(This is the text of Halliday’s remarks at the Cairo Conference Against US Aggression against Iraq on December 19.)
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 economy.
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 strikes?
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 unacceptable.
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.