Condemnation of Terrorism

Excerpts of Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 37th Parliament,Volume 139, Issue 63
Thursday, October 25, 2001

Hon. Douglas Roche: There is no doubt that the horrific attacks of September 11 have changed the world. The question I wish to place before the Senate is this: Has our thinking been changed?

The motion rightly begins by referring to the United Nations Security Council's resolutions 1368 and 1373, adopted on September 12 and 28, supporting initiatives to eradicate international terrorism that threatens peace, security, human rights and freedoms and the political order of the free and democratic society.

The relentless bombing of Afghanistan, now in day 18, goes beyond the intent of resolution 1368. When the Security Council gave its assent "to take all necessary steps" to respond to the September 11 attacks, it did not approve a bombing campaign that would kill innocent civilians in their Afghan villages, drive 70 per cent of the people in Herat, population 800,000, out of their homes, kill 10 civilians today on a bus at the city gates of Kandahar, and destroy a Red Cross warehouse, among other unfortunate acts of what is dryly called "collateral damage."

It may seem comforting to say that civilians are not targeted, but it is not "collateral damage" when thousands of refugees fleeing the bombs are jammed along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in unspeakable conditions. UNICEF warns that the crisis "is threatening the lives of millions of women and children," and that "1.5 million children may not make it through the winter."

Christian Aid, which reported that 600 people have already died in the Dar-e-Suf region of northern Afghanistan due to starvation and related diseases, says needy people are being put at risk by government spin doctors who are showing a callous disregard for life.

The bombing of Afghanistan, one of the most desperate and vulnerable regions of the world, is producing an international catastrophe. The bombing is immoral, unproductive, and only by the most dubious logic can it be said to possess even a shred of legality.

As Article 51 the UN Charter makes clear, it is the Security Council that has the authority and responsibility to maintain or restore international peace and security. Let me emphasize that the bombing coalition, in exceeding the exercise of the right of self-defence, which gave a legal cover to the bombing, has sidelined the legitimate authority of the Security Council to manage this crisis.

It is said that the invocation for the first time of Article 5 of the NATO Charter provides the legal grounds for Canada to give its support to the military campaign. The article provides the solidarity that an attack on one member will be considered an attack on all, and thus NATO can take the responsive actions it deems necessary.

However, where has it been proven that the Government of Afghanistan, despotic as it is, engineered or carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? It has yet to be confirmed that any of the 19 suspected hijackers comes from Afghanistan. Is the belief that Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader, is in Afghanistan justification for imposing catastrophe on the entire populace?

Continued bombing is not what the United Nations intended. The bombing must stop now. Canada, to be faithful to its own values, must press the United States and its coalition partners to call a halt so that humanitarian aid can reach the desperate people of Afghanistan.

It is this kind of knee-jerk, military response to a crisis that worries thoughtful people today, people who understand that violence is not the proper or productive response to violence.

When I asked at the outset if this crisis can result in changing our thinking, this is what I meant. The very nature of the new world we have entered compels us to seek the building of enforceable international law as the means to human security in a globalized world. Continued recourse to the old instincts of militarism will lead to more violence and, in the age of weapons of mass destruction, to the wreckage of large areas of the planet.

Terrorism must be stopped, and stopped now, before the terrorists of the future acquire nuclear devices and set off a calamity that will make the New York-Washington attacks look small.

The UN Secretary-General told the United Nations General Assembly that, tragic as September 11 was, a single attack involving a nuclear or biological weapon could have killed millions. He called for a redoubling of efforts to ensure the universality, verification and full implementation of key treaties outlawing all chemical and biological weapons and for implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which calls for negotiations to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Would that the United States, NATO, and, yes, Canada would follow the Secretary-General's words with the same alacrity that they implemented a bombing campaign in Afghanistan.

I repeat, honourable senators: It is the utmost folly to think that we can end terrorism by trying to bomb terrorists out of existence. Our work, as the fullness of Resolutions 1368 and 1373 explicates, must be undertaken with a new understanding of the world we live in.

It is this new understanding that the Canadian Pugwash movement, the Canadian affiliate of the Canadian Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Pugwash movement, has tried to advance in its statement issued October 20, 2001.

There it is pointed out that in 1945, as the Second World War was ending in Europe, the leaders of the victorious states met in San Francisco to save future generations from the scourge of war. The United Nations, now co-recipient of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, was the result. Since then, there has been a tragic succession of wars, the latest of which is the so-called war against terrorism.

Terrorists can potentially come from anywhere, live anywhere and strike anywhere that opportunity exists. Their cover lies in the society in which they live. Their weapons are tools taken from everyday life, and their targets are the people and institutions of society. Their power is to disrupt through fear, to provoke repression and to sever the links of peaceful commerce, setting state against state, nation against nation, race against race and people against people. Living among their victims, they present targets that cannot be eradicated with the fire-power of armed forces. Other means must be explored.

Those, like Pugwash, who oppose the bombing, question these means of dealing with the terrorism problem because of the unintended consequences, including innocent civilian deaths, the radicalization of Arab youth, the destabilization of friendly states, and the danger that it will spread warfare along the cultural divide separating Islam from the West. Furthermore, the war in Afghanistan is of doubtful effectiveness. Now that the fighting in Afghanistan has begun, it has a life of its own with further escalation likely.

The road ahead must be trod with great caution with respect to reliance on the military approach. Much greater emphasis must be placed on non-military measures that will lay the foundation for a world free of the terrorist threat. Here, Canada must play a much greater role than what is outlined in Bill C-36, the anti-terrorist legislation.

Honourable senators, what we need is a global initiative to deter and punish terrorist acts in the present and future. This means developing an effective system of international criminal law in which individuals are held accountable before an impartial tribunal, such as the International Criminal Court. A prosecutor with strong powers of investigation and prosecution will be needed. It also means strengthening international treaties dealing with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and developing the machinery for their effective implementation according to the due process of law. This will require a strengthening of the United Nations and its ability to define and shape the actions that are taken for the enforcement of international law, and to monitor and verify these actions so that they are done proportionately and in accordance with the UN Charter and international law.

In the aftermath of the bombing, a large and sustained effort will be necessary for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the democratization of countries known to be supporting terrorist groups.

In order to "win the war" against terrorism, it is necessary to deal with the hatred and the sense of powerlessness upon which terrorism feeds. What we need is the patience and the resolve to diminish such hatred. This will require significant efforts to reduce inequity between peoples and individuals and to strengthen international mechanisms for protecting human rights. Furthermore, it means the subordination of narrow-minded nationalism in all parts of the world to the common interest, in a world where no person or nation is an island entire to itself, separate from the main. Global human society, with the United Nations as its meeting place, is where the future of mankind should be decided.

The Canadian government needs to develop the long-term means to deal with the roots of terrorism. This entails significantly increased resources, including a major enhancement of its financial commitment for development assistance, international peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace building. The government should ensure that the UN Security Council plays the lead role in response to terrorism around the globe. It should continue to work for a biological and toxin weapons verification protocol, for a cut-off of fissile material and for nuclear disarmament.

The work that began in 1945 must continue with a new vigour and commitment. It is time to convert the resources and habits of war to global justice and peace, to eradicate chauvinistic nationalism and bellicosity and to transform competition into cooperation in the global arena. The rule of law must govern the behaviour of states as well as individuals.

This is the work of the new 21st century, honourable senators. If it is done well, September 11, 2001, could mark a new departure point for a world free of the terrorist threat.