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24 Sept 2002 : Column 131continued
Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): If we should decide to go to war with Iraq, it will not be a war against Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, or terrorism. Nor will it be a war about liberty, democracy, human rights, or the defence of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs. As is often the case in war, this war will be about money and power, who controls the Gulf, and setting up a puppet Government in the middle east. Linked to all that, it will be about oil.
We are told that the war will be about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's threat to use such weapons against the world. That is an ironic claim coming from the United States, which has 25,000 nuclear weapons and warheads, and from the United Kingdom, which has a massive nuclear arsenal. Not even Iraq's neighbours believe that such weapons are a threat to them or the rest of the world.
That claim has been made by the United States, a country that bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens with atomic bombsweapons of mass destruction. It has been made by the very same country that carpet-bombed Vietnam with napalm, destroying its crops, environment and the
Mordecai Vanunu is rotting in an Israeli prison when his only crime was to tell the truth about Israel's nuclear capability when all around him were lying. If this war is about liberty, what have the UK and the US done about Vanunu's liberty? I am ashamed to say that we have done nothing.
During the Iran-Iraq war between 1980 and 1988, the United States gave military aid and intelligence information not only to Iraq but to both sides. Saddam Hussein was then, as now, an evil psychopathbut then he was the west's evil psychopath and a favoured recipient of weapons and of export credits to subsidise them. Even the Tory Government were prepared to sell him military equipment, includingwould you believe it?plutonium. They actually agreed to the export licence that allowed that to happen.
The United States and the UK also tell us that the war is necessary because of the refusal of Saddam Hussein to allow in the weapons inspectors. Or, at least, they said that before Saddam had agreed to those inspectors going into Iraq. Now that he has agreed, they give the impression that that was not the most important issue. It must also be remembered that the weapons inspectors were in Iraq for about six years after the last war.
For the United States to consider going to war to pursue the goal of weapons inspectors is hypocrisy. Less than a year after the United States Congress passed an Act to implement the chemical weapons convention, the US Senate allowed it to ignore the convention and deny weapons inspections at US facilities. It was agreed that, if there were to be such inspections, the United States could decide who the inspectors would be.
Never short of reasons to go to war, the United States also tells us that this is a punishment for Iraq intervening in or attacking other countries. By that logic, we should also attack Israel, which is invading Palestine and breaking UN resolutions on a daily basis. Will the Government also answer the question posed by Mo Mowlam, when she asked:
We are also led to believe that the war is a crusade against terrorism. Bush uses the tragedy of 11 September to support this claim, yet there has been no evidence that Iraq was involved. President Bush told the United Nations:
Some years ago Madeleine Albright, then UN ambassador, was reminded of the tragic death of so many people in Iraq as a result of the war and the sanctions, and was asked whether the price was worth it. She replied:
Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam): It is somewhat daunting to speak at this stage of the debate, when so many good speeches from both sides of the Chamber have included points with which I agree, but I feel strongly moved to exercise my privilege to speak up, both on my behalf and on behalf of the many constituents who have contacted me about the current military situation.
My resolve was, in many ways, motivated by the words of the Prime Minister, who said that he would not like to have it on his conscience that he had foreseen something awful happening yet done nothing to stop it. As I came to feel increasingly strongly that the prospect of unilateral action against Iraq would cause an appalling international catastrophe, as well as death and destruction for many people, I did not want to have on my conscience the fact that I had not used opportunities available to me to speak up against that unilateral military action.
I am disappointed that there is no substantive motion before us today. I hope that people outside this House will have heard the message from the Chair that it was entirely in the Government's hands as to whether we would have a substantive motion. People outside ask questions.
I hope that two messages have got through: that parliamentary recall and whether we debate substantive motions on such days are utterly dependent on the will of the Government. I commend the work of the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) in trying to stir up some debate on procedure, because none of our procedures should be set in stone. I have felt muzzled in exercising my duty to speak up for my constituents.
In the few moments available to me, I want to concentrate on what should have been the fifth condition set out by the Foreign Secretary. He set out four conditions for judging whether military action would be appropriate. The fifth condition, to which many Members have referred, is an assessment of whether military action against Iraq undertaken without the UN's authoritythe freely given authority of the UNwould result in the world's being a safer or a less safe place. My concern is that regime change in Iraq may result in "all change" across the middle east, and that we would end up with a very uncertain world that would be considerably less safe than would be the case without military action.
I am disappointed when the spectre of appeasement is raised, as it has been several times. Those of us with concerns are told about appeasement and Germany in the 1930s. The situations of Iraq in 2002 and Germany in the 1930s are totally different. According to the Government's own dossier, Iraq is a country of 23 million people, who mostly live in poverty, not a major military power in the sense that Germany, in the European context, was in the 1930s.
Furthermore, Iraq will never be left alone. Since the invasion of Kuwait, it has been contained more or less successfully, and there is no prospect of its being left entirely alone. Whatever judgment we come to, whether it is in favour or military action, diplomatic or other means, nobody suggests that we just walk away and leave Iraq alone. Had we decided to take action against Germany in the 1930s, which would have been a good idea, we may have taken precisely the kind of measures that we are trying to take against Iraq. There should be no presumption that the only way to deal with a threat is by military action. There are other means, and sometimes those are more appropriate. Sometimes, those other means may avoid pouring petrol on the fires that, as we have been reminded again today, are already burning in the middle east.
My real fear is that a hawkish approach could lead to precisely the kind of west versus Islam war that the terrorists of 11 September wantedthat was their agendaand that we have all been desperately trying to avoid. Reference has also been made to the huge boost to recruitment for radical terrorist groups if action against Iraq were not seen to be justified. It is no good us saying, "We have the dossiers; we can prove that action is justified." The people on the streets of the countries affectedthe streets where recruitment takes placemust also believe that it is justified.
I was brought up in the context of constant fear of an attack by the Soviet Union. That is what motivated me to become engaged in politics. Lady Thatcher was Prime Minister, and I had no confidence in her ability to protect me and mine from the prospect of nuclear attack. It was literally at that point that I decided that I must sell my soul, join a political party and engage in the regular partisan process.
I do not want another generation of children to grow up with the fears that I had. If I woke up at night during a thunderstorm, I would wait for the crash to come and for the blast wave to roll through. I am making a serious point about the way in which we were brought up. Living in fear is not a pretty prospect, and people are speaking out against it now. We do not want to be in a permanent state of war.
I am afraid of what Saddam Hussein and Iraq may do; anyone would be right to be afraid of that. But we have another fear that I think is very justified: the fear that in seeking to remove one obstacle we shall end up creating a structure of permanent war. If the wrong judgment is made, there is a real prospect of a war that will roll on for years.
I wish that a motion were before us today that allowed the expression of what I consider to be a broad consensus. I refer to those who say, "We are happy for the Government to negotiate and work in our name under the auspices of the UN, but not outwith those auspices. If they want to do that, they should come back later and seek authorisation." Regrettably no such motion is before us, but I think there has been a strong expression of will from the House making it clear that war should be the route of last resort and that it is the UN route with which people feel comfortable.
I believe that any presumption that the United Kingdom should sign up to a United States policy that seeks to make weapons inspections fail in order to justify military action that the US already wants, and to which it is already committed, would receive no support in the House or the country.