Today 14 years ago, on 18 March 2003, the then Leader of the House of Commons the late Robin Cook stepped down from Government with a remarkable resignation speech in dissent with the imminent decision to attack Iraq. When he took the floor in the House, he explained why he could not support “a war without international agreement or domestic support.” According to Cook, the time for diplomacy was not over, all available options before resorting to war were not exhausted and the British political interests were best promoted with a multilateral approach.
Cook emphasized that “Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner—not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the Security Council… Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules.”
Marco Pannella too attempted to convince the leaders of the angloamerican-led “coalition of the willing” deployed in Iraq, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, not to rush to war by drawing their attention to the huge efforts that were taking place in order to have Saddam Hussein removed by voluntary exile.
The Report published by the Chilcot Inquiry on 6 July 2016 has largely proven the serious responbilities and manipulations by the two Heads of State and Government and it has certified the dangers that both Cook and Pannella warned against have become a reality, in particular widespread terrorism and an erosion of the rule of law across the world. Therefore, it is crucial to implement the timely recommendations issued on 15 March 2017 by the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), chaired by Bernard Jenkins MP, that “the Cabinet Secretary does not have any formal recourse to object to a Prime Minister’s chosen course of action in the event that the Prime Minister of the day wishes to disregard the procedures for decision-making set out in the Cabinet Manual. We are in no doubt whatsoever that this absence of safeguards cannot persist”.
The invasion of Iraq was key to the campaign led by Marco Pannella and the Radical Party for the promotion of a global transition towards the rule of law through the recognition of the right to know, which is still missing from the rules that should govern the world order. It is a vital component of the rules that should govern the world order and a tenet of the democratic rule of law that we want achieve primarily through the United Nations, inspired by men like Robin Cook and Marco Pannella.
Watch the resignation statement by Robin Cook