Unease voiced about war in Iraq


SEANAD REPORT: Senator Martin Mansergh said there was no point in disguising the great unease in this country about the situation in Iraq. He said people were concerned about war, which was a terrible thing for humanitarian reasons.

"I do not wish to misrepresent or caricature President Bush or Condoleeza Rice but there is widespread concern that there is too much belief by our friends in the United States in the efficacy of force and not necessarily as a last resort."

He said Iraq would have to adopt a new attitude if war was to be avoided and its friends were urging it to do that. We must do everything in our power to get people to hold off and see if a peaceful resolution is still possible, he said.

Concerns about the consequences of an attack on Iraq were voiced by a number of members during a debate on the continuing Middle East crisis. Dr Maurice Hayes (IND) said he feared such an attack would do not only untold damage to civilians, but could also have enormous repercussions in the Muslim world. As an action against terrorism it might result in the sowing of dragon's teeth by the bushelfull and end up making every American an actual target.

Dr Hayes said he believed that America was having difficulty in adjusting to the position of being the sole superpower in the world. "We must cling to the hope that the current crisis can be resolved by means short of war."

Mr Tom Kitt, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the Government did not wish to see war take place. "In every forum available to us, we have spoken out and used our influence to urge the parties to find a peaceful solution. We will continue to pursue this approach."

Mr Shane Ross (IND) said he believed the US was going to war for the wrong reasons. This would be an unjust war. Because of our economic dependence on the US we could be faced with difficulties. The Government was not telling the Americans to "buzz-off" because of the possible economic consequences. Mr Ross said he felt for the Government in this situation.

Mr Feargal Quinn (IND) said he believed there were ways of stopping Saddam Hussein which constituted too high a price to pay. He had recently been in the US and many people had said to him: "We have the power to wipe out Hussein and therefore we shall use it." This was actually saying that might was right. "It's this naked assertion of American interests that I actually find so disturbing."

Mr David Norris (IND) said it was imperative that this war be stopped. "I acknowledge the courage of those in the peace camp at Shannon and in particular, their apparent willingness to go to Baghdad to act as human witnesses by placing their own lives in jeopardy. May I also say that if I thought the action of Mary Kelly would help to stop the war or prevent the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians, I would drive to Shannon Airport this minute with a hatchet on the back seat of my car."

Mr John Minihan (PD) said he had no difficulty with the use of Shannon Airport for the build-up of troops heading for the Gulf. If that build-up prevented a war, we in this country would have done a good day's work in accordance with UN mandates. He was appalled at what Mr Norris had said about driving to Shannon with a hatchet.