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March 26, 2007 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Wish List…

As I write this, our Prime Minister Helen Clark has just finished a meeting with US President George Bush.

Instead of commenting about the state of Iraq, Clark used the time to talk about a swag of topics including issues in the South Pacific region, energy, US-NZ co-operation in Afghanistan, and counter-terrorism in North Korea and Iran. Apparently she covered all that in just half an hour – impressive.

After the talks, Bush praised Clark on a number of levels. “All in all I found it to be a constructive conversation. Such a good conversation I’ve decided to invite her for lunch,” said Bush.

Almost certainly Clark would not have been invited for lunch if she had used her time to represent what the majority of New Zealanders think about the biggest issue facing the Bush administration – the Iraq war on its fourth year anniversary.

In a heroic gesture, befalling Lange, Clark could have spoken about what the intervention has cost Iraq, who, while gaining freedom from a cruel and oppressive dictatorship, have inherited one of the worst refugee crises in the world. This crisis, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has meant that two million Iraqis have fled their country with a further 1.9 million internally displaced. That figure represents 16% of the Iraqi population.

While some might say that it’s not the job of the Prime Minister to tell Bush the way things really are, consider further the situation Iraq has found itself in after four years of ‘liberation’. Basic foods and necessities, which even Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime managed to provide, are now increasingly beyond the reach of ordinary Iraqis, thanks to soaring inflation unleashed by the occupation’s destruction of the Iraqi economy. Unemployment is regularly estimated at somewhere between 50-70%.

Access to safe water and regular electricity remain well below pre-invasion levels, too. These were already disastrous after more than a decade of comprehensive sanctions against, and periodic bombing of, a country staggered by a catastrophic war with Iran in the 1980s and the Gulf War.

In this state-of-the-Iraq-nation address, it would be the right thing for New Zealand to represent the voice of the oppressed and challenge America to lead the world with its regard for others.

If Clark had used her time to bat for the underdog, what would have been the consequences? New Zealand has enough historical links, and similarities in governance to prevent alienation.

What it would have done is sent a message to the rest of the world that a small nation can stand up to tyrannical acts even if they are from the ‘good guys.’ When David swung Goliath fell.

In an ongoing crisis in which hundred of thousands of Iraqis have already died, the world asks how long must this go on for? And how long will politicians continue to dine while over a quarter of Iraqis children remain chronically under nourished?


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