Yale Discusses the Implications of the Iraq War

Whether one is for or against the war in Iraq, one cannot underestimate the immense significance of the event to world affairs.. Hosted by the interdisciplinary program in Ethics, Politics and Economics at Yale University, six professors reflected on the war in Iraq, its buildup, and its aftermath. All felt that this would be a watershed event in world order and in the ways in which war is conducted - from wars fought for ‘diagnostic' reasons to the concept of war as an “humanitarian intervention.” The overwhelming feeling of the speakers about the war was pessimistic. The speakers presented strong cases to demonstrate that the war may not have been an intelligent tactical move on the part of the Bush administration. Nonetheless, the professors also addressed where they believed the world should go from here. -YaleGlobal

Yale Discusses the Implications of the Iraq War

The war may not have been an intelligent tactical move
Friday, April 4, 2003
Iraq Teach-In Panelists (Photo: Yale University)

The participants cited below are Yale University professors: Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science; Arjun Appadurai, William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of International Studies and Anthropology, and Director, Initiative on Cities and Globalization; Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, and Director Ethics, Politics and Economics; Paul Gilroy, Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies, and Chair of the African-American Studies Department; Ben Kiernan, A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History, and Director, Genocide Studies Program; Gaspar Tamas, Visiting Professor of Ethics, Politics and Economics, and former member of the Hungarian Parliament.

Seyla Benhabib: Good afternoon everyone. On behalf of the program in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, I'd like to welcome you all to this afternoon's roundtable discussion on the current war in Iraq. I'd like to thank my colleagues for having accepted this invitation upon such short notice and during such an incredibly busy time of the year. Our distinguished panel today includes Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Arjun Appadurai, William Lanman Jr. Professor of International Studies and Anthropology, Paul Gilroy, Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies, and Chair of the African-American Studies Department, Ben Kiernan, A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History and Director of the Genocide Studies Program, and Professor Gaspar Tamas visiting with us from Budapest, visiting in the Ethics, Politics and Economics, and former member of the Hungarian Parliament.

In his introductory comments initiating the inaugural teach-in on the war on this campus about ten days ago, President Richard Levin suggested that war, although regrettable in all respects, is also an inevitable feature of human affairs and politics. This may be so. But war is also a tragic moment in human affairs when the ethical, political, social, cultural and religious norms which govern human interactions fail, and can no longer contain crisis, conflict, and violence. One of the dangers of our current moment is in fact the turn toward the aestheticization of the experience of war, the diminution of its ethical significance to a cheering media and the assurances of pundits, generals and other that are war games and our war plans are on track. This afternoon we would like to move beyond the simplifying schemes of the pro and the contra, the "for and against", to raise analytical and critical questions about the events unfolding around us.

Let me name a few. As we have watched, the justifications for this war move from the destruction of weapons of mass destruction, to regime change in Iraq, to humanitarian intervention against the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. It has become clear that there are multiple and over-determined forces and motives at work in guiding the actions of our current administration. Nothing less than the shape of the new global order in the wake of the Cold War and an era of unprecedented US military and economic hegemony is at stake. Whether current US policy is enforcing UN resolutions as it has officially maintained, or rendering them void and discrediting the UN along with multilateralism as irrelevant in international affairs, is an open question. I personally think the second is the case. Whether the current configuration of the alliance of the willing is a merely passing marriage of convenience or an attempt to block the growing implements of the European Union and particularly to prevent it from developing into a military power - this is also an open question. Again, I think the second interpretation is more likely.

Finally, many have asked, "Are we faced with a new imperialism? Or ironically, or perversely, may this be the dawn of a new cosmopolitanism?" Writing in the London Review of Books several weeks ago, for example, Perry Anderson argued, "All talk of multilateralism of the coalition of the willing is but window-dressing for a brutal reassertion of imperial power." And he recommended, in fact, that we may all be better off by reverting to a nineteenth century state-centric model of great powers, rather than pretending that multilateral institutions, and international law still matter. Others, however, and many of those on the left as well, disagree with Perry Anderson. We know that this war has created strange bedfellows. Michael Ignatieff, the Carr Professor of Human Rights at Harvard is supporting the war because he believes the new US hegemony heralds a form of soft global power, which can usher in a new cosmopolitanism. New York intellectuals like Paul Berman and Mitch Collins have also given their support for the war on the grounds that opposing fascism is not imperialism. In any event, they claim, it is preferable to ally oneself with an imperial democracy rather than leave unchecked Baathist or Islamicist fascism.

To my mind, the most important moral arguments of those who support the war concern the obligations that we owe one another to stop egregious acts of human rights violations, ethnic-cleansing, genocide, and the like. We are indeed living in an era when the concept of sovereign statehood is no longer the cornerstone of the international system, although we continue to play homage to it. Many have pointed out that in this respect the UN charter is a self-contradictory document. The universal declaration of human rights is coupled with the commitment to the right of sovereign self-determination of nations. Obviously, in many cases, the assertion of state sovereignty and the observance of human rights may contradict one another if the regimes are tyrannical, despotic, authoritarian and totalitarian.

What is to be done? Should we uphold the principle of state sovereignty in all cases, or should we spread the support of human rights, even if it is through war. Are so called "humanitarian interventions" justifiable? Can military interventions be classified as humanitarian interventions? Why are so many of us in favor of intervention in Kosovo and Bosnia, and I count myself among them, opposed to this war? Are there any differences that are significant here? How then can we differentiate between a new imperialism and a new cosmopolitanism which acknowledges obligations across borders? What transformations in international law, in multilateral treaties, in domestic institutions, will be necessary to foster a new cosmopolitanism? Is the regressive assertion of unilateral superpower sovereignty on the part of the Bush administration the blush on the cheek of a dying age, as I would like to believe, or the harbinger of events to come?

These will be some of the questions we hope to address this afternoon. Our first speaker will be Bruce Ackerman, who will comment on the relationship between the US constitution and the UN charter. Following him will be Arjun Appadurai who will speak broadly on wars and means of creating of alliances, and reflections on the rhetoric of sacrifice. Paul Gilroy will speak about info-war and cosmopolitan loyalty. Ben Kiernan will talk about Cambodia and Iraq, looking at the legal issues concerning war crimes and aggression. And finally, Professor Tamas will discuss the war from the perspective of the experience of the transition from totalitarianism to democracy. Thank you.

Bruce Ackerman: I'm going to be talking about the law of it. You know we think of the United Nations as a foreign body, but in fact, the UN charter was ratified overwhelmingly by the United States Senate, and is a treaty of the United States. It is the only treaty of the United States without a clause permitting us to get out of it. Under the constitution of the United States, all treaties are part of the supreme law of the land, this land. So it isn't as if the status of our actions in the United Nations charter is a question of international law; it's a question of our law. Now, Article 51 of the United Nations Charter is the only text that authorizes a unilateral military action. And it codifies the tradition which has its source actually in Secretary of State Daniel Webster's very famous - to us embattled lawyers at least - dispute that he had with England, when the American charged across the Canadian border and seized a ship and burned it. And finally, after much negotiation, this Webster formulation in the Carolina case which is still the binding formulation of international law says that we can only engage in military action when there is a necessity of self-defense, instant and overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment of deliberation. This was transformed in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter as the following: "Nothing in the present charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs." Well, that hasn't happened.

So the next question then is whether the resolutions of the Security Council authorize our military intervention in Iraq. And of course, as you've heard many, many times, there have been 17 resolutions of which Iraq is in violation. And some of these resolutions particularly authorized the United States and other member states to enforce them. So isn't our intervention therefore consistent, not with Article 51 to be sure, but with these resolutions?

The answer really is no, which is apparent if you read the last resolution negotiated last fall by Colin Powell. Because what that resolution says is this: First of all, the Security Council unanimously, if you recall, declared Iraq in material breach of its prior resolutions. So that would seem to authorize our intervention because some of those resolutions of which they were in material breach said member states could enforce them. That's the first thing it said. Then, the second thing that it said, was that Iraq would have a last opportunity to rectify this, by submitting various documents, as they did, and the third thing it said was that if Iraq was in further material breach, then serious actions would be open. And the last thing it said was that the Security Council remains seized of the situation.

So, I really do think that if one thought about that structure, one would say that simply because Iraq was in material breach of prior resolutions is no longer sufficient to justify intervention, because some further material breach was necessary. Moreover, although the President and Colin Powel said they reserved the right to intervene unilaterally if nothing was done seizes jurisdiction in the Security Council and no other institution to determine whether a further material breach has occurred, and this is why our intervention is illegal. Now, I appreciate the larger issues involved. And illegal, mind you, under the United Nations Charter, which is the supreme law of the United States. I appreciate the fundamental questions that Seyla raised, and they are indeed fundamental. The fundamental question for me is whether we are going to reorient the structure of international law, which quite often happens by violating it, by violating it. It is easy to destroy, but it is not easy to create and reconstruct, and that's the first simple thought.

One final observation: George Bush in the first war - this goes to the constitution as opposed to international law which is incorporated into our domestic law by the constitution -first got the authorization of the Security Council, as we did not this time, but then second, he went to Congress for the authorization of military force. What his son has done, was that he went first to Congress and said he needed this to coerce the United Nations into giving a second authorization. And, of course, he failed to obtain that. But what the consequence of this premature authorization of war in October was that we had this odd period in which for six months, Congress had authorized the war, and only later on did people start agitating and mobilizing, leading people to marching in the streets, which could no longer be channeled by the constitutional order, you see. If Congress had not authorized the war so prematurely, so as to give George Bush a bargaining chip, if they had waited, or if George Bush had first gone to the Security Council and then came around, then there would have been Congress as an intermediary parliamentary force between the marchers in the streets and the iron-willed President, so that Congress could have decided three weeks ago whether this war was justified. What we are left with is a disastrous precedent of a premature Congressional authorization and the violation of international law, meaning our domestic law. So this is, from a legal point of view, a tragedy, and it is to be considered as an independent element in this larger mosaic. Thank you.

Arjun Appadurai: I am very grateful to my colleagues and especially to Selya Benhabib for creating the occasion for further conversation here at Yale, which might allow us a deeper way to think about the situation that we are in. I am very grateful to her and to Bruce Ackerman for already saying some crucial things that help us to reflect on the very difficult situation in which we find ourselves. There are very serious issues about our ethical stance as citizens, our collective ethical stances as nations - deep questions too, about the nature of legitimate state action and a variety of other state-related matters.

But first of all I think that this situation puts many of us - especially in the US in contrast to other parts of the world - in a state of confusion because many of us are aware that Saddam's Iraq is not an attractive regime. Not the first unattractive regime and nor likely the last, but surely it is; and therefore the language, the battle of evils, so to speak, seems very complex and indeed confusing and in some ways disabling to the soul. It has also led to a new order of abuse of media discourse, and the discourse by this government of language. So we have the old problem that all of the world saw, but I think we are seeing a new order of confusion about what is war and what is peace, what is evil and what is not, what is helpful and what is hurtful, what is harm and what is liberation. I think we are witnessing unprecedented onslaughts on our sense of the meaning of ordinary words and sentiments.

So we are dealing here, at any rate, with a confusing situation, and one of the things that I would like to comment on before saying a few words about war and sacrifice, is that Seyla Benhabib's observation, I think, one to take very seriously, namely that we are moving even beyond the question of just wars, or implicitly unjust wars, to a category that we may call kind wars, or wars of kindness, or humanitarian wars where the issue is not the relationship between humanitarian intervention and war as in some ways was in Kosovo; the question of how one could compensate for the other or one could force or help the other and so on.

Here I think we see the profound blurring of the lines between what we think of as humanitarian action and what we think of as military action. So one of the many, images we have seen is of a marine cradling a small child in his arms catches, of course, and it in fact makes me understand though not at all support my colleague Ignatieff's position about the question of caring and caring at a distance, but he has really more or less indeed endorsed the idea that this war is a form of caring at a distance. One of the issues therefore that we have to consider very carefully is: are we seeing a period, a century, an epoch, a time, in which these lines are going to be at least blurred by some actors, especially powerful actors, so that we won't know anymore whether or not a war is actually some form of strictly punitive violent military action, or actually just a form of long distance collective kindness accompanied by weapons of some kind. This is very disturbing so I thought today of the phrase "kind war" beyond even humanitarian war, because I think what we are being asked to see is not just - humanitarian which has a very abstract sound, a universalist ring about it. But what we are asked to view is pictures of genuine human kindness by those who are actually are directly involved in combat.

But I want to make a larger point about the war which is something that began with the Afghan war right after the events of September 11, of a year plus ago. And that is a category that I have begun to write about and think about (and I invite further thought about) which I call "diagnostic war", that is, this is a war like many other kinds of wars in other contexts but which is I think somewhat new which is, it's a war to find out actually who your enemies are and who your allies are. That began in Afghanistan and if you were sitting in a country like Pakistan, you know what a diagnostic war is because you had to decide. So Pervez Musharraf, another man not very high on the goodness/niceness scale, (that scale has got huge competition at the top end now), had to decide and the US didn't know which way he would go. The Afghan war already seems like a 19th century war but it was only last year. The whole world had to decide and the US had to find out who its friends and enemies were. The whole history of the weapons inspections of course is deeply diagnostic; is it there, is not there? Are you really making it or not? Do you want to, or do you not want to? Things to which actually there is no empirical answer possible, well maybe I want to, maybe I want to at night but maybe not during the day and so on and so on... so it's about finding out... but war as an instrument of diagnosis is deeply troubling thing. There is the question: are we entering an era where people able to do so (which means very few powers, but not only the US) will conduct "diagnostic wars" - China for example, Russia for example, many of the European countries possess overwhelming force, France (which is now on the side of the good has generally done exactly what it likes in Africa with gay abandon till the other day) - are all capable of, what I call, diagnostic wars. In which case, we are seeing a very troubling combination of kind wars as well as diagnostic wars, both outside and inside, and I'll come to the inside in a minute. As far as the world is concerned, even in the realist era the sort that I think Perry Anderson is nostalgically looking back to, we used to have friends and enemies and then we had wars because there was some problem, but now we have wars to find out actually who the coalition is and even as we conduct the war we find the coalition count creeping up, (well of course this country is a dinky little country but still it's number 36 and so and so on.) So we are building the coalition through war. This is a strange thing and one of many tectonic reversals in the nature of this kind of war quite apart from the matters that have been covered extensively in discussions in the critical media about how this war is being conducted with relation to the media. I won't talk about all that. But this other issue I think bears some thinking. When very violent, very high technology wars( with intense bodily effects at the other end, which are now being experienced in Iraq all the time) are actually about finding something out, about the order of state-state relations, about the order of friends and enemies, about who is what kind of democracy, we are, I think, entering very deeply troubling times from a political and ethical point of view.

That's as far as the outside is concerned. Let me briefly turn to the inside of this question of diagnostics and of the strange reversals that we are witnessing in the sequence in which war classically, however horribly, had a place. A war was a part of a sequence of things, it was politics by other means, it was action after diplomacy failed, it was many, many things, it was conquest etc. All of these things have some element of rationality, a kind of charming nostalgic presence now, but one senses they are not the main factors. The main actors are other obscure motivations that I suggested, the one I am talking about is one of them that domestically (though the polls show high numbers, in some sense, in support of the war, we know there are confusions among support of the regime, of the administration in the US, of the war, of our soldiers, and of course these questions can collapse all of these matters. We know that there is a great deal of soul searching going on even among people who may have, in some sense, said yes this war should be fought. We don't need polls to tell us that. And here I think the administration is doing also an exercise which is a reversal of things, which is diagnostic, in other words, let us find out who really is for our version, our picture of the world, and who is willing to pay our price in our manner. Let us do so and here is the diagnostic thing - by deploying the troops. So you don't, in other words, do what again you think you might have done in an earlier world, which is to build a consensus, to reach a certain threshold and then deploy your troops. Of course, wars have always mobilized national affect, that is true, but the idea of this kind of action outside the international legal structure, outside the national legal structure, outside of a wide consultation to deploy the troops here has a particular significance because it's an exercise in consensus-building and more particularly, it is not just in totally unilateral terms, there is a very serious effort to win the war, as they say, of hearts and minds. But the strategy that I see is consensus-building, through deployment of troops. So that the minute you say you're against the war, you're against our troops. So this is a huge divisive kind of move but also if you look at Bush yesterday, he was at Camp Lejeune, where there is a specific interest in the military family. Here what we are seeing is the effort to play to a very particular public, and it is a public that is concerned with the military in a direct way, to say that these are "your people" out there. So the rest of us become witnesses who belong to other publics then have to relate to this public of military families and military friends and so on and make a decision about whether we are with or not with them. Bush has shown a kind of disinterest in what the rest of us thought as long as some key people were on board, notably the families of the soldiers because when they are not on board and when they exit, it hurts consensus, it's all over.

Finally I turn to the discourse of sacrifice which is of course directed massively internally and which has always been a huge part of the vocabulary of war. And I think here again there is a very restrictive conversation going on, and not only is it the case that we are watching an elite, by definition, that is people who run the country asking for sacrifices on the parts of others, not only is it the case that most of the soldiers come from poor working class families whether white, black, Hispanic or whatever but also because there is a sense of a partial public, the public that is directly related to the volunteer army and so on, the military families etc. But the sacrifice is a direct communication going on between Bush and these families, and the rest of us are allowed to take sides, be neutral whatever, but it is not really about us and I think that too is a matter that should give us some pause.

Paul Gilroy: Well, I would like to thank my colleagues for creating this overdue space for reflection on these important matters. I should apologize in advance for my determination to lower the tone of this occasion and speak not only as a scholar but as somebody who lives in this country without the protections of citizenship. I think I can say that we have become acutely aware of how restrictive speech has become in your public sphere, even on occasions like this. It seems pointless to point out how absolutely incompatible that has proved to be with everything we have been told about the freedoms of conscience, expression and opinion lie at the center of your political culture. Recent events at Columbia University and, I think, even closer to home where we hear that some freelance groups have taken it upon themselves to enforce patriotic discipline among their fellow students who they felt to be in need of correction because of their dissenting responses to a war they think is immoral, illegal and unnecessary.

I think that intimidation is part of a climate which requires us this afternoon to reflect on the ethics and the politics of national identity, and to consider how those of us in the worldwide movement against globalization as Americanization can legitimize and perhaps defend our dissent and a different, I am tempted to say, higher, form of cosmopolitan loyalty--to justice, to civilization, and humanity all conceived somewhat differently than the way that they have been articulated in bad faith by the good reverend Blair who has turned my country into a sort of armored fig leaf for the aspirations of Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney and Rummy et al.

Of course, we've known for a very long time that this war was coming, and now that it is here I think it has become facile to rehearse the well worn themes of the prewar debate, many of which have been enumerated. I'd like to amend that list to include the history of the United States sponsorship of Saddam Hussein, the lack of linkage between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the trajectory of the Project for a New American Century with its apocalyptic fantasies of full-spectrum domination; the various plans for privatizing Iraqi oil, controlling Iraqi water and other dubious schemes of running the country in its post-war phase.

I think too of the morality of cluster bombs, depleted uranium and "daisy cutters" all weapons which under any common sense scheme would count as weapons of mass destruction, weapons that are the latter day descendants of colonial killing technology like those savage-stopping dum-dum bullets which exercised so much governmental rationality in the 19th century. These are technologies which are shaped by what I think of as an imperial double standard in which the value of lives and deaths differs according to whose bodies and whose civilizations are involved.

I think we can say here, I don't know if I can say it safely here, but I will say it because it needs to be said, that to the rest of the world that inventory makes the United States exercise in liberation look like a brutal, racist adventure driven not only by a determination to control those natural resources, but by a desire to exact revenge for the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, and infused with the religious excesses of an unwholesome fundamentalism which is fully able to compete with the ghastliness and the cruel absurdity of political Islam.

Now when I read that Harlan Ullman, the architect of shock and awe, had revealed his own concerns about this war, I am quoting here, "I would have waited months, perhaps to get a second resolution then it would have been clear that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction" unquote, I decided that, just going over the old ground wasn't really a worthwhile exercise.

John Bolton, your Assistant Secretary of State has been visiting the Royal United Institute of Foreign Affairs in London in the past week, and he has already been musing publicly about a coming pre-emptive strike against Iran. In due course, of course, we may also need to think about what that means for us as a community, to consider how this institution may, and I don't know if it does, I don't know if anyone has been doing work yet, may profit from this war through its investments in various corporations. Of course, and this is the most difficult thing to say here, it is also important to speculate about the relationship between this war and the geopolitical interests of Israel. That perhaps is an agenda for the future.

I want to use what is left of my time slightly differently. There's an opportunity here to engage in some other questions that touch what are supposed to be the core values of an institution like this. In particular, the morality and consequences of the info-war, a war unlike any other, a war that raises fundamental questions about solidarity and belonging and about the limits of what I suppose we might call un-chosen community. I think there's more novelty to this new type of war than just the "warnography" of the TV networks and its celebrations of preemption, than the thrill of being militarily embedded, the dramaturgy of CENTCOM, where we learn that George Allinson is the set designer, it cost $300,000; he's also worked on the set of Good Morning America and has contributed his impressive handiwork to the new Michael Douglas movie for which he's also the art director.

CENTCOM. info-war, psy-ops, bomblet, embed. As Arjun [Appadurai] already pointed out, your Ministry of Love continues its assault on the English language with an acceleration that is faster than an A10 or a Tomahawk.

Info-war demands analysis in which not only information but ignorance can be "preemptively" rethought as an aspect of populist political power. And it means that there can be no blank reliance on rare occasions such as this one, or on platforms such as this one to absolve yourself from the obligation to educate yourself beyond the narrow boundaries of the integral and imperiled civilization to which you find yourself assigned by Samuel Huntington. Thank you. I think I'll stop there.

Ben Kiernan: On the Thai-Cambodia border in 1979, a young Khmer Rouge commander recalled the Nixon administration's bombing of his native village. Two hundred villagers were killed. A twelve year old survivor, he ran terrified into the jungle. Khmer Rouge guerrillas found him and gave him a gun. They told him the 'killing birds' had come from Phnom Penh. This boy soon murdered two hundred enemies. And when asked what that felt like, he padded his right shoulder and said it hurts, here.

In contrast to Cambodia, the US invasion of Afghanistan began as a legitimate defensive response to armed attack on US soil and to Bin-Laden's threat to, quote "kill as many Jews and Crusaders as possible." And harboring the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was the genocidal Taliban regime, which persecuted Afghan women and massacred ethnic minorities. But the first six months of US bombing of Afghanistan alone killed as many civilians as had been massacred in the World Trade Center, and the toll continued to rise. The overthrow of the Taliban was legal, but the bombing of Afghanistan caused an excessive number of civilian casualties. What is the legal significance of that?

The statute of the new International Criminal Court, the ICC, includes among war crimes, quote, "intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such an attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians, which would be clearly excessive in relation to the military objective." As to what level of collateral damage, as it's called, is excessive, and the difficult matter of proving the perpetrator's advanced knowledge that it would be excessive, the International Criminal Court statute provides that US courts could decide any cases involving Americans. That the US will not submit to that determination, even in its own courts, it has withdrawn from the International Criminal Court and tries very hard to undermine it. The Bush administration wants to rule out in advance any US war crimes cases. Washington demands impunity in the name of sovereignty. Donald Rumsfeld's military policy is clear to use, in his words, quote, "the force necessary to prevail plus some." This advocates unnecessary, i.e., excessive force. This policy was written before the invasion of Iraq, in the knowledge that most of the world considers such excessive military action causing collateral damage to be war crimes. The current toll of Iraqi civilians killed by US forces in recent weeks is over 600.

Saddam Hussein's regime should be brought to justice for its war crimes from 1980 to 1990, as well as crimes committed or which it may commit in this war. The use of Chemical weapons against Kurdish populations in the 1980s is well documented. The overthrow of the regime that committed them can only be welcomed. But four questions persist. First, morally, does the end justify the means? And in the viewpoint of a just war, was it a war of last resort? Second, ethically, could the same results have been achieved more slowly but with much less suffering, by strengthening international inspections, destroying any weapons of mass destruction Iraq still possessed, and further weakening the regime's grip, recalling that the Kurdish region was already free of Saddam's control while no-flight zones and sanctions applied to most or all of the rest of Iraq? Third, legally, the damage to international law and security while violators are punished selectively, remains unmeasured. And finally, the political question: the impact throughout the world of the invasion and devastation of a sovereign Muslim Arab country. Despite the administration's assertions, this war could have more than just one outcome. I will not address a fifth issue: the current McCarthyist campaign to vilify as traitors people who raise any of these first four questions.

The US military action against Iraq probably does constitute aggression. An unprovoked invasion is not only a violation of the UN charter but also a Nuremberg-type crime against peace. The UN General Assembly described the first use of armed force by one state against another as prima facie evidence of an act of aggression, which it defined as an invasion or attack by the armed forces of a state of the territory of another state or any resulting military occupation however temporary. In 1986, the International Court of Justice in The Hague declared this definition of aggression to be customary international law in its decision, Nicaragua vs. US. The International Court of Justice also found the US guilty of employing, quote, "the unlawful use of force," i.e., terrorism. Washington, which rejected the court's jurisdiction, now asserts that Iraqi support for terrorism may in the future threaten the US, which may act and prevent in self-defense. Most but not all legal scholars reject this. The US claims not to be the aggressor on additional grounds that it is enforcing UN resolutions, but that depends on authorization by the Security Council, which doesn't exist. The invasion could be justified as a humanitarian intervention, but the US did not make this case against Iraq to the UN in the 1980s or since.

When asked whether the US invasion of Iraq would provoke more terrorism, Senator Joseph Liebermann replied in the negative, stating "that terrorists already hate us, anyway." Refraining from invading Iraq, he thought, would not change that. This is childish piety unworthy of a Vice-Presidential or Presidential candidate. Ever since 9/11 the obvious challenge has been to keep the number of potential suicide and homicide bombers below a thousand worldwide, rather than provoking tens of thousands more new recruits to join them. How to deny new recruits to criminal groups like Al-Qaeda is a political issue. The only way tens of thousands of suicide bomber terrorists will emerge is through some political windfall for the small circle of existing terrorist leaders. The trick is to arrest those leaders before providing them with any new political cause.

US actions in Iraq unfortunately recall those in Cambodia. Pol Pot already hated America in 1969, but he was only the leader of a small group of 1500 Khmer Rouge insurgents in the Cambodia jungle. Nixon and Kissinger's invasion of neutral Cambodia in 1970 and their massive carpet bombing campaigns provided Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge leaders with their windfall. The CIA reported in 1973 that the communists had launched a new recruiting drive using damage caused by B-52 strikes as, quote, "the main theme of their propaganda in a propaganda campaign which has been effective with refugees and areas subjected to B-52 strikes." From 1970 to 1973, the Khmer Rouge grew from 1500 to over 200,000 soldiers. They took power in 1975 and perpetrated genocide. Last month on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, a senior counter-intelligence official was reported as saying, quote, "an American invasion of Iraq is already being used as a recruitment tool by Al-Qaeda and other groups and it is a very effective tool." Another American official said Iraq's become a battle cry for Al-Qaeda recruiters. Now ten days into the war Egypt's Mubarak that as a result of the invasion if there was one Bin-Laden before, there will be a hundred Bin-Ladens in the future. Someone should explain the difference to Senator Liebermann.

Moral issues aside, the incompetence of the Bush administration is reason enough to oppose its enterprise. I don't believe Bush set out to make enemies of the Muslim world, but he slipped up and called for a crusade. I don't believe Condoleeza Rice intends genocide against Iraq, but she threatened it with national obliteration if it used chemical weapons. These statements alone could have made the US another 10,000 enemies. Predicting the fragility of Saddam's regime, Richard Pearle called it a house of cards which will collapse at the first whiff of gun powder. Former Rumsfeld aide, Ken Adelman predicted a cakewalk. Apart from devastating the US economy and diplomatic alliances, this reckless war-making endangers the planet. Why is Washington getting away with magisterial blunders? If a journalist had come back to Senator Liebermann, with "what is your answer to the criticism that the war will create more terrorists?", he would have had to think carefully. To my knowledge no journalist did. And here we get to the question of the media, and its domination, like the government, by a war-like intelligentsia and nationalist think tanks, what Russell Baker called in the New York Times, the bombing classes. Does Washington's sense of moral clarity come not from studying difficult choices and making judicious decisions in the interests of the many, or from reading each other's Op-Eds, and from pundits who proclaim, quote, civilian casualties are not news. The fact is they accompany wars. Last Saturday, an Iraqi suicide bomber killed four US soldiers. A reporter told Aaron Brown on CNN that for fear of such incidences a US commander in Iraq instructed his troops that if they were approached by a civilian, quote, "even if he is waving a stick, shoot him." I saw neither Brown nor a guest comment on that revelation. The next evening's guest was from the Council on Foreign Relations, who told Aaron Brown that the US may, quote, "have to accept slightly more civilian casualties" to win the war quickly which he called the humane policy. What he meant rather was that the US would have to inflict more civilian casualties. It did. Troops opened fire on a car that would not stop, killing seven Iraqi women and children. Then on Monday night I tuned into National Public Radio to hear a reporter advertise coverage of the "US incursion into Iraq." I was sent back to 1970 watching Richard Nixon talking on television about Cambodia, asserting this is not an invasion, it's an incursion. It was an invasion, and what followed was even worse.

Gaspar Tamas: If I'm allowed a personal word: I'm a foreigner and I wouldn't like to abuse the hospitality of this country, still I would say a few words. I've been a dissident in Eastern Europe, and it was the help of some Americans that allowed me, after a decade of unemployment and being blacklisted out of work, to go to university and to teach, here. I'm quite fond of this country and I'm very sad that this experience has been spoiled for me now.

I have to talk about transition to democracy. Well this was, in a way, my life you see. And to see a transition to democracy in Eastern Europe from what was called a totalitarian regime. And I'm glad that indeed this has happened. The problem is that I'm in a very small minority that is glad that this has happened. In Hungary, which is my country, which is supposed to be the most successful of all the countries that made this transition, according to our National Office of Statistics, the economic losses suffered by our country between 1989 an d 1995 are in excess of the losses during the Second World War. Half of the jobs have been lost. Half of the active age of population does not have a steady job. The living standards are below the level of the late 60s. Approval of the new democratic regime, according to surveys and polls, never are in excess of 20%. When Hungarians were asked who was the greatest Hungarian politician of the 20th century, more than 70% answered it was Janos Kadar, the leader of the Communist regime. And believe or not, the leader of the 1956 revolution did not even make it into the first thirty.

Those governments in Eastern Europe, "New Europe", who are supporting the war effort of the United States and Britain in Iraq, aren't really in support of it. And theories of why this should be so were offered in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other media outlets (as they're called). It has been said that they're supporting the war effort because they're so grateful to the United States, and that they're so glad that the totalitarian system has come to an end with American help. Well, all of these governments concerned consist exclusively of former Communist appparatchiki and they are indeed the people who were in government before 1989, like one of the most important friends of the White House, Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland, who has been a member of General Jaruzelski's government in 1985. And Prime Minister Leszek Miller of Poland was the First Secretary of the Communist Party in Skierniewice the main enemy of the Solidarity Movement. If this is New Europe, well, I know them from old. And why should they support the war? Why should they support President Bush, Jr.? Well, it's for no moral reasons, but for their ancestral fear of being left alone on the continent with Germany and Russia, it has nothing to do with the merits of the war against Iraq.

Again, I want to address very briefly a problem of whether there is such a thing as a straightforward position on totalitarianism and democracy. Is there any historical foundation for this simplistic position? Is it true that the Second World War was fought between democracy and totalitarianism? It was fought, among others, between Stalin and Hitler. 1989 was called the end of the Cold War. Was it? The Cold War ended in the 1960s. By the time the Stalinist regimes collapsed in Eastern Europe, the West had very strange allies in their fight against the Soviet Union. For example, China. For example, Communist China. The politics of Nixon and Kissinger in opposing the Soviet Union, made China into an ally of the United States, while Chinese concentration camps continued to exist, and continue to exist to this day. I remember I lived in Romania of Hungarian minority community, originally. And I remember President Ceausescu, not famous for his regard for human rights, being greeted in Bucharest Airport by President Nixon, and I remember Mr. Ceausescu being taken in a beautiful carriage by Queen Elizabeth through the streets of London. The straightforward opposition of totalitarianism and democracy is not a historical reality. It has never happened. The ideology of totalitarianism as the boogey that would motivate and justify action has no historical foundation. The wish for freedom has. The fight against tyranny has. But these pieties are just unreal.

And let me just ask this respectable gathering here, one of the arguments of lovers of peace in this country and the west has been, this war's wrong because America goes it alone and no allies, no real allies are forthcoming and there's justification and no legitimation from the U.N., the Security Council and so on. Would this war be okay if a Security Council resolution justified it? I still think it would be wrong. I'm also quite dissatisfied with the some of the assertions of the peace camp in Europe and other places that are, basically, nationalist arguments against America. This is not a problem, this war is not a problem about America, it's not a problem about American culture. It's not a problem about peculiarities of American capitalism as opposed to other versions of capitalism. As it has been already pointed out, France - an opponent of this war - is at this moment engaged in neocolonialist adventures in nine African countries. The moralist stance of the French government doesn't appeal to me at all. And I do not think that this is the main question here.

What kind of world system is this in which force, bigger force or smaller force, can be applied without the real consultation of the people? If you think about the near irrelevance of congress in all this debate about war and peace at the moment, you really must ask yourself whether a transition to democracy might be necessary in some western countries.

© Copyright 2003 Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.