The mask has fallen. Gone is any pretence of upholding an international order based on law. The United States of America has just launched a war of aggression.

The United Nations was founded to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war". Its Charter sets out the strictly limited conditions under which nations may go to war : in self defence (article 51) or, with the authorization of the security council, under chapter VII (to restore international peace - but only when "measures not involving the use of armed force" have been exhausted). "Pre-emptive" war, war for regime change, and war for the purpose of punishing non-conformity with a UN decision, are not permitted. Article 2 of the Charter requires states to refrain from any threat or use of force that is inconsistent with the UN's peace-keeping purposes.

The rationale for this war has been couched in lies and hypocrisy, its justification constantly revised. No link with al Qaeda was ever demonstrated. The much-vaunted "evidence" of hidden weapons led to nothing. After weeks of bickering to obtain UN Resolution 1441, the US now shows that it never intended to honor a UN decision that was not a rubber stamp for US policy. If UN resolution violations were just cause for invasions, Israel, for example, would have been invaded by UN-sponsored forces more than 30 times in the past decades.

Weapons of mass destruction? The US has over 10,000 nuclear warheads.

Crimes ? In the last Gulf War, 6000 surrendering soldiers were blasted from helicopters and then buried under the sand, the survivors along with the dead. It's easy to see why the US lacks enthusiasm for the International Criminal Court. It now plans to unleash up to 800 cruise missiles on Iraq in the first 48 hours of the war. A Pentagon official said, "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad." Targeting a civilian population is a grave violation of the Geneva convention. Weapons containing depleted uranium will undoubtedly be used again. Forty tons of this radioactive material were left in Iraq and Kuwait after the first Gulf War, and cancer rates increased by 700%. US military policy no longer excludes the use of tactical nuclear weapons even against a country having no nuclear capacity.

War for security? Even before the first bombs began to fall, al Qaeda recruitment began to soar. Bush himself admitted that "in desperation, [Saddam Hussein] and terrorist groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and our friends."

It is no coincidence that the US national security strategy, published in September 2002, sets forth a doctrine that capitalises on United States military and economic might to maintain the US as the sole superpower, able to impose its will on the rest of the world.

It's too late to save the Iraqi people from bereavement and devastation. But it's not too late to condemn this war for what it is - a violation of international law, a crime against peace. At the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, Justice Robert Jackson declared, "To initiate a war of aggression is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

We must press for an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly, where no state has a veto, to pass a resolution condemning this illegal war. The next step will be to have those responsible brought before a national or international tribunal. Bush has said, "War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished." For once, we agree with him! Let's see that it's done.