September 11


In a post September 11 world, the confusion and fear pumped into the American population powered the engine behind the Iraq War. The inability of the United Nations Security Council to prevent to 2003 invasion of Iraq has sparked questions over wether this situation has spelt the death of international law, and that the United Nations is heading the same way as the failed League of Nations. In this essay I will explore both sides to this topic and discuss how international law has not died but merely failed in keeping up with ever-changing global circumstances and events.


In a brief backgrounding, international lawyers from around the world have been arguing the legitimacy of America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and have formed two separate views. Both sides have evidence of their theory being legal under international law.


Theory One – An illegal invasion led by the United States: Under the United Nations Charter, of which the United States is a signatory, it was illegal for America to invade Iraq as the charter says that only the United Nations has legal authority to start wars.[1] The single exception to the UN’s legal authority to start war is of national self-defence against armed attack – not future possible attacks as the United States used as a justification to the invasion.[2] “It was largely to prevent such offensive wars that the United States and its allies created the United Nations at the end of World War II.”[3]


Theory Two – The United States of America legally entered Iraq: After the Gulf War in the early 1990s, where Iraq had illegally entered Kuwait, the United Nations had drawn up a set of provisions of cease-fire to which Iraq were to comply to. In 1993, when Iraq failed to abide by the provisions, the United States and its allies entered the Gulf and used force to remove Iraq from Kuwait. In 1998, the British, United States and the United Nations Security Council had to remind Iraq it was in material breach of the cease-fire conditions by failing to allow UN inspectors into Iraq to see Weapons of Mass Destruction if any. Iraq was again bombed after Sadam Hussain kicked Weapons inspectors out of the country. Five years later, the world was devistated by the events of September 11, the Western World are led by fear. As Professor Wylan explained to Hobart Law Students, in his address on the legality of the US led invasion of Iraq, in August 2004; because there was no expiry date of the UN’s provisions, America had right to use force in Iraq in 2003, when the Iraqi Government breached the cease-fire provisions of the 1990s.[4]


Where the United Nations and international law have gone wrong: It must be noted that since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, there have been many occasions where states have directly violated the UN charter, some using illegal armed force.[5] The United States 2003 led invasion of Iraq has not been the first time where it has been said that the United Nations regime and International Law have collapsed.[6]


Instead it must be clearly pointed out that the United Nations has only failed with the dealing of new and emerging circumstances, threats and challenges and dealing with them as they occur.[7] What has become obviously clear since 2001, is that international law and the United Nations charter were set up only equipped to deal with the ‘interaction of states’ not organizations that are uncontrolled to a set state such as terrorism groups.[8] The grounds set by the September 11 attacks on the United States will undoubtedly open a new precedent in the way international law is conducted with these non-state groups.


It has also been noted many times before that on the building of the United Nations charter the “international community failed to anticipate accurately when force would be deemed acceptable”.[9] The charter also fails to provide adequate disincentives to states when armed force is deemed unacceptable.[10]


Another problem sees that the United Nations seek to apply a ‘one size fits all approach to development’ which clearly does not work in international law or politics.[11] In a world of very diverse cultures and backgrounds, the dealings with each separate case must be seen specifically as a different situation. In