Future Lefts – After the War Vol 4 No. 1

Published: Mon 24 Mar 2003 08:54 AM
Future Lefts – After the War Vol 4 No. 1
Contents: Editorial - After the War PM's Statement to the House NZ give Humanitarian Aid Opposition Supports Illegal War Minimum Wage Increases Welcomed
:: Editorial – After the War ::
Young Labour opposes the current war against Iraq. As we have said elsewhere, it is illegal, immoral and wrong.
But Saddam Hussein's regime is also immoral and wrong. And to see it gone will be no great loss to the world.
The most common theme emerging from those who are supporting the war is that this is somehow a fight for freedom against tyranny; as if those with concerns support Saddam and his works.
I would like to state, for the record, that it is possible to both oppose war, and oppose dictatorship.
And it takes no great genius to realise that this is making the world a more dangerous, and less free place, rather than anything else.
Strange things are stirring as the war moves ahead. I am convinced that the US and UK military operation will see no stunning setbacks; the war does not appear likely to last very long notwithstanding current delays. Unless there is a Stalingrad-esque attempt to stand and die around Baghdad, the days of the regime are numbered. It's no joke when the US armed forces are described as the most powerful in the world, and the idea that a half-starved, sanction-depleted government could stand against American might does not bear serious consideration. We can only hope that reconstruction of an independent Iraq proceeds quickly once the fighting is finished.
Sadly, the war is only the very beginning of a much more difficult set of questions and problems.
The biggest and cruellest joke is the idea that this war will somehow create peace. Every bomb that falls; every innocent civilian killed; will simply feed the terror networks the Americans seem to think they are in the process of destroying. The impression of a religious war, no matter how strenuously denied, is one that will have its consequences. The saddest outcome of this conflict is likely to be a steady worsening in terrorist activity all around the world; targeted to be sure at the aggressors in the current conflict, but making the world more dangerous for all of us.
For me, serious as this is, it is only a secondary consideration. The more chilling issue is the shambles at the United Nations, and the question of American hegemony. The world's multilateral institutions developed after World War Two with peace as their mission, in a world of disintegrating empires, facing the fallout of fascism, and determined never to see a repeat. America was if anything more dominant then that it is now; certainly in economic terms it was, though militarily today's power is more extensive.
The difference between then and now is one in Washington. A far-sighted and clear-thinking US administration realised that it could never win the peace through war. It generously helped to rebuild Europe; treated the vanquished enemy with a large measure of decency and compassion; and put together a system of multilateral institutions designed to build international cooperation and development.
And it worked - it worked wonderfully, for those countries which were part of it, and especially for the Americans and their interests. It saw off the challenge of the Soviet Union; it developed unparalleled economic prosperity. For sixty years the Americans were seen more as friends than as something to be feared; and largely they were.
Today all that good work and reputation is close to being in tatters. A hard headed regime in Washington fails to understand how the world works; lacks the insights and sheer humanity of the victors in the Second World War; and on a host of issues is driving wedges between the United States and the rest of the world.
This war in Iraq is a continuation of that divisive way of doing things; it sets a very chilling precedent in several respects:
* it gives free reign to states to step outside the international legal system, if they perceive it as being in their interests to do so. * it entrenches the idea that UN declarations and resolutions will only be imposed on America's enemies (Iraq) not their friends (Israel). * it tells murderous regimes all over the world that if they are disarmed (Iraq) then they are a ready target; if they have weapons of mass destruction (North Korea, Pakistan, Israel etc) then they are safe. * as mentioned, it will inflame Arab opinion and increase the risk of terrorism around the world, threatening us all.
It also doesn't help the twists and roundabouts that America's objectives in the region are so unclear. Do they want a democratic Middle East? Do they want the harder-line Arab regimes with democratic mandates, and lessened access to oil that would result?
No, of course not. They want - need - that cheap energy. So will we see the toppling of Iraq; the same of Iran; and then the continued propping up of other autocratic regimes to keep the "Arab street" under control?
More likely.
The entire situation reeks of hidden motives, duplicity in language, and danger for now and the future. Once the war is over, the UN must take over the reconstruction of Iraq. Urgent consideration needs to be given how to repair the damage the international law has suffered: the UN must consider reform and regeneration in a new era of unparalleled American dominance. The whole global community needs to stamp out any notion that pre-emption outside the UN Charter is okay, and instead continue to address how the world will deal with regimes it finds repugnant, without destroying the existing framework.
Whatever happens, in a way completely unlike September 11 2001, it seems all too safe to say that things will never be the same again. The values bases of Europe and America are shown to be too far apart to paper over. Much work needs to be done, and it's our generation that will wear that effort - as well as the consequences of the current mess.
New Zealand's position has been simply outstanding. One can only hope that in the hard conversations and rebuilding to come, Helen Clark can play as much of a role as Peter Fraser did in the aftermath of 1945. Cooperation on the world stage is in peril now, but rebuilt it must be. America has proven in the past that it can be compassionate on an unparalleled scale. America does not have to put the rest of the world on edge; but that requires changes in American politics and leadership which will be the subject of another column.
Change is vital. Otherwise, peace will remain a dream, and this Iraq campaign will be remembered as the time when the lights went out - not all over Europe this time, but all over the world. I fear we will not see them lit again in our lifetime, if this doesn't get sorted out.
Till next time
:: PM's Statement to the House ::
What follows is the text of Helen Clark's statement to Parliament last Thursday.
This afternoon President Bush has announced that military action against Iraq is commencing.
The government reiterates its profound regret that the diplomatic process being conducted in the Security Council and through the inspection and disarmament process was unable to run its course. New Zealand strongly backed the work of UNMOVIC, including by sending 13 military personnel to support the weapons inspection team. We continue to hold to the view that the inspection process was making good headway, and it is unfortunate that the UN Security Council was unable to agree on its continuation.
We have consistently said that only through full compliance with the demands of the Security Council could Iraq have avoided the catastrophe of war. The fact that Iraq failed to take the opportunity provided to it, to co-operate fully with the inspection and disarmament process, means that the Iraqi people now face the prospect of serious hardship. The Iraqi leadership must take its full share of responsibility for this.
Now that military action has commenced, we clearly have a concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people. For that reason, the sooner the military action is over, the better. It is the strong wish of the New Zealand government that peace is restored as quickly as possible and that the issue of the next steps over Iraq is swiftly brought back into the multilateral arena.
At the end of this conflict, which I very much hope will indeed be short, the international community must be ready to contribute to the rebuilding and reconstruction of Iraq, and to humanitarian relief.
The government has this afternoon indicated that it will participate fully in reconstruction and humanitarian efforts within the umbrella of the multilateral system. Funds have already been pledged to relevant UN agencies, and consideration will be given to what further contribution New Zealand can make to the post-conflict challenges which Iraq will face.
The international community was regrettably unable to reach common agreement on the best means for disarming Iraq. It is, however, important that the international community now finds a way to come together at the end of this conflict to meet the needs of the Iraqi people for humanitarian relief and reconstruction. New Zealand will play its part in that process.
:: NZ give Humanitarian Aid ::
New Zealand is meanwhile committing $3.3 million in emergency humanitarian relief towards the human cost of war in Iraq.
Foreign Minister Phil Goff and Aid Minister Marian Hobbs say the money will be distributed to United Nations agencies and relief organisations active in Iraq. The Ministers say the United Nations has warned that without immediate assistance from the international community thousands of lives could be lost, and New Zealand's initial commitment aims at addressing those concerns.
In the aftermath of the conflict, New Zealand will assist in areas such as mine clearance and peacekeeping, and on reconstruction and development assistance. The government will also consider requests for assistance in areas such as medical personnel and air transport for delivering aid supplies, say the Ministers.
:: Opposition Supports Illegal War ::
"National and ACT should be ashamed of themselves for voting for the war that has now begun," said Jordan Carter, Young Labour President, in response to last Tuesday’s Parliamentary debate on the Iraq situation.
"New Zealand’s right wing opposition parties have shown themselves to be wildly out of touch with New Zealanders. Thankfully it is clear that they have no prospect of Government for a very, very long time.
"On the more important fact that hostilities are now underway, Young Labour simply reiterates our previous comments.
"This war is illegal, wrong, and not worthy of support.
"Every life taken is blood on the hands of those nations supporting the attacks.
"Nonetheless, our hopes must now rest on a short conflict. We welcome the Government’s rapid announcement of support for the rebuilding process, and look forward to more support in the future. We can only hope that rebuilding begins as soon as possible, and that the suffering of the Iraqi people does not drag on one second longer than necessary.
"Nobody will be sorry to see the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime. That does not mean that the current war was the way to achieve that goal. The shredding of international law involve has made the world a more dangerous place.
"We can only hope that the result is not simply more violence in the months and years ahead, as the terrorism and hatred this war inevitably creates work themselves out.
"A sad day indeed," Jordan Carter concluded.
:: Minimum Wage Increases Welcomed ::
Young Labour has welcomed today's increase in the Minimum Wage of 50c, to $8.50 an hour for people aged over 18, and the simultaneous increase in the youth minimum of 40c to $6.80 an hour.
"This is more evidence of Labour's commitment to progressive improvements for young New Zealanders. When we came into Government in 1999, the youth minimum wage was only $4.20, and it applied to everyone under age 20," said Jordan Carter in response to the changes.
"Labour and the Alliance in the last government decided to increase the youth minimum wage from 60% to 80% of the adult rate, and lower the age at which the adult rate applies from 20 to 18.
"Young Labour does not believe there is any justification for retaining lower minimum rates for young people; if you do the same work, you should be paid the same amount no matter how young - or old - you are. Despite that, the minimum wage for anyone over 16 is now almost as high ($6.80) as the adult minimum wage was only four years ago ($7.00).
"We look forward to continuing improvements in these minimum codes, and also to seeing progress on other issues affecting young workers over the coming months and years," Jordan Carter said.

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