The Poisonous Precedent: How the Iraqi Special Tribunal Undermines International Law

By Wolf, Paul | Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Poisonous Precedent: How the Iraqi Special Tribunal Undermines International Law

Wolf, Paul, Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law

On October 6, 2006, the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center sponsored a public symposium reflecting on the successes and failures of the Saddam trial. The following transcribed speech is excerpted from the daylong event. ([dagger])


I would like to thank Professors Bassiouni, Sharf, Ellis, Shabas, and Newton who invited me here. It shows the open-mindedness of the chairs of this symposium that they invited someone with an opposing view. And I really mean that. I will do my best. I am Paul Wolf, an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C. Let me start by saying I am not a member of the president's defense team. The Iraqi lawyers have no idea who I am. I have helped Curtis Doebbler and Ramsey Clark in defending the Iraqi president, and this is the perspective that I can share with you today.

I think there are about twenty speakers today. I am the only one arguing for the defense. I only have twelve minutes, so I will have to be brief. I will start by making a proposal for you to consider. It has three parts. Number one: America apologizes for the war in Iraq. Number two: Saddam Hussein is reinstated as president. Number three: in return, the president agrees to restore order. He is the only person in the world who can do it. The U.S. should get out of there.

Please think about that while I use the balance of my time pointing out the main problem with this trial. And then I hope you'll ask me questions in the sessions that follow. I titled my talk The Poisonous Precedent because I think that is the main issue. What kind of precedent will this set for the future? If this is the trial of the century, as some of you are saying, what kind of a century will it be? A century of war?

I hope it is clear that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. Iraq did not have a nuclear weapons program. Iraq was not supporting al Qaeda. Iraq was not behind the attacks of September 11. Iraq had been blockaded for twelve years and could not threaten the United States in any way. In 1991, after the Gulf War, the United States and Iraq agreed to a ceasefire. The terms were set forth in UN Resolution 687. Iraq never violated them. This ceasefire was still in force when the U.S. attacked Iraq in March of 2003.

Under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, only the Security Council can authorize military attacks to enforce U.N. resolutions. Otherwise, the use of military force is only permitted in self-defense. The Security Council did not authorize the U.S. war in Iraq. If you do not believe me, ask Vladimir Putin. Ask Jacques Chirac. Ask Jiang Zemin, the Chinese prime minister. All of them opposed the American attack. On March 5, 2003, France, Germany, and Russia issued a joint statement vowing to block any U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force. Two weeks later, America began the shock and awe bombing campaign. People claim that the U.N. Security Council authorized the shock and awe, and the deaths of thousands of people. It did not.

Now, you all know that international agreements, like U.N. resolutions and treaties, are interpreted as contracts between states. You look at the objective intent, the meeting of the minds, in this case among the members of the Security Council who signed Resolution 1441. Three permanent members said they never authorized the use of force. Russia, China, and France each have a veto. John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said Resolution 1441 contained no "hidden triggers" and no "automaticity" with regard to the use of force. That was John Negroponte who said that. There's the objective intent. Of course, you should also look at the plain language of the resolution itself. It did not authorize the use of force. It made references to "consequences" and "serious consequences" but said nothing about a U.S. attack.

The International Court of Justice has held that preemptive attacks violate customary international law as well as the U.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Poisonous Precedent: How the Iraqi Special Tribunal Undermines International Law


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?