The recent pantomime at the United Nations, where Russia and China vetoed attempts to impose sanctions and an arms embargo of the monstrous Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, not only shows what a farce the august institution has become, but also how flawed is the argument of those, including some dear friends of mine, who condemn the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan of account of the fact that they do not comply with international law.
They may be correct in what they say, but it does not follow that those who allegedly breached international law were the real villains.
The true value of International law, or lack thereof, is exposed by the Russian Foreign ministry which said in a statement that sanctions "would have created a dangerous precedent, leading to interference in countries' internal affairs" which would be "a gross violation of the UN's Charter".
Of course those most opposed to the possibility of the international community interfering with their internal affairs are those with the most to fear from it. One can dress those clauses which prohibit the international community from such “interference” up in pretty words such as “sovereignty” and “independence”, but they have led directly to the deaths of countless millions and to the fact that almost half the world's population live lives of poverty and oppression subject to the whim of a tiny group of cruel and fabulously rich dictators.
The law protects the law abiding from home invasions, but if our neighbour is killing his children we expect the police to go in. However, were we to apply the UN's standards to such an event, the neighbour would be immune from prosecution provided he murdered them in his own garden.
For the main part international law results from a contorted series of compromises, where good intentions became drowned by the self serving demands of unpleasant despots who refused to sign up to anything which might put at risk their right to torture, kill and suppress their own people in their own garden.
Even where International law does have value, it requires the diplomatic skills of Machiavelli and usually considerable amounts of bribery to get the self same group of despots to impose it. As we have seen, even then, it is seldom successful.
Hence it behoves us not, at least in moral terms, to allow the final judgement on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to rest on whether or not they are in technical breach of international law.
Beyond making that argument, this article will not include any links or sources, as it does not seek to prove a point, but rather to express opinion on recent events, in respect of which I know many people hold passionate and quite legitimate views, not all of which are entirely the opposite to mine.
I entirely respect the views which do not accord with my own, and, further, would go so far as to acknowledge that, unlike most of my writings, in this one matter, my views, are based on opinion rather than research, and that history will determine whether I am right or wrong.
The matters in question, made more topical by George Bush’s recent visit to Britain, and the increasing number of deaths in combat, are the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. We all have our own views as to whether fighting those wars were the right thing to do and, I will surprise many of my friends, and probably appal others when I say that I think they probably were the right thing to do, or, at least, in the long run they were probably inevitable.
In saying this, I am not ignoring the carnage we have seen in Iraq over the last five years, or indeed the loss of life in Afghanistan, not least amongst our valiant troops. However, the bloodshed is the work of our enemies, and, as I have said here before, the fact that deeply evil men oppose what we do, does not mean that what we do is wrong.
I will not quibble over that description, and if anyone chooses to question the categorisation of those who torture young men to death with electric drills, or strap bombs to toddlers and the mentally disabled, as “deeply evil”, they would do well to examine their judgement rather than my language.
Those who claim that these conflicts are “recruiting sergeants” for terrorism, may be correct, but they are only one of many such sergeants, cartoons, headscarfs and papal musings seem to have the same effect. It is not hard to recruit for war when so many of the potential combatants are so keen for a fight
We do not face freedom fighters in Baghdad or indeed Helmand, but bloodthirsty fanatics who revel in slaughter, they existed before the current conflict and would have been have existed even if there if there had never been a conflict and as the bodies in the streets of Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and New York proved, we would have to face them some time.
Despite what many of our allies at the UN or in Europe may tell us, the way to deal with a serial killer is not to hide under the bed and hope he will kill someone else, because he will eventually come looking for you.
The murderous maniacs shooting at our troops and slaughtering men, women and children raised no concerns when Saddam and the Taliban were oppressing their brethren and, certainly in the case of Saddam, murdering them in their hundreds of thousands. (The corpses in the old regime’s prisons were no less dead than those now littering the streets, and were almost certainly no less numerous.)
The Devil will always fight more ferociously where he is at the greatest risk, but that is no reason not to fight him.
As to the “reasons” for war, many claim, for instance, that we went war in Iraq on the basis of a lie, but, for all their faults, to accuse Bush and Blair of knowing their claims were false is surely to attribute to them the power of knowing better than every security service in the world, including, the Russians, Germans and French, who all believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding, at the very least stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. Even that opportunist old poseur Hans Blix was stunned when none were found, albeit he swiftly regained his composure and began performing for the crowds.
It is certainly fair to accuse Tony Blair of overselling what, most honest observers accept, he genuinely believed to be true. However, is that really more morally reprehensible than those, who whilst sharing that same genuine belief, still blocked UN action to protect the cosy oil deals they had in place with one of the world's most evil tyrants and mass murderers?. It is often claimed that the war in Iraq was a war for oil, it is less often admitted how much oil influenced certain “Non” and "Njet"votes in the UN.
Furthermore, it may be very comfortable for those who opposed the invasion of Iraq to buy the “there were no WDMs” claim as gospel truth, when they are so ready to insist that everything else is a lie. However, given that sufficient chemical or biological agents to wipe out all life in half of Western Europe, can be stored in a cupboard, and created in a space not much larger than a school chemistry lab, combined with the porous nature of the Iraq / Syria boarder, some might be less willing to be so reassured. Furthermore, I find the total lack of any investigative journalism into anything which contradicts the official line somewhat suspicious. However, given that in this instance the official line fits the story the press want to tell, it may be some years before the full truth is told.
That said, whatever the reason for going to war, it would never have been necessary had the international community been prepared to take collective action against the mass murder, genocide indeed, of thousands (according to some claims hundreds of thousands) of Iraqi civilians, perpetrated by the sovereign government of Iraq for almost three decades. If International law does not allow that, then the fault lies with International law, not with those who breach it .
In the absence of UN action, there would have come a point where the west would have had to have confronted Saddam Hussein, a truth now much glossed over, is the fact that he was a source of even greater regional instability than even Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are today, and would continue to be were he still around. To say that we were somehow morally prevented from confronting him, because we once treated him as an ally, is like preventing a woman from accusing a man of rape if she once dated him.
With regard to Afghanistan, it is a lot more of a stretch to call that conflict illegal or without point. Even if we ignore the murderous actions of the Taliban, how many thousands of lives could have been saved if the world had not turned a blind eye to the terrorist training camps which had been operating there for years before the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings let alone 09/11.
Those camps existed in part as a threat against the West and they were where acts of aggression were planned and prepared for. Young men were being trained in Jihad there,and still are in Pakistan, because a significant section of radical Islam has declared war upon us, and they did so long before a shot was fired in either Iraq or Afghanistan and they would still be at war with us even if none had been.
If, as many claim, and as I am coming to believe, the forces of radical Islam are intent upon our destruction, then Iraq and Afghanistan are but two battles in a war we would eventually have to fight, to quibble over their status in terms of the vaudeville act which accompanies most UN resolutions is to ignore their inevitability.
We could well lose those battles, disastrous as that might be, but that does not mean we were wrong to fight them. We are not the aggressors in this war, however much we may be portrayed as such.
Only a fool wants war, but if anyone truly believes that if we had not gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, radical imams would not right now be calling for Jihad against us and that there message would be met by any less fervent ears, then they would be enjoying a false sense of security, and ignoring history.
The clouds of conflict have been gathering for over twenty years (some would say fourteen hundred) and we ignore them at our peril.
The mistake the West has made is not in fighting foreign wars, but in ignoring the, so far relatively bloodless, invasion closer to home, which could make the outcome of those other conflicts irrelevant, because whatever you think about our current battles, if I am right the clash of ideologies has only just begun, and there is far worse to come.
These ideologies have clashed before, with terrible results, and when they do again we should not depend on the UN or the rules of international law to protect us.