Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

July 23, 2010

Nick Clegg speaks his mind on Iraq War, Britain to be indicted, coalition doomed

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 9:53 am

From 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.

Which International Courts? We aren’t told. Phillipe Sands is on hand to add the vague warning:

“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.”

Really? That would be the crucial evidence? Can anyone seriously imagine any court, international or not saying “Screw the Chilcott inquiry, we have the Deputy Prime Minister of a different government, 7 years after the fact, not involved in the original decision making process, stating his personal opinion. Gentlemen – we have our smoking gun.”

But what’s this?:

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

Is the Guardian really suggesting that everything said at the government dispatch box automatically becomes true? Could Nick Clegg also state that the economy is fully recovered? Can I have a pony while he’s at it?

What would be news is if a member of the former government said those words, better yet, someone intimately involved in the deciding or interpreting the legal basis of the war. Let’s call this man “Jack Straw”. If he was standing at the dispatch box (or indeed anywhere) calling the war illegal, this would have what we call in the Law of Evidence “probative value”. This means that it would actually prove something – that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, thought the war was illegal, but went ahead anyway. Indeed, it would be tantamount to a confession.

Conversely, Nick Clegg’s personal opinion has no probative value at all. Even if he was a lawyer, it wouldn’t. It’s something we call “opinion evidence”. This sort of evidence is generally admissible only by experts where a technical issue is in contention. Nick Clegg, to my knowledge, is not a an expert in International Law.

But we all know the real story, this is seventh “first big test” for the coalition – just the excuse the Tory leadership have been looking for to throw Nick Clegg under the bus, right?

“The coalition government has not expressed a view on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq conflict,” the No 10 spokesman said. “But that does not mean that individual members of the government should not express their individual views. These are long-held views of the deputy prime minister.”

Oh. What about the Chilcott inquiry then?

The Iraq inquiry is currently examining many issues surrounding the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the legal basis of the war. The government looks forward to receiving the inquiry’s conclusions.”

But this appeared to be contradicted by the Chilcot inquiry, which issued a statement saying it was examining the legal issues in the run-up to the war but would not make a judgment about the legality of the war. A spokesman said: “The inquiry is not a court of law, and no one is on trial.”

Pausing here. Dearest Guardian, the first statement does not contradict the second. This should be obivous to anyone that can read and exercise basic powers of logic. Here’s the key takeway from the first statement:

  • The Chilcott inquiry is examining the legal basis of the war (among other things)

Here’s the what the second statement is saying:

  • The Chilcott inquiry is examing the legal basis of the war
  • The Chilcott inquiry is not a court of law and no one is on trial

If the author of this piece thinks that the conclusions of an inquiry are the same thing as a judgment in a court of law, then I’d suggest the editors find someone else to write articles with the word “legal” in them.

Of course, when you break it down, what we’re left with here is a piece critical of Nick Clegg’s PMQ performance, in which the latter stated his well publicised view on the Iraq War, something shared by the very paper on the offensive here. It then goes onto spin this widely known view as a gaffe, notwithstanding it’s the Guardian editorial line.

Definy irony.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

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