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Tuesday, 5 March 1991
Page: 1328

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Mr MACK(10.05) —On the last occasion the question of Iraq» was before the House-on 22 January-we were asked to support a war that had been commenced a week before by the United States. In my view, the question was: what would be the best method to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and from power? Was it to take, on 15 January, the war option or was it to continue a military siege, sanctions and diplomatic pressure for some further period of time? We will never know the merits or otherwise of the latter option. What we can now begin to do is to assess the war option and our part in it. Certainly the primary objective has been achieved-that is, the removal of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. It has been achieved in a very speedy manner and with an incredibly small number of allied casualties. We are all obviously very grateful for that. I certainly join the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) in congratulating all concerned with the Australian effort in doing that.

On balance, the role of the United Nations (UN) has been strengthened. However, that has to be tempered by the fact that the veto can always be used in the future. It just so happens that on this occasion all members of the Security Council, for reasons of their own, did not exercise the veto. While the UN is the only hope for world peace, I think we must not get carried away, because the Security Council is not a particularly democratic representation of the General Assembly and, in turn, the General Assembly is not a particularly democratic representation of the world's people. After all, only about 35 of the 158 members can be called a democracy in any sense of the word. Nevertheless, the United Nations is all we have, and I think Australia has to do all it can to reinforce that organisation and to seek to make it a more democratic institution in the future.

Any real assessment of the war is fairly difficult at this point. I suppose Ronald Zieglar, President Nixon's press secretary, would be very proud of the way the news has been managed in this particular war. As far as I am aware, no honourable member of the House has raised this issue. We were told at the start that this was going to be a television war. We have really seen nothing of the war, except a lot of talking heads and a lot of file footage. For some weeks, we have had the most intensive bombing campaign probably in history and there has been almost no mention of casualties. We have just heard a lot of obscene euphemisms about collateral damage.

The obvious media manipulation built up quite a false picture of Saddam Hussein. We were told about the enormous might of the Iraqi military machine and that it was on a par with the Germany of the late 1930s. The truth really was that this war was totally one-sided. As some of the American commentators said, it was virtually a turkey shoot. There was no resistance in the air, virtually no resistance at sea and very little resistance on land. Of course, what else could we expect when we had the bulk of the world's industrialised countries attacking a Third World country with a population equivalent to that of Australia? That Third World country had been sold an enormous amount of military hardware, but it fortunately had no infrastructure and no capability of really utilising it.

The evidence of the much vaunted menace of the nuclear and chemical capability of «Iraq» has not materialised. But I guess all of that was totally predictable, as was the massive damage that Kuwait and «Iraq» have received as they have been bombed back to the Stone Age. The results of that will be with us for at least a decade to come. We know that the cost of repairs for the immediate result is in the vicinity of $100 billion. We also know that we have enormous casualties. No-one is saying what the casualty rate is, but if we look at the 106,000 air sorties over «Iraq» and Kuwait and look at the massive naval bombardment with the thousands of missiles, even if one person was killed in each action, we have a casualty rate of around 200,000. We know we have an ecological disaster-possibly the largest in the world's history-in the Gulf itself on the land with the oil fires.

Certainly it is of some satisfaction, I suppose, that the Government of Kuwait has been reinstated, but personally I find very little joy in reinstating an obscenely wealthy, feudal, despotic regime. We should make no mistake: the seeds of the future fall of that regime and others in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates have well and truly been laid. There is no way that family concentrations of enormous wealth can survive in the Arab world for very long, particularly when most of that world is in poverty and has an illiteracy rate of around 50 per cent.

We know that another cost of the war is well over one million refugees, which will destabilise a number of other countries in the Middle East. Again, the problems of that will flow for many years. Australia must bear some responsibility and must do something about that.

But probably the most damaging result of the war is the reinforcement of war and the war option as the effective way of solving disputes. In spite of some of the hypocrisy that I have heard in this chamber and all the hypocrisy that will be heard in many other forums around the world, every nation is quietly looking now to reinforce its military capability, especially its nuclear capability. We have set the stage for the next time around. We should make no mistake; the message that has reverberated around the world is, `You need a better air force'. An increase in defence budgets will occur in virtually every country, and the war has precipitated an arms push, particularly in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in China and possibly even in Germany and Japan. Shares in arms manufacturers are rocketing around the world.

From the Australian point of view, not much has been overtly said by our South East Asian neighbours, but the fact is that we broke faith with them. We failed to consult them as we were treaty bound to do; the trade ramifications will haunt us for many years, particularly in the Middle East and South East Asia; and, on the other side of the coin, our token role-and it was only a token role-has not passed unnoticed among our great and powerful friends. Certainly the United States of America shows little sign of reversing its present policy of crushing our rural sector.

The war has set the scene for the destabilisation of a number of regimes in the Middle East, particularly Jordan, and the cause of Moslem fundamentalism has been helped quite considerably. The hatred and antipathy to the West in much of the Moslem world has been reinforced from Mauritania to North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. We will need a great deal of damage control if we are not going to pay for this economically and militarily in the years ahead.

But I suppose our really glaring problem, having taken the war option, is what happens about enforcing United Nations resolutions on Turkey, Israel and Indonesia, in respect of Cyprus, the West Bank and Timor. Before the war we could quietly consign them away, but now I do not think we can treat them as ancient history; we have to address them in some form unless we are prepared to let the new world order collapse in a welter of double standards and hypocrisy.

These are some of the results, and they were all clearly predictable, of the war option taken on 16 January. We have not addressed any of the real causes of the war or the Middle East problems; they all remain: the artificial colonial borders of 1922; the impossible borders of Israel set up in 1948; and the poverty and illiteracy of most of the Arab world. We have not addressed the world's armament manufacturers selling to dictatorial regimes; we have not even looked at the question of the growth of religious fundamentalism-and that fundamentalism is not only Islamic; it is also Hebrew and Christian. We have seen some of the results of that in Lebanon. We have not addressed the problem of the undemocratic feudal regimes-we have reinforced them, temporarily-or the unequal distribution of wealth throughout the Middle East. Lastly, and probably most of all for the stability of the Middle East, we have not even talked about the problem of the Jewish and Palestinian homelands.

The course of peace in the Middle East will be obviously far more difficult than the war. I can only urge the Government to take a much greater role in the United Nations. We have to pursue through the United Nations and through other diplomatic means the removal of Saddam Hussein from any position of power in the future; we have to support a greater role for the United Nations and seek more democratic reforms of its structures; we have to support increased aid, particularly to countries without massive oil reserves; we have to support the establishment of democratic regimes-not only in «Iraq , as the honourable member for Calwell (Dr Theophanous) called for, but throughout the Middle East; and, most of all, we have to commence extensive damage control programs, particularly with our South East Asian neighbours and Moslem countries throughout the world. We must forgo the future temptation to export arms to some of these countries, and we have to consign the Mirage fiasco to history.

We cannot shirk our responsibilities. We have to raise in the UN the question of Cyprus, the West Bank and Timor, and we have to find permanent solutions. If we simply ignore these areas, we will only be accused of double standards and hypocrisy.

Finally, I would like to support the Prime Minister in his view of the new world order if it means no military invasions of any country without approval of the Security Council, but I do not want to support it if it means unquestioning support for US intervention as a world policeman.