The Supreme International Crime: The War on Iraq, International Law, and State Criminality

Ronald C. Kramer, Western Michigan University

Illegal wars are the most destructive and destabilizing of all state crimes. In fact, under the Nuremberg Charter a war of aggression is considered to be "the supreme international crime." This paper argues that the unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States and the United Kingdom in 2003 qualifies as such an illegal act of aggression. Since the war was not necessary for self-defense against an armed attack and was not authorized by the United Nations Security Council, it was illegal under the U.N. Charter and other forms of international law. Thus, the invasion of Iraq can be considered a state crime that can be brought within the boundaries of criminology for examination.

The paper starts by offering a definition of the concept of state crime and then argues that international law provides the appropriate legal framework for bringing the socially harmful acts of states within the boundaries of criminology. After assessing the publicly stated reasons that American and British officials offered for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the paper than describes the specific international laws that were violated by the U.S. and the U.K. in undertaking this war, and analyzes the legal justifications both states offered in their defense.

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Updated 05/20/2006