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Speech notes: presentation of Iraq petition to parliament

8 April 1999

Kia ora, we are here today to present to parliament the petition calling for an end to the economic sanctions which are killing the people of Iraq.

My name is Edwina, I am here representing Peace Movement Aotearoa, and I will speak first about the situation in Iraq and about Resolution 687; then Dr Marten Hutt from the Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group will speak about the specific effects of the economic sanctions. Marten will then hand over the petitions to Graham Kelly, MP, who will make some concluding remarks.

To get an idea of the situation in Iraq today it is necessary to go back to the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War. The convener of the post-war United Nations mission to Kuwait and Iraq described it thus :

" nothing that we had seen or read had quite prepared us for the particular form of devastation which has now befallen [Iraq]. The recent conflict has wrought near-apocalyptic results upon the economic infrastructure of what had been, until January 1991, a rather highly urbanised and mechanised society. Now, most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous. Iraq has, for some time to come, been relegated to a pre-industrial age" ... [Ahtisaari, M. (1991), Report to the Secretary-General on humanitarian needs in Kuwait and Iraq in the immediate post-crisis environment , New York:United Nations.]

Despite having the dubious distinction of Security Council approval, the attacks on the people of Iraq during the Gulf War were quite clearly in breach of a number of international agreements, take for example Article 54 of the 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions :

" It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population ..."

At the end of the Gulf war, the Security Council adopted, on 3 April 1991, Resolution 687; this outlined the mechanisms for reparations to be paid to Kuwait, for U.N. weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and for an economic blockade on Iraq - limiting exports to an agreed amount of oil, the Oil-for-Food programme, as well as imports into the country. This was not supposed to include food or medical supplies, but as Marten will tell you, it has.

The issue of identifying and destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has been particularly vexed - it was imposed by those governments which had supplied Iraq with conventional weapons and with mass destruction technology and know-how; it was imposed by one government in particular, that of the United States - a country which has used nuclear weapons in war, which used chemical weapons extensively in south-east Asia and indeed used highly toxic depleted uranium ammunition, 900,000 rounds of it, in the Gulf war. The US government possesses the largest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and shows little inclination to have them either identified or destroyed.

On the other hand, Iraq's reluctance to comply with the weapons inspection teams has led to repeated cruise missile and bomb attacks on the people of Iraq over the past eight years. The most recently publicised mass attack being in December of last year - 320 cruise missiles and an unknown number of bombs dropped during that five day assault.

What has been less publicised is the more than 100 bomb and cruise missile attacks that have taken place between last December and March of this year. On February 28, US warplanes bombed the Oil for Food pipeline - disrupting even that small flow of oil which Iraq is allowed to sell. The effect of all these bombardments, combined with the economic sanctions, has been to effectively keep Iraq at the level described earlier by the United Nations convener.

According to a study recently published in The Economist , Iraq's total GDP has now fallen to a level where per capita income is $247, lower than many sub-Saharan African countries. To put this in some perspective, Iraq's total GDP of $5.7 billion is now equivalent to ... four US B1 bombers. It is around two percent of the annual US defence budget which last year was $265 billion.

While the US government has used Resolution 687 to give a spurious sense of authority to their onslaughts, they have been extremely selective in which bits they've used. Throughout the text there are references to ... "the commitment of all UN members states to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq". Given the frequent missile and warplane attacks within Iraq over the past eight years, many of them in the 'no-fly zones' which were set up unilaterally by the US and Britain, it is very clear this commitment has never been honoured. Further, the frequently stated objective of the US government ... 'to get rid of Saddam Hussein' ... doesn't say much for their recognition of Iraq's 'political independence'.

After eight years of bombing and starving the people of Iraq, and yet Saddam Hussein remains in power, you would think it would have dawned on the US and its allies that their approach is not working ... we suggest the time is overdue for a new way forward, and if their commitment to bring peace and security to the region has any integrity whatsoever, perhaps they could begin by going back to the other bits of Resolution 687 which they haven't tried up until now. One option which is referred to several times in the text of the Resolution ... the objective of working towards a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the whole of the Middle East.

However, if their approach to those other references in the Resolution describing the need for comprehensive control of conventional armaments in the region is anything to go by - we will be waiting a long time for a weapons of mass destruction free zone. Three weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, more than 800 companies from 43 countries took part in the massive International Defence Exhibition arms fair. Press releases bemoaned the fact that the economic recession has resulted in smaller than expected arms sales to the region, nevertheless the Gulf states collectively purchase forty percent of the global total of weapons sold.

Finally, I would like to you to consider the ongoing bombing of the people of Iraq, often without even the pretence of Security Council approval these past eight years, and think also about the Nuremberg Principles which became part of international law in 1950. The Nuremberg Principles are most widely known for their definition of Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes. However, Principle VI also describes Crimes Against Peace as follows :

" planning, preparation, initiation or waging a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances" - isn't this what the governments of the United States and Britain have done ?

Further, consider point ii) which is "participation in a common plan ... for the accomplishment of any of those acts" - by their unwavering support for the US and British attacks on the people of Iraq, doesn't this make the NZ government also guilty of Crimes Against Peace ?

It's time to stop killing the people of Iraq and to end their suffering.

Peace Movement Aotearoa

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