Responsa to Sergio

I thank everyone for the feedback. It is very satisfying to read that I am read and that readers enjoy even as some disagree with what I write. Unfortunately, I lost the ability to send out blogs; I could not figure out the system – hence the delay and sporadic effort when some of you received some blogs but most did not. The format sent out this week indicates that I still have not mastered my old system. My apologies.

Two examples of critical feedback

michaelmendelson commented on Sergio Part I – political background to a biopic

On 19 March 2003, the US and its allies invaded Iraq. The UN Security Council sanctioned the invasion. In May, Sérgio Vieira de …

The UN Security Council did not agree to the invasion of Iraq…what do you mean by the word ‘sanctioned’? TheUnited Nationssecretary general, Kofi Annan, declared explicitly for the first time last night that the US-led war on Iraq was illegal. Mr Annan said that the invasion was not sanctioned by the UN security council or in accordance with the UN’s founding charter. In an interview with the BBC World Service broadcast last night, he was asked outright if the war was illegal. He replied: “Yes, if you wish.” He then added unequivocally: “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view and from the charter point of view it was illegal.” Mr Annan has until now kept a tactful silence and his intervention at this point undermines the argument pushed by Tony Blair that the war was legitimised by security council resolutions. Mr Annan also questioned whether it will be feasible on security grounds to go ahead with the first planned election inIraqscheduled for January. “You cannot have credible elections if the security conditions continue as they are now,” he said. His remarks come amid a marked deterioration of the situation on the ground, an upsurge of violence that has claimed 200 lives in four days and raised questions over the ability of the interim Iraqi government and the US-led coalition to maintain control over the country. They also come as Mr Blair is trying to put the controversy over the war behind him in the run-up to the conference season, a new parliamentary term and next year’s probable general election. The UN chief had warned the US and its allies a week before the invasion in March 2003 that military action would violate the UN charter. But he has hitherto refrained from using the damning word “illegal”. Both Mr Blair and the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, claim that Saddam Hussein was in breach of security council resolution 1441 passed late in 2002, and of previous resolutions calling on him to give up weapons of mass destruction. France and other countries claimed these were insufficient.  

Thanks very much for the feedback.

The problem is that Kofi Annan was silent on the issue in 2003 except for indicating a week prior to the invasion in March of 2003 mild criticism. Only in 2004 did he make the statement to which your referred where he declared explicitly that “the invasion was not sanctioned by the UN Security Council and declared the war to be illegal. The US had sought support for its invasion by the UNSC and it was clear that at least France and probably China and Russia would veto a resolution of support. But a survey of other members indicated that military action was contrary to the UN Charter, but did not declare it illegal at that time. The Brits argued that the invasion was sanctioned by Res. 1441. But though the Americans seemed poised to get a supermajority to support its initiative, the U.S. did not want to face an open revolt by three of the permanent members. When the UNSC did not condemn the invasion, one school of thought argued that, in light of 1441, the UN had given implicit support and by its silence gave de facto approval.


Howard – thank you for this. I did not even know that a film had been made about SdM.

According to the reviews, it is a pretty bad movie. Too bad.

Your rendition of the plot misrepresents his role in creating a peace settlement in East Timor. Sergio headed UNTAET, which was established on 25 October. Indonesia had already recognized East Timor’s independence on 19 October, and on 15 September had agreed to the UN sending a multinational peace-making/keeping force (INTERFET) to the island, led by the Australians.

(I met SdM when he was ‘viceroy’ East Timor. He had many critics among the Timorese for not letting them take over the political reigns right away, instead of having a UN stewardship. After all, they had fought for independence for many many years).

I was going to write to you about another (and more interesting) item:  Last week I saw an interview on BBC’s Hard Talk with Philippe Sands, an international lawyer with expertise in international criminal law. He discussed the philosophical and political tensions between genocide as a crime and crimes against humanity. The former invests rights and dignity in the group, the latter in the individual. He explores the concern that the former may undermine the latter. “His book East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity (2016) has been awarded numerous prizes”.

Now, that is something I should like to see you write about!

Hope you have a good 2022 and, above all, good health!


Astri Suhrke

Associated Research Professor

Chr. Michelsen Institute

Bergen, Norway


I have ordered the book on genocide and crimes against humanity, will read it and get back to you.

Thanks for the feedback and corrections.

Be well and have a good year.


Here is one example of an uncritical feedback from Dr. Joseph Wong.

Thanks Howard for writing this piece.  It gives me more perspectives on viewing world politics which is a survival of the fittest game.  A lot of horrible things were done but they were done, but people were given various sorts of excuses justifying the merciless actions.

I have always wondered why people who swear they are Christians and follow the teachings of Bible, can do exactly the opposite.  Throughout history, there have been more wars caused by differences in faith than almost any other the

Is this the evil inside the human body?


I also received quite a few welcomes for my return.


Thanks, Howard. So important to remember.



I was just thinking about you, wondering where you’d been! 

Now I can read your latest offering to see if you answer that question!  🙂

Happy New Year to you, Good Sir!


Mark Thibodeau

a friend via Milton Zysman

Glad you are back.  

J. David Cox

My blog will not appear with the old frequency. You may welcome that.  There are several reasons. First, I no longer sleep just 4-5 hour a night. Though I sleep in 2-3 hour tranches, I find I now need 9 hours sleep each day. That has severe repercussions on my writing time, both the time I can devote to it and when I write. When I first wake up at 2:30 or 3:00, I can only sustain about an hour of writing instead of my past practice of writing 4-5 hours every early morning.

Second, we are moving. After 55 years living on Wells Hill Avenue in Toronto, we sold our house. We are moving to Vancouver Island. We bought a house next door to one of my sons in Cobble Hill. Though we leave our house in mid-February, we will not get to the West Coast until the end of April.

Third, the move itself is onerous as many of you know who have tried to cull a lifetime of accumulation.

We are looking forward to the change, even though this past December there was a switch in weather patterns with Toronto being relatively warm and relatively free of snow while the island was cold and received several large dumps.

But who cares! Young grandchildren are a very strong magnet.

Have a good and healthy new year.



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