Of Mice and Men
A biweekly column by Karen Kwiatkowski, Lt. Col. USAF (ret.)
posted 05 May 05
Of Mice and Men
For those who cherish the idea of a bold military leader – a Patton for the 21st century – read no further. What follows is bound to disappoint.
This week, former Chief of the British Defence Staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce revealed that in early 2003 he had demanded "'black-and-white' legal cover before he ordered [British] troops in [to Iraq]."
Admiral Boyce had apparently long wondered about the legality of the invasion of Iraq. Boyce was concerned that if the war was truly – or even arguably – illegal, he and his men would be particularly vulnerable to charges of war crimes. Further, such charges might eventually be adjudicated by the International Criminal Court.
"[I]f my soldiers went to jail and I did, some other people would go with me. ... I had a perfectly unambiguous black-and-white statement saying it would be legal to operate if we had to. ... It may not stop us from being charged, but, by God, it would make sure other people were brought in the frame as well."
Those other people were Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Attorney General, Lord Peter Goldsmith.
The modern era offers three legal rationales for war. These include self-defense, aversion of a humanitarian catastrophe, and the authorization of war under the United Nations, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The justification for invading Iraq was never self-defense or prevention of a humanitarian catastrophe. Instead, it was a strained legal interpretation of preexisting UN resolutions, combined with a persistent, but ultimately false, Bush administration insistence that Iraq was already – permanently, irrevocably, impossibly – in material breach of UN resolutions....