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Santoro, Sen Santo
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Thursday, 20 March 2003
Senator LIGHTFOOT (9:43 AM) —I thank the Senate for the opportunity of contributing to this ongoing debate with respect to the proposed war in Iraq. I have listened, not to all of the speakers—there have been a number of them—but to a lot nonetheless. I have listened in this chamber and I have listened on my monitor, and I do not recall there being such vociferous differences between the conservative elements of those in this house and the socialist elements.
It reminds me of the Second World War— about which other people have spoken here as they contributed in a significant way to this debate—and of the rise of Hitler, when he created a putsch in the mid-twenties, when he was not stopped, and later in 1933 when with less than 40 per cent of the vote he replaced the German Kaiser and Chancellor and assumed control as Chancellor, and then again in 1938 when he promised he was not going any further and had no expansionary visions for Europe. Then he went, in the face of telling the world and particularly the Britons at the time, who were in a similar position to that of the United States today, and convinced them of his sincerity. I wonder whether he did convince them. I wonder whether there was not a large element of people who went along with what their leaders said—not necessarily the Prime Minister of the day but what their opposition Labour Party leader said in Britain. The Labour Party at the time, you might recall, Mr Acting Deputy President, had a disposition that erred towards national socialism.
You will recall Mosley's mob, as they were referred to. You will also recall the traitor whose name was William Joyce, who was given the name of Lord Haw-Haw by a journalist from the Daily Telegraph in London, a paper published in the city at least. I do not remember precisely the genesis of the term `Haw-Haw', but it was the tone of his voice, his impeccable accent, that at least contributed to that sobriquet. We have a similar situation today where, if Saddam Hussein had been stopped at some time during his murderous rise through the Baath party, we would not be facing this dilemma today. We would not be sending Australian troops there today. We would not see over 300,000 troops defending what we believe firmly, fervently and totally is a just war. It is a just war because there are so many other times in history when aggression could have been stopped but we did not stop it. We did not have the ticker in the leadership at the time to stop it.
We do have that ticker today, and I am pleased and proud to say that I embrace and endorse totally, without equivocation and unambiguously, those moves that the coalition government, through the Prime Minister John Howard, have made to prevent this madman, this manifest killer, this man who kills his own kith and kin, this man who has slaughtered his way to the top and who holds his position and the premiership in Iraq by fear—not just fear of losing your life, which is bad enough, but fear of terrible, terrible torture before you succumb to the embrace of that black abyss. I think about the parallel with Hitler's Germany of the thirties and, ultimately, the forties. I know that it is not going to be like that because of the action of the United States, the British and the Australians—and let us not forget the Polish government, which is also sending 200 troops to that never-ending trouble spot of the Middle East.
But let me get back to Lord Haw-Haw. Lord Haw-Haw's tactics, as I recall from reading in history, were to broadcast to the Allied forces, particularly the British, to let their troops know that their wives and families needed them at home and how much they missed them, to let the troops know that they could not win, to let the troops in other parts of that awful geographical area at the time know that their loved ones were waiting for them and to let them know that they had an option about living in trenches and that they should be at home. He was disrupting the ability of the armed services at the time to function in a proper fashion—or at least that is what he hoped and that is what his Nazi masters hoped at the time. Here you have Mr Crean from the other place saying that this is an unjust war: `This is not a war that is sanctioned by the United Nations. This is a war that is illegal. Why don't we bring our boys home?' There is a parallel between the two characters.
Senator Santoro —A treacherous parallel.
Senator LIGHTFOOT —As my colleague Senator Santo Santoro says, there is a treacherous parallel between the two systems, the one using the age-old propaganda of using loved ones, their home, their succour and with their bright fires burning— using all these illustrations—to try to unseat and to create unrest amongst the armed services. Mr Crean is not Lord Haw-Haw; he is Lord Ha-Ha, because people laugh at him. They are laughing at him because what he should be doing is getting behind the Australian troops and the Australian service personnel unequivocally, saying he supports their endeavours; the die is cast. Why would you try to create dissension, unrest and unhappiness amongst our troops by saying that you are going to bring the boys home? It might have worked with Clement Attlee, but it is not going to work today. These men and women of ours have a cause. The cause is just, the cause is legal, and the Australian people are behind our service men and women in the Middle East, as they have been behind them in all other conflicts this country has participated in since the turn of the century at least—although some historians would say that the Maori wars of the 1850s were the first conflicts that Australian troops fought in.
We have fought in many battles. We have always punched well above our weight in our battles, whether it was the Boer War or the First World War—where only the Irish suffered greater casualties per capita of troops sent—whether it was the Second World War, the Malayan Emergency or the Indonesian conflict or whether it was the Korean War or the Vietnamese war. And let me say that when there was a tragic loss there of French troops, of young Frenchmen, tens of thousands of them at Dien Bien Phu, it was not a time when the French should have pulled out. But what did they do? They pulled out of Indochina and left the United States, again, to raise the flame of democracy in that area, and not a French trooper was to be seen after the terrible debacle at Dien Bien Phu.
Senator Barnett —They have a real track record, haven't they?
Senator LIGHTFOOT —They do have a track record and it is a bad track record. And today the same thing is happening. The French created problems in the Levant. They deserted it. The French created problems in the Lebanon and they deserted and left that tiny country to its own particular secular conflicts. It is not a pleasant time in the world today. It is not a pleasant time for a united Europe, where you have two of the largest countries there, one of which is still an economic force—I speak of Germany, where over 11 per cent are unemployed at the moment and the Chancellor is not doing much to assist it—having conflict. With these two major countries opposing the rest of the countries of the European Union, it does not augur well and one should be very sceptical about the European Union being able to function properly, either in a cohesive sense or in an economic sense. Some would say it needs to function in an economic sense to be cohesive. I find no argument with that.
But let me get back to `Lord Ha-Ha'. The Leader of the Opposition in the other place said that there is no justification for going in. We know there is justification. Everybody, from six-year-olds upwards, knows that the justification is ample and is manifest. It is manifested every day. You heard someone speak last night, in a contribution on this same debate, of a dissenter in Baghdad who had his tongue cut out, who was stabbed and mutilated and then tied to a telegraph pole so everyone could see what happened to people who offered some dissent. You know that history has recorded in recent times that there have been 375,000 young men and some young women who were killed as a result of the conflict between Iraq and Iran in the eighties. You know that the president, the dictator, the despot of Iraq induced his son-in-law to come home: `All is forgiven'. This was the father of the despot's grandchildren he induced to come home, and when he came home he had him executed. He had him summarily shot.
Senator Boswell —There were two of them—two sons-in-law.
Senator LIGHTFOOT —Two sons-in-law, as Senator Boswell, the Leader of the National Party, says. Two sons-in-law were executed. What sort of a man is this? How can you find the justification or the cause to support a man like this? I have been to the Middle East on several occasions. In December I was in Jordan and Iran. Could I say—I trust not the detriment of those countries—that they support what we are doing. I spoke to many people in high places. I was very fortunate to speak to King Abdullah, but the subject of this was not protracted, I can assure you. He did not say that he supported the allies' advance. But other people in high positions in both of those countries told me privately and I guess in some confidence—but because invasion is imminent I feel free, and I feel it proper, to say now— that political leaders and clerics in those countries want him overthrown. He is a threat to the stability and the peace in that country and the wider region.
Senator Ferris —And all the oppressed women.
Senator LIGHTFOOT —And all the oppressed women, as Senator Ferris has said. There is a cause, particularly in Jordan and Iran, because women form more than 50 per cent of university enrolments but what happens to them after that? In some places they still have to wear the chador; they still have to wear head veils and so on. They do not have the freedom that women in the developed world have, particularly those in Australia. You could think of a hundred different justifications for overthrowing this despot.
Paradoxically, it is rather sad to think that the first recognised civilisation, the Sumerians, started in those rich, watered valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates several thousand years ago, where people stopped and fostered and grew crops from which, incidentally, we benefit today. So here we have the cradle of civilisation being run, over a number of decades now, by one of the greatest despots and most cruel of men that this world has ever seen. I put him in the same category as Pol Pot, as General Tojo, as Herr Schickelgruber—otherwise known as Adolf Hitler; I put him in the category of all those despots that have come before him. So the justification is there to overthrow him on that basis alone.
The legality of the proposed invasion is not there, as the chap I refer to as `Lord Ha-Ha' says. Let me have a look at resolutions 678, 687 and 1441. Resolution 678 authorises United Nation members to `use all necessary means' to implement United Nations resolutions to restore peace and security in the region. That is clear. You cannot read anything into it other than what it says. It is plain language. Where is the problem with 678? Resolution 678 is augmented by resolution 687, created in 1991, which sets out clear and unambiguous obligations on Iraq to abandon its weapons of mass destruction. So far there has been no conclusive evidence that those weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed. I am sure that they are in the bastion and armoury of this despot. Resolution 687 says that it is necessary to take steps to restore peace and security to the Middle East in the wake of the Gulf War. By its failure to comply with its obligations, Iraq has breached the cease-fire conditions imposed at the end of the Gulf War in 1991 by the United Nations.
Let us look at resolution 1441. The cease-fire resolution declared that Iraq was in continuing material breach of those cease-fire conditions of resolutions 678 and 687. Resolution 1441 then gave Iraq one last chance—and how many last chances has the despot had?—to comply with its disarmament obligations, or it would face serious consequences. As Iraq failed to take advantage of the opportunity provided by resolution 1441, it still remains in material breach of resolutions 678 and 687. Therefore, there is no basis for continuing the cease-fire.
The justification is ample. Even a fraction of that which I and my colleagues in this chamber have described is ample to justify the war. No-one likes war. You would have to be insane to look forward to a war with glee. But we know from the past—from Australian and European history—that freedom has only been won where the opportunity and where the justification exist to overthrow despots of this nature. If done with alacrity, certainly we have been able to overthrow other despots—which gives us this freedom that we enjoy today and which gives us these laws that allow women to be equal to men in Australia. Some would say that women are equal—but not as equal as the men. I have no problem with that; it is coming and it will come. But it will not come to the Middle East and it will not come to Iraq. It will not come because of this bloodthirsty killer. I really do not think he is insane, if that is not a contradiction of what I have already said. I think that he is too clever, too witty and too much of a survivor, but he has killed, slashed, stabbed, murdered and intimidated his way to the top through the Ba'ath Party.
Let me turn to more recent events in the House of Commons on their last sitting day. The House of Commons approved `all means necessary' against Iraq by 396 for and 217 against. (Time expired)