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[casi] Oswestry speech: Defend the UN Charter, Say No to War on Iraq

SPEECH to be delivered on my behalf in Oswestry as
part of a debate on the war on Wednesday 5
February 2003. Topic of debate: Is War on Iraq

SPEECH by Milan Rai

Friends, I am very sorry not to be able to be with you
tonight, but I have a family emergency which requires
me to be at home.

The motion asks, 'Is war with Iraq justified'. Currently,
the British people and the international community
are overwhelmingly of the belief that war with Iraq, in
the present circumstances, would not be justified.

In the present circumstances, war would be not only
unjustified, it would be immoral - in its devastating
consequences for the 23 million people of Iraq, as
Christian Aid and other aid agencies are warning;

it would be illegal - in its defiance of international
restraints on the use of force, as government lawyers
have warned;

it would be undemocratic - for ignoring the wishes of
the British people and for refusing to allow the British
parliament a decisive role in decision-making;

and it would be counter-productive - in stimulating
the forces of terrorism, and risking 'turning the
Middle East into an inexhaustible recruiting ground
for anti-western terrorism,' as we have been warned
by Douglas Hurd, who was of course Foreign
Secretary for the Conservative Party under Margaret
Thatcher between 1989 and 1995.

As things stand, the argument is too easy. Let us make
things more difficult for the anti-war movement. What
if weapons of mass destruction are uncovered in Iraq?
There is no evidence to suggest this, but for the sake
of argument, let us suppose they are found.

Furthermore, what if the United Nations Security
Council passes a new resolution explicitly authorising
the use of force by the United States, Britain, and the
rest of the threadbare 'coalition'? What then?

Would war be justified? For an answer, let us turn to
the Charter of the United Nations, which opens with
these words: 'We, the peoples of the United Nations,
determined to save succeeding generations from the
scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has
brought untold sorrow to mankind...'

Article 39 of the Charter says that the UN Security
Council can take action - either military or non-
military - after it has detected a 'threat to the peace,
breach of the peace, or act of aggression'.

Article 41 empowers the Security Council to impose
'measures not involving the use of armed force'.

Article 42 states that, 'Should the Security Council
consider that measures provided for in Article 41
[economic and other non-military sanctions] would be
inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may
take such action by air, sea or land forces as may be
necessary to maintain or restore international peace
and security'.

Two critical questions then. Firstly, does Iraq pose a
grave and imminent 'threat to the peace' requiring the
use of force (clearly Baghdad has not committed
either a 'breach of the peace' and or an 'act of
aggression')? Secondly, have nonviolent measures to
deal with the 'threat' failed, or are they doomed to

In order to determine whether there is a threat or
not, it is not sufficient to merely find weapons, of
whatever sort, in a country. It also has to be shown
that the country possessing these weapons intends to
use them in an illegal and aggressive manner to
'breach the peace'. No such evidence of intent exists
with regard to Iraq.

British Vice-Admiral Sir James Jungius KBE observed
recently in a letter to The Times on 1 January:

‘Even if the weapons do exist, where is the evidence
of intent to use them? War is too important and
unpleasant a business to be undertaken on the basis of
a hunch, however good that hunch may be.’

Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Douglas Hogg
made the same point on 12 January on BBC Radio 4’s
The World This Weekend:

‘The real question is not whether he’s got weapons of
mass destruction, but rather whether - if he has got
those weapons - he is a grave and imminent threat to
the rest of us.

‘There are lots of other countries in the world that do
have weapons of mass destruction, or are likely to
acquire them, but we don’t necessarily conclude that
they are a grave and imminent threat sufficient to
justify war.’

‘So even if he had these things, unless he’s a grave and
imminent threat there isn’t a moral basis for war,
because the doctrine of self-defence isn’t properly

So if there is a second resolution authorising the use
of force, it will be an abuse of the UN Charter -
because the Security Council can only mandate
military action when there is an act of aggression, a
breach of the peace, or a threat to the peace - and
Iraq is guilty of none of these things. There is no
evidence of an aggressive intention, whether or not
weapons of mass destruction are found.

Let us turn to the second element, the question of
whether nonviolent means have been exhausted.

The majority of American citizens, according to recent
polls, virtually the entire international community, the
UN weapons inspectors themselves, and a UN
Security Council Resolution all demand months not
weeks for the inspectors to do their work.

Paragraph 7 of UN Security Council Resolution 1284,
from December 1999, says: 'not later than 60 days
after they have both started work in Iraq', the UN
weapons inspection agencies UNMOVIC and the
IAEA should draw up a 'work programme' including
'the key remaining disarmament tasks to be completed
by Iraq'.

The Resolution says, 'what is required of Iraq for the
implementation of each task shall be clearly defined
and precise'.

The only thing that has been clearly defined and
precise is the determination of the United States to
scupper the inspection timetable that it used to
trumpet as 'the only way forward'.

On 27 January, two months after weapons inspectors
re-started their work in Iraq, the Security Council
should have heard and approved the definition of
Iraq's disarmament tasks - should have STARTED the
process of verified disarmament in Iraq.

Instead, the United States - with British support - has
effectively broken up Resolution 1284.

So if there is a second resolution authorising the use
of force, it will also be in breach of the UN Charter, of
Article 42, which says that military action can only take
place if nonviolent measures 'would be inadequate or
have proved to be inadequate'.

This is not simply a matter of 'picking and choosing
our Resolutions'. There are objective standards
embedded in the UN Charter: Is there a threat to
peace? Have nonviolent alternatives been exhausted?
The answer to both questions is no, war is not

I don't believe that there will be a second Resolution
authorising the use of force. I believe a second UN
Resolution will be passed, but that it will wave around
a threatening phrase such as 'material breach' or
'serious consequences' or 'all necessary means'.

We must uphold the UN Charter, even if it means
opposing a UN Security Council Resolution. We must
oppose this unjustified, immoral, illegal, undemocratic
and counter-productive war. There is no evidence
that Baghdad intends to use whatever weapons it does
possess in an unlawful or aggressive fashion. Iraq is not
a grave or imminent threat. There is no evidence that
the inspection process has failed or is futile.

Inspectors have searched sites alleged by Washington
and London to be involved in prohibited activities
(though without finding any evidence of such
activities). Inspectors have found weapons-related
documents and warheads (though they were empty),
and they have set up monitoring equipment to ensure
that 'dual-use' equipment in Iraq cannot be used to
produce weapons of mass destruction without alerting
the international community.

Give the inspectors time to do their work in peace,
according to the schedule laid out in Resolution 1284.
War is unjustified. Inaction is not an option, invasion is
not an option, inspection is an option.

Thank you.

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