Thursday, April 28, 2005

Blair insists Iraq war was legal

And I insist I'm a pretty pink elephant in a sparkly golden tutu.

Also looks like Labour's now been forced by the leaks to publish Lord Goldsmith's advice in full. More, as they say, soon.

Update: .pdf download of the advice now available on the Downing Street website. The BBC has more - as will pretty much everywhere before long.

A reminder, people - whether or not the war was just or moral or right is an entirely different issue to whether or not it was legal. The intervention in Kosovo was, in my opinion, just and right and moral. But it was also illegal.

I have no problem with Blair claiming that it was right to go to war with Iraq - that's a matter of opinion. I do, however, have every problem with him claiming it was legal.

Update 2: The meat – from page 10 of that .pdf:

“To sum up, the language of resolution 1441 leaves the position unclear and the statements made on adoption of the resolution suggest that there were differences of view within the Council as to the legal effect fo the resolution. Arguments can be made on both sides. A key question is whether there is in truth a need for an assessment of whether Iraq’s conduct constitutes a failure to take the final opportunity or has constituted a failure fully to cooperate within the meaning of OP 4 such that the basis of the cease-fire is destroyed. If an assessment it needed of that sort, it would be for the Council to make it. A narrow textual reading of the resolution suggests that sort of assessment is not needed, because the Council has pre-determined the issue. Public statements, on the other hand, say otherwise.”
In other words, the only organisation which could have declared military action legal was the UN Security Council. It hadn’t done so. Therefore the war was illegal. Therefore for Blair to say it wasn’t makes Blair a liar.
“the argument that resolution 1441 alone has revived the authorisation to use force in resolution 678 will only be sustainable if there are strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity. In other words, we would need to be able to demonstrate hard evidence of non-compliance and non-cooperation.”
Hard evidence like, say, not allowing in UN inspectors (which Iraq was) or actually possessing weapons of mass destruction (which Iraq didn’t).

Nice one, Tony. Why not just admit that it may have been illegal but carry on insisting that it was still the right thing to do? You'd get yourself out of a lot of bother...

Update 3: As if by magic, an hour after the legal advice is released comes another propaganda email from the Labour party's John O'Farrell asking us to "stick to the issues". Will do, John - the legality of a war in which tens of thousands have died count as an issue? The integrity of a Prime Minister who refuses to accept he acted illegally count as an issue?

Update 4: Via our man Justin "Chicken Yoghurt" McKeating, yet more governmental "war on terror" dodginess - this time over that whole ricin nonsense. The article in question is here.

Update 5: Yet more from Perfect.

5 Comments:

Blogger Justin said...

He can't say the war was illegal - surely that's an admission of guilt should he ever (long shot granted) wind up in the Hague?

4/28/2005 12:42:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

They got away with it with Kosovo, I'm sure they could wrangle it again.

In any case, if he wanted to go for legal technicalities, it wouldn't be Blair but Her Majesty in front of a tribunal - after all, it was technically her who authorised it... The delights of a constitutional monarchy etc.

4/28/2005 12:50:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the second part of your summary of Goldsmith's advice, but not the first. Goldsmith does say that a reasonable argument for military intervention without a second resolution depends on there being strong factual evidence that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity detailed in the resolution. But he doesn't say that it was definitely for the Security Council to judge the war legal or illegal. He does say that it would be for the Security Council to make an assessment of Iraq's compliance, but goes on to say that such an assessment may or may not be necessary in order to determine the war's legality.

I'm no lawyer, but Goldsmith's advice overall about the legality of action without a second resolution seems to be that a reasonable case could be made on either side of the argument, provided that there is good evidence that Iraq has failed to do as it was told in 1441, and that 'a reasonable case' has previously been enough to justify military action.

This is entirely consistent with what Blair told us at the time. If he lied, then, it wasn't on the matter of the legal advice, but on the existence of the aforementioned good evidence.

4/28/2005 01:43:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

My take on it is simply this: in matters of international law, the UN is the recognised arbiter. If the UN says something is legal, it's legal. If the UN says something's illegal, it's illegal.

It should take - by the UN's own rules - an (a?) unanimous decision from the Security Council to make an invasion of a non-belligerent country legal as - by the UN's own rules - an unprovoked attack on a non-belligerent country is illegal. If there is indecision from the UN over whether a specific something is legal or not, it's illegal according to precedent. The fact that the Secretary General of the UN stated the war to be illegal is just a handy clincher.

If we ignore the safeguards we ourselves set up to prevent international chaos, we may as well scrap the whole thing, and go back to the 18th/19th century tactics of bilateral treaties between nations which can be abandoned as soon as one or the other decides they don't like it any more. And if we do that we have no cause to complain when someone or other decides to launch an attack on us out of the blue.

But then again, I'm also no lawyer - and lawyers are paid primarily to find the loopholes. The fact that the Attourney General could only find such flimsy loopholes as he did suggests to me that the entire thing was a load of crap.

4/28/2005 02:17:00 pm  
Blogger ken said...

What I find unacceptable is that Blair is now claiming that he decided to go to take us war to remove Sadam, however that was not the premise he used at the time. This is surely a clear case of misleading both parliament and the public, if the reports on the legal advice are correct, it would also seem that he mislead his own cabinet. On this issue alone vote Blair out or the Hamster gets it! Just imagine waking up on the 6th may and finding this liar is still in number 10, just imagine another 5 years of deceit. This man has made me feel ashamed to be British.

4/28/2005 03:18:00 pm  

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