Snap Debate – Iraq

The Green Party rises to support the New Zealand Government’s decision to send people as apart of a weapons inspection team to Iraq. There has been a very positive development over the last couple of days, with Iraq agreeing to let in weapons inspectors unconditionally to look for biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons, or for any moves to produce them. That is a very positive development that every country in the world should welcome.

The Green Party certainly welcomes the world being clear about which countries have nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, and about which countries are abiding by the appropriate international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Warfare, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the various agreements on nuclear weapons such as the Test-Ban Treaty. We support inspection regimes of that type.

Unfortunately there is one country, the United States, whose Congress has passed legislation stopping unconditional inspection of its chemical and biological sites. I think that New Zealand and other countries must put pressure on the United States to get rid of that legislation and to allow free inspection of its sites.

Also, the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world is held by the United States. In terms of the Nuclear Posture Review that has been taking place in the United States, the US Government has declared a willingness to use its nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, as well as nuclear states. It specified several countries such as Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and North Korea as countries nuclear weapons may be used against. That is a serious threat to the world.

In relation to Israel, we read on the front page of the New Zealand Herald a couple of weeks ago that Israel would be prepared to use its nuclear weapons in a Middle-Eastern conflict against a non-nuclear state. That is a huge threat to the world. Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons and they are involved in quite a considerable amount of contention over Kashmir. Then there are the other four nuclear weapons states that I have not mentioned.

There is a serious problem of nuclear weapons and their potential use in the world that New Zealand, as a nuclear-free country, is trying to address. I think the inspections group going into Iraq fits into that context.

Is there a serious problem with the Iraqi Government developing weapons of mass destruction? Is it such a crisis situation? According to Scott Ritter, a weapons inspector until 1998 and a Republican-voting American, Iraq’s capacity to use nuclear weapons was destroyed by the United Nations group he was a part of through the nineties and the threat really no longer exists. It is not as if anyone has come up with any evidence that there is a serious crisis situation.

The previous speaker, Winston Peters, asked whether there was secret evidence we should know about, and others have asked whether Tony Blair has this secret evidence. However, we cannot accept the “trust us” situation where evidence is not produced. We must accept the word of people like Scott Ritter who have been there and who have a genuine assessment of the situation.

Weapons inspectors were last in Iraq four years ago and it is useful to have weapons inspectors now and we support that. However we do not need to get carried away like the Americans are and say we are going to invade. What is the US threat of invasion really about? What is the idea of regime change really about?

Is it because Saddam Hussein is a dictator, and we know he is and we do not like him because of that and the Iraqi people do not like him because of that? However there are a lot of dictatorships in the world. For example there is a dictatorship in Saudi Arabia. Is America going to invade Saudi Arabia? Of course it is not.

There has to be some consistency in this. The reason international law has been built up over many years is that we would have mayhem in international relations if we allowed one country to invade another on the basis that one might be less or more democratic than the other. For America to invade Iraq on that basis would be in violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. It would be very dangerous — it would give a precedent for any country to start invading its neighbour or any other country it wished.

What is behind this threat? Is it because America is really worried about the weapons of mass destruction? No, it is not, because as I have indicated there is no indication of a crisis situation there. Is it because Saddam Hussein is a dictator? No. Perhaps it is because of something else that people have talked about — that Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world.

It is interesting that in the 1980’s, when the previous Bush administration was friendly with Iraq and supporting it in its war against Iran, there was no concern. When Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds the components of those weapons were knowingly provided by United States firms with the knowledge of the United States Government of the time. That has been clearly established. After the chemical attack on the Kurds the United States Government — the first Bush Administration — turned the other cheek and kept on supporting Saddam Hussein. That is the history of the situation.

So the US threat to invade Iraq is not about any real concern for democracy, the fate of the Iraqi people, or the Kurdish people, it is about oil. They want, as they had previously under Saddam Hussein, a friendly Government in power in Iraq that would be friendly to American oil interests.

In previous speeches in this House, and from some of the comments from the previous speaker, Ken Shirley, in the past, members have declared that New Zealand is being a bit isolationist in its stance on Iraq. Well, in fact, the people who are being isolationist and unilateralist in this case are the Bush administration, Tony Blair and John Howard, and we should not join them. Is that what New Zealand should be — just obey those three countries that we have worked with closely in the past, or should we put our own judgement on the issue and work with countries around the world through fora like the United Nations?

The Green Party says that we should work in a cooperative way with all the countries in the world to address these problems, particularly through the United Nations. That is the way to go, even though the United Nations is far from being a perfect organisation. As we have seen, it was the United Nations Security Council that mandated and ran such extensive sanctions against Iraq that many hundreds of thousands of people have died and are dying. Unfortunately the United States has too much influence over the Security Council — and it does not always do the right thing — but we have to work through the United Nations, the General Assembly and the Security Council, to bring peace to the Middle East region and to get rid of any problems there.

I think we have to protest to the United States. Even since the announcement of these weapons inspectors going in the United States is still threatening to invade Iraq, with Donald Rumsfeld cranking up the rhetoric, and Dick Cheney and George Bush doing likewise. We should as a protest withdraw our military officers from US Central Command in Florida, because that Command is planning an invasion of Iraq.

We should also call in the American Ambassador. It is such a serious situation that we should summon the American Ambassador and tell him that this threat is not good enough, ask him not to continue to escalate the situation, and ask that the US cease pouring troops into the Gulf immediately, and to let the weapons inspectors work in the situation. We should tell the United States to address the real security problem in the Middle East, which is Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in violation of UN resolution after UN resolution. The Israeli Government even stopped a UN inquiry team from going into the West Bank town of Jenin to investigate reports of a massacre. That should be the priority area for the United Nations, for this country and for the United States. Sure, we want to get rid of the Saddam Hussein regime, but whether it is the Robert Mugabe regime, or the Saudi Arabian regime, we should support the democratic forces and not invade.


Parliament – Urgent Debate on Iraq – United Nations monitoring, verification and