An interesting story that caught my eye this past week in several media outlets is the inquiry launched but the United Kingdom into the events surrounding the British’s involvement in the 2003 Iraqi War. While not a criminal tribunal, the inquiry has been set up to determine what brought the county to Iraq and, apparently, whether or not those motives and actions had legitimacy. Case in point, this week has brought under scrutiny the justification Tony Blair’s government sought from the United Nations to sign on to the conflict more than six years ago.
Enter Sir Jeremy Greenstock. Sir Jeremy was the permanent representative for the United Kingdom to the U.N. from 1997 through 2003. He was also the man who was trying to get the international organization to pass a resolution against Saddam Hussein’s regime in early 2003 condemning the leader’s failure to reveal his weapons stockpile, giving him a final ultimatum for allowing U.N. weapons inspectors to examine anything the country possessed and essentially justifying any subsequent military action against him. However, said U.N. Resolution never came to fruition. Why?
Obviously, the U.K. had sought the resolution in 2003 for the reason that it was concerned about the legality of an invasion of Iraq. The United States at the time was touting not only a condemnation of secret weapons stockpiles, but also an urge for regime change. The U.K. has begun to sign on to an effort against the Iraqi regime, but only under the pretense of the former, not the latter reasoning. And it was not prepared, at least at first, to move forward without the proper legal backing. According to BBC News, Sir Jeremy told the inquiry that previous resolutions, such as 1441 made in November of 2002, made by U.N. regarding Iraq had provided “sufficient legal cover” for any action, but only if it was determined that Iraq was in material breach of its disarmament obligations (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8382194.stm). Sir Jeremy was then asked about the overall legality of the war, to which he responded that there were differing opinions and that no single consensus on the legitimacy of the war was ever achieved.
There’s where that missing resolution would have helped, huh?
It would appear that the need for such a resolution was two-fold: either the weapons inspectors would have been allowed in and found the alleged weapons of mass destruction, squelching all international fears, or Saddam Hussein would have remained defiant and military action could then move forward. But the United Nations was not willing to back a resolution. Members of the U.N. Security Council understood that the resolution would be used to justify an invasion of Iraq had it been passed. But France and other council members weren’t willing to allow it to go through. This, many believe, is indicative of the illegality of the invasion and war.
Sir Jeremy Greenstock was additionally asked why, if there were other resolutions made, they needed a further resolution in 2003. Again, he cited the “safest legal grounds” rational. But the U.N. backing never came. So in short, the inquiry was about to determine that justification was sought from the U.N. but never achieved and the U.K. moved forward with a military action without any measurable consensus on whether or not it was even legal to do so. There is a long way to go in this inquiry, slated to wrap up by next December, and I am quite eager to see what their overall conclusions are.