Iraq: the pax Americana and the law

The inaugural JUSTICE Tom Sargant memorial annual lecture was given by Lord Alexander of Weedon QC, chair of JUSTICE Council, at the Law Society on 14 October 2003.

Marcel Berlins, writing in the Guardian on 20 March 2006, described it as ‘ … a virtuoso performance. Many others have now argued in similar vein, but Alexander was the first of his legal stature to do so, and his lecture reads and convinces today just as powerfully as when he gave it.’

International law, like the common law, is founded upon precedent. A bad precedent should not be allowed to stand.

This was the motivation behind Lord Alexander’s seminal lecture given in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

As each of its reasons for claiming the invasion was legal – self defence, humanitarian intervention, implied UN authorisation, unreasonable use of the Security Council veto, and a breach of UN Resolution 1441 – crumbled, the government was forced to ‘scrape the bottom of the legal barrel‘ in its search for a justification, the lecture argues.

Iraq: the pax Americana and the law was a devastating critique of controversial policy, a passionate defence of the rule of law and the value of judicial oversight, and a persuasive plea against wars of aggression from Suez to Iraq.

Lord Alexander died on 6 November 2005. In his memory, and to mark its 50th anniversary, JUSTICE re-published Iraq: the pax Americana and the law in 2007 – it is this version that is available here.

Tom Sargant was JUSTICE’s Secretary from the organisation’s foundation in 1957 to his retirement in 1982.


Iraq: the pax Americana and the law