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-defence permitted by international law.
But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence 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”…
This 'the ends justified the means' argument is internally consistent, but it's weird in the extreme to have all the former critics of humanitarian intervention reborn as bleeding hearts. Or would be if we believed they meant a word of the humanitarian stuff (postwar planning? us?)….