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[casi] Dalyell: "J'accuse: Why Tony Blair has to go"

J'accuse: Why Tony Blair has to go

Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - Page A19

The Linlithgow constituency association of the British Labour Party has put
forward a motion recommending that Prime Minister Tony Blair reconsider his
position as leader of our party if Britain supports a war against Iraq
without clearly expressed support from the United Nations.

I agree with this motion. I also believe that if Mr. Blair goes ahead with
his support of an American attack without unambiguous UN authorization and
without a vote in our House of Commons, he should be branded as a war
criminal and sent to The Hague.

I have served in the House of Commons as a member of the Labour Party for
41 years and I would never have dreamed of saying this about any one of my
previous leaders. But this is a man who has disdain for the House of
Commons and international law.

This is a grave thing to say about my party leader. But it is far less
serious than the results of a war that could set Western Christendom
against Islam.

Mr. Blair is a lawyer for heaven's sake, but a growing number of dissenters
within our party have concluded that he seems to have no understanding that
his decision to sanction military action in Iraq without proper Security
Council authorization is illegal under international law. The UN Charter
outlaws the use of force with only two exceptions: individual or collective
self-defence in response to an armed attack, and action authorized by the
Security Council as a collective response to a threat to peace. At the
moment, there are no grounds for claiming to use such force in

The doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence against an attack that might arise
at some hypothetical future time has no basis in international law. Neither
Security Council Resolution 1441, which Mr. Blair bleats on about, nor any
prior resolution, authorizes the proposed use of force in the present

Mr. Blair does not seem to understand that before military action can be
lawfully undertaken, the Security Council must have indicated its clearly
expressed assent. It has not done so. And Mr. Blair's assertion that, in
certain circumstances, a vetoed resolution becomes "unreasonable" and may
be disregarded, has no basis whatsoever in international law.

I don't think Mr. Blair really understands the horrors of 21st century war.
In 1994, I visited Baghdad (all expenses paid by me) and saw the carbonated
limbs of women and children impregnated against a wall by the heat of just
one cruise missile. In the coming war, we are told that 800 cruise missiles
will be launched just to soften up the enemy.

Canadians should not be astonished at the growing opposition to Mr. Blair
in Britain and within his own party. Many of us in the Labour Party believe
he has misunderstood the pressing danger. It comes not from Iraq, but from

If there is a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, it is this: Osama
bin Laden hates Saddam Hussein; on at least two occasions his organization
tried to assassinate him.

The wicked perpetrators of Sept. 11 were not Iraqis. They were Saudis and
Yemenis. Their bases were in Hamburg, perhaps in London, and certainly in
the U.S. itself. Even bombing Afghanistan was of dubious value.
Intelligence and bribery would have had a greater chance of apprehending
Osama bin Laden. Why then unleash war against Iraq -- unless, of course, it
is to fulfill plans hatched as long ago as 1991 for a pre-emptive strike to
gain control of Iraq's oil reserves?

I am not anti-American. I was a member of the executive of the
British-American parliamentary group. I share at one remove four times
over, a grandmother with one of the American presidents, Harry S. Truman,
and hope to accept the invitation to attend celebrations of Mr. Truman's
birthday on May 8 in Independence, Missouri.

But many of us in this country think the United States has been hijacked by
extremists within its government. They have used the support of a British
Labour prime minister as a fig leaf against their critics and against
opposition to war in the United States. It is useful for them to say to
opponents: "But a British Labour prime minister supports us!"

If Britain had made it clear months ago that we would not be party to a
U.S. attack on Iraq, that the United States was acting entirely on it own,
I think American public opinion itself might well have stopped this war
from ever being contemplated.

Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow since 1962, is the longest
continuously serving member of the British House of Commons.

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