Mock-up of the former PM at Iraq’s oilfields by kennard phillipps, reproduced with thanks.
The Iraq war, which started in 2003, has caused the deaths of between 100,000 and one million people, depending on whose estimate you believe. Two men were ultimately responsible for the decision to start it: George W Bush and Tony Blair.
Bush and Blair claim that they were provoked into starting the war by the imminent threat Iraq presented to world peace. They further maintain that the war was legal. A series of leaked documents shows not only that these contentions are untrue, but that Bush and Blair knew they were untrue.
The Downing Street memo, a record of a meeting in July 2002, reveals that Sir Richard Dearlove, director of the UK’s foreign intelligence service MI6, told Blair that in Washington “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
The foreign secretary (Jack Straw) then told Mr Blair that “the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.” He suggested that “we should work up a plan” to produce “legal justification for the use of force.” The Attorney-General told the prime minister that there were only “three possible legal bases” for launching a war: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC [Security Council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.” Bush and Blair failed to obtain Security Council authorisation.
In other words the memo reveals that Blair knew that the decision to attack Iraq had already been made; that it preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression; that the only legal reasons for an attack didn’t apply, and that the war couldn’t be launched without UN authorisation.
The legal status of Bush’s decision had already been explained to Mr Blair. In March 2002, as another leaked memo shows, Jack Straw had reminded him of the conditions required to launch a legal war: “i) There must be an armed attack upon a State or such an attack must be imminent; ii) The use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable; iii) The acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack.”
Straw explained that the development or possession of weapons of mass destruction “does not in itself amount to an armed attack; what would be needed would be clear evidence of an imminent attack.”
A third memo, from the Cabinet Office, explained that “there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD … A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”
The Charter of the United Nations spells out the conditions that must apply if a war is to have legal justification, as follows:
1. The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.
2. The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means.
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, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
None of these conditions were met by the governments of the United States or the United Kingdom. They did not seek peaceful means of resolving the dispute. In fact before the war began, Saddam Hussein sought to settle the dispute by diplomatic means, and offered to give Bush and Blair almost everything they wanted. But they refused to discuss any peaceful resolution with him, then lied to their people about the possibilities for diplomacy. At one point, when the Iraqi government offered to let the UN weapons inspectors back in to complete their task, the US State Department announced that it would “go into thwart mode” to prevent this from happening.
No armed attack had taken place against a Member of the United Nations, and the UK and US did not need to mount a war of self-defence.
Without legal justification, the war with Iraq was an act of mass murder, committed by those who launched it. Tony Blair and George W Bush should be facing trial for commissioning the supreme international crime.