Blanket claims of supposedly "illegal wars" ignore complexity and often lead to invalid moral comparisons

International military efforts to assist Afghanistan and Iraq are legally uncontentious, except for one aspect of the latter. Blanket claims that all phases of such efforts were supposedly "illegal" is just sloganeering that ignores well-known facts and legal concepts in general, and continuing argument among international lawyers about that one aspect in particular.


Letter to The Canberra Times 
Tuesday, 01 December 2015
(published, Thursday, 03 December 2015)

Contrary to Peter Marshall’s claim about supposedly “illegal wars” (Letters, November 25), the 2001 US-led intervention in Afghanistan was fully endorsed by the UN Security Council — following the Taliban regime’s refusal to co-operate with criminal trials for those responsible for the Twin Towers and Washington terrorist attacks.

Similarly, UNSC Resolutions (UNSCR) fully underwrote the subsequent decade-long NATO-led mission to enable free elections and rebuild Afghanistan.

A minority of international lawyers consider that the UNSCR implementing the 1991 ceasefire following the UN-endorsed operation to reverse Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait — and particularly those relating to consequent WMD disarmament — sufficiently covered efforts in 2003 to end Iraq’s sustained and confirmed 12-year violation of these resolutions.

An additional UNSCR would have prevented such argument but was improperly blocked by veto-wielding and opportunist powers unwilling to enforce the ceasefire a decade later.

But further UNSCR fully underwrote the subsequent US-led coalition that enabled free elections and assisted with the rebuilding of Iraqi civil society over 2003-11.

There is, however, no serious dispute among international lawyers about Da’esh’s IS’s flagrant and serious breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL) in Syria, Iraq and now elsewhere.

Criticism of the possible technical illegality of the initial Iraq intervention would surely hold more water if critics were objective and consistent.

Particularly by admitting the more serious threat to IHL stemming from continual, far worse and indeed ideologically deliberate breaches by various Islamist terrorist groups.


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