Juan Cole: “The London Times has dropped another bombshell document concerning the planning of the Iraq war in Washington and London. …”

It makes me deeply ashamed as an American in the tradition of Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln, and King, that in their private communications our international allies openly admit that the United States of America routinely disregards international law. [ … ]

The British were clearly afraid that the US would get them into Iraq without a plan, and then Bush might just prove fickle and decamp, leaving the poor British holding the bag.

The briefing is also prescient that the Middle East region would be hostile or at most neutral with regard to an Iraq war, and that less international participation would lessen the chances of success.

I found the passage on the information campaign chilling:

“20. Time will be required to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein. There would also need to be a substantial effort to secure the support of Parliament. An information campaign will be needed which has to be closely related to an overseas information campaign designed to influence Saddam Hussein, the Islamic World and the wider international community. This will need to give full coverage to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, including his WMD, and the legal justification for action. “

Professor Cole on the black-ops disinformation campaign:

The polite diplomatic language hides the implications that there would be a global black psy-ops campaign in favor of the war, conducted from London. Since the rest of the briefing already admits that there was no legal justification for action, the proposal of an information campaign that would maintain that such a justification existed must be seen as deeply dishonest.

One press report said that the British military had planted stories in the American press aimed at getting up the Iraq war. A shadowy group called the Rockingham cell was apparently behind it. Similar disinformation campaigns have been waged by Israeli military intelligence, aiming at influencing US public opinion. (Israeli intelligence has have even planted false stories about its enemies in Arabic newspapers, in hopes that Israeli newspapers would translate them into Hebrew and English, and they would be picked up as credible from there in the West. …

Below, on the International Criminal Court:

As Michael Smith reports for the London Times, “regime change” is illegal in international law without a United Nations Security Council resolution or other recognized sanction (national self-defense, or rescuing a population from genocide, e.g.). Since the United Kingdom is signatory to the International Criminal Court, British officials could be brought up on charges for crimes like “Aggression.”

Smith quotes the briefing and then remarks on how it shows Bush and Blair to be lying when they invoke their approach to the UN as proof that they sought a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis:

‘ “It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the legal justification they needed.

The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war. The attack on Iraq finally began in March 2003. ‘


It is not clear to me that the court is yet able to take up the crime of aggression, because legal work remained to be done in defining the crime precisely and in having that language adopted by the UNSC.

If it were able to do so, some groups in Europe may now feel that there is a basis for proceeding against the Blair government for knowingly committing an act of aggression. They might argue that when, in March, 2003, it became clear that the United Nations Security Council would not authorize a war against Iraq; and when it was clear from the reports of the UN weapons inspectors that they were finding no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs; and when it was murky as to whether Saddam was actively killing any significant numbers of Iraqis in 2001-2003–that Blair should have pulled out and refused to cooperate in an Iraq invasion. The cabinet brief and the memo of the July 23 meeting demonstrate conclusively that members of the Blair government knew that they were involved in plans that were as of that moment illegal, and that no legal basis for them might be forthcoming. Ignorance is no excuse under the law, but here even ignorance could not be pleaded.

Since the US is not a signatory to the ICC, it is not clear that it could proceed against Bush et al.

   – Juan Cole

Is it any wonder that Seymour Hersh lists Cole’s blog on his very short list of must-reads on the ‘net?

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