The British Government’s Legal Justification for Bombing is Entirely False and Without Merit 570

UPDATE Perhaps you will forgive me for pointing out that the argument in the legal opinion by Professor Dapo Akande of Oxford University, published today by the Labour Party, is identical in every respect and in detail to the analysis I published yesterday. So for all the trolls who claimed I do not know international law…

I have published Prof Akande’s summary at the end of this post.

Theresa May has issued a long legal justification for UK participation in an attack on a sovereign state. This is so flawed as to be totally worthless. It specifically claims as customary international law practices which are rejected by a large majority of states and therefore cannot be customary international law. It is therefore secondary and of no consequence that the facts and interpretations the argument cites in this particular case are erroneous, but it so happens they are indeed absolutely erroneous.

Let me put before you the government’s legal case in full:

1.This is the Government’s position on the legality of UK military action to alleviate the extreme humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their further use, following the chemical weapons attack in Douma on 7 April 2018.

2.The Syrian regime has been killing its own people for seven years. Its use of chemical weapons, which has exacerbated the human suffering, is a serious crime of international concern, as a breach of the customary international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity.

3.The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering. The legal basis for the use of force is humanitarian intervention, which requires three conditions to be met:

(i) there is convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief;

(ii) it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved; and

(iii) the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim (i.e. the minimum necessary to achieve that end and for no other purpose).

4.The UK considers that military action met the requirements of humanitarian intervention in the circumstances of the present case:

(i) The Syrian regime has been using chemical weapons since 2013. The attack in Eastern Damascus on 21 August 2013 left over 800 people dead. The Syrian regime failed to implement its commitment in 2013 to ensure the destruction of its chemical weapons capability. The chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 killed approximately 80 people and left hundreds more injured. The recent attack in Douma has killed up to 75 people, and injured over 500 people. Over 400,000 people have now died over the course of the conflict in Syria, the vast majority civilians. Over half of the Syrian population has been displaced, with over 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The repeated, lethal use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity. On the basis of what we know about the Syrian regime’s pattern of use of chemical weapons to date, it was highly likely that the regime would seek to use chemical weapons again, leading to further suffering and loss of civilian life as well as the continued displacement of the civilian population.

(ii) Actions by the UK and its international partners to alleviate the humanitarian suffering caused by the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime at the UN Security Council have been repeatedly blocked by the regime’s and its allies’ disregard for international norms, including the international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. This last week, Russia vetoed yet another resolution in the Security Council, thwarting the establishment of an impartial investigative mechanism. Since 2013, neither diplomatic action, tough sanctions, nor the US strikes against the Shayrat airbase in April 2017 have sufficiently degraded Syrian chemical weapons capability or deterred the Syrian regime from causing extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale through its persistent use of chemical weapons. There was no practicable alternative to the truly exceptional use of force to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their further use by the Syrian regime in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering.

(iii) In these circumstances, and as an exceptional measure on grounds of overwhelming humanitarian necessity, military intervention to strike carefully considered, specifically identified targets in order effectively to alleviate humanitarian distress by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring further chemical weapons attacks was necessary and proportionate and therefore legally justifiable. Such an intervention was directed exclusively to averting a humanitarian catastrophe caused by the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, and the action was the minimum judged necessary for that purpose.

14 April 2018

The first thing to note is that this “legal argument” cites no authority. It does not quote the UN Charter, any Security Council Resolution or any international treaty or agreement of any kind which justifies this action. This is because there is absolutely nothing which can be quoted – all the relevant texts say that an attack on another state is illegal without authorisation of the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Nor does the government quote any judgement of the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court or any other international legal authority. This is important because rather than any treatment, the government makes a specific claim its actions are justified by customary international law, which means accepted state practice. But the existence of such state practice is usually proven through existing court judgements, and there are no judgements that endorse the approach taken by the government in its argument.

The three “tests” set out under para 3 as to what is permitted under international law are not in fact a statement of anything other than the UK’s own position. These “tests” are specifically quoted by Ola Engdahl in Bailliet and Larsen (ed) “Promoting Peace Through International Law” (Oxford University Press 2015). Engdahl notes:

The UK position, that it is permitted to take coercive action under a doctrine of humanitarian intervention when certain conditions are met, is a minority view and does not reflect lex data on the prohibition of the use of force in international relations as expressed in article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

That is undeniably true, and as it is equally undeniably true that a minority view cannot be customary international law, the British government position is utterly devoid of merit.

The Government argument is a classic statement of the doctrine of “liberal intervention”, which is of course the mantra adopted by neo-conservatives over the last 30 years to justify resource grabs. It is not in any way accepted as customary international law. It is a doctrine opposed by a very large number of states, and certainly by the great majority of African, South American and Asian states. (African states have occasionally advocated the idea that UN Security Council authorisation may be replaced by the endorsement of a UN recognised regional authority such as ECOWAS or the African Union. This was the Nigerian position over Liberia 20 years ago. The Security Council authorised ECOWAS action anyway, so no discord arose. The current Nigerian government does not support intervention without security council authorisation).

The examples of “liberal intervention” most commonly used by its advocates are Sierra Leone and Libya. My book “The Catholic Orangemen of Togo” details my experiences as UK Representative at the Sierra Leone peace talks, and I hope will convince you that the accepted story of that war is a lie. Libya too has been a disaster, and it is not a precedent for the government’s legal argument as the western forces employed were operating under cover of a UN Security Council Resolution authorising force, albeit only to enforce a no fly zone.

In fact, if the British government were to offer examples of state practice to attempt to prove that the doctrine it outlines is indeed customary international law, the most appropriate recent examples are Russian military intervention in Ukraine and Georgia. I oppose those Russian interventions as I oppose the UK/US/French actions now. It is not a question of “sides” it is a question of the illegality of military action against other states.

The rest of the government’s argument is entirely hypothetical, because as the liberal intervention doctrine is not customary international law these arguments cannot justify intervention.

But the evidence that Assad used chemical weapons against Douma is non-existent, and the OPCW did not conclude that the Assad government was responsible for the attack on Khan Sheikhoun. There is no evidence whatsoever that military action was urgently required to avert another such “immediate” attack. Nor is it true that the UK’s analysis of the situation is “generally accepted” by the international community, as witness China and Russia voting together in the Security Council yesterday to condemn the attack.

So the British government sets up its own “three tests” which have no legal standing and are entirely a British concoction, yet still manages to fail them.

Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law, Oxford University, gave this opinion for the Labour Party…

In the opinion I reach the following conclusions:
1. Contrary to the position of the government, neither the UN charter nor customary international law permits military action on the basis of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. There is very little support by states for such an exception to the prohibition of the use of force. The UK is one of very few states that advocates for such a legal principle but the vast majority of states have explicitly rejected it.
2. The legal position advanced by the government ignores the structure of the international law rules relating to the use of force, in particular, because a customary international law rule does not prevail over the rule in the United Nations charter prohibiting the use of force. To accept the position advocated by the government would be to undermine the supremacy of the UN charter.
3. Even if there was a doctrine of humanitarian intervention in international law, the strikes against Syria would not appear to meet the tests set out by the government. The action taken by the government was not directed at bringing “immediate and urgent relief” with regard to the specific evil it sought to prevent, and was taken before the inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were able to reach the affected area.
4. If the position taken by the government were to be accepted by states globally, it would allow for individual assessments of when force was necessary to achieve humanitarian ends, with the risk of abuse. It is because of the humanitarian suffering that will ensue from such abusive uses of force, that other states and many scholars have been reluctant to endorse the doctrine of humanitarian action.

570 thoughts on “The British Government’s Legal Justification for Bombing is Entirely False and Without Merit

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  • Donald Ferguson

    It seems that the UK and US have now proved themselves to be rogue states Craig.

    • Derek sarath

      That’s because the U.K in MY and many others are ankle deep in this, they DIDNT want the inspectors to gather ANY evidence as it might come back n prove this was a false flag and staged attack, so then people would look n ask, well who stood to gain? It points again to the British government, the same as the so called ‘Novichoc’ episode, ONLY T.May stood to profit from it.

  • Pyotr Grozny

    I want to scream whenever anybody mentions the ‘rules-based’ international order. Now I can just point to this as a blatant disregard for any such rules.
    PS Crimea’s secession from Ukraine, followed the precedent of the secession of Kossovo from Serbia. Crimea had help from Russia, Kossovo from the USA. Crimea subsequently opted to join Russia, Kossovo merely opted to accepted a large US military base.

    • Emily

      You cannot equate Kosovo with the Crimea.
      Kosovo was part of Serbia for centuries – part of their most historic legacy.
      It was illegally wrenched from them by an illegal war.
      The UN has never recognised this Yugoslav dismemberment of a sovereign state which is against the UN Charter and international law.
      Serbia has never recognised the action.
      Crimea is an historic part of Russia – handed, with no vote, and very much against the people’s wishes to Ukraine by a Ukrainian leader, a dictator of the USSR.
      It has returned to its place as part of Russia by the overwhelming vote of its people when it refused to consent to a political coup, to a Na*i takeover of its governance – organised and financed by the USA.
      To compare the two is to accept the political propaganda and lies of the same people who have just illegally bombed the Syrians.

    • Harry Law

      Pyotr Grozny, unlike in the case of Crimea which voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia in a referendum. In the case of Kosovo its independence was recognised by many in the ‘West’ merely on a vote by the Kosovan parliament.

  • Sean Lamb

    I don’t know if this is true (from a pro-Syria source) but sounds high plausible:

    “The Scientific Reseach Center that the US terrorist attack destroyed in Barzah produced cancer medication & snakebite antidotes. According to the #OPCW, it passed an inspection in Nov 2017 and was certified free of any banned substances.”

    At any rate more plausible than it was working on 1950s era chemical weapons research. The loss of any snakebite antidotes will be a particularly heavy blow – what will they do if a rabid Emmanuel Macron ever turns up in Syria?

    • Mary Paul

      well a ftormer GRU agent and colleague of Skripal, interviewed in Vienna a couple of weeks back by Andrew Billen in the Sunday Times colonist supplement, claimed it was, in part, funded, resourced and staffed by Russians who worked on nerve agents there.

      • Sean Lamb

        These defectors are rent-a-comment. It is how they fund their luxurious London lifestyles.

        The chemistry of sarin or chlorine is absolutely simple – there is no need for further research. There is no reason to locate a novel nerve agent laboratory in Damascus – particularly as both countries have been verified by OPCW as eliminating their chemical weapons. If the OPCW have grounds for suspicions they are entitled to ask for inspection, as it is claimed they did for Barzeh in November 2017.

        The intelligence agencies will continue spouting nonstop garbage for anyone stupid enough to pay any attention to them

        • Blissex

          «If the OPCW have grounds for suspicions they are entitled to ask for inspection»

          The OPCW by itself does not do anything. It is member states secret services that provide the information that leads to inspections, “informally”.
          if the OPCW does not do an inspection or does an inspection and finds nothing it is only because there was no member state with actionable intelligence.
          Put another way: if the secret services of the USA or the UK have intelligence about a suspected site, the OPCW jumps up and runs there, if they don’t it is because there is nothing to worry about.

      • SO.

        Yet the OPCW FFM staff appear to have worked out of the very same buildings when conducting previous investigations.

        Odd eh?

    • Tom Welsh

      I suspect Macron is not as silly as he looks. After sounding off portentously and making all kinds of threats, he seems to have bottled it at the last moment. The Russian military reports (which seem to me authoritative) say that they detected no attacks from a French source.

      The UK sent four superannuated Tornadoes – perhaps in the hope that they would be shot down – which fired a collection of aerial junk. None of it got through, of course.

      • Bill G

        You have to question any man’s brains who marries a woman almost double his age.

        • Harry Law

          Oh I don’t know, depends, she may have a beautiful mind and as a bonus a beautiful body, also the man may look like Quasimodo [I do].

          • Harry Law

            She could of course be a millionairess, like the question Mrs Merton asked Debbie McGee..In the 1995 interview, Caroline’s Mrs Merton asked Debbie: “So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”

        • Mavis

          [Mod: You are banned from this blog, Habbabkuk, and your trolling and sock puppeting is pathetic – do go away.]

          Comment deleted.

        • Jo Dominich

          Bill G – Sigmund Freud has the answer to that one – he’s got mummy issues!!

      • Christine

        Tom do you actually know what was sent and by which country.? I don’t trust MSM. But I had read that Macron had changed his mind. Then I read that he had joined the assault. Don’t know what he sent or didn’t send

    • Ophelia Ball

      I am quietly hoping to see some photographic or other documentary evidence of the success (or otherwise) of the missile attack; the versions promoted by the Trump Junta and the Russian Government cannot both be right, and the discrepancy is massive

      For the time being, here is a thought; if only 3 targets were attacked, and over 100 missiles were used, then does the damage shown in today’s photographs of the Research Centre look in any way commensurate with 25 – 40 cruise missile hits?

      On the more specific point – none of the people walking around the site today seem to be in any way concerned about (much less affected by) chemical weapons allegedly stored at the site being released into the atmosphere

    • Yeah, Right

      Your source is absolutely correct.

      Don’t trust me (or them), you can read the official statement here:

      The money-shot is on page 3:
      “The analysis of samples taken during the inspections did not indicate the presence of scheduled chemicals in the samples, and the inspection team did not observe any activities inconsistent with obligations under the Convention during the second round of inspections at the Barzah and Jamrayah facilities.”

    • Dennis Revell

      Yah, the US “caught up” with the UK as being a rogue state in the late 1890s – with the illegal annexation of Hawai’i – based, as ever on false pretexts, that American lives were in danger there. Shortly following that came the Spanish-American war – a war to acquire Spanish admittedly also colonial resources, this time started on the pretext of a False Flag operation: “Remember the Maine!” – where the Yanks alleged the blowing up by sabotage of the US ship the Maine in Havana harbour – probably American instigated or just an old worn out boiler gave up the ghost.

      As the later NAZI sympathiser (and provider of a regular column to, er I can’t remember, Goebbels? or Goering?, as well as publishing articles by Hitler and Mussoline in his AMERICAN newspapers), US magnate William Randolph Hearst replied to a journalist he had sent to Havana after the journalist complained that nothing was happening, and that he wanted to return:

      “You provide the story, I’ll provide the war”

      – – – Sum’in like that …


    • Baalbek

      the UK has always been a rogue state – USA has been catching up fast!

      Eh? The USA has been the world’s preeminent rogue state since May, 1945. The UK, France, Iraq and other bit players get a few moments on stage every now and again but the US (and Israel) have no serious rivals in this production.

  • Spencer Eagle

    There’s photos of unprotected people walking all over the Barzah scientific site destroyed by US missiles. What more evidence do you need that the site wasn’t a CW facility?

    • Tom Welsh

      Just like the unprotected people walking around in Salisbury. It was only a week or so after the “nerve agent” outrage that the government got around to making a few people put on moon suits.

      • nevermind

        what is Porton Down producing and how much of it? Are they selling what they produce? and do they, at any time in the past, have a business agreement, directly or indirectly, with Sergei Skripal?
        has Porton Down sold chemical compounds to either Syria or the rebels during the last 7 years?
        Why are these questions not asked by journalists?

        • Doghouse

          Perfectly reasonable questions for anyone to ask, particularly when one considers that the man now heading Britain’s chemical and biological weapons facility at Porton Down, is in fact, by way of training and previous employment, an experienced international salesman. A high flying one, but nonetheless, an international salesman. Just a coincidence, or the right man for the job?

        • Christine

          We do not possess the calibre of journalist who will ask questions or rock the boat anymore. We appear to simply have corporate head nodders instead. I don’t don’t how or why it has come to this. Does anyone?

          • Jo Dominich

            Christine – I’ve been mulling over this for the past 3 weeks. To see The Guardian turn into a rabidly Tory propaganda machine has dismayed me. We now officially have no independent media in this country just a massive Government Propaganda Machine. Even today, they are still trying to push the propaganda that May is brilliant and most of the people support her when this is blatantly and clearly not the case. I thought the Observer used to be a brilliant investigative tool especially after their exposure of Cambridge Analytica, not so now, the editor is a Blairite. Investigative journalism has totally disappeared in this country – a mass pro-government propaganda machine has replaced it. At the moment, they are losing the public debate though. The Press used to say with pride it reflected public opinion what we have here is that they create it and will do anything to get the propaganda view published, republished and so on and so forth in the expectation that, as Goebbels said, if you repeat a lie a thousand times it will eventually be accepted as truth. Stalin would have been extremely envious of our msm as a national propaganda machine and government mouthpiece. We do not have any investigative journalists left in the UK. My go to media outlet for unbiased reporting, analysis and any semblance of truth is RT UK and Al Jazeera! Now that’s saying something!

          • Tom Welsh

            Simple enough. In 1926 or thereabouts Hannon Swaffer, a British journalist, said something to the effect that freedom of the press in Britain amounted to the right to publish whichever of the proprietor’s prejudices the advertisers didn’t object to.

            The effects you mention were the result of a change of ownership.

    • Derek sarath

      Exactly, same as the so called chemical attack, there wasn’t ONE woman or mother in that room, I bet if I had a dozen people to help me, I could produce the SAME phony attack scene, and I wouldn’t have to move out of the U.K to do it.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    And it lied about the facts on the ground in Syria regarding its alleged poison gas facilities for if it was true it should have informed residents around them of the risks they faced after the missile attacki, and offered to provide experts to degrade the poison released since it had not warned them of what was in progress beforehand.

    And there is no mention of the main players in NATO, along with non-member Israel, deciding to mount attacks without even consulting its full membership.

    • uality of British government lying.

      Sir Humphrey, were he still alive (and real) would be most dissatisfied about the plummeting quality of British government lying. In his day it was at least plausible most of the time.

        • Trowbridge H. Ford

          At least, Alan Clark came out of the blue to indicate what a surprise the firing of Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe and the subsequent resignation of SoD George Younger had been because they had allowed covert assassin Captain Simon Hayward tell his side of why he had been set up in Sweden on a false drug offense.

  • Smiling Through

    Quite a Parliamentary week ahead for May and the Conservative party to fight their rearguard action for popularity with local elections due on May 3.

    May statement on Syria tomorrow (Mon).

    Renewed “Labour antisemitism” debate opportunity for Corbyn critics of all parties.

    PMQs on Wednesday with the usual no-answer routine from May.

    Not so good for the Tories after the local elections with the opening of the election corruption trial of MP Craig Mackinlay and other May associates:

    • Jo Dominich

      Interesting that the old anti-Semitism bit is in there isn’t it – a time when the UK and USA are trying to promote the Israeli cause in the middle east and conveniently ignore the fact of the deaths of unarmed Palestinians murdered by the IDF. Neither Corbyn or the Labour Party are anti-Semitic – where as May and her cronies are rabid pro Zionists. I hope Corbyn shoots down this debate as it is just a smoke screen for the msm to report to divert away from May’s pathetic, idiotic and lies as a response to Syria. By the way, I have noticed today that old Bojo has been ‘dialled down’ a notch or too!

      • Baalbek

        Corbyn has been quite easy for the media to push around. He tries to appease his attackers by quickly going on the defensive and accepting their frame of events (e.g. the “fracas” over the bankers mural where Corbyn apologized for, well, nothing) and his truly atrocious interview with Jewish News where the interviewer had him on the defensive from the start. Not a good look as the kids would say. It makes him come across as guilty and weak. A person who is confident that he is in the right should not be conceding anything to his accusers and should not be afraid to boldly stand his ground.

        Combine this habit with his rather lukewarm criticisms of the neoliberal order and I am afraid Corbyn, if elected, will be yet another left-wing milquetoast like Sypris, Sanders, Hollande and every other nominally leftist politician since the beginning of the century. The current crisis ridden system will be with us until people prioritize physical-world action over bullshitting on the internet. First we must come up with a replacement as dialing back the clock to the days of social democracy is as much a pipe dream as the right’s obsession with kicking out all the immigrants. It will be a long, hard slog…this is the phony war stage, the sate and its thugs haven’t even begun to crack down on dissenters yet. Likely it will take a major crisis to spark the semi-atrophied internet people into action.

    • Salford Lad

      The British,US and French Govs carried out an illegal war of aggression on the Sovereign State of Syria. This is an indictable offence under Nuremberg Statutes.US Law, British Law, French Law and International Law.
      The US Congress, British Parliament. the French Assembly were not consulted ,allowed to debate or vote on this illegal war.
      This makes Trump,May and Macron war criminals by any definition.
      The Media Reporters ,Editors and talking head and politicians who promoted this war vociferously in the print and TV media are just as culpable.
      All of these people should be arraigned at a war tribunal at the Hague, for crimes against humanity, convicted and hanged without the necessity of producing evidence. The precedence for this is the attack on Syria without evidence produced of a crime by Assad.
      We have just come thru’ a near death of the planet by Nuclear war,promoted recklessly by these despicable rabble.They cannot be allowed to go their merry way without consequences for their actions.
      Another whitewash inquiry a la Hutton or Chilcot ,conducted by an Establishment poodle is not acceptable. We may not be so lucky next time. These culprits need to be culled, they are a venomous parasite on the good people of these Isles.
      Another precedent. Julius Streicher was the founder and editor of the rabidly ant-semitic newspaper Der Sturmer. He was even too extreme for some Nazis and was drummed out of the Party in 1939.
      He was never in the military and never took part in any military or civilian criminal action.He was arraigned ,accused of crimes against humanity and hanged at Nuremberg.

  • quasi_verbatim

    If you staple this TM screed to the Dodgy Doorknob Dossier you have the perfect encomium for humanitarian-compassionate bombing intervention, going forward.

    It’s a pity that HM’s Loyal Opposition is sufficiently cretinous that we have to rely on Quisling Sturgeon to articulate the case for impeachment.

    • uality of British government lying.

      As I think Craig once put it, liberal interventionism is the theory that bombing brown people is good for them.

      I don’t believe it could be put more crisply.

      • uality of British government lying.

        Sorry about the “title” of my last comment. The keyboard stole it, hid it behind its back, and then dropped it in an inapproporiate place.

        How I love software.

  • iain

    “I’m incapable of contradicting what you’ve written, Craig” would have sufficed.

  • Ian Neal

    This customary international law outlawing use of SWs never seems to apply to West
    Known testing and use of Nukes and use of Agent Orange in Vietnam
    Alleged use of white phosphorous in Fallujah and Gaza
    Alleged use of depleted uranium in Balkans

  • SA

    The rule of law, be it national or international was instituted to protect the weak from the powerful state. If a state decides to be its own arbiter of what the law is and justifies its action by the fact that they can do it, i.e. we have impunity, then there is no rule of law. This is the same pseudo argument used to accuse Assad of using CW over and over again, because he thinks he has impunity to do so. So what UK has now done is to say, our impunity is bigger than yours. Never mind the fact that the state on the southern border of Syria has also acted with impunity since 1948.

  • Hugh Beaumont

    You forgot the most dishonest thing. England and US won’t disclose why they’re *really* bombing Syria.
    Oh, lovers of children and the helpless, thank heavens for these superheroes!

  • Oliver Duce

    Craig/All, this may see a naive comment/question: do parliament- theoretically – have any means of recourse, under the constitution, to prosecute such illegality?

    In terms of the (failed) tests, I understand that the primary target of the bombing, the Science Research Centre, was a facility known to the OPCW, actively monitored, and inspected as recently as November 2017? If so, the suggestion that there was no ‘practical alternative’ to bombing it is not only absurd, but an insult to our intelligence.

    • Rhys Jaggar

      Well, there are a variety of ways an Opposition can express censure:

      1) Opposition Days: 20 days llocated for debates on subjects chosen by HM Opposition. Debate the motion ‘that this House deplores the bombing of Syria without UN authorisation, without appropriate Parliamentary scrutiny and in absolute contadiction to the views of 78% of Uk voters not expressly backing such action’ Jeremy Corbyn on home ground – promoting peace, rebelling against Blairite policies, upholding principles.

      2) Statutory Instruments: ‘that the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland be allowed to withdraw consent of their nations from overseas military engagement lacking UN authorisation, Parliamentary scrutiny and public support in their regions of the UK’ – that would be a bit of fun, would it not?

      3) Rehash Tam Dalyell’s Ten Minute Rule ‘Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill (1999): the bill sought to transfer authority to go to war from the Monarch (i.e. the PM in reality) to Parliament. Get Dennis Skinner to introduce it!

      4) Embarrass the PM at PMQs:
      i: Since when did the UK get to define what underpins international law?
      ii: Would the Prime Minister agree that there are many unwise acts which are narrowly legal?
      iii. How many international politicians does she know who have a shaky understanding of the law, especially its international versions?
      iv: How many chemical warfare agents does Porton Down currently hold in milligramme quantities?Should enemies of the UK carry out missiles strikes on Porton Down?
      v: Given that neither USA nor Israel submit to the OPCW frameworks, would the PM not agree that the highest foreign policy priority should the immediate dismsntling of all chemical and biological weapons of those two nations?
      vi: Which would be the larger crime: Bashar Assad pinching her bottom or Mohammed bin Salman sexually assaulting her?

      • Susanna Farley

        A very cogent summing up of the case against May’s arrogance and adventurism in launching missiles against a sovereign state which had not invaded or threatened to invade the territory of Britain and in the absence of the authorisation of the UN Security Council.

        What a pity you had to spoil it all by gratutious sexism in point 4(vi)

      • bj

        Why do you regularly cripple your posts and (good imho) arguments by outrageous statements such as the last one here? I just don’t understand.

  • Hatuey

    The UN and international law offer nothing now. Might has been ‘right’ for at least 15 years, arguably a lot longer. Nobody understands that more than the third world, and now Russia understands it too. This reality suits nobody more than the US and its Anglo running dog; it’s the reality that they created for the new millennium.

    The only realistic chance of that changing would involve the US and England getting some sort of pummelling militarily. That will happen at some point, it might be about to happen over Syria, and then we will be hard up against the question of how we can expect them to react.

    To answer that and guess at what to expect, you really need to look at the culture of English and American foreign policymakers and the sense of entitlement they exhibit. History shows that their cultures are essentially identical in many way — they know best, they own the world, they have a right to use any sort of means to achieve their goals, their interests come first, everybody else is inferior and owes them.

    If we were to be brutally honest, we’d recognise that it isn’t just the ruling elites and policy makers of England and America that exhibit these cultural traits. Most of us have come across the archetypal brash and demanding American abroad, and English hooligans — with their naked racist ideas — are hard to avoid throughout the holiday destinations of Europe.

    Even the middle classes of America and England (generally speaking) harbour that sense of superiority which is weird because it is usually amongst these classes that you’d expect (hope) to find some sort of intellectual override. More than that, when you look at the politics and how middle class Americans and English people have voted over the years, you are left with the inescapable truth that the majority of them in their respective countries voted for people like Thatcher, May, Brexit, Reagan, GW Bush, and Trump. That’s the ugly truth.

    If you were to ask me how i would expect these people to respond if they were given a bloody nose, my answer would not be pleasant reading. Yet, if progress is to be made on earth towards an international system of peace and respect for law, that’s what has to happen. That hideous, racist, superiority is at the root of almost every problem I see in the world today.

    • Canexpat

      “…they have a right to use any sort of means to achieve their goals, their interests come first, everybody else is inferior and owes them.” and “That hideous, racist, superiority is at the root of almost every problem I see in the world today” both describe perfectly the attitude of another extremely influencial country in the region of Syria.

      Somehow I suspect that this comment will be memory holed as somehow “special racist”, but yours will remain as it is only racist against the people of Britain and the U.S. and such comments are ‘fair’.

      For the record, I despise such attitudes regardless of who holds them, but it should be permissable to point them out whenever it is observed.

      • Hatuey

        My comment didn’t mention the British once. Only an English person would assume those terms were interchangeable and meant the same thing. And that is my point — everything for England, even Britain is England.

    • Dennis Revell


      That is excellent, and mirrors thoughts I’ve had for a long time (otherwise how could I think it was excellent 😉 )

      I’ll just add that the InGRRRlish also voted for Tony Blair TWICE – to paraphrase Oscar Wilde: voting for him once was forgiveable, voting for him TWICE, once it was perfectly clear that he was a Mass-Murdering serial War-Criminal was NOT.

      I believe that a fair single sentence summary of a large part, if not the majority of your post would be: The InGRRRlish are twats.**


      ** Full disclosure: I’m English, but will be in the queue for a Scottish passport, when “that” day comes.


      • Hatuey

        I’m not Scottish or English. I’m in touch with the predicament of Scotland though and it’s clear to me that the majority there want out of the UK.

        The referendum of 2014 was, in my opinion, illegal. Virtually every newspaper and TV channel, every main political party, in the case of the Tories they were using the machinery of government to canvass and they even seemed to have changed what was on offer with a matter of days to go, all harnessed to pressure, intimidate, and lie to the electorate and secure the victory.

        We even know now that they were offering knighthoods to celebrities to encourage them to take part and argue against independence. If Russia or Assad did this it would be getting cast up now as part of the case against them, and rightly so.

        Independence for Scotland since 2014 has taken on new importance. Brexit and the foreign policy of Westminster raises life and livelihood threatening questions for Scotland. If any of this stuff was discussed honestly for 5 minutes on Scottish TV they wouldn’t need a referendum, they’d simply take it which is their inalienable right.

    • bj

      Spot on. I recognize the traits you describe in myself, and consider myself lucky to be acutely aware of them (which is the first step in neutralizing them).

    • Baalbek

      Yes, these blog posts and open letters referencing international law, the US constitution, UNSC protocol etc. achieve absolutely nothing. Decision makers in western capitals simply DO NOT CARE about international law, dead babies, human rights and ‘liberal values’ (whatever that means).

      It is time to stop acting like they believe their own propaganda and accept that we no longer live in democratic societies. As it stands citizens in western countries are polarized and squabbling amongst themselves and dreaming of a power shift that requires no action and no sacrifice on their part. The balance of power will favour the current order until the left reinvents itself and defeats the reactionary right on the ideological battlefield and masses of people choose direct action The sooner we all accept this reality the sooner we can begin to organize a resistance.


    US policy on Syria extends back to mid 1950s anti Baath planning. Updated in 2001 by Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush. Then Obama approved the still classified Presidential Study Directive 11, PSD 11, drafted by Dennis Ross and Samantha Power. For which see:

    PSD 11 is, in effect, the underlying basis for Trump administration Syria policy with legacy programs in place and operational. For example, funding for the White Helmets to the extent of millions of dollars coordinated through US State Department/USAID “Office of Transition Initiatives” (OTI).

  • N_

    Are the White Helmets involved in paedophile trafficking? That wouldn’t surprise me, given

    * the British posh connection
    * their cynically exploitative attitude towards children
    * their connections with Gulf slavers and the British mercenary network
    * how they seem to have a supply of children to manhandle without their parents present

    The Britposh would be unlikely to turn their noses up at any sustained supply source. Also another power that is known to have been involved in trafficking in Haiti and Nepal may be conjectured to be not a million miles away.


      Seems like necrophilia too given the staged photos which need dead bodies after all. Why bother with makeup when you can euthanize a few human props?

      The White Helmets funded in the millions from US State Department/USAID “Office of Transition Affairs.” Also note the Syrian American Medical Society “SAMS” which has been identified as linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

  • Sean Lamb

    The icing on the cake of all this is if the nerve agent used in Douma – assuming a nerve agent was used in Douma – turns out to be A-234.

    • Sean Lamb

      You know the GCHQ intercepts “the package has arrived” and “two people have made their exits”. Well it is obvious isn’t it? The Russian-Syrian alliance were testing their new weapon on the traitor. Before unleashing it on the people of Douma.

      Cue more outraged shrieking in the UN Security Council by ghastly Haley and Pierce

  • Hagar

    Craig, can we hire a QC and bring a prosecution against the PM May and her Cabinet?

    • Baalbek

      Blair and Bush unleashed a hell that killed up to a million Iraqis and those two alien lizards still slither freely amongst the humans. So, yeah, dropping some missiles on a vacant lot with 0 people killed will see May, Bojo, Macro and Trump shackled and tried for war crimes. Get real please. Do you all live comfortably in gated communities with secure employment (or a generous retirement package) and few existential worries?

      The wider the buffer between oneself and cold, hard social Darwinian reality the easier it is to imagine the world changing magically without ever having to exert oneself or dodge five eyed spooks and rubber bullets (or worse). You think a petition can make cold blooded murderers come to their senses? Good God…


      • Gideon Blackmarsh

        Direct action may be the only way of achieving change, but it’s not going to happen – at least, not yet – for the reason in your hashtag: much of the population is still asleep.

        A few days ago, when a war between superpowers seemed very likely with the added possibility of it going nuclear, I was trying hard to listen to the news on the office radio (biased though it was). None of my work colleagues were remotely interested and were talking over it with discussions about their forthcoming holidays and the goings-on in various tv shows, and “Aawww”-ing over a viral video of a cute puppy wearing a hat. I’m sure you can imagine my sense of despair.

        I suspect this level of disinterest is widespread and why HMG puts minimal effort into creating a convincing story. As long as the headlines sink into the public consciousness, it doesn’t matter how many holes there are in the story as the low attention span of the masses mean that few will be paying enough attention to spot them.

        I would imagine that there is also a large degree of disillusionment amongst those of us who took part in the demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq. It didn’t stop that war and it didn’t stop our involvement in Syria – it merely ensured that the latter was done covertly and via acts of manipulated outrage under laughable “legal justification” such as May’s pitiful excuses above.

        In 2003, I wrote to the party leaders of the three main parties, Labour, Conservative & LibDem, as well as a number of other MPs who had been speaking out. For my efforts, I received just one reply, from the office of George Galloway.

        Blair is still walking free and raking in the cash, having suffered nothing than a verbal slap on the wrist from the Chilcott enquiry, and the lesson the government appears to have taken away from that is that they can get away with taking the country to war on false pretenses, but that they should avoid putting it before Parliament or giving the public time to organise mass protests.

        I felt powerless back in 2003 but even more so now. Despite signs that a greater number of people are not buying the lies this time around, too many still are.

  • Zoltan Jorovic

    The premise of the argument is:
    “The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering.”
    It sets out three tests that must be met:
    “(i) convincing evidence of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief;
    (ii) it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved; and
    (iii) the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim (i.e. the minimum necessary to achieve that end and for no other purpose).”

    None of these seem to be true in respect of the alleged chemical attack. 80 deaths cannot be argued as large scale or overwhelming (however distressing and deadly for those concerned). It isn’t clear that there is no alternative to force. Finally the amount of force and how it was used had no effect on relieving suffering, as it has not removed the capability of any side in this to inflict large scale carnage on those caught in between. In the case of test (i) it added, “generally accepted by the international community as a whole” which is clearly not the case.
    The biggest flaw in the argument is that genuinely overwhelming human suffering has been and is going on in Syria, as a direct result of the civil war, using conventional weapons. Vastly more people have incontestably died through high explosive and bullets than the relatively tiny number who may have been affected by chemicals. Yet the UK government has not responded to this large scale suffering with anything other than platitudes. How can an argument for intervention on humanitarian grounds be made for a few hundred deaths, whereas many thousands apparently do not matter, because of the type of weapon used?
    Overall, the main argument used by the UK and the USA for this action is to discourage the use of chemical weapons in general. While this may be laudable, it has nothing to do with direct intervention in another state for “humanitarian” purposes.

    • Susanna Farley

      Theresa May could just as well have used the “three tests” to justify bombing Saudi forces in the Yemen and the IDF on the Gaza/Israeli border.

      But Saudi Arabia and Israel are our ‘friends’, aren’t they?

  • mark golding

    The Globalist Deep State, centred in London and Washington are sovereign over the entire globe and we will do as we please. Which means we don’t follow reality, we create it, things that will make your jaws drop, your hair stand on end, and your eyes boggle as you wonder what is going on, and while your jaws, your hair and your eyes are busy doing their thing, we will have moved onto creating our next reality.

    We act like a god – and not a kind and merciful god, but a god who lords it over all peoples’, nations and tongues, a god who tells lies, and then tells more lies to cover up those lies such that when you poor saps are trying to work out what it is we’re really up to, that is before you know what has happened, those lies and those lies to cover up lies will have become the new reality.

    We as gods will have moved on and the world with it, and the narrative we have created will have been written in the history books, which we ourselves shall write.

    • Spencer Eagle

      “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” ~ George Orwell, 1984

    • Christine

      Thank you very much for this comment. I,m relatively new to this site and my eyes are being opened.

  • Frank

    Speaking of Evidence, there is this claim now, originally put forth by Lavrov I believe, that the samples the OPCW received from PD and forwarded to, amongst others, the Swiss Spiez lab, contain remnants of BZ and an unusual high concentration of A-234 and it’s remnants. The Spiez lab itself refuses to comment (in a way that suggest that it is indeed a fact).
    Is it known if this is information from the full OPCW report made available to states?

    • Doghouse

      Frank, on the previous thread, page 10, Emily posted a translation of what was said. It’s worth reading and I’ll paste below: –

      April 15, 2018 at 12:39

      If this statement has been posted – forgive me – but i think it very important.
      Please note towards the end – where it could be interpreted – I stand corrected – that the samples received by the Swiss at least had been possibly doctored with the second nerve agent attributable to Russia..
      Comment 182 from Moon of Alabama – current thread.
      Quote in full.

      Sorry, if someone have already published the following/ May be I’ve missed it. But everybody may stop speculating on what or didn’t find the Swiss laboratory or what did Lavrov said. You may read it yourself now in English (in Russian it became available yesterday): Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s address at the 26th Assembly of the Council for Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, April 14, 2018

      “As you know, in the Skripal case the British specially invited a group of OCSW experts. It was done exclusively in a bilateral manner, it was announced that the others would be informed about the conclusions reached by the group. The report of this group of experts was initially distributed as a summary for public consumption and following that, a detailed and fairly substantial confidential version was distributed to the OPCW members only. In that report, in accordance with the OPCW way of conduct, the chemical composition of the agent presented by the British was confirmed, and the analysis of samples, as the report states, was taken by the OPCW experts themselves. It contains no names, Novichok or any other. The report only gives the chemical formula, which, according to our experts, points to an agent that had been developed in many countries and does not present any particular secret.

      Our colleagues tell us (I have already given examples as I described previous situations) that they have secret data that they cannot share. As you understand, we also have the capacity to obtain confidential information. Since this information concerns issues that are literally connected to death and life, we are not going to keep anything secret. We became aware of this from the Swiss Federal Institute for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection in Spiez. The information was obtained on conditions of confidentiality. On March 27, experts of the Institute completed their study of the samples collected on the site of the incident in Salisbery, in line with OPCW, and sent to them by the OPCW. This laboratory in Spiez, where, I am sure, professional scientists who value their reputation are employed, came to the following conclusions. I will now be quoting what they sent to the OPCW in their report. You understand that this is a translation from a foreign language but I will read it in Russian, quote: “Following our analysis, the samples indicate traces of the toxic chemical BZ and its precursor which are second category chemical weapons. BZ is a nerve toxic agent, which temporarily disables a person. The psycho toxic effect is achieved within 30 to 60 minutes after its use and lasts for up to four days. This composition was in operational service in the armies of the US, the UK and other NATO countries. The Soviet Union and Russia neither designed nor stored such chemical agents. Also, the samples indicate the presence of type A-234 nerve agent in its virgin state and also products of its degradation.” End of quote. According to the specialists’ estimates, the significant concentration of A-234 discovered would have inevitably been lethal, and taking into account its high volatility, the fact that the specialists in the city of Spiez found it in its virgin state and also with high purity and in high concentration, appears to be utterly suspicious, because the period which elapsed between the poisoning and sampling was fairly long – I think, over two weeks.

      Taking into account that Yulia Skripal and the policeman have already been released from hospital, whereas Sergei Skripal, as the British claim without letting us see either Yulia or Sergei, is still recovering, the clinical pattern corresponds more to the use of a BZ agent. Nothing is said whatsoever about a BZ agent in the final report that the OPCW experts presented to its Executive Council. In this connection we address the OPCW a question about why the information, that I have just read out loud and which reflects the findings of the specialists from the city of Spiez, was withheld altogether in the final document. If the OPCW would reject and deny the very fact that the Spiez laboratory was engaged, it will be very interesting to listen to their explanations.”

  • TJ

    “The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering.”

    On those grounds the use of force against HMG for their role in the “overwhelming humanitarian suffering” in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Grenfell Tower, or even those that have unjustly lost their Disability Living Allowance is permissible?

    • frankywiggles

      Shame this noble country’s parliamentarians have repeatedly and overwhelminglly voted down EDMs to halt the supply of British bombs being dropped on innocents in Yemen; against independent UN investigation into whether the Saudi-led coalition is breaking humanitarian law, etc. Yet the same creatures demand immediate air assaults, without investigation or legal authorization, in Syria.

      • BarrieJ

        There is nothing noble about Britain’s parliamentarians, in the main they are little better than gangsters and career criminals who over the last forty years have corrupted every office and function of state, with, I believe, no exceptions.
        Probably fair to say our security services have been corrupt since their inception.
        Where is there a Cromwell when we so desperately need one; because this bunch of charlatans, pathological liars and desperados, need to be gone?
        Frankly, I’m glad to be in the last years of my life.

  • Jacques Villapoma

    How could an exiled “former” spy drive a beautiful BMW, as shown on newspapers? What was he doing for a living?

    • copydude

      Oh that’s easy. He was on benefits. You know, Pension Credit, Winter Heating Allowance, so on.

      You’ll find it in one of those excellent BBC [i]What We Know[i/] sections.

  • Ophelia Ball

    The following has not basis in International Law:

    3.The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering. The legal basis for the use of force is humanitarian intervention, which requires three conditions to be met:

    (i) there is convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief;

    (ii) it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved; and

    (iii) the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim (i.e. the minimum necessary to achieve that end and for no other purpose).

    The following does have standing in Customary International Law, and has been established by historical precedent*


    * Kosovo, Serbia et al 1995-9; Iraq 1991 & 2003; Afghanistan passim; Libya 2011 ; Ukraine 2014; Syria 2017-8
    and many, many more

  • Ophelia Ball

    to lighten the mood – what with it being Sunday & all – I’d like to welcome you all to today’s “Spot the Difference” contest



    Answers on a postcard please, together with your tie-breaker statement “I am legally justified to bomb the living jobbies out of anyone I damned well please….” in not more than 5 easy words, acronyms or irrelevant distractions

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