Thursday, May 25, 2006

Simple Simon

It isn't very often that anything in the political world astounds me, or probably you for that matter. However, Monday's at times fiery debate about the Armed Forces Bill offered one such example.
An intervention by Birmingham Erdington's Labour MP Sion Simon on Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead). Harry was arguing the point of whether a war or occupation is legal or illegal and if an occupation was deemed illegal then a soldier's individual refusal not to partake in the occupation should not be punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Mr. Siôn Simon (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): Is not the point that my hon. Friend keeps making entirely oxymoronic? Is it not obvious that it will not be in the legislation? Can my hon. Friend not understand that it is not possible for this country’s armed forces to launch or be involved in an illegal war? It has never happened, it will never happen, and it cannot happen. Only in the minds of mad conspiracy theorists* does this country launch illegal wars. It is not possible, and that is why it is not accounted for in the Bill.

*Barry Beef editorial note: 'mad conspiracy theorists', or anti-war protestors as they are better known.


This apologist rhetoric, somewhat conveniently, is that as the UK Parliament voted for the war it cannot be illegal. It has not been condemned by an International Court of Justice, so it's legal.

Three points to counter that argument:
1) As there was no UN backing for the Iraq War surely the war has not been proved as legal either, especially given the lack of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Surely, in the case of war the burden of proof must lay with proving that, what in essence equals an invasion, is legal rather than illegal.
2) The Serbian Government voted in favour of war against Bosnia and this country's Government, along with the International Community, declared that it was of no major significance of what the Serbian Government decided - it was still an illegal war - meaning that an individual Government's declaration of war does not comply, in any shape or form, with internal law.
3) And this point is hazy: didn't an Internation Court find against the USA in relations to its dealings with Grenada back in (I think) 1989? And the United States' response was to denounce, rubbish and eventually illegitamise that particular court.

And another interesting point was that the Liberal Democrats - in a position of epic fence-sitting proportions - deigned to reinforce their anti-war protestations whilst signing up to the argument that Parliament's passing of the war made it legal (notwithstanding the lack of UN backing). For an anti-war party I found this incongruous.

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