The Iraq Canard

John Rentoul

mallard duck 300x215 The Iraq CanardThe anti-war Blair rage is subsiding. The proof is that Lord Sumption’s lecture at the London School of Economics on 14 May went unreported. In it, the Supreme Court Justice said:

The great majority of international lawyers of repute considered it [the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003] to be contrary to international law.

I know about this only because Carl Gardner took issue with what he calls this “canard” (French for duck), in a podcast discussion on his Head Of Legal blog (the bit about Iraq begins at -30.25).

Lord Sumption, who as Jonathan Sumption was the Government’s counsel at the Hutton inquiry into the death of David Kelly, is a Lord as a member of the Supreme Court, but is not a member of the House of Lords (a change brought in in 2010 when the Law Lords in the House of Lords moved out into the Supreme Court, separate from the legislature).

Gardner’s objection is in fact to the exaggerated version of Lord Sumption’s view. It is a common belief among anti-war Blair haters that every single serious international lawyer agrees that the war was unlawful (actually they tend to say “illegal”, unaware of the difference). Lord Sumption spoke merely of “the great majority”.

Gardner provides a helpful list of some of the most eminent international lawyers who take the view that the invasion was lawful:

Iain Macleod, Foreign Office Legal Adviser, formerly Legal Adviser of the UK Mission to the United Nations, statement to the Iraq Inquiry, and evidence. He is particularly important because he contradicts the popular sub-canard, which is that all the Foreign Office’s legal advisers held military force to be unlawful.

Professor Malcolm Shaw QC, Senior Fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge. (Who wrote an article in The Sunday Times on 31 January 2010, which is unfortunately not accessible any more, but to which Norman Geras referred here.)

Professor Anthony Aust, LSE, Deputy Legal Adviser to Foreign Office until 2002. From 1988-1991, he was the Legal Adviser of the UK Mission to the UN. BBC Radio 4, December 2002.

Judge Christopher Greenwood, International Court of Justice. Professor at LSE. Submitted a memorandum, “The Legality of Using Force Against Iraq”, to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, October 2002.

Several of them summarised their arguments briefly in a Guardian round-up of law experts in 2004.

Tagged in: , ,
  • FergalFury

    “Thou hast said it” Then they turned unto Tony Bliar and said “If thou art the Messiah throw thyself down. Yea and John Of Rentoul sayeth Truly He is the son of Leo.” 

  • porkfright

    All quiet on the western front on this one-as always.

  • John Rentoul

    Because if military action was lawful before 1441, then it was even more so after 1441. 

  • Kippers

    Though that is not what Greenwood is saying.

  • Kippers

    That doesn’t stop a UK inquiry having a go.

Most viewed



Property search
Browse by area

Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter