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21 january 1991 - a sense of de ja vu

  1. Grant62

    4,883 Posts.
    From Hansard (21 JanUary 1991), and the Senate's debate on the Gulf War.

    France - unchanged.
    Democrats - unchanged.
    ALP - Bring back the old team of yesteryear.
    Debating tactics - unchanged.
    Circumstances faced - now being repeated.
    Impact of senator Evans' words - I hate to say it, but almost prophetic in nature, particularly where he said:

    "But sometimes wars have to be fought because the consequences of not fighting them are worse: postponing the destruction to another time and guaranteeing that it will occur on a greater and even more horrifying scale when it does. World War II was such a war. The only mistake of the civilised world was to wait too long to confront the Nazis with the only response they understood".

    Senator GARETH EVANS (Victoria-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade)(3.30) --War is always a hateful business. There is no romance in killing, in maiming, in destruction-not even, as Senator Powell says, in the television age. There is no money spent on killing, maiming and destruction that all of us would not rather spend on building a better life for people around the globe. But it does need to be said at the outset that the Australian Democrats and those who are wholly opposed--

    An incident having occurred in the gallery-

    The PRESIDENT --Order! I ask the attendants to remove that person.

    Senator GARETH EVANS --It has to be said at the outset that the Australian Democrats--

    An incident having occurred in the gallery-

    The PRESIDENT --Order!

    Senator GARETH EVANS --It has to be said that neither the Australian Democrats, nor the lady in the gallery, nor anyone else who opposes this war has any monopoly on the moral perception that war is a hateful business. All of us share that perception.

    But sometimes wars have to be fought because the consequences of not fighting them are worse: postponing the destruction to another time and guaranteeing that it will occur on a greater and even more horrifying scale when it does. World War II was such a war. The only mistake of the civilised world was to wait too long to confront the Nazis with the only response they understood. The Korean War-the only previous example of the United Nations (UN) collective security process at work-was another such example. The war in the Gulf, which is now being fought under UN authority with the participation, the support or acquiescence-not just of the United States and its acolytes, as Senator Powell would have it-of all but three of its 160 members, is now the third such example.

    It is not a case of my country right or wrong, or even international majorities right or wrong: some of the wars in which Australia fought this century were avoidable, should never have involved Australians and should never have been fought at all. However, the Gulf is not World War I; the Gulf is not Vietnam. Hateful as it is, destructive as it is-and will continue to be-and more sickening as it may well become in terms of lives lost, the Gulf war is a war which has to be fought and has to be won.

    I want to spend my time today justifying that statement and in particular answering two questions which seem to be at the heart of the objections of the Australian Democrats and indeed those of others in the community who are anxious about the course of events that have unfolded. Those questions are these: in the first place, are the things for which we are fighting in the Gulf ones over which the international community and Australia in particular should be prepared to fight at all? Are the issues at stake that important? The second question is: are they things for which we have to fight now? Was peace given a chance? Could sanctions have worked? Could diplomacy have worked? Should we have been more patient?

    An incident having occurred in the gallery-

    Senator GARETH EVANS --I will answer all those questions but not in the way I think the gallery wants me to. Are the issues in the Gulf then ones for which we should be prepared to fight? The answer is unequivocally yes. The issues and the objectives involved have been very clearly defined by the UN Security Council resolutions. Two of those resolutions were explicit, for Iraq to get out of Kuwait and to restore the legitimate government of Kuwait, and one was implicit, to create the basis for achieving future peace and stability in the whole region.

    Getting Iraq out of Kuwait is something for which we should be prepared to fight and the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has made amply clear why. It is important for the people of Kuwait, who have been murdered, tortured, raped, humiliated, brutalised and looted. It is important for other countries in the region, which are confronting a warmongering state which has the ambition to conquer and to assume leadership of the Arab world. It is a state which has the capacity to conquer within the region-a state which has one million men under arms, which has a chemical weapons capacity, which has possible biological weapons capacity and which is well on the way to achieving nuclear capacity. It is a country with a demonstrated instinct for brutality and aggression-by the use of chemical weapons against its own people, by its unprovoked aggression already against Kuwait and, as we have now seen, by its unprovoked aggression against Israel. It is important for the world economy and those dependent on it, not least the Third World countries already devastated by the high oil prices which have been maintained by the tension since this crisis began but also, of course, by an industrial world that could well have been held to ransom had Iraq been allowed to move on to Saudi Arabia and to capture in the process fully 45 per cent of the world's oil reserves.

    Getting Iraq out of Kuwait is important, above all else, for the future peace of the world, which depends crucially now, as has been said so often-most recently and most effectively today by the Prime Minister-on the effectiveness of collective security under UN institutions. The irony is that as the discipline of the Cold War fades, there is not only a set of new opportunities for peace but of new dangers of war. It is not just a matter of wanting peace; one has to create the conditions for peace. The founders of the United Nations always knew that peace enforcement was a necessary last resort.

    An incident having occurred in the gallery-

    Senator GARETH EVANS --One does not get peace by chanting for peace; one does not get peace by wishing for peace. One does not get peace just by relying on conciliation; one does not get peace just by relying on UN peacekeeping forces after the event; one does not get peace just by relying on disarmament negotiations before the event and arms control-all of which are the proper responsibility of the United Nations. One only gets peace in the last resort by being prepared to enforce it through exactly the mechanisms that were anticipated by the founders of the United Nations in 1945. And it is important, finally, to get Iraq out of Kuwait to ensure Australia's own future security--

    An incident having occurred in the gallery-

    The PRESIDENT --Order! I think the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade deserves to be heard in silence. I am just about at the end of my tether with the gallery.

    An incident having occurred in the gallery-

    The PRESIDENT --Order! I will ask the attendants again to remove the people who are persistently interjecting.

    Senator GARETH EVANS --Getting Iraq out of Kuwait is important not only for all the objectives I have already mentioned; it is important in a very direct way for Australia's own future security. We do have a profound self-interest in comparatively strong countries in our region knowing that aggression in the future is simply not an option that the world will ever allow them.

    The second objective which is being pursued under UN auspices is that of restoring the legitimate government of Kuwait. I think it has to be acknowledged that this has less immediate intuitive appeal for many people than the primary objective of getting Iraq out of Kuwait. Indeed, as a US official said to me at one stage, whatever else we are fighting for in the Gulf, it is not to make the world safe for feudalism. It is not, however, a principle with which one can toy; it is a fundamental principle-and must remain one-of international affairs that no sovereign nation, whatever its democratic or other deficiencies, can legitimately be invaded or annexed by another. The best we can hope for, acknowledging that the situation in Kuwait is in fact for the most part-and has been in the past-more democratic than elsewhere, is that the force of events and internal pressures will create an evolution towards a more democratic and responsive environment in that country. I for one am confident that will occur.

    The third United Nations objective, and it is essentially an implicit one, is to create a basis for achieving peace and stability in the whole region in the aftermath of this crisis. It is not an objective of the UN or anybody else involved in this process at the moment to destroy Iraq, but certainly it is an objective to create conditions under which that country will not in the future be able to repeat its actions. Securing and putting into place an appropriate security regime for the region is obviously one of the world's highest priorities in the aftermath of this affair. It is also an objective shared by everyone, whatever the reluctance to accept the principle of linkage before the event, to move on from the Gulf crisis and, strengthened by the principles to emerge we hope from the successful resolution of the Gulf crisis, to address all the longstanding problems of the Middle East, including conspicuously among them that of the Palestinian people.

    I would like to spend a little more time following Senator Hill on what that post-war, post-crisis environment might look like, but that will have to wait for another occasion. All I want to say in summary of this part at the moment is that all the objectives that I have described-the objectives which we and, in effect, the whole world now are fighting for in the Gulf-are honourable objectives. They have been understood as such by the international community and that is why the international community has reacted with such unprecedented solidarity to support the process in which we are now engaged. Moreover, by and large they have been objectives which have been understood within the Australian community, as elsewhere, which is why there is, notwithstanding what we are hearing today, clear majority support in the community for the course that we have taken. But still there are questions.

    Senator Vallentine --Only 28 nations out of 159.

    Senator Michael Baume --And are there others supporting Hussein?

    The PRESIDENT --Order! Senator Vallentine and other senators interjecting know what their reaction will have on the people in the gallery. I ask them not to interject on the Minister.

    Senator GARETH EVANS --But still there are questions obviously being asked, which must be answered. Was peace by non-military means really given a chance? Were sanctions given a sufficient chance? Was diplomacy given a sufficient chance? It is to those questions that I now want to turn.

    We all hoped that sanctions would work and do so within a realistic timeframe, but the unhappy truth is that they have not worked and will not work within such a timeframe. The trouble is that for sanctions to work not just one but three things have to happen: in the first place, the net has to be tight, stopping the flow of goods in and out; there is no doubt about that. Secondly, the net has to produce real hurt, and not be compensated for by neutralising internal activity of one kind or another. Thirdly, and in many ways most crucially, a hurt when it occurs has to produce a change of policy by the government in question.

    What has, in fact, happened in relation to those three elements? In the first place, it is the case that the net has been drawn tight-unprecedentedly so on the best available estimates, which happen to be those of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and which I noticed Senator Powell had pleasure in quoting-to the extent of some 90 to 95 per cent of all goods moving in and out of Iraq. That is what I and others meant when I said some three months ago that the evidence seemed to be that sanctions in that respect were working.

    I refer now to the second point-the hurt. Has the hurt been as great as we hoped and as we expected? The answer is that that has not been the case. Militarily there has been no hurt at all, but that I guess is to be expected in a country of this kind where all resources are given priority so far as the military is concerned. There has not been great pressure on food because of compensating internal supply increases, not to mention some looted and supplied from Kuwait. In any event, food is a legitimate humanitarian exemption under the UN regime. There is some inflation of a significant kind in non-staple, non-subsidised areas, but that has not proved crippling and will not, on everyone's estimates, for the infinitely foreseeable future.

    So far as industry and infrastructure in Iraq are concerned, there has been significant hurt but not yet massive hurt where it matters. There has been a massive windback in oil and fuel production as Senator Powell-again relying as I did on the CIA-acknowledges, but the impact of that has been financial only, and that financial impact is not enough to produce the kinds of results that we are talking about.

    There has been some hurt of a very visible and obvious kind on non-essential manufacturing. That has largely stopped, but that has not in any way significantly impacted on the economy or the welfare of Iraq as a whole. Regarding essential manufacturing-heavy industry and so on-the percentage impact so far, despite early expectations to the contrary, has been small, with many of those factories managing largely by ad hoc arrangements, by cannibalisation, again not least assisted by the looting that has been done from Kuwait. So far as transport, water supply and energy considerations are concerned, again despite some expectations and hopes to the contrary, the impact has been marginal. There are no clues as to when the impact will be anything more than that.

    As to the third element in the equation-when does hurt, when it does occur, get translated into policy change?-we have to appreciate that there is a real weakness in dealing in this respect with a dictatorship as compared with a democracy; a dictatorship in particular whose raison d'etre is warmongering. Sanctions are always important for the psychological effect they have at least as much as for their real effect, but dictatorial societies, regrettably, operate on a different psychological basis from our own. Governments decide by reference to different criteria, and community fear makes the pressure from that source rather less obtrusive than might otherwise be the case.

    How long do we have to wait for sanctions to satisfy not just one but all three of those preconditions? It is probably the case that sanctions would work in the long run, but how long can we afford that long run to be? How many more Kuwaitis are to be killed, maimed, raped, robbed, brutalised and looted before we say that enough is enough? How many developing countries are going to suffer economically for how much longer with oil prices driven up as they have been by the tension that was generated before these attacks took place? How much more time is Iraq to be given, not just to dig in to Kuwait, not just to consolidate its hold on Kuwait, but to fully develop and further develop its chemical weapons capacity and to find ways of fixing those chemical warheads, if it does not possess that technology already, onto its missile systems? How much longer are we to wait while it further develops its biological weapons capacity?

    Senator Powell interjecting-

    The PRESIDENT --Order, Senator Powell, you have made your speech.

    Senator GARETH EVANS --How much further time is Iraq to be given to work through to develop its nuclear option, which may be as little as a year away from realisation? A reasonable additional question, although it is not a comfortable one, is: how long can we wait before the international coalition begins, for whatever reason, to crumble a little around the edges? There is always a risk of aggression becoming a fait accompli if wrongs are not righted quickly. It is an often remarked fact of international life in international affairs that longevity promotes legitimacy. Saddam is relying on time being on his side. Time was on his side in this respect; it certainly was not on the world's side. The UN made its decision on 28 November, resolution 678, that sanctions were not likely to work within a reasonable timeframe. Essentially we had the debate then about the likely efficacy of sanctions and nothing has changed subsequently.

    What about diplomacy? Was that given a sufficient chance before 15 January? Honourable senators will not be surprised to hear that I believe it was. I say that not just as a matter of intuition, not just as a matter of assertion, but on the basis of the very systematic exploration of that issue in which I was able to engage by virtue of being overseas for the last 10 days engaged in intensive discussions in Washington, New York at the United Nations, Ottowa and in three European capitals-London, Paris and Madrid.

    I will not retail the whole course of those discussions which paralleled exactly the last minute diplomatic efforts that were being made in a number of quarters to try to bring this matter to a resolution without the necessity to implement the use of force. I can make the point by referring to just two sets of discussions that I had. One was with the United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar on the afternoon of 15 January, just half an hour before he delivered his final statement, his final appeal to Iraq-an appeal that held out a variety of olive branches. In his conversation with me, he made the following points: no-one could have done any more to achieve peace than had been done by him and all the others who had been promoting in one way or another this or that peace plan; there was no sign at any time that Saddam was prepared to withdraw under any condition put to him, least of all those that Perez de Cuellar was about to put once again to Hussein via the public media; Iraq simply did not seem to want peace.

    Let me refer to another set of discussions I had in France. They coincided with and followed the last-minute initiative that France engaged in in the Security Council on 14 and 15 January-an initiative that generated a huge amount of international interest but one that was rejected in the Security Council by the United States and by the United Kingdom because, among other things, it was seen as going just too far in offering unacceptable linkage between Iraq's withdrawal and addressing other outstanding Middle East questions.

    My question to the French-it was put to the Prime Minister, to people in the Foreign Ministry and to a whole range of interlocutors over two days of conversations-was: would it have made any difference if the French resolution, more explicit in its offerings than any other in terms of the last-minute diplomatic olive branch, had been adopted by the Security Council? I can tell the Senate that the answer I got, in absolute honesty and with absolute frankness from all my interlocutors, was no. There was simply no sign that Saddam was likely to be responsive to such an initiative. There had been ample previous opportunity in a less public and a less conspicuous way for him to give such a sign. The auguries were hopeless. In the aftermath of that exercise in the Security Council there was no bitterness on the part of the French: they believed they had made one last gesture in that respect but in practice it would not have made any difference.

    There is a further consideration we need to bear in mind when we think about the diplomatic efforts that were made, not just those up to the eleventh hour, up to the stroke of midnight on 15 January, but in the short period that was left open after that. There is quite a widespread sense around the place-certainly in the conversations that I had-that maybe Saddam was never going to make a concession in accordance with the timetable imposed upon him by the United Nations. Maybe he was never going to make an eleventh hour concession, but maybe he would be prepared to make a thirteenth hour concession. He was given a thirteenth hour and a fourteenth and a fifteenth and almost another 24 hours to make such a concession by the fact that the United States, the coalition operating under the UN authority, did not launch an attack until nearly a full 24 hours had elapsed after the initial deadline. There was that opportunity given, had that been the reason why it was impossible for Saddam to accept the kind of offer that had been put to him to withdraw before the deadline that was set.

    We all want peace, but we do not want peace on the terms of someone like Saddam Hussein. We want a credible basis for pursuing peace-not just waiting for something to turn up and not just appeasing and hoping each time that a little bit more will be enough. There comes a time when patient diplomacy simply runs its course. The world was too patient when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931. It was too patient when Italy attacked Abyssinia-now known as Ethiopia-in 1936. The world was too patient again when Hitler invaded the Rhineland in 1936, and it was too patient when he invaded Austria in March 1938 and too patient again, finally, when he invaded Czechoslovakia in September 1938.

    The truth of the matter is that sanctions had run their course and diplomacy had run its course by 15 January. The choice the world faced, and the choice that Australia faced, was whether to follow the logic of our own intellectual and moral commitment to collective security or to turn our backs and let a monstrous precedent take its course.

    Let me conclude by saying this-it comes back to what I said at the outset: it is a real irony, it seems to me, of the political process that, when it comes to war and peace, every generation tends to remember the lessons of only the most immediate political past. Governments which appeased Hitler in the 1930s did so because they remembered the failure of diplomacy to prevent a wholly avoidable and a wholly unnecessary war in 1914. I think it is fair to say that governments which took us into the wrong war in Vietnam did so because they remembered the failure of the appeasers and they were determined to stop what they perceived to be the onward march of communist aggression, failing, of course, to appreciate that they were confronting a quite different phenomenon-that of anti-colonial nationalism. Those who now, with their minds full of the Vietnam failure, think that governments are leading us into the wrong war in the Gulf have also misremembered and misapplied the past.

    What we are dealing with in the Gulf is not a Vietnam situation and not a pre-World War I situation, but a 1930s situation of naked indefensible aggression by a strong, ruthless and ambitious sovereign country over a weaker neighbour-a situation that other governments in the 1930s and the collective security apparatus at the time utterly failed to address, with consequences that proved horrendous.

    The new collective security that was put in place in 1945 to enable these situations to be addressed was, as it turned out, reduced to impotence for 45 years by a new set of international dynamics-the Cold War-that made it in practice impossible to mobilise across-the-board support for action against any indefensible aggression that did occur.

    The position now, and it cannot be said too often, is that with the end of the Cold War that UN apparatus-that optimistic apparatus, that far-reaching, forward looking apparatus-put in place in 1945 arising out of the ashes of the diplomatic and military failures of the past is capable now of working again. The situation in the Gulf-it is on a smaller scale than Germany in the 1930s but the parallels are immense and obvious-is exactly the kind of situation that that collective security apparatus of the United Nations was designed to cope with. The world has a responsibility, remembering not just selectively but remembering all the lessons of the past, to make sure that this time it works.

    All the preconditions for measured, responsible, effective and moral international action have been satisfied. Nobody wanted to plunge into war on or after 15 January. But if aggression was not to be turned back by sanctions, and it had lost the capacity to be so, and if aggression was not to be turned back by diplomacy-and I believe that diplomacy for all the reasons I have stated, had run its course-then that aggression had to be met by the only language it could understand if the world of the future, the world which is our responsibility to try to create, is ever to be peaceful and secure.

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