Nick Clegg: Iraq War "Illegal"

Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, finds himself at the centre of a firestorm of controversy after comments he made suggested the Iraq war was illegal. Clegg's gaffe occurred during the Prime Minister's Questions from the Dispatch Box of the House of Commons during a heated exchange with Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Minister during the Labour government.

The story in The Guardian:

Nick Clegg was tonight forced to clarify his position on the Iraq war after he stood up at the dispatch box of the House of Commons and pronounced the invasion illegal.

The deputy prime minister insisted he was speaking in a personal capacity, as a leading international lawyer warned that the statement by a government minister in such a formal setting could increase the chances of charges against Britain in international courts.

Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London, said: "A public statement by a government minister in parliament as to the legal situation would be a statement that an international court would be interested in, in forming a view as to whether or not the war was lawful."

The warning came after a faltering performance by Clegg in the Commons when he stood in for David Cameron at prime minister's questions. The deputy prime minister made an initial mistake when he announced that the government would close the Yarl's Wood centre as it ends the detention of children awaiting deportation. The Home Office was forced to issue a statement saying that the family unit at Yarl's Wood would close but that the rest of the centre would remain open.

Shortly before that slip-up, Clegg threw the government's position concerning the legality of the Iraq war into confusion when, at the end of heated exchanges with Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the war, Clegg said: "We may have to wait for his memoirs, but perhaps one day he will account for his role in the most disastrous decision of all: the illegal invasion of Iraq."

Clegg's remarks could be legally significant because he was standing at the government dispatch box in the Commons.

As Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg was standing at the PMQ in for Prime Minister David Cameron who was in Washington visiting President Obama. It was Clegg's first appearance at the Dispatch Box and likely to be a memorable one.

While the Liberal Democrats were the only mainstream party to oppose the decision to topple Saddam Hussein, both the Tories and the Labour government of Tony Blair supported the decision to invade Iraq. A spokesman for the British Foreign Ministry said: "The Deputy Prime Minister was expressing his long-held view about the legality of the Iraq conflict. His views on the matter are very well known and widely documented. With regards to the Coalition Government's official position on the legal basis for the Iraq conflict, it awaits the outcome of the inquiry being led by Sir John Chilcot."

Heat Wave Washes Away American Ideals: LeBron James, the Media, and the American Soul

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            Millions of Americans had pleaded with basketball superstar LeBron James to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and come to their city when he became a free agent. Bloggers, media pundits, and reporters of every kind seemed to devote much of their lives to figuring out what team James would be a part of for the 2011 season. 

            The speculation ended, Thursday, July 8, when ESPN opened a full hour of prime time for some pretend-journalism and an interview with James, who 28 minutes into the infomercial announced he was leaving Cleveland and going to the Miami Heat.  Floridians were ecstatic. With multimillionaire James joining multimillionaires Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, they were sure the Heat would once again win an NBA championship, something that had eluded James in Cleveland. The day after the ESPN show, the man known in Cleveland as "King James" held court with Wade and Bosh in Miami's American Airlines arena, surrounded by 13,000 screaming fans, all of whom watched South Beach and Miami city officials give the three superstars keys to their cities. Two days after the announcement, Miami Heat fans began buying replicas of James jerseys, with his new number, 6, stitched across the back. Most NBA jerseys sell for about $50; these were priced up to $150.

            In other basketball franchise cities, millions of fans who thought their team would have a chance to sign the man who wears a tattoo, "Chosen 1" across his back, wailed incessantly, as if their high school's Prom Queen had just rejected their mournful bid to go steady. On the day of the "decision," ABC-TV, a sister company to ESPN, devoted two segments on its nightly news to the forthcoming spectacular. The other networks settled for one segment. Following the "decision," the TV networks and local stations ran "breaking news" crawls beneath scheduled shows. The next morning, newspapers gave the announcement front page coverage, with extensive commentary inside. The New York Daily News devoted almost its entire front page to a picture of a scowling James, and the whining headline, "Hey, New York, we're the greatest city in the world, so . .  .WHO CARES!" The New York Post front page headline was a bold "LeBum."

            But, it was Cleveland where hatred unified a city of about 450,000, part of a metropolitan area of about 2.2 million. Within minutes after James announced his decision, the Cleveland fans threw his cardboard images into trash cans and burned jersey replicas, the same ones they had proudly worn for seven years. Within two days, they began tearing down a Nike-sponsored 10-story mural that featured LeBron James, his head thrown back, his oversized arms spread out, saviour-like. This city would not have any graven image of the traitor they once worshipped as a "hometown hero." Thousands even proclaimed they would boycott all companies—including Allstate, Nike, and McDonald's—that have endorsement contracts with James. Between tears and rage, Cleveland fans, aided by numerous sports commentators, claimed that the James defection would cause the city to lose at least $20 million in revenue and, for all we know, doom it to be a third world country. A bitter Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who had not received the courtesy of even a pre-announcement phone call from James, lashed out in a letter to his fans, calling the decision, a "shameful display of selfishness and betrayal," and that the hometown Cavaliers, unlike James, "have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you." But, Gilbert's most important statement might have been his observation of the entire process. Although Gilbert would have praised James and the TV coverage had he remained in Cleveland, the Cavaliers' owner pointed to an underlying truth. The decision, said Gilbert, "was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his 'decision' unlike anything ever 'witnessed' in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment."

            Even when the hyperbole is stripped away, a truth remains. For at least a week, it didn't seem there was any other news. But there was.

            On the day that LeBron James announced he was going to Miami, and the media and a couple of hundred million Americans sat in anticipation of the "Decision," another heat wave washed over America. In this one, three people died from the heat wave that gripped the northeast; hundreds more, mostly senior citizens and the homeless, had to be treated for heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

            On the day that LeBron James announced he was going to Miami, and the media and a couple of hundred million Americans sat in anticipation of the "Decision," about 15 million Americans were unemployed, and 46 million Americans had no health insurance.

            On the day that LeBron James announced he was going to Miami, and the media and a couple of hundred million Americans sat in anticipation of the "Decision," the BP oil spill in the Gulf was in its 79th day. On that day, 2.5 million gallons of oil polluted the Gulf. As much as 160 million gallons have now leaked into the Gulf, destroying wildlife, plants, and the livelihoods of several hundred thousands residents.

            On the day that LeBron James announced he was going to Miami, and the media and a couple of hundred million Americans sat in anticipation of the "Decision," three British and two American soldiers and two UN workers were killed. American deaths in Afghanistan since the war began now total 1,171; about 6,700 have been wounded.

            On the day that LeBron James announced he was going to Miami, and the media and a couple of hundred million Americans sat in anticipation of the "Decision," at least 60 civilians died from bombs in Iraq; about 360 were wounded. Since the beginning of the American-led invasion of Iraq, 4,412 American soldiers have died; almost 32,000 have been wounded, according to Defense Department records. Civilian casualties are estimated at 110,000, according to the Associated Press. Other reliable sources place the totals well over a half-million civilian deaths from hostile action.

            On the day of the "Decision," if you added up the yearly salaries of only the American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the wars began, they would not equal the money that LeBron James makes in just one year. And, that, more than anything else, says a lot about America.

 

[Walter Brasch's latest books are the witty and probing Sex and the Single Beer Can, a look at American culture and the mass media; and Sinking the Ship of State, an overview of the Bush–Cheney presidency. Both are available at amazon.com, and other stores. You may contact Brasch at Brasch@bloomu.edu]

 

 

 

Opinion: The Progressive Curse is Running Around in Circles

Crossposted from Hillbilly Report. It is no secret to many of us that this country has needed a Progressive direction to correct many of the problems it faces for some time now. I was born in 1970 and have seen exactly three Democratic Presidents in my life. The damage done by Conservative Presidents has been disasterous, and the Democrats elected have seemed to only keep us running around in circles while no real change is imminent to repair the damage.

There's more...

A Soldier's Peace, A Documentary Premiere in Second Life

To date 4,311 men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces have perished in a 6-year war on foreign soil in Iraq.

For many of us, the ever-increasing count of American and Iraqi dead has been a central fact driving our political lives since it became clear that Bush was intent against all reason on pursuing a preemptive misadventure in Iraq.  It is what drove us to the blogs, to march and to protest, to speak out.

For those in Red States, where opportunities to voice opposition with any real effect have seemed too few and far between, few examples of principled dissent have been more inspiring than that of Sgt. Marshall Thompson, who--on his return to Utah from a year in Iraq as an Army journalist--undertook to walk the state's length to talk with everyday Utahns about war and peace.  The award-winning 2007 documentary A Soldier's Peace by Kristen and Marshall Thompson chronicles his remarkable 500-mile journey into activism.

Netroots Nation in Second Life and Virtually Speaking are very proud to announce the Second Life premiere of this simple yet powerful film.

More below the fold.

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IraqTortureGate: Powell Denies Knowing He Used Tortured Evidence for UN Case

The most damning credible allegation to emerge regarding the Bush Administration is arguably that Dick Cheney and other Bush Administration officials ordered the use of torture to produce false evidence of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff at the State Department under Colin Powell, recently wrote,

as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 - well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion - its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

There's more...

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