[OPE-L:8712] a case against the war in Iraq

From: Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au)
Date: Sat Apr 05 2003 - 02:02:40 EST

Is the US led invasion of Iraq legal? Is it justified? The answer to 
the first question is determined by whether it conforms to the UN 
Charter. The answer to the second depends on whether the war had 
acceptable aims, whether there was any peaceful alternative, and what 
the consequences, good and bad, are likely to be.

The US and its allies have gestured to 'self-defence', which is a 
legitimate cause for war under the UN Charter. The problem here is 
that the US has not proved that Iraq has any intention or capability 
to join with Al Quaida to attack it with weapons of mass destruction. 
Rather, the US stretches 'self-defence' to include waging war against 
another country that the US is not assured might not in the future 
acquire the ability and intention to attack the US. This doctrine of 
'pre-emptive' defence clearly makes a mockery of the UN Charter and 
must be rejected.

In notifying the UN Security Council of its intention to wage war, 
the US and its allies cited resolutions passed by the UN Security 
Council in 1990/91 for legal authority. However, the UN authorised 
force in 1990 to end Iraq's illegal occupation of Kuwait. That 
conflict concluded with a ceasefire agreement imposing all sorts of 
conditions on Iraq, including destruction of its weapons of mass 
destruction capability. The US hardly has reason to resume war under 
the original authorisation for force of 1990, since Iraq no longer 
occupies Kuwait nor poses any threat of re-occupation. The question 
is rather what the UN Security Council should do about the alleged 
failure of Iraq to comply with the terms of the ceasefire in 1991. 
Even if that allegation is true, it is not self-evident that members 
of the UN should simply resume hostilities, given twelve years have 
passed and Iraq's military capability, including stocks of WMD, has 
been reduced substantially. The issue of what to do is addressed by 
UN Security Council resolution 1441, passed unanimously with the 
understanding that it did not contain any hidden trigger for war, and 
with the Security Council making it clear that it wanted to decide 
whether Iraq had failed to comply and what action to take. The US 
might claim that Iraq is in breach of a UN resolution but it should 
leave it to the UN to determine whether that is so. That is why 
weapons inspectors were sent to Iraq.

In any case, the legality of war under UN resolutions turns on the 
truth of the US allegation that Iraq has banned weapons, which is 
rejected by Iraq, and is not supported by findings of UN weapons 
inspector, who have claimed that Iraq only still needs to account 
completely for weapons stocks it once possessed. This Iraq did not 
get a chance to do, as the US attacked on the pretext that the UN 
Security Council had refused to enforce its own resolution and that 
the US could not allow 'indefinite delay' in determining whether Iraq 
has banned weapons, including WMD. Since the UN Security Council 
simply wanted to give the weapons inspectors more time to make a 
finding before it considered enforcement of its resolution and was 
not proposing indefinite delay, the US pretext for attack is baseless.

War was clearly unnecessary to ensure that Iraq complies with 
resolution 1441. A sensible way of enforcing this resolution would be 
to exert pressure on Saddam's regime by building up military forces, 
which could attack if there was no evidence of significant 
compliance. If there was evidence of compliance, such as that 
provided when Iraq started destroying missiles that weapons 
inspectors claimed were illegal, military forces could be scaled 
down, pending a final report from the inspectors. Inspectors could 
even have been given until the end of the Northern Autumn to make a 
final report on whether Iraq was disarmed. If the inspectors reported 
non-co-operation over that period, the UN Security Council could then 
have considered war to enforce its resolutions. Waiting until 
November would not, as the US and Howard claimed, put off the issue 
indefinitely. It would have set a very definite timeline with ample 
room for the inspectors to complete their task. As it was, France 
proposed that inspectors be given another month and that might have 
sufficed to determine Iraqi compliance with 1441.

Despite unquestioning acceptance by Western media, the US allegation 
that Iraq has WMD is inherently incredible. Possession of nuclear 
weapons can make other countries think twice before attacking, but 
everyone accepts that Iraq does not have these and would not be able 
to acquire them with UN weapons inspectors in place. Biological and 
Chemical weapons may be effective in terrorising defenceless people 
such as the Kurds, but are relatively ineffective against a military 
power such as the US, and cannot be used against other countries 
without massive retaliation. Their possession also has the 
overwhelming disadvantage, at least since Bush's 'axis of evil' 
speech, of provoking attack by the world's only superpower. Iraq 
would have to be incredibly stupid to have WMD, as the US alleges, 
especially since they are not so difficult to acquire that Iraq would 
lose them forever by getting rid of them now. We could reasonably 
conclude immediately that Iraq does not possess WMD but for one 
thing: Saddam has already shown incredible stupidity when he 
persisted with his occupation of Kuwait. However, even if Saddam has 
been incredibly stupid, and still has WMD, his known malevolence 
suggests that these will be passed to Al Quaida, if possible, once he 
faces certain defeat. This would be nice revenge for an attack 
nominally aimed at getting rid of this threat.

This brings us to the real aims and the real consequences of the US 
led invasion of Iraq. Disarming Saddam is clearly a mere pretext for 
the attack. The rulers of the US are not stupid: they knew that 
weapons inspections were working and that waiting a further month or 
even half a year would not amount to an indefinite wait. From the 
known positions of Bush's neo-conservative advisors, it is clear that 
the US invasion is calculated to increase US power in the Middle 
East, so that it is better able to deal with Syria, Iran and Saudi 
Arabia. Control of Iraq's oil will counter any Saudi threat, implicit 
or explicit, to turn off oil supplies if the US rides roughshod over 
Saudi interests. The US will be able to pressure Saudi Arabia to 
suppress Islamic fundamentalism internally and to concede more to 
Israel, such as Israeli control of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, 
in a peace settlement for Palestine imposed by the US. The US has 
clearly hoped to intimidate Arab opposition to its policies in the 
Middle East and to push Arab governments toward US inspired 
'reforms'. These war aims are hardly acceptable to anyone other than 
supporters of a US imperium for the twenty first century.

As to the consequences of the invasion, there is only one clear 
positive. Iraq will manifestly be better off without Saddam's fascist 
regime. Against this is the death and destruction of war, however 
'smartly' waged. Further, the hostility already generated in the Arab 
world to an attack without UN sanction will make the US and the West 
at large less rather than more safe from terrorist attack. Al Quaida 
now has more chance of recruiting and operating securely. Pakistan 
has recently helped to catch some important Al Quaida operatives but 
it is unlikely that the intelligence and enthusiasm required for 
further success will now be forthcoming. Osama Bin Laden can sleep 
more soundly at night and wake smiling in the morning at his newly 
enhanced prospects. The humanitarian benefits of deposing Saddam 
could have justified an invasion if his regime had precipitated a 
humanitarian crisis. However, it is now clear that the invasion 
itself threatens such a crisis and will prove counterproductive for 
security against terrorism. The war in Iraq is neither legal nor just.
Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Philosophy Dept, School of Humanities,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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