Alors qu’Anthony Blair présente de bien molles et tardives excuses pour la guerre contre l’Irak, il me semble opportun de publier ici les remarques que j’avais formulées en réponse à un article d’Anne-Marie Slaughter, partisane de cette guerre, qui appelait à laisser de côté la question des responsabilités en attendant que les problèmes soient réglés. Voici donc mes remarques, à la suite desquelles on trouvera son article.
« But it does mean that until we can fix the mess we are in, everyone who cares about what happens both to our troops and to the Iraqi people should force themselves to face up to the hard issues on the ground rather than indulging in the easy game of gotcha »
5 remarks about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s post :
1. There is no logical necessity, in order to fix the mess, that everyone forces themselves to face up to the hard issues on the ground rather than thinking about who was right and who was wrong on the initial invasion. But we understand easily that if everyone were to stop thinking about responsibilities, that would be good for Anne-Marie Slaughter. In fact, placing the debate after the USA fix the mess they caused is the same as pleading for it not to occur, as the mess can’t be fixed unless the question of responsibilities is resolved.
2. The first thing to do in order to fix the mess consists for the USA in making justice for the crimes that took place and are taking place in Iraq since there is no way Iraqi people trust a country that pretends having changed but which relieves itself of the responsibility for its wrong doing. Therefore, the debate about responsibility has its entire place in the debate about how to fix the mess.
3. Hence, the most urgent debate ought to be how the people responsible for the mess must be judged and what reparations must be paid to Iraqi people. For people like Bush, Cheney and consorts, who occupied the top of the chain of commandment there is no difficulty establishing the responsibilities. For direct perpetrators, it will be necessary to examine the situation case by case. For people like Anne-Marie Slaughter who advocated an illegal war, and however their penal responsibility in contributing a crime against peace might be sought out, it seems to me that the most adequate response is political : the administration could refuse to employ them in high posts in Defence or Foreign Affairs. This must not be seen as punishment, but as a matter of coherence, credibility and decency against the world. In particular, the nomination of Anne-Marie Slaughter as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department is unnecessarily arrogant, provocative and insulting for humanity.
4. Since it seems doubtful that United-States justice should be able to judge independently in this matter and since other countries are also implicated, other possibilities may be considered, as the creation of an international court or to turn to jurisdictions abroad whose legislation contains the possibility of suing for crimes against humanity, crimes against peace and war crimes that didn’t take place on their soil. Obviously, the best solution would be Iraqis do the job, but, alas, for that we need the United-States out of the country, and that isn’t going to happen so quickly ; neither it seems likely that those people responsible for the war would be extradited to Iraq.
5. I suggest therefore to revert Anne-Marie Slaughter’s statement as follows : everyone who cares about what happens should take action in order to :
feed the debate about responsibility for the war against Iraq,
demand legal pursuits against people responsible for the war,
demand that the administration excludes persons who advocated war against Iraq from high responsibility posts in Defence and States Department until the United States have repaired the mess those people contributed to create and until the United States have pursued people responsible of the war.
Stop Gotcha Politics on Iraq
The point of the article, entitled « A Duty to Prevent, » was not to approve the war in Iraq, still less to encourage another such venture, but rather to make the point that to improve the chances of effective multilateral responses to situations like the apparent build-up of weapons of mass destruction in a nation under U.N. sanctions it was critical to update multilateral rules and to develop the capacity for preventive action far short of the use of force.
This debate has already gone several rounds. Atlantic blogger Matt Yglesias picked up the same line from the same article and drew the same inference in an op-ed in the LA Times last fall. I emailed him and explained, speaking for myself (I am not advising any campaign):
I would not rule out unilateral action under any circumstances; a nation that had chosen to try unilaterally to stop the genocide in Rwanda in the face of both global and regional inaction would be hard to condemn. Similarly, it is imaginable that the United States or any other nation could conclude that it had absolutely no choice but to use force to defend its vital interests. But the entire point of our article was to minimize the likelihood of either of these situations ever occurring by embracing doctrines in the humanitarian and the non-proliferation area that would spur non-military collective action early in the game and would ensure global or at least regional authorization of force if it came to that. It is worth remembering that Kofi Annan himself told the General Assembly in September 2003, after the invasion of Iraq: It is not enough to denounce unilateralism, unless we also face up squarely to the concerns that make some States feel uniquely vulnerable, since it is those concerns that drive them to take unilateral action. We must show that those concerns can, and will, be addressed effectively through collective action. » Lee and I had been running a roundtable for the American Society of International Law and the Council on Foreign Relations called « Old Rules, New Threats » for several years before the invasion of Iraq; this article was the outgrowth of a lot of that thinking.
Yglesias quoted this paragraph in a subsequent post and added that he found little to disagree with, although he questioned whether it is politically or legally possible to define « vital interests » in a way that does not open the door to unilateral interventions by many countries. That’s a fair question and a fair debate, one that I would happily join with Tom Hayden.
Hayden’s post and many other commentaries surrounding the fifth anniversary of the invasion are a microcosm of the problem with our Iraq policy as a whole. The debate is still far too much about who was right and who was wrong on the initial invasion and far too little about how, in Obama’s formulation, to be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. That does not mean that those of us who were wrong about Iraq — with whatever nuances, explanations, and justifications we might care to offer — do not have a great deal to answer for. We do. But it does mean that until we can fix the mess we are in, everyone who cares about what happens both to our troops and to the Iraqi people should force themselves to face up to the hard issues on the ground rather than indulging in the easy game of gotcha.
I’ll start by offering a metric for how to assess any candidate — and any expert’s — plan for Iraq. The test for the best policy should be the one that is most likely to bring the most troops home in the shortest time (to stop American casualties, begin repairing our military, and be able to redeploy badly needed military assets to Afghanistan), while also achieving the most progress on the goals that the administration stated publicly as a justification for invading in the first place: 1) ensuring that the Iraqi government could not develop nuclear or biological weapons of mass destruction (done); 2) weaken terrorist groups seeking to attack us (this goal was based on false premises then, but is highly relevant now); 3) improve the human rights of the Iraqi people; and 4) establish a government in Iraq that could help stabilize and liberalize the Middle East. No policy can possibly achieve all of those goals. But the policy that offers the best chance on all five measures is the policy we should follow, in my view. And applying those measures to concrete policy proposals is the debate we should be having.