FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2002.
NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD SUPPORTS ACTS OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IN PROTESTING
PREEMPTIVE STRIKE AGAINST IRAQ
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
"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
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.
National Office, 212 679-5100 or firstname.lastname@example.org