Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Playing lawyer games

There has been a little discussion here on the Stool in the last day or so over the legality of the Iraq war. Imagine that. Last night, Spot posted the comments of a retired "Law Lord" from the UK, Lord Bingham. It is not that far down, boys and girls, and Spot really recommends that you scroll down and read Lord Bingham's words.

To summarize, Lord Bingham said that it was a violation of international law for the US and the UK to arrogate unto themselves the decision to invade Iraq.

Dave Thul responds: no, it wasn't. Who's right? Okay, boys and girls, hands up if you think Lord Bingham is right. Now, those of you who agree with Dave, put your hands up. Sorry, Dave, it's running pretty heavily against you.

But, tell you what, Dave. We'll examine your offering in defense. Here's a portion of the comment:

Oh, and don't forget the UN, which voted 15-0 in favor of 1441.
Resolution 1441 specifically stated:

* That Iraq was in material breach of the ceasefire terms presented under the terms of Resolution 687. Iraq's breaches related not only to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), but also the known construction of prohibited types of missiles, the purchase and import of prohibited armaments, and the continuing refusal of Iraq to compensate Kuwait for the widespread looting conducted by its troops in 1991.

* That "...false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations".

Breach of contract is a term you are no doubt familiar with-in contract law a breach that is substantial and operates to excuse further performance by the aggrieved party. A material breach destroys the value of the contract and gives rise to an action for breach of contract.

The contract involved here was the cease fire agreement that ended the Gulf War, UNSCR 687. Violation of the cease fire agreement, by international law, returns the parties to a state of war. Remember that there was never an official armistice or peace treaty to end the Gulf War. Because Iraq refused to honor the terms of the cease fire, there was never a formal and declared cessation of hostilities.

You can certainly argue that the war with Iraq was immoral. You'd say it was, I'd say it wasn't, and in the end it'll be up to historians to decide. But to say that the war was illegal is factually inaccurate.

This is the crackpot conservative legal defense that guys like Donnie, Dickie, Georgie, and yes, Condi, and even Colin may have to raise in court or an international tribunal someday.

It has a certain charming reliance on the United Nations on the one hand, and complete disregard for it on the other.

The Security Council did adopt the resolution that Dave refers to, 1441. Of course it did mostly based on Colin Powell's fraudulent little dog and pony show. But Dave either omits or fails to understand a couple of critical steps in the analysis.

Go and read UN Security Council Resolution 1441, boys and girls, and you will see that it did not let the dogs off the leash, so to speak. It directed Iraq to do certain things, inter alia, permit a resumption of inspections, which Iraq did, not cheerfully, but it did. And the Bush Administration was worried that the inspectors wouldn't find anything - as of course they didn't - and pressed forward with plans to invade.

There was only one small problem: the Security Council intended that the dogs come back for an actual directive to use force before invading. When it became obvious that no such directive would be forthcoming from the Security Council, George Bush and his poodle Tony Blair invaded anyway.

This is the decision that Lord Bingham is criticizing in the article linked above. Why is Lord Bingham right?

First, as stated earlier, the Security Council did not authorize the use of force against Iraq. There was also a lot of discussion at the Security Council about the US coming back for authority before invading. That's the second part.

You would have to be the dumbest damn diplomat on planet earth not to understand these words, the last ones in Resolution 1441:

“14.Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

Which means that the Security Council retained jurisdiction over the issue and specifically did not authorize vigilante George or vigilante Tony to take it upon themselves to decide the remedy for any breach by Iraq.

Dave's little breach of contract argument is cute, but it is complete and utter horse pucky. George and Tony were not the "deciders" here. There was no imminent threat to the US or the UK, and not even Colin Powell claimed there was, so this is not a case of self defense.

It was unlawful aggressive war: a war crime. Period.

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