You are here

E.2. Opposing Wars Against Iraq: The Gulf War 1991 and US-led Invasion 2003

Volume Two -> E. Resistance Movements Against Specific Wars -> E.2. Opposing Wars Against Iraq: The Gulf War 1991 and US-led Invasion 2003

There were important differences in the origins and justification of these two wars. In 1991 Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and in the new atmosphere of detente the Soviet Union did not block a vote in the UN Security Council. So the western war had UN backing, and after defeating Saddam Hussein’s army, the victorious forces limited themselves to liberating Kuwait. Views of the justification for the war in leftist and liberal circles varied, although there was quite significant opposition.

In 2003 the US-led invasion of Iraq was justified by the dictatorial and dangerous nature of the regime and, in Britain in particular, was presented as necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein potentially using his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (although their presence was not proven at the time of going to war, and subsequent attempts by weapons inspectors to find them indicated the stockpiles did not exist). British troops participated in the invasion and subsequent occupation, along with other more symbolic contingents from the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ forged by the US Administration. Many governments opposed the invasion, it was not supported by the UN , and there were very large demonstrations reflecting unusually widespread opposition in Britain, Europe and elsewhere. There was also growing resistance inside the US. Individual soldiers conscientiously refused to fight in both Iraq wars, and bereaved families became prominent in protest in both the US and Britain. Although the movement against the war in 2003 and against the continuing occupation of Iraq was the more politically significant, so far the literature is fairly limited.

Bennis, Phyllis, Challenging Empire: People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power, Northampton, MA, Olive Branch Press, 2005, pp. 288 pb

Bennis, a Fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies and expert on Middle East and US foreign policy, examines critically the US doctrine of pre-emptive war and willingness to bypass the UN in the context of  the global mobilization against the US-led 2003 attack on Iraq. 

See also: Bennis, Phyllis, 'February 15, 2003, The Day the World Said No to War', Institute for Policy Studies, 15 Feb 2013.

Celebrates the mass global protests, but focuses in particular how opposition of  Germany and France to the war enabled the 'Uncommitted Six' in the UN Security Council - Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan - to resist pressure from the US and UK and to refuse to endorse the war.

Brittain, Victoria, The Gulf Between Us: The Gulf War and Beyond, London, Virago, 1991, pp. 186

Published immediately after the war to discuss key issues raised. Gives background information and comments on the conduct of the war, in particular the killing from the air of large numbers of Iraqi troops flying white flags. On opposition to the war see: Grace Paley, ‘Something about the Peace Movement: Something about the People’s Right Not to Know’, which comments on the US-based opposition, including references to soldiers refusing to support the war, pp. 64-5 and 70-71.

German, Lindsey ; Murray, Andrew, Stop the War: The Story of Britain’s Biggest Mass Movement, London, Bookmarks, 2005, pp. 286

Book by organizers of the Stop the War Coalition, created in 2001 after the September 11 attacks in the USA, which demonstrated against the Afghan War. It played a central role in mobilizing up to a million people to march in London in February 2003 and continued to demonstrate against the presence of western troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the role of the Socialist Workers Party in the Coalition was sometimes criticized, it succeeded in mobilizing large numbers of British Muslims in peaceful protest and in drawing in people from a broad political spectrum.

Jimenez, Manuel, Mobilizing Against the Iraq War in Spain: Background, Participants and Electoral Implications, South European Society and Politics, Vol. 12, issue 3, 2007, pp. 399-420

Taylor, Ian, Media Relations of the Anti-War Movement: The Battle for Hearts and Minds, New York and London, Routledge, 2016, pp. 268

An examination of how the anti-Iraq War movement in the UK tried to secure press coverage as part of their campaign. The focus is on local anti-war groups and their relationship with the local press and examines such questions as the influence of the social composition of the movement on their approach to the media. Taylor also assesses how local journalists and media viewed the campaign.

Walgrave, Stefaan ; Rucht, Dieter, The World Says No to War: Demonstrations Against the War on Iraq, Minneapolis MN, University of Minnesota Press, 2010, pp. 312

Yukich, Grace ; Ortiz, David ; McVeigh, Rory ; Myers, Dan, The Iraq War Protests 10 Years Later, Mobilizing Ideas, 2013

Assessments of degree of success or failure, unintended consequences, and lessons to be learned about movements. Contributors include David Cortright, William A. Gamson, Kathy Kelly, Lisa Leitz and Eric Stoner.