Widgets Magazine


Op-Ed: Tony Blair is a war criminal

If tomorrow it were announced that Charles Manson was being released from prison and that he had a really interesting theory on sustainable agriculture and wanted to come to campus to discuss it, what would your reaction be? Some of the freest of thinkers might want to hear what he had to say. Most would think it’s kind of messed up, arguing even if it is an interesting theory on sustainable agriculture, Stanford should not be bringing convicted murderers to campus, out of some sense of principle. Arguing from that sense of principle then, I guess the only difference between the described scenario and Tony Blair’s arrival on campus is that Tony Blair hasn’t been convicted yet.

By all accounts, Tony Blair seems like a nice guy, your archetypal lovable Brit. Charles Manson is a lot more scowly. However, Blair’s also a lovable Brit who just so happened to wage an illegal war. That’s not really a matter of philosophy, of whether or not you were for or against the Iraq War. An opinion by George Monbiot published in The Guardian on January 25, 2010, reads:

“Under the United Nations Charter, two conditions must be met before a war can legally be waged. The parties to a dispute must first ‘seek a solution by negotiation’ (article 33). They can take up arms without an explicit mandate from the U.N. Security Council only ‘if an armed attack occurs against [them]’ (article 51). Neither of these conditions applied. The U.S. and U.K. governments rejected Iraq’s attempts to negotiate. At one point the U.S. State Department even announced that it would ‘go into thwart mode’ to prevent the Iraqis from resuming talks on weapons inspection (all references are on my website). Iraq had launched no armed attack against either nation.

“We also know that the U.K. government was aware that the war it intended to launch was illegal. In March 2002, the Cabinet Office explained that ‘a legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to law officers’ advice, none currently exists.’ In July 2002, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, told the prime minister that there were only ‘three possible legal bases’ for launching a war – ‘self-defence, humanitarian intervention or UNSC [security council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.’ Bush and Blair later failed to obtain Security Council authorisation.”

Kofi Annan said the same thing in 2004 in an interview with the BBC: “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the U.N. Charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

Without legal justification for the Iraq War, Tony Blair is implicated in the death of over 1,000,000 Iraqis and the displacement of 2,000,000 more. Just because he was elected by Parliament or speaks English or doesn’t dress in crazy military garb or is white doesn’t mean that he didn’t commit a crime in waging the Iraq War without U.N. Security Council approval. The brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime is irrelevant to this fact.

If you’re one of those people who thinks “Yeah, but it’s international law. You can’t enforce it. Why does it matter?” I want you to take a second and think about how silly that sounds. Every member of the U.N. agreed to the charter when it was formed. We’re supposed to be grown-ups here. When dealing with international affairs, when dealing with the prospect of invading countries, a snotty “You and what army” attitude a la Black Bush is not only not helpful, it frankly has no place in the thought process of anyone who considers him/her/perself a global citizen. International law is in fact law, and it needs to be respected. I mean, you do want world peace, right?

What Tony Blair is on campus to talk about, the African Governance Initiative, is also problematic, what with him being the former prime minister of what still technically is an empire. I hope he faces questions about the implications of developing a foundation whose goal in part seems to be asserting de facto control of African governments, but the politics of the AGI aside, Tony Blair is still a war criminal.


Peter McDonald ’11

Occupier of Meyer Library

  • BlairSupporter

    “International law is in fact law, and it needs to be respected. I mean, you do want world peace, right?”

    Not quite. If so why is Tony Blair not being accused of war crimes for Kosovo and Sierra Leone too? Neither of those were sanctioned by so-called international law.

    Consistency please.

  • sam

    This op-ed is real garbage.   Even if one disagreed with the rational for the Iraq war, it is silly to throw around the term “war criminal” in this case.  The Daily should have minimum standards for op-eds.

  • Is this the same Peter McDonald that is trying to argue that Christianity is a dynamic faith? Oh boy! Let me remind you of a quote that is mistakenly attributed to another great British man, Winston Churchill,

    “Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of
    want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head”

    At some point you’ll grow up, look back at the nonsense you have written over the years and be ashamed of yourself. In the meanwhile we will be LOL-ing at your expense.

  • Lh2012

    I stopped seriously considering this piece after readying the oxymoron of “illegal war.”  War is the state of armed conflict between two sovereign entities, and because they are both sovereign, there is no law to which they are commonly bound, unless they choose to be bound.  Indeed the UK (and the US) has signed on the UN Charter, but that functions more often than not as a fig leaf for their exercise of power in the international arena.  Although the UN may not sanction the act, it is not a superior sovereign to its members, so it cannot effectively sanction its leading members.  And until real power is ceded to a superior, there can be no concept of propriety associated with acts in the international arena.  And once this power is ceded, would we really be talking about separate nations at war in a truly international arena?  Therefore “illegal” and “war” should not be used together as a single term, unless someone truly wants to demonstrate their ignorance of the nature of international relations.

  • Everyone 2012

    We’re all complicit in supporting the
    Western capitalist hegemony and every ounce of water we buy from our
    local governments and every expensive hybrid we purchase from the
    large dealership all contributes to the world dominance of the
    American geopolitical machine. Without refraining from this support,
    you implicitly condone the behavior and actions of the United States
    government and its allies. Thoreau went to jail for refusing to pay
    taxes that would support the Mexican-American war and slavery. He
    acted on his conviction to not support an unjust government, despite
    the ineffectiveness of his actions. For those who do not at least
    attempt such measures, they cannot claim that they are free of any of
    the guilt of their leaders. After all, we live in an electing

  • Gosht

    Interesting comments. 

    BS dips into historical esoterica simply to have something to say, and Sam casts aspersions on the quality of the article while throwing around terms he doesn’t know how to spell.  It’s “rationale”, Sam.

    PI considers it sagacity to advise that Peter’s concerns about the protection of international principles established by the Greatest Generation is mere youthful ignorance.  These  principles were established after WWII to limit the ability of superpowers to go around abusing other nations.  PI apparently prefers the Politics of Power to the rule of law.  The Germans and the Japanese used to talk that way, too, PI.  They know better, now.

    LH brags about his attention deficit, and thinks international law is trumped by ideological fantasies.  Under Article VI, treaties entered into shall be the supreme law of the land.  Or is the Constitution just a piece of paper, LH?

    Thanks for trying, fellers!  The feeble nature of your arguments makes Peter’s work look all the better by contrast!

  • Todd

    The UK is bound as a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, unlike the US. This makes it possible to prosecute Tony Blair. International Law is not a fiction – it just hasn’t been equitably applied across countries. Yet. 

  • Lh2012

     Actually, international law is itself an ideological fantasy, because the nature of the international realm is chaos.  If there was truly a law to be applied, then there would be by definition a superior sovereign, which does not exist currently.  And if it did exist, it would not be international. 

    And while treaties do become the supreme law of the United States, they function as limits on the states or the citizenry to violate them.  Ratification of a treaty does not prevent the abrogation of the same by the United States, or did you forget when President Bush, in exercising his foreign policy power, announced that the United States would be withdrawing from the ABM treaty?

    Ultimately, the power of any law comes down to the reality of the enforcement of it.  This requires a superior sovereign with the ability to effectively seize property or persons.  And while “yeah, you and what army” may seem infantile, it is the nature of existence in the international realm, where the only law that exists is the law of power.  Those who would attempt to ascribe some other paradigm are themselves living in a fantasy.

  • Gosht

     Lh, thanks for so clearly showing that you have the philosophy of a mafioso.  You may think that benefits you, and you may think that’s realistic, but ultimately crime doesn’t pay.  You’re only acting to bring your empire down.

  • Why doesn’t the Stanford Daily march against the White House for not arresting Jon Corzine, John Dillinger in an Armani suit, for stealing two  billion dollars from M.F. Global’s customer accounts.  This inaction of the White House has thrown the citizens of the United States into a war with the federal government, a government that has seceded from a Constitutional form of government.  When millionaire felons are treated as sons of political gods and are politically protected from prosecution, we are seen in the world as the Great Satan, the father of all lies.