"Smoking gun" on Iraq war legality?

#1
There must be something to hide, from the Independent today!

It also emerged this weekend that Special Branch police questioned opposition parties in December about leaked documents on the war. The move to crack down on leaks is thought to be an attempt to prevent the full text of the Attorney General's advice from emerging, as well as further documents relating to the period nearly a year earlier, when Britain and the US were discussing "regime change" in Iraq.

Special Branch detectives interviewed senior staff in the office of Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, and Adam Price, the Welsh nationalist MP, in an investigation ordered by the Cabinet Office into the leaking of highly confidential Foreign Office papers on the war in Iraq.

Mr Price, who has led efforts to impeach the Prime Minister for allegedly lying to Parliament over the war, said he had refused to answer the police questions, believing the approach raised significant constitutional issues about Parliament's independence.

The Plaid Cymru MP said he was told by the police the leak had caused "seething anger at the highest levels".
 
#2
It's in the paper. Which puts doubt on its relevence straight away in my opinion.

With the bo11ock that has come out of the UKs paperts in the last couple of years how can you believe a word they print?
 
#3
Plant-Pilot said:
With the bo11ock that has come out of the UKs paperts in the last couple of years how can you believe a word they print?
but then again, can you believe anything that the govt says? both are proven liars!!
 
#4
If the evidence was as conclusive as Tony B Liar would have us believe, it would have been published by now - either officially, or unofficially leaked.

The fact that the Government are doing all they can to prevent it's publishing (including rejecting Freedom of Information applications) suggests that the evidence is far from clear cut.


Incidentally, I must confess to struggling to understand what "illegal" means in this context... it is not as if the Goverment can be cited as being in breach of (eg) Section 69 of the Invasion of Foreign Countries Act (or similar)
 
#5
Here we go again!

There can be no doubt in the mind of any right thinking person in the land that the invasion of Iraq was illegal, and the continued occupation of that benighted place is illegal.

Bliar gave an illegal order. The Poodle of Darkness accepted it, no doubt still feeling a bit woozy after his face lift.

It is a soldiers duty NOT to accept an illegal order - that makes him as guilty as the person giving it. It's all in the Army Act. (Unless, of course you happen to be a young Fusilier whose officers seem willing to drop you in the sh1t and abandon you to the tender mercies of a political show trial whilst your CO and OC are promoted out of the danger zone by the coniving top brass)

Jackson needs to be called to account, instead of letting him worm his way towards the House of Frauds.

It is unforgivable that the lives of British servicemen have been squandered due to the disgraceful behaviour of our Prime Minister, and the moral cowardice of the CGS.

Have they no shame?
 
#7
Queensman said:
Here we go again!

There can be no doubt in the mind of any right thinking person in the land that the invasion of Iraq was illegal, and the continued occupation of that benighted place is illegal.

Bliar gave an illegal order. The Poodle of Darkness accepted it, no doubt still feeling a bit woozy after his face lift.

It is a soldiers duty NOT to accept an illegal order - that makes him as guilty as the person giving it. It's all in the Army Act. (Unless, of course you happen to be a young Fusilier whose officers seem willing to drop you in the sh1t and abandon you to the tender mercies of a political show trial whilst your CO and OC are promoted out of the danger zone by the coniving top brass)

Jackson needs to be called to account, instead of letting him worm his way towards the House of Frauds.

It is unforgivable that the lives of British servicemen have been squandered due to the disgraceful behaviour of our Prime Minister, and the moral cowardice of the CGS.

Have they no shame?
So what you're saying is that we should all refuse to serve on TELIC tours on the basis that deployment orders are illegal because the occupation is? Have you been chatting to Chrisjohn316?
 
#8
fas_et_gloria said:
...So what you're saying ['Queensman'] is that we should all refuse to serve on TELIC tours on the basis that deployment orders are illegal because the occupation is?
As is well known, the CDS of the day quite rightly insisted on a legal opinion from the Attorney General that the war was legal, before committing HM Forces to operations in Iraq.

One more thing which has emerged recently is that the "legal opinion" consisted, to Admiral Lord Boyce's recollection, of about three or four lines of text.

The Chiefs of Staff were quite correct in my view to accept a clear statement from the Government's senior legal adviser that that war would be legal. Similarly, all ranks down the chain of command were correct to carry out the orders given. Like fas_et_gloria I therefore disagree with Queensman on this point, although many will agree with other points Queensman made. It is not correct to blame commanders or any rank for obeying an order which, on the face of it, was legal.

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, reportedly relied in turn on an assurance from the Prime Minister that Iraq was in breach of Security Council Resolutions. If this is true, Lord Goldsmith's opinion only dealt with whether the Resolutions entitled the United Kingdom to invade Iraq, without returning to the Security Council, assuming that Iraq was in material breach. Some lawyers in this field consider such an argument to be thin.

We thus end up with a chain of legal and other opinions comprising:

1. The second 'dossier' - along with all the secret reports and advice received by the Government at the time, which we now know cannot have been very different from the dossier itself. The Prime Minister confirmed in the foreword to the dossier that he and other Ministers had been briefed in full.

2. The Prime Minister's assurance to Ld Goldsmith that Iraq was in material breach. Presumably based on 1 above, although I cannot believe that no Government lawyer ever thought about the question of whether Iraq actually was in breach.

3. Ld Goldsmith's formal legal opinion that such breach entitled the United Kingdom to attack Iraq, without going back to the UNSC. His opinion reportedly changed for whatever reason, but he must (and of course does) take responsibility for his final advice.

4. Ld Goldsmith's brief confirmation to the Defence Chiefs, based on 3 above, that the operation would be legally justified. Short as it was, this was arguably the strongest link in the chain. The Chiefs have access to their own legal advice, but in my view were constitutionally and legally justified in accepting the opinion of HMG's senior legal adviser, even though they must have been aware of contrary views within Govt legal circles. Goldsmith's opinion (unless clearly capricious) took precedence in the same way as a command decision, or direction within the intelligence community. (See 1 above.)

The democratic vote in Parliament, although not a legal necessity, will also have been noted by the Chiefs of Staff.

There is also the related question of what the Prime Minister said at the time to The Sovereign as Head of the Armed Forces, although we are never likely to know the answer to that. See eg Queen's Regulations for the Army:
Government and Command of the Army
J1.001. The government and command of each of the fighting Services is vested in Her Majesty The Queen, who has charged the Secretary of State with general responsibility for the defence of the Realm and established a Defence Council having command and administration over Her armed forces.
Apart from my argument that no-one at any level in the Armed Forces bears any criminal responsibility for carrying out what were on the face of it, legal orders, I am not expressing any personal opinion. I have simply sought logically to dissect the chain of decisions as reportedly now emerging.
 
#9
hackle said:
Apart from my argument that no-one at any level in the Armed Forces bears any criminal responsibility for carrying out what were on the face of it, legal orders, I am not expressing any personal opinion. I have simply sought logically to dissect the chain of decisions as reportedly now emerging.
Others (more cynical than I, obviously) might comment on the lack of the word 'government' in your carefully crafted statement...
 
#10
To add to Hackle observations,

I heard that the grounds that legal advice can not be released was because of the client/lawyer right of confidentiality. (Opposition spokesman on legal affairs). Whilst this may rightly apply, have I misunderstood parliamentary democracy since Blair is PM of this country and alone does not have legal authority, without cabinet endorsement, for committing UK forces to war. Since he alone has seen the legal advice something is wrong here.

Either we the people have right to see the legal advice or the cabinet should have seen the FULL legal advice before committing to operation. Since the later did not occur why does Blair have client/lawyer confidentiality as he is merely a representative of the people and not an elected president.
 
#11
fas_et_gloria said:
So what you're saying is that we should all refuse to serve on TELIC tours on the basis that deployment orders are illegal?
Yes!
.......................................................................................

Hackle,

Urrmm! Good post. However, I absolutely believe the invasion to be illegal.

UK Ltd cannot simply go around invading sovereign states (however despicable the regime) on the whim of its Prime Minister. Its madness. All your refences to what amounts to a massive arrse covering exercise by the Defence Chiefs are noted, I imagine they would like folk to take the line you have.

I believe the whole episode stinks. It is a particularly inglorious chapter in our largely glorious history. Are you convinced by the explanations given for Dr Kelly's death? How do you explain the 'let off' re the 45 minutes claim, and the whole WMD thing? All total boll0cks, highly suspicious, extremely dodgy, and we the great British public have been hoodwinked.
 
#12
Queensman said:
fas_et_gloria said:
So what you're saying is that we should all refuse to serve on TELIC tours on the basis that deployment orders are illegal?
Yes!
.......................................................................................

Hackle,

Urrmm! Good post. However, I absolutely believe the invasion to be illegal.
Well I'm sorry, but an order given to a soldier that involves mobilization and deployment to another country, even if it does mean an invasion is not illegal and has to be obeyed. Even if you class the invasion as wrong. The government has decided the policy and the military have to implement it. Bust. You decide not to play because you don't like the reasons for invading and you are open to corts martial.

It would be a different case all together if you were ordered to invade, bayoneting women and children as you went. That's an illegal order and you can refuse, but not the order to invade.
 
#13
Queensman said:
fas_et_gloria said:
So what you're saying is that we should all refuse to serve on TELIC tours on the basis that deployment orders are illegal?
Yes!
.......................................................................................

Hackle,

Urrmm! Good post. However, I absolutely believe the invasion to be illegal.

UK Ltd cannot simply go around invading sovereign states (however despicable the regime) on the whim of its Prime Minister. Its madness. All your refences to what amounts to a massive arrse covering exercise by the Defence Chiefs are noted, I imagine they would like folk to take the line you have.

I believe the whole episode stinks. It is a particularly inglorious chapter in our largely glorious history. Are you convinced by the explanations given for Dr Kelly's death? How do you explain the 'let off' re the 45 minutes claim, and the whole WMD thing? All total boll0cks, highly suspicious, extremely dodgy, and we the great British public have been hoodwinked.
All points with which I think you'll find lots of people agree. However, if the government of the day give an order and it is backed up by the lawmakers of the day as 'legal' then it is legal. All the concerns which people may or may not have are moot. Many disagree with the hunting ban - but it has passed into law through the offices of the democratically elected government. It is the law. The same processes mean that the decision to invade Iraq (whilst you might hold it to be morally dubious) was legal.

Conscientious objectors argue that the profession of arms is inherently immoral or at least amoral, but there is a word of difference between something being distasteful to you as an individual and it being illegal.

Quite how you manage to raise our imperial land grabbing and empire looting into a 'largely glorious history' and at the same time consider the removal of a corrupt dictator who was responsible for at least 50,000 summary executions annually for the last three decades, had a history of developing WMD/WME, willfully invading his peacable neighbours (oh, and sat on a significant proportion of our future energy supplies) is beyond me.
 
#14
It may be semantics (but I think it's relevant considering how of often the word 'illegal' is bandied about re Iraq), but does there not have to be an actual 'law' broken for something to be 'illegal'?

Now I understand that there are international agreements, conventions and consensus (although none of these are anywhere near universal) that countries sign up to, but surely these are nothing more than frameworks within which nations agree to operate. If breaching one of these is a crime then most EU governments should have been in the dock years ago.

If I agree not to do something and then do it regardless, that may be considered ungentlemanly, but is it illegal?

Any legal eagles able to clarify?
 
#15
Surely to be 'illegal' you have to break a law. It is legal to do something the law allows, but illegal if the law dosen't allow it.

If you break an agreement, it doesn't have to be illegal.

The main point is that as a soldier, just because your government is breaking an agreement/law, you still cannot refuse a Legal order. The order only becomes illegal when the order you are given contravenes the GC or any other accepted conduct during war.

The Generals and Politicos may be breaking the law, that's what they get paid for, but that doesn't mean that Tommy Atkins on the ground is..... he's still following legal orders and doesn't get paid enough or know all the diplomatic goings on to make such decisions.
 
#16
The (il) legality of operations is based on interpretation of International law, including ratified international agreements. The (il) legality of this operation is subject to UN Charter, which recognises each sovereign state's right to defend its territory. E.g. Gulf One - Iraq was in Material Breach of this and Argentina was in Material Breach of this during the Falkland Campaign. Therefore each country (Kuwait and UK) were free to defend its territory (with assistance from others, if requested)

I understood that CDS wanted to establish whether Iraq was in material breach of UN resolution 668 (sic, I think) which called for the withdrawal from Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent ceasefire agreement.

The funny thing is that Saddam could take the UK to the ICC in the Hague (we are a signatory of this agreement, i.e. it is binding in UK law) if he could show that he was not in material breach of UNR 668, we would have been involved in an Illegal war, which is why Blair was pushing for an additional resolution because it is not 100% clear that either UNR668 or UNR1441 (or both) permitted acts of aggression against Iraq in 2003. The US has not signed this agreement and therefore would not face such sanction.

Finally, there has been a subsequent UNR 15** which authorised the presence of foreign forces in Iraq until the constitution is written, so UK PLC is not an illegal occupying force.

Hope that helps
 
#17
I am content that the legal opinion was accepted in good faith by CDS. The problem is that the legal opinion was incomplete and based on very shaky grounds. This also involves maladministration on many levels - normal Cabinet procedures were circumvented; the established committee for defence and international issues in times of crisis never sat; the attorney was rarely present at discussions regarding Iraq; no minutes of any meeting were taken; the full legal opinion was not issued to the entire Cabinet; questions to the attorney on the opinion were not permitted; there is more along the same lines but I can't remember it all! Moreover, the release of the opinion under FoI has been blocked to suppress this maladministration. This is even before the (lack of) merits of the opinion are discussed!

The bottom line is UK plc were taken to war on the whim of a deranged madman who was able to circumvent or twist the normal constitutional processes. If a brown envelope pops through my letterbox (scraping the underside of the bottom of the barrel) for any future Middle Eastern ventures thought up by the deranged occupant of No 10, it is getting returned with a forthright statement along the lines of the above!

There are many perfectly good arguments for regime change in Iraq but these were never made - instead, the madman went on at length about WMDs and then changed the story as he went along. This issue can never be closed, and there can be no confidence in the decision-making process until the legal opinion is published and until an inquiry is held into the decision-making process itself and the maladministration that occured. Resignations would be inevitable.
 
#18
Quite how you manage to raise our imperial land grabbing and empire looting into a 'largely glorious history' and at the same time consider the removal of a corrupt dictator who was responsible for at least 50,000 summary executions annually for the last three decades, had a history of developing WMD/WME, willfully invading his peacable neighbours (oh, and sat on a significant proportion of our future energy supplies) is beyond me.
Fas_et_gloria

50,000 per annum for 30 years equates to 1.5 million whereas most recent estimates come in at less than a third of that and actual evidence is proving rather elusive.

3 - 400,000K is horrendous enough but also lets not say "annually" but be more accurate.

Most were killed in the late 70's and 80's with of course the crushing of the Shi'ite uprising in the early 90's (the uprising called for by the US with our support).

In latter years (I confess i'm pasting this from my witterings elsewhere) :-


Amnesty are pretty much world leaders in gathering and publishing information about the Worlds worst regimes and have previously been scathing about Saddam in the 80's and early 90's and yet even they recognise that Iraq had settled into a much less brutal way of life (yes brutal still but a lot better than some).

Here is their report from 2001 for example..


Covering events from January - December 2001

Scores of people, including possible prisoners of conscience and armed forces officers suspected of planning to overthrow the government, were executed. Scores of suspected anti-government opponents, including people suspected of having contacts with opposition groups in exile, were arrested. The fate and whereabouts of most of those arrested, including those detained in previous years, remained unknown. Several people were given lengthy prison terms after grossly unfair trials before special courts. Torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners and detainees were systematic. The two Kurdish political parties controlling Iraqi Kurdistan detained prisoners of conscience, and armed political groups were reportedly responsible for abductions and killings.

http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2002.nsf/mde/iraq?Open

2000

Violent clashes between the security forces and armed Islamist activists in the predominantly Shi'a south were frequently reported, especially following the killing in suspicious circumstances on 19 February of Ayatollah Sadeq al-Sadr, a prominent Shi'a cleric. Dozens of people from both sides were killed. Hundreds of people, including political prisoners and possible prisoners of conscience, were executed and large-scale arbitrary arrests of suspected political opponents took place. Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and detainees were widely reported. Hundreds of non-Arab families, mostly Kurds, were forcibly expelled from their homes in the Kirkuk area to Iraqi Kurdistan.

http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2000web.nsf/countries/24fe8ccc9d037845802568f200552932?OpenDocument

1999

Suspected political opponents, including possible prisoners of conscience, continued to be arrested and tens of thousands of others arrested in previous years remained held. Scores of Kurdish families were forcibly expelled from their homes and members of targeted families detained. Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and detainees were widely reported. According to reports, at least six people had their hands amputated as punishment. There was no further news on the fate of thousands of people who “disappeared” in previous years. Hundreds of people, including political prisoners, were reportedly executed; some may have been extrajudicially executed. Death sentences continued to be imposed, including for non-violent offences. Human rights abuses were reported in areas under Kurdish control.

http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar99/mde14.htm


So unless we were invading in time machines we were not preventing mass murder or genocide. "Hundreds" annually is similar to our allies Saudi Arabia, less than our Most Favored Nations trading partner China and less than many other states worldwide.

Please dont buy the humanitarian excuse. Of course joe public wasnt to know that life in Iraq had changed since the 80's because news has been largely dictated by Iraqi exiles and their neo-conservative and Israeli accomplices. The body count in Iraq so far (whatever your source) massively exceeds what was going on prior to invasion.

But thats propagada for ya.


Regarding the legality issue I dont think we need to get into blaming squaddies and like. Blame for an "error" (being generous) of this magnitude needs to go to the top and then work itself down rather than vice-versa.
 
#19
All IMHO excellent points in a thoughtful discussion, which I have just caught up on.

As fas_et_gloria detected, I deliberately didnt express any personal view on whether the war was legal or illegal. I think there are genuine arguments on both sides, but those who continue to support the war tend to be less interested in 'legal niceties', and base their case more on the human rights angle.

Much the same could be said for the Kosovo campaign which (again, right or wrong) set the political precedents for the invasion of Iraq.
 
#20
Deadasdisco said:
Quite how you manage to raise our imperial land grabbing and empire looting into a 'largely glorious history' and at the same time consider the removal of a corrupt dictator who was responsible for at least 50,000 summary executions annually for the last three decades, had a history of developing WMD/WME, willfully invading his peacable neighbours (oh, and sat on a significant proportion of our future energy supplies) is beyond me.
Fas_et_gloria

50,000 per annum for 30 years equates to 1.5 million whereas most recent estimates come in at less than a third of that and actual evidence is proving rather elusive.

3 - 400,000K is horrendous enough but also lets not say "annually" but be more accurate.

...

...

Please dont buy the humanitarian excuse. Of course joe public wasnt to know that life in Iraq had changed since the 80's because news has been largely dictated by Iraqi exiles and their neo-conservative and Israeli accomplices. The body count in Iraq so far (whatever your source) massively exceeds what was going on prior to invasion.

But thats propagada for ya.


Regarding the legality issue I dont think we need to get into blaming squaddies and like. Blame for an "error" (being generous) of this magnitude needs to go to the top and then work itself down rather than vice-versa.
Duff gen then, Gentlemen, apologies. The point I was trying to make, and obsuring through the use of poor research, was that (legal niceties aside for the moment) looking at our Imperial past through rose tinted glasses and then suggesting that current operations in Iraq are demeaning to our 'glorious history' is little more than rubbish.

However the call to invade was couched by the politicians, there are/were some good reasons for regime change (admittedly 1. by that score we'd end up Pax Britannica again, and 2. the regime had only killed between 300,000 and 400,000 innocents); during the 'glorious' days of empire our greatest motivation was the greed of the imperial coffers. The whole 'we need to live up to the honour of our history' argument is specious in this context.
 
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