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Define international law

Posted by Helen Monday, March 28, 2005

The leading article in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph charts meticulously Tony Blair’s convoluted path through a maze of his own making: a “passionate” endorsement of the International Criminal Court, rightly described by the Americans as being nothing more than a “set of politicians with their own political agenda” and his equally passionate belief in the need to support the United States in its fight against terrorism together with a no less passionate need to have that fight endorsed by the UN Security Council.

As the article points out, Lord Goldsmith’s assertion, which ran counter to the opinion of “practically all the Government’s lawyers”, according to Elizabeth Wilmhurst, the deputy head of the Foreign Office legal department, who actually resigned over the issue, that the war was unequivocally legal, was made in response to Admiral Boyce’s worry that he or his officers might end up before the International Criminal Court.

The article concludes:

“The truth is that the war was probably not legal under international law. Those who believe that is a fact of cardinal moral importance have not yet had the courage to admit the inevitable conclusion of their position. It is that there now needs to be a “coalition of the willing” to restore the legal government of saddam Hussein to its rightful position as the sovereign authority in Iraq. Tony Blair must be arrested and tried by the ICC, and Saddam should be the primary witness against him. This is the inescapable logic of the champions of international law. It should make everyone realise how unreal is the world in which they live.”
If only! Alas, if we are not careful, the world of “international law” created by the tranzis, for the tranzis and against accountable national democratic states will become the world we all live in.

In the first place, what is international law? Until recently, it consisted of various agreements between countries or organizations that dealt with matters such as maritime rules, airlines, radio wavelengths etc etc. On top of that there are commercial agreements and conventions. All this clearly comprehensible.

There is also the slightly more difficult concept of war crimes, based on the Geneva Convention. The best known occasion when war criminals were tried was in Nurenberg after the Second World War.

While, it is unquestionably true that those on trial had broken every agreement and convention in the book, there is a certain uneasy feeling around the whole procedure, induced by the presence of a Soviet judge and the Soviet prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky, who had been the prosecutor in the show trials of the thirties.

Furthermore, the behaviour of the Red Army and the secret police that had arrived in its baggage vans, was no better and, indeed, often worse than that of the Wehrmacht, though not of the Gestapo.

Since then the concept of war guilt has acquired an undoubted political aspect, with the words being flung around at all international congresses, usually at Americans and other westerners, with little mention of the mass murders perpetrated by left-wing dictatorships up and down the world.

All of which makes the notion of an agreed international law impossible. Once again, as with other international and transnational organizations, a structure with documents to back it, in this case the International Criminal Court, is being put in place of real content. And, as an inevitable corollary, unacceptable and unaccountable power is given to the international legal and political elite.

In the months leading up to the Iraqi war, another aspect of this convoluted situation became apparent. On no basis whatsoever, the United Nations, a political organization, created for purely political purposes, full of members who have no concept of legality within their own countries and run by a completely unaccountable and, as is increasingly obvious, seriously corrupt bureaucracy, has suddenly claimed the position of being an arbiter in international law.

For their own purposes, many of the European leaders have supported this ridiculous and unsustainable claim, the purposes being opposition to America. As we know, more European countries supported the coalition of the willing than not.

Unfortunately, the biggest and most important of those countries, the United Kingdom, approached the subject with an ambivalence that undermined Blair’s position.

On the one hand, this country reverted to past Gladstonian liberal principles and, more pragmatically, accepted the Bush doctrine that only the destruction of the Middle Eastern tyrannies will free the world from a perpetual fear of Islamic terrorism.

On the other hand, seduced by the siren songs of transnational good will and control, Britain has signed up to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted on trying to achieve that famous “second” resolution of the Security Council that would have made the war “legal”.

A war can be just or unjust, useful or useless, in a country’s interests or not and, even, possibly legal or illegal, only if there are certain basic agreed principles (possibly theological ones) behind that terminology.

The argument that something is legal because a bunch of politicians, international lawyers and civil servants, all of whom have a vested interest in constructing more and more international organizations, say so is illogical by any definition. That is why it leads inexorably to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein should be restored in Iraq and Tony Blair tried by an international court.