Even With a New Resolution, This War is Wrong

by Milan Rai

Dissident Voice
February 13, 2002



The Prime Minister is confident that he can win a second UN Resolution, and that this will persuade a large chunk of anti-war opinion to come over to his side. The opinion polls show that a majority of people in Britain oppose war on Iraq without UN authorisation, but a majority of people would support (or stop opposing) a war covered by a new UN resolution.


But a war on Iraq in the present circumstances would be an attack not only on the civilian population of Iraq, but on the core principles of the UN itself, an attack on the United Nations Charter. The anti-war movement must defend the UN Charter, against the UN Security Council if necessary.




It is unlikely that a new UN Resolution will explicitly authorise the use of force under US leadership, as UN Resolution 84 did in July 1950, covering the Korean War. It is more likely that the Resolution will declare Iraq in 'material breach' of its disarmament duties, and threaten 'serious consequences'.


These vague phrases do not amount to an authorisation to use force. Iraq may be in 'material breach' of past UN Resolutions, but none of them authorised the use of force in the event of Iraqi non- co-operation with UN inspectors. (See ARROW Anti- War Briefing 25: Material Breach for more on this.)




Even if the Resolution did explicitly 'authorise' the use of force, war would not be legal. Article 39 of the UN Charter: 'The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.' Art. 41 deals with nonmilitary measures.


Art. 42: 'Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.' So there are two tests: there has to be a 'threat to peace' and nonmilitary means are 'inadequate'.




British Vice-Admiral Sir James Jungius KBE observed in a letter to The Times (1 Jan., p. 25): 'Even if the weapons do exist, where is the evidence of intent to us them? War is too important and unpleasant a business to be undertaken on the basis of a hunch, however good that hunch may be.'


Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Douglas Hogg: 'The real question is not whether he's got weapons of mass destruction, but rather whether-if he has got those weapons-he is a grave and imminent threat to the rest of us... even if he had these things, unless he's a grave and imminent threat there isn't a moral basis for war, because the doctrine of self-defence isn't properly invoked.' (BBC Radio 4, The World This Weekend, 12 Jan.) At the time of writing, it has not been proved that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-it has certainly not been shown that Iraq intends to use its weapons in an aggressive manner.




To contain Iraq's suspected weapons programmes: 1) we can detect and disarm any remaining weapons capability, and 2) we can 'freeze' Iraq's capacity to make such weapons, to prevent their development and use in the future.


The US has contrasted Iraqi behaviour unfavourably with that of South Africa, which engaged in voluntary nuclear disarmament verified by the International Atomic Energy Authority. The head of the IAEA, 'Mr ElBaradei later noted that, even with co-operation, this had taken two years.' (Financial Times, 28 Jan., p. 9) It was two years after IAEA inspections began that South African President F.W. de Klerk announced in Mar. 1993 that Pretoria had actually developed 'a limited nuclear deterrent'-the IAEA then carried out inspections over the next five months,  building on several months of inspections in 1991. (IAEA Bulletin, Vol. 37 No. 1, search (www.iaea.org/worldatom/Periodicals/)


Weapons inspectors from the IAEA and the UN Monitoring and Ongoing Verification Commission (UNMOVIC) have only been at work in Iraq for two months-since 27 Nov. 2002, when they started their work almost from scratch after a four-year gap. They need more time. Months not weeks.


'To carry out a thorough inspection would likely take several months.' Ewen Buchanan, spokesperson for UNMOVIC. (FT, 9 Jan., p. 10) Mohammed El Baradei, head of IAEA inspections in Iraq, told the Security Council on 27 Jan., 'Barring exceptional circumstances and provided there is sustained co-operation by Iraq, we should be able within the next few months to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme. These few months, in my view, would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us to avoid a war.'

(Financial Times, 28 Jan., p. 9)


'Seven out of ten Americans would give UN weapons inspectors months more to seach for arms inside Iraq, according to yesterday's Washington Post.' (Times, 23 Jan., p. 15) This figure fell after Colin Powell's misleading Security Council presentation (see ARROW Briefing 29: 'Game Over').


The international community certainly wants more time: 'There is no reason to give a time-limit' on inspections, said Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, France's UN envoy, speaking for most of the world. (Times, 10 Jan., p. 1)




Para. 7 of UN Resolution 1284 (from Dec. 1999) says, 'not later than 60 days' after the IAEA and UNMOVIC have started work in Iraq, inspectors should draw up a 'work programme' including 'the key remaining disarmament tasks to be completed by Iraq'. 60 days ran out on 27 Jan., but there's no plan yet.


Dr Hans Blix, head of UNMOVIC, reminded reporters of Resolution 1284 on 9 Jan., saying that it 'foresees that we will define in due course which are the key remaining disarmament tasks and the Security Council will approve them. And then it will be for Iraq to try to satisfy those tasks. So February is not the end of time.' (www.unmovic.org  'Recent Items'.)


We should now be beginning the process of verified disarmament in Iraq, not contemplating the forced end of inspections because of US bullying. The weapons inspectors themselves, almost half the US public, the international community, and the main UN Resolution governing the work of the weapons inspectors, all want more time for inspectors to detect and disarm-months not weeks.




More importantly, UN weapons inspectors could now install throughout Iraq a system of video cameras, radiation detectors, temperature sensors and other devices to monitor 'dual-use' equipment that might be used for developing weapons of mass destruction as well as for normal civilian purposes. Video and air sampling information could be fed back live to the inspectors' Baghdad HQ, and then onto the UN in New York, as they did before Dec. 1998.


Colin Powell told the Security Council on 5 Feb. that Iraq had 'embedded key portions of its illicit chemical weapons [CW] infrastructure within its legitimate civilian industry': 'To all outward appearances, even to experts, the infrastructure looks like an ordinary civilian operation. Illicit and legitimate production can go on simultaneously or on a dime.' In the real world, as former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has pointed out, 'individual pieces of CW production equipment are worthless unless they are assembled in a specific configuration, a unique combination that would be readily discernible to weapons inspectors.'


According to the UN inspection agency UNSCOM, 'Only the proper combination of different pieces of equipment in a particular configuration gives to... these pieces of equipment the status of a CW production facility.' (quoted by Ritter, Arms Control

Today, June 2000) As long as the video cameras are rolling, we would know if Iraq's chemical industry was being used to produce weapons. Temperature sensors can apparently play a similar role for biological weapons, and radiation detectors for any nuclear weapons programme.




Careful readers will have noticed that it is up to the Security Council to 'determine' whether there is a threat to peace, and to 'consider' whether nonviolent means are inadequate. However, this cannot be a licence for the Security Council to make war at whim. There must be some objective basis in fact for the findings that (a) there is a 'threat to peace' and (b) that nonviolent means are 'inadequate'.


In the present case, there are no threatening military deployments, no signalled threats, and no doctrine of aggressive attack-by Iraq. The evidence is that it is the US, not Iraq, that currently poses a 'threat to peace' in the Gulf. Similarly, there are nonviolent measures for detecting, disarming and preventing the re-development of weapons of mass destruction which have not yet been exhausted-which have barely begun to be explored.


If there is a UN Security Council Resolution which explicitly 'authorises' military action against Iraq, we must protest against this breach of the UN Charter, the foundations of the world's legal order. If there is a UN Security Council Resolution which only refers to a 'material breach' and 'serious consequences', this is not even an attempted 'authorisation' of war. We must protect the UN Charter-from Washington, London, and, if necessary, the UN Security Council. The UN Charter is there 'to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.' (Preamble)


Milan Rai is author of War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War (Verso, 2002) and a member of Active Resistance to the Roots of War (Arrow). He is also co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness UK, which has worked for the lifting of UN sanctions in Iraq.







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