Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Juan Cole, "Humanitarian Grounds for Iraq War?"

I disagree in serious respects with some of Juan Cole's judgments about the Iraq war--though our disagreements are not fundamental, since he welcomed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein & his regime, while objecting in various ways to how it was brought about, and he didn't oppose the war. However, what he has to say here about the Ba'ath regime's repeated and blatant violations of the Genocide Convention, and the responsibility of the outside world to do something about them (a responsibility which, alas, there was never any serious prospect would be met), is absolutely on target.

As I have made clear, I think that the Iraq war was definitely justified as a humanitarian intervention (as well as on other grounds). But I think it's also worth pointing out that, under the Genocide Convention, the "world community" (including the US, by the way) actually had a "legal" obligation to take serious steps a long time ago (quite aside from the question of Saddam Hussein's NBC weapons programs).

--Jeff Weintraub

(From the website of Juan Cole, Informed Comment)
January 28, 2004

Humanitarian Grounds for Iraq War?

Re: Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth, "War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention", 26 January 2004, Keynote essay to Human Rights Watch, "World Report 2004."

My reply, from a discussion list:

I deeply disagree with the way the Bush administration pursued the war against Iraq. The hyping of unfounded 'intelligence,' the backroom deals with corrupt or authoritarian expatriates, the spying on the UNSC ambassadors and then the discarding of them, the disregard for the United Nations Charter, the undermining of international law and the law of occupation--all of these steps and policies made our world so much more shoddy and dangerous and mistrustful.

That said, I simply must disagree with HRW and Mr. Roth that there were no humanitarian grounds for such a war. I believe that what Saddam was doing to the Marsh Arabs from the mid-1990s could legitimately qualify as a genocide. Likewise, the Anfal campaign against the Kurds. Although the latter was carried out some years ago the former had been recent and ongoing. Moreover, there is not in most legal systems any statute of limitations on murder, so I am not sure why there should be one on genocide or mass murder.

In short, I believe that the United Nations Security Council was obliged to remove Saddam Hussein from power on the basis of egregious violations of the UN Convention on Genocide

The proper way for the Bush administration to have proceeded was to apply to the UNSC under Article 8 of the convention.

"Article 8
Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3."

In so saying, I do not mean to give the Bush administration a pass on its behavior, since vigilanteism is not the same as lawful prosecution. Bush lynched Saddam, when in fact his regime should have been put on trial and removed by the Security Council.

I do not believe most Iraqis would agree with HRW on this one, and they are the ones who had to live with that regime.