Death of Former Members. - Gulf War: Statements.

Wednesday, 20 February 1991

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 127 No. 12

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Acting Chairman:  I would remind the House that each Senator will have ten minutes.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  My understanding was that each speaker would have ten minutes, and that would include the Minister.

Acting Chairman:  You cannot limit the Minister to ten minutes. It is the Minister's prerogative to take whatever time is needed.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I am drawing it to your attention that it was my understanding that each speaker would have ten minutes, not each Senator.

Acting Chairman:  This is one of the few occasions the Senator misunderstood the situation.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I did not misunderstand but I recognise it is a very short debate on a major issue and I look forward to hearing the Minister.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  Time wasting by Senator O'Toole is nothing new. We should get to this substantive debate even if it is a short debate. Statements of ten minutes will not resolve any of the problems in the Middle East or indeed throughout the world. I am disappointed that there is not even one reporter here this evening to listen to what should be of major importance to the media. Of course, the media are more worried about getting foreign experts to discuss the war in the Middle East than they are listening to people in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I am disappointed at that.

This short debate is taking place at a time when we hear the media gurus talking about the land war. One would swear they were just going to drive through a desert and that there would not be carnage. They speak about the ground [1466] war as initially the American generals spoke about KIAs. It was not until people inquired what a KIA was that they discovered it meant “killed in action”, in other words a human being was killed. They were referring to tanks, guns and KIAs in the same breath and with the same emphasis. Now when they speak about the ground war they are not talking about the horrific consequences that would ensue should there be a ground war in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or Iraq.

There are people in this country who, for many years, have criticised the wearing of the poppy and there are others who have worn the poppy with pride. The poppy was worn because of the hundreds of thousands of people who were killed in the poppy fields of Flanders — this was an area of muck and dirt in the 1914-1918 War. What happened in the poppy fields of Flanders would be miniscule in terms of the carnage that could occur on the deserts, hills and valleys of the Middle East over the next couple of weeks. In the short time we have here this evening all we can do is appeal to those who have power to give every chance to the peace proposals that are on the table at present, which are made in good faith by the USSR to Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, who relayed them to Saddam Hussein, the President of Iraq. Initially the response from the British and the Americans was that these suggestions of a peaceful resolution did not go far enough but, hopefully, now they are beginning to realise that unless they are given every chance there will be carnage in that area, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

This is a short debate and we have no real power, we have no means of conveying to Saddam Hussein that now is the time for him to get out of Kuwait. There must be unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait and it is time we suggested to the Americans and the British that they do not start the ground war before every effort for a peaceful resolution to this terrible conflict is pursued to the bitter end. Unfortunately the United Nations has been eliminated from the peacemaking process in the region in the [1467] future, and it would appear that the running is now being made by two member states of the United Nations — the US and Britain. Unfortunately the United Nations did not insist that every person who went into that area under United Nations resolutions, did not wear the green beret and the khaki uniform of the United Nations and that they would be the direct responsibility of the United Nations as we saw in Lebanon when Major-General Callaghan, an Irish soldier of renown, who wore the United Nations uniform with pride, controlled forces from all over the world in a peacekeeping role.

It is different now in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. We no longer hear the American generals saying they are carrying out precision bombing any more. We do not see the precision bombing where things go wrong but they are now admitting that mistakes are made and that civilians can be taken out —“taken out” means killed — but they will never forget the carnage. They have suggested that bombs have gone astray and that civilians have been killed. They have suggested that air-raid shelters have been bombed, but they were not air-raid shelters; rather they were places for information gathering and information divulgence.

In the short time that is available here to us tonight I appeal to anybody who has power in that area to give as much time as possible to the latest proposals on the table, particularly the proposals from the USSR, and to give them a chance to work. People have written off the USSR in the last couple of months because of internal problems, but we must not forget that the USSR played a very vital role in the politics of the Middle East over the past number of years. The USSR is probably the only major country that has not poured arms, chemical or otherwise, into the area. There is not a western nation, except Ireland, that has not poured arms or chemical weapons into this area. Give the USSR peace plan a chance. We can do no more here tonight than ask the people in power to consider the carnage [1468] that will ensue from the ground war if the allies go into Kuwait or Iraq.

We also must look to the future. Very severe difficulties will confront the world if Iraq or Kuwait are over-run. The Kurds will not be satisfied. That could bring Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran into conflict and the Shi'ites as against the Sunni's. What is the position of Jordan? Jordan lies in between and is in a very difficult situation. The Palestinians are suffering in this Middle East conflict. The Israelis are playing a major role by not confronting anybody in the area and while they are looking for a resolution to the problems of Iraq and Kuwait and talking about the illegal annexation of Kuwait by Iraq, they are invading Southern Lebanon; they are invading another country.

You cannot start a war against a noncombatant nation without having the nations of the world saying you are wrong. This House has addressed the situation in the Middle East more than any House of Parliament in Europe, and we should appeal to everybody in this area to give the current peace initiative a chance and not escalate this war into the carnage Europe faced in 1914-18.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  Our position is very simple. We have subscribed to and we support the United Nations Charter and all its resolutions. That is all we, as members of the United Nations and as a small nation, can do because unless we have an international rule of law that is respected, upheld and supported world order will not survive and our future will be murky.

We should have had a debate on neutrality before we signed the Charter in 1955. However, it is not relevant at this stage and it can only be looked on as a red herring. It is important that we confront the major issue of whether we are part of the United Nations and if we want to uphold the Charter and the ideals of the United Nations. Those who would now like to have consciences find a vehicle for their anti-American expressions and, in doing so, become part of the band of Saddam Hussein who, [1469] some people would lead you to think, was one of the angels as white as the driven snow. That is an extraordinary situation because if you read the newspapers today you will see horrific accounts of the on-going torture, and brutality to which the population of Kuwait have been subjected since 2 August 1990. It is not sufficient to say that the Americans or the 48 nations who make up the allied forces are a very significant addition to the region. A small token force from a small country in that region which has not got great power, waged war against Russia for a number of years. It is important that the rights of small nations are protected and the only way to do that is through the EC. There is no point saying that all this brutality and inflicting hardship and death on the civilian population is one-sided. In a war nothing is one-sided. It is unfortunate that so many defenceless citizens who do not have a say in the policies of their Governments are affected. I am struck with horror at the prospect of so many innocent people being subjected to such organised terror by the regime of Saddam Hussein over the last number of months.

This is the first time since the United Nations was established that a member state marched in, annexed a neighbouring state and called it their nineteenth province. That is the first time a member of the United Nations had the effrontery to take over a smaller nation. We have indulged in the double think in many areas and we seem to be able to present this conflict as the result of United Nations action. It should go out loud and clear that we, as a small country, are prepared, in so far as resources allow, to support the ideals of the Charter.

When the EC was established the underlying philosophy of the founding fathers was that they should have an association so that problems could be talked out without the necessity of going to war which was the traditional way of solving either border disputes or economic problems. The United Nations should be seen to be able to solve this problem by more discussion and negotiation and the invaders persuaded to [1470] withdraw in accordance with the UN resolutions of 2 August 1990. That is important. If we are to have a civilised world order there must be a body such as the United Nations to monitor the situation and present the world with a forum through which disputes can be ironed out without having the ordinary populations of different states inflicted with such hardship, carnage and loss.

I hope we will see a very early solution. I hope the Iraqi Government, even at this late hour, will decide to withdraw or surrender or whatever is required to comply with the United Nations Resolution. Clearly, there must be very few people in the world who can support the action of a large and powerful nation like Iraq in annexing a friendly neighbouring country in such fashion. I hope the view of this House would be that we uphold the Charter of the United Nations and we support it to the best of our ability in accordance with the terms of Resolution 678 of 29 November which asked the member states to support the effort and the call for peace and the withdrawal of invading forces from Kuwait. I lend my voice also to a plea to the President of Iraq to bring about a situation where there can be an end to the unfortunate suffering and the hardship that obviously is being inflicted on so many innocent civilian population in those countries.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Since our debate on this subject a few weeks ago events have moved on. I think the visual images we were all so attracted to some weeks ago are perhaps fading in our memory and we are not as all attracted on an hour-by-hour basis to see people maimed and bombed, albeit in a very abstract way where we do not actually see the flesh and blood of the people who are killed and injured in war. We tended to view it on our television screens on cross wires and saw no real result except in terms of physical buildings etc being blown apart without really seeing what must be devastating injuries to the people on the ground.

Listening to the figures last night I was [1471] surprised to learn that some 85,000 sorties had up to them been flown by allied bombers into Kuwait and Iraq. If one looks at the volume of bombs dropped, if one person per sortie was killed, that represents something like 85,000 people. I would suspect that the devastation on the ground in Iraq in numbers of people who are already dead and maimed must be absolutely horrific. I do not believe the figures emanating from Iraq, show us the type of devastation in terms of human life. Nevertheless the answer to this problem rests with Saddam Hussein and his grouping in Baghdad. On the basis of the plan that is proposed by Moscow, and the response by the Americans and the British in particular, it seems unlikely that the Russian peace plan will be accepted, and I think that is correct.

My view is that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator who has no regard for the lives of the people of any country, not least of his own people. His track record over the past number of years in the decimation of the Kurdish people in Iraq and putting his own country through the war with Iran speak volumes. It is not necessary to elucidate the type of individual we are trying to deal with. I believe he cannot be seen to gain any possible victory in any shape or form out of this because if he did, it would make him a rallying point if he were to remain in power in the event of any troubles that may exist down the line. If at this stage some back-tracking was to take place and some agreement was made that allowed him and his army to remain largely intact, I would have no doubt that it would only store up a problem which will have to be dealt with the in the future. That would mean that the allied forces on the ground, in particular the American and British forces who make up the bulk of the non-Arab forces in the Gulf, will remain there for the next two, three, four or five years. There is no way in which they will be able to withdraw from the area given that threat that Saddam Hussein and his army will pose to his neighbours.

We have seen his attempts in the launching of missile attacks on Israel to [1472] try to bring them into the conflict for the sole purpose of extending it throughout the whole Arab region, to involve and embroil every single Arab nation in this war, this holy war that he wants to see in the area. The restraint from the Israeli point of view to date has been extraordinary and very commendable. If there is to be some sort of a middle-of-the-road peace formula that falls short of the UN Resolutions agreed, I do not see Israel at that stage sitting back and not proceeding to retaliate against Iraq for the atrocities committed against their people in the past few weeks. Where will that leave all of us throughout the world, and in particular throughout the Gulf area and the entire Arab region?

I cannot believe that anything short of the removal of Saddam Hussein as the leader of the Iraqi people is the way forward. He is the one, in my view, with whom the buck stops, not the generals or the captains or whoever is carrying out the atrocities against the Kuwaiti people. It is Saddam Hussein who must be tried for the war crimes committed. I have no doubt about that and I believe that must be the way forward.

The Palestinian question has been bubbling under the surface throughout this war and this is something that will have to be addressed by the UN. I do not think anybody in the world denies that but it cannot be seen in the light of giving Saddam Hussein a victory, linked directly to raising the Palestinian question. That is not the way forward in terms of international diplomacy, of the international rule of law and the international standing of the UN. It is paramount that the UN emerges from this conflict in a strengthened position. That will be the greatest deterrent to any country in the world that may hold aggressive designs on smaller nations for whatever reasons, be they strategically important militarily or strategically important economically. The best way of enforcing that deterrent is the strength of the UN as a structure.

Once the war is over and it is clearly seen to end on the terms of the UN Resolutions, there is a will throughout the world — certainly in Europe, and in [1473] that context Europe can be the forum to assert itself to bring the Palestinian question to the centre table — to have this problem sorted out once and for all. The European Community and the Ministers involved should keep a close watching brief and should be ready to move in this area at the end of this war. That must happen if there is to be stability in the region. There would be movement in that area if we were to see some serious addressing of this problem once and for all to end the tensions that exist in those regions. If they are not addressed we will only limp from one major crisis in the Middle East to another.

There are many issues running in tandem in this debate. The outcome of the war and the making of the peace will be as difficult as the fighting of the war itself. I reject out of hand and regret the anti-Americanism that seems to emanate in this country. I do not know and I cannot satisfy myself what is its basis.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Their record.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  The Senator will have his opportunity later on to come in on that matter. My view is that America has been the pillar, the defender of democracies in the western world. Without them I believe——


Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  The Senator will have the opportunity to put his view later. I will express my view now. We know where you are coming from. I am going to put on record where I am coming from. That is my view. In particular this country more than any other country, has a great debt to the American people, in particular in the last decade, for the way Irish people have been looked after in that great state and the attempts by American Congressmen and Senators to extend the quotas to this country in their efforts to give Irish people legal status in America. It is not a simple solution. It is not a simple problem. Where do we turn to if we do not turn in some direction? I am not saying that all American foreign [1474] policies have been perfect throughout the world, but there are a number of areas where we must realise that without America we would not today——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  I will have to ask the Senator to conclude.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  I thought you were going to tell me I had three minutes left. I conclude, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, by saying that the American forces are the largest force in the Gulf in terms of people. They are the ones who will suffer. Unquestionably, they are going to have the greatest casualties if a ground war breaks out. In my view they have much more right than most people to want to bring an end to this conflict. They will face the biggest casualties and they are the ones who have most to lose in defending the position on behalf of the UN and the British forces in that context as well. My wish is that Saddam Hussein sees the light and unconditionally withdraws from Kuwait and abides by all the UN resolutions to bring a speedy end to this war.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I would like, with the permission of the House, to share my time with Senator Norris and I would appreciate it if you would indicate to me when there are five minutes gone.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  I take it that is agreed? Agreed.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  In the last month we have learned a lot of new terminology. We have learned many new euphemisms for war, death and killing. We have AAA and KIA, target rich environments, collateral damage, and everything except blood and gore and what is really happening out there. It is an obscenity. Everybody with whom I have discussed the matter sees it as an obscenity that the killing and deaths of thousands of people has been turned into an arcane game on our television screens. That is all it has been. Who would ever have believed we could sit in our livingrooms and hear a reporter tell us: “I have just seen a Cruise [1475] missile go down the street” or that horrific scene where a senior army officer of the so-called allied forces, who are supposedly fighting in our names, points out “the luckiest man in Iraq”— the one who missed being bombed at that time. I would like to put on the record of the House that there are no lucky people in Iraq. They have lived for years and years under the rule of one who is no more that a monster, a man who has been responsible for the deaths of as many of his own people as people outside. I oppose this war but that does not mean I support this man who claims to be an elected leader and who annexed a neighbouring friendly state. I want to make that clear. America does not enter into it as far as I am concerned at this time. I have plenty of views to offer but I do not have the time at this stage.

When we discussed this on the previous occasion I pointed out my objection. My objection is not against the use of force. I accept that there is a time for the use of force. I said then, and I say now, we were pre-emptive in the UN — and I say “we” because we are part of the UN — in taking that decision. I said that, if we had a UN force under UN control with a UN decision-making process, then I would support it. Of those people who said to me the last time that this was a UN force, may I remind them about what has happened in the meantime.

We have seen the incredible scene of the Secretary General of the UN, Perez de Cuellar, asking that certain things not take place, that certain things not be done in his name and in the name of the UN. We are looking at an army out of control and it is out of control because it is not being controlled by those whom it is supposed to represent. There is no UN control in this army. The UN Resolution is merely being used as an attempt to brutalise further those unlucky people in Iraq and other places.

I make no case for Saddam Hussein. I do not need anyone to stand up and tell me how bad he is. I do not think there is anybody in this House who would make a case for the man or what he stands for, [1476] how he got into power or how he retained power. I will not go through all the support he got in the western world over a long period of time. The fact is, he is there. The fact is that the allied forces are out there supposedly working in the name of the UN and supposedly working on our behalf. I would like to put on record that what is happening is not happening in my name. We should say it is not happening in our name.

This war was unnecessary when it took place. This war is now continuing in a way that shortly we will be seeing the body bags being used. Is it not extraordinary that despite all the sorties, thousands and thousands of bombing raids, and with all the information available to us, with the satellites in the sky, with all the information flow, nobody has been able to hazard the most remotest guess as to the level of killing, of deaths and maiming in Iraq? In our name we see the support structures of ordinary civilians being destroyed. They are unlucky enough to have probably the most brutal ruler in the world at this time, but we now punish them further by bombing their water supplies, sewage treatment plants and in a sense making their lives worse than ever they have been before. Did we think when we discussed this before that we were going to have those forces in our name go forward and bomb civilians, because that is what is happening? We are killing civilians and we are destroying their support services. We need to speak out on that. It is not an anti-American thing at this point; that is a debate for another day. This is about people. This is about dying. This is about killing, and this is happening in our name.

I have to conclude at this point to hand over to Senator Norris. I would like to place on the record that I find it an obscenity that we have made an arcane game of the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands, at this time that we do not know. I find it a further obscenity that this is happening in our name and that these so-called allied troops are an army out of control inasmuch as it is not controlled by the UN. We should be the ones to shout stop, to end this madness once [1477] and for all and to reassess where we are going, to put in place structures we can all support and in that way seek the implementation of the UN resolutions.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I would like, first of all, to agree with what my colleague, Senator O'Toole, has said. I start with the observation that war is always a confession of failure. It is a failure in which there is no question of doubt we are involved, no matter what is being said from various sections of this House. Of course we are involved. We were complicit in the regime of Saddam Hussein, although people from this side of the House warned about it. I remember challenging, for example, the beef deals. I remember being told on numerous occasions that what was being suggested might be a moral point of view in terms of foreign policy but it was not practical. I would like to ask the Government side how practical they see their support of Saddam Hussein now? Fat chance they have of getting their £174 million back. If they pursued the moral line we would be £174 million richer today, and I recommend that observation to the House for consideration in future. Let us as a small country really be neutral and let us pursue for the first time a really independent and moral line.

I would have to say also that Senator O'Toole is right when he talked about the obscenity of war. A few short weeks ago people were very gung-ho. I remember thinking at that time of a poem that came from the First World War. I cannot remember it exactly but it is where the poet says, if you could hear the breath come gargling from his forth-corrupted lungs you would not tell to boys ardent for some desperate glory, the old lie, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, but this is the kind of line that we were being fed a few short weeks ago.

I would have to say that our complicity in this and the fact that planes are being refuelled at Shannon makes it very difficult for some of us to stomach the oily hypocrisies of the Department of Foreign Affairs and in particular our Minister. It is perfectly clear that Saddam Hussein [1478] was supported. The people who are being punished are the people of Iraq who had very little say in electing this man. They are being flattened, they are being bombed into dirt. We have seen on our television screens on the one hand army personnel allegedly of the United Nations, but we really know they are of a small group of power hungry nations who are involved in this, talking about it being a party, but at least thank God for Ramsey Clark, a distinguished American public servant, who has pointed out what kind of party it is. We have seen people howling like beasts on the television screens, but their cries are the cries not of animals but of human beings grieving for people flattened into pulp in air raid shelters.

We are implicated in this. I would like to suggest that perhaps the Government would take a decision to send relief supplies of medicine into Iraq to help these people. I say that despite the fact that I take issue with a number of my colleagues here this evening who have spoken about Israel. Are the Israelis really so unique? Are they to be the only people on earth never to be allowed a homeland, driven out 2,000 years ago from this part of the world, persecuted in every single country, including this country——


Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  ——yes, 2,000 years ago, AD 70, as you know, the destruction of the Temple — and although they have retained a presence in Israel, then when they are subjected to attack they are guilty of provocation by virtue of their mere existence.

I would like to point out that the Israelis at least have been restrained and I hope they continue to be restrained. I sincerely hope that they do not yield to the temptation to go in now. I hope this message gets back to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: for the Israelis to go in now to humiliate Iraq and flatten it even further would be an obscenity and would lose them the measure of respect they have obtained.

[1479] I would like to ask a couple of questions. Will there be an investigation after this war is over into those firms who supplied the materials to Saddam Hussein, who armed him? Will there be any investigation into the firms that helped him to manufacture their super gun? I know that the firm of Sheffield Forgemasters has to a certain extent been exonerated because they drew to the attention of the British Government precisely what they were doing. They did this through their local MP and a year later he drew it again to the attention of the Department of Trade and Industry, and the British Government turned a blind eye to it. This gun, taller than St. Paul's Cathedral, 1,000 millimetre gun is pointed at Tel Aviv. It seems to me extraordinary that they can get away with this kind of thing.

I would like to make a final point. It shows with what a catastrophic lack of seriousness we take this issue that speakers are reduced to five paltry minutes. We talk rubbish, we bleat daily in this House, yet we fail to confront probably the most important issue this House has had to deal with in the last ten years. We are facing into a possible third world war with nuclear implications and here we are bleating away.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  It is inevitable whenever I follow Senator Norris, or sometimes precede him, that I find myself responding or perhaps anticipating. He opened his remarks by talking about the amount of money this country had lost and that it was a matter that should be addressed. I think a number of developing economies have lost money as a result of the Gulf War. In fact, two of the biggest financial losers are two emerging eastern European countries, Poland and Czechoslovakia, Poland particularly, who took a very painful decision to support the UN resolution. I was in Poland in September at the time this whole question was being debated and I can assure the House, and the Senator, that it was an extremely painful decision for them, a fledgling democracy, a country that is on the verge of bankruptcy. I do not think it is fair to [1480] single out some of the better off countries and suggest that there was something wrong about them. There were countries that took very painful economic decisions.

The second point, and I think it should be firmly stitched into the record of the House in this debate, is that the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs has been a source of moderation throughout this debate, a man who has built up a fund of goodwill towards this country. He has built on the relationship there is between many of the countries in the Arab world and this country. I do not think it is accurate or true to suggest that the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs has in any way been contributing to the mass murder that is going on in Iraq or that we are in any way acquiescing in it.

As we speak this evening 500,000 men are poised on the border of Kuwait waiting for the political word, as it is put. I do not want to diminish the seriousness of this debate. When we spoke some weeks back on this very subject, there were Members, particularly on the other side of the House, who said that, in the event of another debate, there would be an about-turn, that people would be pointing the finger and that there would be suggestions of I told you so. I said then, and I say it now, that Saddam Hussein has to be stopped.

There are periods in history where men such as Saddam Hussein refuse to listen to all logic, all argument, all discussion, all negotiation. For a long time I supported the idea of extending sanctions. Of course, he was bound at some stage in the future to realise the folly of his invasion of Kuwait when he saw his people and his economy being slowly drained dry by the UN sanctions. He has seen God knows how many thousands of his own people bombed into kingdom come over the last couple of weeks and he did not really make any great moves towards peace until 24 or 48 hours ago. I believe those developments are to be encouraged. For the first time Saddam Hussein and his revolutionary council referred not to the nineteenth province of Iraq, but to Kuwait. They stated, [1481] admittedly with a lot of conditions attached, that they were now prepared to withdraw from Kuwait.

In that context, the Soviet initiative, which has been referred to here, should be encouraged; it is to be applauded. These peace moves by the USSR are an attempt to secure long term stability on their southern border rather than any suggestion of Soviet expansionism of the type experienced in the Cold War. I think they are admirable aims and objectives. Iran, similarly, has been attempting to negotiate a peace with its most bitter enemy, an enemy with whom they fought eight hard years of war.

When we were discussing whether we should have a debate of this nature, I said that war aims change in the course of war, and this war is no different. I asked the question which has been raised by many of those on the anti-war side — and I refer to that loose coalition which is in every country now and its representative of the broadest possible spectrum. I do not necessarily believe that people who are against the war are to be derided. We are all against war. Are we to accept that the coalition forces are covertly extending the objectives of the original UN Resolution 678, that they are not content with the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait but that they intend to push on into Iraq and, allied with their bombing campaign, reduce that country to medieval times and topple its leader? I must say that, having asked a rhetorical question, I find it impressive that the Arab members of the multinational force have not yet tumbled to this subterfuge, if subterfuge it is. I must accept that the coalition forces are adhering, at least up to the present, to the letter and spirit of the UN Resolution.

It is important that we on this side of the Atlantic should realise that America's aims are not Europe's aims in this conflict. The legacy of bitterness which this war will engender, and is engendering among Muslims, could have severe repercussions for Europe and indeed for this country in any post-war settlement. It is salutary to remind the House that all the acts of terrorism that have taken place, [1482] that have been directed at America and have been anti-American in character have not taken place on American soil but on the European continent. The most vivid and appalling example was the Lockerbie disaster.

Therefore, it is vitally important that Ireland, as a member state of the European Community, being conscious of the growing relationship developing between Muslim countries and Europe and the relationship that will develop even further in the light of immigration laws that are currently being debated for implementation post-1992, should be cultivating a stronger relationship with the Arab countries than heretofore. Here I believe Ireland, with its proud record, a record that is similar in many ways to that of many of the Arab countries — a history of oppression and colonialism — would find sympathy in many Arab countries. In fact, I believe this is the case already; and I would like to think that this awareness of Ireland's history helped in some small measure to effect the release of Brian Keenan and also to ensure that the employees in the PARC Hospital and the Irish hostages generally were looked after.

This House should address the reality of Saddam Hussein's status among the disenfranchised and disadvantaged in the Arab world. It is a question that has been shied away from. We have heard from all sides of this House about the despotic nature of Saddam Hussein, about how he has sat passively by while his underlings have killed the Kurdish people by poison and chemical gas, how he has sat passively by, along with his revolutionary council, and permitted the kind of figures being quoted in relation to air missions that have obviously resulted in civilian casualties. Yet, for many thousands of Arabs and Muslims, Saddam Hussein is a hero. Sometimes we on this side of the world do not always understand or empathise with the Arab psyche. A man who in western eyes is akin to a monster, who engaged in an eight year war, which he started, and then gave back everything he had gained at the end of it despite the loss of life and economic damage to his [1483] country, yet this man can still generate frenzied demonstrations on the streets of Amman, Tunis and Morocco.

My main aim in making a contribution tonight was to put on record that, as we hopefully move towards a post war settlement, we in Ireland should consider strongly identifying with the difficulties that are going to face many of the countries in the Middle East and that we, as a small country, non-aligned but within the European framework, can be an influence for good. Finally, I can only pray, like all the Members of this House, that the peace initiatives, which have now started shakily, will flower into something more positive and that we will see peace in the Middle East.

Dr. Upton: Information on Pat Upton  Zoom on Pat Upton  In many ways this war was predictable. It was clearly signalled long before it took place. It was made possible because of the arming of Iraq and because of the development of the economy in Iraq. Many countries, including this one, made their contribution to that development. I imagine that Senator Norris was part of a very small minority who objected to dealing with Iraq in those days. The developments which have taken place since, of course, have proved how right he was; but he certainly was in a very small minority. I would imagine he would not have got very much support from the public for the very far-seeing position he adopted at that stage.

Today is the 35th day of the war. Whole areas of Baghdad have been pretty well totally destroyed. Innocent civilians have been killed and the world economic outlook has been seriously damaged by the events that have taken place during these past 35 days. I want to say at the outset that I believe Iraq's behaviour in this whole matter has been totally outrageous. Their behaviour in the lead into it has been absolutely appalling. The way they treated the Kurds has been terrible. The way they moved in and invaded Kuwait, the way they have carried on in that country since they have invaded Kuwait and indeed the manner in which they have tried to grab at anything they [1484] could to try to involve other countries in this whole business has been appalling.

Unfortunately, the reality is that, as we speak, the ground war seems just about to begin — at least that is the very clear impression coming across from the news bulletins this evening. It is a terrifying prospect. I believe that if the ground war starts the Americans will win it. I believe there will be terrible casualties. I believe that many more innocent civilians in Iraq will be killed, there will be heavy casualties on the allied side and, of course, many of the Iraqi army will be killed.

In addition to that there is an appalling threat to the environment. The consequences for environmental pollution arising from the damage and destruction of this war are certainly poorly understood by many people. Indeed, I suspect that many people do not want to contemplate them for reasons one can easily understand. I believe Iraq has an obligation and should now withdraw immediately from Kuwait. That is one solution. The consequences of not doing it, given the way the thing is developing, are frightening.

However, it is no harm for us to remind ourselves that the UN resolution simply talks in terms of Iraq leaving Kuwait and that is the size of it. It does not give a mandate for the allies to go in and get involved in the destruction of Iraq and to set about removing Saddam Hussein from power. I am beginning to form the impression that that is now, as it were, being taken on slowly in bits and pieces onto the agenda. That is what I read between the words in the news bulletins coming into this country. That is something that we should be very clear about and should leave nobody in any doubt as to our position in relation to that eventuality taking place.

At this late stage — we are really on the brink — diplomacy should be used to the fullest extent and we should use every little bit of influence we have. I certainly agree with what Senator Lanigan said earlier, that our influence in this matter is fairly minimal but to the extent that we have influence we should use it as far as [1485] possible at the UN and in the European Community to try to give diplomacy a chance. That is the last hope of averting a really appalling prospect.

I do not believe that the adoption of high moral grounds or higher moral attitudes will do anything to help provide a solution. Our first emphasis should be on trying to provide solutions not trying to apportion blame. For that reason I have no ambition to involve myself in anti-American rhetoric. I have my own reservations about the way the Americans have carried on in many different areas, but I do not think it serves any useful purpose for Irish people at this stage to begin American-bashing. The whole emphasis now should be to try to find a solution: that should be our number one priority. I cannot see how attacking Americans can contribute to a solution.

The world will exist after this war. There will be a future for the Middle East. Now we should think very hard what the effects of the various options are likely to be on the future. If we are talking of a wholesale destructive war with enormous numbers of casualties, the world community and the Allies should ponder long and hard on what will be the effect of that over the next ten to 20 years. We should remember the lessons history has taught us when it comes to wrongs; we known a bit about that. The destruction which now seems likely will have a terrible effect in the longer-term on Middle Eastern politics. That is something to which we should give a lot more attention. The reality is that the Middle East is unstable at the best of times and what now seems likely to happen there will make a very poor situation a good deal worse.

I accept that in this House there have been more debates on Middle East and world affairs than in the other House and in a number of other parliaments. However, I still feel that the Irish have very little interest in foreign policy and world affairs. That is true of Irish poliiticians; I am as good an example of this as anybody else. I do not want to go around dishing out blame about this. The [1486] reality is there are not any votes in foreign affairs, but they have tremendous implications for all of us. We are all part of the world community and it would be a great mistake if we were to forget that. I know we will be setting up a foreign affairs committee, and that is to be welcomed. The sooner it is established the better and I hope this House will have an involvement in it.

I would like to think that we might go a bit further and perhaps invest money in providing for a study of peace, to see how peace can be generated and maintained and why the long term considerations are so important. There are very valuable and important lessons to be learned from the rise of the peace movement in the North of Ireland and, more importantly, from the manner in which they have disappeared from the public eye in a very short period. I support the Government investing in that kind of study and making contributions to develop ideas and structures which will help make the world a more peaceful place.

Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce (Mr. Smith): Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  I would like to emphasise that the Government believe that the most urgent priority is to bring this war to an end on generally acceptable terms. This priority arises from our concern, which is widely shared, that the loss of human life should be minimised. At the same time, it is essential that Iraq comply with its international obligations as set out by the Security Council.

The end of the war will not, however, come about simply because we wish it to be so or because we or anyone else appeal for a ceasefire. There is only one way of ensuring that the war is ended and not postponed for a few weeks or months to be resumed later with even greater ferocity and even greater casualties. That way is the compliance by Iraq with the relevant Security Council Resolutions, including, in particular withdrawal from Kuwait.

The principles underlying Ireland's approach to the Gulf crisis were set out clearly in the Taoiseach's speech as well [1487] in the Dáil on 18th January last and in the speech by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Seán Calleary, in the Seanad on 24 January last. Ireland believes in the peaceful settlement of disputes between nations, and looks to the United Nations to maintain the rule of law in relations between states.

We had hoped that the unprecedented international consensus against the invasion together with the implementation of sanctions would have been sufficient to secure a peaceful solution to the crisis. In discussions within the European Community, Ireland has emphasised the priority of ending the war but that the crisis can be resolved only on the basis of the Security Council Resolutions. Frankly, I can see no room for negotiation on the substance of the resolutions. Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait and the Government of Kuwait.

Ireland supports any initiative which has a reasonable chance of ending hostilities on the basis of full compliance by Iraq with the Security Council Resolutions, including withdrawal from Kuwait. For any initiative to have a reasonable chance of success a necessary prerequisite is a commitment by the leadership of Iraq that it is prepared to implement Security Council resolution 660 adopted on 2 August 1990 and the subsequent resolutions.

Let me remind Senators of the terms of that resolution. Determining that there had been a breach of international peace and security as regards the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Security Council:

Condemned the invasion;

Demanded “that Iraq withdraw immediately and unconditionally all its forces to the positions in which they were located on 1 August 1990”;

Called upon Iraq and Kuwait to begin immediately intensive negotiations for the resolution of their differences and supported all efforts in this regard and especially those of the League of Arab States;

Decided to meet again as necessary [1488] to consider further steps to ensure compliance with the resolutions.

As we all know the Security Council adopted a further 11 resolutions culminating in Resolution 678 on 29 November 1990 which authorised the use of all necessary means to ensure compliance with Resolution 660 if Iraq had not done so on or before 15 January 1991.

Ireland, with its partners in the Community, made every effort to persuade Iraq to draw back from the confrontation it had provoked. However, every successive Community approach was rebuffed. Every other attempt to secure Iraqi compliance with the Security Council Resolutions before the outbreak of hostilities was equally rebuffed. It is this obduracy on the part of the Iraqi leadership which has made war inevitable.

Senators, with all Irish people, will have experienced the sense of relief which greeted the first reports from Baghdad last Friday containing the specific statement that Iraq was now prepared to co-operate in the implementation of Resolution 660. There was no question about the joy of the people of Iraq itself at the announcement as we saw later that day on our television screens. However, almost immediately after those first reports came the news that the Iraqi proposal seemed to link withdrawal to a number of conditions.

It is not clear exactly how many conditions have been attached to the declared readiness to withdraw. I have counted eight. Some are old, such as Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, some new, such as the cancellation of all debts owed by Iraq. These conditions led to the rejection of the proposal by the leaders of the multinational forces since they were clearly not in conformity with the terms of Resolution 660. I know of the deep disappointment felt by Irish people; I can only guess at the feelings of the Iraqi people.

Since 15 February there has been speculation that perhaps the Iraqi conditions are not really conditions at all. Perhaps, it has been argued, they are [1489] statements of the type of agenda or programme which Iraq would wish to see once withdrawal from Kuwait has been effected and the crisis has been settled. Unfortunately, at this stage such speculation is just that, speculation, and it would be difficult to offer an interpretation of Iraq's motives and intentions. The key to resolution of this issue, as indeed to resolution of the conflict as a whole, lies in Baghdad: the Iraqi leadership can make it perfectly clear that it agrees to full and complete withdrawal from Kuwait without asserting this with any conditions.

In this context, the initiative taken late last week by the Soviet authorities is of potentially great interest. Iraq's Foreign Minister, Mr. Tariq Aziz, visited Moscow on 18 February and had discussions with, among others, President Gorbachev. While we do not know the exact tenor of the appeal made by the Soviet Government to Iraq, we do know that President Gorbachev has again appealed to the Government of Iraq for a full and unconditional withdrawal of the Iraqi troops from Kuwait and the re-establishment of the sovereignty and legitimate government of that country in conformity with the relevant Security Council Resolutions. This appeal by President Gorbachev is welcome. I hope Iraq heeds it.

The Soviet Government have spoken of a “serious diplomatic process” rather than of “loud and spectacular initiatives”. Mr. Tariq Aziz was due back in Moscow today to convey President Saddam Hussein's reaction to the Soviet initiative. He did not in fact travel. The United Nations Security Council is awaiting these developments. The Irish Government clearly support the appeal to the Iraqi Government for full and unconditional implementation of all the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council thus putting an end to the conflict and sparing new sufferings to the peoples of Iraq and Kuwait.

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Community yesterday made a similar appeal. The Twelve have reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of all the countries of the region. As regards the need to respect [1490] the territorial integrity of all the states of the region, there is, I believe, a need to remind some Members of this House why we are today considering the matter of a conflict in the Gulf.

This crisis did not arise with the air attacks launched on Baghdad on the night of 16-17 January 1991. It began on 2 August last year when Iraqi forces marched into Kuwait and less than a week later announced to the world that Kuwait no longer existed but should henceforth be regarded as the 19th province of Iraq. The war began with Iraq's invasion and purported annexation of a small neighbouring country. The primary need therefore, I would repeat, is for Iraq to reconsider its defiance of the international community for over six months and its flagrant disregard for 12 Resolutions passed by the Security Council, whose decisions, as a member of the UN, it is obliged under the UN Charter to accept and carry out.

I do not believe that dwelling on the effects or consequences rather than the roots of the crisis will contribute to the search for genuine peace. These roots lie in the Iraqi aggression of 2 August last year and the Iraqi leadership bears full responsibility for the consequences of the crisis which it has provoked.

Like all Members of this House the Government are saddened and concerned at reports of civilian casualties and at the risks to which civilians have been exposed. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has pointed out that the physical dangers from the bombing attacks are compounded by the hazards to public health that are daily growing more acute in the absence of electricity and the shortage of clean water. The implications for the innocent and especially vulnerable groups such as women, children and the elderly, are particularly disturbing.

When this House last debated the Gulf on 24 January, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Seán Calleary, expressed the fervent hope of the Government that the conflict under way in the Gulf would not be prolonged and that efforts would be made to keep casualties to a minimum. The longer the war goes on the greater becomes the [1491] danger that more civilians will be caught up in the violence.

I would like to emphasise that I share with all Members of this House and with all Irish people the profound sense of regret at the effect of this tragedy on the peoples of Kuwait and Iraq. I believe that the best way to help them is to bring the war to a conclusion as soon as possible. It is, as I have said, in the hands of the Iraqi leadership to spare their own people and the other peoples in the region further misery and destruction by agreeing to withdraw from Kuwait in accordance with the Security Council Resolutions. The tragic deaths of Iraqi civilians last Wednesday only show the urgent necessity of such compliance.

While I share the Secretary General's concern at civilian casualties which have resulted from bombing attacks, I think it is important to be clear that there is no reason to believe that civilians are the specific targets of such attacks. We have heard assurances from the leaders of the multinational forces that the pilots engaged in the bombing attacks are under instructions to ensure minimum civilian casualties when carrying out their missions. We welcome these assurances. Naturally, we deplore the casualties and the damage that have occurred and hope that an early end to the war will minimise additional losses.

The Government have set out very clearly the reasons they have decided to provide facilities at Shannon, if requested, to military aircraft of countries acting in pursuance of Resolution 678. In that resolution the UN Security Council repeated its earlier demands that Iraq comply fully with Resolution 660 and all subsequent relevant resolutions which, inter alia, required Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. Paragraph 2 of the resolution authorised “member states cooperating with the Government of Kuwait ... to use all necessary means to uphold and implement” these resolutions and “to restore international peace and security in the area” unless Iraq complied on or before 15 January. Paragraph 3 of Resolution 678 “requests all States to provide appropriate support for the [1492] actions undertaken” in pursuance of these aims.

As the Taoiseach made clear in the Dáil on 18 January, our approach to any request for facilities takes account of this very specific request made by the UN Security Council, whose decisions, in accordance with the UN Charter, member states of the United Nations have agreed to accept and carry out. The basis for the Government's approach to this question has not changed and we will continue to provide refuelling facilities and overflight permission if requested to aircraft of the multinational forces acting in pursuance of Resolution 678.

In summary, this armed conflict could have been avoided entirely if Iraq had taken a decision to conduct its international relations in terms of the purposes and principles of the Charter. During a period of 5½ months after violating the Charter, by complying with the Security Council Resolutions, it could still have avoided the conflict. The key to its ending even today lies in Baghdad.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  It is a great pity when one makes a statement on the situation in the Gulf, labels are attached to whether one is pro or anti-United States or pro or anti-Israel. I firmly believe that in their hearts, the sympathy of the majority of the Irish people lies in the same direction.

Not for the first time a member of the United Nations has invaded a neighbouring country; on St. Patrick's Day, 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan; and Israel occupied the West Bank in the Gaza Strip. Great atrocities were committed on these occasions. United Nations Resolutions were passed requiring those countries to withdraw from those lands but there were no major debates on this issue in any of the European Parliaments. However, that situation did not escalate, as is now happening in the Gulf. The reason for this is that neither land was a major oil producing country. If Kuwait was not a major oil producing country we would not have the war in the Gulf today. It is an extremely strange war, with generals more qualified in public relations than in military operations. I believe the media [1493] have a terrifying responsibility to bring to the ordinary citizens of the land the truth in so far as they can tell it.

May I say to the Chair that I wish to share my time with Senator Naughten if that is in order.

It would appear now that some of the allied forces are insisting that before the easing of hostilities Saddam Hussein must be removed from power. The general impression is given that the United Nations forces are now on that line, but I do not think so. That is the opinion of the United States and it seems to be the opinion of Great Britain. It is certainly not the opinion of France or the USSR.

I believe the world would be a better place if Saddam Hussein was not in power in Iraq or indeed in any other country, but I believe the United Nations forces should not await the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. I believe a peaceful settlement could be arrived at now because it would appear Iraq feel they are a beaten nation and they are now grasping at straws to try and come to some arrangement to sit down and discuss the matter. If we had a cessation of hostilities, I suggest we could have a United Nations arms monitoring team sent to Iraq, just as we have the United Nations peacekeeping forces in other parts of the world. In that way we would ensure that Iraq would not in the future do the same to any of its neighbouring countries.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Liam Anthony Naughten  Zoom on Liam Anthony Naughten  I thank Senator McMahon for sharing his time with me. I know the time is very short for all of us and I appreciate very much the time he has given me.

We all share the great sorrow of the punishment the Iraqi people are going through at present and the desperate loss of life. Many of us visit hospital wards and see people fighting for their lives and we come along and see a television programme where people are just slaughtered and butchered in a very regrettable war. We must extend our sympathies to the people who are suffering in Iraq.

Over the past number of weeks we have all become very familiar with words like “sorties” and all the other war [1494] phrases which we hear on television daily. It was the night after the war began that we heard a commentator stating that there was a missile going down the street. It was so unreal and so unbelievable that it was very hard to grasp. We have become familiar with words such as Scud missile and Patriot missile and all that goes with such weapons of war. They are now a fact of life.

As a country, we are right to support the stand taken in the UN and are right to support every effort to free the Kuwaiti people from the invasion by Iraq. In listening to media commentators one would nearly be forgiven for thinking that it was the Americans who started this war. May I remind the House that this war started in August when Kuwait was invaded by Saddam Hussein. That is something people should not forget. We should not forget that this man is a tyrant and can only be classified as a second Hitler. Everybody seems to forget that he invaded Kuwait, that for quite a long time he referred to it as another province. Recently he has come to the idea that they will get out of Kuwait in certain circumstances; in other words he is recognising now that he cannot win this war. Regrettably, he could not recognise it last August before all these atrocities against his own people were committed.

Need I point out to this House what has happened to the Kuwaiti people, and the cruelty and hardship they have suffered at the hands of the Iraqi forces since the invasion of Kuwait? Need I point out the cruelty to prisoners of war held at strategic points so that if those places are attacked they will be killed? That is what this man has done. Again, need I remind the House that there were 3,300 foreigners held there against their will for four months and only released at Christmas?

That is the type of tyrant we are dealing with and we should not be afraid to say the sooner he is exterminated the better. That is my belief and I do not apologise for it. While he is there and has the power he has, he will be a danger to world peace. God knows, 12 or 18 months ago we all admired and looked forward to the changes taking place in Russia and eastern Europe. We all thought we were [1495] in for decades of peace when countries could spend their resources on eliminating poverty. Instead of that, we see the tragedy of what has happened in the past 34 days.

We all sincerely hope that President Gorbachev will be successful in his effort to obtain peace. We have to recognise the difficulties, we have to recognise what this man has done and the way he has tried to provoke Israel into entering the war. That cannot be forgotten. He has attacked the Israeli people, hoping to bring them into the war to split up the alliance. When one examines all the countries that have come together to ensure that the Iraqi forces pull out of Kuwait, they have a very good reason to do this. We are right to facilitate and back up the United Nations on that.

We have to recognise what is happening. We have to recognise that we are part of the United Nations and that we must back the United Nations Charter. I have no difficulty whatever with extending facilities to American planes flying over this country to refuel at Shannon. We are part of the United Nations and we must recognise that if we had not the United Nations, and whether we like it or not the American army to back up the UN Charter, then peace would be in jeopardy.

Professor Conroy: Information on Richard Conroy  Zoom on Richard Conroy  We all recognise, perhaps to varying degrees, that war means violence. It is very easy to be carried away by the exigencies of a situation, by the enormity of Saddam Hussein's wrongdoings, both to his own people and the people of Kuwait. Yet, at the end of the day war is violence. On many occasions we in this House have said quite rightly, that violence is no way to settle any dispute, and any violence becomes very difficult to justify.

The United Nations Security Council passed certain Resolutions. We in this country and our Government have fully backed and are fully committed to those Resolutions. Indeed, I heard some criticism earlier of our Minister. He has distinguished himself, as he has on many previous occasions, in his efforts to show a balance, to try to do the right thing and [1496] to induce others to do the right thing in what is an appallingly difficult and horrible situation and in which it is so easy to take sides. It is very easy to condemn, it is less easy to decide what to do and to do it right. As the Minister said, this conflict could have been avoided entirely if Iraq heeded the United Nations Resolutions. As he said, the key to its ending, even today, lies in Baghdad.

Let us be clear about the UN Resolution. It is that Iraq should leave Kuwait. That is the kernel of the appropriate United Nations Resolution and of the successive resolutions. We all agree in this House that the President of Iraq is an appalling person and that he has carried out appalling atrocities on his own people aided by western technical assistance. We all know of the appalling losses inflicted on his own people in a senseless, useless war with Iran and he is now visiting a further series of atrocities on the people of Kuwait. Kuwait city, which I visited on many occasions, is now a ruined shell with very few people living in it; there are virtually no Kuwaitis remaining, just a handful of Palestinians, Jordanians and a few others. This has been caused largely by this individual, whom few people were willing to condemn until six months or so ago. People praised him and, unfortunately, there are many other tyrants and evil people in this world who may well deserve to be removed, and good riddance to them.

However, that is not what was decided by the United Nations. They decided that he should be ejected from Kuwait. This may be necessary for peace in the Middle East, and certain people will make it virtually impossible. I have never hesitated, even though at times it was not awfully popular, to remark on the difficulties of Israel and on the folk memories of the Jewish people, and at times, we have in this House tended to ignore their situation, their peril, their hard emotions and feelings, particularly when gas is mentioned.

We are trying to do what is best in relation to this country as we see it. We have made it clear on both sides of the House that we condemn violence, that we wish to see disputes settled by peaceful means. That is the attitude we take, and [1497] which we should take. We are not out there to exceed the United Nations mandate. We are there to see that the United Nations rule of law and order is upheld and that nobody, not even a monster like Saddam Hussein, and no other state will take advantage of the United Nations Resolutions: I am not singling out any one state that may take advantage of these resolutions to further their own policies or objectives.

I find it difficult to talk of the Middle East. I know how hard I find it, and I am sure many of us in this House do, to listen to people who have been here for a week on three or four visits give us lectures on how our problems should be solved and what should be done or not done. I have great difficulty when I think of the Middle East and of the infinitely more complicated situation that exists there. There is one basic principle which we in this House have reaffirmed over and over again and that is the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and our abhorrence of violence. That is the principle which we must maintain.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I would like to share my time with Senator Ross. I would be grateful if you would remind me when my five minutes are up.

I wonder if the entire western world has had a collective dose of anaesthesia of conscience. We have had pusillanimous distortions from government after government regarding who is responsible for what is happening, for the destruction of the water supply in Iraq, for the destruction of all of Iraq's electricity supplies. They all say that if Saddam Hussein had not done what he has done, then this need not have happened. That is true. It is not, however, a moral answer to a moral question because the question is not whether it would have happened if Saddam Hussein had behaved himself but whether it is right to do it because of what he has done. The entire western world has forgotten that fundamental moral difference. The fact that he did something wrong does not suddenly give our collective consciences carte blanche.

This hair-raising statement was issued by our Government about landing rights and over-flights —“the basis for the [1498] Government's approach to this question has not changed and we will continue to provide refuelling facilities and overflight permission if requested to aircraft of the multinational forces acting in pursuance of Resolution 678.” If they announce that they were going to nuke Baghdad, if they began and we then discovered wholesale slaughter of civilians, do we as a nation, as a society and as a western world, decide that morality no longer counts? In two Houses of the Oireachtas that has been treated to many lectures about morality, about individual morality and private morality, to suddenly discover the jettisoning of the question of morality on this issue is among the most horrific and frightening deteriorations of our standards I have encountered in ten years.

It is not right to treat the civilian population of Iraq as they have been treated and no amount of hiding behind the skirts of dubious legality can separate our Government and Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats from that fundamental moral choice. The question is not whether it is legal or lawful; it is whether it is moral, and that is the question that has been addressed only by spiritual leaders. Every political leader of every state in the western world has hidden, ducked, bobbed and weaved and refused to confront that question. The question is not whether Saddam Hussein is a tyrant. We are all agreed on that. The question is not when the issue started, but whether what is being done in the name of the western powers and of their Arab allies is justified by what he has done. The vast majority of the Irish people now say that it is not justified.

There cannot be a moral basis for bombing the poor, misfortunate population of Iraq who have suffered more under Saddam Hussein than the people of Kuwait, Israel or Saudi Arabia. To bomb them back into the last century in the name of liberating Kuwait is immoral. It is wrong and I would invite somebody in this House on the Government side to stop hiding and to stand up and say Yes or No. Is it moral regardless of its legality, or does anybody in our Government understand the difference between law and morality?

[1499]Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I would like to say a few words about the policy of the Government in regard to this crisis. Many assertions have been made about what is happening, about who is right, about morality and about the detailed policy which our Government are supposedly carrying out in the Middle East which does not have a great deal of influence on what is going on out there. Our role this time round happens to be approximately right, but it is approximately right only by luck because if you have a foreign policy which is not based on principle but purely and utterly on self-interest, or on the basis of the line of least resistance, you are going to be right some time.

It should be recognised by Members of this House that Deputy Gerard Collins, Minister for Foreign Affairs, for whom we have heard predictable praise from that side of the House, is the Minister who never raised his voice against trading with Iraq one year ago. The same Government who are taking a moral stand on that regime today were happy to take profit or supposed profit from that country and to trade and support that regime less than one year ago. I have had no satisfactory response to that accusation. There were some of us who said at the time that what was happening in Iraq was immoral and was far worse than in other countries in the world about which this Government were pontificating so loudly. The reason for the silence was self-interest.

I find it very difficult now to take the Government's posturing about the wrongful wicked invasion of Kuwait when they did not give a damn about the people Saddam Hussein was torturing and killing in his own country at the time. This Government, typically, makes a great virtue of countering territorial ambitions but does not mind about an individual and tyrant when he is offending human rights. It is no accident that not a voice was raised when genocide was committed against the Kurds. I do not remember blame being apportioned or a voice being raised about the fact that a million people died in the Iraq-Iran war but yet we indulge in major posturing about the invasion of a small country and the territorial integrity of that country. [1500] That may come as a genuine objection from some countries but I do not think it comes as a genuine objection from us since we tolerated that regime for so long. It is rank hypocrisy and it is something we have to examine for future foreign policy.

I was disappointed with the Minister's speech because I think it is time that we did not simply say we believe in the minimum UN Resolutions that are being passed and that we support the United Nations. We should decide and state quite clearly what the war aims of the United Nations are and what war aims we will support in the future. We should say not only whether we believe the Iraqis should be removed from Kuwait but also whether we support the continued existence of this man in Iraq after the war is over. It is quite conceivable in the sort of peace arrangement being discussed now that the same man will be in charge of Iraq after he has been removed from Kuwait. Will we in Ireland go back to trading happily with him? Will we open diplomatic relations with him?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Probably.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Yes, we probably will because that would be consistent with our selfish foreign policy in the past. The Minister should have given us some clear indication of the war aims. It would have been far more refreshing if he had said it was unacceptable to us that that man should remain in power afterwards because of his appalling criminal record not only in Kuwait during this war but in previous times and that there were some levels of behaviour we will not tolerate as a nation. However, our morality is retrospective and applies only after it has been endorsed by the United Nations or by somebody else.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  I want to put on record the fact that I abhor the taking of human life whether it is as a result of a terrorist bomb, of the shoot-to-kill policy of the British army in the Six Counties or as a result of the action of an abortionist; all killing is to be deplored.

I do not think we would be discussing this issue at the moment if we had not [1501] been treated to it every night on television and, as Senator Ryan said, we have become almost inured to the spectacle of civilians being bombed to pieces. That is what sparked off this debate. When we spoke here on the matter just a short time ago, did we really think we would have a war without deaths and is there any difference between a civilian in Baghdad and a poor conscript soldier in Kuwait? If we sanction war then we must expect death. I agree with Senator Ryan about the poor people of Iraq. I cannot justify this killing of innocent people. However, I do not know how we can have a war to get Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait without bombing his supply lines and his water supplies and everything else. This is going to affect the civilian population, unfortunately.

I spoke of the prevailing degree of hypocrisy during the last debate on this matter. At the moment we are saying nothing about Assad of Syria who has a terrible record on human rights. We are friendly with Mr. Gorbachev who takes away the rights of people in Republics all over the Soviet Union——

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Do not forget the Iranians. They have just murdered a man for changing his religion. He was charged with apostasy, tortured for six months and then murdered.

Professor Conroy: Information on Richard Conroy  Zoom on Richard Conroy  A lot of people have been murdered in many countries, unfortunately.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  I am in conflict at the moment because everybody agrees that this man has to leave Kuwait and we have listed all the crimes he has committed against the Kuwaitis and yet the only way they seem to be able to get him out of there is by bombing his own people, people whom we saw rejoicing on the streets of Baghdad recently when they thought the war was over. The Americans, the British and the other allies as they are called say this is the only way it can be done. If that is so I would have to support it even though I do not want to see anybody killed no matter where or for what reason. If we leave this man in possession of Kuwait and if we leave him [1502] in power he will just go back to doing what he did before.

It is not enough to say we condemn this dictator only. We should condemn them all. I condemn American action in many countries. I condemn Russian action. I am not afraid to condemn any of them but at the moment we are dealing with this issue only and we should confine ourselves to it. If we want Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait then we have to use all the means at our disposal to do so. I hope the war will not go on very long; I do not like war. The Minister and all Senators hope the war will end quickly and that we can save as much human life as possible.

I see in the paper this evening that Iraq has again resisted all attempts at peace. Saddam Hussein is locked in a bunker somewhere. He is a bit like Hitler at the end of the war; he does not seem to care very much what is happening to his own people. This is a very sad dilemma for us. I hope the peace initiative will be given a chance and that we can continue to talk rather than initiate a ground war which is going to embroil many nations of the Gulf and further beyond. I would like to see the peace initiative getting another chance before we march into such a war. I say “we” because we have been involved since the moment we granted landing rights at Shannon. We are involved because we are a member of the United Nations and are part of the allied forces. We may not be sending arms there but we give support indirectly. I think the Minister has been effective and if we can exert any influence which would support the peace process and stop the war then we should do it.

Mr. Hourigan: Information on Richard V Hourigan  Zoom on Richard V Hourigan  I would like, at the outset of my remarks, to agree with those who have condemned this war totally. There is no justification whatever for this development which was caused by the invasion of Kuwait on August 2 by Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein.

Under no circumstances could any formula or form of words be found to justify that action.

We in the free world are fortunate to have a power as mighty and as strong as America to lead this fight. It was obvious [1503] that counteracting Iraq would be a major problem with its very high level of armed forces on both land and in the air. I, therefore praise the part played, first, by the United Nations in the adoption of Resolution 660 on 2 August and secondly, the magnificent and valuable contribution made particularly by America and the other allies, but especially by America. There would be a different position now after 34 days of war if America were not part of the allied forces. Thankfully — and as indicated by the Minister here this evening — we do appear to be coming to the end of this war thanks to the might and power which confronted Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis generally. I agree with the persons who said that we should not stand idly by and let any tyrant or dictator, whether in Iraq, Cuba or anywhere else, massacre or ill-treat one million persons. We have a definite moral responsibility, small nation though we are, to raise our voices loudly and clearly to make certain that there will be no repetition of that.

I am very fearful about the post-war period. I believe that this war will be over soon. The Iraqis will have been taken care of. I would hope that Saddam Hussein will be taken out of the equation. I do not believe that he is fit to lead any people. I believe also that many of his accomplices who have worked closely with him in the past and who have been responsible, as some friends behind me indicated a few moments ago for the murder of vast numbers of the Kurdish people in recent times — are also totally unfit.

After the war we must make certain that there is a peacekeeping force in the Gulf area to make certain that a proper situation develops and that we do not ever again resort back to the very animalistic situation that existed before this war. This war started on 2 August. It was a catalyst in one sense but it was also a boiling point after a very severe period. We must all condemn this war. We must be high in our praise for the United Nations for the valuable contribution they have made to putting manners on the Iraqis and on Saddam Hussein.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  The Iraqis did nothing.

[1504]Mr. Hourigan: Information on Richard V Hourigan  Zoom on Richard V Hourigan  If they did nothing, it was done in their name. We must make certain for the future that there is no repetition of this exercise. I welcome the part played by the United Nations. We are fortunate as people of the free world to have a power like the United Nations which includes the USA and the United Kingdom as very vital cogs in the wheel.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Will they guarantee the right of the Kurds?

Eamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  I welcome this debate here tonight. I cannot go along with the general thinking that this dispute started on 2 August. The problem we have to address now is that Saddam Hussein would never have existed nor would he have had the fourth greatest army in the world if the developed countries had not supplied him with arms and used him and bolstered him for their own ends.

At this stage we have to address the serious issue that people say that this is a just war while at the same time countries that are involved in the war are supplying arms to other dictatorships throughout the world.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  That is the truth.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  As a small independent country I think we have to look that issue straight in the face. We have to decide whether we row with the tide or, as we did in previous times under Fianna Fáil Government, once again call for disarmament, but this time for disarmament on a scale never seen before. This present war could escalate easily into a third world war. It is something I feel very deeply about. Decisions should never be made under pressure.

A long time ago I came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a just war. In any war the people who really suffer are the ordinary people and in modern warfare as we have seen, there is no way one can say that only military personnel suffer. Everybody suffers but particularly civilians. I would hope that we would once again return to those methods that two years ago seemed to be paying such rich dividends worldwide. Those are the methods of persuasion, of [1505] sanctions. We have seen them work very successfully towards dismantling dictatorships in eastern Europe as mentioned earlier today. We have also seen their success in going further than we would have dreamed a few years ago towards dismantling the apartheid system in South Africa. It is the slow way. It is the hard way and the way that requires great patience, but it is the way that causes least suffering and the moral basis of the Christianity that most people in this country profess is behind it.

I feel that we must address these issues. There is great talk about Saddam Hussein but I would have no truck with his type of regime. People talk about Hitler as the perfect excuse for defeating tyranny but we were warned, long before Hitler came to power in the thirties, that socioeconomic conditions created after the First World War would facilitate the rise of popularly-supported dictatorships. The solution is for the democratic system to be adopted worldwide. The free nations of the world must encourage the growth of democracy in all countries where possible. There must be very strong regulations regarding the sale of arms to non-democratic countries. If we start by eliminating the sale of arms and chemicals to non-democratic countries we would be nearer bringing peace to this troubled world of ours.

Acting Chairman:  It is now 10 p.m. and the two hours allocated to the statements have expired. Will the Acting Leader of the House indicate when it is proposed to sit again?

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

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