Dr. Julian Lewis: Does that support extend to the Liberal Democrat's newest recruit, the hon. former Labour Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Marsden)? If not, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain how the Liberal Democrat Whips succeeded, where the Labour Whips so signally failed, in keeping the hon. Gentleman quiet on the subject, as I do not see him in his place today?
Mr. Campbell: If the hon. Gentleman has any pretensions to fly-fishing, he will have to learn to cast a rather more gentle line than that. Such decisions are far above my pay gradeI am a humble foot-soldier in the Liberal Democrat army. All I can say is that in my father's house there are many mansions.
More seriously, may I sound a note of caution? As our American friends say, it's not over till it's over. There may yet be substantial loss of life in Afghanistan before victory has been achieved. I know that to some extent it has been dismissed by those on the Treasury Bench, but I remain anxious about events at Mazar-e-Sharif and so, too, do many people.
It is true that terrible things happen in conflict, but prisoners of war are entitled to the protections of the Geneva convention. I do not shrink from asserting without qualification that those who fight wars in the name of civilisation have a duty to observe civilised standards. There are as yet too many unanswered questions about what happened in the fort at Mazar-e-Sharif. Who, for example, took the decision to bomb the prisoners? How many of the dead, in truth, had their hands tied behind their back? What was the role of British forces?
In another context, to which we shall no doubt move later today in the business of the House, the Home Secretarythe present Home Secretaryis fond of saying that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from scrutiny of their actions or even of their e-mails. We can apply that principle to the present issue. The House is entitled to know in due course, after proper investigation, precisely what happened at Mazar-e-Sharif and what role, if any, British forces played in those events.
Questions still remain about the humanitarian effort but, like others, I welcome the information provided by the Foreign Secretary about the extent to which aid is now being admitted. As I have said before in the House, the political legitimacy of military action would be undermined, albeit retrospectively, if the humanitarian effort were to falter.
The opening of the rail bridge in the north allows the mass transit of supplies, but they still have to be distributed throughout the country to all those who are in need. They will have to be distributed in a way that deals with the emergence of local warlords and, in some cases, bandits whose interest will be to try to acquire that aid for themselves, and to use it as a means of enforcing their own influence.
As I think the Foreign Secretary expressly said, the achievements of the United Nations in Bonn and the formation of an interim Government should not be underestimated, although we are yet to be satisfied about how effectively their writ will run on the ground in Afghanistan. We may have managed to export some of the features of Cabinet democracy, as it appears that there is already some competition for the jobs that have been allocated and suggestions that others should have been preferred. Like others here, I think that the United Nations deserves enormous credit for its achievement at Bonn, as does Mr. Brahimi in particular.
That achievement at Bonn underlines the need for a force on the ground. I would prefer it to be described as a stabilisation force. The shadow Foreign Secretary was right to ask a number of questions about that force. To some extent, they are allowed to lie on the table, because, as the Foreign Secretary said, no firm decisions have been taken. I should like to add that it is essential that the force should have a clearly defined mission and an express mandate from the United Nations. It must be mandated to intervene if that is necessary to prevent gross breaches of human rights. Srebrenica is a harsh lesson that should never be forgotten by those who seek on behalf of the international community to deploy military assets for the purpose of protection. Such a force will require robust rules of engagement, but, most important, it will require to know precisely why it is there in the first place.
The principal political issue that concerns most of us today is the question of a wider campaign. Military force has a place in the campaign against terrorism, but we should always remember that it is a tool or mechanism and not a policy in itself. It is most effective when it is used discriminately and in proportion to the achievement of precisely defined aims. It may be appropriate in some circumstances, but it may, equally, be inappropriate in others. Indeed, one can envisage some circumstances in which the use of force might be counter-productive in achieving the original objective.
I have never thought that operations in Afghanistan would be sufficient to nullify the threat from al-Qaeda. As we know, evidence suggests that the network operates in other failed states such as Somalia and in the lawless regions of more established states such as the Philippines and Indonesia. If there is to be military action in relation to cells in any of those countries or in other parts of the world, surely we should seek as far as we can to conduct it with the co-operation of the Governments of the nations where it occurs. Where there are no effective Governments, it may be necessary to proceed without such support, but in every case there must be clear and credible evidence to justify action. Each case must turn on its own merits and be based on the most clear and analytical threat assessment.
No substantial evidence has been produced so far to link the events of 11 September with Iraq. If military action were launched against Iraq without incontrovertible evidence of Iraqi complicity, the consequences would be disastrous for stability in the region, the future of the global coalition and the whole effort against international terrorism. No Arab Government, with the possible exception of Kuwait's, could support such a course of action. Moderate Arab Governments, such as Egypt or Jordan, would be bound for domestic political reasons to condemn any such extension of military action. The coalition that has been painstakingly put together would quickly unravel and the international consensus would evaporate.
Most dangerously, especially in the light of current circumstances in the middle east, Saddam Hussein could perceive military action against Iraq as yet another opportunity to widen the conflict by targeting Israel, as he did in the Gulf war. We cannot assume the same restraint from an Israeli Government as was demonstrated in 1991 because the domestic circumstances in Israel today are so different from those that prevailed 10 years ago.
Iraq has posed a serious problem for the international community for more than a decade. Saddam Hussein is a brutal ruler who subjects his people to ignominy and hardship, and we have drawn attention to that insufficiently often in the House. He manipulates the sanctions regime so that it bites where he wants it to bite, and so that the elitehis praetorian guardare immune and the ordinary people of Iraq suffer grievously. Plenty of statistical evidence from objective sources supports that view.
The Iraqi regime's failure to comply with its obligations under successive United Nations Security Council resolutions, especially on the destruction of chemical and biological weapons capability, is not only a continuing source of anxiety but a mark of Saddam Hussein's determination not to bow to the will of the international community. In 1998, Richard Butler, a most robust and aggressive diplomat, was compelled to withdraw the inspection teams from Iraq because their work was being deliberately inhibited and thwarted.
The Government and the United States Government decided that there should be military action, and that installations that were believed to harbour the means to manufacture weapons of mass destruction should be bombed. We supported that. It was the right thing to do because the action taken in 1998 was a deliberate and flagrant violation of the responsibilities that the United Nations Security Council resolutions imposed on Iraq.
What has happened since? The strategy has been one of containment and deterrence, and it has been effective. There has been no threat to Riyadh or Kuwait City. There has been no threat to use weapons of mass destruction. When we consider the political consequences of embarking on a programme of military action against Iraq, we must ask ourselves: what compelling reasons suggest that an effective strategy of containment and deterrence should be abandoned? If possession of weapons of mass destruction is a casus belli, against how many other countries might military action be taken on that basis?
The shadow Foreign Secretary talked about rogue states; his definition must surely apply to Syria and Iran. The Prime Minister is hardly back from Syria, and the Foreign Secretary has been back from Iran for only a little longer. For what purpose? It was to draw those countries into the international coalition. As both found, the middle east can be a bruising experience. I certainly supported the fact that they went there, and I support the conclusions that they were able to derive from so doing. If we now say that, by definition, these are rogue states, and that they may expect the threat of military action, the maintenance of the coalition will become extremely difficultalthough the Foreign Secretary might not think that his journey had been wasted. Are Libya and North Korea to be targeted? Have we thought what the consequences would be if we were to target those "rogue states"? First they were "rogue
We tread a dangerous line in subscribing to the notion that we can identify a rogue state and then take military action against it. If we took every case on its merits, based on clear, unequivocal evidence, there might be some justification, but the idea that we should open up a broad front against any state that falls within the definition of "rogue state", and that we could conduct military action against that state without incurring enormous political and perhaps even military consequences is one that carries a great deal of danger.