Among the articles of faith on the pro-war right, few have been had more megabytes of text spilled over them than the claim that the war on Iraq was authorised by UN resolution 1441. So, it’s surprising to see Mark Steyn denying this claim in the course of an attempt to score points off me, cheered on by Tim Blair and JF Beck. Steyn says
I don’t believe I was ever aware that Aussie prof John Quiggin had launched a competition to demonstrate I was a congenital liar, but apparently he did back in 2002, indignantly objecting to my “lie” that Australia, Spain, Italy and co were “on board” for an America-led Iraq invasion without UN authorisation. Yup, he certainly nailed me on that one.
I’ll note first that Steyn scores yet more points for my claim of congenital dishonesty with the “and co”, which, in the original, read “Qatar and Turkey”. Like most of the other countries on Steyn’s list, Turkey had made no public commitment to invade Iraq at the time Steyn was writing. Unlike most of the others, Turkey held a parliamentary vote, which led to a decision not to invade.
But the real issue is that of UN authorisation. As I noted at the time, Australia’s public position was exactly the same as that of Britain, the country where Steyn’s piece was published but one that curiously failed to make his list. That’s because, as Steyn concedes here (July 2003), Blair was publicly opposed to going to war without a UN resolution, and it wouldn’t have done for Steyn to say that it was all a sham. As he says
In the end, Britain officially went to war on a technicality, and … that technicality – Saddam’s technical non-compliance with Resolution 1441 – still holds.
Of course, as we now know, it was all a sham. Bush was going to war regardless, and Blair was privately committed to following him, despite his public pronouncements at the time which, I have to admit, I believed. But without the figleaf of the UN, and the bogus interpretation of Resolution 1441, it’s doubtful he could have conned enough Labour MPs into supporting him.
Howard similarly made a string of statements to the effect that there would be no invasion as long as Saddam complied with Resolution 1441. I don’t have any details on Berlusconi, Aznar and others, but I’d be surprised if the same wasn’t true of them too.