Last updated on: 1/30/2009 4:11:00 AM PST
Did the humanitarian crisis in Iraq warrant intervention?



PRO (yes)

George W. Bush, MBA, 43rd US President, stated in remarks to the press concerning the House Leadership Agreement on the Iraq Resolution on Oct. 2, 2002:

"On its present course, the Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency. We know the treacherous history of the regime. It has waged a war against its neighbors; it has sponsored and sheltered terrorists; it has developed weapons of mass death; it has used them against innocent men, women and children.

We also know the nature of Iraq's dictator. On his orders, opponents have been decapitated and their heads displayed outside their homes. Women have been systematically raped as a method of intimidation. Political prisoners are made to watch their own children being tortured. The dictator is a student of Stalin, using murder as a tool of terror and control within his own cabinet, within his own army, even within his own family."

Oct. 2, 2002 - George W. Bush, MBA 



Robert Kagan, PhD, and William Kristol, PhD, co-founders of the Project for the New American Century, wrote in their Feb. 27, 2004 paper "The Right War for the Right Reasons," published by the Project for the New American Century:

"It is fashionable to sneer at the moral case for liberating an Iraqi people long brutalized by Saddam's rule. Critics insist mere oppression was not sufficient reason for war, and in any case that it was not Bush's reason. In fact, of course, it was one of Bush's reasons, and the moral and humanitarian purpose provided a compelling reason for a war to remove Saddam... For the people of Iraq, the war put an end to three decades of terror and suffering. The mass graves uncovered since the end of the war are alone sufficient justification for it."

Feb. 27, 2004 - William Kristol, PhD 
Robert Kagan, PhD 



Fernando R. Tesón, SJD, LLM, JD, Tobias Simon Eminent Scholar at Florida State University College of Law, wrote in his May 2005 paper, "Ending Tyranny In Iraq":

"Because critics of the war Iraq fail to distinguish between intention and motive, they hastily dismiss the Coalition’s operation as a candidate for humanitarian intervention. Yet once we draw that distinction we can plausibly defend the intervention in Iraq on humanitarian grounds. The Coalition intended to topple Saddam, committed to doing it, did it, and moreover, committed itself to helping Iraqis reconstruct their ravaged society on the basis of a liberal constitution, human rights, democracy, and creating the conditions for economic recovery."

May 2005 - Ending Tyranny In Iraq (319 KB)  
Fernando Tesón, SJD, LLM, JD 



CON (no)

Barack Obama, JD, US Senator (D-IL) at the time of the quote, stated at the Jan. 18, 2005 Condoleezza Rice nomination hearing:

"I guess what I'm trying to figure out here -- and this is particular to military action and military incursions -- do we have a well thought through doctrine that we can present to the world that explains when we feel that military action is justified and when it is not? Apparently, it's not justified in Sudan, where there's a genocide taking place. It wasn't justified in Rwanda, despite, I think, a unanimity that that was one of the greatest tragedies that occurred in my lifetime. There are a number of circumstances in which we have felt that such incursions or nation-building are not appropriate, despite the evidence of great tyranny, and yet in Iraq and perhaps in Iran and perhaps in other circumstances we think it is."

Jan. 18, 2005 - Barack Obama, JD 



Human Rights Watch wrote in its 2004 Annual World Report in the section "War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention":

"In considering the criteria that would justify humanitarian intervention, the most important, as noted, is the level of killing: was genocide or comparable mass slaughter underway or imminent? Brutal as Saddam Hussein’s reign had been, the scope of the Iraqi government’s killing in March 2003 was not of the exceptional and dire magnitude that would justify humanitarian intervention. We have no illusions about Saddam Hussein’s vicious inhumanity. Having devoted extensive time and effort to documenting his atrocities, we estimate that in the last twenty-five years of Ba`th Party rule the Iraqi government murdered or 'disappeared' some quarter of a million Iraqis, if not more. In addition, one must consider such abuses as Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers. However, by the time of the March 2003 invasion, Saddam Hussein’s killing had ebbed.

There were times in the past when the killing was so intense that humanitarian intervention would have been justified... But on the eve of the latest Iraq war, no one contends that the Iraqi government was engaged in killing of anywhere near this magnitude, or had been for some time. 'Better late than never' is not a justification for humanitarian intervention, which should be countenanced only to stop mass murder, not to punish its perpetrators, desirable as punishment is in such circumstances."

2004 - Human Rights Watch World Report 2004 (1.6 MB)  
Human Rights Watch (HRW) 



Gareth Evans, LLB, MA, President of the International Crisis Group, stated on Mar. 10, 2003 to the Council on Foreign Relations:

"The trouble with trying to mobilize that rationale [humanitarian intervention] in the context of Iraq at the moment, is that while still behaving abominably in terms of civil rights violations and treatment of his political opponents and so on, it's very difficult to argue that the last 10 years, in fact, Saddam has behaved in such a way ... genocidally in terms of ethnic cleansing and so on ... such as would justify a military assault against him for reasons of protection of the internal population. You know, the case was very available ten years or more ago. It's simply not so available now. And if you tried to make the case in those terms, you really would be opening up a Pandora's Box of precedents for elsewhere. And the international community is, rightfully, I think, very cautious about that. So, although you can argue that there is a responsibility to protect and at best in the international community as well as governments themselves, and it's very difficult to use that, I think, as a rationale for going to war now, at the moment."

Mar. 10, 2003 - Gareth Evans, LLB, MA