I’ve already written that if it’s a straight fight between being legal or illegal, then I believe the Iraq War was illegal. In brief, I think that even if you agree that Iraq was in material breach of UN resolutions, and you accept that the cease fire after the 1991 Gulf War is therefore rescinded, and that consequently in 2003 we were once more at war with Iraq, the existing resolutions only allowed us to use military force in order to liberate Kuwait, not to invade Iraq and remove Saddam. Unless someone explains where it states that there was some authority for coalition forces to go beyond the Kuwaiti border, then I will stick by my belief that the war must be considered illegal.
Now, supporters of the war often argue that international law is far from set in stone, that it is a complicated and nuanced business, and this is true; further, it is often argued that the legality or otherwise of the invasion is irrelevant next to the moral rightness of the liberation, and perhaps they have a point. I guess if I passionately believed that a certain course of action was justified and moral, and was then told that it was illegal, then I would probably say “sod legality, let’s do what is right”. If back in 1994 a veto from a Security Council member was the obstacle preventing a UN intervention in the Rwandan genocide, then I would know where they could stick the veto and I would support any illegal action required to save lives (in practice I believe the threat of the veto was enough to stall an intervention in Rwanda).
I expect the moral case will now be made to excuse the fact that, according to the documents obtained by Channel 4 News, between the 7th and 17th of March 2003 the Attorney General’s legal advice was stripped of all its conditions and equivocations. The argument as ever will be that removing Saddam was the right thing to do, whatever the Lord Goldsmith said on the 7th. Well perhaps, but is this really relevant? What is needed now is not an explanation of the moral rightness of the war, but of the moral rightness of presenting an unbalanced and one sided version of the legal advice to parliament and the nation in order to persuade and cajole MP’s and the general public into going to war. Unless I hear a reasonable explanation for this action, or some evidence that the document is a forgery, then I will treat any reference to the war itself as an evasion. So far I have heard Clive Soley make the moral case for war on Channel 4 News, while on Newsnight Jack Straw was at his unconvincing best suggesting that all of the Attorney General’s doubts evaporated in the fortnight between the publication of the leaked document and Baghdad’s first taste of shock and awe. Straw suggested that dramatic events during that time (eg. Hans Blix saying Iraq was disarming) made Goldsmith’s caveats redundant; presumably without such vital developments the less strident version of the legal advice would have been published and we wouldn’t have trooped diligently behind the US on the 20th of March. Yeah, right. I wasn’t persuaded and will await developments.
But why am I worrying? Speaking to Sky News Tony Blair says he has never lied; not just on Iraq, but on any matter. He has never told a lie. That means that in the history of mankind he has just joined the exalted company of George Washington and, well, no one else basically. And we only really know that George was happy to own up to some minor peccadillo in his youth regarding a cherry tree; would he have been so forthcoming if he had invaded Iraq? Anyway, how can we be sure that Blair isn’t lying now? That’s the problem with liars; you can never really tell.