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Say no to war and yes to peace

Greenpeace is opposed to war and violence; the path to peace is not a violent one and in particular will never be a successful way to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.

Greenpeace flagship the MV Rainbow Warrior blocks the Marchwood Military Port in Southampton today while activists paint an anti-war message on the stern of a military supply vessel as part of the global campaign to prevent a military attack on Iraq.

The 1981 bombing of the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak, by Israel is a good example: the bombing certainly delayed the programme, but it also drove it underground, with the result that whilst Osirak had been monitored by the IAEA, subsequent activities were not. Many members ofthe international community were very surprised by how far the Iraqi programme had developed in the 9 years following the bombing of Osirak. The Iraqi regime simply became even more determined to develop theirnuclear programme following the strikes and committed even more humanand economic resources to it.

Alarmingly some members of the international community seem keen to follow the same path with Iran.

One of the reasons we opposed the War in Iraq was because we believed it set a dangerous and illegal precedent for the use of force. The United Nations Charter prohibits the threat or use of force between States, except in two situations: when authorized by the Security Council to maintain peace and security and as a form of self-defense against armed attack.

Importantly the Charter strictly limits the use of force in self-defense to actual occurrences of armed attack. Some have argued, that preemptive action against an imminent attack is also permissible, but this remains a controversial interpretation with no consensus. Unfortunately recent expansive interpretations have taken the debatable preemption argument even farther, claiming a right of military action against possible attacks that have not yet materialized, effectively justifying "preventive" war.

Use of force is also considered justified under the Charter if authorized by Security Council but importantly only when efforts to address the matter by measures falling short of force have either failed or would have been futile. This is widely considered to mean when there is widespread violence or a humanitarian emergency.

None of this applied in the case of Iraq.

Evenmore alarmingly, nuclear weapons states (NWS) are increasingly talking of preventative use of nuclear as well as conventional weapons.

Historically the NWS have treated nuclear weapons as a weapon only to be used as alast resort, if at all. It has generally been accepted that they wouldonly be used in response to a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attack from another state, or to an attack from a country strongly allied toanother NWS.

But in January 2002 the US revealed in its nuclear posture review that it intended to combine its nuclear and conventional forces into one in distinct force and plan and prepare for nuclear weapons that were much more useable even in conventional conflict:

"A broader array of capability is needed to dissuade states from undertaking political, military, or technical courses of action that would threaten US and allied security … USstrategic forces need to provide the President with a range of options to defeat any aggressor." [US Nuclear Posture Review, 8 January 2002]

Several months later the UK added a new chapter to its Strategic Defence Review that extended the role of nuclear weapons beyond nation States:

"The UK's nuclear weapons have a continuing use as a means of deterring major strategic military threats, and they have a continuing role in guaranteeing the ultimate security of the UK. But we also want it to be clear, particularly to the leaders of states of concern and terrorist organisations, that all our forces play a part in deterrence, and that we have a broad range of responses available." ['The Strategic DefenceReview: A New Chapter', Ministry of Defence, Cm 5566 Vol I, July 2002]

And in January 2006 French President Jacques Chirac followed this lead by very publicly stating that: "…nuclear deterrence is not intended to deter fanatical terrorists. Yet, the leaders of States who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response onour part. And this response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind…"

Whilst Russia has not publicly changed its past public position it is believed to have adopted a similar policy.

What makes this all the more concerning is that the threat or use of nuclear weapons was actually declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 1996.

The latest updates

 

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