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Context of 'June 18, 2005: British Expert on International Law Says US Pre-invasion Bombings of Iraq Illegal'

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May 2, 1970: Haig Orders Four More Wiretaps

When the press reports the secret US-led invasion of Cambodia (see April 24-30, 1970) and the subsequent massive air strikes in that country, Alexander Haig, the military aide to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, notes that New York Times reporter William Beecher has been asking some suspiciously well-informed questions about the operation. Beecher’s latest story also alerts Defense Secretary Melvin Laird to the bombings (Laird, whom Kissinger considers a hated rival, has been kept out of the loop on the bombings). Haig tells the FBI he suspects a “serious security violation” has taken place, and receives four new wiretaps: on Beecher; Laird’s assistant Robert Pursley; Secretary of State William Rogers’s assistant Richard Pederson; and Rogers’s deputy, William Sullivan. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 212]

Entity Tags: Melvin Laird, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Federal Bureau of Investigation, Henry A. Kissinger, William Sullivan, Richard Pederson, William P. Rogers, William Beecher, Robert Pursley

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Nixon and Watergate

The Supreme Court refuses to hear a case brought against President Jimmy Carter by Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) and several other conservative lawmakers. In Goldwater v. Carter, the senators argue that Carter exceeded his authority in unilaterally withdrawing the United States from a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan. Carter took the unusual step in order to recognize the Communist government in mainland China as the US-recognized representative government of China. Goldwater and his fellows argued that Congress, not the president, has the power to withdraw the US from a treaty with another nation. The Court, in an 8-1 decision with liberal Justice William Brennan dissenting, rules that the case is not appropriate for the judiciary, but should be resolved via negotiation and legislation between the legislative and executive branches. Conservative Justice William Rehnquist writes the majority opinion. Congress, controlled by Carter’s Democratic Party, does not address the question of how to properly withdraw the nation from a treaty, and Carter’s action stands. [Savage, 2007, pp. 141-142; Oyez (.org), 6/2007]

Entity Tags: William Brennan, Barry Goldwater, William Rehnquist, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., US Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

CIA director William Webster acknowledges to Congress that Iraq is the largest producer of chemical weapons in the world. [US Congress, 3/1989]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, William H. Webster

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

The House Judiciary Committee asks US Attorney General William Barr to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Iraqgate. [Covert Action Quarterly, 1992]

Entity Tags: William P. Barr, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

US Attorney General William Barr rejects the House Judiciary Committee’s request for him to appoint an independent counsel (see July 9, 1992), reasoning that the committee’s accusations are too “vague.” He informs them that the Justice Department will instead continue with its own “investigation” of Iraqgate. [Covert Action Quarterly, 1992]

Entity Tags: William P. Barr, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Neoconservative William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, says on NBC’s Meet the Press that the first Bush administration erred in 1991: “The biggest mistake we have made—it’s our mistake, it’s not the mistake of the Arabs—was not finishing off Saddam Hussein in 1991.” Kristol garners a tremendous amount of coverage during the months after the 9/11 attacks, relentlessly advocating for the overthrow of Hussein. [PBS, 4/25/2007]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), William Kristol, Saddam Hussein, NBC

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence

Neoconservative William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and a regular guest on network news broadcasts, says in a Fox News interview, “One person close to the debate said to me this week that it’s no longer a question of if, it’s a question of how we go after Saddam Hussein” (see October 7, 2001). [Fox News, 11/24/2001] Fox’s Fred Barnes asks, “What are the consequences if the US does not finish off this Saddam Hussein as a second step in the war on terrorism?” Kristol replies, “It would mean that the president having declared a global war on terrorism didn’t follow through, didn’t take out the most threatening terrorist state in the world.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]

Entity Tags: Fox News, William Kristol

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence

British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith and Solicitor-General Harriet Harman warn British Prime Minister Tony Blair that a preemptive war against Iraq, without UN backing, would violate international law and could potentially result in Britain being hauled before the International Criminal Court. [Financial Times, 10/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Peter Henry Goldsmith, Harriet Harman, Tony Blair

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Representatives of major human rights organizations meet with Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes asking that the US government develop clear standards to prevent the mistreatment of prisoners of war. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]

Entity Tags: William J. Haynes

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith issues a statement that the use of force against Iraq would be legal, citing three UN resolutions. But a month earlier, Goldsmith warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair that an invasion could be illegal without a second UN resolution, and that resolution never passed. [Associated Press, 2/28/2004; BBC, 2/29/2004; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 2/29/2004; Independent, 2/29/2004] It is later revealed that his change in opinion was a result of pressure from top British officials after senior British military officers had warned Downing Street that they would not participate in the war unless they were certain that neither they nor their men could eventually be tried for war crimes. [Observer, 2/29/2004]

Entity Tags: Peter Henry Goldsmith

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Lord William Goodhart, vice-president of the International Commission of Jurists and a world authority on international law, says that the United States’ and Britain’s intensified bombing of Iraq’s “no-fly” zones before the invasion was illegal if it was meant to put pressure on Iraq’s government. The two countries have cited UN Resolution 688 to justify the patrolling of the “no-fly” zones, but Goodhart explains that the resolution was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter dealing with all matters authorizing military force, and therefore does not provide any legal basis for the use of military force. “Putting pressure on Iraq is not something that would be a lawful activity,” he says. [London Times, 6/19/2005]

Entity Tags: William Goodhart

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Britain’s information commissioner, Richard Thomas, rules that the minutes of Cabinet meetings at which ministers discussed the legality of invading Iraq should be published. In his finding, Thomas says that documents and transcripts concerning the legal discussions should be made public in part because “there is a widespread view that the justification for the decision on military action in Iraq is either not fully understood or that the public were not given the full or genuine reasons for that decision.” In this case, Thomas says, the public interest in disclosure outweighs the principles that normally allow the government not to have to publish minutes of cabinet decisions. The government is expected to appeal Thomas’s decision. In and of itself, Thomas’s decision does not have enough legal weight to force publication. Many lawyers, legal experts, and antiwar figures believe that the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was illegal under international law. On March 17, 2003, then-Attorney General Lord Goldsmith ruled that the invasion was legal (see March 17, 2003), but Goldsmith had issued dramatically different opinions before the eve of the war (see Before October 7, 2002). One of Goldsmith’s legal opinions against the war, published on March 7, 2003, was kept from the Cabinet ministers, and many argue that had the Cabinet known of Goldsmith’s reservations, some of the ministers may not have supported then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq. Former international development secretary Clare Short, who quit the government following the war, says the Cabinet minutes would only give a “sanitized” account of the meetings, but their release would set an important precedent: “[H]aving made this decision, the discussion won’t stop there. There will be pressure for more,” she says. The Cabinet Office has not yet decided whether to obey Thomas’s ruling. [Guardian, 2/26/2008] That office previously rejected a Freedom of Information request for the transcripts. [BBC, 2/26/2008]

Entity Tags: Blair administration, Cabinet Office (Britain), Claire Short, Peter Henry Goldsmith, Tony Blair, Richard Thomas

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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