The US-Iraq War of 2003 and the Principle of a Just War

The United States, suspecting Iraq of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), invaded the latter in the first quarter of 2003 when it failed to present its possession. The all-out war was waged by the superpower despite the incongruity with fellow United Nations (UN) members such as Germany and France. Iraq, as assumed, did put up a fight but was no match for the onslaught of the US military forces and that of the British, dubbing their band as the “Coalition Forces”.

However, recent events have come to show that the US might have bitten off more than it could chew as the bill on expenses for war skyrocketed as well as the towering number of Coalition soldiers as casualties to which Iraqi guerrilla forces were responsible for. A political vacuum was ongoing for the vacant position of head of state of the new government being set up by the US. Above all, the validity of their “justified” war lies in question.

According to Conway Henderson, author of “International Relations: Conflict and Cooperation at the Turn of the 21st Century”, a just war is one in which force is utilized in light of moral grounds and means. It is fought multilaterally, with a group of states terminating aggression and providing assistance for the good of all, regardless of their immediate national interests are at stake. Henderson enumerated the guiding principles pertaining to a just war and is used below to assess the nature of the US-led invasion to Iraq:

The cause must be just. Also known as “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, the war in Iraq in 2003 was waged by the US to force the considered cradle of civilization to surrender its WMDs. Aside from that aim, the US also targeted to “democratize” Iraq, thereby liberating it from the 25-year rule of an Iraqi despot which is Saddam Hussein.

It can be recalled that during the Persian Gulf War of 1991, the United Nations witnessed the Iraqi acceptance of a ceasefire agreement, the latter accepting to pay war damages to Kuwait and agreeing to the destruction of its biological and chemical weapons. UN inspectors were later assigned to supervise the destruction of the aforementioned WMDs. The international organization carried on its sanctions against Iraq to ensure that it complied with the truce. However, it resisted to act in accordance with the terms of the accord. In 1999, the UN suspected that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical materials to produce lethal weapons. Three years later, Iraq was called to report how the WMDs were destroyed. Then again, the suspect showed no evidence that the materials have been destroyed.

Iraq has long been under the government of Saddam Hussein. Reports show that he is a brutal tyrant on the world scene for many years. He has employed chemical weapons on his own people as well as others like the Kurds. Hussein also invaded Kuwait over a decade ago and when driven out by the US forces, he set fire on oil fields, not only destroying natural resources but also carrying one of the worst environmental disasters in many years. This goes to show that Hussein has no regard for human life and liberty.

A lawful authority must decide to use force. The United States is a legitimate authority that is responsible for protecting its citizens and interests worldwide. US President George W. Bush has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect his country even if it means the use of military force.

The United Nations, on the other hand, is a lawful international body, responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Nevertheless, its authority and relevance was questioned when the US purportedly circumvented it by invading Iraq. The US unilateral military action was apparently sidestepping the principles of the UN Charter, leaving the UN Security Council divided into a war camp – United States, United Kingdom, and Spain – and an opposition camp – Germany, France, Russia, and China, with eight other members backing neither camps. It was reported that the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan commented that the decision of the US to wage war is distressing for himself who believes in collective action.

The use of force must be a final resort. It can be evoked that in the ceasefire agreement of the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Iraq was given enough time to destroy its WMDs, mindful of the latter’s potential hazard to humanity. Its failure was brought up and served as a reason in giving Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to disarm during the first quarter of 2003. Nevertheless, the suspect failed to act accordingly, and together with the debacle on negotiations, war became the remaining resort to solve the case.

Proportionality must be offered by the war. The United States was successful in toppling the Iraqi dictator. Saddam Hussein was captured in the last quarter of 2003. Nevertheless, the Coalition Forces’ casualties continue to escalate as the ward continues. Coalition troops now face a guerrilla war conducted by the members of the Iraqi Republican Guard and the Saddam Feyadeen who escaped the “Invasion Phase” to fight another day in another way. Moreover, the fund required in rebuilding Iraq went sky-high, hence, the US had to seek financial assistance from other developed countries. Above all, no WMDs have been reported to have surrendered.

The war must carry out at least a probability of success. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” may be considered unsuccessful. The recognized leader of Iraq may have lost power. The “democratization” process may also be coming to light, with the installation of a democratic government together with the reconstruction of war-torn Iraqi society going on. However, the war in Iraq is not successful because the US was unable to prove to the global public that Iraq possessed WMDs. Furthermore, the Coalition Forces’ casualties continue to rise, with over 500 soldiers dead.

Methods of war must minimize damage to non-combatants. The use of modern weapons by the Coalition Forces such as warplanes, tanks, cannons, and bombs targeted Iraqi installations like airports, communication facilities, bridges, and ammunition warehouses. Nevertheless, civilian areas were spared although casualties were found to be unavoidable.

The Iraq War of 2003, sadly, cannot be considered a “just war”. Despite meeting some of the terms relating to its principles, the Iraq War was not carried out multilaterally and in confluence with the UN Charter’s principle of collective security, since the UN Security Council was in a debacle over the issue of the United States leading the invasion. (Sheena Ricarte, Peace Education class, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, 2004).

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