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National's Statements On Iraq 2003 and 2007

Transcript: National's Statements On Iraq 2003 and 2007

National's Deputy Leader Bill English and current Leader John Key


This weekend when asked by TVNZ's Agenda presenter Lisa Owen where National stood on Iraq current National Leader John Key replied:

"...we made it quite clear that National wouldn’t have sent troops to Iraq, we did support the coalition of the willing and the United States ability to send troops to Iraq because we believed as I think the world believed at that time that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction."

For reference, see... Agenda 10/3/07: Transcript

Just prior to the United States invasion of Iraq a snap debate was held on the subject of the upcoming war against Iraq. In that debate the then National Leader Bill English and National's North Shore MP Wayne Mapp lamented the fact New Zealand not supporting the United States position on Iraq. Mr English also pointed out that New Zealand 's "long term interests lie with those of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia."

The United States, United Kingdom and Australia were all part of the 'coalition of the willing' that attacked Iraq in 2003 and all countries currently have troops in Iraq.

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FLASHBACK TO HANSARD: Tuesday, 18 March 2003

Debate on Iraq

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): The National Party will be supporting a coalition of the willing. We believe that it is in the interests of global peace and the long-term interests of New Zealand to see Saddam decisively disarmed. National has supported the United Nations process up until the time that it has failed. Along with the Government, we supported Resolution 1441. More recently, we supported the moves by the United Kingdom, Australia, the US, and others, to bring forward a second resolution to the United Nations. We did so, not in the belief that war could necessarily be averted, but in the belief that if there was a war, it should have the broad support of the international community. There is now no second resolution, and we believe that in the absence of such a resolution, it is the correct choice for New Zealand to support the coalition of the willing, which includes our traditional allies the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.

I want to say to those who say they oppose the war and looked for a United Nations resolution, that they have the luxury now of knowing there will be a war. They have the luxury now of knowing that Saddam will be disarmed and that what threat he offered to the world will be removed. They have the luxury now of knowing that the US is determined to retain its credibility as world policeman and will do so, and will be called on again to exercise that role.

Our hearts go out to the Iraqi people, who face fear and suffering that they do not deserve. In particular, I want to note the anxiety of those Iraqis who are resident here in New Zealand. It could have been different and we hope against hope that in the final 48 hours it will be different, if Saddam Hussein meets the ultimatum of the President of the United States. We should remember that Saddam could have chosen peace at any time in the last several months, but did not do so. He could have disarmed himself of weapons that he said he was not using. Instead, as a dictator, he continued to mislead the United Nations. He has a record of vicious oppression, reckless military adventure, and 12 years of defiance of the international community after the defeat in the Gulf War. It is our view that the proposal for another 30 days is but wishful thinking. Resolution 1441, supported by New Zealand, included a deadline of 30 days, which expired some 60 or 70 days ago.

A surprising amount of agreement on the circumstances around this war exists between myself and the Prime Minister in the remarks she has just made. There is agreement that Saddam is dangerous and must be disarmed, and there is agreement that we can understand why the US is acting as it is. The Prime Minister has refrained from criticising our allies. New Zealand has made a contribution to the war on terror, a significant contribution that sees hundreds of our military personnel poised on the edge of the war zone in the Gulf, with two frigates—the majority of our Navy—and a number of aircraft from our Air Force. There is agreement that the progress on disarmament that has been made has occurred only because of the credible threat of military force, and also agreement that the United Nations has the right to invoke force in order to disarm Saddam Hussein. The disagreement is simply around the proposal that Saddam and diplomacy should have had more time.

I want to consider the role the US has played, and will play, to help explain why we are supporting a coalition for the willing. I shall put it simply. Not to do so will entertain practical effects that are simply untenable. At this stage, when there is no UN resolution, not to support a coalition for the willing has practical effects that are simply untenable. I say to those who take a different view that if they believe there should not be a war, as the Government does, the next logical step is that the US should then be told that it should withdraw its troops. There can be only one result of that, and that is, that Saddam Hussein wins. Now that the diplomacy is over, now that we are dealing with the raw calculus of military might, there can be only one winner, and it is only honest to back the coalition for the willing for that reason.

For a decade the US has been called on to deal with collapsing States, to stop genocide, and to prevent suffering. Even today it is expected to deal with the task of North Korea and the risks it poses, while powerful nations such as China, Japan, and South Korea take a second-row seat. The US is expected to solve the problems of Israel and Palestine. No one pretends that anyone else can. In recent years the US has stepped into genocide in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia. It has played the role of the global policeman—a role that it will be called on to play again. Those who take the luxury of saying that this war should not, and must not, happen have not taken up that burden. In particular, I refer to the French position, which I find difficult to understand. France is the one nation that has initiated State-sponsored terrorism against New Zealand.

I ask those who are opposed to the war to consider the practical effects of the US saying that it will not go into Iraq, that it will withdraw its troops, and of the world then facing the bizarre situation where Saddam Hussein has faced down the US and has won. That would be a ridiculous result.

I cannot help thinking that decisions on this may have been made months ago. I cannot help thinking that we have been dragged to a choice that we certainly would not have sought. I cannot help thinking that we have only the choice, in so far as views in New Zealand make a difference, between bad and worse options. We have no eagerness for war. We have no eagerness for the suffering that might come with it. But in the long term our interests lie with those of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Along with the Prime Minister, I urge anyone in Iraq who can to take the steps outlined by President Bush so that war may be averted. We seek assurance from the New Zealand Government today that it is taking all efforts to protect New Zealand citizens and also the assurance that the Government will participate in a post-war rebuilding of Iraq. We have an obligation to do so.

Finally, on the role of the UN, we have a new kind of threat and an old set of rules. In fact, over the last 10 years, the UN has often been unable to take practical measures where those were required. At different times, the US and NATO have stepped in and earned UN support later for their actions. The United Nations and its procedures need updating, and I would hope that the New Zealand Government will play a role in urging change in the rules that the United Nations follow. Saddam Hussein has had many opportunities to disarm. The UN passed a resolution that threatened serious consequences if he did not. He has not, and those serious consequences are bound to follow.

Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National—North Shore): History will judge that the United Nations failed to support its own Resolution 1441 of last year. Had the Security Council’s members stood together, Iraq would have got the clear message to disarm voluntarily, or face the consequences. The lack of unity of the United Nations has now inevitably led to the military action by a coalition of the willing, led by the United States and Britain, to enforce that resolution.

Let me be clear that this action meets the test of international law. In November last year, the Security Council unanimously declared that Iraq posed a threat to international peace and security and that it was, and is, in material breach of its obligations. The Security Council also said that Iraq had one final opportunity to disarm. The reports by Hans Blix have demonstrated there has been, at best, only partial compliance with that. The United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, proved decisively that Iraq has embarked on a pattern of deceit, deception, and lies. So Iraq is in breach of its most serious obligations to disarm. It has wilfully thrown away its very last chance to disarm peaceably. Even with 200,000 troops on the border, Saddam Hussein has refused to comply with the unanimous will of the United Nations. That is why the United States and Britain, which are the countries that have committed their forces, have had to make the decision to disarm Iraq by force.

No one wants war, and we are faced with what must be an agonising and a difficult decision. The course of war should always be a difficult decision for any political party or any Government to make, because we know it results in innocent people being killed. The public are right to be worried about unforeseen consequences. But when faced with the worst dictator in the world, disarming him and removing him by force is the only option. That applies to the worst dictators in the world. Everyone in this Parliament whom I have heard today is agreed that Saddam Hussein is the worst dictator in the world today. He has killed literally hundreds of thousands of people. He has started two major wars, and he has used chemical weapons against civilians. He has developed biological weapons, which must be a unique weapon of terror, and he has lied to and deceived weapons inspectors for over a decade.

That is why the National Party, over the last several weeks, has encouraged the New Zealand Government to support our traditional allies in their quest for a second resolution in the United Nations. We believed that was the best possible approach for a multilateral decision. Instead, the Government chose to side with France, Germany, and Russia in opposing a second resolution. That decision will be marked as a decision that will damage the United Nations in the long term, and it will also damage our own country. When we have the choice of supporting our traditional allies, we should make that choice in favour of them. When we need them, we can count on them. So when they need us, they should be able to count on us.

But there is no second resolution. That is due to French intransigence, and Labour has supported that French obstructionism. That might be Labour’s way; it is not National’s. So we are faced today with now having to support the disarmament of Iraq by a coalition led by the United States and Britain, using force, because the United Nations has failed. More than that, we support those countries because they are doing the right thing. The coalition is not acting alone. It is supported by Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and most other Eastern European countries. Why is that? It is because those countries know, to their cost, the price of failure to stand up to dictatorship. We are faced with that test in this Parliament today. When the United Nations fails to support its own resolutions, a coalition of the willing can enforce that law, and, indeed, must enforce it. Coalitions of the willing are increasingly the way that international laws have had to be enforced in the last decade. The United Nations system simply is not up to the challenges of the modern era, so the countries with military capability are the ones that have to make the decisions. Those countries that are most concerned about a regime cannot afford to be thwarted by those that have no direct or material interest in the situation. Those countries that can enforce the law have an obligation to do so.

This issue lies deeper than just the Security Council, the United Nations, and Iraq. It is also about where New Zealand’s long-term interests and obligations lie. The Prime Minister, over many years, has always seen New Zealand as a European-style non-aligned social democracy, much like Sweden. Of course we have to ask ourselves when any of those small European countries has ever done anything at all to assist New Zealand. In fact, they are typically our antagonists on issues in international forums, so by taking the line that we have on Iraq we have turned our back on our traditional allies. This crisis has revealed more clearly than ever before where the fault lines lie in international relations. Our history should tell us where we should be going. To be out of step with the two countries in the Pacific Basin that we are most closely aligned with cannot possibly be in New Zealand’s interests.

So today I say this: to support the action led by the United States and Britain is the right course for New Zealand. We do so in National because, in the first instance, that ensures that international law is upheld, even when the United Nations fails to act. But in the second instance, our own interests should tell us to support our traditional friends and allies. Those relationships matter most on the tough issues, and this is assuredly one of the toughest of them all. Our position as a nation will be remembered long after Iraq has a new Government, and we will be judged accordingly.

I conclude by saying that there are times in politics and in the life of a nation when clear decisions have to be made. This is one of those times. Our Government did have the opportunity—which it did not take—to make the right decision, in which enforcing international law would have coincided with defending our national interests. That is the path of failure.


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