Sunday, June 12, 2005

War Criminals, Klein

1) Juan Cole explains in great detail why Blair might
still face jail time for the US/UK crime of aggression
against Iraq in 2003. For links to all of the reports
he cites, go to his blog.

This is the legal argument as to why Bush should also
be prosecuted in the ICC -- which in turn explains why
the US refused to be a signatory and tried to bludgeon
the ICC out of existence in the late 90's and onwards
till today (the excuse given at the time was that it
might "impede US efforts to participate in UN
peacekeeping operations"[!])

To be governed by bonafide war criminals is a problem.

Bush and Blair Committed to War in April, 2002
Leaked Cabinet Briefing Shows British Knew War was

The London Times has dropped another bombshell
document concerning the planning of the Iraq war in
Washington and London.

The leaked Cabinet office briefing paper for the July
23, 2002, meeting of principals in London, the minutes
of which have become notorious as the Downing Street
Memo, contains key context for that memo. The briefing
paper warns the British cabinet in essence that they
are facing jail time because Blair promised Bush at
Crawford in April, 2002, that he would go to war
against Iraq with the Americans.

As Michael Smith reports for the London Times, "regime
change" is illegal in international law without a
United Nations Security Council resolution or other
recognized sanction (national self-defense, or
rescuing a population from genocide, e.g.). Since the
United Kingdom is signatory to the International
Criminal Court, British officials could be brought up
on charges for crimes like "Aggression."

Smith quotes the briefing and then remarks on how it
shows Bush and Blair to be lying when they invoke
their approach to the UN as proof that they sought a
peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis:

' “It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast
in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document
says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the
allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the
legal justification they needed.

The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify
war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated
during their Washington summit last week, that they
turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to
war. The attack on Iraq finally began in March 2003. '

The Cabinet briefing makes crystal clear that Blair
had cast his lot in with Bush on an elective war
against Iraq already in April, 2002:

"2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with
President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the
UK would support military action to bring about regime
change, provided that certain conditions were met:
efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape
public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was
quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate
Iraq's WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been

This passage is unambiguous and refutes the weird
suggestion by Michael Kinsley that the Downing Street
Memo did not establish that the Bush administration
had committed to war by July, 2002.

British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith is quoted in
the Downing Street Memo:
"The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime
change was not a legal base for military action. There
were three possible legal bases: self-defence,
humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The
first and second could not be the base in this case.
Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be
difficult. The situation might of course change."

The briefing paper discusses this issue further:

"11. US views of international law vary from that of
the UK and the international community. Regime change
per se is not a proper basis for military action under
international law. But regime change could result from
action that is otherwise lawful. We would regard the
use of force against Iraq, or any other state, as
lawful if exercised in the right of individual or
collective self-defence, if carried out to avert an
overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe, or authorised
by the UN Security Council."

It makes me deeply ashamed as an American in the
tradition of Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln,
and King, that in their private communications our
international allies openly admit that the United
States of America routinely disregards international
law. The Geneva Conventions were enacted by the United
Nations and adopted into national law in order to
assure that Nazi-style violations of basic human
rights never again occurred without the threat of
punishment after the war. We have an administration
that views the Geneva Conventions as "quaint." The US
has vigorously opposed the International Criminal

The cabinet briefing, like Lord Goldsmith, is
skeptical that any of the three legal grounds for war
existed with regard to Iraq. Iraq was not an imminent
threat to the US or the UK. Saddam's regime was
brutal, but its major killing sprees were in the past
in 2002. And, the UNSC had not authorized a war
against Iraq.

"The legal position would depend on the precise
circumstances at the time. Legal bases for an invasion
of Iraq are in principle conceivable in both the first
two instances but would be difficult to establish
because of, for example, the tests of immediacy and
proportionality. Further legal advice would be needed
on this point."

The tactic of presenting Saddam with an ultimatum that
he should allow back in weapons inspectors, in hopes
he would refuse, is again highlighted in this

"14. It is just possible that an ultimatum could be
cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is
unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would
not be regarded as unreasonable by the international
community. However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack)
we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for
military action by January 2003. "

In his report about the Cabinet briefing, Walter
Pincus focuses on the passages that worry about the
apparent lack of planning by Bush for the day after
the war ended.

The briefing says:

"19. Even with a legal base and a viable military
plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits
of action outweigh the risks. . . A post-war
occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and
costly nation-building exercise. As already made
clear, the US military plans are virtually silent on
this point. Washington could look to us to share a
disproportionate share of the burden. Further work is
required to define more precisely the means by which
the desired endstate would be created, in particular
what form of Government might replace Saddam Hussein's
regime and the timescale within which it would be
possible to identify a successor. We must also
consider in greater detail the impact of military
action on other UK interests in the region."

The British were clearly afraid that the US would get
them into Iraq without a plan, and then Bush might
just prove fickle and decamp, leaving the poor British
holding the bag.

The briefing is also prescient that the Middle East
region would be hostile or at most neutral with regard
to an Iraq war, and that less international
participation would lessen the chances of success.

I found the passage on the information campaign

"20. Time will be required to prepare public opinion
in the UK that it is necessary to take military action
against Saddam Hussein. There would also need to be a
substantial effort to secure the support of
Parliament. An information campaign will be needed
which has to be closely related to an overseas
information campaign designed to influence Saddam
Hussein, the Islamic World and the wider international
community. This will need to give full coverage to the
threat posed by Saddam Hussein, including his WMD, and
the legal justification for action. "

The polite diplomatic language hides the implications
that there would be a global black psy-ops campaign in
favor of the war, conducted from London. Since the
rest of the briefing already admits that there was no
legal justification for action, the proposal of an
information campaign that would maintain that such a
justification existed must be seen as deeply

One press report said that the British military had
planted stories in the American press aimed at getting
up the Iraq war. A shadowy group called the Rockingham
cell was apparently behind it. Similar disinformation
campaigns have been waged by Israeli military
intelligence, aiming at influencing US public opinion.
(Israeli intelligence has have even planted false
stories about its enemies in Arabic newspapers, in
hopes that Israeli newspapers would translate them
into Hebrew and English, and they would be picked up
as credible from there in the West.

The International Criminal Court home page is here. We
find in its authorizing legislation, the Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court, the Section on
Jurisdiction, which reads as follows:

"Article 5
Crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court

1. The jurisdiction of the Court shall be limited to
the most serious crimes of concern to the
international community as a whole. The Court has
jurisdiction in accordance with this Statute with
respect to the following crimes:

(a) The crime of genocide;

(b) Crimes against humanity;

(c) War crimes;

(d) The crime of aggression."

It is not clear to me that the court is yet able to
take up the crime of aggression, because legal work
remained to be done in defining the crime precisely
and in having that language adopted by the UNSC.

If it were able to do so, some groups in Europe may
now feel that there is a basis for proceeding against
the Blair government for knowingly committing an act
of aggression. They might argue that when, in March,
2003, it became clear that the United Nations Security
Council would not authorize a war against Iraq; and
when it was clear from the reports of the UN weapons
inspectors that they were finding no chemical,
biological or nuclear weapons programs; and when it
was murky as to whether Saddam was actively killing
any significant numbers of Iraqis in 2001-2003--that
Blair should have pulled out and refused to cooperate
in an Iraq invasion. The cabinet brief and the memo of
the July 23 meeting demonstrate conclusively that
members of the Blair government knew that they were
involved in plans that were as of that moment illegal,
and that no legal basis for them might be forthcoming.
Ignorance is no excuse under the law, but here even
ignorance could not be pleaded.

Since the US is not a signatory to the ICC, it is not
clear that it could proceed against Bush et al.

posted by Juan @ 6/12/2005 06:30:00 AM

2) Naomi Klein on debt forgiveness. As usual, she's
right on the mark. Read it in the context of this
week's "peak oil" article:

lookout by Naomi Klein

A Noose, Not a Bracelet
[from the June 27, 2005 issue]

Gordon Brown has a new idea about how to "make poverty
history" in time for the G-8 summit in Scotland. With
Washington so far refusing to double its aid to Africa
by 2015, the British Chancellor is appealing to the
"richer oil-producing states" of the Middle East to
fill the funding gap. "Oil wealth urged to save
Africa," reads the headline in London's Observer.

Here is a better idea: Instead of Saudi Arabia's oil
wealth being used to "save Africa," how about if
Africa's oil wealth was used to save Africa--along
with its gas, diamond, gold, platinum, chromium,
ferroalloy and coal wealth?

With all this noblesse oblige focused on saving Africa
from its misery, it seems like a good time to remember
someone else who tried to make poverty history: Ken
Saro-Wiwa, who was killed ten years ago this November
by the Nigerian government, along with eight other
Ogoni activists, sentenced to death by hanging. Their
crime was daring to insist that Nigeria was not poor
at all but rich, and that it was political decisions
made in the interests of Western multinational
corporations that kept its people in desperate
poverty. Saro-Wiwa gave his life to the idea that the
vast oil wealth of the Niger Delta must leave behind
more than polluted rivers, charred farmland, rancid
air and crumbling schools. He asked not for charity,
pity or "relief" but for justice....

3) This was a good analysis of last week's French and
Dutch no votes. First appeared last week in the

Timothy Garton Ash: Decadent Europe

Timothy Garton Ash, in the Guardian (6-9-05)

[Mr. Ash is Professor of European Studies at the
University of Oxford and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution, Stanford. He is the author, most
recently, of Free World: America, Europe and the
Surprising Future of the West. (April 2005)]

Contemplating the European Crisis (I think a capital C
is called for) I find myself driven even to reading
Toynbee. Not Polly Toynbee of the Guardian, whose work
I always follow with the greatest pleasure, but her
long-dead and largely forgotten ancestor, Arnold
Toynbee, the philosophical historian of the rise and
fall of civilisations....

4) Internet Bill up before Congress:

A new bill in Congress (HR 2726) could take away
low-cost, high-speed Internet access in every city
across the country.

The “Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act” would let
cable and telecom companies shut down competing
municipal projects that would offer universal,
affordable access to broadband services.

We need to tell Congress to oppose this bill. I just
sent a letter to my representative.

Please go to and send
a letter to yours. It only takes a few minutes.

We must send a clear message to Congress that local
communities — not the giant telephone and cable
companies — should determine their own communications

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