Why Hillary Clintonís Iraq vote does matter

world | Feb 25, 2008 | By Stephen Zunes

In response to a series of articles in recent months regarding the foreign policy positions of Senator Hillary Clinton - in which, among other things, I have emphasized her October 2002 vote authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq - I have received comments such as the following:

“The only mistake Hillary made was to believe what the President told her and that Dubya would not lie about such a national matter involving the military. She chose to believe what he said and the intel presented to her -as did so many others on both sides of the political aisle…. GET OVER IT! It is water under the bridge…”

In reality, however, Hillary Clinton’s decision to vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq in fact is of critical importance and should disqualify her - along with Senator John McCain, who also voted in favor of the war resolution - from ever becoming president.

There have been many tragic consequences of the war for which Senator Clinton and others who made it possible should be held accountable: the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and the tens of thousands permanently wounded; the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed; the hundreds of billions of dollars drained from our national treasury; the social, economic and environmental damage inflicted upon Iraq; the misallocation of human and material resources away from real strategic threats; and, the resulting growth in Islamic extremism and anti-Americanism which will threaten our national security for decades to come .

More importantly, however, is what the decision says about Hillary Clinton’s world view:

Contempt for International Law

According to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, international treaties signed by the president and ratified by a two-thirds majority of the Senate are to be treated as supreme law of the United States. Among these is the United Nations Charter, long recognized as the most important single document regulating the use of military force in the post-World War II era.

Senator Clinton has defended her vote on the grounds of enforcing UN Security Council resolutions being violated by Iraq. However, in articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, the nations of the world agreed that no member state has the right to enforce any resolution militarily unless the Security Council determines that there has been a material breach of its resolution, decides that all non-military means of enforcement have been exhausted, and specifically authorizes the use of military force. This is what the Security Council did in November 1990 with Resolution 678 in response to Iraq’s ongoing occupation of Kuwait in violation of a series of resolutions demanding withdrawal. When Iraq finally complied through its forced evacuation from Kuwait in February of 1991, this resolution became moot.

Legally, the conflict regarding access for UN inspectors and possible Iraqi procurement of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) had always been between Iraq and the United Nations, not between Iraq and the United States. The United States therefore had no legal right to act on the dispute unilaterally. Although UN Security Council Resolution 687, which demands Iraqi disarmament, was the most detailed in the world body’s history, no military enforcement mechanisms were included. Nor did the Security Council specify any military enforcement mechanisms in subsequent resolutions. As is normally the case when it is determined that governments are violating all or part of UN resolutions, any decision about enforcement is a matter for the Security Council as a whole - not for any one member of the council.

While UN Security Council resolution 1441, passed in November 2002, warned of unspecified “serious consequences” if Iraq failed to comply with the UN disarmamen



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Stephen Zunes, the Foreign Pol
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.

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