In breach of the UN Charter
Much the most significant event during my absence has obviously been the attack on and occupation of Iraq by American, British, Australian and Polish forces. With all due respect to the opinion of the (British) Attorney-General on the legality of the use of force against Iraq without an explicit new resolution by the Security Council authorising it, the overwhelming consensus among the international lawyers and other commentators seems to be that the attack was plainly illegal and in breach of the UN Charter, especially following the conspicuous failure of the US, UK and Spain to secure a majority in the Security Council in favour of the use of force—when the UN weapons inspectors had asked for a limited amount of additional time to see if they could bring about a peaceful resolution of the problem of Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Although Washington and London made much play with France’s supposed threat to “veto” any resolution authorising force, the question of a French, Russian or Chinese veto never actually arose, not only because the draft resolution was prudently withdrawn without a vote, but also because there was never a 9-vote minimum majority in support of the resolution; so a negative vote by a Permanent Member would not have been a veto—the resolution would have been defeated anyway. This must rank as one of the most humiliating defeats for British (and to a much lesser extent American) diplomacy since the Suez imbroglio in 1956. Having failed to persuade a majority of the Council to agree to the use of force, our leaders then proceeded to argue that in going ahead with their attack on Iraq anyway, they were acting legally because they were merely enforcing the will of the Security Council as expressed in earlier resolutions. One can only wonder at such brazen chutzpah. And, as pointed out in my Ephems entry for November 2002, this is the second time that our Labour Prime Minister has taken us to war in plain breach of the Charter (the NATO attack on Serbia over Kosovo was similarly illegal as well as having been unnecessary, counter-productive and unsuccessful—for evidence demonstrating this, just click here). So it has been especially frustrating to hear ministers having the brass neck to quote the Kosovo episode as a legal and moral precedent justifying the attack on Iraq.