Last night, as part of its pledge drive, KQED public television repeated the Frontline documentary, “Bush’s War.” What struck me, aside from the devastating impact of seeing closeup once again the behavior and machinations of the criminal cabal that ruled this administration, was the lack of any analysis of the actual rationale for war. If you remember, Bush was persuaded by Colin Powell to go to the United Nations in order to provide some legitimacy for his plan to invade Iraq. Accordingly, the United States was able to browbeat the Security Council into passing Resolution 1441 on November 8, 2002. This resolution gave Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations.”
Iraq did comply, allowing Hans Blix of UNMOVIC and his inspectors to come into the country and inspect numerous facilities, and providing 12,000 pages of documents testifying to the destruction of its weapons (These documents were later borne out by the inability of the United States inspectors to find any WMD anywhere in Iraq). The inspectors found nothing except, on January 16, 2003, 11 empty 122mm chemical warheads previously undeclared. Iraq said they were old and forgotten; be that as it may, there were no chemicals detected to prove noncompliance.
Lack of evidence notwithstanding, the United States insisted that Iraq was lying. The US “cemented” this position when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his infamous presentation to the United Nations on February 5, with its mockup of so-called mobile chemical and biological weapons labs, its allegation that Iraq’s aluminum tubes were being used in a nuclear weapons program, and its allegation that Iraq had ties with al-Quaeda. It maintained these charges even after February 14, when Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei presented a detailed update on the situation in Iraq to the Security Council—in which Blix stated not only that “the Iraqis were now more proactive in their cooperation,” but also that the arguments presented by Colin Powell were not credible: the satellite images were not convincing, and Iraqis never received early warning of inspector visits (it was not known, at the time, that the mobile lab mockups were fabrications invented by the informant known as “Curveball”). El Baradei added that it was his conclusion that Iraqis did not have a nuclear weapons program (this, too, turned out to be correct.)
Undeterred by these setbacks, the United States then tried to pass a new resolution in the Security Council. Supported by Great Britain and Spain, the draft resolution on February 24, 2003, declared that “Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it by resolution 1441.” Therefore, it could be invaded in accordance with the “serious consequences” provision. Unfortunately for the U.S. position, most of the member states (save for the aforementioned England, Spain, and Bulgaria) in the Security Council refused to back this resolution. France and Germany stated their intention to veto the resolution. It was therefore withdrawn without a vote.
This left the United States with NO United Nations authority to invade Iraq. Resolution 1441 had not authorized an invasion, but merely urged Iraq to comply or face unstated “consequences”. The US’s proposed resolution, finding Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations and therefore subject to invasion, had been dropped for lack of support.
At this point, the United States, unwilling to abandon invasion plans already underway, resorted to a thirteen-year-old UN resolution—# 678. Resolution 678, issued on November 29, 1990, was directed against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. It authorized the use of force against Iraq to “uphold and implement resolution 660 and all subsequent resolutions to restore international peace and security.” Resolution 660 of Aug. 2, 1990, in turn, had condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and demanded a withdrawal of Iraq’s troops. So 678 authorized force only to get Iraqi troops out of Kuwait—something that had been accomplished 13 years ago. This did not deter the Bushies. Another old resolution, # 687, was dusted off, and combined with 678 to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, to give what was essentially an unprovoked invasion additional cover. Resolution 687 of April 3, 1991, had issued the formal ceasefire ending the Gulf War, adding several conditions: 1) Iraq destroys all its chemical and biological weapons and all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 km; 2) Iraq agrees not to develop nuclear weapons; 3) Iraq submits a declaration of its weapons programs and voluntarily agrees to on-site inspections. UN inspectors, including Scott Ritter, had testified to the fact that Iraq had complied with virtually all of these conditions. Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei had added their confirmations that Iraq was in near total compliance in February/March of 2003. Furthermore, in Great Britain, as George Monbiot makes clear, senior legal counsels to Tony Blair had advised the Prime Minister that such resolutions could not be used to justify a new war with Iraq. Neither could Article 51 of the UN Charter, which gives States a right to defend themselves “if an armed attack occurs against them,” and even then only until the Security Council can intervene. Since Iraq had not attacked anyone in 2003, there was no legal justification for war. Period.
None of this mattered to the Bush administration. Announcing that it had authority to invade via Article 51 of the UN Charter, and via Resolution 678, for the reasons (shortly to be proven totally bogus and manufactured out of whole cloth) that Iraq was in violation of 687, it invaded anyway. In the years since, despite not finding the alleged WMD, Bush and his henchmen have continued to insist that the United Nations authorized the invasion.
Again, “Bush’s War” is riveting television, if for nothing else than to see the faces and hear once again the laughable justifications of those who promoted this costly, devastating war. But this leaves the viewer thinking only that this group resembled the “gang who couldn’t shoot straight.” The problem lies far deeper than that. This gang was made up of liars, propagandists, and war criminals. Their invasion of Iraq constituted an international crime—especially against Iraq and the Iraqi people who have suffered the destruction of their country, their lives, their families, their most elementary hopes. As such, it deserves not only the condemnation, but the prosecution of those responsible—beginning with the President and the Vice President, and including the Secretary of Defense, the head of the CIA, and countless other lawyers and enablers like John Yoo who did the dirty work. Until they are brought to account, this nation will continue to live in shame and infamy.