Hold fire on Iraq

February 21, 2003

If United Nations Security Council members, under US government threats, pass a resolution permitting an attack on Iraq, they will be acting ultra vires , beyond their legitimate powers, because such an attack would be contrary to the UN charter, which forbids aggression against sovereign states. UK prime minister Tony Blair has tried to change the charter to allow preventive attacks on humanitarian grounds, but it is still the law.

The International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms stated on February 13 that there was "no precedent in international law for use of force as a preventive measure, when there had been no actual or imminent attack by the offending state".

Even US president George W. Bush and Blair have not tried to make a case that Iraq is about to attack another state: the intelligence services - the CIA, MI6 and Mossad - have all stated that the threat from Iraq is low and not immediate (Why I, THES , February 14).

There is a good reason why the international community created a UN that banned recourse to war between states even on humanitarian grounds: humanitarian concerns can be a pretext for aggression. All governments can point to the mote in some other state's eye.

Wars between states should remain illegal. Where oppression reigns, it is up to the people of the country to rid themselves of the oppression.

Will Podmore
London E12

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