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[casi] Demolition of justification for war on Iraq

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Dear anti-war warriors

Of all the articles that have appeared in the press over the past few weeks concerning war and 
Iraq, the two below surely number among the most important.

The first article appeared in the August 6th edition of Financial Times (Hiroshima Day, lest we 
forget, and also the anniversary of imposition of sanctions on Iraq in 1990). Written by one of the 
UK's top military strategists, it combines brilliance and na´vete in equal measure. It brilliantly 
demolishes the central theme of Bush and Blair's pro-war argument; namely that Saddam's possession 
of, or  desire to acquire, weapons of mass destruction makes war necessary. On the other hand, it 
naively assumes that the Bush/Blair argument is sincere, albeit flawed. Quinlan does not consider 
that the WMD argument is nothing else than cynical propaganda, designed to deflect attention from 
their their very different motives.

The second article reports public statements by Rolf Ekeus, who headed the UN Weapons Inspectorate 
(UNSCOM) in Iraq between 1991 and 1997. He corroborates recent statements by his deputy, Scott 
Ritter. This is important because the US and UK governments, unable to refute Ritter's claims, are 
seeking to undermine his credibility, making him out to be an unhinged maverick. Ekeus' statement 
completely destroys their dishonest defence against Ritter's truthful testimony.


War on Iraq: a blunder and a crime

By Michael Quinlan

Sir Michael Quinlan was permanent under-secretary at the Ministry of Defence, 1988-92, and is a 
visiting professor at the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College, London

Financial Times, August 6 2002

Saddam Hussein is a malign tyrant with a history of aggression against his neighbours. He almost 
certainly has chemical and biological weapons and would like to get nuclear ones, in breach of 
United Nations Security Council edict. We can place no trust in his denials or his current 
manoeuvring. The world would be better without him. But starting a war is an immensely grave step 
and we must still ask whether it would be wise, and right, to take it.

It would be wrong to say pre-emption is never warranted but the hurdle must be set very high: the 
evil needs to be cogently probable as well as severe. It is hard to see on what grounds Iraqi use 
of biological or chemical weapons, or their transfer to terrorists, is nowadays believed to meet 
that test. Mr Hussein, who has had such weapons for 20 years, has not used them since 1988, not 
even amid the 1991 Gulf war. Why should the international containment that has held for more than a 
decade now be thought likely to break down? It might if his survival were threatened - but to 
pre-empt the use of biological or chemical weapons by adopting the one course of action most apt to 
provoke it seems bizarre.

Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, unconscionable though it is, is entirely capable 
of explanation as an act of defiance, a bid for prestige and an insurance against mortal attack. 
Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, once told Rolf Ekeus, head of UN weapons inspections in 
Iraq from 1991 to 1997, that Baghdad was determined to keep its weapons lest Iran one day come 
looking for revenge for the Iraqi invasion of 1979 and the subsequent war.

To argue that September 11 shows the need for pre-emption is to draw a false parallel. Mr Hussein's 
regime is not a shadowy terrorist organisation; it has much to lose - and deterrence can be brought 
to bear. It is true that prevention of use falls far short of the ideal of Iraqi compliance with 
Security Council requirements; but decision-makers have to compare the realistic alternatives.

An assault could be costly in military and civilian lives and in damage to an already ravaged 
society. Iraqi resistance might fold quickly, as it did in 1991. That, however, was about hanging 
on to an external conquest; defence of the homeland might be different. Iraqi forces did not fight 
weakly against Iran in the 1980s.

We think little of the way Mr Hussein rules his people and wonder why they should fight for him. 
But we thought poorly of Hitler, as the US did of Fidel Castro at the time of the Bay of Pigs 
invasion. Mr Hussein has been dominating his people and controlling what they hear since the 1960s. 
Winston Churchill once wrote: "Never, never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy, or 
that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will 

Nevertheless, a US assault could probably be carried through now with little or no use of local 
infrastructure, unlike the 1991 Desert Storm campaign. There would, however, be hard questions 
about the effects across the region on stability, western interests and west-friendly regimes, both 
during and after the conflict. A majority of people polled in a recent survey of opinion on the 
Arab street believed that a Zionist conspiracy was behind the September 11 attacks; given such 
sentiment, it would be naive to assume that a US-led overthrow of Mr Hussein would be hailed with 
general relief. And there remains the problem of governing Iraq afterwards. Claims about viable 
regimes-in-waiting, especially ones likely both to please the US and to enjoy popular support, 
carry little conviction.

An assault therefore looks like an unnecessary and precarious gamble, unless there emerges new 
evidence against Mr Hussein altogether more compelling than any yet disclosed. But that is only 
half the story. To invert Boulay de la Meurthe's cynical saying, starting such a war would be worse 
than a blunder: it would be a crime.

The doctrine of just war rests on centuries of reasoned reflection and underlies much of the modern 
law of war. Attacking Iraq would be deeply questionable against several of its tests, such as just 
cause, proportionality and right authority. If further strengthening of containment be thought 
necessary, there are ways to achieve that: the international community could declare that Iraqi use 
of biological or chemical weapons would be treated unequivocally as a crime against humanity.

As to "right authority", the imperfections of the UN system mean that, as with Kosovo, prior 
Security Council assent cannot be the imperative condition; but the say-so of a single power, 
itself not under direct threat, hardly suffices. There have been suggestions that Security Council 
resolutions after the Gulf war can be read as authority for military action, given Iraqi refusal to 
comply; but even if that is formally so, it cannot be the basis for a regime-changing assault more 
than a decade later, in circumstances in which the Security Council would certainly refuse assent 
if consulted now.

A UK government decision to participate in a US-led assault could provoke more severe domestic 
division than Britain has seen since the Suez crisis. And benefit-of-the-doubt acquiescence within 
the armed forces, the media and the public might prove much weaker than it was then.

No definite proposition is on the table. But anyone who has worked within government, and 
particularly with the US, knows that once one is tabled, the time for effective influence is past: 
minds have been made up and domestic consensus negotiated; psychological if not public commitment 
will often have gone too far for reversal. To oppose the US administration would be a serious step. 
But this is a serious matter; and what is influence for? In spite of the administration's resolve 
not to be deflected from its policy preferences, it would scarcely be unmoved by a clear signal - 
whether public or private - from its most solid ally that neither military participation nor 
political support was to be assumed. Such a signal ought to be given soon.


Weapons inspections were 'manipulated'

By Carola Hoyos in New York, Nick George in Stockholm and Roula Khalaf in Baghdad

Financial Times July 29 2002

Rolf Ekeus, head of United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq from 1991-97, has accused the US and 
other Security Council members of manipulating the United Nations inspections teams for their own 
political ends.

The revelation by one of the most respected Swedish diplomats is certain to strengthen Iraq's 
argument against allowing UN inspectors back into the country.

Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, and Hans Blix, the UN's new chief weapons inspector, have for the 
past several months tried to negotiate a return of the inspectors with Naji Sabri, Iraq's foreign 
minister. Nearly every member of the UN is counting on a diplomatic breakthrough to avoid a US 
military attack against Iraq.

Speaking to Swedish radio, Mr Ekeus said there was no doubt that countries, especially the US, 
attempted to increase their influence over the inspections to favour their own interests. "As time 
went on, some countries, especially the US, wanted to learn more about other parts of Iraq's 

Mr Ekeus said the US tried to find information about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's 
president. He said he was able to rebuff such moves but that the pressure mounted after he left in 

Most damning, he said that the US and other members of the Security Council pressed the teams to 
inspect sensitive areas, such as Iraq's ministry of defence when it was politically favourable for 
them to create a crisis situation. "They, [Security Council members] pressed the inspection 
leadership to carry out inspections which were controversial from the Iraqis' view, and thereby 
created a blockage that could be used as a justification for a direct military action," he said.

In a separate interview with Svenska Dagbladet, the Swedish newspaper, Mr Ekeus said that he had 
learnt after he left his position that the US had placed two of its own agents in the group of 

With the US determined to topple the Iraqi regime, officials in Baghdad argue that the return of 
inspectors at this time is certain to lead to intelligence gathering and to deliberate provocation 
on their part, thus giving legitimacy to a US attack.

Mr Sabri, Iraqi foreign minister, insists that Mr Blix has come under US pressure not to agree to 
any compromise with Baghdad.

Iraqi officials have been greatly frustrated - most recently at the talks with the UN in Vienna 
last month - by the Security Council's decision not to allow Mr Blix to discuss with Baghdad the 
key remaining disarmament tasks before inspectors return to the country.

Inspections based on a US agenda, says Mr Sabri, are simply impractical. "They proved a complete 
failure. The inspectors were procrastinating, prolonging the sanctions and providing a pretext for 
action against Iraq."

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