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Speech: Mapp - Iraq: Making the right decision

Speech: Mapp - Iraq: Making the right decision

delivered 7.30pm Monday 17 March

Iraq: Making the right decision

National Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Dr Wayne Mapp

North Shore electorate AGM

This week will see the final round of the diplomatic process on Iraq. Will there be a final ultimatum on Iraq from the UN? At the moment that looks unlikely. Military action will unfold before the end of the month, and as early as this week.

No one wants war. What we face is a choice between a bad situation and a worse situation.

The course of war should be a difficult decision for any political party. War does result in innocent people being killed. The public is properly worried about unforeseen consequences. But sometimes it can be the right choice. There are times when dictators must be deposed of. This only applies to the very worst dictators, those who, on past behaviour, threaten international stability.

Everyone is agreed that Saddam Hussein is the worst dictator in the world today. He has literally killed hundreds of thousands of people. He has started two major wars. He has used chemical weapons against civilians, killing thousands. He has developed biological weapons, a uniquely dangerous terrorist weapon, when he is specifically prohibited from doing so. He has lied to and deceived the weapons inspectors for over a decade.

It is only the credible threat of force that has compelled Hussein to allow limited inspections. Do we simply keep giving Iraq final chances that have to be backed up by permanently stationing hundreds of thousands of troops on the border? Would Hussein continue to cooperate, if the troops were not there?

For the Security Council to back down without total disarmament from Iraq is untenable. Its authority would be fatally compromised. It would have no ability in future to deal with issues such as North Korea that has nuclear capacity and intercontinental missiles.

Over the last several weeks, National has been encouraging the New Zealand Government to support our traditional allies in their quest for a second resolution in the UN. We believe that such a resolution would support the multilateral process. Instead the Government has chosen to side with France and Germany and Russia in opposing a second resolution. That can only damage the UN. But it will also damage New Zealand. Our fundamental interest lies with our traditional allies. Where we have a choice, we should back them. When we need them, we can count on them; and they should be able to count on us.

But what happens if there is no second resolution? Do we let a French veto dictate New Zealand's foreign policy against our own interests?

The French opposition to the war is based largely on their desire to become the leader of the opposition to American power. It is not a moral position. France was a major supplier of weapons of mass destruction to Iraq and continues to have strong commercial interests in the Hussein regime. It is also the only country ever to commit a terrorist attack on New Zealand.

Support for French obstructionism might be the Labour way - it is not National's. We must back the disarmament of Iraq, by force if that is what it takes. That means standing by our traditional allies. New Zealand should support the United States and Britain, not just because they are our traditional allies, but also because they are right in this situation. It is not as if they are acting alone. They are supported by Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and most other East European countries. These countries know from bitter experience of the need to stand up to ruthless dictators.

Coalitions of the willing are increasingly the way international relations are being conducted. Too often, as in the case of Kosovo where there was a Russian veto, the UN is unable to act. But the nations most concerned cannot afford to be thwarted. Therefore those who can act to enforce international law and security will do so.

Ultimately peace and security in the world has to be backed by those nations with the capability to act. In this instance the military force is supplied by the United States, Britain, Australia and a number of European countries. A failure of will by the UN cannot be allowed to prevent UN resolutions being enforced. Ultimately that means the providers of military force have to make their own judgement as to whether force should be used. In the case of Iraq the case is clear. Iraq has been in continual defiance of UN resolutions. They possess weapons of mass destruction. They have been uncooperative, to the point of forgetting until last month about stocks of anthrax allegedly destroyed in 1999. The brutal dictatorship of Iraq must be stopped - and stopped now.

But this issue is much deeper than Security Council resolutions against Iraq. It is about where New Zealand's long term interests and obligations lie.

The Prime Minister has always seen New Zealand as a European style, non-aligned social democracy much like Sweden. Of course, the small European social democracies are not able to do anything to assist New Zealand's security or economic position. In fact, they typically are among the most diligent in opposing trade liberalisation for our agricultural products.

By choosing to take the Franco-German line, we are turning our back on our traditional allies

New Zealand's failure to support UN enforcement and to back our traditional allies is likely to have long-term costs. The Iraq crisis has revealed more clearly than ever before the fault lines in international relations. Our history should tell us where our interests fundamentally lie. To be out of step with the two countries in the Pacific with whom we share common values and interests cannot be in New Zealand's best interests.

Support for action led by the United States and Britain is the right course for New Zealand. In the first instance we do so on the basis of ensuring that international law is upheld, even when the UN fails to act. In the second instance, our own interests tell us to support our traditional friends and allies. These relationships matter most on the tough issues, and war is assuredly the toughest of them all. It will be remembered, long after Iraq has a new government, where we stood as a nation. There are times in politics when clear decisions must be made. This is one of those times. It is a time when the right decision and our national interests co-incide.


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