Published on Oct 6, 2013
Significant opposition to the Iraq War occurred worldwide, both before and during the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States, United Kingdom, and smaller contingents from other nations, and throughout the subsequent occupation. People and groups opposing the war include the governments of many nations which did not take part in the invasion, and significant sections of the populace in those that did.
Rationales for opposition include the belief that the war is illegal according to the United Nations Charter, or would contribute to instability both within Iraq and the wider Middle East. Critics have also questioned the validity of the war’s stated objectives, such as a supposed link between the country’s Ba’athist government and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and its possession of weapons of mass destruction “certified” by the Niger uranium forgeries. The latter was claimed by the United States during the run-up to the war, but no such weapons have since been found.
Within the United States, popular opinion on the war has varied significantly with time. Although there was significant opposition to the idea in the months preceding the attack, polls taken during the invasion showed that a majority of US citizens supported their government’s action. However, public opinion had shifted by 2004 to a majority believing that the invasion was a mistake, and has remained so since then. There has also been significant criticism of the war from US politicians and national security and military personnel, including generals who served in the war and have since spoken out against its handling.
Worldwide, the war and occupation have been officially condemned by 54 countries and the heads of many major religions. Popular anti-war feeling is strong in these and other countries, including the US’ allies in the conflict, and many have experienced huge protests totalling millions of participants.
Critics of the invasion claimed that it would lead to the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and soldiers as well as Coalition soldiers, and that it would moreover damage peace and stability throughout the region and the world.
Another oft-stated reason for opposition is the Westphalian concept that foreign governments should never possess a right to intervene in another sovereign nation’s internal affairs (including terrorism or any other non-international affair). Giorgio Agamben, the Italian philosopher, has also offered a critique of the logic of preemptive war.
Others did accept a limited right for military intervention in foreign countries, but nevertheless opposed the invasion on the basis that it was conducted without United Nations’ approval and was hence a violation of international law. According to this position, adherence by the United States and the other great powers to the UN Charter and to other international treaties to which they are legally bound is not a choice but a legal obligation; exercising military power in violation of the UN Charter undermines the rule of law and is illegal vigilantism on an international scale. Benjamin B. Ferencz, who served as the U.S.’s Chief Prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials following World War II, has denounced the Iraq War as an aggressive war (named at Nuremberg as “the supreme international crime”) and stated his belief that George W. Bush, as the war’s “initiator”, should be tried for war crimes.
There was also skepticism of U.S. claims that Iraq’s secular government had any links to Al-Qaeda, the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group considered responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Some expressed puzzlement that the United States would consider military action against Iraq and not against North Korea, which claimed it already had nuclear weapons and had announced that it was willing to contemplate war with the United States. This criticism intensified when North Korea reportedly conducted a nuclear weapons test on October 9, 2006.
There was also criticism of Coalition policy by those who did not believe that military actions would help to fight terror, with some believing that it would actually help Al-Qaeda’s recruitment efforts; others believed that the war and immediate post-war period would lead to a greatly increased risk that weapons of mass destruction would fall into the wrong hands (including Al-Qaeda).
Both inside and outside of the U.S., some argued that the Bush Administration’s rationale for war was to gain control over Iraqi natural resources (primarily petroleum). These critics felt that the war would not help to reduce the threat of WMD proliferation, and that the real reason for the war was to secure control over the Iraqi oil fields at a time when US links with Saudi Arabia were seen to be at risk. “No blood for oil” was a popular protest cry prior to the invasion in March 2003.