Illegal War 57


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 Now I strongly suspect that the Attorney General’s unpublished advice discusses the objectives and the consequential scope of military action.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.


57 thoughts on “Illegal War

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  • evgueni

    A thought experiment: imagine a foreign land is ruled by a thoroughly unpleasant tyrant who is threatening those amongst his people who oppose him. A chance arises for "us" to defend his opponents on the ground – we don't know too much about them but on balance they must be good guys since they oppose him. To do this we need to prosecute a "small" war. "We" don't mind the expense, or the fact that a war would prove a distraction from considerable economic problems at home. Above all "we" want What Is Just, so long as it can be achieved within the confines of International Law.

    The only condition is the following – if we choose to go ahead it will be our sons/daughters who will have to risk their lives on the ground. Let's say that your son/daughter voluntarily joined the army for reasons of patriotism, tradition or desperation or some other reason best known to him or herself.

    Would you say “yes, go ahead with the small war, the risk to my son's/daughter's life is worth it”?

    If you said No, as I hope you did, then ask yourself this question – would it be OK to send somebody else's son or daughter to fight the tyrant's forces? If we can limit "our" losses to machinery only, would it acceptable that some foreign bystanders would inevitably die violent deaths as a result of our actions? How many would be too many?

    One final question – are conscript soldiers in the tyrants' army less innocent than the bystanders? Are we morally justified in diligently keeping separate in our minds the "civilian" and "military" casualties?

  • BGD

    In this context what does 'illegal' mean. Many here probably cheerled the humani'gression in Kosovo and now it is Libya's turn. Progressivism is the cover under which globalising elites hoover up the resources and peoples of the world, smashing the protection of the last remnants of national sovereignty as they go.

    If there is no recourse to law, what does 'illegal' mean. It now seems ridiculous to say it. What should be underlined instead is that international law is now meaningless, a blatant cover for globalist elites to remake the world again and assert control over ever wider circles of our world. The only solution is not more internationalist agreements in which the devil is in the detail and the rules are what those at the table say they are, but less: the leaving of international organisations, the reassertion of national sovereignty, treaties between nations and so forth. Cue the response: "well we live in a globalist world now" Contra: "bollocks."

  • BGD

    If I was Gaddafi (thank the Gods that I am not) and if all my funds were not frozen, I would set up a well funded foundation in London (or elsewhere) for the active promotion and support of "democratic" forces in all of the states within the Arab League who were the leading players in the recent declaration.

  • Suhaylsaadi

    In relation specifically to Pakistan, it depends what one means by, 'regime'. The fact is, the political establishment has very little power now and it is 'Milbus' ('Military-Business'; a neologism coined by Ayesha Siddiqa in her book on the subject) that is in charge – that is, and has been, increasingly since the mid-1950s, 'the permanent regime'. That is why any politician who steps even a little out of line gets killed. 'Milbus' most certainly engages in a number of operative dynamics in relation to he CIA/US imperialism in general. Sometimes these dynamics coincide with the aims of the US 'Milbus', other times, not. The CIA, as we know, also engages in multiple dynamics, sponsoring terrorist groups, etc. The 'Raymond Davis' episode gave us a tantalising glimpse of one possible dynamic of complexity in motion. There are also internecine struggles within imperium between, for example the State Dept and the Pentagon in relation to the most effective way to govern and expand the 'empire'; again, the Pentagon has been dominant since Reagan. We also know that the NED undertakes much of the 'civil societal'/NGO work that until the mid-1970s used to be the remit of the CIA. The name, 'Soros' comes to mind, but liberal foundations in general and corporate entities – banks, etc. – are also part of the rubric of neocolonialism. The means of control are complex, in other words. Local struggles sometimes also reflect these internecine tussles.

    So, to say that such matters are 'complex' and that the West operates largely through the prism of 'hypocrisy' is hardly to suggest any kind of benignity. I would have thought that such statements together represent more-or-less a truism. I am arguing that in order to counter imperialism, we need to be able to apprehend this complexity, otherwise we will be doomed forever to fall into their traps.

  • Suhaylsaadi

    In relation to Libya, one might have expected the US to have trained and supplied the rebels a little better if they'd wanted an armed insurrection, if this whole thing had been pre-planned. As it is, the rebels are unable to stand-up to a standing army without overwhelming superpower aerial support; without such support, they would have lost by now. One might say that the US planned it that way. Well, okay, but there was and is significant resistance within the political establishment and the MI complex in the USA to the Libyan adventure becoming in any way prolonged and involving US forces. We shall see though – events have a way of dictating matters, 'the best-laid plans, etc. ,etc.

    Finally, to say that such matters are complex and that in the public space the major drivers in the West operate largely through the prism of hypocrisy is hardly to suggest any kind of benignity on the part of the 'great powers'. I would have thought that such a statement represents more-or-less a truism. I am arguing that in order to counter imperialism, we need to be able to apprehend this complexity, otherwise we will be doomed forever to fall into its traps.

  • Suhaylsaadi

    [This post, and the one immediately above it, are additional responses to a post by 'spectral' at the bottom of P. 1 of this thread; the system would not allow me to post any more replies there, so I've put them here instead.]

    In relation to Libya, one might have expected the US to have trained and supplied the rebels a little better if they'd wanted an armed insurrection, if this whole thing had been pre-planned. As it is, the rebels are unable to stand-up to a standing army without overwhelming superpower aerial support; without such support, they would have lost by now. One might say that the US planned it that way. Well, okay, but there was and is significant resistance within the political establishment and the MI complex in the USA to the Libyan adventure becoming in any way prolonged and involving US froces. We shall have to see though – events have a way of dictating matters, (to quote Rabbie Burns) 'the best-laid plans', etc. ,etc.

    • Ivan K.

      I do think this whole thing had been pre-planned, but not in the US or UK. It's Qatar and Sarkozy.

  • Ivan K

    @Suhaylsaadi "Nonetheless, the fact is that the regime would have exacted a terrible revenge on Benghazi."

    I don't know what do you know about the Libyan regime, but the people I know who regularly visit Libya say – Gaddafi would just pardon most of them; and avoid terror.

    Just use your head. Libya has been under economic sanctions for eight-nine years. It was an enormous struggle to lift the sanctions. What do a few thousand men matter in comparison? What's the good in revenge? To instill fear?- in whom? Pointless.

    Ah, but "Gaddafi is mad." There is no end to interventionist thirst.

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