This is a very sad time for the people of New Zealand, the people of Iraq, and the people of the world. I cannot help thinking of what it must be like to be young children in Iraq today – living in terror in their homes, and not knowing what might explode around them, which of their friends and relations might be killed and maimed, or what might happen to their homes, streets and neighbourhoods. That is what war is all about. That is what is about to be visited on the people of Iraq.
It is all very well for the men in their fine suits – George Bush, Tony Blair, and John Howard-to stand behind their podiums and say that they do not have the time to wait, even for a few weeks, to let the inspections continue to make progress, while they unleash a murder-machine against the people of Iraq, the like of which the world has never seen. They are simply not getting away with it.
From Rome to Reykjavik, from Dunedin to Denver, the people of the world have demonstrated in peace actions in the largest coordinated protests the world has seen. There has been a huge outpouring of peace protest. Neither Bush, nor Blair, nor Howard, has a mandate from his own population to go to war without UN backing. The people of virtually every nation on earth are against this war.
The attack on Iraq would also be an attack on the United Nations, on its charter, and on all institutions governing peaceful relations between nations. This would be a criminal war; it would be a criminal assault on another country-forbidden under international law. This is, in no way, a just war. No country in the Middle East says that it is threatened by any immediate invasion by Iraq, and the United States, Britain, and Australia are certainly under no immediate threat. There is no evidence, yet, that Iraq even still possesses weapons of mass destruction.
The inspectors are currently engaged in a process of trying to get from the Iraqis proof that the Iraqis have destroyed the V X and anthrax stocks they once had. New Zealand inspectors were yesterday out there in Iraq doing their work. Al-Samoud missiles, yesterday, were being destroyed. But now, tragically, the inspectors are on their way home.
There is simply no case for war.
There is simply no case not to be patient and let the inspectors run their work through to, hopefully, a successful conclusion. There is a huge danger for the world in what the Bush administration is doing, because this situation is not just about Iraq. It is about the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, in which the American Government asserts its right to strike whoever it likes, whenever it likes, on the supposed grounds that the Government of the country it is striking might some day be a threat. Bill English, in his speech, glorified that, saying we should respect the role of the US as the world’s policeman, and that the situation may happen again. We cannot accept that.
The aggression that is being planned by the United States is covered in rhetoric, such as, promoting peace and security. George Bush uses grand phrases like “the coalition of the willing”. But this is not a coalition of the willing. This is a coalition of the killing – a coalition that will kill many thousands of innocent Iraqis.
The way that this war would be conducted may well fit the definition of a war crime. Under the International Criminal Court legislation that we passed through this Parliament not so long ago the nature of this war could fit the definition of a war crime. A Serbian commander is currently up before the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague for targeting the electricity supplies of the people of Sarajevo in the 1990s. George Bush may well qualify as being a war criminal if his troops and planes target civilian targets in Iraq; the electricity supplies, the water supplies, or broadcasting facilities. Reports that have come out indicate that this will be part of the war about to be conducted.
The US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has also said most recently that the US could use nuclear weapons against Iraq even if nuclear weapons are not used against US forces. Just hours ago Bush said: “War crimes will be prosecuted and war criminals will be punished.” He could well have been speaking about himself. How can peaceful nuclear – free New Zealand tolerate this sort of thing, and this sort of warfare? We may not be able to stop the war now, but we should still do everything possible to try to divert it, or at least show the war makers in the clearest possible way that the whole world is against them.
Yesterday I wrote to the Prime Minister asking her, through her diplomatic representatives at the United Nations, to initiate an urgent recall of the UN General Assembly under General Assembly Resolution 377, which was used successfully on several occasions, particularly by the United States in the Suez crisis, to get the French and British troops to withdraw from Suez.
The Prime Minister should also speak the truth about what is behind this impending assault. It is not good enough for her to say that there are no real differences in objectives between New Zealand and the so-called coalition of the willing. She should be saying that this war will not be about whether Iraq might have weapons of mass destruction, or whether the US administration wants to get rid of an oppressive regime, because obviously the United States currently supports many dictators around the world in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. So that is not the reason.
This war is to advance the interests of Bush’s corporate backers, particularly the oil companies. Blair and Howard are there to get a slice of the action for their corporates.
Australia began free-trade negotiations with the United States today. It may have got the jump on New Zealand in free-trade negotiations by agreeing to go to war with George Bush. But John Howard was making his down payments for a free-trade agreement with the blood of the Iraqi people. We must never go there.
It is simply not in our interests for America and its corporates to get even more power in the world. They will use this power against us. They will use that power in their own interests in trade negotiations and everything else. We will be the losers, as will people throughout the world. We must not give any support to the war makers if this war takes place. The Prime Minister should make a clear statement that if there is an assault against Iraq, then the New Zealand Government will withdraw its ship
from one of its operations-that is, escorting US warships through the Straits of Hormuz, as is explained in many of the Government documents.
Secondly, there should be a serious discussion about whether we should continue to operate the Waihopai satellite communications interception station. It was exposed in the Sunday Observer a couple of weeks ago that the National Security Agency that runs the Echelon network, of which Waihopai is a part, is using that network explicitly to spy on United Nations Security Council members to spy on other Governments. Do we really want to be part of that in the context of such a brutal war that is about to take place? We should not continue to keep a blanket of silence around the operations of that installation at Waihopai. We have to bring it out in the open and decide whether it continues to be in our national interests.
Out of this crisis we have to reassess our military relations with the three war-making countries.