Statement against the invasion of Iraq

We, the undersigned, are citizens of Singapore. We have been disturbed by the events that have unfolded since 20 March 2003. On that date, the United States of America launched a unilateral and aggressive military invasion of Iraq, a sovereign nation. This action violates international law and runs against the collective will of the nations and peoples of the world. We strongly oppose the war because it is illegal, immoral and internationally destabilising.

We believe there are compelling reasons to oppose the war. We further contend that Singapore should oppose the war not just to protect the long-term interests of Singapore but also because it is wrong.

The Illegality of the war on Iraq

We find that the invasion of Iraq violates three applicable bodies of law: the United States Constitution, the United Nations Charter, and the international laws of war:

i) The Charter of the United Nations states that the primary purpose of the UN is to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. The highest urgency is given to the peaceful settlement of disputes. Only under two circumstances is the use of force permissible, namely in self-defence against an actual or imminent armed attack (Article 51) and when the UN Security Council authorises the use of force “in the common interest”, to maintain or restore international peace and security (Chapter VII). In the latter case, a new resolution authorising “all necessary means” to enforce the previous resolution is required for military action.

The “serious consequences” called for in Resolution 1441 do NOT constitute a mandate for military action. The careful negotiations during the drafting of 1441 last year clearly indicate the international community’s expressed desire to prevent an automatic resort to the use of force should Iraq be found to be in immaterial breach of the resolution. US arguments to the contrary are in bad faith – and in violation of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

Even if Iraq were to be found to be in breach of the UN weapons inspection regime, current resolutions do not prescribe military action as the first resort. There was no opportunity for the Security Council to duly explore all possible “serious consequences” to ensure or verify Iraqi compliance before this invasion was summarily declared by the US.

Nor is there evidence of any clear and present threat posed to the US or to the international community by Iraq – in stark contrast Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991. The pre-emptive use of force cannot therefore be qualified under self-defence. Without a second resolution mandating war, the present invasion is a clear violation of the UN Charter, a position confirmed by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 10 March 2003.

ii) Additionally, the war is illegal even within the United States. Article VI, Section 2 of the US Constitution states that any treaties the US enters into become “the supreme law of the land.” Thus, the UN Charter, ratified by the US, is of the highest order in American law. Although American law states that Congress may override a pre-existing treaty or Congressional-Executive agreement of the US, doing so would place the US in breach of the obligation owed under international law to its treaty partner(s) to honour the treaty or agreement in good faith, and is against the central tenet of international law that it cannot be overridden by domestic law.

iii) The war of aggression in Iraq also violates the rules and principles of international law (as enshrined in the "Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal", adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations in 1950), which together set limits on the means of war. The Nuremberg Charter prohibits “Crimes against Peace” which are described as “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of wars of aggression”, such as the present invasion of Iraq. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg has also stated that “to initiate a war of not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime.”

The Immorality of the war on Iraq

This war is not, as some have argued, a case of international and domestic law getting in the way of a moral case for war. The reasons stated by the US for taking military action have been opportunistic, inconsistent, and one by one have been shown to be unsupportable. Justifications put forward in support for war include claims that:

i) Iraq has weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in violation of previous UN resolutions and must be rid of them by force. At the time of this invasion, there had been no concrete evidence from any source that Iraqi possesses such weapons. UN-authorised weapons inspectors, who have supervised the destruction of Iraqi weapons in the past, have not only not found any evidence of WMDs in the build-up to this war, but have not been allowed by the US to continue their work. Evidence presented by Colin Powell to the UN on 5th February 2003 has been revealed to be falsified. To date, searches of suspected WMD sites by allied troops in Iraq have failed to unearth any credible evidence of current Iraqi WMDs. Nor have WMDs been deployed in battle to date – given the overwhelming military pressure at present, the Iraqi regime is either extraordinarily restrained, or it does not in fact have WMDs to use.

Further, we find it hypocritical for the US – a key supplier of materials to Iraq’s weapons development programmes in the past, the nation with the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear and other WMDs, and the only country to have used nuclear weapons in war – to preach about the need to remove such weapons from Iraq.

Even if Iraq were to be found to be in breach of the UN weapons inspection regime, current resolutions do not prescribe military action as the first resort. There was no attempt to explore non-military “serious consequences” to ensure or verify Iraqi compliance before this invasion was summarily declared by the US.

ii) Iraq has active links with al-Qaeda. No evidence to date supports claims that such a link exists. Al-Qaeda, as an organisation of religious fundamentalism, expressedly opposes to a Saddam Hussein’s secular dictatorship. Similarly, Saddam’s regime views organisations such as al-Qaeda as active threats to its own power and does not support its cause. Yet the propaganda machine has managed to convince up to 55 per cent of Americans that Iraq and Saddam were directly responsible for September 11 – a patent fallacy that has been used to justify this invasion.

iii) The people of Iraq have suffered under the cruel dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and that the US is morally bound to alleviate their plight. This humanitarian argument for war is insidious: it ignores the grievous injury inflicted on the civilian population – first, by years of US-led sanctions against Iraq and second, by current US military activities. Estimates suggest that the civilian death toll in this conflict may be higher than that of combatants from both sides combined.

The impact of this war includes and extends beyond dead civilians killed outright by bullets and bombs. It threatens a full-scale humanitarian disaster that will last for generations to come, not only for the Iraqis, but also its neighbours and the troops on the ground:

• A missile that wiped out 62 Iraqi civilians in a crowded marketplace has been identified as an American “precision” munition by its serial numbers, despite attempts by the US-UK coalition to blame it on the Iraqis.

• In clear violation of the Geneva conventions and other international laws protecting civilians in wartime, US troops have knowingly fired upon -- and inflicted casulties -- on international journalists and an ambulance.

• The US has openly deployed cluster bombs in this war – a weapon condemned widely as posing the same grave threat as landmines. These indiscriminate munitions cause immediate and long-term injury to civilian populations, reduce the productive use of land where they have been used, and are notoriously difficult to dispose of after a war.

• Controversy surrounds the US military’s use of highly-toxic depleted uranium ammunition, which has been linked since 1991 to cancer, birth defects and the notorious Gulf-War Syndrome.

iv) The Iraqi people need to be “liberated” into democracy. Even if the world agrees that the Iraqis would be better off without Saddam, the decision to install a new government is not for a foreign military power to take. Self-determination is the very foundation of the democracy that the US purports to bring to Iraq by violating its fundamental sovereignty.

It is absurd that the US claims to be exporting democracy when its own administration chastises nations such as France and Turkey for heeding the will of their people in denying support for this war.

Questionable motives for war

American motivations in this war have not been sufficiently scrutinised. The intent to invade and occupy Iraq falls within a broad agenda of American policy set out in the “Project for the New American Century” – which predates security concerns raised by Sep 11. This initiative, undersigned by some of the chief architects of this invasion, including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, calls for the US to project its power and advance American interests throughout the world through initiatives based on unilateralism and military strength rather than multilateralism and consensus-building.

There are clear vested interests in the invasion of Iraq. On the national level, The US stands to gain control of Iraqi oil in post-war Iraq, consolidate its dominance of the Gulf region, and obstruct the emergence of the Euro as an alternative international currency to the USD.

Already, US plans for post-war Iraq involve the installation of a “transition” government comprising US officials. Infrastructure projects for the reconstruction of Iraq – to paid for by Iraqi oil – have been earmarked exclusively for American companies, thereby sidelining international and aid agencies that are specifically tasked to do the job. Many of these companies, such as Bechtel, Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root, have direct links with the White House, the Pentagon and neo-conservatives in the Republican Party. The US has also called for frozen Iraqi assets to be pooled into a US-controlled fund, while threatening to deny foreign banks who refused to do so the right to conduct business in the US.

International Instability as a result of the war in Iraq

Unilateral and aggressive US military action sets a dangerous precedent in international geopolitics for other rogue nations to follow. It advances the paradigm that “might makes right” and encourages other countries to undertake their own unilateral, “pre-emptive” military actions. It has already led to a more belligerent stance in Israel against the Palestinian people, in violation of peace accords and countless UN resolutions.

Nor is it certain that the US will conclude its militarism with Iraq; on the contrary, subsequent targets in the so-called “Axis of Evil” have been identified, and Syria and Iran have now been warned of “consequences” due to them. According to the Israeli paper Ha'aretz, US Undersecretary of State John Bolton has said that after defeating Iraq, the US would “deal with” Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

War does not make the world safer. Countries who already have WMDs or are pursuing them are now more likely to accelerate their acquisition of said weapons as insurance, in advance of possible military action by the US. This position is supported by the US’s two-faced treatment of Iraq vs North Korea (which is far more likely to possess operational WMDs).

There is real potential for the current situation to spin out of control and set off a regional or global conflagration. Moreover, experts, including the CIA, agree that the current war is likely to catalyse terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs globally.

Even our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Dr Tony Tan has said that with Singapore declaring its support for the US-led action, the Republic could be in the cross-hairs of Al-Qaeda sympathisers and affiliates, such as the Jemaah Islamiah (ST, 22 March, 2003). We agree and must question the wisdom of a position that increases Singapore’s profile as a target while reducing its credibility as a proponent of international law.

Implications for Singapore

The interests of small nations such as Singapore are best served by strict adherence to legal institutions, multilateralism and diplomacy in the resolution of conflicts. We cannot at the same time insist to our neighbours that our disagreements be resolved through international law while supporting flagrant violations of international law elsewhere.

In conclusion, we, the undersigned citizens of Singapore, wish to state our strong condemnation of the US-led war in Iraq and our commitment to encouraging the resolution of international conflicts through the rule of law and the United Nations. While we must work to address the humanitarian crisis brought on by this conflict, it is still important to condemn this illegal, immoral and destabilising war, and demand a stop to it.

We must not give implicit or explicit support to the continuation of aggression by the US or any other nation. We therefore urge the Government of Singapore to reconsider its position in the light of international law, moral responsibility and Singapore’s own long-term interests.

Drafted by Alvin Pang and Toh Hsien Min et al

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