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Robson on Politics - Iraq - what now?

Robson on Politics

By Matt Robson

Iraq - what now?

In the 1970s and 1980s in Amnesty International writing groups, we asked the New Zealand government to act on human rights abuses in various countries. Two were Suharto's Indonesia and Saddam's Iraq.

It was no surprise that during the long regime of Saddam Hussein the use of chemical weapons against Iran attracted no condemnation from those who do so now. Indeed that war was urged and financed by his then allies, the present conquerors, for 8 years. Nor did use of chemical weapons against the Kurds. Nor did the extra-judicial murders carried out against his opponents. All the while, arms salesmen and the makers of biological and chemical weapons were active in Baghdad.

So apologies are due to the long suffering people of Iraq. The best way is by a reconstruction under their control, assisted by the United Nations, with no strings attached.

It is no surprise that large stocks of weapons of mass destruction have not yet been uncovered. That is what former UN inspector Scott Ritter said and was vilified for. It is feasible that as devious a regime as Saddam's may have possessed weapons of mass destruction and that they may be found at a future date. But it was touted that such weapons were be used against invaders but this did not happen.

It was no surprise that the Iraqi army folded before the might of the United States. Any kid playing video games could have told you that. Saddam has gone and the regime will change - so regime change as a reason for war has come to fruition. Only one out of three reasons for war survives scrutiny. There will be no tears for this run of the mill tyrant. He joins Mobutu, Suharto, Pinochet, Somoza, Ceausecu and the rest in the hall of infamy reserved for dictators imposed on their people to act as the puppets of others.

To recover from dictators, squandering of resources on weapons, and a decade of sanctions and war, Iraq and much of the Middle East need the sums of money for military expenditure turned to development through a Marshall-type plan. The countries that have profited from arms sales to Iraq and the region should be the largest donors. This needs to include Palestine with UN resolutions respected by Israel. The Syrian proposal for a weapons free Middle East is a sensible starting place. Let us hope that the newly revealed US plan to maintain military bases in Iraq is abandoned for this new course.

Better that than a new form of occupation and a pliant regime.


Four Weeks Leave is rolling

Good to see NZ Post coming to the party and recognizing that there is more to life than work. Their move to not deliver mail on Easter Saturday deserves a medal. This decision gives a real boost to the campaign to bring balance to our working life. The four weeks campaign is based upon that need.

And the postcards 'Thumbs Up for 4 Weeks' are flooding into my office. The Council of Trade Unions, the EMPU (Engineers, Printing and Manufacturing Union) and a number of other unions are joining with the Progressives to distribute thousands of the cards. Those returned will be presented the select committee. If you want to be a distributor just contact my office.


Restorative Justice in Napier

Six Taradale youths were found guilty at re-trial in the notorious broomstick assault case. But as part of the story another youth involved, pleaded guilty, accepted his jail sentence and also took part in a restorative justice process. Over several meetings the two families, the offender's and the victim's, have drawn closer and the remorse of the offender, now serving his prison sentence, has clearly helped the victim and his family to start healing after the horrific crime.

The victim's father is reported as saying about the offender: "I said to him, 'When you go to jail, and you are going there, what you can do for us is better yourself.' " The victim himself said after the restorative justice processes: "I just want to get my life under way and let Andrew [ the offender ] do the same."

In a visit last week to Dunedin I met with restorative justice groups involved with the court pilot. I will report on that in next week's issue including the use of restorative justice principles under the new Sentencing Act in the Dunedin Court.

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