Richard Butler, former UN chief arms inspector to Iraq, to keynote IWCE 2003
Richard Butler has been named as the keynote speaker for the conference at International Wireless Communications Expo , scheduled for March 12–14, 2003 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nev. His speech will be given during the opening session on March 12.
Butler is best known to American audiences as the face of the United Nations-led effort to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction when he was executive chairman of the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) from 1997 to 1999. For five years prior to that appointment, he was Australia’s ambassador to the world body.
Butler resigned on June 30, 1999, after two years as the U.N.’s chief arms inspector to Iraq. UNSCOM’s operations in Iraq were suspended after U.S.-British air and missile attacks in December 1998.
Currently residing in Australia, Butler is on leave from a post as diplomat-in-residence at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York.
Speaking on Australian television on Sept. 22, Butler said that he believes that the Bush administration “has decided to attack Iraq with the view to removing Saddam Hussein,” although the administration insists that no decision has been made.
“ I think it was due to happen about now, but the problems in Israel—between Israel and the Palestinian people—set that timetable back. I think it’s not a question of what will happen, but when. I suspect now that will be later this year or, more likely, early next year,” he told Glenn Milne, chief political correspondent for the program Sunday Sunrise.
As to whether Australia should be involved in such an attack, he said that a decision to participate should be “for the right reasons, not just to fulfill some American objective, but in completion of international law. If Saddam has refused, once again, to have weapons inspectors back there and is still making weapons of mass destruction, I think it’s legitimate for enforcement action to take place. Australia may well want to be a part of that, but not for the wrong reasons. Whatever we do, we should do it for the right reasons.”
Butler also talked about a third deployment of Australian troops to Afghanistan. He said that the initial phase of the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda is over, and the present need is for nation-building. In that context, he expressed reservations about committing Australian troops on request of the Bush administration unless it would be in accordance with international law and principle.
Butler opposes the unconditional support promised to the United States by the Australian prime minister, John Howard.
“Just because you’re in an alliance relationship with someone else, and no matter how well you think of them – and we do think well of the Americans, and this task that we’ve got to pursue now internationally – it doesn’t mean that you give up your own integrity, your own independence, your own judgment,” Butler told Chris Bath, the host of Sunday Sunrise.
The former ambassador said that the Australian government should make its own assessment of data connected with an American request for assistance and not simply say, “You asked, fine. Therefore, we’ll follow.”
Butler referred to a bill before the Australian parliament that contains a definition of terrorism, and said that it “goes too far,” adding that “it goes well beyond anything even the United States has on the books in terms of defining what is terrorism.”
Butler is an advocate of improved Australian domestic intelligence to identify terrorist threats and then make domestic security arrangements to defend against them. He would like to see improved control over access by people and goods to Australian territory, along with increased international cooperation.
Moreover, Butler cautions that when sharing intelligence with other nations, Australia should be careful that others do not give the Australian government “tainted information just to get us to join in their effort. Of course, I’m thinking of the United States. We’ve got to have our own independence of mind there because Australian lives are at stake.”
He also advocates the continued development of international law on terrorism, including the elements of how to combat it and how to obtain international cooperation to ultimately eliminate it.
The war on terrorism has led to concerns about civil liberties in the United States, and Butler’s interview on Australian television indicated a corresponding concern that increased intelligence-gathering supported by the Australian parliament’s pending terrorism bill might impinge on civil liberties in Australia.
Butler told Milne, “Intelligence gathering within Australia is in pretty good shape. I’m talking about extending the reach of it to see where terrorism is going to come from, from overseas sources. There is always the possibility that increased intelligence capability could begin to encroach on our civil and privacy rights. We have to be vigilant about that.”
Butler said that some issues connected with terrorism are playing an unwanted role in pending Australian elections.
Butler said that terrorism can be defined without including refugee aid organizations, and privacy rights can be protected, “if we keep our eye on the real target, which is terrorism, not on winning an Australian election by encouraging fear and racism and xenophobia, not on slavishly seeking to follow the United States because we’ve got a view of the alliance that says: anything they want, by definition, is good for us. We need to be smarter than that and we need to be more decent than that. And I think we can.”
Butler’s book, The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Crisis of Global Security, was published in 2000.