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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Blix, Yglesias and Salaten

Like Matthew Ygleisias, William Salaten seems uninterested in the legal implications of the absence of WMD in Iraq. In an excellent article Salaten writes "Like many other Americans, I asked whether the enforcement of Security Council resolutions defied by Saddam was our unilateral right. I neglected to ask whether it was our unilateral responsibility." he has also neglected to ask if, given what we now know, the invasion of Iraq can still be construed as enforcing a Security Council resolution. As far as I can tell Iraq was in compliance with 1441, Saddam Hussein had taken advantage of the last chance offered by the Security Council and the invasion was in direct violation of 1441 combined with the UN charter and not an implementation of 1441.

Also Salaten quotes Bush lying without pointing out the lie. At the UN Bush said ""Finally, the Security Council promised serious consequences for his defiance. … And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world." This is simply false. The clause of 1441 to which Bush refers is a reminder so the threat must have been there before 1441 and not finally made in 1441. More importantly 1441 did not promise serious consequences for Saddam Hussein's defiance. It threatened serious consequences for *copntinued* defiance. At the time of the invasion Bush may have sincerely thought Saddam Hussein was continuing to defy the security councile because he had kept hidden WMD. However, we now can be almost certain that this is not true.

Bush himself has frequently described 1441 as giving Saddam Hussein one last chance to comply, but he seems to be claiming that he has changed his mind. I think someone in the Bush administratino has finally recognised that, if Saddam Hussein had been given a last chance, he clearly did everything he could to take advantage of it. As a result of this blated recognition, Bush has reinterpreted 1441 in a way even more grossly inconsistent with the actual resolution than his earlier interpretations.

I resume my argument with Matthew Yglesias about the legality of the invasion of Iraq. I personally don't care much about international law and don't necessarily oppose actions which are banned by international law. Legality is just the topic of this post and the post below.

When arguing that the Saddam Hussein regime violated UN sc res 1441, Yglesias quotes a statement made by Hans Blix early in the inspections progress. I don't think that any reasonable person (including Matthew Yglesias) really thinks that Blix' complaints amount to a finding of a violation. For one thing, Blix did not suggest that the security council should begin considering punishments for Iraq. However, assuming for the sake of argument, that Blix was claiming that Iraq had violated 1441. If he had claimed that, Blix would have been wrong. At the time he probably believed that Iraq had stocks of chemical and biological weapons, and her certainly suspected that they might. Given that suspicion his very mild complaints can be understood as a polite expression of disbelief in the Saddam Hussein regimes claims that they had no such stocks. However even if I were to concede that Blix said Saddam Hussein had violated 1441, I would not concede that Saddam Hussein had, in fact, violated 1441. If Blix said that he was wrong (as I was at the time).

We now know much more than Blix new then. As far as can be told, the empty list of banned weapons in Iraq was complete, and the list of arguably banned al Samoud missiles was complete. Iraq failed to provide enough documentation of how the weapons had been destroyed to convince Blix, but as far as we now know, they made a good faith effort to do so. As far as I know, further relevant documents have not been found after the invasion. They were clearly trying to convince everyone that they no longer had WMD. this is exactly what they were required to do by 1441 since they did not have WMD.

The invasion would have been legal if Iraq had violated 1441. If Blix had incorrectly inferred that they were violating 1441, he would have been wrong. A good faith error by an honest international civil servent is not a causus bellus.

Of course, I don't think Blix ever declared Iraq in violation of 1441.

To go over the facts as I recall them for the hundredth time (that is the part below is really really boring by now)

There appear to have been no WMD in Iraq known to the S Hussein regime. There were WMD that they didn't know about including undestroyed bombs that they dug up and surrendered later and two shells used to rig a non exploding roadside non bomb by people who thought they contained high explosives (as used they were harmless if they had contained explosives they wouldn't have been).

I might add thatafter fruitless efforts to WMD Blix seems to have changed his mind. I infer this from the fact that he said the inspections could be completed in months not weeks or years. This could only be true if Blix were close to concluding that there were no WMD. If Blix had then been confident that Iraq had WMD, he couldn't promise an end to the inspections process until they were found and couldn't have been sure of finding them in months not years.

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