Wednesday, October 20, 2010

“pinned against the wall” myth

End of the “pinned against the wall” myth

18 October 2010 - Chris Ames did not agree with the use of military force in Iraq, but I am consistently impressed by his fairmindedness and the thoroughness with which he compiles information on the British decision to join the US-led invasion at his Iraq Inquiry Digest.

He has just posted a long chronology of the legal advice on the use of force, which is a comprehensive piece of work. Plainly, the underlying assumption is that legal and not legal are binary options, with the Iraq invasion falling into the second category and the puzzle being how Peter Goldsmith, the Attorney General, could have moved from being right to being wrong. The story is a lot easier to understand if the imprecision of international law is understood, along with the negotiating history of UN resolution 1441.

The main omission from this account is perhaps the existence of Foreign Office legal advisers based at the UN in New York. Ames goes along with the conventional view that “all” the Foreign Office’s lawyers (including Elizabeth Wilmshurst and her boss Michael Wood) thought military action was unlawful. That may have been the prevailing view in London but not, I am told, in New York. {read rest}

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