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Australia must not be sucked into a US-led spiral of international violence

By Peter Mullins - posted Tuesday, 29 April 2003

With the fall of Baghdad there has been a great rush to condemn anti-war activists as being naïve, misguided, or simply wrong. Greenpeace has been among those condemned following our activity on Sydney Harbour last week.

This action reflected our core value of engaging in non-violent direct action for what we believe in - a green and peaceful future. These are aspirations that have been fundamentally challenged by this war. The question now is whether the international community will allow the "might is right" mentality to prevail, or whether we can pursue the more sustainable path of cooperation and multilateralism.

Our action sought to condemn the government's decision to involve Australia in this illegal and immoral war, which millions of Australians did not support. Instead of making us feel safe and comfortable the government has made Australia a deeply divided and nervous nation, suspicious of our fellow Australians and near neighbours.


Of course Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. The people of Iraq deserve better. But this United States-led unilateral war was waged on the basis of Iraq being perceived a terrorist threat and harbouring Weapons of Mass Destruction. Such weapons are yet to be discovered, suggesting the UN inspection programme was working.

Far from achieving "preventative disarmament", the war in Iraq is likely to see further arms and nuclear proliferation. Common sense and history tells us that such a doctrine is likely to stir up the hornet's nest, rather than settle it.

North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on 10 April, and the restarting of its plutonium-production reactor, has the potential to precipitate conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Iran's programme is another potential focus for US military action. States already identified as within the "axis of evil" will see little incentive in remaining inside the international norms of non-proliferation. On the contrary, they may believe that acquiring nuclear weapons capability is the only means to counter US military and political dominance.

Greenpeace fully supports disarming Iraq through peaceful multilateral initiatives but also advocates universal disarmament of all countries with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. There must be one standard for all, not a rule for "us" and a different rule for "them". Pre-emptive military strikes are not a stable way of controlling or abolishing such weapons, and in fact encourage their acquisition.

The Coalition of the Willing relied upon UN Resolution 687 to justify their invasion of Iraq, though its spirit is to take steps towards making the Middle East free of Weapons of Mass Destruction. This is pertinent as on April 28th, the vast majority of the world's states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty met at the United Nations in Geneva to begin preparing for a full review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2005. It is critical that these parties, at their first meeting since the Iraq invasion and the North Korean withdrawal from the Treaty, face up to the urgent need to revitalise and adhere to the Treaty. The nuclear weapons states, including the United States, have all but ignored their obligations to disarm under Article 6 of the NPT since their agreement to do so in 1970.

While the people of Iraq are free of their despotic dictator, there is little clarity on post-war reconstruction. It is important that the United Nations play a constructive role in this process. The danger otherwise is the perception that the "victors" of this war will divide up the spoils among themselves, leading to even greater instability within the region.


This war is a test case. Iraq was not the only state mentioned in President Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech nor was it the only country listed as a rogue state which could suffer a U.S. pre-emptive strike. US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfield's open attacks on Syria for supplying military equipment to Iraq are a foreboding case in point.

John Howard stated "Australia would be resolute in our solidarity with the Americans". While he has not spelled out whether Australian troops have been committed for further US-led pre-emptive strikes, we are deeply concerned this will be the case.

It is the Australian government who should be made accountable for what further commitments we have made to this so-called war against terror. Australia should not be involved in any more wars like this - not now, not ever again.

We call on all the people of Australia to continue to tell our politicians that the only logical response is to work multilaterally to support and strengthen the United Nations treaty systems so that all countries disarm and that we deal with the root causes of global insecurity. Greenpeace will continue to strive for global peace and security - for all of Earth's people and living creatures.

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About the Author

Peter Mullins is Chief Executive Officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

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Greenpeace Australia Pacific
War in Iraq Policy Brief
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