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Friday, October 27, 2006

American Coup in Iraq: War Crime Or Requirement?

We discuss some of the risks associated with an American-backed coup in Iraq.

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An American military coup in Iraq will not likely solve any problem, except create the illusion of doing something. Wishing America succeeds is much different than allocating resources to succeed.

Regardless how the coup is implemented, the American leadership remains accountable for violations of the Geneva requirements.


The American-backed coup in Iraq will likely fail, and compound the regional instability issues. The Iraqi insurgents will splinter into additional factions fighting two legitimate – in their minds – enemies worthy of military targeting: The Iraqi central government and US combat forces which defied the Iraqi Constitution.

The American-backed coup will be additional evidence for war crimes prosecutors.

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Ref: How will a coup possibly control a civil war?

History of American Coups in Iraq Since 2003

It would be incorrect to suggest an American coup in Iraq would be an unprecedented event. The original US illegal invasion was a coup.

America has a history of failed coups in Iraq. Once the Iraqi civilians elected a new government, the United States has been in effect waging in unsuccessful second coup against the Sadr government the Americans put into power. The second couple has failed; a third one will compound the problems of the second and first.

The Americans have had three years to develop success criteria for the current government operations. There's little to suggest the Americans have developed credible success criteria for the third coup, much less achieve them. At best, the success criteria will be developed after the third disaster to most likely match the most optimistic characterization of the deficiencies.

Put aside what the United states did or didn't do in Louisiana after Katrina. Iraq is marked by daily decimation, and the US is unable to deliver water or power. The US has enough trouble providing security to the small green zone, much less implement a coup.

To suggest the US will repeat the Thai coup fails to capture the distinguishing elements of Iraq: Thailand is stable, only one person was removed, the nation was not decimated by war or long sanctions, and the armed forces enjoyed popular support. There is no credible comparison to Iraq where the situation is rapidly deteriorating, an entire system would be replaced with less American support, and the American-Iraqi resource pipelines are insecure.

Iraq is unresponsive to but feeding on violence; force and the rule of law are meaningless, especially to Iraqi insurgents who see the American hypocrisy of using illegal force to arbitrarily impose abusive justice. A coup will not change anything, but remove one semi-legitimate controlling force: the rule of law. Removing this option doesn't mean the Iraqis will be more responsive to force or the rule of law. Nothing will change to make the Iraqis respond to what they have no reason to consider.

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Coup #3

The prospect of a third American-backed military coup in Iraq raises some interesting issues. There are three contrasting legal threads:

1. America, as an occupying power, has a Geneva obligation to ensure stability and security.

2. One court stated the US had no jurisdiction to prevent an American from being executed.

3. When it comes to issues of accountability, the courts have ruled that the American-backed government is not sufficiently linked with the United States to attach liability.

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One of the arguments the Administration used to support the invasion of Iraq was to spread freedom and democracy. It would be an irony for the United States to back a military coup to preserve stability. Saddam is likely proud of his vision.

There are three interwoven issues:

[1] Can the United States leadership be held accountable for failing to maintain order;

[2] As the Iraqi civil war spreads, is the United States obligated to honor the democratically elected government; or

[3] Do Americans have the obligation to support a humanitarian intervention, institute martial law, and overthrow the Constitutional system it originally supported?

These are false choices. The same system which failed prior to the 2003 invasion is likely to stumble again in 2006 with the military coup, but with more disastrous results. America has fewer resources to do what is more difficult. Read="If you think it's a mess now, wait until after the coup."

Indeed, Americans can be held accountable for failing to maintain order. The situation in Iraq is an exclusive American-made disaster. The US always has the option to publicly admit defeat, relinquish sovereignty, and ask other nations to lawfully assume governance over the American resources.

Barring the extreme, there are other options, short of a coup, which the Americans could exercise:

[a] Accept defeat; pull out of the Middle East; leave Israel to fend for itself; and military compel the Israelis to honor the original boundaries of the 1940s, and turn over land the Palestinians. Far too pragmatic.

[b] Stop hiding and openly work with Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah to create a system of governance in Iraq that recognizes the Americans have no power or influence in the region. Halliburton and Cheney will be upset – oh, well.

[c] Bring back another Saddam and let him take the blame. This is a coup.

[d] Squander more resources around the globe, ignore economic challenges in Africa, and continue to blame the world for American powerlessness. This hasn’t worked.

[e] Work with regional actors to create export markets in Africa, and financially reward those nations which transform their governance. Why do something that might work?

[f] Accepting American defeat in Iraq, supporting the existing government; and working with the Iraqi insurgents to secure additional wealth and power through their voluntary cooperation with regional and international development efforts. America will have to prove that it can do something worldwide which it failed to demonstrate when it moved on its own schedule in Iraq.

America has chosen [c]. We discuss.

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Rule of Necessity Vs. Legal Theory

There are two crimes, leading to a third: The original illegal invasion; and the US failure to maintain security. The subsequent crime was to fail to ensure the legally elected officials were lawfully supported. The US has taken a different approach: Creating, through malfeasance, an unacceptable security disaster; then create artificial timelines and benchmarks the Iraqi leadership cannot meet.

Implementing a coup does not absolve the United States of the original crimes. A failure to plan for and maintain security, thereby meeting the Geneva legal requirements, does not make the United States officials immune to international war crimes.

The subsequent civil war does not create a nexus which the US can resolve, thereby insulating itself from the original Geneva obligations and liabilities.

As of late October 2006, the American political goal in Iraq has not been to ensure security, but to position the Iraqi civilian leadership to take responsibility for the Geneva violations. This duty legally rests with the United States as an occupying power.

The President has announced a timeline and benchmarks. These are meaningless. The unachievable benchmarks are arbitrary standards attached to an arbitrary timeline. The President’s objective is not to ensure accountability; had that been the goal, he would have applied that standard to himself going forward from 2001.

The Iraqi leadership is being positioned to fail, thereby supporting a US-led effort to replace the elected, lawful civilian leadership.

Whether the new, military-backed Iraqi leadership is more effective is meaningless. The ultimate aim of the United States is to create the appearance of doing what it has failed to do: Maintain security.

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The United States Geneva obligations are not satisfied by spreading new jam on old bread. The risk with the military coup isn’t that it might be implemented, but that it could fail; the consequences of the coup could be unmanageable; or the security situation no better.

Attached with the Geneva requirements are the obligations to more than security, but see the civilians under occupation are protected. This includes the security of logistics pipelines to deliver fuel, food, and raw materials. A military coup will compound these already pervasive sustenance problems.

Once the United States backs a military coup, the United States cannot say the instability, and Geneva obligations, rest with the new military leadership. Because the United States would have supported the coup and provided instrumental assistance to ensure the coup was carried to full effect, this would more closely attach the United States to the Geneva obligations.

The resources to put the original 2003 invasion into effect were insufficient for the full Geneva requirements. There’s little to suggest, given Katrina, that US planning has modernized, especially when the crisis is on a timetable America freely chooses.

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It remains to be seen how we might define success in Iraq after a Military-backed coup.

  • Would the security situation improve;

  • Would the United States Geneva obligations be better satisfied;

  • What if the factions favor the elected-civilian leadership over the military; or would that become irrelevant, despite the prospect that the faction support for the civilians might exacerbate the civil war and factions.

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    Iraq’s problem is it has, by choice and design, a weak central government. Imposing a military coup is not the same as supplanting a strong military leader.

    Whoever is the leader, or part of the committee after the coup must manage the same situation which has confounded the joint American-Iraqi security efforts. A coup would have us believe by decree alone the rules had changed; or there would be a more effective group in place to manage what has not been manageable: A civil war.

    At worst, the military coup would exacerbate the ethnic strife, where factions would choose not simply between a faction, and whether they are for or against a faction that may be for or against the coup. Simplistically, if we were to assume that there were three factions in the civil war, a coup could split the factions in half, creating six factions, equally intent to prevail. This hardly solves any problem.

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    A military coup in Iraq means the United States admits that democracy has failed; and that international legal obligations can only be met through the threat of and actual use of force.

    Whether the United States has received the blessings of Middle East regional actors hardly amounts to a democratic process, only the assent to the inevitable: Democracy, as a pretext for war, has failed as a pretext for occupation.

    Suppose the 600,000 deaths in Iraq since the US invasion is true. Even the most cynical of Iraqis could hardly be rebuked for comparing the military coup with Saddam’s result: The only difference is the flag under which the abuse was committed.

    The American leaders’ call for “stay the course” or “we must stand by the Iraqis” is hardly believable as American combat forces stand shoulder to shoulder with the Iraqi coup leaders.

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    Revisiting Failed 2000-2003 Iraq Invasion Planning

    It’s likely the American coup-related planning will suffer from the same defects which plagued the original invasion and subsequent occupation:

  • Unrealistic expectations, assumptions

  • Ignored forecasts, warnings

  • Inadequate regional coordination

    If America, prior to the coup, had sufficient regional cooperation to support the coup, why is it unable to secure the same regional cooperating to support regional objectives. We can only speculate which agreements the Americans have privately made which would undermine the stated policies and objectives of the American administration.

    It is likely the Americans have continued to privately cooperate with Syria and Iran, further discrediting their public calls for their destruction. America’s public defiance of Iranian nuclear power ambitions is hardly credible given the American requirement to secure Iranian endorsement of American coup plans in Iraq.

    In the worst case, if the Americans have not notified the Iranians of the coup, and the coup splits Iraq into additional factions, Iran will hardly be sympathetic to additional instability driving Iraqis to escape in Iran.

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    America’s problem, and the argument behind the coup, has been the inability to create a stable regional force. It remains to be seen how the Americans will organize this poorly organized, trained, and equipped force to execute and secure the military coup. It is possible American military requirements after the coup would be further stretched, and the additional factions would exploit the increased instability.

    We saw, despite the many years of possible preparation, the Americans did not effectively plan for the results in the post-Saddam era. Just as America waved a wand saying Saddam was unacceptable, the Americans had no effective resources or plan to mange the well forecasted problems.

    The coup could forseeably be seen by the Iraqis as an abuse of central power which all Iraqis might commonly agree must be overthrown and destroyed. Indeed, the coup could backfire and precipitate, as did the American invasion, the very problem the coup supposedly was orchestrated to prevent.

    American distaste for civil war does not necessarily translate into a solution for civil war; hatred of Saddam did not produce a solution, but a military option to an American-fueled breakdown of Iraq law and order. Incredibly, it was the President who pointed to violence suggesting Democracy would change the cycle of despotism and abuse.

    If there too much abuse, the Americans can always rely on their ineffectual military power to force the Iraqi civilians to accept the coup [sarcasm]. Unlike South East Asian nations which are at peace, it is not likely the Iraqi civilians or regional actors behind the civil war will freely assent to a military-imposed order, especially if that rule and order defies their vote, or compels them to assent to a joint Iraqi-American dictatorship.

    * * *

    It was an error to disband the Iraqi army. It remains to be seen how the same force, which the Americans have not effectively or timely trained to do what they once did, will be in a position to support and secure Iraq after the American-backed coup.

    America is stuck with its arrogant hubris. It relied on a myth of WWII and Cold War victories as the pretext to spread the American model, relying on defective American planning.

    Regional actors are hardly in a position, nor do they have the responsibility, to rescue the Americans unless America offers them something more valuable than what America could not offer prior to the 2003 invasion. With its weakened position, it remains to be seen what or how the Americans will offer to regional actors in exchange for their support. An American promise of a better way of life is hardly believable.

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    American Leadership Problems

    Rather than solve problems, American leaders have been adept at blaming others for not solving their mess. Minority parties are not in a position, nor do they have the legal power or requirement to, execute policy.

    Addington and Cheney have bemoaned the Congressional encroachment on Presidential power; now that they have the power, they cannot credibly blame Congress, or point to a minority party as the problem. This problem is a unique Republican problem. It is not the requirement of the Democratic Party to offer a more viable solution, especially when the Democrats are not part of the decision making process to put the coup into effect.

    Cheney and Addington have isolated themselves. The Iraqi instability was discussed before the invasion, and the necessary resources to manage the instability were rejected.

    The Republican party cannot credibly argue that the Democrats have a duty to provide a better solution. The Democrats, even if they had a solution, would remain in no position to compel the President to do anything, unless the President agrees. Contrary to some claims that the Democrats are going to do or not do anything, the Republicans have yet to explain why the President will not exercise his veto power.

    If the Democrats are going to accomplish anything, it will only be if the President refuses to exercise his veto; or, upon using the veto, the Democrats can get 2/3 of each house to agree. Whether the Democrats control either house will not change whether the Republicans do or do not vote as a block. The Democrats, even if they control the Congress, will have to do something new to encourage some of the Republicans to break ranks, defy the President, and support the Democrats in overriding the veto.

    Any claim that the Democrats are going to do anything or they have the responsibility to do anything is meaningless. Addington and Cheney have well fought for the unitary execute: They have it, and they alone can swim through the cess pool they have well created in Iraq.

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    American Regional Challenges

    (1) Substantially Weakened "Credibility of American Power"

    - American Power A discussion of what Syria and Iran have been tangibly offered that they were not previously given or promised before.

    - Credibility of Power: That despite weakened positions, the Americans are in a position to compel anyone to cooperate with the military coup, or offer something of value for their silence.

    (2) No credibility associated with American Planning

    - Ability to Adjust: Convincing the world that, despite American failed planning prior to the 2003 invasion, something has changed.

    - Credibility of Solution: Despite a weakened position, securing regional support in 2006 for another illegal operation which the US could not secure in 2002-2003.

    - Credibility of Forecasts: Demonstrating that the likely outcomes are more credible and favorable than the outcomes forecasted in 2003, or the conditions which have been realized.

    (3) Ineffective of Resource Allocation

    A discussion of the manning requirements on the Americans, in terms of a military draft, to maintain US combat capability despite the prospect of greater instability. The first forecasts and requirements were ignored: Ref; there's no reason to believe fare dire, more realistic forecasts will be seriously considered.

    How the Americans implement the coup; and the clarity to which the American leadership understands its options and responsibilities should the coup backfire, or the civil war be exacerbated. The coup is being planned because all other options have failed. America has no backup plan should the coup fail, or the conditions continue to deteriorate.

    (4) No American Leadership Credibility

    The voters will have a problem accepting the sacrifices have been for anything, especially if the situation were to deteriorate despite using illegal methods.

    As with the FISA-NSA violations, and the refusal of the Republicans to accept responsibility for the illegal activity, it’s likely the Administration will argue there was no other option but illegal warfare. If will be a great leap for the American leadership to explain how an Iraq coup decision does or does not advance American national or domestic security interests.

    One recurring mantra of the American leadership has been the goal of exporting democracy. Putting aside the absurdity of that claim, and the military coup required to secure stability, the American leadership will have a challenge explaining how non-democratic methods trump the principles and institutions America supposedly hoped to export.

    The debate will likely shift to whether Democracy could have ever been exported; how these assumptions were or were not effectively incorporated into the original plans; and whether the original objective of the Administration had nothing to do with Democracy, but with oil.

    If American leadership were interested in exporting democracy, it would have done all that it could to see that objective succeeded. Unlike the resources poorly dedicated to the oil fields, American leaders have been slow to dedicate the resources to realize the so-called objective: The success of democracy.

    American voters have been betrayed. There was no real WMD, and there is no real democracy. It’s only there if you believe it, or you are forced to believe it. The American leadership has nothing but belief a coup will work. The American leadership is desperate, and not serious about anything but desperation.

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    Known Legal Risk: War Crimes Prosecutions

    The Nuremburg indictments include charges for removing civilian, legal leadership. A military coup in Iraq would be the same as the German efforts to illegally remove from power leadership who were not loyal to the Germans

    The possible range of indictments for removing democratically elected officials from power could be extracted from the Nuremburg indictment:

    Illegal removal of elected, civilian leadership;

    Illegal abrogation of Iraqi Constitution and will of the Iraqi citizens expressed with their vote;

    Illegal use of Iraqi airspace, ground, and natural resources to support illegal activity and unlawfully interfere with Iraqi internal affairs;

    Unlawful use of American military and covert forces to illegally remove from power lawfully elected officials which Congress assented to, supported with the original Constitution

    Illegal inducements to other nations to dissuade them from intervening to protect the Constitutional system in Iraq;

    Fraudulently delegating Geneva security obligations of the occupying power to an entity that did not have the resources, support, or means to meet the Geneva obligations;

    Fraudulent, impossible milestones, benchmarks and other criteria illegally imposed on the civilian leadership which they could not meet, and has no resources to meet, which the United States knew the Iraqi civilian leadership could not meet.

    Fraudulently suppressing information related to illegally activity to induce support for the American leadership, and dissuade American voters to withdraw their support from illegal American leadership plans.