Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1175 ..
MR PRATT (continuing):
Mr Speaker, let me talk of my Vietnam experience. I did not go to Vietnam. I served at a time when we were training to go to Vietnam and, luckily for me, I did not have to go. But I served alongside and had to command some soldiers who had just come back. They told me about the dreadful times that they had when they saw what was happening back home. They had no problem with the news footage showing peaceful peace marches. They respected that. As far as they were concerned, that was laudable, that was fine. But our servicemen in Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s also saw footage of violent demonstrations in which political hardcore elements carried placards demonstrating their support for Ho Chi Minh and the National Liberation Front. In the eyes of those Vietnam veterans, that was simply just too extreme, and it tore at their hearts.
A lot of the stress being suffered now by Vietnam veterans-whose combat experience, by the way, was really no worse than that experienced by the veterans who fought in World War II and Korea and during the Malaya emergency through the 1950s and early 1960s-is based on the fact that their participation was received badly by the hardcore political extremists in our community. The demonstrations and the hysteria engaged in by those elements played heavily on the minds of those veterans, and we do not want to see that happen again. We never again want to see our servicemen, who are doing what they are told to do-by the way, they sign up and make a commitment knowing that they may very well have to go away and do what they are told to do-subjected to those sorts of pressures.
Mr Speaker, I want to touch on the reason why the alliance has gone to war. Firstly, there are the weapons of mass destruction. Ansar al-Islam in the north-east corner of Iraq near the Iranian border village of Kumul have certainly had in their ranks up to 30 Afghan and foreign Arab fighters who are members of al-Qaeda. There is strong intelligence and information which will take many weeks to work through that Ansar al-Islam and their associate group Hezbellah Kurd, who I had problems with in 1994, have with them the means and the intention of using weapons of mass destruction.
Mr Speaker, in the towns of Najaf and Basra in the south, thousands of chemical war suits have been located, as have decontamination vehicles for decontaminating troops who use weapons of mass destruction. The jury is still out on whether the breadth and the depth of the evidence of that stuff points to weapons of mass destruction. It will take time after the war is over for the occupying troops-troops, by the way, who will be occupying in the very short term-to dig up and find those weapons of mass destruction.
Mr Speaker, the French and the Russians in particular bear responsibility for UN prevarication because of the position they took on the Security Council. Their actions have given to Saddam and his regime comfort and the encouragement to continue to defy United Nations' requirements to disarm.
The Iraqis have been suffering. We see terrible footage every night of Iraqis suffering in this war. That was inevitable. We do not like to see this happening but it was always going to be the unacceptable side of war. But may I please remind the House that in the 23 years that Saddam Hussein has been in power, a minimum of 1 million Iraqis have died. In 1988 the Republican Guard divisions attacked the township of Halabja with chemical weapons. When I was in Halabja in 1994 I saw the aftermath, in the form of the injuries that people were still carrying, of the deployment of mustard gas and other chemical agents. I think most of us have seen the footage-taken by the Iraqis, who were