.WAFL (lp(pp@6 7n07(xntry(gU|uЮ b 7n07(xopUurl /http://www.adaction.org/Ann%20Clwyd6-22-02.htmmime text/htmlhvrsdata Speech from Ann Clwyd on A Liberal Agenda for a Secure Nation

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Member of UK Parliament Ann Clwyd, Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Labor Party: U.S. Foreign Policy


55th National Convention of Americans for Democratic Action

Newsmaker Lunch, Saturday June 22, 12:00 pm 1:30 pm

 

It is an honor to have the opportunity to speak today. I have enjoyed the discussions and debate initiated by the speakers and those attending this years convention. It is reassuring to witness prominent American liberals question and challenge the conservative mindset which now seems to prevail in the country, and most particularly amongst many members of the current administration. Security has been the dominant and overwhelming theme this year. It has been the primary focus of both domestic and foreign policy within the United States; very understandably, given the horrific attacks on September 11th, and the on-going threat posed by Al-Qaida and other fanatic groups.


Unfortunately, however, legitimate security concerns have been hi-jacked by those espousing a conservative and unilateralist American foreign policy agenda. Given this, I would like to explore the necessity of reasserting a liberal and multi-lateralist framework by American politicians and policy-makers to deal with the increased security threat from terrorist elements and global instability. I believe this reassertion is crucial not only to ensure the renewal of liberal forces within the United States but also to ensure the security of all American citizens.


Within this context, I will concentrate on the American role in Afghanistan and in the Middle East as these seem to me to be the most pressing international matters of our time and the ones in relation to which the U.S. could, and should, be playing a pivotal role.


September 11th is a date all of us will remember, but particularly one which Americans will remember.

Virtually everyone thought the world was profoundly affected by the attacks on American civilians. There was a wide spread feeling of grief, at the injustice committed on innocent people; of shock that the sense of American invulnerability was so forcefully undermined; and of fear, for the future.


A military response to the attack was, in my mind, entirely predictable. I think that would have been the case no matter what kind of administration had been in power. It is, of course, fortunate that military retaliation was, for the most part, contained. The disappointment, however, has been that the American administration has not felt it necessary to re-engage with the outside world in a more profound sense.


Overwhelming military predominance has been widely touted as the ultimate form of protection for the American people and as the prevailing strand of U.S. foreign policy. As Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secretary of State for Defense, so memorably put it: Those of us from Chicago recall Al Capones remark that you get more with a kind word and a gun than you do with a kind word alone.


Enemies are the bad guys; they must be smoked out; and are wanted dead or alive. The Repeated evocation of the Wild West is very telling in this regard it paints a world where might is the ultimate arbiter, where law is superceded by rough justice, and where there are no shades of gray.


I know there is something very compelling to many Americans about the idea of going it alone of battening down the hatches (i.e. National Missile Defense), routing the enemies with the minimum of fuss (e.g. unilateral preemptive strikes on so-called rogue states), and not getting mired in the dilemmas plaguing the rest of the world (e. g. reluctance to commit to ISAF in Afghanistan; refusal to sign up to the ICC; the KYOTO treaty, etc, etc).


Resistance to involvement in foreign affairs, except when such involvement is necessitated by American vital interests has, of course, had a long, though happily turbulent, history in American politics. America, however, is a world power and it cannot forgo the responsibilities that come with its position. Ultimately engaging in the world and championing liberal values, values upon which this country has been founded and upon which its success rests, is the key to American security.


Afghanistan is a case in point. The history of American involvement illustrates the perils of short-term policy making and untimely disengagement. In essence, an American administration fanned the flames of radical Islam in Afghanistan. In the seventies and eighties, as we know, the world was viewed through the prism of the communist threat. In this context, the invasion of Afghanistan by the Russians in 1979 had to be repelled and the American administration supported local opposition forces to undertake this work.


Once the Russians had been routed, however, the American administration viewed their objective as having been fulfilled; the power vacuum, and resultant chaos, was not seen to be an American concern. Afghanistan was effectively abandoned to its fate. It was to prove quite literally a time bomb waiting to explode.


A country awash with weaponry, having been bombed to the Dark Ages with warlords and fanatics shored up by regional powerbrokers, and without an effective central administration to meet even the most basic needs of the people. Amidst this chaos the Taliban emerged and I have been told by a number of people that they were at first widely welcomed for the stability that they imposed, however brutally, on the country.


I think we all know the rest of the story.

Of course, getting rid of the threat posed by Al-Qaida, and destroying their bases within Afghanistan, can be seen as a legitimate security goal. But I am deeply troubled by two things:


n      the reluctance on the part of the American administration to get involved in so-called nation building; and


n      the undermining of constitutional and international law in fighting the campaign against terrorism.


 

Afghanistan has not yet been returned to a state of normality. Warlords still rule swathes of the country; their lawlessness continues to undermine the very fabric of a nascent civil society in large parts of the country. It has not helped that American forces are reported to have struck deals with a number of unsavory local commanders in order to get at remnants of Al-Qaida forces.


If Afghanistan is no longer to be a haven for terrorists and fanatics, the livelihoods of ordinary Afghans must be ensured and civil society strengthened. The re-emergence of civil society depends on current reconstruction efforts, underwritten by the international community, which in turn depends on international stability. The U.S. should therefore be actively supporting the efforts of ISAF, whose mandate should be extended temporally and territorially. Such involvement has been called for by Human Rights Watch, amongst others, in their latest report on Afghanistan.


In the absence of peace-keepers, human rights observers (from the U.S. and other countries) could be employed throughout the country to monitor the situation and bring problems to the attention of the wider world this is particularly important as most diplomats, on whose reports many of their governments rely, are cocooned in the relative safety of Kabul and oblivious to the conditions the people living in the country at large have to endure.


Disarmament efforts should be prioritized while the national army should be strengthened and supported.

A long-term view has to be taken of the problem; American engagement, in full knowledge of the various local dynamics at play, is crucial and is in Americans own security interests.


A related problem in this regard is growing fanaticism and unrest with Saudi Arabia. I think it is time that Western leaders acknowledge the security implications which repression and absolutism in Saudi Arabia has on the rest of the world. Many of those captured and held in connection with the bombing on the World Trade Center are Saudi nationals. Osama Bin Laden himself was a Saudi national until his citizenship was revoked in 1994.


Given that threat, I find it difficult to understand why recent security measures which stipulate that nationals from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan have to be fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated when they enter the U.S. do not include Saudi nationals.


Saudi officialdom is not directly endorsing terrorist activity, but it is bolstering it indirectly by brutally repressing any form of political dissent and encouraging the growth of religious fundamentalism. The Americans and Europeans are seen as staunch supporters of the House of Saud. This support, like the support given to the Shah of Iran, must breed further resentment and continues to undermine our security in the longer-term.


The treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan must also be a cause for concern. I myself have been in the firing line for repeatedly bringing up the matter with many Americans having written saying that I should be shot along with the members of Al-Qaida for insisting these people have rights which should be upheld too. Of course, those suspected of involvement in the attacks on September 11th must be tried and if found guilty, punished.


However, the application of international law, in this case the Geneva Conventions, particularly insofar as they relate to the determination of prisoner-of-war status, and due process, that is, the right to representation, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, is a necessary adjunct to these proceedings. The lack of evidence forthcoming from the American authorities on Lofti Rossi, who was recently released some months ago from a British jail after five months, has done little to quell my disquiet in this regard. Upholding the law in dealing with the prisoners will not undermine the security of Americans. In the long term it will enhance it.


For instance, the provisions of the Geneva Conventions have served to ensure that the conduct of hostilities is regulated, and that its worst effects are controlled. Such strictures on permissible behavior during times of conflict, serve to protect all armed forces, including American armed forces, around the world.


In this regard then, America must lead by example. Every unduly repressive measure adopted and every instance international law is undermined by the United States in its campaign on the war against terrorism, is a cause for celebration for despots the world over such measures can only strengthen the legitimacy of those who advocate dictatorship and the wholesale disregard of international law.


At this point, I would like to raise the disappointment felt by so many that the U.S. has not yet signed up to the International Crime Court. Following the ratification of the Rome Statute by 67 countries, an international court will be set up next year to try individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and serious war crimes. I think, and many other states obviously do as well, that the Statute contains sufficient safeguards to protect its state signatories against maliciously or politically motivated indictments or arrests of its citizens.


The promotion of justice is fundamental to the promotion of peace and security. Adherence to the legal process can serve to undermine those who seek to impose their will on their states, their neighbors, and the wider world. Indicting Milosevic, for example, while he was still head of state, ultimately helped in pulling the rug from under his feet and in bringing peace to the region. I think the same could be done with Saddam Hussein.


Finally I would like to discuss the situation in the Middle East and the role that America could play in resolving the crisis there.


It is unfortunate that Ariel Sharon, like so many others, has been allowed to commandeer the war against terrorism for his own purposes. It is vital that the American administration does not recast the situation there, in terms of the Israelis as the good guys, and the Palestinians as the bad guys. Most conflicts are infinitely more complex, and often violence is fueled because both sides have legitimate grievances which are not being addressed.


I abhor the violence being carried out against civilians both by suicide bombers and the Israeli military. I think the suffering of both sides has to be addressed if there is to be lasting peace in the Middle East. The horrors caused by the suicide bombings are well documented by the media world-wide, but the daily humiliation and harassment of the Palestinians is not as widely known or discussed.


When I went to Jenin on April 13 this year to witness the effects of Israeli incursions into the Palestine territories, I saw first-hand the difficulties faced by emergency services trying to provide assistance to injured and cut-off Palestinians within the Jenin camp. The UN convoy was repeatedly refused entry into the camp over several days period.


Although the allegations of a massacre in Jenin camp appear not to have been borne out, I believe it is important to establish what actually happened in the camp. Colin Powell was also there at the time. It was extremely unfortunate that he was not able to see what the Israeli military was doing in Palestine territories, whilst highlighting the tragedy of those killed and maimed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem.


The Israeli army cannot be allowed to mete out a form collective punishment on those in the camps for the activities of the Palestinian gunmen or suicide bombers. They should not be allowed to use civilians as human shields when attempting to target terrorists. They should not be allowed to get away with the wanton destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructure. Members of the army must not act with impunity.


The failure of the UN to send out their investigation team to establish what had actually occurred in Jenin camp, after strenuous attempts were not made to meet the conditions set down by the Israeli government, can only undermine the credibility of the UN and that of the Secretary-General, Kofi Ana, throughout the world and makes further abuses by the army more likely; nevertheless, the UN will put out its report without using the area in July.


The recent developments in the area are not encouraging. The Israeli government is taking over Palestinian territory once again. This is ostensibly to end the terrorist threat; but ultimately I believe such activity will only stoke up further resentment and frustration amongst the Palestinian people and drive more people, particularly the young, into the arms of violent and fanatical groups. Re-occupation will not bring about security for the Israeli people, for the region, or for the wider world. Although other states may have a constructive part to play, the U.S. is the only country in the world with the ability to play a decisive role in the conflict.


But, if lasting peace is to be achieved, it is essential that difficult issues are finally thrashed out. On the one hand, the settlements, which continued apace over the last ten years in contravention of the Oslo peace accords, and, on the other, the issue of the right of return of Palestine refugees to Israel must be addressed.


I am concerned that the current proposals being put forward by the Bush Administration, though a step in the right direction, may legitimize the cantonisation of the future Palestine state (i.e., a Palestine state to be formed of dozens of land-locked islands surrounded by Israeli occupied territory) a Swiss cheese of a state. Such a state is unlikely to be viable and unlikely to allow for the creation of a Palestinian administration which can deal effectively with violent factions.


The United States of America is a country which many consider a model to be emulated. In the minds of many, its economic prosperity and domestic success is founded on democratic and liberal values. America is also widely regarded for the lead it has often taken to bring stability and justice to the fore of the international arena. It is worth remembering that, at the end of the Second World War, American President F.D. Roosevelt, as well as his successor, argued with Churchill about the necessity of bringing top Nazi officials before a tribunal to account for their horrific crimes, rather than have them summarily executed. Justice underpins stability and security.


Insularity is not either an effective form of immunity. Refusing to engage with the rest of the world will not ensure the security of the American people. America took the long-term view, with Europe, after the Second World War, and I think it is fair to say the at we have both benefited. That foresight and commitment could be used again to good effect now.

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