Friday, June 13, 2003

The rationale for Bush's attack on Iraq, and the method by which it was fitted into its procrustean bed of international law, was that the United States had the right of self-defense against imminent attack and was allowed to use a preemptive war to defend itself. This wasn't much of an argument, but for it to fly at all it was essential that the Bush Administration have actual evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which could be used immediately. Otherwise, there was absolutely no reason not to allow the United Nations weapons inspectors to finish their jobs. In the absence of any weapons of mass destruction, and the absolutely consistent stories of all credible Iraqis that such weapons did not exist, the Bush Administration has been scrambling for a substitute rationale for the war. Bush has apparently settled on the idea that Saddam had a 'program' to build WMD. Leaving aside the fact that this is so vague as to be meaningless, it also will not do for the purposes of saving the White House. A 'program' is no imminent threat, and it is absolutely essential for Bush's war argument to work that the threat be imminent. The use of preemptive war is so far outside the norms of international law that, at the very least, the war has to be the only possible means of avoiding being attacked. Obviously, by definition, Iraq's having had a 'program' entails that it was not in a position to attack the United States. From an excellent article "Not buying revisionist sales job on Iraqi weapons" by Jules Witcover:

". . . the pertinent question has always been whether, as the Bush administration insisted in launching the invasion, those weapons were in hand and so ready for use as to constitute a clear and present danger requiring immediate military action."

and

"Understating the importance of the existence or absence of WMD at the time of the invasion won't settle the critical question of whether administration officials hyped government intelligence about the threat to win congressional support for launching pre-emptive war. Without WMD, what was being pre-empted?"

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