What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 29, 2007

The Debate Across The Atlantic

I happened to catch (on C-SPAN) Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, give a pretty amazing speech during a debate in the British House of Commons.

The setting was a debate on the war in Iraq and Tony Blair wasn't present. Early on Campbell said:
With almost chilling regularity, every Wednesday we now find ourselves having to acknowledge fatalities in Iraq. I do not know how the Prime Minister feels, or the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), but it is the bleakest moment of the week for me. But that is nothing to the blight on the lives of the families and friends of those who have been killed. They are brave men and women who do their duty in Iraq, and I yield to no one in my admiration for them for their professionalism and their courage. Today they deserved to hear all the party leaders. The Prime Minister owed that to them.
Hearing the names of the American deaths in Iraq almost always stops me in my tracks as well. Whenever they're read, I stop what I'm doing to listen - just out of simple respect. Happened this sunday at lunch, in fact. I was having a pastrami sandwich at Kazansky's when I happened to look up at the restaurant's big screen TV. They were showing the names of the recently killed. Always very sad.

Back to the debate. These words were spoken on the floor of the House of Commons last week:

I am fortified in my view that it was an illegal war based on a flawed prospectus by the increasing number of converts to scepticism. Indeed, few candidates for Labour's deputy leadership seem willing to defend the decision in public. It was a question of judgment for all of us, but our judgment has been vindicated by events since then. What has happened since November 2003? As the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) pointed out, there were no weapons of mass destruction. There was inadequate preparation for the aftermath of military action and the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was among those who made that point with great force at the time and deserves credit for doing so.

We have seen insensitivity and the mismanagement of coalition activities. We have seen the humiliation and obscenity of Abu Ghraib, the destruction of Falluja, the endemic corruption and, more recently, the macabre execution of Saddam Hussein. Along with that go the woeful failures in reconstruction, so that public services such as electricity, water and sewerage are worse now than they were under Saddam Hussein. We may all be able to agree, no matter how we voted on 18 March 2003, that the United Kingdom will never do anything similar again.

I also feel vindicated by the leaked documents that we have seen and the memoirs that have been published. Whatever was said in public—and a variety of things were said in public—we now know that the principal objective of the United States was regime change. That was always their objective. Why else would the British ambassador, after a lunch with Condoleezza Rice, have reported back to London that he told her that we would not resile from regime change? Of course, that policy was fundamentally and irreparably illegal, under article 2.4 of the charter of the United Nations.

That's the big point here. It's an "irreparably illegal" war based on the UN Charter. It took me a second to find it, but here's article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter:
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
This last point was challenged by Michael Gove, Conservative MP from Surrey Heath, who asked:
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred repeatedly to the liberation of Iraq as illegal. Like me, he will have noted that as a result of that liberation millions of Iraqis took part for the first time in free, multi-party elections to help to create a democratic coalition Government. Does he consider that the Iraqi men and women who voted in those elections were party to a crime and does he regret for a moment opposing a war that resulted in their liberation?
To which Campbell replied:
Of course I do not. If the hon. Gentleman is arguing that the rules do not matter, that the ends always justify the means and that the charter of the United Nations is to be observed when it is in our interests but disregarded when it is not, he contemplates a world of such chaos as none of us can properly contemplate.
And so on. When do you think we'll ever see English used like this in the Senate or the House of Representatives? Snowflake's chance of ever hearing anything so, uh, grammatically correct, coming out of the current White House.

One final point, Campbell pointed out the illegality of the war based on the UN Charter. But does that trump US Law? Doesn't have to. Treaties signed and ratified by the Senate become US Law.

Says so in the Constitution. Article VI:
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

Have a good monday.

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