Friday, November 21
War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal
Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger in Washington, The Guardian, November 20, 2003
International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.
In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."
President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.
[But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.
French intransigence, he added, meant there had been "no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein".
Mr Perle, who was speaking at an event organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, had argued loudly for the toppling of the Iraqi dictator since the end of the 1991 Gulf war.
"They're just not interested in international law, are they?" said Linda Hugl, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which launched a high court challenge to the war's legality last year. "It's only when the law suits them that they want to use it."
Mr Perle's remarks bear little resemblance to official justifications for war, according to Rabinder Singh QC, who represented CND and also participated in Tuesday's event. [...more]