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The War And Occupation In Iraq Are Illegal

The War And Occupation In Iraq Are Illegal

By Courtenay Barnett*

Much has been said and written about America’s war, and occupation of Iraq. Amongst the community of nations of the world, and within the minds of the citizens of the world, two statements might succinctly clarify the issues of war and occupation in Iraq. The war was illegal under international law. The occupation remains illegal under international law. The point is:

“ Article 2(3) and 2(4) of the United Nations Charter read:

“ (3) All member states shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”

“ (4) 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.”

Sounds simple, reasonable and clear enough. Let me add that there are two and only two exceptions to the Charter’s Article 2(4) prohibition against the use of unilateralist force

“ … if an armed attack occurs…” (or is imminent) as contemplated by Article 51 of the UN Charter is one. Authorisation by the Security Council is the other.”

( Quote: “Learn the Law” pp. 154-155 – published Trafford 2003 – ISBN 141200775-5)

World leaders ought consistently to be asked – where is your lawful authority for your current course of action?

In assessing the statements of President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the immediate pre-war period, one clearly discerns concerted efforts to lend legitimacy to the war as then planned. The possession of, or imminent intention to use, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) was the ‘reason’ and ploy used to commence the war in Iraq. The truth is that Bush and Blair lied to, and misled their respective citizenry and the world. If the war in Iraq was to be deemed ‘legal’, there had to be a legitimate basis under international law, and of that Bush and Blair were fully aware. I make the following common sense observation:-

“ At the end of the war, WMDs had to be found – but where ( Iraq is a big country) and by whom? UN weapons inspectors had been pulled out of Iraq to let the sacred mission of bombing Iraq begin. After the war, the U.S. enforced the holy seal of sanctions against return of the UN inspectors. The reasonable inquiry might be – since the UN inspectors were central to the process of diligently and honestly searching for WMDs before the war – why not let them conclude that honest and diligent search, after the war, to the satisfaction of the international community?”

( Ibid: p. 157)

I admit error, because earlier in 2003, I thought we were “At the end of the war…” – but, now I am proven wrong. A war of resistance to American and foreign occupation continues apace in Iraq.

During the course of the twentieth century there was the war fought to end all wars – World War 1. That war lay the foundation for the next global conflagration – World War 2.

An attempt at sanity, and for the preservation of international peace arose in the immediate post-World War 2 period. Thus, the United Nations came into being, and Article 2(3) of its Charter stated, “All member states shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means…”. The Charter does not abolish war, so much as that it provides a mechanism for the legitimate use of force, when all efforts at resolution by “peaceful means” have failed.

The approaches of Bush and Blair towards Iraq are more reminiscent of aggressive conduct in the pre-World War 11 era, than being indicative of desire for civilized and lawful conduct more than fifty years after the UN multilateralist system was established. Bush and Blair have acted illegally and remain devoid of a legitimate cloak for their actions in Iraq.

“Global justice” is the phrase which best describes where the world is compelled to go, if peaceful survival is desired. Global justice is not a mere abstract concept, for its pursuit remains imperative for avoiding the kinds of unnecessary warfare that plagued the world before World War 2 , and it continues to be the only viable and sane alternative to the new unilateralist and illegal dispensations of the likes of Bush and Blair.

There cannot be one set of rules for the convenience of big powers in the world, and another set for all other nations. The Charter of the United Nations has quite clear provisions aimed at the preservation of international peace. President Bush and Prime Minster Blair have set their own standards, rules, and pattern of conduct in response to Iraq. Their standards, rules, and conduct auger well for future wars and remain manifestly – illegal.

To add your name to John Conyers Jr.'s letter to George W. Bush CLICK HERE
To read the secret Downing Street memo CLICK HERE


* Courtenay Barnett is a lawyer who has defended human rights cases. His web site is His new book is entitled, “ Learn the Law.”

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