Outrage over Annan calling Iraq war illegal part of re-election bids

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC on Wednesday that he saw the U.S.-lead war in Iraq as “illegal.” International leaders of nations that supported the war furiously contradicted Annan, even though Annan had made his stance clear even before the war began. Interestingly enough, officials who now openly criticize Annan work in governments that face re-election in their respective countries, yet have lost popularity due to the involvement in the war.

When specifically asked Wednesday about his views concerning the legalities of the controversial military actions against Iraq, Annan answered, “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view; from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

Within hours, officials from Great Britain, Australia and Japan responded by categorically stating the war had been justified and in accordance with international law.

All administrations that were represented by the officials who responded face re-election within the next several months. Australian Prime Minister John Howard faces re-election Oct. 9 and British Prime Minister Tony Blair early next year. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi does not face a general election until 2006 but local elections keep eroding the support of his party, which, due to the parliamentary system Japan operates on, also means the Prime Minister is losing power.

Even President George W. Bush himself knew taking this particular path with Iraq could have dire political consequences for himself. In Bob Woodward’s book “Plan of Attack,” when asked by Woodward, “And if this costs you the election?” the president responded, “That’s just the way it is. Fully prepared to live with it.”

Annan previously had stated the war was not “in conformity with the U.N. Charter,” before the war, but had carefully avoided the word “illegal.” But anybody with even the most rudimentary experience in foreign policy understood that this was a diplomatic way of saying just that.

It appears that governments in other countries are trying to do exactly what the Bush administration has been doing on our shores: change what they had originally stated about the war in order to garner support. In Bush’s case the justification for the war has gone through countless “revisions” within the last year alone. It is therefore not surprising that other countries are trying to trick their voters by misrepresenting facts just as Bush does.