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[casi] New Zealand MP's statement

Dear list members,
Matt Robson, past Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs is one of our
strongest supporters in the A/NZ government.
Tony Maturin.

Leashing the Dogs of  War

Matt Robson
Progressive Coalition MP

26 August 2002

In this commentary Progressive Coalition MP, and former Minister of
Disarmament and Arms Control and associate foreign affairs minister
Matt Robson discusses calls for military attacks on Iraq. He rejects
claims that Iraq presents a threat to the West, and says many of
Saddam's abuses being used to justify an attack on Iraq were formerly
tolerated by those who are now calling for attacks. He concludes that
New Zealand should join countries like Germany and condemn any attack
as a breach of international law.

An important discussion is taking place in the top circles of the
American government - whether it is wise or not to invade Iraq and
overthrow its government.

The discussion is not whether that act would be sanctioned under
international law, but whether an invasion of Iraq with air and ground
forces would be successful.

This very public discussion can be likened to a group planning a bank
robbery on world-wide television.  Reality TV.  The participants, and
the viewers, ignore the criminal act, and concentrate on whether the
job would be successful and how many of the robbers might get hurt.

As part of the White House discussion, President Bush and his advisers
emphasise Saddam Hussein's record of savage human rights abuses.

These include gas-bombing the Kurds - an ethnic ethnic minority in
Iraq, persecution of political opponents or perceived opponents, and
the use of a repressive police and military apparatus. On top of that,
Iraq has had weapons of mass destruction.

Passed over is the fact that when Saddam Hussein's forces shelled the
Kurdish village of Halabjah in 1988 with gas bombs, killing 5000 and
maiming thousands more, he did so as an ally of the United States and
other Western powers.

Despite the gassing, and the many other atrocities against Iraqi
citizens, Saddam remained an ally.

Soon after the attack, Washington approved the export to Iraq of virus
cultures and a billion dollar contract to design and build a
petrochemical plant to produce mustard gas.

A British parliamentary enquiry this year, headed by Lord Scott, has
revealed how Britain continued its profitable arms sales.  France did
the same.

At that time Iraq had been at war with the West's most  "evil" regime
of the time - Iran - for almost a decade.  Over one million lay dead
on both sides. The weapons programme of Saddam was well-known,
including his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

After the invasion of Kuwait, Saddam turned from ally to foe.  It is a
topsy-turvy world.  Fellow dictator Suharto was not punished for
invading East Timor, ultimately with the blood of 200,000 of its
people on his hands, but was rewarded with arms, trade, investment,
and a cover-up.

In contrast, Saddam's Iraq, evicted from Kuwait, was to face crippling
sanctions that continue to this day.  Furthermore, Iraq was ordered to
rid itself of all weapons of mass destruction.

The sanctions, according to two successive UN Humanitarian
Coordinators for Iraq, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, are the
most comprehensive ever extended by the international community to a
country.  They describe the human cost over the last decade as
horrendous.  Iraq, they point out, acquired the dubious distinction of
being the country with the highest increase in child mortality during
the period 1990-99, of all the 188 countries surveyed by UNICEF.

The Iraq of 1991, well-armed, and with a modern industrial economy,
could not hold  Kuwait and collapsed before the American-led forces in
a matter of weeks.  With a crippled economy, a substantially reduced
military force, and a people pulverised by 11 years of punitive
sanctions, what chance has a drastically weakened Iraq of launching

President Bush has sought to link Iraq with the Taliban of Osama Bin
Laden. No proof has been adduced.  In fact, Bin Laden and Saddam are
ideological foes. What then are the justifications for an invasion of
Iraq?  The United Nations Charter reserves to all countries the
inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed
attack occurs.  But Iraq is not attacking the United States, or Great
Britain, its likely ally.  There is not even any military threat to
the United States by Iraq.  There wasn't in 1991, at the height of
Iraq's military strength.  Much less now by a vastly weakened Iraqi

The former United States Defence Secretary William Cohen was right
when he briefed the incoming President George W Bush on 10 January
2001 that "Iraq no longer poses a military threat to its neighbours".

Furthermore, international law is quite clear that even if armed force
is used for self-defence, for which a case has to be established, it
must be proportionate and limited.

What of the threat of weapons of mass destruction?  Scott Ritter, who
was a member of the UN inspection team in Iraq, has publicly stated
that Iraq does not have the capability to turn into weapons the
chemical and biological agents that it has.  He has reported that the
inspectors had destroyed all but 5% of the chemical and biological
arsenal available for the war against Iran and used against the Kurds,
and that the remaining 5% was useless without being maintained.

If we were to follow the case for invasion, the next target would be
Pakistan.  It has a military dictator with weapons of mass destruction
in a country where Islam is the major religion, and there is the
threat of nuclear war with India.  It too should be subject to
military invasion for the purpose of removing its leader and
instituting a more acceptable regime.

Many of the arguments on Iraq resemble those used in the Cold War.
Then, propaganda poured out about the evil empires of the Soviet Union
and China. Of course the human rights abuses of the Stalinist system
were a fact.  And the Soviet Union and China both had weapons of mass
destruction.  But that didn't  mean that invasion was imminent, nor
use of those weapons.

What the barrage of propaganda and war fever did was allow complicity
with a stable of dictators such as Mobutu, Suharto, Pinochet and, yes,
Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein, who committed the most horrendous human
rights abuses and yet were rewarded with all the arms they required
(including chemical and biological weapons) and seats at the top
table.  All they needed to do was guarantee the type of order needed
to protect the economic and strategic interests of the Western powers
who protected them.

In the current promotion of war fever, apart from the intended
violation of international law, any sense of the gross immorality of
the impending loss of life and added misery amongst the Iraqi people
is swept aside.  Surely that is a key question.

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, stated earlier this month
that Germany would provide neither troops nor money for an invasion of
Iraq, even if the UN were to give its blessing to a war.  New Zealand
too must condemn and distance itself from any impending attack.
International law and morality should guide us, and with the German
Chancellor we should say a resounding "Nein, danke".

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