Crimes Against the People of X

Cheney said in a tv interview that the US would have invaded Iraq ‘even if we knew [had known, he means] that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction.’ Prominent legal scholars sent him a letter in response. That’s good – but there’s one part of what they say that I think is worrying.

Alternative justifications offered by vice-president Cheney during the recent interview are clearly legally insufficient for military action. A capability to produce weapons of mass destruction in the future, the use of weapons of mass destruction in the past, crimes against the people of Iraq, possible connections with terrorist organisations – all of these qualify as grievances which the United States might bring against Iraq in the United Nations, as we did, but do not constitute grounds for the first use of force without UN approval.

Bracket Cheney and that other fella for the purposes of this discussion, and also bracket the legality question; it’s the moral (and consequential) aspect I think is worrying. It’s that ‘crimes against the people of Iraq’ bit. The problem is obvious, and has been discussed endlessly, but it remains just as worrying. What if the crimes against the people of [wherever it be] are really huge crimes? And what if UN approval for the use of force is not forthcoming? What if there are only two choices: unilateral intervention (i.e. aggression) or standing by and watching a genocide continue?

That’s the worry. It’s not that I want to give Cheney and his gang a blank check, it’s not that I trust them an inch, which is why I said bracket them; but the principle is a worry. It’s related (obviously) to the whole national sovereignty question, which has been changing lately. It’s also obviously related to Darfur, and to future Darfurs. I don’t know what the answer is; I just wanted to point out the worry.

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