”

Can you suggest a more plausible motive?

A war can be legal without mandate.

Yes it can be, for example if it is a case of self-defence, as can be argued was the case with the invasion of Afghanistan. But no such argument exists in the case of Iraq the question of legality rests entirely on the interpretation of UN resolutions.

The UN implicitly accepted that by mandating the occupation and witholding from condeming the war as illegal.

There is no possibility that any resolution condemning the war as illegal would have been passed. The resolution deal purely with how to handle the aftermath of the invasion, it doesn’t consider its legality or otherwise and conclusions we might want to draw on the question are entirely speculative.

Andrew:- I am not expecting the Chilcot Inquiry to rule of the legality of the invasion of Iraq because, I think, it has been excluded from their remit and, if they did say something, it would be argued that they had acted above their pay grade. Nick Cohen wrote “Opponents of the Iraq war are deluded if they think Chiclot will find the allied intervention was illegal”; note that he was very careful not to say that the Inquiry will say that it was legal.

The public justification in early 2003 of the assertion that that Iraq was in material breach of UN resolutions was that it wasn’t handing over the WMD that the UK government knew that it had. We don’t know what the legal justification was: that document hasn’t been released (or leaked), or maybe there wasn’t one. Maybe it was just another assumption. The assertions that Iraq had made false declarations or was obstructing the inspectors depend on being certain that Iraq had WMD.

John Meredith: – “Iraq was doable” (Paul Wolfowitz)

94. FlyingRodent

Can you suggest a more plausible motive?

For Tony, rather than the Republicans? Because Saddam Was Bad, so getting rid of him would surely be good; Because the Americans were going in anyway with or without us, and Tony thought sucking up to the Yanks was in our national interest; Because We Meant Well, ergo everything would end well in the best of all possible worlds; Because Tony believed his own bullshit about peace, democracy and ponies sprouting from bomb craters at that speech in Chicago, and foolishly thought the Americans agreed with him, and sundry other, far more believable reasons that he didn’t base his invasion plans on.

Or, you know, maybe Tony was worried that Saddam might anthrax the entire population of the United Kingdom and set off an ebola-stuffed atom bomb up the Queen Mother’s arse. Take your pick.

I can see why he’d stick with the latter, though. A misguided but honourable attempt to defend Britain from ebola nukes up the Queen Mother’s arse might almost justify at least some of the massacre, chaos and disaster that followed. He’s still got balls of steel argue this in public, though.

95. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Disgusted, it is an actual choice. If it is illegal to remove Saddam, it follows that he should have been returned to power. Just as your car would be returned to you if I stole it. Can you imagine a court that found it was illegal to steal your Testarossa (I assume) but that I could keep now it was done.

If I stole the car in the first place (just as the CIA and the Ba’athists had stolen Iraq) then no, it wouldn’t be returned to me. If I follow your logic we end up in a situation where any state could back an abhorrent insurrection in any other state, wait until that insurrection took power then turn around and say ‘ooooh they’re dead nasty them, we’ll have to invade’ and it’d all be completely above board.

I’m not even certain that George Bush knew why he wanted to invade Iraq so I’m not going to try to guess. And looking at the various leaked British documents I get the impression that there was no other motive than to be alongside the Americans.

I find it absolutely astonishing that any human being on Earth could look at everything we know about the Iraq invasion, now in 2010, and conclude that we did it because we were afraid of Saddam’s weaponry.

The world’s only superpower, with its trillion-dollar defence budget, invading a castrated tinpot dictatorship in self-defence! This goes beyond gullability and out past Pluto, through another galaxy of self-deception and powering into the orbit of Offensively Feeble Bullshit For Suckers And Morons.

This is the crux of the matter though isn’t it? Most of us can’t take remotely seriously the notion that Iraq presented such an immediate threat to our security that we had to take military action. Seriously though it really is ridiculous.

As for the real motives. For Blair there was always the desire to allow stick close to the US come what may, and it was fairly obvious by late 2001 that Iraq was next on the American hit-list. There was also of course pressure from key corporate players such as BP who have had a very close relationship with number 10.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/oct/30/oil.iraq

I’m sure Bair also convinced himself he’d be doing good in getting rid of such a hideous tyrant.

I know that its not polite to say so but for the Americans the main motive was geo-strategic to further dominate a region where the bulk of the world’s remaining hydrocarbons are located. The concern was especially acute bearing in mind the perceived fragility of the Saudi regime next door. Mo Mowlem, hardly known as a raving Marxist anti-imperialist pointed this out at the time.

98. FlyingRodent

You’re not getting any disagreement out of me, Bubby, but I think it’s worth noting that the Iraq invasion suited pretty much everyone who had a say in the matter, whether for noble reasons or self-serving ones.

It’s pretty comical watching various internet bods slapping their foreheads in horror when the opinion polls show that a majority of the populace believe that the case for war was a pile of made-up arse. Surely, they say, this is an example of conspiracist thinking infecting the mainstream with its horrible, lefty bias?

This from people fond of invoking the common sense opinions of the man in the street and quoting that old saw about how only intellectuals can believe in very silly ideas, no less. Of the possibility that the man in the street might actually be right, not a peep.

It’s pretty comical watching various internet bods slapping their foreheads in horror when the opinion polls show that a majority of the populace believe that the case for war was a pile of made-up arse. Surely, they say, this is an example of conspiracist thinking infecting the mainstream with its horrible, lefty bias?

I think this is a hilarious explanation. Despite the issue of resources being almost completely ignored by the mainstream news media opinion polling reveals that the public see this as a key factor.

What the Iraq War reveals is the limits of public relations and propaganda. Despite being inundated wth extraordinay quantities of spin and lies about Iraq the Government never managed to really convince the bulk of the population of the justness of the war. Sometimes the credibility gap just yawns too wide.

Flying Rodent @ 98,

I’d have thought that was game, set and match.

Excellent stuff.

John Meredith @42:

But it does give you the right to stop him beating his wife, even if that means you use some illegal means.

In this country, it most certainly does not. If you punch him on the nose and he starts to bleed, he will most certainly succeed in pressing charges for ABH and you will be found guilty. Unless he has been charged with assault, your actions are illegal and will be prosecuted as such; only if charges have been brought [1] against the original aggressor will judges and police take “he was hitting someone else” as an excuse for “I hit him”. None of which, of course, is relevant.

Point is this; the UN said ‘Saddam should let in inspectors.’ The UN said ‘If Saddam has WMD, we should go take them away from him’; that’s legal. He didn’t have them. The UN, as a whole, could tell this, and most notably the French could because had he had such weapons he’d have bought them from either France or the USA, and neither had the receipts. As a result, the UN did not mandate an invasion, because resolution 1441 did not provide for invasion as a response to Hans Blix failing to find anything. Hans Blix being prevented from looking is a different story.

Therefore, the unilateral invasion of Iraq by the USA, followed by their groupies, was not mandated by UN resolutions; which is about the only internationally accepted source of legitimacy in such matters.

After the US had cast the country into total chaos and full-scale civil war, of course the UN mandated an on-going mission to bring order and, ideally, liberty to Iraq. That did legitimise the on-going mission there.

I don’t know if you’re just baiting people, or if you genuinely didn’t get that, but either way, there it is.

[1] Personal example. Hopped up gimp I dealt with at Uni who was throwing croquet sets and computer monitors off a 14th story balcony at people walking below. I observed him doing this and, I think understandably, decked him. I was arrested for assault, and he pressed charges. I told them what was happening; they believed me, it just didn’t matter.

When the gimp managed to admit from the witness-box that he was on class-As at the time I hit him, and was then forced to admit that he had, in fact, thrown some stuff off a building, then the police could arrest him and charge him. At which point the judge could throw out my case. It didn’t matter that he was doing something illegal; until he’d been charged with it, that was irrelevant to the established fact that I’d committed an assault (to whit, breaking several bits of his face and deforming his elbow more than a little), and that he’d chosen to press charges.

102. Charlieman

This thread is dying, but, Bob B and others, please note what I wrote: “Invasion or attacks on a country are illegal unless sanctioned by the UN, but sometimes they are morally justified. Imposing a framework, that can never accommodate every scenario, reduces the clarity of moral arguments.”

The first sentence acknowledged the definition of illegal war, as defined by the UN and international treaties. And noted that illegal action may be moral and necessary.

The second sentence was intended to address a hypothetical UN framework (proposed in another comment) that provides clues about how to act militarily without UN permission (ie a set of non-laws). My suggestion was that such a framework would be unworkable and deny human rights interventions.

Illegal action may be the right thing for a country to do; if so, the country should expect to be judged.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    :: Deluded http://bit.ly/5ag04f

  2. Naadir Jeewa

    Argh! Have blinding headache. In other news, Nick Cohen is still a pro-Iraq War twat. Outsourced to Conor Foley: http://bit.ly/8HEptO

  3. sunny hundal

    Conor Foley is right, people who still claim the Iraq War was right are simply deluded: http://bit.ly/5ag04f

  4. Ben Folley

    Agreed. RT @pickledpolitics Conor Foley is right, people who still claim the Iraq War was right are simply deluded: http://bit.ly/5ag04f

  5. Chris Paul

    RT @pickledpolitics: Conor Foley is right, people who still claim the Iraq War was right are simply deluded: http://bit.ly/5ag04f

  6. Bobby Friction

    RT @pickledpolitics: Conor Foley is right, people who still claim the Iraq War was right are simply deluded: http://bit.ly/5ag04f

  7. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by libcon: :: Deluded http://bit.ly/5ag04f





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