So, how does an Iraqi go about legal armed conflict against the United States?

Inspired by this thread:

First, let’s start with a few assumptions:
-The only legitimate form of modern sovereignty is free, fair elections according to a constitution open to most every adult, i.e. the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Australia, etc. have governments with legitimate power while Saudi Arabia, the Ukraine, and Iraq all have some sort of problem with their current government where they cannot be considered to have “legitimate” rulers
-From the Bush Administration, we’ve obviously learned that the use of force is an appropriate means to change the political and power dynamics of another nation when that government doesn’t have true legitimacy, like Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime

So, going from there, I think it’s evident that Iraq doesn’t have a legitimate government right now because the true power-holders, the United States armed forces, obviously weren’t selected in a national election. Rather, we took power by force, like Saddam did. Not that I’m saying our regimes are automatically comparable because of that. In fact, even though we still murder the occasional prisoner and bomb the occasional wedding party, we aren’t doing this for entirely self-serving ends as Saddam was, and I think we genuinely have Iraq’s best-interest and welfare at heart when we’re over there, even if we might even prove counter-productive to that goal.

But in the end, we’re still an illegitimate government which means that, from assumption number two, force is an acceptable means to try to alter our government of Iraq. So, how does an Iraqi or any person that feels that Iraq’s current government poses a threat to their political goals for Iraq go about lawfully engaging in armed conflict with the United States? Right now, the Bush Administration calls anybody that they suspect to be a member of the Iraqi insurgency an, “enemy combatant” and uses that to deny rights traditionally afforded to POW’s. So, how is what we did in ousting Saddam any different from the suicide-bomber dressed up as an Iraqi National Guardsman that killed our own soldiers in a mess tent in Mosul this week? And if Aldebran says he wants to go kill Western-invaders, how is that any different from a Marine recruit saying he wants to go kill terrorists?

They go further than that. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Richard Myers just informed us that anyone who attacks our troops in Iraq is responsible for 9/11:

No he didn’t. He said they were the same type of person not the same people that committed 9/11.

Interesting way of looking at it. My belief is that Bush is doing this for the self-serving interests of the US, and just wants to exploit all Iraqis. Saddam was better in that at least he was acting in the best interest of at least some Iraqis. (Of course Saddam could not have cared less about some peoples in Iraq.)

Define “legally?” All Iraqis are currently under US military domination. The US now holds all the cards. The US can impose any law it wants on Iraq. Thus, anything Bush says is illegal in Iraq is illegal, as he calls all the shots now.

point of order–the quoted cite, or cited quote, reads on the original webpage exactly as copied here… “This attack, of course, is the responsibility of insurgents, the same insurgents who attacked on 9/11”, not “the same type of insurgents.” Unless he misspoke or was misquoted, he said these insurgents were the same group that attacked on 9/11.

I’m guessing that it’s an error on somebody’s part. That would be pretty phenomenal news if they knew that all the anonymous insurgents were, in fact, in cahoots with the people responsible for 9/11. Pretty good trick given that they’re, you know, anonymous.

But, in theory, and according to Bush, the interim government in Iraq is now sovereign and the Coalition troops merely there to defend it. Legally, therefore, an insurgent who fights against those troops or that government would be in the same category as, well, the Viet Cong,* who were fighting a rebellion against their own country’s government and its American defender. And while Viet Cong prisoners might not have been treated strictly according to Geneva Conventions standards (we’ve all seen that picture of a captured VC being executed in the street by a police captain), I don’t think either the U.S. or the South Vietnamese government ever tried to brand them as common criminals, or denied that they were combatants entitled to be dealt with according to the rules of war.
*Not to Godwinize, but another parallel could be the French Resistance against the Vichy regime.

I think there are a couple of flaws in your premise. You suggest that it is acceptable to change the government of a sovereign nation by force and you cite the justification for it as being the Bush Administration’s actions in regards to Iraq. It might be legal to the Bush Administration, but it still illegal according to international law. If it isn’t illegal to effect change by use of force, then the U.S. has no right telling Syria that it’s got to pull its troops out of Lebanon and the rest of the world needs to leave Israel alone.
Those actions are illegal and the nations responsible are rightly being called on it. It is legal for the Iraqis to resist in any way they can to repel the invaders. The problem is, since international law is pretty specific about what comprises a soldier, the Bush Administration is calling the resistance “pesky combatants.” In effect, they’re fully behind the law when it helps their case, and summarily ignore the law when it gets in the way. That does not mean other nations are free to follow their example.


No, actually, I disagree that there’s a difference. Saddam didn’t kill people for the sake of who they were, but rather because they threatened his rule over Iraq, much like the Americans are doing now. The Americans didn’t bomb a wedding party just to bomb a wedding party any more than Saddam killed Kurds and Shias for being Kurds and Shias. He did so because one was helping Iran during the war and the other rose up to depose him.

Uh, well, first they need to have arms. As in, literally have arms that weren’t blown off by the wayward bomb or unexploded cluster munition. Then they need to get armaments. Then they have to build big ships to put those armaments on. Then they have to devise a tactical plan to defeat the most effective and lethal military machine ever devised by man.
Good luck.

None and none.

I’m a lawyer but never practiced international law. Does anybody know what, exactly, is international law’s position on the legal status of (1) insurgents against an established government or (2) insurgents against a foreign occupation? Do the Geneva Conventions say anything about it?

I have very limited knowledge of all the laws contained in the Geneva Conventions, but yes, there are several references to insurgents and militias.

A brief overview of what comprises a prisoner of war and how they are to be treated.
The main point that the Bush Administration uses to claim the insurgents as “enemy combatants” (a term that doesn’t even exist in the Geneva Conventions) is the lack of a proper designation mark or insignia.

So far as I can recall, I can’t name any point of binding international law that pertains to insurgent vs. government conflicts. (The only thing that pops to mind is stuff like the various UN conventions on human rights, which basically urge nations to adhere to certain standards for treating those accused of crimes, etc)

As far as insurgents vs. invaders, the Geneva Convention specifically confers POW status on irregular forces which “spontaneously take up arms” against an invading power. However, this is contingent upon those forces operating under the laws of war, and I think that the application of that article ends once an occupation power has been recognized. I can’t think of any other provisions of international law off the top of my head that might apply to legitimize the status of insurgents in Iraq, and I rather doubt that there are any.

Sorry about that.

Fixed link.

The Conventions do require that – but they also state:

Doesn’t say what a “competent tribunal” would be, but I would argue that it would go against the spirit of this article for the determination to be made by any court or tribunal of the state which captured the prisoners.

Probably because all insurgencies, rebellions and revolutions are illegal by definition. That does not mean they are never legitimate.

I think he mispoke look at the whole response:

You can see where I bolded that he said ‘the same insurgents’ but stopped and corrected himself and said ‘type of insugents’. Its pretty clear that he is talking about a specific type of insurgent an ‘extremist’ whatever that means. Not to mention saying that ‘insurgents’ did 9/11 is pretty stupid since there was no Iraq invasion and no ‘insurgents’ at that time.

This handy excuse for mister Myers does not negate what the man said. He said exactly what I said he said, and when you said he said something else, you were wrong. Maybe the general meant something other than what he said, but he had every opportunity to clarify his comment during the press conference, and he didn’t. The simplest explanation for that is that he actually meant what he said.

I believe the statement is a conscious leading and clouding of the collective subconcious. Either way you look at this statement it’s the same old Jedi mind trick. The Freudian slip is also obvious here as it belies the true intention of his more specific wording. The mandate and objective of the US Government is now and always has been to blur the lines and represent the enemy in a very archetypical way to give justification to the ludicrous and broad “war against terrorism” (read: Morally wrong and technically illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq). It’s obvious who the enemy is, can’t you see? All brown males of Middle Eastern descent. Best to give the People an easy strawman in complicated times, US vs. THEM.

Rubbish, he acted in the best interests of himself, and besides, if the majority of Iraqis somehow saw what Bush did as in the best interests of them, does that make him acceptable?

Make who acceptable? Hussein or Bush?


Yes, I do think that more widespread Iraqi support for an invasion makes an invasion more legitimate, even if it doesn’t change its legal status. It’s worse to invade if 5% of Iraqi’s supported it than if 95% supported it.

Anyway, thanks for the links to relevant Geneva convention law both about the uniforms and also the discerning of who gets to decide if someone should be treated as a POW. So I guess we’re both breaking the law.

A pretty common occurrence in warfare.