Will Provide Legal Support and Materials Regarding Necessity Defense

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) condemns George Bush's proposed preemptive strike and escalation of the ongoing war against Iraq as violating the Constitution of the United States and the United Nations Charter. The Guild will seek to provide legal support for individuals and groups practicing non-violent civil disobedience regarding the "necessity" defense, which is conduct that an actor believes to be necessary to avoid harm to himself or to another. Such behavior may be justifiable, provided that the harm sought to be avoided by such conduct is greater than the harm which the law defining the offense seeks to prevent.

"The Guild commits its legal resources to support those who engage in acts of civil disobedience against such unauthorized military action," says Guild President Bruce Nestor. The Guild is preparing a legal brief and supporting materials related to the necessity defense and military action against Iraq, and will distribute those materials nationally.

Immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, a relatively small group of individuals in the United States government-- primarily President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his Deputy Paul Wolfowitz--began to develop pretexts for intensified military attacks against Iraq. No credible evidence connects Iraq to the crimes of September 11. One year later, these officials formally promulgated a doctrine under which the United States will "act preemptively," without the legally required authorization of the United Nations and the international community, or any legitimate claim of self-defense or defense of others, to bomb and invade Iraq. (National Security Strategy, Section V). Ongoing unilateral military attacks by the US against Iraq, consisting of bombing raids in the "no fly zones," are not authorized by any resolution of the UN Security Council. These bombing raids, as well as any escalated attacks, violate Article 1, Section 4 and Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter and other provisions of international law, which as ratified treaties are also part of the "supreme Law of the Land." (Constitution of the United States, Article VI Section 2).

The forthcoming air attacks and invasion of Iraq will kill innocent civilians, threaten international peace and security, undermine the rule of law, and create a backlash against the people of the United States. Under well-accepted general principles of criminal law applicable in every US jurisdiction, otherwise technically illegal acts may be justified by the necessity of preventing a greater wrong or danger--a form of self-defense or defense of others. In this case there is ample legal necessity and justification for non-violent resistance to these illegal and immensely destructive, murderous actions by the top officials of the US government.

NLG President Bruce Nestor says that "The basic question raised by continuing and intensifying US aggression against Iraq is moral: whether US government officials are authorized to decide that the 'price is worth it,' for millions of people whose lives will be shaped--and in many cases destroyed--by the criminal actions of a handful of US leaders who hold themselves above the law." The fundamental principles of international law and
democracy empower individuals to make this moral decision for themselves, regardless of the contrary actions of their leaders. US government officials forfeit legitimacy and the power to enforce laws against non-violent trespass and "disorder" when they pursue policies that result in war crimes. Non-violent civil disobedience in opposition to the US government's illegal preemptive wars is justified by the necessity of self-defense and defense of others.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 as an alternative to the then-racially segregated American Bar Association.

Currently, the NLG has nearly 5,000 members nationally--lawyers, legal workers, law students and jailhouse lawyers--committed to using the law as a vehicle for positive social change.

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