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Was the U S Invasion on Iraq Justified

Was the U S Invasion on Iraq Justified

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Was the U S Invasion on Iraq Justified
Was the U S Invasion on Iraq Justified

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Published by: Malik M. Rizwan Yasin on May 18, 2008
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Was the U.S. Invasion on Iraq Justified
Page 1 of 21
Was the U.S. Invasion on Iraq Justified?
Even before the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003, the prospect of a U.S. invasionwas controversial, with millions of people around the world taking part in streetdemonstrations in protest. Since the invasion, U.S. military forces have faced acounterinsurgency that has killed thousands of Americans and Iraqis. Was the invasion justified? Michael T. Klare, a professor of world security studies, argues in thisPoint/Counterpoint that the invasion was not justified and that it has made the United Statesmore vulnerable to terrorism. Thomas Donnelly, a resident fellow at the American EnterpriseInstitute (AEI), counters that the invasion was justified and that it may pave the way for a newera of democracy and freedom in the Middle East.The U.S. Invasion of Iraq Was Not JustifiedTo pose the question, “Was the U.S. invasion of Iraq justified?” is to ask, above all else,whether the death of more than 1,500 American soldiers (the death toll as of March 2005)along with tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians was justified. These losses may seem smaller than those of other major wars, but every human life is precious, and so we must set a veryhigh standard for the justifiable use of military force. The U.S. invasion of Iraq does not meetthis standard.In reaching this conclusion, it is essential to understand that the war in Iraq was not a matter of necessity, but of choice. Unlike most other foreign wars in which the United States becameinvolved, the invasion of Iraq was not preceded by an attack on this country or on one of itsallies. World War II (1939-1945) commenced for the United States when Japan attacked theU.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor; the Korean War (1950-1953) when North Korean troopscrossed into South Korea; and the 1991 Persian Gulf War when Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait.In each of these cases, the outbreak of hostilities was precipitated by the aggressive actionof a hostile power, and thus the decision to respond in a military fashion was justified bylegitimate self-defense or the obligation, embedded in the United Nations (UN) Charter, to aidthe victims of aggression. But this justification cannot be used in the case of the 2003 U.S.invasion of Iraq, as the Iraqis did not attack the United States or invade another country; thedecision to initiate hostilities was made by the United States alone, and without beingtriggered by the hostile action of an aggressor state.That the United States invaded Iraq as a matter of choice rather than of necessity is further 
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Was the U.S. Invasion on Iraq Justified
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demonstrated by an assessment of the military equation in the Persian Gulf area at the onsetof hostilities. While it is true that Iraq had once posed a significant threat to its neighbors—most notably in August 1990, when it invaded and occupied Kuwait—the Iraqi army of 2003was but a pale shadow of its former strength. For 12 years, the country had been subjectedto rigorous economic sanctions imposed by the UN, substantially degrading the combateffectiveness of its once-vaunted war machine. In addition, repeated attacks by U.S. andBritish aircraft enforcing the “no-fly” zone over southern Iraq had enfeebled Iraq’s air defenses and command/communications systems. By the time George W. Bush entered theWhite House, U.S. intelligence reports (as summarized in the New York Times) weredescribing the Iraqi army’s “spiral of decay under the weight of economic sanctions andAmerican military pressure.”Under these circumstances, Iraq was in no position to initiate an attack on this or any other country, and so the United States had the luxury of standing back and allowing sanctions andother forms of pressure to hasten the decline of Iraq’s military capabilities. Iraq was further enfeebled at this time by the conspicuous presence of UN weapons inspectors. Thesespecialists had been deployed in Iraq at the end of 2002 and were dispersed throughout thecountry—providing a strong deterrent to aggressive action by Iraqi president SaddamHussein, who desperately sought to prevent the emergence of a unified anti-Iraq bloc in theUN Security Council. The longer the inspectors remained in Iraq, moreover, the greater thelikelihood that they would discover and destroy any hidden arsenals of nuclear, chemical,and biological weapons (collectively, weapons of mass destruction, or WMD). By allowingtime for sanctions and inspections to do their work, therefore, the United States would havestrengthened its relative military advantage over Iraq, not weakened it.Given the lack of a credible threat of aggression by Iraq at this time and the presence thereof UN inspectors, most members of the UN Security Council, along with many members of Congress, preferred to wait before initiating any military action against Iraq. Indeed, theSecurity Council refused to support a U.S.-backed resolution that would have declared Iraq infull breach of its obligation to destroy all WMD capabilities and invite the use of military forceby member states to achieve this objective. Despite this, the Bush administration chose toinitiate military action, thereby incurring substantial anger and disapproval from theinternational community. In taking this unpopular step, the White House insisted that Iraqposed a threat to U.S. security of such magnitude and immediacy that any further delay inattacking it would be unacceptable. The question of whether the U.S. invasion was justified,
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Was the U.S. Invasion on Iraq Justified
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therefore, hinges on the accuracy of the administration’s claim that Iraq posed a clear andpresent danger to America’s national security.In making this claim, the administration repeatedly charged that Saddam Hussein’s relentlesspursuit of WMD represented an imminent threat to the United States and its allies, and so justified the use of military force in a preemptive mode—that is, a military action conducted inanticipation of an enemy assault with the aim of preventing it or reducing its eventualseverity. In explaining the logic for this sort of action, President Bush told a national radioaudience on September 14, 2002, “Saddam Hussein’s regime has proven itself a grave andgathering danger.... To assume this regime’s good faith is to bet the lives of millions and thepeace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk that we must not take.”The legitimacy of preemptive action of this sort is a matter of considerable debate in theinternational legal community. Some experts contend that it is not permitted by internationallaw , while others argue that it is permissible under certain circumstances—notably when apotential victim of assault has unimpeachable evidence that a hostile state is on the brink of launching a deadly attack and can show that nothing short of preemptive action will preventsuch an assault from occurring. But even if we accept the latter view, it cannot be said toapply to Iraq in March 2003, when the United States initiated hostilities against Iraq. At thattime, UN weapons inspectors were deployed throughout Iraq and were reporting back thatthere was no sign of a concerted Iraqi effort to gear up for attacks on neighboring countries,whether with WMD or any other weapons. So the U.S. invasion of Iraq cannot be justified asa legitimate response to an imminent Iraqi assault.When challenged on this point, the Bush administration asserted that even if Iraq was unableto launch an attack at that moment in time, it was secretly developing a potent WMDcapability that would be ready at some point in the future, at which time the level of casualtiesinflicted by Iraq in any military strike would be infinitely greater than in any action taken todestroy this capacity while it was still undeveloped. Such an action—usually described as apreventive rather than a preemptive assault—was justified by the White House in terms of lives saved in years to come. “We are acting now because the risks of inaction would be far greater,” Bush explained on March 18, 2003. “In one year or five years the power of Iraq toinflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over.... We choose to meetthat threat now where it arises before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities.”Unlike some types of preemptive action, preventive attacks of this sort have never beenconsidered legitimate under international law. This is so because they represent an
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