The attack on Libya is now illegal, a criminal war of aggression. While I always opposed the action as a matter of policy, I explained it was not illegal within the confines clearly established in UNSCR 1973.
It is now plain that NATO forces have wilfully breached those confines and are now guilty of a criminal war of aggression. They are bombing what are now the defenders as a deliberate act of aerial support to pave the way for the rebel forces’ ground assault. I suspended my judgement on calling this an illegal war because it is a huge accusation, and I take these matters very seriously. Two days ago I posted this:
Whether taking a side in the civil war can be justified in terms of UNSCR 1973 as “protecting civilians” seems to me a very dubous prospect indeed. It is certainly unwise, but the legality of current actions is arguable as it may not yet be definitely established that taking sides is what we are doing.
There is no longer any doubt. In bombing defensive emplacements ahead of the rebel assault on Gadaffi’s hometown of Sirte, a line has been definitively crossed. Attacking Sirte cannot possibly be justified as “Protection of civilians”. There was no threat to the civilians of Gadaffi’s hometown from Gadaffi’s forces. Indeed it is arguable that the citizenry of Sirte may be more in danger from the tribal antagonists we are assisting to conquer them.
The government has refused to release the full advice of the Attorney General on the legailty of the attack on Libya. What they have released is:
The Attorney General has been consulted and Her Majesty’s Government is satisfied that this Chapter VII authorisation to use all necessary measures provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces and military assets to achieve the resolution’s objectives
My italics. Now I strongly suspect that the Attorney General’s unpublished advice discusses the objectives and the consequential scope of military action. The British Government is now plainly involved in military action that goes well beyond “the resolution’s objectives”. We need to discover what the Attorney General thinks of that.
A lesson not learned from the Iraq debacle is that we need to move beyond the position where legal advice on the legality of war is given by a politician and controlled, and withheld, by the executive, with no access for the opposition or the general public.