Robin Cook, Iraq and Kosovo
On 3 December, I submitted a letter to The Guardian, which (perhaps predictably) didn’t publish it:
Robin Cook (“A UN for this century, not the last one”, December 3) rightly welcomes the assertion by the UN high-level panel on ‘Threats, Challenges and Change‘ that ‘the international community’ has the right under the existing Charter to override state sovereignty in order to intervene, by force in the last resort, in cases of major humanitarian disasters: but he skates smoothly over the panel’s essential caveat that such intervention must be authorised by the UN Security Council, not by "individual Member States bypassing the Security Council" (para 206 of the report).
Could this be because Robin Cook was among the principal authors of the NATO attack on Serbia over Kosovo in 1999, which — contrary to the current received wisdom — was never authorised nor even retrospectively endorsed by the Security Council, and was therefore illegal, as well as unnecessary, unsuccessful and counter-productive, setting a disastrous precedent for the similarly illegal attack by the US, UK and others on Iraq in 2003? NATO’s pretext for failing even to seek UN authority for the 1999 attack, mentioned in para 87 of the UN report, was that the Security Council was paralysed: but this was only because NATO’s ultimatum to Serbia contained such extreme demands, obviously unacceptable to the Serbs, that Russia and probably others in the Security Council could never have endorsed them. All those extreme demands were eventually dropped, thus enabling the UN to endorse, and the Serbs to accept, a settlement that could probably have been agreed earlier without the need for the NATO bombing. Good intentions are not enough. ‘
Let the record show, however, that Robin Cook has made ample amends for his (no doubt reluctant) role in the Kosovo débacle by his brave and principled stand on Iraq, even if the former forces him to pull some of his punches on the latter.
9 December 2004