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There is general consensus on the view that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has given very distinguished national leadership in this crisis. In his statement, he sought to clarify some of our objectives. Yes, they include the destruction of bin Laden and his network, and possibly also of the Taliban, as it is very difficult to disentangle bin Laden from them. It is worrying, however, to hear some people in or close to the United States Administration use phrases such as "attacking every snake in the swamp". One can imagine the roll call of countries that they have in mind.
We must make it absolutely clear that we have very limited military objectives. If we want to put countries such as Iraq into the frame, we must remember that there are more effective weapons such as the smarter sanctions and the sort of draft Security Council resolution that was being discussed in early July, but which the Russian Federation blocked for its own commercial reasons. Such measures are far more effective than military action. Seeking to deal with "other snakes in the swamp" could not only destroy the coalition that has been painstakingly built up, but lead to a wider and horrific war.
I want briefly to examine some of the motives of the terrorists, some of the effects of their actions and the lessons that we may seek to learn. On motives, it has been properly said that there is no way in which we can do deals with bin Laden or find a consensus. Usually, hijackers ask to be taken to a particular country or request the release of some of their co-religionists. The agenda of bin Laden and his associates is so much wider than that; even if, by some miracle, the Palestinian conflict were resolved tomorrow, it would not be satisfied. They want to go much further in acting against western civilisation and all the moderate Arab states that work with the west in general. There is no way in which we can seek to compromise with such people.
Some people, such as Huntington, talk of the great clash of civilisations that is to come. I reject that view. Far more productive is the sort of slogan that President Khatami used when he spoke of a dialogue of civilisations. I hope that, among our religious leaders and more widely, there will be such a dialogue of civilisations and that it can be productive.
I welcome what the Government have said about new laws on incitement, which will help to reassure a number of Britain's Muslim communities. Those communities will be feeling beleaguered. I also welcome what has been said by many of their leaders in expressing outrage about the atrocities in the United States. I hope that they will go further. I hope that they and others who have the respect of Muslims overseas will say that suicide bombing is a perversion of the Koran and that there is no way in which those who use themselves to destroy the lives of innocent people can hope to obtain an accelerated passage to paradise for themselves and their families. That is one of the great problems. How do we convey the message to people in, no doubt, deprived communities abroad that it is not, in fact, a grand thing to die in such a way? It is a problem for us, but it is a particular problem for religious leaders in those communities.
The terrorist seeksobviouslyto instil terror. He hopes to ensure that people lose confidence in their own institutions. There are lessons for us to learn in what the terrorists are doing. Have they succeeded? Certainly, in some ways, they have instilled terror, and they have had the most awful effects. Certainly, there have been effects
Let us consider some of the lessons that we can learn, both at home and abroad. Some of the effects may be positive. In the past, the coalition against terrorism has been ineffective; now, the world appears to have woken up to the dangers posed by terrorism. It has been shown that we are all vulnerable. Indeed, the United States may experience a sea change in its own policies, away from the unilateralism that characterised the first months of the Bush Administration and the negative policies of the biological weapons convention, Kyoto and so on. There may well now be a recognition that engagement is very much in the Americans' own national interest.
What, then, are the lessons for us? First, we need radical improvement in the way in which we tackle the problems of terrorism. There must be no surrender to the terrorists. Abroad, we seek the widest possible co-operation in terms of sharing intelligence, and in terms of the police and judicial authorities, dealing with money laundering and so forth. That is absolutely vital. We must seize the opportunity that has come to us with the aftershocks of the events of 11 September.
We also need to defeat the enemy at the political level. Tribute has been paid to the work of not only the British Council but the BBC World Service. The World Service has expanded its services in Pashto, Persian and Urdu, and is enhancing its medium-wave and short-wave transmissions to Afghanistan and the surrounding region. It can play a crucial role in countries such as Afghanistan, where, with no television or credible national newspapers, radio is the main form of communication. The World Service has responded speedily, and I hope that the Government will pick up the bill that will no doubt follow.
At home, issues such as that of identity cards have been raised. What disturbs me is that we in Parliament are spectators in that debate. We hear noises off from the debate in Government. Are they for the scheme or not? Do they want it to be voluntary or compulsory? I hope that the decision will be made by Parliament, and after due debate. I am distressed
Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): We should pay tribute to three enormously important contributions that the Prime Minister has made to the way in which the world has dealt with events following the awesome and tragic destruction of life in America on 11 September. He should be given credit for the restraint that has been built into how we now identify both the scale and nature of the threat, and the way in which we are beginning to talk about it. He needs to be congratulated on the sense of solidarity to which he has contributed in pulling together in the international coalition that the world has formed.
I am one of those who has urged a large degree of caution. I have raised some serious reservations about the nature of military intervention. It is important to address the challenges that have been set out. I am not opposed to intervention. What happened in New York was an appalling act of terrorism, not an act of war. The difference between the two is extremely important.
In an act of war, there is an opposition, which is usually another country. The battles involve ownership of land or the right to rule. At the end of the day a peace process has to be agreed, as a surrender or a brokered peace. There are identifiable parties between whom that peace has to be brokered. What happened in New York had nothing to do with that process.
That is the basis on which it is said that it is impossible to negotiate with bin Laden. His actions are not based on the occupation of particular land but are in pursuit of a distorted version of an ideology. That poses a challenge to the way we meet that threat. It cannot sit comfortably behind a bland endorsement that there is a conventional military solution.
Those who have examined specifically the landscape of Afghanistan would warn us that there is precious little to be gained by bombing a country that already sits on the edge of the stone age to somewhere before or beyond it. The strategy of intervention that I advocate is one that is driven by our notion of justice and by international law and legitimacy. On that basis, we must have the courage to return to the Security Council to ensure that we have even more specific mandates for the defined actions that follow. It is important that we have that endorsement of legitimacy and the definition of constraints that go hand in hand with it.
I want to see a specific mandate for action that will authorise the international community's sanction of special forces being involved in the pursuit of bin Laden. I want to see that pursuit defined at least by an opening intention, which is that we are seeking to get hold of bin Laden to subject him to trial under international criminal rules in an international criminal court.
I want us to affirm the importance internationally of proceeding on the basis of evidence. We should proceed through the UN because I know there must be a mandate for Afghanistan of the sort that related to Cambodia. If we are to honour any of our international obligations to Afghanistan and the poverty that exists there, such a mandate will be essential.
I have forewarned in various articles about the lack of precision in what we are saying that we are doing. There must be a balance. The pursuit of bin Laden will have to be painstaking and relentless. He will not offer himself up easily and it will not be entirely clear what part of anyone's terrain he will be occupying. That is my reservation when it comes to bombardment and what it might do. If Afghanistan needs to be bombarded with anything, it should be bread, grain and medicines. It is imperative that they are delivered in the next several weeks.
Bin Laden must be pursued with relentless determination so that he can be brought before the international courts of justice. If that is to be done, we will probably have to remove him forcibly. Constraints are important to us because they will send out a different message to current allies in the coalition. I am worried that without a definition we may send out the most unfortunate green-light messages to some of our partners, which would be interpreted as approval to act in whatever way they like.
None of us can doubt that there are people in Russia who would consider the flattening of Chechnya to be a proportionate response, in their terms. In China, the obliteration of Falun Gong practitioners might be seen as a proportionate response. In Israel, I see no charge by Sharon to find new common ground with the PLO. Instead, the charge is to obliterate every symbol that may represent Palestinian independence, in order to say that that is part of the destruction of the al-Qaeda network. Even in Ireland, a hardening of the divides would allow some to say that it is proportionate to define eight- year-old schoolgirls armed only with a fully laden lunch box as the legitimate targets of pipe bombs.
We must define not proportionate response but appropriate response in more specific terms, if the international coalition is to be held together on the basis of just and humanitarian causes and international equity.
Pursuing bin Laden to trial obliges us to consider how and where we set out the evidence. The Leader of the Opposition said this morning that bin Laden was guilty as charged, but none of us has seen any charges, and none of us has seen the evidence. I do not want to see it. It is not appropriate to present it in the House or to the public, but it ought to be presented to the UN Security Council or to an international panel of judges, as demanded by Pakistan and, according to the news today, as required by Saudi Arabia as the basis for action not just to pursue America's enemies but to pursue a broader attack on terrorism.
In doing that domestically, we can do several things. We ought to reduce risk, rather than making citizens feel insecure. As a Government, we should reconsider the decision to approve a MOX reprocessing plant. Hitting one nuclear power station would result in the unleashing of 200 Chernobyls. That would be the scale of the disaster if an airliner was flown into a nuclear power station. We should not get distracted by the debate about ID cards. The equivalent of the cost of such cards would provide 4,000 or more officers on the beat or involved in intelligence-based policing