Friday, April 29, 2005

29 April 2005: Justification

Question Time was good last night. Somehow I'm amazed the Attorney General's advice on the Iraq war was published the same day, but it shows Labour are human I suppose.

So Tony finally published the full legal advice, which wasn't either damning of his decision or totally backing of it. Most interesting for me was one of the few statements the Attorney General made that wasn't full of caveats: he said specifically that to be legal, any military action against Iraq "must have as its objective the enforcement of the terms of the cease-fire" which meant expressly that "regime change cannot be the objective of military action".

Let's have a look at that line again.

Regime change cannot be the objective of military action.

Tony Blair said last night that the conclusion of the matter was that Saddam was in prison, and would you rather he was in power or in prison?

According to the Attorney General, that isn't a legitimate question to ask. On that basis, we should have invaded Zimbabwe some time ago, not to mention North Korea, Syria and, oh yes, Sudan, where the genocide in Darfur continues and the world does nothing. Or, if we're talking about invading because of breaching UN Security Council resolutions, we should be invading Morocco, Turkey and the biggest flaunter of them all: Israel.

Andrew Marr said this morning that "had this advice been published in full - not just released to the cabinet but handed out to every MP and newspaper - it would have caused far less damage to Mr Blair than two years of secrecy and rumour have done." Actually, Blair might well have lost the Commons vote to go to war and certainly more ministers may have resigned than just Robin Cook, Clare Short and John Denham. As it is, I feel amazed the current Cabinet feel happy to be members of a government that simply ignores Cabinet rules on the disclosing of the whole legal advice to the whole cabinet if a summary is given.

Above all, I wish Tony would just come out and say what we all really know: he decided to join George Bush in the war in the summer of 2002, regardless of the conditions, because it is in Britain's (and his own) interests to be good friends with the superpower. It was nothing to do with justification, legal arguments or moral imperatives, it was a decision already taken and with that in mind, Blair would do anything necessary to join the war -- hide legal doubts, mislead the country, misrepresent intelligence -- because he had already committed to George Bush that he would be there.

And if he'd just come out and say that, we'd all feel a lot better. Of course, he'd have to resign, but what does that tell us?

For balance, I must point out that Michael Howard also believes that regime change was a good reason for war and he would have invaded even if he knew there were no WMDs. Also, Michael Howard, as part of his war on immigration and asylum, would withdraw Britain from the 1951 United Nations Convention on refugees, which obliges countries to accept people being persecuted on the basis of need, not numbers. The vast majority of countries are part of this convention - among the very few non-signitories are Myanmar, Syria, Uzbekistan, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Mmm, that's a nice club to join, Michael.

More balance? Well, Charles Kennedy said he'd pull troops out of Iraq by Christmas irrespective of the needs or wishes of the Iraqi people. OK, except we did cause this mess to a certain extent and even if it wasn't Kennedy's government who caused it, we do have a national responsibility there now, like it or not. Kennedy would probably be better off saying something like "an exit strategy would have been a good idea."

More balance? Umm, the Greens don't have much of an economic policy, UKIP are too isolationist, the BNP are overtly racist, Kilroy is a shiny fool, the Scottish Nationalists aren't putting up many candidates in Southampton, the Communists are all dead and the anarchists won't stand for election on the principle that any form of government is inherently evil.

Somehow the whole thing makes the Saints football disaster seem uplifting and attractive.

1 comment:

Gareth said...

Depressing istn't it! I find myself undecided about which party I dislike the most, while at the same time accepting that I wouldn't want to do their job.