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[casi] Speech in NZ parliament by Matt Robson

Dear list members. Matt Robson, past (unfortunately) Associate Minister
for Foreign Affairs in the NZ government yesterday made this speech in
Fax 04 472 7620
Parliament Buildings Wellington

Speech in Parliament
Thur 19 September 2002
Urgent debate on Iraq & NZ weapons inspectors

There is no greater question before any country than the question of
war and peace, and that is what we are discussing.  I thank the Hon.
Mark Burton for allowing the Progressive party to have this 10 minute
slot.  It was very small-minded of Mr Winston Peters, on a question of
democracy--which is what we are discussing--to deny both of us the
right to have that speech.  This issue is far too big to politick in a
small-minded way.  I am often drawn to a comment by the French
sociologist Pierre Bordieau, who wrote about the need for politicians
to behave more like scholars and to engage in scientific debate based
on hard facts and evidence.  This question of war and peace demands
that we have a look at the facts and evidence.  I have been disturbed
by the bellicose tone of National, New Zealand First, and
ACT--although Mr Ken Shirley is my dear friend and we served in East
Timor together in adverse circumstances--on this issue we differ.

Their bellicosity reminded me of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon:

    Base Details
  If I were fierce and bald, and short of breath,
  I'd live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
  And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
  You'd see me with my puffy petulant face,
  Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
  Reading the Roll of Honour.  `Poor young chap',
  I'd say--`I used to know his father well;
  Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap.'
  And when the way is done and youth stone dead,
  I'd toddle safely home and die in bed.

If we are talking about having a war against Iraq--if people are keen
on having a war; and Mr Worth said that he sees war as inevitable--we
are talking about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and
possibly more, in Iraq, and of the deaths of other people.  If we are
serious--because none of the Members of Parliament here will be sent
to for this war--we are talking about the lives of some of our
children.  If we are keen on war, we are talking about going to war
against a country that has been reduced to Third World circumstances.
Iraq is described as a military threat to the world, and not just
Kuwait which it took over in 1990. What threat is it now--and this is
where facts become important--when its capacity to fight a war is so
reduced that it would be doubtful whether it could even go to war
against Kuwait?  Facts, which are stubborn things, become important in
the question of international diplomacy.  What the New Zealand
government is actually saying on this issue is that we want to put
international law and morality first, before any supposed advantage of
an alliance with this or that individual country, or any other
activity of any other way that it might advantage New Zealand.

The facts on international law are this: a country or a group of
countries have the right to take action only in self defence.  The
first step that countries have to take, once they have repelled an
immediate attack, is to refer the issue to the United Nations.  The
point, outside of any question of self defence--because there has been
no threat from Iraq, no attack on the United States, Western Europe or
any other country in this period--is that the United States and every
other country is obliged under international law to refer alleged
aggression to the United Nations.  It has been referred to the United
Nations, and Iraq has told the United Nations that it will meet the
most vociferous demands of the countries that are asking to see
whether it has weapons of mass destruction--it will allow weapons
inspection.  Now weapons inspectors have been called for.  I must say
that I have been surprised that opposition members are decrying what
New Zealand is giving.  We are giving 10 weapons inspectors.  That is
what the United Nations has asked for.  In East Timor, we have had our
armed forces built up to a situation where over half of our defence
personnel have served in East Timor.  Around the world we have 15
deployments in 12 locations.  So what is expected in the situation of
Iraq, where the world has stepped back from the brink of war, a war
that has actually been demanded vociferously by President Bush and, it
seems, by Tony Blair, but we have said no.  We have said we will not
take part in an action that is predicated to end in war.  Mr Worth
said that he is very, very pessimistic--I am paraphrasing--on this
call, and that we will end up in war.  Well, we in New Zealand should
be optimistic that we can prevent a war.  It is not a war that is
actually being pushed by Iraq.

There is another fact that we should consider, and it is this: this
has not been a situation where only diplomacy has been used.  Iraq
has, for 11 years, faced a collective punishment called sanctions.  In
that period, 500,000 children have died, and that is directly
attributed by United Nations organisations to the effects of the
sanctions.  During that time there has been almost daily bombardment,
including air attacks, on Baghdad.  Whether or not the sanctions and
air attacks can be justified, they can hardly be said to be just in
the category of diplomacy.  Armed action has been a daily fact for the
people of Iraq.  If we want facts on the horrific nature of Saddam
Hussein, members of this Parliament should go back to Hansard of
1988--ACT was not here at the time but National was.  I will give
$10--no, I will be more generous; I will give $100--to any member who
can find for me a reference, from any of the parties who have spoken
to the time in 1988 when Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurdish village of
Halabja.  There is no reference to that.  Why? Because at that time
Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons, and the other
weapons of his armed forces were being received from the very
countries that are most adamant now about going to war.  When he
gassed 5,000 Kurds, there was not an outcry in this Parliament or any
other Parliament whose leaders seem to be keen to go to war--nor was
there when over a million people died in the war between Iraq and
Iran.  That is because Iran was then the country that in the rhetoric
of the time was declared to be the worst regime in the world.

If want to know about the worst regime, and if we want to face up to
the facts of our country and our Parliament, we should remember that
we stood by from 1965 until well into the 1990s when President Suharto
of Indonesia, who should be before an international crimes tribunal,
committed crimes against humanity.  We stood by while 200,000 people
died in East Timor.  There has been some controversy over what advice
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade gave in 1975.  This is the
advice it gave on East Timor: ``We would welcome the integration of
Portuguese Timor with Indonesia as a logical solution given Timor's
situation in the chain of island.'' That statement is from February,
1975, before the invasion of December, and that advice was followed
right through.  There is saying in law, in equity, that ``you come
with clean hands''.  My plea to this House to actually look at the
facts in the situation of Iraq, and accept that New Zealand's
Government has played a responsible part in saying: ``Let us work with
the United Nations, and let us not launch an illegal and immoral war
on a Third World country.''

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