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24 Sept 2002 : Column 127—continued

Dr. Palmer: Does the hon. Gentleman realise that he gives the impression that he is much more interested in bashing the Prime Minister than he is in the subject of the debate?

Mr. Turner: I am sorry if that is the hon. Gentleman's impression, but those are the sentiments expressed to me by people of all parties, including the Labour party, and of none. For example, people ask whether the Muslim world will see an attack on Iraq as an attack on it. Will it not see it as an extension of United States support for Israel in Palestine? What about the Muslims in this country? On 6 November, the Prime Minister declined to tell me in a written answer which Muslim organisations in this country had supported our action in Afghanistan. What about the threat to people in this country, for example, from biological weapons released in the underground?

This debate has been too much about international law and too little about domestic peace of mind. If the Prime Minister wants the British people's assent to the commitment of British troops, he has a duty to get them on his side. He has a duty to secure their peace of mind; he has a duty to fill the leadership gap. It would grieve me not to be able to support the United States—our best and truest friend as a nation—but the case has still to be made.

8.7 pm

Mr. Roger Godsiff (Birmingham, Sparkbrook and Small Heath): As other Members have said, the dossier that we received this morning shows conclusively that Saddam Hussein is an evil man. We already knew that. He is a brutal dictator, and he has been a brutal dictator for many years. He has used genocide and poison gas against his own people. He launched a war against Iran albeit with some support from the west, and that resulted in more than 1 million people being killed. He invaded Kuwait, and when he left he caused an environmental disaster by torching the oilfields.

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I have no doubt whatever that Saddam Hussein is engaged in making chemical weapons and is seeking to acquire a nuclear capability. Based on his past behaviour, I have no doubt that he will play games with the UN weapons inspectors when they go to Iraq. The world and the people of Iraq will be well rid of him. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) said, if George Bush had allowed Desert Storm to continue for a little while longer, the allies would have been at the gates of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein might well have been deposed by now.

Andrew Selous: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Godsiff: I am sorry, but I have only a short time.

I want to make it clear that, although I fully support the United Kingdom working through the UN, I can envisage situations in which either the United Kingdom or America take unilateral action because they feel that their national interests are under threat. However, having said that, I cannot understand the political logic behind an attack on Iraq.

After the events of 9/11, the civilised world united in its determination to combat and root out international terrorism. We rightly supported action against the Taliban in Afghanistan who were harbouring the al-Qaeda organisation. However, because we were unable completely to destroy al-Qaeda at a stroke we seem to have changed our emphasis and are now considering an attack on what George Bush called part of the "axis of evil". That could have serious consequences, not least because if we attack Iraq on the basis that it is ruled by an evil and brutal man, what are we to do about Iran and North Korea, which are also part of the axis of evil?

I represent a constituency in which almost 50 per cent. of the electors are Muslim. When I tell them that I am a strong supporter of the American ethos and of America, I am not always popular. I do, however, support America and believe that overall it has done much more good than evil in the world, but I must tell my friends in America that their country does not understand Islam or the Muslim world. That was demonstrated when President Bush called the war against terrorism a crusade. Everyone knows that one does not use that word in the context of an attack on international terrorism. One can talk about evil people, but talking about crusades resurrects centuries-old enmity between Muslims and non-Muslims. That was not a clever thing to do, but it was done out of ignorance. As I said, the Americans do not understand the Muslim world or Islam.

If America, with the support of the United Kingdom, launches a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein, he will become a hero throughout the Muslim world, creating, as others have said, enormous problems for countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, neither of which could be described as the most democratic countries on earth. They are, however, pro-western, and Saudi Arabia is the greatest oil producer in the world. It would not be in the interests of the west or the economies of the United Kingdom or America for Saudi Arabia or Egypt to fall under the control of Iranian fanatics—there would be enormous consequences for all of us.

How would such an attack help the war against international terrorism, bearing in mind the fact that many al-Qaeda operatives captured in Afghanistan were

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dissidents from Saudi Arabia and Egypt? As has been said, they would love to displace the house of Saud and the present Egyptian Government. I always thought that one of the perks of being a tyrannical dictator was having absolute power to do what one wants, bleed one's country dry and appoint all one's friends to top positions. I cannot believe that Saddam Hussein would want to put that at risk by attempting or threatening to carry out a pre-emptive strike against America or Israel. He knows perfectly well that the consequences would be nuclear annihilation. I do not think that Saddam Hussein is an idiot. I do not believe that he wants to be the dictator of a pile of rubble in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein has probably caused more suffering and deaths, particularly of Muslims, than anyone else alive today, but the British Government's priorities and those of the Americans should be to pursue international terrorism and the al-Qaeda organisation. I cannot see the political logic or sense of embarking on an adventurist campaign against Iraq, with all the inherent consequences and dangers.

Finally, America, Britain and the western world must pay attention to the reasons why international terrorists emerge. International terrorists are born in the refugee camps in Palestine because they latch on to the issues that they use to justify their terrorist acts. The two biggest issues in the Muslim world used to justify international terrorism are Palestine and Kashmir. Until the western world takes those issues seriously and works to redouble its efforts to resolve them, those refugee camps, whether along the Kashmir border or in Palestine, will continue to be a breeding ground for people who believe that they have God on their side when they fight, as they see it, for the liberation of their people. We must address those issues—if we ignore them, we do so at our peril.

8.16 pm

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire): All Members would agree that the House of Commons has been at its best today, with thoughtful and independent- minded speeches from Members on both sides of the House. It is a source of great regret to me and, I am sure, many hon. Members that it has taken so long for the House to be recalled. The ability to recall the House should lie with hon. Members. If a majority want a recall, that should be the case.

I was rather surprised by the expression in the Prime Minister's otherwise extremely thoughtful and well-argued speech this morning about the Chamber being kept "in touch" with the situation, which is reminiscent of a phrase I might use about a relationship with a distant relative. The House of Commons deserves considerably more than that. I echo the anger and frustration of many hon. Members in saying that we had but three and a half hours this morning to look at the dossier. I did not want to read it in the Chamber—I wanted to listen to hon. Members—so that was a discourtesy to the House which, I hope, will not be repeated.

I speak today with some personal feeling because my brother, his wife and two young children were living in Kuwait when it was invaded by Saddam Hussein many years ago. My brother told me how he looked out of his apartment window and saw Kuwaiti soldiers and civilians being shot and mown down in cold blood. As a family we have been affected by what Saddam Hussein has done. I completely accept—there has been agreement on both sides of the House about this—that our overwhelming

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purpose is to eliminate weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We must do so through the only organisation able to achieve that—the United Nations. Incidentally, why are the inspectors not being sent in now, as we are being told that evidence is being destroyed? Why must they wait until mid-October? Surely there is an urgent need to get them in as soon as possible. We must, however, use the UN, and there is agreement on both sides of the House about that. It is vital that we stick within the confines of international law and act legally—there is widespread agreement on that.

I support indicting Saddam Hussein. We have seen Milosevic being tried in The Hague. There may be huge practical difficulties in getting Saddam Hussein there, but we should subject him too to the process of international law. Regime change is not and should not be the objective, but I think that we all know in our hearts that it may be and could well be a consequence of what we are talking about.

Why has the issue become so urgent and why are we discussing it now? Has not the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, which we have had for many years, kept the peace? What has changed? The answer could be that since 11 September 2001 we are looking at a different world. For example, let us picture the scenario of a terrorist group getting some of these weapons from Iraq by ship or other means, secreting them on the plains of North Africa and launching an attack against a third-party country. That is the sort of scenario that we are considering, but the dossier is somewhat silent on the Government's assessment of such a risk and the UK's preparedness in terms of civil defence. Middle eastern countries are much better prepared than we are. I ask the Minister to reply specifically to those two points.

We have heard that UN authority has been flouted for 11 or so years with regard to Iraq. Many UN resolutions have not been implemented and should be, but it is no argument to say that because they have not all been implemented, some cannot be. We were right to provide humanitarian help in Rwanda. It was not argued that we should not do so there because we were not doing so elsewhere, and the same logic applies now.

We have heard a lot today about the international community, and I support what has been said. Is not the tragedy the fact that so often America and Britain have had to stand alone? We must remember that it was not, as some might have thought, the rather more suave and sophisticated President Clinton who patiently assembled an alliance of many, many nations before advancing against Afghanistan after 11 September but President Bush. Let us wait and see what he does. Let us judge him on what he has done, not on his recent words. Surely it is important that the UN should be able to call on the military support of many countries, not just be left with UK and US forces. We need to consider seriously what voluntary commitment can be given to the UN so that all the resolutions can be enforced. Of course, those relating to Israel and Palestine are supremely important to what we are discussing.

We must also remember our history. We have heard today about the League of Nations and Abyssinia in 1935. We have heard about German rearmament between 1933 and 1936. I commend the film "The Gathering Storm" to those who have not seen it. We should think of what the House went through in that period, and how its opinion changed over time. We need to reflect on that. We have

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heard more recently about Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, about which some people here had doubts who perhaps later felt that the action taken had been justified.

In the foreword to the dossier the Prime Minister says:

That may well be the case but the reasons for that do not spring out from the pages before us. Is it because we are worried that Iraq is about to buy missile systems from North Korea which would reach these shores? What is the risk assessment on that? Are the Government concerned about that? Or is it because we are concerned about the release of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq to a terrorist group that will come to this country, or because we are concerned about agents coming to this country and releasing poison in the underground, as happened in Tokyo? We need a much more detailed assessment. The document does not contain sufficient answers. The British people will need that explained to them by the Government. We know that, for security reasons, the Government cannot share all that they know with us, but we need to have the threat explained much more clearly.

The Iraqi opposition e-mailed many Members yesterday with the proposals that the no-fly zone be extended; that Iraqi assets be unfrozen and given to opposition groups; and that Iraqi foreign representation around the world in embassies and so on be changed to reflect the opposition in Iraq. I do not know how practical those proposals are, but we have a duty to examine every option. Again, I should like to hear the Minister's response to that point.

We have to bear it in mind that there will be dictators all over the world looking at the international community. This is a defining moment and we have to believe that what we do here will be looked at. If Saddam Hussein is allowed to get away with his behaviour, he may well be copied by other dictators. That is a serious and onerous responsibility that rests on all hon. Members.

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