The Bush Doctrine

Thanks to the interview of Sarah Palin by Charles Gibson of ABC News, the “Bush Doctrine” has become part of American political discourse, which New York Times reporter Philip Shenon has pointed out, was used to “justify a preemptive strike on Iraq.”

According to international law as reflected in the charter of the United Nations, a preemptive war is legal in only one situation: if a country has certain knowledge that an attack by another country is imminent---too imminent for the matter to be taken to the UN Security Council.

Preemptive war, thus defined, is to be distinguished from “preventive war,” in which a country, fearing that another country may some time in the future become strong enough to attack it, attacks that country in order to prevent that possibility. Such wars are illegal under international law and were declared at the Nuremburg trials to constitute the “supreme international crime.”

In 1997, William Kristol founded a neocon think tank called the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). In 1998, a letter signed by 18 members of PNAC---including Kristol, Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, and James Woolsey---urged President Clinton to “undertake military action” to eliminate “the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction.”

The idea of preemptive-preventive war, came to be known as the “Bush doctrine.”

[David Ray Griffin]

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