AGORA: FUTURE IMPLICATION OF THE IRAQ CONFLICT: International Law and the War in Iraq Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2003 The American Society of International Law
American Journal of International Law


July, 2003

97 A.J.I.L. 563




In his speech before the United Nations (UN) in September 2002, President George W. Bush characterized the possible use of force against Iraq as necessary to enforce existing Security Council resolutions and to eliminate a dangerous threat to international peace and security. 1 The Security Council responded by adopting Resolution 1441, which found Iraq to be in material breach of previous Security Council resolutions and threatened serious consequences for further intransigence. 2 When Iraq refused to fully comply with these resolutions, the United States led an ad hoc "coalition of the willing" that invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003, quickly defeated Iraq's armed forces, and ended the regime of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath party. On May 1, 2003, President Bush announced that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. At the time of this writing, the United States has assumed the position of an occupying power that is responsible for rebuilding Iraq, as recognized by the Security Council in Resolution 1483.

Despite these actions, other leading nations (primarily France, Germany, and Russia) and many international scholars have argued that international law did not justify the war in Iraq. The first part of this paper will explain why their view failed to properly read existing Security Council resolutions to authorize the use of force. Even putting the United Nations to one side, the war was further justified as an exercise of self-defense. Under basic notions of customary international law, properly understood, the United States ...
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