Do wars need to be legal?


UPDATE: 29/01/2010
Some days there is no doubt about what is the biggest talking point of the day. As I’m typing this, every single TV screen here at the BBC’s newsroom is tuned to the same story and the blogosphere is abuzz with talk of Tony Blair’s appearance at the Chilcott Inquiry today.

It’s been eagerly anticipated in the Middle East, as this, this and this article show, and elsewhere.

Over the course of the day, Blair’s arguments on going to war will face forensic scrutiny. But can wars ever be justified on legal grounds?

Can this be answered on ideological grounds? It’s a difficult subject for the left here in the UK as journalist Nick Cohen has written about. He argues that the those on the liberal left should have argued for going to war back in 2003 on human rights grounds.

The Iraq war certainly removed Saddam, something this Iraqi blogger is happy about.

But for other Iraqi’s, like Raed Jarrar, they stand firm on the postion that the war was illegal.


Iraq Inquiry gets into full swing, more and more people are coming to the dock to say that the 2003 Iraq invasion was illegal under international law. And on Friday it’s Tony Blair’s turn.

This blogger disagrees with illegality of the war. He feels that by overthrowing Saddam’s brutal regime, the war was  justified.
‘I’m proud of the fact the United States and Great Britain, together with key allies like Australia, liberated 60 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan while much of the rest of the world stood by. ‘

Blogger Adam Collyer asks:
‘All this talk about whether the war was “legal” leaves me feeling queasy. Who decides what is “legal” and what is “illegal” in terms of international law? And by what right? And what is international law anyway?’

And this commentary by Jeremy Greenstock questions whose law was Tony Blair breaking anyway. He continues:
‘…we must also recognize that, if the United Kingdom so chose, it could —even against existing laws —simply act as nations have done in the past, and remove itself from a legal framework to which it takes exception.’

84 Responses to “Do wars need to be legal?”

  1. 1 Bert
    January 27, 2010 at 20:56

    I’m also not sure what “legal” means, in this context. I’d say that war has to be easily justifiable, e.g. to protect one’s country from invasion or attack.

    And no, absolutely not, the US should not think of itself as the world’s nanny, invading countries just because we find their culture distasteful or their leadership brutal. Cultures by and large legitimize their governments. Governments by and large represent the mindset of their people. A lot more so than an invading foreign power possibly can.

    We may THINK we have provided a great service for the people of Iraq, but quite frankly, they did not ask for it, and we do not owe them this service in any way. The price we paid in lives and in treasure is simply NOT WORTH IT.

    • 2 james Ian
      January 29, 2010 at 11:58

      “easily justifiable” Well said, and It looks as though truth be know the Iraq war was not so easily Justified.

      Although, it think this inquiry is just the house trying to cover it’s butt and they are just as culpable as Blair, I do a applauded the British for having an inquiry. I wish the U.S. would demand one as well and put Bush in the hot seat for a while. But again I think the U.S. congress is just as culpable as Bush and they are in no position to point fingers and say they were misslead. It’s obvious to me they are just trying to protect their phony bologna jobs.

    • 3 haumba emma
      January 29, 2010 at 12:58

      obviously they had no way of asking for it.

  2. 4 Tom D Ford
    January 27, 2010 at 21:18

    Yes, wars need to be legal. The Nuremberg trials defined and established that. And national and international laws are well defined about that.

    In WW2 our Greatest Generation in the US, and our Allies fought against people like Bush/Cheney/PNAC/Blair, who waged Wars of Aggression against Great Britain, France, Poland, the other European Nations and other nations around the world. My relatives fought in WW2 and helped defeat the “Bush/Cheney/PNAC/Blairs” of that time.

    If we allow people to put themselves outside the rule of law, what the hell do we have laws for?

    Let’s stop creating and supporting the Saddam Husseins of the world for our corrupt Global Corporations. Let’s prevent wars.

    • 5 Crystal Ball
      January 29, 2010 at 12:03

      Tom D Ford completely misses the point by inferring that the Nuremberg trials established rules and regulations governing the legality of war! What it established was the rules and regulations of the victors!
      Had Hitler been the victor then the rules and regulations would have been very different!
      Do you truly believe that countries have followed the rules since Nuremberg?
      Do you believe that Korea, Vietnam, Rwanda, Serbia, Chechnya, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and a whole host of other conflicts were played out by friendly gentlemen quoting the rules of engagement to each other over a nice cup of tea!
      According to you Bush/Cheney/PNAC/Blair committed illegal acts so therefore must be compared to people like Hitler and Stalin……Oh please! The leaders you named are far from perfect but as far as I know none of them practiced genocide on their own people, sort to conquer the entire world by force and exterminate all those races they didn’t happen to like!

  3. 6 Idris Dangalan
    January 27, 2010 at 21:21

    war is legal in respect of what caused it. cold-war or blooded-war and/or special-war? to me cold-war is illegal war while blooded and special war because it caused 100% damage on economy,security and leading to collopsing of any nation while other wars, have chance to get helps from external force like NATO and UN peace-keeping but no helps for coldwar.

  4. 7 khurshid Ahmed Jan
    January 27, 2010 at 21:27

    War is War weather its fought in Iraq Or Afganistan or somewhere els. War is not the solution of every thing. Ok fine Sadam was a brutal man he killed so many innocent people but who will count the number of people murdered after Sadam’s regime??? if Sadam was guilty than what is the Fault of these Iraqi People who are killed now a days???
    if war is not the solution of every thing than how it can be legalized??? if we want peace on this planet than war should be banned by all international agencies…..

    • 8 Maxine
      January 30, 2010 at 04:48

      Who is killing the large number of Iraqi people these days you ask – well it is the Iraqis killing each other, Shia versus Sunni. They love murdering each other, been doing it since the prophet Muhammed died AD 632 when the competition for the caliphate began. Britain, U.S. Australia and most other countries signed an International Agreement that it would take whatever action was needed to remove such Dictators as Saddam Hussein where Genocide was being committed in that country. Which is why we went in to Iraq. How many thousands of bodies make a Genocide?

  5. 9 hjp
    January 27, 2010 at 21:29

    Mr. Greenstock is correct of course. It brings to question whether we should have ANY laws, why chaos would not be a preferred state. If Tony/W feel that Saddam should be removed and killed, isn’t there someone who would consider a similar fate is applicable to Mr. Greenstock.

    Moreover, if wars do not need to have “legality” attached to them, the German invasion of Poland should not have elicited a response from the UK, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was quite understandable, the Israeli slaughter and subjugation of Palestinians is to be supported, as would be a nuclear attack by Iran on Israel.

    Yes, i can see his point.

  6. 10 JanB
    January 27, 2010 at 21:36

    All I can say is that the current system is fundamentally flawed: right now a war is always “illegal” as long as a permanent member of the UN security council has profitable relations with the targeted country. What this means in reality is that any regime can get away with anything (even genocide), that any foreign intervention against them is “illegal”, as long as they sell resources to China.

    The legality of a war lies in the hands of the United States, France, United Kingdom, China and Russia (one of those is already a one-party dictatorship and another one is well on its way), the permanent members of the UN security council who have veto rights. Further voting rights (but not veto rights) are given to the ten non-permanent members, currently Austria, Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey and Uganda, several of them are not even democracies and it was even worse in 2003 with such model states as Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Pakistan and Syria (and of course China) deciding whether a war against their fellow dictatorship and trading partner, Iraq, was “legal”. Naturally they got scared at the idea of the West overthrowing dictatorships by force (fearing they could be next) so they decided to vote no.

    A popular vote among the UN members wouldn’t be a good system either since China can literally buy African votes and half the UN consists of the very type of dictatorships/one-party states that are usually targeted by resolutions.

  7. 11 Gary
    January 27, 2010 at 21:41

    All wars must be legal otherwise our leaders should be charged with war crimes.

  8. 12 Josiah Soap
    January 27, 2010 at 21:50

    I have never understood how you can have an illegal war and much less understood how on earth you can ever convict someone of war crimes. War is serious, a last response when all else has failed. It involves killing people and destroying buildings and the infrastructure of the country. It is not a board game, with rules and regulations. If we are civilized enough to have “rules” for war then we should be civilized enough not to go to war in the first place. To me war is what happens when we lose control, so there should be no laws or rules in this case, or anyone having to answer as a guilty party. Its for real, its not a kids board game!

  9. 13 Michel Norman
    January 27, 2010 at 21:52

    The laws of international warfare were created in the light of WW2 were all sides targeted civilians so as to cause casualties, the Germans occupied land to create liebensraum and Stalin let his troops loose in an orgy of unpunished rape and murder. Take the latest conflict in Gaza for example – Hammas holds a mass rally at which it boasts that it has been ignoring the Geneva convention for 2 years, it has littered its territory with booby traps, and then launches hundreds of rockets at civilians. When Israel retaliates, and according to a former British Commander in Afghanistan does more to avoid civilian casualties than any army in history, whilst Hammas has its forces wear civilian clothes so as to be civilians when killed, uses mosques, schools, ambulances and residential areas for military outposts, Israel finds itself accused by some of the worst abusers of human rights in the world of war crimes. Something is wrong here – Western countries are hamstrung when trying to defend themselves.

  10. 14 Harry Webb
    January 27, 2010 at 21:57

    “Do wars need to be legal?”

    They certainly do when the instruments used to justify it beforehand are U.N. Resolutions!

  11. 15 Jaime Saldarriaga
    January 27, 2010 at 22:08

    My point of view is that if any country binds itself to a set of international rules like the ones of United Nations, it is its duty to comply with that binding.

  12. 16 TomK in Mpls
    January 27, 2010 at 22:45

    Now that is the most hilarious question I have seen in a while. Clearly meant to draw out unthinking ‘dogooders”. Wars are a poor but sometimes necessary means to a hopefully good end. Law has nothing to do with it. That said, it is up to ‘good’ governments to make certain that wars are not engaged in through means contrary to the laws and policies of the government by the individuals that form the government.

    Honest errors will occur. Through due process, it needs to be determined if the mistake was honest and reasonable. If so, it should be forgiven. Any intentional abuse or clear negligence must be fully punished. Regardless of who did it.

  13. January 27, 2010 at 23:21

    I don’t say that wars need to be legal as such – clearly the application of normal laws in a real war situation is faintly ridiculous. But we need to be clear about why the war is given. The Iraq debacle is the most cynical exercise in goalpost-moving ever! At first, it was because Iraq had WMDs that were going to be used imminently. Then when none were found, it was because we thought there might be some. Then when this excuse was shown for the lie it was, the new reason was to depose Saddam. Then when there were awkward questions about why we feel the need to tackle some tyrants but not others (N. Korea, say), a new excuse was found. Apparently, Iraq hadn’t complied with the UN resolutions set back in 1991 when they were ejected from Kuwait. What next? It would be funny hearing the politicians spout this nonsense if it weren’t for the hideous bodycount on both sides. Remember that Iraqis, of whatever faith or mindset, are living, breathing people too, and we appear to have caused the deaths of thousands of them for no good reason. Liberation? What a joke! More will continue to die as the nation struggles to rebalance after having democracy forced on it at gunpoint. Bush surely made a terrible decision and he deserves to stand trial for this and explain what on Earth he was thinking. At least Britain is making the pretence of having an enquiry, sham though it is. The Americans don’t even care enough to do this. It is utterly shameful. When we treat other cultures with such contempt it can be no surprise that they launch terrorist attacks on the West. How can anyone feel proud of this?

  14. January 27, 2010 at 23:37

    Of course wars must be legal in the eyes of the World; and the World’s forum is the United Nations. Otherwise we would have piracy such as in the Somali waterways for example.
    As we have been hearing today from Lord Goldsmith – logically and clearly presented I think – that there is no World court as such and it is up to member nations to make their own interpretations from the UN Council’s edicts. The various interpretations by and large exactly coincide. The edicts are formulated by the nations themselves through their representatives.

    I would like to record that there has been some very poor reporting on the Iraq Inquiry matters particularly today when the news reporters have pitched their ‘stories’ from the point of view that (today) “….. Lord Goldsmith was wrong and this is what he said about it.” Poor indeed. We do need some objective reporting rather than opinionated comments.

    Further on the matter of reporting why do so many reporters think they know best? Today for example ‘what is wrong with changing one’s opinion in the light of more information?’ I would wish more of our reporters and our leaders would be as objective and recognise that matters do evolve.

  15. January 28, 2010 at 00:55

    What a load of rubbish! Of course wars need to be legal. All this talk of bad Saddam who never was a threat to the west(the biggest hypocrites of all especially Tony Blair,dubya’s little pet) Why then, given the author’s point of view are we not in Darfur,
    ,Nigeria Somalia, Sierra Leone? Where was the UK, USA and the UN(a total waste of time) during the Rwanda slaughter.Why did the west stand idly by, sucking their collective thumbs when they were carpet bombing Lebanon or Ghaza.Oh I forgot,they have no oil! There is absolutely no honour in Politics

    • 20 Michel Norman
      January 28, 2010 at 17:10

      The difference my friend is that Gaza and Lebanon were not carpet bombed – Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth – if it had been carpet bombed, like you people did in Germany, there would have been hundreds of thousands of casualties. The same goes for Lebanon – you could ask where does international law stand on fighting terrorists who fire masses of rockets at civilians, and hide behind their own civilians whose deaths they try to cause?

  16. January 28, 2010 at 01:07

    War can only be legal where there are no weapon of mass destruction found, and there are tons and tons of petroleum.

  17. 23 Tan Boon Tee
    January 28, 2010 at 03:00

    Just scrutinise the history of mankind. Since when was a war or conflict legal?

    Of course, it would always be “legal” in the eyes of the aggressors or oppressors, each time offering every possible irrational excuse.

    The word “legal” does not appear in any war dictionary. Like it or not, Iraq war is no exception.

  18. 24 Jagjit Singh Mukandpuri
    January 28, 2010 at 03:04

    Wars can not be justified, if this war is legel then we have to declare all previous wars to be legel including World war 1 and 11, then their is no need of international courts and to withdraw the trials of World war 11. Yes, one war can be justified against slavery,unjustice and to get self respect. Thanks.

  19. 25 J. Hart
    January 28, 2010 at 05:55

    Does this mean that Iraqs can sue Bush and Blair and then the respective governments then?
    Based on History when something has happened to American families, countries have been sued and properties and bank accounts seized. I think Iraqs have the same right as Americans and I would encourage them to do so. It’s unfortunate that I am not an attorney because I would represent them.

  20. 26 Sigursteinn - Iceland
    January 28, 2010 at 06:44

    The legality of war is situated between the gray area of morality and the shades of need. Neither case was fulfilled in the running towards the Iraq war. But I have yet to hear WHY Iraq was attacked in the first place?

    • 27 Maxine
      January 30, 2010 at 05:08

      Because of the International agreement signed by most countries, that when Genocide was being committed we would take action against it.

  21. 28 S C Mehta
    January 28, 2010 at 06:50

    Do wars need to be legal? Do weapons of mass destruction have to be non-living? DO TERRORISM AND EXTREMISM NEED TO BE LEGAL?
    It’ll be absolutely absurd and foolish to discuss about legality of any actions, taken in retaliation to the violent attacks and evil rule/governance; How’ud you feel, that, while you’re wasting time to come to a legally-binding decision, the evil enemy of the peace-loving and civilized world is mindlessly and indiscriminately killing millions of innocent people around the world?

  22. 29 Ronald Almeida
    January 28, 2010 at 07:24

    Does war have to be legal, under International law?

    What a lot of idiotic yakety yak!

    Only an individual can decide if he thinks a cause is just in order to fight, kill or be killed for it. Who the hell is the family, community, religion, country or the rest of the universe to make that decision?

  23. 30 Roberto
    January 28, 2010 at 11:16

    RE “” And what is international law anyway?’ “”

    ———— It’s whatever the existing power brokers decide it’s gonna be.

    In this case, you have the US/UK heads of state justifying a war that the UN/International Law supporters declined to support.

    To put the shoe on the other foot, if the UN/International Law supporters were advocating the Iraq invasion, would the US/UK be obligated under international law to yield to their demands and start a war they didn’t want?

    Of course not. International law is so weak that it can be flaunted by anyone down to the common man on the street with impunity. The only part of international law, indeed, any law that power brokers follow are those designed around their self interest.

  24. 31 Bob in Queensland
    January 28, 2010 at 11:44

    The issue of “legality” of war generally gets lost eventually because victors write the history. However, following the rules may help to solve the thorny issue of “who decides what’s justified?”. Taking Iraq as an example, I suspect many normal Iraqis in those 60 million feel “invaded” rather than “liberated”.

  25. 32 Ibrahim in UK
    January 28, 2010 at 11:51

    I thought International laws were introduced in order to prevent nations from starting wars. Just as laws stop me from breaking into another person’s home and killing his family and stealing his posessions, international laws should stop nations from invading other nations and killing their people and stealing their resources. Civilised people live by laws and expect their government to reflect their civilised values domestically and internationally.
    First and foremost, in a democracy, it must be considered legal and justified by the majority of the people (since it is the people that pay for the war in blood and money). Secondly, it should comply with all international agreements that the country has signed up to, or risk sanction and isolation.
    Laws are only as good as their enforcers. The strong, and their friends, can get away with murder (literally) because no one can enforce it on them. In practice, International law is only applied against the weak.

    • 33 Ronald Almeida
      January 30, 2010 at 15:08

      In other words its still ‘Survival of the Fittest’. I think those who believe in those who say it is not so should have a rethink and realise the truth.
      ‘Don’t follow leaders, watch your parking metres’ – Dylan.

    • 34 maryam khan frm pakistan
      January 30, 2010 at 17:38

      hey!!!Your comments were really gud and that is qu8 true as well.I really appreciate your thought.

  26. 35 Linda from Italy
    January 28, 2010 at 12:00

    I’m no a lawyer, but I feel there is a difference between “legal” and “justified”. The latter is a purely subjective judgement and may not necessarily agree with legislation in a particular society, whether this is local, national or cross-border. For example, many people disagree with abortion as unjustifiable on religious grounds in countries where this is legal, but they are contravening the law if they take action, particularly violent action to prevent it. In contrast, many countries have laws against assisted suicide, something many citizens are increasingly coming to support, but it is still technically a crime if you get involved in this, although as recent cases in the UK and elsewhere demonstrate this is all becoming a very grey area.
    In these situations, in democracies at least, laws are open to rewriting when there is sufficient public demand for changes, e.g. the abolition of laws criminalising homosexuality as was the case only a few decades ago in many Western countries.
    That is not to say that the people who draft legislation are not in some part driven by their own subjectivity, but generally some sort of consensus is sought on what is felt appropriate for the needs of a particular society.

  27. 36 Linda from Italy
    January 28, 2010 at 12:14

    International law is an extension of national/local law when countries come together to agree on acceptable ways of regulating society on a more global scale, whether this is through the UN, the EU or any other body considered credible by those wishing to enter into such arrangements. There is a complication here because while national laws are generally binding on all citizens in that country, national governments choose to sign up to international treaties (etc.) and accept the criteria they lay down.
    In the case of the UK and the Iraq war, it is my understanding that the Government had previously accepted certain limiting criteria for going to war, such as self-defence and intervention in a potential genocide, so removing Sadam Hussain, who was undoubtedly a very nasty tyrant who perpetrated many acts of tyranny and oppression against his own people, should not have fitted those criteria, the WMD scare being evidence of making the crime fit the punishment.
    If a country signs up to international legislation then it has to abide by it, hence the illegality of the Iraq debacle.

  28. January 28, 2010 at 12:28

    Tony Blair was and is in a pickle. One can understand that he loathed Saddam Hussein thoroughly for his cruelty and stood shoulder to shoulder with George Bush that the tyrant had to be removed from power legally or in the worst-case scenario by force. Perhaps he should have waited for the right moment through the United Nations to get rid of the dictator I.e.a special tribunal at the Hague to investigate Saddam’s crimes. Tony Blair made his greatest mistake by claiming that Sadam had weapons of mass destruction without adequate proof and by supporting George Bush on an invasion of Iraq without United Nations approval. One has to sympathize with Blair as he is a very decent man, an astute lawyer who in this case was so blinded by his distaste of Saddam and who was swayed by George Bush whom he liked and respected. The spotlight will be on Tony as he gives evidence but one can expect him to be forthright in this ‘nightmarish’ search for the truth.

  29. 38 Guido, Vienna
    January 28, 2010 at 13:26

    The target of international laws is to prevent wars between nations, not to protect humans. If you define legal with a permission by the UN security council, that means you have to convince 5 heads of states that the war is justified (the other members of the security council will not dare to vote against the superpowers). You don’t need a good justification.

    The main question is what kind of war is justified? You should of course guarantee that the war and its consequences cost less lives than any other solution, e.g in case of genocide.

    However you define a just war, the decision should be made by an international court, not by politicians.

  30. 39 JanB
    January 28, 2010 at 13:33

    Well, I see WHYS has decided to censor my view: that the current process of determining the legality of a war is flawed because only a handful of countries (UN security council) get to decide, some of which have veto powers. Basically what I said was: if a regime sells resources to China they can get away with anything, even genocide, because China will make sure to veto any resolution against the regime (as they have with Sudan).

    But I guess WHYS already selected the answers it deemed “correct” and mine was not correct enough.

    Oh, well, just google the UN security council to find out what kind of brutal, undemocratic regimes get to decide whether a war is legal or not.

  31. 40 T
    January 28, 2010 at 15:27

    Under intl. law, yes you do. Yet, look at how many Western countries and leaders manipulate it to justfy their wars.

    Both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are illegal and immoral under intl. law. Blair broke the law and Obama is breaking it now. Which means they and others should be be investigated and prosecuted. If we break the law, we pay the consequences.

    But because both of them are rich and powerful, they’re above the law? Why else haven’t they been prosecuted yet?

  32. 41 T
    January 28, 2010 at 15:39

    Here’s a question for you. Why hasn’t Gordon Brown pushed for Blair to be prosecuted for war crimes?:

    Is it because the Labour Party comes first?
    Is it because Brown’s afraid of Blair’s power (even as a private citizen)?
    Does it bother Brown to continue his double standard re: upholding intl. law?
    If he did prosecute Blair, is Brown afraid that Obama will cut off his access to U.S. intelligence re: “terrorists”?

    You tell me.

  33. 42 John Coventry
    January 28, 2010 at 16:50

    Not only where no weapons of mass destruction even found,but there is clearly a probability that this war was illegal by international standards.

    Just after the outbreak of the war,I met Jack Straw and asked him in a rather sarcastic way, if we had yet found these weapons of mass destruction. Jack Straw took a sip of his drink and smiled ” I wish we could”. Strange, that only a month before the Government was so very sure about this.
    I put later the same question to Tony Blair and for a moment I thought the smile vanished from his face,but I could have been mistaken.

    Now after so many deaths and that poor country in a vacuum comes the wriggling from the Ministers and our Government. It seems from listening that not one of them made any error at all. Do I expect anything different from Tony Blair or Gordon Brown? No, I think the wriggling will continue. Tony Blair will remain determined that he did the right thing and possibly blame the intelligence services and Gordon Brown will say he took Tony Blair’s word for it and acted in good faith.I do not think for a minute that the British people believe a word they say.

    January 28, 2010 at 16:50

    We have to establish the legality of war simply because we have chosen to be guided by laws. We must also desociate ourselves from that formating of our mind which has eradicated the word MURDER where the surfering is inflicted on the guilty and the innocent- that is barbarism. War is murder and is worse for the soldier who has to implement it – the screems of the innocent?
    All the reasons for starting the recent wars had many flaws because they were started with forged legitimacy. There were criminals we agree – but they were all created by the same people laying blame everywhere. Where in the middle east was a factory making war chemical? Saddam was wrong too but how many years did the white knights take to take revenge for the Kurds and the Shias. What did the CIA not know about the invasion of Kwait? Why is every Muslim country now calling their own country Al Qaeda and not the word oppossition? War must have a mission and a well defined target and timing. The law should not be subservient to politicians in order to justify MURDER.
    ‘MURDER’ – who does not know what it means?

  35. 44 patti in cape coral
    January 28, 2010 at 17:12

    Do wars need to be legal… The question reminds me of a Star Trek where two parties were having a war that appeared to be a computer game. The way it worked is that if a missile hit your city on the game, you were supposed to walk into a chamber and be gassed. In this way you could wage war and not lose cultures or destroy art or buildings. The whole system depended on the citizens’ obedience in reporting to death chambers. They had found a way to clean up the messiness of war, not realizing that the messiness and terror is what makes it a thing to be avoided. I’m not sure if that tidbit is related to the question, but I wonder if all these rules around war and whether they are legal or not are meant to clean up something that isn’t really “cleanable.” That being said, I do believe defensive war is justified.

    January 28, 2010 at 17:19

    I think too that people should not commit war crimes may they be radicals or anyone else by simply wearing a pocker face and walking away with it casually. In addition, I think the real genesis of these recent conflicts need to be explained convincingly something that has not happened yet. President Bush defied the UN openly when he initiated the invasion of Iraq the invasion of Baghdad.
    It is absurd too to have international justice system that is biased through impatiallity – it will not hold. Why was Saddam not tried by the international court due to the so called crime against humanity instead of using that kangaroo court? We have been told that the press should be decent enough not show some graphic horror. Why was it an exception in Saddams case? Why are people arrested for offences against the US and then kept in custody abroad – guatanamo ect? Now – contrast this with the Falklands war.
    These kind of questions will not hold until we abide common decency and legallity.

  37. January 28, 2010 at 17:20

    How do you legalize a civil war? If wars had to have legal authority there would not be any wars,just legal wrangling.Wars are decided by politicians,despots and religeous crackpots (lords resistance army.)An international court that can be vetoed is not a court at all.International law that can be ignored are not laws at all.Our glorious humanity will decide who wars and who does not.

  38. 47 JanB
    January 28, 2010 at 18:08

    “Under intl. law, yes you do. Yet, look at how many Western countries and leaders manipulate it to justfy their wars.

    Both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are illegal and immoral under intl. law. Blair broke the law and Obama is breaking it now. Which means they and others should be be investigated and prosecuted. If we break the law, we pay the consequences.”

    My, oh my, what faith in this mythical international law have we here, I guess it will be quite the dissappointment when you find out that international law just means the US, UK, France, Russia and China have to vote for it. Yep, that’s all, there are no judges and no neutral states, involved in the process. So if you believe a war suddenly becomes immoral if these nations vote for it, go ahead, but I beg to differ…

  39. 48 T
    January 28, 2010 at 18:59

    Many people in many countries other than the States, UK, etc. actually put more of a value on human rights than Brits and Americans.

    If someone tortured, do you tell them with a straight face that it’s all for “national security”? Obama and Blair are both attorneys. They know that anything derived from torture is inadmissible in civilian courts. Now, Blair is a “peace envoy” who hasn’t done anything since he started.

    Is that the ultimate slap in the face for torture survivors or what?

  40. 49 Tom D Ford
    January 28, 2010 at 19:47

    @ patti in cape coral
    January 28, 2010 at 17:12

    ”… That being said, I do believe defensive war is justified.”

    I suggest that you find and read the speech that Hitler gave to justify his invasion of Poland. He made the Germans out to be victims and said that the invasion was in self defense.

    And go back over the Bush/Cheney/PNAC propaganda before the invasion of Iraq, a lot of that was fear-mongering rants about how the US and Great Britain had to invade Iraq in self defense because of WMDs.

    The Hitler and Bush speeches are very similar, eerily, in fact.

    Real defensive war might be justified, but “the powers that be” are well acquainted with the propaganda methods of painting their wars to look like self defense.

    Hmm, Howard Zinn just died. He was a historian and he wrote “The Peoples’ History of America”, and you would probably be surprised at how many times the US went to war against other peoples and falsely justified it as “self defense”. Like The Alamo, for instance.

    • 50 patti in cape coral
      January 28, 2010 at 21:14

      Hi Tom – When I say defensive war, I’m usually picturing war against direct threat or invasion, in other words, real defensive war, not war painted to look defensive. You’re right ,of course, war isn’t justified defense just because a politician says it is.

  41. 51 T
    January 29, 2010 at 02:31

    To answer this question, read Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky.

  42. 52 T
    January 29, 2010 at 02:33

    I’ll make a prediction here that the MSM will never do.

    If Brown investigates and prosecutes Blair for war crimes, he’ll win the next election. Why? Because all of those who love to have a go at him and Labour will be impressed. For once (in their view), they can do something right.

    If any labour “campaign consultants” want more free ideas, you know where to find me.

  43. 53 username
    January 29, 2010 at 12:00

    I wonder where the “illegal war” people were when the following wars occurred:

    1948 Arab invasion of Israel
    1967 Arab war against Israel
    1973 Arab war against Israel
    Korean War
    Iran/Iraq War
    USSR/Afghan War
    Chinese invasion of Tibet
    India/Pakistan Wars

    None of these had the approval of the UN!

    • 54 John LaGrua/New York
      January 30, 2010 at 20:17

      You missed a few : Isreal attack on Palestinains ,for 60 years .Gaza killing of 1400 innocent civilians .Legal nonsense ,moral, absurd.Korea was a UN action which unfortunately was carried by the US at great cost.Wars of aggression by definition can have no legal basis ,only reationalizations to fit the aggressors need for jjustification.Ultimately , self delusion leads to disaster.,Nazi Germany and japan ,WW11 now the US in Iraq .and Isreal’s delemna,,no peace and moral isolation.The West has been corrupted by power and wealth and for it’s own survival must re-examine it;s core values to revive a civil and decent social order.

    • 55 Halima
      January 31, 2010 at 10:08

      add Israel occupation (by war) of Palestine
      Israel annexing (by war) territory

  44. January 29, 2010 at 12:05

    Rule Britannia!
    Straight from the horse’s mouth! Would Blair have attacked Saddam on his own?
    A lesson for Iran. Always admired Blair but Gordon is the better man.

  45. 57 Nigel
    January 29, 2010 at 12:11

    I guess that read another way, your question could easily be understood as “Should we be free to rush around invading one another without the countenance of some legally constituted body?” It would seem that the legally constituted body that has the power to sanction war and make it appear to be legal is the UN. Discomforting that the US and UK, the two main protaganist in both the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, are part of the top “approval giving” body of the UN and could be said to have used the powers of the UN to give themselves the legality that they need. Of course the whole concept of using war to make peace is flawed and faulted. The US war in Vietnam didn’t contribute one iota to what VN has become today. It is the withdrawl of American troops that paved the way for peace.

  46. 58 Roberto
    January 29, 2010 at 12:36

    RE “” US went to war against other peoples and falsely justified it as “self defense”. Like The Alamo, for instance. “”

    ———– Crimony Crickets!

    Now, Mr. Tommy, The Alamo is smack dab in the middle of Texas and their 1836 declaration of independence from Mexico. US had nothing, zilch, to do with Iraq. A legendary pantheon of Texas heroes led by Texas General Sam Houston routed the much larger and better equipped Mexican army led by despot Santa Anna at San Jacinto.

    Santa Anna was able to squelch previous revolution attempts in Mexico and Texas, but not this time podnah. When Santa Anna returned to Mexico he had to put down another revolution led by veterans of the Texas campaign.

    Time to study up as Texas history has zero to do with modern US and UK miltary actions.

  47. January 29, 2010 at 12:57

    Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq today underlined the startling similarities of Saddam’s brutal regime with present day Iran. “Arabs were happy to see Saddam go,” says Blair. A replica of the current situation.
    – Imprisonment of opponents, political activists and minorities.
    -Torturing and lynching innocent citizens.
    – Wide terrorist networks working together.
    – Fundamentalists and and religious zealots holding the nation hostage.
    – Why hold an innocent 24-year old French girl cooped up in Tehran all these months on trumped up charges?
    – Why arrrest a couple of innocent German diplomats?
    Will Iran drop its nuclear program?
    These are some of the dilemmas which faced former British prime minister Tony Blair. He had the guts and took the decision which only he as prime minister was entitled to.

  48. January 29, 2010 at 13:00

    I think wars should be legal approved by constitued authority.

  49. January 29, 2010 at 13:08

    Going to war is a very big step and has to be sanctioned by a world body like the United Nations after serious deliberations by country representatives and with a two-thirds majority. Strenous efforts should have been made to find a peaceful solution. The Security Council would need to discuss the matter exhaustively.There has to be a clearly defined threat to world peace. Countries should not be allowed to take decisions unilaterally especially when it comes to waging war. Flouting United Nations resolutions and going to war would make the world a more dangerous place. There needs to be a system of fool-proof international rules regarding combat which nations should sign up and adhere to.

  50. 62 Crispo, Uganda
    January 29, 2010 at 13:19

    War has no legal bearing to me. There should always be a justifiable reason to go to war, not a legal reason. War and legality are not compartible at all. People can manipulate the legal system to justify a reason to go to war, depending on the current moods of the public. Take for example the mood of the populace in the west after 9/11. Just a classic example of this.

    That’s why in 2002, the mood which was very much tense and confused and fragile, presented the perfect opportunity for war mongers to dupe the public into thinking the war was justifiable.

    Almost a decade down this road, it appears the reasons for going there were actually concocted just to suit certain isolated interests and not generally the national and global interest, so lously termed as “war on terror”.

    After heavy blood sacrifices, no positivity and a host who is almost hard to distinguish from the real enemy and billions of dollars wasted, the public impatience has boiled over and the politicians can no longer hide from the truth. An inquest is the solution they seek to redeem their tainted image, and crumbling political careers. Some’s has been buried, and now Blair must be sacrificed, supposedly to cool public anger and anguish.

    I hope Blair is not going to shoulder the whole blame, in fact, I believe his rashy decision, no doubt, must have been influenced by certain experts, who seldom appear in public or whom the public scarcely knows.

    If going to war should be a legal issue, then I believe that the notion of a legal war is wrong.

    Legal means lawful right, and something lawful is acceptable.
    Under no circumstances should war be acceptable, rather only justifiable, of course under extreme situations.

  51. 63 Crispo, Uganda
    January 29, 2010 at 13:30

    I’d like to know from Tom D Force, is it because of the Nuremberg trial that the US acts like a nanny state, ruthlessly attacking nations and giving wrong reasons to justify their actions?

  52. January 29, 2010 at 14:49

    What a question! Of course everything has to be legal, specially wars. Nobody in the western media has bothered asking this question when Iraq launched its illegal war against Kuwait and it was taken for granted that is an illegal act of aggression (which it was) exactly like US, UK and coalition invasion of Iraq.

    Stop this double standards, as it is one of the ground reasons for current global conflicts.

    Wars have to be legal and legitimate and the US invasion of Iraq was neither legal nor legitimate and it has caused damages not only to Iraq and the US but to the whole world at large.

    Millions are still suffering from the bad deeds of this illegal war and you are asking if wars have to be legal?

    Please give humanity a break!

  53. 65 gary indiana
    January 29, 2010 at 14:50

    Oh Goodness me! If it weren’t for the generational drain of useless armed conflict consuming the very best of mankind’s resources we’d have cured cancer and built space colonies a millennia ago. The oft told fairy tale of military preparedness driving invention and technical progress is a load of guff. I’m an inventor, I know what motivates our lot (and no, it isn’t money either).
    War is negative in all its aspects. In anticipation of those who cite the wonderful WWII for stopping Hitler, I would ask they remember WWI for starting him, and the four and half decades of “cold war” and its millions of very permanently dead victims. Outlaw it? Please show me one single legal occurrence of it.

  54. 66 John Bogen
    January 29, 2010 at 16:22

    From Madagascar

    I completely agree with Said Samir.

    Further the people who say that “it’s over – it’s history” “we need to move on”… need to be reminded that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

    Until all the facts are known how can we learn the lessons?

    Following 9/11 George Bush has a perfect opportunity to bring the world together. Instead he and Tony Blair did the opposite and have blown the world apart.

    Of course, George Bush and Tony Blair should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!

    If such a thing as law still exists in this post 9/11 world!

  55. January 29, 2010 at 17:15

    Tony Blair is beginning to crack up at the Chilcot Inquiry. He said that Iran and Iraq were arch-enemies in 2003 but that is simply not true. We had a perfectly satisfactory, peaceful and workable accommodation with Saddam.
    The Holy Cities of Najaf, Karbala and Kazemain are sacred to Iranian and Iraqi Shiites. Tehran had close ties to these cities for centuries; it has nothing to do with the Coalition attack on Iraq.
    Why was the death toll of Iraqi civilians so high in the invasion? The damage inflicted doesn’t justify the action!

  56. 68 Elias
    January 29, 2010 at 17:26

    No, it does not matter for going to war, what matters that not going to war the result would be far worse sometime in the future in the case of Iraq. Saddam Hussein continually lied over and over again and could not be taken to his word.

  57. January 29, 2010 at 18:59

    It’s not whether they’re legal that matters now but if the region they’re invading has any resources worth saving,who cares about the manpower;but gas or oil is the real currency now

  58. January 29, 2010 at 19:16

    Tony Blair was very articulate. He expressed his fears that Saddam Hussein had WMD and was convinced that Saddam posed a real risk. The fact that Saddam had gassed so many Kurds using chemical weapons. So the possibility that he possessed weapons of mass destruction was not inconceivable!

  59. 71 Alan in Arizona
    January 29, 2010 at 19:32

    I can’t imagine any war being legal. Someone dies! Life is lost! Sometimes it for the greater good. Millions potentially killed compared to thousand killed. It’s a hard choice.

    If the law doesn’t matter or any legalities, I think sanctioning assassinations should be considered. Terminate 4 or 5 leaders in a small country and save thousands that they really could care less about.

    Think of the money and lives saved. If monies the thing compare the cost.

    $20,000 for a flight, a gun, some logistics and 1 life lost, of a bad person.


    $50,000,000 a day, thousands of lives lost ( innocents and soldiers we all cherish), amazing damages to a countries infrastructure and future.

    Only problem. I’m out of a job in the defense industry.

    I’m OK with that!

    If countries have to murder, limit the effect!

  60. 72 Mehwish Aziz
    January 29, 2010 at 19:48

    yes war need to be legal.because cold war is illegal nd this war Destroy our economy 100percent.while that blood war.one more thing war is war whether it is legal or illegal.war is not solution of any thing.while war is legal or illegal it is destroy our peace.it creats many problem..

  61. 73 John LaGrua/New York
    January 29, 2010 at 19:52

    The law in the hands of knaves can become the hand maiden of deceit.The tortuous “legal” reasoning by Bush lawyers justifying the Iraq war and torture stands as an abomination justice and decency.Under political pressure and or distorted moral values so called “legal basis”can be conjured up to support the most specious arguements.tThe only deterence to such chicanery is swift and stern punishment for those who like Bush and Blair abused the public trust,

  62. 74 T
    January 30, 2010 at 01:25

    Greenstock is wrong. Just because many countries “support” for intl. law is only meaningless words doesn’t make it right to do that.

    If someone invades the U.K., is that a violation of intl. law?

  63. 75 sal
    January 30, 2010 at 08:49

    OK, if wars don’t need to be legal then I don’t need to pay taxes or give a monkey’s about any laws of the land. No need to obey rules of engagement…hey isnt that just what the IDF did in Gaza? Right ….wars don’t have to be legal. Right on! No rules then we end up stooping to the level of a terrorist. Of course wars have to be legal, Tony Blair is a capital idiot for what he drew us into. We kicked a hornets nest with bare feet when there was no need to.

  64. 76 Abdul Lathif
    January 30, 2010 at 13:07

    You should ask the ‘Iraqis’ and “Afghanis” if the war needs to be legal? So many people killed and the whole country has been destroyed in pursuit of the whims of a few?

  65. 77 M Ariely
    January 30, 2010 at 18:19

    Crimes are commited and lows follow later.
    Cain murdered Abel.
    The 10 commands forbiting murder followed many yeras later.

    Values are not universaly .
    In some societies human rights and life are value pillares
    In other societies the human rights and life are not considered at all.
    What is not considered legal by one society highly price by the other.
    Example: Prising human life againg prising death

    Question: What is legal in war between 2 such different societies?
    The world did not find the way to solve this contradiction in one low equal for all

    Some organization pretend to protect human rights and values.
    However they are acting only aginst democratic countries
    They never demand war actions or boycott regimes harvesing idelogies that are against any values they pretend to stand for.

  66. January 30, 2010 at 20:05

    Did any one find any Weapons of Mass distruction (WMD) which was used as the weapon and a reason to attack Iraq?

    And is War always the right solution? Can’t we learn to live in harmony and not let die or kill.

  67. 79 Kindi Jallow
    January 30, 2010 at 23:08

    When Iraq invaded Quate, that act contravaned the united nation conventions and international laws, the whole world condemned the act as barbaric, illegal and countries joined forces to repel the invasion. That war can be justified from my perspective, a tectical withdrawal was made by Sadam.
    What makes it different from the Bush and Blier invasion of Iraq is the nature of the allegition which could not be justified in any way.

  68. 80 Sternberg
    January 31, 2010 at 02:32

    What laws would you choose to determine legality? Do you wait until attacked and then retaliate to ensure that your actions are legal in more persons eyes?
    If that is the case, you might be choosing to sacrifice untold numbers of your own citizens lives for the sake of appearances in the eyes of persons who might just slander you still.

  69. 81 JanB
    January 31, 2010 at 22:27

    “Pancha Chandra
    January 29, 2010 at 13:08

    Going to war is a very big step and has to be sanctioned by a world body like the United Nations after serious deliberations by country representatives and with a two-thirds majority. Strenous efforts should have been made to find a peaceful solution. The Security Council would need to discuss the matter exhaustively.There has to be a clearly defined threat to world peace. Countries should not be allowed to take decisions unilaterally especially when it comes to waging war. Flouting United Nations resolutions and going to war would make the world a more dangerous place. There needs to be a system of fool-proof international rules regarding combat which nations should sign up and adhere to.”

    In that cases there will be no wars at all. You will never get a two thirds majority (why two thirds, who are you to decide that?), not even if a country is performing a holocaust within its own borders, for the simple fact that a substantial portion of UN member states is itself in gross violation of many UN treaties on human rights and that a country like China could literally buy enough third world votes to protect itself or one of its allies.

    It’s ridiculous to try to call wars “legal” or “illegal”, they don’t get less messy when they’re deemed “legal” while some “illegal” wars could potentially save millions of lives.

  70. 82 Kindi Jallow
    January 31, 2010 at 23:29

    Every nation big or small has got political independence, constitution, sovereignty territorial boundaries etc as enshrined in the united nations convention and all nations are equal before the eyes of the law. Disputes between one nation and another should be arbitrated at international law courts if all kinds of negotiations fail. Under the Bush era, the US was assuming the position of the worlds zandamerie which had power to dictate, interfare and even change governments. If we are not to return to the laws of the jungle where the big fish will swallow the small ones, we must adapt and abide by united nations conventions.

  71. February 1, 2010 at 08:14

    The legality or illegality of war is purely an academic argument – we must never lose sight of the unstated, “real” reasons for going to war. If the Iraq war was waged on moral principles, how come the autocratic governments in North Korea and Zimbabwe are still standing? Is it because these countries’ natural resources don’t quite make the grade?

  72. 84 Tom of Melbourne
    February 1, 2010 at 12:14

    I thought wars are a total collapse of civil laws, albeit replaced by a martial one, and the reason why insurances won’t cover damages caused by acts of war. In that case, who’s to judge what happens on the battlefield is legal or not?

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