A Plea for a Diplomatic Solution to the Iraqi Weapons Crisis

Something seems out of kilter in the debate on Iraq. What began as an examination of laws and principles related to launching a preemptive attack against another sovereign nation has digressed into an examination of the feasibility of attacking countries and removing heads of state that we don’t like, simply because we can. Too little thought is being given to the possibility that a war with Iraq will not be a conventional war. What we are actually contemplating is not merely attacking and occupying Iraq, but also igniting what has been a smoldering hatred of the United States, harbored not only by many Arabs and Muslims, the usual suspects, but others as well. This is not an attempt to use fear to persuade, but rather it is a reminder of the fact that we are in the midst of a war on terrorism that is causing emotions to run high, and levels of anxiety to be heightened. Just as it is easy now to inflame passions against Iraq, it might also be very easy for our enemies to inflame passions against the United States should we attack Iraq capriciously.

There are possibly more than a few people in various countries throughout the world who feel that their countries have languished and suffered while the U.S. has prospered, often times at their expense. It doesn’t matter that this may not be true, or that the leaders of these impoverished or beleaguered countries are the actual reasons for the poverty and corruption that plague a significant portion of the world, or that they deserve to be removed from power. What does matter is that while we are contemplating the logistics of a conventional military attack and occupation of Iraq, others might be contemplating an unconventional war that might not be limited to Iraq. This possibility makes it extremely important that every effort be made to avoid disturbing what could be a Pandora’s box of hate and vengeance that could explode in our faces. The efforts to be made might include doing everything possible to resolve the situation diplomatically, saving a military attack as a last and inevitable resort, and moving in concert with others who may also be affected by an attack, even though they might oppose one. The United States might be the most powerful country in the world, but we are not the only country in the world.

There are those who have characterized caution as fear. Others like Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace says in the article, “Saddam is far too real a danger to wish away” (August 30, 2002) that “not only must we worry about what Saddam will do, we also have to keep in mind that other terrorists and other terrorists-sponsoring nations will be watching to see whether we are all talk and no action.” He adds, ” Make it safe for other countries to keep harboring terrorists networks, subsidizing suicide bombers or developing weapons of mass destruction, and nothing else will be safe.” This is exactly what many people say about the United States. They say that if the world stands silent and allows the United States to destroy Iraq, that there will be no end to our aggression and no place in the world will be safe. There is another type of wishful thinking that suggests to us that we can do whatever we like so far as it serves our needs, especially to appease our fears. We learned this “security” obsession, but ignored the fact that it is a malady with no cure. The Palestine/Israel crisis is but one example. We have not looked into enough pained and wrinkled eyes, surrounded by leathery and sun baked skin, where there is no light. Nor have we seen often enough, the fear, and hatred in the eyes of young children who look at you as though you are a different species of human being because you are an American. Many of us have not have heard the bill of particular grievances compiled by the people of the world against these United States, and so they enjoy the luxury of a type of wishful thinking that says it will be easy to defeat and occupy Iraq.

After we destroy Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical weapons and remove Saddam, occupy Iraq, etc., how will we destroy the hatred that we will unleash? How will we defeat anger and pain of not only Iraqi’s but any number of people of various races, religions, and nations who will rally to the side of the underdog, and join the silent war that will likely be declared against the United States. Will we intern everyone? Put the world on curfew? Make it a crime to criticize, to complain, to question? Once we have unleashed the hatred, how will we police the world? Afghanistan has taught us that the opportunistic adaptation of Western principles and protocol cannot take the place of tribal loyalties, love, and feelings of camaraderie between people who have shared common hardships, and struggles for survival. Suffering and struggle binds people’s hearts together like sutures fasten wounds. And race, religion, language, or nationality does not limit, or minimize the likelihood, or strength of this type of bonding. While the opponents to war will be united by their disdain for the United States, we will be isolated by the increased fear of terror and attacks that we will anticipate as a result of having moved unilaterally against Iraq.

In the article “Bush can’t duck Congress in decision to attack Iraq” (August 29,2002), writer George F. Will writes: ” the administration is conscientiously groping for a way to do something morally defensible and to do it in a way consistent with norms of international and constitutional practice.” There is no mention of the fact that the constitution, and international covenants and conventions represent bodies of rules that are akin to laws, in that they are joined to principles that are aimed at guiding behaviors and not simply shaping ideas, and they are enforceable. When we use the word “norms” in respect to the constitution or other laws, we are, it seems, suggesting that our actions carried out in the name of the constitution or international conventions and treatises, are legitimized by contemporary interpretation alone, with little or no regard for the framer’s intent. Norms can change to adjust to trends, or social, or other pressures, even if they lack merit, whereas laws must be changed through a mandated procedure that includes checks and balances, based upon consensus, which guards the integrity and security of our institutions.

George Will’s reference to norms is compatible with his seeming belief that a “cause” for war is sufficient to make the case that the United States should attack Iraq. This seems to contradict his characterization of our desire for war as “morally defensible” since morality is an argument for “justice,” or justus belli, and not merely a “cause” or casus belli. It also seems to contradict an apparent intention of the framers of our constitution to prevent cavalier excursions into foreign, yet sovereign countries, even though we may fear them. The War Powers Resolution, Public Law 93-148, says: ” It is the purpose of this joint resolution to fulfill the “intent” of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgement of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities” The War Powers Resolution says, “Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers, but also all other powers vested by the constitution in the government of the United States, or any department or office thereof pursuant to 1). A declaration of war 2). Specific statutory authorization, or 3). A national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories, or possessions, or its armed forces.” Note that “national emergency” which seems to be the “cause” that the more Hawkish proponents of war argue, is defined herein as “an emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories, or possessions, or armed forces.” It does not include “threats.” It does not include the personality disorders of foreign leaders, and it does not include wars declared by groups or states other than the one to be attacked. The Congress has given us a definition of national emergency and the legitimate deployment of military troops into hostilities that is not preemptive.

The “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution”, passed by the Congress assembled January 12, 1991 by a vote of 250 to 183, allows the President under section A, to use United States armed forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council resolutions 660, 661,662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677. Under section B., “Requirements For Determination That Use of Military Force is Necessary” we read the following: ” the President shall make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that the United States has used all appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq with the United Nations Security Council resolutions cited in subsection (a); and that those efforts have not been successful in obtaining such compliance.”

In respect to customary international law, which are rules that have become customs of conduct aimed towards the attainment and preservation of peace between nations and peoples, we have two categories of crime 1). Crimes against peace 2). Crimes against humanity. Crimes against peace are defined as “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements, and assurances, and participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under number 1 (Nuremburg Charter).

Attorney Michael Ratner, former President of the National Lawyers Guild, and former director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote in the article, “International Law and War Crimes” that ” one country cannot make aggressive war against another country. Nor can a country settle a dispute by war. It must always, and in good faith, negotiate a settlement.” In the case of Iraq, most of the charges can possibly be negotiated, perhaps even the removal of Hussein from power.

George Will suggests that the cause for war is “Saddam’s character, the terrorists proclamation of war against the United States, the various intersections of Iraqi policy with the culture and apparatus of terrorism, and the technologies of mass destruction developed in the last 57 years.” None of these constitutes a national emergency.

Former Secretary of State James Baker suggested that the cause for war should be premised upon “a UN Security Council Resolution authorizing unrestricted inspections and all necessary means to enforce it.” Will suggests that Baker believes this would pave the way to an attack, since he seems to believe that Hussein would ignore the Resolution. This is a reasonable assumption considering that Hussein has denied inspectors entry into Iraq to conduct weapons inspections, even though he agreed to routine inspections following the Gulf War. Yet, Will argues, the United States should not be allowed “such an ersatz casus belli,” and cites a 1939 Nazi attack on Poland as an example of Bakers theory. Will writes: “Immediately before Hitler attacked Poland the SS staged a provocation, a “Polish” attack on a German radio station near Poland’s border, a sham that included corpses of German “victims”, actually concentration camp inmates shot by the SS.” Baker’s method, as opposed to Will’s, suggests that the pursuit of justice is a cause for war that is internationally recognized and sanctioned, and would shield the U.S. from criticism or actual attempts to perhaps criminally charge the United States in the International Court with war crimes. Will’s casus belli leaves the U.S. vulnerable to international disdain, and possible criminal charges, while Baker appears to be seeking the much needed immunity that even the U.S. Congress cannot provide the United States in an international arena, should a declaration of war be perceived outside the United States as an injustice.

In the United Nations Security Council’s ninth quarterly report of the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), submitted in accordance with paragraph 12 of Security Council resolution 1284 (1999) of 17 December 1999, the Chairman reported that the Council met with an Iraqi delegation in March and again as late as May of this year. The report says that the Chairman and other UN representatives discussed “how UNMOVIC planned to operate in Iraq.” According to the report, ” He (the Chairman) also mentioned how the Commission’s expert staff was proceeding to work to identify unresolved disarmament issues.” The report also says that the Chairman welcomed Iraq’s willingness to discuss issues related to inspections, and that a follow-up meeting was scheduled in Vienna for July 4 and 5 of this year, 2002. So convinced, it seems was the Chairman, that the inspections program would be renewed, and that it would be a better program than the previous program, that he reported that he had “recruited more staff” and “established new posts” to cover additional work associated with resolution 1409 (2002). This gives the impression that up until last month, there was every indication that a new inspection process was going to be initiated. Based upon this report, there is also reason to believe that new technology was about to be introduced that would lend greater credibility to test results indicating whether or not Iraq is meeting terms of the disarmament agreement. The report says: “The Commission experts have continued discussions with a number of international laboratories that may assist UNMOVIC with future sample analysis. They have also continued to evaluate sensors and other new technologies that may have application in the field in Iraq.”

This alone should cause us to ask what happened between May and August that has brought us to a discussion on what is being portrayed as a serious or impending threat from Iraq based upon Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, and his evil disposition. The Chairman of the UNMOVIC did not seem to be under the impression in May that such a threat existed, and was very casually preparing a new inspections program.

Perhaps Guido H. Stempel III director of the Scripps Howard Research Center at Ohio University might have the answer. Stempel says in the article “Midterm vote at heart of Saddam issue” (August 29, 2002) that “what all of this adds up to is that whether we go to war is not merely a matter of geopolitics and foreign policy. The election that is just slightly more than two months away is also a factor and might be the major factor.” Stempel cites the results of a national survey conducted in June by Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University, and the Scripps Howard News Service. Stempel says,” We asked respondents whether they would approve or disapprove of war with Iraq and 57 percent said they would approve. We also asked if they would approve sending American troops to countries other than Afghanistan, and 57 percent also approved of that. So, war with Iraq is popular.”

Neither Stempel or myself are cynical enough to believe that anyone in the United States would send our young people off to war so they could get votes. Stempel says, “Republicans and Democrats appear to be approaching the question of war with some caution.” Having read many of the opinions pro and con in respect to the issue, it appears that passions on both sides indicates that we all take this issue very seriously and are anxious to do what is best for our country, as well as the rest of the world. However our Commander in Chief decides to resolve the situation it seems that the nation will support him, since he commands along with our military the trust and affection of the nation.

The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women.