If tomorrow it were announced that Charles Manson was being released from prison and that he had a really interesting theory on sustainable agriculture and wanted to come to campus to discuss it, what would your reaction be? Some of the freest of thinkers might want to hear what he had to say. Most would think it’s kind of messed up, arguing even if it is an interesting theory on sustainable agriculture, Stanford should not be bringing convicted murderers to campus, out of some sense of principle. Arguing from that sense of principle then, I guess the only difference between the described scenario and Tony Blair’s arrival on campus is that Tony Blair hasn’t been convicted yet.
By all accounts, Tony Blair seems like a nice guy, your archetypal lovable Brit. Charles Manson is a lot more scowly. However, Blair’s also a lovable Brit who just so happened to wage an illegal war. That’s not really a matter of philosophy, of whether or not you were for or against the Iraq War. An opinion by George Monbiot published in The Guardian on January 25, 2010, reads:
“Under the United Nations Charter, two conditions must be met before a war can legally be waged. The parties to a dispute must first ‘seek a solution by negotiation’ (article 33). They can take up arms without an explicit mandate from the U.N. Security Council only ‘if an armed attack occurs against [them]’ (article 51). Neither of these conditions applied. The U.S. and U.K. governments rejected Iraq’s attempts to negotiate. At one point the U.S. State Department even announced that it would ‘go into thwart mode’ to prevent the Iraqis from resuming talks on weapons inspection (all references are on my website). Iraq had launched no armed attack against either nation.
“We also know that the U.K. government was aware that the war it intended to launch was illegal. In March 2002, the Cabinet Office explained that ‘a legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to law officers’ advice, none currently exists.’ In July 2002, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, told the prime minister that there were only ‘three possible legal bases’ for launching a war – ‘self-defence, humanitarian intervention or UNSC [security council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.’ Bush and Blair later failed to obtain Security Council authorisation.”
Kofi Annan said the same thing in 2004 in an interview with the BBC: “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the U.N. Charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”
Without legal justification for the Iraq War, Tony Blair is implicated in the death of over 1,000,000 Iraqis and the displacement of 2,000,000 more. Just because he was elected by Parliament or speaks English or doesn’t dress in crazy military garb or is white doesn’t mean that he didn’t commit a crime in waging the Iraq War without U.N. Security Council approval. The brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime is irrelevant to this fact.
If you’re one of those people who thinks “Yeah, but it’s international law. You can’t enforce it. Why does it matter?” I want you to take a second and think about how silly that sounds. Every member of the U.N. agreed to the charter when it was formed. We’re supposed to be grown-ups here. When dealing with international affairs, when dealing with the prospect of invading countries, a snotty “You and what army” attitude a la Black Bush is not only not helpful, it frankly has no place in the thought process of anyone who considers him/her/perself a global citizen. International law is in fact law, and it needs to be respected. I mean, you do want world peace, right?
What Tony Blair is on campus to talk about, the African Governance Initiative, is also problematic, what with him being the former prime minister of what still technically is an empire. I hope he faces questions about the implications of developing a foundation whose goal in part seems to be asserting de facto control of African governments, but the politics of the AGI aside, Tony Blair is still a war criminal.
Peter McDonald ’11
Occupier of Meyer Library