Wednesday, 11 June 2003
Humanitarian Issues in Post-War Iraq: Statements.
It is good to be back in this House. I am pleased to address this issue of the humanitarian situation in Iraq. I am conscious that the House discussed this matter on the Order of Business.
Experience has demonstrated that the humanitarian consequences of conflict continue to be felt long after the images of war have faded from our television screens. In Iraq today, millions of people continue to suffer from the effects of conflict, food insecurity, water shortages and from deprivation of other kinds. Hospitals in Iraq have been extensively looted and are overwhelmed by the demand for basic health services. Security incidents and ongoing instability continue to hamper relief efforts. The country's infrastructure has been further degraded with the disruption and destruction caused by the war. Basic services such as sanitation and electricity remain in short supply, causing hardship and increasing the risk of an outbreak of cholera and other diseases.
In Baghdad, up to 50% of the water supply has been lost as a result of damage to the water network. Some 800,000 litres of drinkable water are being distributed in the capital on a daily basis by UNICEF. Water and chlorine are also being distributed in other parts of the country where possible. Ireland's humanitarian assistance is aiding these essential efforts.
Many millions of Iraqis remain dependent on food distribution. I was pleased to note the commencement on 1 June of the country-wide distribution of food aid by the UN World Food Programme, WFP. Prior to the conflict, 60% of the population, some 16 million people, depended on food rations as their only food supply. The resumption of regular food aid distribution is essential if enormous suffering and consequential population movements are to be avoided. Ireland remains a strong supporter of the WFP in its work. We assist it through core funding and responding to specific appeals. This mix of funding mechanisms provides the organisation with the flexibility to deliver food aid rapidly and effectively. Mr. James Morris, executive director of the WFP, will visit Ireland in July and I will meet with him at that time. This will provide a valuable opportunity for discussions on the organisation's work in Iraq and elsewhere.
We should not lose sight of the fact that war in Iraq followed on from two previous conflicts and 12 years of crippling sanctions. Since 1991 the people of Iraq have experienced a dramatic drop in all aspects of their living standards. To put this in context it is important to point out the following. In the index that measures quality of life – the human development index, HDI – Iraq fell from 96th place to 127th place in a little over ten years. No country has fallen so far so rapidly. This deterioration has been translated at the basic human level into increased child deaths, malnutrition and high rates of disease. Iraqi children have suffered greatly and are still at great risk as we meet here today.
My top priority, as Minister of State with responsibility for development co-operation and human rights, is the protection and saving of human lives. This is the humanitarian imperative to which I am wholly committed and this focus has been a priority for the Government from the outset. All of the assistance we have delivered to Iraq has been informed by this imperative. I have worked closely with Irish NGOs and the key international organisations in shaping the Government's response.
As Senators will be aware, on 25 March I announced a €5 million humanitarian assistance funding package to alleviate suffering in Iraq. As a result of reports emanating on the ground from humanitarian agencies, the key focus of this assistance is emergency support for health services, water and sanitation, food assistance and support for internally displaced persons. This funding has been delivered via the Red Cross family, UNICEF, the WFP, Concern, GOAL and Trócaire. Funding has also been provided to assist with the co-ordination of the humanitarian effort. This funding package is now on stream. Our partners have a proven track record of providing effective emergency relief to those most in need in difficult operating environments. I believe that Ireland's assistance is reaching the most vulnerable in an effective manner.
I pay particular tribute to the Red Cross family and UNICEF who remained, as far as was humanly possible, active on the ground during the conflict. The heroic work of the mainly Iraqi personnel of these organisations undoubtedly saved many lives as they selflessly addressed the needs of the most vulnerable.
A key component of our humanitarian funding to the Iraqi people responds to the UN flash appeal for Iraq. This UN assistance will be provided in strict adherence to the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality that underpin the mandates of the United Nations and its emergency humanitarian agencies. The UN Secretariat has made it clear that a generous response to this flash appeal is critical, as the contracts in the oil for food pipeline will not be sufficient to meet the essential needs of the Iraqi people in the short term.
The UN appeal covers two elements, food and non-food. It is estimated that the food needs of the Iraqi population will amount to 480,000 metric tonnes per month for the first few months. Non-food needs include the provision of water, health, shelter, education, protection, de-mining and emergency repairs. A total of €2.4 million of our package will respond to this appeal, supporting programmes which are being implemented by our key UN partners, the WFP, UNICEF and the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The European Union, including the Commission, has allocated over €700 million in emergency humanitarian aid for the crisis in Iraq and, to date, has delivered more than €285 million of this. I welcome this rapid response and I will continue to use every opportunity to highlight the humanitarian needs of Iraq to my colleagues in the EU.
In any conflict the primary responsibility for the protection and welfare of the civilian population rests with the warring parties. It is important that the political debate over the justification for the war, which has re-ignited over the past two weeks, does not divert the focus of the international community from the humanitarian effort at this time.
It is still early days in the recovery efforts for Iraq. There are, however, some encouraging signs. Inter-agency co-ordination is good and the UN agencies and NGOs are meeting regularly. Five humanitarian corridors are operating through Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Kuwait. The adoption on 22 May of UN Resolution 1483, lifting sanctions on Iraq, means that estimated reserves of over 100 billion barrels of oil can now be put to use in the recovery process. For the first time in over three decades, free elections have taken place to choose the presidents of universities and deans of colleges and 13 new newspapers have commenced circulating in the country. A process of general disarmament of the population is beginning. These are first, but nevertheless welcome, steps toward normality for a population desperate for peace and stability.
While it is clear that the situation confronting Iraq is extremely daunting, the challenges facing us are not unique. As donors, we have garnered valuable experience and lessons from similar post-conflict situations. Our aim must be to avoid the mistakes of the past and incorporate the lessons learned in a practical way in all our recovery and reconstruction activities. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of co-ordination in all phases of the recovery effort in the months and years ahead.
While recent experience of post-conflict situations has been mixed, our understanding of the elements required for post-conflict development is improving. I would highlight Afghanistan and East Timor, in particular, as recent examples of countries that have made admirable progress in a short space of time.
The two most critical lessons seem to be that the recovery and reconstruction process has to be owned by the population concerned and that high levels of international engagement need to be sustained for many years. We know from our own experience in Northern Ireland how difficult it is to achieve lasting peace where deep divisions and suspicions exist. What is required is motivation and support rather than prescription.
Iraq has access to vast wealth in the form of oil reserves to fund reconstruction. Financial resources alone are not sufficient. The way in which the financial resources are translated into actions and programmes will be the key to the outcome of recovery efforts. Successful reconstruction will necessitate building the capacity of local institutions and systems, facilitating good governance and assistance in the key areas of basic needs and livelihood support. The process must be managed carefully in order to balance the understandable desire to achieve early results with the capacity of any new administration system to act in a productive and accountable manner.
It is vital that the United Nations should play a central role in any recovery process. This issue was discussed by the Taoiseach in his meeting with President Bush in Hillsborough last April. The Taoiseach has also had discussions on this matter with the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. The Government believes, as do our partners in the European Union, that the United Nations should be at the heart of the reconstruction process. It has the experience, capacity and perceived impartiality to carry this objective forward. The recent achievements of the United Nations in post-conflict situations as diverse as East Timor and Afghanistan are a good indication of its capacity to deliver what is required today in Iraq.
I warmly welcome the appointment of Mr. Sergio Viero de Mello as the new UN special representative for Iraq. I have met him on a number of occasions recently and the House will be aware of his good work following the conflict in East Timor. His experience will be a valuable asset to the recovery and reconstruction process. Moving beyond purely humanitarian interventions, the United Nations can assume a significant role in the broader task of helping Iraqis to forge new democratic institutions.
This is all the more important in the broader context of the dissension which affected the international community in the lead-up to the conflict in Iraq. We have taken the position that it is time to move beyond these divisions. Not least, it is essential to begin repairing the damage to the United Nations. The Security Council should be the guarantor of international peace and security in the future. This will only be possible if it is united and determined. Security Council Resolution 1483 represents a solid step back toward the position which the United Nations must occupy if the world is to continue in security and peace.
Complex post-conflict issues must now be addressed if Iraq is to emerge from this crisis as a peaceful and representative democracy. The members of the Security Council carry a heavy responsibility to demonstrate that the United Nations is capable of working in unity and with purpose. It is also essential that the Iraqi people play an important and expanding role in the work being undertaken to reconstruct the country, both its institutions and infrastructure. I am pleased to see that this is being increasingly recognised and that efforts are being made on the ground to encourage members of the Iraqi police and civil service to return to their duties. These efforts should continue and intensify, as recognised in Resolution 1483.
The assurance of Iraq's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, with every appropriate involvement on the part of the United Nations, will be of the greatest importance for Arab public opinion. It will help to dispel any fears that rule from outside could be imposed. We still have to guard against the twin dangers of destabilisation in the region and the worsening of the terrorist threat.
The Government worked actively to avert the possibility of conflict, both during its time in the Security Council and subsequently, a matter we have discussed at length in this House. We signalled the risk that conflict could destabilise an already volatile region, warned of the prospect of increased tension between the Moslem and Western worlds, and laid particular emphasis on humanitarian concerns. Thankfully, the conflict was brought to an early close and casualties were lower than had been feared. Nonetheless, the risks of destabilisation and tension remain, It is vital that every effort is made to address these concerns in the coming months.
The security situation on the ground continues to be extremely difficult, even if the wide-scale looting has been largely stopped. American forces are coming under daily attack. It appears that these attacks are increasing in number and, at least in some cases, being carried out on some sort of organised basis. The US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, has predicted that it will take months to eradicate pockets of resistance by supposed elements of the Ba'athist regime, although it is not at all clear that resistance is limited to these elements alone.
All this has led to a very tense situation in which there have been incidents where innocent civilians have been mistakenly fired on by occupation forces. Such casualties are particularly regrettable. There are further adverse consequences for the civilian population. Great obstacles have been placed in the way of United Nations and NGO relief workers. We must salute their heroism in braving these dangers.
It is difficult to say how this situation will develop; we need to keep it in perspective. What is happening is still on a relatively small scale. The outbreak of some degree of violent unrest was almost inevitable. The much wider destabilisation, which we feared, has thankfully not taken place. We can hope that, if cool heads prevail, this unfortunate situation can be contained with minimum casualties and will eventually disappear. It will be of particular importance to make a rapid transition to democratic, civilian rule by Iraqis which is seen by the Iraqi people as being run by themselves.
This is what is envisaged in Security Council Resolution 1483, unanimously adopted on 22 May. As I have said, Mr. Sergio de Mello has been appointed as the Secretary General's special representative in Iraq. He has been given a mandate which assures the involvement of the United Nations in the future reconstruction of the country. His independent responsibilities include reporting regularly to the Security Council, co-ordinating activities of the United Nations in post-conflict processes in Iraq, and co-ordinating United Nations and other international agencies engaged in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction. He will also, in co-operation with the occupying powers – the Coalition Provisional Authority – assist the people of Iraq in all of the key activities which will be required for the reconstruction of Iraq and its restoration to normality. These responsibilities will include working intensively with the authority, the people of Iraq and others concerned, in order to advance efforts to restore and establish national and local institutions for representative governance, as well as by working together to facilitate a process leading to an internationally recognised, representative government of Iraq.
In addition to this task, Mr. de Mello will also work to facilitate the reconstruction of key infrastructure in co-operation with other international organisations, promote economic reconstruction and the conditions for sustainable development, encourage international efforts to contribute to basic civilian administration functions, promote the protection of human rights, encourage international efforts to rebuild the capacity of the Iraqi civilian police force and international efforts to promote legal and judicial reform.
The Government welcomes the fact that Resolution 1483 has taken the right of the Iraqi people to a representative government as a starting point in its consideration of the future of Iraq. We also welcome the clarification which it brought to the role to be played by the Secretary General's special representative in facilitating the formation of the future Iraqi government. Any future Iraqi government should be as broadly representative as possible of all the Iraqi people. We hope to see movement as soon as possible towards the formation of a permanent government structure based on the democratically expressed wishes of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people have the inalienable right to a representative government of their own choosing and the sooner this can be achieved the better for everyone. The UN Security Council will be keeping the matter under continuing review and is committed to reviewing the resolution within 12 months.
My overriding concern is that we should not lose sight of the urgency of the current humanitarian situation, as I have outlined to the House. The scale of needs on the humanitarian front in Iraq is still enormous. Helping the people of Iraq to survive from one day to the next must be no less of an imperative for the international community than the task of rebuilding the country and laying down the foundations for lasting peace and stability. I will continue to do everything in my power to relieve the humanitarian suffering of the Iraqi people and support the international effort to assist recovery in Iraq.
I thank the Minister of State for returning to the House to give us his views on the ongoing situation in Iraq. It is important for us to have such a debate and continue to monitor the developments very closely. It is some weeks since President Bush formally declared that the conflict was over. I wish it was as simple at that but it is not. To paraphrase another party and politician, "The problem has not gone away." As the Minister of State said, there is killing almost on a daily basis in Iraq. The number of American soldiers, in particular, who have died since the so-called conclusion of the conflict is almost as many as the number who died during the conflict. Let us be under no illusions. The problem has not gone away, the conflict is not over and the terrible problems in Iraq in recent years are still evident – if anything, they are now greater.
The question posed regularly by the media and which has taxed politicians most in recent weeks is the location of the weapons of mass destruction. Will they ever be found and was the war against Saddam Hussein fought on a false basis? This question is very much to the fore in British political circles. There is also a strong undercurrent among our colleagues in the American political system as to where are the weapons. This is a crucial issue which needs a full debate.
Perhaps in the shorter term we should try to address the question the people of Iraq are asking of western Europe, in particular: where is the food, medical assistance, humanitarian relief and the road map to their future? We hear a lot about the road map proposals for the Middle East but the question the people of Iraq are asking is, where is the roadmap for the future of Iraq? I recognise that humanitarian relief for Iraq, some of which has been outlined by the Minister of State, is being planned and delivered to a certain degree in many guises by the United Nations, the United States, Britain and other countries. We must recognise that this support programme will require a different basis than the normal humanitarian relief programmes with which we would associate for countries such as Sudan, Cambodia, the Congo and so on.
Iraq is not a Third World country. It has at least 10% of the world's oil resources and a sophisticated and educated population. Prior to Saddam, it had a history of efficient local and central administration. Against this background it is imperative that, apart from the necessary short-term aid, our focus is firmly on restoring democracy and government to the Iraqi people and allowing them to get on with the job. Civil administration is a vital component of that argument but until we can put in place civil administration in Iraq, there will not be any great progress.
We discussed this issue prior to the outbreak of the war. While the military operations were under way, there was a key argument that Iraq needed to be given back to the Iraqi people as soon as possible. That is the core of any long-term solution. I welcome the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 adopted last May which arose from the original motion tabled by the United States, Great Britain and Spain. The main issue dealt with by the agreed resolution included the phasing out of the Oil for Food Programme, the appointment of a United Nations special representative, the lifting of all sanctions against Iraq, except those relating to weapons, and, most importantly, the setting out of the objective of establishing a recognised representative government for Iraq.
The public position of the United States – I believe it to be the case – is a wish to hand over control to a representative government at an early date. However, despite this avowed intention, there is still very strong opposition to the US approach both from within Iraq and the wider Arab world. This problem has been compounded by the absence of a generally acceptable local leader or group of leaders. There is no indication whatsoever of a strong indigenous local leader emerging. A meeting was held by the United States on 15 April to discuss possible future local leadership in Iraq. A follow-up meeting was held on 25 April. Both meetings were very modest affairs and no great progress was made because, unfortunately, the main Shiah Muslim group did not participate. However, there has been some progress since. On 8 May there was the formal setting up of the Coalition Provisional Authority, a small but very necessary step forward. The initial head of the authority, General Garner, has now been replaced by the former ambassador, Mr. Bremner. He said an Iraqi national conference to choose an interim government would meet in July or thereabouts. There must be strong international pressure from all of us on the authority to progress this issue and ensure an early transfer of power will take place from the authority to the interim government.
I want to refer to the role of the European Union, an absolutely crucial one from the point of view of the future development of Iraq, and also a crucial one for us to address in regard to the future direction of EU policy. Yesterday we debated the Convention on the Future of Europe when many Members spoke about the difficulty and the desirability of having a common EU voice on foreign policy. This was never more necessary, yet it was never more lacking during the ongoing EU debate during the Iraqi crisis. The European Union must learn from these difficulties. It must take a lead role in continuing to stress the principle of territorial integrity for Iraq and the right of the Iraqi people to shape their own democratic future. The European Union must press strongly and publicly for transparency in regard to the economic and political measures which must be taken.
It is being suggested that some EU countries are considering an early reopening of their embassies in Iraq. This is something on which we must reflect. The Irish Embassy in Iraq closed in 1991 during the first Gulf War. Since then our relations with Iraq have been handled through our Permanent Mission to the United Nations. We should consider at an early date the possible reopening of the Irish Embassy in Baghdad. The Irish business community would like to see this development. While there are probably limited business opportunities in Iraq for the Irish community at present, we must try to plan ahead. This is necessary, particularly in view of our forthcoming Presidency of the European Union. At that stage an Irish presence in Baghdad would be helpful and perhaps necessary. From that perspective, the Irish and the European Union's response to the crisis that has caused so much public debate and division must be one of ongoing pressure on the United States to seek a return to Iraqi self-government at the earliest possible date.
The tensions between Europe and the United States are still evident and could be seen very clearly at the G8 Summit last week. The body language between President Bush and President Chiraq spoke for itself. Some Members of the Oireachtas were in the United States last week on a political visit and could also feel the tensions. There was much constructive debate between the Irish delegation and United States politicians. However, the tensions between Europe and the United States on this issue were evident to us last week. They will not disappear overnight. The core argument of EU policy on Iraq's future must remain that its future should be decided by the Iraqi people and that the resources of Iraq should be used for the people of Iraq.
A major role in the humanitarian and political situation is being played by the UN Secretary General's special representative, Mr. de Mello, who has made a positive start since his appointment a few weeks ago. He met informally some days ago a group of Iraqi professionals, including lawyers, judges, journalists, economists, human rights advocates and people from various political and religious backgrounds. There was strong consensus among the group to see the United Nations assisting in Iraq to help the political process to advance. The need for reform of the judicial system was also strongly stressed. Mr. de Mello is very constrained at present in that all decision-making continues to rest with the provisional authority of the US. Regrettably, he will have little more than a speaking role until he is given the space he needs to make political progress.
One possible source of reconstruction help on which we have not dwelt very much is OPEC. I understand that the OPEC group is meeting today in Doha. The director-general of OPEC has already said that while OPEC does not normally provide assistance to its member countries, Iraq is a special case. He has indicated that the OPEC Ministers can discuss the possible funding of assistance for Iraq. I hope that at today's meeting the OPEC countries will put their money where their mouth is in relation to Iraq. Those countries were very strong in their views in advance of the military conflict. They argued strongly and validly against military intervention.
There is now a problem regarding oil prices. Iraqi oil has not yet begun to flow again. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has said that the money gained from the sale of Iraqi oil will go into a central fund to kick-start the resumption of economic progress in Iraq. Some of the OPEC countries fear that the flow of Iraqi oil will depress oil prices internationally. I hope OPEC will look today at the bigger picture. They should look kindly on their neighbour's plight, not merely talking about it but supplying direct aid to help the reconstruction programme.
An issue which concerns me is the practicality of humanitarian relief, in particular food and medicine distribution. There is an international reservoir of goodwill and good intentions by the various agencies. The practical problem is that there are few if any international staff on the ground in Iraq in control of the aid delivery programme. I wonder about the capacity of the agencies to deliver the food, medicines and other resources so urgently required. The Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, spoke about UNICEF and the World Food Programme. There are fine plans, which I hope are more than aspirational. This is crucial, because at present there are thought to be 16 million people in Iraq entirely dependent on monthly food rations after the two decades of war and economic sanctions. The World Food Programme believes that 27 million Iraqis will be in a position to receive food rations from more than 44,000 distribution points. That reads well, but when there are not sufficient ground staff to activate those programmes, the situation must be monitored closely. We cannot wash our hands and simply read about the aid and food figures if the relief is not being delivered. International staff and NGOs have a huge role to play and we wish them well.
There is still a mountain to climb in relation to the future of Iraq and its once proud people. The military campaign has occurred and we cannot turn back history. It is essential that the US and their coalition forces recognise that they must leave Iraq as soon as possible. They must see that civilian control in Iraq must return, that democracy has to be put in place and that the future of Iraq and its resources is a matter for the Iraqi people and nobody else.
I have never been to Iraq, but most of the Iraqis I have met were decent, intelligent people. We must ask ourselves why we should send aid to Iraq. It is a country with vast oil reserves – currently 100 billion barrels, according to the Minister of State. Senator Bradford said that Iraq was, until the time of Saddam Hussein, a country with an ordinary government at local and national level. It had universities, schools, museums and so on.
There are two reasons why we should sent aid to Iraq. In the first place, the country has been invaded by a coalition of the UK, US and Australia. I have said this before, and people do not like my saying it, but it was an illegal invasion.
The invasion was not sanctioned by the UN. I will say something else that people might not like. The invasion was necessary in order to topple the dictator Saddam Hussein. He slaughtered thousands of his own people. He gassed the Kurds.
We were given a huge amount of disinformation by the intelligence services of both Britain and the US. We were told that weapons of mass destruction would be found, and they have not been found. I wonder why the alliance could not have told us the truth, that it wanted to invade Iraq to topple the dictator and secure the oil reserves. Would that have made much difference? There is not much we can do about it, but at least the alliance could have told us the truth. Saddam Hussein was indeed a ruthless dictator. There is no sign of him. He disappeared with billions of dollars and God knows where he has gone.
I wonder if we could learn a lesson from this. It seems that the Western powers – I use the term widely, but with particular reference to the US, though I am pro-US rather than anti-US – seem to nourish dictators as long as they are keeping down any smell of left-wing government anywhere. Then, when these dictators become too powerful, we raid the countries and remove them. I am thinking of people like Suharto, Marcos and Pinochet, all supported in their time and given arms by Western governments. Saddam Hussein was once a friend of Ireland, a man to whom we sold meat, and who was supplied with arms by all the Western powers. When he went too far, they went into Iraq and deposed him. Perhaps in future we should not support dictators on the rise, and instead allow democracy to work wherever possible.
Any aid Ireland provides must be for basic needs, solely for the welfare of the Iraqi people, especially health and medical services. Iraq is in a state of turmoil, with most of its infrastructure destroyed. That infrastructure must be rebuilt, and the country's security needs met, by those who invaded Iraq, namely the UK and the US. This should be done under the control of the United Nations if possible. I welcome the appointment of the UN Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who I believe will do a very good job, provided he is allowed to operate as freely as possible.
The Iraqi security situation is far from settled. The Minister of State mentioned Afghanistan. That country is not at all settled, and thousands of innocent Afghans have been killed for reasons I do not know of. The situation is similar in Iraq. Thousands of civilians were killed. It is only as the figures gradually emerge that we see the horror of the war visited on the Iraqi people. We tried sanctions for a long time. All that happened was that Saddam Hussein continued to sit comfortably and allowed perhaps 5,000 or so babies to die monthly. He had no respect for his own people and that situation could not have been allowed to continue.
In a country where people were educated, were intelligent and had a normal form of government, it is strange that 16 million of those people were fed by food programmes. They were dependent on handouts. That is a horrific way to run a country. These people have got used to handouts. The programmes were organised by the Iraqi Government to keep these people barely alive, while much of the funding was siphoned off to build palaces for Saddam and his brothers, and those of his relations whom he had not killed.
There is a huge task facing the world community. The European Union has so far contributed €100 million. This is only a drop in the ocean in respect of the needs of these people. There are parts of the world more deserving than Iraq, such as parts of Africa where people are dying of AIDS and starvation, with a lack of food and water. This is not going to happen in Iraq. I do not mean they do not need help and the Government should not send aid to Iraq, but there are places which are worse off.
The one thing we have to watch in Iraq is the outbreak of diseases. The season of peak hot weather is aggravating the worsening condition of the more vulnerable in the cities, particularly in Baghdad where rates of cholera remain high. Other diseases such as dysentery and typhoid are becoming problematic due mainly to the water supply. It is damaging to the whole health infrastructure.
Anybody who has read the Ireland Aid programme and seen the work done by the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, will observe that we have a proud programme. We have done the best we can with the resources available and aid distributed wisely and fairly. Most of the aid we send reaches where it is supposed to go and achieves what is intended for it. The current Minister of State is interested in this aspect of his brief and is doing his best with the resources available to him.
I do not want it to appear from what I have said that I do not welcome aid going to Iraq; of course I do. Any aid that we provide must be carefully monitored to ensure that it goes only to the needy, the sick, children and for the provision of medical and water services. We must be careful that any aid we provide does not go to the reconstruction of buildings. There are plenty of world powers vying for those contracts. We do not any part in that sordid business.
I welcome the work done by the Minister of State and the Government. We should continue to provide aid to the extent we can and subject to the resources available to us.
I move motion No. 29:
That Seanad Éireann calls on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to use his good offices to ensure that the United States and the United Kingdom Governments meet their absolute moral obligation, as well as their legal obligation, under the Fourth Geneva Convention to provide the finest medical care and rehabilitative treatment for all the civilian casualties of their recent war in Iraq as a matter of the greatest urgency.
This has been agreed by this House, despite the interventions of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which came to light this morning in discussions on the Order of Business. I found it interesting that it is still not prepared to face the truth about this war. Apparently, officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs objected to the motion they thought I was putting down – No.28 – on the basis of one word "occupation". I ask the Minister of State to find out from his adviser who wrote this stuff what he has against the use of the word "occupation". What on earth does he think it is, if it is not an occupation? This is a nonsense. Let us tell the truth in this House and let us have truth from the Department of Foreign Affairs on this issue.
The coalition forces bombed the blazes out of Iraq, they went in illegally, they pretended there were weapons of mass destruction. Now, we cannot use the word "occupation" because Iveagh House is frightened of alienating the Yanks. Tell the truth and shame the devil. It is a disgrace that we are not allowed tell the Irish people the truth and the word "occupation" is unusable. Why is that the case?
I deliberately chose motion No. 29 because it was passed unanimously by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I strongly deprecate this resistance to the use of the word "occupation". That was what happened. It was said in this House by two Members on the Government benches. I was also told privately that it was objected to by Iveagh House. We must get our act in order on this issue.
I may be able to clarify this. Senator Norris is wrong in what he is saying. At the end of the day it is the Minister for Foreign Affairs who is responsible for what is said here.
It is plain that he did not have that capacity to threaten us, possibly did not have the capacity to threaten even his neighbours, and that is profoundly important. We were, after all, told that those who opposed the resolution that would provide the basis for military action were in the wrong. Perhaps we should now admit that they were in the right.
The motion that I put down, with all-party support, deals in a very bland way with the use by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of his good offices to persuade the US and UK Governments to live up to their obligations to the civilian population of Iraq. This was strongly supported by our distinguished former Minister for Foreign Affairs, David Andrews. When he took up that office, this measure was passed unanimously. It is important that we pass this motion.
We are all familiar with the pictures of little Ali who lost both his arms and whose family was wiped out. As a result of an intensive international campaign, he was transferred to Kuwait where certain rehabilitative procedures were engaged in, but what about all the rest of the people? What about the morality of the situation which we all witnessed live on television where, on foot of rumours that Saddam Hussein was in a particular restaurant, a couple of thousand pound bombs were dropped on a civilian house and an entire family wiped out for no good reason? We condemned on the Order of Business the murder by the Israelis today of a Palestinian activist, but what about these people and what about the situation they face?
There are points in the Minister of State's speech which I very much welcome such as his congratulations to the various aid agencies, the Red Cross, UNICEF, the WFP, Concern, GOAL and Trócaire. He also indicates the catastrophic fall in the human development index of Iraq. That is all very important and it is important it should be said. He also pays tribute to the heroic work of the mainly Iraqi personnel of these organisations – the fact that they certainly saved lives. I am very glad he said that.
However, I cannot believe that Afghanistan and East Timor are being cited. Those are classic hit and run operations – certainly Afghanistan is. They went in, they walloped that country for their own reasons, they have now skited off and the world's attention has moved away from that country. Hamid Karzai controls about seven miles around Kabul and the Taliban and warlords are in control of most of the rest of the area. Poppy production in that country has quadrupled. What are we talking about? That is not satisfactory.
I was arrested on the way in because my comments were not so bland as to please the Indonesia administration.
With regard to the incidence of disease, while diarrhoea is a simple disease to treat, large number of children are dying from it in Iraq. Some 70% of all child deaths recently in Iraq have been diarrhoea related. Dysentery and typhoid are also becoming a significant problem and this is partly due to the bombing of the water and electricity supply infrastructure.
In a recent UNICEF newsletter there is a picture of a young girl, Ayat, picking grains of rice out of sewer in front of her house and washing them so that they can be sold in order to supplement the family income because they are starving. That is a classic method of transmitting disease.
I did not get into East Timor because I was arrested. I am honoured to have been arrested and not to have been allowed in. However, I have been to Baghdad and I have been to the children's hospital. I would like to tell Members what Maura Quinn has to say in her report about the situation there. She wrote:
I visited the main paediatric hospital in Basrah. The doctor brought me around the overcrowded wards in which up to three mothers and their babies shared the same bed. We visited each mother and children to hear their story. Eventually we came to a very ill baby, attached to a drip. He was seven month old Mohammed, the first child of his 20-year-old mother Nabila. He weighted 3.5 kg, less than half his target weight. He was also suffering from pneumonia and diarrhoea. The doctor told me there was nothing further he could do. I sat with Nabila and we watched her beautiful son die. I raged at the waste of his life, while she, in a dignified way, appeared to accept his death as inevitable. News of Mohammed's death spread quickly. Many of the other mothers came to her bedside. Again, the unnatural acceptance of this baby's death. One of them asked me, the foreigner, "How many more of our children have to die?"
I know that Saddam Hussein was a monster because I was one of the people who said it over the past 20 years and protested at Halabja when the west was supplying him with the gas and the Government was supplying him with meat for his army. I was more or less a lone voice protesting at that time, so nobody need question my credentials about this. I listen to the media and I hear the media in Iraq now saying, Saddam Hussein was bad but this is worse, and it is not over yet. It is oil that is at the back of this entire matter.
There are also outbreaks of cholera. In Basra, there are 66 confirmed cases of cholera, with three people having died from the disease. Of the 66 cases, 79% are children under five years old and 59% of the victims are girls. There are also clinically confirmed cases of cholera in Nassariya and Missan, but these cases have yet to be confirmed through laboratory tests. This is due to a serious lack of the required medical equipment in the south and throughout Iraq as a whole. Dysentery and typhoid are also becoming a real problem for children. Dysentery is spread through contaminated water and food. The bacteria lodge in the intestines of a child and erode the intestinal wall, leading to bloody diarrhoea. Typhoid, which is also spread by contaminated food, is being seen throughout the capital as well. The current worry is that prior to the war and the collapse of the health system there was rigorous surveillance of typhoid, but now there is none. There is no reporting and no surveillance.
The collapsed education system in an example of how far Iraq has fallen. In a country which values education highly, and had the highest primary school enrolment in the Middle East for both girls and boys, this hurts. The 8,000 primary schools are in a dreadful condition – no windows or roofs, school-yards under water, awash with raw sewage, rat-infested and in some cases without electricity, sanitation or water.
I wish to refer to the problem of landmines. During three weeks in the past month there were 500 injuries and 80 deaths of which we know. This is the subject of one of the earlier motions I tabled. The spokesperson for the coalition said that cluster bombs are not illegal – they are of course but that does not matter, they can still lie as much as they like. They are effective weapons. There was equipment in and around built up areas and accordingly the bombs were used to take out the threat, knowing that these cluster bombs primarily affect children and are illegal under the Geneva Convention. There is no question they are illegal but they are still used. They are still there and they have not been taken away.
My colleague, Senator Lydon, in a most interesting speech, said that our overseas aid should not go towards the rebuilding of the infrastructure because many other groups are involved in that. We know them, they are the friends of George Bush – Bechtell and Haliburton, these people who incited the war, planned and conspired to bring it about. It was not the intelligence service. Let us put a stop to that myth. It was not the intelligence services who lied; it was the massaging, manipulation and misuse of intelligence information by political leaders that led to the situation where even the intelligence services in the United States and the United Kingdom could not stomach it and they started leaking information. That is how we know what the truth is.
This was a shameful war. I opposed Saddam Hussein from the beginning. While I am glad he is gone, I fear for the people in Iraq because it will be another hit and run exercise, just like Afghanistan. The media victory was won and American citizens were persuaded that right was on their side and so on. I pity those left behind when the media move on. For that reason, it is terribly important that this House continues to monitor the situation for ordinary Iraqi citizens.