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Wednesday, December 5, 2007



War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal
Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger in WashingtonThursday November 20, 2003The Guardian

International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.

In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr. Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defense permitted by international law.

But Mr. Perle, a key member of the defense policy board, which advises the US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.

French intransigence, he added, meant there had been "no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein".

Mr. Perle, who was speaking at an event organized by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, had argued loudly for the toppling of the Iraqi dictator since the end of the 1991 Gulf war.

"They're just not interested in international law, are they?" said Linda Hugl, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which launched a high court challenge to the war's legality last year. "It's only when the law suits them that they want to use it."

Mr. Perle's remarks bear little resemblance to official justifications for war, according to Rabinder Singh QC, who represented CND and also participated in Tuesday's event.

Certainly the British government, he said, "has never advanced the suggestion that it is entitled to act, or right to act, contrary to international law in relation to Iraq".

The Pentagon adviser's views, he added, underlined "a divergence of view between the British govern ment and some senior voices in American public life [who] have expressed the view that, well, if it's the case that international law doesn't permit unilateral pre-emptive action without the authority of the UN, then the defect is in international law".

Mr. Perle's view is not the official one put forward by the White House. Its main argument has been that the invasion was justified under the UN charter, which guarantees the right of each state to self-defense, including pre-emptive self-defense. On the night bombing began, in March, Mr. Bush reiterated America's "sovereign authority to use force" to defeat the threat from Baghdad.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has questioned that justification, arguing that the security council would have to rule on whether the US and its allies were under imminent threat.

Coalition officials countered that the security council had already approved the use of force in resolution 1441, passed a year ago, warning of "serious consequences" if Iraq failed to give a complete accounting of its weapons programs.

Other council members disagreed, but American and British lawyers argued that the threat of force had been implicit since the first Gulf war, which was ended only by a ceasefire.

"I think Perle's statement has the virtue of honesty," said Michael Dorf, a law professor at Columbia University who opposed the war, arguing that it was illegal.

"And, interestingly, I suspect a majority of the American public would have supported the invasion almost exactly to the same degree that they in fact did, had the administration said that all along."

The controversy-prone Mr. Perle resigned his chairmanship of the defense policy board earlier this year but remained a member of the advisory board.

Meanwhile, there was a hint that the US was trying to find a way to release the Britons held at Guantanamo Bay.

The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, said Mr. Bush was "very sensitive" to British sentiment. "We also expect to be resolving this in the near future," he told the BBC.

Read The Web On This Story:

Special reportIraq

Guardian bookThe War We Could Not Stop - the real story of the battle for Iraq, published by Guardian Books and Faber. Buy it from

ChronologyIraq timeline

Interactive guidesClick-through graphics on Iraq

Key documentsFull text of speeches and documents

Comment and analysisMore comment and analysis on Iraq

Audio reportsAudio reports on Iraq

More special reportsPolitics and the warAid for IraqIraq - the media warThe anti-war movementGuide to anti-war websites

Dear Ed. ,

Please forward this email widely to friends, family and colleagues in the legal profession or in law school.

"There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. This is the time for lawyers to speak." - The Honorable Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, November 21, 2007

If you are a lawyer or a law student and are tired of seeing the Bush administration violate the Constitution of the United States and willfully defy the rule of law, it is truly time for you to speak.

Please join "American Lawyers Defending the Constitution" in signing a statement -- included at the end of this email -- urging the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees to hold hearings to investigate a broad range of executive abuses of power. To sign this statement, click on the following link:

Leaders from the American Freedom Campaign, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Center for Constitutional Rights launched the "American Lawyers Defending the Constitution" project last month after seeing coverage of recent events in Pakistan. Inspired by the actions of lawyers in that country, who have risked their careers and even their lives to defend their Constitution, the leaders of these groups set out to organize lawyers in this country in defense of our Constitution.

In a short time, the ALDC has brought together more than 70 prominent lawyers, including former New York governor Mario Cuomo and scores of law school professors. (Click here to see the list of original signers.) In addition, the Alliance for Justice has joined the campaign as an organizational sponsor. The initial goal of the campaign is to present its call for congressional hearings to the chairmen of the two committees in mid-December with the names of at least 1000 lawyers and law students attached.

Please help the campaign reach its goal by visiting the following site and adding your name to the statement:

From wiretapping to torture to defying congressional subpoenas, the Bush administration has ignored and disrespected our Constitution and our laws and it is time for someone to hold them accountable.

As Governor Cuomo said in a speech last month about the overreaching Bush administration and the need to have it reined in, "If US lawyers are marching in the streets in support of the rule of law in Pakistan, why aren't we marching in support of the rule of law here?"

Please join our "march" by signing the American Lawyers Defending the Constitution call to Congress:

Thank you in advance for standing up for the Constitution and the rule of law.



Steve FoxCampaign DirectorAmerican Freedom Campaign

Message to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy from

American Lawyers Defending the Constitution

We are lawyers in the United States of America. As such, we have all taken an oath obligating us to defend the Constitution and the rule of law from those who would violate and subvert them, and to hold wrongdoers accountable.

We believe the Bush administration has committed numerous offenses against the Constitution and may have violated federal laws. Evidence exists that it has illegally spied on Americans, tortured and abused men and women in its direct custody, sent others to be tortured by countries like Syria and Egypt, and kept people in prison indefinitely with no chance to challenge the bases of their detention. Moreover, the administration has blatantly defied congressional subpoenas, obstructing constitutional oversight of the executive branch.

Thus, we call on House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to launch hearings into the possibility that crimes have been committed by this administration in violation of the Constitution, federal statutes, and international treaties. We call for the investigations to go where they must, including into the offices of the President and the Vice President. Should these hearings demonstrate that laws have in fact been broken by this administration, we support all such legal and congressional actions necessary to ensure the survival of our Constitution and the nation we love.

Dear Ed,

The drumbeat for war with Iran was struck a powerful blow this week. The release of the newest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran found that Iran stopped their nuclear weapons development program in 2003 under international diplomatic pressure. According to the NIE estimate, Iran, even if it restarted its nuclear weapons program today, would not be able to produce a weapon in the best circumstances until at least 2010 and as far out as 2015.

In light of the new NIE, the President -- who only six weeks ago raised the specter of WWIII with regards to Iran -- should take the report's findings seriously and reconsider his administration's posturing that in order to stop Iran's burgeoning weapons program U.S. military strikes could be imminent. With this new revelation, America and our allies are offered the chance to formulate a policy toward Iran that is clear-eyed and clear-headed, not one based on fear.

Iran is indeed a threat to our nation and our allies. But like North Korea, Sudan and Venezuela, there are ways to deal with bad actors, tyrants and rogues that are more effective than relying on bullets and bombs alone. For your interest, enclosed is a speech I delivered on the House floor yesterday regarding the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.
Sincerely,James P. Moran

U.S. House of Representatives

Mr. MORAN of Virginia. — Well, what do you know, Mr. Speaker. After months of drum beat urging that we take a more aggressive posture toward Iran, mention by the President of a potential World War III, the assumptions, the assertions by the White House that Iran is aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapons program, we now find that as with Iraq, this was not true.

But, differently from what happened with Iraq, this time those professional, courageous civil servants in our national intelligence agencies stood up to intimidation from the White House and spoke the truth objectively and detailed it with facts. We're very proud of them.

All the more reason why we should not yield to the President's threats to furlough over 200,000 civilian employees and contractors just before Christmas unless the Congress approves another $50 billion in war spending.

Mr. Speaker, we need to stick to our guns. We've approved $459 billion in defense spending. That's enough.

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