Rebel With a Cause

Paul Goldman

Marquis De Lafayette, Call Home

French legal objections? Come on, they're just smarting over Lance Armstrong owning the Tour de France. The U.S. is enforcing the violation of cease-fire terms of the 1991 Gulf War.


Note: Paul Goldman wrote the main body of this piece on March 18, before hostilities started. He has updated the column to renew his call for Governor Warner and Speaker Howell to jointly sponsor a resolution at the Upcoming Reconvened Session of the General Assembly showing Virginia's support for our troops, a goodly number of them Virginians, and their Commander-in-Chief, President George Bush.

Let me ask you: When was the last time anyone paid attention to a French lawyer, unless she was wearing something slinky without anything underneath? Certainly not anyone who knows anything about the law. And for good reason: French law is not based on English common law, meaning the French are in a legal world unto themselves, as far we Yanks, the Brits and the rest of the English-speaking world are concerned.

Like I say, I prefer my French lawyers with long legs, short skirts and a French farmhouse about 35 miles from Arles. Dream on, you might say. But at least I knew better than try to reason with those French lawyers, all trained by the ones who wrote the WW I peace treaty and the ones who thought they had cut some deal with a guy named A. Hitler.

So, President Chirac, listen up: Truth is, there hasn't been a military brain in France since Napoleon, and there hasn't been a decent French diplomat since Talleyrand.

Despite the French, German and Russian positions taken in the debate before the United Nations Security Council, the Iraq War is legal under generally accepted principles of international law. At the invitation of several countries and resolutions of the United Nations, American forces were asked in 1991 to end the aggression of Iraqi military forces against their neighbors. Yes, it was an international coalition, but in name only, as American forces were authorized and expected to provide the might to end the illegal Iraqi aggression.

We won the war, and in return, the Iraqi government, led by Saddam Hussein, agreed to certain pre-conditions and post-conditions in order to secure a ceasefire and stay in power.

These pre-conditions and post-conditions have not been met. Indeed, there has been a material breach on several conditions, as admitted by the international community in a series of resolutions over a decade running through the most recent U.N. resolution passed last year.

Saddam Hussein now has conceded that he did, in fact, possess weapons banned by the cease-fire conditions subsequent to the cease fire, although he now claims to have destroyed them.

The 1991 cease-fire conditions prohibiting the Iraqi government from possessing certain types of weapons are both legal and historically valid. Indeed, it was Hitler's violation of a WW I treaty requirement that was repeatedly overlooked by the French and the Germans. The WW II peace treaty with Japan likewise banned certain weapons. The resolution of the Cuban Missile crisis likewise banned certain weapons in Cuba.

Thus, demanding that the Iraq government not have certain weapons, and enforcing this demand, is both legal and has historical precedents.

Finally, there is absolute proof that Saddam Hussein's government, as a stated policy, seeks to harm to American interests and that of its allies by whatever means of armed combat is within their means, including the use of such weapons.

On December 11, 1941, America declared war against Germany and Italy, even though they had not yet engaged in formal hostilities against us. Both Axis powers had declared war against us earlier that day, but we surely didn't have to wait to find out whether they really meant it.

In 1962, JFK was prepared to declare war on the Soviet Union, not just Fidel Castro, on account of the Russians putting missiles in Cuba. JFK said that war was necessary as a preventive measure even though neither the Soviets nor the Cubans had fired a shot nor had they stated any aim of using said missiles to start hostilities with the US.

Essentially, it was the logic of the Monroe Doctrine that led to our assertion of the right to protect our interests, and that of our allies in the OAS.

For sure, the OAS supported the quarantine of Cuba, and the stopping of Russian ships on the High Seas, both acts of war in a legal sense under international principles.

But clearly, JFK was not using the OAS as a legal basis for effectively going to war against either Cuba or the Soviet Union, for he would have done the same thing even if the OAS had taken the route of France, Germany and Russia today relative to Iraq.
Bottom line: Legally and historically, the failure of Saddam Hussein to live up to the cease fire conditions, the recognition of such by the international community, and his stated policy of doing harm to American interests by whatever means are at his disposal provides a solid legal justification for waging war.

The idea that any sovereign nation has ceded the right to protect itself unless so permitted by the United Nations charter is not contained anywhere in that charter nor is it a principle of international law, either now or historically.

The Iraq war is legal, there should be no doubts about that -- no matter what the French and their lawyers claim. It is absolutely contemptible for the French to tell Americans, as their troops prepare for battle, that an attack on Iraq would be illegal.

Hypothesized connections between Hussein and 9/11, further plots and terrorist groups miss the legal point: The 1991 cease-fire accord, and the failure of Hussein to abide by its terms in either pre- or post conditions, added to his threats and admissions, provides all the legal basis for war, with UN resolution 1441, at least in my view, added legal justification, not primary.

Enforcing the 1991 cease-fire agreement, which has never been properly implemented by the losing party, is a solid and historical legal basis for the Iraq War.

Moreover, Americans need to make it clear to friend and foe alike that we are united and want the President to pursue the War without fear of any partisan wrangling or positioning for later advantage.

This is not a Democrat or Republican War.

Thus, it would be both useful and proper for Gov. Mark R. Warner, along with Speaker of the House of Delegates Howell, R-Fredericksburg, to announce that they will jointly sponsor a resolution backing our men and women in uniform and their Commander-in-

Chief, given how many of these soldiers are Virginians.

The time has come for the politicians to stand down as the real heroes take their posts.   

-- March 24, 2003

(c) Copyright. All rights reserved. Paul Goldman. 2003.


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Paul Goldman, the Rebel With a Cause, was chief political strategist for the past two winning Democratic governors in Virginia and was credited with leading a "revolution in American politics" by The New York Times for his role in breaking America's 300-year-old color barrier in national politics.


You can reach him at