The Bush administration has just released their National Security Strategy document which re-affirms the U.S. policy of so-called "preemption." The document actually states that "no country should ever use preemption as a pretext for aggression."
But that is exactly what the Bush administration did.
Claiming that an action is "preemptive" presumes that there's something to preempt. Of course, there were no Iraqi WMDs. There was no imminent attack. There was nothing to preempt. But the use by many, not only in the Bush administration, but also alleged critics of it, of such a term assists in the war plans.
James Bamford titled his book "A Pretext for War," which is a rather good term. A "pretext war" is waged on alleged motives which have no relation to the actual motives for war.
Some use the term "preventive" war rather than "preemptive" war, since one might argue that the U.S. is out to prevent the emergence of something that might one day be a threat. But this too is dubious given the circumstances. What we are talking about with the U.S. government in Iraq is exactly what the Bush administration is trying to deny: aggressive war. With Iran or Syria we are talking about the threat of the use of aggressive war.
The Nuremberg Tribunal, when prosecuting Nazi war criminals called the waging of aggressive war "essentially an evil thing ... to initiate a war of aggression ... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
I raised this issue of the term "preemptive" with some "anti-war leaders" before the war -- and got dazed looks in return.
Three years after the invasion of Iraq, with all the rationales for war debunked, many alleged critics of Bush are still referring to the war as "preemptive."
The administration understands the terms and how to twist them to suit its purposes. Those who claim to oppose those purposes should understand the terms and use them properly if they really want positive change.
This is an aggressive war.
[originally published at husseini.org on March 16, 2006]