Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Gulf war: ALP backbencher is highly critical of the bombing of the Baghdad bunker and believes the United States should accept full responsibility rather than `blaming the victim'

PAUL MURPHY: On the home front there's been a strong statement in Federal Parliament today, on the Baghdad bunker raid, from the Labor MP John Langmore, who said it was the most terrible slaughter of civilians we've heard of in the Gulf war. Mr Langmore said the US response was, in effect, a blame the victims, and added this tragedy should intensify attempts to negotiate a cease-fire. Well, John Langmore is in our Canberra studio now.

Well, Mr Langmore, you obviously don't believe the Americans when they still assert that this bunker was a military target, but might the Americans be right and for some terrible reason civilians were in it, when the bombs or missiles struck?

JOHN LANGMORE: I don't necessarily not believe them when they say that they thought that it was a command centre, but the point is that they're blaming Hussein for allowing civilians to use it as a bomb shelter, and that's surely blaming the victims when they should, themselves, be taking complete responsibility for what's apparently the greatest slaughter of civilians so far in the war.

PAUL MURPHY: What about the American assertion that Hussein may have deliberately put civilians into that bunker, with the terrible result we've seen?

JOHN LANGMORE: It's just conceivable that that might be correct, but it's far more likely that the civilians were trying to protect themselves from the rain of bombs that has been coming down on their city for some weeks now, and that they were there entirely for their own self-protection.

PAUL MURPHY: So are you alleging that US officials are trying to mislead or manipulate world opinion on what looks like a terrible accident?

JOHN LANGMORE: Yes, I think that they are. I think that they're trying to blame Iraq when they should be accepting the full responsibility for themselves, and they should be accepting that they need to restrict their bombing rather more rigorously, so that this kind of incident is far less likely to happen.

PAUL MURPHY: Yes, of course, they claim that they still do this pinpoint, surgical, smart bombing - that's separate from the B-52 carpet bombing. You voted for the Government resolution on the Gulf in Parliament, so I take it that you haven't changed your mind on the fundamental war aims of the allied coalition countries?

JOHN LANGMORE: I think it's not responsible for us to talk about unilaterally withdrawing from the war; it is, after all, sanctioned by the United Nations. But I think we could do far more to urge willingness by the United States to look for peace feelers from the Iraqis, and there are headlines in some evening papers today, suggesting that Hussein may be putting out those feelers, but there seems to be a very tough resistance to that from the United States, in the comments that have so far been reported. If that is an accurate reflection of their position, then it's unsatisfactory. We should be urging them to be open to those feelers while, of course, continuing to say that a necessary outcome for any negotiations must be Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

PAUL MURPHY: Yes, so you're referring to the non-aligned efforts; also, the Soviet talks, first, Mr Primakov, and then the fact that Tariq Aziz, I think, is going to Moscow to see Mr Gorbachev at the weekend. So do you think that Australia being, of course, involved in this war on the allied coalition side, should be doing more to make this sort of hideous tragedy involving civilians not happen again; in other words, asking for America to really try hard to look for the peace option?

JOHN LANGMORE: That's exactly what I think. And we are close allies of the United States, respected allies. We could, without in any sense fracturing the alliance, be urging them to be more restrained in their bombing strategy and more open in their willingness to consider negotiation.

PAUL MURPHY: Okay, Mr Langmore, thanks very much indeed for speaking to P.M.