Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to read the motion that we are debating here today into the record because I think it is a very valuable motion, and if people take the time to see what we are trying to do, they will realize that it is something that we would have hoped to see as a form of leadership from the government. The motion reads:
That this House:
(1) endorse the decision of the Allied international coalition of military forces to enforce Iraq's compliance with its international obligations under successive resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, with a view to restoring international peace and security in the Middle East region;
(2) express its unequivocal support for the Canadian service men and women, and other personnel serving in an exchange program with the United States and for those service men and women performing escort duties for British and United States Ships, our full confidence in them and the hope that all will return safely to their homes;
(3) extend to the innocent people of Iraq its support and sympathy during the military action to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and the reconstruction period that will follow; and
(4) urge the government to commit itself to help the Iraqi people, including through humanitarian assistance, to build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours.
As we can see, and as the member who just recently spoke said, that motion has been crafted very carefully to try to hit all the key points that we as a government and we as a country should be focusing on in trying to deal with the plight of the people in Iraq, who I think have suffered a huge amount especially if we look at the last 12 years of the regime of Saddam Hussein and the pain and torture he has inflicted on his own people.
As I previously stated, I have always stood here with mixed feelings when we stop to talk about war. It is not a pleasant thing and I think that most members in the House have similar sentiments. Why is that? Because on these issues of war and peace especially, I believe it is only natural to be conflicted on where we stand. For some people it is easy to say “peace at all costs”, a refrain disproven in Munich and a refrain, I believe, that has been disproven at the United Nations.
I have always been a firm believer that in order to disarm Saddam and free the people of Iraq we need to follow the UN process. I have stated this a number of times to my constituents and in the House. I have also said that we must follow the UN process to its logical conclusion, that being, hopefully, the disarmament of Iraq by the United Nations or through other means, although I will caution that I did not say here that, and I will quote, I support open-ended war in Iraq. Where does this leave my position on Iraq?
It has been ever evolving, especially as the twists and turns of the UN have played themselves out over the last few weeks. At first I was optimistic that the UN would do its job. My hopes were dashed by the intransigence of the French government. Then I hoped that the ultimatum put forward by the coalition would convince Saddam to accept exile, a life of luxury. He did not and war broke out, so I had to make a decision last week on whether or not I would support our allies. Indeed, I did vote to support our allied coalition.
Why did I support this? It came down to a moral choice for me, a choice between right and wrong. My family fled Uganda when Idi Amin began butchering the people of that country. The UN refused to stop it. Tanzania intervened without UN approval, just as the coalition has done today in Iraq. I asked myself how I could deny the people of Iraq the chance for freedom, the very same opportunity I was given, just because of a diplomatic disaster at the UN. I could not. As someone in a position to help others, I believe it is my duty to do what I can to help them and not ignore their pleas for freedom, such as the Liberals and the French have done.
Before I expand upon my own experience and my choice, let me back up and talk about the United Nations process, its successes and failures. After all, it was on this process that the hopes of the world were hinged.
Canadians passionately believe in the United Nations process. The UN has always been portrayed as the great international body where nations of all political stripes gather, debate and solve world crises. It does not matter if the nations are run by most terrible dictators who slaughter their civilians by hundreds of thousands or if the nations are democracies that win and lose elections on how fast they can deliver essential health care services.
Everyone is welcome at the UN. Everyone has an equal say. Well, everyone with the exception of France, the United Kingdom, China, the United States and Russia. Those countries, due to realities of winning World War II, were able to snag a great veto power for themselves, a power that allows one of those nations to stop all debate and prevent the solving of any problem that they may want.
In fact, as Canadians have looked to the United Nations as a beacon of hope, I would argue that it instead has become a blight on humanity. I am not referring to the many excellent programs that the UN delivers in the way of humanitarian assistance. I know that even in my own community the Aga Khan Foundation is involved in many of them. Programs such as UNICEF, UNESCO and others are indeed very worthy and do offer a beacon of hope. Programs such as the rebuilding of Afghanistan and the possible role it will play in the reconstruction of Iraq are commendable. Nor do I deny the UN's positive role in negotiating international treaties.
What I am referring to when I say blight is that archaic institution called the Security Council. That relic born of a post-World War II scenario was cemented during the cold war as a talk shop capable of doing nothing. The Security Council has always been governed by the veto of cold war powers. The Soviet Union would veto when the west would bring forward ideas and the west would veto when the Russians wanted to do something constructive.
Of course a UN booster would point to the fact that there have been 1,400 resolutions passed by the Security Council; 1,400 resolutions that were obviously not vetoed. Fair enough, let us look at those resolutions. For example, in the Middle East we all know that Israel has been in defiance of numerous resolutions. We also know that the Palestinians have been in breach of others. Yet what does the international community do about it? Nothing. Why? It is because each of these groups have a veto wielding state behind them and the UN can only work when superpowers give their consent.
When this consent is not given, I would argue that the UN is impotent and has failed the citizens of the world. Three very recent cases I can think of are Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and of course Iraq. I will not go into much detail regarding Rwanda, but suffice it to say that I am sure we all remember the failure of the UN to prevent the genocide of millions of innocents.
Of course in Yugoslavia we all watched for years in the early 1990s as the UN peacekeepers failed to stop the daily massacres and constant civil war. We remember those Canadian peacekeepers taken hostage by Serbian forces and we remember the impotence of the UN to protect them. We watched Bosnia for years until finally the United States, not the UN, took the initiative and forced the combatants to make peace.
Again, only a couple of years later, when the crisis once again erupted in Yugoslavia, this time in Kosovo, we watched hopelessly as the Russians threatened to use their veto to block any attempt to end the genocide. Once again the United States acted. This time Canada was by its side in NATO. We declared war and we stopped the massacre. The UN failed once again.
Where does that leave Iraq? Interestingly, Iraq is a unique example in the history of the United Nations. It is a sad history when only three times it has authorized the use of force to prevent war and genocide. The first was the U.S.-initiated action on Korea. Resolution 82 passed on June 25, 1950, and several subsequent resolutions authorized the United States to make war on North Korea in order to liberate the south.
The second time the UN has authorized action was in 1990 when on November 29 the Security Council, in resolution 678 said:
Authorizes Member States... to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660....
This of course laid the basis for the UN action that took place in the early months of 1991.
The third time was the one with which we are all familiar, resolution 1441. This is where it was stated that:
--Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687....
It goes on to state:
--while acknowledging paragraph 1 above, to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council;
I know my time is running short but I want to make the case that clearly there have been violations and clearly Saddam has been persecuting his own people for years. There was a reason to act and there was a reason for us here in Canada to take a principled stand. I wish the government would have joined our coalition allies to be able to say that and liberate these people.
Since my time is up, I would like to offer an amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended in the first paragraph by replacing the words “endorse the decision” with the words “recognize the legitimacy of the decision” and by inserting after the word “security” the words “including justice”.