by Ignacio Ramonet
[This article originally published in: Le Monde diplomatique, April 11, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.taz.de.]
The preamble of the UN Charter, the common law of our planet, declares: "We the people of the United Nations - firmly resolve to preserve future generations from the scourge of war [... ], to accept principles and introduce procedures guaranteeing that force of arms will only be used in the common interest. We resolve to work together to reach these goals." Article 1 of the Charter identifies the first goal: "to preserve world peace and international security" and "counter offensive acts and other breaches of the peace."
Since the United States and its British allies began a "preventive war" against Iraq without a UN mandate, they violated international law, tread upon the basic principles of the world organization, set itself outside common law and committed an aggression. This crime against peace brings the world community into an unparalleled situation. Never have two founding members of the UN and permanent members of the Security Council, two of the oldest democracies of the world, violated international law in such a brutal way.
The world order is shaken as a system of political values, not as a hierarchy of power (Washington's leading position is undisputed). The protest of millions of citizens all over the world is based on the feeling that this war is amoral. Without cherishing great illusions, they all expect that the most powerful country of the earth will act as an ethical power and be a model in respecting prevailing law or the basic principles of political morality.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has obviously been committed to a very cynical conception of the state's reason for existence and national interests. "A prince must often act against faith, mercifulness, humanliness and religion to maintain his power", Machiavelli once declared in his famous book "The Prince". US president Bush heeded this advice when he resolved with the hawk faction of his administration to ignore law and morality, human rights and international law.
When the chairperson of European socialists, Robin Cook, resigned as party leader in the lower house because Tony Blair supported the US crusade with a British expedition corps, he explained: "The hard reality means that Great Britain is pressed to a war without the approval of any international institution. NATO, the European Union and the Security Council have not consented. This momentous diplomatic isolation is a serious setback."
The repulsive regime of the tyrant Saddam Hussein will be conquered. However George W. Bush and his advisors cannot prevail morally. Their contempt of international law and the arrogance conferred on them by the brutal force of their military technology resulted in a wave of America criticism by the world unknown since the Vietnam war.
In an appeal published on March 16, 2003, the Geneva commission of international jurists warned of an attack on Iraq without UN mandate: "Such an attack would be illegal as an offensive war. Such an intervention lacks any legal foundation. Without approval by the Security Council, no state may use force against another state except in the case of self-defense as an answer to an armed attack." Scholars of international law from Great Britain, France, Spain and Belgium defended this view in an appeal ( http://www.ulb.ac.be/droit/cdi/appel_Irak.html).
The US government attempts to legitimate the offensive war against Iraq as "self-defense". The unproven assertion that the regime in Baghdad was involved in the attacks of September 11 aimed at legitimating "self-defense". This was reasonable to the US public, not to the UN Security Council. On the eve of March 20, the Security Council declared that Iraq did not represent an immediate threat. "Self-defense" presupposes an armed attack. The term "preventive self-defense" does not exist in international law.
Bush explained the Iraq invasion with the necessity of replacing the political regime of the country and chasing Saddam Hussein from office. While these motives may be praiseworthy, they do not justify any unilateral decision for massive force. The pretext of bringing democracy to Iraq cannot legally justify an offensive war. In his main work "De jure belli ac pacis", Hugo Grotius, the founded of international law, wrote in 1625: "Governing others against their will under the pretext that it is to their advantage" is the most common argument for waging unjust wars."