Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


John Quigley


In this Article, the author questions the legality of the U.S. missile attack on Iraq's intelligence headquarters in response to the alleged Iraqi attempt to assassinate former U.S. President George Bush. The author concludes that the U.N. Security Council abdicated its responsibility when it failed to investigate Iraq's complaint. While the United States, after the attack, asserted it had acted in self-defense, the author argues that the U.N. Charter's definition of self-defense requires that the initial armed attack upon the defending party actually occur against a state. In this instance, a foiled assassination plot is found by the author to be less than an armed attack because the plot did not materialize, was against an individual, and was well short of generalized hostilities. Moreover, the missile attack did nothing to stop the actual plot; deterrence alone is inconsistent with self-defense. The author asserts that, in fact, the attack constituted an act of reprisal, which, under international law, is aggression and therefore illegal. The Security Council's failure to act is, for the author, an indication of U.S. hegemony at the United Nations in the post-Cold War era.