Friday, 29 January 2010

Sometimes you don't need lawyers

Lord Goldsmith the former attorney general has told us that it is "complete nonsense" to say that he changed his view on the legality of the war because of political pressure. This news comes a day after we heard that Sir Michael Wood gave consistent advice that the war was illegal. It may be that the security council resolution 1441 was considered sufficient by the Americans to justify war but it was not the case here.

Lord Goldsmith went on to explain the allegation of being pinned to the wall by Lord Falconer as "complete and utter nonsense". It may be his view that there was no pressure put on him by Lord Falconer but this doesn't make the allegation nonsense, it makes the allegation false. It makes a lot of sense to me that if you want to force someone to give an answer then you lean on them.

You don't need legal advice to remember that millions objected to the war. Hans Blix was looking for weapons of mass destruction but was told to pull his team out of Iraq so that we could start a war to look for them. You don't need a lawyer to tell you that this isn't right.

All the apparent difficulty that the few people like Lord Goldsmith had in deciding whether war would be legal or not obscures the fact that it isn't exactly rocket science. According to the UN charter "All Members shall refrain .. from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state". Article 51 of the charter says "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations," but nobody could credibly claim that Saddam had attacked, still less that the Iraq war was an emergency response to such an attack. No UN resolution authorized the war. Certainly resolution 1441, which George Bush and Tony Blair said they were relying on, gave no authorization for war. By any conceivable measure, the war was illegal and it was clear beforehand that this would be the case.

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