JUSTICE AND PEACE MATERIALS
FORWARDED BY FR. CLAUDE MOSTOWIK, MSC
Ten years on, the war on Iraq
By EWEN MACASKILL, BRIAN WHITAKER and JONATHAN STEELE
Saddam Hussein began the Gulf War 10 years ago today when he launched his forces across the desert into Kuwait. Officially, the war ended seven months later with the liberation of Kuwait. Yet last week British and American planes were in action over northern and southern Iraq, as they have been for the past year and were the year before that.
"There is a sortie going on at the moment in the north and there is an engagement," a British commander said last week, describing how Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries locked on to a British jet.
To him it was a routine day, one of many in a conflict that is under-reported, mainly because Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which provide the bases, do not want too much attention drawn to it.
Iraq claims more than 300 civilians have been killed in raids in the past two years. The United States and Britain, which send planes over Iraq on average every second day, insist that most of those listed as civilians were soldiers manning anti-aircraft weapons. British and US ships are also in the Gulf, trying - largely unsuccessfully - to police the embargo imposed on Iraq, the toughest sanctions regime in history.
What has been achieved by 10 years of war and sanctions? President Saddam Hussein, 63, is still in power, presiding over a police state with one of the worst human rights records in the world.
The 30-country coalition raised against him is falling apart as the Gulf states and others normalise their relations with Iraq. The sanctions are increasingly difficult to maintain. Iraq's borders with Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran are porous. Trade is increasing. Eighty countries plan to attend the Baghdad trade fair in November.
Because of the sanctions' impact on civilians, the US and Britain face moral disapproval from a growing alliance of organisations as diverse as the Italian parliament and the Church of England.
To those with money, just about anything is available in Baghdad's shops. The rest of Iraqi society is struggling, caught between Saddam's tyranny and the implacable attitude of the US and Britain. Education is suffering as children drop out in droves. Income has been slashed. Iraq, which once boasted one of the best health services in the Middle East, now has one of the worst.
Children have suffered disproportionately. UNESCO estimates that 500,000 children have died in the past 10 years, partly as a result of malnutrition, poor sanitation and lack of medical services.
The sanctions have left Iraq's infrastructure in an appalling state, the program director for Save the Children in northern Iraq, Peter Maxwell, says. "It is questionable whether the successful implementation of the UN's humanitarian program should be made so dependent upon progress made in military and security matters."
Church of England representatives were horrified by social conditions in Iraq. In a report last month they suggested that the UN should aim the arms embargo and financial sanctions at the ruling elite. "Such an alternative might be more effective than the current sanctions policy, which is unlikely to yield further political dividend without creating further suffering."
Publicly the US, the main proponent of sanctions, remains determined to put Saddam and his cronies on trial for war crimes. But behind the rhetoric a change is taking place. Bill Clinton and those around him no longer insist that sanctions cannot be lifted until Saddam has gone.
Iraq's moment of truth, when it will show whether it will cooperate with the new team of UN weapons inspectors and get the sanctions suspended, is almost at hand, according to Hans Blix, the team's Swedish chairman. If Iraq agrees to meet him, the conflict may be resolved.
"Towards the end of August we should be ready to open up in Iraq," Blix says. "It is not in our mandate to harass, humiliate or provoke Iraq, and we shall not do that."
Iraq complained that the previous team (UNSCOM) had an open agenda, which meant that sanctions would never be lifted.
Blix says: "We want to be firm but correct. We have given Iraq a marked trail towards suspension, so there's a path they can follow."
The new team is not dominated by the West. "The complaint that UNSCOM was lopsided in a Western way is correct," Blix says.
Previous inspectors were not recruited by the UN, as the new team is, but seconded by their governments, and Western states were more generous.
The new team is also determined to avoid the accusation that it is a tool of Western intelligence or Iraqi defectors. Iraq made this claim against Scott Ritter, an American member of UNSCOM.
"We will want to examine everything with a critical eye, because there is almost as much disinformation as there is information," Blix says. "UNSCOM had people with information from various groups and different channels. It's clear Ritter had channels directly, and I don't want to accept any of that. I want that to be under control."
Blix is a former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, with long experience of checking nuclear safeguards in closed societies.
"They (Iraqis) may believe sanctions will crumble ... Many ministers have been visiting Baghdad and sympathising; but I have not seen any of them suggesting there should be a breach of sanctions."
But Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz showed no sign of conciliation when visiting Moscow last week. "There is nothing new regarding (UN) resolution 1284 (which set up the new team), which is still unacceptable because it does not provide any solution to the Iraqi cause."
Despite the public intransigence on both sides, there is a 50-50 chance of a deal. In a significant change of tone, British Foreign Minister Peter Hain has provided the kind of assurances that those trying to achieve a deal have been looking for. "Baghdad has to understand we are serious about wanting sanctions suspended, and all that is required is for the Iraq Government to allow Blix's team in," he says.
Hain denies that US-British policy towards Iraq has been a failure. "The biggest achievement of the strategy is to contain Saddam Hussein. That is a very significant one. He has not invaded any country in the last 10 years."
If sanctions are lifted, Iraq will take a long time to recover. Professor Anoush Ehteshami, director of Middle East studies at Durham University, England, says: "You can rebuild the infrastructure in 20 years or so, but not the people."
October 18 is an important day in the Amnesty International Calendar in its struggle against torture. I am forwarding this website so that you can register and inform yourselves about this atrocity throughout the world. This affects people of all political, social, ethnic, and gender groups. You need only click on this site to register - sponsored by Amnesty International - and you will be informed of coming events and actions. www.stoptorture.org. There are many people in our community who have suffered torture. A recent conference I attended with another MSC in Sydney showed how many people we rub shoulders with here in this country who have been tortured. It is not a reality that affects people in other countries. We might consider also the "torture" that detainees undergo in our detention centres as they await the process of their claims for refugee status. People already tortured, tortured again by our government. What are we doing? Some 50 Iraqi people shipped out of Villawood yesterday after being on a hunger strike to be sent to remote parts of Australia - away from the media and away from legal representation. It has been reported that they were also sedated before they were forcibly removed. This all happening less than 24 hours after the UN in Geneva "condemned" us for human rights violations.
Claude Mostowik, MSC
MSC Justice Office
Pax Christi International [Sydney]
28 July 2000
Another adverse UN report
Statement by ATSIC Acting Chair Ray Robinson
The UN Human Rights Committee's report on Australia, released tonight, confirms what many people in this country and various other UN bodies have been saying for a long time.
Simply put, the Australian Government needs to do more on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and it needs to spend more time seeking our consent on matters that affect us.
In assessing the Australian Government's compliance with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, HRC has urged the Government to:
* 'secure for the Indigenous inhabitants a stronger role in decision-making over traditional lands and natural resources';
* take urgent steps 'to restore and protect the titles and interests of Indigenous persons in their native lands, including by considering amending anew the Native Title Act';
* ensure sufficient protection for Indigenous heritage;
* 'intensify' its efforts on behalf of the members and families of the Stolen Generations; and
* take action on mandatory sentencing 'to ensure that all Covenant rights are respected' because HRC sees serious issues of compliance.
How many more adverse reports does this Government need before it has the honesty to admit its mistakes?
It's time the Government put its own backyard in order - before it loses all credibility and respect in all its international dealings.
Media enquiries: Martin Freckmann 0427 631 045
You have probably heard by now that, less than 24 hours after the UN Human Rights Committee has criticized Australia on mandatory sentencing [including detention of refugees] and native title, 50 Iraqi hunger strikers from Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre have been moved to either Woomera in South Australia and Port Hedland in Western Australia. This is outrageous and inhuman behaviour from a government that prides itself on its human rights record.
Australia, along with the USA, UK and the UN have justified sanctions and bombing of Iraq because it is being run by a dictator who is thoroughly oppressive and repressive of his own people and anyone who opposed him. Along with Afghanistan, Iraq is among the most represssive of regimes in the world. We agree on that. However, when people look to escape that very repression they are being penalised.
Please get your local members and your bishop or bishops to speak out. It would be good to get the bishops to speak out together on this. I will try to get as many as I can to say something. Even Congregational Leaders speaking out would be a start. At the moment any voice will do. So far the silence has been deafening. It is especially important for the bishops in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, especially Broome to speak out again this outrageous treatment of people who are asking to have their refugee claims processed quickly. Veronica Brady's comments in the Sydney Morning Herald last week when writing about Judith Wright's contribution to our moral sensitivity was right when she referred to the "moral pygmies" that exist amongst us.
Claude Mostowik MSC
MSC Justice and Peace Office
MSC JUSTICE CONTACTS, PAX CHRISTI MEMBERS and OTHER FRIENDLIES,
On the morning of August 6, 1945 [The Feast of the Transfiguration], 140 people were incinerated by an atomic bomb. Three days later, late in the morning, on August 9 in Nagasaki, nearly 75,000 people were killed by another similar bomb.
Nuclear weapons have not disappeared. The US, UK, France, Russia and China have many thousans of such weapons and spend billions on them whilst people in these countries and third world countries die of hunger and disease. The article below, and reports by John Pilger, show how the destruction wreaked upon the Japanese cities continues in the slow deaths of many people in Iraq at the moment.
The US is trying to draw Australia into its plans to build a national missile defense system. This would be tantamount to destroying all treaties ratified so far.
Australia is involved with the US already, especially the missile launch detection system located at Pine Gap. Australia is also involved by exporting uranium and the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights.
This is the UN International Year for Developing a Culture of Peace and we talk about making more weapons when we already have enough to destroy the earth many times over. Does anyone feel any more secure? Let us be involved in another 'transfiguraton'. Let us work for a new millenium of peace. We could write to our local members, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Defence Minister to stand independent of US intentions vis-a-vis its national missile defence system.
I have attached two flyers for use by people in Sydney. One is in colour which you may like to print off and post on notice boards. For those who do not have colour printers there is one in black and white.
Regards to you all
Claude Mostowik MSC
MSC Justice Office
Some of you may have seen
last year or again this week the film by John Pilger on the effects of the
bombings of Iraq using depleted uranium as well as sanctions themselves.
The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have also had similar effects of the
bombing they underwent in 1945 with the atomic bombs. The effects continue and are repeated in Iraq.... and they should
Below is a message from the Mayor of Hiroshima being forwarded by Pax Christi International. Hiroshima Day is August 6.... also the Feast of the Transfiguration. What a transfiguration of these countries.
Claude Mostowik MSC - Heather Formaini
Co-convenors Pax Christi Sydney
Date: Monday, 24 July 2000 4:02
Subject: Message Hiroshima
Peace Message of Pax Christi International to City of Hiroshima
Based on its experience of 55 years ago, the City of Hiroshima sought continually to inform the world regarding the cruel tragedy of the atomic bombing. They have protested all nuclear testing by all nations and have consistently appealed for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. On 25 July
2000, the following message was submitted to Mr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima. The draft was made by Brian Wicker.
With kind regards,
"Pax Christi International is very pleased to be associated with your project for displaying peace messages for the new millennium in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. As you may know, Pax Christi International, which is the peace movement of the Catholic community throughout the world, was started by Catholics in France and Germany who wanted to be able to live in peace with each other after the end of the Second World War. Since 1945 the movement has grown and blossomed not only in most countries of Europe but also in every continent.
>From the very beginning, Pax Christi has been working for the elimination of nuclear weapons. During the cold war, we continued to plead with governments, and with the national leaders of the church itself, to abandon the concept of 'mutual assured destruction' as a means for preventing war.
For we have always believed that, in practice, nuclear weapons could and would only be used in ways which would fall under the condemnation given by the Second Vatican Council in 1965: "any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation". The experience of your own city of Hiroshima provides a vivid illustration of this truth.
As we expect you are aware, since the end of the cold war, there has been great progress in persuading church leaders of the validity of our message. The Vatican's Observer at the United Nations has been speaking out ever more strongly in favour of the elimination of nuclear weapons in the last ten years or so. His speeches to the UN General Assembly amount to the most authoritative and powerful moral challenge to the 'institutional nuclearism' of the nuclear weapons states which the world has seen since the dawn of the nuclear age.
We are sincerely hoping that the progress made at the recent Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with its unanimous 'unequivocal undertaking' by almost all states to 'accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament' will
bear fruit in the coming years, through the creation of the peace which your own city deserves, and has so valiantly persisted in working for, despite the obstacles which have been put in your path during the cold war years.
There are still many obstacles to be overcome inn this new millennium. As a peace movement born in the aftermath of the most appalling war the world has known. Pax Christi International sends you every good wish for the success of your endeavours for peace, and assures you that you have the blessing of Catholic peoples the world over. May God bless you and your fellow citizens, and may the peace of Christ be with you in the new millennium."
When the black cap fits, wear it
Judging by comments already made by the chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee, Australia is in for another condemnatory report from the United Nations over the issue of mandatory sentencing. The Chilean lawyer, Cecilia Medina Quiroga, has expressed "dismay" at Australia's attitude to its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In March, the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also rebuked Australia over the mandatory sentencing laws.
It appears members of UN committees, like many Australians, have difficulty accepting the Federal Government's unwillingness to override states' laws just because they happen to be in breach of international conventions we have signed. It may be expected that much of the world's media will have similar difficulties, when international attention is focussed on us during the forthcoming Sydney Olympics. Indeed, some might view the disproportionate effect these draconian laws are having on our Aborigines as an indication that Australia is not a country that cares much about human rights or harmonious relations between racial groups.
They would be wrong. Australia does have, as the government insists, a long and proud record on human rights. But the mandatory sentencing laws are a blight on that record and a blight on our international reputation. This newspaper has argued that the government has the power to overturn the Northern Territory laws and should also examine whether it can use its external affairs powers to challenge the laws in Western Australia as well. Prime Minister John Howard and Attorney-General Daryl Williams have publicly acknowledged that mandatory sentencing is inherently unjust. Yet, instead of accepting justified criticism, the government has hit out at "political pointscoring" by Aboriginal activists and warned that it will "not allow Australia to be run by people in UN committees meeting in Geneva".
It is true that Australian governments have a mandate to govern for Australians rather than "people in Geneva". But the fact is that indigenous Australians, as do all peoples, have a right to take their grievances to UN bodies if they feel their rights under international law are being breached. And there is, as the recent marches for reconciliation - including yesterday's big turnout in Tasmania - show, a great deal of support among ordinary Australians for Aboriginal rights. Even if there were not, successive governments of this country have committed us to meeting international obligations, which cannot be dismissed whenever they don't happen to suit us. The Howard Government's petulant attitude does it no credit, abroad or at home.
Jubilee 2000 - http://www.jubilee2000uk.org/
HELP NET THE DEBT! JOIN THE VIRTUAL HUMAN CHAIN ON
I am writing from Okinawa on the first day of the G7 Summit, where the leaders of the 7 richest nations will gather to discuss issues that have an impact on the poor worldwide. Initially the Japanese Government refused to have debt on the agenda, saying that the crisis was resolved at
Cologne. However as a result of your campaigning, one of the issues on their agenda will be debt.
Campaigners here in Okinawa expressed their "total dismay" yesterday at lack of progress on debt cancellation. More than a year after the G7 leaders last met in Cologne, not one country has received debt cancellation and only 9 have had partial relief. Yet there are fears that the leaders may merely confirm decisions taken last year and not examine why so little action has been taken or make new initiatives to deliver urgent debt cancellation. As Bono writes in the UK newspaper, the
Guardian today: "If the world's leaders are indeed to miss this opportunity for a historic act of Grace, then their lack of leadership will echo loudly in the void of a new millennium, robbed of the only thing which might have given it meaning."
So please log onto the website today and send a final message to the G7 as they meet in Okinawa. And email your friends to ask them to do the same. It is not too late to demonstrate the overwhelming demand for debt cancellation which is being voiced to the G7 nations throughout the world. Throughout the weekend, the website - http://www.summitwatch.net - will also be featuring constant updates from Okinawa and from summitwatch events around the world. By logging on you can be connected up in a virtual Human Chain of events that are taking place in every continent
this weekend in support of the campaign.
Thank you for your support,
Jubilee 20000 UK