“No-Fly Zones” and 1441: Theexperiment interviews Prof. Francis Boyle

“Almost all the major U.S. news media has said that [UN Resolution] 1441 leaves Bush’s hands untied to wage war against Iraq. That is a totally inaccurate assessment of 1441. Bush, Jr. clearly asked for authority from the security council to use military force against Iraq, and he failed to get that authority. So right now any use of military force against Iraq, even under 1441, would clearly be illegal and aggression, and indeed that’s what’s going on right now with the U.S. and U.K. bombing campaigns under the pretext of the no-fly zones.”

2002.12.05

theexperiment: First of all, can you give a brief history of the origins and implementation of the no-fly zones and their related UN resolutions?

Francis Boyle: Sure. After the Gulf War in 1991, the United States, United Kingdom and France unilaterally imposed so-called “no-fly zones” in Northern Iraq and Southern Iraq. They had no authorization from the Security Council to do this; and for the last 11 years now, the U.S. and the U.K. have been bombing targets illegally in Northern and Southern Iraq. Eventually, I believe around 1998 or so, France pulled out, realizing full well that these no-fly zones were illegal.

te: Do they cite any other international law or precedent?

FB: They cite, uh, there is no precedent at all for the Southern no-fly zones; they just did it. As for the Northern no fly zones, there was a Security Council resolution calling for humanitarian relief and assistance for the Kurdish population, and they cite that, but that did not authorize any use of force against Iraq for that purpose.

te: So when we see references to the no fly zones having been set up for the protection of the Kurds, it’s only one of the two zones that this actually applies to, in theory?

FB: That’s correct – the Northern no-fly zone, and there…Again this is a pretext of fraud to say they were set up for the protection of the Kurds. The reason the Kurds were in jeopardy in the first place was that Bush Sr. called upon them to rise up against Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War, and when the Kurds did rise up, then Bush Sr. sold them out. So this has always been basically a pretext to de facto carve up Iraq into three chunks of territory and to have an excuse to continue low intensity conflict against Iraq whenever they wanted to.

te: Well, this low-intensity conflict, from the news reports that I’ve read, usually involves U.S. and British planes flying into the no-fly zones, bombs being dropped by them, and they often encounter anti-aircraft missile fire from the Iraqis. Given that these exchanges have become almost commonplace, how can the Bush administration now argue that only Iraqi missile firings in the no-fly zones constitute violations of the recently passed U.N. resolution 1441?

FB: Right. No other member of the Security Council accepts that interpretation of resolution 1441. Indeed most other members of the Security Council say 1441 does not apply to the no-fly zones. Indeed, the reports are that the Bush Jr. administration tried to get language in there to bootstrap the no-fly zones into legality by name, and that failed. So, again, this is clear-cut aggression by the U.S. and the U.K. against Iraq. Iraq certainly has a right to defend itself. Indeed, yesterday they [US/UK forces] blew up an oil company near Basra, not even a plausible case for a military target; they just blew up an oil company and they said: well, the justification is there was an attack on us in the no-fly zone. I mean, this is completely preposterous. But look, Rumsfeld has admitted that around the beginning of the year he just ordered the air force to pick up the bombing campaign of Iraq in order to prepare the way for war, so it’s no longer a pretext.

te: Moving on to the press coverage of these issues. I’ve only seen infrequent reports in the western press on military actions at all in the no-fly zones. Can you give me your opinion of the reportage and analysis that you have seen?

FB: Sure. Almost all of the news media here in the United States are pretty much tracking the Bush Jr. approach to this matter. The other day MSNBC called me up to ask me to go on there and they said, “Well, we’re walking towards war whereas the other networks are running towards war.” Now that’s a producer at MSNBC. So it’s very clear they are all supporting this war, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN and the worst of all, Fox. So you’re not going to find any one saying that these zones are clearly illegal, and that this is outright aggression against Iraq. It’s just not there.

te: Well, on the other hand, the passage and implementation of U.N. resolution 1441 has received great, great volumes of press coverage. Have you found that reportage, that you’ve been exposed to, to be adequate?

FB: Most of that is total disinformation as well. Almost all the major U.S. news media has said that 1441 leaves Bush’s hands untied to wage war against Iraq. That is a totally inaccurate assessment of 1441. Bush, Jr. clearly asked for authority from the security council to use military force against Iraq, and he failed to get that authority, just as Bush Sr. asked for and did get it. So right now any use of military force against Iraq, even under 1441, would clearly be illegal and aggression, and indeed that’s what’s going on right now with the U.S. and U.K. bombing campaigns under the pretext of the no-fly zones.

te: Thank you very much for taking the time.

FB: Thank you very much for doing the interview.



Francis A. Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign. He is the author of The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence: Could the US war on terrorism go nuclear? and other books, as well as major articles on a range of related international law and human rights issues.

Author: Gabriel Voiles

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