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The Case Against War | The Nation

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The Case Against War

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Portions of this article originally appeared on the
Foreign Policy in Focus website (www.fpif.org), where Zunes serves as Middle East editor.

4. International inspectors cannot insure that Iraq will not obtain weapons of mass destruction.

About the Author

Stephen Zunes
Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics and chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San...

Also by the Author

The effort by the Bush Administration and Congress to portray the
planned invasion of Iraq as simply an effort to enforce United Nations
Security Council resolutions reaches a new low in double

As a result of the inspections regime imposed by the United Nations at the end of the Gulf War, virtually all of Iraq's stockpile of WMDs, delivery systems and capability of producing such weapons were destroyed. During nearly eight years of operation, UNSCOM oversaw the destruction of 38,000 chemical weapons, 480,000 liters of live chemical-weapons agents, forty-eight missiles, six missile launchers, thirty missile warheads modified to carry chemical or biological agents, and hundreds of pieces of related equipment with the capability to produce chemical weapons.

In late 1997 UNSCOM director Richard Butler reported that UNSCOM had made "significant progress" in tracking Iraq's chemical weapons program and that 817 of the 819 Soviet-supplied long-range missiles had been accounted for. A couple of dozen Iraqi-made ballistic missiles remained unaccounted for, but these were of questionable caliber. In its last three years of operation, UNSCOM was unable to detect any evidence that Iraq had been concealing prohibited weapons.

The periodic interference and harassment of UNSCOM inspectors by the Iraqis was largely limited to sensitive sites too small for advanced nuclear or chemical weapons development or deployment. A major reason for this lack of cooperation was Iraqi concern--later proven valid--that the United States was abusing the inspections for espionage purposes, such as monitoring coded radio communications by Iraq's security forces, using equipment secretly installed by American inspectors. The United States, eager to launch military strikes against Iraq, instructed Butler in 1998 to provoke Iraq into breaking its agreement to fully cooperate with UNSCOM. Without consulting the UN Security Council as required, Butler announced to the Iraqis that he was nullifying agreements dealing with sensitive sites and chose the Baath Party headquarters in Baghdad--a very unlikely place to store weapons of mass destruction--as the site at which to demand unfettered access. The Iraqis refused. Clinton then asked Butler to withdraw UNSCOM forces, and the United States launched a four-day bombing campaign, which gave the Iraqis an excuse to block UNSCOM inspectors from returning. With no international inspectors in Iraq since then, there is no definitive answer as to whether Iraq is actually developing weapons of mass destruction. And as long as the United States continues to openly espouse "regime change" through assassination or invasion, it is very unlikely that Iraq will agree to a resumption of inspections.

5. The United States has the legal right to impose a regime change through military force.

According to Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, no member state has the right to enforce any resolution militarily unless the Security Council determines that there has been a material breach of its resolution, decides that all nonmilitary means of enforcement have been exhausted and specifically authorizes the use of military force. This is what the Security Council did in November 1990 with Resolution 678 in response to Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, which violated a series of resolutions demanding their withdrawal that passed that August. When Iraq finally complied in its forced withdrawal from Kuwait in March 1991, this resolution became moot.

Legally, the conflict regarding access for UN inspectors and possible Iraqi procurement of WMDs has always been between the Iraqi government and the UN, not between Iraq and the United States. Although UN Security Council Resolution 687, which demands Iraqi disarmament, was the most detailed in the world body's history, no military enforcement mechanisms were specified. Nor has the Security Council specified any military enforcement mechanisms in subsequent resolutions. As is normally the case when it is determined that governments are violating all or part of UN resolutions, any decision about enforcement is a matter for the Security Council as a whole--not for any one member of the Council.

If the United States can unilaterally claim the right to invade Iraq because of that country's violation of Security Council resolutions, other Council members could logically also claim the right to invade states that are similarly in violation; for example, Russia could claim the right to invade Israel, France could claim the right to invade Turkey and Britain could claim the right to invade Morocco. The US insistence on the right to attack unilaterally could seriously undermine the principle of collective security and the authority of the UN and, in doing so, would open the door to international anarchy.

International law is quite clear about when military force is allowed. In addition to the aforementioned case of UN Security Council authorization, the only other time that a member state is allowed to use armed force is described in Article 51, which states that it is permissible for "individual or collective self-defense" against "armed attack...until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security." If Iraq's neighbors were attacked, any of these countries could call on the United States to help, pending a Security Council decision authorizing the use of force.

Based on evidence that the Bush Administration has made public, there doesn't appear to be anything close to sufficient legal grounds for the United States to convince the Security Council to approve the use of military force against Iraq in US self-defense.

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