The War in Iraq: 2003-Present

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The War in Iraq: 2003-Present

A Question of Just War


Mr. O'Reilly

Due: June 4, 2010


History of Relations and Conflict…………………………………………………………4

Causes for 2003 Invasion………………………………………………………………….7

The UN and International Law…………………………………………………………..11

Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Abuses…………………………………………..13

Canada’s Role……………………………………………………………………………17

Costs and Casualties……………………………………………………………………..18

Future Plans/Endeavours………………………………………………………………...19

Primary Resources……………………………………………………………………….20

Legal Sources…………………………………………………………………………….21




The date is September 12, 20021 and the world believes that Iraq is producing large amounts of WMD's, or weapons of mass destruction.2 United States President George W. Bush presented his concerns in front of the UN General Assembly, asking for them to sanction an invasion into Iraq3. He also made sure to note that even if they did not sanction the war, the United States would invade4. Not long after, on September 22 of the same year, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, presented a dossier showing that Iraq was definitely producing WMD's hoping that the rest of Britain would agree with the future American invasion of Iraq5. Not only did the world believe that Iraq was housing nuclear weapons, though, but also that their President, Saddam Hussein, had been linked with the terrorist group, al-Qaeda, giving America even more reason to invade.

The UN Security Council, remaining a peacekeeper, enacted Resolution 1441 on November 8, 20026, ordering Iraq to cooperate while UN troops investigate more on the issue of nuclear weapons. They also had to declare all weapons of mass destruction, if they had any, by December 8 of the same year7. By December 7, Iraq had submitted all of the documents proving that they had disposed of all of their weapons of mass destruction to the UN8, but the United States did not believe that Iraq had made truthful claims and they still believed that an invasion of Iraq was necessary. The United Kingdom backed by Blair, agreed, and by March 7, 2003, both countries were asking for a second resolution that would authorize an invasion9.

Many countries who play a big role in the UN, such as Russia, France, and Germany10, displayed major opposition to an invasion of Iraq11, so the Security Council stated that they would not sanction this war. The days passed on, and finally on March 20, 2003, President Bush announced that American troops were invading Iraq12 with the help of the United Kingdom and many other smaller countries. He said that they would work quickly and get out of Iraq as soon as possible, but yet today, over seven years later, they are still fighting

History of Relations and Conflict:
Even though the Iraq War only began in 2003, relations and conflict between Iraq and the United States is nothing new. In fact, the centre of American hate for Saddam Hussein was once quite the opposite. In 1963, it is believed that US intelligence actually helped Hussein's Iraqi political party, the Ba'ath Party, to seize power for the first time13. He was even being paid by the CIA as early as in 1959 when he attempted to assassinate a major leader in Iraq, Abd al-Karim Qassem14 for being known as an anti-American who had set forth several anti-Capitalist policies15.

Not only did the United States actually put Hussein in power, though, but during the 1980's16, the United States and United Kingdom backed Iraq in their war against Iran17; providing them with, “money, satellite intelligence, and even chemical & bio-weapon precursors.”18 Of course, the United States claimed to be neutral throughout the entire war because the United Nations did not want any other member states to be involved; however, the United States still secretly allowed Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt to provide Iraq with American weaponry19. In November of 1983, a National Security Directive even stated that the U.S would do "whatever was necessary and legal" to prevent Iraq from losing its war with Iran20. It is really quite ironic how today the Americans use Iraq's illegal weaponry as a main reason to invade Iraq, but they are the country who originally provided them with the intelligence.

The turn of the decade also brought a change in the American perspective of Iraq. Actually, it was the point in time when partnership turned to enemies, as Iraqi forces (led by Saddam Hussein) invaded and annexed the small emirate of Kuwait under siege21. The UN had condemned Hussein, and forces from the United States and other UN member (such as Canada) soon intervened22. On January 17, 1991, the Coalition Forces, led by the United States, launched what was known as Operation Desert Sword23 and they began an attack on Iraqi forces. The war was successful after only a 38-day air campaign and less than 100 hours of ground campaign24, however tensions between Iraq and the United States were nowhere near over.

Iraq promised to the UN that they would destroy and hand over all biological or illegal weapons25, and it is believed that Iraq did exactly that, but they still wanted revenge on the United States. In fact, in April of 1993, former President George Bush visited Kuwait to celebrate the success of the war and 17 Iraqis were arrested for attempting to assassinate Bush by a car bomb26. Investigations by the United States questioned if Saddam Hussein was involved in the plot, but it was later proven that he was not. After this point, President Bill Clinton launched several missile attacks on Iraq from time to time between 1993 and 199827, claiming each time that Iraq was housing illegal weapons that they would not claim, and that Iraq was promoting terrorism28. Overall, it is clear that tensions between Iraq and the United States have been a long-term thing.

Causes for 2003 Invasion:

The causes for the American and British invasion of Iraq in 2003 may (at first glance) seem justifiable and out of good-intent, but with a closer look at the causes and other possible reasons for invasion, it becomes clear that most of the causes are questionable and intent becomes unclear. Some of the main reasons that the American and British governments would give for invading Iraq in 2003 are that Iraq was housing nuclear weapons, they were following the Bush doctrine of “Anticipatory Self-Defence,” to install a democratic regime, combat terrorism, and to punish Saddam Hussein29. The most controversial, but blatantly obvious reason that the United States went to war with Iraq is to gain oil30.

In President George W. Bush's State of the Union address on January 13, 2003, he stated, “Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror, and mass murder...”31 This is what the world believes to be the main reason for the current war in Iraq32, however, multiple investigations by the United Nations and CIA have all led to the fact that Iraq does not have any weapons of mass destruction33. The UN Security Council investigations had taken place before the United States invaded, as they were deciding whether to sanction the war or not, but nothing had ever been found34. The CIA on the other hand, continued investigating during the war35, but they too found nothing, leading people to wonder why the war is still going on years after nothing had been found in 200536.

Another reason that the United States had given to justify the legality of their invasion of Iraq was that they were simply following through a doctrine of anticipatory self-defence. The UN Security Council recognized that it can only be used “if armed attack is imminent, no other means would deflect it, and the action is proportionate.”37 The problem with this doctrine is that it is not mentioned anywhere in International Law38, and even if it was, the United States could not claim self-defence because Iraq had never attacked them prior to the invasion39. Not only that, but many experts (such as one of my legal experts, Chi Carmody) will say that the action was far beyond proportionate40, so the United States should not really be allowed to use their doctrine as a reason to justify invasion.

Installing a democratic regime in Iraq has always been an ideal for Western powers like the United States, and Great Britain; and by invading Iraq, American and British leaders have used democracy as a main reason to gain support for this war41. Professor of Canadian and United States Law, Chi Carmody states that, “purely military intervention cannot 'impose' democracy or development from without. It is something that a people – either Iraqi or Afghan – must be themselves convinced of and become invested in. I don't see this happening in either country quickly enough.”42 Enforcing democracy on a country really just defeats the purpose of having a democracy. If the people of Iraq do not want the Coalition Forces imposing their political aspirations on them, there is no point. In theory, it is a good idea, but is it really realistic? Not quite.

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were the real catalyst to the American “War on Terror,” both in Afghanistan and Iraq43. At the time, the United States had linked Saddam Hussein with major terror group, al-Qaeda, who is also the group that took responsibility for the 9-11 attacks44. However, after all of the suspects believed to be involved in the planning and carrying-out of the attacks had been found, it was realized that all of them were from Saudi Arabia – not Iraq45. Even today many Americans believe that they are fighting in Iraq because of 9-11, but really, Iraq had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. In fact, it was also later found out that Saddam Hussein was not and never had been involved with al-Qaeda46. Basically, does not take much investigation to see that calling the Iraq War a “War on Terror” is incorrect, because Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attack that is most referred to.

The President of Iraq at the time of invasion, Saddam Hussein, was by no means a good man or a good leader. He was ruthless and killed many of his own citizens because he just did not care47. He was a dictator48, and a terrifying one, at that. To say that he was a good leader would be a lie. Basically, he was everything that America was and is not, so they wanted him to pay for his hundred of human rights abuses49, etc; but to say that catching Saddam Hussein was a reason to invade Iraq cannot be justifiable because he has since been tried and executed for his crimes50. In fact, his execution took place over three years ago, on December 30, 200651, so it leads many to wonder – why is America still in Iraq? Some experts have even speculated that President George W. Bush really wanted revenge on Saddam Hussein for attempting an assassination of his father, George H.W. Bush52, however, as previously mentioned, Hussein was not involved in those plots.

Since the 1950's, the world has known that Iraq is home to the second-largest oil reserves in the entire world53. Since the nationalization of Iraq in 1972, the United States and United Kingdom have been excluded from being able to own firms for oil in Iraq. On the flip side, other countries such as France, Germany, Russia, and China have been able to gain contracts to extract oil from Iraq54. The UN (led by the US and UK), prior to the Iraq invasion, had kept those contracts inoperable. However, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, American “companies expect to gain most of the lucrative oil deals that will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in profits in the coming decades.55” US Advisors had had great influence on the Iraqi Constitution of 2005, and they made sure that it would guarantee a major role for foreign companies to extract oil56. It seems ironic that foreign companies could not be within Iraq until soon after the Iraqi Invasion, but now they can.

The UN and International Law:

The war in Iraq was never sanctioned by the UN Security Council, technically meaning that the American and British invasion of Iraq went against International Law57. The reasons as to why the UN did not sanction this war are simple because there are many articles and resolutions that back up their decision – one of the main ones being from Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, which states that military intervention should only be used to “maintain peace and security.”58 The action of the US government was popularly styled a “war” (i.e. an aggressive military operation) prior to invasion, not an operation designed to restore “international peace and security,”59 so the United Nations simply could not agree with that.

Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations goes into detail about action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression60. Article 51 of this chapter, more specifically, states, “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”61 What should be noted is, as stated before, the United States was not acting out of self-defence, as they had never been previously attacked. Also, they should not have been allowed to engage in combat without the sanctioning of the Security Council, but they did anyways.

Prior to the Iraq Invasion, the UN Security Council acted on a few Resolutions in order to avoid a future conflict between the United States and Iraq. Two of these Resolutions – 678 and 687 – were put in place during the First Gulf War62. Resolution 678 was created to authorize the United Nations to take military action against Iraq in 199163, and Resolution 687 outlined rules for a cease-fire in Kuwait64. Iraq had not met the agreements in either of these resolutions, which brought on the creation of Resolution 1441 on November 8, 2002. This resolution was a demand by the UN Security Council for Iraq to readmit inspectors and to comply with the previous resolutions in an investigation to find WMD's65. This time, Iraq did comply with both conditions66, but some Americans believed that Iraq had not been truthful in the final claims about weapons. The UN, on the other hand, did believe the Iraqi claims, so overall; the UN had many reasons to not sanction an invasion in Iraq. These are merely just the main reasons.

Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Abuses:

From the day that the Coalition Forces invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, there have been multiple human rights law and humanitarian law abuses, pushing more people to wonder if the Iraq War is really a just or lawful war. Both sides (Coalition and Iraq Security Forces) can be held responsible for these many abuses, which include torture of POW’s, air raids and bombing campaigns on entire villages, the use of gas attacks, refugee problems, and internal ethnic wars.

The Coalition Forces, as mentioned previously, can be held responsible for many inhumane things that have taken place in Iraq since the occupation began. One of the most horrible things that the United States and United Kingdom can be held accountable for is the use of torture prisons and camps67. Abu Graib is one of the most well known prisons run by American soldiers that use torture tactics68. Abu Graib is located in Baghdad, Iraq and is a prison for alleged al-Qaeda members69 who may be either civilians or part of the Iraq Security Forces. They have used tactics such as electric shock, rape, and other extreme forms of physical and mental abuse70. This prison, of course, goes against the Third Geneva Convention, which deals with the treatment of POW’s, as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with the treatment of civilians. Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions goes into specific reference of the treatment of both POW’s and civilians: “It requires humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, without any adverse distinction. It specifically prohibits murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment, the taking of hostages and unfair trial.”71

The torture prison also goes against the principle outlined in the UN Convention Against Torture72, which states in Article 1:

“For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”73

Therefore, the United States has broken both International Human Rights law, as well as Humanitarian law.

On top of running torture camps and prisons, the Coalition Forces have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians from raids on villages and accidental killings74. This, again, goes against the conditions of the Fourth Geneva Convention which deals with the treatment of civilians in a time of conflict.75 It is unfortunate that so many people who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time must be seriously injured or killed, but the Coalition Forces will tell you that that is all a part of war.

The last thing that the Coalition Forces have taken responsibility for since the beginning of the Iraq War is the use of white phosphorus gas in battle on November 15, 200576. White phosphorus is sometimes used for illumination at night, as it flares up from contact with oxygen; but if it makes contact with human flesh, it will burn until all oxygen is absent77. The use of gas attacks in battle was made illegal under international law under Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons78. The United States, however, never signed this Protocol79; but it is still a rule that countries are expected to follow in times of conflict.

The Iraq Security forces have committed hundreds upon hundreds of human rights abuses since the beginning of the war, and many of those abuses have been a result of their own internal issues that do not even involve Coalition forces80. Multiple bombing campaigns and raid on villages have caused civilian deaths in this war to rise to new heights81. On top of dealing with a war against the United States, Iraq is dealing with its own civil war between three ethnic groups: The Shi’ites, Sunnis, and Kurds82. All three groups, for the most part, dislike each other and have been causing pain to each other for decade, but the US occupation in Iraq has made things worse. The Shi’ites and the Kurds actually do not mind the war with America because they see it as a way to gain power in the future democratic Iraq83. The Sunnis, however, highly dislike the war because they see themselves losing the power that they once held alone84. Because of this phenomenon, each group is mass murdering each other and some would even say committing acts of genocide85. Overall, it is really quite sad that Iraq must deal with two conflicts at once.

Also internally, Iraq has been dealing with a refugee crisis due to the war with US-led Coalition forces and civil unrest. It is estimated that over 1.7 million Iraqi citizens have been displaced from their homes, with over 100,000 citizens fleeing to bordering countries since the beginning of American occupation.86 “The refugee explosion predicted by the United Nations that did not materialize immediately after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is taking place now.”87 As a result, it is clear that Iraq will have to deal with many issues that arise from this crisis even after the war has ended. Ultimately, it is clear that human rights and humanitarian law principles have not been properly followed throughout the Iraq War, and all sides are responsible.

Canada's Role:

Canada overall is not and does not plan on ever getting involved in the Iraq War. On March 17, 2003 former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien addressed that Canada would not join a military campaign against Iraq without the support of the United Nations Security Council88. Of course, just because Canada did not get involved does not mean that they did not try. Chretien stated that Canada tried to come up with a compromise at meetings with the UN Security Council, but no resolutions were found89. The Liberals and NDP were quite happy with Chretien’s overall decision90, but the Conservatives and the United States were not.

Many believe that in order to impress the United States after keeping out of Iraq, current Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan longer than originally planned (until 2011)91. Overall, the decision to keep out of Iraq really hurt Canada’s relationship with the United States because they believe that Canada is now unwilling to help them. Harper’s decision to keep troops in Afghanistan until 2011 helped the situation, but even recently the US has been asking for Canadian troops to stay even longer92. Ultimately, most Canadians still believe that Chretien made the correct choice in staying out Iraq.
Costs and Casualties:

The amount of money spent on the Iraq War, as well as the sheer number of casualties from all parties is ridiculously high. The United States alone has spent over an estimated $3 trillion93 on the war in Iraq. That number ranges from source to source, but the most common number is around that. The United Kingdom to-date has spent around £9 billion, which is about $17 billion in American dollars94. Other countries are also involved, of course, and together have spent billions on the war.

Casualties from the war in Iraq are a whole other story set aside from the military spending. Estimated numbers from February 28, 201095 of American military casualties are almost at 4,50096! Almost 20097 soldiers from the United Kingdom have died due to the war, with about 14098 casualties from other Coalition forces. The number of casualties of Iraqi Police and soldiers is at around 9,50099, while the number of insurgents killed is at roughly 55,000100! Media workers and contractors have also fallen victim to this war, with over 200101 casualties. The United States has even been caught on tape shooting down two media reporters and children because they believed they were Security forces102. The video was leaked on April 5, 2010103 and it really makes people wonder how many people have been wrongly killed.

Civilian deaths in the Iraq War have been estimated from 95,822 to 104,529104, which is a much higher number than all other casualties. It seems that in the twenty-first century wars, innocent civilians have become the most vulnerable to attacks. It is extremely unfortunate that so many people have had to die when they have had nothing to do with the war itself. Women, children, virtually everyone is unsafe in Iraq.

Future Plans/Endeavours:

As of right now, the war in Iraq is still happening, but the current President of the United States, Barrack Obama, plans to end the war very shortly. At a State of the Union Address on February 27, 2009, Obama promised to end the combat mission in Iraq within the next 18 months – August, 2010105. Although the war would technically be over, Obama also stated that a non-combat force with number between 35,000 to 50,000 would stay behind in Iraq until December 31, 2011106. He said, “Our enemies should be left with no doubt: This plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed,”107 As of right now, it is unsure as to whether America will actually follow through with these promises or not, but there is some hope to end this war very shortly.

Primary Resources:

This is a video of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address announcing American occupation in Iraq on March 20, 2003. He makes many references to terrorism, which is why many Americans believe that they are in Iraq today:
This is an excerpt of a transcript of former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council on the US case against Iraq that he gave on February 6, 2003. The UN did not support his evidence, but the United States invaded regardless:

“My second purpose today is to provide you with additional information, to share with you what the United States knows about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as well as Iraq's involvement in terrorism, which is also the subject of Resolution 1441 and other earlier resolutions.

I might add at this point that we are providing all relevant information we can to the inspection teams for them to do their work.

The material I will present to you comes from a variety of sources. Some are U.S. sources. And some are those of other countries. Some of the sources are technical, such as intercepted telephone conversations and photos taken by satellites. Other sources are people who have risked their lives to let the world know what Saddam Hussein is really up to.

I cannot tell you everything that we know. But what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling.

What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior. The facts on Iraq's behavior demonstrate that Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort -- no effort -- to disarm as required by the international community.

Indeed, the facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction.”108

This is classified US military video from July 12, 2007 which was released on April 5, 2010 depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad – including two Reuters news staff and two children; both of whom were seriously injured.109
Legal Sources:

Chi Carmody

Associate Professor & Canadian National Director

Canada-United States Law Institute

Faculty of Law

University of Western Ontario

London, Ontario


Tel. 519.661.2111 x 88437

FAX 519.661.3790

Copy of Email:


Chi Carmody (


April 6, 2010 5:18:24 PM


Lauren Kolarek (

Hi Lauren:

Thanks for your questions. I understand that my answers to these questions will not be used for any purpose other than your high school project, but I'm happy to provide my views.

In short, I believe that the war in Iraq was illegal under international law and not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council for the following reasons:

1) although the U.N. Charter is not entirely clear on this point, I think it is beyond doubt, in light of the important interests in state sovereignty protected by the Charter, that military intervention by U.N. forces must be for the purposes of maintaining "international peace and security" and that the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq did not comply with that purpose. The action of the U.S. government was popularly styled a "war" (i.e. an aggressive military operation) not an operation designed to restore "international peace and security" (as contemplated by the Charter).

2) in addition, any such restorative action must be proportionate to the threat involved. The threat asserted by the U.S. at the time was the anticipated threat of the Saddam Hussein regime acquiring nuclear weaponry, but this threat was never proven. Given that the acquisition was merely a threat, and given that Iraq was a sovereign country, it seems that there was a very high evidentiary burden on any country seeking to convince the Security Council of the need to invade. This burden was never met. In addition, the U.S. action - even if it had been authorized - was grossly disproportionate.

3) textually, the relevant Security Council Resolutions (#678 and 1441) do not authorize a military intervention by the U.S. (or any other country) in Iraq. They speak, instead, of Iraq facing "serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations". This sort of vagueness is inadequate in the scheme of the Charter, a scheme which privileges and prizes the right of a UN member state to sovereignty and self-determination.

4) officially, the U.S. action was asserted - at least in part - under a doctrine of anticipatory self-defence. However, this doctrine is nowhere defined in international law. The U.N. Secretary General's High-Level Panel speaks of anticipatory self-defence as something that can only be used "if armed attack is imminent, no other means would deflect it, and the action is proportionate". None of these grounds was ever satisfied by the U.S.. If  country wishes to use self-defence preventively against non-imminent or non-proximate attacks, then it should go to the Security Council, as is contemplated in the scheme of the U.N. Charter (see UN Charter Art. 51)

5) the actual U.S. occupation of Iraq was carried out in violation of international human rights norms. Despite the professed aim of the U.S. to install a democratic regime in the country, this cannot ignore the very serious human rights abuses that took place in the course of the occupation. This included many documented incidents of killings of innocent Iraqi civilians, acts of torture committed by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere, and the actions of U.S. civilian contractors working in Iraq. These incidents must be added to the calculus of the legality of what the U.S. did there.

To answer your last question, do I think the U.S. can "win" the war? As indicated, I think that the intervention was illegal and ill-advised. It has cost the U.S. over $3 trillion at a time when the U.S. budget deficit is soaring and has resulted in more than 4,000 U.S. military lives lost (and many, many thousand more Iraqis). It has destabilized the country and it is not entirely clear how much better off ordinary Iraqis are today versus under Saddam Hussein. Make no mistake about it, Hussein was a bloodthirsty dictator, a tyrant and a despot, but I think that U.S. intervention has only inflammed and radicalized the situation there now.

In addition, I think we in the West realize that development and democracy have to be "built". They must permeate a society at every level; simply having a U.S. soldier standing guard at your local street corner will not ensure that this will happen. This, in fact, is also my major reservation about Canada's intervention in Afghanistan: purely military intervention cannot "impose" democracy or development from without. It is something that a people - either Iraqi or Afghan - must be themselves convinced of and become invested in. I don't see this happening in either country quickly enough. So, my short answer would be "no", I don't think the U.S. "won" in Iraq, and I think we have to be very aware of this in deciding what we as Canadians are going to do about the future of our own presence in Afghanistan. My own personal view is that we should remain in Afghanistan beyond 2011, but significantly increase our civilian presence and spending there to effect positive change, especially for Afghan women.

I trust this is sufficient. Good luck with your project,


Chi Carmody
Kim Richard Nossal
Sir Edward Peacock Professor of International Relations

Department of Political Studies

Queen's University
Kingston, ON  K7L 3N6

Tel: +1 (613) 533-6235

Fax: +1 (613) 533-6848

Copy of Email:


Most people argue that the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a violation of international law, which does not permit the use of force by one state against another unless either approved by the Security Council of the United Nations or in self-defence. 

Others argue that although the invasion was a violation of international law in its causes, the action was just because of the just outcome it produced – i.e., it removed from power a regime that had been responsible for killing thousands of its own citizens, including the only use of poison gas since the Second World War (Halabja in 1988, which killed thousands of Iraqi Kurds), and had engaged in the only invasion since the 1940s that had eliminated a state (the Iraqi invasion Kuwait in 1990).

There is no agreement on the reasons why the Bush administration decided on the invasion.  Some argue that it was in retaliation for Saddam’s efforts to assassinate his father, former president George H.W. Bush, in 1993, though it would very much appear in retrospect that Saddam was not part of this plot.  Others argue that WYSIWYG: Bush was convinced that Saddam was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (a view that has been discredited).

It is possible that after 9/11, when it was clearly revealed that the Saudi regime had been encouraging jihad against the US, Bush was motivated by a desire to “remake” the Middle East.  9/11 showed the US that it had no real ally in the MidEast: Iran had been “lost” in 1979; Iraq had been “lost” after the invasion of Kuwait; and now the Saudis were implicated in paying extremists huge sums to wage war on the west.  In this line of thinking, the US needed a “cooperative” state in the Gulf region – and so it decided to invade Iraq, install a “friendly” regime in Bagdad that would be a bulwark against Iran to the east and Saudi Arabia to the southwest. 

Is it possible to “win”?  If by “winning,” you mean the creation of a relatively peaceful state, then in my view, the answer is yes.  Indeed, the Iraqis are even now sorting out their “domestic” politics, and it is likely that the US is going to be able to “draw down” their forces soon.  To be sure, when that struggle is over, it may not be something that the US likes – for it is possible that the Shi’ites will predominate and will ally themselves with Iran. 

But in my view the present situation is actually much better for American (and broader western) interests than the situation in the early 2000s, when the US had implacable enemies in Iran and Iraq, and a highly ambiguous set of “friends” in Saudi Arabia. 

(It might be noted that the Saudis quickly recognized that in giving huge sums of money to jihadis all over the place they had created a monster that quickly turned around and threatened them, and in the mid-2000s, the Saudi regime has begin to crack down on Islamist extremism...)

Canada, as you know, stayed out of that conflict.  While Jean Chrétien’s decision to stay out mirrored overall Canadian opinion on the war, that decision had very negative impacts on the Canadian-American relationship, not so much as a result of the decision, but rather how it was announced (very rudely and undiplomatically).  So poor was the relationship that Chrétien’s successor, Paul Martin, tried desperately to “fix” the relationship – by committing Canadian troops to the mission in Afghanistan. 

With best wishes,


Dr. Joanna R. Quinn

Assistant Professor
Director, Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction
Department of Political Science
Faculty of Social Science
The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada
519-661-2111 ext. 85172

Copy of Email:

Dear Lauren,

  Thank you for your email.  My responses are below:


Is the Iraq War just in its causes? I believe that the U.S. had no right to intervene in Iraq.  The UN Charter authorizes military intervention under Article 7.  But since the U.S. was unable to garner UN support, it went in by itself, authorized only by a Congressional vote.


Why do you believe the United States are fighting in Iraq, and is it possible to win? The U.S. has gone in to Iraq for very convoluted reasons.  It seems like George Bush was determined to go in to avenge the defeat of his father; or because Dick Cheney saw saw economic gain to be made.


Do you agree with the UN's opinions on the War in Iraq? Yes, I do.  Unless the members of the UN stick to the rules they signed on to, the role of the UN is in question.


Basically, what are your overall opinions on the war?  It seems to me that the war is unjust.  Although there are many people suffering in Iraq, I think that humanitarian intervention without a military component (as could have been authorized under Article 6 of the UN Charter) would have been more successful, and would have more legitimacy.


I hope this helps!

Professor Quinn


The Iraq War in extremely controversial for so many reasons. When looking back on all of the history of conflict and relations between Iraq and the United States, it becomes hard not to wonder if the reasons we are given for war are true reasons, or if there is more to it. In contrast, it is easy to see why the United Nations never sanctioned the war, and it almost seems like even when the United States or United Kingdom try to justify themselves, they get caught in a web. It really makes people wonder why there is even a war happening there, and how could it possibly be legal under international law. The truth is, it sits right on the line between legal and illegal, but most would say it is more illegal. The bottom line is that hundreds of thousands of civilians are being killed on a daily basis, and many cannot even really answer why. Luckily, President Obama is trying to save Iraq by removing American troops, and we just have to keep hoping he goes through with it. Canadians should be proud of their decision to stay out because more and more we see the problems that the war has caused.

BBC News, . Iraq Timeline. BBC News, 28 Apr. 2010. Web. 25 May 2010.

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