Draft Letter by Conyers:
February 20, 1998
The Charter’s presumption of “peaceful means” requires that Security Council authorization for the use of force must be clear and explicit, and not based on strained constructions of arguably vague phrases in seven-year old resolutions.
We would like to bring to your attention a recent op-ed (on the reverse) that appeared in the Legal Times on Monday. The authors, Michael Ratner and Jules Lobel from the Center for Constitutional Rights, were co-counsels in Dellums v. Bush. In this landmark lawsuit, the litigants successfully forced the Bush Administration to obtain prior Congressional approval for the use of force against Iraq.
Ratner and Lobel make a persuasive case that the United States does not have the authority under existing UN resolutions to prosecute a new war against Iraq. Only the UN Security Council has the power to determine if Resolution 687 requiring weapons inspections has been violated and to authorize the use of force to enforce it. They specifically note that the intent of previous Security Council language authorizing the use of force “to restore international peace and security” refers to ejecting Iraq from Kuwait, not enforcing inspections. If force should be used to enforce inspections, that determination must be made formally by the UN Security Council, not unilaterally by the United States.
These concerns also raise serious doubts as to whether the law passed in 1991 by Congress (PL 102-1) is still in effect since that authority was granted pursuant to UN resolution 678, the resolution that permitted the use of force to remove Iraq from Kuwait. But Iraq is no longer in Kuwait, and future steps regarding enforcement must be made by the UN Security Council thereby indicating the consensus of the international community.
We should not permit the administration to circumvent international law and manipulate domestic law because it lacks a long term policy toward Iraq or because it does not have the patience for diplomacy. We hope that you will weigh these considerations seriously if and when the House considers any resolution intended to authorize the use of force in Iraq. If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Carl LeVan in the office of Rep. Conyers at 5-5126.
John Conyers, Jr.
Member of Congress
Memo from Michael Ratner to Rep. Conyers’s Office:
To: Carl LeVan
From: Michael Ratner
Date: February 19, 1998
Carl: Here are some suggested changes that might strengthen it. But the letter is fine as is. Use what you need.
Para 2: Ratner and Lobel make a persuasive case that the United States does not have the authority under existing UN resolutions to prosecute a new war against Iraq. Resolution 687 requiring weapons inspections specifically states that it is the UN Security Council that has the power to determine if its terms are violated and the remedy for such violations. Resolution 687 specifically addressed inspections and therefore supplants the earlier, more general Resolution 678. They specifically note that the intent of previous resolutions etc.
Para 3: These concerns also raise serious doubts as to whether the law passed in 1991 by Congress (P.L. 1-2-1) authorizing the use of force is applicable to the current fight over inspections. UN Resolution 678, the resolution that permitted the use of force to remove Iraq from Kuwait, specifies the resolutions that can be so enforced; it does not include 687. Iraq is no longer in Kuwait etc.