July 26, 2010
It was almost exactly eight years ago that the public beat of the Washington war drums became so loud and insistent that it could no longer be ignored. But we now know that for quite some time before July 2002 Tony Blair and George Bush had been engaged in a dialogue of the determined with regime change in Iraq at the top of their agenda.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Before Chilcot, we had to rely on leaked documents such as telegrams from diplomats, accounts of meetings held round the sofa at No 10, and, for lawyers, the crown jewels of the Attorney General’s written advice to the Prime Minister. The Hutton and Butler inquiries helped to fill in some of the blanks, though qualified by their restricted remits and security considerations. But slowly and with only occasional fanfare the whole sad, sorry story is being systematically laid out in evidence before the Chilcot inquiry. Chilcot has not been about surprises but rather about confirmation, less about revelation and more about corroboration of what we thought we knew.
Sir John Chilcot has made it clear that his committee is not a court of law and that no findings of legality will be made but just by exposing to public scrutiny the process by which legal advice was tendered and disregarded, he has provided more than enough evidence in support of the proposition that military action against Iraq was illegal.
The illegality was then and is today easily stated. Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter prohibits regime change. It is hardly surprising that a treaty formed immediately after the Second World War should do so since the Axis powers ignored the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of those whom they sought to annexe or conquer – just as the action against Iraq did.