Sunday, June 19, 2005

Secret Memo Says Pre-War US/UK Bombings Illegal

The Times of London has done it again, with yet another document revealing the illegal operations of the Bush Administration regarding Iraq.

A SHARP increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war “to put pressure on the regime” was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice.

The advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began “spikes of activity” designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war.

The Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurise the regime was “not consistent with” UN law, despite American claims that it was.


Ministry of Defence figures for bombs dropped by the RAF on southern Iraq, obtained by the Liberal Democrats through Commons written answers, show the RAF was as active in the bombing as the Americans and that the “spikes” began in May 2002.

However, the leaked Foreign Office legal advice, which was also appended to the Cabinet Office briefing paper for the July meeting, made it clear allied aircraft were legally entitled to patrol the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq only to deter attacks by Saddam’s forces on the Kurdish and Shia populations.

The allies had no power to use military force to put pressure of any kind on the regime.

The increased attacks on Iraqi installations, which senior US officers admitted were designed to “degrade” Iraqi air defences, began six months before the UN passed resolution 1441, which the allies claim authorised military action. The war finally started in March 2003.


General Tommy Franks, the allied commander, recalled in his autobiography, American Soldier, that during this meeting he rejected a call from Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to cut the bombing patrols because he wanted to use them to make Iraq’s defences “as weak as possible”.

The allied commander specifically used the term “spikes of activity” in his book. The upgrade to a full air war was also illegal, said Goodhart. “If, as Franks seems to suggest, the purpose was to soften up Iraq for a future invasion or even to intimidate Iraq, the coalition forces were acting without lawful authority,” he said.

Although the legality of the war has been more of an issue in Britain than in America, the revelations indicate Bush may also have acted illegally, since Congress did not authorise military action until October 11 2002.

The air war had already begun six weeks earlier and the spikes of activity had been underway for five months.


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