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17 Oct 2002 : Column 521—continued

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): May I remind right hon. and hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed a 12-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches?

3.41 pm

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): I wish to concentrate on the prospect of war with Iraq, but may I first briefly comment on the statement that the Secretary of State has just made about missile defence? He commented on how successful the recent tests had been, but he did not mention the fact that there had been considerable suspicion in the US media when it was announced that the tests carried out in recent months were to be conducted in conditions of much greater secrecy, and that it was suspected that that was because of a certain lack of realism. I realise that rogue state dictators are supposed to be irrational, but it is just conceivable that they would not phone up in advance to ensure that the interceptors knew about the timing and the trajectory of the missile, that there was good weather for the interception, that the quantity and quality of decoys was small and, in one case, that there was a signalling beacon on the front of the warhead.

It should also be remembered that the Ministry of Defence's own White Paper, looking ahead 30 years, suggested that missile attack was a low risk, and that the US national intelligence estimate gave a series of cogent reasons to Congress why the method likely to be used by any so-called rogue dictator or terrorist trying to deliver weapons of mass destruction would be to smuggle them in, rather than launch a missile attack.

It has been asked whether missile defence should be seen as similar to the star wars system. Of course it should not. The proponents of star wars were Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Perle, whereas the proponents of missile defence are Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Perle. The aims of star wars were ultimately to get complete military invulnerability for the United States on a unilateral basis. The aim of the new missile defence system is, as Donald Rumsfeld has said, ultimately to build towards full-spectrum dominance. Indeed, the connection between star wars and the war on Iraq is that they are both part of the same frightening, unilateralist agenda that we saw spelled out in the national security strategy.

On the prospects of war with Iraq, the Prime Minister asked what was surely the most pertinent question: why now? We now have the dossier, the report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the report from the director of central intelligence in the United States. Looking at them, it is perfectly clear that they find no evidence of a link between Iraq and the events of 11 September. In fact, there is no cogent evidence in the reports of any association between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

In the British document, human rights are mentioned. Undoubtedly, when we consider the atrocities that have been committed in Iraq, regime change has been vitally necessary for more than two decades. But what has

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changed since the 1980s, when Donald Rumsfeld was supplying aid and arms to Saddam Hussein, to convince him that it is now imperative for us to have a war with Saddam Hussein? Most of the atrocities occurred in the 1980s.

What about the reports on missiles? It is suspected in the different reports that Saddam Hussein might have retained somewhere between two and two dozen al-Hussein missiles, and that he has probably developed a limited number of other missiles that might be able to go as far as 200 km. It is clear, however, that his missile forces are massively depleted compared with before the Gulf war, and that his missile strength is weak compared with that of many other countries.

On biological and chemical weapons, the presumption is that Saddam Hussein has restarted his programmes and that he has probably managed to retain some biological and chemical resources from before the end of the inspections regime, and to develop more since. Again, however, it is believed that his stocks are vastly smaller than they were in the 1980s, when all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—including the United States and the United Kingdom—were busily helping him with supplies for missile technology and for biological and chemical weapons.

Llew Smith: Read the Scott report.

Mr. Savidge: Exactly.

What about nuclear weapons? Again, the reports are in agreement that Saddam Hussein does not yet have them. They also agree that he is several years away from getting them unless he obtains weapons-grade material.

Dr. Julian Lewis: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way; he is typically generous.

Surely the point is that Saddam Hussein was within two years of getting a nuclear weapon before the last war against Iraq, and that suicidal terrorist movements have grown up recently that might work in conjunction with him to undertake actions that were not so great a threat in the intervening years.

Mr. Savidge: The CIA was asked to produce a report on whether it thought that Saddam Hussein was co-operating with terrorist organisations to supply them with weapons of mass destruction, and it came up with the conclusion that he was not.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Savidge: I must be careful, because every time I give way I lose time. I will see whether there is an opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to come in later.

On the supply of weapons-grade material, there is obviously a major proliferation problem, not least because of the risk that terrorist organisations could obtain it, and we need to work together on non-proliferation. Would Saddam Hussein have the intention to use weapons of mass destruction if he obtained them? He has undoubtedly used them in the past—he used poisoned gas against both the Iranians and his own people. Can he be deterred from using them

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again? The assumption of the US hard right is that he cannot, because they define him as a rogue state dictator, and they say that all such dictators are irrational and could not therefore be deterred by the thought of nuclear annihilation. That is the danger of trying to fit people into nice ideological definitions. The real Saddam Hussein may be—and, indeed, is—a homicidal maniac, but there is no reason to suppose that he is a suicidal maniac. In fact, he has had a murderous obsession with preserving his own life. During the Gulf war, Saddam was deterred from using chemical or biological weapons by the threat of overwhelming retaliation.

There are concerns that there might be some new element of secret intelligence that is not being shared with us. I suspect that the evidence suggests that that is not the case. The main proponents of this war—Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and Bolton, for example—were advocating this war in 1998, when they were in opposition and not in receipt of the best military intelligence. They have been advocating it for years; it is not something that they have just thought up.

The Prime Minister stated last month that we should not underestimate the extent to which

It naturally had an immense effect on US public opinion, and we all respect that. However, we should contrast the Prime Minister's comments with the words of Condoleeza Rice in an interview with The New Yorker on 1 April. She said that shortly after the events of 11 September, she called together the leaders of the National Security Council and asked:

fundamentally to change US policies? The US hawks have shamelessly exploited 11 September to promote a predetermined agenda.

We should remember that project for the new American century, with which so many prominent people in the US Administration are closely involved, argued in the month of Bush's inauguration that if neither weapons of mass destruction nor Saddam Hussein existed, it would still be in the US strategic interest to invade Iraq. Surely that is the answer to the question, XWhy now?"

Does anyone suppose that if Al Gore had been recognised as the winner of the presidential election we would now be considering war with Iraq? Does anyone believe that we would be contemplating such a step if George Bush had not chosen to appoint several extreme hawks to key posts in his Administration? Those hawks have advocated pre-emptive war against not only Iraq but various other countries.

I do not doubt that the British Government regard war as a last resort or that they want inspections and disarmament, but I have grave doubts about whether all the members of the Bush Administration view war as a last resort. We are supposed to take comfort from George Bush's statement that going to war is not his first choice.

The Prime Minister asked us to take comfort from the speech in Cincinnati, in which the President stated that disarmament was one of his objectives. However, that

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speech contained some worrying elements. The President said that Saddam was preparing to send unmanned aerial vehicles to attack the United States with biological and chemical weapons. I would have hoped that the President of the United States might have been aware of the existence of the Atlantic ocean and the US Air Force.

The President also suggested that Saddam Hussein might be trying to supply nuclear weapons to terrorist organisations. First, his intelligence reports state that Saddam Hussein does not yet have nuclear weapons. Secondly, the report that George Tenet was reluctantly forced to release after he had been interviewed by the Senate made it clear that he estimated that Saddam was not supplying weapons and would not wish to do that. The circumstances under which he might use his weapons of mass destruction or supply them to terrorists or agents would be precisely if he was attacked and faced the possibility of his extinction.

The President apparently ignores his intelligence advice to pursue a domestic political agenda. Worse, he is engaging in dangerous scaremongering. That can far too easily be the prelude to warmongering.

We should recognise the dangers of war, as defined by former President Clinton in Blackpool. We should acknowledge that we need a United Nations resolution, but that it should be fair. There should be a second element to such a resolution. We should leave it not to the United States but to the United Nations to decide whether compliance occurs and whether there is a need for force.

I am rushing rapidly to a conclusion—

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