Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak in the debate on Iraq. I have had the opportunity to do that on a couple of other occasions. I know that it is always a difficult debate to take part in because there are so many factors, and I applaud all members who are taking part in this.
It is an interesting time right now. While I am speaking in the House, I am competing with the President of the United States on what he will is suggesting the action of the U.S. will be. I wonder how many people will be listening to me in comparison to that, and that includes my own party members. Nonetheless, I will do my best to put my thoughts on record because I think it is very important debate.
There are a few different factors. As I have said on past occasions, being the only Muslim in the House of Commons, I have concerns about taking action against dictators who need to have action against them for the freedom and democracy of individuals around the world. How that action is taken and what would amount from taking any form of action obviously concerns me.
This is one of those historical days that sometimes we wish that we do not have to live through. It is one of those days when world events overtake those everyday things that we take for granted. It seems like George Bush, in his opening comments just now, has given 48 hours to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq. After that period, it seems that there will be some sort of action taken.
The entire world has been on pins and needles since President Bush named Saddam Hussein's Iraq as part of the axis of evil. President Bush made his intention clear on September 12 of last year that he wanted to remove the threat of Saddam. He went to the United Nations and asked for its support in disarming Iraq.
In November the world community responded overwhelmingly to his call and the Security Council adopted, as we all know, resolution 1441 with unanimity.
We have watched as weapons inspectors have scurried to and fro in the Iraqi desert, hunting out weapons of mass destruction and, unfortunately, usually without any luck.
There was the destruction of the Al-Samoud missiles and there was the discovery of drones capable of spraying anthrax on unexpecting civilians, but nowhere was there a smoking gun to be found, a shell filled with mustard gas, a rocket tipped with VX. That is not to say that through the process as well Saddam was not complying. There was some fear among all the allies, including the UN, that in fact Saddam was doing what he could to hide some of it.
The Iraqis and the French have said that this is proof that Iraq has disarmed. The British and the Americans have said that this is proof of Iraqi deception and non-compliance of resolution 1441.
We have watched positions harden. We have watched numerous failed attempts to broker a second resolution at the UN to authorize war. We have seen other countries put forward compromises, hoping to stave off war if only for a few more days. We have seen the intransigence of the French who have said they will veto all attempts at a compromise. We have watched numerous debates, at different levels, whether here or in other parts of the world.
In this House we have seen a few different reactions. Because of the Conservatives leadership race, we have seen some candidates saying no, that we should never be involved in action, while others have said that they think we should stand with the U.S. and bring on the invasion.
At least the members of the NDP have been somewhat consistent. It has been their position that Canada should never participate in war, even if the cause of war is just, a policy that was disproven at Munich but one that appeasers still today maintain.
The Bloc has maintained its position for UN involvement. Consistent, yes, but hardly realistic when we have an institution that relies upon the goodwill of countries like Libya which currently chairs the human rights arm of the UN.
The government has been the opposite of consistent. We have seen the defence minister saying one thing and the foreign affairs minister saying something entirely different. Then we have the Prime Minister making it up as he goes along. That is of course until today when he finally took a solid position.
It has been my party, the Canadian Alliance, that Canadians have had to look to for leadership on this issue.
It is not an easy thing to say right from the get-go that we have to stand with our allies even though we have to work through the UN process. However there has to be a united front against dictators like Saddam Hussein. While we have taken a position that may not have been popular, it is a position that we firmly believe is right.
When we say the world would be better off without weapons of mass destruction, it is because we believe that and not because it is popular. When we say that dictators like Saddam Hussein are criminals, it is because we believe that is right. When we say that we have to support our allies, is because we believe that despite our differences with the American government, we believe democracies must stick together.
This is the bond of democracy. It is a love of freedom and a real wish for all of the world's citizens to live in peace. The Canadian Alliance firmly believes this. We do not equivocate like our government. We do not depend on how the wind is blowing, especially when it comes to popular opinion on the issue.
Now the question becomes this. If we treasure the lives of people, how can we support a war? I want to make it clear that we never did support nor do we still support an open-ended senseless war. That is not done in the interests of the world community. We have always said that peace is preferable and Saddam should disarm.
We know that peace is not the absence of conflict and to be frank, Iraq has been in a constant state of conflict since Saddam became president. The sanctions are killing more children and civilians in a single year than what allied bombing did during the 1991 gulf war. Saddam arrests, tortures and kills those who oppose him and those who stand up for freedom in his own country.
It is absolutely a falsehood to say that Iraq is not embroiled in a conflict. Is it not incumbent on us, the privileged few in Canada and other countries, to stand up for Iraqi civilians and say enough is enough?
With that question being put, I think back to my family's own experience. I was only a toddler at the time when we came to Canada. When we came here, it was under similar circumstances of being persecuted in Uganda. My family fled a radical dictator similar to that of Saddam Hussein in Idi Amin of Uganda where our choice was clear. We had to leave the country and everything we had behind or face death.
At that time I remember there was some decision as to whether the UN or anyone should be involved with any conflict, and no action was taken. However countries like Great Britain, some European countries, the United States and of course Canada opened up their doors to many refugees fleeing from there, and that was a great thing.
I know as a Muslim growing up in Canada that I was able to become a part of the community and the culture. However we all know that there are many challenges that people face coming from other countries. In this place we represent people from all parts of the world and all different communities and cultures. The one thing my father always stressed to me, and I sometimes think was the reason why I ended up in this place, was how important freedom and democracy were and how we could not take that for granted.
As successful as we were in East Africa, as my family had businesses and we had communities that shared successes of a similar sort, we were not involved with the process of government and we were not involved in putting checks on people like Idi Amin who came into power. Having that influence from such a young age, from a person like my father who lost everything in coming to this great country, really left a huge imprint on my mind as I was growing up.
It is no surprise that after getting involved in the process of democracy to the point where I have ended up in this place, I speak quite passionately about getting involved in places where we can deter some of the hardships that my own family and others felt in Uganda. What can we do in a proactive way to try to bring freedom and democracy around the world?
I have heard it also being put that we cannot democratize some of these Muslim countries because their religion and their beliefs are not compatible with democracy. It is completely abominable that people believe that. We have seen the history of some of these countries that have had unfortunate dictatorships, even though they have been in the guise of democracy. Iraq is one of those examples. Unfortunately there are dictators who hijack their own form of democracy and institute a form of democracy that is not compatible with the democracies we see in the western world.
This is why, if we want democracies to work and we want many of these countries to be a part of the large nation in respect for human rights for women and for various cultural groups and religious beliefs, all these different diversities that exist in Muslim countries as well, we have a responsibility as wider nations of the world to try to put pressure on people like Saddam Hussein to comply with standards that we all accept will even help to improve their own country's situation.
One of the concerns also with what may happen in the next few days in the Middle East, is how war will affect the Middle East and what sort of instability it will bring in the short term and if any war does take place, how we can hopefully set up some democratic systems and governing procedures that will institute a proper democracy in the interests of the people of Iraq.
For instance, Saudi Arabia is one of the countries we feel, and many people have said, that if there is war in Iraq it could create instability. We have seen the history there and we have seen that Saudi Arabia has in fact previously been threatened by Saddam. He has fired scud missiles into that country. Unfortunately, because of that there is a real balance of power, even among the Muslim countries, to try to guard themselves from any imminent attack.
With any movement into Iraq, we must obviously start thinking. Mr. Bush has given Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave in exile. Any action that the Americans may take, we would hope that this government would be involved in a post-war scenario in helping to set up the new government located there and in helping to set up the principles of democracy that would be long standing and would hopefully stand in the interests of Iraqis. That is where we have a real opportunity. Now that the government said we will not be involved be any military action, we should really focus on the post-Iraq scenario, and I will talk a little bit about that later.
Iran has also been put in as part of this axis of evil. We have seen that it is also in the process of developing nuclear weapons. In this country we know the civilian government is one that is a bit more open and we can take this opportunity to carve out a new, not so radical path for Iran. We can have a positive influence in trying to set up a long term democratic regime. However it has to take some stand in principle on behalf of countries like Canada to work with our allies to do so, especially in a post-war scenario.
I want to go on to talk about how we can take part as well in the next while, regardless of what may happen in Iraq or in the Middle East, in the peace process and just to highlight some of the successes and failures to date, because it is all linked together in trying to bring stability into that area.
The positive steps taken after the 1991 gulf war, such as the Oslo accord, were things in which many people were involved. The hope was that peace and security would be brought to the region. No one can argue that the American involvement in the Middle East in this time was crucial and key to the success of it.
Now, as we look forward, especially since we recently heard the British proposal for the road map for peace, I think it is clear that removing Saddam from creating instability in the area may actually make this more attainable. It will also help to create a level of security as well for Israel, which we are trying to do on both sides, whether its Palestine or Israel.
The subsequent breakdown of peace over the last while obviously has links to Iraq. Some people may deny that but we had some information that Saddam was paying terrorists and suicide bombers to go ahead with their plan of action and kill innocent civilians. The peace process has been paralyzed for over three years because of many of the actions related to Iraq.
This is a great opportunity, as I mentioned, with Great Britain going to the Security Council for a new resolution to lay out the road map for peace. After this whole situation developed, many people have questioned the effectiveness of the UN and how effective it will be in the future when it comes to deliberations on countries in military action because clearly there are different interests at stake.
It is unfortunate that we are reaching a point in history where the credibility of that institution, which could have a huge and tremendous effect around the world, is going to be questioned.
As we get into this process again of how and what is going to be happening, I would like to highlight some of the situations, as I have said in the past, with Saddam's crime against humanity and non-compliance.
Saddam Hussein previously ordered the use of chemical agents against Iran during the 10 year conflict and against the Kurdish people in the north. Over 1.5 million people died during the Iran-Iraq conflict. The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was illegal under international law. Atrocities and crimes committed by Iraq during its occupation have been well documented, including murder, torture, the pillaging of Kuwaiti households and national treasures, and the destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells which led to massive environmental catastrophes, as well as obviously the scud attacks against Israel during the gulf war. We have now seen that Saddam has no hesitation in attacking people around him and often without any provocation.
Following the gulf war, Iraq agreed to disarm and allow UN weapons inspectors to destroy chemical weapons. However, in 1998 weapons inspectors left because of Iraqi non-compliance with these UN resolutions. The oil for food program established to allow Iraqi citizens to avoid the brunt of Saddam's actions has been circumvented also by the Iraqi regime. There has been a clear non-compliance of resolution 1441.
Chief inspector Blix reported to the UN Security Council on January 27 numerous breaches by Iraq, thereby failing to fulfill its obligations under resolution 1441. Iraq was obligated to declare all of the chemical weapons and all devices but in fact it has not. The 12,000-plus page report had glaring omissions, especially with regard to nerve gas, anthrax, and chemical bombs and warheads. Iraq was supposed to grant unfettered access to all weapons sites. Access has been granted to sites but no effort has been made on Iraq's part to make these inspections easier at those sites. We have seen that right up until today.
Complying with the letter of the law but not the spirit has really been the mandate the Iraqi regime has been following. Canada's response to Iraqi non-compliance has been mixed at best. Canada has, and rightly so, acted with the United Nations when it comes to the issues of dealing with Iraqi non-compliance and we think that has been a good thing.
Canada supported the UN multilateral action in the 1990-91 action to prevent Saddam from holding on to Kuwait. Canada has supported every UN resolution adopted in the past decade, from sanctions to establishing the oil for food program and now to resolution 1441.
Canada also supported Operation Desert Fox in 1998 when Saddam refused to co-operate with weapons inspectors. This is an important point because this did not have UN approval, yet the House, from what I have heard some of my colleagues say today, did have an open debate and the House did take a vote so that all members could have a say.
Even though we finally see a position from the government today, there still has not been that commitment to democracy that many members in the House would like to see in order to have a final say as to what we believe should be done in this particular case. The government, when in opposition, had the right to do so. It is incredible that today, when it does have the chance to let all members have a say, it refuses that opportunity.
I would like to summarize what the Canadian Alliance has said in the past. We have questioned the effectiveness of sanctions. Something I was happy to see was when an all party committee actually agreed and there was unanimous consent to ease the sanctions, I believe it was in 2000, to try to help the people of Iraq. We were on side with that because it is not clear what detrimental effects sanctions can have on the people on the ground.
There have been a number of other fronts with which we have been involved. I know my time is limited, so I would like to simply leave off by saying that in the next little while, as we know, unless Saddam does decide to leave Iraq in exile, we are faced with military action. Seeing that the government is not going to be involved, we must start to work toward the post-war scenario.
We should hope that the conclusion of any war will be fast. Canada should be making plans now with the UN, the U.S. and our allies for post-conflict restructuring of Iraq. The focus should be democratic reforms, inclusive of all ethnic groups and committed to peaceful relations with its neighbours and the world.
Canada could have a long term positive effect in developing that strategy and that is where we should be focusing. I hope that our credibility will not be affected with our allies because of this decision by the government.