Saturday, June 18, 2005

To the Hague, Alice! 

Our distinguished colleague Steve Soto at the Left Coaster reports that the Times of London has dug up yet another damning memo, the full text of which will appear in tomorrow's edition:
A SHARP increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war “to put pressure on the regime” was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice.

The advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began “spikes of activity” designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war . . . .

However, the leaked Foreign Office legal advice, which was also appended to the Cabinet Office briefing paper for the July meeting, made it clear allied aircraft were legally entitled to patrol the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq only to deter attacks by Saddam’s forces on the Kurdish and Shia populations.

The allies had no power to use military force to put pressure of any kind on the regime.

The increased attacks on Iraqi installations, which senior US officers admitted were designed to “degrade” Iraqi air defences, began six months before the UN passed resolution 1441, which the allies claim authorised military action. The war finally started in March 2003.

This weekend the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Goodhart, vice-president of the International Commission of Jurists and a world authority on international law, said the intensified raids were illegal if they were meant to pressurise the regime . . . .

General Tommy Franks, the allied commander, recalled in his autobiography, American Soldier, that during this meeting he rejected a call from Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to cut the bombing patrols because he wanted to use them to make Iraq’s defences “as weak as possible”.

The allied commander specifically used the term “spikes of activity” in his book. The upgrade to a full air war was also illegal, said Goodhart. “If, as Franks seems to suggest, the purpose was to soften up Iraq for a future invasion or even to intimidate Iraq, the coalition forces were acting without lawful authority,” he said.

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