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UK Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan Highlighted by War Crime Claims
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The alleged bid by the British government and army to close down investigations into torture and murder in Iraq and Afghanistan appears to be the latest aspect of a widespread desire in in the UK to forget all about these failed wars.

Joining the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 is commonly blamed on Tony Bair, but there is little interest in the desperate situation into which British troops were plunged post-invasion, first in southern Iraq and then, three years later, in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

The gravity of the miscalculations in each case is not in doubt. Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador in Kabul at the time, wrote in his memoirs that the worst mistake made by the Foreign Office in the previous 30 years was the invasion of Iraq, and the second worst was “its enthusiastic endorsement of Britain’s half-baked effort to occupy Helmand in 2006”.

The allegation that war crimes were committed – to be claimed in a BBC Panaroma programme on Monday evening – is in keeping with Britain’s dismal record in these conflicts.

The ICC has said it is considering opening an investigation into the claims, based on leaked documents. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said the allegations are unsubstantiated.

After the capture of Baghdad, the British army stayed in the south of Iraq, mostly in and around Basra, apparently under the impression that this would be quieter than the Sunni Arab provinces that had more strongly supported Saddam Hussein.

It swiftly became clear that, while the Shia population of the south were glad to be rid of Saddam, they were not about to accept a British occupation. An ominous sign of this came on 24 June 2003 when six British Royal Military Police were shot dead in a town called Majar al Kabir near the city of Amara.

They died because they were advising local police at the same moment as British paratroopers were carrying out an aggressive patrol in another part of the same town and had had an exchange of fire in which several locals had died. The RMPs were killed soon afterwards in a revenge attack.

The incident sums up the fatal contradiction facing the British expeditionary force in Iraq. Their numbers and dispositions were suitable for a country in which most of the population was friendly, but if the opposite were true, as it certainly was, then the soldiers were vastly outnumbered and in danger. British officers used to annoy their American counterparts by claiming prior expertise in this type of warfare, drawing on British experience in Malaya and Northern Ireland. A captain in military intelligence stationed for a year in Basra later said that “I kept trying to explain without success to my superiors that in Malaya and Northern Ireland we had local allies while in Basra we had none.”


The weakness of the British position was exposed in detail by the Chilcot Report in 2016, but its findings were masked by media obsession with finding some “smoking gun” that would prove the culpability of Tony Blair and by the shock result of the Brexit referendum that had taken place at the same time.

The report explains that by 2007 the British forces in Basra had run out of ideas and “it was humiliating that the UK reached a position in which an agreement with a militia group [the Mahdi Army], which had been actively targeting UK forces, was considered the best option available.”

According to Chilcot, the one consistent British strategy between 2003 and complete withdrawal in 2009 was “to reduce the level of deployed forces” and to do so without offending the US. The means of doing so was to redeploy the troops to Afghanistan, which was supposedly safer, but where they arrived just as the Taliban were restarting their guerrilla war and where 405 British troops were to be killed in the coming years.

Those who may have committed war crimes in these conflicts have been investigated, even if they were not prosecuted. It would be good if those responsible for these doomed military forays should also be held responsible for their actions.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Afghanistan, Britain, Iraq War, War Crimes 
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  1. In what way has the war on Iraq failed?

    The country was utterly destroyed and can never be supposed to be a threat to Israel even in the most fevered Zionist imagination.

  2. Those who may have committed war crimes in these conflicts have been investigated, even if they were not prosecuted.

    For fuck’s sake… he leaves it until the last paragraph to make it absolutely clear that this is a halfwitted puff-piece that is a contribution to the current propaganda ‘surge’ attempting to ‘re-frame’ war crimes trials as invalid.

    ‘Investigated’ – by whom? By safe hands, which were – just in case – tied behind the investigators’ backs due to restrictive terms of reference.

    It is absolutely clear that the UK received first-instance ministerial-level advice that the war was illegal in the absence of a specific UNSC resolution. It was illegal both in international law, but more importantly (from the point of view of UK government ministers and their hirelings) it was illegal in UK domestic law.

    That advice (from July 2002) was leaked some time ago, and the UK government therefore knew that the illegality of their intended action was clear. (Don’t worry: the link is to the UK national Archives: the document was declassified some time ago [why was it ever classified to begin with? these people are putatively acting in our collective name!])

    The salient paragraph is paragraph 13:

    13. My view therefore is that in the absence of a fresh resolution by the Security Council which would at least involve a new determination of a material and flagrant breach, military action would be unlawful. Even if there were such a resolution, but one which did not explicitly authorise the use of force, it would remain highly debatable whether it legitimised military action – but without it, the position is, in my view, clear.

    Goldsmith subsequently changed his advice 3 days before the first missiles were launched – after he was chivvied (and/or blackmailed) by lawyers for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others.

    That is absolutely immaterial, since those lawyers had absolutely no experience in UK jurisprudence or international law.

    Launching a war of aggression is “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole“. The war in Iraq was unambiguously a war of aggression. Given those two things, war crimes trials ought to be a lay-down misère.

    In a war of aggression, every participant from the aggressor nation is a war criminal. That’s not just my opinion: it proceeds jurisprudentially from the fact that ‘just following orders’ is not a defence.


    Now… this behaviour by the UK government (refusing to prosecute the Blair cabinet under UK law; refusing to abide by their obligations under international law to prosecute them for war crimes) should interest those interested in the shibboleth of the ‘social contract’ and nonsense ‘contractarian‘ theories of government generally.

    If there is some mythical ‘contract’, is part of the ‘contractual’ obligations of the government, a requirement that it abides by its own laws?

    It is clear that if it’s a contract, the answer is ‘yes’.

    It is also clear that a breach of this, would fatally undermine the contract qua contract.

    Otherwise this supposed ‘contract’ includes an implied term that requires us to “agree to agree” to government changing its own constraints suo motu.

    Terms that require agreement to agree are generally struck out as invalid; if this can be done without fatally undermining the contract, then it’s possible that the contract remains on foot with that term alone being struck out (a good summary of the principles is in Morris v Swanton Care & Community Ltd [2018] EWCA Civ 2763).

    It’s pretty clear that an implied term that permits one party to a contract to change the terms of the contract without notice or consent, is a term that cannot be struck out without fatally injuring the contract.

    Ergo either the contract is set aside in its entirety, or the other parties can repudiate the contract for breach – the good old exceptio non adimpleti contractus (a breach and a failure to fulfil a positive contractual obligation are the same thing).


    So: still believe in the ‘contractarian’ model? or is it now obvious that the language used (from Rousseau onwards) was just pure bullshit, to implant in the minds of the unwary a false idea about a bilateral, mutually beneficial, synallagmatic relationship… when none of those things characterises the citizenry’s relationship to the political class, and has never done.

  3. anon[263] • Disclaimer says:

    One wonders what kind of lawyers advised the Taliban and Al Quada ?
    Did they commit crimes against humanity ?

  4. anonymous[307] • Disclaimer says:

    [Joining the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 is commonly blamed on Tony Bair, but there is little interest in the desperate situation into which British troops were plunged post-invasion, first in southern Iraq and then, three years later, in Helmand province in Afghanistan.]

    Who give a damn about the British war criminals, MI6 agent.
    That fact is that Tony Blair along with Bush Regime and Jewish neocons destroyed Afghanistan and killed thousands of people, but criminals like Blair and Bush stayed alive MI6 agent.
    Shame on you informant.

    [The gravity of the miscalculations in each case is not in doubt.]

    [the worst mistake made by the Foreign Office in the previous 30 years was the invasion of Iraq,..]

    There is NO ‘miscalculations’, there was NO ‘mistake’, they were implementing a pre prepared PLAN based on lies and staged 9/11. If you are not ready to confess your complicity, then take your shit somewhere else.

    People are not dumb. You as an agent of MI6-CIA-Mossad has been exposed. Stop your lies.

    Now, Tony blair, a zionist petty thief and terrorist going around and having good time with his petty family, where Britain and US using lies and propaganda let by George Bush Regime and criminal tony Blair, killed millions of Iraqis, Afghanis, Libyan and Syrian including children are dead and and some have been burnt with your phosphorous bombs, like in occupied Palestine.
    Don’t you have any shame?

    Posted by Layla Syed on Wednesday, 12 June 2013

    And George Bush, a zionist stooge, is resting at home and ‘painting’, and his garbage is hang on a whore house you call ‘museum’. These war criminals must be arrested and shot.
    Do you have any shame informant? Shame on you criminals

  5. KA says:
    In the interview , Moussa of Egypt ( onetime presidential candidate and longtime Arab League secretary ) expressed the sentiment possibly widely embraced by the other high officials and definitely by the common folks that invasion of Iraq was deliberate and was invaded to stop rebuilding the country into a strong stable country .

    In 1991 a Pentagon buddy defense connected foreign policy expert , occasional NY Times columnist with dubious roles in and outside government and love for Israel basically said same thing . Do did Michael Leden .

    Even the attendees in the local conference are asking US to leave ME for betterment of NE .

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