Geoffrey Robertson rightly argued that it is not legally possible to put Tony Blair on trial in the international criminal court for a crime of aggression, because aggression was not included in the Rome statute that established the ICC. Joshua Rozenberg suggested that the focus should therefore be on cases against British soldiers for abuse of detainees. However, there is an alternative route to take Blair and his ministers to the ICC over their war crimes.
Under the Hague and Geneva rules, occupying powers are prohibited from fundamentally transforming the economy and political system of a country. Yet this is exactly what happened: the coalition provisional authority (CPA), through which the UK and US governed, forced through a series of major structural economic reforms, including the removal of product subsidies and protective trade barriers and other tariffs, a flattened tax system in which the richest and the poorest paid the same rate, and economic policies that threw Iraqi industry wide open to foreign investors. It also reformed the political system root and branch, creating a government structure based on sectarian identity, which arguably played a key role in stimulating the violence that continues to this day.
One Foreign and Commonwealth Office lawyer advised Blair in February 2004 that because “the extensive body of CPA legislation dealing with economic reform and governance was of questionable lawfulness … the risk of claims against the UK could not be ruled out”.
This issue had been contentious in the days leading up to the invasion. Concerns about the legality of the occupation were expressed in writing by several officials. In his memo to Blair on 26 March 2003, the attorney general Lord Goldsmith had warned that “wide-ranging reforms of governmental and administrative structures would not be lawful”. Meanwhile, Iraqi oil revenues were used to fund reconstruction, the majority of it carried out by US and UK contractors. Chilcot noted that by the end of the CPA’s first year of occupation, there were more than 60 UK companies working in Iraq, on contracts worth an estimated $2.6bn. To the victor, the spoils. Over $8bn of that Iraqi oil revenue was lost, unaccounted for in a process described thus by Blair’s representative in the CPA, Sir Jeremy Greenstock: “A lot of cash was going round in suitcases to be dispensed to Iraqis, not all of which was accounted for.”
The CPA also laid the groundwork for a fundamental restructuring of Iraq’s vast oil industry. While the period formally defined as occupation ended in June 2004, British troops remained in Iraq for a further five years. The official narrative was that they were there at the invitation of sovereign Iraqi governments, but those nominal governments were successively appointed, promoted or defined by the US and UK.
Contrary to Blair’s protestations, government documents released this week spell out how Iraqi oil was a central motive behind the war. Throughout the six years that British troops remained in Iraq, the UK consistently maintained two objectives in relation to oil: to transfer oil from public ownership to multinational companies, and to ensure BP and Shell got a large share of it. While the post-2004 phase may escape the formal legal definitions, it raises important political and ethical questions.
Remember how protesters of the Iraq War claimed that it was all about oil, and they were dismissed as being liberals who did not understand the "post 9-11 world" we lived in?
Well guess what?
It was all about the oil.
The attacks were just a convenient excuse to do what George W. Bush and his neocon buddies wanted to do seconds after he was sworn in as President of the United States.
And we just sat back and let it happen.