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Counterpunch, 31st December
BUSH'S WAR IS OBSCENE AND UNJUSTIFIABLE
by Denis J. Halliday
(This is the text of Halliday's remarks at the Cairo Conference Against US
Aggression against Iraq on December 19.)
[Denis J. Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian
Coordinator in Iraq 1997-98.]
This is a most knowledgeable assembly on matters relating to Iraq and
Palestine. I am following a number of excellent speakers. And the content of
my usual talk on the ongoing crisis in Iraq, and the threat of a greater war
than the one ongoing, is now somewhat redundant. My views have been
expressed more articulately than I normally express them myself! So I plan
to raise three questions about the United Nations Charter, democratic
responsibilities and the nuclear deterrent related to the crisis we all
facing in the Arab world as we meet here in Cairo.
But first a word about what is happening around us today:
We have a UN Security Council out of control. A Council corrupted by the
USA, the sole hyper-power and undermined by the veto power of the five
permanent members. We have twelve years of genocidal sanctions sustained on
the people of Iraq by the same Council. The ambassadors around that table
and their heads of state should all be indicted for crimes against humanity.
We have ongoing collective punishment of the Iraqi people, similar to the
collective punishment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. These
two situations are in blatant breach of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols
written to protect civilians in time of warfare. What is happening in
Palestine and in Iraq under sanctions is warfare. Sanctions are intended to
target civilians the innocent so that the people will somehow revolt and
overthrow a regime, the decision makers that the UN wants to punish. In the
case of Iraq, as we all know, the sanctions of twelve years are built on US
war crimes leading to extensive civilian infrastructure damage committed
during the Gulf War when the UN provided cover for the American military.
We have illegal bombing of most of Iraq by the US and Britain. There is no
UN Resolution to support this aggression undertaken in blatant neglect of
Iraqi sovereignty. And we have UN Resolution 1441 about Weapons of Mass
Destruction - no it's really about oil, and US control thereof. It is a
game, a charade, a form of theatre. It's about war on Iraq, about oil and
about providing UN respectability for Bush to have his unilateral war.
Weapons of mass destruction? There is no threat to the neighbours of Iraq,
nor to the US. That is Washington fiction, propaganda designed to frighten
the American people into supporting the ambitions of Bush for control of
oil, and empire. Incredibly in the 21st Century we have a neo-colonial
regime arising in the West. We see a colonial regime that wants to dominate
and control the Arab world, Iraqi oil and to enhance the size and power of
Israel. the mislocated American aircraft carrier in a sea of Arab peoples.
Colin Powell the Secretary of State has produced unrivaled arrogance and
audacity in proposing to invest $29 million to convince the Arab people that
the USA is not dangerous. But he has refused to address the two issues that
really count most to the people of the region Israeli state terrorism on the
people of Palestine and the threat of US war on Iraq. How naive and cheap
when the Pentagon has $400 billion plus to demonstrate just how dangerous
the US can be!
All this is backed up by a US media that often is obscene in its almost
nightly TV dialogue on how Iraq will be hit, bombed by high flying American
"heroes", invaded by US troops and then occupied all to ensure a friendly
American-model democracy ludicrous although that is to protect US interests
in cheap oil freely available as per the dependency requirements of the US
Meantime in Britain, we see Blair considering acceptance of one of the legs
of the "Star Wars" project in the UK, as pushed by Bush. Is this an advance
in "poodle-isation"? Acceptance would be consistent with the gutless
leadership we have in the rest of Europe including my own country of
Ireland. Knowing that Bush is a dangerous born again messianic, they
nevertheless lack the courage to oppose his ambitions for war and empire in
the Middle East.
They are unwilling to stop polices that call for an end to sovereignty, the
destruction of cultures, the rejection of values and disrespect for the
religious beliefs of others. These are violent polices that create the kind
of desperation that leads to terror and more violence. When we should all
Arab governments included be investing in people, not weapons. We should be
tackling poverty, debt-relief, health care needs, education and modern
technology and investing in the future of our children.
Mr. Chairman my first question to this assembly:
The UN Charter binds all member states to implement resolutions taken under
Chapter VII, Articles 41 (sanctions) and 42 (war). I want to share the view
that this is not so when the impact of any such Resolutions are themselves
incompatible with the content of Articles 1. (Purposes) and 2. (Principles).
Article <1.talks> inter alia of the purposes of the UN to maintain
international peace and security and to bring that about by peaceful means
and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law.
Whereas Article 2. indicates that the Organisation is based on the principle
of the sovereign equality of all its members; that all members shall settle
their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that
international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered; and that
all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat
or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence
of any state ....inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
May I enquire is there any doubt that the twelve years of UN deadly
sanctions on the people of Iraq are incompatible with these Charter
provisions? I do not think so and therefore, why should member states be
bound and become party to genocide?
Mr. Chairman question number two concerns the responsibilities of citizens
of democracies, particularly with respect to the consequences of a foreign
policy of the government they have elected and entrusted with power.
The USA and UK currently collectively punish no, they kill the children and
adults of Iraq because (they tell us) of the bad decisions made by Baghdad
about a decade ago Kuwait, weapons of mass destruction; or is it just fear
of Iraqi's potential regional leadership? Whatever! these children and
adults are effectively being held responsible, being punished and murdered
for decisions made by their government in Baghdad. How is it that we who
enjoy democracy, and accept its obligations, in Europe, North America or
elsewhere and are represented on the Security Council, or allow our country
to be bound by resolutions relating to Iraq, are not equally punished for
the genocidal impact of those same resolutions on the innocent civilians of
Iraq? Are we not responsible for the impact of foreign policy decisions made
by the men and women we elected? I believe we are.
Mr. Chairman question three relates to the concept of nuclear deterrent -
the same deterrent many of us did not accept, or were opposed to in the days
of the USSR/USA cold war. Today in a world of one hyper-power, the deterrent
concept seems to be in play and protection appears to be provided to
countries such as North Korea, Pakistan, Israel and others with, or with
near potential to have, nuclear weapons.
Let us ask ourselves, if Iraq was genuinely in possession of nuclear weapons
capacity would there be a murderous embargo in place? Would there be US
bombing of two fictitious no-fly zones? Would we have Bush threatening, in
fact preparing for war on Iraq, including the use of tactical nuclear
Makes for uncomfortable thoughts, but I leave the answer to you assembled
here for this Cairo conference.
Mr. Chairman, as Ramsey Clarke said "Bush is obsessed with war". In the UK,
the majority are opposed to war. And this is true of most if not all of
Europe, but European leaders and other allies of the USA have no courage.
The Arab leaders are no better and instead of following the thinking of
their own people, they are collaborating with the US against their Arab
neighbours in Iraq. That active collaboration must end. And even in my own
small country of Ireland, the government has allowed Bush to use Irish air
space and Shannon airport, whereas the majority of Irish people are opposed
to war. That is also collaboration. And many millions around the world are
opposed to war war that is unilateral, or under UN auspices is seen to
unjustified, incompatible with international law and thus hugely
Sadly, we have to live with the failure of democracy, the racism, the
prejudice and demonization of foreign leadership. We are learning to live
with a failed UN that tolerates corruption of the Security Council, genocide
and war crimes in its own name. We know about double standards and vested
self-interest of permanent and other member states on the Council. We watch
the rejection of the rule of international law. We are learning to fear the
consequences of the "pre-emptive strike" and even more recently a CIA
licensed to kill...although it would seem, in light of modern history, this
was always so!
We have the state terrorism of Israel in the illegally occupied territories
of Palestine. The people of Iraq feel the terror tactics of the USA everyday
via sanctions and bombing. The war threatened by the Bush regime is obscene,
unjustified, and those responsible will be indictable.
People like us here in Cairo and throughout the Region, civil society
primarily, and those in Europe, in the USA and around the world must stand
shoulder to shoulder to channel our anger, our outrage at Bush and his
Washington regime into a means to stop war on Iraq, further catastrophe for
the Region and further killing of the innocent.
Denis J. Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian
Coordinator in Iraq 1997-98.
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