“Humanitarian intervention,” defined simply, is military action taken to prevent or terminate violations of human rights that is directed at and is carried without the consent of a sovereign government. While the main rationale for the invasion of Iraq by the United States was its alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, an important supporting rationale was regime change for humanitarian reasons. When it became clear that there were in fact no WMD, the Bush administration retroactively justified its intervention on humanitarian grounds: getting rid of a repressive dictatorship and imposing democratic rule. The show trial of Saddam for human rights violations now taking place in Baghdad is part of this retroactive effort to legitimize the invasion.
Thursday, 19 January 2006 (Revised version of a speech delivered at the Conference on Globalization, War, and Intervention sponsored by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, German Chapter, Frankfurt, Germany, January 14-15, 2006)