A hundred years ago, the First World War had been going on for just over a year. The war that was supposed to be over by Christmas (1914), the “war to end all war”, was still raging and showed no sign of ending.
It didn’t. It just rested for short periods of time and then started up again somewhere else. It goes on today. It’s Permanent War.
Interestingly, war was still legal until 1928. In that year something dramatic happened; the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact was signed in Paris by 57 nations (in August 1928). The Pact, which is still on the statute books, declared that all war is illegal. It was used in the infamously one-sided Nuremberg Trials, and the even more infamously one-sided Tokyo Tribunal, of 1946. It was one of the laws that made the actions of Nazi Germany illegal. Without it the trials would have had little legitimacy. The Geneva Convention, as we know it today, and the superb United Nations Charter, had not yet been drafted.
A law is useless unless the means to enforce it exist. Powerful nations continue to get away with waging Permanent War because the means to physically hold them to account does not exist. That’s why only Germany was condemned at Nuremberg, and Japan in Tokyo. Britain and the United States were also responsible for outrageous war crimes and should have been indicted too. The fact they never stood trial was not because of their innocence, but because no policeman was big enough to take them to court.
We still lack a big enough policeman. But the fact is that all war is illegal, and has been for 87 years. I wonder if that’s what the Chilcot Report will say, when it eventually sees the light of day.
John Andrews, Marratts Lane, Great Gonerby