On February 13, 2003 Project Ploughshares held a Public Forum on Iraq to offer insight into the UN weapons inspection and other challenges in Iraq. More than 250 people attended the session, a reflection of the high level of public concern about the looming war.
Forum participants heard from a panel of three experts each of whom brought experience and insight into key aspects of the crisis. Kali Galanis, the Director of Strategic Development at War Child Canada, led the panel discussion with an outline of the likely impact of a new war on the children of Iraq. Ms. Galanis was a member of the International Study Team which recently returned from a visit to Iraq where the team compiled up-to-date information concerning civilian vulnerabilities to war. She noted that Iraq’s 13 million children, already suffering from 12 years of economic sanctions, will be particularly susceptible to the destruction and disruptions of food, water and health systems that a new war would bring. She thanked Project Ploughshares and the more than 20 Canadian non-governmental organizations and churches for their financial support of the mission.
The second Forum panelist was Peggy Mason, former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, a chair of the UN Experts Group which examined efforts to disarm Iraq, and a lawyer. Ms. Mason began by explaining the restricted justification for war under the UN Charter, and went on to state that without an explicit UN resolution to do so, a US-led invasion of Iraq would be illegal under international law. Ms. Mason also noted that any decision of the United Nations not to endorse US-led military action against Iraq would not be a test of its relevancy as some political leaders and commentators would claim.
Ron Cleminson, the third and final Forum panelist, is the only Canadian appointed as a commissioner for the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). He is a former Canadian military officer and Foreign Affairs official, and an expert in verification systems and analysis. Mr. Cleminson underlined the successes of the current Iraq weapons inspection teams and expressed confidence in the leadership of team-leader Hans Blix. He stated that the range of UN measures taken against Iraq since 1991 (all paid for by UN-controlled sales of Iraq oil), demonstrate that a strategy of “containment” of weapons of mass destruction can be made to work without resorting to war.
A question period followed the presentations to provide members of the audience an opportunity to make comments and question the panelists on issues raised during their presentations.