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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17193

Mr DANBY (3:49 PM) —I congratulate the member for Pearce for moving this motion. There are many genuine people in this House who have a disparity of views about recent events in Iraq. I think that all of us who have a concern for the wellbeing of the people of Iraq should focus on the issues that are raised in this motion so that—despite all of the disagreements all around the world and in our country—aid can be put into place, electricity can be put back online and humanitarian assistance that is promised can be delivered. Whatever one's views of the conflict with Iraq and the destruction of the Saddam Hussein regime, it is incumbent upon all of us to see that the promises to the people of Iraq are kept. I am not entirely confident, given events in Afghanistan where similar undertakings were made and are not necessarily being fulfilled, that the people of Iraq will be supported with the speed and the wherewithal that they ought to be.

In the context of the situation in Iraq at the moment, I think it is important to look at what happened during the 30 years of the fascist Baath regime. The Iran-Iraq war 1980-88 resulted in one million Muslim casualties, dead and wounded. Iranian casualties were estimated between 450,000 and 730,000. Iraqi casualties were estimated between 150,000 and 340,000. During the genocidal Anfal campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan—about which so many Kurdish Australians have spoken very movingly to me and to opposition foreign affairs committees that I am on—Saddam's Baathist SS were responsible for the death and disappearance of 100,000 Muslim Kurds. On 16 March 1988 there was an infamous incident, which we now remember, in which Saddam's butchers gassed up to 5,000 people in one incident in an attack on the town of Halabja in northern Iraq. In the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, there were more than 1,000 Kuwaiti Muslims killed by Iraqi Baath forces. There are 605 prisoners of war, and I know people in Kuwait and surrounding countries remain extremely anxious about them.

Among the most infamous things done during the Hussein regime were the faked baby-killing parades. An article in the Herald Sun recounted that Dr Amer Abdul a-Jalil, the deputy resident of Baghdad's Ibn al-Baladi Hospital, said:

Over the past 10 years, the government in Iraq poured money into the military and the construction of palaces for Saddam to the detriment of the health sector ... Those babies or small children who died because they could not access the right drugs, died because Saddam's government failed to distribute the drugs.

The article continues:

As the hospital's chief resident, Dr Hussein Shihab, confirmed to Newsday: “We had the ability to get all the drugs we needed. Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA. I am one of the doctors who was forced to tell something wrong—that these children died from the fault of the UN.”

Dr Azhar Abdul Khadem, a resident at Baghdad's Al-Alwiya maternity hospital agreed: “Saddam Hussein, he's the murderer, not the UN.”

In fact, Dr Oasem al-Taye, who now runs the Baghdad Children's Hospital, said ... after Saddam's fall he'd found plenty of ... equipment and medicine at a hospital once reserved for the leaders of Saddam's regime.

Isn't that a disgrace, Mr Deputy Speaker? The article continues:

“They were willing to sacrifice the children for the sake of propaganda,” Dr al-Taye said bitterly.

The parades of dead children were part of that same propaganda.

Doctors say hospitals were forced to keep the bodies of babies who had died prematurely or of natural causes for up to two months until Saddam had enough to stage a parade of the little corpses, with women bussed in to act as “mourners”, screaming insults ... in front of television cameras.

“All 10 hospitals in Baghdad were involved in this and the quota for the parade was between 25 and 30 babies a month, which they would say had died in one day,” Dr Hussein al-Douri, deputy director of the Ibn al-Baladi hospital, told the Telegraph.

To conclude, I echo the eloquence of that humanitarian, that advocate of refugees, the assistant editor of the Age, Pamela Bone, who said:

It is time the idea that dictators can use the shield of national sovereignty in order to commit atrocities against their own people was overturned ... You don't have to be a particularly good person to think that war is bad. Nearly everyone would agree that it is. But as the founder of Medicins Sans Frontieres, Bernard Kouchner (a socialist), said of the action in Iraq, what is worse than war is for the international community to leave in place a dictator who massacres his people.

Whatever our views are, we have to determine that aid is delivered to the people of Iraq. (Time expired)