8.7.4 Applicability of the Law in the Iraq Situation

Saddam Hussein’s failure to comply with weapons inspections was directly related to his assumption that political wrangling in the United Nations ( would prevent decisive action.  For several decades his assumption was correct.  International law should have been applied from 1980 onwards:

●  Preventing Iraq from invading Iran in the war of 1980-88 would have saved more than a million lives at that time and would also have sent a clear signal that international law is enforceable.

● Iraq’s subsequent invasion of Kuwait in 1990 would then probably not have happened.

Failures to reach agreement in the UN had had the effect of weakening international law and allowing Iraq to be less law-abiding.

The American and British leaders openly declared that the WMD were their main concern.  A BBC article, France will use Iraq veto, reported that both Blair and Bush were unsuccessfully trying to obtain a UN Resolution to give Saddam Hussein a deadline to disarm before invading Iraq.  Their efforts strengthened the public’s perception that this ‘second Resolution’ was necessary, and most authorities agreed:

●  A BBC report, Iraq war illegal, says Annan, noted that The United Nations Secretary-General subsequently said that the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter.

●  A Dutch panel in 2010 agreed, as reported by The Guardian for example: Iraq war was illegal, Dutch panel rules.

Despite the balance of opinion being against them in their interpretation of international law, the American and British governments decided to proceed with the invasion.  America believed that it was the sole arbiter on matters relating to its security (8.4.2) and Britain made a dubious interpretation of the law (8.5.1).

Although both leaders had castigated Saddam Hussein’s record on human rights, that was not their principal concern.  Had they wanted to prevent him from further breaches they could have pursued him through the ICC ( (though it wasn’t very mature at that time, and America was ambivalent about it).


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