From: (unknown)
Subject: [azpeace] The Embarassment and Illegality of No-Fly Zones
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2002 18:40:19 EST

The Embarrassment and Illegality of the No-Fly Zones
by Jacob G. Hornberger

President Bush's "zero tolerance" for Iraqi violations of UN resolutions has
apparently dropped to "two percent tolerance." According to administration
officials, Iraqi forces have once again fired on U.S. planes patrolling the
no-fly zones in Iraq, which U.S. officials had previously claimed would
constitute an immediate justification for invading Iraq, not only under the
principle of "self-defense" but also for violation of the recently passed UN

The Bush administration, however, is backing off and so far is not using the
shootings as a "self-defense" excuse to invade Iraq, and so far isn't even
taking the matter to the UN Security Council.

There's a very good reason for the government's decision: Despite their mild
protestations to the contrary, U.S. officials know that the no-fly zones
have been illegal from the get-go. And their decision not to use either
"self-defense" or violation of the UN resolution as a justification for
invading Iraq is an implicit acknowledgment of that illegality.

The no-fly zones were unilaterally established by the U.S. government after
the Persian Gulf War, supposedly to enforce UN resolutions on Iraq. There
was one big problem, however: The United Nations never authorized the no-fly
zones to be established. U.S. officials have always claimed that the U.S.
government, as a member of the United Nations, has the right to unilaterally
enforce any resolution of the United Nations. Such a position, however, is
patently fallacious. Enforcement of an organization's rules and regulations
belongs to the organization itself, not to each and every individual member
of the organization.

Several years ago, the U.S. government knowingly, intentionally, and
deliberately imposed an illegal embargo against Nicaragua. The case reached
the World Court, which ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United
States. As part of its judgment, the World Court awarded reparations to

That official court judgment is still outstanding and remains unsatisfied.
The U.S. government has continually refused to comply with the judgment and
has even blocked attempts of the UN Security Council to enforce it.

Suppose Nicaragua unilaterally decided to enforce the World Court's judgment
by establishing a no-fly zone in the southern part of the United States,
backed up with Nicaraguan planes. Suppose also that whenever U.S. radar
sites locked onto the Nicaraguan planes, the pilots would fire missiles at
the sites, which would occasionally kill American radar operators and nearby

What would be the response of the U.S. government? How would the American
people react, both to Nicaragua's "U.S. no-fly zone" and to the killings of
U.S. citizens? Everyone knows the answer.

What does the illegality of the Iraqi no-fly zones say about the hundreds of
Iraqi people who have been killed by the missiles that have been fired and
the bombs that have been dropped as part of the U.S. government's long-time
enforcement of the zones, including 13-year-old Omran Harbi Jawair, whose
head was torn off by a no-fly-zone missile while he was tending his sheep in
May 2000? How does one morally justify the killings of people that arise out
of an illegal act?

The Bush administration is correct in backing off from its "zero tolerance"
policy for invading Iraq because it would be wrong to use Iraq's response to
an illegal act to justify such an invasion. The Bush administration will
have to look elsewhere for its excuse to invade Iraq.

Also, see "Terrorism ... or War?" by Jacob G. Hornberger, published more
than year before the 9/11 attacks:

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation
(, in Fairfax, Virginia.

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