Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

In Summary

Lord Goldsmith and his "Legal Opinions 4 U" department have been up all night trying to defend themselves from the charges being placed against them thanks to the leaking last night of his advice on the legality of the war given to Tony Blair on March 7th, 2003.

It's good to see that at least he had backbone at some point. As many people have already pointed out, very few events happened between the 7th and the 17th of March when the AG told the country that the war was legal. But the defence for him changing is mind is simply that "events" made it clear Saddam was not complying.

Slowly but surely, the whole case for the war is unravelling. Leaving aside any myths being perpetuated about the wonderfulness of Iraq and Afghanistan (both of which have been blown apart in some superb posts over a couple of days by Justin at Chicken Yoghurt) and how toppling Saddam is apparently enough justification for the war, it is becoming apparent that those of us who were deeply cynical about this whole farce at the time because of the sudden rush to war were onto something.

Something did happen in those 10 days and we have yet to find out what. The fact is that this war was either legal or illegal; there is no shade of grey. If you have doubts, then the status quo must prevail. The AG had doubts on the 7th of May. Those doubts should be enough for most people to conclude that action is illegal. If the war was illegal, then the whole case falls. The bringing of "Freedom" and "Liberation" to the Iraqis becomes irrelevant... they are no longer defences for the action, since British troops could be prosecuted, and the ignorance for international rule of law will have been set.

This is why the government is desperate to keep this off the agenda. Right now they can wriggle and squirm and say "Saddam was a bad man and we got rid of him" and make it difficult for those of us who were opposed to continue to do so without looking like a Saddam-luvvie. But if it is shown to be illegal, then they can no longer hide behind this, because it means they had no right to enforce regime change. Riding roughshod over international law will give carte-blanche for other nations to do the same. Sure, Israel has been doing it for decades. But now other countries can botch some evidence of a threat, freely invade each other and install their own puppet regimes. The precedent is set.

However, even if we accept that the war was legal, we are then faced with another dilemma. If international law has now been cast that the doctrine of pre-emption is admissable, and toppling of regimes in order to preserve some arbitrary standard of human rights (who makes this decision is as yet unclear) is wholly legitimate, then there is now reasonable grounds for invading the following countries:

Iran
Saudi Arabia
Sudan
North Korea
China
Uzbekistan


The list doubtless continues. But the fact remains that a number of these countries are strong allies. Others are keeping the US economy afloat. There are occasionally token gestures made against some saying that they "must respect human rights". However, we would never dream of invading any of these.

Once again, it brings us back to what the rush to war was. Was there another reason hidden behind the public spectacle? In the absence of anything else, is hardly surprising that people leap to the conclusion that the war was for seeking control of Iraq's oil supplies. I feel that this must have been involved somewhere, but there was more to it. There were already a quarter of a million troops amassed down there, waiting to go. It's clear there was some sort of timetable in action, and they couldn't wait any longer. The inspectors were getting compliance - and so the only justification for war in international law: i.e. the disobedience of UN Security Council resolutions was also flawed. The UN is the only judge we have. Member states execute UN resolutions. They do not have the authority to judge them as well.

Of course, the other important point to consider is the fact that before the war Blair was claiming that if Saddam "fully complied" with the UN resolutions, then there would be no war in the first place. This also rather makes a mockery of the fact that we should celebrate Saddam's demise, since Blair would appear to have been quite happy to leave him in power if Iraq complied with the resolutions. Blair had no interest in the human rights angle before the war, simply because to build a case on it would have led to the war being called illegal openly. Only afterwards did this response emerge as a way of smearing opponents who had a principled opposition to the war.

What this whole sorry affair rests on is that no one dare challenge the authority of the United States and the UK as its chum. No one wants to find out if it was illegal or not, because if they did they would suffer severe diplomatic and economic consequences. It's clear that regardless of international law, we have set precedents in the past for other arguably illegal conflicts. But we are allowed to make it up as we go along, since we have the ability and the position to do so. It would take someone with nothing to lose to bring a case.

A country like the "Democratic" Republic of Congo. Can you imagine the hypocrisy of such a country bringing a case against the UK to the International Criminal Court? But they are signed and ratified to the ICC. There's no reason why they couldn't.

And this is why we no longer have a shred of moral authority. Our actions on the international stage and our disregard for the the rule of law has brought us this low - that our records could be challenged by the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Either way we have a problem. Legal, then we have a precedent set for upholding human rights across the world, a standard that we can arbitrarily set and interfere with nations as we see fit. Except, we don't. Making us hypocrites. If we accept that, then why are only the Iraqi people important? Why should only they be "free"? We have now appointed ourselves world police. We have to uphold that. The UN becomes irrelevant, because we can now write, execute and judge the law.

Illegal, and the consequences are dire. The world order collapses. The UN is still irrelevant. Nations can blast each other back to the stone age and it won't really matter, because international law is irrelevant. After all, if the UK can selectively ignore it, why not everyone else? Now anyone can write, execute and judge the law. Rule of law was established by liberals in the 19th and 20th centuries to protect everyone from the arbitrary rule of Kings claiming they have divinity. What's to stop anyone from doing the same?

All this comes courtesy of our Tone.
So don't forget to thank him for it on May 5th.

1 Comments:

At 2:15 pm, April 28, 2005, Blogger Matt said...

The only reason we haven't invaded North Korea yet is the fact that we KNOW they have nukes.

Although that has never stopped the US. The War Powers Act (1794) states that Congress must vote yes before the President can declare war. A two Thirds majority is needed. However, a loophole to this is that the president can deploy troops for up to three months as a rapid reaction force and then just move them again. The last time Congress officially declared war was when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. Fat lot of good this legislation does! Also, all the president seems to have to do in many countries (namely the South American ones)is tell the people to 'rise up' and then watch them get slaughtered. A list of countries off the top of my head:
Guatemala
Nicaragua
Venesuela
Chile - Namely because the Americans didn't like the Marxist pres.

I think all these places were covert CIA coups, where the president would eventually promise the citizens millitary support which would never arrive. Land of the Free, Home of the Brave...

 

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