7 March 2004

War chief reveals legal crisis

[UK Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral] Boyce said he fully supported the ousting of Saddam Hussein and did not believe a second UN resolution was necessary. He still believed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq might have been 'squirrelled away or destroyed at the last moment'.

He said: 'The justification in my own mind was that I was convinced that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons. I knew he used them in the past and I believed he was capable of using them in the future. Given what happened since 9/11 it was even more likely.'

Yet he was concerned that, without the legal cover from Goldsmith, military personnel could be prosecuted for war crimes. Boyce hinted that if Goldsmith had not provided him with this, he might have resigned, which would have precipitated a major political and military crisis, with 60,000 British troops stationed in Kuwait prepared for war.

Boyce admitted the 'personal' difficulty he would have faced if such 'unequivocal' reassurance had not been forthcoming: 'It would have to be for people around me, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State [for Defence] to know what sort of person I was and draw their own conclusion about what I might have done if I didn't get what I wanted... I'm not prepared to say what that was because this is extremely personal.'

Asked if this meant he might have resigned, he said: 'I really am not prepared to say ... All I would say is that it was an important milestone.'

A summary of the UK legal advice is online. It's most important grafs read:

7. It is plain that Iraq has failed so to comply and therefore Iraq was at the time of resolution 1441 and continues to be in material breach.

8. Thus, the authority to use force under resolution 678 has revived and so continues today.

9. Resolution 1441 would in terms have provided that a further decision of the Security Council to sanction force was required if that had been intended. Thus, all that resolution 1441 requires is reporting to and discussion by the Security Council of Iraq's failures, but not an express further decision to authorise force.

What Lord Goldsmith does not address is why that revived authority should rest in 2 permanent members of the Security Council acting without any authority from the UN.

Hans Blix has addessed that point in his recent interview:

The former weapons inspector, an international lawyer by training, said he did not believe that resolutions passed by the entire security council would give Washington and London, two of its permanent members, sufficient "ownership" of their authority to act alone.

"It's the security council that is party to the ceasefire, not the UK and US individually, and therefore it is the council that has the ownership of the ceasefire, in my interpretation."

Blix' memoirs also include an interesting comment on the everyone thought they had them meme:

Chirac said France did not have any "serious evidence" that Iraq retained proscribed weapons. Having met people from French intelligence and listened to them, I registered with keen interest that Chirac did not share their conclusions on Iraq. The intelligence services sometimes "intoxicate each other", he said. War was now the worst solution. It would fuel anti-western feelings in the Muslim world ... Chirac said that Saddam Hussein was "locked up in an intellectual bunker". His entourage did not dare to tell him the truth.

Evidently the everyone meme is also without evidence.

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