Blogs > Cliopatria > Howard Meyer: Was the Iraq War Illegal?

Oct 1, 2004 2:34 pm

Howard Meyer: Was the Iraq War Illegal?

A letter to the NYT ombudsman, Daniel Okrent.

Dear Mr Okrent,

A few weeks ago, I called attention to, and documented, the neglect by the TIMES of the views of U.S. scholars (and the rest of the world) about the violation of international law perpetrated by decision to invade Iraq without approval of the U.N.

The one exception was in an OpEd by an outsider, Dean Slaughter, President at the time of the American Society of International Law, ("Good Reasons for Going Around the U.N." March 18 2003). She acknowledged that the majority view among her organization's members was that the war was illegal.

Taking  no position on this she argued that when (not if) WMD were found and Iraqis welcomed our coming and we immediately turned to the U.N. to help rebuild the country, then"though formally illegal....the intervention was nonetheless legitimate."

One year later, in a farewell message to the members of A.S.I.L., upon viewing Iraq as of March 2004,  Dr.Slaughter wrote in the organization's newsletter:"I conclude that the invasion was both illegal andillegitimate."  She then set forth in detail the reasoh for her reconsideration. (This 'second' opinion was included in my presentation to you.)

You declined, after some exchanges, to consider my presentation on illegality, because, as you wrote, it preceded your installation as Public Editor.

Butthismorning May 30 you seemed to concludethat yourself-imposed abstention from consideringpre-inaugural alleged offenses, would be liftedin the instance of the matter of reportingon weapons of mass destruction. 

The issue of international legality seems so closely entwined with WMD claims that I suggest you reconsider your refusal to pass on the issue of the Times' almost complete neglect of the illegality of the President's command.

Howard N Meyer

The writer is author of THE WORLD COURT IN ACTION,
which includes some attention to the creative and some
time 20th Century supportive role of the U.S. in relation
to the International Court of Justice.

Dear Mr. Meyer,

Thank you for your message.

Given the volume of reader comment; given the need to start with a clean slate; and given the difficulty of evaluating the paper's past deeds and alleged misdeeds, Dan Okrent has decided as a matter of policy not to address issues that arose before his tenure began, except insofar as they relate to the paper's actions from December 1 forward. I am sure you will understand that, were we to do this any other fashion, we would disappear into an endless tunnel.

I do not mean to suggest in any way that I am not interested in your concerns about the paper.

If you see specific instances that concern you in the future please send me a message citing examples.

Arthur Bovino
Office of the Public Editor

Arthur Bovino
Office of the Public Editor
The New York Times

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