On Native Ground
USE FLOUTED U.N. CHARTER WHEN HE INVADED IRAQ
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- President George W. Bush went before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday to defend his administration's decision to invade Iraq.
The President said the Unoted States delivered the Iraqi people from "an outlawed dictator" and the U.S. mission was "not to retreat, it is to prevail." The sentiments sounded noble, but there still is the matter of the legality of the U.S. invasion itself.
Almost unnoticed last week in the American press was a statement UN Secretary General Kofi Annan made to the BBC World Service. Annan was asked he thought the American-led invasion was illegal because it didn't have the approval of the United Nations. He said yes, that "it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view and from the charter point of view, it was illegal."
According to the UN Charter - a treaty signed by 192 of the world's 196 sovereign states, including ourselves - it is a crime for a nation to attack another nation unless there is a clear and present danger to that nation's security.
However, in the view of President Bush, America reserves the right to attack any nation it perceives to be a present or potential threat. The U.S. alone reserves the right to determine the risk and dictate the remedy, and the President will have the sole discretion to make the decision to go to war.
This policy, which got its first test in Iraq, stands in direct violation of the UN Charter and international law itself.
UN Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted in the fall of 2002, ordered Iraq to begin disarming. For the most part, Iraq had complied with the terms of 1441. The inspections were working, weapons were being dismantled and no weapons of mass destruction had been found. That was good enough for the rest of the Security Council, but not good enough for the America and Britain. They claimed Iraq was in "material breach" of 1441 and claimed the right to forcibly disarm Iraq.
But if you read the text of Resolution 1441, there is no specific authorization in it for the use of force if Iraq was in non-compliance. It states only that it's up to the Security Council alone to both determine the extent of compliance with the terms of 1441 and the actions to be taken if there was non-compliance.
After failing to convince the Security Council to see things their way, the U.S. and Britain decided that two UN resolutions from the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, 678 and 687, could be used to justify a invasion in 2003. This was a stretch, since Resolution 678 authorized military action against Iraq in 1990, but only to force it to abandon its occupation of Kuwait. As for 687, the 1991 resolution that established the ceasefire that ended hostilities, it doesn't authorize any use of force.
Despite all the justifications presented by the Bush administration, the evidence is on Annan's side that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is a violation of international law.
President Bush may not think much of the United Nations or international law in general. Remember, this is an administration that looked for loopholes in the Geneva Conventions and concluded that they did not apply to the "unlawful combatants" captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the dubious legality of the Iraq invasion is a major reason why so many of America's traditional allies declined to support it and why the America has received almost no international support for its occupation of Iraq.
The international community will likely continue to stand aside as we sink deeper into the quagmire in Iraq. Why should it clean up the mess that the Bush administration created, especially when Bush chose to ignore the advice and intelligence of our allies that clearly showed Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them?
The Bush administration went ahead with a war of choice that diverted resources from fighting al-Qaida in Afghanistan, needlessly alienated our allies, weakened the foundations of international law, enraged the Arab world and trapped our troops into an unwinnable guerrilla war in a country where Americans aren't seen as liberators, but as occupiers.
The sooner the American people confront this reality, the sooner it will demand an open and honest debate about why we invaded Iraq and how we can get out of the mess that President Bush has made.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.