Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA statement on war with Iraq

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is committed to the view that war is not a solution to achieve international peace, security and stability. Recourse to war is never justified before all non-violent solutions have been pursued.

Though Iraq poses no direct threat to Australia, the Australian government is risking the lives of thousands of troops and expenditures of billions in a region never regarded as important enough to merit even the smallest allocation of aid resources to alleviate the oppression or poverty of its peoples.

Taking into account the policies adopted by Australian and international unions, the stance of our partners in the Middle East, other humanitarian sector agencies in Australia, and the common experience of regions undergoing armed conflict, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA proposes the following:

1) Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA supports diplomatic efforts for complete disarmament of weapons of mass destruction (biological, nuclear and chemical) in all regions of the world, and in particular by all countries in the Middle East who have developed these weapons.

2) Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA recalls that the position of the trade unions and humanitarian sector in Australia has been one of opposition to the UN sanctions against Iraq, believing that these sanctions have gravely harmed the civilian populations, in particular the 50% of the Iraqi population who are under 14 years old.

3) Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA supports a democratic United Nations system and the fulfilment of its Charter. The international rule of law to peacefully resolve conflicts must be respected by all member states, and the UN be the principle body through which universal disarmament of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) be effected.

4) Pre-emptive war against Iraq, whether undertaken unilaterally by the USA, or endorsed by the United Nations:

a) would create an immense humanitarian, health, ecological, and political crisis not only for the Iraqi populations, but for all the peoples of the region for a considerable period.

b) is likely to result in large-scale refugee flows into neighbouring countries, and political, economic and social instability for a range of Middle East governments.

c) would be unlikely to result in safety, freedom, democratic rights, or development for the peoples suffering under the Saddam Hussein regime (including Sunni, Shi'a, Kurdish, Turkoman, Assyrian, Christian and other religious minority communities) nor advance women's rights.

d) may provide an opportunity for the Israeli government to intensify efforts to force Palestinian communities out of their lands.

e) would greatly increase the flow of refugees and therefore, give added impetus to the need for Australia to treat refugees from the region with respect and compassion.

f) would give international recognition to the dangerous precedent of pre-emptive strikes, and would gravely damage the capacity of the United Nations system, and the international rule of law, to peacefully resolve such conflicts.

g) would further concentrate spending by both developed and "developing" countries on armaments and away from health, education and eradication of poverty.

h) would likely result in Iraqi oil resources exploited by oil companies from other nations without Iraqi permission and without benefit to the Iraqi peoples. Moreover, it would cause an increase in world oil prices during the period of the conflict, thereby impacting on working people not only in Australia but throughout the Third World.

i) would exacerbate tensions between Australia and the neighbouring countries of the Pacific, South East Asia and Indian Ocean regions.

j) is likely to lead to an increase in terrorist activity in the region or in the world.

5) In situations of military conflict, humanitarian aid efforts must resist being used by competing military forces or coming under their direction; this includes efforts by conquering powers in relation to rebuilding infrastructures. After discussion with independent progressive and labour movement-based agencies from Europe, and discussions with Kurdish, Iraqi and Palestinian community organisations in Australia, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA may seek to launch appeals for emergency support to various refugee or resident populations adversely impacted by the conflict.

6) Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA therefore:

a) calls on the USA and its partners to refrain from invading or intensively bombing Iraq.

b) calls on the UN to extend the time and resources for the investigating team, and if WMD are found, they be disarmed and destroyed. This would not be justification for invasion.

c) supports non-violent trade union and community demonstrations and other efforts to prevent the war and to oppose Australian participation in it.

Enquiries: Peter Jennings, Executive Officer