The initial news from Iraq is very encouraging: media reports are talking about a turnout of more than 70 percent. This would be an excellent step towards a representative government in Iraq. I very much hope the elections in Iraq do turn out to be as successful as these reports suggest, and that the new Iraqi assembly builds on this mandate by creating a genuinely inclusive constitution which enables all the people of Iraq to be represented. But even if the elections are a success, this does not vindicate the actions of the UK and US Governments. It was no part of their case for war that the purpose was to bring free and fair elections to Iraq. Their argument was that Iraq posed a real and imminent danger and that a war was a legitimate act of self defence. (A war to bring democracy to another country without a Security Council resolution would be unambiguously illegal under the UN Charter: the only possible case for war without a Security Council resolution is self-defence.) The claim that we were acting in self-defence was false, and has been shown to be false. Article 51 of the UN Charter reads:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
If the elections go well, we should be pleased that something has gone right, at last, for the people of Iraq; but our governments should not for a minute think that it absolves them from responsibility and accountability for their misjudgement.