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The Illegalities of the Iraq War

In the four years since the United States and its so-called ‘Coalition of the Willing’ invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, only one stated goal has been accomplished: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Peace and democracy are simply pipe dreams, the continued fantasies of a deluded U.S. president and his gaggle of yes-men who all choose to remain oblivious to Iraq’s bloody civil war.

In its perpetration of unspeakable terror upon the people of Iraq, the United States and its willing and/or coerced cohorts have violated international law at almost every turn. A few shocking examples are instructive.

In March of 2003, British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith responded to then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s request for input on the legality of the ‘coalition’s’ pending invasion. The U.S. had said that Iraq was in violation of Security Council Resolution 687, passed in 1991. The United Kingdom, Mr. Goldsmith said, believed that this determination could only be made by the U.N Security Council. He commented: “The US have a rather different view: they maintain that the fact of whether Iraq is in breach is a matter of objective fact which may therefore be assessed by individual Member States. I am not aware of any other state which supports this view.”

One can readily deduce from this brief statement that Mr. Blair joined President Bush in his frenzied rush to war despite serious reservations that Mr. Goldsmith had about its legality, and which were made known to Mr. Blair prior to the invasion. Yet the then British Prime Minister, not called the Yankee Poodle for nothing, was willing to ignore the counsel of his own Attorney General and put his reputation, and the lives of thousands of young Britons, on the line as he happily jumped through the hoops Mr. Bush held for him.

Slowly, as the war dragged on, the name Abu Ghraib became familiar to the world. In this city’s prison, once a center for torture of Iraqis by Saddam Hussein, American soldiers continued this disgraceful tradition. The world was horrified as photographs were released of the torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American soldiers. But as has been the case throughout U.S. military history, only low-ranking military personnel have been held accountable.

That torture is part of U.S. military procedures cannot be surprising when one recalls the words of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in reference to ‘questioning’ techniques used on prisoners: “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.” With the U.S.’s top law enforcement officer deciding arbitrarily that any provisions of the Geneva Conventions are ‘quaint’ (archaic, outdated), the use of savagely-cruel, inhumane treatment of civilians and soldiers cannot be surprising.

America’s unending arrogance is once again manifest in Mr. Gonzales’ statement. The Geneva Conventions, developed over a period of more than one hundred years and ratified by one hundred and ninety-four countries, clearly cover the topics of treatment of prisoners of war and of aggressive war, and mandate serious consequences for nations in violation. Yet the U.S. Attorney General is able to dismiss them with a wave of his bloody hand, with hardly a ripple of protest from the mainstream press. That such negligence makes the press complicit in Mr. Gonzales’ crimes is only obvious.

For many years the United States was quite cozy with Mr. Hussein and his nation. The U.S. provided him with weapons and other aid when it was convenient for it to do so. This may cause one to wonder about the commonalities between the two nations, or at least the most recent leaders of both. One cannot legitimately refer to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as the leader of Iraq, since a nation in the midst of a catastrophic civil war cannot be thought of as having a leader. The words of Benjamin Ferencz, a chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, are worth noting. Now in his eighty-seventh year he said: “Nuremberg declared that aggressive war is the supreme international crime.” Knowing what he does about aggressive war, Mr. Ferencz compared Mr. Bush to Mr. Hussein and said that both should be tried for their aggressive wars: Mr. Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and Mr. Bush’s invasion of Iraq thirteen years later.

The evidence against Mr. Bush is overwhelming; casual students of U.S. politics will scratch their heads in wonder that Congress overlooks these crimes without even a cursory investigation. When Iraq, in 1990, invaded Kuwait, Mr. Bush’s father did not hesitate to summon the U.N and take aggressive action. Whether this was due to his righteous indignation at this clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, or because he had a close eye on Kuwait’s oil riches and his own future (present?) finger in that particularly lucrative pie, cannot be known. But the world saw that one nation could not with impunity arbitrarily invade another sovereign nation. In the decade and a half that have since passed, the U.S. Congress has apparently turned a blind eye to such flagrant violations of the Geneva Conventions as ‘pre-emptive’ war and torture of prisoners.

Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, millions of people the world over protested the possibility of this obscene ‘pre-emptive’ strike; Mr. Bush compared them to a task force. Members of Congress from both parties seemed to fall all over each other to grab the microphone and utter jingoistic phrases that could have been considered nonsensical if their consequences were no so dire. Some of those, whether due to a genuine study of the situation in Iraq or to accommodate the prevailing winds of daily polls, have now changed their view and ostensibly oppose the war. Yet when placed in a position of following through on their spoken convictions, many of them fell back onto the old, over-used, totally false and completely bizarre cliché of continuing the war to support the troops.

Millions of people marching in the U.S. and European streets cannot end the Iraq war. American soldiers fighting in the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities cannot end the war. The Iraqi Parliament cannot end the war. This civil war will only end once the Iraqi people are left to determine their own course of action. At present they are united only in their hatred of the United States; removing U.S. participation in the war will eliminate one major roadblock to peace.

The U.S. Congress can bring the end of the war closer; in November of 2006 its members were elected to do just that. That they have failed to uphold their duties to the Constitution, the nation, the citizens that elected them and the world that looks to them to end the war cannot be disputed. Although in ever-decreasing numbers, they look upon the situation in Iraq with rose-colored glasses, unaware that the reddish hue they see is the blood of Americans and Iraqis that they have caused to be spilled. Until the members of Congress fully recognize both the futility and tragedy of the Iraq war, and show the backbone necessary to end it, the unspeakable horror will continue.

ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.




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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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