Irish Government Still has a Lot of Work to Do to Understand the U.S. Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan

On 30th March of this year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in the Dáil (Irish parliament) that "The President [of the U.S.] was grateful for the opportunity to thank us for allowing transit through Shannon Airport and the use of the facility there in accordance with the United Nations’ agreement and resolution." He was responding to a question from Joe Higgins TD (Socialist Party/United Left Alliance) who asked him if President Obama haid said anything to the Taoiseach about the use of Shannon Airport by the US Air Force, and the facilitation by the Irish State of the US armies of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, during their meeting on March 17th.

It seems nobody has told our Irish government leader that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were not authorised by United Nations resolutions. They were illegal.

So lets try to explain the situation, starting with the more straightforward case - Iraq. In simple terms it was illegal.  An article in Dissident Voice entitled Illegal Iraq Invasion According to the UN Charter, the U.S. Constitution, Resolution 1441, and the Nuremberg Charter by Edward Jayne and Ronald Kramer sums up the situation quite well:

The invasion of a single nation by another nation or group of nations is only legal under the UN Charter if such an invasion has been sanctioned by the vote of the UN Security Council.  This did not happen in the case of the recent Iraq invasion, since the United States and Great Britain, led by the U.S. Secretary of State Powell, withdrew on March 17, 2003 their resolution to stage such an invasion from consideration by the UN Security Council when they realized that the majority of its members would vote against it.  Instead, Powell and others insisted that this approval was unnecessary, since UN Resolutions 687 and 1441 (the latter of 8 November 2002) had already granted this right.  However, this is simply not true.  As demonstrated by a close examination of the UN Charter and these particular resolutions, there is no possible interpretation that preempts the need for a final decision by the Security Council.  Because the U.S. and U.K. withdrew their resolution, there could be no decision permitting an invasion.  As a result, the invasion of Iraq was illegal, and those who brought it about can be held responsible for war crimes by an impartial international tribunal, for example the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This was confirmed by the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, who said on September 16, 2004: "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal." (see Iraq war illegal, says Annan - BBC News)

So instead of telling us that the U.S. use of Shannon was in accordance with United Nations' agreements and resolutions, Taoiseach Enda Kenny should be investigating Ireland's complicity in war crimes.

As for Afghanistan, that invasion was just as illegal despite the many UN resolutions that were adopted after the September 11, 2001 attacks.  Resolution 1368 said the Security Council “unequivocally condemns in the strongest terms the horrifying terrorist attacks … and regards such acts, like any act of international terrorism, as a threat to international peace and security.” The preamble recognized “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence in accordance with the Charter but as the Échec à la Guerre collective outlined in an excellent document entitled Canada's Role in the Occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was not a legitimate act of self defence. However the U.S. used the language in the preamble of resolution 1368 to claim legitimacy for its actions.

The Échec à la Guerre document goes on to explain that

The US aggression against Afghanistan in October 2001 more closely resembles the new doctrine of “preventive war” which the White House subsequently made official in its National Security Strategy of September 2002. With this doctrine, the US claims the right to attack unilaterally, “preventively,” any country perceived as a serious threat to its vital interests or those of its allies. This doctrine was used as a cover for the invasion of Iraq and will likely serve the same purpose in any future aggression against Iran, Syria, or other countries. Under international law, such acts and “strategy” are totally illegal and illegitimate. All they are is the doctrine of “might makes right” dressed up in fancy language.

On 28 September 2001, the Security Council adopted another related resolution. This was Resolution 1373, which set forth certain anti-terrorism measures. But it didn't mention Afghanistan.

It was a full five weeks after the bombardment of Afghanistan began before the UN Security Council took a position on the war conducted by the United States and its “coalition.” Yet as Échec à la Guerre explain, Resolution 1378 (14 November 2001) does not even mention it. Instead, it condemns the Taliban and supports “the efforts of the Afghan people to replace the Taliban regime”. After that Resolution 1383 (6 December 2001) simply ratified the Bonn Agreement signed the day before by representatives of several different anti-Taliban factions and political groups. This established a roadmap and timetable for establishing peace and security, reconstructing the country, reestablishing some key institutions, and protecting human rights. It also contained provisions addressing military demobilization and integration, international peacekeeping, and human rights monitoring. Then with Resolution 1386 (20 December 2001) the Security Council authorized the establishment for 6 months of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

It is clear therefore that no Security Council mandate was ever given for the invasion of Afghanistan. That country did not attack the United States - in fact 15 of the 19 Sept 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia but it wasn't invaded by the U.S. And there was no imminent threat of  armed attack on the U.S. from Afghanistan aftr Sept 11.

Now, just a few weeks after taking office the Irish government leader has mislead the Dáil and the Irish people in relation to this and the use of Shannon Airport by the U.S. military. Sadly this is carrying on where the last government left off, as they consistently distorted issues of neutrality and international law to justify the use of Shannon by the U.S. military and refused to engage in any meaningful discussion around the issue. Mr Kenny's words are particularly disappointing given the commitment his party made in the Programme for Government the adopted with the Labour Party. In this theypromised to "enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law.”

It seems that the government still has a lot of work to do before it understands the dictates of international law.

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