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Could the 2003 Invasion of Iraq Be Considered a Legitimate Humanitarian Intervention?

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From the point of view of the international law, humanitarian intervention may be defined as a forcible interference in the legitimate state governance for the primary purpose of protecting the subjects from oppression and abuse by its own government (Hill 2009). It should be noted that this definition has been influenced by Kantian ethics, which has to deal with the rights of a sovereign state that was internationally recognized and allows cautious humanitarian intervention grounds in extreme circumstances. However, the humanitarian intervention definitions may differ slightly, but its basic meaning is the action taken by one state on behalf of victims of another (Nardin 2005). Humanitarian intervention is also treated as an action that was executed only after intense deliberation focusing on the proportionality criteria and reasonable hope. It is the threat or use of force by a group of states  or a single state for the purpose of protecting the target state nationals from the widespread loss of internationally recognized human rights (Murphy 1996, p. 11-12). This affects the course and outcome of internal conflicts (MacFarlane et al. 2004; Rogier 2004; Wheeler  2000).

Taking on the intervention task must result in more good than harm and there should be a strong belief in the intervention success. Hence, it is not enough only to be right (Fixdal & Smith 1998). Humanitarian intervention posesses a hard test for the society that is internationally built on the principles of non-intervention,  sovereignty and the non-use of force (Bellamy & Wheeler 2005).

The United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 has been the center of a continuing debate. Furthermore, many motivations were presented for starting this invasion, the most disputable reason was that it was under humanitarian intervention. Since that time, academics try to find out what cases provoke a humanitarian intervention and if this is applicable to the Iraqi invasion. Nowadays, there are only a few supporters saying that Iraq was a completely legal humanitarian intervention. When these human rights are jeopardized, the idea known as the Responsibility to Protect takes place. Basically, it shows that when governments are having a huge humanitarian problem in their country and the government is probably unwilling or has no ability to prevent it or when the government is thoroughly promoting the human rights violation, the international community should intrude. Also, it has been said that when a regime is tyrannical to its subjects, a moral obligation shows up to intrude and end the tyranny. But, the counter-argument states that the regime character is not a reason for intervention, it means to decrease the humanitarian intervention threshold. Therefore, the discussion is relentless and very important concerning the future and the generic state of humanitarian intervention. Also, this issue will be highlighted, concentrating only on the moral legitimacy of intervention when taking down a tyrannical government.

The Iraqi Freedom operation began with a series of missile attacks on Baghdad. It happened on March 20, 2003. Three weeks later, the Coalition which was U.S. -led gained control over the city. It turned into a long-term occupation. Coalition leaders promised that they would remove a threat to the U.S. and its allies, and improve the lives of Iraqi people (Bellamy 2004). They pledged to liberate the Iraqis from oppression and tyranny by erecting a liberal democracy and demolishing the previous regime. Coalition leaders claimed that it was their act of humanitarian intervention. Humanitarian intervention was only one of the invasion justifications.

In order to find out whether the regime of Saddam Hussein can be considered as a tyranny, it is necessary to understand how a tyranny is determined. The global order includes sovereign states with self-defined rights, including the right that a government can define how it will maintain its subjects on its ground (Nardin 2005). When a political regime turns harsh upon its own nation, it will be considered as a tyranny. If the government follows significant breaches of human rights, it will be unfaithful to the objective of its existence. Even more, it can be considered abuse of power and too much government. Saddam Hussein is one of the heavy abusers of the human rights. The 2003 Iraq War cannot be considered a legal case of humanitarian intervention. Human Rights Watch says that humanitarian intervention is only legitimate when ‘continuing or inevitable genocide, or mass killings or loss of life.’ (Roth 2004, p.1) This points out that the war in Iraq would not establish a legal humanitarian intervention because the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein’ had been the Iraqi government’s slaughter in March 2003 and was not of the dire dimension that would make humanitarian intervention legitimate. (Roth 2004, p. 6) Kenneth Roth says that there were times when events in Iraq were so harsh that it was legal to intervene such as in the 1988 mass slaughter of Kurds. But, it is also indisputable that the Iraqi people still suffers under a harsh regime it is considerable that before taking the substantive danger to life that is inevitable part of any war, mass killing should be taking place and is inevitable. That was not Saddam Hussein’s case in Iraq, 2003 (Roth 2004, p. 2).

Considering everything that was mentioned above, the issue to what extent Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a tyranny can be given an answer. During Hussein's rule at about 100.000 Kurdish people were killed in 1988, more than 300.000 Shia people were slaughtered after the war in 1991 and followed by 40.000 Arabic people. There are single mass graves including the 30.000 people bodies, found in desert of Iraq (Teson2005). Additionally, millions of people were removed and between 1968 and 2003, the dates are not accurate, a more than millions of people were executed. But, it should be taken into consideration that during the invasion in 2003 it seemed that Hussein did not commit any novel cruelties (Teson 2006). No doubt, that Hussein's regime can be determined as a tyranny. His tyrannical rule led to the misery of millions of civilians. Even when, the government will without any doubt treat somebody improperly, Saddam Hussein's iniquity is so burial that only tyranny is the proper definition here.

The United Nations is considered to be a strong proponent of the non-intervention principle and with a limited humanitarian intervention doctrine. Therefore, it is unlikely to find humanitarian intervention consent when the bar is lowered (Wheeler & Morris 2006). The existence of a threat to international security, peace and the humanitarian disaster imminence is essential to establish the fact that in case states are using force, they are carrying out the international community will. It has been studies that only the most rigorous crimes are worth the high costs of military force (Teson 2005). It is evident that every war brings about casualties and injustice, but even the understanding genocide is treated as a demanding intervention.

The question is whether military intervention aimed at ending both tyranny human rights abuses. Ending a tyranny leaves no room for rescuing people in need. Instead of relieving the harm inflicted victims, the intervener wages a long war with the oppressive regime which is later replaced with a new one. It is believed that the crimes that are committed by the government are delineating its regime. Ending a tyranny is usually treated at a way to neutralize an enemy, especially in the case of Iraq (Teson 2005). The outcomes of 2003 Iraq War are about 111, 407 – 121, 754 people deaths, 1.9 million removed people within Iraq and 2 million refugees (Iraq Body Count; Iraq's Humanitarian Crisis n.d.). Lots of this has happened due to rebellion and terrorism that had taken place after the invasion. Also, some say that this could not be predicted, such an argument only shows the significance of following international standards that do not allow intervention. It also points out how were Coalition governments guilty for a failed plan for the post-war condition. The enormous pain brought about by the war encourages that acts of humanitarian intervention must be used in very special cases. The in Iraq was supported by three main arguments: the Saddam Hussein threat because of his pursuit or possession of mass destruction weapons, that the regime of Iraqi was meant to have links with terrorist groups including al Qaeda and that the fact that the war was believed to save the Iraqi people from the abuser of serial human rights like Saddam Hussein (The 2003 Iraq War: Was it a humanitarian intervention? 2013).

When the humanitarian intervention is counterproductive to the action intention it would be an international humanitarian law breach. Surprisingly, but it has been claimed that the loss of life was worth international humanitarian law violations. However, morality is absent in humanitarian intervention when torture is acceptable and permissible. Hussein has committed a huge number of horrific and violent crimes in the past (Teson 2005). When Hussein was left in power his actions would have been inhumane (Wheeler & Morris 2006). Humanitarian intervention contributes that there should be an imminent and probable case of intent and ability to inflict harm (Evans 2004). The 2004 report of Human Rights Watch stated that the crimes committed by Hussein during the intervention time, were not of such a fierce and severe nature as humanitarian intervention (Roth 2010).

Obviously, ending a tyranny is not enough to provide humanitarian intervention as it will not concentrate on the humanitarian ease, except overthrowing the regime; But, there is other cause for decreasing the threshold to bring tyranny to an end, which is changing the cruel regime with a democratic one (Teson 2005). From this point of view, deploying a democracy is guaranteed if the appointed state is placed in a region where democracy is a preserved notion for the area. It is still allowed even in regions were democracy is less shown. In addition, to preserve the existence of liberty in the United States, all states must be liberal democracies. The country has mainly minority groups that different, like Kurdish and Sunni people and Shiite the largest group. The former two are scared of last ones domination. If a democracy is used on these people, granting everybody the right to vote is the same as causing a civil war. Since, liberty is the proper solution, and not more. An authoritarian regime must not certainly be a tyrannical regime. Secondly, the concentration of the war is now on the intervening state security and concern. Shortly speaking, instead of preserving human rights, it is preserving the concerns of the intervening state and deploys a system under the control of that state (Nardin 2005). No one will have the possibility to find the humanitarian share in the intervention. Nardin tries to define humanitarian intervention focused at deploying a liberated regime as a new type of imperialism. Humanitarian intervention is defined as a way not to cause a revolution or suspend state existence. The United States values are not versatile and cannot be used in every country (Wheeler & Morris 2006). In general, to throw down a tyrant and change him with for a liberal democracy is an imperial plan which can be considered as humanitarian intervention, and nowhere in that plan is the issue for protecting the human rights of violated ones.

During Saddam’s rule, horrible events had taken place in Iraq, millions of civilians were killed. There is no doubt, that Saddam Hussein can be called a tyrant. However, the development of humanitarian intervention targeted at ending a tyranny and was not considered to be the proper method and it means that the point of developing humanitarian intervention is missed. Humanitarian intervention is a state that helps and provides security to victims of human right violation. Ending a tyranny is a struggle of a whole new dimension and is not considered a humanitarian intervention. This reason rests on two statements: high threshold is a quality of humanitarian intervention, meaning that only in case of an inevitable and possible massacre it is legitimate to intervene; it seems to prevent upcoming aggression. The standard of non-intervention should be appreciated in this respect. Ending a tyranny is like changing it with for a democratic regime. This is not acceptable as the concentration of the intervention will be on deploying a democracy and not the humanitarian relief that should be the only purpose of the intervention.

Expansion of the notion of humanitarian intervention that ends tyranny will imminently lead to the degradation of humanitarian intervention position. Decreasing the threshold would give the possibility for some interventions that could be considered humanitarian; ending the new imperialism era, where the powerful dominate the poor, on this occasion every regime that is not democratic. If the Iraq war, which purpose was a tyrant overthrow, is stated to be a humanitarian intervention, it will sharpen the progress of the deployment of the current humanitarian intervention standard. A standard really needed because the international community cannot be neutral to the grave violations of the right to dwell.

The Iraq War lays some doubts over the western governments foreign policies and of wars that are almost or completely allegedly humanitarian, this does not prove that humanitarian intervention is always bad. The method used by Human Rights Watch, whereby humanitarian intervention is only legitimate in special cases, seems to outline the line between supporting important international standards and also providing security for civilians. War in Iraq was not a legal war of humanitarian intervention and we should be more careful of such wars (The 2003 Iraq War: Was it a humanitarian intervention? 2013).

It is obvious, when a tyrant ruthlessly abuses the rights of people, it would pose a threat of humanitarian intervention. In addition, it would push the humanitarian intervention boundaries to such an extent to include a tyranny ending that will only end in case of dismissal of the entire humanitarian intervention principle. It will never be forgotten how horrific and deeply inhumane the dictator Saddam Hussein was. The numbers of Iraqi civilians who were killed by his regime is around 290,000.  The horrors of the Saddam Hussein’s regime were emphasized by the war proponents (Clwyd 2004).

The Iraq invasion failed to meet the humanitarian intervention test. It is evident that the killing in Iraq at the time cannot be viewed as those of the exceptional nature that would justify such intervention. Moreover, it has been studied that intervention was not the last reasonable option which was implemented to stop Iraqi atrocities. It was not motivated by humanitarian concerns and was not conducted to maximize compliance with international humanitarian law. At the time it was launched it seemed to be reasonable to believe that the Iraqis would be better off.

The war in Iraq highlights the need for a better understanding of military intervention justification in humanitarian terms. Humanitarian intervention appears to be an important and appropriate response to people who experience facing mass slaughter. In the absence of international consensus on the intervention conditions, governments are going to abuse the concept. Human Rights Watch calls on to end putting taboos on discussing the humanitarian intervention conditions (War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention n.d.).

It is important to set strict criteria for using military force with the aim to protect human rights. This is explained by the fact that because an open-ended definition of humanitarian intervention lets leaders go to war when the war aim and its outcome is not actually the rescue of innocent people (Chatterjee & Scheid 2003; Haass 1995; MacFarlane 2002; Mayall 2000). It is of vital importance to provide international norms with the ability to intervene in other countries. This necessity is caused by the examples from history when self-interested and destructive wars were painted as benevolent and selfless acts.

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