Saturday :: Jun 18, 2005

New Leaked Memo - Blair Was Warned That Pre-Invasion Bombing By US And Britain Was Illegal

by Steve

Another leaked memo is appearing in London’s Sunday Times tomorrow. And this one has The Hague written all over it.

Remember the recent claims by Bush supporters that the pre-invasion bombing campaign by American and British air forces was legal because they were self-defensive actions to enforce the no-fly zone? Try again.

According to the Sunday Times, a new document shows that the Blair government had legal advice that these bombing raids were clearly outside the scope of international law and not authorized by various UN resolutions on Iraq. In other words, the massive step-up in aerial bombardment by the Bush Administration during the summer of 2002 to soften up Iraq’s air defenses for a war that Bush claimed he hadn’t decided on were illegal acts of war against a sovereign state. And Blair was told this by his own lawyers.

A sharp increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war “to put pressure on the regime” was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice. The advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began “spikes of activity” designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war.
The Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurise the regime was “not consistent with” UN law, despite American claims that it was.
The leaked Foreign Office legal advice, which was also appended to the Cabinet Office briefing paper for the July meeting, made it clear allied aircraft were legally entitled to patrol the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq only to deter attacks by Saddam’s forces on the Kurdish and Shia populations.
The allies had no power to use military force to put pressure of any kind on the regime.
The increased attacks on Iraqi installations, which senior US officers admitted were designed to “degrade” Iraqi air defences, began six months before the UN passed resolution 1441, which the allies claim authorised military action. The war finally started in March 2003.
This weekend the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Goodhart, vice-president of the International Commission of Jurists and a world authority on international law, said the intensified raids were illegal if they were meant to pressurise the regime.
He said UN Resolution 688, used by the allies to justify allied patrols over the no-fly zones, was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which deals with all matters authorising military force.
“Putting pressure on Iraq is not something that would be a lawful activity,” said Goodhart, who is also the Liberal Democrat shadow Lord Chancellor.
The Foreign Office advice noted that the Americans had “on occasion” claimed that the allied aircraft were there to enforce compliance with resolutions 688 and 687, which ordered Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction.
“This view is not consistent with resolution 687, which does not deal with the repression of the Iraqi civilian population, or with resolution 688, which was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and does not contain any provision for enforcement,” it said.
And the British are connecting the dots, even if the American media refuse to do so:
General Tommy Franks, the allied commander, recalled in his autobiography, American Soldier, that during this meeting he rejected a call from Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to cut the bombing patrols because he wanted to use them to make Iraq’s defences “as weak as possible”.
The allied commander specifically used the term “spikes of activity” in his book. The upgrade to a full air war was also illegal, said Goodhart. “If, as Franks seems to suggest, the purpose was to soften up Iraq for a future invasion or even to intimidate Iraq, the coalition forces were acting without lawful authority,” he said.
Although the legality of the war has been more of an issue in Britain than in America, the revelations indicate Bush may also have acted illegally, since Congress did not authorise military action until October 11 2002.
The air war had already begun six weeks earlier and the spikes of activity had been underway for five months.
The Brits are putting it out there on Main Street that the United States engaged in an illegal war, and they are not hesitant to pin responsibility directly on the chain of command running from Tommy Franks up to the commander in chief. Even the Associated Press ran a wire story in the last hour summarizing British concerns over the decision to go to war, and the story includes all of the memos released to date, except the latest one from the Sunday Times. And that is the memo that will cause further problems for Bush in the coming weeks, because Blair’s own legal staff were telling him that he and Bush were about to commit war crimes.

Folks, the memos released to date make it clear that Blair and Bush talked and met personally several times in the first half of 2002, with Iraq an ongoing topic of conversation. Blair was told that a pre-invasion bombing campaign was illegal by his own Foreign Office, and the memos indicate that a dialogue on this subject took place with the Americans. Yet because the Bush Administration felt that it alone had the right to determine what was legal and illegal, the bombings went ahead. Again, this took place presumably after Blair had told Bush what the British assessment was about the legality of such acts of war, actions that Bush took even after being advised by his closest ally that they were likely illegal.

Culpability and responsibility beyond a defense of ignorance have now been established.

Steve :: 10:02 PM :: Comments (20) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!