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The invasion of Iraq and the mythology of international law

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Although opposition to the Iraq war often relies on legal argument, the illegality of the invasion is not always easy to prove in international law. The sense of the war's illegality was fuelled by the failure of the United States and the United Kingdom to obtain Security Council sanction prior to the invasion. However, this argument is too simple, and the interpreters of law have generally fallen into two camps; those who supported the invasion tend to see the war as legal, and vice versa for opponents of the invasion. This essay examines the legal arguments for and against the war, and comes to the conclusion that international law is often given a normative status in political debate that it does not deserve. Despite its shortcomings, the author argues for a commitment to the utopian potential of international law, even if this potential is not realizable.
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Keywords: 1907 Hague Convention; George W. Bush; Iraq; Saddam Hussein; Tony Blair; UN Resolution 1441; United Kingdom; United Nations; United States; international law

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of East London.

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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