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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Life Is Full Of Surprises

I rally to the defense of Josh Marshall, sort of. Mr. Marshall argues here that:

When historians get around to trying to explain the last six months (i.e., how we got from resolution 1441 to the breakdown of the UN process and war) I don't think they will chalk much of this up to anyone 'losing their will.' I think the truth is more prosaic and straightforward. Yes, everyone voted in favor of 1441. But there were two groups amongst those fourteen member nations. And they had very different conceptions of what they were voting for.

Actually, I think this is a generous interpretation. But let's set that aside for the moment.

And he goes on to argue that Security Council 1441 was not automatic, that a second resolution was contemplated, and that the US is wrong to argue that it has authority under 1441 to act against Saddam.

Well done! Lacking Mr. Marshall's rhetorical and reasoning skills, I unimaginatively read the statement of the US Ambassador to the UN explaining the US position at the time of the vote:

As we have said on numerous occasions to Council members, this Resolution contains no “hidden triggers” and no “automaticity” with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach, reported to the Council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA, or a member state, the matter will return to the Council for discussions as required in paragraph 12. The Resolution makes clear that any Iraqi failure to comply is unacceptable and that Iraq must be disarmed. And one way or another, Mr. President, Iraq will be disarmed. If the Security Council fails to act decisively in the event of a further Iraqi violation, this resolution does not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq, or to enforce relevant UN resolutions and protect world peace and security.

Well, the first highlighted point supports the Marshall Plan - a two step process was contemplated. Of course, his suggestion that the US was beguiled into accepting this unwittingly seems to fall a bit flat, as does his suggestion that we misled our colleagues at the Security Council.

And his point that the US can not rely on 1441 for authority to act against Saddam is also moot - as the Ambassador Negroponte made clear at the time, the US considered itself to have authority under UN resolutions already in force.

But other than those minor points, props to Josh!

UPDATE: The NY Times summary of the Administration's description of its legal authority for going to war. Interesting excerpt:

...U.S. action is consistent with the U.N. Charter. The Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, provided that member states, including the United States, have the right to use force in Iraq to maintain or restore international peace and security. The Council authorized the use of force in Resolution 678 with respect to Iraq in 1990. This resolution on which the United States has relied continuously and with the full knowledge of the Security Council to use force in 1993, 1996 and 1998 and to enforce the no-fly zones remains in effect today. In Resolution 1441, the Security Council unanimously decided again that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions and would face serious consequences if it failed immediately to disarm. And, of course, based on existing facts, including the nature and type of the threat posed by Iraq, the United States may always proceed in the exercise of its inherent right of self-defense, recognized in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

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