River Wissey Lovell Fuller

An Illegal War

June 2003

Did the war on Iraq contravene international law?

Congratulations on May's Village Pump - an interesting read, including the lighter items and the patriotic pieces in support of the British troops in Iraq.

I was especially impressed by Ron Watts' This War. It eloquently voiced his doubts about the reasons for the war on Iraq and his condemnation of Israel's defiance of UN resolutions. He was quite right in all respects. His words were in no way inconsistent with the patriotic pieces.

Some amplification would be useful, however, in support of Mr. Watts' splendid essay. The main point to be made here is that the attack on Iraq was illegal in international law.

It is true that the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, advised the war cabinet that Mr. Blair had a sound legal case for war. But the consensus of international lawyers was that the case was poor and that the use of force without further UN Security Council authority was illegal. This can be clearly demonstrated at length but I do not wish at present to burden your journal with detail. It is sufficient merely to point to just two of the Christian criteria for a just war:

(1) It must have proper authority;

(2) It must be a last resort.

There was no proper authority for the war. Indeed, it was launched in the knowledge that at that stage most UN Security Council members were against it. Moreover, the war was opposed by the vast majority of world opinion and overwhelmingly by Christian bishops.

Nor can the action be regarded as a last resort. War may eventually have been inevitable but the 'last resort' stage was some distance down the line. War can be a last resort only when all other options are exhausted. That is a vital condition for a war to be just, as required by the UN Charter. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US was hell bent for war irrespective of UN authority.

Fundamental to Western values is the rule of law. This clearly illegal war has shattered the basis of international law. We are left with Pax Americana in which peace will be maintained by the threat of force if countries do not comply with the 'values' set by the US. That is the philosophy and tyranny of the police state writ large.

What is at issue is the authority of the UN - our only hope. Any authority it possesses must rest upon international law and the wishes of the majority, it needs to be admitted -without recrimination - that the war was illegal. Then the authority of the UN can be restored. Otherwise the 21st Century is likely to be the bloodiest ever.

Alan Whitford

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