Comment at end
13th January, 2010
Among other things, the Dutch report said the text of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 did not authorise countries to enforce regime change in Iraq.
DON’T GET EXCITED NOW, WILL YOU?
So, does this mean that the Dutch Prime Minister, and perhaps his whole government, will be up in court over this? Even at the Hague’s ICC charged with war crimes? Even though the Netherlands did not commit troops at the start of the invasion, but only to the UN forces afterwards?
We should not get too excited. It means nothing of the sort. The Dutch parliamentary foreign affairs committee is to debate the committee’s findings on January 19th. It will then send a report to parliament, and then possibly parliament will be “likely […] to consider whether the prime minister misled parliament, and whether to launch a formal parliamentary inquiry.” (BBC report)
“Misled parliament”? Sounds familiar? Just a touch.
You can be sure that the Dutch parliament will NOT recommend criminal charges against their own prime minister. Especially when Holland DID NOT COMMIT forces at the start, at the time of the contested “illegality”. Another reason Balkenende will not be charged is that he was running a tripartite coalition at the time, and was hardly involved in the decision-making process over Iraq. His then foreign minister was the decider.
Here in Britain we KNOW our Prime Minister was the decision maker – Blair and the British parliament, whose agreement he sought and got.
In fact you have to wonder WHY this Dutch legally trained inquiry panel have felt it necessary to come to any conclusion on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq invasion, since the Netherlands were hardly involved until they arrived with UN mandated forces.
Are they in cahoots with the Phillipe Sands of this world in a left-leaning-hands -across- the-water effort to stiffen the resolve of Chilcot’s Inquiry? Perish the thought.
LABOUR DISTANCES ITSELF FROM THE PM (just like here at home, then!)
Balkenende’s present Labour party has distanced itself from Balkenende’s reaction to the report. See Netherlands report here (in English.)
I notice that many in these Netherlands reports refer to Iraq as “the US/British invasion.”
The stakes have risen yet higher for our former prime minister.
Prosecute western Prime Ministers/Presidents on particular legal opinion if you must. Remember that such an action, which will eventually be lost anyway, will give succour to the enemies of freedom. Prosecute at your peril.
“The United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq from the 1990s did not give a mandate to the US-British military intervention in 2003,” the Dutch Committee of Inquiry on Iraq said in its 550-page report.
Balkenende did not attend the brief foreign affairs ministry meeting in August 2002 at which the decision was effectively taken to support the Iraq invasion, and was not actively involved in planning until February 2003, the committee said.
This has made the headlines because it is timely for us here in Britain and because it is the first time any country’s investigation of its own over the Iraq decision has come to this conclusion. But it is NOT the final say on the matter of legality/illegality. It is ONLY this particular group’s conclusion, and will undoubtedly be challenged by the numerous legal authorities who take the opposite stance on legality.
WILL THIS FEED INTO CHILCOT’S INQUIRY?
Clearly it will. The meeting of the Dutch parliamentary committee on the 19th will be before Mr Blair appears at the British Iraq Inquiry (timetable here.) It will be the same day as the appearance of Geoff Hoon MP, Blair’s Secretary of State for Defence 2001 – 2005. Hoon was half of the partnership which launched a coup (the third one if I recall properly) against Gordon Brown a few days ago.
Hoon will follow Jonathan Powell’s appearance on the 18th. Powell was Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, 2001 – 2007. And a few days later, on the 21st, Jack Straw will give evidence to Chilcot. Straw was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, 2001 – 2006.
So the next few weeks could prove interesting as some try to raise the Dutch decision as exemplary for Chilcot, permitted as he is to apportion ‘blame’ where he sees fit.
Its conclusions on the UN’s SC resolution 1441 will clearly feed into the mix.
However, the arguments about the legitimacy or not of earlier UN SC resolutions will continue. There is NOT universal agreement among international legal experts.
We should remember this:
Resolution 1441 was adopted unanimously by the UN SC. It says that Iraq remains in material breach of all previous resolutions.
It’s true, as the Dutch say that 1441 is NOT enough to establish the legal basis for war, BUT when we go back to the previous resolutions there is justification.
In the light of the events concerning the invasion of Kuwait in 1991, the UN adopted Resolution 678, which set a deadline for January 15, 1991 to comply with Resolution 660. Again, Saddam refused to act according to the previous resolution. Since Resolution 678 allowed the use of “all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area”, the legal basis for the military operation Desert Storm was given.
On April 3, 1991, the Security Council issued the decisive Resolution, 687, which outlined the conditions for a ceasefire with Iraq.
One condition was that Saddam acted according to the UN resolutions.
He NEVER, EVER did.
This is a really crucial point. The UN was actually under a CEASEFIRE with Iraq for 12 years under conditions which were actually never met. And then we had Resolution 1441 which clearly stated that he remained in breach. Thus, the ceasefire was no longer valid and therefore, it was possible to use the same resolution which provided the legal basis for Dessert Storm in combination with all the other resolutions as a legal basis for Iraq.
Resolution 1441 (see here, pdf file)
Dutch inquiry Tuesday published its own assessment of the Iraq war. It concluded that the military campaign was not justified by U.N. resolution 1441 mentioned by the United States, Britain and the Netherlands as a legal basis for the war.
The resolution called for serious consequences if Saddam Hussein did not disarm his military, but the inquiry concluded: “Despite the existence of certain ambiguities, the wording of Resolution 1441 cannot reasonably be interpreted … as authorizing individual member states to use military force to compel Iraq to comply with the Security Council’s resolutions, without authorization from the Security Council. … The military action had no sound mandate under international law.”
Led by the former top judge of the Dutch Supreme Court, the inquiry board cleared the government of Jan Peter Balkenende of providing active military support to the war. The inquiry board said it did not find evidence supporting rumors that Dutch special forces marched with U.S. troops into Iraq in March 2003.
Today, Jan Peter Balkenende who was also a favourite for the EU presidency before Mr Someone Else got it, has concentrated on the positive. He has responded by saying that the report into how the Netherlands came to provide political support for the US-led invasion of Iraq of 2003 had finally refuted ‘persistent rumours’ in the media. In an AFP report by Martine Pauwels Mr Balkenende denied any wrongdoing by his then government. He affirmed that the decision to support the US was taken ‘honourably with utmost integrity.’
His former cabinet felt, Balkenende said, ‘it was up to (former Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein to demonstrate he did not possess weapons of mass destruction. It was not up to the international community to show that he had them. The burden of proof lay with him.’
The government leader responded to the findings of the 550-page report by the Davids Committee released earlier on the day.
Among other things, the report said the text of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 did not authorize countries to enforce a regime change in Iraq.
“There was insufficient legitimacy under international law for a military invasion of Iraq” for which the Netherlands gave political but no military support, commission chairman Willibrord Davids told journalists in The Hague.
The commission’s report said the Dutch government decision “was based mainly on international political considerations.”
And it said the Netherlands had wrongly interpreted UN Security Council resolution 1441, which gave Iraq a final chance to disarm, as authorising individual member states to use military force against that country.
The 551-page report was presented to Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, also head of government in 2003, who said he would study it fully before reacting.
The opposition, meanwhile, has demanded a parliamentary inquiry.
The Hague has repeatedly justified its political backing for the invasion with then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s repeated refusal to respect UN Security Council resolutions.
The United States and Britain, which led the action, cited Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. None were ever found.
The commission said the Dutch government’s position was inconsistent with the majority view of the public and with its own policies, which opposed enforced regime change.
“The Dutch government lent its political support to a war whose purpose was not consistent with Dutch government policy. It may therefore be said that the Dutch stance was to some extent disingenuous.”
The US benefited from the political backing “since it increased support for the invasion at the global level,” said the report.
The commission, which started its work in March last year, was set up by the government amid growing pressure from political parties and the public for a probe into claims that crucial data had been withheld from Dutch decision-makers who opted to support the invasion — backed by all but two political parties in the Dutch parliament at the time.
The Netherlands sent about 1,100 troops to Iraq in July 2003 to take part in a post-invasion, UN-mandated Iraqi stabilisation force. They left Iraq in 2005.
The probe found that Dutch policy on the issue had been defined by the foreign ministry under then minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who later became NATO secretary-general.
“The Prime Minister took little or no lead in debates on the Iraq question.”
The government ignored the “reserved” and “nuanced” findings of domestic intelligence sources on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and “adopted those facts that fit the pre-determined political position”, said the report.
The commission found “no evidence” to substantiate rumours that the Netherlands had made a clandestine military contribution to the invasion.
Last month, a former UN weapons inspector said former US president George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair shared a conviction that Hussein was a threat, blinding them to the lack of evidence justifying war and causing them to allegedly mislead the public.
An official inquiry has started in Britain, with Blair set to testify in the coming weeks on the intelligence used to make a case for war. His ex-chief spin doctor Alastair Campbell gave evidence Tuesday.
LOVE LETTERS … IN THE SAND
BBC’s Newsnight has had its perennial go at the whole business of the decision-making process again. It’s all in the letters, it seems. Lord Falconer says it is up to Sir John Chilcot to decide whether the letters between Bush and Blair should be released to the public domain. A letter which Tony Blair, reportedly sent to Balkenende in 2002 is also raising some interest, but of course. This is a letter the Dutch say they have not seen, because the British government would not release its copy. Why didn’t their OWN government release their own letter? Reasons of national security? Perhaps.
So don’t expect us to betray national security.
ANJEM CHOUDARY IS STILL GRABBING AIRTIME ON NEWSNIGHT
Discussing Islam4UK’s banning, the Quilliam Foundation’s Maajid Nawaz, a former Hizb ut-Tahrir member and now counter-terrorism expert, asks Choudary repeatedly, Paxman-fashion, ” Do I deserve death” (as an apostate from Islam). He was never answered.
The reason – YES, HE WOULD DESERVE DEATH. According to Choudary’s Islam ALL who are considered “apostates”- i.e. ALL who support democracy, including Muslims, will be sentenced to death under a “caliphate court”.
So there we have it. Good to see that Alan Johnson has AT LAST decided to ban this crowd, as Mr Blair urged and attempted YEARS ago, despite his own party’s misgivings. We will soon see if Johnson’s move is electioneering or principled, if belated.
GIVE IT UP – IT’S NONSENSICAL SELF-DESTRUCTIVE GAME YOU ARE PLAYING
Watching how much of Newsnight was given over to the problems that Islamic terrorism has wrought on the world in recent years, I thought, as often before – it really IS time we stopped pursuing our own.
The Iraq decisions HAVE been made, like them or not.
THE REALITY? THE NUMBER OF DEAD IS NO REASON TO DECRY THE INVASION
I often wonder WHY the traducers of Blair, Campbell and the rest don’t admit what is their REAL intention. Would they be pursuing Blair and his government if no-one had been killed in Iraq? No, is the answer you are looking for. And yet the reasons for the invasion would have still been illegal/immoral in their terms, if their terms had any genuine basis. The deaths that resulted from the insurgents continuing to fight against the people of Iraq AND the wishes of the people of Iraq is NO reason to damn western democratic leaders to perpetual criticism and shaming.
As Alastair Campbell said today at the Inquiry: “We should be proud of what our country has done for Iraq.”
And so we should.
NEWSNIGHT ENDS WITH A FEELGOOD MOMENT (FOR SOME)
The American former Guantanamo Bay guard who sought out two British former detainees has had his moment of soul-cleansing salvation. Apologising profusely to the two men, he evidently feels much better now, thank you.
Very nice for some.
We should not forget that this American guard bears no decisive or momentous responsibility for anything that happened in Guantanamo. We should also remember that it could all have been quite different. If these two men had not been unfortunate innocents they may indeed have perpetrated terrorism AFTER being released from Gizmo, as some have already been shown to have done.
Who then gets the sorries and scraping apologies? The political decision makers? But of course, THEY are obviously the bad guys. The responsibility of power.
Really, Newsnight, you can do better than this.
- BBC video linking the Dutch and British Iraq Inquiries.
- Monster & Critics report
- BBC video: Tory Sir Malcom Rifkind, another We ALL KNOWer, says “what people like me want to see is blood on the carpet”. Yes, not justice or the truth, just (someone’s) blood. We worked that one out already. And THIS man is a lawyer – an “innocent until proven guilty” believer, he’d have us believe. No wonder we have so many criminals loose on our streets if this is a ‘senior Conservative’ example. Fortunately his present leader, David Cameron, still says he supports Mr Blair’s decision on Iraq.
- The Guardian report
Tags: alastair campbell, blood on the carpet, Chilcot, Dutch Prime Minister, Geoff Hoon, Iraq, Iraq inquiry, jack straw, Jan Peter Balkenende, Jonathan Powell, Malcolm Rifkind, SC Resolution 1441 did not authorise countries to enforce regime change, Tony Blair