Could the U.N. use military force to prevent the United States and Britain from waging war on Iraq without a Security Council mandate?

United Nations headquarters in New York

Some anti-war groups are urging the world body to invoke a little-known convention that allows the General Assembly to step in when the Security Council is at an impasse in the face of a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression.”

The willingness by the U.S. and Britain to go to war with Iraq without Security Council authorization is the kind of threat the U.N. had in mind when it passed Resolution 377 in 1950, said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a human-rights group in New York City.

In a position paper, Ratner wrote that by invoking the resolution, called “Uniting for Peace,” the “General Assembly can meet within 24 hours to consider such a matter, and can recommend collective measures to U.N. members including the use of armed forces to ‘maintain or restore international peace and security.'”

The U.N. taking military action against the U.S.?

“It would be very difficult to say what that means,” said Ratner in an interview with WorldNetDaily, emphasizing that he did not believe the situation would evolve to that “extreme.”

“I don’t consider that within the framework I’m talking about,” he said.

Steve Sawyer, spokesman for Greenpeace in New Zealand – which has joined Ratner’s group in the campaign – told WND he was not aware of the U.N. being able to use force under any circumstances.

Ratner explained that Resolution 377 would enable the General Assembly to declare that the U.S. cannot take military action against Iraq without the explicit authority of the Security Council. The assembly also could mandate that the inspection regime be allowed to “complete its work.”

“It seems unlikely that the United States and Britain would ignore such a measure,” Ratner said in his paper. “A vote by the majority of countries in the world, particularly if it were almost unanimous, would make the unilateral rush to war more difficult.”

Uniting for Peace can be invoked either by seven members of the Security Council or by a majority of the members of the General Assembly, he said.

‘Ways to make U.N. more important’

Ratner, who also teaches at the Columbia University Law School, told WND that the idea of invoking the resolution “came up when I started thinking about the fact that we could get into a situation where the U.S. may go to war without a Security Council resolution or with a veto.”

He had two of his students at the law school research the resolution and now has sent out the word to every U.N. mission in New York.

In addition, about 12 missions a day are being visited by campaigners, he said, and the response has been generally very positive.

He expects there to be support from the 116 countries in the non-aligned movement, who are “already saying inspectors should be given more time.”

Greenpeace’s involvement has greatly expanded the campaign’s reach, he said, since “we’re just a small human-rights litigation organization.”

“I’ve done a lot of work with international law and with the U.N.,” he said, “and we’re always interested in figuring out ways to make the U.N. more important.”


A circular e-mail letter promoting the campaign said in the first paragraph that “if Iraq is invaded, it would empower the General Assembly to restore peace, including an authorization to use military action to accomplish this, if necessary.”

The letter includes Ratner’s name and e-mail address as a contact, but he says he did not send out that particular version, which included the line about the U.N. using military action.

A political science professor at the University of Michigan who forwarded the letter to colleagues, added a note above the text, obtained by WND, that said: “Below you will find an excellent and urgently needed proposal for stopping the war before it starts from the Center for Constitutional Rights. …”

“Please make this major peace action a high priority and forward this message to others,” said Susan Wright, who indicated she is with the university’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

Is Wright essentially urging foreign countries to be willing to take military action against her own country?

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily sedition,” said Ratner. “Advocacy is one thing, having the means to carry it out is another. It’s not something I would ever recommend.”

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