Skip to main content
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 1
  • Cited by
    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Cushman, Thomas 2008. Thinking About Human Rights During the Iraq War: Toward a Cartography of the Cognition of Western “Thought Communities”. Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 7, Issue. 1, p. 52.

  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: August 2009

3 - The Human Rights Case for the War in Iraq: A Consequentialist View


“It may well be that under international law, a regime can systematically brutalize and oppress its people and there is nothing anyone can do, when dialogue, diplomacy and even sanctions fail.”

Tony Blair

The purpose of this chapter is to provide a moral and ethical defense of the war in Iraq. The principal argument of this defense is that the war – while probably illegal from the point of view of most bodies of statutory international law – was morally defensible in its overall consequence: it has objectively liberated a people from an oppressive, long-standing tyranny; destroyed an outlaw state that was a threat to the peace and security of the Middle East and the larger global arena in which terrorists operated, sponsored materially and ideologically by Iraq; brought the dictator Saddam Hussein to justice for his genocides and crimes against humanity; prevented the possibility of another genocide by a leader who has already committed this crime against his own subjects; restored sovereignty to the Iraqi people; laid the foundation for the possibility of Iraq becoming a liberal republic; created the conditions for the entrance of this republic as a bona fide member into what John Rawls termed the “Society of Peoples”; and opened up the possibility for the citizens of Iraq to claim, as autonomous agents, those human rights guaranteed to them by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, but denied to them by the very mechanisms of international law that are supposed to be the formal guarantors of such rights.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Human Rights in the 'War on Terror'
  • Online ISBN: 9780511511288
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *
Bass, G. A. (2004). ‘Jus post bellum’. Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 32
Chesterman, S. (2001). Just War or Just Peace: Humanitarian Intervention and International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Clwyd, A. (2005). ‘Why did it take you so long to get here?’ In Cushman, T. (Ed.), A Matter of Principle. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
Cushman, T. (Ed.). (2005). A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for the War in Iraq. Berkeley and London: University of California Press
Cook, M. L. (2003). ‘Immaculate War: Constraints on Humanitarian Intervention’. In Lang, A. (Ed.), Just Intervention, p. 153. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press
Faber, M. J. (2005). ‘Peace, human rights, and the moral choices of the churches’. In Cushman, T. (Ed.), A Matter of Principle. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
Feldman, N. (2004). What We Owe Iraq. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press
Geras, N. (2005). ‘Notes from a Journal of Commentary’. In Cushman, T. (Ed.), A Matter of Principle. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
Goldstone, R. J. (2002, April). ‘Wither Kosovo? Whither Democracy?’ Global Governance, vol. 8, no. 2: 143–7
Human Rights Watch (HRW) (2003). The Iraqi Government Assault on the Marsh Arabs. Retrieved from
Human Rights Watch. (1993). Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds. Available at:
Ignatieff, M. (2001). Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Independent International Commission on Kosovo (IICK). (2000). Kosovo Report: Conflict, International Response, Lessons Learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Kant, I. ([1795] 1983). Perpetual Peace. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett
Kolb, R. (2003). ‘Note on humanitarian intervention’. International Review of the Red Cross, no. 849, pp. 119–34
Lang, A. (2003). ‘Introduction’. In Lang, A. (Ed.), Just Intervention, p. 3. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press
Oxford Research International (ORI) (2004, June). National Survey of Iraq, June 2004. Retrieved from
Rawls, J. (1999). The Law of Peoples; with “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited.”Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Tesón, F. (1998). A Philosophy of International Law. Boulder, CO.: Westview Press