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Letter to Phil Goff

20 November 2002

The Hon Phil Goff,
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
Parliament Buildings,

Dear Minister

I am replying to your letter of 16 October in which you responded to my letter of 26 September concerning Iraq, as you put it. I apologise for the delay in replying to you but I wished to contact representatives of the groups that supported the proposals in that letter for their views on what this response should contain. I have now done this and what follows reflects in part the comments I have received, and in part my own comments on the points you make and the present situation concerning Iraq.

We are obviously very disappointed by your reply, and our concerns relating to the Iraq situation and any New Zealand involvement in it are ongoing. The proposals made in that September letter are still as valid as they were then in our view, despite developments that have occurred since September. The aggressive behaviour of the US towards Iraq should still be condemned, and the UN should still demand that no military action be undertaken against Iraq by the US or any other state or group of states unless sanctioned by the UN. Further, we argue that military action should only be considered by the UN if it can be established that actions by Iraq signal that an attack on a member state by Iraq is imminent, and the use of force can be argued to be necessary in terms of Article 51 and the need for self defence.

A unilateral attack by the US or by a US led coalition, but not UN sanctioned, would breach international law. We take the statements in your letter concerning the consequences of unilateral action by the US as providing a guarantee that New Zealand would not join any such US led coalition against Iraq. We fully concur with you in your comments about these consequences. We refer you to the recent report by the Medical Association for the Prevention of War which predicts as possible between 48,000 and 260,000 deaths in Iraq during the first three months of combat with the US, post-war health effects taking as many as 200,000 additional lives, and a massive humanitarian crisis and long term health and environmental damage resulting.

This body, like a number of other informed bodies, does not dismiss the possible use of nuclear weapons should the US attack Iraq. Your argument that the US and Israel would be constrained by the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice is considered weak. In the case of Israel, the immoral pattern of behaviour demonstrated by Israel against Palestine, and suggestions published recently that Israel would use nuclear weapons against Iraq if Iraq attacked Israel with missiles during a war with the US counter your suggestion. In the case of the US, the very worrying US position on the use of nuclear weapons in a wider range of situations revealed in the recent US Nuclear Posture Review provides little confidence that the 1996 Opinion, or any other moral argument, would carry much weight should the US once decide to go to war with Iraq.

For these reasons, and because the NAC represents a respected coherent group within the UN concerned, presumably, with both nuclear disarmament and disarmament generally and opposed to the use of military force to resolve disputes, we still argue that the NAC would be a very appropriate group to launch UN General Assembly resolutions of the type we have proposed. You say in your letter that "all countries will have an opportunity … to contribute to the Security Council's open debate on Iraq". If this was the case, we have not seen any report of New Zealand opposing any wording in the new resolution passed unanimously by the Security Council that could open the way for a US attack on Iraq. It is our understanding and belief that the unanimous acceptance of this resolution by all 15 members of the Security Council resulted in no small part from strong pressures of various kinds applied by the US, and does not fully represent the free and unconstrained views of the majority of UN member countries.

We would point out that the US position that Iraq has long flouted UN resolutions, cited by you, and has weapons of mass destruction that threaten the US is hypocritical and selective. There have been many instances of countries defying UN resolutions with no negative reactions from the US. A prime example of such a country, and one known to have weapons of mass destruction and to undertake acts which many see as acts of terrorism is Israel, but there are no threats from the US here of the sort being made against Iraq. You in government may have seen confidential material that convinces you that Iraq actually does have weapons of mass destruction. But without access to such material we remain unconvinced by the material provided publicly by the US and UK to date. Hopefully the weapons inspections now beginning will resolve this question.

Like others, we are alarmed by the recent deployment of New Zealand military forces to the Gulf region in case they should in any way contribute to US preparations to launch an attack on Iraq. We will continue to argue that any such action is unjustifiable, unacceptable and, if necessary, should be opposed by UN actions against the US itself. It is vitally important that this dispute be settled by other than military means for the sake of the civilian population of Iraq and the future of that country. This is also vital for the future of the UN itself, and for the future peace and stability of the Middle East and the world community.

New Zealand should work with all in the international community in all fora opposing the use of force to resolve the Iraq situation.

Yours sincerely,
R E White, Deputy Director, Centre for Peace Studies - supported by Peace Movement Aotearoa, Peace Foundation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Aotearoa section), National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, Abolition 2000 Auckland, and others.

Cc: The Right Hon Helen Clark, the Hon Marian Hobbs

Stop killing the people of Iraq     Nuclear weapons - general issues index


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