River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Illegal Wars

July 2003

Further opinion on the international legalities of Pax Americana

The Editor invited views on my article An Illegal War which appeared in June's Village Pump. I understand from him nobody has challenged the article. Perhaps nobody disagrees.

I am therefore emboldened to expand on my article, which was written in support of Ron Watt's most eloquent expression in May's Village Pump of his doubts about the reasons for the Iraq War and his condemnation of Israel's defiance of UN resolutions.

The removal of Saddam Hussein was a good thing but that does not alter the fact that it was done illegally. Strictly speaking, it has not been adjudged illegal by a properly constituted international court of law, but nevertheless there's no doubt that it was illegal. As argued in my article, it failed to meet two of the criteria of a just war: it did not have proper authority and it was not a last resort.

It would have been legal, without UN authority, had it been a response to an imminent threat to the US and Britain. The evidence suggesting there was an imminent threat, however, was deceitful. As the Leader of the Opposition said of the Prime Minister: "You cannot believe a word he says". In the Spectator of 8 March 2003, Matthew Paris fairly observed: "We find ourselves stumped for words at the cheating to which the Prime Minister and his new found friends on the Right have stooped in their arguments for war". Whether or not the elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction are found does not affect the fact that at the time the war was launched it was illegal.

More important than the removal of Saddam Hussein is the way that the illegal war has shattered the basis of International Law. The rule of law is fundamental to civilisation and the US policy of pre-emptive war, in blatant disregard of international opinion, is the law of the jungle - a threat to us all.

That was the second illegal war of recent times. The Kosovo War was generally regarded as a just war, a view sustained by a nauseatingly subservient media. It was nothing of the sort. As with the Iraq War, it was preceded by deceitful propaganda and lies. Its authority was the so-called Rambouillet Accord which was really an ultimatum allowing no room for negotiation. The demand for unrestricted access to the whole of Yugoslavia made it in effect a demand for unconditional surrender. That made it impossible for Yugoslavia to accept; it was a disgraceful demand designed for rejection. In no way, therefore, could the war be regarded as a last resort. And it did not have UN authority. Robin Cooke, who resigned over the illegality of the Iraq War, might reflect on this and recant his support for the Kosovo War. The reason I suspect he might do so is the concern he expressed before the Kosovo War about the extreme macho attitude of the Americans, particularly that of Madeleine Albright. More than some other politicians, Robin Cooke seems to be a worthy man of conscience and he could well be prepared to admit that pressure of events led to misjudgement about Kosovo.

The underlying reason for the Iraq War was probably regime change. An important part of International Law stems from the Treaty of Westphalia in the 17th Century. That sees a nation's internal government as its own affair which should not be used by other nations as a reason for war. The wisdom of this is obvious but it precludes outside intervention which might be seen as morally imperative, e.g. where genocide is apparent. International Law needs to be changed to the effect that such intervention is legal, but only if it has prior UN sanction. It should not rely on the whim of the one big superpower. The US will not remain the one big superpower for ever. A countervailing force will surely emerge which, in the absence of sound International Law, might well result in World War III.

I end with the same words as my last article. For now we are left with Pax Americana in which peace is 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 stake 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 Iraq War was illegal. Then the authority of the UN can be restored. Otherwise the 21 St Century is likely to be the bloodiest ever.

I have a personal interest in all this: the fate of my offspring and their offspring. I do not want them to be incinerated in World War III.

Alan Whitford

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