Last month the U.S. House and the Senate both approved a resolution supporting the President"s efforts to carry the United States into a war against Iraq. It is understandable that our representatives are worried about Iraq. But a war against that state would be based on fear and emotion rather than reason and logic, and has the potential to seriously destabilize the international system and world peace. President Bush"s campaign against Iraq undermines international law, the United Nations, the U.S. Constitution, and even the U.S. democratic process. An offensive military attack on Iraq is a violation of international law, pure and simple. The very fundamental bases of international law, sometimes called "general principles" of international law, provide for the "territorial integrity" of all sovereign states, and prohibit attacks by one state on another. While international law sanctions defensive military actions, it in no way allows so-called "pre-emptive" strikes, which the President favors, and such a policy, broadly applied, would be the end of international law as it has developed over the last five centuries. Every state would feel free to launch pre-emptive strikes against any perceived enemy, real or imagined. The United Nations itself is an institution inspired by the ideas and principles of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, and was meant to prevent future wars by providing for multilateral actions under the rubric of collective security. The President"s intent to attack Iraq regardless of UN approval is a violation of the Charter of the UN (and, therefore, also of international law). In the UN, the maintenance of international peace and security is entrusted to the Security Council, where five states have the veto power. This ensures that any military action will require deliberation, consultation and cooperation. Our representatives should be concerned when only one of these five permanent members approves of our aggressive military intentions. If Iraq is indeed such a serious threat to world peace and security, shouldn"t Russia, China and France also be concerned about that? The US Constitution provides for Congress to "declare war." If the President is going to lead this country into a major war (the last war against Iraq resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties), then Congress needs to debate this in a serious way. In the absence of any prior attack by Iraq against the US, we are reduced to assessing Iraq"s intentions or motives. Is there a threat to the US from Iraq? Has Iraq threatened to attack the US or American interests abroad? What might motivate Iraq to attack the US? The President has provided zero evidence of any such motives or intentions by Iraq. Since Iraq has not attacked us or our allies, and has expressed or indicated no intention to do so, what possible reason do we have to declare war on that country? The whole rush to support the President in Congress makes a sham of American democracy. Public opinion does not support a military attack on Iraq without UN sanction. Most Americans think economic issues are more pressing than any threat from Iraq. Congressional mail shows overwhelming opposition to a war on Iraq. Our members of Congress are supposed to be representing the people of the U.S., and should be providing a "check" on presidential power that is at the heart of the U.S. Constitutional system. Yet it seems that they are blindly following the lead of a President who has yet to present a single shred of evidence about Iraq"s hostile intentions towards the United States, or of Saddam"s support for terrorist groups that threaten the United States. In the absence of any hard evidence that Iraq possesses usable weapons of mass destruction, or that Iraq has hostile intentions toward the U.S., or that Iraq is supporting terrorist groups, it is both irrational and counterproductive to launch a military attack on that country. Such an attack would provide an incentive for Saddam to strike back. And if he knows we are intent on destroying his regime, he would have no compunctions about using whatever he can against us. We will cause exactly what we are trying to prevent. The President"s aggressive stance is opposed by our allies, by Iraq"s neighbors, by the United Nations, and by the American public Shouldn"t this make our democratic representatives question what is going on? It is clear that President Bush and his advisors are intent on launching a military attack on Iraq, but such an attack is not inevitable. Our representatives in Congress, especially those courageous ones who voted against the resolution, should keep up the pressure on the Administration to prove the necessity of war, to provide demonstrable evidence of the need to attack Iraq, and to elicit the support of our allies and the United Nations in that effort. David Mason is a professor of political science at Butler University, where he teaches courses in international and comparative politics.

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