HIS EXCELLENCY MR.
FELIPE PEREZ ROQUE
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA
AT THE GENERAL DEBATE
OF THE 56TH SESSION OF THE
GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS
13 NOVEMBER 2001
Before delivering my statement, I would like to express our condolences to the United States, the Dominican Republic and other countries represented here that have lost citizens among the many passengers and crew members who perished in yesterday's tragedy of American Airlines Flight 587 - and I hereby pass on these condolences to their families.
The war in Afghanistan must be stopped. The Government of the United States must acknowledge that it has made a mistake - and must halt its ineffective, unjustifiable bombing campaign against that people.
As to its results, it would seem that this war has targeted children, the civilian population and the International Red Cross hospitals and facilities as enemies. As to its methods, no honest voice would rise in this hall to defend an endless slaughter - with the most sophisticated weaponry - of a dispossessed, starving, helpless people. As to its doubtful purposes, this war will never be justified from the point of view of ethics and International Law. Those responsible for it will one day be judged by history.
Cuba has opposed this war from the very beginning as an absurd, inefficient method to eradicate terrorism - and reiterates that it can only bring more hatred and everincreasing dangers of new terrorist actions. No one has the right to continue murdering children, aggravating the humanitarian crisis, visiting impoverishment and death on millions of refugees.
If the United States obtained a military victory by eliminating all regular and irregular Afghan resistance - something that is not at all easy in practice and extremely costly at the moral level, for it would represent a real genocide without attaining the objective that we must pursue - the world would be farther away than ever from achieving peace, security and the eradication of terrorism.
Cuba's discourse is not founded on ill feelings against who has been our most embittered adversary for over forty years. It is inspired by a sincere constructive spirit and a sense of respect for and sympathy towards the people of the United States, which sustained the unjustifiable and atrocious terrorist attack. It is also based on the aspiration of peace and justice for all the peoples of the world.
What Cuba expresses in this hall - with full openness - may not be to the liking of those who run the United States today, but it will be understood one day by the American people, whose generosity and sense of justice were proven to the Cuban people when it had the support of 80% of the public opinion in this country in our struggle to prevent a kidnapped Cuban child from being uprooted from his family and subjected to ludicrous political manipulations and cruel psychological tortures.
What Cuba says from this rostrum, we know it well, is what many people
rumor in the corridors of this building.
What international coalition are we talking about? What is its legitimacy based on - if it has started by stridently disregarding the General Assembly of the United Nations? The United States has not fostered international cooperation. It has rather imposed its war on a unilateral basis and unwontedly stated that whoever does not second them is with terrorism. How long will the precarious support obtained last - not resulting from harmonized objectives and voluntary agreement, but from imposition through threats and pressures?
One can be the strongest, but not necessarily right. One can cause dread, but not sympathy and respect. Only from genuine international cooperation - in which all countries, big and small, participate with a full understanding of everyone's positions; with broadmindedness and tolerance in the methods used; in the framework of the United Nations Organization and unflinchingly abiding by the principles enshrined in its Charter - can a truly effective and lasting alliance emerge to fight terrorism.
The world was surprised to learn of the official announcement of the United States to the Security Council that it reserved the right to decide on an attack against other countries in the future. What is left of the United Nations Charter after this? Can this unprecedented threat by any chance be interpreted as an exercise of the right to legitimate defense, enshrined in the Charter as the right of a State to deal with acts of aggression until the Council adopts the necessary measures and not as a vulgar excuse to unleash attacks against other countries? Is or is it not this announcement the proclamation of the right of a superpower to trample upon the already wobbly and incomplete standards governing sovereignty, security and the rights of the peoples?
Cuba rejects that language with poise and steadfastness. We have not done so out of concern for our own security - because there is no power in the world that can subdue our spirit of independence, freedom, social justice and the courage to defend it at any cost. We did so because we believe that it is still possible to halt the escalation of a useless, brutal war that threatens to further plunge the poor peoples of the planet into hopelessness, insecurity and death - who are by no means responsible for any act of terrorism, but will be - and already are - the main victims of this senselessness.
Only under the leadership of the United Nations will we be able to defeat terrorism. Cooperation and not war is the way. The coordination of actions and not imposition is the method. Our objective must be to obliterate terrorism by removing its root causes - and not the hegemonic assertion of the strength of a superpower, thus turning us into accomplices to its haughtiness and highhandedness.
Therefore, Cuba - that has already responded to the Secretary-General's appeal by deciding to immediately ratify all of the international legal instruments on terrorism - determinedly supports the adoption of a general convention on international terrorism. Of course, this would only be possible in the context of this General Assembly - now absolutely ignored by the promoters of the new campaign, but which in the last ten years, with the silence and apathy of the Security Council, has seen the effective adoption of the main resolutions and declarations calling for an outright fight against terrorism.
That will finally allow us to define terrorism with accuracy. We have to prevent a few people with vested interests from trying to label as such the right of nations to fight for their self-determination or against foreign aggression. It must be clearly established that the support, abetment, financing or concealment of terrorist actions by a State is also an act of terrorism.
Cuba, while working to have its own anti-terrorism law in a short period of time, unreservedly endorses the announcement of an international conference on terrorism, under the aegis of the United Nations. This has been an old aspiration of the Non-Aligned Movement - and must enable us, as a result of open discussions, collective actions, respectful and non-discriminatory agreement; and not threat, terror and force, to find the way to fully eliminate terrorism and its causes; not only if committed against the United States, but also if undertaken against another country, even from the territory of the United States or with the leniency or complicity of its authorities, as has been Cuba's painful experience for over four decades.
Only four days ago, the Pakistani media attributed to a rather well- known, very familiar character in the United States, a statement supposedly made from Afghan territory saying that he is in possession of chemical and nuclear weapons and threatening to use them against the United States if similar weapons are used by that country against Afghanistan.
Everybody knows that Afghanistan does not have the slightest possibility to produce and launch nuclear or chemical weapons. Only a terrorist organization or leader could come up with the idea of executing an action of this kind with nuclear or chemical weapons. That is theoretically possible as it is also one of the consequences of the irresponsible behavior of major nuclear powers and of the arms trade, corruption and illegal traffic in all sorts of military technology. Several of these powers have acted as accomplices to and taken part in the traffic in fissionable material and the transfer of nuclear technology, as it suits their interests. However, under the concrete conditions of the war in Afghanistan, it would be ridiculous to resort to those threats and whoever did that would be signaling an enormous political and military ignorance. Lacking such means would make it a dangerous bluff, and having them would be an absolute madness to threaten to use them.
If such statements published by two Pakistani newspapers were true,
they would deserve the strongest condemnation, even if such weapons were
eventually used against Afghanistan. It would be a stupid reaction since
in that scenario that suffering, impoverished country would only have the
possibility to count on the universal rejection of the use of such weaponry.
Such threats only serve the interests of the extremist and warmongering
forces within the United States, which favor the use of the most sophisticated
weapons of mass destruction against the Afghan people. The best weapon
for a country under aggression is to earn and preserve the sympathy of
the world, and not to allow anyone to violate the ethical principle that
no one has any right to kill children, not even when others do it. There
is no justice in killing innocent people to avenge the death of
Cuba has stated, unhesitatingly, that it is opposed to terrorism and that it is opposed to war. Cuba, that is not under obligation to anyone, will continue to be consistent with its positions. Truth and ethics should prevail above all else.
The unfolding of events, and the multiplication of hatred, passions and potential dangers have come to show that it was absolutely right to assert that the war was not, is not and will never be the way to eradicate terrorism.
The most critical socio-economic crisis that our planet has undergone, created halfway through the last decade by the strident and irreversible failure of neoliberalism and neoliberal globalization, has been dramatically aggravated by this war imposed by one, but whose consequences we all have to bear.
This war must be stopped not only for its consequences to the Afghan
civilian population, but also for the dangers of
destabilization in that region; not only to save thousands of Americans - particularly the young - Afghans and other nationals from a pointless death; not only to preserve an atmosphere of international peace and stability, but because this conflagration renders entirely impossible an objective proclaimed by the United Nations fifteen years ago: the right to development for all and the equality of opportunities to attain it. Because it renders obsolete the decision made only a year ago to work together in order to eliminate poverty from the face of the Earth.
Will we be willing to organize a coalition against poverty, famine, ignorance, diseases, the scourge of AIDS that is currently decimating the African continent; a coalition in favor of sustainable development, in favor of the preservation of the environment and against the destruction of the planet?
A coalition has been summoned to avenge the grievous death of over 4,000 innocent people in the United States. Let us come together to seek justice against this major crime - and let us do so without a war; let us come together to save from death the hundreds of thousands of poor women who every year die at childbirth; let us come together to save from death the 12 million children who die of preventable diseases every year in the Third World before the age of 5; let us come together to take medications against AIDS to the 25 million Africans who are hopelessly awaiting death; let us come together to invest in development at least a portion of the billions already spent to carpet bomb a country where almost nothing has been left standing.
Cuba demands that this General Assembly, the Security Council and the United Nations Organization as a whole deal once again, as top priorities, with the debate of these problems - which are crucial to the 4.5 billion inhabitants of the Third World, whose rights and hopes have also been buried under the rubble of the Twin Towers.
Cuba reiterates its outright condemnation of the terrorist action committed last 11 September. Cuba reiterates its condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Cuba reiterates that it will not allow its territory to be ever used for terrorist actions against the people of the United States or of any other country.
Cuba has the morality to do it - because for over forty years it has suffered from terrorist actions; because in Cuba there are still relatives of the nearly 3,500 Cubans killed as a result of aggressions and terrorist acts; because justice is still demanded by over 2,000 Cubans rendered disabled by aggressions and terrorist acts. Some of its sons and daughters, who have fought terrorism, have been victims of cruel persecutions, relentless treatment and unjust and slanderous proceedings.
The people of the United States is a victim not only of terrorism and panic, but also of the lack of truthful information, manipulation and the questionable limitation of their freedoms. Cuba does not nurture any hatred towards the American people - which does not hold accountable for our terrorism-related suffering, the aggressions and the unfair economic war that we have been compelled to withstand almost a lifetime; and with which it shares the aspiration of one day having relations based on respect and cooperation.
If anyone here takes offense at these words, uttered on behalf of a small generous, courageous people, I apologize. We speak in a straightforward manner. Words exist to uphold the truth, not to conceal it. We are rebellious against injustice and oppression. We have morality; we defend our ideas at the price of our lives. Our support for any fair cause can be obtained, but we cannot be subdued by force or through the imposition of absurd formulas or embarrassing adventures.
For many years now we have proclaimed that for us - Cubans - the historical dilemma is: "Motherland or Death!" Thence our confidence and security that we are and will continue to be a worthy, sovereign and fair people.
Thank you very much.