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Synthesis/Regeneration 30   (Winter 2003)

Law Not War

by John Greenbaum, Green Party of Monroe County (NY)

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. –Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter

As the cracks in the Bush administration consensus continue to widen it is important to make our voices heard to resist an invasion of Iraq. Let’s call on our legislators to:

During a June 1 commencement speech at West Point, President Bush rolled out his Doctrine of Preemptive Attack which states that the US can strike first or invade another nation if the administration merely asserts that a country poses a threat—even if that country has not presented a threat. (Bush: “If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” Cheney: “Wars are not won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy and, where necessary, preempt grave threats to our country before they materialize.”) (Time, 6/24/02, MSNBC, 6/26/02).

Such a policy is a radical departure from the policy of deterrence in which security was sought through the threat of overwhelming retaliation. This Doctrine of Preemptive Attack is in direct violation of the United Nations Charter which accepts the legitimacy of “self defense” and “collective self defense.” Bush’s policy of preemption legitimizes the principle of international lawlessness, undermines diplomacy, encourages global instability and gives ultimate power and authority to the President.

Weapons of Mass Destruction and UNSCOM Inspections

Of course, President Bush needs the Doctrine of Preemptive Attack to justify his aggression towards Iraq because there is no evidence that Iraq presents a threat to the United States. According to former United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) chief inspector Scott Ritter, “Iraq has, in fact, been disarmed. The chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range ballistic missile programs that were a real threat in 1991 had, by 1998, been destroyed or rendered harmless.” (Boston Globe 3/9/00). Ritter resigned in protest over US politicization of the weapons inspections. In its most recent report, the International Atomic Energy Agency categorically declared that Iraq no longer has a nuclear program.

…the International Atomic Energy Agency categorically declared that Iraq no longer has a nuclear program.

At an August 20 Congressional briefing Ritter commented on Clinton Administration political manipulation of the UNSCOM weapons inspection process: “Contrary to popular mythology weapons inspectors were not kicked out by Saddam Hussein. Weapons inspectors were ordered out by the United States government two days before the United States began a unilateral bombing campaign, ‘Operation Desert Fox,’ that did not have authority of the Security Council.”

In fact, according to the International Action Center, UNSCOM cited only five “obstructions” to the 423 inspections conducted during Nov. 18–Dec.12, 1998. One was a 45 minute delay before allowing access. Another was Iraq’s rebuff to a demand by a US inspector that she be able to interview all the undergraduate students in Baghdad University’s Science Department.

Two other cases of Iraq’s alleged non-compliance had to do with UNSCOM’s request to inspect two establishments on Friday—the Muslim holy day. Since the establishments were closed, Iraq asserted that the inspections must be held another day or that an Iraqi official would accompany the inspectors in accordance with an agreement between UNSCOM and Iraq regarding Friday inspections.

Two weeks after Operation Desert Fox, US officials publicly admitted that the weapons inspectors were intelligence agents who provided Pentagon bombing planners with bombing coordinates (New York Times, 01/07/99).

… Bush needs the Doctrine of Preemptive Attack to justify his aggression towards Iraq because there is no evidence that Iraq presents a threat to the United States.

Predictably, and justifiably, the Iraqi government announced that it would no longer cooperate with the UN weapons inspections.

Former UN Chief of Weapons Inspection Rolf Ekeus accused the US and the UN Security Council of manipulating UN inspection teams for their own political ends BBC News, 7/30/02). Chief UN Inspector Hans Blix warned against the use of force, emphasizing that UNSCOM inspectors should be given every opportunity to do their job first.

Ties to Terrorism

Nor can President Bush point to Iraqi ties with al-Qaeda. The Czech Foreign Intelligence Service has laid to rest the theory that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi officials in Prague. The US State Department’s Patterns of Global Terrorism report does not document any Iraqi-sponsored terrorism. Moreover, ties to al-Qaeda are unlikely, given Hussein and Osama bin Laden’s mutual animosity. In 1990 bin Laden approached Saudi Prince Sulfa and volunteered to organize 100,000 mujahideen to expel Iraq from Kuwait. It is also unlikely that Hussein, a secular leader paranoid about maintaining power, would share any weaponry with fundamentalist terrorists.

It should also be pointed out that we deemed Hussein trustworthy with the anthrax that we gave him in the 1980’s when he was our ally against Iran (NY Times, 8/18/02). Several US senior military officers now also claim that during a covert American program to provide Iraq with battle plan assistance against Iran, officers were aware of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons but raised no objections (NY Times, 8/18/02). Iraq did not use these weapons against the US during the Persian Gulf War.

…we deemed Hussein trustworthy with the anthrax that we gave him in the 1980’s when he was our ally against Iran.

Political Assassination

In 1976, after public outrage over revelations coming out of the Church Committee of the US Senate about CIA assassination attempts in the 50s and 60s, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning political assassination. This order has been maintained (or at least paid lip service) by US presidents since then. Preemptive political assassinations are specifically outlawed in Article 51 of the UN Charter. The current Bush administration, however, has declared its intent to assassinate al-Qaeda leaders in countries around the world and has allowed for the possibility for covert operations forces to “remove” Saddam Hussein. With Hussein fearing for his life, and remembering the CIA infiltration of UNSCOM, this policy of assassination undermines the possibility of successful negotiations with Hussein for the return of UNSCOM weapons inspectors.


According to UN reports, the sanctions have…killed more than one million Iraqi citizens.

Reports from UNICEF, WHO, FAO, and the World Food Program have increased pressure on the US to lift sanctions. Calls for an end to the sanctions started to gather momentum with the resignation of Dennis Halliday, head of the Oil-for-Food Program. Halliday went public with the gross inadequacy of the program. His successor, Hans Von Sponeck, also resigned in protest. Von Sponeck’s resignation was then followed by the resignation of the World Food Program’s coordinator in Iraq. Halliday, in a speech on Capitol Hill, said the “child mortality rate for children under five years of age is from 5 to 6 thousand per month… There are many reasons for these tragic and unnecessary deaths, including the poor health of mothers, the breakdown of health services, the poor nutritional intake of both adults and young children and the high incidence of water-borne diseases as a result of the collapse of Iraq’s water and sanitation system—and, of course, the lack of electric power to drive that system, both crippled by war damage following the 1991 war.” The chlorine that might clean up the water has been banned by the sanctions.

People are contracting preventable 19th century diseases like cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, and typhoid, diseases that had been brought under control by the Iraqi government prior to the Gulf War. In 1998 the World Council of Churches found that malnutrition and illness of Iraqi civilians was in crisis proportions. Deaths due to malnutrition have increased eightfold since 1989. There is a lack of vaccines, antibiotics and anesthesia, and surgeries have been reduced by 70%. According to UN reports, the sanctions have directly and indirectly killed more than one million Iraqi citizens. The World Health Organization estimates that 250 to 300 people die per day as a result of the sanctions. The literacy rate has dropped from 90% to 66%.


Last spring the Bush administration obstructed international efforts to inspect Iraq’s chemical weapons. Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was in the midst of negotiating with Iraq to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention in order to allow weapons inspections when the US threatened to withhold its UN payments until Bustani was fired. (Washington Times, 3/21/02) The US succeeded and Bustani was fired. There have been no talks between the OPCW and Iraq since Bustani’s ouster.

…the Bush administration obstructed international efforts to inspect Iraq’s chemical weapons.

The No Fly Zones that the US Air Force is enforcing in the south and north of Iraq are not sanctioned by the UN. We are currently flying over Iraqi sovereign air space.

Nonetheless, in early August, USA Today reported that Iraq had invited “Congressional visitors and weapons experts of their choice… [to] visit any site in Iraq alleged to be used for development of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.” The Bush administration dismissed the offer as a ploy. “Inspection is not the issue, disarmament is…we have seen the Iraqis fiddle with the inspection system before,” Powell said dismissively while stopping over in the Philippines. (The Observer, 08/04/02) John Bolton, Undersecretary at the State Department stated, “Let there be no mistake, while we also insist on the reintroduction of the weapons inspectors, our policy at the same time insists on regime change in Baghdad—and that policy will not be altered whether inspectors go in or not” (Guardian, 8/3/02).

Consistent Foreign Policy

Article 14 of UN Resolution 687 states that the disarmament of Iraq is a step towards “the goal of establishing in the Middle East, a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery, and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons.” As long as Iraq is surrounded by heavily armed countries Iraq will have the motivation and means to get weapons.

Negotiations with Iraq over the return of weapons inspectors are not likely while the US pursues a policy of singling out Iraq. Pakistan, for instance, does have nuclear weapons, and there is also evidence that al-Qaeda is operating there. And according to a Rand Corporation report, “The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, to cadre to foot soldiers, from ideologist to cheerleader.” Osama bin Laden and many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. Yet Bush says, “Saudi Arabia is a long-standing friend and a long-standing ally. We very much appreciate the way they are cooperating in the global war against terrorism.” (US News and World Report, 8/7/02).

Although Hussein has not honored UN resolutions, Iraq is not alone in that regard. Israel has ignored dozens of UN resolutions and so has the US. This lack of consistency undermines the possibility of negotiations. The US, however, should be negotiating with Iraq just as it is now negotiating with North Korea, a nation that does have nuclear weapons.

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