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International Norms and Preventive Warfare: Implications for Global Governance

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On 5 February 2003, US Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered a lengthy address to the United Nations Security Council, charging Iraq with a material breach of its disarmament obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1441. American intelligence agencies, Powell asserted, had evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. “This is true. This is well-documented,” he insisted. After emphasizing the gravity of the threat these weapons posed, Powell reminded his audience of the Iraqi leader's ruthlessness and warned that he would ‘stop at nothing until something stops him.”

Over the next few weeks, US President George W. Bush and other members of his administration reiterated these accusations. On 17 March, Bush claimed that Iraq “continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised,” and threatened military action if Saddam Hussein did not leave the country within 48 hours. When Hussein failed to comply, the United States and its allies launched a series of precision air strikes and swarming ground attacks that quickly overwhelmed Iraqi defenses. Speaking to the nation from the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on 1 May, Bush announced that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”

Yet a year after declaring victory, American and allied troops were locked in fierce fighting with Sunni insurgents in the central Iraqi city of Falluja, and with Shiite militia loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in various southern cities. Though expecting to be welcomed with rice and rose petals, coalition forces came to be seen as occupiers rather than liberators. Meanwhile, the much-touted Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had yet to be found. In a news conference on 2 April 2004, Secretary Powell conceded that some of the intelligence the Bush administration relied upon was not ‘solid.” Acknowledging criticism of the sources used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, he admitted in a 16 May interview on the television program “Meet the Press” that the sources were “inaccurate and wrong …. And for that, I am disappointed and I regret it.”
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2006

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